Middle School

Middle School Principal's Blogs

Blogs from the Middle School Principal,
Marilyn Moreno

Marilyn Moreno, Bullis Middle School

January 8, 2014

A Very Productive First Trimester

As we start 2014, I reflect back to last August when the halls of South Hall opened to 210 Middle School students. Now, I experience similar feelings knowing students will soon be dismissed for vacation break. I find myself eagerly awaiting their return to campus to complete the many projects and exciting initiatives we have started.

An example of Middle School activities that took place this trimester include:

  • 6th grade visit to the United Nations (coordinated with the help of Sylvia Rolinski and partially sponsored by the Parent Association).  
  • 8th grade visit to the Veterans Day Ceremony at Arlington Cemetery. Students interviewed veterans and listened to President Obama deliver a moving proclamation.  
  • The Former Ambassador of Haiti’s visit to Middle School. The ambassador spoke to students about deforestation and the importance of preserving the environment.  
  • A virtual visit via Skype with the author of Shooting Kabul, N.H. Senza. Students asked questions regarding an author’s perspective of writing.  
  • Parent Charlotte Happle’s informative presentation during our Signature Speaker Program on air traffic control.  
  • Parent Cyndi Senders’ insightful comments to 8th grade students on our zero tolerance policy for drug and alcohol use. 
  • Advisories sending holiday cards to the Red Cross for the “Holiday Mail for Heroes Program,” brought to our attention by parent Debbie Friedlander 
  • A reading celebration afternoon, during which students read in a relaxed environment while parents served hot chocolate.  
  • The implementation of 13 clubs expanding academic and social opportunities within our instructional program. Highlights associated with a few of our clubs are: 
  1. Rocketry Club led by parent Kerry Wisnosky. Each week the students built and tested hand-on rocket projects that focused on fundamental physics of rocketry: altitude, velocity and acceleration. Students built rockets (paper, straw, balloon), stomp launchers, parachute recovery systems, Pop Can HERO engines, rocket racer cars, and transportation systems. Students also participated in launching a solid motor ESTES rocket on Bullis’ South lawn. 
  2. Everyday Technology
  3. led by Bullis Alum Richard Hayman ’63. Students explored technologies such as electricity, poser, clean water supplies, cell phones and more. Officer Mike Prather from the Montgomery County Police Department spoke to students about undercover operations in the county. Alan Hayman taught students how mobile apps are created by his company, XCO Software. Two engineers from CISCO covered the internet and Wi-Fi, a Georgetown professor discussed science issues and Bullis’ video communications associate Mark Riffee explained the basics of digital photography. ·
  4. Investing Club led by Bruce Kelly (MS Math Teacher). Students played The Wall Street Stock Market Game™. Students were divided into teams to research the stock market and debate the merits of purchasing a stock for their portfolio. The final decision to purchase or not was made by the group leader. We had several guest speakers including Mr. Marc Steren, Bullis Entrepreneurship Coordinator and Mr. Todd McCreight, Bullis Business Manager. 
  5. Book Club led by Joy Foust-Colburn (MS Librarian). Students read one of three novels (QB1 by Mike Lupica, The Secret Language of Girls by Frances O’Roark Dowell or Delirium by Lauren Oliver) and created book trailers for the novel they read. They read picture books to 2nd graders and planned a bake sale to raise money for “Books for Africa,” a literacy charity.  
  6. Diversity Club led by Kira Orr (Assistant Principal) and Rachel Moore (Athletic Trainer). The group planned a diversity program that will be shared during a Middle School assembly. Students will also attend the Middle School Student Diversity Leadership Conference at Sandy Friends Independent School, which has a theme of “Embracing Neurodiversity: Affirming All Learners by Challenging Labeling.” 
  7. Math Club led by Jason Kezmarsky (MS Math Teacher). Eight 8th grade students traveled to Sheridan School on Nov. 7 to participate in a math competition. The competition consisted of several rounds of the game 24, Set, and one round of math questions that required problem solving. At the end of the competition, each school announced their highest scoring student. We were proud to announce Jeremy Walsh as our top math student for Bullis. 
  8. Bullis Green Club led by Rita Gerharz (Technology Coordinator). Students are helping Bullis become a greener school and lead Bullis in the Green Cup Recycling Challenge, a national competition to increase environmental awareness.  
  9. Ethos Club led by Kristin Kvasnyuk (MS Latin Teacher). The Ethos club published their first Middle School newsletter of the year. Student reporters visited MS events and activities including clubs.They captured information, took pictures and wrote articles. They are also preparing information to include in the Bullis Yearbook.

