This year in ELA, we are tracing some of the major events in American history and exploring the ways in which history can be conveyed through the experiences of fictional characters, often presented as a blend of documented “truth” and imaginative speculation. As Colson Whitehead has explained it, in discussing his novel The Underground Railroad, he wanted to stick to “the truth of things, not the facts.” In this spirit, we’ve read about Cora escaping the slavery of the Antebellum South via a modern city of skyscrapers, and Billy Pilgrim’s journey from Dresden, Germany in WWII to life in a human zoo aboard a flying saucer.
At the same time, we are examining the conversations that authors have with each other through their texts, and finding connections—explicit and implicit—from one story to another. And so we have paired Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad with Anne Frank’s Diary and have discovered new ways to view and talk about these stories, and the events they depict, in the context of the other. It has been a wild, winding journey, as Vonnegut might describe it, “somewhat in the telegraphic, schizophrenic manner of tales of the planet Tralfamadore, where the flying saucers come from.” So it goes.
This year we were able to return to the Goggin Ice Arena on Miami’s campus for our annual ice skating sessions. A good time was had by all and many of our students improved quite a bit over the three sessions!
McGuffey High School students challenged the school staff to collect 120 “drops in the bucket” during the month of January. The students produced a short video explaining how filling or depleting buckets affects our relationships and outlining their challenge to us.
Each drop is a compliment or gratitude for someone else on staff. As part of their Leadership Academy, the students have been working on the book How Full is Your Bucket from Gallup.
And the students have offered us prizes—so, of course, the staff is IN.
McGuffey Lanes & Shuffleboard Emporium showed up in PE recently as our basketball court was transformed into a bowling alley and we set up two shuffleboard lanes in the pavilion. The students enjoyed working on their bowling skills and shuffleboard was a new experience for many of the students. A good time was had by all!
Our high school students have enjoyed a variety of activities for Physical Education this fall. We’ve been outside for most of it- barring a few rainy days. We’ve had fun while practicing the skills for numerous lifetime sports, including bocce, badminton, corn hole, disc golf, and now that we are inside, ping pong! One of our students who is interested in data science is keeping stats and has organized a tournament bracket for our current ping pong games!
We have taken two outings off campus. One was a vigorous walk on our local trails through the Ruder Preserve and ending at Peffer Park along the Oxford Area Trail. A second excursion was to throw some discs on Miami University’s disc golf course. A McGuffey alum who is now a student at Miami even met us and accompanied us while giving us pointers to improve our game.
Recently in music, first graders completed their study of both “Carnival of the Animals” and percussion instruments. We learned about the composer Camille Saint-Saëns (he loved a good joke!) and what makes an instrument a percussion instrument (they make a sound with a hit, shake, or rub). Lower Elementary students have been busy composing rhythms and then performing them for each other. Third and fourth grade rounded out the fall season by learning about the Rondo form. Using a funny Thanksgiving song, plates of “Thanksgiving food” turned into a rhyme chant, and a self-composed song on instruments, they created a Rondo using the form A (the funny song) B (food rhythms) A C (instruments) A.
Each November at the high school, we talk about gratitude. Last year, we read about and listened to speakers explain the importance of practicing gratitude to cultivate a happy life. We engaged the topic through our Seminar discussions. This year, we are exercising our gratitude in Spanish classes. Students (and teacher!) are writing brief, daily journal entries in Spanish in response to various prompts. Here are some of our recent entries from Veterans Day, and living in Ohio.