GEAR UP for #NAISAC 2015 and download the app TODAY!

NAIS Annual Conference 2015

photo 1It’s almost here– NAIS AC 2015! While we have about 7 feet of snow waiting for us when we arrive, Boston is an awesome city and a great place for independent school educators to gather for this year’s annual conference:

The Design Revolution: Blending Learning, Leading and Innovation.

Before you get here, my biggest tip… DOWNLOAD the APP…Do it TODAY! Right now!

I remember feeling overwhelmed with the program book a few years back. I had a hard time figuring out my schedule, reading through descriptions and speaker info, and getting up to date information on any changes. I had to dig it out of my bag each time. Ugh!

Well… no more! The app organizes presentations by time slot, allows you to organize your schedule, track exhibitors, get info about presenters and sessions, follow conference tweets, and much more! It continues to refresh and update as presenters add speaker…

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Hamden Hall Lower School 2013-2014 ~ What a year!

Here are my remarks from the Final Lower School Assembly:

This year will always be a memorable one for me– my 20th year at Hamden Hall and my first one as Director of Lower School. Thank you for an amazing year! I can hardly believe that this is our last time together! It seems like yesterday that we were sitting here learning all about how to behave in assembly (remember Kathy and Fab’s bad manners!?) and then we heard a “Pep Talk” from Kid President about the difference we can make in the world… and guess what? We made a difference!

  • we provided socks for homeless and less fortunate people
  • we gathered food for the hungry at Thanksgiving
  • we provided gifts for families in need at the holidays
  • we sent our love through Valentines to soldiers in Afghanistan, including an alum, Matt Peterson
  • we made almost 500 rainbow loom bracelets for displaced children in Syria
  • and we sent over 200 cans of soup to the Hamden Food Pantry

If we haven’t made a difference… I don’t know who has!


We have had some guests in assembly including:

  • our lightening fast rubiks cube solver
  • Chinese Dancers
  • the Hamden PD canine unit
  • jugglers
  • poets
  • our Upper School Jazz Band
  • Taekwondo masters
  • the Jungle Jamboree
  • and much more!


And we have had some amazing performances from all of you!

In addition to our concerts and band performances we had….

  • 6th Grade in Schoolhouse Rock
  • 4th and 5th Grade Whaling Skits
  • 3rd grade in Little Red Riding Hood
  • 2nd grade at the May Pole
  • 1st grade danced through the decades
  • Kindergarten in their Halloween Assembly/ Soup Drive Commercial and Valentine Bake Sale Assembly
  • PK in the Halloween Assembly, First Thanksgiving and Valentine Bake Sale, as well!


We have shared much good news in assembly, and I have looked forward to this time together each week! Hamden Hall prides itself in its core values of: Excellence, Support, Participation, Accountability, Respect. The Lower School has worked hard at being examples of these values every day and I am very proud of you!

I’d now like to share a photo slide show highlighting this awesome school year!  I hope you enjoy it!

Sixth Graders — our fearless leaders of the Lower School— you will be graduating this afternoon… please don’t forget us in the Lower School! We all love and care about you and we wish you well!

Fifth Grade— when we return in September, you will be our new leaders. This is a huge responsibility, one that I hope you will take seriously. I know you can do it, and you have big shoes to fill!


To those of you who are moving on to a new school, we will miss you! You will always be a part of our Hamden Hall Lower School Family. To the rest of you, I will see you in September!

Have the most awesome summer EVER!   READ READ READ!!!  (and do some math, too!)

and I’d like to leave you with one final message from Kid President


It’s that simple!


Another awesome #caisct Academic Technology Retreat!

making a buzzerEach year, the CAIS Academic Technology Retreat never disappoints. It’s filled with amazing, thoughtful, forward-thinking educators who debate, discuss and explore ways in which they can improve and enhance the learning experiences for their students. This year, our Keynote was Don Buckley.  His topic was “Design and Maker Thinking.”  Don is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of  Tools at Schools.  The focus of his presentation was to investigate the teaching and learning of design and maker thinking in schools. We thoroughly enjoyed his animated and engaging presentation and I, personally, loved his break-out session where we were challenged to design a wearable technology that would change the student learning experience as we know it.

Here are my tweets from my time at the retreat. (I needed to leave early due to commitments back at school.)


Here is a link to other tweets from the event.

Here is a link to our “App Smackdown.” Feel free to add your favorite tool/app to it!

This tweet by Rush Hambleton is, by far, one of the most powerful things about this retreat, and one of the many reasons it’s not to be missed each year.  Thanks for another awesome, awesome learning experience!

Here are some additional photos from the event.

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Redecorate Your Room!

Bed-Bath-Beyond-logoAs a culminating assessment for a PreAlgebra unit in decimals, percents and graphing, I decided to teach students about the useful tool of a Google Spreadsheet. After introducing some basic terminology and functionality of a spreadsheet, students will be given $400 to spend at Bed, Bath and Beyond to redecorate their room. It is my hope that they will find this activity engaging and, at the same time, teach them how easy calculations can be when using a spreadsheet. I will also introduce the basics of creating a bar chart. I thought I’d share in case anyone else was looking for this type of activity.


When a service project comes full circle

After a successful division-wide new sock drive in October (462 pairs of socks collected), a mega food drive where over 3000 food items were collected for a local food pantry in November, and a touching adopt-a-family initiative that supported families in crisis in December, we decided that January’s Lower School community service project should not involve a “drive” of sorts but instead something that Lower School children themselves could do without parent help or monetary support.

