Overbrook blog: Eagle on the Wall

A look inside Overbrook's classrooms and community.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Overbrook School students study coding

Though it may look like they are playing with board games and electronic TinkerToys, Overbrook students as young as kindergarten are actually learning the foundations upon which they can eventually learn computer coding.

Overbrook computer instructor Meghan Guilfoil began lessons this quarter using Tynker, OZObot and Kodu to help teach coding. The lessons are hands-on activities that lead students into the world of programming and computer coding as well as develop problem solving and collaboration skills while fostering creativity and higher-level thinking.

“These lessons help students learn the importance of following instructions in detail and thinking creatively to find solutions when their creations reach a snag,” Ms. Guilfoil said. “Similarly, working together promotes ideas and sharing for the most effective solutions.”

“To help the students understand the detailed nature of coding, they begin by working in small groups to create a set of instructions to get from point A to point B,” Ms. Guilfoil said. “The pairs then trade instructions and try to follow the instructions step by step.”

Students are asked to take note of what in the instructions worked, what didn't work and what needed more clarity.

“Then we discuss code as a language, like Spanish or French, which technology uses to follow commands. And just like their instructions, the computer code needs to be very specific because it will do EXACTLY what you tell it to do.”

Students in kindergarten through third grade are using an online program and curriculum called Tynker while four and fifth-graders are using Microsoft Kodu game lab curriculum. Grades 3-5 have also created team maps for OZObot which will be shared with all grade levels during “Makerspace May” in the library.

“Ozobots read drawn code,” which looks like bold lines on a page, Ms. Guilfoil said. “The black line determines the Ozobot’s path and the color code combinations give it specific instructions such as ‘U-turn’ or ‘turbo speed.’”

The lessons bring coding to life for Overbrook students in a world where they can immediately see if they were successful in communicating instructions for a task to be completed. The students get immediate feedback and can make the changes needed to proceed, promoting incredible student engagement and the enjoyment of creating a game.

One of the fastest growing professional fields today is coding and app creation. Ms. Guilfoil said in less than a decade, billions of dollars of revenue and millions of programmers have been employed, in a market that did not exist prior to 2008. So as she enhances the school’s computer curriculum, she knows that coding needs to be a part of what students are beginning to learn in elementary in middle school.

“Our students are so comfortable with technology and, especially, electronic games,” Overbrook Principal Sister Julia Marie, O.P. said. “This coding curriculum takes that knowledge they already have from their extra-curricular time with technology and applies it to academic lessons in a unique way.”

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Following upon our last blog, see a video of the completed Happy Tappers project at Overbrook School:

Sunday, Jan. 2, 2017

Overbrook students tapping trees for maple syrup

Overbrook fourth-graders spent time this fall studying tree classifications and then put their knowledge to work identifying sugar maples on campus that they will soon tap for sap near the end of January and make into maple syrup by spring.

Before the Christmas break, the students began studying weather so that they can follow temperatures and conditions when they return in January to know when the trees are ready to be tapped.

“This makes learning real,” said Sister Jane Michael, O.P., who teaches fourth-grade science. “They can transfer this knowledge. For example, in math on the test we took recently there was a question about diameter. One of the students asked me about it and I said, ‘Remember what we did when we went outside and measured the diameter of the trees?’”

This year-long lesson is a STEM project, which is curriculum “based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach,” according to LiveScience. It began in the classroom as students studied classification in science and measurements in math. The lesson then moved outside on the 83-acre Dominican Campus.

“We had to determine how big a tree has to be to be able to collect sap and then measure the diameter as well as classify all of the maple trees to find the sugar maples,” Sister explained.

Students looked at the leaves and bark to find the trees on campus that would fit into their lesson. Trees needed to be at least 12 inches in diameter for one tap or up to 27 inches for three taps for one tree, Sister said. The students found 19 sugar maple trees they can tap. There is the possibility for up to 50 taps in those trees, but they will limit it to 30 taps this winter.

“They did their research,” Sister said of her students. “They could identify the trees and tell me why it wasn’t the right tree and then find the right trees.”

They also used their recess time voluntarily to finish their tagging when the lesson ran over class time, she added.

“We’re now studying the weather so we can figure out the right time to tap the trees,” Sister said. She explained that the conditions need to have a night of freezing or below freezing temperatures followed by a day with temperatures in the low 40’s. Those conditions allow the sap to run.

“So we’ll have to track the weather when we return from Christmas break,” she said.

The project pulled in more mathematic calculations because students had to determine how much sap they will need to make syrup once the taps are flowing.

“We know that every 40 gallons of sap boils down to one gallon of syrup,” she said. “We had to look at volume and do a ton of math conversions to figure out what we will be able to get.”

After the winter tapping, the students will start boiling down the sap in early spring to make the syrup. Parents have gotten involved as volunteers who will do the boiling work. Fourth-grade families have also signed up to come to campus on Sundays to collect sap when the time is right.

Sister Joanna Marie, O.P., is the fourth-grade English and social studies teacher. She is helping out with the project as students will write about their experience this year. They have also studied Native Americans, who figured out how to use sap to make syrup. Sister Joanna Marie said she’d love to have a day this spring where they devote the entire day to this project.

“This is such a great campus to do this project because we have so many trees,” Sister said.

Principal Sister Julia Marie, O.P., said the STEM lessons happening across all the grade levels at Overbrook not only give students active, hands-on learning but those lessons carry over to stimulate students throughout their school experience.

“When students have learned through a STEM project using their senses and experiencing hands-on lessons, then they are better able to connect to more traditional methods of learning such as lectures,” Sister Julia Marie explained. “So, for example, having learned all these facts about trees using math, science and even history, if the fourth-graders were to sit through a lecture on plant identification or measurement they would be more excited by the facts because of the real-life exposure they’ve had to the subject area.”

“It’s a really exciting way to learn,” she said.

Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016

Overbrook School’s youngest students prepare for the holidays with new program: Christ, Cooking and Crafts

Overbrook School’s prekindergarten students got their hands dirty rolling dough, mixing ingredients and measuring pumpkin puree last week as they began to prepare for the holidays with a new program: Christ, Cooking and Crafts, developed by Sister Mary Rose, O.P., who runs the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program.

“This ‘holiday special’ is an opportunity to continue the mission of Overbrook School with our youngest children. Its goal is to deepen our Catholic culture and traditions regarding Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas,” Sister Mary Rose explained. “It is also a wonderful opportunity to integrate learning through multi-sensory activities. The young child learns through the senses and by being actively engaged. Cooking and crafts is a wonderful way to integrate faith formation with other life skills.”

Sister was inspired to develop the program by Overbrook Principal Sister Julia Marie, O.P., who encourages hands-on learning such as STEM initiatives. These activities build on the lessons and skills classroom teachers are helping students acquire at all grade levels. Overbrook teachers prepare students with a good foundation of listening and following directions. They also encourage creative expression so that these types of “less structured learning experiences” can have the most impact.

“It is a joy to provide children with out-of-the-ordinary opportunities to learn skills and to be formed in our faith,” Sister Mary Rose said, adding that the lessons compliment the curriculum at Overbrook.

“There are several objectives to providing these activities,” Sister said. “It is our hope to provide moments to learn about traditions of the Catholic faith and reinforce that learning with hands-on activities. The cooking and crafts provide opportunities to learn how to work in a group and cooperate with one another.

“The children can learn sequencing, measuring, counting, and new vocabulary through the tactile activities.”

The Christ, Cooking and Crafts lessons provide simple things that the children can share with their families about the faith. The students also experience a greater sense of community by working on a project together. Sister began the activities last week making granola bites and then moved on to making pumpkin pie with the three- and four-year-olds in prekindergarten.

“I think the most important objective is the sheer joy of being together and discovering something new,” Sister said. “The first time we cooked together, some were a bit unsure about getting the sticky No Bake Granola Bites mixture on their hands. Soon, the children discovered the joy of mixing ingredients together and rolling them into a ball. By the second cooking experience, all the children were so happy to join in the pie making.”

The students learned such cooking basics as how to cut butter into the flour for the crust, how to use a rolling pin and how to mix ingredients to create a pie filling.

In December on the first two Thursdays and Fridays, Sister plans to provide a few more Christ, Cooking and Crafts activities for the prekindergartners as they simultaneously learn about Saint Nicholas, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Saint Lucy and angels.

“As far as the future cooking ideas, well, let's just say that chocolate will be involved,” Sister added.

Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016

BLOG: If you give a fifth-grader a cookie ...

Fifth-graders are learning an important skill this year: how to compare and contrast. As they grow older they will need to learn how to compare, contrast and evaluate many things such as which college to attend, which car to purchase or even which candidates to vote for. But for now, students are comparing and contrasting cookies.

“It’s a fun way to start off this lesson,” said fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Kesha Wall explaining why she begins the compare and contrast essay lessons on a sweet note. “This gives them a visual; it’s tactile.” (And, yes, there were gluten free options for students who needed them.)

Using cookies to teach students how to compare and contrast things allows them to use all five of their senses when learning to describe and evaluate things in writing. The students started the lesson (after eating cookies, of course) by using a Venn diagram worksheet to organize their thoughts. They write about the differences and similarities between the taste, feel, smell and look of Oreo’s and Chips Ahoy cookies. Students then work through drafts to develop an essay that compares and contrast the two cookies.

After working on the cookie compare and contrast essays, students move into comparing seasons, grades in school, books and movies. They work on developing vocabulary to compare and contrast items, they learn phrases to use in sentences and they hone their sentence and paragraph structures.

“We start with sentences and then work on paragraphs,” Mrs. Wall said. “Eventually, the goal is to move to writing an entire paper.”

“They need to be able to evaluate and analyze opinions, options, and issues,” she explained. The writing exercise gives them a place to start on a fun level.

“Eventually, they will be able to do different types of writing to fit whatever situation they are in and are asked to write about. And, also importantly, they will have the vocabulary to use in such writing.”

So, if you give a fifth-grader a cookie, he is likely to compare it to the last one he had in a well thought out essay.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Blog: Hands-on learning in science moves to the next level

The Overbrook School junior high science lab pops with activity these days as more lessons are becoming experiments and more projects are involving cross-curricular ideas. Take for example the seventh-graders’ recent assignment: build a prosthetic hand.

Mrs. Christina Cathey’s aim in assigning the project was to bring in a STREAM project that combines science, technology, religion, engineering, art, and mathematics into the lab.

“The Pearson text book had a version of this project included in the chapter, ‘Bones, Muscles, and Skin.’ The book version of the project asked students to make a model of how a hand works, but it did not look like a hand. I wanted students to visualize the bone structure, muscles, tendons, joints, ligaments, and nerve endings when they designed their hand. So, I asked students to go a bit further and attempt to make their hand look like, and behave like a real hand,” Mrs. Cathey explained.

Seventh-graders study human biology. The prosthetic hand project coincided with its unit on “Bones, Muscles and Skin.” Students were put into groups and asked to design a prosthetic hand that looked like a hand and did at least one basic function: pick up something. The requirements were to be able to grasp a water bottle, lift it off the table, set the bottle back down on the table, and fingers go back to original position.

Students used gloves stuffed with cotton balls, string, pen springs, cardboard, fishing line, clay, Styrofoam, wood and more to build their hands. All of the groups met the objective of creating a hand that could pick up a water bottle. Pretty impressive considering this was the first time they were asked to do any kind of design work. Some groups researched and found patters to use but others built their prosthetic hands completely from scratch.

