Asia: East meets West and Material Life Cycles Units
Tremont traveled thousands of years back in time to ancient Asia. Our second unit immersed students into the culture and geography of the Asian continent. Using selected countries as gateways into different cultures, histories, peoples, and languages, fifth and sixth grade students learned about the great diversity of the continent. In connection with our year-long theme of natural and imposed order, students examined the "natural order" of Taoism as contrasted with the "imposed order" of Confucianism. In grades seven and eight, students explored natural facts about the globe versus human constructions and assumptions, especially the social and political construction of "East" and "West" and "Imperialism" and "Orientalism." All the middle school students joined Trade Groups, studying in depth different commodities and ideas -- such as paper, gunpowder, silk, and storytelling -- that were traded along the Silk Road bridging East and West.
This transitioned smoothly into our next unit on Material Life Cycles. While focusing on one material object to study in depth, students in fifth and sixth grade investigated the raw material extraction (its impacts on the environment and earth's topography) and the material processing and manufacturing of man-made products, including artificial alternatives to natural ingredients. Seventh and eighth grade took an investigative approach to man-made spaces, focusing on architecture and building structures to examine how these features reflect human-imposed order on natural environments. After visits from experts and professionals in the field of architecture and engineering, the seventh and eighth grade teams prepared and presented proposals for a near-future Tremont School building, including all the necessary spaces (such as gym, classroom, offices, casual work and relaxation spaces) required for a successful school. Project highlights in the 5/6 classes included paper cutout mural of McDonald's Burger Life Cycle and an in-depth classification of different batteries. In 7/8 classes, an interactive Minecraft-based model, an AutoCAD rendering, a fundraising plan, and interior design presentations were offered as input for future Tremont School facilities.
Life Cycles Unit
We are off to a great start to the 2013-2014 school year! The 7th and 8th grade students began the year with a unit on life cycles. We started the unit by reviewing butterfly and frog life and then students practiced performing scientific observations to inform their unit projects. In true Tremont fashion, interests ranged widely, and projects included studies of the Mojave Desert, deep sea vents, and Boston Harbor. Students have looked into the difference between a life span versus a life cycle, and how that can relate to bridges, animals, and ecosystems. Once you see these patterns, you can see how they connect so many aspects of our experience on the earth!
2013 - 2014 Theme
Tremont has approached the 2013 - 2014 academic year with an exciting and engaging integrated unit theme: Natural vs. Imposed order. Throughout the year, students will be exposed to both scientific and historical integrated units that fit within the framework theme, allowing students to uncover the complexities of natural and man-made systems throughout the world.
2012 - 2013 Unit Highlights
Our units in 2012-2013 were exciting and diverse, just like our students. From our Place unit in the fall to the excitement of our Europe unit in the winter and the range of projects of our Independent Study unit in the spring, we all learned a great deal along the way. A few highlights from the year:
Visiting Scholars explained the fascinating ins and outs of political campaigns and election statistics during the Election unit; each class created their own platforms based on issue research and understanding of what motivates voters.
Hands-on study of geography kicked off the Europe unit. Students explored arts, culture, languages, and economics of their chosen countries and presented their findings. (Too bad we couldn't take field trips to all of the wonderful countries our students researched!)
Guilds (small study groups with different areas of focus) supported understanding of social roles and professions in medieval and Renaissance Europe, as well as learning about the history, economics, and daily life of the time period.
Students focused in-depth on chemistry and poetry during our Elements unit, in which each student researched an element and presented their understanding of its properties and uses. Tying together the concept of 'elements' of poetry made this literary study a natural fit for the unit. Tremont clearly has some gifted poets, and several students submitted poems to publications. We are proud of all of the students who took the risk to share their work in this way! Poems by four students were selected for publication this year.
And, of course, Independent Study was a chance for students to design a project of deep personal interest that challenged them to deepen knowledge, to build new skills, and to make new connections with experts and faculty members. We truly have the most engaged students of any school as classes wind down in June!
Fall 'Place' Unit
Happy Autumn! We have begun our second year, welcoming thirteen new students and their families to our community. Returning students greeted the newcomers with enthusiasm, and with the addition of five new faculty members and increased administrative staffing, we have a small school that is just buzzing with energy. With our growth comes an increase in opportunities for all of our students. Afterschool programs have been an important addition to the Tremont experience this fall, and our students have already enjoyed many social opportunities thanks to the new Tremont Parent Advisory Council (TPAC).
Students and faculty jumped right into learning with an exploration of a 'Place' unit, an interdisciplinary unit examining geology, geography, literary setting, landscape painting, and the many connections we can make in the context of our understanding of place. No unit would be complete without extensive exploration beyond our campus, and this fall has been no different. Students traveled to Great Brook Farm in Carlisle to observe and sketch landscapes, studied seismology with the staff at the Weston Observatory, experienced the beauty and thought-provoking snapshot of geographic and global history at the Mapparium in Boston, and trekked up Great Blue Hill to study its glacial features. Students created in-depth projects on specific topics in geology, and shared their learning with each other and our community at the Celebration of Learning on October 11th.
