Owls, Pirates and Prime numbers / 3rd/4th Grade’s October 2019

Happy November,

3rd and 4th graders packed in a lot of activities this last month of October.

First off we had to say goodbye to our friend Nicolette who is on her way to Kansas City as I write this. But we also welcomed Peter F. to our class the next day, so he has helped fill the void! Mr. Gore had a small ceremony for Nicolette for her to receive her soccer certificate, photos attached.

We just finished up reading Owls in the Family, a favorite of mine by Farley Mowatt. The comprehension packets worked on throughout and the final quiz had the students recalling and explaining different parts of the story. For a final project, the students will be writing letters to one of the characters in the story.

The Pirate Maps and Captain Logs are also winding down. Once they determined where their treasure was to be buried, they labeled their maps and described how to get there using cardinal and intermediate directions. The Captain’s Logs are also quite interesting…I didn’t know that pirates stayed over in hotels and a few took planes to their destinations. All of that was easily changed in final drafts.

The board game called Prime Climb is a class favorite and a great way to practice prime and composite numbers. Multiplication is ongoing in Math class and next week we will be rounding numbers as well. I am working for solid numeracy, confidence, and competence with numbers and number relationships. I come at math concepts from a variety of angles because they need to understand the concepts from a variety of contexts. When they look at 48, they need to be seeing not just 8×6, but that is 2 away from 50, and thereby 52 less than 100 and one less 8 would be 40 and divided by 6 would be 8 and is the same as 4 tens and 8 ones and so on and so on. Number patterns and solid multiplication facts go a long way to help with that.

Portfolio work went home today and again I have asked the students to take some time, choose a few pieces that they particularly connected with for whatever reason and write a short reflection about that piece. If you have time to go over their work with them and have them explain and summarize some of the work they have done that is great.  It always helps to have an audience!

Please make sure everyone has warm hats, gloves, etc. – this week is supposed to be cold again.

Until then hope your weekend was happy, and a special salutation to any and all veterans in your families and communities.

Best, Katharine

p.s. link to slide show below



By |2019-11-11T17:02:30-05:00November 8th, 2019|

4th Graders winding down 2018-19 in style

Dear Parents and Families,

Thank you all so much for coming to our Create-A-State final presentations last week. I thought the students presented with much poise and confidence and I was glad you were there to see that. And of course, the Spring Concert always reminds us how many different and spectacular talents some of us are gifted with and work hard to develop.

The photos in the attached slide show reflect the wide variety of activities the 4th graders have participated in these past spring weeks. The temperatures finally got us into the BCD garden where we weeded then planted, tomatoes, zucchini, herbs, onions and leeks, all with an eye to next years Thanksgiving Soup. Our trip to Chocolate Springs was not only delicious but the class realized how much they already knew about the amazing and complex process of making chocolate.

Thank you to the Newman/Lazar family for our final and, oh so delicious lunch bunch and to Natacha for sneaking in a make your own sundae celebration for Sadie’s birthday before the All School Assembly last Friday.

We have managed to do some classwork as well and there are some shots of the class working on different parts of our final unit on Geometry. The smiles are of the class enjoying seeing the video of our trip to the Boston Museum of Science for the first time. And, of course, almost everyone celebrated Twins Day in their own unique fashion.

We will be working on final Portfolios this week. It’s a meaningful exercise for them to recognize and reflect on their academic growth, which has been considerable for each and every student this year. It helps them think about what works and doesn’t work for them, and why. (Should I re-read this page?, should I write a short summary of what I just read?, does this answer make sense?, I’ll go back to this question later in the quiz, etc.) This is an important year for them to take some responsibility for their own learning. The days of, “My Mom forgot to put my homework in my backpack,” are over.

We are headed to Mission Restaurant in Pittsfield this Thursday for a  cooking class and delicious lunch, which seems like a fitting way to finish up our Service Learning unit on the Food Supply Cycle and Food Citizenship. Thank you Jill Duffy, Jen Glockner and all the parents who made this possible.

If possible, please send in some strong canvas bags so we can start sending home things before Friday. Hope to see you all at the closing Assembly (11:00) and family picnic at 12:00 on Friday.


Best, Katharine



By |2019-06-03T13:20:23-05:00June 3rd, 2019|

4th Grade Poetry Slam/ April 2019

Dear Families,

“You’ve been slammed” the class announced as we surprised different classes with poetry recitations yesterday and today in honor of National Poetry Month. Tomorrow we’re surprising the Administrative offices, shhhhh!

In Social Studies the class is totally engaged in our final Create-A-State project. All of the physical maps have been completed and now we are on to road maps, regions and products and downtown maps. Landmarks, histories, and flags will follow and some may have time to produce a travel brochure as well.

