7th Grade Weekly Note

For the final time this year...Good afternoon, parents!

Even as the year is wrapping up, we have not been winding down. Here’s what we’ve been up to this week.

Storyteller Dovie Thomason (https://doviethomason.com/) came to our cultural studies classes on Friday, June 3, to share her family’s experience with the Native American boarding schools of the 20th century. Be sure to ask your child about her story -- her delivery, her ideas, and the work that she does around the world. In cultural studies students are also working on their own final reflections and projects. Unlike other writing that we’ve done, this writing is intended to focus more about arriving at a personal truth than starting with one. Students have selected one of our Essential Questions and are looking within to gauge their own thinking, understanding, and position. The project component is a two- or three-dimensional creative piece that is intended to highlight their ideas. Final pieces are due on Wednesday. Project descriptions, resources, and other details are posted on Edmodo Cultural Studies.

In language arts, we’ve continued to work on our spoken word pieces, which we will perform for each other on our final day at the Schuylkill Center next Tuesday, June 7. It is a powerful moment of vulnerability for the group, which helps us bind and see each other at the year’s end, before we may not see each other for some time. As it is a celebration of sorts, we will also have a fire and cookout. The menu will consist of Ballpark hot dogs and buns, gluten-free Pepperidge Farms buns, Morning Star veggie dogs, Honey Maid graham crackers, Hytop marshmallows, and Dove milk chocolate. All ingredients and brands have been pre-approved by Nurse Sara for allergens, and students are allowed to bring any other snacks and beverages they would like.

Next Monday, June 6, is Move-Up Day, when students will receive their summer work packets. Be sure to ask them about their summer assignments and make sure that the physical paper comes home (though it will also be published digitally). As we look ahead to the summer, many students have identified genres of books that they have focused on for SSR, as well as those that they haven’t explored in depth. We encourage you to use lists such as the following to help your child identify several possible summer reads to push out of the comfort zone.

Questions to ask your child:

  • What essential question are you focusing on for your Cultural Studies reflection? What project did you choose to do, and why? 
  • What have you learned about yourself in preparing your spoken word piece? 
  • What are three books that you hope to read this summer?

We hope you have a beautiful, enjoyable, and relaxing summer with your families. Thank you for your support and partnership. We wish you the best going into your child’s eighth grade year!

Virginia, David, and Steve

7th Grade Friday Note

Good afternoon, parents!

We hope you have a relaxing and enjoyable long weekend ahead with your children. The school year is drawing to a close, but we are still in high gear! Here are some highlights from the week.

In Cultural Studies this week we continued to explore the connection between genetics and race, with the evolution of “whiteness” emerging in the early American colonies and continuing into the dubious field of “race science” in the 19th century. Over the weekend students are identifying one of our spring Essential Questions to do a final reflection on. Unlike our research paper, which began with a thesis statement, this writing is intended to show their process of arriving at a position, using examples from class and life that have shaped -- and continue to shape -- their views on race, membership, and power.

In language arts this week, students selected the topic that they will compose their spoken word poem about and began brainstorming images, emotions, actions, people, and adjectives that they associate with that topic. We also took a look at some poetic devices they may use, such as external/internal/multisyllabic rhymes, alliteration, assonance, and simile/metaphor, and one class got the chance to workshop their pieces with Dwight Dunston, member of City Love (from last week’s workshop), and poet. Over the last couple nights, students began their first drafts of the piece, which are due digitally to David by Saturday. Over the weekend they should be rereading, revising, and practicing their piece out loud.

We want to give you a heads-up that on Tuesday, June 7, we will have a cookout at SCEE to celebrate the year. The menu will include beef hot dogs, veggie hot dogs, and s’mores. We are getting all ingredients approved by Nurse Sara. Students should bring their own drinks and any other snacks that they want.

Finally, a call for assistance from one of our sixth graders, Eleanor. She needs magnets for a science experiment that she is doing at home. Any kinds of magnet will do, from refrigerator magnets to neodymium. Please bring in any magnets that you're willing to contribute; donation boxes will be available in classrooms next week. Thank you!

Some questions to ask your children this long weekend:

  • Which of the Essential Questions are you going to reflect on for your Cultural Studies assignment? Why? 
  • What is “dubious” about the field of race science? What is an example of how scientists tried to justify racism? 
  • How did Diplomacy go this week? How is your group defining success? 
  • What is redlining? 
  • What images are you incorporating into your spoken word piece?

Until next week,

Virginia, Steve, and David

Seventh Grade Friday Note

Good afternoon, parents,

Congratulations to you and your children for completing ERB week! Although it took up a big chunk of our time this week, it certainly wasn’t all that we did. Here are some other highlights!

