here - Mary McDowell Friends School

A Monthly Newsletter for Parents
Last month, MMFS middle and upper
school students, faculty, and staff commemorated the life of Martin Luther
King Jr. by attending a special screening of the movie Selma. The elementary
school students and staff and those MS
students who didn’t attend the screening watched Selma, Lord, Selma, a similar, more age-appropriate film.
In This Issue
Debbie’s Note
Alumni Spotlight
From the Development Director
PA News
PA Grant Report
Student News
College Guidance Corner
Get to Know Our Faculty
Dear Myrtle Column
Save-the-Date for Gala
Tuition Deposit Reminder
News From the Divisions
Costa Rica Trip Photos
Student Responses to Selma
For those of you who don’t know, both
movies portray the events leading up to
the passage of the Voting Rights Act in
1965. The Voting Rights Act is a federal
law that prohibits racial discrimination
in voting. Prior to its passage, voter
registration boards in the South used
poll taxes, literacy tests, moral character
tests, property ownership
requirements, and a variety of other
means to prevent blacks from
registering to vote. Harassment,
intimidation, and physical violence at
the hands of white citizens also kept
blacks away from the polls. Both tactics
worked brilliantly: in 1940 only 3% of
voting-age African-Americans in the
South were registered to vote. As a
result they held no elected offices, had
no control over the courts or schools,
and had no voice in how much their
taxes were or what laws would be
Eliminating voter restrictions was one
of the primary goals of the civil rights
movement. In the late 50s and early 60s
activists staged non-violent protests
throughout the South to raise public
awareness of their cause and put
pressure on the federal government to
enact legislation that would protect the
NEW - College Guidance
Corner on page 7
MMFS News is published the
first Friday of each month
by Mary McDowell Friends
School, a K-12 college prep
Quaker school for students
with learning disabilities.
Mary McDowell Friends School
20 Bergen Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Panel discussion at the middle school following screening of the movie Selma
Continued on page 2
Continued from page 1 (Debbie’s Note)
voting rights of blacks and other minorities. These
efforts came to a head in 1965 in Selma, Alabama. In
late February, a black activist named Jimmy Lee
Jackson was murdered by a white police officer while
participating in a peaceful voting rights demonstration
in nearby Marion. To protest his death and continue to
push for voter’s rights, about 600 people began a
peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery on Sunday,
March 7th. Just outside of Selma, at the end of the
Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were brutally attacked by
Alabama state troopers, local policemen, and others.
The attack, known as “Bloody Sunday,” made headlines
across the country. National interest in the activists’
demands began to rise. Two days later Martin Luther
King Jr. led a second, largely symbolic march across the
bridge, again in support of voter’s rights. That night, a
group of white men beat and murdered James Reeb, a
white Unitarian Universalist minister who had come to
Selma along with other clergy and sympathizers to
participate in the second march. The violence of
“Bloody Sunday” and Reeb’s death led to a public
outcry. On March 15th President Lyndon B. Johnson,
who had been working on voting rights legislation,
asked Congress for a comprehensive bill that would
eliminate discriminatory election practices. A third and
joyous march took place on March 21st, when Martin
Luther King led 25,000 demonstrators from Selma to
the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery. The Voting
Rights Act of 1965, described as “the single most
effective piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by
Congress,” was signed into law that August.
After the movies, members of our community who
traveled to Selma on the MMFS Civil Rights Trip last
year shared some of their memories and answered
questions in panel discussions in all three buildings.
They talked about walking across the Edmund Pettus
Bridge and standing in the exact place where the
protesters had been attacked almost forty-nine years
ago to the day. They described what Selma is like
now—the struggling economy, the proud community,
the warm and gracious people. And they especially
talked about Joanne Bland, who marched as a child
across the Bridge on Bloody Sunday and in one of the
other marches. Panelists passed along her message
about how important ordinary citizens were to the
movement and the responsibility of young people to
continue the work her generation had begun.
I understand concerns have been raised about the
historical accuracy of the film, particularly in regards
to its portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson. Mary McDowell
Friends School has always been careful to teach history
from multiple perspectives. Our teachers use pictures,
films, books, interviews, newspapers and other sources
to help students see all sides of a story. In regards to
Selma, classes discussed the parts that were historically
accurate, the parts that weren’t, and some of the
controversies surrounding the movie. Particular time
was spent discussing the film’s very human portrait of
Martin Luther King Jr. Students talked about his
successes, failures, and vulnerabilities and both his
good and bad decisions as shown in the films. Many
illuminating and fruitful discussions emerged as a
The film screenings and discussions are part of
MMFS’s ongoing commitment to equality, social justice,
and the peaceful resolution of conflict. We feel it’s
important for our students to understand this country’s
history of racism, oppression, and resistance and to
think about how they might contribute to the ongoing
fight for human rights. Such reflection is especially
important in light of the living history we are in the
midst of today, unfolding in Ferguson, New York City,
and other places around the nation. A thorough
understanding of the past can help us see all sides of
the current debate about race in this country with
clarity and compassion, and can guide our actions in
the future.
In addition to special events such as Selma, Mary
McDowell exposes students to civil rights history in the
middle and upper school as part of the social studies
curriculum. We invite speakers like Bayard Rustin’s
partner Walter Naegle and Freedom Rider Lew
Zuchman to share their experiences with students. And
we send teachers, administrators, parents, and students
down South to visit some of the most important sites of
the movement. We do this by organizing our own
family and faculty trip and by sending teachers to
participate in the legendary civil rights activist Julian
Bond’s week long seminar.
The next MMFS Family and Faculty Civil Rights trip
will take place in the 2015-16 year. It’s a spectacular
opportunity to learn more about our country’s history
and to bond with other members of the MMFS
community. An informational meeting for those who
are interested will take place later this year, details to
Some of our students’ responses to the movie Selma can
be read on page 14. These are either reflections written
by the students themselves or transcribed verbal comments from classroom discussions. None are formal
classroom writing assignments, so they have not been
edited as is usually done. Instead we want to showcase
the profound understanding and learning that emerged
from the movies and subsequent discussions. We think
you’ll find them as moving as we did.
