7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents!

Here are the highlights and announcements for the week.

This afternoon we watched the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird all together. It was a powerful way to cap our cultural studies and science work on the history of race and racial dynamics over the past few weeks. 

The students are also putting the finishing touches on our seventh grade documentary, 52. It will premier for the class on Tuesday morning. Here is the second trailer for 52.

Next Tuesday during the day will also be our end-of-year cookout and celebration at The Schuylkill Center. We will be serving kosher and vegan hot dogs and ice cream, all of which have been allergen-approved by Nurse Sara. We do ask that students bring full water bottles, as we will not be supplying drinks. We will also have an alternate appreciation for those students fasting for Ramadan.

Have a great weekend!

David, Steve, Jake, and Melanie

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents!

We hope you are ready to relax and celebrate the long weekend with family and friends. At school this week we were busy working on our spoken word projects, and we had our first performances on Tuesday. They were powerful and heartfelt, and we look forward to hearing pieces from the rest of the class next Tuesday. 

Middle schoolers also had the opportunity this week to share their Intensives work with other groups. From comics to swing dancing to GIS mapping to infant care, our middle schoolers were immersed in lots of learning this term. Be sure to ask your child what they worked on and what they saw. A special acknowledgement is due to Jake and Lois, whose Let's Go Lobbying intensive took students to Harrisburg to lobby our state legislators on behalf of causes and policies they spent the term researching. 

We've also been pulling together our 7th grade documentary, "52." It will be coming together until the final days of the year, but you can enjoy an updated preview below. 

All the best and enjoy the long weekend!

David, Melanie, Jake, and Steve

7th Grade Weekly Notes

Good afternoon, parents!

First of all -- congratulations on navigating ERB week with your children! 

We’re down to the last few weeks, but the seventh grade is still up to a lot of great stuff! Over the final weeks, the class is working to produce a short documentary chronicling their seventh grade year -- the joys, stresses, triumphs, and trials of the 52. 

Today at Encuentro we saw a performance by the New York-based dance and performance project Boomerang. Afterwards, each language arts section headed out to the park to follow up with the group in a movement workshop that focused on experimentation with different ways of moving and feeling our bodies, entrusting ourselves to others in weight and balance. It was a fun, active, and playful way to end the week. Check out the photos below!

We hope you have a great weekend and that we see some of you tonight at EATS!

All the best,

Melanie, Jake, Steve, and David

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents!

It was a busy week throughout the school, and the seventh grade was no exception.

On Tuesday we visited the Penn GRASP robotics lab, where we saw lots of different robots and robotic technologies and heard from various engineers and roboticists about their work. We saw large and small quadcopter drones and learned about how they’re learning to sense and respond to their environments more autonomously. We watched some other robots play soccer, looked through their eyes to see as they do, and learned how humanoid robots might help us in the future. Finally, we listened to a presentation from Jake’s wife Elizabeth about her research in nanorobotics. Be sure to get the highlights and impressions from your children!

This morning lots of seventh graders performed in the middle school recital (bravo, everyone!) and then departed with their Spanish classes to enjoy some Mexican and Venezuelan food at local restaurants. In the afternoon we enjoyed a dance lesson led by the students in the Swing Dancing intensive. It was a fun and active way to end the week.

As you know, next week the seventh grade will be taking the ERB tests. We spent time in academics this week discussing each section and familiarizing students with the format and user interface of the online test. It is imperative that students get good rest this weekend and take care of themselves -- getting a full night’s sleep, eating well, and staying hydrated. These will all help students be at their mental best going into and during the tests. 

Students will have 10-15 minute breaks between each testing section, during which they can get up, move around, and have a snack. Students may chew quietly on gum or mints during testing, but no other food will be allowed during tests. If you have any lingering questions about ERBs, don’t hesitate to contact your child’s advisor and/or the Learning Resources team. Students are able to use calculators for one of the math sections, but we will not provide calculators. If your child would like to use one, s/he must bring one from home. 

Finally, next Friday is our annual EATS fundraising event. If you are interested in attending and have not yet gotten your ticket, you can do so here. We hope to see many of you there for a night of delicious food, drinks, and merriment!

Until next week,

David, Steve, Jake, and Melanie

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents!