Tremont School Forum
Tremont School Forum is a series of complimentary lectures and events that explore contemporary issues in the field of education. The theme of this year's programming is, "Developing a Problem-Solving Mindset." Our first lecture series, "Self Portrait: Supporting Positive Self-Imagery for Middle School Girls," brought us two outstanding discussions presented by Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair and
Tremont School Video
Tremont School offers a truly connected learning experience where kids can learn the social, emotional, and academic skills they need to find their place in the world. Enjoy Tremont School's video and learn more about the school and our project-based curriculum!
"Independent Study" Living Curriculum Unit and Celebration
The school year culminated with an Independent Study unit, in which all students chose an individualized topic to pursue in depth. The excitement was palpable as the students immersed themselves in their projects, and the students' passion for their topics shone through in the final products, which included research papers, videos, models, computer programs, and presentations during our end-of-unit celebration with families and community members. Many students worked with subject-matter mentors, bringing another level of connection to their work.
One student reports on the experience: "We had a successful independent study, and our students did a variety of topics from biology, movie-making, cooking, weather, fashion and you name it. We took field trips and did interviews. We also had beautiful cello playing from one of our students. It was hit! We had a celebration at the end of the year with our presentations. We had cake and homemade candy offered by the two cooking projects. We also saw a [movie] trailer and a fashion show, and took a trip to a farm! We cannot wait to do it again." (Contributed by J.R.)
Visiting Scholar Program Visit
As part of our Visiting Scholar program, we were lucky to have an in-school visit from Keith Seitter, the Head of the American Meteorological Society. One of our Tremont students had reached out to Mr. Seitter as part of an independent study on severe weather, and everyone found themselves entranced by the methods with which meteorologists determine and predict weather patterns. During his visit, Mr. Seitter shared several stories about extreme weather in America and included pictures of the incredible impact of natural disasters such as floods and tornadoes. Students also learned about the terminology used to classify different types of natural events, and how to gauge the destruction inflicted by a given storm. Before taking questions from the class, Mr. Seitter also took the time to explain the phenomenon of global warming and the anticipated effect it will have on humanity during our students' lifetime. This was a very exciting visit as it not only provided a stellar interview for one student's independent study, but also helped raise awareness for our other students of the magnitude of natural forces.
Visiting Scholar Program Visit
As part of our Visiting Scholar program, we had the pleasure of welcoming David Beebe, a web producer at a video game company, to our school. David spoke about his work and what it takes to plan and organize a complex creative project - managing the process of developing a video game. As you can imagine, students were enthralled!
"Energy & Design" Living Curriculum Unit and Celebration
Since the end of January, we have been busily working through our Living Curriculum unit focused on Energy. In light of the rapidly growing need for alternative power sources, we gave our students the opportunity to learn more about the possibilities by giving each of them the assignment to study one type of energy in depth. Individual research topics during this unit ranged from hydrogen fuel to nuclear fission to biomass, and allowed students to take ownership of their studies through hands-on experiments. Students worked on several projects related to the study of gravity and momentum such as creating structures designed to withstand a "wrecking ball" and constructing cars built to run off of the spring-loaded energy of a rubber band. We also integrated the theme of science into our core curriculum during this unit, including group projects such as working on kinetic sculptures during Expressions and learning about how our own bodies use and regulate energy during Community Skills. A field trip to the Lowell Mills gave us the chance to learn about the development of water-powered electricity in a local and historic setting, and another day spent off-site at Boston's Museum of Science let us explore our research topics - and more! Our unit culminated in our Energy Celebration on Thursday, March 22nd. During our gathering, students advocated for their energy sources in debates presented live, and through videos created with computerized animation technology. They also each shared the results of experiments conducted during the unit, either through videos of their live demonstrations or posters and models depicting the setup and process. Overall, the Energy Unit gave our students a better sense of the changing status of power supply and the scientific developments underway to expand our options for the future.
Tsongas Industrial History Center
Because of our location in the MetroWest area, we are lucky to have access to several wonderfully-preserved historic sites. Particularly pertinent to our Energy Unit was a visit to the Tsongas Industrial History Center at the Lowell Mills on March 14th. Known as the cradle of the industrial revolution in the United States, Lowell is famous for its massive textile mills, which were at their peak in the mid-19th century. We visited Lowell to learn more about the gigantic water wheels used to generate power from the Merrimack River. In a specially designed interactive education center, students had the chance to experiment with models of different water wheels and to design water damming systems in order to use the natural resources of Lowell most efficiently. We also checked out the giant water turbine underneath the Suffolk Mill and the "weave room" in the Boott Museum, which has maintained several rows of original looms and continues to run about a dozen of them on a daily basis in order to demonstrate the process used throughout Lowell during the peak of the Mills' productivity. Visiting the Tsongas Center gave our students the opportunity to further understand the development and applicability of alternative energy sources and offered us a new perspective on hydropower.