“This project taught students more about how the hand works,” Mrs. Cathey said. “They learned the structure and function of all the intricate parts. Students were also introduced to the design process of engineering (see the above diagram). Students also researched current advancements in prosthetics, including robotics. Although students were unable to make these hands bionic, many students researched ways in which to make future improvements to make that happen.”

Stretching the assignment into other areas, Mrs. Cathey brought a religious component with a brief introduction to “Transhumanism.”

“We discussed that just because we ‘can’ do something, doesn’t always mean we ‘should’ do something,” she said. “Students learned about what the Church teaches on when it is acceptable to make these types of changes to the human body.”

This was the first lab or project where students were asked to design something instead of dissect something. Mrs. Cathey was pleased with the results.

“Most groups redesigned their hands at least once. Considering this was a project they completed in class in one week, I feel they made promising progress,” she said. “All groups’ prototypes met the required mission. My hope is to have students build on this design experience next year when studying physics/engineering.”

Projects and assignments such as the prosthetic arm help students apply what they are learning.

“One thing I often tell my students is that memorizing facts is necessary, but it is meaningless if you can’t apply it,” Mrs. Cathey said. “Hands-on learning in science gives students an opportunity to make abstract concepts tangible … Hands-on learning coupled with discovery type learning and using the design process, helps students transition to higher order thinking skills faster than with using other methods of learning. Students are engaging both hemispheres of the brain, using many of their senses, and are creating healthy frustration which helps them stay engaged in the learning process, as well as leads to greater retention of concepts.”

Thursday, April 14, 2016

BLOG: Sister Jane Michael up for Educator of the Month award

Overbrook's fourth-grade teacher Sister Jane Michael, O.P., was featured last month as a WSMV Educator of the Week. If you missed Sister Jane Michael on WKRN, click here. The teachers profiled throughout the month are then grouped together for a vote to become Educator of the Month. Votes are allowed once a day throughout the month, so vote for Sister Jane Michael and vote often: Click here to vote! Keep reading to learn more about Sister.

Degree: BA in Elementary/Special Education from Providence College
Teaching experience: This is my first year at Overbrook
Family: I come from a big Catholic farming family in California. Dad is a citrus and avocado farmer, and Mom is an aide for a sixth-grade special education class. My older brother, Nicholas, manages an avocado grove in Northern California; Damian is in his senior year of college; Thomas runs hurdles for a community college; Madeline is a senior in high school applying for colleges back east; Bernadette is a sophomore (three sport Varsity athlete!) in high school; and Raymond is in seventh-grade playing lacrosse and riding his horse on the weekends.

How long have you lived in Nashville?
I’ve lived in Nashville three years. It is different from California and Rhode Island (where I went to college) but Southern hospitality has won me over!

Why did you want to become a teacher? I had some incredible teachers growing up. I really appreciated how they respected and treated me like the unique individual God created us all to be. I attended public school until college and I really wanted to be that hidden instrument of the Holy Spirit who helped to build up the students so that they could reach their potential as learners and as good people.

Who was your favorite teacher or a key mentor who deeply influenced who you are today and how do you try to emulate him or her?
Honestly, my mom was my favorite teacher. As kids, we don’t think of our parents as being our primary educators, but she (along with my dad) definitely was. She would strive (and still does!) to instill virtues, habits, and skills that would help us to be a good family member, a good student, a good athlete, and a good friend. But most of all, through her example she led me to love and desire Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith which were so much tied to her identity as a woman. As girls get older it’s a common phrase to say, “I’m turning in to my mother!” but I pray that I may be able to be half the teacher she has been.

What was your favorite subject in school?
I loved going to school and never disliked any subject. Math was always fun because I liked the challenge of having to figure out the answer using different strategies. My favorite subject was English though, especially grammar.

Why did you want to teach at Overbrook?
The Holy Spirit made the decision easy for me by placing me at Overbrook. But I look forward to coming to school every day because each new moment is another gift that we are given to better ourselves and our friends around us. Overbrook has allowed me to marvel and wonder at all the blessings we have been given and the first are our wonderful students, teachers and staff at Overbrook.

What is one fun fact about yourself your students might not know?
I grew up on a farm with lots of exotic animals, such as zebras, camels, ostriches, emus, tortoises, pythons, and pygmy hippos.

What is your favorite book?
I have read so many books I don’t even know where to begin. My favorite genre is historical fiction.

What were you like when you were your students’ age?
I loved to read anything I could get my hands on. Soccer was my sport of choice and I loved playing with my cousins out on the farm.

What is your main goal for this year for yourself in the classroom?
I want my students to know how much they are loved by God just because they are and that He has created them to be saints. My goal is to be the instrument of the Ultimate Teacher.

What would be your ideal class field trip (think big with no budget worries, like going to Mars)?
I would LOVE to go to Rome and explore the rich heritage of our Catholic faith with our students -- the catacombs, the cathedrals -- and then to Spain and France to walk in the footsteps of St. Dominic in thanksgiving for the 800 years since the Dominican Order was founded.

Wednesday, March 8, 2016

BLOG: Long-distance writing

Forget social media, students at Overbrook are using old fashion pen and paper to communicate with their counterparts in Ōstersund, Sweden.

St. Cecilia Academy alumna and friend of The Dominican Campus, Penny Richardson, approached the school about getting a group to write to students at Lillsjōskolan, a school in Ōstersund where her friend Mikael From serves as principal. Junior high students in Mrs. Kelly Gulleman’s social studies class were happy to participate.

“The students in Sweden are practicing their English and we’re helping them by creating a friendship,” Ms. Gulleman said, adding that her students wrote postcards to the Swedish students talking about all kinds of topics from food to country music. The writing is also providing a geography lesson for students as well.

“It’s giving them a sense of wonder about another culture and their finding similarities and seeing differences,” she said.

Students in Sweden have written the Overbrook student about such topics as how much they don’t like their cafeteria food and their snowy weather as well as about playing video games, Volvos and the band Abba.

There will be two more exchanges between the students before the end of the year as the project continues.

Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015

Blog: Study, simply

Sometimes it is the simple ideas that really work. And when it comes to learning how to study, the more simple the method the better, especially for children who are just learning how to study on their own.
Overbrook’s reading specialist Brian Meehan recently spent time with the fifth-graders showing them a simple study method that could revolutionize their homework practices.
“The art of taking and studying notes is more than simply writing down information as a teacher is lecturing,” stated a hand-out Mr. Meehan shared with the students. “It is about being able to identify important information so that you are not spending so much time writing down insignificant details and missing the big picture.”
Mr. Meehan went through a section of the student’s science book to demonstrate how to take notes on a chapter with a twist -- a twist that will cut down, hopefully, on study time. He asked the students to read through the chapter and look at the key points and important words – most of the time these are the bold or highlighted terms and phrases in the text.
He then asked the students to fold a piece of paper into thirds vertically. They were to leave the far left column blank. In the middle column of the folded paper, students practiced with Mr. Meehan going through the chapter and defining words and main ideas that were important to the lesson.
“Look for headings, words in bold and captions to find main ideas and words to define,” he said, showing them how to find key details that will most likely be on the test or needed for comprehension of the lesson. A tip he gave the students for quicker note-taking was to leave out articles such as “the” or “a” and to use abbreviations.
Finally, the study trick was revealed. Following the folded paper format, once students are done going through the notes or with a lecture, the student would then go back and fill in that blank left-hand column.
“Do some critical thinking and anticipate what the teacher might ask you so that you can also use this as a study guide when it comes to test time,” Mr. Meehan said. “You will cut your study time in half if you have these questions already formulated.”
So, for example, if the students have taken notes on the respiratory system and defined terms on the right-hand side of the paper, the would go back and formulate question next to those notes on the left. Questions such as “What does the respiratory system do?” “What happens when I breathe?” “What is mucus?” and “What happens when lungs exhale?” would be good questions.
If a student uses this method as he or she goes through a chapter and takes notes in class, when it comes time to study for a test there are already questions in the notes.
“You don’t want to study by just reading your notes to yourself,” Mr. Meehan told the students. “If you have questions and you read them out loud, it sends a message to the brain for your eyes and ears to listen. Plus you can use the study guide to quiz your classmates or have your parents quiz you.”
Turning notes into questions also helps students learn information at a higher level and therefore remember it better, according to the hand-out. For more on taking notes and studying, Mr. Meehan suggests visiting this website for more tips.

Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2055

BLOG: Living the theme

Junior high students are looking for the good in others. There is a bulletin board in the science lab full of stickers that proves it.
“Last year I had a rosary bulletin board with prayer intentions the students placed on it,” said Junior high science teacher Mrs. Christian Cathey. “We kept up with the intentions and the students had 190 answered prayers.”
So when she heard this year’s school theme was “To praise, to bless, to preach,” Mrs. Cathey decided she would put up another bulletin board in her room where students could interact by posting stickers on the board every time they witnessed someone praising the Lord, when they saw someone as a blessing to them or someone else in their lives, when they caught someone teaching others about Jesus (someone other than the Sisters and Father O’Neill, that is) or when someone inspired them to live out their faith.
“Instead of being negative or bullying, this makes them look for good things on purpose,” Mrs. Cathey said. “And maybe this will help change our hearts.”
So far this year, there are over 200 stickers on the bulletin board.
“Sometimes they tell me what they saw when they post their sticker but sometimes they don’t,” she said, adding that, at first, students were shy about putting the stickers up. They would come in between classes or before school so that no one else saw them putting up a sticker. But now the students are more open about it.
One sticker, for example, was placed on the board in honor of a student lending a hand to someone else and another student put up a sticker for his parent who inspired him. Mrs. Cathey said the board is not just for the students, either. It is an inspiration to her as well because every sticker represents a person who was touched by good.
“It validates the reason I went into teaching, to make a different in the whole life of a child,” she said. “When we expect the best, they will rise to the occasion and when we expect the good, they see the good.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Blog: Second grade is done; get a job!

Once you've completed the second grade, it's probably time to start looking for a job, right? You'll likely need to get your resume ready, narrow down what jobs you'd like to apply for and go on a few job interviews before you find a job. Thanks to a program that began when this year's eighth-graders were in second grade, this year's second-graders got to do all that and more.

“I had heard about something like this being done at another school, so several years ago one of the sisters and I researched the idea and put together a program for the end of the year,” said second-grade teacher Mrs. Edmondson.

Job Day, as it is called in second grade, requires that all the students fill out a job application made up by the teachers for such jobs as teacher, book mark maker, holy card maker, tax collector, desk washer, librarian and trash collector. The students also have to put together a resume, which they do with the help of a form created by the teachers.

The second-graders each go on a job interview where they are interviewed by an adult, either another teacher or staff member. Mrs. Meg Neeley was one of the staff members who conducted interviews this year. Students talked during their interviews about why they were qualified for the jobs they were applying for and what types of chores they completed at home, among other topics.

When asked during an interview what she thinks it takes to be a good worker, Harper Jacobs said, “If you want to do a job you will probably do a good job, but if you don’t want to do it, you probably won’t do a good job.” Good insight!

Eve Finley said a good worker needs to be “very responsible, kind and hard working." While Edward Curley said a good work should “be focused on your work and not wondering off daydreaming.”

Once all the interviews were done, Mrs. Edmondson and Sister Marie Celine offered jobs to their students, which they carried out on Job Day, this Wednesday. On job day, the class rooms were turned into small communities with “open” business signs. Students were required to attend school, pay taxes and make purchases at the various businesses set up in the room.

