Curriculum Matters

MTSD / Volume 3 / Issue 6 / March 2017

MTSD Office of Instructional Services

Deborah Sarmir—Assistant Superintendent

Fiona Borland—Director Instructional Technology

Corie Gaylord—Director Academic Counseling Services

Damian Pappa—Director Assessment/Data/Accountability

Ron Zalika —Director Curriculum

Lucianne Smith—Executive Assistant

MTSD Content Area Supervisors

Jessica Glover—OHES/VES Mathematics & Science

Naoma Green—MHS Physical Education & Health

Christopher Herte—LMS/UMS Mathematics & Science

Melissa Hodgson—MHS Social Studies

Amy Monaco—OHES/VES Language Arts & Social Studies

Heather Pino-Beattie—MHS Technology, Business & FCS

Alma Reyes—World Languages & ESL

Jennifer Riddell—MHS Mathematics

Lisa Romano—LMS/UMS Language Arts & Social Studies

Karen Stalowski—MHS Language Arts

Jason Sullivan—MHS Science

Adam Warshafsky—Visual & Performing Arts

The Benefits of a Documented Curriculum

When thinking about the need for a documented curriculum, the acronym "CCR" comes to mind. Does this refer to the band Creedence Clearwater Revival or to an educational term such as College and Career Readiness? Actually, "CCR," when used in this context, stands for Consistency, Collaboration and Reflection.

  • Consistency within curriculum structure, standards, and expectations
  • Collaboration between educators as they see their colleagues as resources
  • Reflection on the strength and effectiveness of the curriculum by comparing it alongside strides in student growth and proficiency

We invite you to access all of our curriculum guides through THIS LINK. Doing so will give you the opportunity to view our collaboratively written curricula, which is based on the adopted learning standards for the state of New Jersey.

From the Office of Instructional Services

The MTSD Curriculum Matters newsletter communicates our curricular happenings and instructional activities across grade levels and content areas to educators, parents and students. It also provides a closer look at the some of the unique learning experiences and outcomes that our students undertake. Please browse through these updates provided by our talented team of educational professionals.

MTSD Instructional Technology

Not too long ago, career ready meant taking an MS Office course. Today, at MHS, students are provided with the opportunities to utilize the same technologies that they would at college and in the workplace.

Most recently, a senior student in Architecture II utilized Revit by Autodesk to create a redesign of the MHS courtyard. Revit is computer assisted design software that not only allows students to create and design in 3D, but it is considered intelligent modeling software that can replicate real-life images. Vishaka Nayak utilized Revit to create an original plan for the courtyard. In her design, she captures the diverse habitats on New Jersey. In Vishaka’s design, the courtyard will be sectioned off into quadrants: the Jersey shore, the city, the forests, and the mountains. Next, she scheduled an appointment with the administration of the cabinet and pitched her proposal. Her comprehensive redesign plan was described through a formal presentation, including a budget plan and images generated by the Revit Software. Her presentation was an overwhelming success.

Throughout the high school, students can choose courses that surpass career exploration and are truly career readiness opportunities.

LMS/UMS Mathematics & Science

Grade 5 Science learned about the interactions between the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere in the Earth’s Systems unit. Students learned how the ocean affects land formations and climate. They looked at how very little usable fresh water there actually is on earth and developed ways we can conserve water. Through investigations and readings students understand the great human impact on the earth in terms of agriculture, industry and everyday life.

Students explored through engineering how to clean water - how clean can we get it? Our young scientists (and some parents) were given a fictitious task - they had been hired by the Axis Water Supply Company. There was a drought and not enough water was available for all the things needed for people, plants, and animals. They were given a sample of the dirty water available. Their task: to filter the dirty water so it could be ready for human use. Armed with a variety of materials and a supply of muddy dirty water, our young scientists and their parents (during the annual LMS Open House) began designing their filtration system. They tested out a variety of materials such as sponges, cotton balls, coffee filter, napkins, paper towels, and bottles cut in half. The excitement built up as students in their lab groups along with parents as their own group became a little competitive in how clean they could make their water. In the end, all the scientists, young and not so young, learned valuable lessons about design solutions, materials, and teamwork!

