Category Archives: Blog

Backyard Waterslide Engineering

By Dan Feins, Middle School Science

Engineers ask critical questions about what they want to create, whether it be a skyscraper, amusement park ride, bicycle or smartphone. These questions include: What is the problem to solve? What do we want to design? Who is it for? What do we want to accomplish? What are the project requirements? What are the limitations? What is our goal?

The seventh-grade class at the Beverly campus began an engineering unit in the New Year. After a very brief discussion, the class determined the problem to solve was how can we build a waterslide in our own backyard. Based on previous waterslide experiences, the students’ initial concept was to connect three or four “normal” plastic slides together, support those slides with wooden trusses, and have a long ladder to reach the top. Water would arrive at the top via a series of extension hoses and be deposited at the bottom into a pool.

Practical issues were discussed during the next class. The students were confronted with several issues, most of which involved physics and cost. For example, a person sitting at the top of a waterslide has inertia that they must overcome to start down the slide. Should the water give them a push, or should the person push themselves? Friction needed to be overcome on the way down the slide, and that required more water than could be achieved through a garden hose. And then there was cost. Although no budget had been set at this point, the team knew that money was not going to be unlimited.

Research commenced via Chromebooks. The team determined that a “trash hose” connected to a “trash water pump” would push the water up to the slide and then down the slide with enough pressure to move a person along. Cost comparisons were made in terms of buying or renting the trash water pump. The team leaned in the direction of renting because the waterslide would only be used for certain parts of the year, and even then, on certain days within those parts.

The team took some time to view videos of successful waterslides from around the world and from people’s backyards. The students were struck by one video which showed a backyard waterslide that was built on sloped ground, eliminating the need for plastic slides, a support structure, a ladder, and decreasing the size of trash water pump required. The team was introduced to the most critical aspect of engineering: it is an iterative process, meaning that we repeat the steps as many times as needed, making improvements along the way as we learn from failure and uncover new design possibilities to arrive at great solutions

At the next class meeting the old design was scrapped in favor of one that could be built along the ground and run down a hill. The students drafted up some designs and settled on a waterslide that twists and turns and would run the length of the hill, culminating in a shallow pool at the end. During the next class, with some students out due to illness, one of the students worked on their prototype. After several valiant attempts to construct a twisting and turning waterslide, it became evident that such a construction may not be possible for their prototype, given the materials at hand, and it may in fact be prohibitively difficult for full scale construction as well.

The next couple of classes the students turned their attention to building a linear waterslide. Tests of the waterslide were made using water from a pitcher poured down the slide from the top. The students quickly learned that creating a leak proof waterslide required a lot of work and attention to detail. But having stopped the leaks, the next test involved a scale stand-in model (a Playmobile figure) to start at the top of the slide and move down the slide with the flowing water from the pitcher and end in the shallow pool. Several iterations followed as the figure was stuck at the top of the slide or became stuck as it moved down the slide.

The students persevered until the plastic figure completed a transit of the waterslide on three separate trial runs. Success! But now could this be built in the backyard of one of the students? A site was chosen, and the student brought in pictures of where the waterslide Dan's Blogwas to be lodged. Unfortunately, the nature of the incline and the lighting at the time the photos were taken made it difficult to visualize how the waterslide was going to work in that area. There was also the matter of potential environmental issues if the area was going to be dug up and subjected to inordinary amounts of water and foot traffic. The students and the teacher decided that a trip to the proposed waterslide site was warranted.

The class set off a bright and cold February morning to the house of one the students. There, we were welcomed into the student’s home by her mother who gave us a brief tour, including a visit with the resident velvety soft rabbit and working cat. Once in the backyard, we walked the terrain upon which the student had done some preliminary clearing. This made it easy for us to measure the length of the hill (90 feet) and take some Dan's Blogsoil and leaf samples for analysis after February break. We returned to the house to warm ourselves with some freshly baked cinnamon bread. We said our goodbyes to the bunny, the cat, and mom, and returned to the school.

