Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sounds Abound in Fifth Grade

Submitted the Fifth Grade Team

If you know a fifth grader who attends Ashford School you may have had the pleasure of listening to a serenade on the pan pipes or a lively tune played on a “sound sandwich.” These handmade instruments are just one piece of the exciting learning taking place on the fascinating topic of sound. Fifth grade teachers have been co-teaching with the enrichment teacher, Carol Moran, to present inquiry based, high interest, and hands-on lessons.

In September, the students explored vibration. They used tuning forks to strike a surface and designed and conducted experiments to see how different objects would sound when struck by the vibrating fork. The most entertaining part was watching the effect the fork had on striking a cup of water- splash! After learning that all sounds were created by vibrations, students analyzed the qualities of sound.

In early October, classes went outside and analyzed absorption and reflection at work. Sounds reflected (echoed) off of smooth, flat surfaces like our school and were absorbed by items with rough surfaces like the trees in the forest near our playground. It is encouraging as a teacher to see that the children are natural scientists; questioning everything around them, analyzing variables, and brainstorming future experiments.

Later in the month, students were involved in an in-depth study of pitch. They identified high and low pitched sounds and examined factors that alter pitch. This led easily into connections with musical instruments. Many children demonstrated their background knowledge of instruments and how length and tension can change pitch. We examined xylophones and the length and position of the keys in relation to the pitch that they made. There are a great many web-based resources to enhance student learning in this area that are fun for students and families alike.

Try out these fantastic sites to make “sounds abound” in your home!

Music News!

By Amy Dotson

Nineteen Ashford School students will be participating in a regional musical festival in Putnam, CT. The Quinebaug Valley Middle School Musical Festival (QVMSMF) began 4 years ago when area music teachers were looking for an opportunity for the students to develop and show off their skills in concert band and choir.

Mrs Porri and Miss Dotson, Ashford School’s music teachers, selected student participants based ability as well as character. These nineteen students represented the top musicians and leaders in the school. Band students included: Chris Pavliscsak, Caitlin Ecsedy, Jennie Rozenberg, Tessa Weidig, Caleigh Campion, Adam Cherepon, Cassie Hayward and Joseph Cherepon. Choir students included: Matthew Sibley-Jett, Erica Mahue, Kayla Bendell, Brooke Noel, Laina Fesenmeyer, Ben Lagasse, Martha Sherman, Sarah Caldwell, Jessica Bassett, and Shelby Colonese.

Ashford students will combine with students from nine other communities for rehearsals on November 9th and 12th with high quality conductors and educators from around Connecticut. The rehearsals will culminate with a concert to be held on Thursday, November 12th at 7:00pm in the Putnam Middle School Auditorium. This concert is open to the public. Guests are asked for a $2.00 donation ($5 max/family) and a canned good.

Congratulations to our Ashford students! We are very proud of your work and excited for your chance to participate in this festival!

Relay for Life

By Michelle Bibeault

Recently the staff at Ashford School decided it was time to get back into the fight against cancer. All of us, at one time or another, have seen family and friends affected by cancer and we wanted to show our support. We created the Ashford School Team and joined the Windham Relay for Life. On October 17th and 18th the Ashford School Team joined 81 other teams and walked at Eastern Connecticut State University's Sports Complex.

We are happy to say that our team raised $4,799. dollars.

Friday, July 03, 2009

E-Mail Migration

We are migrating Ashford School Staff E-mail from Gaggle to Google between July 3 and July 7.  It is possible (probable) that email will be off line during part of that time frame.  Delivery of email may be held up. Enjoy your vacation weekend.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Grade 2 News

by Chris Busse

Ashford School’s second grade had a field trip to the Roger William’s Zoo. Students chose an animal that is at the zoo to do their first report on. Students wrote about what they already know about the animal, what they want to learn and then researched the animal using texts and the internet. Students were also able to listen to pod casts that were made by 8th graders who previously went to the zoo and observed different animal’s behavior.

