Jonas Clarke Middle

News and Notes | December 2018

From the Principal

Goodbye 2018 and hello 2019! Today is the shortest day of the year but tomorrow the days start getting longer and we can begin the countdown to warmer weather. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy new year. I am so thankful to be a part of such an incredible team and school community. Happy Holidays from all of us at Clarke and we will see you in the new year!

Hamilton Cast Member Comes to Clarke

In early December, we had an amazing opportunity to hear from Betsy Sruxness, one of the original members of the Hamilton cast! Thanks to Alyson Brown our drama teacher and the support of the Clarke PTO, Betsy came for an hour long Q&A with the entire 8th grade and then another hour long session with Ms. Brown's students that take drama or are involved with the drama program. Students got the oportunity to submit questions and hear Betsy talk about her career and what it was like working to develop Hamilton and take it to Broadway. Ms. Struxness talked about not giving up her dream and that with all of the shows she's been in, she heard NO before she heard YES. What a great message for our students! She also talked about the physical demands of the show and how intense it was performing eight shows a week! This was an incredible learning opportunity for our students.

Betsy's Bio:

Betsy Struxness is an artist based in New York City. After graduating with a BFA in Dance from The Juilliard School, Betsy has gone on to all sorts of performing adventures from cruise ships to voiceovers, Broadway to TV, you name it. On Broadway, Betsy made her debut with Wicked, and then very quickly joined the cast of Memphis right before its run into the Tonys. Her first originating experience was with Leap of Faith, to be joined in swift succession by Scandalous and Matilda. Her biggest honor to date though has been bringing the smash hit Hamilton from the workshop to off-Broadway to Broadway as one of the original cast members. Other credits include: Theater: Shakespeare in Love (Viola)-Virginia Rep; Wicked (ensemble, Nessarose u/s)-Chicago & San Francisco; All Shook Up (ensemble, Sandra & Natalie u/s)-1st National Tour; TV: Onion News Network, Broad City and Louie; Voiceovers: Checkers, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Century Link, Shell, Geico, Stolichnaya, GoGurt. In between all that however, Betsy enjoys her free time as a traveler and photographer. Shooting everything from landscapes to portraits.

Youth Ambassador for Tourette Syndrome

Earlier this month, all 7th graders got to hear from Camden, a youth ambassador from the l Tourette Syndrome Association of America. Cam is a high school student in a nearby community living with Tourette Syndrome and he educated our 7th graders on what it is and what it's like for him.

Our students learned thatTourette Syndrome (TS) is a neuro-developmental disorder that becomes evident in early childhood or adolescence. It is part of the spectrum of Tic Disorders and is characterized by motor and vocal tics. Cam also spoke with students about how to react to someone who may have this syndrome and what they can do to help. First and foremost, ignoring things people with Tourette say and not taking them personally are very important as they do not mean it. This was an incredible hour for our students to learn more about acceptance, kindness and what it means to be a supportive member of our school community.

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Student government making a push to give back this season!

This year the Student Government Association (SGA) has made a real push to get our students to give back! We would like to thank everyone that has participated in the Canned Food Drive and the Toys for Tots Drive this winter. We were able to drop off over 1,000 cans to the Lexington Food Pantry prior to Thanksgiving and we brought two carloads of toys to the Toys for Tots drop off location at the Lexington Police Station last week.

The SGA wanted to continue the spirit of giving back by asking students to donate any change or $1.00 during Spirit Week this week! The charity selected by students is the Northeast Animal Shelter! Thank you so much for your generosity! Below are some pictures of our student sponsored spirit week! We had a great time showing our spirit here at Clarke.

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Dates to Remember

Monday December 24 - Tuesday Jan 1 | No School

Winter Break

Wednesday January 2 | School Resumes

Thursday January 10 | Clarke PTO Meeting

8:30AM Clarke Cafeteria

Thursday January 10 | Early Release Day

Dismissal 11:45AM

Thursday January 10 | Nick's Place Fundraiser

11:00 am-9:00 pm

Monday January 21 | No School

MLK Holiday

Friday January 25 | Quarter 2 grades close

Thursday January 31 | Clarke Drama - Anne of Green Gables


Friday February 1 | Clarke Drama - Anne of Green Gables


Saturday February 2 | Clarke Drama - Anne of Green Gables

1:00 PM and 5:30 PM

Thursday February 7 | Clarke PTO Meeting

8:30am, Clarke Cafeteria

News from Grade 6

Atlantis Team

Atlantis’ Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions

Former Atlantis students have passed along New Year’s Resolutions as advice for our current Atlantians to try and put into practice in 2019.

This list represents many of their suggestions.

  1. I resolve to do better in school by doing all of my homework right when I get home before I do anything else.

  2. I resolve to do better in school by paying more attention in class.

  3. I resolve to read questions more carefully, so I don’t get answers wrong.

  4. I resolve to do better on tests by studying more and checking my answers.

  5. I resolve to be nice to my siblings by listening to them instead of ignoring them.

  6. I resolve to get up on time in the morning by cutting down on my screen time, so I get to bed earlier.

  7. I resolve to make new friends by joining clubs and teams and by being friendlier.

  8. I resolve to be more athletic by signing up for sports and stretching every day.

  9. I resolve to get to classes on time by not talking so much in the hallways.

  10. I resolve to never give up by always believing in myself and trying my hardest.

BONUS - I resolve to be a better Bruins / Patriots fan by watching more of the games.

Atlantis celebrated the day before vacation by doing the Marshmallow Challenge. Groups of 3-4 students were trying to create the tallest free standing structure made out of uncooked pasta, tape, string, and one marshmallow. All groups worked hard and created some cool structures. After the Marshmallow Challenge, the Atlantis students wrote thank you cards to some one who did something nice for them. It was a great day of teamwork.

