Atrium School

Excellence with Joy

Welcome to Atrium!

Today, we held our annual Welcome Assembly, in which every new member of the Atrium community received a welcome sunflower from an eighth grader. Head of school Marshall Carter welcomed new students and eighth graders shared their own greeting. Librarian Susan Jacoby and art teacher Talin Megherian invited visitors to view the library’s new artwork, created to more accurately represent Atrium’s population. Middle School math teacher Liz Caffrey, fifth grade teacher Nicole Moran and kindergarten teacher Jaleesa Anselm asked families to consider “What is math?” (definitions, not opinions), and to write their conclusions in a banner to be contemplated and discussed later. To new students and old, welcome (back) to Atrium!


What Teachers Did Over Summer Vacation

At Atrium, learning is a continual process—both the simple act of learning and learning how to teach. Summer is no exception, and Atrium educators spend much of the summer doing professional development and learning how to enhance their teaching. This summer, Middle School teachers Laura Page (science), Paul Capobianco (social studies) and Julia Schroeder (ELA) each participated in Developmental Designs' Education for Equity program, a program focused on social-emotional learning and social justice. After completing the workshop, the teachers worked together with art, music and PE specialists to help integrate social-emotional learning more fully across all the subject areas.  

Laura explained, “The Education for Equity approach incorporates research-based routines and practices that support the academic, social, and emotional growth of adolescents in every part of our school day. Attending this workshop will revitalize and 'fine tune' my own teaching and help us to create a school wide culture that fosters student independence, confidence, and collaboration.” Paul added, “It provided us with many supports to our current advisory program, as well as effective communication methods that can be used throughout middle school and will promote community.”

In addition to social-emotional learning, teachers focused on math development this summer. Middle School math teacher Liz Caffrey was selected as one of only 40 teachers to participate in the Desmos Fellowship in San Francisco, right before she attended Twitter Math Camp in Cleveland, and has just been invited to speak at the 2019 NCTM national conference in San Diego.    

 Liz Caffrey (bottom right, in blue) at Twitter Math Camp this summer.

Liz Caffrey (bottom right, in blue) at Twitter Math Camp this summer.

Kindergarten teacher Jaleesa Anselm attended Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had: Making Math Class More Like Mathematics at Carroll School. What do mathematicians do? Mathematicians take risks and make mistakes well.  Mathematicians are precise, ask questions, and rise to a challenge. Mathematicians use intuition, reason, and proof both in collaboration and alone. Mathematicians make vital connections. “I learned how to encourage productive struggle in both children who struggle with math and those who love it,” Jaleesa said. “I also learned how important it is to let children take charge of their learning and be able to create their own extensions to the curriculum. It will certainly affect my teaching now that I have all of these resources to help children expand their knowledge beyond just what they learn in the workbook.” 

Nearly every teacher at Atrium participated in professional development over the summer, from Kingswood Oxford School's Leadership Institute for Educators of Color to Reading and Writing Institutes at Columbia University Teachers College. Stay tuned for more information about teachers’ experiences this summer.

Atrium's Third Eighth Grade Class Graduates

On June 7, seventeen Atrium students graduated from eighth grade. "These graduates are exceptional–they are kind, hard-working, and innovative thinkers,” said Marshall Carter, Atrium’s Head of School. “Whether they came to Atrium as seventh graders, or have been here since kindergarten, they've come together as a class and have been great leaders for Atrium. We look forward to hearing about their successes and adventures in high school and beyond–we're so proud and pleased to call them Atrium graduates."

The night before graduation, eighth graders and their families came together for a final class dinner at Casa de Pedro, before attending their Reflection Ceremony. During the Reflection Ceremony, Middle School teachers present reflections on each student in the class. The ceremony is a moving event that demonstrates how well each student at Atrium is known. From the reflection in rhyme to the final reflection ending in a song sung by all the Middle School teachers, each was insightful and loving–a touching testament to the students, their teachers, and the relationships they have developed at Atrium.

This year’s commencement speaker was Rabbi Shoshana Friedman ’95, rabbi at Temple Sinai in Brookline. In Atrium tradition, the commencement speaker is a graduate of the school. Rabbi Friedman began by telling students, “Atrium is alive inside of me every day–through my music, spirituality, sense of justice and devotion to the environment, service to something bigger than myself, my curiosity, and sense of myself as a life-long learner and teacher. I credit Atrium with empowering me to be a change-maker in the world.”

She continued, “In relationship to other people, working in small and large groups, we can each be in service to particular parts of the world, using the gifts we can best offer. We can’t change the world. We can do something better. We can live as gracefully as possible amidst the messiness of being human, and out of that grace we can serve others.”