In Cultural Studies this week we investigated 18th century Spanish Castas paintings https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casta#Casta_paintings_in_18th-century_Mexico, which were artistic attempts to elevate certain genetic mixes above others, and compared them to images from contemporary magazines. We engaged in several activities to discuss how ideas about race, gender, and sexuality are communicated in society, both in the past and today. Loaded statements provided fodder for discussion, including “Society has clear rules on what is popular and beautiful, and what is not”; “All members of society are heard and valued” and “Males can understand what it is like to be female if they just try -- and vice versa.”

Over the weekend students are reading about the recent case of ex-NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/16/us/washington-rachel-dolezal-naacp/ and are expected to discuss the article with a parent. Thanks in advance for your help in having the kids dig into these ideas around identity and belonging! These conversations will continue next week as we look at notions of “progress,” the timeline of race in America, and the dubious field of race science that emerged in the 19th century.

As they dig into notions of identity in history and culture in Cultural Studies, students are digging into their own identity in Language Arts in preparation for our final Spoken Word project. Over the course of the week, students identified values that are most important to them and trace those values to memories and moments that helped shape them. We practiced writing short pieces based on these memories in preparation for composing our final Spoken Word poem over the next two weeks. This weekend, students will generate ideas about moments and memories that they might want to explore in that piece.

We also had a visit and workshop yesterday from artists/musicians/educators of City Love http://www.muchcitylove.com/, composed of TPS teacher Brian Jordan and Dwight Dunston. They performed some of their own music, introduced hip hop as a way of communicating and telling stories, and guided groups of students in composing short raps or songs about various social justice issues connected to the values students identified in class earlier in the week. It was a fun and powerful workshop, and we look forward to seeing how students may incorporate hip hop into their individual spoken word pieces.

That’s all for this week -- have a great weekend. Perhaps see you at EATS!

David, Virginia, and Steve

Seventh Grade Friday Note

Good afternoon, parents!

Cultural Studies this week continued to explore the genetics of inheritance using Punnett squares, as well as to push into the murkier waters of race. The threads will gradually merge as we look at impacts of colonization, the dubious field of “race science,” and the ripple effects that that resonate today. Our essential questions on power, authority, and membership will guide our work.

For next week, we will be looking at various advertisements and images of celebrities to continue our conversations around depictions of race, gender, and power. If you have any popular magazines that you can send it to help our search, we’d greatly appreciate it. Magazines such as People, Us, Star, and Ok are ideal for this work. Thank you!

This past Thursday we walked to the Mutter Museum for a presentation entitled “The Science Behind the Sideshow,” as well as time to explore the galleries to better understand and appreciate the range of human form. As we read in an excerpt of Armand Marie Leroi’s Mutants, studying mutations and disorders enables us to “reverse engineer” the body to better understand its typical function. Students are taking an open-note quiz this weekend on Punnett squares.

Final Lord of the Flies papers are due, printed, in LA class on Monday. Please be sure to ask your child if they need any final help or support as they complete final read-throughs and revisions. This is the final major writing assignment of the year, and their best opportunity to demonstrate their growth as a writer and thoughtful reader.

Tonight is the annual Middle School Spring Fling. Please note that the menu for this evening consists of pizza from Gusto and water ice from John's. Please arrange for a prompt dismissal at 8:30pm (the event begins at 6:30pm in the Garage). If your child has not handed in a permission slip for the Spring Fling, he/she will not be able to attend the event. Attendees should bring $1.00 to support Philabundance in lieu of an admission fee.

Next week the seventh grade will the taking the ERB tests. Be sure to remind your children of the importance of getting plenty of sleep, drinking lots of water, packing healthy (and silent) snacks, and keeping a positive mindset.

Finally, a leadership and development opportunity for the boys in our class: the Hawklife Leadership Conference hosted by St. Joseph’s Prep on Saturday, May 21. They are looking for boys who are leaders amongst their peers; who have strong senses of compassion, civic responsibility, and service; who are good listeners; and who are strong problem solvers and strategic thinkers. If you or your child are interested, please follow this link for more information and to sign up.

Some questions to ask your child this weekend:

  • What exhibit most surprised you at the Mutter Museum, and why? 
  • Do you need help packing healthy snacks for ERBs next week?

Until next week,

David, Steve, and Virginia

Seventh Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, families!

This week we resumed our trips to the Schuylkill Center, where we started various projects. The first, our Diplomacy project, divides the class into seven teams. Modeled on the eponymous classic strategy game, teams must negotiate, strategize, compromise, and coordinate in order to achieve their goals. The project will be ongoing over several week, so be sure to check back with your child about how their team is doing and what the state of the game is! Alongside Diplomacy, we also started a search for macroinvertebrates in a stream on the property in order to assess its overall health, as well as a math project that tasks the class with surveying and mapping Windance Pond.