We’re really in the home stretch now. Here are the highlights:

First, some thank yous. Thanks to all those who attended Move-Up Night last night. It’s an exciting reminder of how far the class has come this year and what we have to look forward to in the next. If you were unable to attend last night, feel free to reach out to Ashley ([email protected]) for information. She will also be sending out a general informational email with the presentation slides and high school info soon.

We’d also like to thank the parents who accompanied us as chaperones on the trip to Washington, DC, this past Monday (as well as all those who volunteered after we’d already reached our needed number). We know it was a long and tiring day, but we hope you enjoyed visiting the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture as much as we and the class did. Thank you -- the trip would not have been possible without you!

The history galleries at the NMAAHC provided some powerful background and context for our reading of To Kill a Mockingbird, which we began in advisories last week. This is different from how we’ve approached the novel in years past, but we are excited at the opportunity to read the book aloud in small groups. Each advisory is using a different mix of student and teacher read-aloud and individual reading, and we are confident that they will have a powerful experience of the novel through follow-up conversations and discussions. 

Next Tuesday we will head to Penn's GRASP (general robotics, automation, sensing, and perception) Lab for a tour of their robotics facility and some presentations about their ongoing work and projects. 

In two weeks we will be taking the annual ERB tests. Next week we will spend some time in academics discussing the format of the test and the types of questions to expect in each section. Make sure to remind your children as we draw closer to test days that they should be getting plenty of sleep, eating well, and drinking lots of water. Basic health maintenance will help ensure the best focus and results on the tests.

We hope to see you this evening at Spring Fling! Have a great weekend!

David, Melanie, Jake, and Steve

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon!

It looks like spring is finally here for good, and with it comes some exciting work here in the 7th grade -- here are some highlights, reminders, and announcements.

We’ve continued our collaborative comics project between LA and art this week, as students developed rough mock-up sketches of their ideas, then settled on one to develop into a finished product over the course of multiple drafts. Building off of our work with Absolutely True Diary, these comics aim to address or explore some aspect of self-identity, values, or important life experiences. Students have been working diligently and improving their ideas, drawings, and compositions over multiple drafts. Next week we will be pencilling and inking our final drafts!

On Monday we will be travelling to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, DC. It is critical that students arrive at school by 8:00 a.m. so that we can take attendance, gather in our chaperone groups, and depart on the buses by 8:30. Please make sure that you send your child with a full bottle of water for the bus trip, as well as a full lunch. They are also allowed to have and use their phones for contacting parents and/or listening to music on the bus (with ear buds). Use of social media on the bus will not be permitted -- please help us reinforce this message over the weekend. We will be providing each student with $10 to subsidize dinner at the museum restaurant before we get back on the buses to return to Philadelphia. We anticipate that we will be back around 8:00 p.m., but we will allow students to call or text from the bus to give you more accurate updates about our timing. There may be additional traffic due to the immigration march planned for Monday, so be on the lookout for updates from your children in the evening. A huge thank you to the parents who volunteered to help chaperone this trip!

Next Friday is also the Middle School Spring Fling. Students received permission slips today, which must be signed and returned by Monday. Ask your child this weekend if they plan on attending, and, if so, for the permission slip for you to sign. 

A bit farther off, there are also a couple events we hope you have on your radar. The first is Middle School Move-Up Night on Thursday, May 4. Join us here in the 8th Grade space to hear from next year’s team about curricular highlights, high school information, and to sign up for a fall high school prep conference. We hope to see as many of you as can make it! Finally, our annual EATS event is also approaching on Friday, May 19. You can find more information and purchase a ticket here

Thank you for reading, and see you next week!

Jake, Steve, Melanie, and David

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents!

The Spring is soaring by, and we’ve been busy here in the seventh grade. Here are some highlights from the week!

This week at The Schuylkill Center we worked with a group of student diversity leaders from Abington Friends School. In two activities, these passionate high schoolers explored with us the various ways in which our identities shape our social groups and dynamics, as well as the power of language -- who can say what, when or how they can say it, and how the identity of the speaker affects the impact of our words. 

In language arts this week we’ve started our comic project in which students identify a moment, experience, or event that has shaped their sense of self and then explore its meaning through an original comic strip. We’ve been learning some cartooning basics in art over the past few weeks, and the students are excited to put that knowledge to use composing their own comics. 

In science we’ve dived into our exploration of genetics and the role it plays in our identities. We’ve started this by discussing our family histories, so don’t be surprised if your children ask you about their relatives and ancestry. 