This class has done a great job of converting our knowledge of factions over to decimals in Math class. We also did some measuring with yardsticks, rulers, and tape measures of each other and various other classroom items.  I like to save the Geometry unit for the end of the year and we will be starting that next week.

The class has gotten much more comfortable with our ELA reading book, Locomotion and the packet that goes along with it. The packet calls for using detailed evidence from the text to explain their answers which connects with all the work we have done this year on how to find the main idea in what we read and how to determine what are supporting details. Thorough reading comprehension includes not just remembering and understanding what you’ve read but identifying which statements support your understanding. They are becoming quite adept at providing evidence and explaining their point of view.

In the slideshow (link below) there are some shots of the class receiving their most recent issue of the Penguin Press. This paper is their creation and has become quite anticipated each week. Also included are some shots of our recent session with the Wise Bodies program. How does a flower reproduce? How many different parts are involved and what do they look like? These are some of the questions we considered and learned about.

As part of our Service Learning unit, we will be visiting Chocolate Springs in Lenox on Wednesday, May 15. Senor Silva and I will drive the class in the school vans. The class has already asked me if they can bring money to make a purchase. I am asking that each child brings no more than $10, if any, and I am hoping that Mr. Needleman might treat us to a small goody as well. The process of how cocoa pods become the delicious chocolate we all know and love is one of the more complex ones and a great example of the many steps of the food chain.

We will continue working on learning how to read food labels and what to look for as well as preparing a presentation of what we have been studying all year about the Food Supply Chain.

We are planning to leave on Thursday at 1:00 for our trip to the Boston Museum of Science which allows us to eat lunch at school and have some recess time as well before the long drive. We will still make a bathroom stop on the Pike on the way. I think most questions have been answered in class but if you still have any last minute concerns, please don’t hesitate to email or call. I will send as many photos as possible back to school and Ms. Hedidnger will get them out to you as soon as she can.


We will be back in time for dismissal on Friday, if we are any later, I will contact school asap. Last year the timing worked out perfectly, here’s hoping for the same this year.

Best, Katharine

By |2019-04-30T13:00:02-05:00April 30th, 2019|

Welcome April

Dear Families,

The 3rd trimester is up and running!

In Social Studies we have begun to incorporate all we have learned about map skills into our Create-A-State projects. Each student has created their own state and will construct a physical map, a road map, a landmark map, a downtown map, a map of regions and products and finally a history and a flag. We will invite you all to see the finished work later in May.

In Math class, we are continuing to practice simplifying fractions and finding equivalent fractions. We are also measuring with yardsticks and rulers and figuring out what all those little lines on the ruler really mean. Are we as tall as our arm span? Would I measure this table with a yardstick or a ruler?

In ELA we have finished up The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. The timelines projects came in today. Everyone shared their work and were duly proud of it. We have begun our final book of the year, Locomotion by Jacquline Woodson.

As you can see from classroom photos taken throughout the year, we use a combination of collaborative and independent learning in all our classes. I believe students need skills in both working in a team, and solving problems independently. Part of my job is to determine when to use each of these strategies and give them opportunities for both. Social Studies is often a great time to work cooperatively with atlases, answering questions about landforms, determining latitudes, labeling rivers and adding cardinal points. Opportunities abound in ELA and Math classes as well.

Before we start a new project I am often asked, “Can we work together?” Yesterday, we had an interesting discussion about the pros and cons of working collaboratively. Here are some of the comments: ” If you give someone the answer then they’ll never know it themselves for a quiz”, “Sometimes it’s helpful to work with someone else because they can show you a new way or a strategy for figuring something out you would never have thought of”, ” Sometimes you can give hints, or just guide them”, “It’s fun”, ” I like to work alone because sometimes I work at a slower pace” and “I like it when we come up with different answers and compare what you did.” It helped me explain to them why sometimes it works and sometimes, it doesn’t!

Finally, there a few snaps from last week when the class was receiving the first copy of The Penguin Press. In case you don’t know, that is our new in-house newspaper. In-house, in that it is totally written, edited and created by the class. I’m just the copier and that’s fine with me! If you haven’t seen a copy, just ask. It’s worth a read.

Finally, in backpacks tomorrow (Friday) I will be sending home the final paperwork/forms that have to be signed and returned for the trip to the Boston Museum of Science. If they could come back on Tuesday, that would be helpful.

Thanks to Dan and Angelica for a fabulous Taco Tuesday Lunch Bunch!

Have a great weekend,


To view photos in Google Photo, click this link:


By |2019-04-12T12:55:58-05:00April 12th, 2019|

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 |2019-03-01T14:35:51-05:00March 1st, 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 |2018-11-08T15:47:16-05:00November 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 |2018-10-30T15:44:04-05:00October 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 |2018-10-11T16:27:11-05:00October 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 |2018-10-08T12:36:18-05:00October 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 |2018-09-28T12:06:39-05:00September 28th, 2018|