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Fourth grade French students correspond with peers abroad

The French speaking world is so much larger than France and Canada, and Brookwood’s French program strives to expose students to the many countries and cultures around the world that use the French language.

Beyond European countries such as Belgium and Switzerland, French is used in many African countries including Senegal, Benin, Guinea, Cameroon, Chad and Rwanda just to name a few. Additionally there are francophone areas in the Caribbean (Haiti, Martinique) and the south Pacific (French Polynesia and New Caledonia).  In an effort to engage students in the language and culture of these countries, my French students have been corresponding with students from around the francophone world.

Three years ago the fourth grade class connected with the Fontamara School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  The connection was made through a volunteer connection I have with the Power of Education Foundation, which started the Fontamara School following the earthquake in 2010.  Brookwood fourth graders wrote autobiographies in French to talk about their homes, families, likes and dislikes, and their school.  The students at Fontamara also wrote to our fourth graders following their lead of topics which made it rather easy for Brookwood French students to understand the French.

Two years ago the fourth grade class was paired with a Peace Corps volunteer teaching in a school in Senegal. Our Peace Corps partner, Samantha, kept a blog of her experience, and the Brookwood class was able to follow her adventure in addition to corresponding with her students in French.  They even got to see pictures that Samantha posted on her blog of students in Senegal writing to Brookwood fourth graders.





This year we were able to take advantage of Grade 1 teacher Sarah Dawe’s trip to Rwanda and Brookwood’s relationship with the APAPEC School.  Many of the classes in the school are taught in French and prior to her departure Brookwood fourth graders wrote personal letters that Ms. Dawe presented to the APAPEC students.  Upon her return she brought letters in French from the students in Rwanda.  They are currently on display on the board outside of my classroom in the World Language Center.

These connections between Brookwood French students and students in Haiti, Senegal and Rwanda have been a truly authentic way of engaging the skills of cultural competence.  These skills, which are essentially behaviors and attitudes that enable them to work effectively cross-culturally, are a central part of these classroom connections.  Students are often quick to point out what we all have in common, but we as educators need to push students to look for what is different as well.  This is where we have to put our cultural competency skills to work.  It is easy and somewhat effortless to respect, honor and understand that which we share in common.  The learning and strengthening of skills of cultural competency come from respecting, honoring and understanding that which is different.

– Joshua Cabral,
French and Spanish teacher


First Grade Magic

Reading, writing, arithmetic and a whole lot of magic! That’s what’s going on in first grade at Brookwood.

Thank you to video producers Grade 1 teacher Sarah Dawe and Music teacher Andrew Luman.

Grandparents play an important role at Brookwood

It was a very special day for me as a grandparent when I joined my peers at the annual Grandparent Tea and Lower School Play earlier this month. Even though I had attended this activity for the past five years it continues to be exciting! Meeting so many of the other grandparents who clearly were thrilled about the delightful Tea and show, affirmed my ideas about how important our roles are for our grandchildren.  For some grandparents it was their first experience, others had been involved multiple times, as I had. My grandchildren, Tatum, a sixth grader, Hawk, a third grader, and Boden, a first grader, are all totally involved with Brookwood. “It’s awesome!” is usually their response when asked “How was school today?”

It is such a joy to sit in the audience in the John C. Peterman School Meeting House and watch all the children blossom on stage. Director of Performing Arts Debbie Gantt and her team know how to get the most from the children, who are clearly enjoying every minute of the production.  The children’s pride in the activity shows in the glow of their faces.

The feeling continues afterward when we grandparents congratulate them for a fine job! We are one more layer of a support system that helps each child know how much they are cared for.  Administrators, teachers, parents and grandparents make up a web of love to help the children thrive and grow at Brookwood!

– Pollyann Statom
Grandparent ’19, ’22, ‘24


Lower School Winter Stories Celebrate the Season

The holidays are here and the air is filled with excitement and good cheer. All this was inspiration to our Grade 1 authors who have been busily crafting stories of winter fun. Read and enjoy the enthusiasm they bring to the season. Happy Holidays!

