Environmental Panel Kicks off MB Expo Service

By Izzy R. and Julia P., upper school studentsAssembly

Environmental Science students in the Upper School have been inspired to share their knowledge and concern about Providence’s environment. With the help of environmental professionals, students informed the Moses Brown community about the necessity of watershed protection.  The class held a panel discussion on October 6 in Alumni Hall, which gave members in our community an opportunity to ask questions and learn how they can positively contribute.

Over 200 members of the MB upper school community will participate in cleaning up the Providence watershed during MB Expo, Oct. 16-17. We will clean storm drains and mark them to show the area that affects the watershed. The watershed is often disturbed when storm water due to rain and snow melt causes the sewage systems to reach capacity of water intake. The excess water, or runoff, travels downhill into York and Hockey Pond, as well as the Seekonk River. The problem with this, however, is that the runoff carries nitrates and phosphates that comes from fertilizer, soil, and streets. The abundance of nitrates and phosphates causes nutrification in the water sources, leading to increased algal growth. When the algae dies, bacteria decreases oxygen levels as it eats the algae. Oxygen depletion reduces biological life in the ponds. To advocate our cause, students will distribute posters to businesses, introducing the park and its benefits. Along with these posters, we will hand out informational flyers to residents, in order to teach about issues caused by runoff and how they can be reduced.

See related: AP environmental science students go beyond the classroom.


Learning by doing… 3rd grade visits the Woonasquatucket River

By Laura Hunt and Beth Runci, third grade teachers (originally shared on their kidblog.org page)

We had a wonderful day of learning with Save the Bay teachers! They met our class at Riverside Park in Olneyville, near the Woonasquatucket River Greenway. After helping the children locate our place on a map and explaining Save the Bay’s mission, the teachers split the students into four groups. Each group spent about 40 minutes at four different stations.

On the History of the River walk, students learned about ways in which native people once used resources available near the river and how the industrial revolution brought with it some harmful changes. This station helped students build connections to the book, A River Ran Wild, by Lynne Cherry, which we are reading in Social Studies.

3rdGrade1At the hands-on watershed model, we enjoyed creating a little community with buildings and vehicles. Then, the children simulated adding fertilizers and other chemicals to this environment to discover what happens to pollutants in a watershed when it rains.

3rdGrade2At another station, the children used a large hands-on model of a flounder to learn about its anatomy. They enjoyed burning off some energy by playing a running game to simulate the challenging journey a fish needs to make to its spawning territory, and the relationship between predators and prey.

3rdGrade3For many students, seining for macroinvertebrates in the river was a highlight of this trip. At this station, we caught lots of critters, and discovered what kinds of creatures indicate a healthy habitat. Save the Bay has added a cool, new viewing apparatus to this station, allowing the children to get a close-up look at the water rushing by and the creatures they found.

3rdGrade4This field trip is an important foundational experience for much of the learning we will do in Social Studies this year. Working in small groups helps students begin building cooperative problem-solving skills. Thinking about the Native people who once inhabited our local region sets the stage for our study of the Pilgrims and Wampanoags. We will re-visit big ideas about conservation during our National Parks unit. Many students are better able to think about conservation efforts in other regions of our country by drawing upon the experience they had in September learning with Save the Bay. How fortunate we feel to be able to offer such rich experiential learning to our students.

3rdGrade5Many thanks to our parent chaperones, Charlotte, Hiroko, Jen, Kerri, Lauren, Kevin, and Vanessa, and our Science teacher, Anna. Their help, patience, and good sense of humor throughout the day was much appreciated!


AP environmental science students go beyond the classroom

BlackstoneParkphoto_smBy Izzy R. ’16

On Wednesday, September 16, the AP Environmental Science class went on a field trip to Blackstone Park in Providence.

Our goal was to learn more about the Blackstone Parks Conservancy and how a watershed can affect the health of city parks. To start the day, the class was introduced to Doug Still, the official Forester of Providence. Doug gave us a synopsis of his job and how trees improve the health of a city. As we walked down to the boulevard with Doug, he taught us how to identify different types of trees by looking at the leaves, stem, trunk, and bark. Doug also explained the importance of properly pruning a tree, so that the bark is preserved. On our way to the park, some students from the class were able to participate in pruning a tree on Lloyd Avenue.

