E Pluribus Unum

I have always loved Latin idioms. Give me a reason to announce “Carpe Diem” and you will find me celebrating wildly. Yet, beyond deciphering a college crest or racking up trivia points, my relationship with this dead language has been one of forced and contrived application at best!  The excellent news, and the inspiration for this blog, is that recently 3-RaviprasadI found myself reaching to describe the culture of professional collaboration here at Park Maitland. This is when one of my favorite Latin idioms immediately came to mind: E pluribus unum- Out of many, one.

What was the catalyst to dredge up this aged- yet still befitting- phrase, you ask? It was a fantastically creative 5th Grade Reading project, spearheaded by my innovative colleague, Mrs. Sandy Covert. The core of this adventure was forged by Covert’s intention to have her students immerse themselves into the

Award Winning Books. But, the truly impressive backstage information I would like to share with you today is the process of how the project was born, shaped, and embraced.

It all began when Mrs. Evelyn McCulloch, our dynamic Smart Tech instructor, sent out an email to the fifth grade team asking us if we would like to take part in a collaborative session with Futures Academy Coordinator, Kyle Wagner. He was currently visiting from the International School of Beijing to speak at FCIS (Florida Conference for Independent Schools). She casually stated in her email that, “His specialties are project based learning, design thinking, reflection, and authentic assessment.” Seeing as these were a bundle of teaching tools that I absolutely adore, I responded with whole-hearted acceptance. 2-HarvieThe session was everything that I hoped it would be. As teachers, we strive to urge our students to use 21st Century skills, which we lovingly refer to as the 4C(s): Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication. The session with Wagner was essentially a lesson- for teachers- in utilizing these skills to derive our own projects for the classroom.  He walked us through the step-by-step process of listening, questioning, and offering up suggestions for our peers that truly respected their essential curriculum goals, and allowed them to critically iron out the details of their project. In the interim, we all became somewhat invested in these projects. We wanted to be a part of them. This is what happened when Covert’s Newbery Project was conceived.

The end product was a project, no a venture, where students read their chosen Newbery Award Winning Novel, critiqued and supported its esteemed selection, as well as created summaries in their Reading class. The tentacles of this didactic beast did not stop there though. Students created characters of their own that drastically changed the course of the plot, and composed scenes modeling the style of their Newbery authors in my ESW class. They created a three dimensional representation of themselves within a distinct 1-Cotesetting inspired by the novel in Smart Tech. They assembled a booklet decorated with their own individual print and displayed all of their work on its pages through Art. Mrs. Leah Unell was the mastermind of the art contribution. She composed the following passage to describe this artistic process:  “The pages of this book were colored by hand using a paper marbelization process with shaving cream and food coloring (except for 5 Blue who used shaving cream and acrylic paint).  The book was folded down from a single sheet of paper that was two feet by three feet in dimension. The two step process created a handmade book that is unique to each artist.”It was a magnificent manifestation of student creativity, and an even more profound demonstration of professional teamwork.

I cannot think of a more suitable use of the phrase “Out of many, one”. I have waited all of my teaching career to be a part of a learning community as open and impassioned as this. This collaboration may have only been a single example of the type of learning and immersion that happens all the time on the Park Maitland campus. Yet, for me, it was indication that I am now a part of something bigger than my own classroom. And the lover of Latin idioms inside me is overjoyed.


Mrs. Brett Carrier

Park Maitland School

5th Grade English, Spelling, and Writing

Pen to Paper

DSC_3151-X2It is sad to say that handwriting has become a lost art in many schools across the U.S. I am proud to announce that handwriting at Park Maitland is alive and well!  Contrary to widespread belief that it doesn’t really impact a child’s learning, we believe that it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past.

According to findings provided by the latest brain research, the link between handwriting and broader educational development runs deep. Children _MG_0003-XLnot only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. Neuroscientists have learned that when we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated, and it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize; learning is made easier.

From “The Benefits of Cursive Go Beyond Writing,” Suzanne Baruch Asherson, The New York Times, April 30, 2013:

Putting pen to paper stimulates the brain like nothing else, even in this age of e-mails, texts and tweets. In fact, learning to write in cursive is shown to improve brain development in the areas of thinking, language, and working memory. Cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing and typing.DSC_0118-XL

At Park Maitland, you will see our students across all grades writing in various classes and for various reasons on a daily basis; you will also see students taking time to reflect,
collaborate, and engage in meaningful (face to face) conversations with teachers IMG_0752-XLand peers. There are many times throughout the day when technology is not allowed for this reason. We believe in the old with the new.  On the other hand, you will also see students using technology to engage in learning at a whole new level…. acquiring vital skills needed for a technology infused life and future.