This week we also started drafting our final Lord of the Flies literary analysis papers. This is an important project, as it is each student’s chance to demonstrate how they have grown as a writer and interpreter of literature over the course of the year. Going into the weekend, students have drafted a thesis paragraph and three supporting topic sentences. By the end of the weekend the goal is to have all three supporting paragraphs drafted. Monday and Tuesday of next week, we will be requesting your help to review your child’s paper so far in order to ensure that they’ve received lots of constructive feedback from multiple sources about their composition. Please try to ensure that you have some time either Monday or Tuesday night to read and annotate a copy of your child’s writing so far.

Coming up in cultural studies, we will be doing an activity that will involve examining the contents of some gossip and tabloid-type magazines. So, if you subscribe to any magazines such as People, Us, Ok!, Star, or others, and are willing to donate old issues to our class, we’d love to have these in by May 13. Thank you!

That same day, May 13, is the Middle School Spring Fling. Students received permission slips in the past week that must be signed by parents and returned by this coming Monday, May 9 if your child would like to attend.

Finally, an important announcement about our cellphone policy. We recognize the conveniences of communicating via cell phone. However, improper use of cell phones by Middle School students during and after the school day has been disruptive and disrespectful. Thank you in advance for supporting the school's work to make responsible use of technology part of our culture here.

~ During the School Day. Students may not use cell phones during the school day without both teacher permission and supervision. Phones must be turned off and kept in a backpack, preferably stowed away in a cubby. If a student uses a cell phone during the school day without permission and supervision, any staff person can and should confiscate the phone. The phone will be given to Matt Eskin or Justine Hoffman and will only be returned to a parent or guardian, who will have to come to school to pick it up. Should that student choose to continue to bring a cell phone to school, he/she will be required to leave it at the front desk each day until the end of the school year.

~ After School. Students may not use their phones in the building after school without both permission and supervision. We understand that some parents text their children regarding pick-up times and after school plans. If you plan to communicate with your child that way, please let your child's advisor and whoever supervises your child after school know this.f a student improperly uses a cell phone after school, the above consequences will hold.

Thank you for your time and attention. If you have any questions or concerns about it, please contact Matt Eskin.

Until next week,

Virginia, Steve, and David

7th Grade Friday Note

Good Afternoon, Parents!

We can’t believe that April is gone...but alas! This week we concluded our visits to Heritage Farms by helping them prepare beds in one of their high tunnels for tomato planting and pull LOTS of crabgrass from a field they’ll plant later in the spring. We also concluded some math work estimating crop yields and some soil pH testing on the science front. A big thanks to Heritage and all the Heritage farmers for having us! Next week we return to the Schuylkill Center -- be sure to have your children dress in long pants and long sleeves (for tick prevention) and in weather-appropriate footwear and outerwear. Tick checks should also be part of everyone’s evening routine after a visit to the Schuylkill Center.

In language arts this week, we completed our reading of Lord of the Flies. It is a downer, to be sure, but with some important takeaways and interesting opportunities for literary analysis and criticism. In the coming weeks, students will be seizing that opportunity by writing a five-paragraph analysis of one of the text’s primary symbols or characters. At a certain point, students will need to have a parent reader review and comment on their work -- keep a lookout for it in a couple weeks!

Our study of genetics continues in cultural studies this weekend with a personal genetic survey that will help students explore and understand their own genetic legacy. This survey requires that students ask questions to someone related to them, and that someone might be you!

As we announced in the last couple weeks of Friday notes, this will be the last week that students receive weekly checkout forms. For the rest of the year, accountability and responsibility for ensuring the completion and submission of all schoolwork will rest on the students only. Incomplete and overdue/missing work will be marked as such, without written reminder. This aims to help transition students into the norms and expectations of eighth grade and beyond. Be sure to help us reinforce the importance of this transition and the logic underlying it at home. Thank you for your support!

Speaking of transitions, it’s approaching the time of year for Move-Up Meetings. Move-up meetings for middle school parents will be Monday, May 9, from 5:00-6:00PM. Please mark your calendars! As in the past, Diane is offering ASEP/MSAS during the move up meetings by taking additional students, FREE of charge, from 5:00 to 6:00pm. She is asking any parent who inquires about this to please let the front desk know, so they have an idea how many extra students to expect. Also, this is for TPS students only; we cannot offer any child care for siblings who do not attend TPS.

Finally, a big thanks and congratulations to all the 7th graders who participated in the Penn Relays and Earth Day Celebrationstoday!

Until next week,

David, Steve, and Virginia

7th Grade Friday Note

Good afternoon, Parents!

