No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.  ~Proverb

bluebell field in England

Bluebell Field in England (photo used under Creative Commons license)

Happy March Equinox Everyone!

Humankind’s imagination is as vast as the solar system we live in! Out of our imagination comes tools for working, farming, and building. If we let our imaginations soar we become inventors. In fact, inventive thinking and problem solving is something we do everyday. We see a problem and come up with a solution. In the Oak Meadow 5th grade science curriculum, students study technology and design and work on their own inventions.  It’s so much fun to see what they imagine and bring into the world! They construct things that help with a job around the house, create toys for pets, and design many other practical and useful items. Humankind just seems to long for answers to questions!

Long ago astronomers sought answers to the many questions about the universe. When an answer wasn’t in sight, they imagined and created stories or guidelines for their lives. They imagined stories about the stars they saw in the night sky, imagined the sun went to sleep each night, and imagined the world was flat. In future years we have come to understand more about the universe through observation. In observing the rising and setting of the sun, astronomers imagined a great dome over the Earth’s sky and called it the celestial sphere. They imagined the celestial equator as being in the middle of the north and south poles and right above the Earth’s equator. 

During the March equinox, when we have twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness, “the sun crosses the celestial equator, to enter the sky’s Northern Hemisphere. No matter where you are on Earth (except the North and South Poles), you have a due east and due west point on your horizon. That point marks the intersection of your horizon with the celestial equator, the imaginary line above the true equator of the Earth. And that’s why the sun rises due east and sets due west, for all of us, at the equinox. The equinox sun is on the celestial equator. No matter where you are on Earth, the celestial equator crosses your horizon at due east or due west.”

Photo and quote reprinted from EarthSky, written by Bruce McClure in Tonight

So get outside on March 20th and find due east and due west in your environment! It’s the first day of spring!

Go Ahead and Doodle!

Photo: Lesley Arnold

Oak Meadow middle school students submit their lesson work to their teachers with such variety! Some students neatly type most of their assignments, others handwrite each page, while most submit a combination of both. As a teacher with Oak Meadow I love seeing the little extra bits on these pages of lesson work. I’m referring to the egg stain from breakfast, the rips from the new puppy, the notes that the student did the assignment but lost it somewhere, and the special little doodles (designs or scribbles) in the margins! These little extra bits can be clues for me as to how a student may be getting assignments done. I’m especially fond of the doodles.

Recently a doodle caught my eye on a student’s vocabulary page. It interested me, not because of the doodled design, but because I was interested to know what she may have been thinking about when doodling the design. What vocabulary word made her stop and doodle? Did the doodling help her to concentrate? Why did she choose to use this design?

I’m a fan of doodling so doodles on pages fascinate me! Through my research I’ve found that there are different types of doodlers and many are quite famous.  I’ve read that President Obama preferred to doodle faces, while Kennedy doodled words, and J.R.R. Tolkien doodled things from the natural world. Some doodlers just draw designs that are formed randomly as they doodle.

Very little research has been done on why people doodle as they are working or listening. There may be many reasons for doodling as you work, but I think that it helps us to concentrate. If you are looking for ways to concentrate, take a look at these 7.  (Number 7 is doodle!) So, I’m all in favor of doodling if it helps with the concentrating on an assignment! Doodle away and you may find that you can pay attention better to what you are doing.

What types of doodles do you do? Share some with us!



What font?

Helvetica font sample

Public domain photo

I had a student that submitted a research paper about the country of Japan. It was really well written, but I was especially taken by the font she used for typing her final paper. It was different from what she usually used. It made such an impression on me that I had to find out what font it was.

I was reminded of the 2005 commencement speech given by Steve Jobs at Stanford in which he spoke about how he came to learn about calligraphy and, inspired by that course, later developed fonts for the Mac. You can watch the speech here. 