This creative engineering task addressed the Cross-Cutting Concepts aspect of the NJ Student Learning Standards in Science:

  • Cause and effect
  • Systems and system models
  • Structure and function
  • Stability and change

For more information about the NJSLS in Science, information is on the MTSD Science webpages at LMS and UMS. Additionally please go to:

MHS Mathematics

“Robberies occurred at a number of places from 1:00 AM to 1:40 AM. Based on the preliminary investigation, police know that it was just one person who committed all the crimes. They have compiled a list of four suspects and have secured search warrants to seize their cell phone records. They hope that these records will determine the identity of the guilty party. You have been selected to help identify the robber. You have the cell phone data of one of the four suspects. Determine if your suspect could be the robber. “

This is what Pre-Calculus students tackled as a wrap up to their Trigonometry unit. This real life performance task had students using a college campus map, protractors, trig formulas and calculators.

Students used the given data (compass locations, distances) to map out the possible locations of their suspect (students were given one of 4 possible suspects). They then drew out the oblique triangles to see if they matched up with the possible locations on the map! Was their suspect the guilty party? Ask your child to find out!

MTSD Visual & Performing Arts

As students in our music program grow in their technical abilities in singing and playing their instruments, it is just as important for them to grow in their depth of creative thinking about how they perform their music. Interpretive and artistic decisions surrounding musical dynamics, articulations, phrasing, and stylistic considerations are what make music an artistically creative pursuit rather than a technical pursuit. Engaging our students in these decisions, especially as they advance in their technical abilities, is paramount to fostering the type of artistic and creative thinking we hope they graduate with. The complexity of thinking required for students to make educated artistic decisions is on a much higher level than simply knowing the mechanics of how to operate the voice/instrument. Involvement in complex thinking skills in music will transfer into other academic areas by enhancing the creative thinking needed to problem solve.

The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is a professional orchestra located in New York City that rehearses and perform with no conductor. As such, every member in the ensemble takes on the responsibility of critical listening during rehearsals and working with each other to problem solve and make decisions about how the music should be performed. In speaking with some of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra musicians, this type of rehearsal and performance leads to a deeper level of engagement in the music than when a conductor tells them how to play it.

We are excited in Montgomery that some of our teachers have begun to incorporate what we call the “Orpheus method.” Of course, the Orpheus method is adapted to be age appropriate depending upon grade level of students, but the overall concept of giving ownership of decision making to the students vs. coming from the conductor is always embraced.

The MHS Wind Ensemble, one of our highest level musical ensembles in the district, often rehearses using the Orpheus method in its truest, most advanced form where the students fully run the rehearsal. Amazing conversations have taken place where students discuss and explore different interpretations and come to agreement on how to best perform. The students come up with suggestions for how to address problems they are having and utilize their knowledge and skills to give each other feedback and plan for following rehearsals. We are very excited that the wind ensemble has been invited to the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) All-Eastern National conference in Atlantic City to demonstrate this highly engaging rehearsal strategy. It is an incredible honor that these students have been asked to do this as they will hopefully have an impact on how music teachers approach their classes on a national level.

OHES/VES Mathematics & Science

Students + Families + Math Games = Family Math Night!!!!

On Tuesday, March 21st over 100 families gathered to problem solve together. In the Orchard Hill Cafeteria our second and fourth grade students were teaching families thought provoking games that ranged in ability from kindergarten to fourth grade.

Do not be fooled, these games were quite the challenge. Our students, parents, teachers, and even principals were exercising their brains in epic math battles. All games were designed using general household materials like dice, cards, and toothpicks to make the transition from school to home that much easier.

Leading up to the event second and fourth graders were invited to volunteer their recess time to prepare for the event. Here students learned their grade level activities and perfected their presentation skills. During the event, our student volunteers were the ones leading the show, tirelessly teaching their assigned activity for almost two hours straight. Their professionalism and perseverance went well beyond their age. The night was such a great success because of our students.

One final thank you to all that made Family Math Night a great success; the students, teachers, and families who were able to come out to support a love of math. We look forward to doing this again next year. Until then, here is a direct link to the games that were played: FMN GAMES

MHS Science

The MHS General Physics teachers recently had the opportunity to see the talents and skills of our 9th grade students on full display. Students combined their knowledge of constant velocity, uniform acceleration, balanced forces, and unbalanced forces with technology skills to create sports stop action videos. Students created videos and crafted a script to accompany the performance assessment that both entertained and informed.