Students have been working on writing topic sentences, using sentence variety and to write using their own words. It was very exciting for the second graders to study their animal and then get the chance to see their animal live and in person.

6th Grade takes a Trip to the Middle Ages

by Mike Young

This spring the 6th grade social studies classes took a trip to the Higgins Armory in Worcester, Massachusetts. This trip was held as a wrap up to their study of Ancient Rome, and as an introduction to their unit on the middle ages. The visit began with a wonderful presentation on the types of armor used in battle beginning with Greek soldiers and ending with the knights of the renaissance. Volunteers were given a chance to try on armor and witness first hand the protection given by chain mail garments. Students were then treated to a guided tour of the museum and given a wealth of information about the manufacturing, cost, and usage of the various types of armor and weapons on display.

The day ended with a hands on project which gave the students a chance to create their very own metal etching similar to those done on armor by the soldiers of the day. As a whole the trip was a big success, and students recommended that it be done for the sixth grade each year.

Black Hawk Visits Ashford School

by Carol Moran

On Monday, May 18th all students in Ashford School assembled outside to see a Black Hawk helicopter make a visit. Bob Mullady, Staff Sergeant from the CT National Guard, arranged to have “his” helicopter make the trip. He is responsible for maintenance and inspection of this particular UH-60 Blackhawk.

The helicopter arrived at 13:00 as scheduled and all students watched from a nearby blacktop. It passed over the cheering group, circled the school, and landed in the adjacent soccer field. Once the helicopter check was complete, students could approach and pass through the cabin. Many students also had the opportunity to sit in the cockpit.

Students in grades 1-4 had learned about the Blackhawk in enrichment class the week prior. Students learned about parts and their functions, the Blackhawk’s many purposes, identified forces of lift, gravity, thrust and drag, and developed questions for the pilots. The visit was also a complement to eighth grade students’ science unit on flight. These students stayed later with science teacher Annie Perkins to get a special lesson and ask questions of the pilots.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Earth Day Assembly

By Carol Moran/ from

Imagine a circus in which actors juggle bottled water, polar bears dance on melting ice floes, the props and set are recycled, and the core of clowns are called the Fossil Fools. That's part of what you get in ARTFARM's Circus For a Fragile Planet, an exciting educational circus performance featuring juggling, clowning, physical comedy, acrobatics, unicycling, and other circus arts built around a strong environmental message.
6th-8th graders enjoyed this assembly on April 17, thanks to the PTO!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Author Visits School

By Carol Moran

Primary students were captivated by author/illustrator Jeff Mack, who shared his work on April 2nd. Mr. Mack has illustrated many books, including Hurry, Hurry by Eve Bunting, and Rub A Dub Sub and Starry Safari by Linda Ashman. Thank you to the PTO for the event!

3rd Grade News

By Mrs. Christopher, Mrs. Dickenman, Mr. Horn

Welcome spring! Our third grade teachers and students are looking forward to our upcoming special events and activities for fourth term.

Our social studies curriculum focuses on learning about communities and that includes our traditional emphasis on the 1850's community life and times experienced at Old Sturbridge Village. We are fortunate enough to have a docent visit our classes to showcase lessons about "Traveler's Trunk" and "Ye Old Schoolhouse". Mrs. Christopher, Mrs. Dickenman and Mr. Horn will also team teach to present learning activities to inform, interest and motivate the children to thoroughly enjoy our field trip to the village, scheduled for May 22, 2009.

We continue to be excited about our participation in the "Find Your Way" EASTCONN program, conducted by Cathy Smith-Carolan. She comes to our classes to assist with a variety of instructional endeavors with mapping skills and practice with compasses for orienteering. Then, we visit Mansfield Hollow, June 6, 2009, where the children work cooperatively in small teams with their chaperones, to use their skills and compasses searching for clues and map puzzle pieces to complete this unique orienteering experience.

