Winterim–Intermediate School Cougar Connections

Intermediate School Cougar Connections Winterim (CCW) is off to a great start.  Students are participating in ten different small group rotations each day.  These rotations are designed to meet all different learners and interests.  CCW is a great opportunity to take students to the next level in their learning.  They are problem solving, engineering, actively moving, thinking outside the box, learning about themselves, and exploring future career options and more.  Each of the rotations below are 30 minutes each day.  Then, students end the day with their advisor, a teacher assigned to them for support, discussing the day’s events and discoveries.  Advisors will continue to meet with students throughout the second semester to check in on their academic progress and to offer support navigating the middle school years.

Music– Ms. Thomas is working with students to explore all the different aspects of music in cinematography.  They are exploring different jobs and how movies use music in careers.
Lower School Mentoring– Coach Daniels is using team building concepts and games to have our students mentor and encourage our 3rd-5th grade children to work together.
Lower School Mentoring (2)– Ms. Procter is using literature and the library resources to mentor our PreK-2nd grades children.  These groups are focusing on ideas of empathy, kindness, and leadership.
Escape Games- Mrs. Trent’s rotation is using problem solving and critical thinking to solve math puzzles and compete in Escape Games.
STEM (2 groups)– Coach Welch and Mrs. King are utilizing the Maynard Makerspace to have students plan and engineer the design and building of parachutes and rockets from various materials provided.
Career Exploration– Coach Hughes is facilitating the exploration of top careers in different fields.  This group will not only explore the careers, but also hear from multiple guest speakers that are working in some of the fields they are researching.
Clarksville History– Ms. Kretz is walking her students through the history Clarksville and landmarks right here in their city.  This rotation will also feature historians as guest speakers.
Team Building– Coach Miles has each group creating and developing a PE game as a team.  Each team must design their game and then the different groups will play the games.  Some of the games may even be put into our PE rotations!
Reading and Research– Mrs. Wall’s rotations are reading various texts and articles to support the focus concepts for each of the grade levels.  Each grade level is focusing on a concept.  Sixth grade is focusing on empathy, seventh grade is focusing on kindness, and eighth grade is focusing on leadership skills that will take them to high school.
Each day we will add photos and brief descriptions from a variety of these activities.


Students had to try to flip the blanket without leaving the blanket.
Looking at short stories in new and exciting ways.
In STEM student created rocket ships, roller coasters, and parachutes!
In PE each group is designing their own game.
Our Cougar Connection groups participated in a “Collaborative Art Project”. They each started with a blank piece of paper and were prompted on a subject. They had about 2 minutes to draw then every 2 minutes they passed their sheet and the next classmate added to the sheet until all the sheets made their way around room.

IS students worked with LS students on a Marshmallow challenge.  Students were given 50 marshmallows and 50 toothpicks and asked to make the tallest free standing structure possible.

During STEM Challenges this week, 6th grade created and tested parachute designs and catapults, 7th grade created and tested rockets and 8th designed roller coasters and created and tested containers for the egg drop challenge.


After reading an excerpt from “Out Of My Mind”, students road in a wheelchair to have the experience of not talking and not being able to move.

The Cougar Connection groups participated in “Get to know you balloons”. They each wrote a question on a strip of paper then inserted it into the balloon, blew it up & tied it. They had a few minutes to pass the balloons around before popping them. They then took turns reading the question they ended up with and sharing their response.

Interactive reading to Lower School students provided a fun activity for both age groups.

Organization 101

Kayla Morgan, FUSE Coordinator

When I was asked to write a blog post on organization, I giggled. Me? Organized? Yet as crazy as life on the hamster wheel can seem, the reality is that I am a very organized person. Without organization being present in my life, that hamster wheel would turn into the exercise ball, rolling down a set of stairs, with a loose lid… and no one wants a hamster loose in their house!

