Friday, October 15, 2021

Ada Lovelace Day: Women in Science

 What do Bluetooth, the discover of DNA, and radium have in common? They were all discovered by women scientists. 

Students at Seabury Middle School this week were inundated with expert speakers and teachers this week. On the second Tuesday of October a special day is celebrated at Seabury with the goal of convincing young female students to consider careers is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). According to the American Association of University Women women still only make up 28% of the STEM workforce. It is believed that women are systematically steered out of those education education tracks. 

Ada Lovelace Day has become a holiday to promote women in STEM. Ada has become a figurehead for this movement, because she bucked the gender stereotypes of her time and became a skilled mathematician and some consider her the first computer programmer. At Seabury we celebrate this holiday by inviting women professionals to take over the day and teacher us, do hands-on science with us, and give us advice. All gender students enjoy these experiences. 

This year we were visited by Mandi Marquardt PT (personal trainer), Sonja Barteck (architect), Dr, Audrey Don (neuropsychologist), Dr. Jamie Brooks and her associates Brenda and Kayla from Brooks Dental Studio, Dr. Diane Bartels (pediatrician), and Ruth Maitlen (Gifted Ed. Specialist). 

We learned to suture a wound, how to make a microscope, about how the brain learns, about optical illusions in architecture, all about Ada Lovelace and everything a physical trainer does to keep athletes at peak performance.


Saturday, June 5, 2021

Summer Reading Ideas and Book List (Will Keep Being Updated Until School's Out)

The Tacoma Public Library's Summer Reading Program started on June 5th. I suggest you sign your middle schooler up if you live in Tacoma. If not, please check out your library's summer reading program.

A Note about the Selections:

Each reader is different, and not every reader is ready for the content they are able to read. That is the challenge of finding "good fit" books for advanced and gifted readers. These lists are just here to help you (and them) find some new books to read.

At each level, these are not all designed to be “challenge” books. Some are just strong middle-grade/YA fiction that students might enjoy reading or that a particular student may not have read yet. Students are—of course--welcome to seek a challenge on one of the older lists as well or to read a great book they’ve missed from an earlier recommended grade. Parents should advise re: content. 

It is also worth noting that a 7th or 8th grader that hasn't read something on the 6th grade list might really love the books listed there. Those aren't only for 6th graders, so scan the whole list and find some things that look good to you.

Also, the CCBC, an amazing children’s library resource out of the University of Wisconsin, has a
Web site full of lists. The link above is to their list of recommendations. 

I have made three lists:
Books for rising 6th and 7th graders,
Books for rising 7th and 8th graders
Books for rising 8th and 9th graders.

Within the second two lists, I made subcategories with classics on top. Please excuse any duplicates.

Happy Reading!


Rising 6th and 7th Graders: Fiction and Poetry
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Rain, Reign by Ann M. Martin
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes
Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Ghost by Jason Reynolds (whole series)
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson
The White House is Burning by Jane Sutcliffe
Paperboy by Vince Vawter
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy
Any of the amazing books by L’Engle
Little Women by Alcott
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee (Not that Robert E. Lee)
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The Alchemist by Paul Coehlo 
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Tales by Washington Irving
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin
Unsettled by Reem Faruqi
School for Good and Evil (series) by Soman Chainani
• The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
American as Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar
Ahisma by Supriya Kelkar
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim
Anything by Erin Entrada Kelly from her many middle grade selections
Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
Ancestor Approved edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith
• Silver People (poems from working on the Panama Canal) by Margarita Engle
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez
• Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar
Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein
•Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

The Boy Who Could Harness the Wind (Young Reader's Edition)
The Miracle Worker by William Gibson

Rising 7th and 8th Graders

Gulliver’s Travels
The Iliad
The Odyssey (I prefer the Fagles translation)
Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre
Austen’s Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and/or Sense and Sensibility
Charles Dickens: The Old Curiosity Shop
Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels
The Joy Luck Club
Wilkie Collins: The Moonstone (The first mystery novel)
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
P.G. Wodehouse (The Jeeves Stories)
Agatha Christie’s mystery novels
The James Bond novels
John Le Carre’s spy novels

Newer Texts:
The Flavia de Luce series of mystery novels (set in England, involve chemistry)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes 
(and other Chris Crutcher novels—he’s from Spokane)
The Fault in Our Stars
Paper Towns
The Book Thief
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist (and everything else these co-authors wrote)
Every Day by David Levithan
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Highest Tide
Life of Pi
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Martian Chronicles
Ship Breaker
Sophie’s World
Bel Canto
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Box Out
Howl’s Moving Castle
The Rock and the River
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
• My Name is Not Easy
• Hearts Unbroken
• The Beast of Cretacea
• Clap when You Land
• Almost American Girl
• Hearts Unbroken
• Dear Martin
• City of Beasts
• Orbiting Jupiter
• Darius the Great Is Not Okay
• American Born Chinese
• Love and Other Natural Disasters
• K-Pop Confidential
• Legend and Warcross
• Super Fake Love Song
• The Prince and the Dressmaker
• You Should See Me in a Crown
• This Poison Heart
• They Both Die at the End
• The Poet X
• The Chosen
• Davida's Harp
• The Gilded Ones
• Firekeeper's Daughter
• Give Me Some Truth
• Ayesha Dean - The Istanbul Intrigue 

