Category Archives: Science

A Glimpse of Inly at 41

By Donna Milani Luther, Head of School

Luther, DonnaThe school year ahead promises to be filled with dynamic programs and initiatives. A big piece of this will be the launch of our new strategic plan, which will act as a roadmap for the school over the next three years. In the coming months, I will provide updates in my Rhythm & News articles about the different components of the plan and how each will unfold.

In the meantime, here’s a preview of what you can expect at Inly in the 2013-14 year:

Expanded Bus Service
Inly now has an expanded bus service with stops in Boston, Dorchester, Quincy, and Hingham. It is our hope in offering this service that we can make Inly School more accessible to the greater community and continue to draw students from these towns.

Speaker Series
The Omran • Nelson Speaker Series is in honor of two Inly faculty members, Sue Omran and Brien Nelson, who were sadly lost to cancer. Both Sue Omran and Brien Nelson were, in their own unique ways, extremely passionate about Montessori education, adult education, children, and learning. To perpetuate this speaker series in their names is a wonderful tribute to them and their ideals.

This year, to kick off the series, Inly will be welcoming esteemed speaker, Joe Ehrmann. Joe is a former professional athlete turned inspirational, speaker who works with corporate, civic and community organizations and associations to promote growth, teamwork, effectiveness, and individual responsibility. We hope to see you all on Wednesday, October 23.

Sports Initiatives
In another article in this issue, “Amping Up Sports,” you will hear from our new physical education specialist, Jabari Scutchins, and learn about the different ways we are improving the sports programs at Inly and providing more opportunities for physical activity throughout the school day and school year.

Middle School Programmatic Initiatives
This year, Inly is working with NuVu Studio in Cambridge to offer our 8th grade students a truly groundbreaking experiential learning program. For two intensive weeks, our students will work with experts and PhDs from MIT and Harvard on multi-disciplinary, collaborative projects that solve real-world problems. It is the first time NuVu Studio has worked with students younger than high school and we are honored that they have agreed to work with our students.

For the second year, Inly School is working with “Intercultural Experiences” to bring two middle school students to Inly from Guatemala. Middle School families will host the students who will attend Inly Middle School for six weeks. These students quickly become a part of and add to the Middle School community. They also work with our elementary Spanish instructor, Kaela Conroy, in her classes as a way to connect with the broader Inly community as well.  To expand this exchange experience for our students, we are also partnering with the service learning program “Con Los Ojos Abiertos” to offer our graduating 8th graders and alumni students an opportunity to work and learn in Guatemala for two weeks over the summer. There will be more information on this program in the coming months.

Parent Insight Series & Student Assemblies
This year, we will continue to offer a Parent Insight Series of educational talks designed to provide opportunities for parents to practice lifelong learning, whether about Inly and its philosophy and programs, or about parenting in general. The series will touch on topics including Montessori in the home, discussing adolescence, beyond sticks and stones, building lifelong readers and writers, and keeping learning alive.

In addition, there will be a number of student assemblies throughout the school year that are designed to complement and enrich the curriculum. This year, we have an exciting array of assembly speakers including Jacqueline Davies, author of The Lemonade War, artist Ventura Fabian and his “Dancing Chickens,” singers Alastair Moock and Mama Steph, and science exploration with EarthView.

Outdoor Classroom
In the spring of 2012 Inly expanded its campus, adding a four-acre lot of land to be used as an Outdoor Classroom for the entire school community. On Sunflower Hill, volunteers have been busy with groundskeeping, while students and teachers utilize the space for hands-on experiential learning, science classes, gardening, bird watching, and outdoor exploration both during and after school. Each level has its own curriculum developed and implemented at all levels—from Toddler and Preschool through Middle School—for expanded experiential lessons in science and integrated curriculum studies.

There is now an Outdoor Classroom Committee, which includes faculty representatives from every level of the school. Their task is to find ways to expand the school’s curriculum and to incorporate different offerings using Sunflower Hill.

In addition, Sunflower Hill is used for school-wide events, committee meetings, and parent social gatherings.

The Year Ahead
It is very exciting to see what this year and the next 40 years will hold for Inly School. The 2013-14 academic year will most certainly be filled with insightful events, new offerings, and continued growth. Please stay tuned for my future Rhythm & News updates as the school year unfolds.

Montessori Education and Nature: What’s the connection?


“When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to him. Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them up in cupboards.”
– Dr. Maria Montessori

We hope that you will all able to join us for our April 3 Omran Speaker Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle. This presentation has led us all at Inly to reflect on the close match between Richard Louv’s message and our mission at Inly as Montessori educators.