In cultural studies we’ve been examining the idea of American exceptionalism and mythology through various cultural lenses, from 19th century paintings to contemporary commercials. Be sure to ask your child what sorts of myths and messages we Americans have communicated about ourselves over our history and how they shape our cultural identity as Americans. 

Finally, a reminder about our upcoming trip to Washington, DC, on Monday, May 1. You should have signed a permission slip by this point -- if you have not, please contact your child’s advisor as soon as possible so that we can send you a copy to sign over the weekend. It will be an extended-day trip, departing TPS at 8:30 a.m. and arriving back around 8:30 p.m. The signed permission slip should include a pickup plan for your child. We will also provide $10 to each student to help purchase dinner at the National Museum of African American History, but each student should bring their own lunch, snacks, and water for the bus ride and during the day. If you have questions about the trip, contact Melanie at [email protected]. Thank you to those parents who have volunteered to chaperone the trip with us -- we couldn’t do it without you!

Thanks for your time, and have a great weekend!

David, Jake, Steve, and Melanie

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon!

Welcome back to the weekly note after Spring Break! It was a fast and exciting first week as we threw ourselves into our spring exploration of Sense of Self in our science, language arts, and cultural studies work.

On Tuesday we returned to The Schuylkill Center, where we explored concepts of identity and change through two rotations. In the first, we discussed the classic Ship of Theseus thought experiment, which asks us to consider what it means to change and how much something can change while still retaining its identity. In the second, students wrote about what they thought had changed about the environment at The Schuylkill Center since the last time we were there. Students also selected a specific place to examine and take observational notes on that they will return to each week, comparing in order to see how things are growing and changing over the course of the spring.

In language arts, we have been reading and discussing Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the story of a young Native American boy growing up on the Spokane Reservation in Washington State. He makes a critical choice that changes his life and forces him to confront aspects of his identity, as well as how he fits within the greater cultural landscape of the modern United States. It’s a deep and hilarious book that the students are loving -- be sure to ask your child about it this weekend!

In science and cultural studies, we have been exploring various facets of identity and discussing which are most important to us. In science, this work will take us to a further examination of these identities and how they relate to our familial, cultural, and genetic history. In cultural studies, we took a look at some casta paintings and examined the role they played in creating and solidifying various racial and social identities and hierarchies in 18th century North America.

The final Community Service term begins next week, and students have received their assignments. If your child has a job, please ask them what and when it is, and if they have a job before or after school, please help remind them next week to get into the routine.

We hope it was a great first week back for you and your children! 

Until next week,

David, Steve, Melanie, and Jake

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents!

Despite the snow and ice, it’s been another exciting installment of mini-courses here in the TPS middle school. From salsa dancing to dissecting to basketballing to novel reading, it has been a full and fascinating week. Be sure to get the highlights from your children over the weekend!

We are eager to see you all next week (or at your alternately scheduled time) for spring conferences! If you have not yet filled out the conference Doodle poll to schedule a time, please do so here and email your child’s advisor to let them know.

Thank you, and see you next week!

David, Melanie, Steve, and Jake

7th Grade Weekly Note

Hello, Parents!

We want to thank everyone for the support and assistance that you gave to the students these past few weeks as they prepared for the Seeds of Change event! They did an amazing job yesterday, and we appreciate everyone who made the time to come and see their projects and learn about their research. It was a powerful and exciting way to cap our winter work before Mini Courses next week, followed by conferences and spring break.

Students will receive their mini course schedules this afternoon; be sure to check in with your child over the weekend about which classes they’ll be taking.

This is another reminder to sign up for a student-led conference time using the Doodle poll links found on this page. Conferences will be held Thursday and Friday, March 23 and 24. If you and your child are unable to make conferences on those days, please contact your child’s advisor to schedule an alternate day and time.

We shared our Intensive experiences this week. Ask your child about the courses s/he learned about from their peers.

Again, many thanks to you all for your support and attendance at Seeds of Change yesterday! Enjoy the weekend!

David, Melanie, Steve, and Jake

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents,

This week we’ve been in high gear preparing for our Seeds of Change learning celebration next Thursday, March 9, from 5:00-6:30 p.m. in the 7th grade space. First essay drafts are almost done, presentation materials are coming together, and the kids are excited to share the results of their research with you all! We hope to see as many of you there as possible.