Museum of Science
On Friday, March 9th, we took a full-day field trip to the Boston Museum of Science. Because of the diverse nature of our students' areas of specialty during the Energy Unit, we were excited to have the opportunity to check out displays about almost every one, from solar power to hydrogen fuel. Students took part in interactive exhibits such as "Powering Boston", where they were asked to find the most efficient and eco-friendly combination of energy sources to supply electricity for all of Beantown. In addition to catching the Dolphins IMAX movie in the Omni Theater, they also had several opportunities to break off into small groups of 2 or 3 with a chaperone and explore the museum without an agenda, acting as their own tour guides!
On January 31st, we held our first-ever Tremont School Talent Show, featuring acts ranging from a karaoke performance to a political comedy sketch and a martial arts demonstration! Highly anticipated since early planning stages in the fall, the show gave our middle school students (and Academic Director Bill Wilmot, on the violin!) the opportunity to share their talents and passions with each other and the Tremont School community. Also included in the afternoon was one of our recently completed student-written plays, a comedy pitting the "stinky cheese"-obsessed Bad King against the saccharine Good Queen in a hilarious battle of savory and sweet. The Talent Show was so much fun and we can't wait to have another!
"Middle East" Living Curriculum Unit and Celebration
During our Unit on the Middle East, students had a chance to delve into the rich cultures of the region, each choosing a country on which to focus their own interdisciplinary study. They completed a series of projects related to their country of choice, including a substantial research paper outlining the geography, people, history, and culture. In reading groups and during our daily Read-Aloud students absorbed stories about the lives of children around their age and the violence and discontent many have to face daily. Our scientific study focused on astronomy, with the students each completing a nightly moon observation and reading about early theories on the planets. Expressions classes yielded calligraphy, cuneiform, and a group painting inspired by the symmetrical patterns in Middle Eastern mosaics and carpets. Our unit culminated with our Middle Eastern Celebration on January 19th, where students proudly demonstrated their individual projects as well as performed a series of student-written plays based on myths and folktales from their countries.
Woodland Forts and Teepees
We are so lucky to be surrounded by nature at our home in Weston. The middle school students have been taking full advantage of the woods on the edge of the property to build a "Teepee Town" out of fallen branches, tree bark, and any other natural materials they find. What began as short walks in the woods has become an ongoing activity that all of our middle school students have come to enjoy during recess.
"Harvest" Living Curriculum Unit and Celebration
In the interdisciplinary Harvest Unit, students learned about the history of agriculture and the lives of people engaged in the production of food. The students' science work encompassed the study of plants, cultivation, and nutrition. They have planted seeds, visited an organic farm, and looked closely at plant parts using hands-on investigations. Each student was responsible for choosing a single food item and writing a research paper on their choice. For common reading, they shared a story about a girl who leaves an aristocratic life in Mexico to become a farm worker in California during the 1930s. In expressions, students examined the art, music, and stories associated with growing food, and produced their own play for the Harvest Feast which celebrated the end of the Unit. Overall, the Unit has functioned as a vehicle for developing students' developing research skills.
In support of their Living Curriculum Harvest Unit, the Tremont School students visited this ecologically-sound land management farm in Weston, Massachusetts. They learned about sustainable land management, open space preservation, crop rotation, the benefits of organic farming and sampled freshly picked raspberries and tomatoes. They collected soil samples from several fields which they will be analyzing back at school to determine soil content.
Opening Day 2011
On September 6, Tremont School opened its doors to 11 wonderful 5th and 6th graders. We'd like to welcome our new families, and take this opportunity to thank ALL of our friends and supporters for making this day a reality. We couldn't have done it without all of you.
Professional Reception and Networking Event
We had an excellent turnout for our Professional Reception and Networking Event. Over 45 professionals from the fields of education and children/family support joined us in Wellesley on the evening of May 12th to learn more about the Tremont School. After brief remarks by members of the Tremont team, guests had the opportunity to connect with a wide variety of colleagues from the Metrowest area and to speak with the several Tremont School board members and volunteers on hand.
Thank you to our host committee for making this event a success: Tim Lee, Stuart Ablon, Eileen Costello, Sarah Ward, Cynthia Moore, Lauren Weeks, Joe Moldover and Scott McLeod.
Race to Nowhere
On May 2nd, Tremont School joined Dana Hall School in sponsoring a screening of Race to Nowhere, a pivotal new documentary that exposes the intense "achievement culture" that has developed in the American education system. Geared towards highlighting the pressures of competition and crammed schedules, Race to Nowhere has attracted large audiences across the country since its release in 2009.
Our event was a great success, with almost 200 people in attendance. After the film, audience members were able to share their reactions and opinions during a panel discussion led by a group of Dana Hall teachers and staff. Survey forms allowed guests to critique the movie and offered the chance to pose questions to the director. Also provided was the opportunity for parents and students to share their personal experience with the stresses of modern education and achievement standards for a companion book to be made by the Race to Nowhere project.
Thank you to Dana Hall School for collaborating with us and to all of the volunteers who made this screening possible.