Every Monday morning throughout the year and on Friday afternoons from September through October and April through June, all classrooms convene in the Cafetorium for an All School Meeting. These special meetings allow classes and faculty to share current projects, ideas, thoughts, dramas and music with the whole school. It is one of the many ways that we build community at Merriam.
On the second Wednesday of each month, Principal, Ed Kaufman, celebrates with all students having a birthday in that month. The children bring or buy their regular lunch and eat with Ed. Check the school calendar to check your child’s Birthday Lunch date.
Early in the year, our school gathers together in family groups and participates in team building activities.
The integrity of the Merriam School Community is built on a set of Core Values of risk taking, persistence, and respect. It is expected that all members of the Merriam School Community will be able to take thoughtful and appropriate risks and accept responsibility for the risks they take. Children will be encouraged and assisted to make a case for an unpopular view, to have the confidence to do difficult things, to have the courage to do what’s right…to contribute new or different ideas in discussions, and to offer friendship to a child who has been excluded. All members of the Merriam School Community will be expected to demonstrate initiative and persistence in learning. Children will be encouraged and assisted to see a task through from start to finish, to ask for help from a variety of sources, to try multiple strategies in problem solving and to draw connections between learning experiences in and out of school. All members of the Merriam School Community will be expected to demonstrate respect for themselves and others. Children will be encouraged and assisted to speak up against exclusion, to respond to someone in need, to acknowledge the efforts of a classmate, to be open to ideas and approaches not rooted in his own culture or experience and to value all members of the community as learners and teachers, followers and leaders.
We believe that as we develop and promote these values in school, at home and in the wider community, they will enable all of us to be capable and responsible citizens of the world.
Students are grouped in multi-age groups (grades K through six) and participate in a variety of school events such as Community Day, Theme Days, and Field Day together. These groupings enable students to develop and deepen ongoing relationships, which foster a strong sense of community. Students participate in the same family group (whenever possible) throughout their Merriam careers, allowing them to gradually assume leadership roles as they progress through the grades.
Teachers on the same grade level meet weekly, for a minimum of 1 ½ hour, to collaborate and develop meaningful curriculum, review and create assessments, and discuss other school related topics.
Whenever possible at Merriam, we loop classes together for a two-year period with the same teacher. First graders stay together with the same teacher through second grade; third graders stay together with the same teacher through fourth grade, and fifth graders stay with the same teacher through sixth grade. Looping has been around since the 1900s and there is much research, which praises its benefits. One of the more obvious benefits is that looping fosters a safe, nurturing climate where problem solving, risk taking, and active involvement is encouraged. A strong sense of community is built among student, teacher, and family members. Anxiety about the new school is virtually eliminated for the second year in a loop. Other benefits include extra teaching time, as “getting-to-know-you time” is unnecessary during the second year. Students have more time to develop critical social skills and practice cooperative group strategies. Teachers gain a deeper knowledge about a child’s intellectual strengths and weaknesses that is not possible during a single year together. At Merriam we believe that the long-term relationships that are developed as a result of looping are an indispensible part of a child’s education and development.
Math Madness Night is an opportunity for parents and students in all grades to play games associated with the Everyday Math program. Games are organized by grade level and math strand, allowing students to participate at appropriate skill levels. Families come to play games, laugh, and have fun while reinforcing math concepts.
Merriam After Hours is a childcare program with both morning and afternoon options for Merriam students in grades K-6. Children in the program participate in a variety of activities including homework help, board games, arts and crafts, computer time and outdoor play.
Merriam Enrichment is a program of weekly enrichment classes for students that runs from 7:30-8:15 AM and 3:00-4:00 PM. The program begins in mid September and runs for ten-week cycles.