So where to begin? There is no perfect recipe for living an organized life. We all have our own routines, and things that we have found to work for our families. Some prefer mapped out methods, whereas others are more about day-to-day survival. One thing we all more than likely have in common is the desire to come out of each day with our head above water and the majority of our checklist complete.

Let’s Go Home

Who doesn’t love being in the comfort of a freshly cleaned house where everything is in its place? We begin and end our days at home; therefore, it makes sense that starting our journey to organization begins there.

De-cluttering is a must. Although I am not a follower of The KonMari Method, I do love the idea of asking yourself, “Does it spark joy?”. Periodically cleaning out different areas of your home, while asking yourself this question along the way, can really help begin the process. Before you can truly organize your belongings you need to know what you have. The ability to locate everything at home, even if that means inside of stacked and labeled Tupperware boxes, will eliminate stress and frustration in those moments when you just need things to come together easily.

Once you have cleaned out, have a yard sale with a goal in mind to get something that your family is really wanting or needing. If you are not up for the “fun” of having a sale, head to the donation spot of your choice. The weight of all of your “non-joy bringing junk” will instantly be lifted off of your shoulders!

It’s easy for organization to fly out the window in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. Here are some of my personal tips for everyday organization at home.

  • Eliminate “drop-zones” by creating a family command center. Give each family member an assigned area to place their belongings as soon as they arrive home each day. This is also a great place for chore charts or a family to-do list.
  • Keep a family calendar visible so that everyone can stay up to speed on what is coming up.
  • Map out the week each Sunday so that you have time to seek out help or rearrange plans if necessary.
  • Plan out your meals for the week, but be realistic. Everybody needs a pick-up dinner or fend for yourself night at least once a week.
  • Keep a running grocery list. Quick stops at the store add up fast, and take up time that most of us don’t have to spare.
  • Keep extras on hand. Buy quickly consumed school supplies when it goes on clearance, and keep it for replenishing as the year goes by. I also keep essentials like paper towels, toilet paper, detergent, extra toothbrushes, hairspray, eyeliner, and obviously… coffee… in stock.
  • Have a designated homework area that is free from distraction.
  • School stacks are perfect for students. I tell my students to pick a

    spot near a plug, where they can stack their school items before bed, plugging their technology in right on top. This makes mornings much easier.

  • Pack lunches and lay out clothes the night before. If you are like me, you’re spinning out of the driveway on two wheels each morning to make it to where you’re going on time.
  • Establish morning and evening routines. Realistically, we all function better when we know what to expect. Set your family up for success by putting these plans in place and sticking to them.
  • Straighten up before bed each night. Something is to be said about waking up to a neat house. Although it may be hard to muster up that five extra minutes of energy once everyone is in bed, you’ll be glad you did it the next morning.
  • It never fails that our brains catch their second wind once our heads hit the pillow. To avoid the anxiety of forgetting something the next day, try sending yourself emails, setting reminders in your phone, keeping a list in your notes app, or simply keeping a notepad by your bed.

    In the Midst of the Grind

    Outside of home, in the middle of your daily grind, what are things that you can do to try and stay on top of it all? This is a question with unlimited answers. It’s really all about trying different things and picking what works best for you. Realistically, what works in one phase of life, may not in the

next. What works for one family, may miserably fail for another. It’s okay to mix it up and to do it your way. Here are a few ideas you can try.

  • good old-fashioned daily to-do lists
  • use post-it notes to leave reminders where they can’t be missed
  • prioritize tasks and have a daily/weekly routine to meet goals
  • use a paper planner or a planner app
  • set reminders for important deadlines or appointments
  • use Google Docs (good for running grocery/to-do lists)
  • use family organization apps that can be shared on devices
  • follow organization blogs for new and fresh ideas
  • Pinterest boards for storing ideas/planning events
  • keep a neat and organized work space
  • keep a trash can/bag in your car and necessities in your console

    I hope that through reading this post you have gained at least one idea you feel could help you in your quest for organization. I’ll leave you with words from the insightful Benjamin Franklin, “For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”

    Now, I’ve got to go get my life together!

