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


Uncle Dan’s Report Card

2015-05-12-094149(DSC_1411)-X3   As my own children were growing up, I can honestly say that I sometimes questioned my decision making as a parent. My husband and I would sometimes feel that we made more mistakes than not. Being a parent is by far the most important calling and, at the same time, rewarding “challenge” that you may ever have. There were days of the forgotten lunch box, misplaced uniform piece, or even lost and (yes) not completed homework and/or test preparation…not to mention the best friend arguments _MG_6847-X2or hurts of not being invited to a party or losing a game, not getting that all important A+ and more! All these little things can make you shudder and, at the time, assume that you are a failure as a parent. How can we handle these “growing pains” with our children and help contribute to their strength of character as
a person?

At Park Maitland, we can easily boast of the excellent job we do of developing our children’s intellect. But, equally or even more important, is how we develop their character. This challenge requires the partnership and efforts of all the adults in a child’s life — teachers, parents, and the school.

As a learning community, Park Maitland is always searching for ways to engage our teachers and staff in ongoing professional development and education. We are always IMG_9222-X3asking — how can we do the very best for every single child at Park Maitland School?

We know that, in order to be exceptional educators, we must be committed to lifelong learning. Book studies are just one avenue which allows teachers to engage and learn about current trends and academic literature. One of our best “reads” was a book chosen this past summer called Uncle Dan’s Report Card. We chose this book DSC_0110-X2because itresonated with our mission of educating the whole child, and it also showed us that some of Park Maitland’s traditional teachings or core values are as timeless and relevant today as they were almost a century ago. Our teachers and staff had the opportunity to meet with the author of this great read and quickly realized that our parents would also enjoy being involved in discussions and conversations related to the key points of this book.

Please look for information regarding our October Parent Chat entitled “Uncle Dan’s Report Card!” We are giving the book away to the first 200 people who sign up to be a part of this pertinent discussion.

We sometimes feel “alone” in our decision making as parents. Raising a happy and successful child today is no small task. Join us in discussions about how we can work together with our toddlers to teens to help them be confident and successful personally and academically.2015-05-12-113550(DSC_2172)-X3

Cindy Moon

Head of School

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

Spring has Sprung

I’m sitting here in my office at my desk on this beautiful Saturday afternoon relishing in the energy and passion of our students and parents who are here to so proudly represent our fine school. At our morning Spring Open House, I observed 5th grade DSC_0140-X2Student Ambassadors who were articulate, confident, and visibly enamored at being part of a place where they feel a strong sense of ownership, belonging, and pride…while our 6th grade car washers raised over $2,500.00 (or more) to build wells for fresh water in Haiti!

These dedicated parents and students (and teachers and administrators) were also coming down from the “high” of last night’s annual 6th grade Art Opening at nearby Swoope Studio where their creative masterpieces from the year were displayed for our school and for the general public to enjoy!

On a day like today, I ask myself, how many other people could have a career where they are surrounded by people of all ages who are so vibrant, energized, and passionate in what they do?  How many of us get to envision leaders of tomorrow by seeing amazing accomplishments onDSC_6259-S a daily basis from young children and emerging adolescents? These accomplishments highlight their love of learning, but even more outstanding, show how they have learned to be “good people” by demonstrating impeccable manners, care, and concern for others by serving the local and global communities. I am proud and honored to be part of this special place of learning and growing!

Spring is Here — Important End of Year Special Request!

Spring is upon us and it is that time in the cycle of the school year when culminating and celebratory events take place while plans are busily being forged and dreams brought into focus — time to simultaneously look ahead while looking back.  As we look ahead to the next school year, I have one special request for all of our devoted parents:

We understand that as parents you want to do everything possible to help your children achieve.  One thing you can do to teach them confidence, perseverance, or “grit” is to give them opportunities to accept and adapt to change, make new friends, and handle little “bumps” in the road now.DSC_6330-X3

On that note, I respectfully ask that parents refrain from contacting teachers and administrators requesting any special class grouping considerations for the next school year unless there is a very serious problem, of which we may be unaware, that might affect a child’s school performance. (In this rare instance, we ask that you set up a conference to discuss the situation.

Several of our grade levels are full with waiting lists for the upcoming year.  There are many wonderful new friends to make!  Class assignments for the school year are determined by many factors including boy/girl ratio, social, and academic considerations. There are ample opportunities for children to make friends across the grade level.

Careful consideration is given to the placement of each child for the beginning of the school term. Our teachers and administrators use their best professional judgment in creating the class groupings for the upcoming year. They know their students very well, DSC_0282-X3not only as individuals, but also as learners.  Each child’s “style of learning” is of paramount importance. The teachers take this task very seriously and try to suggest the very best possible combinations.

Experiences of learning to adapt and be with some new friends each year are vitally important.  When parents allow their children these experiences, they are telling them that they have confidence in them to adapt and learn to make friends on their own. These experiences will give them the important tools that they need to grow into confident, strong and capable young people.  Thank you for supporting and trusting us as we partner with you to provide your child with the best learning opportunities each and every school year.

Cindy Moon

Head of School

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

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