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Grey Matters, June 19, 2017; Volume 5, Number 38

posted Jun 18, 2017, 7:10 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:02 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

 

Happy Father’s Day to those of you who celebrated the event this past weekend. At this time last year I mentioned my hope that the Father’s Day parade of endless gifts that I anticipated from my family would include this outdoor pergola structure that I’ve been eyeing for some time now.  The pergola never materialized last year, and despite some not-so-subtle hints over the course of this past year (subtle = “our backyard would be great with a pergola”), my dreams of comfortably relaxing under such a structure will have to wait (maybe forever).  Of course, without this distraction, I was able to spend the day focusing on how fortunate I am to have three kids who were excited to make me waffles and ice cream on Sunday morning, and pretend that the sibling bickering before, during and after the cooking (and was not about who loves me more) never happened.   

 

We had 350 8th grade students join us last Friday night for our annual end-of-year celebration and dance.  Watching and interacting with them at these events always reminds us of how fortunate we are to have a school full of great kids. The rainy weather didn’t dampen the spirit of our 8th graders and based on the hearing loss that we adults suffered by the end of the evening, I think it safe to say they had a wonderful time.  

We were fortunate to once again have an army of volunteer parents take the lead on this event.  An event of this size is only possible because those parents and families are willing to contribute their time and energy.  A big “Thank You” to everyone who helped make the evening a big success - the donations of food from many of our families resulted in a bounty of food that was consumed throughout the evening.  Many thanks also goes to Debbie Ahl (8 Orange English teacher) and our 7th grade School Council officers for their work.  And an extra and ongoing thank you to parent coordinators Carol Chytil, Deb Verner, and Ranjini Reddy for choreographing the whole evening, soup to nuts.  Earlier that afternoon before the dance Carol informed me that this team was committing to coordinating this event for the next few years, and I almost wept.  We hope your children came home having enjoyed the evening.  

 

Here’s a final list of reminders and notes about this week, please make sure you follow up with your children about anything that might pertain to you:

 

  • The Library will not be open after school this week.  As a side note, we only have a few more library books to collect, which is great.  Thank you to the students and families for remembering to return borrowed items.  

  • Class field trips are on Wednesday- rain or shine! The forecast right now looks good right now and hoping it stays that way.   7th graders heading to Kimball’s will be back for the regular 2:06 dismissal and bus routes.  8th graders heading to Canobie Lake will return around 3:45pm, and buses will offer an additional run of the routes between 4:00pm and 4:20pm.  Parents are also welcome to come and pick up their children.  

  • Students who ordered yearbooks will be receiving them on Thursday (the last day) before the Closing Assembly. There are a limited number of additional yearbooks that are currently on sale for $37.  Those who are interested in purchasing a yearbook should connect with Ms. Weeks (8 Green English). Many thanks to Ms. Weeks and her Yearbook Club crew for their hard work and efforts this year.  

  • The last day of school is Thursday, and it is a half-day.  Our closing activity is an all-school assembly (students and staff only) that will take place in the High School auditorium.  Students will be dismissed at the end of the event, and can get on buses right outside the high school (at 10:45am).  Parents planning to pick their children up can still park in the Junior High parking lot.  

  • Report cards will be mailed home to families at the end of June/early July.  If you haven’t seen anything in the mail by mid-July, send me an email and we can get you another copy.  Or, if your son/daughter pulled an “Andrew Shen”, you might want to check your washing machine to see if the report card is currently going through a second spin cycle.  

  • Families of current 7th grade students who are returning to RJ Grey next year (or if you are a family with a student joining us next year from the elementary schools), you’ll receive our summer mailing in early August.  If you are a current 7th grade family who is not planning to return to RJ Grey next year (moving, attending a private school, etc.), we would appreciate hearing from you, as that information will assist us with our scheduling work this summer.  

  • Next year, school starts for students for 7th and 9th graders on Tuesday, September 5. 8th grade students start the next day, Wednesday, September 6.  Here is a link to next year’s school calendar.  

 

Our Librarian, Ms. Charpentier, has created a summer reading list for the Junior High.  Check it out by clicking here.  This is not required reading, but a list of recommended titles that may interest our students.  Many thanks to the Acton Public Library, as they are buying extra copies for these books and will also provide print-outs of the summer reading list.    

 

So this is the final edition of Grey Matters for the year.  I hope you will allow me to end with some words and thoughts that I put together a few years ago and have included at the conclusion of each year.  While I regret that my closing remarks aren’t entirely original and unique to this year, I am also grateful that the experiences and sentiments that I have expressed each June continues to be applicable with another school year coming to a close.  This is indeed the case despite, and perhaps moreso, because of the challenges that our school and our community has encountered this past year.  

 

Before we briefly part ways for the summer, I want to thank you, our parent and family community, for your continued support of our school. It does not escape me (or us) the degree to which family involvement and investment changes the landscape of a school, more often than not for the better.  We know that parents have high expectations for the school, and that we also have high expectations for the parents.  This partnership is indeed what often leads to the great experiences that so many of our students have at RJ Grey.  To be sure, those high expectations also means that there will continue to be moments where we aren’t in total agreement on some things.  However, I’ll always take passionate debate and occasional disagreements over apathy and disinterest, especially when it comes from a shared interest in how to help our students (your kids) develop into thoughtful and confident individuals.  

 

We’ve enjoyed working with you this year, and we certainly hope the feeling is mutual.  

 

As I mentioned each June, the summer months away from school serve an important purposes for students, families, and teachers.  It’s an opportunity to decompress, pursue other interests, and re-charge.  Thinking about school 24/7 doesn’t benefit anyone, and we hope that everyone uses these next 8-10 weeks to expand their horizons, take (healthy) risks and try some new things, and sometimes enjoy and treasure those moments where time feels like it moves more slowly while you’re doing absolutely nothing at all.  It is always remarkable to see the degree to which young people change and grow, even in these too short summer months, and we look forward to reuniting with our returning students, and welcoming our next 7th grade class to RJ Grey.  Like last summer, we too will decompress a bit, and spend time dreaming up ways to make next year a good one for our students.  

 

Have a great week, and a great summer, everyone.

