Discovering the lizard brain in Seminar

Students in Middle School Seminar recently gained a better understanding of the form and functions of the brain stem (in Seminar, this is called the “cave brain” or “lizard brain”)—the parts of the brain that do the basic work of keeping us alive. These include automatic functions like breathing, moving , and blinking, as well as scanning for safety, subconscious behaviors, and automatic sorting/categorizing activities.

These automatic functions lead to a discussion of biases, which we all possess. Biases were useful during the early days of Homo Sapiens—the ability to quickly categorize everything allowed us to survive. In contemporary society, however, the automatic brain functions that result in biases can blossom into prejudice and discrimination. After learning how and why the brain sorts, students were introduced to tools they can use to interrupt or redirect the assumptions and impulses that can lead to discrimination against others based on race, sex, gender, class, religion, culture, and sexuality. Teacher Kate Ziminsky guided students through an activity where they categorized a variety of items (including keys, dice, game pieces, blocks, and toys), then explained why they made those decisions.

Next week’s class will focus on the attributes or preferences we all have that are invisible to others. Students will use their “thinking brains”—the cortex/prefrontal cortex—to get curious, then interview their classmates and ask the kinds of questions that help override stereotypes and assumptions.


We’re looking forward to seeing both new and familiar faces back on campus! Be sure to check out this brief video that provides an overview of the new Swivl technology that will be in our hybrid classrooms this fall. The video features four faculty members and was recorded during our Summer Term classes.

Watch the video

Sixth grade virtual museum

Each June, the sixth grade culminates the year by celebrating students’ learning through the preparation for and presentation of the Night at the Museum. This year, as with all of our school activities, our culminating event went online—a celebration of sixth-grade community, learning, student voice, and above all, resiliency in the face of Covid-19!

As we headed towards the final days of school, students were hard at work preparing presentations in numerous classes. Each student selected two particular presentations that they wanted to share with family, friends, teachers, and the broader community. Students presented twice throughout the morning and will also served as an audience member for other students’ presentations.

View the presentations

Science/visual arts collaboration: seventh graders contribute models to traveling exhibition

In 2019, Portland artist Anna Dibble began planning a collaborative public art installation to help promote stewardship and awareness by reconnecting people with the natural world. The multi-year art/science/education initiative would focus specifically on biodiversity changes in the Gulf of Maine caused by climate change and other human impacts. Anna founded the organization Gulf of Maine ECOARTS to coordinate the effort.

The exhibit’s central piece will be a fictional ecosystem—“a cross section of atmosphere, sky, and ocean featuring a 24-foot North Atlantic Right Whale and a selection of key endangered marine life, from phytoplankton to fishermen and Native Americans.” The installation will be designed and built by a collaborative team of professional sculptors and filmmakers, educators, and more than 100 students from across Maine, ranging from middle schoolers to college students. Disciplines will include science education, sculpture, painting, sound design, lighting, film, virtual reality, and—when the installation is in place—arts- and science-related programming. The sculptures will be fabricated from recycled material and repurposed beach debris.

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