September/October School Newsletter

September/October School Newsletter

Welcome!

We are consistently committed to excellence.

by Rodney Berthold

First off, let me express my humble acknowledgement for all of you, parents, for trusting the staff at our school to guide the academic and social development of your children.  We never let that go unnoticed.  Secondly, I am very confident that this year has begun in the best way possible.  The students are engaged and focused.  They are kind and forgiving of one another.  Yet, they never want to leave the premises at the end of each day.  Of course your child’s teacher has, by now, briefed you on the language, math, social studies, and science assignments and lessons, but I wanted to shed more light on other learning experiences at Berthold Academy; those aspects that separate us from other public and private schools.  

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The 5 Montessori “Great Lessons”

Ms. Jaya and Ms. Ainsley have been alternating presenting the “5 Great Lessons: the Creation of the Universe, the Coming of Life, the Coming of Human Beings, the Story of Language, and the Story of Numbers.”  These impressionistic stories are designed to provide an interdisciplinary framework for all subsequent lessons in each core-curricular area.  We staff members are very careful to use the Socratic Method so that students will develop their own questions when experiencing these lessons.  It is then that the students find value in their own work, as they discover answers to their own questions, not only in their academic studies, but life in general.

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Mindfulness

Everyone is engaged in breathing...finding one’s anchor, and relaxing.  We have discussed the importance in creating space between our emotions and our reactions, so that we can take a moment to breathe and respond appropriately.  We have sent heartfulness (good intentions) to those we know and love.  We have practiced mindful listening for two minutes. (in complete silence!)  Students have shared that they have been practicing mindfulness throughout their school day and also at home.  They keep a “Mindfulness Journal” where they reflect on their practice in words.  It is impressive how quickly Berthold Academy students have embraced and see value in this curriculum.

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Culinary

Whole foods has been the focus thus far, and many students are now conscious of what they eat.  (e.g. whole foods v.  processed foods)  Students have made different green smoothie varieties.  They have learned through experimentation, which fruits add natural sweetness and which ingredients affect consistency.  Students have learned cutting, chopping, and dicing techniques, as well.

Ms. Jaya’s class has been categorizing foods into the major food groups.  Upper elementary and middle school students have been tracking what they’ve been eating, learning about chemical compounds found in all foods, and how the body digests them.

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Technology

Lower elementary students are familiarizing themselves with the Microbit: a tiny little circuit board that allows the students to control it through coding. After 2 weeks, students are already able to control the onboard LEDs to show different text and pictures.

Upper elementary students are making designs in Virtual Reality (VR).  They use a program called Google Blocks to design their models in an immersive 3D world. The result is then sent to a 3D printer. This end-to-end flow allows students to express their creativity in a whole new way.

Middle school students are choosing two coding languages (from a list of 6: Java, Javascript, Python, Ruby, PHP and Swift) and exploring basic coding techniques such as variables, user input, arithmetics, and loops. The goal of this project is not to teach coding, but to allow the students to discover that they can learn to code on their own. Developing the same program in two different languages encourages students to extrapolate core concepts in programming.

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Creative Expression

Design Elective:  Students have broken up into teams that are planning an architectural design.  The groups have researched examples of revolutionary architecture and were inspired to create their own designs that will address an identified problem.  Each team has been asked to begin exploring how and why its project will make a positive social impact.

Music Elective: We looked at revolutionary changes in songwriting techniques.  We analyzed the Beatles “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”  The band’s arrangements and song structure changed the way pop songs were written.  We can even see the residual impacts on today’s music.  The students are currently composing their own songs by designing the chord progressions and writing verses and chorus to accompany the melody.

Art Elective:  Students have chosen to learn how to draw and paint realistically.  Lessons will be designed to support and scaffold their interest.  They are looking for inspiration about the relationship between art and revolution through studying one artist’s Ted Talk, Titus Kaphar’s Can Art Amend History.

In lower elementary art, the children are developing skills in the use of different media. They have worked on coloring using colored pencils and water colors. They have also experimented with the two types of lines, curved and straight, and are beginning to realise that these types of lines are found in all art forms.  In music, the students are learning rhythmic notation in 4/4 time signature.  They have drawn and performed whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, and eighth notes.

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Yoga

Lower elementary students have been working on basic coordination, balance, and core strength building.  Students are also engaging in activities to increase proprioception (i.e. knowing where the body is in space without seeing it.)

Upper elementary and middle school students are working to increase lower body strength and coordination.  Each student has selected a year-long goal such as stamina, commitment, perseverance, etc. that students will apply first to themselves and others, and then create benchmarks to self-evaluate progress towards achieving their year-long goals.  Yoga journals have been decorated to ensure personalization.

