Middle School "Bring Your Own Laptop" Program Aids Student Productivity

The Bring Your Own Laptop (BYOL) program at Elisabeth Morrow got its start at the simple suggestion of fifth grade teacher Sanda Cohen.  Two years ago she asked parents to have their students bring their computers into school if they chose and almost all did.  

From that small beginning, a successful program of integrating technology into middle school life was born, and now this year, the BYOL program encompasses fifth and sixth grade.  In the 2014-2015 school year, the program will be in effect throughout Morrow House.

After Ms. Cohen’s initial request, faculty formed a committee that structured the program. Launching with fifth grade seemed best since they had their own homerooms and desks, and, as the youngest middle schoolers, the program could grow with them.  The members of the faculty committee also received extensive professional training in how to best create an effective program that would enhance and support the work students were doing in the classroom, as well as show them how to use technology to boost planning and time management skill. 
“This program requires no special software, just a computer equipped for wireless Internet access,” says Paul Baly, Middle School Head. "Everyone uses google apps. We outlined three goals for the program: for teachers and students to have immediate access to tools that will further enrich and enhance learning; to further differentiate teaching; and to help students continue to develop the skills necessary to thrive in a digital environment in a very personal way," Mr. Baly says. He adds, "We know that when students go to secondary schools that have laptop programs--and many of them do--they will be expected to use these skills from day one."

One example of those skills is two-column note taking, formally called Cornell Notes. “Our students learn how to organize their note taking in a very systematic way on the laptop,” says Baly. “This is a skill that they can carry with them through life.”  

Carolyn Bliesener, fifth grade teacher, says the laptop enables students to become self-sufficient at an early age.  “They are able to organize their schedules in google calendar, share homework using google docs, and complete tests in google forms. I can communicate via email and help students on assignments during off school hours.”  

Although the BYOL program is not yet active in seventh and eighth grades, Elisabeth Morrow has been laptop friendly for many years.  “Our goal is to someday have classrooms as close as possible to paperless,” Mr. Baly says.


Morrow House Instrumentalists Perform at Run10Feed10

For the second year, Morrow House instrumental students performed at the Run10Feed10 race in New York City.  The 10K run, in support of hunger initiatives, is sponsored by Unilever, Women's Health magazine, the Feed Foundation and Crowdwise, was held on Sunday, September 22.  Representing faculty in the race were Head of School Aaron Cooper, Middle School Head Paul Baly, and Violin Teacher Brittany Sklar.


The Perfect Fit - A Guide to the Secondary School Process

For parents of middle schoolers, the secondary school admissions process can seem daunting. How, they wonder, can the child who could barely remember homework assignments in fifth grade be expected to write multiple essays, make intelligent and engaging conversation at interviews and take a series of entrance exams?  And then, when the acceptance letters hit the mailbox, how can that same student be expected to decide on the right fit for him or her?

The Wall Outside of the Secondary School Placement Office
While the child who entered middle school and the child who is leaving may seem almost the same to parents, the truth is that they are growing and maturing quickly, something that the faculty at Morrow House recognizes, and something that Michele Bower, Director of Curriculum and Secondary School Placement, knows for sure.

“Students in schools that end at eighth grade understand the importance of the next step in their education, and understand the implications of making the right decision among several choices,” she says.  “Schools that end in eighth grade know that they have the responsibility for guiding these graduates in those choices by making sure that they find the right fit.”

Elisabeth Morrow starts the secondary school placement process in the seventh grade spring with an orientation meeting for the parents, a panel discussion with former parents and graduates and a school fair with representatives from secondary schools.  Ms. Bower then meets with parents at the end of the seventh grade to begin to flesh out a list of schools that would be a good fit for their child.

“We look at the student’s learning profile, including grades and test scores, and talk about the kind of environment the family is looking for,” she says.  “I am very familiar with the educational options in the area and I can help guide families to schools where their children will thrive just as they did at EMS.”

In the fall of the eighth grade, Ms. Bower speaks with parents at the Morrow House Back -To - School night, and begins to arrange lunches for students to visit with representatives of many secondary schools.  After school test preparation classes get underway, and students begin taking their Decisions class, where they develop their “brag sheets” (lists of activities, interests, and accolades) that will help with recommendation letters as well as interview topics and essays.  The class also dispels the myths about what high school is like and how hard it is to get in.  “Students bring up what they have heard from other students, and it may not always be accurate,” she says. “We are here to separate fact from fiction, so that they look at choosing a high school not as a trial to be endured, but rather a challenge to be embraced.”

By the time the spring rolls around, acceptances are in, tuition contracts are signed, and students start looking forward to where they will matriculate, Ms. Bower says.  “Most children don’t have the opportunity to actually pick their own high school,and feel positive and confident in that choice.  That’s a great gift that only a school that ends in eighth grade can give their students, and one that sets us apart.”


Kids Bored? Try This!

When the weather is warm, it's easy to find things to do outside.  But as it turns dreary and cold, parents of young children often scramble for creative ideas to keep the kids entertained. Beth Anne Brennan, Lower School Head and mom of four, offers a list of things to pull out around your house when your child says, "Mom, I'm bored!" 

1.Books- Reading diverse kinds of subject matter sparks interest and invites a child to look at all possibilities of inquiry, exploration, and self-discovery.

2.Materials that can be repurposed---boxes, paper towel rolls, packing bubbles.  Figuring out new uses for old things keeps a child’s mind active!  

3. Tape - duct tape, colored tape, masking tape, scotch tape- children love to connect any and all materials together-the more tape, the better!

4.Do you have flour, water and salt?  Then you can make playdough.  Engage your child in conversation while manipulating this material we all remember from childhood.

5.Water - both inside and outside of the home.  Pouring, measuring, experimenting and sensory engagement are all accomplished through water play.

6. Writing materials - crayons, markers, pencils, craypas, chalk that can be broken, transformed and layered allow a child to develop reading and writing skills. 

7.Food – Have your child measuring, sifting, and pouring the ingredients for a healthy meal or snack. This is a great bonding experience that also promotes healthy habits and wellness.

8.Old menus, signs, tool belts, and office supplies, among other everyday items, bring stories to life and allow children to play out social interactions and conflicts in meaningful and creative ways. 

9.Box of various buttons – the perfect material to explore, count, and repurpose in a child’s play.

10.Space – a child needs space to create, choices for active discovery and a place to get messy without getting “in trouble." 


The Importance of Character Education at EMS

The central values of the Elisabeth Morrow School are known, collectively, as the Four Cs.  These guiding principles are taught to our students at the youngest ages, and reinforced daily through the behavior of their teachers and peers.  Today in assembly, our fourth graders, the leaders of our Little School, taught their young friends the importance of cooperation, consideration, compassion and courtesy in everything we do.