Curriculum Matters

MTSD / Volume 2 / Issue 8 / May 2016

MTSD Office of Instructional Services

Deborah Sarmir—Assistant Superintendent Curriculum/Instruction

Damian Pappa—Director Assessment/Data/Accountability

Fiona Borland—Director Instructional Technology

Ron Zalika —Director Curriculum

Lucianne Smith—Executive Assistant

MTSD Content Area Supervisors

Jennifer Riddell—MHS Mathematics

Alma Reyes—World Languages & ESL

Melissa Hodgson—MHS Social Studies

Adam Warshafsky—Visual & Performing Arts

Jason Sullivan—MHS Science

Lisa Romano—LMS/UMS Language Arts & Social Studies

Karen Stalowski—MHS Language Arts

Christopher Herte—LMS/UMS Mathematics & Science

Amy Wish—OHES/VES Mathematics & Science

Amy Monaco—OHES/VES Language Arts & Social Studies

Naoma Green—MHS Physical Education & Health

From the Office of Instructional Services

MTSD has a never-ending commitment to creating and maintaining a guaranteed and viable curriculum that will ensure our students' academic success. This newsletter is a part of this equation, helping to communicate our curricular happenings and instructional activities across grade levels and content areas to district educators, parents and students. While all of our curriculum guides are available through an online database called Rubicon Atlas, this newsletter provides a closer look at the some of the learning experiences and outcomes that our students undertake. Please browse through the curriculum updates provided by our talented team of content-area supervisors.

Coming Soon: Enrichment Programming Information Session

On June 16th, the Montgomery Township School District will be holding an information session on district enrichment programming at Orchard Hill Elementary School and Village Elementary School. This one-hour information session is specifically geared towards parents of OHES and VES students. It will be hosted by our Director of Curriculum, Mr. Ron Zalika, and will take place in the OHES cafeteria from 2:30-3:30 PM. We look forward to seeing you there!

MHS Health & Physical Education

On May 18th, 19th, and 20th, returning Senior Peer Leader students attended training provided by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Through these exciting and informative sessions, students experienced new ways of modeling activities, learned how to maintain neutrality during peer leader outreaches, and learned how to continue to develop a safe atmosphere where students can feel free to discuss their experiences and ideas. The ADL provided students with additions to their toolboxes to aid in creating effective outreaches for freshmen students.

MTSD Technology

3-D Printing - Modern Manufacturing

Many of us are familiar with the scene in the movie Apollo 13, in which the engineers on the ground have to solve the actual problem of fitting a square peg into a round hole. Fast forward 40 years and consider how different that exact situation would have been if a 3-D printer was onboard the spacecraft.

There is no doubt that 3-D printing is simply cool, but the idea of printing a actual object is truly revolutionary. 3-D printing is the next era frontier of manufacturing.

At the May 24th Board of Education meeting, the robotics team demonstrated this year’s competition robot. In describing the design process, Mr. Leicht explained that the team needed a part for the robot that was out of stock, and they would not be able to order it. In previous years, this would have changed the design of the robot, but not this year. Utilizing Autodesk software, the students designed the needed component and printed it in the CAD lab 3-D printer.

Although we are impressed, we might expect something like that from our elite robotics team. However, this month, Village School students are starting their design unit as well. Utilizing another Autodesk software called Tinkercad, Mr. Dolan’s students will try their hand at 3-D design. Tinkercad provides both online tutorials and sample projects for the students to complete. As a free, web-based tool, students can begin a project in the computer lab, and continue developing their skills and their design anywhere that they are connected to the internet. Students in Ms. Winer’s class cheered when they were told that at the end of the until, each class will get to identify 1 project that they would like to print via the PTA purchased Makerbot.

Providing authentic design experiences to our students creates the possibility for one of them to solve the futures real-world problems through innovative design thinking.

MHS Mathematics

Geometry students are wrapping up their 2-d unit on measurement of length and area and are about to dive in the the 3-d world of polyhedra, cylinders, pyramids, spheres and cones. Formulas for surface area and volume will be explored and derived. Students enjoy the tangibleness of these final units using prior knowledge of coordinate geometry, midpoint/distance formulas, properties of triangles as well as modeling and reasoning skills for minimizing/maximizing dimensions. As a wrap up to the year students reflected and commented on their Geometry experience:

  • I loved that every shape had a center!
  • Graphing from Algebra class applies to Geometry? Yes!
  • You can have very little info for inscribed circles, but find everything!
  • Trigonometry was a big word for an easy concept!
  • Find a right angle and you're golden!
  • A simple set of rules can be used in so many places, all year long!
  • Proofs – You hate them, but you love them!

