Middle School Students Cap Off Another Productive Year

Showing grit, creativity and problem-solving acumen, students in grades 5 to 8 were all in during their year-end capstone presentations.

Eighth grade students’ yearlong exploration of American pop and rock music culminated on May 15 with the Eighth Grade Arts Expo. Students formed their own bands, wrote original music and created promotional posters and artwork for CD albums, all as a result of the music history they had learned.

Students also collaborated to write and recite memoirs, crucible raps and speeches from “Animal Farm” under the direction of music teacher John-Alec Raubeson, humanities teachers Stephen Hildreth and Tim Campbell, and art teachers Bruce Robbins and Vicente Saavedra. 

“I am so very proud of this grade,” Raubeson shared. “It takes a lot of courage to get up on stage in front of a large audience. It helps when you feel supported, and the students all relied on each other. All the readers, rappers and bands gave wonderful performances.”

Meanwhile, seventh graders presented their yearlong culminating Journeys art projects to their families and the community on May 21.

“It was our 10th Journey Night!” said Mary Chappell, humanities teacher, who together with Paul Friedman, humanities teacher, helped guide the students. “We were awestruck by the enthusiasm the students showed for expressing the events and topics from the year that changed the way they thought about the world around them.” 
Students were asked to think of five moments, events or people that made them who they are today. “This is a continuation of the year where we related history to their own families and how people deal with struggles as they seek a better life for their families,” said Chappell.

The theme of journey was used as the seventh grade teachers taught immigration to the US, the Middle Ages and feudalism, the Golden Age of Islam, and the African kingdoms. Students not only studied the causes of the Imperial Cycle, but how the history of one area can have a lasting effect on other areas of the world with colonization and invasion.
Self-reflection was important throughout the year, and Journey Night was a culminating event for the students to look at the history of the world, and relate it to how they got to where they are today.  

Sixth grade students participated in a different kind of journey. They engaged in a fun and fascinating yearlong study of the Hudson River which culminated in their Hudson River performances and presentations on May 23. Students dove into their folk music song cycle projects with Katie Meadows, sixth grade dean and performing arts coordinator, created sculptures and landscape paintings with Bruce Robbins, art teacher, and poetry and writings with Jen Rathkopf, humanities teacher.
“It is a culmination of yearlong learning centered on the river, a theme woven in many classes at various times of year during the sixth grade experience,” explained Meadows.

“During the year, students have studied water, geology and animals in science class. They literally submerge themselves in their study of the river,” said Dan Russo, science teacher. “One way this is accomplished is by having them, clad in hip waders, seine in the Hudson River early in the first trimester. It is on this day that students will create memories that last a lifetime, whether it be catching an American eel or Atlantic silverside, replicating fishing techniques employed by Native Americans hundreds of years ago, or just appreciating the majestic beauty of the river itself. It is on this seining trip that students learn about history, each other, and, most importantly, themselves.”

Field trips to the Science Barge in Yonkers and a visit to West Point with Mark Tamucci, humanities teacher, rounded out the sixth grade interdisciplinary curriculum.

The excitement in the middle school is palpable as the fifth grade students gear up for their puppet opera, “The Chaos at Sphinxbux,” on May 30. 

The beloved performance is a culmination of the grade’s study of ancient Egypt and opera. Students write and perform an original opera about the lives of Egyptian gods and goddesses using handmade puppets of the deities they studied. Middle School Performing Arts Coordinator Katie Meadows, humanities teacher Michaela Boller and art teacher Bruce Robbins are the faculty trio behind it all.

This year’s plot? The gods and goddesses discover that things are in chaos at their favorite café called Sphinxbux. They lose their powers and must discover a way to bring back order to the social pyramid of Ancient Egypt.

“The students are doing a great job learning to multitask as they sing, manipulate their puppets and collaborate to tell their entertaining story,” said Robbins.

During the school year, the group visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art and attended a performance at the Metropolitan Opera House. Robbins also enjoyed working closely with Meadows and Boller “through this creative adventure.”

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