Winter 2018 Schedules

Notes from Greg

  • Mid-January Check-in

    Posted by Greg Chalfin on 1/16/2019


    Dear Middle School Families,


    Happy Tuesday! I hope you’re all having a great week, and all is well!


    We’re off to a flying start back here in the middle school, and you can check out some of the highlights and snapshots through our blog linked here. Please do check it out, as there’s so many great things happening here at Stanley!


    This week is another busy one. A reminder that your students are working with a facilitator, Ian, from Freedom From Chemical Dependency (FCD) this week. Students received a preview and some preparation for some of the content this week during assembly and Grade Level class last week, and the conversations have already been productive and worthwhile. If you have time this evening, a reminder of our FCD parent evening from 7-8 pm in the Pub. We look forward to seeing you there!


    Relatedly, a huge thank you to Stephanie Bender for securing Dr. Mark Ebadi as a speaker for our 7th and 8th grade students on Wednesday, Jan. 30 at 2 pm. Dr. Ebadi will be speaking with our students about the epidemic of vaping occurring in schools, an important topic and one that will build on the work done in FCD and in Grace’s science class in their recent study of the respiratory system. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, please see a link here to a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse about this alarming trend and this news report from NBC Nightly News.


    I also wanted to provide you just a couple other reminders of events upcoming this month to have on your calendar. First, this Friday is a halfday, so please remember that your children are dismissed at 12:15 pm. They are welcome to be picked up on Rampart Way then, but if they are being picked up later, they should take their belongings with them to be picked up in the Lowry Town Center. I hope you all enjoy a wonderful three-day weekend!


    On Friday, we also have our annual Martin Luther King Jr. assembly from 8:30-9:40 am, and we look forward to welcoming back Jeremy Vasquez, an activist, artist and educator from California here to speak with and work with the students.


    Next week, please also note two events for Wednesday, Jan. 23rd. From 8:15-9:15, we will have a middle school parent coffee in Taryn’s office. This is an informal opportunity to mingle with other parents and chat with me, and I look forward to crossing paths with you soon. Later that afternoon, at 1:15 pm, we’ll have our next Cave Show, a wonderful celebration of the immense talent in Stanley’s middle school.


    It’s a busy month, and in the classroom, students and teachers alike have hit the ground running. In 6th grade, students will embark on a field trip this Friday to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for an exhibit and IMAX film on Cuba, related to Molly’s work in Spanish class. They have been discussing Cuba’s political history and religion in preparation for the visit. Nat’s math students have been working intently with decimal and place value skills, developing their number sense skills. Kelly’s science students have been working on types of fault lines and types of stress that lead to earthquakes. In the Learning Center, Angelina has been working on long-term planning to help students with their time management outside of school. In Humanities, students have been doing a Landmark Supreme Court Case research project that will culminate in an iMovie. In addition, upcoming, Julie’s students will begin reading the novel Loving vs. Virginia. This is an important text, one that will have immense impact for your children. You should know, however, that the book does contain minor references to sex and pregnancy. Should you have concerns or want to know more, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Julie or to me. You can also learn more at this link from Common Sense media. Finally, in Chat Room, students have identified their three own personal friendship rights, comparing this idea to that of a right as presented in humanities in their study of America’s Bill of Rights.


    In 7th grade, Art’s math students have been working on a stock market game, opening the second half of the year by researching various stocks and learning about shares, assets, earnings, and the art of investing. This is alongside work on two-step algebraic equations. Mike’s Social Studies students have been prepping for a roundtable discussion on the 14thamendment, working toward understanding the importance of citizenship in the United States, and Kathy’s language arts students are working on previewing characters in their new novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. They are working on questions in electronic journals in talking about empathy and identity. This works in concert with work being done in the Learning Center around character previewing, in addition to support happening there for science. Kelly and Grace’s science students have started a mini-unit on energy, engaging with lab stations and discussing different forms of energy. Additionally, Molly and Anna’s Spanish students have presented their Mad Libs scripts, and they are moving into another storytelling unit about a giraffe looking for medicine. Finally, Laura’s drama students are preparing for next month’s showcase. Having memorized their lines, they are trying on different characters to see what works in their scenes.


    In 8th grade, Mike’s social studies students returned from break to wrap up their work on their novel study of Parallel Journeys. In concert with David’s Language Arts class, they will be moving into looking at the Nazis in power, moving toward study of the Holocaust. Along the same lines, David’s language arts students have begun reading Elie Wiesel’s Night, and they too have launched their unit on literature about the Holocaust. They will be starting book clubs soon and will continue to work on grammar, parts of speech, and an ongoing creative writing project. In the Learning Center, students have been planning an organizing their in-class essays for Social Studies, and upcoming, they will be working on annotation and vocabulary development for their Holocaust study in Language Arts and Social Studies. In math, Ted’s students started the new year with a car buying project, examining the price of ownership for various vehicles in applying the concepts of slope and y-intercept. In Spanish, Anna’s students have started learning about Mayan weaving traditions and will be creating art to represent these ideas. In the Musical, students have been diligently preparing for their show in March, working on their lines and songs, and they will be doing more intensive set design upcoming. Finally, in Science, students are learning about the circulatory system and have a sheep heart dissection to look forward to in a couple of weeks.


    In the athletics arena, Donna’s 8th grade P.E. students continue to teach their peers as part of the 8th grade teaching unit, while 6th and 7th graders have come back from break to play dodgeball games. Upcoming, they’ll be playing floor hockey. Additionally, Bulldog basketball teams continue to have an amazing season with lots of teamwork, camaraderie, and dramatic finishes.


    We’re off to a great start this second semester, and we look forward to a continued great year. Thanks for all your support, and don’t hesitate to reach out if we can be of help. Best wishes for a great rest of the week!


    All the best,


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  • Happy New Year!

    Posted by Greg Chalfin on 1/8/2019

    Happy New Year! I hope you all had a relaxing, rejuvenating winter break, and 2019 is off to an amazing start! The middle school faculty and I are so excited to be back working with your children and look forward to an incredible second half of the school year! Faculty returned to Stanley yesterday for a professional development day, working with each other to prepare for amazing classes with your children.