In Friendship,
Ramsey Haddad moved on from the Mary
McDowell Friends School in 2009 and is now a
sophomore studying business management at
Tulane University in New Orleans. Ramsey
attended Mary McDowell Friends School for eight
years, leaving after the eighth grade for high
school at Xavier in Chelsea. High school was an
adjustment after all those years at MMFS. “It was
hard and a lot of work, but I had a good time anyway,” Ramsey said, adding that “Mary McDowell
set me up for high school.”
Ramsey has ADHD and trouble focusing, but says
that his learning disability isn’t as severe as others.
“Mostly I need to take a break and focus and definitely check over my work. I had to learn how to
skim and scan, and I’m a pro at memorizing,”
Ramsey commented. He doesn’t really have any
academic accommodations, but is trying to get
extra time for testing.
Ramsey is enjoying his time in his new home
town: “New Orleans is a good city to be in, it has a
lot of character.” Boston was another possibility
during the college hunt, but Ramsey took a road
trip and decided that it was too cold. He had “a
lot of fun” on his visit to New Orleans, and that was
that. Two years later, Ramsey notes that everything
is going well. “I’m getting a good education, and I
have a B average.”
Over the years, Ramsey’s outside interests have
included chess club, Greek club, and juggling (“I
started juggling while I was at Mary McDowell.”)
He’s also worked at a restaurant in Forest Hills. I
found the job on Craigslist. The place had a good
reputation, and I’ve learned a lot about running a
restaurant,” he said, commenting that his ultimate
career goal is to own a restaurant or sports bar in
New York City or San Francisco.
It’s been a few years since Brooklyn, but Ramsey
remembers his time at Mary McDowell Friends
School fondly: “Tell everyone at Mary McDowell
‘Hi’ ... and to keep up the good work!”
Kris Hallam
Mother of Andrew Corby, Alumnus 1999
Our eleventh annual Read-A-Thon is underway! It
began on Monday, February 2nd and will end on
Friday, February 27th. This month-long event brings
together students, family, and friends to promote
literacy and raise money for several worthy causes,
including middle school PE Teacher Earl Hall’s
youth development organization Red Hook Rise.
Participants may read on their
own, in class, or with family and
friends. Listening to someone else
read, or reading to someone else
also counts toward total minutes your child will need
to read. Please support our readers!
From the Development Director
Asking for money AGAIN?
Without a strong fundraising program, MMFS would
not be the outstanding school that it is today. There are
three major components of our fundraising efforts: the
Mary McDowell Friends School Fund (MMFS Fund),
our annual benefit Gala, and restricted gifts. Each of
these is critically important in the success of our school.
The MMFS Fund is our annual fund, made up of the
dollars that are raised and spent during the current fiscal year (July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015) for operating
expenses. This year’s goal is $430,000 and 100% parent
participation. You may have received a call during this
week’s Phonathon from another parent, asking you to
make a gift to the Fund this year. Last year only 46% of
MMFS parents made an annual fund gift to the school;
we know that we can do much better than that. As Nuno
Fernandes, parent, Board member, and annual fund
chair said this week, “We won’t have a culture of giving
at MMFS unless we establish a culture of asking.” If you were not available to speak to a caller this week
and have not yet made your MMFS Fund gift, please do
so today. Everyone’s gift is important and valued. You
can make a secure credit card gift on our website, or you
can mail a check to my attention at Sidney Place (please
include MMFS Fund on the memo line of your check). If
you want to pledge a gift and have a reminder sent to
you at the date of your choice, please send me an email
with the details at [email protected]
You will hear much more about the 2015 Gala in the
weeks ahead. The event on May 7th at City Winery will
celebrate 30 years of revealing brilliance in every student. There are many opportunities to volunteer for our
auction or with the event in general. I hope you will be
there; if you are new to MMFS, you are in for a real treat
at this special event! The fundraising goal for the Gala is
Finally, restricted gifts are important for meeting specific needs of the school over the course of the year or several years. Last year’s senior class of 2014 and their parents gave the dollars that paid for courtyard furniture at
the upper school. This is just one example of a restricted
gift. If you have an idea for a gift of your own that may
fill a particular need, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I
am always happy to hear from you.
To all of you who have made a financial gift to MMFS
this year, THANK YOU! And to those who will be doing
so soon, many thanks from all of us. Our students are
the beneficiaries of your generosity.
The Powers of 10: Upper School Fields Studies Day
Field Studies on
February 4th focused
on The Powers of 10.
We spent the day
examining how a
change in size can give
us a new perspective
on the world. We
explored the universe
with a mobile planetarium, we explored
microbes with a
micro-lab, explored
the scales of the universe well beyond that
of normal human
comprehension, and
explored the length of
time that it took for
the earth to be
formed. We all had a
great day of learning!
PA News
Hello Mary McDowell Friends School Families!
Wishing Everyone a Warm and Safe February!
What’s happening from the MMFS PA Council
Winter Holiday Fund Gifts for Teachers: Families
ROCKED IT with 277 families contributing over $26,000
to the Winter Holiday Gift Fund in just three weeks!
Many thank you notes have been received from the
teachers and staff who were very appreciative. Special
thanks to Faith Rose whose calligraphy talents graced
every card, and, to Rob Fasano, Bridget Elias, Gigi Sharp,
Tania Bruestle-Kumra, Molly Hoagland and Holly
Kilpatrick for getting the checks and cards out by
December 19th.
Siblings welcome! Bring sleepover
stuff: pillows, p.j.’s, sleeping bags,
blankets. Milk and cookies for the
children and tempting adult noshes.
Note: A parent or guardian must
remain in the building during the
event. For RSVP form, please click
The Intersection of Adoption and
Learning Disabilities on Wednesday
March 4th: The first collaboration with Spence Chapin’s
Modern Family Center and the MMFS PA to take place at
the Spence Chapin facility on the upper east side. For
RSVP form, please click here.
NYU Child Mind Center Speaker on Medication: stay
tuned for the spring date.
PA Sponsored Events for Teachers And Students
Pep Rally: The PA sponsored a PEP Bus to transport
MMFS Basketball fans to the big game at Basketball City
on February 3rd.
