School Dispatches: Dec. 6, 2017

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Fifth-graders at National Presbyterian School visited Washington Hebrew Congregation last month. (photo courtesy of National Presbyterian School)
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British International School of Washington

Students at our school met on Nov. 29 with their teachers to discuss their Personal Success Plans for this academic year. These meetings, similar to a conference, provide an opportunity for teachers and students to discuss academic successes as well as to identify gaps in learning to ensure that students meet their academic targets.

These PSP meetings, which typically include parents, are very beneficial as they promote open and honest conversations between the students and the teachers. Each PSP meeting begins with the teacher asking the student how he or she feels they are doing in the class and where he or she can improve. The student is then able to ask questions about the subject material, where to find additional resources to complement the learning done inside the classroom and, most importantly, how to work with the teacher to achieve agreed-upon academic targets.

The goal is for each student to work towards achieving the targets by the next PSP meeting. This provides students with a clearly defined time frame to reach specific objectives, progressing at a rate that is comfortable but still challenging.

PSP meetings encourage students to take ownership of their education. These meetings foster at an early age independence and responsibility, which are vital life skills students can apply outside of school.

— Ava Lundell, Year 12, (11th-grader)

Blessed Sacrament School

November is a very busy time for many grades. The sixth grade runs the Gabriel Project to help pregnant woman in need. Each student in the school is sent home with a baby bottle to fill up with money earned from chores they have done. The class that brings in the most money gets a pizza party.

The fourth-graders have just completed a project called the Saints Wax Museum, in which they dress up as saints and tell visitors about their chosen saint. A few saints who really stood out were St. Christopher and Gabriel the Archangel.

The eighth-graders went to the Capital Area Food Bank. They sorted food to help prepare for the upcoming holiday season. This gives them a sense of how many less fortunate people live in our society and how important it is for everyone to lend a hand in any way they can to help those in need.

The first-graders went on a field trip to Homestead Farm. Even though it was cold and rainy, they were able to go on a hayride and participate in other fun farm activities. The sixth-graders went to the National Gallery of Art. They saw paintings and sculptures from the Renaissance. They also saw “Ginevra de’ Benci” by Leonardo da Vinci. The students are looking forward to a spectacular December.

— Finian Knight, sixth-grader

Emerson Preparatory School

Earlier this month, Emerson Prep’s debate club competed in a tournament against other schools in the area.

Ours is the first all African-American female team the debate league has seen in 15 years! The topic up for debate? Gun control. The club’s leader, Mr. Dotson, had the team prepare an argument for whether universal background checks for guns should be instituted in the United States, a highly prevalent and controversial issue. This one is a bit more challenging, as it is sometimes difficult to strike a balance between statistics and the harsh reality of the matter since this is a legitimate problem affecting real people in the U.S.

The team’s members feel as though these tournaments help them learn how to present their cases and examine their weaker points. Mr. Dotson encourages them by making the information clear and comprehensible. Members of the team agree that Emerson’s environment gives them space to breathe and the opportunity to interpret data and prepare cases in their own unique ways. They have made progress in articulating themselves, information literacy and cementing their leadership skills. It is clear that these are critical skills that will make a difference in their academic and personal lives.

By debating topical issues, they are making a conversation for change that otherwise would not have happened. As the founder of our school’s American Civil Liberties Union club, I couldn’t support them more.

— Isabel Fajardo, 11th-grader

Hearst Elementary School

Our kindergarten class has been examining the meaning of the word gratitude. We began with a story called “The Gratitude Jar” by Kristin Wiens, in which we learned that writing down one thing you are thankful for each day will give you things to reflect on when you have a bad day. We concluded our look at gratitude with a discussion and craft project with our fifth-grade partners, where we wrote about the things we were thankful for.

Here is what we came up with. John Robert, Sally, Anna, Ella, Owen, Isabel, Mila, Lila and Maya were all thankful for their parents and families — “they are really nice, they take care of us, they make us laugh, and you can share things with them.” Aiden and Eli were thankful for their birthdays — “my birthday is the best; mine is right after Thanksgiving and I’m going to have turkey pot pie.” Camille, Sathvik and Lucas were thankful for pizza, turkey and pumpkins — “pepperoni is the best and I can catch and play with a turkey, they seem nice. … Pumpkins turn into pumpkin pie.” Gabriel was thankful for “my big house” and Tristan was thankful for our classroom because “it is quiet and helpful and makes me learn.” Take some time to make a gratitude jar with your family.

— Ms. Prince and Ms. Inge’s kindergarten class

Lafayette Elementary School

Recently, Lafayette’s fifth-graders visited Alice Deal, the middle school that will be the next step for most of them. On Buddy Day, each fifth-grade student gets “buddied up” with a Deal sixth-grader. The sixth-graders take the elementary students around with them to experience what their day is like. This lets fifth-grade students get the hang of Deal before they go.

