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School Newsletter - Winter

School Newsletter - Winter

Happy New Year!

We are consistently committed to excellence.

by Rodney Berthold


It’s hard to believe that we are already over a month into 2018! One big, new development Berthold Academy is starting this year is a full-day summer program.  The session begins June 25 and extends to August 17.  We are accepting applications from currently enrolled families and outside families that may wish to try our Montessori approach to personalized education. There is a substantial “early bird” discount being offered. So do not delay. Even if you plan on vacationing this summer, there are weekly and monthly options available, as well. There is limited available space, so if you think you might be interested, please submit the interest form by going on our website.

Exploring Science

Lower elementary students have been working hard on their science and cultural studies. The younger students have learned about the usage of a compass and cardinal and ordinal directions. They are also working on stellar nucleosynthesis (how stars are formed), planet study, and study of stars. In addition, they have been working on the layers of the Earth’s interior. Continuing that study, the older students are working on the lithosphere and hydrosphere. They are learning about various land and water forms. The older students are also working on defining the Earth into four hemispheres, and beginning to locate places using latitude and longitude coordinates. The younger children are working on identifying unique characteristics of vertebrates and understanding the taxonomic classifications. The older students are also working on the the five kingdoms of the biosphere and characteristics of invertebrates.


Upper elementary have been dissecting owl pellets to discover what the owl has feasted on. Students brush off the bone fragments they find and try to match the bone size and structure to an animal skeleton that would normally be part of the owl’s diet. This information helps scientists study ecosystem diversity and stability.  Students also learn the scientific names of the different parts of the skeleton they find. They lay out and try to reconstruct the skeleton using the bone fragments they find in the owl pellets.  This process utilizes hands-on experiential learning that demonstrates the real-world application of scientific knowledge.

Middle school students have been diving deeply into genetics.  They have performed practical exercises illustrating how traits are passed down based on gene dominance and, of course, probability of outcomes.  Using Punnett Squares, gene pool demonstrations, and replicating DNA structures, students have had hands-on experiential learning opportunities that make genetics fun and meaningful.  Most recently, the students participated in a passionate, formal debate on the ethics involved in stem-cell research.  Students researched the affirmative and negative positions and had to argue one side.  Many students argued the side that opposed their personal viewpoint on the subject as a means to create a more interesting and balanced experience.


We have been challenging ourselves to engage in mindful conversations. Therefore, we not only practice listening, but how we feel in our bodies when we hear different voices at different volumes.  We are trying to be fully present in our conversations, giving someone our full attention and not simply “waiting to talk.”  Students have been doing well with this practice.  It isn’t easy, but they seem to value the difference it makes in our social interactions with friends, classmates, family members, and society.

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This winter, we have focused on hot comfort foods.  We’ve had the pleasure of tasting lower elementary’s delicious stir-fry recipes. They use simple, whole food proteins and vegetables, add just the right spices, and cook them at just the right temperatures so that the final product is tasty, full of vitamins and nutrients, and, yet, has maintained the perfect amount of “crunch.”

Upper elementary have made some delicious soups using a wide range of ingredients and techniques.  Just today, I sampled a shrimp/seafood soup and a corn chowder that had a touch of citrus flavor underneath.

Middle school have been crafting soups as well. As seen below, middle schoolers were invited by 100 Bowls of Soup owner Katharine Mardirosian to experience working in a commercial kitchen.  Using locally grown whole foods, they began by making a French mirepoix: onions, carrots, and celery (using the 2:1:1 ratio, respectively) and then followed two slightly different recipes to make two versions of minestrone. Ms. Mardirosian commented, “Needing very little training, they got to work right away prepping, chopping, sorting, measuring, cooking and cleaning.”  They smelled a variety of spices and categorized them into spice families, noting what flavor each would add to the recipe. One of our students was even able to process some sales transactions at the front register.

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This trimester, the lower elementary students are exploring programming languages. They will get tastes of many programming languages ranging from PHP, Python, Ruby, Javascript and Swift. This is a big challenge trying to expose young kids to real-world programming languages, especially in a “real-world development” environment. We are using the Cloud 9 integrated development environment for this trimester. So far, students have been exposed to technical terminologies such as Terminal, Source Code, Execution, Syntax Error, etc. They are given executable source code in all 5 programming languages and are using real-world Unix commands. So far, they are having fun.


Upper elementary students are exploring the MicroBit: a small programmable circuit board developed by the UK Government. The MicroBit is a self-contained unit allowing for programmable control of its 5x5 LED array. It also contains sensors like Accelerometer and compass. The students spend their first few weeks making music and using motion to control the LED array on the MicroBits. All programming is done using the visual programming language Blocky (very similar to Scratch) specifically designed for the MicroBit.