Teacher Appreciation Luncheon: The Annual Luncheon
is scheduled for the second day of Parent/Teacher
conferences, Thursday March 5th. The teachers LOVE IT!
Keep on Spreading the Love with Chocolate Valentines
from Equal Exchange: You can order a bag of yummy
organic dark chocolate hearts,
a variety of chocolate bars,
coffees, teas, and other treats
like trail mix from Equal
Exchange and support the PA!
Just go to the Equal Exchange
Link: http://fundraiser.
coop/?fundraiser=MARY031W and order some for your
UPCOMING Parent Association Sponsored EVENTS
for Families!
Elementary Movie Night is Friday, February 20th at
6:30 pm, 23 Sidney Place (the roomy upper school
auditorium). Join your Bergen Street buddies to watch
classic “Schoolhouse Rock” animated shorts, followed by
the original “Muppet Movie” on the big screen! $Free!$
Social Justice Trip: The PA is very excited to sponsor for
the first time, one or two upper school students on a 22
day Social Justice Trip in the summer of 2015. The trip is
organized by Billy Planer, who led the very successful
MMFS Family and Faculty Civil Rights Journey in 2014.
Shawn Wilson and Beth Schneider will introduce the trip
to the students and a selection committee is being
The PA Council met on February 9th. The next PA
Council meeting is scheduled for Friday, March 6th at
8:30 am at 20 Bergen Street, and open to ALL MMFS
We welcome new and returning members to meetings,
which take place the first Friday of every month at 8:30 am.
Warm regards,
Danielle Caminiti
PA Council Co-Secretary
[email protected]
Holly Kilpatrick
PA Council Co-Secretary
[email protected]
PA Grant Report
Monica Kaplan
Upper School Psychologist
Healing Trauma,
Promoting Resilience
Last summer, I had the privilege of attending a weeklong
Childhood Trauma Practitioner’s Conference, run by the
National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children (TLC),
in Lansing, Michigan. This conference brought together practitioners from all over the United States and Canada, where
I had the opportunity to collaborate with social workers, psychologists, art therapists, foster care and adoption agency
directors, and experts in the field of childhood trauma.
with language, we don’t need to rely on a student’s ability
to explain a situation to us – there are many other ways to
approach students to help them process and work through
a difficult situation. We learned and practiced different
techniques to reduce a child’s arousal level (many of which I
am glad to say we already use at MMFS!) and discussed the
importance of body awareness and helping students connect feelings to specific bodily sensations, which is essential
for regulation.
I was initially drawn to the conference by the keynote speaker, Robin Karr-Morse,
author of Ghosts from
the Nursery. During
graduate school, I was
assigned an excerpt
from her book, and
this excerpt is what
solidified my drive to
work with children.
However, the conference also offered a
chance to immerse
myself in interactive
activities and lectures
that greatly enhanced
my understanding of
working with all of our
Keynote Presentation by Robin Karr-Morse
The conference offered
a series of sessions for practitioners who work in school
settings, so after an initial overview of trauma-informed
practice, we dove into several days of focused workshops
that covered a range of school-relevant topics. We examined childhood trauma from an experiential perspective,
discussed the differences between grief and trauma reactions and the importance of a child’s perception of the
experience, and talked about the importance of not making assumptions when listening to children talk about their
Many of the workshops provided detailed information on
brain development and the
impact that a traumatic experience can have on one’s brain.
We learned about the “sensory brain” and how trauma
is truly a sensory experience
rather than a cognitive one.
This particular discussion really
informed my work with our
students and reaffirmed that
even for students who struggle
Paper Bag Journals
The third day focused
on structured sensory
interventions, where
we were introduced to
activities such as “If My
Body Could Talk,” “Road
Map from the Past/to
the Future,” “This is
Me,” and “Lighthouse,”
that provided visual
aides aimed at helping students identify
resources and articulate
their concerns in a safe
Day Four’s workshop,
Brain-Based Classrooms,” covered the
brain/body chemistry of fear and stress and how we, as
educators, can create classrooms that help students feel
safe and that engage students in a combination of calm and
active energy activities that help students remain regulated
throughout the school day. The workshop offered a multitude of strategies and tools for our teachers to use in the
classroom, and I am excited to share them with our faculty.
Thank you to the MMFS Parents Association for affording me
this enriching opportunity!
My Inspiration Card
MMFS Senior Liv Hoffman Receives NYC Scholastic Art Awards
Senior Liv Hoffman received four Golden Keys, two Silver Keys, and three Honorable
Mentions in the NYC Scholastic Art competition for her photography. The 2015 NYC
Scholastic Art Awards Exhibition, featuring Gold Key artwork, will be held at The
Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Uris Center of Education from March 16th to May
17th! Everyone is welcome to attend the Opening Reception on Friday, March 20th
from 5pm-7pm.
Liv will find out if any of her Golden Key artwork has been selected to receive a
national medal by March 16th.
Congratulations Liv on her very impressive
Caitlin Clifford, upper school art teacher
received the notification email from NYC
Scholastic Awards. You can read it here.
We love to hear about what our students are
up to outside of school hours. If you have
student news that you would like to share with
the school community in this column, please
contact Orla Dunstan,
[email protected] or 718-855-0141, ext. 4104.
with Amy Salomon-Kohn
Director of College Guidance
This new column highlights post-secondary options that
students and their families may want to consider.
Sterling College is a small, progressive college that
emphasizes environmental stewardship and the liberal arts.
Located on 130 acres in northern Vermont, Sterling offers
undergraduate degrees in ecology, environmental
humanities, sustainable agriculture, sustainable food
systems, and outdoor education. Its education model of
study, work, and community combines theory-based and
experiential learning. Sterling requires all students,
regardless of financial need, to work on campus, thus
earning a minimum of $1650 towards their tuition. In
addition, students are required to complete a 10-week, offcampus internship.
The New York Institute of Technology’s VIP Program is a
transition program for students with learning disabilities in
Central Islip, NY. The program focuses on academics,
independent living, social skills development, and
vocational exploration and training. Students pursue one
of three tracks: a certificate program in six vocational
majors, a supported associate degree program in
Communications Arts or Accounting, or a pre-degree
program which prepares students for coursework in one of
the Institute’s 39 undergraduate majors. Students in all
three tracks receive specialized support from academic,
vocational, and social counselors and financial advisors.