We are offering 15 clubs during the current winter trimester. Here’s looking forward to a fantastic second half of the 2013-2014 school year!

October 16: "New Opportunities for our Middle School Students"

As we enter mid-trimester at Bullis School, I am convinced our Middle School students are being exposed to a multitude of new opportunities in which they are gaining academic knowledge, social growth and emotional strength. Learning from these experiences is not always easy, but our students are rising to the occasion. Students are exploring the unknown, taking risk by sharing opinions/ideas and learning from mistakes. These elements are critical to lifelong learning.

A new experience recently launched in the Middle School is our Enrichment Activity/Club program. Students are enrolled in self-selected clubs weekly. Club offerings include: Adventures in Rocket Science, Investment Club, Film Appreciation, Jazz Band, Mask-Making Mania, Equinators, Everyday Technology, Success with Study Skills, Book Club, Diversity Club, Ethos Literary/Yearbook Club, Greener Bullis, and a Math Club. When observing a club one may find students launching rockets, working in teams to invest in stock markets using a Wall Street Journal on-line game, reading to second graders, preparing for upcoming math competitions, or capturing Middle School Moments to author articles.

The Speaker Series also began in October. The Honorable Ambassador Raymond Jones from Haiti presented a wonderful discussion on deforestation and the need for reforestation. Frantz Kenol, a Haitian born representative joined him. We also had the pleasure of learning about Air Traffic Control from Charlotte Happle. As a result of her informative presentation, students will now travel with an understanding of the supports necessary to safely reach locations by air.

As the year continues, we will find ways to help others through community service projects, learn to celebrate differences by welcoming diversity as value added and develop multi-disciplinary projects to showcase at the end of the year. This combination of experiential education trips, Middle School assemblies and creative academic lessons, topped with old fashion cookouts, dances, and yes, even an 8th grade trip to Calleva’s Haunted Forest create ingredients for a phenomenal school year!

April 1: "A Busy Winter Trimester"

Middle School students are truly growing in all aspects of their lives at Bullis, and some of our second trimester activities are great examples: Geography Bee (the winner advanced to the state level), MS Activity night, a Diversity Conference for independent schools at Sandy Spring Friends School, a basketball tournament (Bullis MS won first place), a cross-divisional Festival of Gods Activity in 6th grade Latin, the phenomenal MS musical “Honk”, Community Day and the District Choir Festival for 8th grade (receiving a II excellent rating).

Among all these events, you may ask what Community Day is and how does it help adolescent growth? Community Day is a day of learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. It’s a day of surprise when regularly scheduled classes are replaced with an inspirational speaker, team building exercises, case study discussions and games. It’s a day devoted to student reflection of self, community and total acceptance of every middle school member.

This year, Community Day began with a surprise breakfast upon arrival to school. The surprises continued as the renowned speaker Mawi Asgedom, author of the award-winning book Of Beetles and Angels joined us. He shared his life story from his birth in Ethiopia, his life in a refugee camp in Sudan to avoid war to his new life in the United States at the age of 7 when he had to leave his country behind. In the U.S., Mawi overcame language and cultural barriers to eventually graduate with top honors and give the commencement address at Harvard University. He was a guest on Oprah Winfrey’s show, and is considered one of the 100 most inspirational speakers for youth in the United States.