So. I’ve been thinking how important it is to understand that each of the fonts one may use when typing actually COME from somewhere! They have a history! In my search for the history of one font I see all the time, every where I go, I discovered that there was actually a movie made about the font! You can view the trailer for Helvetica the movie here, and you can also purchase it.

How interesting to know that certain fonts are used to impress the reader! So if I use comic sans, I’m pretty much setting a certain mood. In fact, I may investigate further what font this blog is typed in. (It isn’t possible for me to change it to another font.) I think I’ll also find out which fonts the Oak Meadow curriculum uses.

By the way, the font the student used was Philosopher. Next time you type a paper, think about the font you are using and what impression it may leave on the reader!

My Dictionary is My Best Friend!

dictionary, collegiate, college, book

A classic dictionary, photo via Wikimedia Commons

“I’m very sensitive to the English language. I studied the dictionary obsessively when I was a kid and collect old dictionaries. Words, I think, are very powerful and they convey an intention.” Drew Barrymore

For those of you in 5th-8th grade, I hope you have your very own dictionary! I don’t mean a digital one. I mean a dictionary that you can hold in your own hand, turn the pages, mark it up, and carry it around with you. Get a dictionary to keep next to you as you study. Make it your constant companion and it will serve you well!

With a dictionary you can find the proper spelling of a word, what a word means, how to pronounce it, the part of speech that it is, and where the word originated. If you are looking for a good dictionary that will last you through the junior high years and into high school, find a Merriam-Webster’s Intermediate Dictionary. Also recommended is the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. (Try to get the most recent addition.) For a good thesaurus, try Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus. Both the dictionary and the thesaurus will become your best friends as you go through the year.

Also really useful will be a good atlas for discovering new places in the world. I like Rand McNally’s Goodes World Atlas, but look through a bunch at the bookstore or library until you find one you like. These three items will serve you well for many years to come!

While you are using the dictionary, why not make a dictionary of your own? Keep track of the new words you looked up or found while you were reading:

Get a notebook or put some lined paper into a binder. 

Mark a page with each letter of the alphabet leaving about 10 pages in between each letter.

Make a beautiful cover to your dictionary.

Start filling in those pages with the words and their definitions!

Enjoy learning new words~



Banned Books Week!


Banned Books Week is celebrated each autumn in the United States. This year Banned Books Week is September 24-30. There are many events happening during the week at your local library or bookstore. Check it out!

The American Library Association is the main sponsor of the event because it is an event that proclaims intellectual freedom and the right of all to have free and open access to information. It is a time to consider censorship and how it impacts our communities and society.

Banned Book Week promotes our freedom to choose, and the importance of the availability of books on all topics and about all viewpoints for those that want to read them.  ALA: Banned Books

Check out the list. I’ll bet you’ve read some of these books such as The Hunger Games, And Tango Makes Three, or The Golden Compass.

Banned Books Virtual Read-Out!

Readers from across the country and around the world will participate in a “Stand for the Banned Read-Out” during Banned Books Week 2017. 

Visit our “Stand for the Banned Read-Out” playlists to view videos from past participants which include videos from Judy Blume, Chris Crutcher  Stephen Chbosky and Dav Pilkey, as well as actors Jeff Bridges and Whoopi Goldberg!

Do you think that any book should be banned? Have you read a book that is on the list?


The Plagiarism Sea!

This blog post is brought to you by our Oak Meadow teacher, Michelle Menegaz. I think you’ll enjoy it!

Hello Middle Schoolers!

This is a very important alert about the shark-infested waters of the Plagiarism Sea into which many middle school students dive at one time or another. It always starts out as a search for treasure…the quick path to a wonderfully phrased and well-edited essay or report, but quite soon, the unsuspecting student becomes tangled in strands of broken copyright seaweed and the sharks begin to circle!

From Smithsonian Magazine

As an Oak Meadow teacher, I often notice that some of a student’s writing is almost word for word the same as parts of material in the sources used. (This, by the way, is one of the reasons for including citations for all sources. If no sources are cited, I can not be sure the work is original.) It’s really important that you always write in your own words and not copy sentences or paragraphs from other sources. Copying from other sources is considered cheating, and is taken very seriously at Oak Meadow. The first time it happens teachers give a warning, and if it happens again, it will more seriously affect grades.

