Lunchtime doodling online with Mo Willems!
Mobilizing For the Unknown
By Deborah Brissenden, Assistant Head of School and Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Post Date: March 20, 2020
Whew! What a week! I hope everyone is able to relax, reset, and get outdoors this weekend.
My daily communications to parents and faculty serve to keep you informed about offsite learning and coronavirus-related information.
While the structure of the Scoop will look a bit different while we are away from campus, the essence of the content will stay the same. The Scoop will remain a vehicle for inspiring community news and an opportunity to hear from school leaders—it will not be spent addressing concerns around the coronavirus.
In light of her outstanding leadership in getting our offsite learning program up and running, it is fitting to kick-off our reimagined Scoop hearing from Deborah Brissenden, assistant head of school and director of curriculum and instruction.
– Brendan Largay
Way back it seems now, my weekly meetings with Brendan consisted of discussing, planning, and executing a long list of tasks from big picture strategic issues to mundane, but essential, logistics. Three weeks ago that changed dramatically as the topic of the coronavirus took center stage. Over the next week, research began, and structures created. My beloved curriculum review work was set aside as we dedicated faculty meeting time to planning for a virus that hadn’t yet reached our towns or schools.
Faculty leaped into the unknown with an energy that was palpable, designing developmental activities that extended and supported skills. Our work emphasized both flexibility and consistency for students and parents.
The planning involved everyone at BDS. The tech team mobilized, the building and grounds trio readied the buildings, and the business office tracked markets and redesigned predictions. Meanwhile, the kitchen donated food and canceled orders, our communications duo designed sites and planned messaging, the development and alumni offices reorganized meetings, and the admissions team re-envisaged opportunities for newly accepted families to learn more about BDS. Each group brought knowledge of their departments and needs to the table. The nimble Incident Management Team met countless times a day to make decisions, protect and provide for the community, and usher us all forward.
We’re still sprinting forward into our new normal, but with a quick look back, I couldn’t be more proud of our team’s responsiveness, responsibility, and care at every step of the planning. And this week, teaching faculty are doing what they do best; plan, deliver, observe and listen, readjust, and begin again. We are all becoming wizards at online meetings as we discuss feedback and push our thinking. We are discovering the structures that helped us start this journey need tweaking and adjusting. That some of our classroom routines and schedules translate well and some do not. We know that social distancing is really physical distancing because we crave the social connections that link us to each other.
I have had the pleasure of seeing the joy teachers bring as they use meeting apps to teach, chat, soothe, and laugh with their students. I have seen how the morning message and read-aloud reestablishes predictability in a landscape that feels unfamiliar. I have exercised with animal movements and jumped into a Spanish class Google channel. Non-teaching teams are checking on systems, keeping up with constituencies, and thinking ahead to reentry. A whole “building” of people is innovating, reflecting, reaching out, and learning how to improve together.
Please do all you can to stay healthy and connected. Keep checking in with us; your feedback is uplifting, informing, and impacting our work.
Some sprints at Harvard Stadium for exercise this week!
News & Updates
Guidelines for Online Learning
As we end our first week as a community working remotely, our office has put together a few rules and guidelines to help keep everyone focused, safe, and productive online. I am impressed by the good old pioneering spirit and the many helping hands from our BDS family. I am equally thankful for and impressed by our educational peers and vendors who have stepped up with offers of online learning plans, tips for faculty and students, expanded licensing, free use of enterprise features and online learning resources, and offers of technical help. We have been busy training teachers, supporting students and families, and working to keep things running as smoothly as we can. We hope you find these 10 rules helpful. Feel free to share this with others. Wishing you all good health as we move through the spring.
Considering a Technology Purchase?
We have received a number of inquiries from parents regarding recommended computer purchases. For parents who are looking to upgrade or purchase a device to aid in online learning, we recommend a Chromebook. Chromebooks are small and lightweight and they were built for online instruction and web-based activities. However, if your family members need a device that supports gaming or photography you may want to consider a device with more storage and memory like a Macbook or Surface Pro.
– Dolly Ryan, director of technology
Kindergarten Learns About Measurements
Our students have been engaged in a variety of interactive and creative learning activities at home. In math, students have been learning about non-standard measurement by using cutouts of their feet and hands to measure the width and height of objects around their house. They have then traced cutouts from another family member and compared their data. In our literacy centers, students have been practicing the “popcorn” (sight) words they have learned thus far by writing cards to relatives which incorporate the words, and playing Popcorn Word Bingo. To reinforce letter formation, the students have built letters with household or natural items and their bodies. Finally, the room parents even hosted a virtual playdate via Zoom!