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Students from Atrium’s eighth grade will be attending a variety of public and independent schools in the area: Cambridge School of Weston, Chapel Hill Chauncy Hall, Commonwealth School, Concord Academy, Gann Academy, and The Governor’s Academy, in addition to Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, Newton North High School, and Lincoln-Sudbury High School. Previous eighth grade classes have attended those schools as well as Meridian Academy, Arlington High School, and Watertown High School.

Climate Studies Combine Multiple Disciplines

Fourth and fifth graders recently completed their climate study research projects, a research study that integrates their science, reading and writing curricula with an element of engineering. The students began by learning the difference between climate and weather, and ended by creating a model of a house designed for a particular climate in tandem with writing a five-paragraph research essay about the effect of climate on lifestyle in their specific geographic location.  

Students began the project by learning the distinction between weather and climate, said fourth grade teacher Nia Lutch. “In theme, students had a science unit to learn about the science behind weather and climate. Topics covered included the phases of matter, air masses, convection currents, precipitation trends, how to find air masses, and what happens when air masses meet." 

She continued, "We talked about the different climate types and how some aspects of lifestyle, such as clothing and food, are related to climate type. We studied some houses around the world and discussed how the environments in which people live influence their decisions about how to build shelters.” 

As they learned about climate, students studied thesis statements and paragraph writing in their writing class. Students wrote three-paragraph persuasive essays on varied subjects with clear, articulate thesis statements before building up to a five-paragraph research essay exploring how climate affects lifestyle in their chosen location. At the same time, they studied features of nonfiction texts to launch their research for the essay.

While researching their climate and writing their essays, students were also designing and building a shelter for their location and climate type. Some students chose a style of house located in a specific climate, while others chose a climate and then built an appropriate house. For weeks, students were creating shelters out of recycled materials, building houses from Colombia to Indonesia, suited for myriad climates.

The culmination of the project was the Climate Expo, during which students displayed their houses with their essays to their fellow students and families. At the Expo, fourth and fifth graders were able to speak passionately about their houses, as well as the effects climate had on housing, clothing, jobs, work, and food in their chosen location.

Jonathan chose Mongolia as his climate, explaining, “People in Mongolia live a nomadic lifestyle, so this house is easy to carry and is portable. Two people and a camel can carry it. It’s made of animal skin, bamboo and wood. They move it almost every day.”

Camilo chose a Gasho house from Japan. “It looks like hands held together in prayer,” he said. “People have an expectation that when it rains or snows that the rain will go through the thatch, but the thatch is thick enough that it drips right off; it’s also at a 60-degree angle, so that helps it fall off. The thatch and the hearth keep it warm, and keep the bugs out.”

Molly built a houseboat from the Phillippines. “It’s in the water because there’s so much flooding you can’t be on land. Because the Phillippines is a poor country, there are not a lot of resources, so people use the wood cut from trees. They make blankets out of grey cloth to ward off evil spirits. This house is safer when the typhoons hit because if it rains and the water rises, you can loosen a string and cover the boat. It can also move around to go to markets or go fishing.”

Avery made an adobe house from New Mexico, saying, “It’s made entirely of clay and sticks. Clay is a natural resource. They have 297 days of sun on average every year and it’s such a hot and dry climate that they make walls of solid clay that are two to two and a half feet thick. You can’t do that with normal walls. It keeps the cool air in.”

At the Expo, students were able to talk at length about the effects of climate on various aspects of life around the world. Nia said, “By the end of this unit, each child became an expert on his or location and how climate type is related to features of a house. As teachers, it is rewarding to see the kids making connections across subject areas and becoming experts on a topic.”

Atrium Celebrates Field Day

This week, Atrium students celebrated Field Day, a long-standing school tradition. Students cycled through 13 different activities across the campus. Grouped by mixed age Constellation, children participated in chalk drawing, kush catch, parachute games, tic tac go and bubbles outside.

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Famous Social Justice Heroes Inspire Atrium

For twenty years, students in Jill Ferraresso’s second grade class have been doing Heroism Studies: researching a hero from American history and then embodying them in a presentation before their class. While the project has transformed over the years, Heroism Studies are a hallmark of Atrium’s second grade curriculum; children learn how history is often driven by social justice visionaries.

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Becoming a Reader: Kindergarten at Atrium

In Kindergarten (and in Pre-Kindergarten), children are already deeply involved in the complex task of becoming readers, which will continue for many years to come. Metaphorically, some have compared the process of learning to read with learning to drive, though learning to read well takes many more years to develop. In the same way that a driver must integrate and practice many separate skills, understandings, habits and awarenesses, so readers must do the same. It requires growing attention, stamina, working memory, self-direction and self-monitoring, and a healthy amount of independence, risk-taking, and confidence.  

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