Please take time to read more in the Oak Meadow Parent Handbook in the section called “Original Work Guidelines.” This can go a long way towards ensuring that you avoid the weeds and sharks on the way to the true treasure…an original, well-crafted piece of writing or research. I can also recommend the Purdue OWL website. It has some very good content that you could use.

Plagiarism is a very tricky thing to define at times, since excessive paraphrasing can also be considered copying of a sort. There is definitely a learning curve about plagiarism in all its forms, especially with use of the internet. There are many reasons that students plagiarize their work. Using three reliable sources at all times and taking very brief notes from these sources can be enormously helpful. Another possible path to try would be to do the work in your own handwriting, in your own words of course, so there are not cut and paste errors.

It is extremely time consuming for an Oak meadow teacher to verify plagiarized work. Once the first warning is given, any further work that is plagiarized will need to receive a failing grade. Let’s avoid this!

In summary, here is what to do:

*Review the Original Work Guidelines in the Oak Meadow Parent Handbook

*Read the bibliography piece called Citing Your Sources

*Discuss with your parents how to use your own words


Michelle Menegaz, Oak Meadow teacher


Ready for Learning



Welcoming a new school year is exciting! Here in New England I think I can actually feel the excitement in the cooling air of autumn. Getting ready for a new school year can mean finding the best spot for studying, getting your supplies in order, and setting up your desk space. Setting up your own “work space” allows for you to separate work from play. Look for a quiet, comfortable space with few distractions, and good lighting. Looking ahead in the curriculum to see what supplies you may need is a great way to set yourself up for successful learning. Get out your favorite pencils, pens, crayons, and notebooks!

For those of you in the middle grades (ages 11-14), if you don’t yet have your very own dictionary and thesaurus, now is the time to find them! Both will become your best friends as you go through the year. Printed book versions are great to just have next to you as you read and write. With a book at hand you won’t be distracted by your device (computer, kindle, phone, ipad) and you can mark up the pages any way that you like! You can often find used ones at second hand book stores. If you are looking for a good dictionary that will last you through the junior high years, look for Merriam-Webster’s Intermediate Dictionary. Also recommended is the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. (Try to get the most recent additions.) For a good thesaurus, try Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus.

Also really useful is a good atlas for discovering new places in the world and helping you illustrate maps. I like Rand McNally’s Goodes World Atlas, but look through a bunch at the bookstore or library until you find one you like. These three items will serve you well for many years to come!

Have a wonderful beginning!

Stamp Collecting!

“The word ‘philatelist’ means a person who practices philately or stamp collecting. It comes from the French word ‘philatelie’, which was derived from the Greek words ‘philos’, meaning loving, and ‘atelia’, meaning exemption from tax which also came to mean ‘postage is prepaid.’.”

American Philatelic Society

The American Philatelic Society is the largest, nonprofit organization in the world for stamp collectors.

When I was little and traveled with my family, we didn’t have computers for emailing and so we wrote lots of letters to family and friends. We also made a tradition of mailing ourselves letters to our own home! We would go to a post office in a country or town that we were visiting, and purchase a special stamp. (You can ask the post master to show you what stamps he/she has available.) Then, using the stamp, we would mail the letter home to ourselves. It was fun to see the letters and the stamps when we arrived home. I don’t have a very big collection of stamps, but the ones that I do have hold some wonderful memories for me.

This year a really cool stamp is going to be offered! A first of its kind! Some background first:

You may have read that there is going to be a total eclipse of the sun across the United States this summer. (Monday, August 21, 2017.) People from all over the world will be coming to different spots in the United States to witness this solar eclipse.