 

Cheers,

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Grey Matters, June 12, 2017; Volume 5, Number 37

posted Jun 11, 2017, 10:57 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:02 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

 

In case you missed it, last Thursday was National Best Friends Day, one of many unofficial, though nevertheless fun, national holidays that are acknowledged around the country, or at least featured on your Facebook news feed.  We are fortunate that our new dog Bailey and Molly (our Golden Retriever) have taken a liking to each other, or at least that’s my interpretation of their continually partnering up to tear apart several stuffed animals.  Hearing about National Best Friends Day reminded me of a few articles that I read last year about friendship, and that I sent to the person I consider my best friend.  The first is a May 2016 article in the New York Times that explored some ongoing research focused on changing understandings of “friendship” in a world where the term is used, sometimes quite casually, to describe many different types of relationships.  What exactly is the criteria for considering someone a “friend” that someone might maintain as they’ve generated a Facebook or Instagram friend list that exceeds 1,500 people?  It’s an interesting exercise, asking people to describe or define “friendship” and it will probably generate a wide range of ideas.  The second article I sent my friend was one from The Atlantic called “Why Friendship is Like Art” and summarized a conversation the journalist had with a philosopher from Princeton who had recently written a book focused entirely on trying to do just that (that is, define friendship).  It’s a pretty heavy read (he is a philosopher who tends to wax very poetic), but an interesting one if this subject interests you.  If you aren’t up for reading it, here’s my favorite excerpt from his effort to define friendship and that I share in honor of National Best Friends Day:  "You expect that there’s more in the work than you've seen already, so you keep relating to it—keep reading it or looking at it or listening to it in order to see what other things there are. And as long as you think you haven't exhausted it, you still love it.”

 

For those who have been following the District’s work around a possible shift in school start times, the School Start Time Committee submitted its final report to the AB School Committee at last Thursday’s meeting.  You can read the Committee’s final report by clicking here, and you can also review its presentation slides by clicking here.  Both the report and the slides include a summary of the responses offered by the over 2,000 residents, parents and staff who participated in the school start time survey.  The Committee ultimately recommended to the School Committee that it consider exploring a shift in 2018-2019 where the Junior High and High School have an 8:00am start time, and all six elementary schools have a shared start time of 8:40am.  Accepting this recommendation would mean that the School Committee would carve out time next year to explore not only the educational and co-curricular aspects of this change, but also the operational and financial dimensions that would accompany this change, including the increased cost of transportation.  On a related note, the New York Times published an article (“The Science of Adolescent Sleep”) a few weeks ago that again highlighted the discussion within the medical community about adolescent sleep.  

 

We had a great turnout for last Friday’s 7th grade celebration, and from what I could tell the students had a great time (hopefully that’s what they shared with all of you).  The success of any event such as Friday night’s event hinges on the dedication and hard work of some RJ Grey staff and parent volunteers.  This dance, and next week’s 8th grade dance, wouldn’t be possible without the work of Debbie Ahl, 8th grade English teacher and Student Council advisor.  Kate Imhoff graciously took on the task of organizing parent donations and staffing the food tables during the event, and we are enormously grateful for her efforts last week, and really for the past few years.  Thank you to Kate, Frances Cook, Salome Juethner, Candace Doncaster, and Trena Minduri, for setting up and staffing the food and drink table last Friday evening.  The 8th Grade End-of-Year Celebration is this Friday at 7pm!  This event is held in our (transformed) cafeteria and students enter through the side door (you’ll see it); so parents who are dropping kids off can pull right up to the front of the school.  When picking kids up after the event, we would suggest parking in the lower parking lot and either waiting in the car, or coming up to the entrance to meet your kids (your options probably depend on the degree to which your child allows you to be seen in public with them).  

 

With all this energy and attention focused on these end-of-year celebrations, I thought many of you might enjoy spending ten minutes listening to one of my favorite episodes of This American Life.  First aired in October of 2011, “Middle School” includes a number of stories about this particular stage of adolescence and schooling, including a hysterical look at middle school dances.  This examination was not exactly a scientific study but certainly hit on some themes and concepts that ring true for many who remember those complicated adolescent years, and certainly for those who for some reason decided to make it the setting of their professional careers.  For me the best part of the section focusing on middle school dances is when two students were describing the rules and expectations that their school articulated to them in advance of a dance, some of which were shared as written guidelines that included, “No Petting.”  To which the students expressed serious confusion wondering out loud, “do people sit at dances and pet other people? That’s weird.”  If you are interested in listening to this episode, click here.  

 

A few quick and friendly reminders about the next two weeks:

 

  • Does your child have an RJ Grey Library book or old textbook buried under some laundry?  Teachers will begin the process of collecting textbooks and other learning materials, so anything you can do to help unearth these items would be greatly appreciated (and save you some money).  Also, for families who might have a negative balance in their child’s lunch account, please be sure to reconcile that matter as well.  If you have questions about your lunch account, feel free to email Kirsten Nelson at knelson@abschools.org

 

  • The end-of-year field trips are on June 21st.  7th graders will be dismissed at the regular 2:06pm time and can take the buses home.  8th graders will return from Canobie around 4pm, and there will be a second run of the bus routes that take place between 4pm and 4:15pm (or you can come and pick them up).  

 

Finally, I mentioned last week that we recently we had our last round of Everyday Leaders, bringing our total number of students recognized through this effort to a little over 60.  Congratulations to Barnabas Gyimesi, Harrison Pratt, Hannah Keenan, Ashley Liu, Sarah O’Sullivan, Rachel Yendluri, Sid Vasudeo, Christoph Conley, Brayan Alexandre, and Zhmonyal Yusufzai.  

 

Have a great week, everyone.

 

Cheers,

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Grey Matters, June 5, 2017; Volume 5, Number 36

posted Jun 4, 2017, 6:52 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:02 AM by James Marcotte ]

 

Hi Everyone,

 

With the passing of every season I have experienced significant personal growth in my abilities as my three childrens’ personalized taxi service for their various, and overlapping, extracurricular activities.  Accounting for in-town traffic at certain times, prioritizing who to drop off first and when, and figuring out whether it makes more sense to simply wait at the practice instead of coming back at the end, are all becoming more instinctual and automatic.  When Melisa and I were first dating and later married, we would have, similar to other budding romances, moments of bonding and connection where we might finish each other’s sentences about shared ideas about the world, or common interests and goals for the future.  We still have plenty of sentence-finishing moments, though now they are mostly along the lines of Andrew: “So if I get Hayden to soccer at 3:45, and then bring Parker to baseball for his 4:00 start, then…” Melisa: “you can get back to Hayden’s game by 4:15 and I’ll have dropped Addie off at her practice with her overnight bag so she can go to the sleepover straight from there.”  Not exactly a dialogue you’d find in a Nora Ephron movie, but I suppose there’s still some romance within that scene (it’s just buried and hidden under the frenzy of our family’s schedule).  I am sure that similar to many of you, there is a temptation to try and figure out ways to consolidate or streamline the extracurricular commitments of our kids.  The one exception I would make to this current goal is if any of our kids became interested in the growing movement of playing in a quidditch league (see photo above).  I had heard a few years ago that the Harry Potter-inspired game had been growing, and now there is actually a Major League Quidditch league.  Check out this NPR article about the growth of the quidditch movement, and get a glimpse of the Major League Quidditch website.  While we’re on the subject of activities for kids and families, this month’s Challenge Success newsletter from our District is out and available to families.  The focus is on the concept of carving out enough Playtime, Downtime, and Family Time (PDF) in our respective schedules, especially as we prepare to enter the summer months.  

