Saying thanks

Third-graders showed that kindness doesn’t stop at second grade.
 
The importance of kindness is a key second grade theme at CMS, crescendoing every spring when the second-graders spend a day out in the community doing good deeds. For Veterans Day, third-graders showed off their kindhearted spirits and wrote letters of appreciation to area residents who served in the military.
 
The five classes wrote about 100 letters in all, with messages thanking the veterans for their bravery in defense of the nation and for the risks and sacrifices they made.
 
“I think we always try to remind students not to take things for granted and that small acts of kindness really do make a difference,” said teacher Amber Roselle, who co-teaches a class with Catherine Figueiredo. “CMS has always emphasized kindness, that’s part of who we’ve always been.”
 
The letters were picked up by Steve Niblett, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who now serves as the Morris County commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He distributed them to Netcong VFW and the Randolph VFW. Niblett, whose children attended CMS, has spoken to students in the past about his service and the All Veterans Memorial at Turkey Brook Park.


A turkey tradition

Kindergartner Riley Dyshuk shows off the turkey she made in class. Making the recyclable turkeys is a kindergarten tradition at CMS.


Connecting school to real life

 Fifth grade teacher Kathy Fiebel made math real. Numbers can feel abstract and illusory, so the veteran educator asked kids to show off their math knowledge by grounding a recent assessment in real life. Students had a choice of completing one of three projects as part of their study on adding and subtracting numbers with decimals:
 
Design four rides at an amusement park and decide on a price for each, as well as a fair price for an unlimited pass.
 
Using a menu of fast food items that had prices as well as calories, select a meal with at least three items that would cost $10-$15 and also be 1000-1500 calories.
 
Using a map and a list of distances, create a road trip to at least three Florida cities and calculate the mileage traveled.
 
Each project incorporated other skills, and that’s what makes it so fun. The fast food assignment was perfect for students who like crafts since part of the project included using construction paper to create a model of the chosen meal. For the amusement park project, students drew the rides they devised. And for the travel project, students created fictional travel journals that describe the sites in each city on their itineraries – an assignment perfect for budding young writers and practiced internet researchers.
 
All three of the projects showed students concrete ways that the math they were learning could be applied to real-life activities. And research shows when students can make that connection, learning becomes more meaningful and powerful.
 
There was also a benefit in asking students to select the projects they would like to complete.
 
“Giving kids a choice allows them to feel that they are involved in their own education,” Fiebel said. “It really motivates them and gives them a way demonstrate other skills that they have.”
 
The projects were displayed in the main hallway.


Apple learning

It’s apple season, and that means locally-grown apples, apple cider, and fresh apple pie are in homes everywhere. Kindergarten teachers seized the opportunity to link real life to classroom learning with lessons centered around America’s second favorite fruit.
 
The students learned the names and parts of apples and apple trees, and engaged in activities that used apples. The kindergartners created their own trees using toilet paper tubes and popsicle sticks. Then, they were challenged to see how many apples (red pom-poms) they could fit on the popsicle tree branches.
 
Each student also brought in an apple from home. They measured the height of their apples and every class created a graph that showed the number of apples of each color (red, green, and yellow).


Bradley Quinn stands in the hallway in front of a train mural
student in front of train poster

All aboard for an educational journey

A summertime railroad trip through the Rockies was the inspiration behind the theme adopted by two second grade classes for the year. Teacher Ann Scotland’s ride aboard a vintage steam train on the Durango & Silverton Railroad in Colorado took her through the San Juan National Forest on a historic stretch of track that’s been continuously operated since 1882. The scenic gorges and sounds of the train whistle echoing through the canyons compelled her to bring the experience back to her students. She and teacher Dawn Walsh adopted the train theme for 2021-22 and together they developed the plan to make it all work and all make sense in the context of the classroom.
 
“Themes can be inviting and uniting for a class,” said Scotland. “When you launch off a year with one it offers an immediate connection that you can all share in. We wanted the return to school to be extra special for the children after such an unsettling time with the pandemic.”
 
Train lingo and imagery is used frequently in the classrooms. During the educational journey of each day, the train makes numerous stops, frequenting places such as the Math Station and the Reading Café. You’ll hear talk of students “staying on track” with their learning and the “all aboard” call when an activity commences. When students rotate among learning centers in the classroom, they go from track to track.
 
“We use the train theme just enough to keep students connected and to give the day a fun, steady structure,” Scotland said.
 
It was full steam ahead with the train theme from the very first day of school when the second-graders created their own personalized conductor hats. The students had real ones to use for reference. The classes were gifted two New Jersey Transit conductor hats from a friend of Scotland’s, a retired NJT employee.

The train on the Durango & Silverton line that inspired the theme
Train pic

  


Everything’s ducky in room A24

Kindergarten teacher Kristyna Lynch adopted a duck theme for her class this year. It’s everywhere, inside and outside of the classroom.
 
A bulletin board in the hallway introduces by name all the ducklings in “Miss Lynch’s Pond.” The door welcomes students and visitors to the pond. The class begins each morning by reading the Pond Promise, a testament to kindness and helping each other which the class created together on the first day of school. And the “Ducky Helpers” board informs the class which students are responsible for each day’s jobs such as changing the classroom calendar and leading the lines when the class travels to specials or the cafeteria.
 
“Themes help build a sense of community,” said Lynch. “Every day I try to show my class that we’re in the pond together as a family, and that means being responsible, inclusive, and a source of kindness here and beyond the pond.”


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