Solar Eclipse
Photo Credit: Public Domain

What does a solar eclipse have to do with a stamp? Well, the Postal Service will be offering a first-of-its-kind stamp! It changes when you touch it! The Postal Service announcement says: “The Total Eclipse of the Sun, Forever® stamp, which commemorates the August 21 eclipse, transforms into an image of the Moon from the heat of a finger.”

You can read the story of how the stamp was designed here.

If you would like to view other stamps that have commemorated eclipses, you can view them here.

So, as you travel to new places, or even stay in your hometown, take a look at the many stamps that the post office has to offer!

P. S.  Looking directly at the sun during a solar eclipse can be dangerous; here’s a way to enjoy the eclipse without hurting your eyes:


Where'd Ya See That?

Photo credit: Lucy Enge
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Recently one of my students found it interesting to support her ideas about music by submitting some examples in YouTube videos that she found on the internet. I thought it was a great idea! It can be supportive of your thoughts and opinions in lesson work by including a YouTube video, an Instagram photo or video, a Ted Talk, Tweets, or any other video or photograph from a social media site.

Social Media has a lot to offer in the way of credible information. It may seem like a fun way to spend time for entertainment, but there are also times when a video, a photograph, or something on a social media post can be suitable for a research report or persuasive essay. These types of resources have to be cited in your written work, just as any resource used for research is cited in a bibliography. There is a special MLA form (which Oak Meadow uses) to cite these types of resources.

Based on MLA standards for other media formats, Oak Meadow asks that you use the following format. Make sure you include all the quotation marks, commas, italics, and periods in the proper places.

To cite YouTube videos:

Author’s Name or Poster’s Username. “Title of Video.” Name of Website. Name of Website Publisher, date of posting. Medium. Date retrieved.


“Lunch Hour NYC: Hot Dog Carts.” New York Public Library, 5 July 2012,

To cite an Instagram post:

Account holder’s Last name, First name or Username. “Photo Title or Description.” Instagram, Other contributors, Date photo was published, URL (without http:// or https://).

(If no title is available, create a simple description and do not place it in italics or quotation marks.)


National Geographic. Photo of Bering Sea. Instagram, photographed by Corey Arnold, 2 Apr. 2017,

To cite an Instagram video: 

Poster’s Last name, First Name or Username. “Video Title.” Instagram, Other contributors, Date published, URL (without http:// or https://).

(If no title is available, create a simple description and do not place it in italics or quotation marks.)


@itsdougthepug. “I Climb All The Time…Into Bed.” Instagram, April 2, 2017,

To cite a TED Talk:

Cite a TED Talk as you would a lecture:

Author. (Year, Month). Title [Video file]. Retrieved from URL

Cain, Susan. “The Power of Introverts.” TED. Feb. 2012. Lecture.

To cite a Tweet:

Last name, First name (Username). “Tweet Message.” Date posted, Time Posted. Tweet.

Tweet - MLAExample:

Timberlake, Justin (jtimberlake). “USA! USA!!.” 16 June 2014, 8:05 PM. Tweet.

Last name, First name (Username). “Tweet Message.” Date posted, Time Posted. Tweet.

All of the above examples were taken from the EasyBib site:

If you are looking for a quick guide to help you cite a source, this may be helpful:

Oak Meadow 2017 Poetry Extravaganza – Part II

Here in the Meadow, we celebrate student poetry throughout the month of April with our annual Poetry Extravaganza. We invited our enrolled students to submit their favorite original poems, and we’ll be sharing some of them here over the next few days. Enjoy!



by Benjamin Almquist
Oak Meadow, Grade 9

Photo Credit: Vivian Harder
(Oak Meadow)

A game of strategy
Where made prodigy
Is calmness and skill
Where thrill
Comes through movement
And Thought

can be a mere
Game of peer-
S with everyone
The worldpawn

of the Castle above
Side to side
To bide
With death far and few between
For their are only two

When moves are void
No way to avoid
The impending deaththrill

“I wrote this poem for an experimental poem assignment.”