“They learn in social studies about how a community works and how important workers are to the community,” Mrs. Edmondson explained, adding that the activity brings that lesson to life. Plus it is a fun way to end the year.

“They all don’t like paying taxes, which is very real world,” she said. “And through the interviews, writing their resumes and doing these activities they learn a simple version of economics in society.”

When the students are finished their “work” they write a reflection paper about the day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2015

Achille race brings hope to able-bodied students

Disabled athletes participating in the Achilles Hope & Possibility race Saturday morning here on The Dominican Campus crossed the finish line using prosthetic legs, hand cycles, walkers, braces, tethers and every ounce of determination and energy they could muster. The athletes showed unimaginable courage just entering the race. How they crossed the finish line rivals the most victorious of race finishes.
One racer, a single amputee with a prosthetic leg, turned the corner on to campus exhausted. At times it looked like he might not finish the last stretch of road from the Cherokee exit to the finish line (about half way to the stop sign in front of St. Cecilia Academy). Surrounded by a team of supporters, he sat for a few moments in his wheelchair but then rose again to his walker and dragged his body across the finish line to cheers from the waiting crowd.
Twenty-three-year-old Austin Crymes is no stranger to The Dominican Campus. He participated in last year’s race and attended this year’s Field Day to meet students in junior high who would be supporting him in his first five-mile event. Austin began his race before the sun rose on Saturday so that he could finish his five-mile journey during the regular finishing time. He crossed the finish line hours later completely exhausted but victorious. He accomplished his goal.
“It was an incredible blessing for my two little ones to witness the purest form of determination and perseverance they will probably ever see,” said Overbrook computer teacher Ms. Meghan Guilfoil, who ran the one-mile race pushing her niece Jude for Team Jude. “Mac (my prekindergartner) especially became Austin's biggest fan and watching him fight across that finish line will surely remain in Mac's memory for years to come, an inspiration for the difficulties in life, big and small.”
When 9-year-old Jonathan, the youngest member of the Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes, could not find his designated Achilles guide racer Saturday morning at the start line, Overbrook eighth-grader Olivia Posey jumped up and ran the mile with him. They crossed the finish line together and then shared a high-five.

“He’s really sweet and selfless,” Olivia said of Jonathan. “As we ran, he told me what it was like to read Braille and we talked about sports. He told me how he plays soccer. He had surgery on his hip, so we had to stop and rest a bit and start walking.”

Olivia said she told Jonathan that he was a superhero with super powers “because he is able to inspire people.” She said she told him, “You are the one who has superpowers because you see things differently and you are more hopeful.” The one mile she ran with Jonathan inspired Olivia to come back next year to run the Achilles race with her neighbor who has Down’s syndrome.

“It's tough to put into words the way these athletes touch your heart,” said Overbrook mom Danna Ryan, who took photographs and cheered athletes at the finish line. “You really need to experience their courage first hand.”
“Several of the adaptive athletes thanked me and the community for hosting the race on the Dominican Campus,” said Overbrook eighth-grade teacher Sister Dominica, O.P. “I was overwhelmed by their gratitude, because our students and families received so much that it was their strength and witness that was truly a gift to us.”
Sixth-grader Maggie Sheehan ran the one-mile race with Lizzy Solomon, who uses a walker. “It was kind of fun,” Maggie said of the race. “Lizzy is very light-hearted and funny. It made me feel like I was making someone happy.”
And when all was finished, Overbrook fifth-grader Austin Murphy, who won his age-group in the five-miler, pitched in and helped the race volunteers dismantle the finish line equipment, proving that inspiring moments inspire good deeds and actions in us all.
The Achilles race organizers repeatedly have thanked The Dominican Campus for hosting the race for these past two years, but it is really those of us on this campus who should thank them for bringing this “gift to us,” as Sister said.

Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2015

Blog: The gym was alive with music

Watch a video of the orchestra here.

The Nashville Philharmonic Orchestra performed at Overbrook School Sunday, bringing a powerful performance of music to the campus. Principal flautist Tibby Christenberry said it is the NPO's mission to take its music "on the road," so to speak.

"Our mission is to perform high-quality orchestral music for a wide variety of audiences,” Ms. Christenberry said. “To me, this means all ages, socio-economic groups, races, religions, zip codes, etc. We enjoy getting to play all over Nashville."

“Our hope, when we have a concert at a school, is that the school will take advantage of this opportunity by teaching the students something about the music before we ever come,” she added. “They might learn about the life of a composer, or the history related to his composition; they might study the music itself, or learn a story related to it.”

Overbrook’s band teacher, Mrs. Katherine Morrice, who is the principal clarinetist in the orchestra, worked with her band students before the concert. In addition, the drama club’s upcoming performance fit in perfectly with the theme, which featured music from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet score. Drama club member Sophie Clare Grant also performed a soliloquy as Juliet from the play just before the score was played. NPO Music Director Dr. Chris Norton chose this music with school children in mind.

“The West Side Story selections and the Romeo and Juliet Suite basically tell the same story (based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet). The music in each is very different, though, which makes it so fun,” Ms. Christenberry explained. “Then we played Symphonic Metamorphoses, by Paul Hindemith, in which a theme by composer Von Weber is changed in many ways. It's very exciting music. All our concerts are family-friendly. We love seeing families in our audiences. Dr. Norton always does a great job of telling the audience some background about our pieces, so the listeners will enjoy them even more.”

Ms. Christenberry has been playing in, and watching, orchestras for years, and I still think it is fun!

“When I am in the audience, I enjoy watching the conductor use his arms, hands, and facial expressions to tell the players when to come in, how loud to play, and how fast or slow. I love watching the string players move their bows together, like a dance. Watching the percussion players is always exciting. It's usually harder to see the woodwinds and brass players, but their different instruments bring a variety of color to the music.”

“I love listening to that and trying to figure out which instrument is playing when there is an important wind or brass solo. That was particularly fun for the Overbrook students, because Mrs. Morrice plays a lot of beautiful and important solo lines throughout the whole concert.”

Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015

Blog – Bee Day

He could barely see over the podium as the judges called out his words, but fifth-grader Stevie Strickland stood tall as he won the first bee of the day Monday and became the Overbrook spelling bee champion.
Stevie spelled “sesame” and “portrait” as the final two words to win the Spelling Bee after knocking off seven other competitors most of whom were older than him. Sixth-grader Connor Kennard came in second place after stumbling on the spelling of the word “gambol.” Stevie goes on to the next level of the local spelling bee which is sponsored by Crossings Nashville Action Partnership on Feb. 21.
Seventh-grader Katie Mendes was the Geography Bee school champion. She won answer the following question, “The Great Lakes’ main outlet to the sea is through what river?” Katie answered correctly, stating the St. Lawrence River. Fourth-grader Chanden Climaco beat out eighth-grader Fernando Arguello in a marathon final round of questions to win second place. Katie will take a scan-tron test that will be submitted to the National Geography Bee association. If they rank high enough, they will go to a regional test.
Five students were eligible to qualify for the next round of the History Bee and be called school champions. Students had to earn five points to be a school champion. Seventh-grader Alex Phillips was the first to qualify followed by eighth-grader Marie Kaiser. Three other students qualified in a tie-breaker round at the end of the bee: Alexandra Acevedo, Gitae Park and Anna Huber. The three students had to attempt to answer the following questions (or get a close as possible): “In what year did the Battle of Hastings take place?” (Answer: 1066) and “How many men signed the Declaration of Independence?” (Answer: 56). Contestants for all three Bee's were determined by classroom rounds prior to Monday's events.

Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014

Blog: Did you know Einstein dropped out of school?

Kermit the frog presented a third-grader’s biography book report Tuesday morning in the lower library. Frank P. introduced his oral report in front of a crowd of parents and classmates dressed as Jim Henson, the subject of his biography. He then proceded to have Kermit the frog (in hand puppet form) read the report for him. Frank and his classmates creatively presented their biography reports dressed as their subjects, revealing some interesting facts about some of the world’s most interesting inventors, personalities and leaders.
Kermit, for example, in his original version had two ping-pong balls for eyes, according to Frank’s report. Zoe S. informed the group that Albert Einstein, considered by many as one of the smartest men in history, dropped out of school. Thankfully though, according to Zoe’s report, he returned to school and graduated from the Swiss Institute of Technology and went on to come up with a little something called the theory of relativity and the formula of E=mc2.
Charles S. looked dapper dressed in a suit and tie representing the nation’s only Catholic president, John F. Kennedy. His biography report talked about the president’s many life highlights and revealed some lesser-known facts such as the fact that JFK was the first Boy Scout to become president. Carolina N. wore a bedazzled white leather jacket and bore a great likeness to her biography subject, Elvis. Her report revealed that Elvis was teased as a child because his classmates thought it was odd that he always had a guitar, even at play time. And the tall hat and beard donned by Parker W., well, it was of course Abraham Lincoln. Parker learned in his studies of Lincoln that the president only had one year of formal school and was a practical joker.
But not all the biographies were about figures from the past. Katherine M. read a book about Missy Franklin, the young Olympic swimmer who won four gold medals in 2012 as a teen-ager. Kate M. read a book about Taylor Swift and told the class and audience that the singer won a national poetry contest in fourth-grade.
Mrs. Saxon assigned the biography book reports to students because reading biographies is a good way to teach children about role models and history. Through biographies children can learn about history in a different way that is not so fact driven, but more personality driven. Children can learn not just that a person was the president or a famous inventor, but what character traits or personal experiences made them into the historical figures they became. Biographies talk about motivations and perseverance, and make virtues come to life through another person’s story. Reading biographies is also a way to learn about other cultures and to teach children about the diversity in the world around them.
So when Jack R. read the biography about Bill Gates he not only learned that Mr. Gates started Microsoft and Windows software, technologies that touch most people’s lives on a daily basis, but that Mr. Gates was athletic for his age as a kid and when he was 11 he memorized the Sermon on the Mount. Learning those facts likely made Mr. Gates a lot more real to Jack than anything he could have read about the Microsoft.

Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2014

Blog: Eighth-graders get a lesson in history and creativity

In today’s world filled with ample technology and tools that can seemingly do almost every task undertaken, it can be a challenge to get junior high students to understand what it was like before the age of modern conveniences. Social studies teacher Mr. Adam DesPres borrowed from a popular television show to teach a recent lesson to his eighth-graders.
“I am constantly trying to come up with new and innovative ways to relay information to my students here at Overbrook,” he said. “Eighth grade in particular is always a unique age where the students seem to really grasp a hold of content that is relatable to them on a more a personal level.”
A big fan of the show Shark Tank, Mr. DesPres came up with the idea of turning a lesson on industrial and urban growth into a reality show challenge where students were asked to think like entrepreneurs. Each student had to create a new invention (mostly on paper) and then present the idea to a board of potential investors (Mr. DesPres, Coach Marshall and Mr. Donlon), as is done on the show Shark Tank.
“My initial hopes for the project were that the students were going to be able to see just how much thought, effort and work goes into the developmental process of creating a new invention. Beyond the understanding of how much work an invention takes, I also knew that having each student present before the ‘Overbrook Sharks’ would help them sharpen and refine their public speaking skills as well,” Mr. DesPres said. “I knew things were going well when I would walk through the halls before and after class and the students were constantly talking about their respective inventions. Comments like ‘Who on earth would buy that?’ or ‘Oh man … I could really use one of those?’ seemed to consume conversations for about two weeks straight.”
The eighth-graders are studying United States history this year and are currently learning about such influential inventors as Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright brothers and Henry Ford. Those early entrepreneurs changed the way Americans live even today. Mr. DesPres wanted to see if he could not only tell his students about these pioneers but somehow teach students something about how those ideas came about.
“Thomas Edison and many other inventors at the turn of the century were resilient enough in their work to try and try again at the building of their inventions. When Edison was approached about his many failed attempts at the light bulb he is quoted for saying, ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,’” Mr. DesPres said.
“This project seemed to draw a close similarity to that of Edison. Developing an invention that really generated a desire/need from the public seemed impossible to many of the students. I constantly had to keep on encouraging the students to go back to the drawing boards to begin and begin again. My hope was not so much that the students develop billion-dollar ideas, but rather, I wanted them to get a real taste of business. I wanted them to think and feel like Edison. I wanted them to lie in bed at night and be bothered about not having an idea yet. Sure, as a class, we could have just read about the vast amount of inventions that came from Edison’s Invention Factory in Menlo Park. But these students truly stepped into the factory themselves and put their minds to the test and what they brought to the table is nothing short of light bulb in my eyes.”
So what did the students “invent”? The list is long and varied. They came up with large machines to light Christmas trees and small gadgets that would allow people to share cell phone battery power.
“I could honestly go on about each student and how much they all impressed me, but a few inventions definitely did stick out to me. We had a dog food bowl that was set to a timer, therefore helping the busy schedules that can so easily consume most pet-owners days. A digital globe was also proposed, in which each country could be touched by the finger and current facts would be displayed. We also had some very creative inventions, such as a rising bed to combat those of us that struggle getting out of the bed in the morning.”
Hoping to get across the concept of how creativity and drive helped form the country, Mr. DesPres stumbled upon a lesson that not only stretched the imagination of eighth-graders but helped them practice speaking in front of an audience and gave them a chance to craft a marketing pitch. It also may have started a new eighth-grade tradition.
“I definitely have full plans of making Overbrook Shark Tank an annual competition after such success this year,” Mr. DesPres said.

Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014

Blog: Love one another, serve one another

Funny how things come together in the end. A few years ago Overbrook adopted the scripture quote, “Love one another (John 13:34),” as its verse of the year. The verse was meant to guide all that we did that year and remind everyone in the Overbrook community that loving one another was really the reason we are here. Last year, Overbrook began a new emphasis on service work. Students had always been asked to do service work but last year, Overbrook encouraged students to step outside themselves and serve in a more hands-on way. Students visited the homeless in downtown Nashville serving them meals on a Monday night near the capital. Others visited families at shelters and took them on a trip to the Frist museum.
Now this year those two themes of loving one another and serving one another are coming together as Overbrook continues to emphasize service. This year, students and teachers are turning that service component toward those all around them every day.
Joe Farris is the new service coordinator at Overbrook School. He said each month students are using the virtue of the month (read more about the virtues on the parent portal) as a jumping off point for serving others. October’s virtue of the month is studiousness. So in order to serve one another in a studious way, junior high students ventured down to the lower grades hallway last Friday. There students paired off with buddies and read to each other. Some also did a craft together. It was a way to exhibit studiousness, serve one another and build community among the older and younger students. Turning the tables around a bit, this coming Friday four members of the Aquinas College faculty (Dr. Hatcher, Dr. Haynes, Ms. Kelly, and Dr. Urbanczyk) will visit talk to the junior high students about the virtue of studiousness and their lives.
Sister Dominica said the AC professors will talk to the students about, “How does faith affect their work, and how has their work increased their faith.”
“I think this will also let us connect with the Aquinas College,” Mr. Farris said. “The junior high students were also given a couple of Aquinas professors to pray for. I think this will help build community on The Dominican Campus.”
In November, the virtue of the month is humility. During this month the nation also honors the veterans who have served our country. Mr. Farris said the fifth grade is taking this opportunity to serve the veterans by inviting them to a special service in the gym and then serving them breakfast. A small gesture for a big sacrifice.
“Our goal this year is just to serve those around us,” Mr. Farris said, adding that people who bring you your mail and make your lunch often go unnoticed but that this year he hopes to help Overbrook students take note of those people who serve them and give thanks for those people in their lives.
He added that he is working on plans to show appreciation and somehow serve others in the lives of Overbrook students such as the staff at St. Thomas Hospital, the local police department that protects the school, the local fire department near campus and more.
Jesus said “love one another as I have loved you.”And in those words he left us all a lot of work. Overbrook students are starting that work now.

Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014

Blog: O Captain, my captain … the poetry you hear

“If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain; if I can ease one life the aching, Or cool one pain, Or help one fainting robin unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain.” – Emily Dickinson

There was a rhyme and rhythm to the air last week at Overbrook as students from first grade to eighth were memorizing, reciting and writing poems. Learning poetry is an exercise every child undertakes at Overbrook each quarter. It is an exercise that helps with oral language development but it also exposes students to a beauty they won’t find on Twitter or Instagram.

Mrs. Georgina Saxon said an article on the Well Trained Mind website explains the practice best. Read the entire piece here . The authors Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer write: “Like other classical educators, we suggest that students of all ages memorize and recite poetry. Memorization and recitation build two different (but complementary) sets of skills. Memorization improves vocabulary; students who memorize poetry learn a wide range of descriptive words that they might encounter infrequently — or not at all! — in prose reading. If a student reads a word in a novel, she might or might not remember it for later use. But when she commits it to memory in proper context (as the memorization of lines of poetry requires), she is much more likely to have it at her “mental fingertips” for use in her own speaking and writing.”

So with those goals in mind, students begin to learn poems like “My Dog Rags,” by Elizabeth Deutsch and Evelyn Atwater, in first grade. Mrs. Tessa Ribble said the exercise gives her first-graders a chance to be successful and to perform.

“Memorization also builds into children’s minds an ability to understand and use complex English syntax. The student who memorizes poetry will internalize rhythmic, beautiful patterns of English language. These patterns have become part of the student’s ‘language store,’ those wells of language that we all use every day in writing and speaking,” Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer write.

This year, fourth-graders will learn “Out in the Fields with God” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and “There is No Frigate Like a Book” and “If I Can Stop One Heart from Breaking” by Emily Dickinson, on their way to increasing their vocabulary and exercising memorization skills. In junior high, students move on to such works as Walt Whitman’s “O captain, my captain,” and “In Flanders Fields,” by John McCrae.

Fourth-grader teacher Phyllis McGee said Core Knowledge states, "The sounds and rhythms of the words are part of the poem's meaning. Poems are best understood when read out loud, or when a reader hears the sounds of the words in his or her head while reading silently.”

“I so enjoyed teaching the poems,” Mrs. McGee said. “The students at first didn't want to memorize, but after going over the poem and talking about it, they really enjoyed them. Poems, they are a brain challenge, they improve vocabulary and we need good stuff in our minds.”

Sister Marie Celine agrees. “Memorizing poetry fills the child's mind with what is true, good and beautiful helping to shape their thoughts and actions into what is true, good and beautiful. It gives the child a strong basis of the structure of language and words that will ignite their own creativity.”

“The act of memorizing aids their thinking which prepares them for higher thinking. When the children spontaneously recited the poem which they have memorized, one boy kept commenting that this was some sort of "college initiation," Sister said of her second-graders. “They felt grown up and big and noble. I have been pleasantly surprised by the ability of the young child to memorize poetry and even lines from a play. And, I have been grateful to my own teachers for having us memorize poetry or lines from a play, etc. because there is something great about recalling it - much later - and reciting it on demand because I had learned it in childhood.”

So when an Overbrook student hears these words: “O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won, The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;” they will hopefully remember fondly the classrooms in which and the people with whom they learned those lilting words.

Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2014

"Playing music together can lift your heart and bring absolute joy to the soul!"

There was a new excitement in the air at last Friday’s pep rally. It came directly from the far corner of the gym where the junior high band debuted two new songs from its expanding repertoire. The performance was the result of a growing band program, a program that is increasing both in skill and size.
Mrs. Katherine Morrice runs the Overbrook band program. She took Sister Mary Gertrude seriously when the principal suggested the band play at a pep rally. With a “significantly bigger” group of band students, Mrs. Morrice said the students are more confident and sound better as a result. There are 21 students in the beginning band and 27 students in the advanced band. The advanced band and a few beginners played at last week’s pep rally, creating an exciting atmosphere in the gym.

“The band program has become significantly bigger, one of the reasons being that we offer two music electives rather than three,” Mrs. Morrice said. “The numbers help to give the students more confidence – if they make a mistake, it’s not always so obvious because there are more students to ‘cover it up.’ As a whole, they just sound better. While I still run into the problem of having an imbalance in instrument groupings … more of the instruments are covered now. That helps with the overall sound.”

“It was fun,” said eighth-grader Fernando Arguello, who plays the saxophone, of playing at last week’s pep rally. “We got to show off and prove that we’re better.”
Eighth-grade clarinet player Katharine Boult said the band has made big strides since she began taking band in sixth grade. “It’s improved a lot because barely any of us knew how to play anything at the beginning. We’ve improved a lot because we have a good band teacher and lots of encouragement.”

Mrs. Morrice said she is now teaching the band pieces that include the beginner and advanced band together.

“I find that this helps to encourage the beginners when they have the excitement of playing a fun piece of music, even if their parts are not as difficult as the parts of the advanced band members. They still get to feel the joy of making good music together,” she said.

Mrs. Morrice teaches Spanish to students in kindergarten through fifth grade in addition to band. This gives her the opportunity to talk to students about their music electives and encourage more students to try playing an instrument.

“I do warn them of the work that band entails – it’s not easy – and encourage them to take choir if they really want to sing,” she said. Fernando Arguello agreed that band does require a lot of work, but he said that is why they are improving. “Our homework is to practice, so we practice a lot,” he said.

“They seemed to enjoy playing for the pep rally,” Mrs. Morrice said of last week’s performance. “They work hard, so I want them to have the opportunity to show off, both at Mass and at other school events. I think they see the importance of that also.”

Mrs. Morrice said she grew up in a fantastic band program, so she aims to give her students a similar experience.

“While quite a few of my fellow students went on to major in music, many more also went on to other professions, but remember the joy of being in a group and making music,” she said. “They also know how to listen to music. I want to give this same sort of experience to my students, even if they do not continue with their instruments in high school. With that in mind, I look for music that is traditionally written for band in order to expose them to the greats of band literature, or works that are a transcription of famous pieces such as Beethoven’s “Allegretto” from Symphony #7 or that are just plain fun to play.”

The band hopes to play at more school events this year including pep rallies and Mass as well as possibly being a part of this year’s annual musical.

“I really want the kids to get a little taste of what I had in band,” Mrs. Morrice said. “And I want them to know that even though it’s hard work some times, playing music together can lift your heart and bring absolute joy to the soul!”

Mrs. Morrice and her husband, Santiago, are the proud parents of three Overbrook graduates and one current Overbrook student.

More about band music:

If you love hearing live music, this weekend the Nashville Symphony is presenting its day of free music. Read more here.
Mark your calendars for Sunday, Feb. 22, when the Nashville Philharmonic Orchestra performs at Overbrook school at 4 p.m. Mrs. Morrice plays with the NPO.

Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014

First month action

It’s been just about a month since school started (believe it or not) and things are getting down to business in the classrooms. Tests have already been taken and graded. In fact, interim grades are due just two weeks from today. This week, we take a peek into two projects going on in the second grade and fifth grade.

Ever wonder what happens to the summer reading once it’s completed, logged and handed into the teacher on the first day of school? In second grade, it becomes fodder for a play.

The second-graders read Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard this summer. After finishing the book, the students were asked to pretend they were a student in Miss Nelson’s class and write an apology letter to her for their behavior in class. But Mrs. Edmondson took the opportunity to take the reading one step further. Her students created character mask from the book and then staged a dramatic reading of the story’s highlights. The students took the show on the road, performing for each other and then for the first grade. See a clip from the reader’s theater performance.

This, as it turns out, will be the first of book-end performances of the second-grade reader’s theater. It is an Overbrook tradition that the second-graders read Charlotte’s Web at the end of the school year. They then perform a reader’s theater show of the classic novel for their parents. It is a great way to start and end the school year.

Just down the hall and around the corner from the second-grader readers, the fifth-grader scientists have been busy planting terrariums. Mrs. Jacquie Grytza’s students planted water tolerance terrarium’s last week. They will water and collect data with the terrariums as they continue to grow.

Students planted seeds in three different micro-environments. Each terrarium contained corn, clover and pea seeds planted in dry soil with no water, moist soil with 50 ml. of water, and wet soil with 100 ml. of water. Monday the students measured the growth of the seeds and counted how many sprouts that had emerged from the soil. The students are using the scientific method to test the tolerance of water among the seeds. They aim to discover which amount of water works best for growing plants.

“The objective of the water tolerance investigation is to learn how water affects the growth of a plant,” said Mrs. Grytza. “This also leads into our cell chapter which we are beginning this week. Later in the year, we will learn about environments and water. “

So one month in, lessons are in full swing.

Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2014

I praise you for I am wondrously made. Wonderful are your works.” – Psalm 139: 14

Those are the words etched into the stone inside the new rotunda that welcomes all to Overbrook School. The words reflect the gratitude we have for how incredibly God made the human form. How perfectly he crafted man and woman during creation. Though we have not even discovered everything that our human bodies can do, we know that the work God created in the body is wonderful.

Those words also take on a new meaning for the Overbrook community at this time. While the true meaning of the Psalm will live in perpetuity for everyone who enters and leaves Overbrook for the next 100 years or more, for our present community, we are thankful for another wonderful work – the school itself, the physical building and the greater fellowship of the Overbrook community.

This summer construction crews took on a herculean task of completing major renovations to the front of the building in 10 weeks. Starting the day after most of you left for summer vacation, they began tearing down façade, ripping out landscaping and knocking down walls. The crew worked through rain, humidity, heat and even weekends. Not very often did they stop due to the weather or anything else. It was a thankfully cooler than normal summer, so worked sped on throughout the months of June, July and early August. Keeping a steady pace, the crews completed their work on the front office, front lobby and front entrance and walkway in time for school to start again. Then over this past weekend, they finished the centerpiece rotunda at the entrance. Their work was wonderfully completed. Walk under the new rotunda and read Psalm 139:14. It is wondrously made.

But that work of bricks and mortar, round global lights in the front lobby and slick frosted doors now providing an extra protection for our student body is just part of the wonderful work of this school community. The wonderful works completed in this building every day are something everyone contributes to in one way or another. It is something wondrous. Wonderful are the works of the teachers who came into a completely disorganized building and in less than two weeks, created working classrooms and vibrant lesson plans. Wonderful are the works of the front office staff that moved three times over the summer in order to accommodate construction workers – while still doing their jobs on a daily basis. Wonderful are the works of the new families, who put up with strange entrances, loud noises and way too many boxes as they navigated the halls this summer preparing to enroll in Overbrook. Wonderful are the works of the students who flawlessly adopted new schedules, new pathways and new procedures as the school year started. Wonderful is the Overbrook School community. God wondrously made each one of us and each one of us works every day to match that wonder with a small bit of gratitude. The words in the new rotunda reflect a bit of that gratitude and the awe of our wonder.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Blog: Preaching the gospel, no words necessary

St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." For those involved with Achilles International Nashville Hope and Possibility race, which ended on The Dominican Campus this past Saturday, words were not necessary. The gospel was living, breathing and, in hundreds of cases, running a five miler.

Overbrook mom Melanie Yappen is president of the Achilles International Nashville chapter, an organization that pairs able-bodied athletes with disabled athletes for weekly runs and road races. She was a leader in organizing this weekend’s race, the first road race for the Nashville chapter. Mrs. Yappen said nearly 700 runners ran the race with 10% being disabled. The disabled runners ranged from blind runners to amputees. Some completed the race in wheel chairs and on hand-pedal bikes while still others were pushed.

“It was truly an inspirational celebration of running by athletes of all abilities,” said Mrs. Yappen, who stood at the finish line cheering on all athletes and giving out as many hugs and high-fives as she did medals. “We hope on a broader scope that our community-unifying event will paint a brighter horizon for healthier lifestyles for people with disabilities and an increased acceptance of people with disabilities.”

After a brief downpour, the race began Saturday morning on West End Avenue as runners started their journey through the neighborhoods surrounding campus, a journey that for many was a first: the first time they were able to participate in a race and the first time they accomplished such a feat. For Anthony Spellman, brother to Overbrook students Michael and Jack, it was his first race on foot.

“Well, he finished the race on foot and was exhausted,” his mother Lisa said in an email Sunday. “He took a three-hour nap afterward!”

Overbrook students, families and teachers ran the race (some even won in their categories! See results here) and volunteered at the finish line. Along with the Spellman family, members of the Murphy, Yezbak, Ribble, Pierce, Carr, Grant, Climaco, Yappen, Snell and Goodrum families ran in the race. Austin Murphy won for his age-group as did Mrs. Kay Goodrum. Mrs. Priscilla Harris photographed runners at the finish line. See her amazing and inspirational photos here. Students, teachers and some alumni stood at the finish line handing out water, Gatorade and bananas to the runners. Volunteers included Mrs. Tessa Ripple, Rosie Ribble, Louie Ribble, Mrs. Felicite Mire, Mallory Mire, Carson Mire, Mrs. Sarah McLeod, Matthew McLeod, Kathleen McLeod, Henry McLeod (OS ’13), Mrs. Katherine Morrice, Camilo Morrice, Mr. Jay Moore, Molly Lyons, Mrs. Heather Kemp, Logan Kemp, Kate Kemp, Rachel Barnes, Mrs. Angela Siefker, Mrs. Mariesa Snell, Mr. Patrick Snell, Kate Yappen. St. Cecilia students and Mr. Francis Horn were also helping out.

In addition to the Overbrook families at the race, some other notable people in attendance included: Achilles International founder Dick Traum, the "Central Park jogger" Tricia Meili, and the 2012 Sports Illustrated Sports Kids of the Year 2012, Connor and Cayden Long:

  • Dick Traum is the first amputee to compete in the New York City Marathon. He did so in 1976 after having one leg amputated above the knee. He competed in Saturday’s race as well.
  • Tricia Meili ran the race Saturday morning as a guide to another amputee. Mrs. Meili spoke the night before the race at Montgomery Bell Academy. She is the “Central Park jogger,” who in 1989 was attacked while running in Central Park, savagely beaten and left for dead. She spoke Friday night about her recovery with elegance and encouragement. She said the three things that helped her recover from the attack were her support system of friends and family, the fact that she found hope in the future and living in the moment. Mrs. Meili is a member of the Achilles International board and continues to run today (including completing the New York City Marathon after her recovery).
  • Coming across the finish line, drenched from sweat but still smiling, was Conner and Cayden Long, the Sports Illustrated Sports Kids of the Year 2012. The brothers from White House, Tenn., ran the race – Conner pushing Cayden, who has cerebral palsy. It was hard not to tear up when the two got their medals. When Conner was called up as the winner of the push-chair division for the race, he quickly corrected the announcer that the winners were Conner and Cayden. The brothers have completed many races together, always Conner pushing Cayden.

Witnessing these athletes was a rare opportunity to see the gospel in living action. Jesus showed us in His life through His actions the importance and dignity of every person, no matter how different. He stopped to heal the blind beggar and his touch allowed a crippled man to walk. He noticed each person's needs when others did not. Although we did not get to see Jesus perform those miracles, for hundreds of people who gathered on campus Saturday morning, they witnessed people taking others by the hand and leading them to a tiny miracle. You could feel the hope and possibility rushing over the road as each competitor crossed the finish line.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Blog – Step into first-grade

Overbrook School’s Teacher of the Year, Mrs. Sarah Joyce, embodies this year’s Scripture quote, “Put your gifts at the service of one another.” Just spend a few minutes in her classroom and you will know that God gave Mrs. Joyce the gift of teaching. She shares that gift completely with her first-graders.

Stepping into her first grade classroom is like stepping into a theater. One day you might see the students singing their dramatic alphabet song complete with sounds and gestures. Another day there is contraction surgery going on. This fall, students did a complete study of spiders including learning new vocabulary, reading books and, of course, creating spider webs out of pretzels. Mrs. Joyce’s classroom is a learning environment very cleverly disguised as a lot of fun.

“I think all children are really curious people, they like to ask why and they like it when they find out why,” Sarah said in a recent interview. “So I think (teaching) is kind of unlocking the secrets to things that when you are young seem mystical. And in some way, becoming a teacher, knowing the answers, gives you something with which to face the universe.”

Sarah’s mission for her classroom is to love her students.

“No matter how good you are with behavior management or no matter how creative your lessons are, if they don’t love you and you don’t have (your students) leaving every day with the sense that my teacher loves me back, then you’re not in the right profession.”

Mrs. Joyce began teaching at Overbrook, as an Aquinas College student doing her student teaching. Her potential was quickly recognized and she was asked to work as a second-grade teachers’ aide immediately following graduation. She has spent the last two years as a full-time first-grade teacher.

Mrs. Joyce earned her bachelor of science in Interdisciplinary Studies, graduating Summa Cum Laude, from Aquinas College. She was awarded the St. Dominic Teacher of Truth at graduation and served as president of the student Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development at Aquinas. She served on the Student Activities Board, which helped coordinate and plan events, and was a member of the academic honor fraternity Delta Epsilon Sigma. Sister Matthew Marie Cummings, O.P., School of Education professor at Aquinas, is Mrs. Joyce’s mentor. She said she saw her potential as a teacher when she was a student and that her love for students is the key to her ability to touch so many through her teaching.

“She is very loving,” agreed Mrs. Joyce’s partner teacher Mrs. Tessa Ribble. “She is very willing to adapt to each child’s needs, has diverse strategies and is always looking to improve.”

“She’s been a great person to plan and work with because she is so flexible and we share ideas,” Mrs. Ribble added.

Thanks to the Overbrook School’s Parents in Partnership Grant sponsored by the Parent Board, Mrs. Joyce traveled to Chicago to be trained in the Everyday Math Program, attended the Handwriting Without Tears teacher training and a summer camp for early childhood educators, hosted by the effervescent Dr. Jean Feldman.

Mrs. Joyce loves to read and create things for her students at school. She enjoys singing songs with her husband Bryan and playing with Poppe, her Beagle. She and her husband are currently writing a children’s book. She is the daughter of Michael and Babette Whitmore.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Blog: Prime numbers and pizza

What do prime numbers and pizza have in common? MathCounts, of course.

