Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

March 2012 District Highlights

Posted on: March 12, 2012

Bridge Street Elementary:



We had a successful first Family Math Fun Night for families in grades K-2. Many families participated to learn about the primary math program, play math games that students play in the classroom and take home games and suggestions for helping children understand number sense.  This is being followed up this month with a parent information night on the math curriculum for grades 3-5 and a second Family Math Fun Night for families in grades 3-5.

The entire school participated in a Read-a-thon which saw thousands of hours of reading by students and raised over $3,000 for our Nature’s Classroom trip at the beginning of April.  Parent feedback stressed the benefit of the focus on reading at home and the encouragement to have the entire family involved in reading.

A visitor to BSS in March will learn a lot of interesting science facts which are now posted around the building as we begin preparations for our science fair. Did you know that a slug has four noses?

The BSS PTO was fortunate to receive a small grant from Ward 3 to support our school garden.  A committee of parents and teachers are meeting for the planning phase this spring. Soon there will be some new garden projects springing up around the school aligned with our science curriculum.

JFK Middle School:

Ocean’s 8 Omnivore’s Dilemma Cross-Curricular Unit Summary

At the end of March, grade eight Ocean’s 8 students will begin an inter-disciplinary unit of study: Omnivore’s Dilemma.  The teachers, including the four core subject areas, a special education teacher and the family and consumer science teacher have collaborated to plan the unit.  Two of the teachers are also farmers.  The project goal is to produce students capable of navigating the tricky world of mass media, to create educated, informed consumers of agricultural products, and potential future farmers, while utilizing the Common Core Standards. Our cross curricular event will expose our students to local agriculture. Using technology to bring stores and farms to the students, they will learn about local foods, the difference between industrial, natural, organic, and local hero products. The choices will be cooked and tested in family and consumer science. We plan to visit local farms, invite guest speakers and hold a farmers’ market.

The Young Readers:  Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, will be taught. It provides common vocabulary, and a starting point for student inquiry.  The goal is to look at the concepts in the book through the different lenses of each class.  In science, there will be labs comparing fresh eggs to store-bought, investigations into food safety, research on metabolism. The history of farming and the influence of governmental action will be explored during history class as well as a comparison of the different types of farming in our country today.  In English, students will explore the elements of persuasive writing, develop vocabulary, and participate in lively debates.  In math, students will use data from the book to calculate calorie input and output in our foods, the obesity rate, and comparisons of eating habits statistically.  In learning strategies, students will be supported and investigate key issues of personal interest to individual students. The team is hoping to incorporate team-wide activities into the unit, including field trips to Hemenway Hill Farm and Crimson and Clover Farm (formerly the Bean Farm), preparing the three comparative meals from the book, hosting a farmers market for local producers, guest speakers from CISA and other community members, and other activities that will foster student curiosity on their way to becoming a more informed consumer.

The Smith College Physics Department and Office of Educational Outreach are hosting a Physics Club for JFK students.  Smith College students and faculty will provide a six week intensive physics immersion.  JFK Science Teacher Kate Parrott has partnered with the college to bring this opportunity to our seventh and eighth graders who are interested in robotics, hovercrafts, and machines. The program will take place in the physics labs at Smith, where students will participate in labs around mechanics, fluids, and electricity and magnetism.

Leeds Elementary School:

This afternoon is our monthly Community Meeting.  Seroe Michaud has the first part slatted for recognizing “Beyond No Name Calling Week – Building Community at Leeds” and acknowledging the students’ positive attributes.

Jackson Street Elementary School:

The Jackson St. School Faculty and Staff are preparing to administer MCAS in March.  This year, because of required trainings for principal, we have had “refresher” courses in the administration, delivered by Gwen Agna, the principal.  Included in the refresher are specific instructions about coaching students and the use of electronics. There have been violations in the past when teachers have said more than is on the MCAS script and when students have used cell phones, especially, and texted during the tests.  Teachers have been supporting students in the test-taking skills that they need, particularly when they are new to this. The teachers also use the MCAS Test Questions that the Dept. of Education releases, to orient students to the kinds of questions they will be asked and the strategies they need to have to be successful in answering them.  For instance, in 4th grade, they practice the long composition test by reminding the students that they must make sure they keep the “prompt” in mind when they write their essay.  This may sound obvious – however in the DESE training for principals, we were told that a third of the invalidations in long comp are to do with not writing to the prompt.

The JSS staff and students are immersed in preparing to plant the school garden by beginning seed planting in the classrooms.  They are also working with Hope Guardinier, on an all-school science curriculum with the garden at the center. Thanks to the grant form Cooley Dickinson Hospital, all classes will work with Hope to plant seeds and all teachers will work with her to document garden lessons – all aligned with the Curriculum Frameworks/Common Core.

The students and Ms. O’Connell, music teacher, have been practicing for the Spring Concert, which will be next Friday, March 16 at 9:30AM. We invite you to join us for this very special event.  Included this year is a staff ukulele band – 25 members of staff have been practicing with Ms. O to perform with the students.  We hope to see you!

R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School:

Focus on Reading in March

Students, staff and families are shining a spotlight on reading during March at RK Finn Ryan Road School.  The special events kicked off with an evening session, “Matching Books to Readers,” supported by a Northampton Education Foundation grant February 28.  Parents Stephanie Grimaldi, Professor of Education at Westfield State University, and Jennifer Crowther, Kindergarten Teacher at the Hill Institute, offered tips for choosing appropriate books for children and encouraging them to read at home.  Each family was given a book to add to their home collection.

All classes celebrated reading on Dr. Seuss’s birthday with many fun activities like reading to buddies and with family and community members on March 2.

The PTO is sponsoring a Read-A-Thon for two weeks to encourage students to read for at least four hours during this period.  Students may collect pledges with funds going to support the school library, but the main purpose of the event is to promote the joy of reading.    Students, staff and families will celebrate reading together through many fun activities planned for Family Reading Night Tuesday, March 13 from 6-7:30.   School Committee members are invited and welcome to join us for that evening.

Finally, teachers have met for a second day with Ken Pransky of the Collaborative to deepen their understanding of strategies to promote the acquisition of academic vocabulary among all of our students. This professional development was also supported by an NEF grant.


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