Summer Camp Registration forms are now on the web. Please click on FORMS in the menu above to download these forms and read the letter to Summer Camp Parents.
Lest you think your children are only doing fun and showy things at St. James, TAKE A LOOK AT THEIR TEACHER'S BLOG! Really read what is going on in class and why. You will be so impressed and never question why you send your child to St. James. Yes, we have fun — but we have fun LEARNING!
The Middle Schoolers just finished their Black History Month projects. These projects required them to research an assigned person, synthesize what they learned, cite their sources, design an effective slideshow (this included choosing good fonts and colors, designing slides with intent, using photos and videos effectively, and using limited text appropriately), and presenting well—and, perhaps most importantly, it required them to be responsible, manage their time, collaborate with me on an ongoing basis, and advocate for themselves in terms of using the computer lab outside of school hours, working at home, etc.
Words don't do these justice. Check out the videos on the St. James Facebook page; we livestreamed them!
February is Black History Month, so the middle schoolers are researching important figures in Black history and then creating slideshows on them. They are practicing online research, digital notetaking, and creating visual presentations. At the end of the month, they will use their slideshows as visual aides as they teach their classmates all they've learned.
We are doing similar things in Lower School. The second- and third-grade teachers were looking for more ways for their students to practice synthesizing and presenting information in front of people, so they are working on slideshows as well. Second grade just completed slideshows on different landforms, and third grade is working on presentations on U.S. presidents.
While not our primary means of learning, block-based coding is popular for a reason: it allows students to make gains without fear of syntactical error. Our students are introduced to block-based coding through Code.org after they have displayed strength in text-based coding (in our chosen language, Terrapin Logo). They love the fun graphics and games (Minecraft, Frozen, and Angry Birds are all featured), and they often make connections to what they've already learned through Logo.
The Code.org course is self-paced, so those who struggle can spend more time with a concept, while those who fly through can move on to more advanced challenges.
GALA 2017 -
Tuition alone does not pay for a child's education, and the school depends on donations from supportive parents, grandparents, and friends. Please sponsor and/or support this major fundraiser for St. James Day School! To fill out a sponsorship form or buy tickets, please go online at GALA 2017
Last week, the third and sixth grades began their robotics unit using Vex IQ robotics kits. They are still in the initial building stage. They thought this would go a lot more quickly than it is. More than one team has had to take apart and rebuild their entire robot due to mistakes. It is a trying process, for sure, but they are hanging in there, learning how to be patient and appropriately express frustration.
When children build things with their hands, they improve fine-motor skills, develop better spatial awareness, and engage in critical thinking.
Typeface is a huge, virtually unrecognized part of our world. In this digital age, fonts are everywhere. Smart use of fonts, as well as an understanding of typefaces, is critical for our students to be the most effective communicators they can be.
To start our fonts study, the Lower School students wrote/drew/coded their names in Logo. They made stylistic decisions about the shapes of their letters, the spacing, the size, and the style. Creating these masterpieces required artistic initiative as well as geometric understanding; they "drew" the letters by typing lengths, angles, and code syntax.
Next up, we will work on typefaces in our technology hour, focusing on different types, the different aspects, and different uses of fonts. We will then make our own fonts, both in Logo and with a program that turns actual handwriting into a digital font.
Grades two and three have used some of their technology time to make pocket-sized vocabulary "books" for Spanish class. Using PowerPoint, Google Translate, and Google Images, the kids created slideshows that featured photos of different animals, captioned with their Spanish names. When they were finished, they printed them out and stapled them together. They loved this project, and Mrs. Rowe was thrilled to have another teaching aide, this one created by the students themselves. I enjoyed this project for many reasons: it's cross-curricular; it emphasizes the very real "21st-century skill" of using the internet to bridge language gaps; and the kids were SO eager to work on it.
So too have the fourth and fifth graders been eager to complete work in the computer lab. In computer science, they have been using coordinate planes to code different parabolic designs. I can't get them to stop or slow down, though, admittedly, I haven't tried too hard; this project is fantastic because it 1) helps students develop comfort with coordinate planes, 2) demonstrates the tenets of parabolas and curves in general, and 3) encourages artistic thought and action.
The school-wide theme of this year is perseverance. We as a faculty want our students to understand that hard work is more valuable than everything coming easily; that meaningful achievement comes only through diligence and persistence; that it is the journey, not the destination, that matters. Our computer science program lends itself to this theme by design; the curriculum is largely founded on Angela Duckworth's research on "grit" (defined as "perseverance plus passion"). With our theme in mind, I have been more intentional with my language and instruction, encouraging students to persevere through tough assignments or situations in order to succeed.
Fifth grade's latest project definitely required perseverance. They were instructed to make digital tangrams. Tangrams are Chinese puzzles consisting of seven specific pieces: two large triangles, one medium-sized triangle, two small triangles, a square, and a rhombus. These pieces must be sized exactly according to the set parameters, else the puzzle won't work the way it's intended. In order for the students to do this project entirely independently, I would have had to teach them the Pythagorean Theorem, which would have been wildly inappropriate for their age, so instead I provided just enough information for them to figure out the dimensions using basic logic skills. After the students coded each piece, they then used the pieces to create a tangram design found online. This is trickier than you would imagine, but the students persevered, thought outside of the box, and successfully completed their puzzles. Below is a photo of a small sampling.
Another challenging element of this year has been the Middle School's keyboarding curriculum. Students are required to take more responsibility for their work and behavior once they reach the Middle School. As Mrs. Wagy says, this is the time for them to learn personal responsibility because the risk is so low; any negative consequences are small, in part because we (and parents) provide such a strong safety net. Knowing this, the Middle School teachers and I agreed that allowing the students to take charge of their keyboarding practice in computer class was a good idea. Each student must complete a certain amount of keyboarding work per week; this amount is differentiated between students and will likely change as the year goes on. They may have to spend time before or after school to finish their work in time, or, if they focus, they may get it all done during class time. The first couple of weeks caught many students off-guard; "I didn't have time!" they said. But through persevering and stepping up to the challenge, all of the students have gotten themselves on track and are headed steadily toward their individual goals. I had to let loose on the reigns while still expecting excellent behavior, and though it was a learning curve for both me and the kids, we have found our groove, and for that I am thankful and glad.