Overbrook’s MathCounts program is a junior high group that gives students the opportunity to practice math skills outside of the regular classroom setting. The group meets once a week at lunch to work on a math skill and to eat pizza. In addition, the Math Team, made up of students from MathCounts, travels to math competitions to test students’ knowledge and take on a challenge.

Twelve junior high students participated in the Middle Tennessee State University Math Competition Tuesday. Those competing included: sixth-graders Thomas Zeuthen, Will Farner, Alex Kalams and Roy Claverie; seventh-graders Joshua Smith, Kaili Liu, Kathleen McLeod and Fernando Arguello; and eighth-graders Clare Steiner, Eile McGinn, Grace Regnier and Logan Kemp. Math team members have also participated in competitions at Father Ryan and MBA this year.

Dr. John Liu and Mr. David Donlon head the group as a way to give students who enjoy math another opportunity for growth and learning.

"The goal for MathCounts is to enrich our junior high school students and help nurture a passion for math," Dr. Liu said.

Seventh-grader Blaine Howard said her mom wanted her to join the group initially but it’s grown on her. “I think it will help me in math class,” Blaine said about MathCounts. “I actually learned some things in MathCounts and then we did them in class, so I was really happy about that.”

Recently Kathleen Burns, a junior at St. Cecilia Academy, was the guest instructor for one of the lunch meetings. Kathleen is in AP Calculus at SCA and taught a lesson on prime numbers. She said she enjoys math and teaching others, so she was happy to share her knowledge with the team.

She took students through a PowerPoint presentation of prime number factors and sample problems then gave the students a prime number challenge to work on with their partners.
Dr. Liu is working to organize the MathCounts students into tutors for the fourth and fifth-grade students. He aims to get the tutoring sessions running in May.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Blog: If you make a kid a pancake …

One year Mrs. Herman and Mrs. Warren were reading the book “If you give a pig a pancake” to their prekindergarten class when one student said, “Oh, I love pancakes. I wish we could have pancakes at school!”

“We said, ‘Why not?’” Mrs. Herman recalls. Thus began the tradition of PJ’s and Pancakes in Mrs. Herman’s classroom.

This year’s event took place recently as the students all came to school in their colorful PJ’s ready for breakfast. Some wore Christmas PJ’s while princesses and super heroes were found on others. Each child also brought their favorite stuffed animal friend to school for the special day.

Mrs. Herman began to pass out plates and napkins while Mrs. Warren warmed up the griddle and mixed up batter. Students were each given blueberries and strawberries to go along with their warm pancakes. As the pancakes were cooking (a smell that began to spread throughout the hallways at Overbrook!), the students sang along to “Do you know the muffin man?” and other nursery rhymes playing on a portable CD player.

“I think I landed on Planet Blueberry,” one student said to his stuffed animal as the pancakes were being served.

“We said come to school hungry, and you did!” Mrs. Herman told the class as they finished their third round of silver dollar-sized pancakes with butter and syrup. When all the pancakes were eaten, the children began to clean their spots and pull out their napping pads and blankets.

Warm with full bellies, the students snuggled up in their blankets on the carpet in the center of the room and watched a DVD on the smart board.

“You want them to love school,” Mrs. Herman said. “So we do things like this because we can. When else can you do something like this?” Later this year, the class will also have a Teddy Bear picnic, she added.

The pajamas, pancakes and teddy bears are memories students will carry with them. And the positive memories will help them to love coming to school and learning each day. Mrs. Herman said her students talked about the PJ’s and Pancake day for two weeks before the event.

“This is the best day,” said Mary Burbage, in her horse pajamas.

So maybe if you give a kid a pancake, she’ll want some school lessons to go with it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Blog: A witness to history

For most people the historical figures of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are larger-than-life icons we remember from grainy black and white news footage; men who we often quote but did not know. For former Overbrook father, Mr. John Seigenthaler, however, the legendary men were his friends.

Mr. Seigenthaler visited Overbrook the Friday before spring break to speak to students in grades 4-8. He had lunch at the White House to reminisce with the Dominican sisters and toured the school, visiting the classrooms of his great nieces and nephew before addressing the students in the St. Cecilia theater.

Mr. Seigenthaler, whose son John Michael Seigenthaler graduated from Overbrook in 1970, told the students that when he was their age, Nashville was a very different place. He described for them a segregated city where signs warned of which water fountains were for blacks and which were for whites. A city where black people could go into the grocery store and buy any product they could afford but were not afforded the right to sit down at a lunch counter and order a meal. Mr. Seigenthaler, now 87, speaks in a quiet soft manner. His stories mesmerize you, not so much for his delivery but for the history he is recounting, for the times he lived through and for the people he interacted with.

After telling the story of how he was hurt in Montgomery, Ala., during one of the Freedom Riders riots, (he was knocked unconscious with a pipe) a student asked Mr. Seigenthaler if he ever met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He responded by saying, yes, he did. It was during his time as Robert Kennedy’s assistant in the White House. Dr. King had come to talk to the Attorney General and President Kennedy about the growing civil rights movement in the south. Earlier that day at lunch, he told the Sisters a similar story. He said he was taking notes during the meeting when President Kennedy explained to Dr. King that state law superseded federal law in some of the conflicts going on in the South, therefore the administration wanted Dr. King to concentrate his movement on voters’ rights. Voters’ rights, the Kennedys explained, were clearly in the jurisdiction of the federal government. Dr. King politely told the Kennedys that he had a group working on voters’ rights but that he could not concentrate his personal efforts on voters’ rights when human rights were at stake. Mr. Seigenthaler said Dr. King told the Kennedys that he needed to go to “where the evil” was, that was his fight. Hearing the story makes one feel is if they have witnessed something historic just by listening to the recounting of such a moment.

Mr. Seigenthaler went on to tell the students the story of why the Shelby Street Bridge is being renamed for him. It is a story that enthralled the students. Mr. Seigenthaler was working as a reporter for The Tennessean (the paper for which he later became editor and publisher) when news came across that a man was going to jump off the Shelby Street Bridge. When Mr. Seigenthaler arrived on the scene, the police sent him up on the bridge to interview the man and see if he could talk him down. After about 20 minutes talking to the distraught man, Mr. Seigenthaler noticed that his shirt collar was open wide and he might be able to grab him by the collar if he tried to jump. Moments later when something upset the man, Mr. Seigenthaler did exactly that. He said he wasn’t certain he could hold the man but he was certain that the police officers would jump in the minute he grabbed the man. Mr. Seigenthaler is credited with saving the man’s life but he said he believes that the police officers who pulled him and the man back from the edge of the bridge are the real heroes. Nonetheless, the bridge will be dedicated in his honor sometime soon.

Whether or not Mr. Seigenthaler believes he is the hero of the Shelby Street Bridge story, he is a hero of history. His life has been filled with some of the most enduring moments in our nation’s history. He was at the center of so much action in his lifetime that just his presence is moving. He is a treat for anyone who has the chance to spend time with him. For Overbrook students, it was likely an afternoon they will remember for many years to come.

To read more about the bridge story, click here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Blog: What social issues matter to eighth-graders?

Overbrook’s eighth-graders worry about things like wasted natural resources, lying, obesity, the problems created by technology in their lives, not having enough time to rest, their overloaded plates, pollution, judging others unfairly, how words can hurt someone, authenticity, and the right to privacy. You can see it in their artwork.

The students in the Class of 2014 just completed a project in studio art where they composed a piece of artwork that made a statement about something happening in society. The students worked in a black and white color pallet and wrote an accompanying artist’s statement about each piece of artwork created.

“We looked at how art has been used in the past to make people aware of things happening in society,” said OS art teacher Ann Ripley, who talked to the class about such artists as Francisco Jose de Goya and Honore-Victorin Daumier. “We also talked about how you can promote positive change through artwork.”

Students talked about what they see happening in their world and how they can depict those issues/events on a canvas. They also thought about what they would like to see change before they picked an issue to focus their art around.

“We also looked at political cartoons,” Ms. Ripley added. “We studied composition and design to show how it can create emphasis.”

Several students decided to focus on the issue of technology in the world of a teenager. Adelle H. painted a picture where you can only see the back of a girl’s head outlined by the frame of her headphones, blocking out the world. The computer screen glows behind her, capturing her complete attention. She does not see the hands reaching out to her surrounding her, trying to touch her.

“Kids my age are struggling with this,” Adelle said during a class discussion of the finished paintings. “I hope to show people that you should not spend all of your time on the Internet.”

Clare S. also used her artwork to talk about the issue of technology. “People stay up too late updating their status or playing an addictive online game,” she wrote in her artist’s statement. “ We waste hours online that could be used to hang out with friends, study for the next test or letting your brain rest. Our actions affect our future.”

Bailey W. used her artwork to show a teenager sitting at the dinner table with her parents. But instead of focusing on her family, the girl is only looking at her phone.

“I chose this topic because even I struggle with putting my phone down at the dinner table,” Bailey wrote. “Family is more important than any technology one can use. I hope, through my art, that more teenagers will understand that parents want to talk to us. To hear them, all we have to do is put the technology away.”

Ryan B. used his artwork to literally shine a spotlight on an issue widely discussed in the media: government intrusion into privacy. His piece shows a small man in the center spotlight with large and formidable black cameras surrounding him. The cameras are disproportionally big compared to the man.

“I wanted to really keep the focus on the little guy, so the back is dark gray and the cameras are black with white surrounding the man,” Ryan said during a class discussion of his piece.

Three students used their canvas platform to focus on the environment, while others touched on issues such as lying, bullying and obesity. Then several chose to speak out through their artwork about the overwhelming busyness of their lives as teenagers.

“Sleep is for the weak,” is the title of Grace R.’s piece which shows an exhausted girl standing next to a spinning wheel, which symbolizes a clock, that is divided up with all the things in her life that demand her time.

“Our daily lives are so stressful, there is no time for activities,” Grace said talking about her piece which shows the girl with tired eyes, messy hair and arms filled with stuff that is falling out of her hands. A Rosary also dangles from her arm.

“The wheel says, ‘Choose two items,’ to show you can’t do it all and you have to make choices,” Grace explained. “She also has a Rosary. I put that in there because sometimes it feels like a burden and it really shouldn’t.”

“This group really impressed me with their work,” Ms. Ripley said. “Artistically, their compositions were very well done, their use of the material, and how passionate they were about their ideas.”