Finally, we'll participate in Mrs. Hardisty's annual "SWINGS Day" on May 27, 2009. It's a lively, great day to be outdoors on the playgrounds, enjoying some physical activity and great games.
We are delighted to finish our third grade year together with these interesting, rewarding, and memorable events!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Eighth Graders Take in a Play

By Jen Lindsay

On March 19, the eighth grade traveled to Hartford to see a performance of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. After studying the novel in language arts class, and viewing Horton Foote's screenplay, students enjoyed seeing Hartford Stage's Artistic Director Michael Wilson's interpretation of the plot. Set in 1930s Alabama, To Kill a Mockingbird follows the life of children Scout and Jem Finch as their father defends an African-American man who was falsely accused of attacking a white woman.

Harper Lee wrote the novel in 1960. It won numerous awards immediately, including the 1960 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Hartford Stage's performance of To Kill a Mockingbird was part of the National Endowment for the Arts initiative designed to encourage literacy in America. In conjunction with the Hartford Public Library, community members were encouraged to read (or reread!) the novel. We were delighted to see Matthew Modine (Memphis Belle, Gross Anatomy, Vision Quest ) in his stage debut as Atticus Finch as well as many local actors.

Following the performance, the mostly school group audience, enjoyed time to ask questions of the performers. This interesting opportunity allowed students and actors to discuss the themes of the novel, the differences between life in 1930s Alabama and today, and the challenge of discrimination, racism and prejudice.

Students were encouraged to expand their view of the world and to avoid passing judgment on others. In a phrase, they were encouraged to "…climb into his skin and walk around in it." (Lee)
While at the theater, and during a brief lunch stop, several teachers enjoyed comments from passersby about our eighth graders. It was observed that students were courteous, helpful, and appropriate. They truly represented our school and community well. We look forward to sharing more events with this class as we head toward graduation.

If you have not read To Kill a Mockingbird, or if it has been some time, do consider reading it again. You won't regret it!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

New Ashford School Website Goes Live!

On Thursday, April 23rd – right in the middle of vacation – the new, redesigned Ashford School Website went live. We are quite excited about it. It is sporting many new features including announcements and an activities calendar right on the home page. The new home page currently resides at but the old address will automatically redirect you to it ( The address will be switched during the summer. You may need to empty your internet browser caches if you are still seeing the old site on your computer.

The new site was created by Marji Roy using the free online Goggle Sites tool. This was chosen so teachers could also design and develop their classroom pages and have access to editing them from their home computers as well as their school computers (and the price was right!) Many teachers are developing sites now with more to come. Check back often to see changes and updates. Check the new site out!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Positive Behavior Support (PBS) Program

By Marina Brand
The staff and students at Ashford School continue to promote a positive, safe, and healthy environment for everyone through the implementation of the Positive Behavior Support Program (PBS). All of our students learn and regularly review our three school-wide expectations of RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITY, and PRIDE. Signs throughout the building remind the students how to show RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITY, and PRIDE. Students receive recognition for exhibiting behaviors that exemplify these three expectations in school, whether it is in the classroom, cafeteria, hallway, playground, or the bus.

On February 27th, the entire student body gathered in the gymnasium for an exciting assembly. Our new superintendent, Dr. Longo, greeted the students and our principal, Mrs. Johndrow, reminded the students of our three school-wide behavior expectations and how to exhibit these expectations while they did their best on the Connecticut Mastery Testing. Three students from Mr. Schreiber’s class read short essays that they had written about examples of RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITY, and PRIDE that they had witnessed. Then, staff members “acted” and “performed” while Mrs. Bernardini read a children’s story aloud. The book, a humorous story about students taking THE TEST, was enjoyed by all of the students. The assembly concluded with a raffle drawing and a cheer led by Mr. Young, our very talented sixth grade teacher. Our entire community of staff and students left the gymnasium energized and ready to do their personal best on the CMTs.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

What is a Vortex?