 

Here’s a few reminders for you and your kids:

 

  • An important reminder for 7th grade families that the RJ Grey Student Council will be hosting the 7th Grade Celebration in the school gym this Friday, June 9 from 7-9 pm.

  • The 8th Grade End-of-Year Celebration is scheduled for the following Friday, June 16, from 7 to 9:30pm.  

  • Have you sent in your child’s permission slip for the end-of-year Kimballs (7th) or Canobie (8th) trip?  Thanks in advance for your attention to this.  

  • If your child has books and materials from our Library, please remind them to begin returning those items.  We know that it often takes a bit longer to really get everything returned (and sometimes requires more than one reminder, occasionally four or five…).

  • On a related note, I do want to make families aware of textbook “obligations.”  Over the next few weeks, teachers will begin collecting textbooks, library books, and other materials that need to be returned to the school. Please work with your children on locating textbooks that might be hidden under piles of laundry, and avoid replacement fees (some of which can reach a painful $75 for a textbook).

 

I want to be sure to acknowledge the recent beginning of Ramadan, which for our Muslim classmates, neighbors and friends will continue through late June.  Thank you to the students and families who have taken a moment to share with us their experiences and what, for them, serves as the most important and impactful aspects of Ramadan.  Messages and stories focused on family traditions, spiritual importance, and rejuvenation have been part of different conversations. A few of our students who are fasting this month have also had conversations with teachers about options and choices for their daily lunch period.  There will be some students who are fasting who may still want to be in the cafeteria so they can spend some downtime with their friends.  For students who would prefer to be in a space other than the cafeteria, a few teams have started to identify some supervised rooms that can be available during lunch.  We will continue to work with each of our teams to offer messages to all of our students about the choices that are available and the standing invitation to speak to any of us about anything they’d like us to keep in mind as they and their families continue to observe Ramadan this month.  

 

With the summer months fast approaching, our District wants to provide families with a number of resources related to summer reading and digital citizenship.  Our Edtech department has created a Digital Citizenship page that includes recommended websites dedicated to informing families about online media, internet filtering guidelines suggestions for social media privacy settings, and more.  Given that most incidences of inappropriate online behavior occur outside of school hours, the unstructured summer months can be tricky.  Click here to visit the  Edtech page on Digital Citizenship.  

 

For those of you whose children might be open to some continued pleasure reading over the summer (it’s coming up quickly), two resources for you: (1) our RJ Grey Library website includes a number of links to book lists and search engines that provide suggestions based on specific interests; and (2) the High School has released its updated Summer Reading List (click here to view) that it encourages all of its students, including rising 9th grade students (those are your kids, 8th grade parents!), to look at if they’re stuck for suggestions.  Please note that the High School does not have any required summer reading for 9th grade English, but they do want to encourage students to find something to enjoy and read.  They also want to note that a number of the titles on the list are ones that families could read together.


A very important note about our end-of-year field trips on Wednesday, June 21, regarding transportation home at the end of the day: 7th grade students will return to RJ Grey before the 2:06 dismissal, and can take the bus home during the “regular” time (or be picked up).  Our 8th graders will be returning from Canobie around 3:45pm.  Please note that our District’s buses will return to do a second run for our 8th grade students. However, because they are finishing their elementary routes, some buses will pick students up at 4:00pm, and others may start these second runs closer to 4:15pm.  We will stay with the students in the auditorium until their buses arrive, or families are welcome to make other arrangements to pick their children up after we return.  We just want everyone to be aware of the timing.  For any questions, please contact Jim Marcotte at jmarcotte@abschools.org.

 

Finally, we had our last round of Everyday Leaders last week, bringing our total number of students recognized through this effort to a little over 60.  I messed up, though, and left the list of students at work and I don’t want to leave anyone out.  I’ll celebrate and mention them in next week’s edition!

 

Have a great week, everyone.  

 

Cheers,

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Grey Matters, May 29, 2017; Volume 5, Number 35

posted Jun 4, 2017, 6:50 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:07 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

 

A few years ago I came upon and shared an article that helped me clarify the origins and differences between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, and the focus of each day.  Both are important and share important features (most notably honoring those who serve), and yet still have distinct points of emphasis.  I am sharing the article again should some of you find it helpful and informative.  Along with activities you might have pursued in the spirit of Memorial Day, I hope you and your family also had a chance to decompress a bit, and perhaps enjoyed a slightly less hectic schedule. In that spirit, this week’s Grey Matters will be pretty brief and only offer some updates and reminders.  

 

 

Empty Bowls is this Wednesday!.  The Empty Bowls event will start at 5:30pm and run through 7:00pm.  This is an evening of art, singing and ice cream! Students will showcase their art and singing talents and invite families to a charity ice cream social.  There will be an art show, Select Choir performance, a silent auction, and of course the charity ice cream social.   7th grade students made hand-crafted ceramic bowls in their art classes and families that participate will get to take home a handcrafted bowl as a reminder of the vast number of hungry families around the world and right here in our own community. The money raised from this event will be donated to the Acton Community Supper and Acton Food Pantry.  The ice cream social is $5 per person with a $20 family maximum.   

 

This week we are entering the month of June.  I wanted to provide everyone a quick summary of some important end-of-year schoolwide dates and events.  Please note that there may be team-specific activities that are not included in the list below.  Also, Spring Trimester report cards (and final grades) will be sent to families in early July.  