    I’m writing to let you know of a couple of opportunities that will be coming up for your children in the coming weeks. We’re hitting the ground running here in the middle school and look forward to diving right back into a slew of wonderful learning opportunities both in and out of the classroom for your children.


    First, as discussed before Winter Break, your children will be working with a facilitator from Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD) beginning next week. Students will learn more about this organization and their work in assembly tomorrow, and please reference Stephanie Bender’s letter for more specific information about the curriculum itself. Eighth grade students will work with a facilitator each day during one of their classes from Monday, January 14th through Thursday, January 17th. Sixth and seventh grade students will meet with facilitators once or twice, respectively, in their class during the course of the week. Additionally, please mark your calendar for our Parent Evening with FCD from 7-8 pm on Tuesday, January 15th in the Pub.


    Additionally, next week will be a busy one with FCD on campus and with our annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day assembly on Friday, January 18th. The assembly will be running from 8:30-9:40 am in the gym, and we will be having Jeremy Vasquez, an activist, artist and educator from California here to speak with and work with the students. Jeremy visited our middle school community right after Thanksgiving Break during an assembly, and he shared some of his powerful poetry and personal journey with our students. The kids loved learning from him, and we look forward to having him return.


    In conjunction with Jeremy’s visit and the upcoming honoring of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and legacy, the middle school will be beginning an affinity group for students who self-identify as students of color next week. P.E. teacher Donna Meallet will be facilitating this group monthly at lunch, and students will learn more from Donna about SOCA, the Students of Color affinity group, during an assembly on Monday, January 14th. For students who do not self-identify as Students of Color who wish to participate in learning about being an ally in diversity work, they will have an opportunity to do so with Stephanie Bender. Neither opportunity is required for any student, but these spaces are important places for students who seek to have a place to explore their own identity.


    I am grateful and excited that Stanley’s mission supports this work in valuing diversity and individuality. As Stanley’s mission writes, “We develop in children an understanding of similarities and differences in people and the ability to make socially responsible decisions.” In alignment with the Gender and Sexuality Alliance started by Grace Reilly and Angelina Nicol in the first semester, affinity groups offer an opportunity for students to learn, grow, affirm their own identity, and feel empowered both individually and as a group for who they are and what they believe. Through this open dialogue and meaningful conversations, we believe that this will help fulfill Stanley’s mission for students “to know themselves – their strengths, challenges, learning style, culture and interests.” I am excited for the wonderful growth happening within our community for our students and our staff.


    On another note, if you haven’t already, please do mark your calendars for the afternoon of Wednesday, January 23rd, which is our next Middle School Cave Show. The show will begin right after lunch at 1:15, and students will begin signing up in the coming days. I look forward to seeing everyone showcase their talents in just a couple of weeks! Additionally, another note for your calendar is our next middle school dance on Friday, January 25th at 7 pm.


    Finally, a quick reminder about Spring Sports sign-ups for those of you who have not yet done so. While Spring Sports do not begin until Monday, February 25th, we need each family to fill out this Google Form as soon as possible. This form was sent before break as well, and if you haven’t yet done so, please do so as soon as possible.


    One important note, even if your child is not participating in a Spring Sport, please fill out the Google Form, so we can be sure to have accurate numbers for each of our middle school teams. As a reminder, the Middle School sports policy requires that all of our students need to participate in at least one season of athletics. If your child has yet to play a sport this year, they are required to do so this spring.


    Thank you for all of your support, and best wishes for a great start to 2019! Please don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s anything with which I can help, and I look forward to crossing paths soon. Have a great week!


    All the best,


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  • Sign up for Spring Sports by Friday!

    Posted by Greg Chalfin on 12/17/2018

    Happy Holidays, and hope you’re having a great week! Art and I are writing to ask for your help in signing your children up for Spring sports for the coming season. While Spring sports do not begin until Monday, February 25th, we would love to have data about the sign-up numbers for our Spring sports program as we prepare for that season. Please fill out this Google Form by this Friday, December 21st.

    Spring sports One important note, even if your child is not participating in a Spring sport, please fill out the Google Form linked above, so we can be sure to have accurate numbers for each of our middle school teams. As a reminder, the middle school sports policy requires that all of our students participate in at least one season of athletics. If your child has yet to play a sport this year, they are required to do so this spring.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to complete the Google form linked above and allowing our sports program to move along in the process of hiring coaches, creating game schedules, and purchasing sports equipment for the teams. Sports teams can only run if we have enough players to field a team.

    If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to either of us, and we’d be happy to help. Thanks for all your support, and best wishes to you and your families for a wonderful winter break!

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  • Grade-level updates before we break for break

    Posted by Greg Chalfin on 12/14/2018

    As we head into the last weekend before Winter Break, I want to thank each of you for what has been an amazing first semester to the 2018-2019 school year. Heading into the last few days, I also wanted to pass along a couple of reminders for you and wish each of you a relaxing, restful holiday break!


    buddy-group holiday program practice First, a reminder that our Holiday Program begins at 8:40 am in the gym on Friday, December 21st, and I look forward to seeing our middle schoolers in action. The program should be over at approximately 10-10:15 am, and you are welcome to take your child after the program. If you can’t pick them up, we will have a movie for students to watch until dismissal at 12:15 pm. At that point, students will need to leave campus to be picked up in the Lowry Town Center.


    Winter Break will be a wonderful, rejuvenating two weeks away, and we’ll jump right back into great classes and impactful programs as soon as we return on Tuesday, January 8th. On the following day, Wednesday, January 9th, students will learn in assembly about our visit from Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD), an organization that comes each year to work with our students for conversations around topics of substance abuse prevention and making healthy choices. Stephanie Bender will be sending out more information with details about the program and its content shortly, but I know FCD and their facilitators to be incredibly thoughtful and impactful educators. I am confident it will be a wonderful opportunity for our students. Eighth graders will be working with FCD each day from Monday, January 14th through Thursday, January 17th, and 6th and 7th graders will have one or two sessions, respectively, with the facilitator. If you have any questions about this program or we can be of support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or to Stephanie. You can also mark your calendar to attend the Parent Evening with FCD on Tuesday, January 15th from 7-8 pm.