By Michelle Bibeault
The science fair was recently held at Ashford School. Kindergarten students do not usually participate, although encouraged to do so, but this year Mrs. Bibeault's kindergarten students did! The focus was "What is a Vortex?" The students used two liter soda bottles along with dish detergent, food coloring, oil and water to make three different tornado bottles. The children eagerly participated in swirling the bottles around to observe the vortex and discuss what was happening. The tornado bottles are still in the classroom so the students can continue to engage in hands on learning with them for a while longer. Great job to everyone who participated in the science fair!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Students Attend Inauguration

By Carol Moran
Ashford School 7th graders Michelle R. and Yuba W. were lucky enough to attend the Presidential Inauguration. Both girls said that they did not actually get to see President Obama because of the crowds, but they were excited to just be there. "I got to witness history," Michelle said. When I get older, I can tell my grandchildren I was there," said Yuba.
Michelle went as part of the Junior Presidential Youth Inauguration Conference with other students from around the country. Teacher Charlie Wilcox nominated her last year for the National Youth Leadership Conference, and that led her to go. Yuba went with her family.
The inauguration was "cold, and very loud. Everyone was screaming, 'We need change now,” according to Michelle. She says a highlight was getting to meet so many different people from all around the country. Yuba agreed. “Everyone was really nice, very polite."
The girls also listened to other leaders speak, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Vice President Al Gore. Michelle was especially struck with Colin Powell. "I really liked him. He had dreamed of becoming a leader. He was a great speaker."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Masquerade Ball

By Marti Hardisty

The Phantom of the Opera was heard once again at Ashford School when the sixth graders attended the annual Masquerade Ball on February 11, 2009. The Ball is the culminating activity for a cross-curriculum unit in music, art and physical education. The music curriculum includes opera as a style of music; the art segment included learning about and making masks and students learned to dance in physical education class.
For two hours the students enjoyed a meal while being entertained by a select group of junior high musicians. Dancing followed, with the students showing off their talents in ballroom dance, as well as some traditional and modern line dances. Students wore costumes complemented by the masks they made. According to Caitlin R. and Kyle S., the ball was “very good and a great experience.” Luke Yanke thought more time was needed for dancing, which was an opinion shared by many of the students.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Internet Awareness for Parents and Educators Presentation

Mansfield Middle School is sponsoring an Internet Safety presentation on Tuesday April 14 from 7:00- 8:00 PM. It will be held at the MMS Auditorium, 205 Spring Hill Road, Mansfield, CT. They have extended the invitation to all the Region 19 schools including Ashford. There is no charge for the presentation. It covers the topics of Child Predators and Cyber Bullies and offers awareness regarding Internet threats as well as strategies for parents and educators to help protect children who use the Internet. It is being presented by Supervisory Special Agent Thomas Lawler of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
For additional information visit Mansfield’s Internet Safety Resource page:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How I Spent my Winter Vacation....

Thanks to funding from an EETT (Enhancing Education Through Technology) grant a group of 7 faculty members spent a chunk of their February vacation at school school creating new and exciting lesson plans to integrate technology into other curricular areas. Tech Coordinator Marji Roy organized a February Institute for teachers to work together sharing ideas, skills and creating. Teachers from a wide cross-section of the school participated including Rick Rossi (Grade 7 Science), Annie Perkins (Grade 8 Science), Kelly Knotts (Grade 6), Carol Moran (Enrichment), Chris Busse (Grade 2) and Michelle Bibeault (Kindergarten) along with Marji Roy assisting and problem-solving.

The types of projects developed reflect the curriculum units at the different grade levels. Projects ranged from using micro-processors to monitor temperature affects on breathing rates of goldfish, using video and iMovie to evaluate success or failure of bridge design, using temperature probes to monitor chemical reactions, exploring hurricanes, inventions, Ashford past and present, and transportation. On Monday second grade students got to start right in on the new "My Town" project designed by Mr. Busse for their social studies unit on communities.