After searching for such a project, I stumbled upon “Hugs for Soldiers,” a program “dedicated to offering comforts from home and brightening a Soldier’s day with a care package, card or letter of encouragement.”

Here is an excerpt from a story written about this project:

A January community service project hatched in the Lower School has transformed into a school-wide initiative as students of all ages are beginning to craft and create valentine cards and messages for troops overseas.

From there it took on a life of its own – including the decision to earmark Hamden Hall’s cards and letters to Hamden Hall alumnus Matthew Peterson, who graduated in 2003 and is currently a captain in the U.S. Army. Matthew was deployed in early January to Afghanistan for eight months – his second tour in that country. He was also deployed to Iraq for one year. His mom, Cookie Peterson, is a former second-grade teacher at Hamden Hall who retired in June 2010 after 17 years. Many Hamden Hall faculty continue to keep in touch with Cookie, including Sue Bennett and Sandi Cunningham (with whom Cookie taught second grade for 11 years), who are helping coordinate the Hugs for Soldiers initiative.

So, after Sue Bennett, our Lower School art teacher explained the project to our students as assembly, students began creating the most beautiful and heartfelt cards and notes to be sent to Matt and his unit.  At the end of January, we accumulated over 150 cards and they were sent on their way through the Hugs for Soldiers organization.

In early March, we received this beautiful note along with pictures from Matt and his unit. We shared these at assembly with our students. It was an emotional experience for everyone in attendance and our students sat with wide-eyes as they saw their valentines in the hands of a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. And it was so powerful to have a service project come full circle.

Pretty amazing!


Read more:

Warm Socks and Busloads of Food Foster Goodwill for Donors and Receivers

Valentine “Hugs” Project Send Message to Troops

April Community Service: Take care of our earth!

"Creative Commons Earth Day Poster" by Spacedust is licensed under CC

“Creative Commons Earth Day Poster” by Spacedust is licensed under CC

Part of Hamden Hall’s mission is to instill a sense of social responsibility. It is with this in mind that, since October, the Lower School has participated in a community service/ service learning project each month. The project, its goals, and follow-up information is shared with students at during our weekly assembly. These projects have ranged from school-wide food drives to grade level project such as this one. Our 6th graders have been true leaders throughout the year and have helped to promote and support  these initiatives. What amazing role models for our younger students!

Here are some ideas that I shared with Lower School teachers for April’s  Community Service, which focuses on taking care of the earth! Teachers can choose one of these or come up with their own project. They are encouraged to work with other grade levels and have students involved in the decision-making process. I thought others might find this information useful.

Used Book Collection
Run a gently used kid’s book drive to keep books out of the waste stream. Read to Grow!

Ronald McDonald House Pop Tabs Collection
“Collecting pop tabs is a great way to teach kids about philanthropy and the importance of recycling, and raise funds to help children and their families at the same time. Some of our Chapters raise thousands of dollars with their pop tab collections.”

Nike Reuse a Shoe Program
Nike Reuse-a-Shoe takes worn out athletic shoes and grinds them down to create a new material called Nike Grind, which is used to make high-quality sports surfaces including courts, turf fields, tracks and more.

Nature Walk/ Clean up!
Walk to a local park and help clean up/ recycle any trash found along the way.

Make Homemade Bird Feeders
10 Bird Feeders Kids love to make
Remember: no peanut butter (Crisco is a substitute). Be mindful of seed allergies.

Plan a Lesson/ Activity for a younger grade about Earth Day
Teach others about taking care of Mother Earth! Create a lesson/ read a story/ do a craft from recycled materials.

Educate our Community!
Make flyers to hang around campus to educate others on how to take better care of the earth! Check out these tips from Time for Kids.

Letter Writing
In celebration of Earth Day, have your students research some environmentalists who have made major contributions to our planet. A good starting point would be to view the people listed on the Ecology Hall of Fame. Have each student choose one person. After researching the person’s achievements, students can then write letters to the environmentalists asking for their opinions on a current environmental issue or to share ideas on how to protect the earth. Students can write a friendly or business letter using the Letter Generator. After printing the letters, have students turn their letters into letter poems using the Letter Poem Creator, which will help them change their letters into poetic form. Once the poems are finished, host an Earth Day poetry reading-outdoors if possible. (from Read Write Think)

Early Childhood Service Learning Curriculum for the Environment and Earth Day
There’s some ideas here for some of the younger grades including:

  • Turning Trash into Treasures

  • Creating Recycling Bins

  • Recycling Superheroes

  • Recycled Bird Houses

  • Transportation & Pollution

  • Musical Instruments

  • Cut the Pollution Card

  • Green 100 Lesson & Project Ideas

Encourage children to write and perform an original skit about caring for the Earth. Let each child or group choose their own topic which can range from not littering to preservation issues. Video the performances and let the children watch their own skits to reinforce the ideas they shared. Students can even perform it at assembly!

Also, here’s a link to Earth Day Books for Kids.


If you have any additional ideas, please share them!

Pi Day 2014

This year’s pi day celebration was awesome! Students really enjoyed celebrating, especially since it was the last day of school before Spring break.  We started our class watching this video, talked a little bit about the history of pi, and then we had the “pi recitation” contest. (see video below) This year, I was astounded at how many students got “into it!” The winner, a 6th grader, recited pi to the 82nd place! The 2nd place student made it to the 61st place and the 3rd place student recited to the 42nd place. Pretty amazing!! We then went on this scavenger hunt. When students returned to class, we calculated the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of each of the circles they measured and most got “a little more than 3!” We ended with eating PIE for dessert. We had a blast!