Once we reached Blackstone Park we were introduced to Jane Peterson, the President of the Blackstone Parks Conservancy.

Jane clearly expressed her love and appreciation for the park and explained the importance of conservation. The park has a lot of plant biodiversity and the many trails allows visitors to appreciate the 44 acres and 2 ponds.

During the day, students had the opportunity to test the chemistry of both ponds and search for biological life. We found that although the two ponds are close in location, they are very different. Testing showed that Hockey Pond has higher oxygen levels, which allows a greater population of organisms. In skimming the ponds with fishing nets, students were able to catch a baby snapping turtle, multiple small fish, and a few baby dragonflies. Unfortunately, we also came across large quantities of trash and plastic. Seeing the direct effects of pollution on the ponds emphasized the severity of the situation and inspire students to make a difference.

Lower school White Mountains journey builds student curiosity, connection with natural world

By Laura Hunt, 3rd grade teacher

In 2014, Lower School launched an overnight adventure opportunity for twelve upper WhiteMoutains2elementary students. Moses Brown faculty partnered with the Appalachian Mountain Club’s education department to design an experience that would speak to our values as a Friends school. We spent four days and three nights as a team exploring the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The program’s overwhelming success led us to offer it to third and fourth graders again this year.

After a 3 ½ hour bus ride, our journey began to take shape at the Highland Center, located in Crawford Notch. Students were immediately drawn to the nature-based playground and to the good food we would enjoy throughout our stay. We were introduced to our education team, Jeremy and Tess, who reviewed our itinerary and outlined the “leave no trace” principles we would follow. Settling into our simply outfitted bunk rooms, we realized that, for some students, this was the first night they would sleep away from family members.

Our second day in New Hampshire was filled with great anticipation. In 2014, we had hiked almost two miles of rocky terrain to Lonesome Lake. This year, we had planned a longer, but less steep, trek to Zealand Falls. Each student was responsible for their own clothing and gear. They had carefully sorted and repacked only what they needed for our backcountry hike. Keeping our packs light was a priority. We shuttled to the trail head early WhiteMoutains28_smin the morning, where each student was assigned a role, such as leader, navigator, or water reminder. Resting, snacking, and playing games along the way helped us slow down time. As we distanced ourselves from the more familiar sounds and sights of the road, students’ observation skills became keener. They noticed the unique smell of the woods, the song of the hermit thrush, and the delicate lady’s slippers lining the trail.

Students’ self-reliance and problem-solving skills are put to the test when they stay at the huts. There is cold running water, but no showers. There are a few board games to play, but no phones or electronics. We sleep on bunks that are stacked three high, and we clean up after ourselves. Sometimes there are bugs. The upsides are numerous as well. Each step is met with beautiful views, we share meals and laughter with people from other places, and we get to know our schoolmates more deeply. A highlight of each trip has been a longer day hike to a more remote location. Gazing over a valley on our way to Thoreau Falls this year, one student expressed that it was “so big and so beautiful, it almost doesn’t seem real.” Impressions such as this are lasting.

Children’s curiosity and ability to make connections seem to come alive in the wilderness. Our hope is that spending uninterrupted, focused time outdoors with our students will help them feel compelled to preserve and protect natural environments. Working through authentic problems as a team will strengthen their belief in the power of their communities. The Lower School trip to the White Mountains is one way students can experience firsthand Moses Brown’s commitment to the utmost care for learning, people, and place.

Read more about MB’s TRIPs program.

Earth Week 2015: MB sustainability updates

Around this time, we on the MB Sustainability Committee like to update the community on our work, which has been focused around several areas this school year:


Through our partnership with local company Compost Plant, we are collecting compostable material from some lower school classrooms, as well as a large amount of from our cafeteria, for pick-up on a weekly basis. The below video — A Day In the Life Of An Apple Core at MB — shows this process in action, with the help of a first grade student and members of our food service staff.