Over the next weeks and months you will see the results of this workshop in some of the new activities your children will be completing using technology tools.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Science Night Attracks Hundreds of Spectators

submitted by Mrs. Perkins and Mr. Rossi, Photos by Mrs. Lindsay

The Ashford community came out in droves, despite the chilly temperature
s, to show their tremendous support for science education at Ashford School. The gym and cafeteria were packed on the evening of February 4th as participants of all ages displayed their knowledge and enthusiasm for science. There were over 200 displays from every discipline with many hands-on, minds-on activities. Even the art room was called into service as over 12 exhibitors chose to demonstrate their science research through PowerPoint presentations. Three eighth graders and one seventh grader qualified to enter their projects in the Connecticut Science Fair in March. Congratulations and best wishes for success at the Science Fair go to Nicole W., Ethan L., Paul F., and Jacob A. Honorable mention was awarded to Devon A. for her experiment on freezing fresh vs. salt water. The best part of the evening was to see the pride and responsibility with which students shared their projects with other members of the Ashford community. There is great hope for science education at Ashford School!

Mr. Rossi reported on his class wiki ( that
the students in the seventh grade created 48 different projects for Science Night. Seven of them were projects done by partners and 41 were done by individuals. Five of our team members entered the Connecticut Science Fair and our team had one winner. This project, The Coefficient of Restitution, (The science of bouncing balls) will be going onto the State competition at Quinnipiac University next month. Congratulations winner!

Other projects ranged in variety from, Is it possible to teach a chicken to dance: an in
vestigation of chicken intellect, to Microbe-opolis: a mini metropolis in a petrie dish , with all kinds of chemistry, physics, and math thrown in between. Several students did demonstrations such as Dry Ice Tricks and The Simple Machines in my ATV . Four additional students created Power Point presentations and presented them in the multi-media room.

One of the most amazing things that happened this year, was the number of peo
ple that came to Science Night. We were overrun by hundreds of spectators coming to view the scientific curiosities prepared by our students. It was great fun.

Friday, January 23, 2009

First Grade Independent Literacy Centers

First graders have been enjoying learning through independent literacy centers. All three 1st grade teachers have developed common centers which promote independence, creativity and problem-solving. Students look forward to “center-time” and the chance to express their individuality as they learn.

A favorite center for many students is called “squiggle.” Students are given a squiggle line on blank paper which they turn into a fully elaborated drawing. For example, different students might take the same squiggle line and turn it into a snail, a snake, a girl’s hairdo or a lollipop! The second part of this center requires children to write about the drawings. The amount and sophistication of writing required of each student differs according to individual ability. A student from Mrs. Makuch’s class says, “In squiggle you can use your imagination and write about your imagination.” Another student says, “It could help you be an artist one day!”

Another favorite is called “Top Ten.” Students create a list of ten items in response to a question such as “What are your favorite foods?” or “What are some ways to warm up when you are cold?” The lists can be serious or silly! One student says, “You could look at books to find ideas.” Another comments, “You can draw pictures and write sentences to go with your list.”

These centers, and others, go a step beyond a right or wrong answer. They encourage students to stretch their thinking, use their time wisely and apply learned skills to express their individual ideas.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ashford Students Use Technology to Witness History: January 20th 2009

The excitement was evident early on January 20th. Ashford School was gearing up to watch the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barak Obama. Ashford School has only one cable TV drop so we knew it would be a challenge to make viewing the historic event a possibility for all classes planning to participate. Grades 4 and 6 squeezed into the library and viewed using the cable TV.

