Middle School Visits Camp Agawam

It has been a tradition for the last decade or so for Breakwater middle school students to visit Camp Agawam in the first few days of school. The purpose for this adventure trip is simple: Let students engage and bond in a beautiful Maine environment to start their year off strong. While at Agawam, students learn and grow together by participating in team building activities, making meals for and with each other, swimming, hiking, climbing on the ropes course, and simply spending time together. They go on night walks to appreciate the stars and morning hikes to appreciate the sunrise. They spend their nights in cabins to continue growing their independence. Agawam is a special trip because students in 5th-8th grade establish themselves as this year’s Breakwater middle school with all the excitement, anticipation, and wonder that pertains to that title.

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Meet Katie O'Toole - Breakwater First and Second Grade Teacher

At Breakwater we want for our students to explore the world confident in themselves, with a sense of purpose and compassion, belief in their own agency, and the resilience to embrace mistakes. We affirm the integrity of childhood by placing high value on play, balancing the education of the heart and the mind equally. Breakwater's ability to succeed in this is made possible by a talented, enthusiastic, and loving faculty who live these same aspirations in their everyday lives. Our teachers and staff are recruited and retained based on their professional skills, their willingness to model our mission in every respect, and their commitment to professional and personal growth. Check back every month to learn more about our amazing Breakwater faculty

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Garden Letter Making with Preschool

Garden Letter Making with Preschool

It was such an exciting time in the garden! Students were abuzz talking about different lines and shapes, how to make lines that curved for C’s and D’s (curvy green beans were an excellent choice!) and how to decorate their letters using flower petals, seeds and berries. Not only that, students began thinking of other connections around letters and shapes. They even inspired a Breakwater garden font that can be seen inside the school!

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Welcome Back Breakwater!

Welcome Back Breakwater!

On Wednesday, September 4th Breakwater was filled with excitement as we celebrated the first day of school! The excitement and nerves were palpable on the playground as we welcomed new and returning students and families to the 2019-2020 school year. The morning started with the Breakwater cheer before students waved goodbye to their families and started the day. Check out some highlights from our back to school social and first day of school!

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Congratulations to the Class of 2019!

Congratulations to the Class of 2019!

We are in complete awe of the 22 members of this graduating class and are full of gratitude for the many ways they have contributed to our community. Every year our commencement ceremony features a personal speech from each of our graduates sharing who or what they are most thankful for at Breakwater, a special memory of their time here, or what they will miss the most. This year was no different. Read on to hear memories and words of wisdom and gratitude from this year's graduating class as they embark on their lives beyond the breakwater.

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Breakwater Rallies for Climate Justice

On a cold and dreary morning in April, students from Breakwater traveled together to the Statehouse in Augusta to participate in a rally dedicated to the fight for climate justice. The energy and power of this international movement, started and perpetuated largely by young people, has been reverberating within elementary schools through colleges in Maine for the last several months. Breakwater has been at the forefront helping to educate, build solidarity with other young activists, and share their intense love for and knowledge of our planet.

On the morning of the rally, students designed and created posters to help demonstrate their thoughts on climate change, rehearsed a song with Zev called “Sing for the Climate (Do it Now!)” and shared thoughts with each other about climate justice and what that means to them as individuals and as a community. Once in Augusta, students broke up into two groups: Third and fourth graders who traveled for the rally but also went to celebrate the culmination of their Changemaker unit, observed part of the open session debates happening at the state house, met our representatives and got a glimpse of civics in action. The other group comprised largely of students from the Students 4 Civil Rights club and some other interested middle school students, went directly to the rally to learn some protest songs and greet students from over twenty other schools in Maine.

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Even though the rain and wind was raw and cold, Breakwater students rarely complained and instead reveled in the opportunity to share their voices. They learned several protest songs from rally organizers, proudly held up their signs and heard speeches from middle school through college speakers. Representative Chellie Pingree and Governor Janet Mills both made an appearance at the rally and gave speeches sharing their promise that they would stand alongside the students in the fight for climate justice. Breakwater alumna, Quilla Flanagan-Burt gave a powerful speech about climate change and its effects on the local economy. It was inspiring for our students to see a former Breakwater student in such a powerful position and they were moved by Quilla’s honesty, intensity and grit.

Quilla Flanagan-Burt, Breakwater Alumna,, delivers a speech at youth-led climate rally on April 23, 2019 in Augusta.

Quilla Flanagan-Burt, Breakwater Alumna,, delivers a speech at youth-led climate rally on April 23, 2019 in Augusta.

“Maine should not deny, fear, or downplay the facts of climate change. Instead we should accept, confront, and embrace the opportunities to do the right thing as a state and a populace. DIRIGO is Maine’s latin motto- I lead. Let us lead the nation with the green new deal. Let us lead the nation with environmental justice. Let us lead the nation to renewed hope.” ~Quilla Flanagan-Burt

Zev Bliss, who leads the Students 4 Civil Rights group at Breakwater, said that he felt that the rally was inspirational, and a wonderful way to ground learning about climate science, democracy, and social change.

