Meet with the principal to hear what’s going on in Middle School.
Written by Pam Heintz, Head of School
The COVID pandemic has brought to light some interesting things. For example, we have learned that you can never have too much toilet paper in your linen closet, it is difficult to understand someone while they are wearing a mask, and we all measure 6-feet differently. Regardless of the COVID takeaways we will all be left with when we are on the other side of this pandemic, one thing is for sure, school-aged children have been emotionally affected by COVID. It has infiltrated their world, and for many of them, they have needed a safe place to process the many implications of this virus, as well as the social and political climate we currently find ourselves in at this juncture in history. NSCS was able to respond to this need by providing a safe place for our students.
We are thrilled that we were able to accelerate the launch of a new program at NSCS, as we responded to the need to provide Social and Emotional support to our students, and NSCS was able to open our doors in September with 100% in-person learning and our new SAFE Groups!
What is SAFE Group? SAFE stands for Students and Faculty Engaging. Twice a week our Middle School faculty team and their students hop off the academic track. Gathering in small breakaway groups, our faculty provides a safe space and critical time to engage students around social and emotional issues. Research supports the fact that students must have SEL (Social Emotional Learning) opportunities that are authentic and leave room for students to ask questions and wrestle with important, and often difficult, ideas, concepts, and experiences in a safe space. Especially now, during a pandemic and post-pandemic, students will need time to process and purposefully engage in community building efforts that support emotional well-being.
Research indicates that providing these intentional times for students will aid in increasing student learning by 11%, and will make for stronger communities. NSCS is thrilled to be on the cutting edge of this type of critical learning and student engagement. Our Deans of Students take very seriously their responsibility of providing the structure and oversight to these important groups, as well as being available to students as they provide emotional support.
SAFE Groups seek to foster Five Key Areas of important development for middle school-aged students; Self Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, & Responsible Decision-making Skills. In keeping with our school Mission and our Four Pillars of Distinction, our SAFE Groups are facilitated through the lens of a Biblical World View, helping to shape confident, well-rounded, & faith-grounded children!
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 was 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 soil 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.
I was blessed to take part in the ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International) Middle School conference which took place at North Shore Christian’s Beverly campus last Monday, October 28th. A good number of our own 5th, 6th, and 7th graders participated, along with many students from four other Christian schools of New England. As a 7th grade teacher, I was given the opportunity to listen alongside these students, and lead some small group discussion. Most importantly, I enjoyed encouraging these students in their own learning, and their creative expression of themselves, their faith, and their goals for making an impact.
Speakers Tim Eldred and Brian Aaby led the ACSI conference, as a part of their OneDay ministry program. The day was divided into three sessions, each of which included games, interactive questions between speakers and students, and time to reflect and pray. All of the games encouraged students to get out of their seats and interact with students from different schools, and I enjoyed watching the students getting to know each other and step outside their comfort zones.
The three segments that the students participated were titled Image, Imagination, and Impact. During the Image session, Tim and Brian led students in thinking about their own self-image, and how this is impacted by both the negative and positive words that have been said to us about ourselves. Students were given time to draw a self-portrait, and share things that they liked about themselves, and things they disliked about themselves. Brian and Tim led a role-playing activity in which students played the roles of a self-critical person, and Jesus, trying to imagine what Jesus would say in response to self-conscious thinking. It was clear that this activity had a huge impact on some of the students I talked to, because it gave them tools to use when they found themselves stuck in patterns of thinking negatively about themselves.
Tim and Brian also led students in an activity where they chose 16 attributes that described themselves. 12 of these attributes were positive, and 4 were negative. Students were then asked to narrow this list down until they came up with the 4 attributes that best described themselves. Then, in small groups, we looked at these lists, and students really opened up about the ways that they felt about these traits. All of the groups were instructed to consider the positive sides to the negative trait, and conversely, the negative side to their positive traits. We then brainstormed about how these traits could be used to positively impact our community and the people around us.
Finally, in the afternoon, students were given a task to work on as a school group on their Impact Project. This project made space for students to brainstorm and discuss tangible ways that they could positively impact their school or community. THey were asked to identify a need in their school, a desired outcome, create a purpose statement, and organize meeting times to include anyone that was interested in contributing.
I found this to be an incredibly empowering assignment for these students. The NSCS Beverly group got to work right away organizing a student-led group in which students in our school hope to pray for students in their school, as well as anonymously send encouraging notes and gifts. They were in agreement that this could be a tangible, powerful way to encourage one another and spread God’s love throughout our school community.
This activity enabled the teachers to give the students the prompts they needed to structure their conversation, and then step aside and let the students actively and intentionally work as creative, thoughtful leaders of their school. I was so proud to watch them do this, and a week later, they already have their first meeting set up to make this project become a reality. I can see how taking ownership of their ideas will allow them to make a difference in their school as an independent, student-led group. The students were excited to contribute to something that was their own, and something that really mattered to them.
This conference was so impactful for this very reason. Every activity empowered these young people and gave them space to view their own worth and potential from Jesus’ perspective. I was amazed to see how Brian and Tim validated these students in their struggles and questions that they are facing, and how these men recognized our students as leaders and change-makers, regardless of their age. This conference served as a wonderful platform for these young people to collaborate and brainstorm, and share their thoughts and ideas about real issues that matter to them. I am so thankful that I was able to take part in this, and I think this conference really made an impact on the lives of our students.