Speaking of "All Grown Up..."

One of the most remarkable things about The Elisabeth Morrow School is how many of its alums remain connected to our school.  After all, it is only recent in our history that we have graduated eighth graders--many of our alumni left us in the fifth or sixth grade, and they are several schools removed from us (middle school, high school, college, and for some grad school).  But it is pictures like these, recently sent to me by Saumil Parikh '86, that remind me of how profound and meaningful the EMS experience was for its graduates.  

Coming off the Young Alumni Luncheon last week, it's always great when I get photos like these, from a few years down the road, because they serve as a reminder that our school is not only a place that inspires lifelong learning, but also a place that inspires lifelong friendships.   Thanks for the photographs, Saumil!  If any other alums wish to send me "grown up" photos with friends from their EMS years, please feel free, I promise to post them.  

Evan Brown
Director of Communications and Alumni

Members of the Class of 1986:  Ramin Kashani, Scott Mirelson, Saumil Parikh, Lawrence Ganti - in Alaska, 1993, after college graduation.

The boys, again, this time from June, 2013.  Still great friends!

Now married:  their respective spouses -- Aileen (Ramins wife), Wendy (Scott's wife), Saloni (Saumil wife), Elaine (Lawrence's wife).

Attending the wedding Scott Mirelson and Wendy Kamenshine, April 2013.  (2nd from left) Ramin Kashani 86, (center) Saumil Parikh 86, (3rd from right) Scott Mirelson 86, (2nd from right) Wendy Kamenshine.

Also attending Scott's wedding, (center) David Schiff '86 

Congratulations Graduates!

Thank you and best wishes to The Elisabeth Morrow School, Class of 2013.

Can't view the slideshow? Click Here.

2013 EMS Secondary School and College Placement Report

For over 80 years, The Elisabeth Morrow School has provided children with a foundation for academic readiness and achievement. We have always taken great care in helping students and their families find schools that fit who they are as a student and as a person. It is our great honor, then, that we present this year's Secondary School and College Placement Report and pass along our congratulations to our eighth graders, and our rising college alumni. We have been, and always will be, so very proud of you.  

Click here to view the report, or here to download a PDF version.

Second Grade Skypers

When some start confusing Australians with Austrians, or (as with the more recent and unfortunate circumstance) confusing Chechens with Czechs, we can start to understand on the simplest of levels, the importance of folding a global education and awareness into our curriculum.  Knowing where countries are on a map, in geographic relation to each other, is valuable knowledge for children growing up in a global society.  But, the greater priority may be gaining an understanding of people, perspectives and cultures different than their own.  This is the focus for the second grade's culture exchange, which exhibits just one of Elisabeth Morrow's grade-level efforts to use conferencing and collaborative technology to engage and connect our young students with the larger world in which they live.

This year, Mrs. Keller and Mrs. Holden's class established a culture exchange with the second grade students of Ms. Guzman and Ms. Mena from the Academia Brit├ínica Cuscatleca in Santa Tecla, El Salvador.  The students initiated the project by writing letters about themselves and exchanging stuffed class mascots (ABC sent us a stuffed bulldog, while EMS sent them a stuffed teddy bear - pictures here, here and here).  The culture exchange continues throughout the year, with sessions over Skype, where children ask questions, learning about similarities and differences, as well as a Voicethread project, where multi-media information can be shared.  It is important to note that the project is also really fun and engaging for children.  You can follow the project on this EMS Culture Exchange page.

9 Life Lessons from Musical Rehearsals

by Emily Spaeth
Early Childhood/Lower School Music Teacher

While in the midst of yet another rehearsal for our holiday concert in December, a by-stander remarked, “Is all of this practice really necessary?”  It started me thinking about all of the benefits our students reap from rehearsals, leading up to a big performance.  At EMS, all of our teachers understand that we have an obligation to academically prepare students for success in the classroom, but we are also committed to the other tenants of our mission:  encouraging independent thinking, cultivating individual talents, and fostering a joy of lifelong learning.  In other words, we focus on the "whole child."  As we approach the end of the academic year, and all the special events and performances that mark the occasion, I thought it might be an appropriate time to discuss what children "get" from performance, practice and rehearsal.