Haverford College is a leading liberal arts school just
outside of Philadelphia in Haverford, PA. It was founded in
1833 by members of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the
Religious Society of Friends. Although it is no longer
affiliated with the Quakers, the influence of Quaker
philosophy can still be felt in the Honor Code, which
articulates a philosophy of trust, concern, and respect that
guides the entire community. Haverford offers
undergraduate degrees in dozens of majors. Students are
required to take coursework in the humanities, social
sciences, and natural sciences and complete a senior thesis
in order to graduate.
As MMFS celebrates it 30th anniversary, we thought you
would like to get to know more about our extraordinary
faculty members. Over 20 staff members have been at the
school for 10 or more years! This is the second monthly
interview with a faculty member who has been with MMFS
as it has grown into the school it is today.
What attracted you to working at MMFS? The school
consisted of only two classes at Schermerhorn Street when I
applied for an assistant teacher position. I observed the
teachers and was very impressed by their motivation, the
way they interacted with the students, and how they
inspired learning in children who clearly struggled. It was
phenomenal. This was very exciting for me – the prospect of
going to work every day to something I loved. I was also
excited to be in a Quaker environment.
How many years have you been at MMFS? This is my 21st
years of a 29 year teaching career.
What is your most memorable experience from your first
year? There was no one experience that stands out, but the
feeling of finding my niche.
How has working at MMFS informed your life? The MMFS
philosophy and Quaker values inform my professional and
personal lives. There have been two interruptions during my
tenure at MMFS; after my first 11 years I moved to England; I
returned to MMFS for three years, and then moved to
Florida. Each time I have taken the MMFS philosophy with
me, and I integrated our school’s approach into my teaching
in other schools with standardized curricula; treating
students and adults with respect, and paying attention to
and harnessing each person’s particular style. My students
in other schools responded very well. Quaker values have
also guided me at home with my own children and with
other adults in my life.
What are some of the changes that have happened in your
time here? Many changes have taken place as the school has
grown from two classes to a K-12 school. I’ve seen programs
develop and take off. Particularly close to my heart is the
growth of the middle school dance, music, and theater
programs. We are becoming a school that is strong in the
arts. Many of our students, while they struggle academically,
flourish in the arts. It’s nice to see them have those
What is your proudest accomplishment? Seeing the plays
and musicals take to the stage is very gratifying. When I
proposed a student performance my first year at MMFS, a
parent asked doubtfully, “are you sure they can do it?” I said,
“Of course”, no question.” The students were six-seven year
olds. A younger group did “Snowy Day” and the older group
performed a number from the musical “Cats.” Each year, we
did more and more. I find it very satisfying to take a student
who has motor difficulties, and break down the moves,
teaching him or her to
dance in the same
way that I teach a
child to read. This
year, the middle
school is offering
dance electives. Of
the nine students in
the first trimester
class, six have
returned. Students
who would never
dance otherwise are
enjoying dance class!
What is the best part of the school day? First thing in the
morning as I prep for the day. As I set everything up, I get
excited as I envision the upcoming activities.
What was your favorite subject in school? English. I loved to
read. Devouring books, I immersed myself in getting into the
characters and figuring out where an author was taking a
theme or plot.
Which living person do you most admire? Hands down my
mother; she is my greatest inspiration. She has been a
teacher for over 30 years. I remember many happy times
sitting at the kitchen table helping her create graphics for
bulletin boards or helping to correct her students’ spelling
tests, and I loved to go to her classroom. Likewise, my
children love spending time with me here at MMFS.
What do you do to treat yourself? I love to dance, and I am
usually taking a dance class. Right now it’s a hip hop class. I
also enjoy film. I try to see foreign films when I can, and go
to Broadway shows.
If you had a superpower, what would it be? Mental
Do you have a hidden talent? I write. I have written a few
children’s books, and I’m currently working on a novel. I also
have an ease with poetry.
What talent would you like to have? I would like to be a
painter. I do lots of crafts, but I’ve never felt comfortable
putting paint to canvas.
Do you have any words that you live by? “You are what you
think.” Buddha
For more than two decades, Myrtle the Turtle has been a part of the
MMFS community. By the way, Myrtle is actually a male. He is now a
24-hour resident in the elementary school, where his lobby aquarium
allows him to observe the excitement of education in action. Myrtle is
also quite pleased to have the new lobby video screen over his tank,
and has requested that we livestream “Animal Planet” whenever possible.
A Column for Our Students
Myrtle is ready to answer YOUR question next month. Please send or
give questions to either Andy ([email protected]) or
Leslyn ([email protected]). Either one will be happy to deliver
your inquiry to Myrtle.
Dear Friends,
I am on a much-needed vacation in the
sun. See you soon!
Your Friend,
Myrtle the Turtle
Reminder for Tuition Deposit
All signed enrollment contracts and
deposits are due to the Business Office
by no later than Friday, February 27,
The Business Office is located at 23 Sidney Place, Brooklyn, NY 11201.
For any questions, contact the Business
Office at 718-855-0141.
News From the Divisions
Compiled from posts on the Mary McDowell Friends School website
Elementary School
We hope everyone had a restful and joyful holiday break
and new year! We are back in full swing in the elementary school! Since the start of the school year the Chapman
and Whittier rooms have been participating in a daily
yoga program called Get Ready to Learn Yoga developed
by occupational therapist, Ann Buckley-Reen, OTR, RYT.
The Chapman Room practices daily each morning, with
an additional afternoon session once a week, while the
Whittier Room modifies the frequency of sessions each
week to fit the class schedule.
This exciting program was introduced to us by Alyssa
Fagan, one of the elementary school occupational therapists. After receiving training over the summer, we felt it
would an exceptional tool for our students and decided
to pilot the program in both the Chapman and Whittier
rooms. The program is designed to address four goals:
improve attention, increase self-regulation, improve the
ability to transition, and develop a student’s receptive
and expressive language.
to alert visitors not to disturb and please come back later.
The students are asked to push aside the chairs, take off
their shoes, and set up their yoga mat facing the Mimio
board. A video is played with Ann Buckley-Reen demonstrating each pose and the sequence of poses. These
physical movements help prepare muscles and students’
minds for activities. The exercises help with body awareness, coordination, and stamina while completing tasks.
