The Baker News is a peek inside our classrooms. Each edition of the Baker News features articles about our Early Childhood, Primary, Intermediate and Middle School divisions, as well as news from the Baker community. We hope you enjoy our stories!
Early Childhood News
Preschool Students Discover a Playground Pumpkin Patch
At the beginning of the school year, the preschool classrooms made an exciting discovery on their playground — pumpkin plants growing and flourishing among their toys and playground equipment.
Along with the pumpkins, teachers Nichola Roberts-Jones and Kim Johns found an experiential teaching opportunity. “We decided to encircle the patch so the pumpkins would grow until Halloween,” Ms. Kim said.
Students worked together to put stakes in the ground, rope off the patch with string, and tie fabric around the string to make the patch easily visible. Mrs. Roberts-Jones said students will not only learn about pumpkins throughout the fall, but also the bees pollinating the plants.
She noted that in preschool, students learn through play and these spontaneous, child-led lessons are a natural part of the school year. “Students are teaching themselves,” Mrs. Roberts-Jones said. “We’re just here facilitating learning. It’s so nice for us to see.”
The pumpkin patch also gives students a sense of agency and ownership over their classroom and playground spaces. “It’s starting to feel like home,” Mrs. Roberts-Jones said.
First-graders Featured in Local Publication
Baker first-graders are making the news! Students Aara Desai, Jonah Cooper, and Isaac Friebus were featured on Better.net/Chicago, a lifestyle website featuring news from around the Chicagoland area.
The new first-graders gave their advice to incoming kindergartners for the 2021-22 school year. They offered lots of sage advice, such as, “Pack a yummy lunch,” and, “Don’t forget a change of clothes.”
Read the full article here.
Fourth- and Fifth-graders Take Field Trip to Lighthouse Beach
Fourth- and fifth-graders took their first field trip of the school year to Lighthouse Beach. Students, fifth-grade teacher Kerah Sandler, fourth-grade teacher Mark McClennan, and associate teachers Rebecca DeSalvo and Beth Sycamore walked to the local beach. Students enjoyed lunch and recess on the park playground before diving into a lesson on landforms.
The lesson, part of their landforms and earth movements unit, included students learning about geographical features, such as Lake Michigan. Students discussed the definition of each landform, then illustrated them and created models in the sand. Back in the classroom, students resumed model-making with Play-doh while talking about their own travels to various landforms discussed at the beach.
“The goal of these tactile and personal experiences is to help students remember the new vocabulary they learned — while having lots of fun of course!” Sandler said. “Students applied their new knowledge by creating drawings of their own thematic continents based on their personal interests with the geographical features we explored.”
As part of the unit, students also wrote creative stories about the continents and designed travel brochures. After studying landforms, students will learn about tectonic shifts.
“A culminating experience of this problem-based learning unit will be a design challenge in which students will use their engineering skills to create inventions intended to mitigate global problems impacting certain geographical features and the communities that live in their vicinity,” Sandler said.
Middle School News
Eighth-grade Teachers Introduce New Interdisciplinary Course
This year, eighth-grade social studies and language arts teacher Megan Beaudoin and language arts teacher Kirk Greer, who also serves as Baker’s teaching and learning coordinator, are team-teaching Humanities 8: Power and Resistance. The new course explores themes of power and resistance throughout global history.
“The course is a natural outgrowth of Baker’s focus on antiracism,” Greer said, noting that students will examine historical and current events with an emphasis on structures of power and privilege.
Students begin the class by studying the concepts of power and resistance. In the first semester, students will learn about the founding of the United States and the Constitution, with a focus on its racial implications. In an extensive unit on World War II, students will study Japanese-American internment and the Holocaust. The second semester will explore the U.S. Civil Rights movement and South African liberation.
Students will hear from guest speakers and participate in hands-on activities, ultimately “learning by doing.” Beaudoin said the course is designed to help students think of themselves as citizens and get out into the community to affect change.
“I think Humanities 8 wil allow students to be much more self-aware as they move through the world and observe what the power dynamics are,” Greer added.
The new course also aligns with curriculum at some area high schools, including Beacon Academy, Evanston Township High School, and New Trier High School, preparing students for interdisciplinary learning in ninth grade. Beaudoin said the Baker Middle School faculty is passionate about preparing students for their next steps and engaging them in new ways.
“We felt inspired by the opportunity to combine disciplines together and think outside the box,” she said.
All School News
An Awesome First Day at Baker!
A Culture of Restoration: Baker Faculty take Part in Training to Strengthen Restorative Practices
Just before the start of the new school year, Baker third- through eighth-grade faculty came together in the library for three days of meaningful discussion and exercises surrounding building a restorative culture within the school community.
Head of School Carly Andrews, who also attended the seminars, said a restorative culture helps students look outside themselves. By considering different perspectives, they become more skilled at conflict prevention and conflict resolution inside the classroom and beyond.
“We have the philosophy and the values of a restorative culture at Baker,” Andrew said. “We just need additional tools in order to make sure we are best manifesting a culture of restoration.”
The seminars were led by facilitators Ryan Virden and Beatriz Alcazar, experts with extensive backgrounds in school environments. Virden and Alcazar were recommended by SEED (Seeking Education Equity and Diversity) trainers who had previously worked with the school community.
Virden also led the implementation of restorative culture in Minnesota public schools following the death of George Floyd. “There was a deep sense of injustice in the Minneapolis community,” Andrews said. “Ryan is doing the work at a high level.”
Virden and Alcazar helped teachers delve into restorative best practices and facilitated several exercises.
Danny Zamudio, preschool to fifth-grade Spanish teacher and intermediate dean of student engagement, said one activity that stood out to him involved teachers individually responding, on a worksheet, to statements they agreed or disagreed with. Then in groups, they defended their answers. Zamudio said the exercise “put into perspective the views of my colleagues” and “put me in their shoes” as Zamudio considered why their views were different from his.
Rachael Ross, the Middle School physical education teacher and adviser, came to the workshop hoping to find exercises or ideas she could implement during her advisory period. Advisory is designed to strengthen the student community and help students navigate their Middle School years. Ross used a community circle exercise that allowed all her students to have a voice during the activity.
Ross said restorative practices help students talk through their feelings, which prevents future conflict. Andrews noted that in schools, it is often tempting to intervene with conflicts early and often.
“Restorative culture offers a clear process for honoring student voice and building conflict resolution skills,” she said.