– Betty Pryor, kindergarten teacher
Seventh Grade Students Discuss Community
This week, students shifted to their third mod of the school year. Getting acclimated to a new cohort of students over Google Hangouts has been a journey and the work that students are sharing and commenting on through our Google Classroom site has been impressive. In English class, students began the week by reading a short story and wondering about the traits of a functioning, supportive community. This student’s comment captures the consensus of the class: “I think an essential trait is trust. All of the people in the story trusted each other enough to accept food from a stranger. Another essential trait is caring. Without caring all communities would collapse.” Well said! In addition to this work, students took a crash course in Iranian history with John Greene, author of The Fault in Our Stars, and have just begun pre-drafting persuasive essays. I’m looking forward to how this classroom community will continue to flourish as we connect, share, and commune with each other from our respective spaces.
– Jonathan Drummey, grades 6 & 7 English teacher
Third Grade Designs Animal Rescue Centers
It’s been a busy week for third graders as they have been reading the novel Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillio in English and learning about notable women in history. The students are also designing animal rescue centers, a project that involves lessons in math and science. The math portion incorporates finding the perimeter and area of different spaces within their structure. We’ve connected online to talk about what we’ve been up to and the work we are doing and many students have been enjoying Doodles with Mo Willems at lunchtime!
– Larissa Rochford ’93 and Leigh Twarog, grade 3 teachers
Shakespeare Just Made Up Those Words?
In theater arts, fourth and fifth graders discovered words and phrases that Shakespeare coined. Fourth graders were given a list of words and asked to research the words and share something interesting about them. Fifth graders were given a list of idioms such as “in a pickle.” They chose two idioms to illustrate. Some of the words the fourth graders researched were rant, tranquil, majestic, cater, pendant, and radiant.
– Susan Dempsey, theater arts teacher
Capstone Project Phase Nears Completion
After an excellent inaugural Studio Week, our eighth graders gained great momentum and have maintained their spirit for getting their projects completed in the days ahead. Embracing the new challenges and bringing their usual good thinking to each task, a few students are revamping their plans. This week, students connected online for small group check-in meetings. Next week we’ll be moving ahead to prepare for presentations and regular mentor meetings will be resuming. We are working with purpose and making good use of video conversations to nurture the Capstone community support.
– Jennifer Friborg, Capstone coordinator
HEALTH & WELLNESS NEWS
A Message to Parents
I hope you are all finding your rhythm with being at home–and finding ways to care for yourselves. You are doing an amazing job balancing home, work, and your children during a stressful time. If you find you need extra support, there is a new page on the Parent Site under Health and Wellness where you will find resources for guiding your children through COVID-19 Please know that we are all here to help; you can email me at any time or call 617-489-0731, which forwards to me at home. Stay safe and healthy–I can’t wait to see you again!
– Liz LaRocque, school nurse
Together We Are Stronger
Although our PA meeting and various events have all been postponed, the need for connection and support across our community is as important as ever. The PA has heard from parents who are setting up “ZOOMS” for fellow parents to share and connect. This is a terrific idea! Although the PA is not prepared to set up one for our whole community, we encourage folks to reach out to other parents whether it is through phone calls, emails, or connecting on social media. And don’t forget about the Belmont Day Parent Facebook group. We are all members of the parents’ association, and together we are BDS Strong!
Show Us Your BDS Spirit!
Next Wednesday, March 25 will be Spirit Day! We’ll be showing off our blue and gold as we jump on our video classes and conferences. Tell your students to wear their favorite BDS gear that day. Snap a photo, send it to Jim Walker, associate director of communications and marketing, and we’ll share them for all to see on the BDS social media accounts: Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Go Blue and Gold!
Class Challenge Enters Final Week
A Nightly Story From Señor Yepes
As we’ve embarked on remote learning, middle school Spanish teacher William Yepes has been sharing videos of bedtime story readings each evening at his home. “Buenos Noches Con Señor Yepes” is pure bilingual fun! Check out Señor Yepes’ YouTube channel here for all the episodes!
Fun at Home
In the Kitchen With the Kids
Recipe: Easy Berry Scones
What does chef Tara Lightbody do when she’s at home with her children? She cooks with them! Berry Scones were among the many delights they made this week. Chef Lightbody reports that they were easy and fun to make and even easier to eat! Check out the recipe and instructions here. Enjoy!
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.