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Operating as usual
In Miss Forbes's 4th grade writing class, her students are beginning a suspenseful creative story which takes place in Ancient Egypt. Here is a preview of one 4th grader's story, titled "The Mirror of Tah."
On a hot sunny day, Cleo was sitting on her bed and feeling bored as usual. She could not stand that nothing exciting ever happened in her life, for she liked adventure. Her dad, Ptolemy XII, had gone to a dinner party. Her mother had been assassinated when Cleo was just a little girl and Cleo did not know much about her. Cleo’s biggest dream was to grow up and be the most remembered queen in all of Egyptian history. How could she do anything when her dad had forced her to stay in my room? Leaving her room seemed like an impossible task. Cleo usually ignored her father, but he was becoming suspicious, so he put guards at the door to make sure she wouldn’t escape. She sighed while leaning against the wall, and suddenly she noticed a brick in the wall that was missing. She curiously reached her hand through the hole where the brick had been and a secret passage opened up. Cleo’s heart was beating fast. She would do anything to abandon her room, so she decided to enter the mysterious secret passage. She walked for several minutes when she finally entered a room that was empty except for a chest. She walked cautiously toward the chest and opened it. Inside the ancient chest was a map. She examined it carefully and found symbols that were scribbled on the back. It read, “There is a mirror that is called the mirror of Tah, it is very important. An evil man called Excavior is trying to find. You must find it before Excavior does. Love, Sep.” Cleo’s heart skipped a beat, for Sep had been the name of her long lost mother!
At VanDamme Academy, students build strong relationships with their teachers, in part because their teachers are lovers of knowledge who enjoy their work, and in part because of something unique about the school’s structure.
Beginning in 2nd grade, students have different teachers for different subjects, so these subject-specialists will teach the same students year after year. This allows them to facilitate, observe, and appreciate a student’s growth across more than just a single school year.
Just today, Mr. Black was teaching long division to the 5th graders, the arithmetic of positive and negative numbers to the 6th graders, arithmetic of polynomials to the 7th graders, and the concepts of ratio, proportion, and percent to the 8th graders. He has the responsibility of nurturing his students' growth in mathematics over the span of four years, and he has the pleasure of being witness to it.
Mrs. Davila was teaching her kindergarten students about the tomb of King Tut, and all of the treasures discovered within. "If you were a pharaoh," she asked her class, "which of your own treasures would be buried in your tomb?"
If archaeologists unearthed the tombs of the VDA kindergarteners, they would find piles of stuffed animals, remote controlled cars, mac and cheese, and cupcakes!
What did our students most enjoy last week?
"Learning cursive because it is pretty!" - Second grader
"I liked playing the grammar game with Mr. Cobra." - Fourth grader
"My highlight of the week was finding out what happened in scene III of Antigone." - Sixth grader
"Continuing my research and learning about the Parthenon and Hagia Sophia." - Eighth grader
"Pajama day!" - Everyone
It's Pajama Day!
Mr. Emmi's history students will never forget the way Tuthmosis III conquered Megiddo, thanks to this hilarious and informative movie he made for them. (And they might never get this song out of their heads!)
From Miss VanDamme:
There is a scene in Sophocles' Antigone where the bold, defiant princess appears on the plain as the dust settles from a whirling windstorm. I love it, and it gave me an idea for an assignment.
I asked the seventh grade students to envision that moment as a single, still image, like a painting in their mind. Then I asked them to do the sort of "reading" of their imagined painting that they do in art appreciation class, describing figures, postures, expressions, setting, etc., and all with a particular thematic message in mind.
Here are some of the results:
"The painting of Antigone depicts her burying Polyneices in the dead of night. She uses a shovel made of bronze to perform the task. Antigone looks slightly upwards, towards the sky, as if she was looking to the gods to see whether or not they approved of her deed. The observer will also notice a city in the background, but Antigone isn’t even facing the city (she rejects the city and its laws, because she rejects Creon). Antigone wears a grey toga and sandals, and she has long, slightly curly hair. Polyneices’s corpse is out of view, as it is already in the hole Antigone has dug (though she has not filled the hole with dirt). The land outside of the city is barren, dry, and flat (with the exception of a few mountains). The moonlight shines upon Antigone, as if the gods are showing signs of approval for Antigone’s deed. Numerous stars can also be found in the sky."
"A dust storm covers the background, and the sky is dark and clouded. A black, foggy shadow of a girl is standing in the center of the dust storm. From what can be seen of her outline, she is standing defiantly and unaffected by the great dust storm surrounding her. Closest to the viewer is the body of Polyneices, covered by a thin layer of dust. A broken wine bottle lays beside him. The sentry, far away in the background, is shielding his eyes from the dust, his hands covering his eyes. He is pointing his hands and yelling at the shadow of Antogone. In the background, the faint outline of the walls of Thebes can be seen."