Going Back to School

By: Amy Burchett, Admissions Director & Christie Burger, Admissions

Whether you are new to your child’s school community or have been there for years, is it time for you to consider walking the halls again alongside your child? Research shows that increased parent participation at a child’s school directly effects student performance and emotional well – being.  So, grab your backpack and your sack lunch and let’s explore the importance of becoming, or continuing to be, an active member in your child’s school community.

Getting involved within your child’s school community can be much easier than you think.  From filling-in your name on a classroom sign-up sheet, to holding an office in your schools parent association, every effort makes a difference.  Here are a few ideas about how you can get involved:

1. Attend a home or away sporting event.

2. Visit your child for lunch or even volunteer to be a lunchroom monitor.

3. Become a member of your school’s parent association.

4. Offer your expertise for school events and fundraisers.

5. Become a club or team sponsor.

6. Volunteer to be a guest speaker or reader in a classroom.

Over time, you will begin to see and feel the benefit of going back to school. Chances are, your child will too. Not only will you have the opportunity to build new relationships with other parents and school staff, you will be showing your child the importance of school, community, and service. On average, students will spend 1,000 hours in school each year. How can you make just one of those hours better?

Understanding the Teen Brain!

By: Denise Walker, School Counselor

The mind of a teenager can be perplexing.  Do you ever wonder why your teen makes the decisions they do? Does it seem like all logic and reasoning have gone out the window?  Or, you may be wondering why your child can’t remember to take out the trash, bring home their study guide, or do their homework.  It may be reassuring to know their brain is not fully developed.  A large part of the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain involved in decision-making, planning, and self-control, is the last part to mature.


It’s not that teens don’t have frontal-lobe capabilities, but rather, their signals are not getting to the back of the brain fast enough to regulate their emotions.  Things can be further compounded when the emotional part of the brain and the rational part don’t develop at the same rate. But wait, it gets better.  Then, sprinkle in excitable hormones and peer pressure and you have a teenager with overwhelming emotions.


Whew…what is a parent to do? You are the most important role model in your child’s life.  Your teen is watching how you respond to each and every situation, which can have a profound effect on them.  Remember your teen is still developing and maturing and they are not fully equipped to strategize the most logical way to problem solve.  Talk with your child, get to know what is important to them, remind them they are resilient, and help them explore various consequences for their actions.  Most teens are not capable of making mature decisions and benefit greatly from guidance.


It is easy to get frustrated by the teen brain, but it is important to remember decision-making takes practice.  Next time you have to make a big decision, show your teen how you work through this process.  While it might be easy to step in and solve your teen’s problems, help them navigate the decision-making process that comes with problem solving.  With your guidance, as they grow they will learn to make the right decisions.  You want to provide your teen with tools to do this on their own instead of making decisions for them.


Teens experience a lot of physical changes, and it’s easy to forget the cognitive changes happening inside their brain.  Just remember to enjoy watching your teen blossom into a young adult.  Always be an exemplary guide, offer support, love, and advice when necessary.  Understanding the development of your child’s brain can help you support them in becoming independent, responsible adults.




Fine Arts-Why they are important

By: Debbie Hollis, Fine Arts Chair

The study of the Arts as part of a well rounded education dates back to ancient Greece. Theatre, music, visual arts and dance were seen as important aspects of Greek society and still today we recognize the importance of these disciplines.  Children receive tremendous benefits from participating in art, theatre and music in school.  There is documented proof that academic scores are higher among students who study the arts. There is also a connection between studying the arts and improved social and emotional development.  We find even more evidence of how important integrating Fine Arts classes into the school day is to creating well rounded, well prepared learners and leaders.  

Why are  the Fine Arts are so important?