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Foreign Languages

Everyone is full-throttled on Duolingo!  I can’t believe how many different languages and classes we have!  Turkish, Russian, German, French, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Italian.  We staff members are learning from the students as they share what they’ve learned individually and at their own pace.

Lower elementary Spanish lessons have focused on counting through 29, months of the year, and favorite fruits and vegetables.  Additionally, upper elementary have begun conjugating regular -ar ending verbs.  Middle School are conjugating -ar and -er ending verbs.  There has been much excitement observed in Ms. Ainsley’s lessons.


Upcoming Events

Monday, October 9:  Columbus Day (School Closed)

Tuesday, October 10-Monday, October 23: Parent/Teacher Conferences

Wednesday, October 25: Upper Elementary/Middle School Kennedy Center Field Trip

Saturday, October 28, 10am-1pm: Cox Farm Berthold Academy Community Event


Berthold Academy

11480 Sunset Hills Rd, Ste 10-E

Reston, Va 20190

(H) 571-313-1709

(M) 703-201-0676

bertholdacademy@gmail.com

Orientation Week at Berthold Academy

New School Year, New Focus at Berthold Academy

This summer, we focused intently on two areas of growth now being introduced to the students: organization and mindfulness. It's essential that we do so because another important aspect of what the staff and I worked on this summer is authentically embodying the principles we are teaching.

Since it's orientation week and students are getting introduced to these new principles, I wanted to mention several main areas that have become our key foundations to nurture this growth... growth that will continue throughout the year for both students and staff.

Thoughtful Organization of the Physical Environment...Caring for Our Communal Spaces

If you've taken a look around the school, you've probably seen the careful attention we gave to reorganizing the physical space with the tremendous support of Raj and Jen Banga. They are ingenious at optimizing the floor plan while cultivating an inviting, warm feeling within the school. You may also have noticed some of the display boards that were created for our halls by our new teaching assistant for the Upper School, Colleen La France. These are intended not only to introduce new principles but also to serve as guides for our development throughout the year. I'll mention a few of the key areas now.

An Emphasis on Inter- and Intra-Personal Development

Balancing Maria Montessori's principles with current research into character development and educational psycology, we have chosen to focus intently on supporting students in developing an authentic sense of self-control through consciously organized Personal Development programs that teach Organizational Skills and Mindfulness. Students receive regular weekly mindfulness instruction, which is also embedded into the school day, and are asked to set personal practice goals. Additionally, we are teaching organizational strategies with specific goals each trimester, and supporting it with dedicated time in the morning, end of day, and end of week to set and review goals. This trimester, we are all focusing on coming to class prepared, remembering and following directions, and getting to work right away rather than waiting until the last minute. Learn more about this program, which was co-developed with Laurie Young's assistance, on our website.

https://www.bertholdacademy.com/mindfulness-and-personal-development/

Our Six Phases of Project-Based Learning

We have defined what we call a "meta-structure" that empowers students in "learning how to learn" as they are working on various projects in a variety of classes, especially those involving project-based and experiential learning. These are areas where students are expected to take personal responsibility for choosing and immersing themselves in an area of study, then present it in some way to their class. By not only teaching the topic of inquiry but also providing instruction on skills within these six phases, we support them in doing so. The six phases are: Inspiration, Exploration, Design, Immersion, Finalizing and Presenting.  We, then, as a community, have a shared vocabulary in which we can discuss student progress.

Creative Expression Electives with New Choices Each Trimester

Upper School will have the option of choosing from an elective class each trimester in the areas of Art, Music and Design. This allows the student to be immersed in a specific area of creative study for a longer period of time. The options this trimester are Songwriting, Advanced Drawing & Painting, and Design Thinking - Spatial Solutions.  Students will be exploring these options and making choices on their area of study this week.

In my next blog, I'll be talking about some of the deeper curriculum organization that was done this summer to prepare for our students' return, including Trimester Themes, Interdisciplinary Study, and a more robust Culinary program. It's been a great Orientation Week, and especially after the intense planning and organizational work this summer, I am enjoying the calm, organized and mindful space we have created for our students and our staff. I am energized and excited about all that the year will bring!

Back to School Excitement.

Back to School Excitement.

We are so excited to roll into the third year of Berthold Academy!

This summer, the Berthold staff has spent its time preparing.  We chose in the spring of this past year to table our camp ideas and strictly hone in on the experience for our students for the 2017-18 School Year.  It was Rodney and I’s responsibility to make sure that our team felt secure and supported through this transition and that the parents and students have the proper amount of support and onboard training that didn’t feel taxing and was meaningful to progressing their learning power.  