    Finally, I wanted to provide some curriculum updates in these final days before break. In the 6th grade, science students have been working with plate boundaries and plate tectonics through a lab and quiz, and they will build on this work through the exploration of volcanoes and earthquakes after break. Humanities students have continued their work with the Constitution, examining the three branches of government and also focusing on test-taking strategies to improve for future assessments. In Chat Room, students are working on being assertive in communication and the importance of self-confidence. This discussion is happening in concert with thinking about expectations to have for one’s friends, such as expecting friends to be honest with one another. In math, students had a problem-solving reflection due yesterday, and next week, they’ll be looking at and analyzing some data from Denver neighborhoods, doing the work of a statistician. In the Learning Center, the focus of support has been toward mathematics, as students have been reviewing graphing and spending time on peer editing for their recent problem-solving reflection. Jairo’s Visual Arts students are finishing up contrast pieces, creating patterns around a silhouette of a human doing a physical activity. Finally, in Spanish, Molly’s students have been engaging with holiday themed activities, including a movie with a melting snowman and learning about a tradition with presents in Spain. For some fun, Molly says to ask your children about caga tió!


    In the 7th grade, Kelly and Grace’s science students have finished a lab write-up about chemical reactions and have been balancing chemical equations. 7th grade Spanish students have embraced the holiday season by learning about Catalonian Christmas traditions and are creating a story to practice their high-frequency verbs. In Drama, students have received their scripts for their One-Act plays and skits based on student interests. In the Learning Center, students have been diving into long-term study strategies to prepare for a science test, focusing on vocabulary, problem solving, and formulas. They have been using quizlet in a variety of ways based on their learning styles. In Language Arts, students have been working with Jack London’s To Build a Fire, an appropriate story for these winter months, and are brainstorming for writing their own short stories as well. After break, they’ll wrap up the loose ends of their short story unit and jump into Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird. In Social Studies, Mike’s students are studying the Reconstruction period of American history, and they are creating their own plans for reconstruction based on healing and justice. Finally, in math, Art’s students have concluded their study of one-step equations and will continue to build their algebra skills by diving into multi-step equations next week and after break.


    In the 8th grade, students continue to make progress toward their performances and productions in the arts. Students have run through about one-third of the musical production coming in March, and two-minute documentaries students are concluding their work next week. I look forward to seeing what has been produced and to the musical in early March! In Spanish, Anna’s students have been learning vocabulary about clothing, practicing using their new terminology to talk about how to buy things. They will have a major assessment next week. In the Learning Center, students continue to preview math material and are working on comprehension support for the social studies text, Parallel Journeys.  David’s students have concluded reading The Power of One and are engaging with post-reading activities through the use of the student-favorite Kahoot! They are also continuing work on their creative writing project and are beginning an introduction to their book club discussions that will occur after break. As David emailed earlier this week, students should have both Night by Elie Wiesel and The Diary of Anne Frank for the first day after break, Tuesday, January 8th. In Social Studies, Mike’s students are wrapping up their study of Parallel Journeys and will engage with a roundtable discussion in the new year. Ted’s math students continue to examine graphs and make inferences, and they are preparing for a project on car buying that will begin in January. Finally, Grace’s science students continue their study of the respiratory system and are creating booklets for Sig to use with her 3-4-5 students.


    Across all grade levels, Donna’s P.E. students have been doing a fencing unit. After break, 8th graders will be engaging in a teaching unit, and 6th and 7th graders will be playing floor hockey. Multi-sport athletes and Bulldog basketball teams continue to have great success and are learning a lot and improving their fitness and skills greatly. Go Bulldogs! 


    The year is flying by, and so much wonderful learning is happening within the middle school. If you haven’t already, please do check out our blog at this link for weekly updates and pictures. I want to thank all of you again for your immense support. It’s an honor to be part of such a thriving, thoughtful community. Happy holidays, and I look forward to being in touch again soon!

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  • Update on Inclusivity and Tech Talk Wrap

    Posted by Greg Chalfin on 12/4/2018

    Happy December! I hope you’re all having a great week, and the second trimester is off to a flying start. Last week, I was at the National Association of Independent School’s (NAIS) People of Color Conference in Nashville, Tenn. The conference attracted more than 6,000 educators from independent schools across the country, and it was a wonderful forum to connect with other educators and learn about initiatives to help make Stanley an even stronger, more inclusive place than it already is. Middle School P.E. teacher Donna Meallet, K-1-2 Learning Resource teacher Anna Casey, and I were in attendance, and we look forward to bringing back a variety of different resources and ideas that we gathered from the conference.


    To the end of inclusivity, one quick note for you as we head into the holidays is in regard to “Secret Santa” type gift exchanges. While we love the spirit of giving that students show during this time of year, having students conduct “Secret Santa” gift exchanges at school can lead to exclusivity and hurt feelings. Homerooms may be conducting these type of gift exchanges within homeroom, setting parameters around appropriate spending and gifts to purchase. If your children would like to do these kinds of gift exchanges with small groups of friends, feel free to do so, but please have your children conduct them off-campus and not during the school day. Thank you for your consideration and attention to this matter as head into the final weeks of the year. Your students also heard this message in assembly yesterday.


    In addition, on Sunday night, we had a wonderful community discussion with parents about the book iGen: Why Today’s Super Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us by Dr. Jean Twenge. It was great to see so many of you turn out for the discussion last night, and there were a number of wonderful takeaways from the discussion. For those of you who couldn't make it, here are some of the takeaways from the evening:


    • Stanley has a wonderful foundation in place to help students work thoughtfully with technology, in part through its prohibition of cell phones during the school day.
    • It’s important that we model responsible technological behavior for our students; they are always watching us and taking cues from our lead.
    • Encourage your children to put the phone down and limit their screentime. There are many ways to do this, including through parental controls in the most recent iPhone update.
    • Education here at school and direct conversation at home with your children about these topics can be immensely beneficial.
    • When your children can have in-person interaction, as opposed to screen interaction (e.g.: FaceTime), encourage it.
    • Set boundaries for your children about how much time they can use their phones and devices (e.g: not allowing for phones and devices to be in bedrooms when children are sleeping).