  1. All areas of Fine Arts develop problem-solving skills.
  2. Visual art instruction helps children with the development of motor skills, language skills, social skills, decision-making, and inventiveness.
  3. Students who have early music training, will develop areas of the brain which help with language and reasoning.
  4. Visual arts teach learners about color, layout, perspective and balance; all skills that are necessary in presentations of academic work and beyond.
  5. Integrating the arts with other disciplines reaches students who might not otherwise be engaged in class.  
  6. Fine Arts experiences boost critical thinking skills. 
  7. A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math or science fair, or win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.  
  8. Students who memorize music/lyrics/scripts have a better ability to memorize material for other subject areas.

So as you can see, it is important to have a well rounded Fine Arts program as part of your child’s education. Arts education helps students see what they look at, hear what they listen to and feel what they touch.  It allows students to develop their own creativity, it shapes abilities and character and helps students develop poise and confidence.  Engaging in the arts allows students to stretch their minds beyond the boundaries of printed text and when teachers foster their creativity, it gives students a zest for imagining and learning that will last a lifetime.  

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

By: Cindy Williams, Third Grade Teacher, Reading Specialist

We all remember some of our very first picture books that were read to us at an early age. One of my favorite books from my childhood is, Are You My Mother? By P. D. Eastman. Following the little bird on the journey to find his mother was captivating and the line drawings depicting the story demanded my attention.

Do we abandon the joy of reading picture books too early in our children’s lives? Could they help our children develop a love for reading?  Are picture books a beneficial tool for students in the middle and upper school grades to promote a deeper understanding of complex ideas?

There is research that suggests we are pushing some of our elementary students into chapter books before they are ready. Picture books have language that is often more sophisticated than some of the first chapter books that children read. Children can enhance their vocabulary, imagery,  and  increase their comprehension of the text by reading illustrated books. Those who read illustrated stories may be more motivated to develop stronger reading skills faster than when a child is only reading chapter books. Picture books are more interesting and exciting to children. The pictures add a better understanding of the action and a better sense of the plot. Even before children begin to read, the picture books allow them to decode the meaning of words as they listen to the story. Picture books appeal to children’s curiosity and sense of wonder, motivating them to read independently.

When students are encouraged to read text-only stories or chapter books prematurely, we may be limiting their joy of reading and slowing their growth as independent readers.

A ”text only” story cannot use the rich vocabulary choices that illustrated stories use due to the fact that some students are still developing their basic vocabulary.

Many middle, upper school, and even college instructors have recognized the importance of using picture books in their lessons. Reading a picture book does more than any other literary format for connecting people with one another.  If you have a difficult idea to express, a picture book is the perfect place to start. The Butterfly, by Patricia Polacco demonstrates the hardships endured during Word War II and Goin’Someplace Special, by Patricia C. McKissack gives a glimpse of bigotry in the 1950’s. Both are difficult topics to discuss, but are easily approached through these picture books.

The Caldecott Medal, awarded each year for outstanding children’s book illustrations, “defines the picture book audience as birth to age 14” (Fingerson & Killeen 32). Many topics tackled by picture book authors are more appropriate for middle school students and are created with the adolescent reader in mind. Their topics are sophisticated, inviting in-depth discussion. Issues that are important and very real to young adolescents—homelessness, crime, environmental problems (Beane 1993)—are easily explored through picture books. The mature content of these books, written specifically for middle school readers, lends itself to opportunities for thoughtful analysis and critical thinking.

It seems that  picture books are worth a thousand words and offer a positive reading experience for everyone.

Homework–Do we need it?

By: Patrick Miller, Intermediate Math Teacher

Why is Homework Important? What does my child gain from doing work outside the classroom?  These are questions parents often ask when it comes to assignments outside the classroom. Homework should be positive in the eyes of the children.  It should be short and to the point. The goal is to practice on the concept that was just taught in class and to be a review of previous concepts.  Also, if a student feels confident about the homework assignment, it will translate in the test scores on the particular concept.  If a student struggles on the concept, it gives the student a wonderful opportunity to reach out and ask for help.  Homework teaches children major life skills they will need for the rest of their life.  Three major life skills are time management, problem solving, and self-discipline.