 

Friday, June 9

7th Grade Celebration; 7pm to 9pm (JH Gym)

Friday, June 16

8th Grade Celebration; 7pm to 9:30pm (Cafeteria/Courtyard)

Tuesday, June 20

Variety Show

Wednesday, June 21

School Field Trips - 7th Grade to Kimball Farm, 8th Grade to Canobie Lake

Thursday, June 22

Last Day of School - Yearbook Distribution and Signing; Closing Assembly (Students and Staff Only); Dismissal at 10:40am

 

Thanks to those families who have submitted their field trip permission form and payment for the end-of-year field trips to Kimball’s (7th grade) and Canobie Lake (8th grade).  If you still need to send it in, please make an effort to do so this week.  Within the next week we will begin reaching out to families for whom we do not have a record of their plans for that day.  

 

High school graduation is this Friday, June 2.  For those RJ Grey families who also have graduating seniors, a big congratulations to your graduate and to you as well.  Enjoy the moment (once you’ve actually found parking on campus for the ceremony).  Fingers crossed for good weather.  

 

Have a great week, everyone.  

 

Cheers,

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Grey Matters, May 22, 2017; Volume 5, Number 33

posted May 21, 2017, 11:24 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:07 AM by James Marcotte ]


Hi Everyone,


On Friday morning we informed families of a serious motor vehicle accident that involved one of our 8th grade students, and I know it was difficult news for everyone to digest and that each of us has spent time between then and now thinking only the best of thoughts for and about the student and her family.  The student’s family was kind enough to check in with me this morning and is comfortable with my letting everyone know that their daughter is in stable condition and is making improvements each day.  It was the best news I’d heard in a long time, and I would imagine that this offers many of you a chance to exhale a sigh of relief.  Many friends throughout the community have already offered numerous expressions of support to the family, of which they are most appreciative.  While their attention is clearly focused on their daughter’s ongoing recovery and healing, they also wanted to make sure that other students who are worried know that their classmate is receiving excellent care and getting better.  Please feel free to share this update with your children, and we’ll do the same on Monday.  


We have much to share regarding the progress of our RJ Grey community garden, including our very first harvest last week.  The mustard greens, lettuce, arugula, and spinach were harvested by students in Ms. Rimpas’ health class and then members of 7 Green helped put together a number of salad options that were eagerly consumed by students and staff alike.  Those salads were also available as part of the lunch options in the cafeteria on Friday, serving as our very first “farm to table” endeavor at RJ Grey.  We continue to think about different ways the garden can be incorporated into the curricular and extracurricular programs at our school, and excited about involving a wider range of students in both the care of the garden and the consumption of the food that’s grown (I am looking forward to the carrots that aren’t quite ready yet).  Later this summer we will be entering Phase II of our garden plan that involves additional raised beds and an Eagle Scout project that will focus on developing other areas of the courtyard.  The elaborate pergola that Ms. Spalding and I have been fantasizing about will eventually find a place in our plans, but we both know that we might have to wait a bit for that.  


Here’s a couple of updates and reminders for families:


  • Thanks to those families who have submitted their field trip permission form and payment for the end-of-year field trips to Kimball’s (7th grade) and Canobie Lake (8th grade).  These are daylong trips scheduled for the second-to-last day of school.  If you still need to send it in, please make an effort to do so this week.  If any families would benefit from some financial assistance for this final field trip, please don’t hesitate to contact Jim Marcotte at jmarcotte@abschools.org.  

  • Next Monday is Memorial Day and there will be no school that day. Enjoy the long weekend!  

  • The Spring Chorus and String Ensemble concert is this Tuesday evening at 7pm.  

  • Another reminder about our fourth annual Empty Bowls event.  The Empty Bowls event will take place this year on Wednesday, May 31 from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  This is an evening of art, singing and ice cream! Students will showcase their art and singing talents and invite families to a charity ice cream social.  There will be an art show, Select Choir performance, a silent auction, and of course the charity ice cream social.  This event is open to the whole community.  


The Student Council elections were held last week to determine next year’s President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary.  We first want to thank and applaud every 7th grader who ran in the elections.  It’s not easy at any age to put yourself out there, let alone plan and deliver a speech to over four hundred classmates. The 7th grade class listened to incredibly thoughtful speeches by each of our candidates, including speeches that offered snapshots of the candidates’ interests and backgrounds, speeches that used humor, and ones that folded in quotes on leadership by John F. Kennedy and Gerald Ford.  We’re lucky to have had thoughtful candidates as part of this year’s election.  Congratulations to next year’s Student Council officers: Treasurer Michael Cai, co-Secretaries Ashley Dawn and Balaji Ganapathi (there was a tie!), Vice President Michael Hu, and President Tycho Dickerson.


Finally, at the risk of creating unwanted competition for myself, I thought I’d share the news that Italy’s department of Infrastructure and Transport is “giving away 103 run-down castles and farmhouses in remote areas and historic sites” with the condition that the new owner invest in renovating the property into something that benefits tourism.  I’ve already got the sketches of a business plan scribbled out, and it might involve hosting small school groups of students and/or teachers. And gelato. It’ll involve gelato as well.  Click here to check out more on this fun opportunity.  


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Grey Matters, May 15, 2017; Volume 5, Number 33

posted May 14, 2017, 9:02 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:07 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,



Happy Mother’s Day to any and all of you who plays that role to one (or more) of our students, or to anyone else. I hope the cold and rainy weather didn’t diminish any celebration that might have been planned for Sunday.  Earlier this year, and it seems every year, I share with families through Grey Matters various articles and stories that highlight the virtues, benefits and advantages of being the first-born child in a family (modesty is not one of them).  I figure Mother’s Day is a perfectly appropriate time to share yet another story about research that concludes that first-born children make better leaders (“conclusion” might be strong, but that’s what I am telling my younger sister).  For all my fellow older siblings, check out this recent story from The Atlantic and start forwarding it to your own younger siblings - you know they’ll appreciate it.  For everyone, I also wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day by re-sharing a link to a video that I came across three years ago that documented the time when the New York Times Magazine decided to invite a group of 2nd grade students to experience a 7-course tasting menu prepared by chef Daniel Boulud.  Normally a dining experience that comes with a $220 per person price tag, I am predicting many of you will appreciate the experiences and honest feedback that the 7-year olds offer in this 8-minute video.  




Here’s some reminders for this week and beyond:


  • A friendly reminder that this coming Wednesday we will be taking the annual 8th Grade class photo.  This is a panoramic photo that we take outside on the hill by the football field.  Order forms have been distributed to 8th grade students.   If you have any questions or need any sort of financial assistance, please contact Jim Marcotte at jmarcotte@abschools.org.  