Another highlight of the week was that we received the first responses from our pen pals in Missouri. Students are eager to know more about their pen pals, as you read in Jake’s letter home earlier in the week, and have started drafting their responses. 

If you have not yet selected a spring conference with your child’s advisor, please do so as soon as possible by following the appropriate link on this page. You may also schedule a time to meet with your child’s Spanish, music, and art teachers using the links on the same page. If you are not able to attend conferences during the scheduled conference days (Thursday and Friday, March 23-24), please let your child’s advisor know as soon as possible so that we can schedule an alternate time. 

Short and sweet this week -- enjoy the weekend, and see you on Thursday!

Melanie, Jake, Steve, and David

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents!

It’s been an even more irregular week than usual around these parts due to the Shakespeare festival (congratulations, 8th grade!) and the student vs faculty basketball game (sorry, 8th grade!), but still a great one -- here are the highlights.

First, the Seeds of Change update. In LA and Science we’ve moved into the outlining portion of our Seeds of Change paper writing process. This week students completed outlines for the body paragraphs of their essay, and their task over the weekend is to draft an introduction which engages the reader, provides a general overview of the larger topic they’re examining, and concludes with a focused thesis statement that encompasses the content of the body paragraphs. We encourage you to check in with your child to see their progress and hear about some of their research.

Next week we will proceed to draft the essay, as well as prepare the initial information and materials planning for our presentations at the Seeds of Change event on Thursday, March 9 (5:00-6:30 p.m. in the MS7 space -- you’re invited!). Students may need your help acquiring presentation boards, markers, glue, or other crafting supplies. 

Also, next week is the 6th/7th grade parent potluck in the Garage from 6:30-8:30 p.m. You can RSVP here. If you have any questions about the event or what to bring, please email Sue or Erica. We look forward to seeing you there!

Finally, links to spring student-led conference Doodle polls will be distributed via email early next week. Sign up for a conference time with your child’s advisor as soon as possible, and if you need to make arrangements for a conference on some day other than Thursday and Friday, March 23-24, please let your child’s advisor know as soon as possible. 

Thanks for your time, and enjoy the unseasonably warm weather!

David, Melanie, Steve, and Jake

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents!

Though it’s been a short week, it’s been a busy one. Here are the highlights and things to look ahead for.

This week we began two major extended projects. The first is our final Seeds of Change research project, which will culminate in our Seeds of Change Learning Celebration on March 9, from 5:00-6:30 p.m. in the 7th/8th grade space. You are all invited to attend and see and hear about our various research projects firsthand! The research and writing process will take place over the next three weeks. The class has a calendar outlining the process and checkpoints they should meet, and we will be spending some LA, science, and workshop time in school dedicated to the project. If you’d like to help keep track of the process alongside your child, you can ask to see the project calendar or access it via the “Folders” tab on our Edmodo LA page.

The next big project students have begun is gathering returned and assessed work from the Winter term to start compiling their Spring Student-Led Conference Portfolio. As you remember from last year, Spring conferences are conducted by the students themselves after a process of reflecting on their work and identifying specific academic skills that they feel are strengths, persistent challenges, and areas of significant growth. If there are any miscellaneous piles of work at home, make sure your child brings them in to add to their binder! Our scheduled conference days are Thursday and Friday, March 23-24. Be on the lookout in the coming weeks for an email with links to conference signup polls.

In math class the students have ended a unit on graphing in the coordinate plane, using Geogebra to plot images and manipulate them mathematically. Our study of algebra has begun with simplifying algebraic expressions and soon we will look at equations and functions.

Finally, a reminder about the upcoming 6th/7th grade parent potluck, which will take place on Tuesday, February 28, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Garage. You can RSVP here. If you have any questions about the event or what to bring, please email Sue or Erica. We look forward to seeing you there!

Thanks for reading! We hope you enjoy the long weekend!

David, Steve, Melanie, and Jake

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents!

We hope that you enjoyed the (not so much) snow day yesterday! Here are the highlights from the week in 7th grade.

Our Tuesday trip to the Penn Museum was a great success! In the Native American and Mesoamerican galleries, students hunted for various artifacts and took note of their time and culture of origin, their function, and their appearance. For their weekend CS homework, students will be seeking out some modern artifacts that serve similar purposes as one of those they located in the gallery. We also had some free time to explore the other exhibits in the museum, where we saw Roman coins, Egyptian mummies, a stone sphinx, a giant Chinese crystal, and African drums. Another huge thank you to our parent volunteers, Gemina and Sue, for accompanying us to the museum.

