Cell Biology and Genetics

Upper Elementary has been studying cell biology, using models, books, online resources and three part cards to study the organelles of animal cells. Each student made a play dough model of a cell. In the student-made cell above, you can see the nucleus, nucleolus, cell membrane, cytoskeleton, mitochondria, rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum, centriole, and a lysosome. This week, Upper Elementary students stained their own cheek cells and looked at them under a microscope. A cheek cell belonging to one of our fourth-graders is pictured. The nucleus is at the center, and the tiny dark blue dots are normal oral bacteria.

Middle School students have been studying genetics. They began the unit with Mendelian genetics, making little creatures called Bloops (and their chromosomes) to study dominant and recessive traits. After creating a Bloop and finding out its genetic makeup and sex, students crossed their Bloops, creating baby Bloops that inherited traits from their parents. Several Bloop families are pictured above.

Next, they investigated the cell cycle, the structure of DNA and the process of DNA replication at the molecular level using foam models, and took a look at Watson and Crick’s original paper on the double helix from 1953.

This week, they modeled the transcription of genes into messenger RNA. Next week, they will work on translation, and finish the unit by isolating the DNA from strawberries.

Posted in Middle School, science, Upper Elementary, upper unit

Celebrating Fall

Over the last few weeks, we have been observing the changes in our environment that occur during the season of fall. The leaves have been changing color, birds can be seen flying south, squirrels and other animals are gathering food for the winter. We notice that we are wearing long pants and sweaters to keep warm as the temperatures drop.

In the meantime, we are reading books about fall and exploring all kinds of leaf activities—sorting, matching, punching, and making crayon rubbings. We’re assembling puzzles about the seasons. We had a fantastic visit from a McGuffey parent, Ashley Johnson, whose family owns Reserve Run Farm. She showed us two different types of hay that had been harvested in recent weeks and we got to see a video of their family running the machinery used in the fields. We learned about preserving food for both animals and people so that it will last longer and the sweetest part of all, we got to taste their delicious honey.

Posted in Uncategorized

Service Learning at McGuffey Montessori

On Wednesday, October 31st the eighth-grade class began their service learning work at the Oxford Family Resource Center. They will be volunteering there for the month of November.

On their first visit, they were oriented to the facilities by director Diana Ruther-Vierling and Missy Thompson. Our students learned about the many ways the Center helps the marginalized people in Oxford: housing assistance, job assistance, the thrift store, and support for Oxford’s growing homeless community.

This week our students helped out in the thrift store by tagging items and removing older items from the rack to send on to the Salvation Army. Next week we will return and help organize the supplies they hand out to homeless citizens of Oxford. We are very fortunate to be able to partner with the Oxford Family Resource Center as we add service learning to our middle school curriculum.

Posted in community, Middle School, peace

Woodwind Reeds

McGuffey students study a different instrument family in music each grade. Third graders have been learning about and exploring woodwind instruments of the orchestra: oboe, clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, flute and piccolo. They learned that in order to be considered a woodwind, the instrument must be played with either breath traveling over a mouthpiece (the flute and piccolo) or through a cane reed (the oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone). To give them the experience of one of those distinguishing features,  these students had an opportunity to make their own double-reed from a straw. They learned that the shape needs to be pretty precise and were reminded that the shorter the instrument (or straw), the higher the pitch. They also learned that using a reed takes lots of practice and is best learned with copious amounts of laughter.

Posted in Uncategorized

Chinese Opera

McGuffey students recently attended a performance of Jing-Ju Opera presented by the National Taiwan College of Performing Arts. Jing-Ju Opera, combines music, singing, mime, dance, and acrobatics. Jing-Ju Opera costumes are graceful, with handcrafted embroidery. The makeup is rich in color, depicting different characters with remarkable facial painting.

After the performance, our students had a chance to talk with the performers and ask questions about their craft.

Although Oxford is a small town, our proximity to Miami University exposes our students to a wide variety of cultures and experiences. Special thanks to Howard Blanning for including us in the opera this year!

Posted in drama, field trip, Lower Elementary, Middle School, social studies, Upper Elementary


As we continue our exploration of South America, we began talking about Argentina. A large country, Argentina stretches across the southern half of South America, which means its landscape has a range of climates and geographic features.

With a mix of indigenous people and European immigrants, the Argentine culture is rich in music, dance, food, and traditions. Our students have the opportunity to explore many of these characteristics through the manipulatives on the shelves. They are exploring gourd cups that hold the Argentine tea, mate. We’ve also talked about the delicious milk caramel, dulche de leche.

