Being ten years old on a campus with high school seniors might cause some fifth graders to sequester in their classroom. The Gregory School fifth grade teachers Mrs. Nina Hernandez and Mrs. Kendra Ritchey make sure the opposite is true. TGS’s youngest students gain opportunities to learn from professionals in the Upper School, such as when digital arts teacher Mr. Stephen Krohn taught them to use Google Draw; they bridge the age gap by doing projects with our seniors; they learn how to work in our MIT Fab Lab, and participate in athletics, music ensembles, garden-to-table, and farmyard. Now they are sharing their days, insights, and opinions with the entire school community through their new “Hawk Talk” newsletter.
“The newsletter empowers the students and gives them a voice as the youngest kids on campus. It validates that their opinions count,” Mrs. Ritchey said.
Mrs. Hernandez agreed. “It shows kids that what they are doing is valuable and people are interested in it. They do important things in fifth grade and the newsletter gives them a chance to make their mark here.”
In previous years, the newsletter was written by the fifth grade teachers, explaining to parents what was happening in the classroom. “Then we thought, ‘Why are we passing up this valuable writing opportunity? The kids are so excited about what they are doing in class, why not have them write about it?’” Mrs. Hernandez said.
Planning for and writing “Hawk Talk” immerses students in all of The Gregory School’s 6 Cs (communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, compassion, and community)—Mrs. Hernandez calls it, “6 Cs sauce on everything,” and gives them additional incentive to hone, revise, and polish their writing for a wider audience. It also stretches writing across the curriculum in a crucial way: “As a scientist, writing is your primary form of communicating your knowledge and what you are studying,” Mrs. Ritchey said. “When we talk to the Upper School science teachers, we hear that this is a skill they want to see in students. Writing about what they are doing in science and math in fifth grade sets these students up to be good scientific communicators throughout their education.”
“Hawk Talk” stories are not assigned. Students choose what they want to write about. Their teachers explain that this gives them buy-in and means that they are writing about something they are passionate about. For example, “We thought we had a complete list of topics,” Mrs. Ritchey said. “But one student saw the list and said, ‘What about lunch?’ so now there is a piece about lunch.”
The first two newsletters, which came out the week of January 10, catch readers up on the fifth grade’s fall 2021 semester. Subsequent issues will be weekly updates on what TGS fifth graders are thinking, doing, and learning.
Newsletters are archived on the 5th grade web page.
"I treasure the opportunity to teach fifth grade, our youngest group of students, in a creative and exhilarating environment. The Gregory School provides a unique arena where divergent ideas are encouraged and learning is personalized to each student's talents, passions and interests. It is within this arena that our students provide the spark that ignites my enthusiasm and joy for teaching."
"TGS offers its teachers an amazing opportunity to teach smaller classes in a professional environment that encourages creativity, collaboration, and engagement. This creates energized teachers who can create classroom environments that benefit the individual needs and interests of our students. This was why I became a teacher and it is exactly for this reason that I feel so honored to teach at a school that has professionals doing this each and every day of the year. As a teacher and parent of 3 who are at TGS, I am consistently impressed by the dedication of the entire staff and the unique and impressive opportunities our kids have each and every day.
Kendra Ritchey earned her M.Ed in Secondary Science Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a B.S. in Biology, minor in Ocean Sciences from Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY. She was appointed to The Gregory School faculty in 2021.