In the best tradition of engineering, the students now have new questions: will the results of the soil and leaf testing be in favor of construction? How much it will cost to build a 90-foot waterslide? How much water pressure do you need to move a person from the top to the bottom? What happens to all that water in the pool at the end of the waterslide? Will Mom and Dad really want to build a 90-foot waterslide in their backyard? Fortunately for the students, engineering is an iterative process, so a “no” at any of those points does not necessarily mean the project needs to be cancelled, only reimagined.


Rock Cycle extra credit

Extra Credit Leads to Extra Learning

By Taylor Morris, 3/4 Grade Teacher

Throughout the school year students are given the opportunity to do extra credit projects on a variety of topics. These extra credit projects allow students to dig deeper to extend their learning. Each project has multiple options so that even within the project different learning styles can be utilized. Extra credit also gives students a chance to fully understand a topic that our curriculum may only touch briefly on. This can be helpful for high achieving students who want to expand their knowledge on a topic and go further with a concept. It also gives students who struggle with a unit a second chance to understand the material taught through a second deeper look at information. All of these projects are optional but encouraged for each student.Blog, Rock Cycle

So far this year students have been given three extra credit options. While learning about the Earth’s Surface in science, students were able to further their learning by choosing a project about the rock cycle. Students were able to choose to make a comic book explaining parts of the rock cycle or to write an essay about how the rock cycle worked. Students then shared their work with the class.

In Social Studies students learned a bit about the civil war and were able to further their learning by choosing an extra credit project of making a recipe, drawing a picture, making a timeline, defining words, or writing about important figures in Civil War times. Students who picked a recipe then made the recipe and shared it with the class. Finally this year students have had the option of reading a book related to what we are learning in social studies or science. They are able to connect the book to our unit and share what they have learned about the book and what they enjoyed about it. 

Civil war extra credit                Abe Lincoln extra credit

Students have found that while these projects can add a boost to their grade, they are also enjoyable. When students turn in their work they are excited to share it with their classmates and likewise their classmates are excited to see what each participant has produced. Students who do these projects are able to more fully explain what we are learning in their own words to each other. 


kids on tech

Tech Wise

By Pam Heintz, Head of School

Whether it’s a buzz, beep, chime, or ding one thing is for sure – our minds have been programmed to respond to the subtle attention-grabbing noises (or vibrations) that our smart phones make.  We can hardly stop the almost involuntary response that over takes our body as we seemingly unconsciously reach for our device. What exactly are we checking for anyway? For adults, it is most likely one of two things – work or our children.  

But, what about our children…what has them so enamored that they can hardly pull themselves away from their technology?   I read an article recently which shared some sobering statistics. The article, which was put out by Focus on the Family (click on the link to learn more indicated that children ages 8-12 are on technology about 6 hours/day.  This amount increases to about 9 hours/day for children ages 13-18. I encourage everyone to read this article, it was eye-opening, to say the least.  

While the article shared several good ways that adults can monitor their children’s screen time, as well as some available filters that are on the market that they can incorporate to help limit their child’s ability to view or participate on inappropriate sites, it doesn’t completely solve the problem of children and technology.  Our kids will eventually reach an age (and that age is getting younger and younger) when they simple are a bit more tech savvy than mom and dad. In other words, the filters we may be using to protect our children may easily be bypassed by our children. So, what exactly do we do to help protect our children from overdosing on technology, or worst, becoming what some have coined as a tech addict?   Researchers have argued that the part of the brain that is stimulated and effected by certain substances that can lead to an addiction, is also the same part of the brain that is stimulated when we our engrossed in our technology.   To learn more about this phenomena check out this article,  

Over usage of the screen is epidemic and experts are urging parents to take the reins and help limit the amount of time children spend in front of a screen.  According to research shared by CBS (, “Kids and teens age 8 to 18 spend an average of more than seven hours a day looking at screens. The new warning from the AHA (American Heart Association) recommends parents limit screen time for kids to a maximum of just two hours per day. For younger children, age 2 to 5, the recommended limit is one hour per day.”  