Although a short week, it was a busy one! Here are the highlights:

Students continued drafting their zebrafish lab reports and began to discuss mitosis. We are also entering the final few chapters of Lord of the Flies, which students will also be answering some Edmodo questions about this weekend. Today we introduced the basics of Sigmund Freud’s structural theory of the psyche as an analytical lens through which to view Golding’s text. Next week we will finish the novel, and students will begin brainstorming possible topics for a literary analysis they will write on the text, which may incorporate some elements of Freud’s model.

We also continued our work at Heritage Farm this week, which focused on preparing the earth and mulch around fruit trees for the season, as well as building some innovative vertical growing towers. These towers are built around a core of woodchips and spent mushroom strata, which is surrounded by a soil-compost mixture. This structure (the farmers hope) will allow water and air to circulate in the system more effectively than it would in a pure soil tower, and allow worms a cozy place to live. Keep an eye on the TPS blog for more updates and photos!

Finally, an announcement from Wendy, the 8th Grade science teacher, about an exciting new summer opportunity for middle schoolers and recent graduates, too:

Dear Families,

Registration is now open for the summer Sustainability Institute program! Two incredible weeks of travel, adventure, science, activism, and leadership training in the most pressing environmental issues of our time.

Week One (June 20-24, Day Camp) explores Philadelphia as you never have before. Be a kayaker, a scientist, an urban planner and more as we learn from marine biologists, hydrologists, and sustainability experts on how our green initiatives are transforming this city. Highlights include live animal encounters with marine biologists at the Camden Aquarium, a kayak trip down the Schuylkill River, and hands-on chemistry experiments with scientists from the Independence Seaport Museum.

In Week Two (June 26-July 1, Overnight Camp) we travel to San Francisco, California, a city taking the lead in sustainable water. Highlights include hikes through watersheds under towering redwood trees, waterfalls that cascade onto the beach, seeing a famous museum that wastes no energy or water, sustainable gardens and farming, and taking action to save crucial wetland species.

Camp is open to rising 7th-11th graders. Please visit http://www.tpschool.org/sustainability-institute for more information, and to sign up. Financial Aid is available. Join us for a coast to coast adventure you’ll never forget!

Enjoy the long weekend!

David, Virginia, and Steve

7th Grade Friday Note

Good Afternoon, Parents!

It’s really and truly Spring -- an exciting time all around, and particularly in our 7th Grade. Some highlights from the past week:

We introduced our essential questions for the Spring term, which are:

  • How do you know who you are? 
  • How do notions of race shape and influence you? Your community? Your nation? 
  • What is the relationship among force, power, and authority? 
  • How can one assimilate to a group while also retaining individuality? 
  • What is your relationship to and with the natural world?

In Cultural Studies we did a five-day zebrafish lab this week as part of our introduction to genetics. We started with adult fish on Monday and hypothesized about what their offspring would look like. By Tuesday the fish had produced embryos through external fertilization, and we transferred the embryos to petri dishes in order to examine how many hours post fertilization they were. For the next two days we continued to monitor their development, noting how many embryos were fertilized, how many were not, and how accurate our predictions about the appearance of the offspring were. By today, most of the embryos had already hatched into free-swimming larvae; it’s a remarkably fast process! Be sure to ask your children how many of their embryos turned out to be albino or wildtype and how accurate their hypotheses were. Over the weekend students are writing the second paragraph of their four-paragraph lab reports. For more information and photos, check out the TPSchool Blog http://www.tpschool.org/blog/!

We also started our Spring novel, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. We spent the bulk of the first week examining Golding’s establishment of setting and characters. By this point, Ralph is trying to hold their fragile “society” together and work towards rescue, while Jack is becoming obsessed with hunting and killing pigs. Students have also made some early symbolic identifications of characters and objects, which they will continue to track throughout the story in order to decode Golding’s allegory.

We returned to Heritage Farm on Tuesday, where we prepared a set of beds that will become a high tunnel, covered a patch in black tarp in order to clear it of weeds before planting, and transplanted hundreds of kale, lettuce, and spring onion starts into outdoor beds that we had helped prepare the week before. We got to use all different kinds of shovels, hoes, seed trays, and a giant dibbling cylinder. There are updates and photos from the farm at the blog link above as well.

Finally, an announcement about weekly checkout. In an effort to transition students into greater individual responsibility and accountability with an eye towards eighth grade and beyond, we will be phasing out checkout forms beginning in May. For the next three weeks we’ll be talking with the kids about how they are using their assignments books and what strategies need to be reinforced or improved in order to prepare for this transition. Similarly, please talk with your child about what their work habits will look like at home in order to stay on top of their responsibilities.

Some questions to ask your child this weekend:

  • What was your zebrafish hypothesis? 
  • Were any of your zebrafish mutated? 
  • What is one way that zebrafish research benefits humans? 
  • What dangers face the boys in Lord of the Flies? 
  • What did you enjoy about working at Heritage Farm?

Until next week,

David, Virginia, and Steve

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents!