The students are able to watch Ann and listen to her
narrating the sequence in a calm voice. Simultaneously,
one teacher is at the front of the room mirroring Ann,
while the other assists students as needed. The students
are encouraged to follow along, stay on their mats, and
do as much as they can. The teachers use nonverbal cues
to guide the students to their mat, to stop, or to change
positions. The final pose is deep relaxation which helps
students release any stress and allows their brains to shift
into a receptive state for new learning.
At the end of the sequence, students and teachers participate in a Circle of Song. This is a call-and-response
led by the teachers using different curricular words in a
rhythmic exchange of sounds and patterns. The Circle of
Song is intended to encourage communication, regulate
breathing, improve endurance, and develop a sense of
community within the class. After which the prescribed
soundtrack is played again which alerts the students to
transition to the next activity. Quietly, the students roll up
their yoga mats, return the desks to their correct places,
and finally the lights are turned on.
The students in the Chapman and Whittier rooms seem
to enjoy this daily or weekly practice and have demonstrated their ability to follow the routine. With each day,
students are developing their ability to complete and sustain each pose for extended periods of time and manage
more independently in the classroom.
A consistent environment is created each morning by
playing a prescribed soundtrack and turning off the
lights, thus cuing both students and teachers stop talking
and begin to transition. A sign is placed on the door
Hannah Wiltshire, Elementary School Director
and Franziska Laskaris,
Elementary School Assistant Director
Middle School
Middle school students are involved in several exciting
educational and fun activities. Music Night on Tuesday,
January 20th showcased the variety of musical classes we
have available in the middle school. There were pop/rock
selections, jazz and bluegrass bands, a classical ensemble,
the drumming group, and our talented chamber chorus.
From beginners to experts, everybody shone. It was a
great evening. A very enthusiastic crowd cheered
everybody on. Thanks to all the parents, students, and
faculty who attended, we had a full house.
Our basketball teams are continuing the success of our
soccer team. Both the boys and girls basketball teams are
tops in the league thus far. There are still plenty of games
left, and the more fans we have at the games the more
fun it is. See you at the next game?
Continued on page 11
Continued from page 10 (News From the Divisions)
The Read-A-Thon has begun. Each year the middle school
(along with the elementary and upper schools) raises
money for worthy causes by asking students to read
books and get sponsors. The books have been selected by
the literacy teachers. All students are required to read at
least one book (many students read multiple books), and
time is allotted in school and at home to complete the
reading. Getting sponsors is the tricky part. At school,
we talk about strategies for success and teachers model a
mock ‘ask.’ Students often need help from parents to identify possible donors and practice communication skills.
The amount of the sponsorship is secondary but we really
want every student to have the experience of getting a
Eighth graders will soon
return from their week of
Spanish immersion classes
in Costa Rica. After a morning walk on the beach and
Spanish classes, students
engage in a variety of Costa
Rican experiences. There is
Latin dancing, zip lining,
surfing, snorkeling, and lots
and lots of bird watching.
More on this trip is forthcoming in the next newsletter.
Fresh off the success of the
poetry recitation contest is
our second annual Gettysburg Address competition. Students taking part
will practice over the next
several weeks in preparation for our MMFS contest.
The winner will represent
our school in the national
competition against other schools for students with learning disabilities.
Two other exciting events on our calendar are Spirit
Week and our Museum Days. Spirit Week will take place
in the last week of February. Homerooms compete to see
which homeroom in each grade has the most spirit. Each
day has its own theme, and wackiness ensues. Teachers
definitely get into the act. Two weeks later will be our
Museum Days. Each grade has the opportunity to share
what they have learned in their social studies classes
with family members and other middle school students
and faculty. Egypt, colonial America, and the evolution
of African American rights will figure prominently. We
hope to see you there. Look for more information about
these events in coming weeks.
Mark Doty and Courtney Jiménez
Middle School Co-Directors
Click here to see more photos of music night
and the Costa Rica trip on Flickr.
Upper School
Social Studies
One particularly engaging and challenging aspects of
studying history and social studies is the opportunity to
learn from a wide variety of sources. Upper school students learn to use primary and secondary sources, such as
written narratives, photographic records, and to listen to
first-hand accounts in person. This month, the social studies faculty provided brief examples of the ways students
access such resources.
In 20th-Century World History, ninth graders conduct a
variety of activities to expand their understanding of key
topics. We have had ‘silent’ conversations about sources,
where students will free-write on poster paper around the
room. We also have a number of activities that help students analyze, deconstruct, and interpret forms of visual
media. In addition, students play verbal communication
games, so they practice listening to and responding to
other perspectives. Finally, students express their personal
opinions about contemporary and historical issues through
kinesthetic exercises. Practicing and mastering key social
studies skills will help these students in their future.
Sue Turner, Head Teacher of History, and Barbara von
Salis, Teacher of Social Studies and Quaker History
and Practice Teacher
Continued on page 12
Continued from page 11 News From the Divisions)
Sophomores in US History have been working to uncover the perspectives of various political and cultural
groups through the use of primary source documents.
By reading the Mayflower Compact, Declaration of
Independence, and US Constitution, students have broken down complex language and discovered the roots
of self-government in America. Additionally, students
read letters from the Oneida and Mohawk tribes to dissect how colonial politics affected Patriots and Loyalists
during the Revolutionary War. Looking ahead, tenth
graders will deepen their understanding of civil rights
by learning more about the realities and injustices of
slavery through the words of abolitionists and modern
day civil rights leaders.