  • Another friendly reminder for families whose children participate in our Band, Chorus or Strings programs.  The Spring concerts are coming upon us.  The Band’s Spring concert is scheduled for this Tuesday, May 16 at 7pm, and the Chorus and Strings Spring concert is scheduled for Tuesday, May 23 at 7pm.  

  • MCAS testing is now officially over, except for a few students who may still have some make up exams.  We hope and will try our best to remind each student that while the scores that come back in Fall tell us how they did on these recent days in April and May, it will not tell us everything about them, including their growth as thoughtful students and people.  

  • On Wednesday, June 21 (second to last day of school), both grades will be participating in their respective end-of-year field trips, and permission slips are being distributed to students this week.  As in previous years, the 7th grade will be going to Kimball Farm where they have full access to the bumper boats, miniature golf course, driving range, and other activities; the 8th grade will be going to Canobie Lake amusement park in New Hampshire. These field trips have historically been great and memorable parts of our year-end activities.  We also appreciate that the RJ Grey community includes families that may find the cost of these trips difficult to absorb.  Like all of our other trips and activities, we never want cost to prevent anyone from participating.  Please do not hesitate to let us know if some relief from these field trip costs would be helpful to your family (contact Assistant Principal Jim Marcotte at jmarcotte@abschools.org).  



I’m pleased and excited to be sharing with everyone information about our fourth annual Empty Bowls event.  The Empty Bowls event will take place this year on Wednesday, May 31 from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  This is an evening of art, singing and ice cream! Students will showcase their art and singing talents and invite families to a charity ice cream social.  There will be an art show, Select Choir performance, a silent auction, and of course the charity ice cream social.   7th grade students made hand-crafted ceramic bowls in their art classes and families that participate will get to take home a handcrafted bowl as a reminder of the vast number of hungry families around the world and right here in our own community. The money raised from this event will be donated to the Acton Community Supper and Acton Food Pantry. This organization helps to feed many hungry families in the greater Acton area. This event helps raise $1000 for the charity each year.  Families from throughout the District are welcome, not just those with students at the Junior High.  The ice cream social is $5 per person with a $20 family maximum.  The rest of the event is free and we hope many of you are able to carve out some time to join us.  



I recently provided a “save the date” for our end-of-year 8th grade celebration, which is scheduled for Friday, June 16th.  I also provided 7th grade families with their own “save the date” for a 7th grade celebration that we are planning for Friday, June 9 and will be at 7pm.  Next week we will include some additional information for how families can offer their assistance for the 7th grade event.  This week,  I’d like to pass along some information about the 8th Grade Celebration from Carol Chytil and Deb Verner, the RJ Grey parents who (thankfully) are coordinating the planning of this event.  Usually at least 350 students attend this event, so we rely heavily on the many volunteers who help make this evening a special way to end the year.  Parents or guardians of 7th and 8th graders are needed for the following jobs: set up after school on June 16th; clean up after the dance; food and drink donations.  In past years, 7th grade Parent/Guardian Volunteers "pay it forward" so that parents of 8th graders can focus on their own children's participation in this important event. As a volunteer, you'll also get a preview of what your child will enjoy next year! Carol has set up a “Sign Up Genius” (click here) that invites parents and guardians to sign up to help in various capacities. This will also be sent out via the PTSO weekly newsletter.  They have a special request this year for someone to build a "large prop" prior to the event.  If you have questions, contact Carol at carol.chytil@gmail.com.


Even though the 8th grade Dance/Celebration is a little over a month away, I also want to re-share some information and messaging that I send out each year at this time about the event - and do my best not to oversell or undersell the atmosphere that exists at this great end-of-year activity.  Every year, I mention the below thoughts because sometimes, during some bouts of excitement about the event, a few expectations get generated within our student population that may be a bit on the unrealistic/ambitious/fantasy-ish side-- and then they occasionally get re-articulated to parents as school guidelines. So below is my annual “We’re really excited for this event, but this is not an episode of MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen” plea.  


We definitely make an effort (and with the help of parent volunteers, are always successful) to make this more than a “typical” or casual dance/celebration in terms of atmosphere -- we’ve got great decorations, props and backdrops for group photos, and an impressive spread of food (and it’s at night).  We want students to come excited and eager to spend an evening with their friends and classmates, and somewhat dressed up for the event.  As I mentioned prior to our most recent 8th grade social/dance, students don’t need to think that “coming with a date” is expected (the overwhelming majority do not), nor is it essential to schedule hair appointments or special transportation.  We ask students who attend this event to dress a bit more formally than most would for a regular school day -- whatever is your child’s individual version of “taking it up a notch”.  I’d try and get into more detail about clothing options, but then you’d discover how out of touch I am with current youth fashion trends.  Finally, if dancing is not your child’s “thing”, please assure them that it’s not a required activity for the evening, and many simply come and socialize with their peers.  This last point is why I’ve recently started to refer to this event using the term “celebration” along with “dance.”  


Finally, we had our most recent edition of Poetry Friday at the end of last week, and it featured three students from Ms. Bryan’s 7 Red English class.  Laura, Kerry and Amelia read an original poem that each of them wrote as part of their class’ most recent poetry unit.  Check out this great student yourself work by clicking here.  


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Grey Matters, May 8, 2017; Volume 5, Number 32

posted May 7, 2017, 7:32 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:08 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,


I hope that by now all of you had an opportunity to read the letter that Dr. Brand sent to all members of the Acton-Boxborough community about our District’s work on the issue of school start times.  If that email got buried amongst a whole slew of other messages that arrived in your Inbox I’ve made a copy of the letter and you can easily access the message by clicking here.  Dr. Brand’s note provides a summary of our work around the question of changing school start times, and includes a link to a community survey about potential options for start times at the elementary, junior high, and high school levels.  If you have a little bit of time, please consider reviewing the start time information and completing the survey so we include community perspective on this incredibly important topic.  Most of you are probably aware that school start times is receiving a lot of attention at both the national and international level.  There isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t see multiple articles about research on sleep, proposed legislation, and debates about the challenges and benefits of later (and earlier) start times for students.  Just last week the Education Subcommittee of the California state legislature passed a bill that would require all schools within the state to start school no earlier than 8:30am, and now it travels on to the next stage of deliberation.  More locally, the school start time task force in Falmouth (in the Cape) recently recommended that no changes (for now) be made to their schools’ start times.   A few weeks ago a piece in The Atlantic attempted to tackle one of the most oft-cited and contentious elements of the school start time debate, which is the potential impact on athletic programs. Because questions and concerns about athletics is something that I am sure will emerge within our community’s analysis of school start time options, that article might be of interest to you.  Please complete the survey (click here to go directly to the survey)!  