In science and language arts this week we wrapped up our exploration of modern medicine and disease and started looking into our fourth Seed of Change, energy. In language arts we explored the question “What is energy?” From there we looked at how power plants generate electricity by burning fossil fuels, which led us to a brief discussion of the Law of Conservation of Energy. From there we looked at an increasingly important energy technology (particularly in our region): fracking. Through readings and videos, we explored the arguments for and against fracking and how it actually works. We wrapped up the week looking at the promise and difficulties of solar power.

Next week, we turn our eyes to the heavens to explore our final Seed, space exploration. Over the weekend students will be reading and listening to John F. Kennedy’s famous “We Choose to Go to the Moon” speech, which was delivered in 1962 -- the same year that the movie Hidden Figures is set in. Our discussion in class next week might be significantly enriched if you have the opportunity to share with the students over the weekend your memories (if you have them) of the Space Race and the Cold War.

Finally, a couple of announcements. First, we’d like you to mark your calendars for our Seeds of Change Learning Celebration on Thursday, March 9, from 5:00-6:30 p.m.! This event will be the culmination of our Seeds of Change unit, during which students will present and share their research about the world-changing ideas and technologies they are most interested in. All family and friends are welcome! We will send additional reminders as the date approaches.

Second, we would like to remind you all again of the 6th/7th grade Mardi Gras potluck, which will take place in the Garage on Tuesday, February 28, 6:30-8:30 p.m. You can RSVP here. If you have any questions about the event or what to bring, please email Sue or Erica. We look forward to seeing you there!

Thanks for your time, and have a great weekend!

David, Melanie, Steve, and Jake

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents!

Happy February -- here’s what we’ve been up to in the seventh grade during this first week of the second month.

At the beginning of the week, the class wrapped up our exploration of the “food” Seed of Change by sharing their PSAs with each other. Check in with your child this weekend about whether there were any particularly memorable or effective campaigns!

We then kicked off our next "Seed" – medicine and disease. In language arts we explored some just-over-the-horizon medical technology in gene testing and gene editing, considering the potential promise and the potential pitfalls of technology like CRISPR. We then pivoted to consider more day-to-day medical concerns like checkups, prescription drugs, and healthcare insurance. We examined how all forms of insurance generally work, then moved on to discuss what particular challenges and forces shape health insurance costs and coverage in the United States. We also briefly looked at how the Affordable Care Act attempted to change those forces, and why it hasn’t been as successful at controlling cost as initially hoped. We hope you enjoyed discussing some of these issues with your children as part of their homework this week -- thank you for your time and generosity on that front! Those conversations fueled a great start to class today by helping illustrate just how many choices face the American health insurance shopper and how much knowledge you need to navigate and understand your options.

In science, we got some hands-on experience by learning about bacteria, viruses, and communicable diseases before venturing out into the school building to swab for samples that we’ve been cultivating in petri dishes. We will measure the bacterial growth in the dishes and determine which areas of our school carry the most bacteria. We also explored an issue at the intersection of health and entertainment -- the ongoing issue of concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in football.

In cultural studies we prepared for our trip to the Penn Museum next week by examining images of artifacts and attempting to make inferences and conclusions about the people and civilizations that produced them. We also connected to our Seeds of Change work by reading a chapter from Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel relating to how disease shapes societies.

We also kicked off Black History Month by going to see Hidden Figures at the Roxy on Tuesday and viewing the Netflix documentary 13th in advisories over the course of the week. That film prompted many difficult, deep, and rewarding discussions, which we hope will continue at home. Thank you for supporting our continuing exploration of the history of social and racial justice and injustice in our country. 

Finally, we’d like to let you know about a few events coming up in the next week. First, this is a big weekend for TPS athletics! Tomorrow, the boys’ basketball team hosts their annual invitational tournament, and on Sunday the wrestling team will have a tournament here, as well. If you are around, come out and cheer on the Tigers! Lastly, next week there will be two performances of The Lion King musical, which has been in production in our MacGuffin-partnered musical theater intensive since the fall. Those performances will be in the Garage at 7:00 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday evenings. We hope to see you there!

Have a great weekend,

David, Jake, Steve, and Melanie

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents!