“We created signs, sang songs, and made our voices heard! A few of us even wrote letters to our specific representatives. We saw middle school, high school, and college student speakers, as well as Maine’s new governor, Janet Mills and Chellie Pingree. Students thought critically about the world and their society, bringing context and knowledge from 3/4’s changemaker projects, middle school’s civics projects, and the Students For Civil Rights group’s study on climate science and climate change.” -Zev Bliss

Third and fourth grade teacher, Krys Carriere reflects: “If we hope for the students of today to become thoughtful, engaged adults in their communities, educators have an important job to do. It’s not our role to teach them to believe as we do, or to tell them what to think; Instead, we strive to teach them how to think critically and make informed decisions on their own path of understanding, which reaches far beyond our third and fourth grade classrooms and into their future lives.”

The climate rally was a powerful way for our students to benefit from speaking up proudly with a group of peers with similar passions and convictions, and to fight together for something that stirs and inspires them. Students left Augusta that Tuesday with feelings of hope and urgency. It is inspiring to see all the ways they engage passionately with their world, teaching us over and over about what’s most important. Below is a video highlighting the events of the day and providing a snapshot of what happens when students stand up and insist their voices be heard.



Around the World with Preschool

Around the World with Preschool

This winter and spring our preschool students have embarked on so many adventures and explorations about world cultures that it's hard to believe they have done it all while still staying at Breakwater! When a classmate moved to Switzerland last fall, students started to get curious about where their friend was going, what his new home might look like, and how far from Maine he was moving to. Because our Early Childhood program is Reggio Emilia inspired, following and honoring children’s inherent interests and desires drives our curriculum. The questions and curiosities sparked by their friend's move drove a rich study of world cultures that has taken place over the past several months in our preschool classrooms. Their curiosities have brought in parent visitors and speakers, driven art and sensory projects, and sparked conversations with their 3rd and 4th grade learning buddies!

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Learning About Density in 5th and 6th Grade

Tom Fisher, 5th and 6th Grade Teacher, explains below about a new unit of study. Specifically, students are playing around with the idea of density. Using concrete examples (sometimes literally) students demonstrate their understanding so that they can confidently articulate the concept of density as they move into deeper scientific exploration.

5th and 6th grade students have recently started an Integrated Studies unit about myths and science. Students will study the structure of myths and eventually write their own myths about natural phenomenon of their own choosing. They will simultaneously write a short research report about the scientific explanation of the same natural phenomenon. For example, a child might end up writing a myth about why volcanos erupt while also writing a research paper about tectonics and how that leads to volcanic eruptions. Students will spend part of each week studying science and part of each week studying mythology.

As we start the science part of the unit we are working on building scientific context that will allow them to understand the subjects they end up studying for their reports. We are trying to make certain that students not only know about these concepts, but understand them deeply in a concrete way. For example, it's hard to understand weather systems and tectonics without understanding convection. It's hard to understand convection without understanding the manner in which temperature affects density, and all of that is meaningless if you don't understand what density is. As adults we tend to have an easier time taking in a large amount of new information at once, organizing it, and making sense of it. For children it is vital that they deeply understand a concept before they are asked to use that concept in the service of understanding something new. 

With that in mind we studied density this week. Our students already had a good understanding of what density means. They recognized that it is different than weight and said things like, "It's how much stuff is smooshed into a space." We gave them the challenge of working with a partner or two to pick a cardboard box and make it as dense as possible. They traveled around the campus finding objects to put in their boxes. At this point they all put together their boxes. We measured them and weighed them. We have not yet answered the question of which one is the most dense. Asking how we will determine that will lead to the understanding that density is a ratio of weight to volume. As we proceed to our next concepts, we are confident that the word density will be tangible to the children, not just conceptual. Here are some quotes we heard during this activity:

"Should we use a smaller box and put a smaller amount of really dense stuff in it?"

"That one weighed the most, but it's not necessarily the most dense."

"I wonder which is denser, this rock or this brick?"

Stay tuned to continue to learn about the ways, fifth and sixth grade students learn about and apply new science concepts. This week, they will spend some time understanding pressure by measuring the circumference of a balloon and checking on one placed inside the building, and one outside on the playground. We look forward to sharing their results with you.

Be a Change-maker

For those souls that take the time to enter the world of children as careful observers, the depths of their creativity and desire to impact the world around them comes as no surprise.  Honestly, who better to change the world than its children? With these thoughts in mind, in third and fourth grade we're exploring what it takes to be a change maker in this world. We're exploring inspirational individuals who've made a positive impact. As we take a closer look at these Changemakers, we're noticing patterns of awareness or discovery of a cause, followed by taking action and getting organized, and working through incredible obstacles to find a way to impact change.  Today, students were engaged in a scavenger hunt around campus featuring a very important kind of change maker, children! In hearing the ages of kids who've done extraordinary things for their communities and the world, our students were in awe and completely inspired, asking questions about how they can give back to our community. It was one of those learning opportunities we'll be reflecting upon in the days and weeks to come and is already sparking ideas that will help our students bring about change.   

Fifth Grade Trip to Mt. Cardigan

Fifth Grade Trip to Mt. Cardigan

Mt. Cardigan is typically one of the adventure trips that is most often mentioned in 8th grade speeches, in memories of Breakwater by alumni, and by parents as one of the most character building, inspiring and memorable trips at Breakwater. Fifth grade students spent nearly eight hours hiking through the fresh fallen snow 3,155 feet to the summit of Mt. Cardigan or just below to PJ Ledge. Some went on a hike to Welton Falls while others went sledding down a nearby hill. They cooked several meals, put on a memorable talent show and found so many ways to connect with each other, with their teachers, and with the natural world. They pushed themselves and were well rewarded with spectacular views, some hot cocoa, and new personal stories of strength, resilience and pride.

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