In storytelling teams, fourth graders have been recording their rewritten Greek myths.
News & Updates
Eighth Graders Explore Community Poem on Isolation
In eighth grade English, students read and discussed the community poem, “Social Distance” by Kwame Alexander, author of many popular books including The Crossover and Booked. (Alexander was one of the keynote speakers at the 2019 AISNE Middle School Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Conference hosted at BDS.) The community poem was the result of an exercise done recently on National Public Radio. Listeners were asked to write poems about two paintings and then Alexander took lines from those submissions to create a new poem. The two paintings were of women looking out of windows, which is also a theme in our current novel study, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. Using “Social Distance” as a source for inspiration, each eighth grader wrote an original poem connected to their experience during this period of social distancing. They also had the option to include a visual along with the poem. Students did a virtual gallery walk of one another’s poems and artwork.
– Elisabeth Klock, grades 7 & 8 English teacher
Fifth Grade Researches the Respiratory System
To wrap up their study of the human respiratory system, fifth graders are embarking on an independent research project of their choice. Some students are researching the dangers of vaping and creating an ad campaign to target teenagers, while others are researching the respiration of a marine animal and building a Google site. There are also options for our scientists who prefer creating to research as some students are building a sculpture of the respiratory system using items they already have in their homes. Others are writing and performing educational songs to teach about the respiratory system. Stay tuned for an update on the amazing results!
– Emma Nairn, grade 5 math and science teacher
Second Grade Expresses Gratitude
The students in second grade have been keeping their eyes on the helpers around us and talking about the importance of saying thank you. They have been working on a project to express gratitude to all of the people in our community who are working hard to keep us safe and healthy every day. They would love some help testing their hypothesis that gratitude is contagious, so join them in expressing gratitude to the essential workers in our community–and please pass it on! Thank you!
– Nancy Fell and Sunny Lee, grade 2 teachers
Arts: Trying Their Hands At Drawing … Hands
In the drawing elective, seventh and eighth graders meet once a week to go over assignments, share drawings, and talk about drawing techniques and weekly studio work. This week, students were challenged to draw hands from observation. They could either draw their non-drawing hand, while carefully observing the contours, details, and shading, or they could take a photograph of a hand and draw from the photographic image. Each student rendered two drawings, a hand in a “pose” and a hand doing an activity. Artists also included an artist statement with each artwork to reflect on their process and finished work.
Students were inspired by other artists’ drawings of hands including Vincent van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, and Jean-Auguste Dominique. In addition, they created value scales where they practiced hatching (the use of lines), pressure strokes (the pressure applied to the pencil), and any other shading techniques made up of groupings of shapes and marks that are placed close together and farther apart to create lights and darks.
– Kathy Jo Solomon, visual arts teacher
Learning the Alphabet … in French
Third grade students are now learning the alphabet in French so that they will ultimately be able to spell words in the language. Recently they learned a silly poem (click here for video example) and are now playing games such as “portrait of a letter.” In that game, a student chooses a secret letter and the other person(s) take guesses of what it might be. The game leader gives information in French if the letter is avant (before) or après (after) the one they guessed. In class, we have also played “string a spider” in which we chose vocabulary words from objects around the room. These simple games go a long way in language learning and developing leadership skills.
– Nathalie Pellenq, lower school and grade 6 French teacher
COMMUNITY SERVICE NEWS
Supporting Cradles to Crayons At Home
While the annual Belmont-wide Cradles To Crayons collection drive had to be halted this year due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, there are still ways to support the mission of the organization from home. Cradles To Crayons has created a new website offering a variety of activities to engage the whole family in valuable service learning. The activities include a scavenger hunt, shoe designing, and creating book bundles and clothing donation packs. There is increasing need in our communities at this challenging time and this is a great way for the whole family to help!
Katie Alexander, Grade 1 Teacher
Katie Alexander will join Cicely Gibson as a first grade co-teacher in the fall. Katie comes to Belmont Day from Brookwood School where she has taught kindergarten since 2009. She has spent the last two years working in a co-teaching classroom. Katie holds a master’s degree from Teacher’s College at Columbia University and has taught graduate courses through Brookwood School’s partnership with Lesley University. Katie has a passion for creating cross-curricular units. Her commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion work, as well as her skills in differentiation and socio-emotional teaching make her a wonderful match for our first grade program. Katie also has a background in fine art and is excited to bring that love to the classroom.