We are about to enter the final week of MCAS testing (insert cheers, streamers, and noisemakers here).  On Monday and Tuesday, all 7th grade students will be completing the Math portion of the MCAS.  For the remainder of the week, students (both 7th and 8th grade) who were absent for one or more sections of MCAS will be scheduled into make up sessions.  


Interim reports for this current Spring Trimester will likely be sent via US Postal mail on Tuesday or Wednesday.  If your child receives one or more from his/her teachers, it’s likely that it arrived with Wednesday's or Thursday’s mail.  If you have any questions about those interims, please start a dialogue with your child’s teacher.  


Come see the Spring One-Act Plays put on by our Stageworks drama program. TWO hilarious comedies about life in the age of the INTERNET! The shows are Thursday, May 11 @ 3:30pm and 7:00pm and Friday, May 12 @ 7:00 pm. Admission is $5 at the door. Looking forward to seeing many of you there!  


On Wednesday, May 17, we will be taking the annual 8th Grade class photo.  This is a panoramic photo that we take outside on the hill by the football field.  Order forms will be distributed to 8th grade within the next week or so.   If you have any questions or need any sort of financial assistance, please contact Jim Marcotte at jmarcotte@abschools.org.  Please know that we are very committed to never letting finances interfere with any student’s ability to fully participate in these types of school events or “keepsakes”, and want everyone to enjoy these moments without having to think twice about potential financial impact.  


A friendly reminder for families whose children participate in our Band, Strings and Chorus programs.  The Spring concerts are coming upon us.  The Band’s Spring concert is scheduled for Tuesday, May 16 at 7pm, and the Chorus and Strings Spring concert is scheduled for Tuesday, May 23 at 7pm.  Please stay tuned for updates from your kids and/or Mr. Hickey (band), Ms. Green (Strings) or Mr. Charig (chorus) about details for those evening festivities.  


Finally, our District’s Challenge Success newsletter for the month of May is now out, with a focus on Social Emotional Learning.  Check out the resources and materials that are highlighted in this most recent edition.  


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Grey Matters, May 1, 2017; Volume 5, Number 31

posted Apr 30, 2017, 7:22 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:08 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,


This (photo to right) is Bailey.  She’s an 8-week old black Labrador Retriever who will be joining the Shen household, including our 5-year old Golden Retriever, over the Memorial Day weekend.  What that means is that I have about four weeks to identify volunteers amongst the RJ Grey community to participate in the Shelter-a-Principal program which is intended to provide yours truly some alternate living arrangements for the next three to six months.  Yes, isn’t Bailey adorable and cuddle-worthy, and what cute eyes and paws she has.  Yes, won’t all of the kids love playing with her and making her part of our family.  But let’s all acknowledge that those endearing qualities are intended to distract us from all of the destruction and havoc that these little guys can create within a single day.  I weep in advance for my likely-to-be-pooped-on rugs and carpets, and my running sneakers that will probably get eaten when I forget to put them away.  For the moment I take solace in knowing that Bailey is a much preferred alternative to our youngest son’s original plan for our family to get a Bernese Mountain Dog, a breed of dog that typically grows to around 100 pounds.  


This week we return to MCAS testing for our 8th grade students.  Here is a link to the schedule.  We are moving to the Mathematics portion at the beginning of the week, with 8 Gold and 8 Red scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, and 8 Green and 8 Orange on Wednesday and Thursday.  On Friday, all 8th grade students will take the Science & Technology portion of the MCAS.  The Math MCAS is computer-based (like the English Language Arts assessment), and Science & Technology will be paper-based.  7th grade students will take the Math portion of the MCAS early next week.  Students who are absent on days where they are scheduled to participate in MCAS testing will be scheduled for make-ups during the following week.  A friendly reminder to please help your child get some nourishment in the morning before they leave for school.  


For 8th grade families, a very brief “save the date” for the annual End-of-Year Celebration for 8th grade students.  It will be held the evening of Friday, June 16th, so mark it on your calendars.  In next week’s Grey Matters, I’ll share a bit more about the event, and also the role that families play in making it a great event to finish off the year (and one’s time at RJ Grey).  I also want to provide 7th grade families with their own “save the date” for a 7th grade dance that we are planning for Friday, June 9th.  We resurrected the 7th grade Spring dance a few years ago, and it’s continued to be a great event and we’re looking forward to holding it again this year.  Stay tuned for more details later this month.   


One last reminder for our 7th grade families about  our plans to offer a school trip to Washington, DC during the April Break next April 2018.  Up to 150 students will be able to participate in this program, and we will first offer spots to our current 7th graders and then in September open remaining spaces to our newest class of students, as well as those who may not have signed up this Spring. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity (financial cost, logistics, and programming) for your child, please considering attending an informational session at the junior high school this Wednesday at 6:30pm in our auditorium.  This meeting will be led by Marc Lewis (7 Green Social Studies) and a representative from the Close Up organization.  


A quick save the date for our families about the upcoming Spring One Act Plays being performed by students participating in our Stageworks program (after school drama club at RJ Grey), on Thursday, May 11 and Friday, May 12.  More details will be forthcoming early next week.  


I wanted to make sure all families had an opportunity to review the letter that was sent to the AB community from the Superintendent’s office regarding the recent Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.”  If you have not read the letter, I would ask you to consider taking a few moments to do so and you can access a copy of the letter by clicking here.  The letter outlines a number of concerns that educators and mental health professionals have about the show, and is consistent with the messaging that many schools and organizations are sharing across the country.  It also includes a number of resources that families can access not only about discussing the show and what is and isn’t included, but also resources that provide mental health assistance in general.  Here are two articles from the Washington Post and the Boston Globe that provide overviews of the conversations that are emerging, and recommendations that parents and guardians should consider.  


Finally, this past week I met with our fifth group of Everyday Leaders, who joined me for some pizza and conversation, as the students caught me up on how the school year has gone, and we exchanged ideas about our school schedule and ways it could look different.  Congratulations to the following students whose teachers included them in this cohort of Everyday Leaders: Ben Wang, Grete Busse, Abby Giffen, Parth Lagu, Margeaux Matz, Mia Buonomo, Sydney Collett-Callahan, Paul Charisse, and Jordan McAuliffe.  


