4th grade Welcomes Parents and Friends

Dear Families,

Thank you all for making the time to come in for conferences. It is so helpful to share their learning, their strengths, weaknesses and to join in common goals.

The slide shows below illustrate some of the fun of our Valentine’s Day party (thanks for those goodies, parents!), and our visit time with parents and friends as well.

Also, I quickly photographed their thank you cards to the folks at High Lawn Farm, because each and everyone was so terrific I didn’t want them to be forgotten.



Next week begins the 3rd and final trimester of the year! The only difference, besides curricular, is that they add a shop class to their schedule and I lose them to that once a week. They are duly excited to head up to the shop and work with Mr. Katz to create, build, hammer, nail, and glue!

Have a great weekend,



By |2019-03-01T14:35:51-04:00March 1st, 2019|

Tall Tales and Long Division/January 2019

Dear Families,

Now that we have finished reading Maniac Magee we can recognize it as a Tall Tale. Not that it shares all the elements, but certainly enough to qualify. We’ve been reading them, from Pecos Bill to Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind and just this morning, Mr. Fawett invited us up to listen to some early American Folk Songs, many of which tell a Tall Tale. Soon we will craft and write our own.

In Social Studies we are deep into completing our USA maps; identifying oceans, lakes, mountains, rivers states and their capitals, understanding time zones, longitude and latitude and defining geographic terms. Finally, they shade the different regions and create their own unique maps that share the correct information displayed as they choose.

We will share our recitation of Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream Speech this Tuesday morning with the rest of the Middle School. We have reviewed some of the more difficult vocabulary and geography as well as watched and discussed the speech; when it was given, why and the continuing impact it has on our country. I will tape it and put that up in my next blog.

Finally, long division/zeros in the quotient have been relatively painless for this group and we will be moving onto fractions and decimals shortly.

Thank you, Christina and Amanda, for our delicious lunch bunch of last week. Always a special and appreciated treat for the class.

Also, if you haven’t already, please send in a set of dry clothes and some inside shoes. Pants and shirts get wet this time of year. Also, it helps our classroom rug if we’re not tracking salt and snow from the outside.

As you know, the ERB’s will be happening next week, the first two periods of Monday-Thursday, with Friday as a make-up day if necessary. I might shift the schedule a bit to make up for some lost periods but otherwise,  there is really nothing special to do to prepare, except for a good night’s sleep and that works for everything!

The slide show below includes some shots from Open Book Quizzes, USA map work, some math work in the Distance Lab and of course, the ever-popular Lunch Bunch!

Best, Katharine




By |2019-01-25T10:23:19-04:00January 25th, 2019|

Gleaning and other purposeful work in Grade 4

Dear Families,

As part of our Service Learning program, the class had a wonderful, cold, rainy, memorable morning gleaning bok choy and turnips at Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent last Monday. Jill Duffy helped organize the trip, joined us and, along with Declan, welcomed us up to their home with an outside fire and some of their home-pressed cider. Many thanks to them both. Both Senor Silva and I were pleased to see how fully the class embraced the experience and showed how resilient and engaged they can be.

Inside the classroom we are learning as well! As some of the classroom photos below illustrate, in Social Studies we are working in groups looking for the main idea.  Identifying the main idea of a passage can improve comprehension of all related topics and is a valuable skill that needs to be taught and practiced. We are finishing up our World Maps and getting ready to start our study of US geography. Prime Meridian, International Date Line, hemispheres, physical maps, cardinal directions, Tropic of Capricorn and parallels are some of the new words and concepts that have been discussed in this first trimester.

In Math, Fibonacci numbers, exploring factors, reviewing place value and rounding are laying the groundwork for our current emphasis and practice of multiplication of both 1 and 2 digit numbers.

Before we begin our first novel in ELA class we are working to identify the many Elements of Writing and Literature that form the foundation on which all good writing is built. Everything comes from somewhere, good writing included. Protagonist, theme, simile, and foreshadowing are some of the terms in our notes this week.

The 3rd grade will join next Wednesday for a trip to the Colonial Theatre to see a production of, The Phantom Tollbooth. We will take a bus up to Pittsfield at 9:15 and will be back in time for lunch and recess at school.

Also, try not to forget that we have a lunch bunch, thank you Jen Glockner,  on Tuesday of next week (11/13) when we get back to school. It’s hard to remember them at the start of a week and there’s nothing worse than packing a lunch on those days!

As you can see from the photos, Halloween was a blast – thank you to all of you that sent in goodies and treats and to Dan and Lyndsey for organizing it.

