Wondering what STEAM is? 
WMS / PTO Newsletter
January 11, 2016
Message from Principal Gavron

One highlight of my December break was a trip to the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston.  It felt decadent to meander through the ICA’s galleries, taking time to slow down and experience the ways in which artists create beauty, express emotion, and enact their inspirations through a range of mediums.  About half way through the visit I found myself mesmerized before a Rube Goldberg-like video projection created by Peter Fischli and David Weiss, entitled The Way Things GoIt was a thirty minute long series of chain reactions that utilized everyday items such as tires, plastic bottles, ladders, balloons and liquids which systematically crashed, spilled, tipped, inflated, and ignited as they moved in a forward trajectory. Each link of the chain needed to be technically precise for the art to progress. Creative uses of gravity, friction, and chemical reactions were nothing short of magical.  While the visuals were compelling, I found myself dwelling on thoughts of the perseverance it must have taken Fischli and Weiss to bring their project to fruition.  I wondered how many times they fell short, and had to begin again. The number of iterations necessary to arrive at a successful culmination of their vision must have been nothing short of epic.  Failure was the necessary path to success.

To me The Way Things Go embodied the STEAM mindset. STEAM is the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. WMS Science Curriculum Leader Tom Longnecker promotes a working definition of STEAM as, “an integrated application of skills and content from different disciplines to solve a real and relevant problem.”  In connecting the disciplines through a STEAM project, students flow through a series of interconnected steps in which students are asked to empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test and repeat.   

I sometimes feel like I am in a school of budding Fischli and Weisses when I meander through the galleries of Wayland Middle School.  Here are just a few of many places that one might see those creative STEAM juices flowing:

Science Class
This week sixth graders in David cluster will begin piloting a new STEAM unit.  In the coming weeks and months students will solve STEAM challenges, such as developing a straw stabilizer to help a paraplegic independently drink a beverage.  STEAM problems will open students’ eyes to the types of issues that can be addressed by this iterative process. The challenges also provide teams with practice combining skills and disciplines to imagine new solutions. Trial and error will lead to new prototyping. Failure breeds improvement.  For the final project, students will have an opportunity to select topics of real personal interest. Once projects are completed students will develop a presentation or document using their Chromebooks to share out their project solutions. We offer a huge shout out to the Wayland Public Schools Foundation that has generously granted funds to purchase supplies and equipment for this innovative project.

Technovation Challenge Club
Technovation participants work in teams to select a problem they've observed in their community and think of ways an app (built on tablets purchased through a grant from the Wayland Public School’s Foundation) can help solve the problem. Teams make a list of features and then research other apps that may have similar features. This information prompts them to change or revamp the feature list of their app. They'll then create a prototype and have users try the app to get feedback. Finally, technovators will go back to make changes based on the user's information. Students will cycle through this iterative process until they’ve engineered an app that is both focused on addressing the issue and is easy to use. Creating/coding the prototype app requires a great deal of trial and error and attention to detail when it doesn't go right (debugging). One example of a current project is building an app to connect charities with potential volunteers.  I’m sure BERT would approve.

WMS Art Lab
Just the name “Art Lab” alone evokes the STEAM mindset that flourishes day in and day out inside those walls.  Using the design process, defined by the Design School at Stanford University (and depicted above), Peter Curran teaches the iterative process: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test and repeat.  This is the framework employed throughout our 7th graders’ invention projects.  Some examples of inventions partners have created this year include the “Inkcil,” a lead-less pencil that one dips in "liquid graphite" to ensure a sharp pencil tip and the “Static Rain Structure,” which uses static energy to draw water away from your roof, to dampen the loud sound it makes during a storm. ​(See another invention in our "Artists of the Week" section below!)
STEAM graphic

Science Olympiad
Our Science Olympians are getting primed to compete.  On Tuesday afternoons one sees students working with partners to design and create different objects to satisfy the rules of their specific events. For example, for the "Mission Possible" event we have two 8th grade students who are trying to design a Rube Goldberg style contraption that utilizes simple machines and turns potential energy into kinetic energy.  In order to succeed, they research ideas and build mini versions of the bigger contraption to see if it will work. To achieve success in any of the events, students must show incredible perseverance and ingenuity. 

Math Class - Windmill Projects
During a 6th grade unit on data and statistics, students work in teams to try to optimize the design of a windmill to maximize efficiency and effectiveness. Using windmill hubs, purchased through a Wayland Public Schools Foundation grant, students experiment with design features, controlling for one variable at a time, such as number of blades, size of blades and angle of blades. Using statistics and graphs of their data, students then presented arguments to convince their audience that they have found the optimal design to maximize electricity output. Maybe there is hope for the energy crisis yet. 

LEGO Robotics
On Friday afternoons one will find a group of about 25 regulars (plus a few floaters) creating in the trenches. There are small groups programming in Scratch trying out ideas to bring over to the robotics.  Others are building mini robots that can pick up and move small items. One recent exciting “out of the box” accomplishment was when a student built a functional stick shift. As the user stepped on a clutch-like feature on the ground, it allowed him or her to use the stick shift to switch between smaller and larger gears causing a wheel to turn slower or faster.  We may have a future engineer for Lamborghini in the making. 