If your only emotion was happy
by Katherine Almquist
Oak Meadow Grade 9

They have emotions
I have but one

Feelings of sadness
I know none
Surprise…. I can not understand
Anger…. Passes through me as a wind through a ghost
feelings of many I know not
Happiness I know only

To me
People of many feelings are emotionless
Unless happiness is sensed
Wenst it is seen on the faces of theirs

This happiness which lights the faces of theirs
Is routine on the face of mine
Free are they
Chained am I

Photo Credit: Doughty Family
(Oak Meadow)

Solitude (created by a single emotion)
Surpasses (the rest)?

The answer? I have not.
For only in I lives happiness
Emotions, I do not have

“I was inspired to write this poem for a Oak Meadow literature assignment. I was required to write an experimental poem and I decided on a topic that I had written about in an essay before, but made it more professional and put the concept into a poem.”


Bunk Bed
by William Aldredge
Oak Meadow, Grade 9

High in my perch,
I gaze upon a room,
Like a monkey in a tree,
But i do not utter a sound.

For a cat has entered the room,
And like a jaguar,
It will climb up here,
And take me away,

To a world of solitude,
An icy moon,
Somewhere far off in the universe,
And then i fall asleep.

My dreams take me even further,
To a new place,
Dusty and red,
At first it seems abandoned,

Then a lone robot comes,
And sends my picture to the space people,
When the skygate opens,
And i am sucked away,

Back to the bunkbed of dreams,
Except it is a jungle,
And there is a jaguar,
And the jaguar jumps up,

And asks me,
“Are you ready?”
But then i awaken,
To a persian cat licking my face,

But it is not an awakening from the dream,
Merely an awakening to another dream,
Angels surround my bed,
And carry me off to the clouds,

Where i lay down to sleep.
But then i awaken,
To a cat licking my face,

I think it is a dream,
But no,
The cat is there,
I feel its hot breath,

So i let it be,
And it stops licking me,
But then,
Something strange happens,

It says to me,
“Come, you are not dreaming”,
So i go with it,
Off to an eternity of wonder,

But then the eternity ends,
With 42 bees,
Who sting me back to reality,
And now i am,

On a small green planet,
With a hole at the poles,
And i look inside,
To see a lamp,

It is a lampshade,
I realise,
With nobody but me,
31G-350125 is here,

And he shoves me into the planet,
I expect heat,
And receive a hard thump,
on the lamp,

So i call for the cat,
And arrives mystery,
Who takes me away,
back to the bunkbed,

And stays a while,
But then leaves,
Here comes the cat,
Who licks me to sleep,

I awaken once again,
To the cat licking my face,
I sit up and look at him,
“Your secret is safe with me”


Paper Revolution
by Claire Kern
Oak Meadow, Grade 9

I twist the cap of my pen
between my teeth, ink
stains on molars, the page
still blank, void of words,
still lacking the power,
still failing to affect change.

Photo Credit: Shirley Tanzella
(Oak Meadow)

Wanting, wanting, wanting to affect change,
Trying to force revolution out of my pen.
Building weapons to battle the power
hungry war-machine, but my ink
spills over to form broken words,
broken images on the page.

Frustrated, I rip the page
into pieces, that’s my change.
I reach for a new sheet, that new words
might follow. Afraid my pen
cannot erase the ink
of others, the permanent stench of the power.

Lead boot prints of power
tear holes in my page,
black and blue ink
bruises beat me, no change
they scream, breaking pens
and banning new voices, new words.

The banished words
hold all the power,
and the gunpowder pen
burns my palm and page,
demanding I write the call for change
demanding I carve new voices in fresh ink.

Progress is marked by ink
lines drawn in blood, battle words
and wounds whose mouths cry change.
Bury the patriarchy, power
drunk bastards with blood pages,
scar their rank flesh with my pen.

Ink tears bleed power,
and I craft words on torn pages,
changing, changing, changing the world
with my pen…