1) Resilience and Diligence
No matter how much we may prepare for something, it may still not go the way we expected it to.  To this end, we begin practicing for our performances months in advance.  Many students think they are ready before the first all-inclusive rehearsal, but often that first rehearsal does not go well.  Rather than throwing in the towel, it is important to encourage the children to brush themselves off, get back up and try again.  Students learn that by examining what went wrong, fixing the problems and committing to make it better, they can succeed.  We may not get it right the first time, but the children understand that they'll get it eventually, and usually the end result is better than we could have ever imagined!

2) Patience
When preparing for a performance, there are many moving pieces that need to be rehearsed.  Oftentimes, at least a small portion of each rehearsal requires some students to sit quietly while others are practicing their parts.  Learning to wait patiently is a valuable skill that children (and for adults as well) must work at consistently in order to achieve.

3) Respect
Patience goes hand-in-hand with Respect as during each performance we try to have a moment where each group or grade level has a chance to shine.  While some are performing, the other students learn to respect the work that their fellow classmates are doing, or have done.  They also learn that they don’t need to be the center of attention at all times.  When they learn to share the spotlight, true understanding and collaboration is possible in their lives.

4) Flexibility
Our performances are carefully planned months in advance, in collaboration with all of the music teachers.  However, during rehearsals with the full group, we sometimes realize that the song order should be changed, or a dance needs to be added.  We encourage the students to understand that if they are well prepared, any changes we incur need not be upsetting.  Flexibility is an important tool in success.  The students see that if something is not working, it’s okay to make changes to improve it, even if it wasn’t in the initial design.

5) Attention to Detail
Many times in rehearsal, we practice small items, such as making sure the “t” at the end of a word can be heard, or the inflection of a phrase sounds a certain way.  When rehearsing, students begin to understand that these tiny details can change a song from average to extraordinary.  This attention to detail can carry over into everything they do.

6) Working Together as a Group
When performing with a large group, students learn that it’s important to work together.  Of course, the success of the performance depends on each student doing their part to the best of their ability, but when students embrace collaboration, it teaches them that by working together, we can create something much bigger, more powerful than each of them as individuals.  Think of Music as the ultimate team sport where the best part is that everyone wins!

7) Public Performance
The ability to stand up in front of a group and speak or perform is important, and musical performances can provide a valuable step in that process.  While safely surrounded by their classmates, each student gets the experience of sharing their voices and talents to a large, and appreciative, audience.   The confidence gained may later encourage students to speak their mind, share ideas, or become leaders.

8) Pride of Ownership
We all appreciate something more when we know we have worked hard to achieve it.  When the students have diligently practiced words, music and movements for a performance, it becomes truly THEIRS.  They learn to take pride in the finished product because they know that the time and energy they put into the concert is what made it spectacular.

9) Enjoying the Experience
While the week of rehearsals leading up to the performance may be challenging, students learn that with proper preparation and focus, the end product is an enjoyable and rewarding experience.  It is clear to us, as educators, that the students who challenge themselves to learn the music, end up having the most fun (and less stress) because in knowing the material they can relax and enjoy the experience and accomplishment of performing.

EMS Students Excel At Regional Mathleague Competition

On March 14, The Elisabeth Morrow School hosted a Mathleague divisional contest which featured 36 teams in grades 3 to 6, representing eight schools:  Golda Och Academy, Rutgers Prep, Solomon Schechter of Bergen County, Sacred Heart School, Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart, Oakland Public Schools, and The Ridgewood Avenue School.  In all 144 students competed, at their respective grade levels, in a four-part competition featuring number sense, sprint round, target round and team round challenges.  

The Elisabeth Morrow School students dominated the competition with three first-place team finishes (for grades 3, 4, and 6) and two individual champions, Peter Staphos (Old Tappen, NJ) in the fourth grade and Austin Kwak (Fort Lee, NJ) in the sixth grade.  Overall, Austin finished with the highest score for all competitors in the competition.