Nonfiction (Check the nonfiction list at the end of the rising 8/rising 9 list, too.)
Port Chicago
I Am Malala
Samurai Rising
Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?
The Rainbow Troops
They Called Us the Enemy
Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians but Were Afraid to Ask

Rising 8th and 9th Graders (Some of the content contained in these novels is a little edgier, so consider discussing options with parents. These are just great books, not necessarily great books for every student.)

Theodore Dreiser: Sister Carrie
John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden
Toni Morrison: Song of Solomon
Herman Melville: Moby Dick
Ernest Hemingway: For Whom the Bell Tolls
Edith Wharton: The House of Mirth
                        The Age of Innocence
Henry James: Daisy Miller and various short stories
Norman Mailer: The Naked and the Dead 
James Fenimore Cooper: The Last of the Mohicans (Or the whole set of the Leatherstocking Tales)
Richard Wright: Native Son
Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Upton Sinclair: The Jungle
James Baldwin: Go Tell It on the Mountain
Frank Norris: The Octopus
Robert Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land
Alice Walker: The Color Purple
Willa Cather: My Antonia
Bernard Malamud: The Natural
Joseph Heller: Catch-22
Kurt Vonnegut: Cat’s Cradle
F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby
Dorothy Dunnet’s The Lymond Chronicles (a series)
Herodotus’ Histories (460 B.C.)
The Peloponnesian Wars by Thucydides (431 B.C.)
Don Quixote (1605)
Wuthering Heights
Charles Dickens: Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities
Les Miserables
Crime and Punishment
An American Tragedy
The Time Machine
Anything by Wilde, especially The Picture of Dorian Gray
Dubliners by James Joyce
All Quiet on the Western Front
The Lord of the Rings
One Hundred Years of Solitude

Newish adult fiction and YA reads:
The Wide Sargasso Sea
The Hate U Give
On the Come Up
Elena Ferrante’s Novels
Exit West
Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Eva Luna
A Confederacy of Dunces
The Monkey Wrench Gang
The Magicians
Every Day by Leviathan (Series)
Interpreter of Maladies (short stories)
A Separate Peace
The Night Circus
How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents
In the time of the Butterflies
Long Way Down
House of the Spirits
Purple Hibiscus
The Overstory
White Teeth
Cool for the Summer
More than Just a Pretty Face 
Ted Chiang's Short Stories
I Love You So Mochi
The Ones We Are Meant to Find
The Summer of Everything
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Felix Ever After
Lost in the Never Woods
Love is a Revolution
Woven in Moonlight 
We Set the Dark on Fire
This Is All Your Fault

Punching the Air
The Physics of the Future
Plato at the Googleplex
Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?
The End of Money
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Mountains Beyond Mountains
The Color of Water
Kaffir Boy
All Boys Aren't Blue
The Book of Pride

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Linking and Retrieving: Making Interdisciplinary Connections to Help Learning Stick

One of the hallmarks of the Seabury program is that Seabury students study overarching concepts that can be viewed, analyzed, and researched through the lenses of multiple subjects.

As we work toward the future the students want and studying how to build that future, it is essential that we study the climate emergency and what is and can be done to mitigate greenhouse gasses and adapt to the changing climate.

In order to face this upcoming period of history, the world will need future leaders to have a vast skillset: communication, data analysis, storytelling, logical thinking, historical understanding of policy, mathematical reasoning, and empathy.

As the students construct their understanding of the climate situation, we are encouraging them to notice and note when there are interdisciplinary connections. We are also formally asking them to reflect on these connections in our Friday morning meetings.

Some of their connections from week 1: 

Climate weirding is caused by the excess release of greenhouse gases as a result of failed mitigation efforts.

Lack of means to adapt leads to people becoming climate refugees.

Countries that were colonizers also tend to be those that emit more greenhouse gases, which affects current global negotiations and planning.

Some of their connections from week 2:

Sustainable food production benefits future food production, which has a long range economic benefit, which could 

Antigens are important in adapting to big changes in the organism.

Weeds adapt to the situation they’re in or the climate or terrain.

We need pollinators to help our flowers produce  crops and fruit.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Showing Our Thinking: Analysis and Synthesis with Hexagonal Thinking

This week, the Seabury middle school students completed a final assessment for our study of Refugees where they connected ideas from our short story unit, their memoirs, economics, and the testimonies we heard from modern day and historical refugees.