Vaniecia Skinner, Grade 5 Humanities Teacher
Vaniecia Skinner will join us this fall as our new fifth grade humanities teacher. A graduate of Spelman College, Vaniecia received her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Boston College early in her career and is expected to receive a second master’s degree in special needs, also from Boston College, in May. Vaniecia comes to Belmont Day from Nativity Preparatory School of Boston, a tuition-free private middle school for boys. Vaniecia taught grade seven language arts and served as student service coordinator for students in grades 4 to 8. Vaniecia is eager to work full time with upper elementary students and build collaborative relationships with teachers and parents.
Kate Burns, Grades 7 & 8 Social Studies Teacher
Kate Burns will join the Belmont Day faculty to teach grades 7 and 8 social studies. Kate comes to BDS after three years as a social studies, English, and religion teacher to grades 5 to 8 at the St. Ailbe School in Chicago. She currently also serves as a teacher at the Metro Achievement Center for Girls in Chicago, an after school and enrichment program. Previously, Kate worked as a tutoring fellow at the University of Chicago Crime Lab and as a tutor and faculty member at several academic camps and non-profit organizations in the Chicago area. Kate has extensive professional development and experience teaching Facing History and Ourselves curriculum, as well as individual research, writing, and presentation skills to middle school students. Kate brings an impressive track record of and passion for volunteer work in her community and is excited to incorporate those interests into her work at BDS. Kate received a bachelor’s degree in history from Princeton University and a master’s in teaching from the University of Chicago.
Audra McFarland, Director of Admissions
Hema Ramachandran, Associate Director of Admissions and Director of Financial Aid
Truly a dynamic duo, the team of Audra and Hema are driven by their boundless energy, determination, and focus on improving the community and opportunities at Belmont Day. Their work—and some say magic—performed through the admissions process have had a profoundly positive impact on BDS that will be felt by our school community for generations to come.
Since both joined Belmont Day seven years ago, the team has evolved and innovated the admissions process in ways that have set the standard for independent schools. They re-imagined our open house and assessment visits to create immersive experiences that give prospective students and parents a true and joyful feeling of the learning and culture at BDS. Through challenging years and an evolving landscape, Audra and Hema have guided the thoughtful growth of the student population from 265 to approximately 300 for the 2020-21 school year. Their greatest legacy may be their success in significantly increasing the racial, geographic, and socio-economic diversity of the school, their launch of the Annette Raphel Scholarship for Leadership and Diversity, and the creation of the student and parent ambassador programs.
During their tenure, Audra and Hema have both been deeply involved in school life and governance. Audra has worked on the strategic planning committee and the financial assistance task force, was a Capstone mentor, and a member of the faculty of color affinity group. Hema has served on the financial assistance task force, was a Capstone mentor, an advisor for the S.A.F.E (Student Action For Equity) Club, and a member of the faculty of color affinity group.
In July, Audra will be joining the team at the Winsor School as their new director of admissions and financial aid. Hema will be taking a well-deserved pause to reflect and spend time with her family. Our community will miss them dearly. We are thankful for their incredible work in shaping the future of Belmont Day!
Brian Laskowski, Middle School Math Teacher
We will bid a fond farewell to Brian Laskowski at the end of this academic year, as he accompanies his wife, Laura, and their daughter, Sierra, to Maryland, where Laura will take up a new military appointment. In just two years, Brian will leave an indelible and deeply positive impact on Belmont Day, serving as a devoted sixth grade advisor, math department chair, and three-season coach. We will always be grateful to Brian for leading us through the implementation of our Connected Math Program and launching our first-ever wrestling team, where students achieved outstanding camaraderie, skills on the mat, and numerous accolades. We wish Brian and his family all our warmest wishes as they embark on their next adventure.
Andy Rentschler, Assistant Director of Admissions and Director of Alumni Relations
Since joining the Belmont Day team in 2016, Andy has juggled many roles—interviewing prospective students, coaching our athletes on the field, and keeping our alumni connected and engaged—and he’s done each with a joyful enthusiasm that will be greatly missed. Over his four years at Belmont Day, Andy organized a yearlong celebration of the school’s 90th anniversary. He vastly increased alumni engagement with and support of the school through new events, publications, and online initiatives, and he was part of the team that helped the school realize ambitious enrollment growth. Andy has been a Capstone mentor for the past three years, served on the development committee, and participated in Faculty SEED. He has also been a vital member of the athletics team as a three-season coach for the past four years. We wish Andy great success as joins the Fenn School in the fall as their assistant director of admissions.