What can we do as adults to combat over usage of technology in our children?  Below are a few simple suggestions. Try adding a new suggestion each week until your child is spending a more appropriate (and healthy) amount of time in front of the screen.

  • For every 30 minutes of screen time, have your child read for at least 10 minutes.
  • If your family is not already in the habit, build in family dinners.  Pick a consistent time each night that dinner will be served…try preparing dinner with your child!  
  • Commit, along with your child, to leaving cell phones, laptops, iPads, and/or tablets on the kitchen counter each night before bedtime.
  • In the mornings instead of your child reaching for their technology first thing, how about leaving a Bible verse or inspirational saying next to their bed so when they wake up it’s the first thing they see as a opposed to the screen.

For more great tips to help your children combat the screen, check out this article

What is RTI All About?

By Janelle Sweet Dean of Academics & Curriculum Beverly Campus

What is RTI??? It is an intervention program we have held on the Beverly campus for the past two years! This teaching strategy is used in many schools in many different ways.

RTI blog

Often, we associate the word intervention to suggest negative connotations, however, in education, it can imply a positive meaning!  Literally the word intervention means:  A situation in which someone becomes involved in a particular issue in order to influence what happens. In education, RTI technically stands for Response to Intervention. So, if we consolidate all of this, our RTI program on the Beverly campus is using a format where our teachers are involved with specific training in the areas of ELA and Math.

The goal is to influence students with targeted instruction to enable them to grow and strengthen learning strategies specific to their needs.  RTI provides children with enhanced opportunities to learn.  RTI is not a particular method or instructional approach, rather it is a process that aims to shift educational resources toward the delivery and evaluation of instruction that works best for students(

Our school uses Response to Intervention (RTI) to help students be successful in all content areas.  In addition to classroom teacher input, we utilize student assessments to measure areas that a child would benefit from language arts or math intervention.

We began this RTI program last school year and found it to be successful! We categorize skill groups and place children in a grade band for tutoring over a 6 – week period.

3rd 4th RTIWe have had an ELA group and a math group.  By combining the expertise of our teachers, we are able to have three different ELA focus groups.  In the first-grade band, the teachers focus is on phonemic segmentation, letter and sound fluency, and letter naming.  2nd grade RTIOur second-grade band focuses on trick word fluency, phonics, oral reading fluency and guided reading.  Grade band 3 focuses on writing conventions and mechanics, (spelling strategies, punctuation, capitalization) and writing process review.  Our fourth-grade band focuses on reading fluency and fluidity, and comprehension of abstract text.

Our math RTI was broken up into three grade bands.  The focus has ranged from application and practice, fact memorization, drills, and concept review.

The afterschool RTI program for this school year is at the half-way mark!  We planned the program to run for six weeks this year with hopes of extending the time-frame in the future.   With many thanks to our teachers and students, it has been another successful and well-attended year.

Hare from The Lost Words

All Nature Sings

By Jill VanderWoude, Advancement Associate

What a gorgeous weekend we had. 65 degrees in the middle of the winter is as lovely as it is unusual. I am sure most of us spent considerable time outside on Saturday and Sunday, and for good reason!

Not only is it good for us adults to get outside, it’s our responsibility to get our children outside too. Warm weather is a convenient motivator, but what happens when seasonable winter weather returns? Are we getting our kids outside?

Studies show that kids who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors. Clearly, time spent outside is a good thing.  It is worrisome then, that the average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen. ( )

Yikes! That is alarming news. We remember playing outside, right? I cherish my childhood memories of building forts, hunting for things in the dirt and being a spy in the woods. I wanted that same childhood for my children, so when they were little, I made sure to send them outdoors. It’s true – it is work! When our kids are very little, we have to work at it and commit to spending time together outside. You have to get dirty and loud in order to model how to play. Once they get the hang of it you can sit back and watch it happen. It is a beautiful thing.

