Learning Report Blog

  • Middle School Con-Law Students Present Winningly

    Posted by Stacey Toevs on 5/7/2020

    Congratulations to several of our 8th graders who presented their civics knowledge in the National Invitational Challenge of the 8th-annual We The People competition on Saturday. The Stanley Middle School’s Constitutional Law team participated in the non-profit organization’s first-ever, online version of the annual event hosted by the Center for Civic Education’s Project Citizen.


    “This year’s students spent over a hundred hours through the year preparing,” says Middle School Social Studies Teacher Mike who led the team through practices and up till the competition with Middle School Learning Resource Teacher Susan. “Our panel-number five won the special award for ‘19th Amendment Anniversary’ category, and we came third overall – first time in the top-three.”


    Judges for this event include attorneys, professors, teachers, corporate and state Bar Association execs and several judges. Lindsay Draper, retired from Milwaukee’s Juvenile Court, judged our students presenting answers to the question: “How does the Constitution protect our basic rights.” Judge Draper now leads the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-being, and he spent his weekend with other volunteers reviewing presentations via Zoom of middle and high schools from schools around the country.


    Stanley’s panels of students participated in hearings for two-and-a-half hours on Saturday – arguing all six hearing questions for a half-hour each. “They did an amazing job,” says Middle School Head Greg, “and should be incredibly proud of how they represented themselves and our school.”


    Started several years ago by a former Stanley humanities teacher, the Con-Law team requires long hours of study together to be prepared for competition, normally in the spring in Washington, D.C. This year’s students and teachers were blindsided by the suspension of the in-person competition due Coronavirus, and were especially sad to lose the chance to visit the nation’s capital together.


    These middle schoolers work the long hours during the year because it’s fun, and they draw together as teammates. “Even though we couldn’t go to Washington, D.C., and compete,” says 8th Grader Liam, “I am really glad we were able to complete the competition online. Con-Law was my favorite middle school class, and I really liked working with my panel during the year.”


    Congratulations to the whole team for all their hard work! You can view recordings of each panel here:

     Con-Law team

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  • Cooped-up Chris gets everyone moving!

    Posted by Chris Delmedico on 4/9/2020

    Seen a bear crawl or a crab walk? Need a funny story, a brain break from home-learning or a quick indoor work out for you or your K-1-2, 3-4-5, or middle Schooler? Try animal movements and a cardio burn with Stanley’s K-1-2 PE Teacher Chris Delmedico. See who his “latest visitors” are, and just have fun, move around and cool down.


    Cooped-up Chris Chris is bringing families some lighthearted diversions that might even get heart rates up in a good way! His YouTube channel highlights movement, fun, creativity and ... improv! In these crazy times, Chris wanted to provide some comedic relief, a smiling face, and big energy during a time when a lot people are struggling to keep spirits high and energy flowing. Some videos have good exercise ideas and “brain breaks” from school work, while others will have competitions to engage in or provide comfort and comedy to anyone needing a laugh.


    “I hope families can use the videos however they need. I’m hoping to eventually make videos with editing and extras. For now, it’s just one take and go!” Enjoy them here, or search “Chris Delmedico” on YouTube, or look for videos titled “Cooped Up Chris.”

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  • From Allison: Celebrate Earth Hour!

    Posted by Allison Neckers on 3/26/2020

    “Starting as a symbolic lights-out event in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour is now the world's largest grassroots movement for the environment, inspiring millions of people to take action for our planet and nature” – So says the World Wildlife Fund organizers of Earth Hour.


    Earth hour Every year millions of people, businesses and landmarks set aside an hour to host events, switch off their lights and make noise for the Earth Hour movement. This year – while we will not be physically together – Stanley wants to celebrate our connection to the Earth, and we want to invite your friends and family to celebrate with us. 


    Why might you want to do an Earth Hour you might ask? We love this planet and everything that lives upon it. An hour spent free of devices, electricity and other energy uses might bring more connection into your already very connected (this year in particular) homes, spark never-before conversations on nature and the unique diversity of life we share our home with and shine a light on climate change.