Being the only Montessori first grade through ninth grade school in the area, we know we have a lot of ground to cover.  We know that our challenges will grow in the high school years, and we know that the potential that we will unlock in our students will be awe-inspiring.  We will be able to track the growth in so many different ways of a Montessori student beginning their path in first and graduating as a 12th grader.

We have worked so very hard to craft next year’s experience and we are so pumped to share it with you.  We feel we are on the verge of something truly transformative and know that you will agree once you and your child begin to feel what it is like to have amazing transparency, easy to understand reporting and a deeply personalized curriculum.  Simply put...your child, is our world.

If you are a parent of Berthold Academy...we will see you soon.  If you are interested in Reston’s only Montessori school going into high school.  Give us a call!  Email us!  Come and see us!  Or, do ALL of the above!

 

Our best,

 

Berthold Academy


 

Mindful Schools @ Berthold Academy

Mindful Schools @ Berthold Academy

Short moments of meditation are taught to help Berthold Academy students center themselves between transition times.

Short moments of meditation are taught to help Berthold Academy students center themselves between transition times.

Yoga and Mindfulness have always been a core of our curriculum at Berthold Academy.  From the beginning, Rodney and I have aimed to delve deep into who each of our students is and construct the framework for the students to begin the search within to find themselves.  We have respected our students with the mutual respect beings of this earth should give each other.  We have never demanded respect without giving it first.  We have lifted their spirits by surrounding them with people who challenge them to be better, to face fear, to be in control of their thoughts and feelings.  We have seen great academic results at our school but where the true magic has happened is in the area of social-emotional growth.  We have seen anxious students weary of a middle school environment thrive and believe in themselves.  We have seen students with ADHD use meditation as a soothing method and to recenter.  We have seen what we feel is the future of education.  An education that begins within.

Berthold students in Lower Elementary lead a yoga class for their parents.

Berthold students in Lower Elementary lead a yoga class for their parents.

Berthold Academy is proud to announce that for the 2017-18 school year, we will be implementing the MIndful Schools curriculum to all of our students.  This program is designed to root the students in the scientific benefits of meditation and breathing.  

This practice will include weekly instruction from our now trained staff, led by Mr. B.  For next year, most of the staff will be certified in “mindful schools essentials.”  With personal development being at the core of our program, we as a staff must embody the ideas and concepts we are teaching to the students.  Over time using our AltSchool platform, we will be tracking the social-emotional growth of our students tied to this and other personal development curricula.  We will learn how mindfulness, yoga, problem-solving, and goal setting tactics weigh in on academic growth and vice-versa.  Very exciting.

Project Based Learning @ Berthold Academy

Project Based Learning @ Berthold Academy

Project Based Learning at Berthold.

Students working on a project in class.

Students working on a project in class.

Children should not be judged solely upon test scores to understand their competency in a subject area.  This, for many reasons simply shows that they can respond to a memorization and regurgitation environment. Ultimately, this is one of the most fundamental flaws in our education system because the content taught to children is done so in this method to then produce great test scores and get the school funding it wants.  

At Berthold, we use many different educational techniques for children to reach objectives in their education.  One of those is a project-based learning strategy that we use in our creative expression and applied academics classes.  

I am sure you have heard the term before if you keep up with education.  I am sure this has been presented to you at the public school your child or friend's child has attended.  PBL is a buzz word in education and gets parents thinking that their kids are learning in the latest, most effective manner.  Unfortunately, that is just not the case...

You see, in order for kids to learn in a new and exciting way through hands-on engaged projects, we must be able to keep things consistent, moving forward, and be able to assess the outcome at the end.  We must create a language that the students can identify with to produce a method to the madness a project can create.  

Our educators, consultants, partners in silicon valley, and students, have all helped us come to what we call a “phased” approach to PBL.  Students in our school work will work through this process no matter what project they are working on in whatever curriculums it might cover.  This allows for our students to have consistency throughout their experience, and our teachers to have a framework to build amazing PBL lessons.  It also allows us to quantify these experiences through deep and rich assessments tying competencies to Virginia State Standards.

Here are our phases for PBL at Berthold.

Inspirational Phase

Inspiration and exploration are key to motivation.

Inspiration and exploration are key to motivation.