Have a great week, everyone.  


Cheers,

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Grey Matters, April 24, 2017; Volume 5, Number 30

posted Apr 23, 2017, 5:09 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:06 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,


Welcome back from what was hopefully a restful and meaningful April Break for you and your family.  While I didn’t go anywhere exciting this past week, I did manage to stay away from work -- both physically and mentally (for the most part).  Similar to many of you, I certainly wouldn’t mind one more day before getting back into regularly scheduled programming.  Nevertheless, I am looking forward to seeing the staff and students at school tomorrow morning.  I’m also looking forward to checking on the growth of the plantings in our RJ Grey Garden.  On the Thursday prior to break, students on 7 Gold and 7 Green lent a helping hand with moving dirt, wood chips and peat moss into our new raised beds.  There was also plenty of time and (more than enough) hands to complete the first planting of “cold weather crops”, specifically spinach, arugula, carrots, kale, and lettuce, all of which will be harvested before the end of the school year.  It was nice to see many of our students getting some dirt between their fingers during the school day and we’re excited about finding different ways for the garden to play a role within our classrooms and extracurricular activities.  The RJG Garden would not be possible without the green thumb and enthusiasm of Anne Spalding.  For those who don’t already know Anne, she’s my administrative assistant and office manager (i.e. the one who makes me look more capable and on top of things than I really am).  Many thanks to Anne and the 7 Gold and 7 Green teachers who assisted in coordinating the activities that Thursday.  


Here’s some calendar-related reminders for you to keep in mind as we return from the Break:


  • We begin MCAS testing for 7th grade students this week, specifically this Tuesday and Wednesday.  Makeups for absent students will take place later in the week. Testing this week will focus on the English Language Arts (ELA) portion of the assessment, and all 7th grade students will be participating in testing on both days.  Here is the MCAS schedule if you’d like to review it.  As a reminder, the 7th grade MCAS continues to be paper-based (as in previous years).  This is different from the 8th grade testing this year which has used a computer-based platform.  Please encourage/help your 7th grade students have a healthy breakfast before coming to school and feel free to send them with a little something (i.e. breakfast bar, muffin) to start the day.  

  • For current 7th grade students:  students who are interested in running for one of next year’s Student Council officer positions (President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary) should begin the process for “pulling papers” and the election process.  Nomination forms will be available starting tomorrow --- Monday, April 24 and are due Friday, April 29. Anyone who plans to run will need to meet in Room 325 during Grey Block on Friday, April 29.  


Before the April Break, I quickly mentioned that we are currently in the beginning stages of planning a student trip to Washington D.C. for next April 2018.  Up to 150 students will be able to participate in this program. We will first offer spots to our current 7th graders and then in September open remaining spaces to our newest class of students, as well as those who may not have signed up this Spring. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity (financial cost, logistics, and programming) for your child, please considering attending an informational session at the Junior High on the evening of Wednesday, May 3 at 6:30pm in our auditorium.  This trip will again be coordinated by Mr. Marc Lewis, Social Studies teacher on 7 Green, and will eventually serve as the point of contact for parents and students wishing to learn more about this opportunity.  


This week is a busy one in terms of our engagement with current 6th grade families whose children plan to join us at RJ Grey in September.  We have our Curriculum Night scheduled for this Wednesday evening, and then we have a day (Friday) where we offer tours to parents and guardians; and then on the following Monday, the PTSO is hosting an event where families can engage directly with current parents to discuss the transition process and the strategies, advice, and reassurances that our parents are most equipped to offer to incoming families.  If you have friends and/or neighbors who are joining the RJ Grey community for the first time this Fall, please encourage them to attend some of these programs, as we look forward to welcoming them (and their children) to our school.  


Last year, as part of our all-school assembly that we hold on the last day of school (for students and staff), the English Department sponsored a friendly contest for students who had an interest in reading an original poem during the assembly.  We’re pleased to be including that feature again this year as part of our annual send-off event.  Called, “The Final Verse”, current 8th grade students are invited to submit an original poem that speaks to one of a few possible themes (such as life lessons, memories, endings/beginnings).  One of the submitted poems will be selected and the student author will be invited to read it as part of the year-end celebration.  8th grade English teachers will share more information directly with students, and families can review the details of this contest by clicking here.  Students who submit a piece must make sure to give it to their English teacher by May 26.  English teachers will share additional details with students during their classes.  


During my time away from school last week I had an opportunity to read a number of articles that had a direct or tangential connection to some of the topics and projects we’ve been working on at Acton-Boxborough, along with some that touch upon themes related to parenting and kids.  Reading them from the perspective of a dad and educator, I wanted to pass along links to these pieces should you share some interest in the subject matter.  First, here is an article in the Washington Post that offers suggestions for how parents (and guardians) can stay connected and engaged with their teenage sons.  This one was probably my favorite one from last week, as it offered me some important reminders about exercising a bit more patience when my oldest son offers me one word answers to all of my brilliantly crafted and delivered questions about his day [Question: “What’d you have for lunch at school today?”  Answer: “Food”].  An article in the April 12 edition of the Boston Globe provided a summary of local efforts to explore adding time for school recess.  While the focus seems to be primarily at the elementary level, the idea of incorporating some downtime or “brain breaks” within the school schedule is something that has been a part of our recent review at the Junior High of our school schedule so that article definitely caught my eye. Finally, as a nod to our District’s ongoing work around the importance of sleep in the health and development of our students (and the rest of us), I wanted to share this article about how the Boston Red Sox now have a clubhouse sleep room as part of their efforts to encourage healthy sleeping habits in their players.  I know that the District’s Wellness Committee is working hard on identifying various options related to school start times and I’m looking forward to the next stages of that initiative.  


Finally, for those who ran the Boston Marathon last week, or who went to the event to cheer on friends and family, I hope it was a great day for all of you.