Beth Sousa, Associate Director of Development and Annual Giving
Greeting every day with her joyous spirit and infectious optimism, Beth has been a soft-spoken contributor and leader across the Belmont Day community. Beth joined BDS six years ago and immediately set to expand the school’s support through charitable giving. She has helped enhance the community’s appreciation of and participation in the annual fund and worked to guide the highly successful “Raise Y[our] Voice” capital campaign in 2018. In 2019 Beth created the Bell & Laurel Society to honor donors who have given to the annual fund for ten or more consecutive years. She has also served as a Capstone mentor. We wish Beth all the best as she begins a new chapter in her professional life.
HEALTH & WELLNESS NEWS
Options to Get You Up and Moving
One of the challenges for me, while we have been home, is that I am on my screen a lot! I have had to find ways to take breaks and get moving. Walks outside are my favorite way to get exercise, but when I just have a few minutes or the weather’s not very good, I have found two helpful alternatives. Heather and Bill Smith recommended Go Noodle and I’m loving it. The website has wonderful dance-along songs for all ages that are fun and get you moving in just a few minutes. When I have a little more time, I use the Down Dog app recommended by Abbey Nyland. Users can choose to do yoga from seven minutes to 90 minutes. Both are free, easy to use, and help us stay fit and healthy. Give them a try!
Webinar: Teens, Tweens & Quarantines
Presented by Minding Your Mind and hosted by local clinical director Jon Mattleman, this webinar for parents and caregivers will focus on the impact of the coronavirus crisis on teens and tweens. The presentation will explain why this pandemic is so difficult for this age group, survey the process of loss, discuss issues related to independence, autonomy, and privacy, and offer perspectives and suggestions that parents and caregivers can implement immediately. Click here for more information and registration.
– Liz LaRocque, school nurse
AFTER SCHOOL NEWS
Letters Are On the Way!
Keep an eye on those mailboxes! This week, the after school team set up a letter service and will be sending each family that signed up for after school this trimester a personalized and fun letter. Mr. Jean-Mary packed up all the supplies and distributed them to the team and the letters will be going out very soon. And when you get a letter, take a photo with it and send it our way at [email protected]
Let’s Get Together for Game Night!
The whole community is invited to attend our first Virtual Family Game Night on Saturday, April 25 from 4 to 5 p.m. Hosted and led by the PA executive team, join us for some fun family-friendly games. Please RSVP to [email protected] by Friday, April 24. We will send a Zoom invite Saturday morning to all those who plan to join us. We hope to see you there!
The parents’ association would also like to express our continuous thanks to the faculty for their steadfast commitment and dedication to teaching with excellence during this time. We wish you all a happy, healthy, and safe spring vacation.
See You on Facebook
And finally, we encourage all parents to stay connected in the days and weeks by joining the Parents of Belmont Day School Facebook page.
A Star Is Born!
Our kitchen team keeps on cooking up great food from home and they want to share. This week, assistant chef Vlad Hucko took a turn on Facebook, starring in his instructional video on how to make a BDS favorite, butternut squash soup! Critics are calling his performance, “Delicious!” and the soup, “Even more delicious!” Check out the fun and flavor here! And keep your eyes out for more videos from Vlad’s kitchen in the weeks ahead.
Sharing and Documenting a Moment in Our History
This is undoubtedly a challenging time for our school community and for everyone around the world. As we persevere together, we are also mindful that it is a moment in our shared history. We will continue to ask for photos and videos from home for the joy it brings in sharing them via Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. We also request those images to help tell the story of our shared experiences during this time, be it a few months or many decades down the road. Thank you so much for all you’ve shared, and please keep sending us your photos and videos of your BDS education at home. Email to [email protected].
Fun at Home
After School at Home
Our after school team has put together a website chock full of wonderful activities for students when school time has ended for the day. These activities continue our program’s mission of fun with the intention of enhancing skills, spurring creativity, and building community. Each week the team will update the site with new options. Click here to visit the site.
This Week: Loads of Activities for Spring Vacation Week!