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014

It’s not magic, it’s faith
Mrs. Ribble’s first-grade students each have a plan for their tiny bottles of miraculous water from Lourdes, France, but more importantly, they’ve learned the water is not magic water.
“How you make it work is you use your faith,” one student explained. “If you don’t have faith, then it won’t work.”
The students were given the bottles of water by Connie Brady, a guest and friend of Mrs. Ribble who visited their class after her annual trip to Lourdes, France. She volunteers at the grotto where Saint Bernadette saw visions of Mary, the mother of Jesus. During one of the visions, Mary told Bernadette, then just a 14-year-old girl, to dig in the mud. When Bernadette dug a spring appeared and still exists today. Millions of pilgrims travel to Lourdes, France, to bathe in the waters or collect some water, which has been known to have miraculous healing power.
Mrs. Ribble’s students were fascinated by the stories shared by Ms. Brady. They retold the stories in their own way.
Eve said when Bernadette was looking at a vision of Mary (she saw Mary 18 times) she could not be harmed. “She was standing with a candle that burned her hand but it didn’t even hurt,” Eve explained. “And when she looked away and then touched the candle, she said, ‘Ouch!’” added her classmate Emma. “She could only not be burned with the candle when she was looking at Mary,” another classmate Harper summarized. Jack said Ms. Brady showed the class pictures of St. Bernadette’s body “which didn’t rot out” after she died. But it was really the miraculous water that most captured the class’ attention. The students gasped when they were told the water was not magic, but took the message to heart that faith can give the water healing powers if it is God’s will and is used in faith. Each child has a specific plan for his or her tiny bottle of water.
Lily plans to put her water on her forehead. Jack will put it on his eczema. Eve is going to save it for her headaches and throat. Brett is going to put it on a cut he has right here (he said pointing to his small finger). Emma plans to put her water on her forehead. Ella Kate will share her water with her family whenever they are sick. Braden will save the water for when it is needed. Will plans to put the water on his knee because he scratched it the other day when he was on the playground. Frances is going to give her water to Mrs. Willett. Grant is going to drink some to help with his asthma because he wants it to go away, then he plans to save the rest. Oscar is going to put it on his hands. Harper is going to save the water until she really, really needs it. Liza plans to put the water on her brother’s back that’s hurting. Hannah Maria is going to share it with her sister and might use it when she gets scared.
Ms. Brady promised to think of all the children when she returns to Lourdes later this year. She is one of 8,000 volunteers who work daily to help the pilgrims and the sick who come to St. Bernadette’s spring seeking its healing powers.
“When you use this water think of me,” she asked the class. “And say a prayer for me when I go back in September. I will bring you with me in my heart.”

Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014

Math everywhere!

Some days you can hear them in the hallway – counting, working out a problem, even singing. Other days, you will see three students gathered in the library huddled with Mrs. Clark working intensely. They are not an uncommon sight at Overbrook: small pull-out math classes.

Tracy Clark began working part-time as Overbrook’s math specialist in November. Mrs. Clark, who holds a degree in electrical engineering and admits math was always her favorite subject, works in small groups with students who need math enrichment and math help. She also teaches a group of three sixth-graders Algebra daily.

Because of the different levels of math abilities among the Overbrook students, Mrs. Clark was added to the faculty to help teachers differentiate math instruction. One of Mrs. Clark’s students is working a grade above his classmates; a few others are getting supplemental work in addition to their regular math curriculum. A few are struggling, so Mrs. Clark is providing extra help. One student is taking geometry separate from his class. Still others are working well above their grade level.

“It keeps me on my toes,” Mrs. Clark said of her varying classes and levels among students. The new program, however, provides Overbrook with another level of education that can be more tailored to student ability and need. Her students are referred by teachers who see that students either need extra help or an extra challenge in math. Parents will also sometimes seek out help for their students along with teachers.

“Any student can do math,” Mrs. Clark said, “As a teacher, I just try to find a way to explain it to the student so that he or she can understand it.” And, sometimes that is easier when working one-on-one or in very small groups.

“I think, as a parent, if I had a child at a high math level and if my child was ready to move, I would want more of a challenge for my child,” said Mrs. Clark, whose two daughters are students at Overbrook. “Because you always want a little bit of a challenge in math. And meeting the needs of each child is important.”

Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014

Bee Day is filled with mugwumps

Grace Reigner ponders the spelling of mugwump.

In the fifth round of the Overbrook Spelling Bee Monday, eighth-grader Grace Reigner walked up the podium, the picture of calm and cool. Then Mrs. Erin Polley announced the word she would need to spell: mugwump.
“Can you repeat that?” Grace asked.
“Mugwump,” Mrs. Polley said, as clearly as possible. A few chuckles came from the audience.
Grace asked for the word to be repeated one more time. Then she asked for the definition. Mrs. Polley read it aloud, “the head or leader of any body of persons.”
“Can you use it in a sentence?” Grace asked as whispers rose up from the audience of students.
“In the Harry Potter book series, the head of the International Confederation of Wizards is deemed the Supreme Mugwump.”
“Mugwump,” Grace said, finally confident she had understood the term. “M-U-G-W-U-M-P.”
“That is correct,” Mrs. Polley replied and the attentive audience cheered loudly, clearly excited that Grace pulled through the round with the odd term.
Bee Day 2014 was full of tense little moments like Grace’s mugwump adventure and lots of cheering victories.

Fernando Arguello laughs as he remembers the correct answer to the question he missed.
In the History Bee, fifth-grader Jake Harris was the first to earn five points to qualify for the next level of the History Bee beyond Overbrook by answering every single question asked of him correctly. Thomas Zeuthen won a tie-breaker round in the History Bee by knowing the name of the scientific project that created the first atomic bomb, The Manhattan Project. The four students who move on to the next round in the regional History Bee (an online exam) are Jake, Thomas, Alex Phillips and Eile McGinn.
The dramatic Spelling Bee went 15 rounds before Marie Kaiser beating out Dottie Eastwood by spelling “affluent” correctly. Both Marie and Dottie, however, advance to the Davidson County Spelling Bee next month.
The day ended with the Geography Bee. Will Farner won the bee by winning a tie-breaker over Thomas Zeuthen after the Championship round. Will won by knowing that Bali and Madura are islands that are a part of the country of Indonesia. The Geography Bee winner now takes a 100 question test that will be sent to the National Geography Bee for grading.
Though only older students participated, everyone learned something on Bee Day. Facts like what river supplies water and power to the Hoover Dam (answer: the Colorado River), which state bordering the Gulf of Mexico has the lowest fresh water withdrawals (answer: Mississippi), which event in 1666 burned down St. Paul’s Cathedral (answer: the Great Fire of London), and, of course, how to spell mugwump.

Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2013

St. Lucy visits

On Dec. 13 each year, St. Lucy visits Overbrook taking the form of a third-grade girl dressed in a delicate white lace dress and donning a headpiece wreath of greens and candles. St. Lucy visits every classroom with treats for the teachers and sometimes takes snapshots with the class. This Scandinavian tradition has long been a tradition at Overbrook, too.

St. Lucy was a virgin and martyr from Syracuse in Sicily. Her name means “light,” as Charlotte Sigmund, this year’s St. Lucy, told the student body the morning of her visit. The saint was born in 283 into nobility.

After St. Lucy consecrated her virginity to God, her mother was cured of a grave illness through Lucy’s prayers. Well again, St. Lucy’s mother allowed Lucy to distribute a great part of her riches to the poor. Later, during a famine in Italy, prayers to St. Lucy brought grain-bearing ships to the harbor saving the people from starving.

On her feast day each year Scandinavian daughters bring a breakfast of sweet cakes and coffee to their parents, and torchlight processions are held in her honor throughout Europe. The Overbrook tradition takes from this with St. Lucy rolling a cart full of breakfast treats to each of the classrooms, the front office and even the White House. Holiday music accompanies her as she goes from door to door greeting all.

Charlotte said her favorite part of acting as St. Lucy 2013 was delivering the treats, though she said she was nervous.

“It made me feel very special,” to be chosen, Charlotte said, adding that she will remember forever her day as the saint with the holiday cheer.

Mallory Mire played the role of St. Lucy when she was in third grade in 2009. She said she was not nervous and she still remembers going to all the classrooms with the special treats. Her favorite part was getting the chance to talk on the intercom that morning, telling all the students about St. Lucy.

Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013

Owl eat their prey whole

Owls eat their prey whole. Students in Mrs. Cianciolo’s class will likely never forget that little fact.

The class participated in an owl pellet investigation during which they dissected owl pellets in the junior high science lab to discover whole bird skulls, feathers and even a rodent collar bone still in tack. Mrs. C’s class has been studying the food chain, so what better experiment to see what a predatory bird like an owl eats (and digests whole)?

The experiment allowed the third-graders to identify the skulls and various bones found in the pellets, determine the number of prey animals found in a pellet and construct a possible food chain, food pyramid and food web with the owl as the highest level predator. Plus, the class’ theme this year is owls, so, of course, the experiment fits perfectly into Mrs. C’s academic year.

Before beginning their dissection of the pellets, the third-graders rolled up the sleeves of the junior high lab coats and found the average weight of the pellets after weighing each of the nine pellets used in class. The students then gently began to break open the pellets. One duo found a rodent hip while another found a mole shoulder blade. They were able to identify the parts using a bone sorting chart that illustrated the skull, jaws, shoulder blades, legs, feet, ribs, vertebrae and pelvis of birds, moles, rodents and shrews.
Finally, when the students had finished investigating the owl pellets they were asked to draw some conclusions about what they uncovered. For example, students were asked, “If a barn owl produces one pellet per day, estimate how much food in grams that the owl would eat in one year.”

"The Owl Pellet Investigation gave the students a chance to use the science process skills of observation, classification, estimating and measuring, inferring and predicting," Mrs. Cianciolo said, adding that all students love hands-on activities, and in the third grade, she tries to incorporate high interest learning activities as often as possible. The students were able to learn about food chains in a way they will always remember.

Student Connor Carr summed it up. He said, "This was a lot of fun and it teaches you a lot of stuff like what an owl would eat.”

Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2013

An upside down lesson on the Renaissance

With a piece of paper taped to the bottom side of their desks, fifth-graders crawled on their hands and knees to get into position on the floor. Water colors and paint brushes in hand, they were ready for the day’s social studies lesson. But why on the floor under their desks? Well to paint like Michelangelo did when he created his masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, of course.
Michelangelo, Mrs. Kesha Wall tells the class, was not on the floor, however. He was 300 feet up in the air on a scaffold, which he designed. He also got mad at all of his assistants and fired them. So alone, he painted his fresco on a moist plaster wall using color pigments. As Mrs. Wall’s class began to create their own masterpieces, she quizzed them on this information they had been learning prior to the painting exercise.
“Who is another painter besides Michelangelo we’ve been studying?” she asked. “Leonardo Di Vinci,” called out one student, who added that he designed and painted the Mona Lisa as well as The Last Supper. Mrs. Wall added the fact that Di Vinci painted that original Last Supper on the wall of a monastery.
The students were studying the Renaissance as they participated in this exercise. Mrs. Wall used the painting as a way to give students another perspective and to peak their interest. She continued to quiz them throughout the class time asking more questions about the Renaissance as they prepared for a test on the unit.
“Who is a famous Renaissance author from England?”
“Name three ways the church raised money during this time?”
This is the second year Mrs. Wall has put her students under their desks to learn more about the Renaissance and the students seem to like the change of view. The students then participated in a class blog with Mrs. Wall on the website after the activity.
“It was awesome when we painted under our desks on our back,” Gitae Park wrote in the blog. “As I said I loved to learn about the artists but it was better to become one. I liked because I was a combination of Michelangelo and Raphael.”
“I enjoyed painting but it started to hurt my neck,” added Brody Snell.
“Can you imagine painting like that for FOUR years?” Mrs. Wall responded to Brody. “Talk about a pain in the neck!”

Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013

Fall brings a harvest of lessons for Overbrook teachers

As the leaves begin to change color ever so slightly and the weather finally turns cooler, teachers at Overbrook are taking a cue from Mother Nature and bringing a harvest of fall lessons into their classrooms.

Junior high students are reading the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, grandfather of the horror story, and writing scary stories themselves. First-graders spent a week as “spider scientists” learning everything about the arachnids. And kindergartners got their hands slimy and gooey last week as they dissected pumpkins for a lesson on estimation and counting by 10s.

The first-graders in Mrs. Sarah Joyce’s class spent a week studying everything about spiders across the curriculum.