Yes, learning the correct formation of letters in print and in cursive is still part of our core curriculum. We believe that there are certain fundamental foundational learning essentials in school such as handwriting, phonics, grammar, non-fiction and fiction writing, practice of math facts, memorization of and
understanding of certain historical primary source documents, learning and applying scientific processes, and more! These basic foundational essentials, combined with 21st Century strategies and approaches, ensure that our students are equipped with all of the skills necessary to be extremely successful in their higher education and beyond.IMG_0984-XL

Warm regards,

Mrs. Cindy Moon

Head of School

Building a Culture of Making

IMG_18516th graders returned to the Maker Space this August to build upon the culture of making they so eagerly embraced last year as 5th graders. They couldn’t wait to begin their first project of the year by collaborating to design eco-friendly green lounge chairs.

Students first built mini prototypes of their chairs from paper notecards and used their prototypes to construct their full size loungers. The objectives of the project were to use green materials to create a foldable, durable, comfortable, and stylish chair. Students worked together to test the strength of their designs against their weights, heights, and tastes.

I am amazed at how the students have developed not only in their skills of creative making and collaborating, but also in using critical thinking to solve problems and create viable solutions. These are the kinds of projects that require students to test, revise, and continually improve their designs.

Look out for these chairs at local sports games, in backyards, under trees, in cozy reading corners, and on the beaches of Central Florida! Stay tuned for more exciting projects coming from our 4th-6th students in the Maker Space this year!

Ms. Evelyn McCulloch

Makers Space teacher

Young Makers Meet an Expert Maker

Fifth grade Smart Tech students had the opportunity to hear from an expert local Maker who spent the last seven years designing a unique clock to aid children with autismIMG_1257[1]. Park Maitland School welcomed Mr. Dan Slage, who collaborated on this project with Mrs. Kelly Wheeler, mom to Grace Wheeler of 5 Blue.

Students were inspired by Mr. Slage and his engaging message of perseverance, problem solving, and design thinking. He began by sharing the need he saw for a clock to help several of his friends with autistic children who struggled sleeping. He brought along several of his early prototypes, wiring schematics, and models for students to see. Students were amazed at just how many designs, revisions, and changes Mr. Slage has made to his device after receiving critique and feedback from his friend’s on how their children responded to the clock. IMG_0968[2]The clock itself does not show the time, but rather uses a timer set by a caregiver of the child. Rays of lights are then used to show remaining time. Pictures of interest to the autistic child can also be inserted into the clock.

Before coming to speak to the students, Mr. Slage and Mrs. Wheeler, who are actively working on the project, approached Park Maitland about 3D printing the part of the clock that allows the rays of light to pass through. Using transparent filament, the school’s 3D printer produced the part for the latest prototype.

Mr. Slage imparted to students the importance as young makers to continually improve and revise designs based on the needs of clients, resources available, emerging technologies, and cost and time effectiveness. Most importantly, he truly inspired students to make things they are passionate about that show care and empathy for others, which is exactly the mission of our Maker Space!DSC_3163

Evelyn McCulloch, Smart Tech Teacher

Tacky Tourists

DSC_0474-X3This past week, students in first grade had a wonderful time traveling as “tacky tourists” from one exciting international adventure to another!  After a unit of study about countries DSC_3762-X2and cultures around the world — their customs, agriculture, famous landmarks, music, food, and more — our young travelers had a true “taste” of each at their exciting “Festival of Nations” event!  It was wonderful to see their enthusiasm while they traveled as they recognized famous names, landmarks, and traditions and had an opportunity to participate in many enjoyable and unique experiences! Their passports were full!

Our first grade parents (under the guidance of wonderful science teacher, Dawn Petree) did an extraordinary job of helping to make this engaging and relevant event so meaningful and memorable for all!  What a wonderful way to build community as our students learned about the global one in which we live!

Please remember: ITBS testing starts for grades 4-6 on Wednesday of this coming week.  _DSC0933-X3The following week, our 1st-3rd graders have their testing.  Please make sure that your child arrives at school on time, is well-rested, and has a healthy breakfast each day.  We don’t put pressure on our students during this time.  We know that our strong curriculum and excellent teaching is preparation enough!

Warm wishes for a Happy Easter, Happy Passover, and four day Spring Break!

Cindy Moon

Head of School

Young Scientist

Excitement is in the air! Our young scientists (grades 1-6) have been busy researching, developing hypotheses, formulating plans, conducting experiments, building models and/or inventions, and much more!  The results are in!  DSC_0337-SThe children are eager to share their discoveries at our annual “Dr. Alan Saffran Science Expo!” We look forward to seeing all of our students and their parents this Wednesday evening for a thrilling night of science!

More happenings on the horizon:  As we strive to educate the “whole” child — academically, socially, and emotionally — we are always having lessons and discussions on inclusion, kindness to others, and, of course, making safe decisions. Character     education and safety are paramount at Park Maitland School. We are excited to bring in “experts” in the field of security and child safety as well as child psychologists to meet with our students.

Stranger Safety Workshop for students! We have been in touch with area professionals and look forward to having them come and teach our students “tips” about stranger safety. (This is above and beyond general conversations we always have with students in class.) DSC_0241Look for more information to follow as well as tips for you as parents as we work together to educate our children on safety.