    These topics are not easy or immediately solvable, and we are all working together to figure out answers to a changing world. With that said, one tenet that can be used to move forward can come from the comment of a parent: “If you feel bad and you have a pint of ice cream, there’s an end. There’s no end to Instagram or Facebook.” We must provide the limits for our children to help them stay healthy and be present. Thank you for your partnership in doing so.


    On an entirely separate note, for 8th grade families, please submit any transcript requests that you may have for your child’s high school applications to Barb Lesnoski at as soon as possible. It helps Barb to have these requests well in advance, so she can get the transcript requests out in a timely manner.


    Finally, a reminder that this Friday is a half day. Students should plan to be picked up on Rampart Way at 12:15 pm, or if they are planning to go to the Town Center, they should be sure to take their backpacks with them and be picked up from there.


    We have continued to have a wonderful year here in the middle school, and students are coming together in their new sections and are doing wonderful work as we wind down the semester in less than three weeks. Below, I’ve provided some curriculum updates about the wonderful learning and community building happening in our classrooms.


    In the 6th grade, Julie’s humanities students have been learning about different types of government through a gummi bear activity. This is leading to an in-depth study of the U.S. Constitution, which has already started in earnest. In science, Kelly’s students have started their study of earth science, examining the layers of the earth and moving shortly into a study of plate tectonics. In Spanish, Molly’s students finished reading the book Capybara Con Botas, and they are moving into a new acting unit in practicing their use of verbs. Additionally, in math, Nat’s students are wrapping up a data analysis unit and will be doing a big project shortly to apply the skills of mean, median, mode, and range. Angelina’s work in the Learning Center has been instrumental in supporting students with this. In Chat Room, Stephanie’s students are examining the difference between assertive, aggressive, and passive behavior and communication styles. Students are using role play to discover the most effective form of communication and identify the pitfalls of the aggressive and passive styles. Finally, in Visual Art, Jairo has started the trimester by working with students on perspective sceneries, helping them learn how to bring depth from the page and use a focal point.


    In the 7th grade, Kathy’s Language Arts students have been working on an outline for a compare and contrast essay about the book and film, The Giver. Kelly and Grace’s science classes have continued their work on chemistry and chemical reactions, working through equations and chemical reactions through interactive, hands-on experiments. In Social Studies, Mike’s students have started their exploration of the Civil Rights movement, beginning by looking at a Civil Rights timeline with a focus on Reconstruction after the Civil War in the weeks to come. In Spanish, Molly and Anna’s students have been working on creating stories in the present tense and developing their reading comprehension skills. In math, Art’s students have started the trimester with algebraic puzzles, working with “perfect riddles” to try to both solve and create them. This week, they are building on that knowledge toward work with more traditional algebraic expressions. In the Learning Center, Susan’s students have been working on getting support with essay planning and reviewing their vocabulary for science. Finally, Laura’s drama students have kicked off the new trimester by working on their improvisation skills and how to act as an ensemble, responding to each other’s actions on stage. Students will be working all trimester on their drama skills toward a One-Act festival on Wednesday, February 13th. Please mark your calendars and look forward to this great event!  


    In the 8th grade, David’s Language Arts students are wrapping up The Power of One, acting out scenes from the end of book to highlight themes of friendship and growing up. They are also continuing their creative writing project based on the work of Harris Burdick and are reading the wonderful short story The Gift of the Magi this week. In science, Grace’s students are beginning work on systems of the body and will be learning about the respiratory system soon. Last week, they engaged in a chicken wing dissection as part of their work around the skeletal-muscular system. Mike’s Social Studies students have started their novel study of Parallel Journeys, which will carry them through to Winter Break. Anna’s Spanish students have been working on creating stories as a class, practicing the incorporation of the present tense within their work. In math, Ted’s students are graphing linear functions toward understanding slope and intercepts and will have another quiz later this week. In the Learning Center, students have worked on application of vocabulary for Language Arts and are using organizational K-W-L charts to ensure understanding for their exploration of Parallel Journeys. They are also working on figuring out their “success strategies” to draw upon when they are struggling during the coming trimester. Finally, the 8th grade arts students are starting the second trimester well. Students in the 8th grade musical are just starting to work with their lines and are excited about their production, and a handful of students are wrapping up creating their two-minute documentaries this month.


    Across all grade levels, Donna’s P.E. students have started their basketball unit and will be moving into fencing soon. Bulldog basketball teams have also started their game schedules with first games happening last week and this week for all teams. It’s been an amazing start to the season!


    The year is flying by, and so much wonderful learning is happening within the middle school. If you haven't already, please do check out our blog at this link. There are many great updates about what is happening here in the middle school, including our recent assembly with Jeremy Vasquez, an activist and artist who shared some of his powerful poetry and story with our students on Monday.


    I want to thank all of you for your immense support. It’s an honor to be part of such a thriving, thoughtful community. Happy holidays, and I look forward to being in touch again soon!

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  • Tech Talk and Learning Center Coffee Coming Up

    Posted by Greg Chalfin on 11/26/2018

    Welcome back! I hope your Thanksgiving Break was a restful and rejuvenating one, and I’m looking forward to a busy four week stretch to Winter Break. Students received their new sections and Skills classes this morning, and we are excited for a great next phase of the year.


    A couple of reminders for you as we wrap up November and head toward December. First, if you are interested, a reminder that Tim and I will be hosting a discussion about technology and its role in our students’ lives through the vehicle of the book iGen: Why Today’s Super Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us by Dr. Jean Twenge. Whether you have the chance to read the book or not, I hope you’ll join us for a discussion at 6:30 pm on Sunday, Dec. 2 in the ballroom. We’ll have some small nibbles and drinks for everyone, and if you’re able, please bring something small for people to share. Thanks to those of you who have already RSVP’d, and if you haven’t already, please do so by emailing me directly. 