    Please join families around the globe this Saturday, March 28 from 8:30-9:30p.m. (or whenever is best for your family) in creating an annual tradition in your homes. Try to turn off, unplug and get connected to one another while reducing your energy-use and celebrating the planet. Candlelight is a peaceful way to eat dinner, read a book or play a game. If you need other ideas, please visit Earth Hour at Home or see the Earth Hour video for 2020.


    April 13-17 EARTH WEEK:

      MONDAY Reduce Food Impact Day

      TUESDAY Reduce Energy Day – Stanley’s Earth Hour

      WEDNESDAY Reduce Waste Day

      THURSDAY Reduce Water Day

      FRIDAY Reduce Gas Day

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  • K-1-2 Social Emotional Report

    Posted by Allison Neckers on 3/5/2020

    Since the beginning of the new semester, the social emotional class at the K-1-2 level has been very busy. We began the New Year talking about goals and goal setting.


    One Goal At A Time

    In our fast paced modern world, many of us tend to want results as fast as we can download a new app. We want certain outcomes without having to put too much work into it and when we struggle with even the slightest difficulty, rather than trying again, many of us give up and look for a short cut.


    In class, we looked at the problem of attempting too many goals at one time through an activity involving catching pennies (goals). We learned through this activity that we are most successful when we take one goal at a time. With planning and forethought we can feel less overwhelmed.


    Using dominoes as a tool for how to set up goals (saving money, learning to play the guitar, read or whatever) we realized we needed small, well-planned steps to keep us working toward an ultimate goal. Each domino then represented a vital step needed in reaching the big goal. The dominoes helped to emphasize that if we skip a vital step, or don’t stay on course, the desired outcome might not be achieved.


    Throughout January, we read books about people who despite adversity, reached for the stars and persevered to meet their goals. In Emmanuel’s Dream, Emmanuel was thought worthless by many in his country, Ghana because he was born with one leg. He never let that stop him. Each morning he was either carried to school by his mom or hopped on one leg to school, two miles each way. He supported his family as a young child and recently shattered stereotypes about people with disabilities when he rode across his country, 700 miles in just 10 days!


    Drum Dream Girl is about Millo, a Chinese-African Cuban girl who was told she could not play the drums in Cuba because of her gender. With discipline, determination and courage, she became one of the first girls to play the drums in a band in Cuba. At fifteen, she was invited to play at the Whitehouse by Eleanor Roosevelt for President Roosevelt’s birthday.



    Teachers and parents alike know that if children practice something over and over again, it will become a habit, a pattern that naturally comes without too much thought and that these habits have outcomes, either good or bad. We said that those who follow their dreams are disciplined and follow good habits to make their dreams a reality.


    Some of the good habits we have developed are washing our hands after going to the bathroom, brushing our teeth two times a day and using good manners. If we continue to do it, it becomes a pattern in our brain we do not have to think about anymore.


    To demonstrate the difficulty in breaking bad habits, we wound string around two popsicle sticks and asked a volunteer to break them apart. Naturally, they could easily do it with a few strings, but had difficulty as the number of strings increased. This is just like bad habits that at first are easy to break, but harder if practiced for a long time. Students looked at some of their bad habits (chewing on their shirt, biting their nails, etc) and discussed strategies for how to break these habits.


    During our unit habits, we looked at a few many of us need help breaking including: lying, overreacting to little problems, failing to listen and tattling. We read books, role-played and discussed ways to be honest, tell the truth, listen and react calmly to small problems. A few of the characters we learned from came from the following books: Liar, Liar Pants on Fire, Listen Buddy, A Bad Case of the Tattle Tongue and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day.



    Looking Ahead

    In coming weeks we will be continuing with problem-solving, anger management, empathy and the art of the apology.


    Each new class that comes through my door may appear different, and the conversations we have might sound different, but the message of respect, safety, inclusion and kindness remain. It is a joy to work with your child each week. Thank you for giving me this opportunity!



    Allison Neckers

    Social Emotional Teacher K-2


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  • 3-4-5 PE picks up pace in winter months

    Posted by Stacey Levy on 2/27/2020

    This year in PE, we have been diving more deeply into our units. This way we can work on more skill development, positioning and field or court knowledge as well as game strategies and concepts. The students responded well and have enjoyed the new pace. They are able to deepen their understanding of communication, teamwork and sportsmanship. We also added more sports, units and games based on what they are observing in their communities and across the sports world. 