Also, thank you to all who made time to come in for conferences last week.  It’s so helpful when we’re all on the same page about strengths, weaknesses, where we can hold them up and where we can let them go.

I hope the slideshows below give you a better sense of how busy and hardworking we have been.

I will check in before Thanksgiving Soup, a week from next Tuesday! Enjoy the long weekend.

Best, Katharine





By |2018-11-08T15:47:16-04:00November 8th, 2018|

When we Listen

After a humid summer and a mild September, autumn has arrived. Crisp air, colorful foliage and brisk breezes animate our beautiful campus. The stream runs swiftly down from the ridge, passing behind Peterson and Peseckis Halls.

Walking toward the Learning Commons before school one day earlier this month, I called enthusiastically to a very young student across the lawn, “Good morning!” Quickly came the reply, “Be quiet!”

“Be quiet?” I answered, somewhat querulously. “Yes!” came the insistent reply. And then more softly, “Yes; listen, you can hear the river!”

And so I stopped, and quieted, and we listened together to the rush of water in the stillness. How fortunate we adults are to be reminded by children to savor a moment, to take our time, to recognize the wonder of the world around us. Such opportunities abound here at the Brook Farm campus, whether on the trails above the playing fields, around the pond or in the garden plantings that line the courtyard walls.

The first six weeks of school have been inspiring to me, filled with examples of fine teaching, powerful curriculum, and engaged and happy students. It is a privilege to be part of this school community, helping to navigate BCD through a year of transition. I look forward to more of these encounters, to working with colleagues, parents, trustees, alumni and friends of the School to sustain its outstanding programs and prepare for new leadership next year.

Schools for young children and adolescents are remarkably complex enterprises, filled with dynamic relationships, daily growth, and occasional regression, unexpected moments of inspiration, doubt, and delight. We teachers and parents, seeking to do our utmost for each student in each of these moments, sometimes inadvertently achieve the opposite. It was a Tennessee psychologist who first pointed out for me that when we set high expectations, as we can create a hypersensitivity to perceived failure, particularly when our definition of success is too narrow. We risk focusing more on how to develop children and less on how children develop. And our sense (as parents or as professionals) that what we do “is never enough” can be contagiously dispiriting, influencing young people in ways we never intended.

Two innovative projects on opposite coasts are developing programs aimed at rebalancing the equation of what matters most in education.  They examine how schools and families can work effectively together. Challenge Success at Stanford, and Making Caring Common at Harvard, are working in interesting ways toward overlapping aims.  They remind us of our hopes that more should come from education than individual achievement or competitive advantage. An early morning moment can have this effect as well, reminding us that reflective habits of mind have great value, along with generative thinking and disciplined inquiry and analytic exercise. At a time of mounting rancor and recrimination in American culture, a small sanctuary of a school can offer a countering opportunity, a precious chance to learn how to listen, together.


Mark W. Segar, Ed.D.
Interim Head of School


By |2018-10-30T15:44:04-04:00October 30th, 2018|

A Literacy Lightbulb Moment!

In Fifth Grade, there’s been a lot of talk about literacy. Last week, we took a closer look at literacy statistics around the world. Students have started to consider all the myriad factors that contribute to illiteracy including economic, social, financial and cultural influences. Through stories, articles, videos and discussions, our class is exploring how reading can impact one’s life.

Today in our Reader-to-Reader session, our class viewed a short documentary about literacy concerns right here in the United States. This episode of Unreported World, a current affairs program produced by the United Kingdom’s Channel 4, focused on some of the challenges faced by the Detroit, Michigan community, and how schools, kids, and families across the generation are trying to raise the literacy rate and stop a cycle of poverty, prison and unemployment there.


(Please note, I skipped a middle part that discussed Secretary of Education Betsy De Vos’ shortcomings as it strayed from our focus.)

The lightbulb moment came in our discussion following the documentary. The students had many insightful comments about the individual stories portrayed in the video, and several students said that they found the video hopeful and inspiring. Many asked me to follow up about the lawsuit that students brought against the state of Michigan for its failing schools and low literacy rates. Eventually, the students suggested that perhaps there were things that we could do to help communities where illiteracy rates are high and support is needed. While a few suggestions were thrown out, I urged the class to take a bit more time to learn more about literacy issues before diving into some ways to help.

Naturally, I am excited that our class is motivated to learn more and inspired to take action. Stay tuned as our service learning plan unfolds throughout the year!!!