The time management piece is one of the most difficult for children.  If a student learns about time management and how to prioritize all of their tasks, deadlines will be met on time.  Learning to complete assignments on time and prioritizing assignments based on length of assignment and due date will help them in the future. Time management has a real-world connection, such as, paying bills as an adult.


The problem-solving piece is a wonderful way for students to overcome challenges at an early age. Having students think through a problem to reach a solution is valuable and beneficial in the childhood development. Every challenge is not going to be a one-step process.  Challenges in life often require multi-step problem solving.  Also, another valuable life lesson in problem solving is every challenge is not going to be solved the same way.  For example, 2 x 1 = 2 and 4 x ½ = 2.  One person might have said that the correct way to solve the problem was 2 x1 while another person may have said 4 x ½.  If students get the correct answer and justify how they arrived at their answer that is most important.  If there was a minor mistake, a student can learn from their mistake if work is shown.


The self-discipline is another challenge that students face each day.  Do I want to go to the movie with my friends or stay at home and finish my homework?  We all know what is probably the most fun choice.  However, if we teach self-discipline at an early age it makes all the outside distractions easier to work though.  This will be very beneficial for students later on in high school and college.   Also, this self-discipline will equip everyone to being a life long learner.


Homework isn’t something teachers take lightly.  The goal isn’t to punish the students or to give busy work. Homework serves a purpose in your child’s education and one that will help them throughout their life.

Fitness & Weight Training

By: John Crosby, Fitness Instructor

At the high school level, the importance of fitness training through use of the weight room should be strongly emphasized.  Fitness classes offered to students in grades 8-12 is a strong trend in education today. Many classes are in session 5 days a week, with an emphasis on weight training 4 of those days, separated by an active recovery day in the middle. Several scientific studies in recent years support the idea that fitness groups during the school day can greatly enhance the learning abilities of a student in the classroom. Alongside this, athletes see great improvement on a weekly basis for their respective sports. 

The first thing that is emphasized in weight training classes is safety. Students are taught the importance of correct exercise form, as well as weight room etiquette. Once these practices are effectively managed, students will demonstrate the ability to warm-up the body through pre-workout exercises. These exercises are done for both short term and long term injury prevention. For example, rotator cuff strengthening is a point of emphasis for upper body days that involve pressing from the chest and shoulders. Active dynamic warmup exercises are done at the beginning of each workout as a way to prepare the body to be at its best for the workout to come. 

Once the workout is in session,  a goal should be to improve several aspects of the student’s performance. These include, muscular strength, muscular endurance, explosion, mobility and flexibility. Some workouts are more focused on a strength building/ low repetition approach, while others are primarily focused on a high repetition/ endurance approach. There is an equal amount of targeting the anterior chain, as well as the posterior chain of the body. Each student should be pushed to reach their full physical potential regardless of the focal point on a given day.  

The end goal of a fitness department at any academic institution is to teach and promote how to live a healthy/active lifestyle after high school. If a student can take any of the ideas that are taught during their time in a fitness class and apply them to their life outside of school, then the instructor’s goal has been accomplished. 

Do Honor Codes Really Work?

by Dr. Rebecca Beach ’97, Upper School English Teacher

Do Honor Codes Really Work? Yes, they do.  They help schools to instill academic integrity and they work to create an atmosphere of trust.  

Research has shown that honor codes have significantly cut down instances of cheating, plagiarism, and stealing in schools. For example, The Center for Academic Integrity found that only 23% of students at colleges with honor codes reported one or more incidents of serious cheating on an exam, while the number increased to 45% at colleges without an honor code(1  This significant jump in numbers reflects the fact that campuses with honor codes successfully teach students to value their own work and respect the work of others.

