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The Great Nueva Zoom-School Plant Project 
Judith Worrall, middle school writing teacher & communications team member



Eighth-grade biology students have dived straight into an exciting study of genetic variation. The eighth-grade science team of Tom McFadden and Brad Hoge wanted the students to have a real experience of hands-on science to begin the new school year. 

One of the major themes of eighth-grade science is to understand humanity’s relationship with the living world. So, the teachers asked their students to grow Wisconsin Fast Plants to discover for themselves why plants produce offspring with variation. This led to a discussion about how humanity has modified species for food and other purposes. 

The students followed specific and detailed instructions for their plants to grow. They quickly learned that any variations in the process would have an effect on the speed of their plants’ development. 

Eighth grader Max F. left his plants growing in a soap medium which had a dramatic effect on his plants. 

“Although my mistake meant my experiment slowed down, this was a great project,” he said. “It allowed me to experience the real nature of a physical class project over a remote learning platform while giving me the ability to learn from my own mistakes and keep going.”  

Teacher Tom suggested that the remote learning meant the students had more control over the whole process than they would have had in the classroom, as they were responsible for their plants for 24 hours a day.

“Wisconsin Fast Plants provided an amazing hands-on opportunity for Nueva students to do a full round of artificial selection from seed to flower to seed to plant in about a month,” Tom said. “They seemed like the perfect way to make remote learning tangible, messy, and fun.” 

The science teachers offered the students independent opportunities to explore other science-related questions as part of this experience, from considering the requirements of life to experimental design and statistical analysis. 

“With shelter-in-place, some of us have become bakers and some of us have been gardeners,” seventh-grade student Colin C. said. “In biology, we are growing rapid-cycling Brassica at home to learn about genetic variation, natural and artificial selection, and pollination. My plant grew more than 11 eleven inches in less than two weeks and also flowered!” 

Eighth grader Terry D. raved about the experiment, “I've been really enjoying growing my fast plants. The process of selecting certain plants to continue to grow and pollinate has been super interesting, and they've grown way taller and faster than I expected! I can't wait to continue into generation two, and see what mine and my classmates’ results look like.”



Read More

Colors of Nature: An Eye-Opening Course—Or, How Environmentalism & Racism Are Intertwined

In the new fall 2020 elective “Colors of Nature,” seventh- and eighth-grade students explored the notion that people of color have different access to and privileges in the natural world. Through class discussions and creative journals, students reflected on how environmentalism and racism are intertwined. Eighth-grader Jax C. shares an introduction, and three students—Anika G., Kayla L., and Anjuli M.—reflect on their experience in this course. 

Catching Up with . . . Christine Braun

Viewing the world with an artist’s eye. Creating projects rooted in empathy. Empowering students with iteration and innovation. 

Throughout the past year, I-Lab engineer and Hillsborough shop manager Christine Braun has been a fixture on the Hillsborough campus, using the I-Lab as her home base while teaching, leading, and planning for design thinking-related initiatives. She is also a lit club facilitator for a seventh- and eighth-grade lit club.

Fifth Grade Earth Science “Rocks” in Remote Setting!

Toward the end of October, fifth-grade Earth Science classes completed the fall study of Earth’s composition and the rock cycle. To help students solidify their learning and set it in stone, students created models of the rock cycle using upcycled or ephemeral materials found in their homes. 

“Poem-Worthy Noodles” Connect Community to History and Each Other: Jennifer Lin-Liu, Author of On the Noodle Road ‘Visits’ Nueva

After school on Thursday, October 21, about 40 students and teachers gathered on Zoom to enrich and extend their current interdisciplinary study of the Silk Road. They were participating in a noodle-making workshop by author and restauranteur Jennifer Lin-Liu that covered centuries of history and was generations of cross-continental journeys in the making. Organized by Jennifer Paull in conjunction with the seventh- and eighth-grade humanities teachers, this event is one of many the new Humanities Center will showcase in the years to come.

Catching Up with . . . Sarah Powell

We sat down with Sarah Powell, middle school student support specialist, to hear about her passion for supporting gifted students, particularly during this challenging time. In this interview, Sarah shares how she helps to create pathways for students’ academic development, and she provides insight into the importance of relationships between parents, teachers, and students—and superpowers!—in our middle school support program at Nueva.  

Nueva Students Welcome Families to the Mid-Autumn Festival

This month, students in Weixia’s class celebrated 中秋节 or zhōng qiū jié (the Mid-Autumn Festival), a traditional event celebrated by many East and Southeast Asian people. With their parents, students watched the full moon, recited an ancient poem, and gave their parents a handmade card of appreciation. These activities were part of their process of immersing themselves in Chinese culture, an important part of learning the language, and they also offered an opportunity for students to share their learning with their families.

Middle School Students Explore Social Justice in Lit Clubs

Founded in 1982, the Nueva Lit Club curriculum has provided middle school students with many opportunities over the years to practice reading strategies and literary analysis. This year, students have been faced with a challenging and changing world—in all of their classes, Nueva students have engaged in complex conversations and have raised important questions about race and social justice issues that were reignited this past summer. 

Catching Up with . . . Karen Tiegel

About one month into this unprecedented 2020–2021 school year, we sat down with new interim head of the middle school, our own Nuevan Swiss Army Knife, Karen Tiegel, to hear her thoughts about the start of the year, learn a bit more about our continuously evolving middle school electives program, and provide a space to reflect on moments—both past and still to come—that are at the heart of her Nueva experience.