Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

Northampton Public Schools Stories of the Month Newsletter April 2012

Posted on: May 2, 2012

JFK Art Students Reflect on Dreams for the Community Arts

JFK Windows Exhibit

Windows Exhibit

Submitted By:  Michelle Mallory, JFK Art Teacher

7th grade students at JFK participated in designing dream themed canvases to be exhibited for the public on Cook Ave.  Students in Mrs. Mallory and Mr. Levine’s art classes brainstormed and sketched their ideas of dreams before transferring them onto the canvases and using acrylic paints to convey their imagery.

The murals created at JFK Middle School will be displayed alongside dream themed murals from the elementary schools and from Northampton High School.  There will be a total of 21 canvases on display with an opening reception for the student artists and community in June.

This mural project is in its second year running, with last year’s theme being food.  The project was started by two very involved community members that felt the Cook Ave. site would be a great place to exhibit visual art created by collaborative K-12 students of Northampton.  Big Y and other businesses have donated money to the Community Arts Project Fund that has helped supply canvases, paint, and brushes.  Keep a look out for the beautiful dream murals to be installed soon at the Cook Ave. location!

Massachusetts History Day Competition

Submitted by: Mark Baldwin, NHS Social Studies Teacher

Congratulations to Parker Ziegler, NHS senior, for his winning entry in the Massachusetts History Day Competition held on March 31, 2012 at Clark University in Worcester.

Parker’s winning paper is entitled Howl: Ginsberg and the Beats, and his paper will be one of just two from Massachusetts competing in National History Day from June 13-16, 2012 at the University of Maryland.  In short, Parker has written one of the 100 best history papers in the entire nation!  This is the third time in four years that a Northampton High School student will compete in the national competition.

For the past six months students at NHS and across the country have been doing research about how their subjects relate to this year’s National History Day theme, “Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History.”

Also receiving honorable mention at the regional competition held in early March in Springfield, MA was NHS junior Marissa Pellegrino for her paper, Margaret Sanger: A Revolutionary Figure in the Women’s Reproductive Movement.  Altogether, nine NHS students competed at the Western Massachusetts Regional History Day competition.

Massachusetts History Day is the state component of National History Day. The mission of National History Day is to improve the teaching and learning of history in elementary and secondary schools so that students become better prepared, knowledgeable citizens. National History Day is a yearlong, non-profit program in which young people in grades 6-12 research and create historical projects related to a broad national theme, culminating in an annual national contest on the campus of the University of Maryland at College Park.

Mr. Ziegler will represent Massachusetts at the National History Day Finals, June 12-16, at College Park, MD.  Delegations from 49 other states will be entered into the National Competition as well. This year National History Day celebrates 32 years as a nationwide student program.

For more information, please contact:
Mark Baldwin, Social Studies Dept. Chair,
Northampton High School
380 Elm Street
Northampton, MA 01060
413.587.1344 x1128

Upcoming Events and News from the Superintendent’s Office

5/3/12: 2:50pm-3:50pm BSS Principal Finalist Meet the Public Mtg. Elizabeth Musgrave (Open to community)

5/4/12: 2:50pm-3:50pm BSS Principal Finalist Meet the Public Mtg. Thomas McGuire (Open to community)

5/8/12:   5:30pm Budget and Property Subcommittee Mtg. at JFK

5/10/12: 7:15pm School Committee Meeting at JFK

5/16/12: 7:00pm NHS Late Start Forum (Part 2) at JSS Cafeteria

5/24/12: 7:15pm School Committee Meeting at JFK

Please visit our new and improved website at:

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Northampton Public Schools – Massachusetts 

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JFK Students and Faculty “Stand Their Ground” to Raise

Photo: Digitalart


Submitted by:  JFK Student of Color Alliance and Civil Rights team (SOCA/CRT)

The Student of Color Alliance (SOCA) and the Civil Rights Team (CRT) at JFK Middle School meet every other week and during some lunch periods to discuss issues and current events that focus on civil rights issues at our school and in our community. We were very upset when we heard the news about the killing of a 17-year-old boy in Florida named Trayvon Martin.

After hearing this story we had a long discussion that resulted in all of us agreeing that what happened was wrong on many levels. We focused on the way that stereotyping led to Martin’s death and decided to design activities that students at our school could do to address the issue of stereotyping and also create a day of remembrance in Trayvon Martin’s honor.

We planned events that could take place during our morning Forum and a Hoodie Day to end the week. The events included an activity called “If You Really Knew Me” where kids could write something about themselves that others might not know on a paper in the shape of a hoodie. We also designed a letter writing activity that addressed the “Stand Your Ground” bill that was introduced in Massachusetts. Since the law protects people who act on their assumptions about people they do not know, we wrote a letter to the Gazette and our representatives speaking out against the law that we believe would cause more hatred, racism, stereotyping and violence in our community.