I’ve seen this same positive shift first-hand at our school since we adopted an honor code in the fall of 2017.  The Honor Code, in its most basic form, says: “On my honor, I have neither given nor received aid on this work.”

The importance of an honor code can be reiterated through the following:

1) visual signs of it in on plaques in all Intermediate and Upper School classrooms,

2) weekly assessments that ask students to sign their name beside the code

3) an annual ceremony that asks each incoming student in Upper School to sign their name to the honor pledge book

4) honor council hearings for those students who may have violated the code 

These are tangible reminders of our school’s honor code that help to guide students as they complete coursework and interact with others. 

But the real evidence of honor among students, I believe, occurs in more inconspicuous moments.  When a student asks a classmate to copy her homework assignment and she refuses: that’s honor.  When a student deliberately puts away a cell phone and an Apple watch before a major test: that’s honor.  When a student seeks out help to make sure he is correctly citing an outside source in his essay: that’s honor. When a teacher talks to his students about the value of not cheating: that’s honor.  When students help each other to study for an assessment without giving away answers: that’s honor.  When students working in a group give a detailed account of who participated and contributed to their project: that’s honor.  

I see honor among my students every day.  It’s a powerful practice that demonstrates the importance of self-respect and respect to others.  Without respect and honor, knowledge loses its vital force. For no vast quantity of knowledge can be worth much of anything if it is acquired, used, communicated, or disseminated without honor and integrity.   These are lessons in character for students to learn early in their academic careers and to hold to tightly, far beyond graduation.  

Social Media and Your Child Part 2

By Cara Miller, CA Director of Technology

On Tuesday we discussed what social media is, today we will discuss the benefits and effects of social media.

How does Social Media make them feel?

For most users of social media, online social life and offline social life are one and the same and include similar highs and lows. The unique difference with social media is users have instant reach to a wide audience very quickly, giving kids an opportunity to magnify their lives in a way that’s different from the offline experience. Social media platforms are central to every aspect of teens’ lives, from how they stay in touch with friends, determine the popular trends and even engage with such topics as politics, music and fashion.

Are their benefits to Social Media?

Many children use social media as a means of personal creativity or expression. It allows for connections with those of similar interests.

It allows them the ability to stay in touch with friends and provides easy and instant communication. Social media allows for instant information on news, sports and other social events.

This influx of information could provide a great opportunity to have meaningful conversations with your kids about what they view and watch. Parents can make it an opportunity to discuss happenings and share how they feel about topics they have seen or read about on social media.

There are also teachable moments in how to deal with digital drama. Digital drama isn’t all that different than normal social drama, but the lessons can begin early on how to properly respond to comments or posts online. Teaching children that comments and posts created without proper evaluation of the widespread audience can be one that saves potential digital drama or harm somewhere down the road.

How much is too much?

There are no easy answers when trying to determine how much screen time or social media is enough. It really depends on the child. If your child will put the device down to pursue a more interesting hobby you are probably teaching a good balance. Less time on social media may be beneficial for some, especially becoming more intentional in how they use social media. Following people who enrich them, and adjusting notifications so that devices become less distracting, are all steps in the right direction.

Social networking provides a convenient and compelling supplement to personal relationships in life, but when we use social networks as a substitute for relationships we face the risk of voiding our lives of meaningful and valuable connections.

The answer is not a one-size-fits-all for all children when it comes to screen time and/or social media. And, the truth is, there is no exact science in raising aware, thoughtful, empathetic and self-confident children. Certainly, modeling these behaviors in our own lives is a wonderful start. There is no doubt that our children are exposed to social media, both good and bad, but the key seems to be in finding a way to ‘teach’ them how to handle the information and to process it in a healthy way.

As always, if you would like more information in how to deal with your child and social media as well as other technology issues do not hesitate to contact me at




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