    Hockey Earlier this school year we participated in a combination unit of baseball, softball and kickball. We believe understanding the field setup and positions are crucial for engaging and watching these activities. We demonstrated and discussed basic concepts of base running, defensive positioning and field awareness while also practicing throwing, catching, fielding and hitting/kicking. Learning this in the PE environment helps students become more confident and apt to join into an activity outside school and throughout their lives; for instance, they’re more able to jump into a kickball game at recess, the park or in a friend’s backyard. 


    Making healthy lifestyle choices and having an outlet through sports, games, activities and physical PLAY is at the forefront of what we want our students to take away when leaving 3-4-5 physical education.

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  • From Erin: World caretakers taking root at Stanley

    Posted by Erin Rupe on 2/13/2020

    To give students an authentic project and broaden their global awareness, 3-4-5 Learning Resource Teacher Erin engaged a 3-4-5 skills group in a semester-long inquiry into the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. Using the World’s Largest Lesson, (worldslargestlesson.globalgoals.org) as the framework, students explored each of the 17 goals, selected one of personal importance to them, and created their own inquiries. 


    UN Sustainability Goals

    “We looked at maps, wondered how the goals would impact different places and their people, and pondered what it means to be a global citizen,” says Erin. “Students spent weeks researching their topics, referencing credible sources, perusing graphs and charts, and asking big questions about what led to these issues and what can be done. Our ultimate wonder, ‘How can we help as 3-4-5 students?’“


    Knowledge is power, and the answer to their inquiry turned out to be: Start by becoming knowledgeable and then teaching those around us. Students created posters to share what they learned about the issues and what we as a Stanley community can do. You can find these posters displayed on campus soon and be proud knowing world caretakers are taking root at Stanley! Please also visit the UN’s Guide to Saving the World.


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  • From Stephanie: Testing days ahead - accurately measuring student learning

    Posted by Stephanie Collins on 2/6/2020

    Each year, third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students spend time taking nationally normed, standardized tests. As educators, we believe it is important for our students to learn test-taking skills for math and literacy so that they feel confident in testing environments for life after Stanley. While the testing landscape is starting to change in our educational world, we still feel we have an obligation to prepare our students for a future that likely involves some sort of standardized testing.


    Preparing For many years, we’ve exposed all 3-4-5s to the vocabulary and reading comprehension elements of the Gates-MacGinitie reading test. This test is valuable because it requires students to know and decode vocabulary words as well as read a short passage and answer comprehension questions. Our goals with this test focus on test-taking skills — not assessment. Test results skew toward both ends of the bell curve, making it an inaccurate representation of our learners; even so, reading and filling out bubble sheets, looking for the best available answer, and eliminating answers are just a few of the necessary strategies our students learn by practicing this type of test. 


    To get a more accurate measure of student learning and guide our instruction at Stanley, we use other assessments, and we share that data with families. Fifth-grade students take the 6+1 Traits test for writing. The 6+1 Traits test requires students to write a narrative or expository essay in three parts: planning, rough draft and final draft. The piece of writing is scored by an outside professional using a 1-6 rubric for voice, conventions, sentence fluency, word choice, organization and presentation. Each fifth grader will spend time in an essay unit to help them understand the testing process and grow as writers. We like to keep the instruction within a Stanley study unit (rather than a test-prep unit) so that the learning authentically builds off their experience in 3rd and 4th grades. Classroom teachers will communicate your child’s score to you when we receive feedback.


    Fifth graders also take McGraw-Hill’s Terra Nova Assessment of Mathematics. This test is a combination of multiple-choice questions and ‘real-world’ word application problems. Students get to show their understanding of math concepts they have learned throughout fifth grade. Some of the topics covered include problem-solving, computation, measurement, geometry, patterns and number relationships. As with the writing assessment, classroom teachers will communicate your child’s score when we receive the results. (Note: At times, we have not received the assessment results prior to the end of the school year. If this happens and you are interested in your child’s score, you can always reach out to me over the summer for results.)