Mary DeLouise, Head Teacher of Social Studies and
American Sign Language and Rebecca Pryor, Teacher
of History and Science
In Global Studies, students supplemented their coursework with firsthand experiences. After a month-long
examination of religions, the class spent a day visiting
three houses of worship: a mosque, a Buddhist zendo,
and a Hindu temple. Over the course of the day, students asked our hosts questions about their beliefs and
practices, heard an imam sing verses from the Koran,
experienced seated meditation (zazen), and tried various
yoga poses. Later in the semester, students were invited
to listen to a social justice educator teach about the Sikh
religion and discuss the rise in Islamophobia and racism since 9/11. The subsequent unit centered on Latin
America and included a mini-unit on unauthorized
immigration from Latin America to the US. An immigration lawyer who represents undocumented, unaccompanied immigrant youth spoke to the class about his
clients’ reasons for leaving their home countries, their
journey to the US, and their experiences in the US once
Beverly Wind, Head Teacher of Social Studies and
Gabriela Gómez Cárcamo, Teacher of Social Studies
and Spanish
Seniors do not take a single social studies class. Rather,
they choose from an array of classes. One option in the
first semester was Introduction to Economics. While
much of the course focused on classical examination of
demand and supply, all semester long students read
various news sources such as The New York Times,
Financial Times, Bloomberg, and the BBC. Students then
wrote reflection pieces on each article’s content, its connection to topics studied in class, and their own personal
opinion of the topic they chose. Students independently
sought out and chose an impressive array of challenging
and stimulating articles. Topics ranged from government statistics on metropolitan area costs of living to the
marketing strategy spurring the upcoming $400 million
renovation of the Macy’s flagship store. By familiarizing
themselves with leading financial news sources and applying concepts examined in class, economics students
deepened their knowledge and strengthened their writing skills on analytic subjects.
Kirk Smothers, Upper School Director and Teacher of
Social Studies
College Guidance
It was a busy fall for the MMFS College Guidance office.
Seniors worked on and submitted applications, brainstormed and wrote college essays, took SATs and ACTs,
visited colleges, took tours, and had interviews both on
campuses and here in the city. Many seniors and even
some juniors took advantage of meeting with nearly
30 college admissions representatives who visited the
MMFS upper school in the fall. To date, our seniors have
already been accepted to over 20 colleges, universities,
and transition programs and earned over $1.5 million
dollars in merit scholarships! Merit scholarships are
typically awarded on the basis of academic, athletic or
artistic merit, in addition to special interests. Thus far,
Clark University leads the MMFS list of 2015 college
acceptances, having accepted four students; Guilford
and McDaniel Colleges follow with three acceptances
each; and Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)
and Marymount Manhattan College round out the top,
each having accepted two of our seniors. We are eagerly
awaiting decisions from nearly 90 more colleges, universities, and transition programs.
The seniors have not been the only group immersed in
the college process. Juniors started their own searches
this fall, beginning with taking College Seminar 11 with
me (Amy Solomon-Kohn, Director of College Guidance).
In that class, students began exploring post-secondary
options and learning how to research those programs.
Over the next few months, students will be encouraged
to think carefully about what they are looking for in a
school and begin to visit campuses. On January 20th,
juniors and their parents attended College Night for
Juniors. This event was an opportunity for families to
get a sense of the college process timeline and a deeper
understanding of the nuances of the college search process, in particular, the unique elements that are involved
for students with learning disabilities. Throughout the
rest of the winter and early spring, students and parents
will meet with me individually to shape their college
search. In April, the juniors will also be attending the
Brooklyn/Staten Island Independent School College Fair
with juniors from Poly Prep, Packer Collegiate, Berkeley
Carroll, St. Ann’s. Brooklyn Friends School, and Staten
Island Academy.
An introduction to the MMFS college guidance program
and links to many resources can be found on the MMFS
College Guidance page, and you can see where some of
our alumni were accepted here.
Amy Salomon-Kohn, Director of College Guidance
r ic a
See more photos of the
eighth grade trip to
Costa Rica in the flickr
galleries on the MMFS
MMFS Students’ Reponses to Seeing
the Movies Selma or Selma, Lord, Selma
These are either reflections written by the students
themselves or transcribed verbal comments from classroom discussions. They are not formal classroom writing
assignments, so they have not been edited as is usually
done. Instead we want to showcase the profound understanding and learning that emerged from the movies and
subsequent discussions.
Some Upper School Students’ Reponses to the
movie Selma
The movie Selma had a profound impact on me. When
we went to the south we heard about all of the amazing things that had happened there, but seeing it done,
even if it was just by actors, made it that much more real
for me. I feel like I understood the movie better because
of the trip to the south and I feel like the movie was an
accurate portrayal of what happened. I am glad to have
watched the movie Selma and I am glad that I live in an
environment that makes learning about the civil rights
and voting movement such a big priority.
– Olivia
Responses to the question: “What was the most powerful
part of the movie?”
If I were going to march, I’ll march for all handicapped
people to have the same equality. For all sidewalks to
have ramps, not have people judge us, make others respect and understand.
– Sarah
I thought the most powerful part of the movie was when
the man was killed and MLK made a speech about it.
This was powerful because it showed how much everyone in the movement cared about each other.
– Duncan
Were there any black people that disagreed with MLK?
– Carlo
I thought the most powerful speech was when MLK,
Jr. was saying “who killed Jimmy” at Jimmy’s funeral,
because he said that whoever didn’t help the Civil Rights
Movement had a part in Jimmy’s death.
– Cole
One of MLK’s most powerful speeches was when he motivated all those people to march after the death of Jimmy
Lee Jackson. You could really hear the pain and suffering
in his voice. I also thought that last speech in the movie
was very motivating and enlightening.
– Rio
The most powerful scene in the movie was during the
first march as the marchers were attacked and ran away.
Then a family ran inside a diner and tried to blend in
until they were attacked and the son was shot and killed.
– Zachary
The scene where Jimmy Lee Jackson got shot in the
restaurant stood out to me because he saw MLK Jr. as an
idol to him. Everything that he saw and met in his life
perished because of the white cop. MLK respected him
after his death.
– Matthew
To me, the most powerful scene was when Martin Luther
King and his wife were marching to the courthouse at
the end of the movie, because nobody was stopping them
and other people, not just black but white people joined
them. That scene was the most powerful to me.
– Jack
The most powerful part for me was when the man was
shot in the restaurant.
– William
Some Middle School Students’ Reponses to
the movie Selma
Reported by John Seifert
Head Teacher, Jones House
Students in Jones House absolutely loved the film and
had amazing reactions to it. Jenny conducted an entire
30 minutes of discussion as a homeroom after the movie.
Here are the takeaways from that discussion.