This week had the seventh graders working on a joint Science/Language Arts project that asked them to develop a public service advertisement (PSA) addressing a health issue of their choice. We explored the purpose and presentation of existing campaigns via the Ad Council and investigated how these campaigns target specific audiences, capture that audience’s attention, and deliver relevant information and action steps. Many students were particularly fascinated by how these campaigns manipulate viewers into feeling guilty or sad in order to motivate them to the desired action step. Students then used this information to craft a print, audio, or video advertisement addressing their issue and to draft a written press release to accompany it. They will share their advertisements with the class next week, but be sure to ask to see them this weekend, too!

We need to put out the call for trip chaperones once more! On Tuesday, February 7, we will take the short walk over to the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology to investigate artifacts in their Native American exhibits in support of our Cultural Studies work this term, as well as our upcoming language arts novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The time commitment would be from 9:15 a.m.-2:15 p.m. If you are interested, please contact Jake at [email protected]

We’d also like to inform you of an Penn mindfulness program instructed by pediatrician Bidi McSorley, which seeks to teach middle schoolers skills to decrease the effects of stress, increase focus and attention, help regulate emotions, and improve communication. The program runs each Sunday from 12:30-2:30 p.m., starting on Sunday, February 5 (ending February 26). The cost is $195. If you’d like more information about this program, please click here.

Agnus Irwin Hosts Tech Savvy, Girls' STEM Event: On Saturday, April 29, Agnes Irwin will host Tech Savvy — a day-long science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career conference for 6th-9th grade girls and their parents. For the girls, this will be a day of interactive, hands-on STEM workshops that will introduce them to female scientists and engineers, as well as workshops to teach “savvy skills,” such as financial literacy, self-advocacy/interview skills, and creative problem-solving. Families are also invited to attend a separate parent program, which will include sessions on the college process and how to encourage girls in STEM, as well as time to visit student STEM workshops and resource tables staffed by representatives from colleges/universities and STEM-related organizations in the Philadelphia area. The program will run 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. on April 29, and the cost to attend is $20 for students and $10 for parents. Agnus Irwin will post a link for online registration on their site in March. Questions? Contact Matt Murray in our Tech Department.

Finally, please see the letter below regarding an opportunity that will start in February. Thank you for your time, and have a great weekend!

Jake, Melanie, Steve, and David



TPS is looking for a group of 6-10 middle school students who would be interested in making a connection with students in India. Interested students would join Monday morning Skype sessions in Justine's office starting the first week of February. Breakfast will be provided. Here are the scheduled dates:

February 6, 7:10 a.m.
February 13, 7:10 a.m.
February 27, 7:10 a.m.
March 6, 7:10 a.m.
March 13, 8:10 a.m.
March 20, 8:10 a.m.

For more information, click here. If you are interested in participating in this exchange, please email Jena Croxford at [email protected] 

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents!

We hope you’re well today. Here are the highlights from our week in the seventh grade.

This week’s Seed of Change was food, so in language arts, students read two articles about the abundance of sugar and corn derivatives hidden in the American diet. We then followed up that reading with a lab in Science that asked them to examine the nutritional information on the snacks they consume each day. They tracked the amount of sugar, carbs, fat, and protein they took in from those foods and drinks, and then measured out the equivalent mass of pure sugar to see how much of it they consume. It was a startling experience for some -- be sure to ask how it turned out for your child! 

We concluded the week by watching the documentary Food, Inc., which explores the American food system and the ways in which it has been shaped, for good and ill, by political, economic, and technological forces throughout the twentieth century. We didn’t have time to finish the whole film, but it is available on Netflix if you’re interested in watching or if your child would like to finish the film at home. Next week we move on to disease and medicine!

In class this week, we also watched and discussed Martin Luther King, Jr’s most famous address, the “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. We examined Dr. King’s powerful use of imagery and metaphor throughout the address and discussed the speech’s primary themes: the calls for freedom, justice, and brotherhood. We also briefly discussed Dr. King’s more radical and controversial opinions and positions, such as his opposition to the Vietnam War, his calls to end poverty and exploitation of the poor, and his criticism of white moderates who supported the Civil Rights Movement in word but not in deed. By remembering these more contentious aspects of his legacy, students will hopefully have a greater appreciation for the scope of his call for justice and the many ways in which his dream has still not been realized. 

Until next Friday,

Melanie, Jake, David, and Steve

7th Grade Weekly Note

Good afternoon, parents!