However, as they get older, play changes and so do their interests. I’ve noticed with my teens that they resist going outside. Don’t they remember when every day was an outdoor adventure? Making mud pies and jumping in puddles may no longer be entertaining, but I still insist they head outside in search of new adventures.

Why is it so important? Well, there are numerous apparent reasons: it’s good for your health, builds imagination, encourages risk taking and increases one’s socialization. Moreover though, spending time outside is the best way to investigate God’s creation.

The Lost Words bird“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”  Job 12:7-10

In England, they have eliminated from certain dictionaries a number of words related to the natural world to order to make room for more “modern” words. A book entitled The Lost Words was written in response to this. It is a collection of poems about these very important words, now removed. Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

The Lost WordsOnce upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly at first almost no one noticed – fading away like water on stone. The words were those that children used to name the natural world around them: acorn, adder, bluebell, bramble, conker – gone. Fern, heather, kingfisher, otter, raven, willow wren…all of them gone. The words were becoming lost: no longer vivid in children’s voices, no longer alive in their stories.”

It is upsetting to think that the next generation may not appreciate or know God’s world from firsthand experience. Perhaps they will only have read about it from a computer screen or seen a clip of nature from an app on their phone. Harvard Medical School recently published the following affirmation of outdoor play. “If a child grows up never walking in the woods, digging in soil, seeing animals in their habitat, climbing a mountain, playing in a stream, or staring at the endless horizon of an ocean, they may never really understand what there is to be lost. The future of our planet depends on our children; they need to learn to appreciate it.”

So the next time you look outside and wonder if it’s worth venturing out, consider this. Whether it’s covered in snow, dripping with rain, whistling with wind or filled with the sun’s rays; this is our Father’s world!


*All pictures used in this blog are from The Lost Words book by Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris

Blog, Blessing

A Blessing for the New Year

By Mrs. Angie Weyler, Preschool TA

I was flying home after spending the holidays with 16 family members in 1 house for 9 days. Phew. My husband gifted me with the best Christmas present ever–a seat by myself in my own row on the flight home, while he graciously sat in the same row with our 3 girls and took care of their every need for the 3-hour plane ride home. Again, the best presents aren’t necessarily wrapped. 

The flight home was the first time in 9 days I was able to sit, clear my mind, read, pray, and just be still. There were no more cookies to bake, no more meals to cook, no more presents to wrap, no more holiday movies to watch, no more. Period. For 3 hours I was able to just sit with Jesus and hear what He wanted to say to me for the upcoming new year. 

Since no one needed me to open their snack or adjust the volume on their headphones or take them to the bathroom (again), I opened the book my mother gave me for Christmas–To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings written by John O’Donohue–and got lost in the simple, yet profound words of wisdom. I was hardly surprised when one of the first blessings entitled “A Morning Offering” so beautifully and appropriately prepared me to usher in 2020. I have included an excerpt of this inspiring blessing below. 

From the blessing “A Morning Offering”

Blog blessing

I pray we all take time this year to give God a few moments of silence every single day to fill our tanks, strengthen our hearts, sharpen our minds, and refresh our souls. When we are intentional and determined to drown out the noise and give God the quietness of our lives, He repeatedly and faithfully and powerfully shows up. Time and time and time again. 

Praying we all get our own row this year and allow God to take and bless the few moments of peace, quietness, and solitude we have each day for His glory and the betterment of this world. 


book, teach like Finland, blog

Teach Like Finland

By Corrine Previte, 5th grade teacher

This past summer, I was able to take an Advanced Human Development class at Gordon College towards my masters. One of the assignments was to write a paper pertaining to childhood development. I decided to write about the development of children in the Finnish school system. Why did I decide to research this topic? Finland is one of the top-rated schools in the world and I was curious on why that was. This led me to dive straight into my research.