Montessori Philosophy: Combining indoor and outdoor classrooms

The Outdoor Classroom, nearly one year old, is already an integral part of the Inly curriculum at all levels—from Toddler through Middle School. It’s easy to think of this addition to our campus as a progressive new idea, but it’s actually rooted in a 100-year-old philosophy. Dr. Montessori was an early proponent of experiential learning and considered the outdoor environment a natural extension of the classroom. The Montessori connection makes sense: Contact with nature affords opportunities for rich sensorial experiences, a vital element of Montessori learning. It also supports the whole child—body, mind and soul—and promotes respect for all living things.

Dr. Montessori’s vision for schools was always a combination of indoor and outdoor classrooms. This was a way to study the interconnectedness of all things, a way for children to be able to study math and science, nature and the universe.

Montessori had deep reverence for the natural world, and her cosmic education curriculum, which runs from Toddler through Middle School at Inly, stresses the importance of grounding children in an understanding of themselves as a part of the greater universe.  She believed that we best develop an understanding of self when we understand the interconnectedness of all things— that true respect for self grows together with deep respect for others and for nature.

The Outdoor Classroom at Inly School: Integrating science, language arts, music and more

Our Outdoor Classroom is used extensively at all levels for many subjects—for science, language arts, music, art, practical life. We have a low ropes course for our upper grades to engage in leadership and trust activities, and outdoor music elements to enhance listening and creativity. Students are currently constructing a “secret garden” of their own as they read The Secret Garden with our school librarian and literature teacher. Each level at Inly now has its own garden. Even the toddlers have a garden of their own.

Students in Kindergarten and Lower Elementary (grades 1—3) have classes with Ellyn, an experienced and inspired naturalist, and our Upper Elementary and Middle School programs each have a trained natural scientist to weave scientific exploration and habits of mind into the all aspects of the curriculum for grades 4–8.

Outdoor Service Learning

In addition, in Upper Elementary, students begin participating in a service learning curriculum that includes partnerships with The North and South Rivers Watershed Association and Holly Hill Farm, and Middle School students leave campus for immersion experiences with the Hull Lifesaving Museum, Ocean Classroom and Heifer International’s Overlook Farm.

Integrating nature into the Inly curriculum

“Sit spots” are a good specific example of how we integrate nature into the curriculum. In Upper Elementary (grades 4, 5 and 6) students choose a spot on campus to visit each week throughout the school year.  From this vantage point they repeatedly observe their surroundings and watch how things change with the seasons. They sit with a journal and have been taught how to observe and then how to record those observations through writing, sketching, poetry. In this way, they are developing an essential scientific habit of mind – observation, but they are also being invited to do something even more rare in this age—to be still and to be present.

In Middle School (grades 7 and 8), this training continues with formal labs and lab reports;  with involvement in The Green Committee, dedicated to student initiated and implemented activities on campus to enhance Inly’s authentic commitment to green initiatives; and with “solo time,” a common component of Montessori middle school programs that deepens the practice of stillness—which is so essential, but so difficult for teens, and for us all.

To learn more…

Watch a video of outdoor experiential learning and Montessori “sit spots” here:  A Typical Day in an Upper Elementary Science Class Means Going Outside to Learn

Read an excerpt from Richard Louv’s bestseller Last Child in the Woods here:

Parting thoughts

“The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.” – Richard Louv

Inly Alum and State Science Fair Winner Ricky Housley on Innovation and Invention

In the news (once again!)

Ricky Housley, Inly School ’08, recently won first place at the South Shore Regional Science Fair and has been selected to represent Massachusetts Region V at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair on May 13-19th in Pittsburgh.  He will also present at the MassMEDIC conference in Boston and compete at the 2012 Mass State Science and Engineering Fair on May 4-5th at MIT. Ricky has already racked up numerous prizes for his “Emergency Convulsive Seizure Detection and Notification System,” a device he engineered that detects a convulsive seizure, and texts the individual’s GPS location to emergency personnel. Last year Ricky earned first place in the Mass State Science and Engineering Fair, and we’ll be rooting for him once again!

A senior this year at Boston University Academy (BUA), Ricky is Vice Captain of the BUA Robotics Team and plays on the varsity soccer team. While a student at Inly Middle School, Ricky started a robotics club and also shared his expertise by teaching robotics in the Inly After School Program.

Inly School graduate working with roboticsRicky on Innovation and Invention

Given the young inventor’s busy schedule, we were lucky to catch up with him during Inly’s Invention Convention week, to ask for his thoughts on the art and science of invention.

Q: What kind of qualities do you think it takes to be a successful inventor?

