Math Lunches in 2-3 and 4-5

Math Lunch is an opportunity for students who are interested in mathematics to get together with other math enthusiasts to work on math challenges. Most 2-3 and 4-5  students have participated in a math lunch over the past three weeks. Lower School Director Anne Hopkins, Math Department Chair Lisa Kramer, 2-3 Learning Specialist Heather Tanguay, and all 2-3 and 4-5 advisors have supported the Math Lunch program and participated in the numeracy fun.

Math Lunch problems are designed to be accessible to all students (i.e., it is important that everyone who is interested in participating is able to understand the problem of the day). At the same time, we choose problems that allow for extension and challenge for students who have stronger number sense and computational fluency. Pebble Math required students to place “pebbles” within five zones whereby the sum of each two adjacent zones was a given number. Pebble Math encourages students to solve the problem using actual pebbles—in our case, mini pasta shells—allowing for quick engagement with the work. Most children worked with a guess-and-check approach, placing a few pebbles in a zone and then adjusting as the numbers indicated. Students immediately started noticing patterns, developing theories, and making predictions based on experimentation. Pebble Math was a big hit in 2-3.

We recently introduced 4-5 Math Lunch students to Ken-Ken, a popular Japanese arithmetic/logic puzzle that was designed to be an instruction-free opportunity for problem solving. Ken Ken problems can be found in many newspapers alongside the Sudoku and Crossword puzzles as well as on the Ken Ken website. Ken Ken problems are leveled by size and difficulty, allowing children lots of opportunities for fun and challenge.

Managing technology use in the digital age

Parents across the country are entering into conversations about the role of technology in their lives and the lives of their children. Regardless of family values or family policies regarding access to technology—the digital age is here to stay and all parents are grappling with the implications, which include:

  • the fact that technology both helps users connect but also can interfere with making human connections;
  • the significant differences between watching a story or book unfold on a screen and reading a book;
  • the impact of everything being immediate in life;
  • how we are technology role models for our children; and
  • the fact that ongoing conversations and considering and reconsidering our technology policies is essential given the changing nature of the digital world.

Staying connected and talking with one another has always helped parents navigate the myriad stages of their children’s development. Parents supporting one another around their children’s technology use is no different.

Below you will find links to some articles and resources that I hope you will find relevant and interesting.

How (and When) to Limit Kids’ Tech Use
Link to article

“Teach your children to use technology in a healthy way and pick up the skills and habits that will make them successful digital citizens. From 2-year-olds who seem to understand the iPad better than you to teenagers who need some (but not too much) freedom, we’ll walk you through how to make technology work for your family at each stage of the journey.”  – Melanie Pinola in NYT Smart Living

Mindful Technology
Link to article

Erica Marcus, educator and wellness instructor from Wise Minds, Big Hearts, shared her  blog and resource page including a”personal investigation” exercise along with her book recommendations.

The Art of Screen Time: How your Family can Balance Digital Media and Real Life
Link to book

Anya Kamenetz us all to “enjoy screens; not too much; mostly together.”

Some other articles to consider:

Why Social Media Must Be Taught

Focusing in a Tech Connected World

Why Banning Cell Phones Misses The Point

Distinguishing Addiction From Habit

Good Digital Parenting Is The Challenge Of Our Age

What Kind Of Screen Time Parent Are You?


Photo: Magnus Hagdorn

Form and function of pottery

In 4-5 studio class with art teacher Chloe Horie, the students have been talking about how form can match function in pottery: how the shape a pot takes mirrors the way the pot is used. This study happened in conjunction with the local food thematic study. Every student picked a food and created a pot specifically for serving that dish. During the study they looked at the work of local potters Kari Radasch and Ayumi Horie, both who grew up in Maine and have returned to make and sell their pots in Portland.

Among the 4-5 pieces one student created a pancake dish made in the shape of a turtle. When syrup is poured into the mouth of the turtle it travels down the neck and onto the pancake. Another student made a dish for strawberries in the shape of a strawberry. The berries sit in individual compartments at the bottom of the dish and there is a compartment for chocolate sauce or any other substance for dipping! Another student made a mug with a compartment underneath in which cookies can warm.

This art unit encouraged students to consider differently and more critically objects that they interact with every day. Like their local food unit taught them to consider closely the life of foods that they eat and enjoy every day, the pottery unit asked them to consider the artful way form supports function in dishes they use every day.  Chloe hopes that students have a new appreciation for the way in which the form and function interact with pots and that students will consider creating more works with specific functions in mind.

Play in the Piney Woods

Down the hill from the Lower School classrooms in the Piney Village is the magical outdoor playspace called The Piney Woods. The Piney Woods one of the locations EC-5 children enjoy recess together.  Beneath the towering pines and among the historical granite slabs, the children negotiate stumps, collect pine cones, arrange sticks, mix mud, grind rocks, jump and run and play. This is the kind of space where true imaginative play can happen and when play and learning is inextricably intertwined.

Last week I was invited for a meal or an overnight stay in the Piney Woods. A group of 2-3 students had arranged found-resources to create an avenue of options for restaurants and hotels along the bases of trees at the edge of the woods. They had created a shared vision for their city, engaged in collecting and sharing the resources for the building design, and created an inclusive activity of role playing that required negotiation and compromise.

Continue reading “Play in the Piney Woods”

Honoring the Day of the Dead

“Una civilización que niega a la muerte, acaba por negar a la vida.”
(A civilization that denies death, ends up denying life.)

-Octavio Paz

Last week Lower School Spanish students celebrated el día de los muertos.  El día de los muertos combines the ancient Aztec custom of celebrating ancestors with All Soul’s Day, a holiday that Spanish invaders brought to Mexico starting in the early 1500s. Celebrated throughout Latin America but primarily in Mexico (and in the United States by Mexican-Americans), this holiday honors and remembers loved ones who have passed away. To commemorate this day, families build candlelit “ofrendas”, decorated altars, in their homes and at gravesites, so that the spirits can find their way back to their loved ones. The “ofrendas” are filled with the favorite food, drinks, and items that were important to their ancestors when they were alive (such as a favorite instrument, game etc.) They also include the four main elements of nature – earth, wind, water and fire.

Spanish teacher Amanda Wood shared, “Our goal is not only to teach the Spanish language, but also to create a climate that appreciates and values Hispanic culture and sees it’s relevance in our community and our world.”


Over the course of three weeks students in 4-5 worked in small groups to design and build a traditional altar.  Students made papel picado (paper cut-outs), crepe paper-cempasuchil (marigold)  flowers, arcos de flores (floral arches), and enjoyed homemade pan de muerto (Bread of the Dead). Students watched videos and viewed images of real life altars as they learned more about the holiday and its importance to Latin American culture.

2-3 students participated in the making of papel picado which was displayed in the art center entrance. Students contributed photos, memorabilia and artifacts from loved ones for the shared altar. K-1 students colored and cut out brightly decorated calaveras (skulls) that were hung around the 2-3 altar and engaged in age appropriate conversation about the celebration. Students, faculty and families visited the altar display and enjoyed hearing from 4-5 students about their group projects.