I can’t believe the events were not that long ago. What
would have happened if Martin Luther King, Jr. did
not do what he did?
– Feiyan
How could white police officers in Selma feel so
strongly about this that they could shoot people?
How do people living in Selma today who were alive
back then feel about the situation now?
– Ona
I was shocked by how someone could hit someone
with a club wrapped in barb wire.
– Joseph
Continued on page 15
Continued from page 14
Overall takeaways – Violence was everywhere in the
south. Jones House could not imagine what the stress
would be like. It took amazing bravery to stand up to
that level of violence?
Reported by Beth Duffy
Head Teacher, Paul House
After seeing Selma, we came back to class and posed a
question to the students, “Was it worth it?” The conversation was pretty amazing. Some of the conversation is
transcribed here.
Was it worth it?
Student: Yes.
Danielle (teacher?): Can you say why?
Anonymous student: Miles (student). Miles is my
Danielle: You’re able to be friends with Miles and
know him because of the struggles that all these
people went through.
Ronnie: I think it was worth it because every time they
would get marching they’d think, “ We can do this
again. We can keep going until we’re completely free.”
Sarafina: Definitely yes, but also there is still segregation and stuff like that happening now. Black people
have freedom, but actually there are a lot of differences still.
Sal: Something that I just thought of is how they [the
government] could have just said this at the beginning
so nobody had to die. But no, they had to go through
all this just to do what? I think it’s good that they did
it, but what makes me mad is the [president’s] decision
to do it when he did and not before. He could have
saved so many lives if he didn’t wait and just signed it,
but no he wanted to do his own thing.
Amari: I was getting really upset when they showed
the scenes of the president because he was basically
saying, “I’m white, you’re black. You’re like some piece
of gum on my shoe.” It was upsetting when MLK went
there to convince him.
Sal: Something that I found really strange was that
when the little girls got blown up they found the
guy but that they didn’t charge him for murder, they
charged him for having explosives. Cecily told me
that. But what happens if they blew up a bunch of
white people? You would charge them with murder,
but here they just charged them with having explosives.
Here are a few quotes from students’ written responses.
I saw a lot of violence towards black people but I also
saw a lot of peaceful marching and determination.
– Maeve
I thought the movie was very touching and also heartbreaking.
– Amari
I felt really sad and scared and shocked.
– Alicia
I thought that they could have handled some situations another way. I felt angry that people had to go
through that.
– Leila
I felt emotions that were mixed.
– Anonymous student
As adults, Danielle, Jeff and I had a lot of different responses. We were proud to work at a school that would
take a chance and show students this movie. We were
proud of our class for being really honest about their
emotions, particularly how they all told everyone how
many times they cried. We were proud of how much of
the message they really absorbed and how they started
using those messages to examine the world today. I was
skeptical going in, but it was kind of a magical day for
Student in Stowe House
Martin Luther King’s History
Today I have learned so much more about Martin Luther
King. My mom told me a lot about him. My school told
me a lot of about him, but when I saw the movie I learned
so much more about him and what he was capable of and
how great a leader he was for not giving up for blacks,
whites, even himself and his family. Yes, he may be popular for his I Have A Dream speech, but his biggest gift
is bringing the whites and blacks together as in the year
2015. He inspired a lot of people in life and he inspired
me as well. I knew a lot about MLK when I was young,
but I never cared or learned more about him than I did
this year, at this time, and at this school. I know that he
is dead now and I know that we are sad about it, but his
history will still live on through his family and ancestors. They will keep telling about how he led hundreds
of blacks across the bridge to convince the president and
other whites that blacks are not dangerous and to make
a new law in the future to address how it used to be in
the day. Whites used to kill blacks and blacks couldn’t
do anything about it. And even
Continued on page 16
Continued from page 15
black women couldn’t marry white men and black men
couldn’t marry white women. When I saw MLK’s movie I
thought it was going to be about his history, his life, and
his speech. I was a little right about his history but not his
speech. I thought that he was a great man, a great black
man, and a great leader. He inspired me even to tell about
his stories to my mom and to my kids when I get married. When I saw his movie, I cried about 3-4 times about
how blacks used to be treated and I wanted to go into
the movie and help them fight back, but I knew that we
couldn’t fight back with violence because then we would
just become white people’s enemies. From now on, every
year I am going to celebrate his birthday especially for
him. Every year I might bow down to God to let me talk
to MLK for a second. Because when I told my speech in
school today I felt his emotions inside me, his pain, his
anger, and his trust. But the thing that made him a leader
is that he had faith with him. And even though he got
hurt a lot, faith would make him never give up. Martin
Luther King will always be with us and if we are ever
racist he will be beside us telling us to treat other people
equally. There were a lot of other people who made great
speeches and made great history, but I think that MLK
will be one of the best black men to ever make history.
Sometimes I was happy that I was not born in the 1900s,
but now I wish I was born then or could go back in a time
machine to actually meet him, see him, and maybe tell
him something – something about him that made me so
inspired about how much he has accomplished. I could
still say so much more about MLK, but for now, I have
enough knowledge that can help me tell a good story.
Martin Luther King, Jr., I thank you for making me cry,
inspiring me, and making me believe in you. But most
importantly, thank you for making me have faith and
have a good heart. Thank you, Martin Luther King. Your
history will still be with me but there’s one more thing I
have to say before I go: I love you.
Student in Crandall House
Over the years I have developed a kind of stash of little
trinkets that are of sentimental value to me, but not so
much to anyone else. Not all the trinkets are attached to
something fundamentally special. However, on a school
trip last year I added one memorable rock to my collection.
Last year before spring break, I took a trip to Alabama
with my family and some teachers and students from
MMFS. The purpose of it was to give us a better understanding of the Civil Rights Movement. I collected a
small, rusty, old rock on that trip that became very special to me. It originated from the cement of the ‘Bloody
Sunday’ bridge in Selma, and reminds me of the struggle
our nation went through at that time.
I was given the rock by a Civil Rights marcher, who was
present at ‘Bloody Sunday’ when she was a young girl.
