Wednesday, April 27, 2011

6th Graders Travel to NorthBay!

This week, our 6th graders have been attending outdoor school at NorthBay located in Cecil County, Maryland. NorthBay is a premier environmental learning center, located at the top of the Chesapeake Bay, designed to expose students to phenomenal learning opportunities in a dynamic environment, where students can make enriching, and life changing decisions about who they want to become and how they will respond to life.

I have spent the past two days participating with some of my sixth grade students in the activities that they were assigned to do (Kayaking, Zip Line and learning about clams). During this time, I got to learn so much about my students and some really interesting information about the Bay.  I have had such a great time and I truly appreciate all of the hard work Mia Chiarella, Julie Berla, Joanna Tanner, Amy Musgrave and the rest of the WLMS staff for making this trip possible. I also want to thank all of the parent volunteers for taking time out of their busy schedules to go with us! 

For more information about NorthBay, click here: Also, Ms. Musgrave has been keeping a daily blog of our adventures here at NorthBay. To see Ms. Musgrave's blog and more photos, please click here:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Every 26 Seconds...What a Sad Statistic!

We are working hard at WLMS to increase the number of students who leave middle school who can read, write and use mathematical reasoning on grade level. It is critical for students to enter high school with the requisite skills in order to perform successfully in each class and earn their diploma. It breaks my heart when I see former students who were unable to complete high school.

Some actions we are taking to help prevent drop outs:

Math and reading interventions are provided for students who are performing below grade level in math and reading
All 8th graders create a 4-year plan for high school which includes the courses they need to take to graduate and meet their goals beyond high school

Career explorations and goal setting

Close articulation with 9th grade staff to discuss those students who have factors that make them a possible risk for not graduating (inconsistent attendance, below grade level in math and/or reading, IEP and those students who chronic behavior problems.

Promoting the importance of continuing education and learning for a lifetime.

Please share actions that your middle school has put in place to decrease the number of drop outs?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Advance Inquiry and Innovation Course Piloted!

This year, along with Mount View Middle school, we have been piloting a new course for our 7th and 8th grade advanced readers. This new course, Advance Inquiry and Innovation, is based around the principles of Project Based Learning.

What is Project Based Learning? 

Project Based Learning is an instructional approach built upon authentic learning activities that engage student interest and motivation. These activities are designed to answer a question or solve a problem and generally reflect the types of learning and work people do in the everyday world outside the classroom.

Project Based Learning is synonymous with learning in depth. A well-designed project provokes students to encounter (and struggle with) the central concepts and principles of a discipline.

Project Based Learning teaches students 21st century skills as well as content. These skills include communication and presentation skills, organization and time management skills, research and inquiry skills, self-assessment and reflection skills, and group participation and leadership skills.

Project Based Learning is generally done by groups of students working together toward a common goal. Performance is assessed on an individual basis, and takes into account the quality of the product produced, the depth of content understanding demonstrated, and the contributions made to the ongoing process of project realization.

Finally, Project Based Learning allows students to reflect upon their own ideas and opinions, exercise voice and choice, and make decisions that affect project outcomes and the learning process in general.
Combining these considerations, we define Project Based Learning as:

a systematic teaching method that engages students in learning essential 
knowledge and life-enhancing skills through an extended, student-influenced inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks.

The pilot course being taught at WLMS this year consists of the following themes and incorporates a well-developed project for students to complete during each module. The modules are:

Grade 7/8: Environmental Science
Grade 7/8: Civic Literacy
Grade 7/8: Engineering Design
Grade 7/8: Media and Communication 

The following video provides information about how a rural middle school and high school are implementing Project Based Learning at their schools. I believe this approach has a lot of promise as we continue to engage middle school learners!


Field Day 2011: Simply Awesome!

This past Friday, we held our first-ever schoolwide Field Day. It was such a wonderful event and I want to thank Ms. Middleton and Mr. Tiffany for doing such a great fact, they were outstanding in their field (Okay, I couldn't help myself with that pun!)

Over the past month, each homeroom adopted a country to study and represent during our mini-Olympic event. Each homeroom walked into the Wilde Lake High School stadium and participated in our opening ceremony. The WLMS Band played the Olympic theme and the National Anthem, while I welcomed everyone and Mr. Merrills shared the Olympic Creed.

As the day unfolded, homerooms gained points for team spirit, winning events, and good sportsmanship. As a result of our scoring system, the atmosphere during the event was incredibly positive and supportive. It truly was an AWESOME event and I hope we have started a new tradition here at our school.

I want to thank the WLHS students who helped us today and all of the staff and parent volunteers who made this event possible! I would also like to recognize Jackie French, Physical Education Supervisor, for her her support and inspiration.