"Our school did exceptionally well," said Elisabeth Morrow Math Department Chairperson, Carol Toth. "This competition gave us a chance to see just how well our students could do against other schools. And, in fact, in another divisional contest that took place on the same day at another location, we scored better than their top scoring teams at most levels."  

The first place teams from this competition will move on to the state playoffs later this spring.


3rd Grade:  First Place Team.  Individual EMS results:  Rohan Buluswar (2nd), James Grant (3rd), Andrew Hyde (8th), Purvi Jonnalagadda (10th)

4th Grade:  First Place Team (John Mauro, Peter Staphos, Shelby Kim, Ronit Malde), Second Place Team (Keeka Takehana, Annabelle Xing, Malachy Guzman, Aidan Kim).  Individual EMS Results:  Peter Staphos (1st), John Mauro (2nd), Shelby Kim (4th), Aidan Kim (5th), Ronit Malde (6th), Keeka Takehana (7th), Malachy Guzman (9th)

5th Grade:  Second Place Team (Cole Knie, Cameron Woo, Reha Mathur, Oren Berkowitz), 6th Place Team (Zachary Brooks, Margo Costigan, Sangmin Lee, Kris Pursiainen).  Individual EMS Results:  Cameron Woo (3rd), Reha Mathur (4th), Oren Berkowitz (6th), Cole Knie (9th)

6th Grade:  1st Place Team (Austin Kwak, Tanvi Jonnalagadda, Allison DeRose, Shant Amerkanian), 2nd Place Team (Harry Moon, Alex Nelson, Maggie Sheridan, James Wedgbury).  Individual EMS Results:  Austin Kwak (1st), Tanvi Jonnalagadda (2nd), Allison DeRose (3rd), Shant Amerkanian (4th), Harry Moon (6th)

Competition Aggregate (highest scores for the entire competition):
1st Austin Kwak
2nd Tanvi Jonnalagadda
3rd Allison DeRose
5th Peter Staphos
7th Shant Amerkanian
8th Cameron Woo
10th Reha Mathur

Full Results at Mathleague.org

Reflections from Philadelphia: My Technology "Take-Away" From An Inspiring Conference

Beth Anne Brennan
Lower School Head

"But it's not about the tools. It's not about layering expensive technology on top of the traditional curriculum. Instead, it's about addressing the new needs of modern learners in entirely new ways. And once we understand that it's about learning, our questions reframe themselves in terms of the ecological shifts we need to make: What do we mean by learning? What does it mean to be literate in a networked, connected world? What does it mean to be educated? What do students need to know and be able to do to be successful in their futures? Educators must lead inclusive conversations in their communities around such questions to better inform decisions about technology and change."

Recently, I traveled to Philadelphia to attend the annual conference for independent schools (NAIS).  The theme of this year’s conference was Think Big Think Great and for those of you who know me, as a leader and a learner, know that I love thinking BIG.  I found many of the presentations intriguing in the program and I was very excited to attend.  I wasn’t  disappointed.

If we are to consider and possibly embrace change, I decided to approach this conference along the lines that Will Richardson suggests above; my experience at this conference would be as a “modern learner” in hopes that  I might better share and inform our community when I returned to school the following week.  Going in, I felt inspired, empowered, knowledgeable and ready; I have been engaged in many discussions over the past several years, about preparing schools within the information age and now, the time had come for me to dive in.  I needed to start thinking, learning and living as a student in the 21st century.  

As I attended presentations, armed with my iPad, I sat up close to the speakers and took notes using the Note app. Later in the day, when I had a moment or two between workshops, I used the internet to look up the speakers’ bios, TED talks (if they had any), research, and opinions.  If I felt it was useful I forwarded the resources by email, along with my notes, images and thoughts regarding what I was taking in, to my colleagues back at EMS.  I also found that I could follow the Twitter posts of the other conference-goers (using #NAIS2013), which allowed me to know their thoughts about a given speaker or presentation, without having to have a personal conversation with the more than 5,000  participants (I found this aspect, the Twitter feed, to be the most interesting of all).  