“The lesson on spiders is a science unit that has interdisciplinary tie-ins,” Mrs. Joyce explained. “So, in writing and grammar, we worked on using verbs and adjectives to describe spiders and then wrote a Diamante poem about spiders.”

“Fuzzy, 8 legs, trapping, running, climbing, cool, creepy, spooky, biting, jumping, Arachnid,” those were the words of one poem in the classroom. The vocabulary list for the week included terms like thorax, silk, habitat, molting, dragline, orb web and egg sac.

But the lesson didn’t end there. In science, the first-graders learned specific vocabulary and factual information about spiders; in reading they practiced finding the main idea and details in books about spiders; and in work stations the students worked in small groups to read a non-fiction text on spiders while decoding words and recognizing sight. To end the lesson, they pulled in a few fun projects such as creating spider artwork with their handprints and edible spider webs out of pretzels and white chocolate.

“My very favorite thing about spiders is they can eat and trap things,” said first-grader Cademorgan C.

In kindergarten, it was all about the pumpkin last week. The students spent much of the day Friday doing a “pumpkin investigation.” The classes were each given a small, medium and large pumpkin and asked to guess how tall the pumpkin was, how many seeds it might have, and if it would float. They then set out to find out how close their estimations came.

The students carved the pumpkins and extracted all the seeds – an activity many of them surprisingly found “gross.” Others delighted in the messy process of getting hundreds of seeds from the inside of a pumpkin.

The classes counted the seeds in groups of ten to see which pumpkins contained the most seeds. The large pumpkin won out in Ms. Chrissie Conyer’s class containing 593 seeds.

Teachers at Overbrook work to provide interactive, interesting lessons for students all year. But when the weather turns crisp and the leaves start to change, there is just something in the air that makes learning more fun.

Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013

Fifth grade gets to the heart of the matter

Fifth-graders got a lesson on par with many medical students last week when they were able to practice examining a beating heart with an echocardiogram simulator.
Dr. Chad Wagner – father of Overbrook students Emily, Mason and Peyton – works in the ICU at Vanderbilt Medical Center. He brought an echocardiogram simulator to Mrs. Pinkston’s fifth-grade science class last week as a part of the unit on the human body and the circulatory, digestive and respiratory systems. An echocardiogram, according to WebMD, is a “type of ultrasound test that uses high-pitched sound waves that are sent through a device called a transducer. The device picks up echoes of the sound waves as they bounce off the different parts of your heart. These echoes are turned into moving pictures of your heart that can be seen on a video screen.”
Dr. Wagner explained to the class that echocardiograms are performed on patients to see if there are problems with the functioning of the heart.
“Having a picture (of the heart) helps you figure out what’s going wrong,” Dr. Wagner said, adding that the simulator is the piece of equipment doctors use to take those moving pictures of the heart. The simulator he brought to school allowed students to try their hand at performing the medical test and to practice identifying parts of the heart as it is seen in the echocardiogram.
One by one, students were able to use the simulator to view an image of a pumping heart. Students could see the right and left ventricles, the left atrium bringing blood in from the lungs and then the valves as they opened and shut to allow blood to pass through. All the pictures are simulated but look incredibly real.
Students asked Dr. Wagner questions as they took turns.
“What would the heart look like if a person had a problem or a heart attack,” one student asked.
“How do you find the heart when you are doing the test?” another student asked.
“Have you ever had someone whose heart is not in the right place?” yet another student asked.
“That’s why this is so helpful to our training,” Dr. Wagner responded, adding that medical students use this equipment to help them prepare for doing echocardiograms on real patients.
Mrs. Pinkston said she was thrilled that her students got a lesson that is usually reserved for medical students.

Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013

Math round-robin

OMG, have you seen what Mrs. Emerson is doing in junior high math?
The POD is up on the board first thing in the morning along with the TLW goal, so there is never a dull moment. If you have free time in this class, it’s already spoken for. Both HW and QT are frequent in junior high math as the pace is brisk. But that is just the way Mrs. Emerson wants her classroom, full of movement.
Mrs. Amy Emerson is new to Overbrook this year but not to the classroom nor to math. What she is doing differently is trying to connect with students in a different way. First, by using their language she mixes things up, which accounts for all the abbreviations.
If you’re like me, you need a glossary:
POD = problem of the day
TLW = the learner will (this is a goal such as: write numbers in expanded form, use the metric system, calculate probability, simplify expressions, etc.)
HW = homework
QT = quizzes and tests
But words and abbreviations are not all Mrs. Emerson is changing up. She wants to make math more active and incorporate movement into a subject that is known to keep kids still in their desks for long periods of time. Recently she had her seventh-grade class change up its routine in class by orchestrating a round-robin style exercise.
After folding their papers “hot dog style” and labeling them with numbers 1-16, Mrs. Emerson placed index cards upside down on desks spread out across the room.
“This is just skill practice with a little movement,” she told the students. “I have cards with problems on them and all the cards are numbered.”
She then asked the students to each find a desk with an index card. When Mrs. Emerson gave the word, each student turned over the card at the desk where he or she sat and worked on the problem it presented. After about a minute or so, Mrs. Emerson called out, “switch.” Each student then rotated to the next desk with an index card and worked the new math problem.
As Mrs. Emerson walked around the room, she was able to see how the students worked through the problems and help where it was needed. She discussed simplifying, reciprocals, and common factors as she moved from desk to desk before again calling for a switch. The class continued this way until it had worked through all 16 problems.
The exercise gets the students up and moving while also giving them class time to practice problems with Mrs. Emerson’s help readily available.
“This exercise helps keep a class that meets until 11:25 a.m. focused even though their stomachs are rumbling just before lunch,” she said. “It’s just practice, but it changes it up.”

Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013

God created the heavens and the atrium ...

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” and then he created the atrium.
Sister Mary Charles, O.P., and the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program opened the Overbrook atrium a few years ago. It was created as a place where younger students could go to learn about their faith not through books and tests but through hands-on activities, quiet time, prayer and guidance. This fall, Sister Mary Rose, O.P., has been working with the second-grade students in atrium. Last week she talked to the students about the history of the Kingdom of God before letting them spend some time in the atrium discovering the Kingdom of God for themselves. She described for them three moments in the history of the Kingdom of God: creation, redemption and perousia. It was a lot to think about. So as it works in the atrium, the students were allowed time to reflect or explore.
Each student was free to choose where he or she would like to spend time. The atrium is actually the entire portable building behind the art room near the kindergarten playground. Soft music is often playing when students enter. Battery powered candles are lit and the rooms are quiet and reverent. Students seem to be drawn to this area perhaps because it fits them just right. And that is not just because many things are presented in a miniature version but because it gives many abstract concepts a tangible side.
During the second-grade atrium time, two girls decide to pray at the statue of Mary while another student decided to draw parables. Sister Mary Rose asked the student quietly if he knew any parables to draw. And, of course, he did. He said he would draw the parable of the shepherd who lost his sheep.
Several students were busy working in an area that is a miniature version of a church altar and sacristy. The students were so completely into setting up the altar as if a Mass were about to take place they don’t even notice that photos were being snapped of them. They unlocked the mini tabernacle. They placed the chalice and other items on the altar. They worked quietly but with a purpose.
The idea of the atrium and the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is based in the Montessori method with the thought being that young children can literally “practice” their faith in this setting before they are expected to participate fully in the Mass.
Everything in the atrium works to give students a chance to see, feel and touch parts of the faith they are learning to live. One student, decided to work at a station where he got to mix the water and “wine” just as the priest does at Mass. Two other students lined up parts of the creation timeline and another student played a saints matching game.
Time flies when you are in the atrium. The students notice it, too. They are engrossed in their activities when they are finally asked to line back up to go back to class in the main school building. But not before one more prayer from Sister Mary Rose:
“Go now in peace,” she says to them all in a soft voice. “May the love of God surround you everywhere that you may go.”

Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013

Picasso blindfolded

You do not have to be fluent in Spanish to understand that in Mrs. Kemp’s sixth-grade Spanish classroom, the students enjoyed the lesson on vocabulary recently.
Mrs. Kemp speaks mostly en Espanol in her classroom with many added hand motions and gestures to get her meaning across. On this particular day, the students pick up her meaning fast. A game is at hand and they are ready to play.
The students are learning the vocabulary words for the different parts of the body. So in order to help them really make a connection between the Spanish word and the part of the body, Mrs. Kemp will be playing "Picasso" with the students.
Several students are called to the board and blindfolded. Each is given a dry-erase marker and asked to listen carefully to the words Mrs. Kemp will call out. The student is then asked to draw that body part on the board. After just a few body parts are called out one quickly sees why the game is called Picasso.
The drawings on the board resemble the Spanish artist's work – disconnected ears floating awkwardly close to misshapen eyes. Overly large feet are connected to the mid-leg instead of the ankle. Noses end up off the face and hands jut out from chins.
The students at the board cannot yet see their artistic creations but the students at their desks enjoy it immensely. Once Mrs. Kemp has thrown out the complete list of vocabulary: la boca, el ojo, la nariz, el hombro, el estomago, la mano, el pie, la cabeza, la oreja, etc. the students can remove their blindfolds to see their artwork. Laughter ripples around the room as the students compare their renderings to their neighbors’. The next round of artists clamor for a turn at the board and a chance to translate Spanish vocabulary into blind art. When the game is done, everyone has had a turn.
“Did that help?” Mrs. Kemp asks the students.
“Yes!” they all agree in unison.
Then the class quickly shifts from the Picasso game to reviewing more vocabulary – the words for school supplies – and then the Spanish alphabet. Mrs. Kemp shows a fun song from her web page that will help the students remember the Spanish alphabet, which has four more letters than the English alphabet; two of which appear as double-letter characters. Watch the video here, and by the end, I promise you’ll be singing along. Mrs. Kemp explains to the students that the Spanish language is a phonetic language so if they learn the sounds of the letters, they will be able to sound out words easily because there are no silent letters in Spanish.
With that, class is over. Mrs. Kemp keeps her class periods active, lively and quick moving. She said the Picasso game was a fun way of getting students to really visualize the Spanish language.
“The games helps with connecting pictures to sounds and language because so many of the kids are visual learners,” she explained.
“Playing the game blindfolded forces them to think and process what the word I am saying is...and then to create a visual image of that word in their mind.”
I wonder if this is how Picasso got started?

BLOG: Long-distance writing

Forget social media, students at Overbrook are using old fashion pen and paper to communicate with their counterparts in Ōstersund, Sweden.

St. Cecilia Academy alumna and friend of The Dominican Campus, Penny Richardson, approached the school about getting a group to write to students at Lillsjōskolan, a school in Ōstersund where her friend Mikael From serves as principal. Junior high students in Ms. Kelly Gulleman’s social studies class were happy to participate.

“The students in Sweden are practicing their English and we’re helping them by creating a friendship,” Ms. Gulleman said, adding that her students wrote postcards to the Swedish students talking about all kinds of topics from food to country music. The writing is also providing a geography lesson for students as well.

“It’s giving them a sense of wonder about another culture and their finding similarities and seeing differences,” she said.

Students in Sweden have written the Overbrook student about such topics as how much they don’t like their cafeteria food and their snowy weather as well as about playing video games, Volvos and the band Abba.

There will be two more exchanges between the students before the end of the year and the project continues.

Sorry, no posts were found.

Choose groups to clone to:

powered by finalsite