It was a great week here in the seventh grade as we dove into an exploration of our first Seed of Change: water. In Science and Language Arts, we explored issues of water contamination and scarcity both globally and here in the United States. We also looked at competition for water rights in the drought-stricken Southwest and learned how basic water filtration works by constructing three-stage filters of our own in science. 

Our next “seed” is food, so don’t be surprised if your children ask you for some help identifying ingredients in some of your household foods over the long weekend. They’ve already started to explore the topic in Cultural Studies, where they discussed the challenges and benefits of hunting and gathering. Next week we will take a look at how we supply ourselves with food in the modern world -- namely how far we are from hunting and gathering -- and examine the advantages and dangers of our agricultural/food system.

We hope to see as many folks as possible at our annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service here at school. If you’re interested but have not yet signed up, you can find the link to the signup form here. Even if you aren’t joining us, there are plenty of service opportunities around the city, as well as marches and protests in support and defense of civil rights and freedoms here in Philadelphia and nationally. It’s an important time for direct service and action. Please help us get our young people out there and participating!

Finally, a date to put on your calendar. The annual 6th/7th Grade parent potluck dinner will happen in the Garage on Tuesday, February 28, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. This year's theme is Mardi Gras. We hope you'll join us and other parents for a bite and a drink. Thank you to all those who helped organize this event!

Thank you for your time,

Steve, Jake, Melanie, and David

“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

7th Grade Weekly Note

Happy new year, parents!

We hope you had a joyful and restorative break and holiday with your family, and that you’re excited to have the kids back in school. We sure are! Here are some highlights from our first week and a preview of some upcoming work.

As with any time we return from a break, we spent a good chunk of time reestablishing norms and expectations for daily routines, like entering and exiting classes, walking in the hallways, gathering together, lining up and walking to the park, and having respectful and constructive conversations. Wherever possible, we grounded these expectations in our 7th Grade Social Contract tenets:

  • Be respectful.
  • Be responsible.
  • Have a growth mindset.
  • Accept each other.

Transitions back to school are exciting and often difficult, so we all need the reminders!

In class this week, we switched up our academic sections and introduced the focus of our winter curriculum: Sense of Time. The central project this term is Seeds of Change, which asks students to explore five objects/issues that play an important role in, but also present major problems for, the world around us. Our seeds this year are water, food, energy, disease, and space exploration. Over the course of the next two months, students will explore materials in both science and language arts that will familiarize them with the greatest challenges presented by each of these seeds, as well as how and why those challenges came to be. In cultural studies and language arts, students will focus on informational reading and research skills, with a particular emphasis on finding and vetting sources, as well as identifying critical information within them. This work and skill-building will lead up to a final project and learning celebration (be on the lookout for a date/time announcement in the next couple weeks).

Some particular highlights from the week included a lesson in cultural studies about distinguishing real news from fake news (Is there really a secret friendship between Donald Trump and Pope Francis?), along with a philosophical exploration in language arts beginning with the doozy questions, “What is time?" and "Do the past and future exist?” They’re hard questions, and the class had some fascinating thoughts about them. We also started our winter intensives this week; be sure to ask how the first two sessions went!

Finally, some important announcements for the next two weeks:

  • Next Monday, January 9, winter clubs and community service begin.
  • If you are interested in participating in our annual Martin Luther King, Jr Day of Service on Monday, January 16, please sign up here.

That’s all for this week. We’ll see you for another four-day week next week! Happy new year!

David, Jake, Melanie, and Steve

7th Grade Weekly Note

Happy Friday, Parents!

It’s hard to believe, but the 2016 portion of our school year has come and gone. It seems like just a few days ago that we were gathering in our new space for the first time, meeting each other, and coming together as a community.

As we send the students off for two weeks of break, we hope they (and you) have a chance to reflect upon the things they’ve learned so far this year, the ideas and knowledge that caught their attention and fired their curiosity; upon the challenges and rewards of the relationships they’ve built and maintained; and upon how they’ve grown as students, friends, and citizens. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work and grow with them over these months.

We also hope that you have time to rest, recharge, and celebrate with friends and family. We extend our warmest thanks for your hard work and dedication, every day, on behalf of your children, our students. It is your care and partnership that make this community so powerful, and we look forward to continuing our work together in the coming year.

Best wishes and a happy new year.

The 7th Grade Team