The educator presents the topic, the history, a variety of ways to think about the project, and a range of options on how to proceed.  Initial goals and deadlines are set

Explorational Phase

Brainstorming; the creative stage in which students figure out what excites them about the project.  The focus of the project becomes narrower at this phase

Designing Phase

Students design their approach to researching/examining/building/creating/revising and learning about the topic.  The purpose or direct educational aim is defined in this phase

Immersive Phase

Students are deeply engaged in reading, learning, working with, testing and performing all steps they have designed for their project.  Goals and deadlines are reassessed at this phase

Finalizing Phase

Students write report, create projects, prepare presentations or materials to present (depending on their design) to an identified audience.  Students should be anticipating  questions from the audience at this phase

Presenting Phase

Student turns in project and/or presents to class.  Self and peer reflections/evaluation follow.

In working through these phases of a project students can keep focused within a framework that still allows for agency in their learning but keeps them from getting too distracted with the process. In displaying their work, students can represent their competency to their teachers and fellow students.  Using feedback from both and attaching Virginia State Standards, we can portray a meaningful assessment of the student's growth and progress.

Interested in learning more about Berthold? Click here.

Education Begins Within Us.

Education Begins Within Us.

Education Begins Within Us.

 My business partner and our founder, Rodney Berthold and I have spent a good part of the past two years defining who we are as a school and refining the beautiful education we have crafted here.

 This mission began when we first made the decision to go into business together.  It was a very exciting time!  We sat for hours talking about what we did and didn’t like about the previous schools we worked for.  We labored over what we wanted the experience to feel like for children at our school.  We knew exactly what we wanted yet lacked the knowledge of how to get there.  

 Academics was the easiest portion to figure out.  We would root our academic education in the Montessori philosophy we felt so strongly about with supplements for students who needed, or seeked them out provided by whatever we felt worked best for that child. Could be web based application, a series of books, or summative assessment created by our teachers.  We would serve the student no matter what.

 Then came our experiential classes.  Think, learning by doing.  This portion was difficult to talk out with timing of classes, length, what we defined as success in them, and what the outcome would be at the end of the year.  By the beginning of last school year we had things worked out and school began!  

 Last but certainly not least was our inter/intrapersonal development curriculum.  We trusted in our yoga instructor Jessica Fawcett to guide us in the education of mindfulness and self.  We leaned on her to guide our students to awareness of self and body.  Yoga became a very useful tool in our school.

 What we realized in all of this was that education truly begins within us.  That to be an effective student, children must begin the journey of understanding themselves in their space.  Not only physically, but mentally.  Framing scenarios and questions that help them make choices to define themselves.   We found that the more we had them pull back in situations to view from above the more they were empowered ot make changes in their learning process to improve their learning capabilities.  This became the center pillar of our approach.

 Once we realized this our approach to education became extremely clear.  Begin with the education of one’s self and let that brilliance trickle-down to their academic studies. Below is exactly who Berthold Academy is.

 

 

 

Teaching Connection in an Augmented Reality

Teaching Connection in an Augmented Reality

By: Garrett Wilhelm

We live in very different times folks.

If you were like me and grew up in the great decade of the 80’s then you would have had a similar experience or likeness to a childhood of exploration.  We were sent out after school until dinner with nothing but a stick and our imagination.  Finding friends in the neighborhood was hard but we did it.  We met up at the same place every day with a different adventure on our minds.  When challenges presented themselves in our play whether it be a conflict of friends or a stumble on the bike, we figured it out, got up, and moved on.  This was something that in the moment seemed so trivial yet later as technology made a hyper-fast leap, become so defined as the separation between two generations.

Our lives as children were much slower paced.  Our brains were allowed to process things over time.  Even our TV shows were slower.  Looking at the pace of Mr. Rogers vs. Powerpuff Girls, you can clearly see that the brain of the child has changed and adapted to a new world full of instant gratification.  An augmented reality.  You see, we already live our lives frequently through our devices.  We are already interacting with our environment in a brand new way being able to source anything we want, anywhere, just by the tap of a button.  

A world is coming that no one will be prepared for.  We don’t know truly how to as we don't know how fast technology will be integrated into our lives and what that will fully look like.  What I do know is that children in this generation must be taught the social and personal skills to connect with their world.  It is no longer an innate skill.  We must put an importance upon the “soft skills” as they are defined and work to make sure that in an increasingly fast paced world our children don’t lose sight of what ties us all together….humanity.

Prepare your child for the future.  Connect.

To the Homeschool Families of Northern Virginia!

To the Homeschool Families of Northern Virginia!

Homeschool Families of Northern Virginia!

Let’s talk about education, shall we?  Did you know, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, that the nationwide homeschool population has increased significantly from 1999 - 850,000 students to in 2012 over 2 million!

This number is increasing in a time where most parents feel that they don’t spend enough time with their kids however in most cases,  parents spend much more time with their kids than ever before.  Because of that, we are learning more about where we are sending our children every day.  In that learning, parents are becoming very aware of the problems in the public and traditional private schools.  The factory preparatory, and memorization for regurgitation model is simply not working.  