She told us stories about ‘Bloody Sunday’, and about
the history that took place on the cement. Long ago the
cement was broken, then put together, and somehow, I
found a piece of it, for me. I believe it’s a once in a lifetime trinket, because it represents a strenuous time for
For me, the rock is not just a simple rock, it has a story to
be told for everyone to hear. The rock has a story waiting
to be cracked and read, to be presented to the world as a
milestone for our nation’s amends. Our nation ended our
apartheid with the unwavering courage and integrity of
all the marchers, protesters, speakers, and so many more.
This rock also represents the racial injustice that was
once common in our country. This issue has left the residue of prejudice over some parts of our nation. It is still a
problem, however, the worst of it is over and we can work
towards a better future in brotherhood with everyone.
Although many people will disagree with me, I believe
that the rock could teach us a lot about endurance, and to
continue working as hard as you can. This is one of my
favorite little nothings because to me, it’s the world, and
no one would know that from looking at the rock. Its like
a disguise. I may have lots of trinkets, but by far, this one
is the best.
Student in Crandall House
American history is much more disturbing and shocking than most young people realize. We often celebrate
American history and focus on our progress and success
yet at the same time we ignore the blemishes. We focus
on America and its freedoms, yet overlook the discrimination and hardship that Native Americans and African
Americans endured. America’s early days are usually
thought of for our successes instead of our blemishes.
Slavery went beyond racism, it wasn’t as simple as free
labor. African Americans were dehumanized and had to
endure a great deal of pain on a daily basis. They had no
basic rights and were treated like animals. Even after a
long struggle to abolish slavery, African Americans still
were unable to fully live their lives as the racism and
atrocities endured, particularly in the southern states.
Today, we watched the recently released film, Selma and
MMFS had a panel of students and teachers from MMFS
who actually visited Selma, Alabama last year and they
shared their experience with the MMFS middle school.
The panel today described chapters of American history
that we should all be embarrassed by and ashamed of
how we could have tolerated such indignation.
Selma taught me many things about Martin Luther King,
Jr. and segregation in the south but most importantly
it inspired me to never give up fighting for something
you believe in and to never give up
Continued on page 17
Continued from page 16
trying to accomplish a goal. I learned that no matter how
high the wall is, there’s always room to jump over it even
if you can’t see the top of it. In the mid 20th century,
African-Africans living in Selma, Alabama lacked a basic
human right of voting, were segregated and weren’t
allowed in many restaurants simply due to the color of
their skin. Many African Americans were also killed due
to racism and most of the killers were never forced to
serve time in jail because most jury members were from
their own racist communities. Another thing that really
inspired me was how brave all of the marchers were. It
must have been much easier to move up north and leave
Selma and the south than to march for their rights and
be beaten and arrested. These heroes had true freedom
for all as their goal and nothing stopped the protesters;
not deaths, not denial of their civil rights, and not society
holding them back. Also, white citizens took up the cause
and traveled from all across the country to Selma and
risked losing their jobs, being beaten and some people
even died while fighting for others rights. Something I
will support is protecting justice for all and being brave
enough to act the right way. I also learned about a woman
named Joanna Bland, a woman who was involved with
the civil rights movement when she was 11 years old.
She got arrested while marching but she still continued
to march. I respect everyone involved in the civil rights
movement including those who were white and gave up
their jobs and lives as well as the brave African Americans themselves who weren’t famous – just victims,
people like Joanna Bland. With our viewing of the film
Selma, combined with the first hand experiences related
to us from the MMFS trip to Selma, my eyes were opened
to the racism and struggles in the south and the movements to protest for freedom. I’m inspired to promote
equality and not be judgmental of others.
Elementary School Students’ Reponses to
Selma, Lord, Selma
Reported by Hannah Wiltshire
Elementary School Director
As you know, every year the MMFS community does
something as a school to remember, honor, and celebrate
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In the elementary school
students watched the movie Selma, Lord, Selma, a Disney
movie depicting the events in Selma surrounding the
march from Selma to Montgomery and the Voting Rights
Some families wondered what we had done in school to
prepare their children for this difficult topic. Below is
an excerpt from an email written by Tara Schneider and
Melina Lamarche, teachers in the Fell Room:
As Debbie related, yesterday the elementary students,
including the Fell students, watched a biographical movie
produced by Disney titled Selma, Lord, Selma. Here is a
link with more information about it: http://movies.disney.
To prepare for the film, last week the students completed
an MLK life events timeline (part of our Time Unit). This
week, on Wednesday we discussed what types of images
would be included in the film. We front-loaded knowledge
through class discussion and we watched a 10-minute children’s video (we have also discussed MLK’s mission at other
times during the year, too, especially during our Diversity
Mini-Unit). We talked about this being a violent period in
American history in which terrible things did happen, but
that very significant improvements happened as a result.
We further discussed what to expect in the film a bit more
during our morning meeting on Thursday, again mentioning specific changes that resulted from Civil Rights (like the
election of America’s first black president).
Back in our classroom, we answered some preliminary postscreening questions during social studies. We incorporated
the Selma march with our Time Unit and discussed how
change and progress slowly take place over time (emancipation proclamation to civil rights movement). Later, the students had a reflection where they sketched, quick outlined,
and wrote questions for further discussion regarding the
film. These questions are for class discussion today during
our Social-Emotional period. (Some students did not complete that assignment yesterday during class and brought it
home to complete as homework.)
The movie is about very difficult and upsetting times and
events in our history. Students reactions were varied but
overall they shared that viewing it was important, as they
learned things they had not known. They also shared
that watching it was emotional and parts were scary.
After some time to share initial reactions, a few members
of the community who had traveled to Selma last spring
with the MMFS Civil Rights trip shared some of their
experiences. This included Derrick Barnes (student in the
Fox Room), his mother Esteen Barnes and grandmother
Rosa Witsell. The entire student body sat in respectful
silence as Rosa, full of emotion, shared her experience of
growing up in the south during this time and how exciting it was for her when she could register to vote. She
expressed her joy in Esteen registering to vote when she
turned 18 and how she looks forward to the time when
Derrick registers as well.
In the ten days leading up to watching the movie our
query in Silent Meeting was about what voting means
and why it is important. Understanding some of the
history and hearing a personal story from a member of
our community, of this hard fought civil right for black
Americans is a reminder to never take voting for granted.