My elf Summer and my cousin’s elf Jack were hiding in my home because my cousins were here. The elves hid in the light. We were watching TV when we found them. The last time we saw Jack was when he and summer hid in the TV. I do not know why they did that.
– Ruby


My Mom and I stopped to climb the pile of snow. My Mama put her foot in the pile of snow. I went in the hole. Me and Mom laughed. I thought it was fun. My Mama did too.
– Isabelle


When we got to the Christmas tree shop to pick the tree, I found the tree. They bagged the tree up in the bag and we brought the Christmas tree home and put the Christmas tree up on the stand.
– Kyle


Farewell Mila! Brookwood will miss you


Though it seems she just arrived at Brookwood, Guatemalan student Emilia “Mila” Calderón’s (above center) eight-week exchange visit is coming to a close. The community said goodbye to Mila at School Meeting with friends Kyra J.(with whom Mila lived during her stay) and Sophia M. reading a special tribute to our friend.

This is for our sister, Mila. We have a message for you on the behalf of our class.

We want you to know that everyone here will miss you, and not a soul in this room hasn’t enjoyed your smile, laugh, and general warmth and comfort.

We all love having you here. Emilia, you have become a member of my family and the Brookwood community forever. Know that we love you and will miss you always.

milafarewellcroppedMila spent the majority of her time at school attending classes as a part of Brookwood’s seventh grade, but she interacted with students and faculty across the community in a variety of ways. For example, Mila regularly worked with Lower School students as well as Music classes.

The School Meeting farewell ended with Kyra, Mila and Avery P. presenting a beautiful rendition of Amy Winehouse’s Valerie.









Gratitude Quilt Captures the Spirit of Thanksgiving


Every Friday PreK meets with our fourth grade buddies, and at our recent gathering we read Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts. This is a story about a little boy who learns about appreciating things that he has (a loving grandmother, a good friend, warm boots) and knowing that those things are more valuable than things that he wants (expensive new black high tops).

The story inspired conversation about things that WE are grateful for – and that was the beginning of the gratitude quilt. The Pre-Kindergartners and fourth graders made drawings, paintings, or collages on white squares that describe something they are grateful for. “I am thankful for my friends.” “I am thankful for my education.” “I am grateful for nature.” “I am grateful for my family.”

We have posted their squares in the Crate Family Town Square and invite the rest of the Brookwood community to add to our beautiful Gratitude Quilt.

– Karen Shorr
Pre-Kindergarten Teacher


Brookwood voters voice their opinions


I could never have imagined the variety and depth of learning that occurred here at Brookwood during election season. Every Social Studies teacher from PreK to eighth grade planned for this event in thoughtful ways. Since last spring when the discussions began in earnest, each division committed to developmentally appropriate ways to engage our students in what it means to participate in democracy.

As a part of the Upper School continuum, Ms. Black had sixth graders practice debating skills, and Mr. Lenci had seventh graders research the candidates, their platforms, and track polling numbers. Eighth graders comprised an Election Leadership Committee and with Mr. Abramson’s guidance, created and organized mock ballots for a mock vote by the entire Upper School.

“Seventh graders dove head-first into this election, using the app Explain Everything to make detailed presentations about the Electoral College. In an election season teeming with incivility, it was refreshing to witness the respectfulness with which our students wielded their ideas and welcomed others,” says Kent Lenci, Grade 7 History teacher.

“I was very impressed with seeing the group invest in creating an authentic election so that the students could experience both the fun and responsibility of voting. It was also instructive for the students to see how the Electoral College works in theory and practice, as the election was devised to show that in action,” adds Grade 8 History teacher and Grade 6 Social Studies teacher Peter Abramson.

img_4009Concurrently, the Lower and Middle school divisions were focused on developmentally fitting issues important to those students and their work at school.

The Lower School spent time identifying issues they would vote on, settling ultimately on two ballot questions: whether or not to use sticks for building at recess and whether there should be time limits on the use of the swings. Lower School teachers worked with their students to make ballots that reflected child-centered design. While Pre-K and Kindergartners used pictorial ballots, the first, second and third grades had text on theirs. When the big day came, baked goods were provided by the Pre-K to celebrate the vote, while the Kindergarten-generated “I Voted” stickers, which were worn proudly by all.

The first graders ran the logistics for voting day including voting booth design; second graders were the ones to identify the issues, and, together with third graders, consolidated the ideas into two initiatives. Third graders also prepared and shared speeches, four of which were voted on to represent the pros and cons of each initiative to img_4015the entire Lower School in a Town Square meeting. The teachers swelled with pride as the informed voters heard the lobbying of their peers.

“The highlight for me is that it got the kids talking,” says Moira Smith, Grade 3 teacher. “Regardless of the outcome of the vote, the kids are much more aware now of keeping each other safe and happy at recess.”