Did you know that 9 in 10 homeschool parents say they left the system because they were concerned about the safety of the environment?  That 70% said they were dissatisfied with the academic instruction?  That this percentage of parents also left to pursue a nontraditional approach?

The number has DOUBLED in a little over 10 years.  And we will continue to see it double as the masses realize how our educational was structured and what purposes it served.  

These numbers show that parents are taking matters into their own hands and taking ownership over how their children are educated.  

The number one problem homeschool parents say they have is, “I am not a trained or educated teacher, how do I effectively teach my child without such credentials.”

SUCH a valid concern!  And as a progressive educator, the last thing I want parents to do is to spend a ton of money on some online curriculum that guides students through common core competencies on their own time.  Education isn’t accelerated through screen learning, it’s accelerated through human interaction and engagement in their studies.  

What if I told you that Berthold Academy offered an environment that met the needs of concerned homeschool parents, and offered a peaceful, mindful, and respectful social environment?  What if I told you that your child could take advantage of amazing educational technology that super powers their learning without being tied to a screen all day?  That our environment is fun and exciting and engaging without the worries of bullying, hurtful words, and judgment.  

Would you be interested?  I’d love to tell you more about it.  Click below to contact one of our admissions staff!

Click Here!

Connection - Education's Missing Link

From the moment we are born to the earth, humans seek out the connection to their environment.  We seek out not only understanding of ourselves in our space, but other human contact and interaction.  This ultimately has been built into our instinct.  It is how we learn and grow.  By observation, interaction, and trial and error we discover how to manipulate the world around us to meet our needs.  This is simply how we operate and the instinct or mechanism has only increased in sophistication as we evolve.  

As young children, we rely on our parents or caretakers to keep us within a boundary of safety.  To guide us through our intrinsic motivation to learn and discover.  These important adults in our life structure the boundaries in which we can move through and learn from.  Adults play a key role in the development of children.  A role of guide.  A role of mentor.

The first six years of most children’s lives share one commonality….much more time with their parents or caregivers then when they hit 1st grade in public schooling.  

As a private school owner and teacher, I know the name of the game in pre-K is the ratio.  Most families first question through the door of any private school they are looking at is, “what is the student to teacher ratio?”  This main concern addresses the issue of how many times is my child going to have a personal moment with the school per day?  Rightfully so mind you, that parents concern is how much interaction their child will get per day.  It is key to our development as humans.  

It seems that once a family makes the move to public or traditional education in 1st grade, the system kicks those numbers way up and now you look at a class where the ratio is 1:25 or more in most cases.  Whereas in a preschool or private school pre-k we look at on average a 1:10 ratio.  

Children need the guidance of an adult throughout their entire school experience.  They need someone to nudge them through adversity, to sit with them when they are sad and need an ear, to ask how they are doing, to introduce new concepts in an exciting and meaningful way, to model appropriate social norms and graces.  Adults are needed in a child’s life.  

Knowing this, how does our current system serve our children?  By taking them from pre-K environments where at very least the ratio is much lower and throwing them into a system that is designed to cattle herd children through their experience and produce test scores that get the school funding?  It sounds ridiculous to even write.  But I do so to make a point.

What we lack in general in the public and traditional schools of America is connection.   You see in life, the only thing that is truly certain the breath you are currently taking.  Everything else has either happened in the past, or a prediction of what you think will happen in the future.  It sounds so cliche but all we truly have is now.  

In a society that is riddled with “things” and “stuff,” our youth is now presented with everything they have ever wanted at their fingertips, it is ever so hard to try and get kids back to what is important.  None of these “things” none of the “stuff” will ever define who they are and the impact that they have left on the earth.  The only thing that will do that is the memory left behind from their connections with others.  That is why teaching our youth at a young age the value of engagement with people and their surroundings over the value of the latest iPad or phone is paramount.

So how do we do this effectively?  The answer is quite simple.  If possible, place your child into an environment or school that promotes connection and has the ability to provide the low student to teacher ratios to allow for a more personalized and meaningful experience.  If that is not an option then take matters into your own hands.  Surround them with the community.  Take the time to talk with your child with no devices present.  Actively listen to them.  Engage in their conversations.  Meet people in your neighborhood, at your school, and plan things with them.  It sounds so simple, and that’s because it is.  Life is only moving forward...you and your children are only getting older.  Do you want to look back on your life and think that you or your child spent more time with a device in hand then with the people that matter to you?  Might be harsh, but in my opinion, very true.

Food for thought.  Eat up!