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Writing Rocks—June 2018 Calendar


posted: Fri, Jun 15th, 2018

Escape from Mountain View

Mountain View has been invaded by monsters. You have just 45 minutes to escape by solving a series of math and language arts problems that will lead you to the key that will unlock the only safe exit. But you’ll have to know more than your ABCs and 123s...

That’s the scenario that fourth-graders recently faced in an escape room challenge put together by instructional supervisor Jen Olsyn and teachers Jen Bond and Cheryl Conte. The students worked in small groups in their classrooms. Each group first solved a language arts worksheet that tested knowledge of metaphors, hyperbole, and personification. The answers to the questions led to a coded word that started the kids on the path to escape.  

Along the way to finding and completing additional math and language arts worksheets, each group had to decode a message, find a hidden safe, read invisible ink, and find the combinations to several locks. Only then would they discover the key (in reality, just a message of congratulations). 

Escape rooms for grownups are becoming increasingly popular. The educational escape room injected curriculum review into the model and required students to use problem-solving skills familiar to them from video games. It also required them to work together effectively.

“Throughout the year we’re trying to instill all those 21st century soft skills such as critical thinking, teamwork, collaboration, and communication,” said Ms. Olsyn. “The escape room challenge put it all together and reinforced those skills. The kids were so excited. They loved it and want to do more.” 

Second- and third-graders also did escape rooms challenges of their own which were less complex.

A grant from the PTA helped provide the materials needed for the escape room such as plastic lock boxes, safes disguised as books, and cipher wheels.

Fourth-grader Chloe Winters practices a beat on a bucket drum she made

They’ve got rhythm

Fourth-graders spent about two hours over the course of three days learning drum beats, percussion instruments, and Brazilian musical traditions.

In the workshop, conducted by professional percussionist Alex Shaw, the students explored capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music. They also learned to play several Brazilian percussion instruments often found in capoeira music and sambas. These included the pandeiro (a type of tambourine that produces a dull staccato sound), the agogo (a cowbell-like instrument that is available in different tones), and the repinique (a high-pitched tom-tom).

On the second and third days, the fourth-graders learned about and played the music of Carnival.

“The kids saw not only the variety of percussion instruments and the different tones, but also how those sounds can be put together to form the rhythms and melodies of songs,” said music teacher Laura Rutan. “They loved it.” 

The fourth-graders also made drums from plastic buckets and plastic tape, under the guidance of art teacher Laura Murdoch and the fourth-grade teachers. The students then learned to play several beats and jammed with Mrs. Rutan in the cafeteria.

The drum workshop was sponsored by the school’s PTA through Young Audiences of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This is the fifth year that the PTA has brought the workshop to Mountain View.

In addition to being a percussionist, Mr. Shaw is also a vocalist, composer, and arts educator specializing in Brazilian music. He is a member of Philadelphia’s award-winning Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra and director of the Brazilian ensemble, Alô Brasil. He teaches and performs regularly throughout the tri-state region.

Musician Alex Shaw works with students

Show choir honored

The Mountain View Show Choir, under the direction of music teacher Laura Rutan, recently earned an “excellent” rating at the Music in the Parks Festival in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. 

Judging was based on vocal quality, intonation, choreography, rhythm, and professionalism.

The choir, made up of fourth-graders and fifth-graders, performed “Better Together” from the t.v. series “Descendants: Wicked World” and “Everything is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie. Members chose the music and choreographed the dancing themselves.

The top 10 students in FIM: bottom row, Sia Parikh, Christoper Pintado, Jivin Sharma, Cassandra Acevedo, and Jenna Klatt; top row, Abhimanyu Nair, Robert Cahili, Vrishank Malik, Sal Salafia, and Riley Cahili

MV is NJ's top school in First in Math

They’ve done it again! Mountain View students’ love for math helped the school finish the school year No. 1 in New Jersey and in the top 10 in the U.S. in First in Math, the math game website. The ranking is based on the number of math problems solved per student. Mountain View has been in the top 10 every year since beginning the program in 2013.

As of June 15, Mountain View students have solved more than 6.8 million math problems and are on pace to hit the 7 million mark by the end of the school year. Last year was a banner one with students solving more than 8 million problems. 

The title of grand champion is given to students who each solve more than 3,333 math problems. There are 75 grand champions at Mountain View so far and projections indicate the school is on pace to have close to 100 by the end of June.

While sometimes students go on the First in Math site when directed by their teachers during the school day, the vast majority of problems were solved by students at home.

“First in Math is now in our school’s DNA,” said Dr. Frank Fischel, school principal. “The friendly competitive spirit that First In Math has helped create is now part of who we are as a school. A big part of our success is due to our teachers who keep excitement high and contribute to the recognition program that rewards students for their personal achievements.”

Vrishank Malik, a fifth-grader in Peg Maute’s class, is Mountain View’s top student with more than 11,000 correctly solved math problems. Rounding out the school’s top students are. 

The First In Math plaque celebrating Mountain View’s top 10 national finish is on display in the main office.


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Mountain View School
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