    Test-practice season for all 3-4-5s is coming up in March and April. Please see the schedule below for testing times. Thank you in advance for ensuring that your child is present at school on these days, having had a good night’s sleep, a healthy breakfast and an energy-providing snack. Finally, please make sure to let your child’s teachers know if you have an unavoidable conflict.


    Monday, March 23

    Tuesday, March 24

    Wednesday, March 25

    9:30 - 10:15 a.m.

    All Students

    Reading Vocabulary Test

    9 - 10:15 a.m.

    All Students

    Reading Comprehension Test

    8:30 - 10:15 a.m.

    5th Grade
    Writing Test

    10:40 a.m. - 12:10 p.m.

    5th Grade
    Writing Test

    10:40 a.m. - 12:10 p.m.

    5th Grade
    Writing Test



    Tuesday, April 21

    Wednesday, April 22

    9 - 10:15 a.m.

    5th Grade

    Math Test

    9 - 10:15 a.m.

    5th Grade

    Math Test


    In learning,


    Stephanie Collins
    Head of 3-4-5

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  • From Angie: Rehearsing for K-1-2 Dance Morning next week

    Posted by Angie Martyn on 1/30/2020

    Your K-1-2 student is currently working on the elements of movement (space, Shape, Speed, Level, Direction, and Dynamics) within a choreographed dance to be performed at next week’s K-1-2 Dance Morning.

    K-1-2 dance The theme of the upcoming performance is “Circles.” Each K-1-2 class’s dance explores and finds unique ways to form and move in circular patterns and formations. The Dance Morning is also an opportunity to showcase skilled movements like leaps and chassés that the young dancers practice every week in their dance class with Stanley Dance Teacher Angie Martyn.

    Be sure to check out your K12 moving and grooving next Thursday, February 6th at 8:30 am in the Stanley Ballroom!

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  • From MSLR: Learning Like a Jungle Tiger

    Posted by Middle School Learning Resource Team on 1/16/2020

    At Stanley, teachers are always looking for new ways to get better and grow in our practice. We live and breathe the idea of being a lifelong learner. In a quest for new ideas and ways of thinking, one of our middle school learning specialists attended a conference on learning. At The Learner Workshop, Trevor Ragan and his team at The Learner Lab, introduced the concept of learning like a ‘jungle tiger.’ 


    Learning Resources Jungle tigers are ready to learn, ready to try, and ready to fail. They know that they must persist and try a new strategy when they fail; that they are unable to quit and say, ‘I must not be the hunting type.’ This is the zone in which we learn. 


    Zoo tigers are in their comfort zone, always getting what they need and taking very little risks. This is where we like to be, but not where we are learning. The zoo tiger will not survive in the wild.


    Key Ideas from The Learning Workshop:

    • In order to learn anything new, we need to be in the jungle, not the zoo
    • Fear and stories keep us in the zoo
    • We can use good science to overcome our stories and fear in order to spend more time in the jungle and become better learners


    Connection to Curriculum in the Middle School

    In the middle school Learning Center, we spent the first part of the year exploring the idea of being a ‘jungle tiger’ versus a ‘zoo tiger.’ We discussed that jungle tigers take risks in their learning, knowing it will be challenging and uncomfortable and explored the stories and fear that can keep us in the zoo and away from learning opportunities. Then as jungle tigers, we examined our executive function skills, what they are, and strategies we can use to support these skills as related to the content happening in the classrooms. 


    We want students to objectively examine their learning, much like a scientist would. We want them to experiment and fail, feel the pain of that, notice what went wrong, and develop new strategies for next time. We want students to name the strategies that work for them and become advocates who own their learning and the unique way in which they can approach their learning. 


    Modeling For Our Children

    One of the most important ways we can support our children, then, is to model this process for them. We know that when we learn through modeling, skills and strategies are better learned and transferred. At home is a wonderful place to continue the learning and modeling of the process.


    When a parent can share their stories and fear that could be holding them back from taking opportunities to learn and grow for themselves, they are normalizing the process for their children. Talking about the places and spaces in which we feel challenged and need to jungle tiger can open up the conversation for risk-taking, and allow a space to feel uncomfortable together.