The last activity we designed was based on a game we played at a conference in the fall. In the game, people pair up with someone they do not know and without speaking, try and guess things about them such as their taste in music, religion and ethnicity. After this happens, people go around and introduce each other- then the partner makes needed corrections. This game can help people talk about ways that we stereotype each other by guessing without asking. We chose to create these events because we felt that Trayvon Martin was killed due to his race, his dress and the assumptions his killer made about him before he had a chance to meet him as a human being. If George Zimmerman really knew Trayvon Martin, we do not think he would have been killed that tragic night.

The Hoodie Day and awareness raising activities were a success because a large percentage of students and faculty supported our ideas and efforts.  Not only did people participate in the activities and wear hoodies, but many people talked about Trayvon Martin and stereotyping throughout the week. The Daily Hampshire Gazette came and interviewed us and put our picture in the newspaper. Our hallways are now filled with anonymous hoodie posters that vary from really hard things, such as the death of a parent or a personal struggle, or simple things such as a talent or favorite thing. We all felt the activity built our community and raised the level of respect here at school. We are proud of what we have accomplished and can’t wait for more opportunities to change others perspectives, and positively impact our school, community and the world. We will always remember Trayvon Martin and wish his killer would have had a chance to really know him.

Thank you for reading this,

JFK Student of Color Alliance and Civil Rights team (SOCA/CRT)

Tools of the Mind

Submitted by:  Molly Burnham and Barbara Black, Early Childhood Coordinator

Last year, two of our district  Kindergarten teachers discovered that they were chosen to be a test site for a curriculum called Tools of the Mind, a research-based early childhood program that builds strong foundations for school success by promoting the child’s intentional and self-regulated learning. The curriculum itself is not new. It has been developing over the last 15 years, and is based on research by Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), a psychologist whose work deeply affects educational practice.   Tools of the Mind focuses on three specific goals for children:

  1. To develop children’s underlying cognitive skills (self-regulation, focused attention, and deliberate memory)
  2. To build children’s foundational skills in literacy and mathematics
  3. To develop children’s social-emotional school readiness (how to exercise emotional and behavioral self-control through seeing another’s perspective and feeling empathy)

Tools of the Mind is a theme based curriculum. So far this year, Kindergarteners at Bridge Street School have studied Dinosaurs,Egypt,Space,Japan, the Amazonian Rain Forest, Medieval Times and Pirates.  Magic Tree House books are read aloud to support the investigation of each theme.

The curriculum is also center-based. Some of these include: Literacy Games, Word Puzzles, Make a Book, Sound Center, Math Investigations, and a Science Center. These centers remain for the whole year but the activities change weekly.

Students create a weekly Learning Goal which can include an academic goal, like editing capital letters in the middle of a sentence, or could be a social- emotional goal like, not getting stuck when something is a little difficult.

These goals are created during the weekly conference with their teacher, a one-to-one opportunity to review the work they created during the week and talk with their teacher about what they are doing well, and what they want to work on.

A cornerstone of The Tools of the Mind curriculum is paired and small group learning. In any Morning Meeting instead of seeing the teacher ask a question and hands raise, and the teacher call on one child, you will hear the phrase “Turn and talk to your partner.” By employing this simple but powerful technique there is less waiting time for the group, more engagement of children who may be shy, or simply need some time to collect their thoughts, and the engagement off the children in the classroom.

But enough about the program, what do the teachers have to say? They see the children as being “very engaged”, “not stressed”, “always working together”, and most important “that every student experiences success.”

Student Registrations for the 2012-2013 year are ongoing. Open registration times have been established at the Central Office on Tuesdays from 9amnoon and on Thursday from 1pm – 4pm (or other times by appointment). Enrollment information can be found on our website or by calling the Registrar at 413-587-1328.

Leeds Music room news:

Submitted by:  Principal Joseph Smith and Music Teacher, Seroe Michaud

Kindergarten has just learned about the woodwind, brass and string instruments. We learned how they sound and had a chance to hear them play. The bassoon is taller than most of us!

First grades have been playing rhythm band selections in percussion instruments and echo patterns on xylophones.

Second grades are writing original melodic and rhythmic patterns in a project called “Our Sound Gardens.” We will be playing them on xylophones.

Third grades are playing four-note songs on the recorders and learning to read the treble clef staff notation.

Fourth grades have been comparing the music and lives of Beethoven and Mozart. We listened to the Magic Flute!

Fifth graders are busy rehearsing for their musical, The American Revolution, acting and singing their way through history!

Submit a Story:

Do you have a story to share?  We are looking for submissions of no longer than two paragraphs from teachers/esps, parents, school committee members and students about a person who is positively impacting our schools or happenings that should be shared with the community.  We would like each “Story” to be accompanied by a photo. Please forward your submissions to Nicole Markel at and put “Story of the Month” in the subject line.


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