    Additionally, our Learning Center team will host a coffee in Taryn’s office next Monday, Dec. 3 from 8:15-9:15 am to discuss their work and the differentiation, co-teaching, and co-planning they have been engaged with. Come join Brittany McKenna, Susan Cleveland, Angelina Nicol, and Taryn Steil to discuss the role of the Learning Center team and its support of all learners.


    Thank you again for all your support, and I look forward to a continued great year and a wonderful start to the winter trimester! Have a great week!

    All the best,


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  • New trimester, New tricks

    Posted by Greg Chalfin on 11/13/2018

    Happy almost Thanksgiving Break! Hope you’re well and are enjoying this wintry weather we have been having as we head into the final days of the first trimester!

    I wanted to write you to thank you again for all of your support to begin the year and to wish you and you and your families a relaxing, enjoyable week away next week. When we return, we’ll be diving into new sections and Skills class and look forward to building on the positive start that we have had. I wanted to provide you with a few brief updates as we head into the break.

    First, building on conferences, faculty have been hard at work in crafting first trimester reports. Those reports will be completed this week, and they will go out to you right after Thanksgiving Break. You can expect to see them by the middle of our first week back. Please use these comments to continue the conversation from conferences and to help your children process the great progress they have made and the places where they plan to continue to improve. There will be another set of comprehensive academic comments at the end of the second trimester. At the end of the year, before students leave for summer vacation, you will receive a longer, comprehensive comment from each student’s advisor in lieu of individual subject area reports. This report will include information about each of the student’s academic courses, in addition to thoughts about the child’s growth and development over the course of the year and things to think about for the year following. For 8th graders, the advisor comment will also serve as a culminating, comprehensive summary of the student’s growth and development in middle school. This is a change from previous years when third trimester comments were sent out a couple of weeks into June. You will have these comments before the end of the school year ends, so any follow-up can occur before students and teachers alike head off for summer and before our 8th graders graduate from Stanley.

    Secondly, as you may have seen in my note in last week’s “Weekly Bulldog”, there are many important conversations happening in our middle school. Among them is a conversation about the role of technology within the lives of your children. If you are interested, please join Tim and me for a conversation about the book iGen: Why Today’s Super Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us on the evening of Sunday, Dec. 2 at 6:30. More details to come about location shortly, but please RSVP to me by Friday, Nov. 16, so Tim and I can coordinate about the best location for the event.

    Additionally, a reminder that Friday is our last day before the break, and it is an early dismissal at 11:15 am for Grandpeople’s Day. Should your child need to be picked up between 11:15 am and 12:15 pm, they can plan to come to Grace’s room for a movie and supervision. After 12:15 pm, your children will need to leave campus and be picked up in the Lowry Town Center. We wish you and your families a wonderful Thanksgiving Break!

    Finally, I want to wrap-up the first trimester with a curriculum update of things winding down and coming up. In 6th grade, Laura’s drama classes are a central focus with students preparing for Wednesday night’s Shakespeare performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. If you are free, come check out the amazing shows for each of the 6th grade sections! In Humanities, students are continuing their Patriot and Loyalist debates and are playing the role of colonists in deciding whether they should break free from Great Britain. Science students have been building 3D models of lunar phases, eclipses, or seasons. They will present their models in small groups on Thursday. After break, they will begin learning about dynamic features of the Earth that shape our planet. In Spanish, students have been diving into the story Capybara Con Botas through various reading and acting activities. In math, students have delved into data analysis and graphing, looking at median, mode, range, and standard deviation and are learning how to pull data from graphs. In the Learning Center, students are working on review for a variety of different disciplines, including looking over new concepts in math and preparing for Wednesday’s Shakespeare performances. Finally, in Chat Room, students are finishing a unit on communication strategies and will be discussing identity in the second trimester, learning more about each other and thinking about stereotypes and societal norms.

    In 7th grade, the trimester is winding down with a variety of final assessments. In math, a final quiz awaits students this week before they jump into an algebra unit next trimester. In Spanish, students have finished their recent book and are engaging with a book report project. Science has delved into chemistry and will build on their work in studying atoms to examine concepts around molecules and compounds in the second trimester. Language Arts students are finishing up their book club essays and turning in their creative independent book projects this week as well. They’ll be moving into a short story unit, examining the elements of a story after Thanksgiving. Social Studies students are working on a five-paragraph essay, examining the question, “Is the U.S. doing enough for refugees?” Next trimester begins an exploration into the Civil Rights movement. Music students are wrapping up their complex drumming beat with Koffi, and a handful of students will showcase the grade’s talent in the Grandpeople’s Day assembly on Friday. After break, they’ll begin their Arts work with Laura in Drama. Finally, in the Learning Center, there’s been great work happening to help students review their work and connect their learning styles to learning strategies.

    Lastly, in 8th grade, students are finishing up what has been a very busy trimester of high school shadow days, challenging academic classes, and the continual tension between staying present in making the most of their final year and thinking about what comes next. In Language Arts, students will be finishing up the Power of One shortly, and they have begun a long-term creative writing project that expounds on the photographic work of Harris Burdick. They are also working closely with the Scholastic magazine Scope to consider narrative structure and make connections to the modern world. In math, students are beginning to look at scatter plots and learn how to graph functions using tables. In science, students are completing their study of cells through a cell analogy project, a creative endeavor that has students applying their knowledge to compare what they know about cells to another structure. So far, a Boba Tea shop, an aquarium, and various Star Wars ships are among the many wonderful creations. In Spanish, students are practicing reading strategies through the annotation of the Spanish novel Tumba. Additionally, in Social Studies, students are preparing their speeches to run for president of Germany in 1932, thinking about the essential question, “How do convince people to vote for you?”. They will give those speeches right after Thanksgiving and then move toward their study of the novel, Parallel Journeys. 8th grade arts students have started their work on the musical, The Little Mermaid, and a handful are also engaging in a two-minute documentaries class with Jairo and DJ. Finally, in the Learning Center, students are working on organizational skills in various disciplines and will soon be thinking about comprehension strategies and connecting those to an understanding of how they learn.