To see pictures from the event, click here:

 Thanks to Ms. Middleton and Mr. Tiffany!
 The talented WLMS Band!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Story Teller, Ray Crawford, Visits WLMS

This past Wednesday, Mr. Ray Crawford, a story teller and poet visited WLMS to share his talents with our 6th and 7th graders. He did an outstanding job sharing his poetry and stories to drive home the important ideals of keeping promises, celebrating freedom and appreciating the power of words. Thanks for inspiring us!

Thanks to our PTSA 
for sponsoring this cultural arts program for us!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Congratulations to Dr. Alban: Frederick County Board of Education names superintendent


Sunday - 4/10/2011, 6:53am  ET

Photo: (Graham Cullen/Frederick News-Post)

In naming a new superintendent of Frederick County Public Schools on Saturday morning, Board of Education members said they believed their selection comes close to meeting all of the criteria set by the board, school system employees and community residents.

The board voted unanimously Saturday morning to approve the selection of Theresa R. Alban, chief operating officer of Howard County Public Schools. Board member Katie Groth participated in the meeting by  phone.                                                                                            

Alban's contract has not been finalized, so information about her salary and benefits are not yet available, according to Jamie Cannon, staff attorney for the school system.

Alban has a wealth of diverse classroom experience, having worked with gifted and talented, elementary school and special education students in Baltimore County Public Schools. She has also held administrative positions in Baltimore County and Montgomery County public schools.

Board member April Miller said she looked back over the list of qualifications and criteria compiled through a comprehensive public and staff meeting process, and said everyone agreed it would be tough to find a candidate who fulfilled every requirement on the superintendent wish list.

In Alban, Miller said she was confident the board found a leader who possessed all of the most important qualifications desired by the community.

Alban was joined by family members, including her husband, Vernon, and son Michael and his fianc?e, Jenna Gambino, a Linganore High School graduate. To read more:

I want to send my congratulations to Terry and I wish her much success in her new role. She is an outstanding educator, mentor and friend. Way to go!

Stop Bullying: A Call To Action by President Obama

LA Times: The cool kids really are that mean

By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times It's something your teenage child already knows well: Those popular kids can be mighty mean.

But he or she might not be clued in to the conclusion drawn by a paper released Tuesday in the American Sociological Review, which found that the more central you are to your school's social network, the more aggressive you are as well -- unless you're at the top of the heap, in which case you're more likely to give your peers a break.

“By and large, status increases aggression, until you get to the very top,” said the study's lead author, UC Davis sociologist Robert Faris. “When kids become more popular, later on they become more aggressive.”

The study asked boys and girls in three North Carolina counties to list their five best friends, five people they had picked on (physically, verbally, or indirectly through ostracism and the like), five people who had picked on them and a variety of other questions about socioeconomic background, dating habits and so on.

The more connected a student was, the more likely he or she was to engage in hostile acts, suggesting that students see aggression as key to attaining and maintaining status.

As to why the most popular kids were less aggressive, the researchers suggested that it could be simply because they're genuinely super-nice.  But a more likely explanation, said Faris, is that the kings of the hill simply have nothing to gain by lashing out.  Striving with claws bared just makes them look insecure and weak.

Dan Kindlon
, a Harvard psychologist and author of the books "Raising Cain" and "Alpha Girls," said he thought one of the most interesting opportunities the study offered was a way to assess teen movies of the past 20 years or so: Who really gets it right when it comes to the way high-status kids act?  "Gossip Girl"?  "Mean Girls"?  "The Breakfast Club"?  Or, taking into account the socioeconomic data pulled together by the research team, "The Outsiders"?

To read more:,0,1008368.story

Thanks Laura for sharing this with me!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cartoon Network's Stop Bullying: Speak Up Campaign

Unfortunately, middle schoolers sometimes feel the need to say rude comments, make fun of differences and use their "social status" to make other students miserable in order to cover-up for their own insecurities. While this isn't a new phenomenon, it has become increasingly easier to say and do mean things towards classmates via social networks, cell phones and other sources of technology. Since this issue has received national attention in recent months, the Cartoon Network has launched a Stop Bullying: Speak Up campaign to help raise attention about this problem and help students think of alternatives to being mean. Check out their link:

For information about how to prevent your child from being a person who bullies or becoming a victim, the following link has some great resources:

Did You Know...
The word "bully" used to mean the total opposite of what it means now? Five-hundred years ago, it meant friend, family member, or sweetheart. The root of the word comes from the Dutch boel, meaning lover or
brother. (Source: PBS: It's My Life Website)

Here is an excerpt of a letter that I sent home in our recent Shark Bytes newsletter about what we do at our school:

With the recent media attention, both locally and nationally, on bullying issues, I thought this would be a good time to share with you what steps school staff continue to take to prevent, act on, and resolve conflicts between students. Most of the components of our program have been in place at WLMS for several years though it does seem each year we find new needs to address. Our staff is trained annually on the signs of conflict and is diligent about reporting to the front office or student services any issues they observe or hear about. Additionally, our guidance counselors go into classes on all three grade levels several times each year to teach students conflict resolution, assertiveness, and cyber-safety skills. We consistently teach about the Wilde Lake Way of being respectful, responsible, ready and safe. Any time a conflict is reported to school staff, it is taken seriously and can result in parent contact, mediations, as well as disciplinary action. While kids are always concerned about the ramifications of reporting on their peers, it is important that they know any information they share will be kept confidential, and the sooner we can get involved, the more options we have for solving the problem without anyone having to get "in trouble."

Although middle schoolers can frequently experience a wide array of emotions, it is important for adults to recognize the signs that indicate a social conflict is more than just normal middle school drama. Any time a child seems to display a significant change in personality, can't focus on school work, stops interacting with friends, resists coming to school, or makes comments indicating they might be self-injurious, it is time to seek help. Please do not hesitate to contact school staff to share your concerns. We can help by talking to your child, mediating, contacting parents, and making referrals to service providers when needed. It is also important to remember that most middle school students don’t meet the minimum age requirement for Facebook and other forms of social media. However, if you make the decision to allow your child to use these online social tools, it is critical that you monitor what they are posting online and sending via cell phone. Students cannot be reminded too often that if they wouldn't say it in person, it shouldn't be said on line. Middle schoolers are at an age when they need to make respectful and responsible choices with their language. While many conflicts may start in arenas that are beyond the control of the school, the issues can and do carry over when kids are gathered together during the school day. We tell students all the time that anything keeping them from focusing in class or coming to school becomes a school problem.

As middle schoolers work towards a greater degree of independence, it is important that they know all of the adults who care about them are still there for them and ready to help. Parents, school staff, coaches, volunteers, and other community members can all provide important supports during this critical time in their lives. Please do not hesitate to contact us at school if you have any concerns we can help with.

Thanks to my friend Gina for helping me compose this letter.
All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: 
freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.

Winston Churchill

While simple, they often are as difficult to achieve as my son Ben bowling with a 12lb. ball.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Get Ready for Field Day 2011!

This coming Friday, WLMS will host our very first Field Day. Thanks to the creativity and organizational skills of our very own Ms. Middleton and Mr. Tiffany, we will be having a mini-Olympics on our school campus.

Over the past month, each homeroom has adopted a country to represent. During extended homeroom time, students have been learning about their particular country and have created a flag that will be presented at our opening ceremony. It should be a great day!

Please pray for sunshine!

I want to thank Mr. McMillan for moderating this video and all of the WLMS students 
who participated in the video. Awesome Job!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

WLMS Orchestra Performs Well at County Adjudication

Congratulations to Ms. Oliver and all of our WLMS Orchestra students for performing so well at last week's county-wide Middle School Orchestra Adjudication. Our student musicians earned scores at the highest level! Way to go!

Thanks to Ms. Dunster for the pictures!

Maryland Environmental Service Visits WLMS

This past Tuesday, 6th graders at WLMS were visited by the Maryland Environmental Service (MES).
They spoke to us about the Port of Balitmore, Poplar Island, and Diamondback Terrapins.

Students learned how the Chesapeake Bay has to be dredged to allow ships to transport our goods into the port of Balitmore. The sediment that is removed is being used to build up Poplar Island, which was a vanishing island.  On Poplar Island a wetland is being built to help preserve and protect the wildlife, including Diamondback terrapins.  On Poplar island there are no predators so the population can survive/thrive.

Each year about 250 turtles are removed from the island and given to schools to be raised for the first nine months of the turtle's life.  These turtles are given a head start in growth and learn how to hunt their own food, while the turtles on the island hibernate, do not grow, and still need to learn how to survive in the wild.  The hope is to collect data to see if the turtles that are tagged and in the head start program have a better rate of survival.

Students were able to measure the weight, carapace, plastron, shell width, and shell height of one of ten turtles MES brought with them using calipers and a scale.

Here are some links to more information about Poplar Island: and

Bubbles, the terrapin hatchling that our students have been raising this year, will be tagged in April and released on Poplar Island in June (we got it in september).  We are currently waiting for approval from central office for this trip and if its approved, 9 students from aquahavens will have the opportunity to go to Poplar Island to release Bubbles back into its natural environment.

Thanks to Amy Musgrave, our Science Team Leader, for organizing these activities for our students.