It was an exciting first week back from Spring Break in the seventh grade. We hope you enjoyed the time away with families and are feeling rested, ready for the final couple months of the school year.

The week we resumed our Tuesday trips by going to Heritage Farm http://heritagefarmphiladelphia.org/ on Monument Avenue near City Avenue. The manager there, Adrian Galbraith-Paul, visited our class for the Seeds of Change Symposium earlier in the year and worked with the seventh grade team to develop a partnership that would allow our students to experience real day-to-day urban farming and explore some innovative and sustainable methods that today’s urban farmers use. We will return to Heritage for the next four weeks -- be on the lookout for student experiences on the TPSchool Blog http://www.tpschool.org/blog/!

In Cultural Studies we are beginning our exploration of cells and genetics, which kicks off in style next week, when partners from Penn visit to help conduct our zebrafish project. Zebrafish are a special species in that they are able to reproduce quickly, allowing us to study genetic mixtures and outcomes within the course of a one-week lab. Be sure to check in with your child during the week to see how it’s going.

In Language Arts, we have been preparing for William Golding’s Lord of the Flies by examining and discussing symbolism and allegory. Over Spring Break, students read two short allegories (“Menagerie” by Charles Johnson was a particular favorite) to familiarize themselves with the form and purpose of allegory. They were then challenged to create their own one-page allegories and a symbol for themselves, which will be due on Monday.

This afternoon, students received checkout forms. Be sure that you see their checkout forms each week and that they return them, signed by you, to school on Monday. They also received their final Seeds of Change research papers with grading rubrics. Please look over this with your child. Many 8th graders opt to use this paper for their high school applications. We will keep a copy in the kids’ writing folders, and we suggest that kids hold onto the digital version of their paper for possible later use. In addition, it’s best for kids to consider and apply any final feedback sooner rather than later while the ideas are still relatively fresh.

Thanks for reading, and have an excellent weekend!

David, Virginia, and Steve

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents!

We hope that you have had a great week and enjoyed hearing about all of the exciting mini-course experiences your children have been having. We also concluded our week of Decisions discussions. It was a productive and informative week, and we will continue exploring issues of gender identity/expression, physical and sexual health, nutrition, mental health, and depression next week when experts from CHOP, the College of Physicians, and our own TPS community come to conduct presentations/discussions each day. Students have the option to attend the sessions that most interest them.

As you know, next week are also our student-led conferences, and for the three days we have beforehand together, students will be practicing in earnest. They have worked over the past few weeks to compile a portfolio of work representing their strengths, challenges, and areas of growth. Having the students reflect on their work, name their challenges, celebrate their accomplishments, and identify their goals is essential for taking ownership of one’s learning. This weekend, we encourage you to spend some time thinking about questions you might like to ask your child at their conference to prompt/extend discussion. These can range from their academic/study habits, specific academic subjects, or social lives here at school.

We also want to give you a heads-up that we will be assigning a small amount of homework over Spring Break. If your child will not be here next week, we will be sure that the homework is sent with them already or accessible online. You can also expect an email next week to inform you of what the Spring Break homework is.

Some questions to ask your child this weekend:

  • What mini-course most surprised you? 
  • Which of your minicourses would you most likely recommend to a friend? Why? 
  • Were there any particularly valuable or interesting things that you learned/discussed in Decisions this week?

See you at conferences!

David, Virginia, and Steve

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good Afternoon, Parents,

Thank you to everyone who came to our Seeds of Change Maze. We hope that you enjoyed the event. The kids’ research papers, projects, and presentations could not have come together without your support at home, so thank you for all of your time and energy throughout this unit! Any feedback about the event is greatly appreciated, as always.

On the heels of this exciting week is another – Spring Mini-courses! Students received their Mini-course schedules this afternoon. Be sure to ask them which courses they are enrolled in and what they’re most looking forward to and excited about.

We will also be having our Decisions sessions next week, in which we will examine and discuss issues such as puberty, sex, hallmarks of healthy and unhealthy relationships, friendship challenges, changing relationships with parents, self-image, sexual orientation and gender identity, mental health, and substance use and abuse. At the beginning of this week, we sent two books home for kids to read and explore to help introduce some of these topics and get them generating questions about points of curiosity or confusion. We hope that you’ve seen them reading, and have had the opportunity to speak with them about some of what they’ve read. Our Decisions work will roll over into the subsequent week (March 21-23) as well, when we have arranged for various experts from our community and local organizations to conduct panel discussions on topics from mental health to gender identity to the most likely causes of adolescent ER visits. This will be a great opportunity for students to follow up on areas of curiosity or confusion.