In the Middle School, students took a different approach in finding issues that connected directly with their curriculum. The fourth grade found the immediate connection between their Greek studies and the varying concepts of “democracy.”

“It was exciting to watch the fourth graders engage in the process of democracy with commitment and curiosity! Fourth graders looked at the evolution of democracy. They had the opportunity to vote on a local ballot question as ancient electionms2-registeringAthenians would have during a direct democracy voting simulation and also as if they were real US citizens voting in our representative democracy,” says fourth grade teacher Elizabeth Highgas.” The students participated in meaningful conversations comparing the two voting systems and were amazed at how far the system of democracy has come. As a teacher, seeing their passion for how important it is to have a voice is extraordinary.”

Additionally, using the debate about the recent water ban on the North Shore and whether or not well owners should be made to follow it, fourth graders were able to vote twice, both as Greeks and as 21st century Americans.

electionms2votingAs a part of the fifth grade beekeeping unit, students in Grade 5 investigated the proposed regulations on neonicitanoid pesticides used near blooming plants to better protect our pollinators and prevent colony collapse of honeybees. After much research and a Town Hall Meeting, both sides of the issue were presented.

“It was incredible to watch the students develop ownership over one side of the issue but then remain open to hearing their peers’ point of view on the other side,” says fifth grade teacher Liz Buchan. “At one point in the conversation, a fifth grader exclaimed after hearing the nuances of the two sides, ‘So, we’re all pro-bees!’ What a revelation about the nature of these issues. We’re proud of their thoughtful work.”

In conjunction with the vote, Harbor Sweets of Salem made a delectable donation to the school of chocolates made with honey to celebrate the efforts of our fifth graders to better understand this issue. (Harbor Sweets already donates a portion of the profits from these specific chocolates to the Pollinator Partnership out of San Francisco, CA.)

When it came time to vote on the Bee Initiative, Middle School had some help from eighth graders frelectionms1om the Upper School Election Committee. The eighth graders were on hand to check in fourth and fifth grade voters, monitor the booths, check voters out, and finally collect the ballots. The Tinker Room/Dream Lab was transformed into the polling place, and thanks to Ms. Kelsey’s kiosk of two-color voting prints and Mrs. Geraty’s mobile flag display, everyone was in the mood to vote, and vote they did!

After tallying the ballots, it’s clear that these students care a lot about the bees, and the entire school cares about their country, community, friends and neighbors …. What could be better than that?!

– Sven Holch
Social Studies Department Coordinator


Brookwood Goes GaGa


Anyone who’s in the know about what’s happening during recess at Brookwood has heard there’s a new game on  campus. Brookwood recently installed a GaGa pit for all students to use during Physical Education classes, After-school classes, and Recess. Physical Education Coordinator Bill Schneider gives highlights of the new game that’s all the rage and is now a hit at Brookwood as well.

Tell us about GaGa ball.
GaGa is a dodge ball type game played in a three-foot high octagon enclosure. It’s played inside the pit with a lightweight inflated rubber ball. It’s a fun game that all ages can play and enjoy.

Where did GaGa originate?
GaGa was created in Israel and has slowly made its way around the world. I believe GaGa is a recreational game played in many countries.

gaga-01For children, what sorts of skills are developed through a game of GaGa Ball?
Dodging, striking with open or closed hand, cardiovascular endurance, and lateral movement, are all skills players acquire through playing GaGa Ball.

How are Brookwood students reacting to GaGa Ball?
GaGa has been a huge hit at Brookwood. Many of our students have played outside of school in various places like summer camps and town parks, so they were already familiar with the game and eager to play here. We introduced the game during PE classes and recently opened the pit up for recess. So far, every recess has had a large number of students playing GaGa.

How is the game played? What are the basic rules of GaGa?
Like I said, the game is somewhat like dodge ball and players are trying not to be touched by a ball that is hit toward them by another player. The rules we follow are very simple:

  • All players begin the game standing in the pit together;
  • The game starts with all players standing against the wall. The ball is thrown into play as the players chant “Ga! Ga!” and the game begins;
  • The ball must be hit with an open or closed hand;
  • No player can hit the ball twice in a row or he/she is out;
  • If a player is hit by the ball below the knee that player is eliminated from the game and leaves the pit for the duration of that game;
  • If a player hits the ball out of the pit, he or she is eliminated and has to leave the pit for the duration of the game;
  • The game is over when only one player remains in the GaGa pit.

