Welcome from Kiri Harris,
Dean of Middle School
Dear Middle School Families,

When I think of our GSFS community, I think of a (very large) family. It's a big double dip feeling I get when returning to school every fall. Like most families, we all need time away, but when the school year rolls around again, our excitement bubbles over about reconnecting with friends and teachers. 

This summer, our school family has faced so much while we've been apart. Our trips may not have been to physical places, but we've all been on journeys in our hearts and minds, from the fight for racial justice and equity, to the fear and loss caused by the pandemic, to the question of who will lead our country. We've had so many collective individual journeys, "together apart," that it feels even more important to listen and appreciate each person's path through this summer as we come back to our school circle. 

I've seen the GSFS family rise to meet occasions many times, though none quite like this. By occasions, I do mean challenges. I remember writing the words "problems = opportunities" on poster paper above my chalkboardso my 6th graders could see it during every lesson. This quality I appreciate in GSFS is true resiliency, absorbing change and springing back with renewed energy. 

The problem/opportunity our team worked on this summer is: how will we live out our school's mission as we teach and build community virtually? Our teachers meet this challenge with the same energy, creativity, and wisdom they pour into all their work. Technology on its own doesn't give us what we need, but it can open doors to help us feel more "in person." Here are some virtual ways our middle school teachers are excited to keep our mission strong:
  • In 5th grade, Bianca and Kim will have students capture and share their learning with fun tools like Flipgrid where students make video snippets about their reading, and Google slides where students lead gallery walks through their projects. 
  • For 5th grade, Sandra is excited to use PearDeck to make interactive lessons. The class will play Quizlet live which students really like. Sandra will use Señor Wooly and a new platform called Garbanzo to get students in the groove. She looks forward to building community and giving students a positive uplift during Spanish class.
  • In 6th grade language arts and social studies, Becky and Nico will use ThingLink to create virtual gallery walks for students. It's a way of creating visual materials that incorporate learning tours, photos, videos, etc. and makes the learning interactive for the students. 
  • In 6th grade, Becky and Nico will also use padlet as a tool for students to express their feelings, thoughts, expectations, frustrations, etc. Comments can be posted anonymously so students can include their honest opinions. They will also use google forms as a way of regularly checking in privately with students about how they're feeling. 
  • In 5/6 Art, Marie is assembling art supply kits for all students to have at home. She will use break out rooms in Zoom so students can make art together in small groups, just like when they're in the art room. For 7/8 arts electives, Marie is looking forward to using the screen share feature to show off students' graphic design work. She's eager to create virtual exhibitions of student work.
  • In 6-8 Spanish, Nicole is excited to explore all different virtual tools this upcoming year. Students will use the features of Zoom including breakout rooms to have small class conversations, as well as various sites to support learning language online, such as Duolingo, Quizlet, Señor Wooly, and Garbanzo among others.
  • For 6-8 science, Josh is excited to use EdPuzzle and Loom together. In Loom, Josh will create videos to talk through different topics they'll be learning, and then in EdPuzzle he'll embed questions within those videos to make sure students are building understanding. Josh hopes to create mainly a "flipped classroom" where students are covering material asynchronously and then discussing and working through activities synchronously.
  • In 7/8 math, Jessica will use PearDeck when teaching synchronous lessons, so that all students are looking at the same thing and can engage with the material by answering questions. She will also check in privately about how they feel, and use student feedback as formative assessment to see how everyone is understanding the content. 
  • For 7/8 social studies, Marty will be using Nearpod more often to deliver content and record student responses; it has a variety of ways students can respond, from polls to multiple choice to open ended questions
  • In 7/8 advisories, everyone will get to know each other by doing scavenger hunts, identity boards, and other sorts of activities. In homerooms and advisory, teachers will use Flipgrid so students can reflect on how things are going.
While we absolutely cannot wait to see everybody in person, we are eager to see everyone virtually in a few short weeks! If there are any questions I can answer for you in the meantime, or if you'd just like to catch up or talk, please reach out to me any time!

With enthusiasm,

Kiri Harris (she/her/hers)
Middle School Dean and TA Program Director
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