    A parent may say:

    • I am afraid to do this. 
    • Oh man, my brain just told me a story that I might look bad trying, so I almost didn’t try! 
    • Wow, I am really working through the fear that I will fail at this right now. 
    • I failed at ____. I need to take a step back and examine how that happened and what to try next. 
    • I can appreciate that within this challenge, there is something that will help me grow.


    Think about:

    • What are the stories that keep you in the zoo? 
    • When is the fear center of your brain keeping you from taking a risk? And how can you notice the fear, move through it, and try anyway?
    • Have you discussed one of your own failures with your student today? 


    Let’s demystify the process of learning, become objective about our own learning, get messy, and take more risks together. 

    Information adapted from The Learner Workshop, summer 2019, and from thelearnerlab.com

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  • From Greg: Middle School - What are we doing here? Gratitude, indefatigability, community and a desire to learn

    Posted by Greg Chalfin on 1/9/2020

    When I meet people outside of Stanley and tell them I’m in education and work with middle schoolers, the response I usually get is one that is suggestive of an unfortunate middle school experience. Channeling their own angst, new acquaintances have gone as far as to question my sanity or accused me of masochism. These people, of course, haven’t met our amazing student body, and as I explain to them, it is the important challenge and profound impact of these years that serve as primary reasons the exemplary middle school faculty and I choose to work this age of students. Simply put, embracing the mess and helping unlock the puzzle that is the life of a middle schooler makes coming to Stanley every day such a joy.

    Middle School class and Buddies rehearse
    Over break, I had the opportunity to connect with some former students from my work prior to Stanley. Now in college, these students reflected back to their middle and high school years with me, updating me on classmates, informing me of new social media trends, and reminiscing about years gone by and funny moments from their past. The students who contacted me to get together were among the “messiest” of my students, kids who struggled in school to discover who they are and what they wished to become. It might come as no surprise then that these families were among the most distressed, anxious, even fearful of what the future might hold for their kids. A failed test or a poor decision could send them into a tailspin, projecting that the, for example, failed science test would lead to a life of disappointment, even failure.

    Life post-middle school and high school, of course, has been nothing like that for these kids. The students are thriving, telling me about their classes and how well prepared they have been to navigate the social and academic pressures in front of them. Just prior to seeing these former students, I heard the same refrain from former Stanley students as well. While I haven’t been here long, I had a truly joyous evening right before break spending time with many Stanley alums at the Alumni Holiday Party. Both recent graduates from the Class of 2019 and adults who graduated before the school ever moved to its current campus reflected on how Stanley prepared them well to be well-adjusted, kind, empathetic, and intellectually curious individuals. I left proud to be part of such a positive and impactful community that has a legacy of wonderful success.

    The teenage years of middle school and high school can be a time of fear for families. What path will my child choose? How will they find their way in the world? How can I prepare them, even protect them, from a world seemingly evolving more rapidly each and every day? The fact of the matter is the middle school faculty and I don’t have specific answers to these questions. 2020 will look different, perhaps even unrecognizable, from 2030, 2040, and 2050. However, the universal truths, the ones I hear as hallmarks of what students have been thankful for after emerging from the turbulence of adolescence through a supportive experience at Stanley are gratitude for understandings of self, the value of community, a desire to learn more, and possessing an indefatigable spirit in the face of adversity. These tenets align and capture Stanley’s goals for its students: self-awareness, collaboration, respect, curiosity, perseverance, academic resourcefulness, and joyful, lifelong learning.

    When your child comes home stressed or upset in the coming weeks, their world seemingly crumbling right before your eyes, fear and panic may enter your bloodstream. Nothing could be more normal. In those moments, I invite you to picture your child as an alum, cheerfully chatting with former teachers and Bulldogs, young and old. I promise you it’s a beautiful vision to see. 

    All the best,


    PS There are many amazing middle school events upcoming, opportunities to discuss important topics in the coming weeks around identity, social pressures, substance abuse, learning differences and more. All of these opportunities created are intentional to helping middle schoolers and their families navigate the turbulent waters that can be early adolescence. Indeed, it can be a scary proposition to tackle all of the pressures facing our children, and it is why I am truly grateful to be part of a community where school-parent partnerships are valued so highly. Thank you sincerely for all of your support.

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