In groups, students discussed where to place hexagons labeled with characters, people, places, and terms. Individually, they chose connections and explored and explained them in writing.

Listening to the students discuss connections, explain their thinking to one another, and deciding how to collaborate revealed the creativity of the students' thought processes.

As ideas took shape, each group formed their own connections.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Using an Economic Lens : Environment

Middle school students at Seabury produced projects that reflected their learning about the forest and the costs and benefits of using it as a resource. Seabury encourages students to think about concepts deeply and to try and understand complex issues. The people of Washington and indeed the US use Washington forests as an important resource, this use benefits not only logging companies and forest owners, but also students learned how sustainable forestry benefits education, animals, and even the forest itself.

The students first engaged in research, they read articles, watched videos, and interviewed a Washington Department of Natural Resources Forester. They then, had to make decisions and think of alternatives for the sale of an imagined timber sale. 

Here are some of the results:

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Reflection: An Important Learning Tool and a Record of a Historic Moment

 When projects and units come to an end, we ask the students to actively reflect on their learning:

  • What were their goals? What progress did they make toward those goals? Let's look back. . .
  • What questions did you have when we started? What progress have we made toward answering them?
  • What new skills have you acquired?
  • How have you grown as a thinker?
  • How have you grown as a communicator and collaborator?
  • What are you proud of?
At the end of the semester, we do a more substantial reflection that usually involves finding specific evidence from a student's work to support their answers to questions like those above.

Historic Times
I recently sent students digital cards with a short video congratulating them on doing something "unprecedented" by finishing a full semester of distance learning.

Immediately thereafter, I realized that we have had periods of distance learning before, like during the polio epidemic:

Chicago schools, for instance, moved to the radio:

"In Chicago, teachers collaborated with principals to create on-air lessons for each grade, with oversight from experts in each subject. Seven local radio stations donated air time. September 13 marked the first day of school.

Local papers printed class schedules each morning. Social studies and science classes were slated for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays were devoted to English and math. The on-air school day began with announcements and gym. Classes were short – just 15 minutes – providing simple, broad questions and assigning homework.

The objective was to be “entertaining yet informative.” Curriculum planners incorporated an engaging commercial broadcasting style into the lessons. Two principals monitored each broadcast, providing feedback to teachers on content, articulation, vocabulary and general performance. When schools reopened, students would submit their work and take tests to show mastery of the material.

Sixteen teachers answered phone calls from parents at the school district’s central office. After the phone bank logged more than 1,000 calls on the first day, they brought five more teachers on board.

News stories reporting on this novel radio school approach were mostly positive, but a few articles hinted at the challenges" (La Monica, Martin).


This is the first time so much technology has been available to help us help the students, so what they have done is still, in many ways, unprecedented. 

As such, we asked them to create something more special, more memorable, for their end of semester reflection.

The students had two options: create a museum box representative of their learning this semester or create a Pinterest-style digital board that gathered moments from their learning this year.

Creative Reflection
Reflection in this way allows the students to make a story out of their learning, which is one of the key ways that learning connects to long-term memory. Some of the students shared how much they enjoyed creating their museum boxes, thinking metaphorically about their learning.

The results range in variety and style as broadly as our students do.

We even had a Minecraft reflection. The student who submitted this also submitted a written explanation. The video highlights their creativity.

And some "moments" from the Pinterest boards:

The students will remember and use the skills they have learned during this semester for years to come. They will remember much of the content they have learned, too.  The experience of working together through this time, of learning and growing alongside each other, of trusting us to help them learn, of overcoming challenges, of building learning spaces that worked for them--those are memories they will have for a lifetime.

We are lucky to be on this journey together.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Algebra Hanging Mobile Project


As seen in art museums and baby nurseries, hanging mobiles have a place in people’s imaginations: 

how could a disparate grouping of unequally weighted objects be suspended in such a harmonious and 

balanced state, gently turning to the whims of any air currents?  This question can be answered using 

algebra.  All the times students are solving for the unknown in an equation, they are also enacting the 

steps needed to construct a mobile, for in either case one is performing an act of “balancing”.  Whether 

gazing at celestial bodies hanging over an early morning horizon on the ocean (as did the artist 

Alexander Calder when he conceived of his new art form-the mobile) or looking at algebraic equations 

on a piece of paper, what one is conceiving is equilibrium.  To this end, algebra students in December 

created their own Calder-like hanging mobiles, using a “prestrung” hanging mobile kit with alligator clips 

to attach objects significant or pleasing to them.   The students aesthetically arranged their items to 

balance across the wires; below are photos of the results.


H. used a collection of shells collected from a family trip to the Hood Canal.


R. described activities and people that were personally important on pieces of paper


Ada Lovelace Day: Women in Science

 What do Bluetooth, the discover of DNA, and radium have in common? They were all discovered by women scientists.  Students at Seabury Middl...