By |2018-10-11T16:27:11-04:00October 11th, 2018|

4th Grade September Classroom Work

Dear Families,

Although it has been a bit gloomy outside, we have been busy in our cozy classroom. Our main focus in Language Arts class has been poetry; the rhythm, sound patterns, meter, and magic that can result from the right mixture of different poetic techniques. 4th graders particularly love the concept of poetic license, where rules of punctuation, capitalization, and spacing on the page all take a back seat to convey the imagery and emotion of the poem in any way the poet chooses. We are starting this unit writing poems inspired by the great poets featured in our book, Love That Dog, using their poetic techniques as a starting point, but with the students continuing with their own thoughts and ideas. It’s helpful to start with some structure before we venture forth with our own ideas and poetic techniques.

In Social Studies we are learning to read an atlas as we identify all the locations necessary to complete our World Maps. Inevitably, the question arises, “Is there anywhere else on earth to explore?”, always an interesting conversation. The skill of using an atlas index and the coordinate points they list is fun practice that dovetails nicely with our work on different graphs in Math class.

(Note: please send in slippers or slip-on inside shoes for the classroom, it’s just a cozy alternative to the heavier boots October’s weather sometimes calls for.)

Finally, thank you for all you are doing to partner with me to make this move to Middle School at BCD one filled with just the right mixture of creativity, discovery, exploration both collaboratively and independently, and an atmosphere that supports critical thinking and learning.

Hopefully, the sun will shine a bit more in October, but it certainly has been in our classroom in Peterson 4.

Best, Katharine

To view photos in Google Photo, click this link:


By |2018-10-08T12:36:18-04:00October 8th, 2018|

Reader-To-Reader: Fifth Grade Explores the Theme of Literacy

Each week in Fifth Grade, we have period called Reader-to-Reader. This is a time for us to participate in a literacy-based activity that is not necessarily connected to what we are doing in English class. Although we have only had 3 Reader-to-Reader classes, we’ve started to already develop a sense of what literacy is and its importance. In week one, fifth graders shared and discussed their favorite books and made short video commercials for them. We also viewed the following literacy video featuring both non-hearing and hearing students.

Our Kindergarten friends joined us for the first of many peer-reading sessions in week 2. Each student was paired with a younger student to read to. This past week, our class shared two stories. The first, The Wednesday Surprise, by Eve Bunting, tells the tale of Anna, who teaches her grandmother to read as a family surprise. The students were surprised to learn that not all adults in the United States can read. We imagined what it might be like to be in the grocery store or the airport if you can’t read the labels or signs. In our second book, The Day of Ahmed’s Secret, authors Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland craft their story in modern-day Cairo with its myriad sights, sounds and textures. Ahmed is a young man who works delivering bottles of fuel to customers around the city. He is excited to finish up his day’s work and reveal a secret to his family. In the end, we realize that Ahmed’s secret is that he has learned to write his very own name! Again, our class imagined how proud Ahmed must be of this accomplishment, and what it might be like to live in a country where students work instead of attending school. We agreed the process of learning how to write one’s name is a milestone. Slowly, our class began to unravel the idea that not everyone everywhere learns to read the way we do here in the Berkshires.

I anticipate that these periods will continue to encourage lively and thoughtful discussions about reading across times and cultures. Stay tuned for more literacy adventures in weeks to come!

Happy Reading!



By |2018-09-28T12:06:39-04:00September 28th, 2018|

A Behind-the-Scenes Peek at RED: the Musical   

On May 31, the 1st/2nd/3rd Grade Musical Theater class offered us a world-premiere of “RED: The Musical” by Julien Zotique, a local artist and alumnus of the BMI® Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. A new musical play for young people, RED is a heartwarming story about standing up to bullies by travelling to other dimensions. Not only were the book, libretto, and materials composed from scratch by Julien, but he also sought out guidance about the actors’ skill-sets based on our faculty’s deep knowledge of each BCD student.

When we first began preparing the production, Julien had composed all the materials, and we went about seeking to make sensible and strategic cuts. As we went along, we discovered that the kids loved their musical and really felt they owned it. We were blown away by the dedication and intrinsic motivation of some very young actors!

At the 1st/2nd/3rd grade level, most students are in a developmental period Dr. Jean Piaget famously coined the “Concrete Preoperational Subperiod.” In this stage, children begin to think logically but remain very concrete in their logic. At first blush, we were impressed by how rapidly children memorized lines and songs: definitely showing us their ability to learn and retain. As we went along, there were several moments of flexibility and change. If one stage direction didn’t work, we needed to toss it out and try something new. This was even more impressive: the ability of the group to be team players in the ensemble and remain open to any modifications up until the day before the performance.