Over the course of my research I came across a book titled “Teach like Finland” by Timothy Walker. A Boston native himself, decided to take the plunge and teach abroad in Finland for a year. He soon discovered that maybe the Finns were doing something right. For instance, students in Finland take fifteen-minute breaks for every forty-five minutes of instruction. During this time, students usually went outside to play and socialize with friends. Walker had begun to notice that children would come into his classroom with a “bounce in their step” rather than “dragging their feet.” According to Anthony Pellegrini (author of Recess: Its Role in Education and Development) his findings “confirm that frequent breaks boost attentiveness in class” (Walker, 2016, 11). Another professor from McGill University believed that “giving the brain time to rest, through regular breaks, leads to greater productivity and creativity” (Walker, 2016, 13).

After reading this part of the text, I started implementing this strategy into my classroom with my fifth graders and have found that the kids are more motivated to learn and ready to tackle their next task. One of my students stated that “brain breaks are fun, they just help us get ready for things, like tests.”

Another strategy I have used that is recommended by the Finns is mindfulness. I am currently using “Ready, Set, Relax” by Jeffery S. Allen and Roger J. Klein, which is a research based program. According to Teach like Finland, mindfulness not only helps kids remain attentive but it also helps them have greater empathy, emotional control, and Previtte's classroomoptimism. It also helped with their cognitive control and stress physiology and showed “greater decreases in self-reported symptoms of depression and peer-rated aggression” (Walker, 2016, 52). By using this program, I have noticed that after we have done a mindfulness activity, students are more relaxed and able to transition smoothly to the lesson we are about to begin. Students are also eager to do it and want to do 1-2 mindfulness activities before we even begin a lesson. One of my fifth graders stated that mindfulness is “fun, it feels good because we get to sit down and relax after recess, it calms me down. It helps me to stay focused.” Another student stated that “I like it because it relaxes me and makes me feel less stressed.” Overall, as a teacher in the United States, I think we can all learn something from Finnish schools and maybe if we can’t implement all of their suggestions, we can implement some of their techniques in order to create a happy, healthy, and peaceful learning environment.

Celebrating Christmas Around the World

By Taylor Morris, 3rd/4th Grade teacher

It has been said by many that this is the most wonderful time of the year and as Christians it is not hard to see why.  December is a much anticipated time of year as we recall our Savior’s birth and are reminded that He will come again. This is a time of celebration and of many traditions that are continually being carried on. This week through the rest of December  3rd graders on the Beverly campus are learning about Christmas traditions around the world. They are finding that even Christians around the world have different traditions than we do. 

Society tells us that this time of year is all about asking for and receiving the things we want, but as Christians we know we have been given all we need through Christ’s birth. The third graders are focusing on different traditions and cultures around the world and will be presenting their projects to each other so that everyone will learn about all of the different places. The places being studied are Ethiopia, Australia, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Sweden, Canada, and Germany. 

Morris grade 3/4Students will be presenting their findings with a stocking report. They will show each other where the country they are presenting is on the map, relate their celebrations to how we celebrate through comparing and contrasting, tell us how this place says Merry Christmas, and either dressing up like people do in this place at Christmas or making a traditional holiday food. In class we are also reading about other places in the world to learn more about them. We are making our best effort to think outside of ourselves at this time of year when it would be so easy to just focus on inward. I am excited to see what each student learns through this process. The third graders are so excited to take on this task. Gifts and decorating are wonderful but at the core we are really concerned about the true reason for this season


Hamilton bulletin board

Thanksgiving in Hamilton

By Kristy Camp, Early Childhood Program, Hamilton Campus

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving.  Psalm 69:30

In this season of hustle and bustle, we pause to give thanks to God for all that He has created, given, and blessed us with.  It is a time of preparation for the birth of that beautiful Savior, and also for gathering with family and friends.thanksgiving Feast Hamilton