As a reminder, Thursday, 24 March and Friday, 25 March are spring student-led conferences. You should have a time set with your child’s advisor via the Doodle poll distributed by email some weeks ago. If you have not set a time or do not remember, please contact your child’s advisor as soon as possible. Students continue to prepare their conference portfolios, highlighting areas of growth, challenge, and success across academics, as well as their reflections on their social and emotional lives here at school. We are confident that these portfolios will give you an illuminating look into your child’s growth and experience so far in the seventh grade.

A note about child care during conference days: If you need child care (for a TPS-enrolled sibling) during your conference time on March 24 or 25, it will be available in the Lombard Street building from 7:30am to 5:30pm. A receptionist will direct you to the room where supervision will be available. Children may not wait in the office.

Some questions to ask your child this weekend:

  • What was your favorite part of the Seeds of Change maze event? 
  • What was the most surprising part of the event? Why? 
  • What is something you would do differently if you could start over? 
  • Which of your mini courses are you most excited about for next week? Why? 
  • Which mini-course do you think will push you farthest out of your comfort zone? Why?

Until next week,

Steve, Virginia, and David

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good Afternoon, Parents,

We hope all is well as the nascent spring slides temporarily back into winter today. It’s a bit kooky out there, just as it has been in the seventh grade while we gear up for the grand finale of our Seeds of Change unit - the Learning Celebration next Thursday, March 10 from 5:30-7:00 PM. There you will have the opportunity to see the products of our students’ research from the past month, set within a thematic presentation space that transforms our MS7 area into a mysterious maze of ideas and intrigue. Perplexed? You’ll have to come see for yourself! Students are welcome to stay in MSAS for free that afternoon, but we must know who to expect by Wednesday - please email Virginia if you would like your child to stay in MSAS until the Learning Celebration.

We would like to extend our sincere thanks for your help reviewing and editing research papers last weekend. Your feedback was indispensable as we move from first to final drafts, which are due on Monday! Be sure to ask if there are any last minute tweaks or edits that need to happen in your child’s paper this weekend, and ensure that the final draft is printed and ready to go by class time on Monday. Each student should have a final draft checklist that you can review with them this weekend.

But a parent’s work is never done, as you know, so we ask for some additional support this weekend. This week students began their individual projects, which they will use to present their research at the Learning Celebration. This weekend they should present their presentation idea to you, including their day-to-day timeline for completing their presentation by Wednesday. They should also acquire any materials they need by Monday - there are some oddball requests we are still searching for. If you can lend any/either of the following items for student use, please let us know as soon as possible: a toy horse and jockey, or rubber bugs.

Changing topics, we want to give you a heads up about our Decisions sessions during the weeks of March 14 and 21. As you may remember, Decisions is our sex education and social/emotional challenge curriculum for middle schoolers. We intend to have the class do some independent reading and exploration of the book It’s Perfectly Normal next week, specifically of the chapters on puberty, sex, and the body. Please be ready and willing to engage, share, and discuss with them the contents of the book over the course of the week and to answer questions they might have. The book does include cartoon illustrations that might make some kids blush. We will continue addressing their questions and curiosities during Decisions, as well as signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships, changing social dynamics, and emotional health.

We’re in the Winter home stretch! Until next week, all!

David, Virginia, and Steve

7th Grade Weekly Note

Happy Friday, Parents,

We hope you are enjoying the more spring-like temperatures this week. The kids certainly are, as we ascend out of the long winter of our research -- first drafts were due today! These drafts are the culmination of great efforts in research, inquiry, composition, and organization. To appreciate the products of these efforts, we are sending home a parent review rubric for you to use in evaluating your child’s draft over the weekend. On it, they have identified specific areas in which they would like you to focus your critiques and comments. Using this feedback, along with teacher notes and edits, students will work to complete a final draft over the course of the next week. Be on the lookout for the letter and rubric describing the process this weekend!

As you know, the Seeds of Change Unit builds up to this research project and our learning celebration, which will happen Thursday, March 10, from 5:30-7:00PM. This week the class brainstormed possible formats for this event and voted on their favorites. Next week, committees will meet to plan how we will decorate our space, present our projects, and welcome and guide visitors in accordance with our selected theme. It will be a night to celebrate and admire all the hard work your children have done on this unit, their research, and in putting together the learning celebration itself. Please mark your calendars if you have not already!

Next Thursday, March 3, from 6:00-7:30pm, TPS will host an exciting event in collaboration with CHOP entitled Solving the Mysteries of Science. The event aims to illuminate the purposes and processes of medical research, as well as how we all benefit from such research in our everyday lives. The CHOP panel features leaders within their fields of clinical research presenting their work alongside some of our own middle school students. This is an amazing opportunity for students and families interested in STEM or medical fields -- for more information and to RSVP, please follow this link http://www.tpschool.org/blog/2016/2/11/lli3ok1ob5463w5fws6seg0epwit6m .