During Mawi’s presentation, three major points Mawi were stressed:

  1. Embrace differences as positives. We are all unique. It is our uniqueness that makes us special and adds to the communities in which we live. 
  2. Don’t allow community members to feel invisible. Student leaders are encouraged to reach out to others so all feel welcomed and included. 
  3. Push your power button. We all are in control of our actions and efforts.No one can push the power button for you but you.Once pushed all buttons lead to success. 

As we enter the last trimester of the school year, the calendar is full of additional activities, academic challenges and recognitions. Bullis is a great place to be!

December 17: "Reflections and Gratefulness"

As the first half of my year comes to an end, I reflect back to August 1, when I walked onto Bullis’ gorgeous campus. I anxiously waited for students to fill the hallways and watched as they entered South Hall to decorate lockers for the new school year. Now, I experience similar feelings knowing students will soon be dismissed for vacation break. I find myself anxiously awaiting their return to campus to complete the many projects and exciting initiatives we have started.

The Middle School currently is involved in numerous STEM-related activities. We began a STEM / Entrepreneurial speaker series, and we are looking forward to STEM-related field trips to NASA in Huntsville, Alabama, and the Marine Ecology Lab in Key Largo, Florida.

The inquiry-based science program we are piloting is proving to be a challenging and engaging curriculum we have decided to continue and expand, and project-based learning is the instructional tool of choice for Middle School staff as we develop culminating projects to be showcased in May. The Middle School Virtual Author Series, on-line modular units, the Geography Bee and Haiku and so much more add volumes to the educational experience.

With these thoughts in mind, the holiday season is the perfect time to share all we are grateful for. Please know:

I am grateful to be a part of an institution where words are not just written on paper, they are witnessed in deliberate actions, positive teacher modeling and displays of staff commitment.

I am grateful for student-centered instruction that is informed by characteristics of adolescents.

I am grateful for pleasant faces that greet and interact with students and parents on a daily basis through genuine exchanges.

I am grateful for teachers who promote student self-advocacy and introduce strategies that promote 21st century leaders; and

I am grateful for a school that understands the importance of a well- balanced curriculum mixed with good old fashioned fun.

During this joyous time of year, when gifts are given as well as received, I extend wishes for peace and happiness to all. I encourage everyone to spend quality time with family and friends during the next few weeks and look forward to all returning from New Year celebrations refreshed, re-energized and renewed with hope and prosperity. Seasons Greetings!

October 24: "Learning Opportunities"

As we enter our second trimester at Bullis School, I am convinced our Middle School students are exposed to a multitude of opportunities to gain knowledge regarding academics, themselves and the world.Learning from these opportunities is not always an easy process. It involves exploring the unknown, learning from mistakes and taking the risk of sharing one’s ideas and opinions. It also requires consistent effort that leads to success, courage and perseverance; important elements in becoming lifelong learners.

Respect, caring and helping others can also be found within the walls of South Hall. We are finding ways to help others through community services projects, we are learning to celebrate differences by welcoming diversity as additional value added to our instructional program and we are developing multi-disciplinary projects students will showcase at the end of the year.

The combination of experiential education trips, informative and entertaining Middle School assemblies, creative academic lessons and well-attended parent meetings topped with grand old fashioned cookouts, dances and haunted forests are making for a great year! What a great start!

August 18: "A New Chapter"

As many are enjoying their last weeks of summer vacation, I spend countless hours thinking of the students that will soon fill the halls of Bullis Middle School. I am also reminded of an email conversation I recently had with one of my former middle school students. This student emailed to share her recent assignment as a middle school teacher. We spoke of the joys of working with middle school students, why teaching middle school is so rewarding and the social, emotional as well as academic developmental stages of the middle school child.

As we spoke, I was inundated by a wave of emotions. I was thrilled my former student was embarking on a new and wonderful adventure. I was equally moved and excited about the new chapter of my life. My thoughts ended in realization. I am anxious. I anxiously await the day teachers return to prepare a balanced educational program for students, I wait in anticipation for the Bullis doors to open to welcome 197 middle school students and I look forward to the creativity, innovativeness and uniqueness of each middle school student that will walk through the Bullis doors.

Enjoy the remainder of your summer. I’ll see you September 5.