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Columbia Team

The Columbia Team is excited to wrap up 2018!

There were many exciting educational happenings on Columbia Team as the weather turned cooler. We went to Hale Reservation we had a fun time doing team-building activities, a nature walk, and an epic battle of the bands! As a team, we also participated in the Hour of Code. We spent some time learning how to use Blocky and Scratch (Web-based coding programs) to navigate characters from Frozen, Minecraft and Star Wars through various obstacles.

In Science we looked at the rocks we brought in over the summer. We identified them as igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic, or sometimes minerals. Furthermore, we looked at our rocks to see what we could learn from them about how the Earth was made. Then we looked at how Claire Patterson determined the age of the Earth and how it linked to unleaded gasoline. Currently we are putting together a puzzle of the Earth’s landmasses. This shows how at one time the continents fit together as a whole like a giant puzzle, which geologists call Pangea.

Columbia students have been busy in our humanities classes with lots of research and literary analysis. We have explored concepts such as theme and perspective, and the decisions authors make about them, by examining short fantasy stories. More recently we have been reading to understand characterization techniques in realistic fiction novels via literature circle groups and targeted mini-lessons. This is a precursor to writing the sixth grade’s traditional essay on how a dynamic character changes in response to pressures in a given book’s plot. We have also concluded our Early Humans: The Games research and project-based learning unit. It was exciting not only to see the games the student groups designed, but to learn from playing each other’s games as well. Professional game designers advised our classes throughout the process, which added an authentic STEAM element to our work. Soon we will engage in a case study about a famous archaeological find from ancient times, and then study Mesopotamia.

In Math we have finished up our exciting unit on ratios, rational numbers and equivalence and decimals. Now we are entering the world of fractions!

We will continue to focus on having a growth mindset, working in groups collaboratively, working on being active listeners and being able to ask and answer questions to further our understanding of key concepts. Students should be working to grow their mathematical minds by asking themselves questions such as:

1) Could there be more than one answer? 2) Could I solve this another way? 3) Could I use a visual representation to model my thinking using the problems that I’m working on? 4) Could I explain this to someone that does not understand my thinking?

We look forward to 2019! Happy Holidays and best wishes for the New Year!

Quest Team

A lot of great learning has been happening on the Quest Team. Here is an update from each of the team classes:

In ELA, we have have been learning about plot structure and how authors can show theme through how a plot’s conflict is resolved and how character changes throughout the story. Students wrote and drew their own comics. These comics have been displayed in the hallway by the ELA classroom and have been enjoyed by many students! In January, we will begin to read Wendelin Van Draanen’s novel Flipped.

In mathematics, we just finished up our Decimal Operations Unit. We had a culminating project of a "Shopping Spree" where students were given a menu of choices and challenges to see if they could use coupons and save the most money...a real life skill! We will be starting a new unit after the break called, "Let’s be Rational". This unit will build upon our foundation of decimal operations moving to all operation of fractions and fractional thinking and reasoning.

In science, we have been exploring how landforms continuously change over millions of years and the clues scientists use to figure that out. We've created models to study weathering, erosion and deposition. We've also analyzed earth layers and fossils in the layers to create a story for the geologic history of a place. The Grand Canyon and the surrounding canyon lands have been the focus of our explorations.

In Ancient Civ., Quest students recently completed their unit on early human species. Ask your child all about the baseball card they made for one of the hominid groups we studied: Australopithecus Afarensis, Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Neanderthal, or Cro-Magnon. In the new year, we will be studying early farming and the growth of cities.

The Quest Team Teachers hope you all have a wonderful Holiday break and a very Happy New Year!

Voyager Team


In Voyager English, we’ve recently wrapped up our graphic novel unit where students bridged what they learned about plot structure and theme with characterization, which is our current focus in class. We’ve just begun reading Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting, and students are doing a phenomenal job identifying symbols and determining their significance. Students are also beginning to understand how authors develop characters as they track how our protagonist grows and changes through the novel.


With an understanding of what it takes to be an archaeologists firmly under our belts, Voyager Historians set off on a magical tour of early humans. Members of Team Voyager are now able to identify the several stages of evolutionary development and the major changes and progress that early humans made throughout the years.

Students on Team Voyager also developed their research and writing skills as they undertook their first major research project. They practiced identifying reliable sources, note-taking, and creating a bibliography. Groups of students researched specific hominids and then created educational board games that taught their classmates all about their early humans. We learned a lot playing classics such as: Don’t Kill The Erectus, Skull and Bones, Neanderthal Land, and Homidnopoly. We are still awaiting word from Hasbro if they will consider any of our games in their 2019 roll out.


Voyager Math students have been giving help and getting help as we finished up our second unit of the year on ratios, fractions, decimals, and percents. This month we will be doing a fantasy shopping spree project as students explore, tax, tip, and discount. Students are encouraged to bring in catalogues which we will use to select items for the project. Continue having conversations with your 6th grade math student when you go grocery shopping or visit a local retailer. Explain how you calculate tip when eating out or choose the best deal when shopping. This real world context allows students to practice and build fluency with decimal calculations and estimation.


Voyager science has had quite an exciting couple of weeks! Students traveled to the center of the Earth and learned about the crust, mantle, outer and inner core. Through a hands-on experience with rocks from the Grand Canyon, students gained an understanding of how weathering and erosion formed the Canyon and many other beautiful landforms on earth. During the week of December 3rd, students participated in Hour of Code where they were exposed to computer coding through an interactive website. After December break, we will be moving to learning about plate tectonics and how earthquakes and volcanoes are formed. The culminating project for the geology unit will be to travel to a Geologic Wonder of the World and describe how it was formed!