Lastly, congratulations to our Math Academic Award 2016 recipients. Freshman Nivedhitha Sivakumar and Savan Patel. Sophomores Matthew Lisanti, David Xue and Thomas Draper. Juniors Luke Dai and Matthew Yuan. Seniors Jacob Epstein, Srikar Tallavajhalla and Joseph Romagnoli.

LMS & UMS Language Arts & Social Studies

Montgomery Middle Schoolers throughout Grades 5-8 are wrapping up some very exciting Reading Units of Study that have them all asking for more. 5th graders are winding down a Fantasy Unit of Reading that had teachers adding more read aloud titles and more choices for independent reading into their original teaching plans due to popular demand from their students. 6th graders are at the culmination of an Activism Unit of Reading that has them questioning, “Who has the Power?” every time they pick up fiction or nonfiction text. 7th graders are furiously discussing the human condition as they immerse themselves in Fantasy and Science Fiction and 8th graders are reading throughout their school day as they travel back in time via historical fiction novels in Social Studies and as they embark upon self-discovery in a Language Arts multi-genre project.

Don’t let the reading end! Please help to keep our students’ love of reading alive and well throughout the summer.

Happy Summer Reading to All!

MTSD World Language & ESL

Friends on Skype, Friends for life!

Montgomery high school ninth grader Emma Raccaro and Valentina Gomez, a tenth grader from “Centro de Educacion Formativa” in Colombia are cultivating a inter-continental, cross-cultural relationship initiated by the Lower Middle School World Language Program. After meeting through Skype five years ago in Mrs. Ospina’ s fifth grade Spanish class, the two girls finally met face-to-face for the first time this month. After all these years, it was an unforgettable moment for both of the girls, their families and their teachers!

Five years ago, LMS began Skyping with Instituto Educativo Pedro Estrada, a K-12 school in Colombia, South America. Students in Colombia are learning English, just like our students are learning Spanish. Spearheaded by Spanish teacher Mrs. Ospina, this practice is continued not only by both teachers at the Lower Middle School, but also at the Upper Middle School and at the High school. Meanwhile, students reap the joys and benefits of authentic, cross-cultural exchanges that make language learning meaningful and memorable.

To fund her dream of visiting Skillman, New Jersey in the United States of America, Valentina saved years worth of birthday money and her earnings from tutoring disadvantaged students at a community center in Columbia. While here, she has been assisting teachers and students in Spanish classes.

MHS Social Studies

After completing the AP Exam, the MHS Art History students have begun work on the annual year-end project. Each student has selected a piece of art studied this past year and is re-creating it on the ceiling tiles of the Art History classroom. Selected works include Goldfish by Henri Matisse, The Swing by Fragonard, The Ambum Stone, a prehistoric rock carving, The Portuguese by Picasso, and The Two Fridas by Frida Kahlo. Paint and supplies for the project have been generously paid for by a PTSA grant.

LMS & UMS Math & Science

In Science 8 at UMS, students recently had the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of constant velocity by taking part in a performance assessment involving a train crash. They were able to use their ability to calculate the velocity of a Thomas the Tank Engine toy and then use that information to predict the time and position of a train crash between two Thomas the Tank Engine toys. Students enjoyed this type of assessment since they were able to show their process of measuring velocity on their own and then using the data they gathered to make their predictions. They appreciated the fact that they were able to actually do their own lab to collect their own data and use that data to answer a question-just like real scientists!

Meanwhile in Algebra I Part 2 class, students analyzed the game Angry Birds during the Quadratic Functions Unit. They read and reflected how parabolas are used to create an angry bird launch. Students were then given quadratic functions and had to prove to "gamemakers" if the equation the game makers came up with accurately reflected a launch that allows for an angry bird to hit two pigs in one launch.