Mean Girls/Mean Boys Workshop for students!  Coming in March… We look forward to having Carol Miller, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and founder of Social Bridges come work with students in various grades on “relationships.”

Park Maitland students almost always impress us with their outstanding manners and the compassion and care that they exhibit towards one another. As we know, learning to be a good friend and learning to share friends and accept others or be kind to others is a process. _DSC0170-SStudents at Park Maitland, just like at any elementary school, can sometimes be unkind to one another for a variety of reasons. They may get mixed messages from adults and media about friendships or how to treat/include others. Conflicts and learning to be a friend to others are a normal part of learning to socialize. As we all know, some adults have not even mastered this skill!

Thank you for partnering with us as we continue to educate your “complete” child — the mind, body, and spirit!_DSC0168

Extracurricular Excitement

I just returned from an exciting day of Park Maitland successes and accomplishments and could not be more proud. This follows an amazing week of spelling competition (see newsletter for details!).  The day began with a rousing and close 6th grade boys’ basketball game.  (Because of the huge growing interest in being on a sports team at Park Maitland, we were able to field two 6th grade boys’ basketball teams!)  The “Blue” team played this morning against a very strong group of players from another school and played hard throughout.  The two teams were neck and neck at basketball girlstimes and played very competitively. The spirited effort of our boys led us to a 30-20 win!  Congratulations, boys!  Our 6th grade “Gold” team played this evening and lost after a valiant effort to an outstanding team.  However, we could not be more proud of their effort! Our girls’ basketball team had their very first game today, and even with only one practice leading into it, they pulled out a “win” over a group of extremely competitive players!

Very First Math Competition!  To add to the excitement, the Park Maitland Math Olympiad Team walked away with two trophies today in our very first (not including the Florida Math League virtual contests) county math competition!  After several hours of challenging and intense math problem solving against some of the best young “math minds” in the county, our team excelled!  We earned 3rd place overall, and 5th grader, Brice C., won 1st place for the individual top highest score out of all the 5th graders in the competition!  We were thrilled to earn such high scores, and this is just the beginning of Park Maitland’s participation in high-level math competition.

I am especially pleased to share the math news since reading our parent surveys, so that I can address the perception that some parents have mentioned, which is “ there 2are concerns with the quality of the math program.”  I have been involved in independent school leadership long enough to realize that perceptions can become reality if parents are misinformed or have a personal experience that may be consistent with common “gossip.” Teachers and administrators are dedicated to providing our students with the best academic program possible, and our departmentalized program helps us to accomplish this goal.  We are fortunate to have highly experienced teachers who are not only “math minded,” but also highly skilled at providing a challenging and engaging math experience for all of our students.

We have carefully analyzed our nationally normed standardized test scores, student performance, and potential math aptitude of students in grades 4-6 to structure a program that is designed to meet the needs of the various levels and prepare students with an outstanding foundation in math.  Those students who are qualified will have the opportunity to soar in highly advanced math placement at their next school. Although we do not place much emphasis on standardized test scores, it is important to know that we carefully analyze our data on standardized and informal assessments to determine the effectiveness of our curriculum and programs as well as individual and overall performance of our students.

Our mean score for math is 89%ile.  This means our students scored 89% or higher than students taking the same test throughout the country!  More than 50% of students in grades 4, 5, and 6 earned 95%ile or higher in math or reading scores last year!  This 3puts them in the top 5% of the country! These scores have remained consistently high, and, in fact, have improved in the last five years.  Sixth grade graduates continue to perform well at their new middle schools.  We are in the process of collecting alumni data to share their progress, but through informal conversations with administrators from these schools and parents of our graduates, we know our students continue to excel in advanced math placement throughout middle and high school.

Now, students particularly “in love with math” have the opportunity to join our Math Olympiad team in grades 4-6.  They work with Ms. Brooke Jensen who joined our math department this year and who has been a tremendous asset to our school.  Ms. Jensen was previously an administrator at a math and science charter school and most recently taught math for students in a middle school gifted program.  She is so excited to work with the Math Olympiad Team and help them gain amazing test taking skills in high-level math.  See the following examples of just a few of the many math problems that our students solved successfully in today’s competition:

  1. Find X, if 2x = (4x)
  2. An isosceles right triangle has an area of 200.  Calculate the square of its hypotenuse.
  3. A bag contains 27 dark chocolates and 27 milk chocolates. What is the probability of drawing first a milk chocolate and then a dark chocolate?  Assume that chocolates are immediately eaten upon being drawn.1

The math program, like all of our programs at Park Maitland, continues to produce strong and capable students who go on to excel after they graduate from Park Maitland School.  We strive to bring out the best in each of our students whether it is playing sports, reading classical literature, performing on stage or solving math word problems!  Exposure to many different enriching experiences truly helps children discover their passion!

Cindy Moon

Head of School