"The far sky is blurred by a dust storm, colored orange and fading into a dark ominous purple. In the upper left corner of the painting stands a small castle. In the background of the painting, by the castle, is the round orange sun, which is still slightly covered by dust, but there is still light shining. In the center of the painting, there is a young woman entering the top of the hill standing in the remains of the previous dust storm. This woman has long wavy dark brown hair down to the middle of her stomach. She wears a long dark purple and green dress with long sleeves and tall black boots. In her hand holds a grey sack filled with dust, and a bottle of red wine in the other. Her arm with the wine in hand is slightly covering her eyes blocking them from the previously strong dust. Her one visible eye gazes at a dead body in a soldier's uniform , a bloody stain on his stomach. On the right side of the painting, there are seven men hiding behind a line of bushes, all staring at the woman in the center. The man closest to the viewer has a look of relief on his face. If someone had just glanced at this painting they would immediately sense the dramatic storm."
Last week, VanDamme Academy's 6th, 7th, and 8th Graders enjoyed a virtual visit from Ann Ciccolella and Austin Shakespeare, who gave them an introduction to Sophocles' "Antigone," which they are all reading now.
A talented cast of actors brought to life the conflict between Ismene & Antigone, and Antigone & Creon, helping the students to grasp and *feel* the values that were at stake.
If they can't go to the theater, at least the theater could come to them!
Teaching science correctly means that when students walk outside of school, they have a better understanding of how the world works than when they came in.
In his 4th grade physical science class, Mr. Lewis taught the kids about the "post and lintel," an architectural structure composed of a horizontal object supported by two vertical objects with a large space between them. When Mr. Lewis finished explaining the concept, his students excitedly pointed out examples of it around their own classroom, and later, around the school.
Because of Mr. Lewis’s dedication to teaching science in a way that opens his students’ eyes to new and genuine understanding, they felt the satisfaction of a sense of mastery over the world around them.
Anyone have dreary recollections of vocabulary class, and being made to memorize definitions by rote? For Mr. Mizrahi’s students, it’s different.
He brings the meanings of the words to life with dramatic demonstrations. Students better remember that momentum means “the impetus gained by a moving object” after he gives life to the concept by pushing a chair across the room.
Or for “brandish” and “parry,” the theatrical drawing out of a meter-stick-sword and an ensuing duel with a student.
His goal is that his students develop a conceptual understanding through memorable demonstrations – while having fun.
How are Zoom classes going for our junior high students?
Today, Miss VanDamme was reading the great courtroom drama "Twelve Angry Men" with her 7th graders. This was the scene in the virtual classroom as the class drew to a close.
Miss VanDamme: [in a grudging tone] Alright…we have to stop…
Student #1: Nooooo.
Student #2: We should have class until 10:15.
Student #3: Can we just read for a couple more minutes?
Student #4: Can we read one more page?
Student #5: [holds up finger to say “one more page!”]
Student #3: Please?
Miss VanDamme: But what if there’s someone who wants a break?
Student #4: Anybody object?
Student #6: I want a break!
Miss VanDamme: I would love to read more, but I think breaks are constitutionally guaranteed to you.
Students in chorus: Awwww! Ok. Thank you! See you tomorrow!
Student #7: [cheekily] If you deny us our break, I will take you to court.
They're going well. 😊
In 5th grade literature, Mrs. Steele was reading aloud from A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. During a heart shattering moment in the story, Mrs. Steele looked up to see a class full of students with their hands over their mouths. They felt the character’s plight so keenly that, without realizing it, they acted out their concern and surprise with this subtle physical gesture. Such is the power of great literature to make us feel, even at age 10.
The stream in Google classroom lets us see what Facebook would look like in the hands of 2nd graders. Conclusion: It looks really darn cute.
Mr. Steele asked his 7th grade art appreciation class why Winslow Homer chose to cover the rescuer’s face with a red cloth in this painting, titled "The Life Line".
Here are some of their answers:
-So that his situation seems more dire since he can’t see.
-So that we don’t get the reassurance that things will be okay by seeing confidence on his face.
-To heighten his heroism by making him seem stoic and emotionless, like Batman.
-To heighten his heroism by making him anonymous, like Batman.
-To heighten his heroism by making him seem more selfless and less personally invested.
-To let us immerse ourselves more in the physical drama of the painting.
And, of course, the more humorous possibility…
-Because he was sick and tired of painting faces.
What do you think?
We are back! And so happy to see the smiles in these eyes.
mailchi.mp Addition Circles: Practicing addition facts in many ways reduces the monotony and encourages fun in learning. Addition circles are the presentation of addition facts in the form of a circle. With “2 +” in the center and each number 0-10 around the outside, the child can add one at a time and the...
First Day at VDA!
First day 2019
From Mr. Steele's 8th Grade Art Appreciation Class
Question: Paintings and sculptures of the Madonna and Child have often portrayed an idealized image of the relationship between parent and child. Different paintings will focus on different aspects of parenting - the parent as protector or as teacher or as the source of affection and love. They can be seen as parenting advice, telling parents the best way to raise a child or illustrating the kind of parents they should hope to be. What kind of advice is Franz Ittenbach giving in his painting on this theme?