During this month, my TAs Jan, Deb and myself have been speaking often to my class of preschool/preK-ers about giving thanks, being thankful and what it looks like to thank God for what he has bestowed upon us.  We’ve read some books about the Pilgrims, Natives and the first Thanksgiving.  We’ve read other books about what Thanksgiving looks like today in our homes and how we center around the table with family and friends.  We’ve read passages in our Bible, stories about God’s people who give thanks for hardships, trials and also joys and victories.  But most of all, we just talk to them about how blessed we are that we can come to school, worship and play with our friends, have good nutritious food to eat, shelter over our heads, and a beautiful campus that we can enjoy for its nature and green space.  And they get it!  The children may be young, but they show thanksgiving everyday in their actions toward one another, their kind words, or just the caring they have for each other and also us, the teachers.

thanksgiving feastAs we closed out November, it was our great joy to share in a Thanksgiving feast with the children at school.  Many wonderful parents helped set up and prepare a delicious spread of food for the children and each other to enjoy.  I was truly thankful to see the children all sitting together and enjoying the special meal.  They were kind, gracious and polite, all of the things you hope to see in your class.  I was proud as well as thankful.

As we move into December my prayer for them is that they remember what being thankful is and feels like as we begin our Christmas season.  We will continue to speak often of being thankful in the classroom.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Hamilton class thanksgiving


Middle school

Middle School Servants of God!

By Ms. Lick, 5 & 6th grade teacher

“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”  ~ John 12:26 ~

As the new/returning middle schoolers walked into school at Beverly Campus that first morning of this year they responded to a calling. A calling that was given over 2000 years ago from a man who was both ordinary and extraordinary. A man who could have worn a crown. A man who could have ridden the finest horses, slept and eaten in the finest of palaces. This man, called us to kneel before our friends, family members, classmates, teachers, and wash their dirty and weary feet. 

One of the discussions we have had with the middle schoolers is what it means to kneel. I asked them what they thought of kneeling and why we don’t do it often. One of the students commented, “it hurts my knees!” Another student, “it’s hard to get back up!” All valid and relatable reasons. Whether it is kneeling to scrub the floor or kneeling in desperation; we concluded that we don’t like it. Humans don’t like to kneel because it is a humbling experience. It is not your legs or knees that get wounded, it is your pride. What I love about teaching middle school at NSCS is that we can begin to challenge these kids to dig deep, make connections and ask tough questions about themselves and the world around them. At NSCS, we want to raise up a generation that is “on their knees.” Not a weak or small minded generation, but a generation that is willing to work hard, get their hands dirty and seek out ways to honor and serve God in all things. 

This fall, the middle schoolers at NSCS Beverly Campus have already/are engaging three acts of service on a daily and weekly basis!

Middle School blog                       Middle School servants

Lunchroom Service Project

On a daily basis, our 5th and 6th Grade students set up, break down, and clean the lunch room for the student body. Setting up the tables and individual chairs takes both time and work as they labor together as a community. We have students who work as “Lunch Monitors” each week to help out the teachers and parent volunteers by opening container, getting napkins/utensils, heating up food and answering questions. Finally, we have students spray and wipe tables down and sweep the floors. Whew! Every day, these awesome 5th and 6th Graders are serving both the students and teachers as the hands and feet of Christ. What a beautiful example of Servants of God!

          Middle school, servants          

Service Project

Twice a week, our 5th graders and 6/7th graders take turns taking part in a service project. Our goal with this project was not to have our 5-7th graders “talk-the-talk” but to actual “walk-the-walk” and to be the hands and feet of Christ within the walls of school. Each week, I send an email out to all the fellow teachers and administration with the names of the students available and their job descriptions. 

Each week, they go into the classrooms of teachers and help cut out paper, make copies, laminate, read to younger students or simply help and play with preschoolers! 

Each week, the middle schoolers are giving back in a beautiful way through our Service Project!

Raking middle school          

Leaf Raking Service Project

On Thursday November 7th, grades 5-7 came together to serve our school and the church building we use by rolling up our sleeves, putting on a hat and gloves and picking up a rake to clean up around our school building. The kids were AWESOME and had a lot of fun serving not only our school but the community!