– Bill Schneider
Physical Education Department Coordinator


Rare warbler makes an appearance in third grade

Editor’s note: Sometimes, as Grade 3 students in Jen Cunningham-Butler’s class learned this week, members of the outdoor classroom try to come indoors! Jen’s note sharing the news with the Brookwood community tells of a rare Nashville warbler that hit the classroom window last week, but fortunately survived the ordeal. Students in the class are now discussing and working on solving the problems windows present to our feathered friends.



Jen’s interaction with the Nashville Warble (left to right):
“A bit stunned; Resting but okay; Ready to fly.”






Hello All,

Check out the attached photos. Tgrade3-birdhis gorgeous female Nashville Warbler hit our 3A window yesterday. Her wing was bent as she sprawled below the window, so I picked her up and gave her a safe perch until she recovered and flew off. Snapped these pics as I held her in one hand.

Positive ID had been confirmed by two reliable sources, and I sent it to Ipswich wildlife as well (probable that she was a first-year female).

My students noticed many identifying markers this morning and also picked out Nashville while scrolling through warblers related to the more often-seen yellow warbler on the Cornell site. They are now trying to problem-solve window strikes.

Beauty is certainly all around us, sometimes hidden like famously shy warblers. And of course, beauty is best enjoyed when shared 🙂


P.S. Cool note is that we are in the migration path. These warblers are on their way south from Canada. This was a rare find!


Election 2016: Brookwood’s Community Values Guide Civil Discourse

lenci2016At Brookwood we constantly encourage students to take responsibility – for themselves, for the care of others, and for their environment. This theme is incredibly timely during this year’s heated presidential election. As we teachers encourage responsibility, it’s worth taking stock of our professional responsibilities during this electoral season. What is our role?

Certainly our responsibility includes encouraging civil discourse. In many ways, we function as facilitators, helping children wrestle with complex issues and navigate conflicting points of view. It’s a responsibility that is broadly embraced in our professional circles; we know our job includes helping children listen to each other carefully and to speak to each other considerately. That’s easier said than done, of course, and, as we endeavor to instill civility, we fight stiff headwinds. We will have to muster patience and good spirits as we implement the protocols that establish our classrooms as safe spaces for children to exchange ideas.

We cannot ignore the unique challenges of this election. It is, of course, not our place to steer children toward or away from one candidate or the other. Let’s not be afraid, though, to admit that questions of morality have entered into the national discourse. We are bombarded with news coverage that begs us to revisit our own values: allegations maintain that one candidate has lied, even as competing coverage suggests that the other candidate is stirring xenophobia. This is a pivotal moment for teachers to navigate these choppy waters with our students in a constructive manner that shows them what civil discourse should – and should not – look like.

In these troubling times, I find many in our profession wish that they could weigh in on these topics but feel bound by their professional vow of “neutrality.” I suggest that maintaining an unbiased stance on the candidates does not necessarily preclude us from wading into these waters. Even as we leave our own politics aside, though, we can let community values take the lead. In my classroom, I turn to our school’s “Mission in Practice,” which adorns our walls, reminding us of our six core principles. In short, we endeavor to help students communicate, collaborate, take risks, take responsibility, think critically, and honor differences.

This fall, I will ask students to analyze the election through those lenses. For example, I might ask students to watch a debate and gather data on the extent to which each candidate, in the words of our Mission, communicated “directly, clearly, and respectfully.” Another lesson might find students analyzing the degree to which each candidate has honored “differences and diverse perspectives.” In other words, I see the election as a welcome opportunity to reinforce our school’s core values by applying those values to a compelling national discussion. For those educators seeking a similar compass to guide them, we can simply turn to Facing History. As Facing History teachers, we lean on strategies to create a safe and reflective space for students to develop their skills in civil discourse and civic participation. We can help students examine their own identities, understand their role as citizens living in a democracy, and listen to diverse voices so they can exchange ideas and learn from each other.

Rather than shy away from the thorny questions of this election season, I will embrace them, knowing that my school has articulated a common, shared vision of our community’s values that will facilitate these discussions. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” If that’s true, it’s also true that it does not bend that way by itself.

– Kent Lenci
Grade 7 History Teacher and Advisor

This column currently appears in the Facing Today blog of Facing History and Ourselves. This educational organization works to “engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry.”