When I returned home, I added some of the speakers’ blog sites to my favorites bar with the intention of checking in frequently to see what they are thinking and saying relative to education. I also decided that I would participate more frequently in social media and online learning networks that focus on teaching in the 21st Century.  

I have attended many conferences but I would have to say that this experience was among the most remarkable.  It is hard for me to fully describe how my learning was enhanced by the technology so readily and simply held in my hand.  If I needed a reference during a presentation, I quickly looked it up online; anything important I wanted to note or share, I could jot it down or capture it with the camera and forward to my colleagues.  The value of the iPad was clear to me, and as a professional educator of 25 years, I can not help but wonder about the possibilities for us in the classroom.  Should we push harder for technology in our classrooms at EMS?

One of the reasons I love EMS is that we provide a careful, whole-child education.  Where some schools or school districts place weight on grade-based assessments or test scores, I know that our teachers play a much broader role in our student’s development.  After all, things like focus, attending, social and emotional development, critical/abstract thinking skills still require great teachers who, perhaps, have learned from great teachers before them.  

Here’s the thing, though.  To my own children, to our EMS children, none of what I have just related about my conference experience is remarkable to them.  At all.  Where I am amazed, my children, along with the millions of other young people of their generation, are already living (fully) in an age where information is accessible and commonplace.  Experienced educators are in the middle of a paradigm shift but our children are living well within the paradigm.  There has always been differences between generations, but this time, it’s a bit different.  As Will Richardson noted at his NAIS presentation (similar TEDtalk here), unlike any time before, teachers are no longer the sole providers of our student’s core learning.  Children now have access to many teachers, for just about anything that interests them.  I realize that this may be a bit too simplified, but for us teachers the nature of the shift we have to understand is one that moves the focus away from knowledge and more toward guidance.

Taking this leap and making this commitment to “modern learning” has not been easy for me.  In fact, I have often found technology to be distracting, frustrating and time-consuming, but I am starting to get it.  I am starting to get the hang of it and understand it’s value.  Me and the 5000+ professional educators who attended NAIS, along with many more who took it all in through web feeds, simulcasts, and social media are starting to get a better idea of the potential it can offer for teaching in our time.  Of course, we still have an obligation to shape the development of our students (talents, knowledge and character) through the methodologies we feel are most effective:  Best of the Old and Best of the New as our informal motto goes. I still believe in this balance.  It’s just that now, considering how things have changed, we should reevaluate how we are going to proceed and then—borrowing from conference speaker Cathy Davidson, and Nike shoes—”just do it.”  Our goal is to prepare our children for the world in which they will grow.

Our Minecraft Curriculum Featured at Annual NAIS Conference

by Aaron Cooper
Head of School

Last week, a contingent from The Elisabeth Morrow School traveled to Philadelphia for the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Annual Conference; a gathering of more than 5,000 educators from around the country. 

EMS Technology teacher Marianne Malmstrom and I were honored to be invited, along with seventeen other schools, to present specific educational innovations in a session called Speed Innovating.  Ms. Malmstrom and I offered a session titled Targeting the "Six C's" for the 21st Century Through the New Frontier of Minecraft, which detailed the "gaming" curriculum of our technology department. 

Some within our community are familiar with our Tech department's work with Minecraft.  If you are not, or are interested in taking a closer look, please consult the following links:

NAIS President Pat Bassett referred to the session in his general remarks to the entire conference by saying that, "if [attendees] did not have the chance to see the Speed Innovation session, [they] need to do so next year, as it featured details of what education can and should be."  Mr. Bassett also had the chance to listen directly to our presentation and was quite impressed with the work going on at Elisabeth Morrow.  This is certainly high praise coming from an individual so knowledgeable about the independent school world. 

Ms. Malmstrom and the technology team have developed this program over the past five years and have worked tirelessly to tweak the curriculum and support the students’ work.  It is this sort of dedication and drive that we all appreciate and is a hallmark of our entire Elisabeth Morrow faculty.