Lafayette students got to Deal at 1:30 p.m. and spent the rest of the day there. Some of the fifth-graders had questions like: Are the transitions hard from class to class? One of the Deal teachers, Ms. Smiley, answered: “The halls do get pretty hectic, but the teachers stay in their classrooms so we don’t have to go into the craziness.”

There were also questions about how Deal is like Lafayette and how it is different. Setina Dawit, a former Lafayette student who is now a Deal sixth-grader, explained, “It’s actually kind of nice because I get more independence.”

One of the many things the Lafayette students were told that they have to look forward to is “tracking the speaker.” What this means is that when an adult’s voice is heard, everyone is quiet and looks to see where the sound is coming from.

In general, the Lafayette students liked Deal very much. They enjoyed their quick visit to Deal Middle School and a look into their future. Many thought it would make a great school for them for the next three years.

— Caleb Murphy and Mia Mora, fifth-graders

National Presbyterian School

On the morning of Nov. 29, the fifth-graders were excitedly waiting for the trip ahead. We were going on a Religious Studies field trip to the Washington Hebrew Congregation. We had to walk there but it was only a 15-minute walk from our school.

Once we arrived at the synagogue, Rabbi Miller greeted us. He was a funny guy and was wearing a small hat that he called a kippah, which he wears to show respect and to remind himself that he’s Jewish.

The chapel space we were in didn’t have pews like our school chapel; it had chairs all facing toward Jerusalem. We had a wonderful time there and we learned lots of cool things about the ark where they keep the Torah, which is a large scroll. He told us that one Torah scroll would cost a lot of money.

Fifth grade is very happy we got to get a chance to meet Rabbi Miller and visit this wonderful synagogue. When we came back to school, we had a special lunch. Mrs. Weissman, Mrs. Kinoshita-Ruiz and Mrs. Paleologos (fifth-grade moms) helped set up the wonderful food. Mrs. Kilpatrick and Mrs. Topf made us kugel. We also ate latkes and matzo ball soup. We are delighted that we got to have this amazing experience. We are thankful for the teachers and parents that helped make today possible.

— Ian Mangra, fifth-grader

Our Lady of Victory School

As a student, attending a school that has been recognized twice with the U.S. Department of Education’s Blue Ribbon award has been nothing short of wonderful. Our Lady of Victory School received the Blue Ribbon in 2007 and again in 2016. Being a part of this school has been one of my greatest blessings due to all the personal help from my instructors and the great curriculum based in the Catholic faith.

I have attended Our Lady of Victory from pre-kindergarten to the seventh grade. I would not be the student I am today if it was not for my teachers and friends encouraging me to put my best foot forward. All the students develop life skills including public speaking, leadership and cooperation through opportunities such as reading at Mass and participating in choir and band.

Last week our school was invited to sing at the National Blue Ribbon Ceremony. I was very lucky to participate in this choir, and I will definitely remember this experience forever. The weeks prior to the performance we practiced and practiced, perfecting our songs for the big performance. The actual performance was nerve-wracking, but seeing how supportive and enthusiastic the audience was towards our songs, I soon calmed down. I loved singing in front of the large audience, and being beside my fellow classmates made my experience 10 times better. I hope we will have another opportunity like this because it was truly memorable.

— Maia M., seventh-grader

Sheridan School

Sheridan third-graders met author Innosanto Nagara. (photo courtesy of Sheridan School)

School is going well. On Nov. 9, Sheridan third-graders went on a field trip to Politics and Prose. At Politics and Prose we met the author of “My Night in the Planetarium,” Innosanto Nagara! He read and talked about his new book, “The Wedding Portrait.” The book is about how sometimes rules should be broken, like Rosa Parks sitting in the front of the bus. It helped inspire us to think like activists. We learned so much about history and protesting. For example, the protest with the oil company and blockade of people stopping the oil company from getting money and hurting indigenous people’s land. We are glad that school is going so well and hope that it continues!

— Nora Giuffrida and Will Richter, third-graders

Washington International School

Throughout a normal day, students and staff members tend to see the admissions team giving tours of the Tregaron campus to many students and parents. These families get to see what the classrooms look like and observe the relationships between teachers and students.

Later on in the year, these hopefully-future-students have the opportunity to meet with a current student who is in their grade, and get to go to a couple of classes with them.

I got to be a tour guide for a day and it was exciting to see her try out what I learn even though she is younger than me. I helped her bustle her way through Grill on Friday and her reactions to the snacks were priceless with her giant smile! Grill is a tradition at our school where every Friday parents come up to the campus to make meals like steak and rice, pesto pasta and salads. These create long lines that make all the students on campus wait impatiently for the lunch bell to ring, but it’s always worth it! Nothing beats the endless amount of brownies and doughnuts lined up as the scent of freshly grilled burgers fills the air.

Now, maybe you want to take a tour at our school! Come see our beautiful campus, including the details all around the Tregaron mansion, which was built in 1912.

— Sophia Rees, seventh-grader