    Across all grade levels, Donna’s P.E. class is playing the game Vortex, a modified, complex version of Capture the Flag with students enjoying the collaboration and teamwork the game requires. She and her students will be starting a basketball unit soon, and speaking of hoops, Bulldog athletics teams will begin their games after the Thanksgiving holiday as well. Multi-sport students started their winter athletics season this week too and are off to a terrific start.

    In sum, there’s a lot of great learning, thinking, and playing happening here at Stanley’s middle school. Please do check out our blog at this link, and I want to thank you again for all your support. Best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving to you and your families! I am so grateful to be part of such a wonderful community, and I look forward to our paths crossing soon!

    All the best,

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  • Growth through change is both impactful and challenging

    Posted by Greg Chalfin on 11/8/2018

    As we wind down the first trimester, I am struck by the positive, productive, and thoughtful beginning to the year we have had. There are a myriad of reasons this has occurred, from the wonderful faculty who have engaged with your children to the positive tone that has been set by students across all grade levels to the incredibly supportive families of our middle school community students. In this new role, I am grateful to have felt a partnership with faculty and parents alike in supporting the most important constituent of our school, the students themselves.

    8th soccer In coming into this role, one of the ways I am learning and thinking about Stanley and its evolution is through the lens of one of my favorite educational philosophers, former Stanford University graduate school of education professor Elliot Eisner. Before his passing in 2014, Eisner wrote widely on a myriad of educational topics. From the value of arts education to curriculum studies to educational reform, one way that Eisner thought about schools was as an ecosystem. In my own professional work as an educator, this was a transformative lens through which to see schools and the way they function.

    As in an ecosystem in nature, the addition or subtraction of one organism or plant does not have influence in a vacuum. It influences everything else with which it interacts, and the same is true of schools. Eisner delineated five buckets that interact with one another: the intentions of the school, the structures it has in place (time and space), the curriculum it covers, the instructional methods it employs, and the evaluation tools it uses and values. Change one of these elements, and you change them all. For example, one might casually think that a minor change to the curriculum would not impact the success of a certain evaluation method. In schools, as in ecosystems, all is interconnected, and that makes change in schools both impactful and challenging. It’s why I am so enjoying the work that I am doing.

    Last month, I asked the middle school faculty to engage with an exercise with this notion of schools as ecosystems, using a design thinking methodology from one of the faculty summer reads, “Creative Confidence” by Tom and David Kelley, founders of the at Stanford. Through this, the middle school faculty brainstormed questions about all of the different elements of our school, forming “How might we…” questions to think about places they hope Stanley can grow as the school evolves and continues to improve. The commitment to improvement and to joyful, lifelong learning came through in spades with the faculty, and I could not be more excited about the ideas that we are playing with in thinking about how to best support students and align our practice with the wonderful mission of our school. Growth through changes has already taken place with our schedule, curriculum, and teaching methods this year, and it is a true joy to be able to be in classrooms and to help teachers grow in their practice. I am so excited about the direction we are heading. 

    It may go without saying, but this is an immensely busy time of the year at Stanley. With conferences completed and reports due for middle school faculty at the end of first trimester next week, everyone is hard at work to support and communicate with you about our students. Thank you for your support at home in processing these comments and conversations with your children.  

    Finally, I wanted to alert you to a potential upcoming conversation for middle school families. As you well know, technology surrounds us all. You are receiving this very letter by email and are reading it on some sort of device. For adolescents, navigating the pressures of technology is an important element of growing up. At a recent 7th grade parent coffee, this was an important topic of conversation, and from that, there was momentum toward a middle school-wide conversation around how we can best support our children in this challenging facet of adolescence. There are two takeaways from this conversation to consider and then some possible next steps you may want to take.

    First, Stanley and your families already have some wonderful measures in place around technology use. As I recently discussed with the 8th graders during Grade Level time, I fully support Stanley’s measure to not allow students to have their cell phones during the school day. Among a myriad of reasons, it allows your children to be more present in interactions with their peers when they are here. As you may have read, the entire nation of France’s policies aligned with Stanley recently. 

    Additionally, I talked with the 8th graders about this past summer’s movie “Eighth Grade.” In watching a clip of the film, students said that if they acted in the manner in which the protagonist had toward their parents, their parents would have immediately taken their technology away and would not have accepted such disrespect. Keeping phones away at dinner, limiting screen time, and monitoring technological use appears to be happening in Stanley households, and I am so encouraged to hear that. Thank you for all you are doing at home.

    If you are interested in some more resources and next steps, you may want to watch this clip from CBS Sunday Morning about the film “Eighth Grade” and read the book iGen: Why Today’s Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – And Completely Unprepared For Adulthood. That very book will also be the topic of conversation for a Middle School parent discussion on the evening of Sunday, December 2nd for middle school parents. If you are interested in being part of that conversation, pick up a copy and come discuss the thoughts and ideas of author Dr. Jean Twenge as it relates to your child’s experience. I look forward to helping and supporting you in with this topic, and please RSVP to me by next Thursday, Nov. 15 if you are interested in attending, so we can coordinate logistics of the evening. More to come on that soon.

    Thank you again for all your support, and best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving to you and your families! I am so grateful to be part of such a wonderful community, and I look forward to our paths crossing soon!

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  • Sports, Skills and Grade-level Updates

    Posted by Greg Chalfin on 10/31/2018

    Happy Halloween! This morning, I experienced my first Stanley Halloween Parade, and I was so impressed by our 8th graders who led it and by the wonderful array of costumes that I saw. A few snapshots of this morning’s parade and of the wonderful costumes seen about campus can be found here at our blog alongside other updates from last week’s amazing 8th grade Arts showcase and other happenings in recent classes.