Student Answer: Franz Ittenbach's painting "Madonna and Child" was created to demonstrate the importance of taking a child out of their comfort zone to teach them about the real world. A mother is shown taking her baby out of their protective castle and to the wall that divides their safe territory from the unknown world. She is handing him a white, pure, smooth-stemmed flower and showing him the difference between that and the dangerous, thorned roses. This symbolizes the responsibility of a parent to teach her child how to navigate and make wise decisions when they are no longer living in a vault of security. Ittenbach so beautifully advises parents to be less protective and prepare their child for adulthood through educating experiences.
A walk through VanDamme Academy...
Photos from VanDamme Academy's post
Back to school!
[05/08/18] Reality is Not “Multiple Choice”
Congratulations to VanDamme Academy graduate and high school freshman Sophie Chapman, who was honored by the English department at Aliso Niguel HS for her "scholarship, critical thinking, and outstanding contribution in the classroom."
Congratulations to all our medalists in the national mythology exam!
VanDamme Academy Artwork of the Week
This week’s artwork spotlight comes from Mr. Emmi’s 4th grade class, where he found a charming way to bring life and personality to a still life painting:
This week, in my 4th grade art appreciation class, I decided to put a spin on what is not always a favorite category of art: still life paintings. So, I told my students that I have a friend in the police force (not true), named Tom McGrady, who was impressed to hear about the work we do in art appreciation, i.e., making observations about paintings, drawing inferences, and ultimately forming a theory. In fact, he said that it sounds a lot like detective work. So, he decided to tell me a secret: that a criminal had nearly been caught over the weekend but had escaped before the police could get a good look at him. The criminal had made a crucial mistake, however, by leaving his breakfast behind.
Tom McGrady thought that we might be able to help. So, he had one of his officers paint a picture of the breakfast to send our way, so that we could try and form a theory about what type of person would have left behind this kind of breakfast. The result of their efforts was the painting below (Breakfast Table With Blackberry Pie by Willem Claesz Heda).
The kids got really excited about this, since they couldn’t tell whether any of it was real or not. By the end of class, we inferred that we had: a thief (the expensive tableware, the cane that he did not have to use in order to escape), someone with a sweet tooth (the pie for breakfast), someone messy (the tipped over glass and goblet), and someone who might have been out late the night before (what might be coffee in the background). Afterward, we gave Officer McGrady a call, and told him our findings. He said it would go a long way to identifying the criminal.
UPDATE 3/27/18 1:02pm: They did catch the guy. The first thing he told the police was, “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those pesky 4th graders!"
These kids go ALL OUT. A few highlights from Crazy Hat/Hair Day!
The 2nd-5th graders visit the Huntington Library!
[03/06/18] A Memoir of School
Artwork of the Week, by Mr. Steele
My 7th grade class recently began a unit on landscape paintings. This genre can seem like a radical departure from the narrative paintings that make up the majority of our curriculum. To put it simply, there’s no story in a landscape. So much of the narrative curriculum revolves around discovering and appreciating the story of the painting. How can those skills translate to non-narrative genres?
Without any training in art appreciation, it’s easy for students to see landscapes as more boring than their narrative counterparts. Yet landscapes have historically been the biggest crowd pleaser that I teach. Why?
The key to appreciating a landscape (and the key to understanding their popularity, I suspect) is to fill the landscape with your own story. When looking at a landscape, I often ask students questions like: “If you were inside this landscape, what would you do?” “What kind of a movie would take place in this setting?” “Which of these pieces of music best matches the mood of this painting?” If narrative paintings are all about story, landscapes are all about mood. They call a certain spirit out of you when you spend enough time with them.
I tend to pick dramatic landscapes as a way to introduce the genre before exploring more subtle paintings. Today’s artwork is The Sea of Ice or The Wreck of Hope by Casper David Friedrich. After a discussion of the choices the artist made in this painting, I asked my students to write a story that might take place in this setting. Here’s a story from that class. You tell me if this matches the mood of the painting.
"The harsh cold bit into the sailor, cutting through the layers of clothing as if they were butter, seeping into his bones. He turned to face his shivering crew, the men with whom he had buried good men and fought winds. He gazed at these people many to whom he owed his life, and in the land of darkness, he felt an intense gratitude for his fellow explorers. The feeling was gone when he surveyed his surroundings. The desolate place they had longed to find had lost all its appeal. the land was beautiful in its own scary, lifeless way, but all he saw when he looked out was death. 'How can one describe this place?' he thought. 'The power of nature so raw and forbidding, yet…' His musings stopped when he heard a cry, there was a hole in the wood..."
Sadly, class ended before this author could finish.
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At St. Mary's School, we teach students to ask "what" and "why" in a way that demonstrates that they're an essential part of the answer to "how." That's compassion and critical thinking in action, and it's something we hope you'll come see for yourself.
Aliso Viejo Christian School
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Aliso Viejo Middle School
AVMS has been previously recognized as a California Distinguished School and a National Blue Ribbon School.