The Farm&Cornerstone celebrates it’s Eighth Harvest! As is always the case, we yield what is given. Last year a wilt took out the basil, but the tomato crop was insane. This year the basil is robust while the tomatoes took a hit from frequent flocks of marauding birds. The cucumbers, onions, peppers, mint, sage, oregano, cilantro, thyme beds also yielded tremendous crops. The last days have been a bustle of chopping, peeling, pickling, and processing pints and pints of salsa (hot and mild), pickles (dill and sweet) and relish (our famous picallili).
It’s a Junior Class tradition! After an all-school holiday sing-a-long in the morning, we retire to the Junior Classroom, watch Holiday Inn or White Christmas, and enjoy ourselves a Vermont Smorgasbord!
Every Fall, the Junior Class travels to the the Camp Bell Boy Scout ropes course located in Hidden Valley in Gilmanton Iron Works, New Hampshire. The trust formed on a belay team is an overwrought metaphor for future classroom work, but it’s hard to dispute its veracity!
Like history, the Junior High Science Program works on a two-year cycle integrating History, Language Arts, Practical Life and Math. It offers the opportunity to develop skills in the areas of listening, organization, note taking, writing, discussion, scientific inquiry, methods of experimentation, research, teamwork and test taking. Each year is divided into 6-week blocks each devoted to a different, progressive theme. Each block includes lecture notes, reading assignments, discussion, open and closed note exams, projects, presentations and experiments. Basic concepts in physics and chemistry are used to integrate and understand the concepts, symbols, terminology, recurring patterns and relationships in the fields of geology, meteorology, biology and astronomy. Students present research projects which take on many forms including PowerPoint presentations, designed experiments, models, performance art and video documentaries.
The first cycle explores various fields of study from chemical and physical perspectives: atomic structure, the Periodic Table, ionic & covalent bonding, acid-base reactions, motion, force, pressure, radiation, simple machines, energy, electricity & magnetism, etc. are studied and applied to Geology, Meteorology, Biology and Astronomy.
The second cycle introduces more specialized areas of chemistry and physics including organic chemistry, biochemistry, geophysics, and astrophysics.
The process starts, of course, in the Spring. Current Juniors, 7th graders and soon-to-graduate 8th graders weed, work, and plant the beds on the 2400 square foot Farm@Cornerstone. The graduates are “paying it forward”, and rising 7th graders join the rising 8th graders during the summer to tend the seedlings. In this way the baton, or trowel in this case, is passed on to another group of Juniors. Their work culminates in the autumnal harvest, the reaping of crops and energy that marks Fall, the beginning of school, the end of another New England growing season. Much of the effort these first days of school is devoted to “value-added” products. Tomatoes, peppers, and onions transformed to salsa, cucumbers to pickles, peppers to picallili. There’s enough work ahead of us getting the last of the crop in. For now, it’s a lot of chopping, boiling, and canning.
Humanities at the Junior Level integrates language arts, literature, history and culture. Students are expected to begin to recognize the interconnectedness of all branches of knowledge. These young scholars meet individually, in small groups and as a whole class to discuss and debate a wide range of topics. Writing projects and reading comprehension lessons extend from all areas of the curriculum. Of particular emphasis are Month Long Projects for seventh graders and a Year Long Project for the eighth graders. The topics for these papers and presentations are carefully chosen by the students themselves in order to maintain maximum passion and focus. Assessment is based on active class participation, quality and timeliness of finished work and on periodic tests and quizzes. The two year academic cycle alternates between American and World History. Academic year 2014-15 is a World history year. The Juniors begin with Roman occupations explore through current events. Writing includes expository and fiction on a variety of topics, writing exercise handouts to reinforce grammar, sentence variation and style. literary thesis essays, persuasive writing, historical research, fiction from the perspective of characters, writing exercise handouts to reinforce proper grammar, sentence variations and style, research writing on various topics relevant to history, lessons on footnoting and citing sources, writing poetry and drama.
With A Tadpole in a Jar
From the Frog Log: “Cameron found the eggs at a little pond. His friends had spotted the eggs earlier but Cameron was the one to go in and fetch them. He felt his feet sinking, mud up to knees, fearful that a giant snapping turtle would get him, he scooped up the egg sac managing to keep the treasure intact.” Below, Cameron and Henry work on oxygenating the tank holding the eggs.
After a l-o-n-g winter, it was finally warm and dry enough for the Junior Class to take those first steps towards Harvest 2014 this Fall. Each Junior Class adds to the work done the previous year, and this year brought 8 yards of pea stone and 8 yards of compost/soil to add to the crushed stone and raised beds put in last year. So nice to be outside!!
Junior Class 7th grader Lexie, first runner-up in her age group in the Seacoast Idol competition (after making it to the championship round), recently visited Primary I to talk about singing and to delight her young fans with excerpts from a few tunes. Primary teacher Mary Maiello conducted a brief interview and the Primary children also had more than a few queries for the talented Lex! On the way back to the Junior Class, Lexie remarked, “I felt like I was on Ellen!”
In true Junior Class fashion, “Work hard, play hard”, we celebrated the Bard’s 450th birthday in our own inimitable way. Chris Rainville, the preeminent Shakespeare teacher in New Hampshire, in our humble opinion, made two replica Globe theaters from angel food cake (yes those are Triscuits® forming the thatched roof) and surrounded them with the dozen or so plays that every Junior reads in their two years with us.
For children in early adolescence, Dr. Montessori envisioned longer periods of time for the exploration of the Arts. In the Junior Class, this weekly session, that spans late Friday morning and early afternoon, is referred to as “Arts Block”. Working in six-week sessions, students choose a concentration and share their work in a culminating “Arts Exhibition” with the rest of the Cornerstone school community. Our most recent exhibition included a vocal performance, drawing, museum replicas (from our recent trip to Washington, DC), and a stop-action claymation mini film festival.
Monday through Thursday the Junior Class will be administering the Stanford Achievement Test to 7th and 8th graders.
The Junior program ushers in a new level of independence which must be provided for in the Montessori environment by increasing activity from the point of view of work level, choices, and planning. In the Junior Class, the Great Lessons, timelines, and charts are replaced with overviews of general sequences of learning for which the student becomes responsible in the context of an integrated whole. Within this overview, the student has open time to collaborate on both self-initiated and instructor-initiated projects. Open time allows for individualized instruction, a natural pace for absorption of material presented for both mastery and emotional understanding, unlimited depth of pursuit based on student interest, and time to study art, science, music, business, and other topics students choose. “Going out” includes larger and longer trips, more complex planning to farther destinations.