    Four wizards As you know, this week marks Student/Parent/Teacher conferences, and it is an important time in your child’s year for them to reflect on the positive strides they have made and to showcase the work in their portfolio. In addition, as the trimester winds to a close in a couple of weeks, it is a great opportunity to praise and affirm your child and to also challenge them to build off their own self-assessment and off the feedback from their teachers. These goals may be large or small, but I encourage you to use this important, supportive, and vulnerable moment for parents, teachers, and students alike to be accessed as an opportunity to grow. One of the summer reads for Stanley’s faculty this year was Sara Lawrence Lightfoot’s book, The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn From Each Other. I enjoy Lightfoot’s work immensely, and I highlight this quote as a reminder as you enter conferences in the coming days: “To parents, their child is the most important in their lives, the one who arouses their deepest passions and greatest vulnerabilities, the one who inspires their fiercest advocacy and protection. And it is teachers – society’s professional adults – who are the primary people with whom the parents must seek alliance and support in the crucial work of child rearing. They must quickly learn to release their child and trust that he or she will be well cared for by a perfect stranger whose roles as teacher gives her access to the most intimate territory, the deepest emotional places. Their productive engagement with the teacher is essential for the child’s learning and growth, and for the parents’ peace of mind.” Please use this valuable time as an important check-in and know that your child’s teachers care deeply about them and know them well. I look forward to a great set of conferences.

    A couple of reminders for you for the coming weeks. Tomorrow, November 1st, is a half day for students, so please plan to pick up your student at 12:15 pm before conferences begin. Friday and Monday are also dedicated to conferences.

    With the change in season, as evidenced by this week’s wet, wintery weather, we are beginning a new sports season on Monday, November 12th. As in the fall, if your son or daughter is not playing sports this winter but would like to be part of Homework Club, please email Taryn Steil at to sign your child up to be part of the Homework Club. They can sign up to be part of the Homework Club as many days as they would like from Monday to Thursday from 3 until 4:30 pm. Ted has done a fantastic job with that group this fall, and with his coaching basketball this winter, Anna, Grace, and Kelly will be taking over the Homework Club this winter and will be great supports for your children. If you are interested, please sign-up with Taryn by email by this coming Tuesday, November 6th.

    Additionally, a new trimester begins directly after Winter Break, which means a new set of Skills Class offerings for your children. While some students are signed up for Skills Classes that require a multi-trimester commitment (e.g: Constitutional Law, Science Fair), others will have the opportunity to switch. Below, you’ll find all of the descriptions for the offerings. Teachers will speak about these at an assembly next Wednesday, but you may want to preview these with your child before that day. We’ll ask students to sign up next week.


    Progress Monitoring (6th/7th/8th) - This is a class for students who need to update their DPS IEP. We will need a minimum of 6 weeks for PM data to provide before the IEP can be updated. There is a group and individual aspect to this class.

    Spanish: Superstitions and Stories (6th/7th/8th) - Expand your Spanish skills through the study of superstitions and stories. Learn about culture and different beliefs around the world.

    Cave of Creative Writing: (6th,7th,8th) - Each week we will be presented with an interesting, alluring, intriguing or eerie writing prompt and seeing where our creativity and imagination take us. Some of the prompts will be images; some will be words and riddles, but your challenge will be to turn your inspirations into entertaining, well-written stories to enthrall us! Join this class if you enjoy writing or would like to expand your creative writing skills. This class will also help to develop your self-confidence as a writer because you will be reading your creations aloud to the class.

    Science Fair (6th/7th/8th) - You will engage in research and application of the scientific method through the completion of a formal science fair project in an area of your choice. This is two-trimester skills class commitment (fall and winter) with the intention of competing in the Denver Metro Science Fair in February.

    Mindful Minutes (6th/7th/8th) - This skills class will provide an introduction to meditation and yoga. Namaste!

    The Joy of Literature: (6th/7th/8th) - We will read and discuss classic short stories and poetry, and will also learn about famous authors and historical time periods that are tied to the literature we read.

    Student Council (6th/7th/8th) - Develop your leadership by organizing and carrying out school-wide activities and service projects. You will have the chance to help organize school spirit weeks, dances, concessions stands, service projects and more.

    Spelling Bee (6th/7th/8th) – Are you interested in competing in the Stanley Spelling and earning an opportunity to compete in the Colorado State Spelling Bee next spring and potentially the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. broadcast on national television. If so, this is the Skills Class for you. We’ll be practicing for the Bee through a variety of word games and spelling strategies.

    Advanced Geometry Track Prep (6th) - This is an advanced Algebra skill building class for 6th graders who would like to be doing the Advanced Geometry Track starting in the spring.  Advanced Geometry is for students wishing to complete the high school level Geometry course by the end of 8th grade.

    7th grade math support (7th) - Receive an extra day of math support that will help with the 7th grade content. We will preview upcoming material as well as look back and review parts of the curriculum that have been challenging.

    Advanced Math-Geometry - (7th) - This offering is for 7th grade students who would like to continue their study of geometry that was initiated in their sixth grade year. Participants will receive homework and assessments that will mirror those of a regular math class.

    8th Grade Challenge Math (8th) - This offering is for 8th grade students that would like to explore more challenging/abstract algebraic concepts.


    Spanish acting (6th/7th/8th) - If you’d like to improve your improv skills while practicing Spanish, this is the skills class for you!

    Costume Skills for The Little Mermaid (6th/7th/8th) - This is an offering for students who would like to help create and/or put together costumes for the 8th grade musical.

    Word Games, Puzzles and Mysteries (6th/7th/8th) - Join this skills class if you enjoy tackling brain teasers, riddles, crossword puzzles and other games that are not only fun, but also help to develop a love and appreciation of language and, of course, higher-level problem-solving skills. You will work in teams to solve word and logic challenges, covering all matter of mystery and mayhem.

    Wait, what! (6th/7th/8th) - In this skills class we will explore different science questions, read scientific articles from magazines, and have conversations about why things are the way they are. Some examples might be:

    • Can we smell shapes?
    • Everything is 99.99% empty space
    • What does infinity even mean?
    • Are dreams real?
    • How does artificial intelligence work? (Will robots be smarter than me?)

    Speech and Debate (6th/7th/8th) - Work on speech and debate skills through fun activities and formal presentations. We will prepare for a variety of speeches and will also complete a formal debate.

    Cubes in Space (6th/7th/8th) - This skills class will prepare kids for a “global competition...for students 11-18 years of age to design and propose experiments to launch into space or a near space environment on a NASA sounding rocket and zero-pressure scientific balloon.”