Students are also busy preparing their conference portfolios for student-led conferences next month. If you have not yet signed up for a time slot with your child’s advisor via Doodle, please check the Parent portal on the TPSchool website. Also, if you would like to schedule a conference time with your child’s Art instructor, please use the following links:
Rick: http://doodle.com/poll/kqwpvbwingb5wzcz
Neesa: http://doodle.com/poll/hsgh6tww8y4ts98i

Thank you, and be sure that you see your child’s first draft of their research paper, along with the parent letter and assessment rubric, this weekend!

Please see the communication from the Strategic Planning Steering Committee below.

Until next week,

Virginia, Steve, and David

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good Afternoon, Parents,

It has been a busy week in the Seventh Grade, as we forge ahead into the writing of our Seeds of Change research papers. For this project, Cultural Studies and Language Arts have merged, giving us more and more focused time on specific steps in the research and writing process. It also means that students should be spending at least 30-40 minutes per night (both LA and CS time) working on their research documents. If it seems like your child has had very little homework recently, they may not be putting in this good time. Please follow up with them this weekend. If you’d like more information about the weekly tasks and expectations of the research timeline, please see this doc https://docs.google.com/a/tpschool.org/document/d/1FCQJ3uMSOwWte6QjJC2HRdrFXzljnejjy9cgwcEliOg/edit?usp=sharing. Weekend homework expectations are also posted on our Edmodo Community page https://tpschool.edmodo.com/home#/group?id=17465981.

The Seeds of Change research project will culminate with a learning celebration scheduled for Thursday, 10 March from 5-7pm. Please mark the date and time on your calendars so that you can come see and enjoy the fruits of this project, on which the students have worked so hard.

Earlier today you should have received an email about our student-led March conferences; the email includes links to Doodle polls in which you may sign up for a conference time. Please submit your responses as soon as possible. We understand that some families may be leaving town early during those days in order to make the most of the subsequent Spring Break -- if that’s the case, please contact your child’s advisor directly and as soon as possible to set up an alternate time to meet.

Finally, one of our students is looking for your help and support with his bar mitzvah project, which involves collecting donated sports equipment and raising funds to purchase new sports equipment for students in Nicaragua. Over spring break he will travel to meet these students with his family and deliver the equipment and funds he has raised. If you would like to read about his project or to donate, you can do so here http://ariburstein.wix.com/fundraisingnicaragua.

Questions to ask your child this weekend:

  • How is your research writing going? Are you on schedule? Show me. 
  • What did you learn about presidential primary season?

Until next week,

Steve, David, and Virginia

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good Afternoon, Parents,

We are in the depths of our research paper and it is going well! We had a productive trip to the Free Library on Tuesday. Students were persistent in finding resources, and they have begun to populate their research grids will their findings. It’s possible that some will need to find additional resources. At this point, it is okay for new sources to be either print or digital, though they should be sure to vet any digital sources with the process Matt Murray described to us in our last two Tech Spotlights.

Over the long weekend, students are beginning their working outline, which will indicate their topic, thesis statement, and three supporting details. This is the framework on which they will build their first draft. They should also continue researching their questions and populating their research grids. Be sure to remind them to keep meticulous track of page numbers as they go!

The Spring Minicourse Catalog will also be published and distributed to your child’s TPSchool email this afternoon. Be sure that they review the options and submit their decisions via the form embedded in the email.

Questions to ask your child this weekend:

  • Have you found useful sources for your research topic? What questions have you answered? 
  • How does the research grid work? 
  • What is your thesis statement, and what details might you use to support it?

Enjoy the long weekend!

David, Steve, and Virginia

7th Grade Friday Note

Good Afternoon, Parents,

We are done with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, done with our Seeds of Change webquests, and on to new and interesting challenges -- namely, our Seeds of Change research paper, during which the students will identify topics they are interested in and conduct largely self-guided research. In order to conduct that research, however, it is imperative for each student to have a Philadelphia Free Library Card. We are traveling to the library this coming Tuesday, February 9. If your child does not have a library card, please do your best to take them to your local branch this weekend to obtain one.

Over the weekend, students are solidifying their ideas for potential research topics and using the Free Library online catalog to locate at least three potential research materials to check out on Tuesday.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we know that some students will want to include treats, candy, etc. along with any Valentine’s Day cards they might distribute. However, please remember that for the safety of all students, school policy prohibits these kinds of treats. We will not be distributing any sort of snack, treat as a celebration either.

Questions to ask your child this weekend:

  • What topic are you focusing on for your research project? What interests you about it? 
  • What questions do you have about your research topic? Have you found some good-looking sources for research? 
  • How were your classmates’ comics? Were there any you particularly liked?
  • What did you learn from the Seeds of Change Symposium?