Open Circle, a program developed by researchers at Wellesley College, is a social skills curriculum used across grade levels. This program teaches students how to resolve conflicts and build healthy relationships using a common vocabulary that is shared by the entire school community. During Open Circle meetings, students move their chairs into an open circle, leaving one chair empty as a symbol that there is always room for others. All Merriam classroom teachers will be trained in Open Circle by the spring of 2010.
The Merriam portfolio assessment system documents student growth over time through an ongoing collection of student work, including assessments, from across the curriculum. Assessment of student progress is an integral part of the learning process. It is interwoven with learning and directs the learner and the teacher towards areas of desired growth. Assessment pieces do not mark the end of a portion of study, but rather augment the learning process. They provide teachers with valuable information upon which to base instructional planning, as well as a variety of ways to evaluate student progress. Teachers use this collection of student work during parent conferences to share academic and personal accomplishments. Portfolios are an effective way to motivate students and promote student reflection and understanding of their own learning. Students and teachers are actively involved in the assessment process throughout the school year, as the portfolio system fosters real learning about learning.
Project-based learning is a teacher-generated approach to curriculum that is organized, planned, integrated, hands-on and authentic. A project may be short term or long term. The Merriam School staff believes that experiential, hands-on studies provide the richest opportunities for the development of students' skills, self-confidence, sense of responsibility, and enthusiasm for learning while supporting various learning styles. Much instruction is done within the context of these projects. Other explicit instruction and experiences are provided as well, in order to introduce, reinforce, complement, and enhance student learning. For this reason, whenever appropriate, the Merriam School offers a project-based curriculum. All students participate in a variety of projects over the course of a year. Math, science, language arts, social studies, and the arts are integrated into interesting, challenging projects.
As a school we value and encourage students to think about and do for others. Through school and community service, all Merriam School students learn to contribute to the community and experience a sense of commitment, responsibility and pride. Service responsibilities are designed to provide age appropriate, curricula-rich experiences. Past service has included: mail delivery, maintaining the outdoor classroom, school newspaper, recycling, and running the school store. In addition, students are encouraged to develop and implement service projects, which impact the larger community. These projects might include collections for various charities.
Mid-year all Merriam students lead a conference with their parents in the classroom. (The classroom teacher is not present for this conference). This is an opportunity for students to reflect on their progress, present their work, and take pride in organizing and leading a discussion about their academic achievements.
The Merriam School Staff create a yearly school-wide theme to enhance ongoing community building, cross-grade interactions and curriculum investigations. During the two yearly theme days, students engage in learning experiences with their “family” group members. These experiences are led by Merriam staff group leaders and parent volunteers and often include arts, drama, music, construction, and writing. Throughout the years, themes have revolved around change, growth, community, architecture, and connections around the world.
A Triad is a peer-mentoring model consisting of three teachers from across grades levels who observe and support one another throughout the school year. It is an opportunity for teachers to learn from one another.
"The younger kids got involved through the older kids and learned better." A sixth-grader.
"I thought it was good that we stayed in the same room because we were able to focus more on what we were learning." A sixth-grader.
"Theme Day is a great way to enrich the curriculum at all levels and foster a real sense of community at the same time." Tom, a sixth-grade teacher.
"Theme Day was awesome! We studied Scotland. We read a book called Celebrate. It was about different peoples' celebrations. We looked at a map to see where our country was." A second-grader.
"On Wednesday, we had a Theme Day. We went to only one class for the morning. I went to Ed's room. All the groups had to study a country. My country was France." A second-grader.
"I love watching how the older children rise to the occasion of helping the younger children. I was amazed at how the older children modeled what they know about appropriate behavior, letter writing, and our connections to people in other countries." Christy, a sixth-grade teacher.
"I like the way that we communicate with other kids and the fact that it's truly global communication." A sixth-grader.
"I like interacting with other cultures. I wish we could have each written our own letter." A sixth-grader.
"Merriam's sense of community is strengthened by family groups. I love the way that Theme Day emphasizes a particular value or idea through various group activities." Emily, a sixth grade teacher.