    Comic and Graphic Novel Making (6th/7th/8th) Spend a trimester working to create your own comic book or graphic novel story using a combination of traditional and digital tools.

    Decimal Skills Class (6th) - Students who are chosen to do this Skills class will receive extra math support.

    Forge book club (6th) - This skills class will read Forge, the sequel to 6th grade humanities novel, Chains.

    7th grade math extensions (7th) - This is an offering for students who would like to dig into some challenging math concepts that will push your thinking and go beyond our 7th grade math curriculum

    7th Grade Chat Room (7th) - This skills class is for students who are interested in learning skills for handling sticky situations and other issues and ideas students bring to class.

    Constitutional Law 101 (7th) -  Students who are interested in participating in the Constitutional Law program will learn the essential elements of the content and the program through lecture style lessons.  Support may also be provided for the paper due after Thanksgiving.  This is required if you have are interested in being a member of the travel team in 8th grade.

    Constitutional Law Travel Team (8th) - Constitutional Law Students who participated in the 7th grade skills class last year will begin an intensive study building of that knowledge in preparation for the National Competition in Washington, DC.

    8th Grade Math Support (8th) - This offering is for 8th grade students that would like extra support in learning the 8th grade curriculum and for students needing support in their independent Aleks learning.

    Finally, as we head toward conferences, I wanted to provide an update of the wonderful things that have been happening in classes in recent weeks.

    In 6th grade, students are winding down their first trimester of middle school. Julie’s Humanities students have recently finished reading Chains and will begin their final project for the trimester, a simulation debate of patriots and loyalists. In science, students too are finishing up their modeling round for seasons, and next week, they will be constructing 3-d models for eclipses, seasons, and lunar phases. In math, students are concluding an algebra unit with an open-ended assessment that will help them demonstrate what they know and check their understanding against their learning goals. In Spanish, students are continuing to work with the verbs tener, ser, querer, haber, estar, and poder, and they recently discussed a silent film. In the Learning Center, students are working on their organization and study skills and working on how they explain their thinking. Finally, Laura’s drama students are preparing for the upcoming Shakespeare shows on November 14th, and they are working on flow, pacing, and timing. I can’t wait to watch them in action!

    Seventh graders are making great progress as well. In Language Arts, students are teaching each other the parts of speech and will be reading a wonderful short story today, The Monkey’s Paw, that is apt for Halloween. They will also begin diving into their book club essays soon. Science students have begun their study of chemistry and are talking about what atoms are made up of through station work. They’ll be introduced to the Periodic Table upcoming. In Social Studies, students are beginning to look at the Syrian refugee crisis and are building background knowledge for an upcoming paper about the United States and refugees. Math students are wrapping up a song lyric investigation, and in Spanish, students are reading and learning about the Day of the Dead. Drumming students with Koffi are doing final work with more complex beats, and it’s impressive how far they’ve come. Finally, in the Learning Center, students have working on previewing upcoming science vocabulary and are working on making the connection between their math understandings of integers and of the science work of electrons and protons.

    Our 8th graders are in the midst of a busy time of year as well. With shadow days and the Arts festival, there’s been a lot on the plate of our school’s student leaders, but they continue to set a great tone for our middle school. After the Arts festival, students have moved on to auditioning for the winter musical, and some are jumping into creating two-minute documentaries. In Language Arts, students are wrapping up The Power of One with David, and they will soon be engaging with a final essay that challenges them to synthesize and analyze the text in a meaningful way. Ted’s math students have recently visited a number of local businesses in relation to their own math business project, and after conferences, they’ll be working on functions and graphing. In Social Studies, Mike’s students are learning about Weimar Germany and are preparing to write a speech to campaign for the presidency in 1932. In Spanish, the Day of the Dead is a central topic of discussion, and students are creating a building model of a traditional altar as part of their work. Additionally, students in the Learning Center have been previewing and reviewing important concepts and vocabulary in math, science, and language arts. They are also making connections with this vocabulary and are discussing ways to incorporate it into their work.

    Across all grade levels, Donna has the students engaging with yoga and will soon be jumping into teaching the game of vortex and then a basketball unit in P.E. Speaking of basketball and multi-sport, winter sports start on Monday, November 12th, and details about practice and game schedules will be coming soon. Congratulations to all the fall Bulldog sports teams! It has been an amazing season for our student-athletes.

    Most of all, thank you to all of you for your continued support. I am continually grateful to be part of this community and thank you for your partnership in supporting your children. Best wishes for a Happy Halloween and a great conference, and I look forward to crossing paths with all of you soon!

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  • Halloween and Conferences Ahead

    Posted by Greg Chalfin on 10/25/2018

    Hope you’re having a good week, and all is well! Halloween is upon us, and I’m excited to experience my first Halloween Parade at Stanley next week. I’ve heard amazing things about what is in store and look forward to seeing all the wonderful costumes from Kindergarten through 8th grade on Wednesday!

    A couple of reminders for you where you can be of help with as we head toward Halloween. As your children choose costumes, please be sure that they choose costumes that are inclusive to others and are not group costumes that are exclusive to certain groups. Please also be sure your children are not wearing costumes that could be considered cultural appropriation. It goes without saying that the reason your child is dressing up as someone from another culture should not be “because it is funny” to do so. Additionally, it is helpful to remind your children that their costumes need to be sensitive to the fact that we have younger students on campus who can be easily scared. Homeroom teachers have been speaking about this with your children in homeroom during this week, and thank you for your help and support in helping us have a fun Halloween here at Stanley!

    We are looking forward to Conferences next week as well, and Taryn will be sending out your conference time to you by email tomorrow morning. I’ll say more about conferences next week in a longer update, but I look forward to seeing your children lead these conferences. I know students and faculty alike are working hard to prepare for this important part of our program.

    Finally, for 7th grade parents, please join me and Art from 8:15-9:15 am on Tuesday, Oct. 30 in Taryn’s office for a 7th grade parent coffee. We look forward to this informal gathering and to chatting with you about your children and the wonderfully messy experience of parenting a 7th grader.

    As always, thank you for all your support, and best wishes for a great weekend and Happy Halloween! Look forward to seeing you all soon!  

    All the best,

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