Until next week,

Steve, David, and Virginia

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good Afternoon, Parents,

In Cultural Studies this week we wrapped up the “present” webquest on our Seeds of Change. Students are putting the finishing touches on their news stories this weekend using both peer and teacher feedback. Next Tuesday we will have a Seeds of Change Symposium featuring a host of guest speakers. Students ranked their preferences today on which talks they are most interested in attending. The goal of the symposium is for the kids to engage in conversations with experts in various fields connected to the horse, disease, corn, sugar, and potato. Ideally these discussions will pique interest and curiosity which can then be channeled into the upcoming research paper. You can take a look at the roster of symposium speakers here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Cx3Y5d2HgjRyUSRVauq7Y5uifie5RbCd_cFljqxHYmc/edit?usp=sharing .

For the research paper, we will be rearranging our schedule a little in order to merge Language Arts and Cultural Studies. This will help us best guide our students' writing process. Learning specialist Jill Garland will be pushing in several times a week to help with both group instruction and individual support. This schedule shift will begin at the end of next week as the students identify a question to pursue for their paper.

In Language Arts, we have finished the novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. In the spirit of the protagonist, students are working on a comic rooted in their own life and experience. They have completed multiple drafts over the course of the week and over the weekend will begin their final draft. Be sure to remind them to work lightly in pencil!

Thank you to everyone who donated toys to this past month's Helping Hands collection. This Sunday, Student Council will be cleaning and packing up the hundreds of items, and we'd love some more help. Please come by the Multipurpose Room this Sunday, January 31,  1- 4 p.m. Friends and family are welcome!

Questions to ask your child this weekend:

  • What are some possible topics or questions that you’re interested in researching for your Seeds of Change paper? -
  • Are there any guest speakers for the symposium whom you are particularly interested in hearing speak? 
  • What is your comic about? What have been some of the challenges you’ve had to figure out to make it?

Until next week,

Virginia, Steve, and David

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents!

This week in Cultural Studies we began the “present” webquests, which have groups investigating the modern issues involving horses, corn, potatoes, sugar, and disease. The group project will be a collection of news articles about different topics related to a particular Seed of Change. Groups have been working well not only on their assignments but also in navigating the tricky aspects of collaboration, problem-solving, and decision-making.

Over the weekend students are completing our LA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. It’s a heavy ride here near the end, as our protagonist deals with death and major loss. If a snowed-in day of parent-child reflection on mortality and the meanings of death sounds appealing or important to you, this weekend is a perfect chance!

Speaking of all that snow: If it impacts school on Monday, look for an email from us about assignments for Tuesday.

Finally, another reminder about obtaining a library card for your child in anticipation of our Free Library research trip, which will take place on Tuesday, February 9. For information on how to get a library card, please follow this link https://know.freelibrary.org/MyResearch/register.

Questions to ask your child:

  • How is your group work going for Seeds of Change? What is the most difficult thing about cooperative work? What is the most rewarding? 
  • What topic are you going to write your news article on? Why? 
  • How has Arnold changed and grown since the beginning of the book? 
  • What challenges or events in Arnold’s life did you relate to? What challenges or events were difficult for you to relate to? Why do you think that is?

Until next week,

David, Steve, and Virginia

7th Grade Friday Note

Hello, seventh grade parents,

We hope that you’ve had a good week so far and that you’re looking forward to the Martin Luther King Day weekend with your families. We have just a couple announcements and reminders before that weekend begins.

For our Seeds of Change project in Cultural Studies, students will be watching and taking notes on a documentary related to their topic. For a full description/reminder of the assignment, please see the webquests on our class Edmodo page. That page also contains links to some of the documentaries, though many of them are available for instant streaming on Netflix, and of course for purchase and download via iTunes or Amazon.

Look a bit farther forward in the Seeds of Change process, we want to make sure that all seventh graders have a Philadelphia Free Library card. If you child already does, great! If not, please follow this link https://know.freelibrary.org/MyResearch/register, where you will find instructions for applying online, in person at your local branch, or with a printable paper form. They will need these cards by the week of February 8. Be sure to let us know if you have any difficulty obtaining a library card for your child -- we are happy to help any way that we can.

Finally, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., TPS is hosting a morning of service here at school (in the Garage from 9:30 to 11:30am)  on Monday, during which we will be preparing sandwiches for local homeless shelters. If you would like to volunteer, sign up here https://docs.google.com/a/tpschool.org/forms/d/1X8SppD7RpeGqdBlVfdAWPrqkTg9GaOnUKzV_FAlmpDM/viewform. We hope to see many of you there!

Some questions to ask your child over the long weekend:

  • How did your seed group’s presentation go this week? 
  • How is Junior’s time at Reardan going? What new challenges is he facing? What new friends has he made? 
  • How was the Piffaro performance on Thursday?

Until next week,

Virginia, Steve, and David