In the AP Biology course, MHS students filled the hallway with proteins. This was not a preview to a end of the year prank, but rather an amazing 3-D demonstration of the folds and structure of proteins! Similar to the Physics projects, students did not hold back with creativity and innovation. Materials ranged from up-cycled plastic tubing to colorful crafting supplies. In the end, the room exploded with thoughtful and intricate representations of proteins.

In the arena of co-curricular clubs and events - the MHS Science Olympiad team finished in second place at the NJ State Science Olympiad Tournament (a single point behind the first place team)!!! The tournament capped a hugely successful year with three tournament championships, one second place, one third place, and one sixth place finish - WOW!!! Juniors Alex Liu and David Xue advance to the second round of the American Chemical Society and US Physics Olympiads respectively.

Check out the MHS STEM (STEAM) Board website for upcoming events and science talks. The Monty Hack-a-Thon is approaching quickly (April 22nd) and a busy end of the year will include the 2017 Monty STEAM Day on June 10th.

LMS/UMS Language Arts & Social Studies

As baseball’s Opening Day tried with all its might to usher in a warm spring, some heavy hitters from the past visited our 8th grade Social Studies classrooms and filled the waning days of winter with warmth derived from hope for a better and brighter future.

Our students adopted monumental personas such as Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Horace Mann, and Dorthea Dix as they lobbied their peers, acting as the United States Congress, for Federal support in their reformist movement of the 1800s. Students articulated their causes with grace and expertise as they tried desperately to achieve Congressional support for their movements. In doing so, 8th graders discovered the lasting impact these heroic activists had upon our current day society and they gained a better understanding of the enormity of the commitment and courage necessary to create substantial and long lasting change.

While 8th graders were learning about the hard work necessary to make the world a better place, 7th graders were blasting off into a land of utopia. Language Arts launched its Science Fiction Unit with Lois Lowry’s novel, The Giver. Throughout this unit, students will engage in lively conversation about the human condition and the desire for perfection. Students will confront challenging questions such as, what makes for a perfect society and whether or not perfection is even humanly possible?

Spring is a time for fresh starts and our students throughout the middle schools have blossomed into critical thinkers. Now, students are confident and eager to practice the sophisticated literacy skills they have worked so hard to develop across the school year.

MHS Social Studies

As part of the unit studying the westward expansion of the United States, US History I students donned cowboy hats and bandannas while they played the Farmers’ Game. This simulation puts students in the shoes of Nebraska farmers in 1882. Students make crop and livestock selections and calculate the costs for the frontier farmers. They are then told of the actual conditions that existed in 1882 Nebraska that effected agriculture, including drought, disease, and rising transportation costs. They then calculate the returns on their investments, which traditionally has left most students bankrupt. The goal of the game is to simulate the hardships faced by frontier farmers, which lead to one of the nation’s first populist movements. Connections were then made to populist movements today, both in the US and abroad.

MHS English

On Monday March 20th, approximately 30 seniors made the trip over to Orchard Hill Elementary School to read stories with the first graders there. The seniors, all of whom are enrolled in the 12th grade semester course "Happily Ever After" which studies fairy tales and other traditional literature, had previously written original fairy tales of their own for class. While visiting at Orchard Hill, the seniors had the choice to either read their original work to the first graders or choose a favorite classic to share. Following the reading, the students sat with the first graders and helped them illustrate the stories they'd just heard. Special thanks goes out to the senior teachers who made this opportunity happen: Ms. Jamie Meeker, Ms. Jessica Doyle, and Ms. Monica Darcy.

MTSD Mission and Vision Statements

Mission Statement

Our mission as a forward-thinking community is to ensure that all students grow into confident, compassionate, successful, and self-directed learners a multi-cultural and socio-economically diverse society by providing engaging and challenging real world educational experiences in a student-centered environment.

Vision Statement

We envision a district on the forefront of public education. We focus on the needs of every child, dedicating ourselves to their present and future success. Success means that all students possess a passion for learning, develop a deep understanding of rigorous content, demonstrate cultural competence, and exhibit ethical conduct, while cultivating social skills and healthy habits that will empower them to achieve their goals and aspirations. Achieving this vision requires that the district become a learning community that continually reflects and challenges itself to effect transformational teaching and learning. We prepare our students to take responsibility for their own educational accomplishments in our global society while nurturing them in a community where each student is known and valued. We believe by embracing frontier spirit, we can create a unique organization that is recognized as a forerunner in public education.