Additionally, in various classrooms throughout the building, computers were directed to the special feed provided by the Connecticut Education Network (CEN) for live-streaming of the event. This feed to CNN was established by the CEN in anticipation of the regular Internet lines to news sources becoming clogged during the height of viewing. Computers were connected to projectors and the programming was viewed by many as it was projected onto whiteboards. Through these technology tools, Ashford students got to watch the massive crowd, listen to the new President be sworn in, and participate in the Star Spangled Banner with the nation in real time on this historic day!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Geography Bee

Kristina C.’s knowledge of the Aztec Empire helped her clinch the 2009 Geographic Bee championship at Ashford School. She knew that Mexico City is located on the site of Tenochtitl├ín, the ancient Aztec capital conquered by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Kristina faced tough competition from runner-up and fellow eighth grader Shannon H. 7th grader Devin P. placed third.

In addition to the finalists, other young geographers included fourth grader Brian B., fifth grader Aidden A., sixth graders Ron L. and Kaitlyn L., seventh graders Caitlin E. and Jason P., and eighth grader Bailey L..

The Bee is a program of the National Geographic Society for students in grades four through eight. Bee questions address the physical and cultural aspects of both United States and world geography. Kristina’s next step is to complete a written exam, aiming to qualify for the state bee in April. All state winners are eligible to compete for the national championship in Washington, D.C., where the first-place prize is a $25,000 college scholarship and a trip to the Gal├ípagos Islands. “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek will moderate the finals in May. Good luck, Kristina!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bringing Social Studies to Life

Sometimes the best way to learn is to leave school. That’s what Ashford’s 5th grade does when it needs to bring its social studies program to life.

In October the three 5th grades traveled to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. There our students participated in hands-on activities using archaeological tools to uncover history and discover how wild plants and other materials were used to make twine, insect repellant, and a cure for poison ivy. In addition, the classes toured an authentic 16th century village and saw what life was like at that time. According to Amber Nurse, “this was the best field trip ever.” Other students echoed the same sentiment.

In the Spring our 5th graders will become more acquainted with our state government as we tour the state capitol and legislative office building in Hartford. We will learn about rights and responsibilities we have as citizens of Connecticut. At the Old State House our students will also explore our state’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government through role playing an election, a debate, and a mock trial.

Later in the Spring, we turn our sights to the Freedom Trail in Boston where two guides dressed in period costumes will take us on a tour of sites that were important to the American Revolution. These sites include the Boston Common, the Granary Burial Ground, the site of the Boston Massacre, and the Old North Church. At Faneuil Hall we will be greeted by Benjamin Franklin who will give our 5th graders his own insights and wisdom about his life and the Revolutionary War period.

Friday, January 09, 2009

7th Grade Science Classes Study Marathon Runner

Running a marathon is considered an ultimate test of the human body’s stamina, but exactly what happens to a runner during the standard 26.2-mile course? How does a marathon runner prepare his/her body? These are some of the questions that were presented to the 7th graders at Ashford School as part of their study of the human circulatory system.

In order to find answers, the 7th graders decided to study one particular marathoner, David LaPorte. Mr. LaPorte, a special education teacher at Ashford School, is also an avid runner and a second year participant of the famed New York Marathon. Using part of an EETT technology grant, students built microprocessor-controlled sensors that measured and recorded skin temperature every five minutes. Mr. LaPorte agreed to wear the sensors this past November 2nd when it took readings during his three hour and fifty-one minute jaunt through the five boroughs of New York City.

When he returned, students retrieved the raw data and began the process of converting it for analysis. This required the use of many algebraic concepts that would challenge even the advanced student,
but the idea was to generate motivation by offering data about a real event and a real person. It was a teacher’s delight to watch students like MariElle P. blurt out, “Ah hah, now I see how that works!” while diligently working on a rather lengthy equation designed to convert computer units into Celsius.

After the conversions were completed and a large format graph of the entire race was synthesized, a team meeting with Mr. LaPorte was held. He was able to answer questions about his experience and offer some hypotheses that might explain the dips and peaks in our graph. For more information and access to student responses, visit the class website at:

This is one of the many interesting science and technology experiences being funded by this grant during the 2008-09 school year.