Over at LMS, students in Science 5 had a representative from Trout Unlimited come to the classroom with debris from a local stream for the students to take apart. They were on the lookout for aquatic macro-invertebrates. A special thanks to the NJ Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife as well as the Trout Unlimited organization.

MHS & OHES Science

The MHS Science Department is transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) adopted by the State of New Jersey. The NGSS are structured to promote 3D learning, that is a focus on content, science and engineering practices and cross-cutting (interdisciplinary connections). So what does this look like? As a district, we have embraced the concepts of building ideas, making thinking visible and learning progressions (see NGSS Appendix E). The MTSD Science Supervisors have worked to establish collaborations across grade levels and with STEM related groups outside the school community. Recently, the MHS Doctors of Tomorrow visited RWJ-Somerseton a Saturday afternoon.

In the world of biology, there is an emerging partnership between the MHS AP Biology students and our OHES 1st graders - together, they are studying a common question of how the structure and function of a living organism relate. A group of 1st graders enjoyed two days exploring the trail and stream (Back Brook) between OHES and LMS and then sat down for 25 minutes to make their thinking visible to one another during a whole class discussion. It was amazing to work with great teachers in multi-age collaborations!

On Friday May 22, the MHS Engineer Club collaborated with Ms. Staab and LMS students for a discussion on engineering. They participated in an activity where students built marshmallow shooting catapults - such great designs and competition from the LMS Engineers!

Follow our work @montysci on Twitter.

Opportunities to be involved:

The MHS Student STEM Board is accepting recommendations for guest speakers to participate in the MHS Science Lecture Series. The students solicit individuals to share their experiences in education, research, and industry.

The Monty MakerSpace is open and getting ready to host open lab times on Saturdays.

Spring is just around the corner meaning that the MHS Courtyard Garden will be set for another planting season. The Garden is divided into 3 areas. The Outdoor Classroom is a grassy expanse with benches that accommodates various classroom and Unit lunch activities. The Native Plant Garden displays numerous varieties of perennials and a small pond with waterfall. The third section is home to over 40 raised beds where fruits, vegetables and flowers are raised without pesticides or herbicides. Donations of plants, equipment, or time are always appreciated.

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MHS Language Arts

With the school year rapidly coming to a close, many MHS English classes are wrapping up long-term projects with various types of oral presentations. Our sophomore honors students are in the midst of a Persuasive Speech Project for which they've been conducting research in order to formulate an argument supporting a claim. Students are expected to draw evidence from literary and/or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and outside research as well as use valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence from varied sources. The project culminates in a speech given in front of the class during which students present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning. Organization, development, substance, and style are also considered regarding appropriateness to purpose, audience, and task.

Not to be outdone, our junior and senior honors students are also putting their presentation skills to the test to close out the year. Second semester for juniors ends with a final group presentation during which students conduct an interactive lesson teaching their classmates about the genre they have been studying all year long. Each student has at this point read three books which means that groups are presenting lessons focused on anywhere from nine to twelve books in their given genre.

Seniors, as is tradition here at MHS, are bringing their high school careers to a close with what is known as "The Senior Speech". The assignment requires students to synthesize all of the research, writing and speaking/listening skills they have honed over the past four years to produce a speech that is presented to their classmates. Topics vary greatly as students are encouraged to speak on topics about which they personally have some level of passion. The resulting variety makes this a fun and exciting way to bring our students' high school English experience to a satisfying end.

Spotlight on Curriculum

Many of our K-12 curriculum guides have begun to incorporate a new kind of rigorous assessment called a Performance Task. According to expert Jay McTighe, a Performance Task is an assessment that asks students to perform to authentically demonstrate knowledge, understanding and proficiency. Performance tasks present a complex situation that calls for learners to apply their learning in context. In an authentic task, students consider goals, audience, obstacles, and options to achieve a successful product or performance. Believe it or not, Performance Tasks have been around for decades and have been routinely used in visual and performing arts, physical education, and career-technology where performance is the natural focus of instruction. However, we believe that such tasks should be used in every subject area and at all grade levels.

These Performance Tasks will not replace more traditional types of assessments regularly given to our students. Rather, these two assessment types will be used in tandem to better gauge student mastery. As we continue to develop and utilize these in our curriculum, our collective goal remains the same—to promote meaningful learning for students. Be on the lookout for a Performance Task coming to a curriculum near you!

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.