Most impressively, each and every child in the cast brought their best self to the play rehearsal and performance. Each student met or exceeded expectations based on their own level of musical skill  and development. For instance, in 1st grade it’s no small feat to be in character and onstage for a full hour!

Some BCD community members shared their thoughts in writing, and I thought their impressions were worth including for the benefit of the reader:

  • “an amazing, feel good Lower School Musical”
  • “Words cannot express…what a magical day, seeing my child up there on stage alongside his friends and clearly loving it.”
  • “A wonderful experience for the kids. It was a great show!!

None of this would have been possible without the support and enthusiasm of the BCD community at large. Special thanks in particular to: composer Julien Zotique, co-director Ms. Kay Lindsay, flutist Ms. Andrea Patel, cast parent Maggie Mailer, 3rd Grade Teacher Gill Romano, and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade class parents.

Bravi tutti! Looking forward to next year’s production already.

Musically Yours,

Charles Zotique

By |2018-06-05T09:13:53-04:00June 5th, 2018|

Summer reading and read-a-loud suggestions to develop a growth mindset

In a recent article in Literacy Today, Summer Clark and Grace Enriquez (Lesley University) and Jessica Della Calce (Cambridge Public Schools) suggested children’s books that foster the characteristics of a growth mindset: perseverance, flexibility, strategic thinking, multiple perspectives, a sense of personal agency, and a belief that people can become smarter and more skillful, intelligent, thoughtful, and just:

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson

Ish by Peter Reynolds

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers


          (courtesy of Kim Marshall, The Marshall Memo)


By |2018-05-29T06:13:58-04:00May 29th, 2018|

6th grade service learning . . . the fun continues!

On the morning of April 30th the 6th grade welcomed our third and final guest speaker for the schoolyear in our Service Learning theme of Animal Rights, Jennifer Leahey from the local non-profit,  ‘Nature Matters’. Nature Matters Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit which fosters the understanding and appreciation for our natural world, and the need for its conservation, through direct experiences with animals and the outdoors.

Mrs. Leahey spoke to the class about her work as a wildlife rehabilitator and educator, and had several furry and feathered friends on hand for us to meet and observe!

Through her presentation we learned of the path that she took to create this impactful and original organization. Mrs. Leahey is a licensed animal educator in the state of Massachsetts, in fact, her particular license was created specifically for her as had never existed in the state before! She is an example of what one can do when we set our minds and hearts to a cause and follow through with dedication and perseverance. Her presentation was inspirational and informative, and helps the students to see and learn first hand the difference that an individual with determination can do and make in this world.

Here are some of the memorable experiences from her visit . . .

We met Kenny the skunk, who was born domesticated and thus can’t be released into the wild. Kenny now spends his day with the Leahey family and is part of Nature Matters in educating children on wildlife and their habits.

We were also lucky to meet Otto, an adult red-tailed hawk, who was hit by a car and suffered a brain injury that has left half of his body paralyzed. Otto wouldn’t survive in the wild, so lives in captivity at the Leahey Farm in Lee. It was amazing being able to see him up close, being an animal we normally only see from afar.

She brought three different species of turtles including a Russian tortoise that was raised in capitivity and his owner no longer could care him – we also met a baby snapping turtle that was found in a shopping center parking lot.

Jennifer brought a 15-day old pigeon that was born in captivity and helps to educate children on the unique relationship and important role that pigeons play and have played with humans throughout history.

Each of these endearing encounters with the animals was an up close and personal view of domestic and wild animals in the mission to educate the students on the importance of respecting and understanding them and their natural environment. 

Mrs. Leahey’s visit was an enlightening and exciting way to wrap up our year-long Service Learning project, on which the 6th graders have been working tirelessly, with our different initiatives such as bake sales and animal food and supply drives.

Throughout our entire Service Learning project, an underlying theme has been surrounding the education and understanding of animals, and what is required when we commit to having animals in our lives. All three of our guests emphasized this aspect of education and interaction with animals.

It is an important lesson to instill in the students and will help them to make conscious decisions about their role in the lives of animals in the future, whether directly, through family pets, or indirectly, in encounters with wildlife.

For more information about Nature Matters, please visit the Facebook page  to learn more about the organization and it’s impact in our community! Jennifer also hosts after-school programs in the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons. Please inquire for more details!

Enjoy this sunny day!

Best, Madame Daire 



By |2018-05-02T08:36:42-04:00May 2nd, 2018|