The middle school students are tasked to design and create a transformable object. (in accordance with the trimester theme of “Transformation”) The object should be relatively big (2 feet x 2 feet) and is 80% created by 3D printing. Students can design one object, or a set of objects that act and work together. Design can be done using any 3D modeling software, such as Tinkercad, or inside VR. Most groups are currently in the prototyping, design phase where they are creating scaled down models of their unique designs.


Creative Expression

Fashion Design Elective:  

The Design Thinking “Wheel” Process was discussed again, this trimester.   All students will work as individuals and each selected a designer as their source of inspiration: CoCo Chanel, Giorgio Armani, Christian Dior, and Vivienne Westwood.  The students are individually designing a complete outfit (“ensemble”) for different seasons.  The ‘typical’ ensemble will consist of 5 pieces of clothing:  a ‘top’ (ex: shirt or blouse), a ‘bottom’ (ex: pants, shorts, skirt),  jacket, some sort of footwear (ex: shoe, boot, sandal), and an accessory (ex: scarf, cap, socks, gloves).  For each session, the students will design an “ensemble” for both genders.  ‘TRANSFORMATION’ is to be a central theme for their clothing line.

Rock Band Elective:

Students are learning rock song covers including the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and Devo’s “Whip It.”  It’s great to witness the band members confidently attempting to play instruments that they have never played before.  Effective communication is a must in any musical group; thus, students must really focus and listen to one another so they that all play in harmony and at the same tempo.  We are, as you can imagine, having a lot of fun, too!


3-Dimensional Art Elective:  

In this trimester's art elective, students are investigating the meaning of art and applying the literal meaning of transformation to sculpture and other 3 - dimensional art.  Students are exploring how to transform a variety of material into art: clay, paper, found objects, and popsicle sticks.  Each student is in the process of selecting a sculptor or 3D artist to study.  Each student has, or will lead, the class in creating a type of sculptor or 3D art.

Lower Elementary: In lower elementary art, the students are exploring and understanding the differences between the first, second, and third dimensions.  They have been building 3D art using recyclables such as paper, egg cartons, paper mache and foam.

In music, the students are focusing on pitch recognition.  We have explored the C major scale using the tone bars.  Students discovered the pattern of whole steps and half steps in a seven tone major scale: whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half.  By recognizing the pattern we were able to transpose to D major.  Students then realized that we needed to add 2 sharps to maintain the same major scale sound.  Each student took turns playing “Twinkle. Twinkle, Little Star” in both the C major and D major scales.

Physical Education/Yoga

Congratulations to our TaeKwondo students for completing the eight week course, and for practicing the forms, routines, and memorizing the all-important “Tenets of Taekwondo.”  Thank you, Linda Carr, for being such a great instructor and role model for our students.


In lower elementary, students have learned their first complete yoga sequence! Ask your  child to show you Sun Salutation A: a short series of poses designed to warm up and strengthen the body. We are also working on more complex postures and learning the names of commonly used poses.

In upper elementary and middle school yoga, we have selected 3 strength and endurance based poses timed once a month to track progress toward building more holding power in the muscles. We are also working with reflecting upon and evaluating our actions and behaviors in regards to achieving the big goals each student set in the previous trimester. Ask your child what his or her big goal is and what is being done on a daily basis to achieve that goal. Ask what is going well and where there may be a need to revise or modify the original plan.

Foreign Languages

Lower elementary students are studying sentence analysis with noun families, verbs, and direct objects. We just introduced prepositional phrases as direct objects. They are analyzing English sentences paired up against the same sentence in Spanish to determine similarities and differences in grammatical structure.


Upper Elementary students are practicing regular -AR, -ER, and -IR verb endings and analyzing simple sentences with noun families and direct objects. They are beginning the unit of study on cuisines from different Spanish speaking cultures to prepare for the culinary room transformation into a Spanish restaurant.

The middle school are working on regular -AR, -ER, and -IR endings and sentence analysis with noun families, verbs and direct objects. Middle school will begin researching different Spanish speaking countries in preparation of the culinary room transformation into a Spanish restaurant.  Recently, the middle school practiced speaking Spanish to the staff at Pollos Inka restaurant in Herndon.  Students ordered their meals in Spanish and conversed with one another in Spanish over a delicious authentic Peruvian lunch.

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, February 14:  Upper El/Middle School field trip to The Kennedy Center

Monday, February 19:  Presidents’ Day (School Closed)

Monday, March 5:  Parent/Teacher Conferences (School Closed for Students)

Thursday, March 15:  Deadline for Discounted Rate on Summer Program at Berthold.

Friday, March 23:  Showcase Day/Middle School field trip to The Kennedy Center

Monday, March 26 - Monday, April 2:  SPRING BREAK (School Closed)

Tuesday, April 3:  Trimester 3 begins

Berthold Academy

11480 Sunset Hills Rd, Ste 10-E

Reston, Va 20190

(H) 571-313-1709

(M) 703-201-0676

September/October School Newsletter

September/October School Newsletter


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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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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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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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.



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

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 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!