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Grey Matters, April 10, 2017; Volume 5, Number 29

posted Apr 9, 2017, 7:23 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:05 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,


If I owned a Hawaiian shirt like the one to the right, I’d definitely plan on wearing it this coming Tuesday since the weather forecast predicts temperatures in the low 80s.  I don’t own any tropical shirts, so I might just wear sandals to celebrate what is hopefully a permanent shift into the Spring season.  Even though there are some days that have rain in the forecast, hopefully the warmer overall temperatures will allow our Spring sports programs to begin practicing and playing in earnest.  Par for the course, our Spring Track program has over 200 RJ Grey students on the battalion team, and our softball, baseball and volleyball teams have taken shape. I’m excited for our students participating in these programs to have a fun and enjoyable season. As we enter this Spring sports season, both at school and through community and club programs, I would encourage all of us (me included) to be continually mindful of how to be a supportive and thoughtful sports parent.  There is an intensity to youth sports today that can unfortunately dilute the many benefits that would typically be a part of the experience of being on a team and participating in lively competition.  Here is a recent Washington Post article where the managers of the New York Yankees (Joe Girardi) and St. Louis Cardinals (Mike Matheny) share their perspective about the secondary and less vocal role that they want to encourage parents to adopt in service of their kids who might be competing on the field or sitting on the bench.  Last May, I shared an excerpt of a letter written by the father-in-law of a good friend to the players assigned to the Little League baseball team that he was assigned to coach in the Spring of 1977.  As we enter this next season of Spring sports, I wanted to again share a portion of it in case it might resonate with you: “I do not care how many games you win or lose; I hope you win at least one game so that you and your teammates can experience the satisfaction of winning as a team, but I also hope you lose one so that you will experience the shared disappointment of a team loss...The purpose of the program is to give you and your teammates an opportunity to learn something about competition, sportsmanship and team play by actually playing on a baseball team, in the belief that, if well taught, the lessons learned on the baseball field will be valuable to you as you continue to grow up.”


Here are some reminders and acknowledgements for you to review this week:


  • Registration forms from current 7th grade students for their 8th grade year were due last Friday.  Thank you to the many families who submitted those forms.  If you’ve still got that form, please send it in with your child or bring it to the main office right away.  

  • For any 7th grade families considering a math override, please remember that the deadline for that request is this Thursday, April 13th, and the override form must be submitted by that date.  We will not be able to accept requests after that date.  

  • We had about 250 8th grade students join us last Friday night for a fun Spring Fling social event in the gym.  We hope everyone had a great time, and enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time together that evening.  Many thanks to our parent volunteers/coordinators who provided food and drink, and some much needed help during the evening.   

  • We have completed our initial round of MCAS testing for 8th grade students.  There are no MCAS tests scheduled for this week except for the students who were absent last week.  When we return from April Break we will begin the English Language Arts portion of MCAS for 7th grade students that Tuesday, April 25th.  I’ll be sure to provide a reminder to families that Sunday before we return.  


As we still have about nine weeks of school remaining, I want to remind everyone of the Junior High’s Rise to the Challenge program, which is our way of recognizing student involvement in community service.  Students who complete 10 hours of service within the school year will be recognized for their efforts, and it’s definitely not too late to submit that information.  Please visit the community service page on our website that provides all the details for this program.  If you have any questions, please email Debbie Brookes at dbrookes@abschools.org.  


April Vacation is next week, and so a couple of things on that.  First, Thursday is a full day of school and then we have no school on Friday in recognition of the Good Friday religious holiday that falls on that day.  If your travel plans involve your child missing some school this week we would appreciate your letting us know ahead of time so we can manage the attendance process a bit more easily.  Secondly, I wanted to continue offering a reminder and encouragement to use the vacation period to prioritize “playtime” and/or downtime for your kids.  Remember, there’s no homework assigned over the vacation periods, and that’s so families can comfortably attend to other activities and interests.



During last year’s April Vacation we had our first ever RJ Grey school trip to Washington DC, where 100 7th and 8th grade students and ten staff members, including yours truly, spent four days exploring our nation’s capital.  We departed RJ Grey early Sunday morning for a flight to Washington, and participated in the Close Up Foundation’s Washington Middle School Program, and returned to Acton-Boxborough on Wednesday night. In DC, students visited famous monuments, memorials and museums that connect the ideas of our Founding Fathers to how our country works today, as the trip focus on the ideas of active citizenship that are a central focus of our 7th grade social studies curriculum. Some, but not all, of the highlights of the trip included a visit to the National Air and Space Museum, a walking workshop of Capitol Hill, a mock Congress debating timely political issues, a visit with Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey, and an afternoon at Arlington Cemetery and the National Archives. As the Principal, the most satisfying part of the trip was of course going with 100 students and returning home with the same number, and having avoided any engagement with hotel security or the Secret Service.  

It was an incredible experience for both the adults and the students on the trip and it certainly left us with an interest in returning with another group of students in the future.  Because of the significant amount of planning involved, and the need to ask teachers to give up a good portion of their vacation, our current plan is to offer this trip every other year during the April Vacation.  That means we are currently in the beginning stages of planning a student trip to Washington D.C. for next April 2018.  Up to 150 students will be able to participate in this program. We will first offer spots to our current 7th graders and then in September open remaining spaces to our newest class of students, as well as those who may not have signed up this Spring. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity (financial cost, logistics, and programming) for your child, please considering attending an informational session at the Junior High on the evening of Wednesday, May 3 at 6:30pm in our auditorium.  This trip will again be coordinated by Mr. Marc Lewis, Social Studies teacher on 7 Green, and will eventually serve as the point of contact for parents and students wishing to learn more about this opportunity.  


Finally, an update on an exciting project that we dreamed up last year.  Last Spring we began discussions about creating a community garden at RJ Grey.  Many of you know that there is at the Junior High a pretty big enclosed courtyard that used to have some large trees that shaded the bulk of the space.  Two years ago, the largest of those trees fell down and because we discovered quite a bit of rot we needed to remove the remainder of those trees.  That untended land has for two years looked a bit like a nuclear wasteland, but has enormous potential and is screaming out for some attention.  There is quite a bit of flat land and we have finally reached the stage where we are installing our first raised beds where we can, among other things, grow a fair amount of vegetables and herbs that can support not only our cafeteria, but where both the growing and use of the food can be folded into classroom activities and other programs like our Cooking Club.  Earlier this Spring we met with Fresh Start Food Gardens, an organization based in Westford, to partner with us in developing a plan for our garden space and ideas for involving teachers and students in building the beds, planting, maintaining, and harvesting.  On Thursday, a few of our teams will be working alongside staff from Fresh Start to finish building the beds, filling them, and completing our first inaugural planting which will hopefully be ready to harvest before the end of the school year.  I’ll be sure to include photos of this work in the next edition of Grey Matters.  As our work on this garden evolves, we’ll hopefully develop additional ways for students and families who have an interest in this work to become involved.  


Have a great week, everyone.  


Cheers,

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