We created signage to make it crystal clear which bins are for recycling and which are for the landfill, and we distributed these through much of our campus earlier this year.

FullSizeRenderSolar Power

This year, we have been working to support the school’s efforts to bring solar power to Moses Brown. As of now, the school has applied for grant funding, asked for proposals from installation companies, and identified viable rooftop locations. In addition we have begun conversations with faculty about the ways in which we can connect solar panels on campus to meaningful student learning. While we are still awaiting grant funding and will eventually need Board approval, we are very hopeful that solar power at Moses Brown will become a reality.

Making the new Woodman Center GREEN

Our school will soon break ground for the construction of a new Community Performance Center. A great deal of work has been done to try to make the new building as sustainably constructed as possible. Some of the related components/systems being planned include:

  • The project has been designed using the LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) guidelines. If certified, the project would achieve LEED Silver rating
  • Low flow plumbing fixtures
  • Day lighting systems and room occupancy sensors
  • Occupancy and CO2 monitoring that provides heating and cooling system shutdowns when spaces are not in use
  • Window shades that automatically adjust with sunlight sensor
  • High-efficiency boilers
  • Use of building materials that are both sustainable and manufactured locally (within 500 miles of the project site)
  • Low VOC emitting finishes
  • Building designed to accommodate future solar panels

Leaping Lemurs

Lemur specialist holds Google+ Hangout with MB’s first grade classroom


First-grade students listen as Cindy Maur answered questions during the video discussion.

“Do red-ruffed lemurs use their whiskers the same as cats do?” asks Karthik M., a first-grade student at Moses Brown School.

In January, first-grade students in Jeremy Saksik and Samantha Bradshaw’s classroom got to hold a special video chat about red-ruffed lemurs with Chris Golden, director of the health & ecosystems program at the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Cindy Maur, a zookeeper at the Bronx Zoo. Second- and third-grade students from Detroit and New Jersey also tuned in.

The class brainstormed questions to ask Golden and Maur, which were sent back to the zoo, though the kids got to pose the questions directly to the expert during the Hangout. And to answer Karthik’s question above – no, lemurs do not use whiskers like cats.

“It was like a real field trip to the zoo,” said Saksik. “They got up and asked the question to the camera, just as if they were raising their hands at the zoo.”

The children were asked to take notes on what interested them while Golden was talking (see gallery below). They included how large lemurs can get, who the natural leaders of the group are, whether they can communicate with other species of lemurs, and what their diets and grooming habits are.

Bradshaw said that this lesson was part of a new unit on the animal kingdom. In the spring, the first-graders will be doing a research project and she hopes that this lesson with Golden will show them how much work goes into gathering data.

This is not the first time that Golden has worked with Moses Brown. Last year he came and did a presentation on his work in Madagascar when students were working on their Rainforest Fair.

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How should we represent stewardship in a mural?

FriendsPanelBelow is a letter that Galen McNemar Hamann, MB’s Director of Friends Education and Service Learning, recently sent out to the community of Friends, as part of a collaboration with a middle school visual arts class. Those invited were asked to offer a brief description of the stewardship testimony, the ways in which they try to live this testimony, and to answer questions from the students. Stay tuned for more on this project as instructor Cathy Van Lanker’s eighth grade students progress on their mural project.


For the last four years the 8th grade class has designed a collaborative ceramic mural to represent one of Friends’ Testimonies. These four murals now hang in our middle school to offer us a daily reminder of Friends’ Testimonies and how we might live our lives as a community. Cathy Van Lanker uses this unit to teach both art and Friends education. The testimony that the students will represent in 2014 is stewardship.

This year we are designing it as a project-based learning unit as well.  Our driving questions are What are the essential elements of the testimony of stewardship? How do we convey the testimony of stewardship to others through a ceramic wall mural? How do we use the mural to deepen individual and community understanding of the testimony? How is each student represented in one mural?

Part of the PBL model is incorporating student’s inquiry into the process. We hoped by hosting a panel discussion of experts — Friends and MB sustainability committee members — the students would be able to hear directly about the testimony of stewardship in the life of Friends and our school.