We discussed Cueva de las Manos (Cave of Hands), a series of caves located in Santa Cruz, Argentina. It is known for its paintings of hands which are estimated to be between 13,000 and 9,000 years old. The cave also has paintings of humans, animals, and geometric patterns. For this Social Study unit Art History installment we decided to make our own version of the Cave of Hands. We studied a picture of one of the cave walls and noticed all of the hands were very similar, the left! The students chose which shade to paint their left hand then imagined they were placing their hand on the wall of a cave. Creating this experience makes the connections so much more meaningful!


Posted in Uncategorized

The Solar System

This week we began talking about the solar system. We hung models of eight planets and the sun in our classroom so that the children could get an idea of how the solar system might look in space. When children ask how many planets we have, the answer isn’t always easy. In 2006, Pluto was classified as a dwarf planet, and no longer considered part of “the planets.” However, the most current thinking would say that we have 13 planets. This includes eight classical planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) and five dwarf planets (Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, Eris).

We continued our discussion of the solar system by talking about stars and space. Sometimes it’s hard for children to think about stars being huge, especially when they look so small from Earth. We tried to imagine how big they were, and tried to wrap our heads around the fact that the sun is actually a star.

We thought about space travel and riding in a spacecraft. With our art shelf stocked with special black paper, there was a lot of drawing and writing about the planets as our imaginations tried to keep up with these big ideas.

Posted in Primary, science, Uncategorized

Cincinnati Symphony

Lower Elementary recently spent the morning with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, attending a Young People’s Concert at Music Hall. These performances are geared toward elementary aged children, encouraging audience participation and appreciation.

After the performance, we headed to nearby Washington Park to eat lunch and stretch our legs. While we were there, we ran into one of the CSO’s guest performers, drummer Baku Moses. He was enjoying the sunshine with his two sons and graciously agreed to take a photo with us.

Field trips like this are important on so many levels, from being exposed to the world of classical music to spending time in a big city.

Posted in field trip, Lower Elementary, music

Students Outside and Running (SOAR)

On Friday, October 5, we begin our annual SOAR program at recess. SOAR is both a fundraiser and a Physical Education activity that promotes walking, running and goal setting. Students set a goal for their own mileage and then run or walk during recess for two weeks. They collect a “foot” charm for each mile to add to their SOAR necklace.

This year you can donate through our website or send in cash or check as usual. Parents are also able to make their donation through TADS by sending an email to the office.

By making a SOAR donation, you will support our capital fund to develop our playground and enhance our outdoor spaces. All donations to McGuffey’s SOAR program are tax deductible.

SOAR Donation


Posted in fundraising, Uncategorized


This week we began discussing Mexico. As our closest neighbor to the south, we see many Mexican influences in the United States, including language, food, and music.

We talked about modern Mexico, where there are vibrant cities, busses, and cars. We discussed some of the first people who lived in Mexico, and the amazing temples they built.

In Kindergarten Social Studies studio we learned how to play Loteria.  A game similar to bingo traditionally played at Mexican fairs. One student “called” while two students played   the game.

One of our Primary students father is from Puebla, Mexico. We were lucky to have Antonio Fernandez visit our classroom with his wife Brittney. Antonio told us about futbol, or soccer, being the most popular sport in Mexico. We also learned about Popocatepetl, the mountain that smokes. The volcano commonly referred to as El Popo is in Antonio’s hometown. It is not unusual  for ash to fall from the sky like snow! Antonio also talked about the importance of family and that everyone gathers for lunch, their biggest meal of the day. Brittney shared her favorite Mexican pottery, talavera, in the form of a sweet little bell. We are so grateful for their visit! Gracias familia Fernandez!

Next we utilized the tomatoes the students have been harvesting from our outdoor classroom garden by making fresh salsa. Using ingredients commonly grown in Mexico we blended it up and enjoyed a taste at lunch with some crispy tortilla chips.

Lastly, we read a book about the Mexican surrealist artist Frida Kahlo. We learned that while being ill as a child confined to her bed her imagination grew and she discovered her love of painting. Her father was a photographer and inspired Frida’s talent and love of self portraits. We celebrated her artistry with a self portrait enrichment! The students used an ellipse and triangle shape from our metal inset language work to draw their self portrait then chose a background in the style of Frida Kahlo and glued on their work. One student proclaimed “mine looks just like Frida’s!”.

Mexico is such a lovely country to explore with it’s diverse geography and ancient architecture, delicious food and modern culture. With each new country, we stock our Social Studies shelf with books and hands-on activities that allow children to explore that culture through both a modern and historic lens. We will continue to reflect, what is the same and what is different when compared to our own experience?

Posted in guest speakers, Primary, social studies