Meddlersome Makers and Tenacious Tinkerers Club
Each week middle school students travel with the Maker Mobile throughout the building to bring to life their student-driven project ideas.  Some simply enjoy the opportunity to tinker with circuits, 3D pens and other inspirational tools, while others come with specific project ideas in mind.  For example, during a recent school committee meeting Meddlesome Maker Club Advisor, Peter Curran, used a real banana as his mouse for his computer, wired courtesy of a WMS tenacious tinkerer who was inspired to learn how a mouse worked and then play with the concept. Like many of our innovative opportunities, this Maker Mobile would not have been possible without the generosity of the WPSF. The PTO also generously awarded a mini-grant for library resources to support the MakerMobile. 

The STEAM innovation and student centered projects at WMS extend far beyond the scope of this newsletter (LARK’s nest, Computer Club, Applied science classes, Hour of code, etc).  The examples I’ve shared represent just a taste of the myriad of ways we help students build the 21st century skills of creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication. Through an iterative process of empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping, and testing, we help students imagine new solutions to problems that matter and build the skills of perseverance needed to see a project to completion. I would not be surprised if years from now, during another December break visit to the ICA, I find myself face to face with artistic creations of one or more of our current middle schoolers.  How cool would that be?


Betsy Gavron

Martin Luther King Dinner & Program
Friday Evening, January 22, 2016, 6:00 PM

  It's that time of year again when we celebrate the life of an American hero, Dr. Ma rtin Luther King.  The dinner/program is being held on  Friday January 22, 2016  at the Wayland Middle School.  Dinner will be from  6-7:15 p.m.  and the program will start promptly at  7:30  in the auditorium. For more information click here.   
PTO News
Message from Peg Trentini, PTO president

Happy New Year!

Our Annual PTO Grant process is under way!  We have reached out to all of the staff at WMS to offer them an opportunity to request funding from the PTO for creative products or services for our students.  Below are a few guidelines we gave to them:

  • Please think outside of the box. 
  • Consider the terms “engage”, “stimulate”, “inspire”, and “memorable”.
  • Requests from clubs (current or future) are welcomed.
  • Grants can assist your classroom, an overall grade level, a particular subject, club, concept – even ideas for TAG and House Days.
  • Please reflect on ways to enhance your curriculum or club (activity) with items that can be used year after year.
  • Please consider the substance of your grant as a way to enrich the students’ overall Wayland Middle School experience. 

We gave the staff a deadline of this Friday the 15th.  The PTO Board will be reviewing and awarding the grants by the end of January.  If you are interested in getting involved in the review and discussion of the grants, please reach out to Peg Trentini (pegtrentini@gmail.com).  We are happy to welcome any interested parents/guardians and will relay to you our schedule for review.

Our next PTO Board meeting will be this Thursday the 14th at 9:00 am in Betsy Gavron's office.  As always, any parent/guardian is welcome.  We will likely be reviewing the grants received thus far as well as discussing upcoming spring events.  We look forward to seeing you!
Middle & More Parent Coffee
Friday, January 29th, 8:45 - 9:45 AM,  WMS Library

Curriculum and Placement - Math, Science & World Languages.

We hope you can join us on Friday, January 29th8:45-9:45 am, for our next Middle & More coffee. We will be discussing the math, science, and world languages programs and the process for placement / class selection. (It's only January, but we are already thinking about next year!) Curriculum leaders Donna Sumner and Rebecca Puolo (math), Tom Longnecker (science) and Klara Sands (world languages) will be joining us to share highlights of the curriculum in each subject, to discuss standards-based grading in math and science, to answer any questions about choosing which world language(s) to study, and to describe how levels /course recommendations are determined. Bring your questions!

If you can't join us this month, our next Middle and More, on Thursday, February 25th8:45-9:45 am, will highlight the English and Social Studies programs.

Contact Cathy Scholz (cscholz89@gmail.com) if you have any questions.

Artists of the Week
Artists: Zoe Sodickson and Laura Clayton
Materials: Duct tape, vinyl, dry erase markers

Artist Statement:  We developed this product to help those who have a hard time remembering things. These mini-dry erase boards are designed to attach to your wrist, letting you take your to-do list everywhere you go. The adjustable Velcro strap ensures a comfortable fit, and they can be customized to meet your style needs. 

Reminders (from previous emails)

WMS Online Newspaper - new articles every Friday!

Don't forget to check out the WMS Newspaper! New articles are added every Friday. To read what's new, click here.

 CodeCampKidz Level 2, Grades 6 & 7                     Registration still open! 

Starts January 13th
Offered through:  Wayland School Community Programs
REGISTRATION:  http://www.wayland.k12.ma.us/district_info/wayland_school_community_programs/community_education

Yearbooks are on sale now until January 16th!

This year,  the only way to purchase a yearbook is online  – no more missing checks or crumpled order slips in the bottom of backpacks!  To purchase the  Wayland Middle School yearbook  (your student will receive it on the last day of school) visit  Jostens.com.
Upcoming Events
Upcoming Events .

ALL Grades  
Jan 14 - Math Meet at Wilson Middle School, Natick  2:30 PM
Jan 18 -  NO SCHOOL - MLK Day
Jan 22 - Metco MLK Dinner 6:00 PM - All are invited!
Jan 29 - End of Q2

Grade 7
Jan 28 -   Cape Cod Informational Meeting for 7th Grade Parents 7:00 PM