Creative vision, persistence, and creativity.

People always say that inventors and scientists see things in the world differently. Usually, they are implying that these inventors and scientists can take things apart in their minds and essentially figure out how they work. While this may be true, it isn’t what makes an inventor successful.

An inventor is successful when he views the distasteful things in life not “as is” but as broken, as something that can be fixed. Initially, this may sound like a pessimistic perception of life, but really it’s an optimistic one; it means that we are not stuck in the way things currently are, but we are able to better everything around us.

Successful inventors notice, and fix the things in the world that have not reached perfection. Dean Kamen recognized that diabetics were not receiving the optimal form of treatment and developed the insulin pump as a result. [Note: Kamen invented the first portable infusion pump when he was still an undergrad at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. At age 30 he sold his first company, AutoSyringe, and later invented the Segway!]

Persistence: Things rarely ever work the first time and the only solution is to keep on trying.

Creativity: When things don’t work, one needs the creativity to come up with new, and different solutions. To quote the cliche, sometimes you just have to “think outside of the box.”

Q: What does creativity have to do with invention? Isn’t science pretty cut and dry, black and white, whereas creativity has more to do with the arts?

Creativity is not only relevant to the art of invention, but it is required. Invention requires the ability to think of different approaches and solutions to a problem. To relate this to a personal experience of mine: recently I required a lot of acceleration data for a science fair project I have been working on (a convulsive seizure detection and notification system). Unfortunately there is zero publicly available data. So, instead of giving up and moving on I spent a long time brainstorming trying to come up with a solution and ultimately it worked; I was able to abstract the data from videos of patients having convulsive seizures.

Q: What advice do you have for young people interested in pursuing science or engineering?

Learn public speaking. One often overlooked subject in the field of STEM is speaking. Inventions are great for personal use, but it is best to share them with the world and the only way to do this is through effective communication. (This is where I found Inly really helped me out.)

Q: What are your plans for the future?

I will be attending college in the near future. I am currently undecided as to which college, though I do have it narrowed down to Stevens Institute of Technology or The University of Rochester. There I will be majoring in computer engineering and will hopefully receive a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years, as I qualified for a five-year master’s program in both schools. Hopefully I will be able to continue my work developing medical devices, and hopefully the patent application I have pending will be approved.

Inly School grad Ricky Housley wins science fair award

Inly grad Ricky Housley with his multi-award-winning science fair project


Inside Inly: Inly Alumnus Wins State High School Science Fair

Wicked Local Scituate: Inly student wins third straight state science fair

“Culture of Creativity” at Inly School

Exploring Fall the Montessori Way in the Toddler and Bridging Classes at Inly

Teacher updates in the parent portals on the Inly website:

In the Toddler Class

Pumpkins everywhere!

Our week was so much fun! Our toddler friends enjoyed exploring pumpkins in a variety of ways. They were able to carry them from here to there, some heavy some on the lighter side, great for large motor skills and body control. We put them in bins with handles, we rolled them on the floor. At circle time we used them to introduce the “Five Little Pumpkins” song and then Colleen, our music and movement teacher, shared the story with us during her class time.

We used all our senses: smell, taste, touch, seeing, and hearing. Cutting up the pumpkin, scooping out the seeds, feeling the stickiness of the seeds, and the slimy inside of the pumpkin. How does a pumpkin sound when it’s rolling on the floor or the seeds are being dropped into the bowl? We also cooked our pumpkin and mashed it up, and if we were brave enough, even had a little taste. (Some thought it was yummy, others not so much!) We will continue using pumpkins during the upcoming weeks. Soon we will make pumpkin pudding to bring home to share with our families.

In the Bridging Class

We continued our fall theme this week and extended our discussion on harvesting. Over the weekend, some children went apple picking and shared apples with us for snack. The children helped cut the apples during a group lesson and we discussed the growth of an apple.

We looked through our collection of leaves from our nature walk and picked out different types of leaves and followed up the activity by doing a matching exercise. We dissected a leaf and learned its parts.

During circle time, we passed around a pumpkin, talked about pumpkin patches, how pumpkins grow; their size, shape, and color. We asked the children if the pumpkin would sink or float when put it in water. They loved guessing! We then experimented more sinking and floating with different objects. We had the most fun when we cut open the pumpkin and scooped out the seeds.

See the Toddler House portal to learn more about the Toddler and Bridging classes at Inly.

Inly Elementary Students Work with Water in a Hands-on Way

In Lower Elementary’s “Work of Water” the students in grades 1–3 learned how they directly affect the water around them. With help from the North and South Rivers Watershed Association and the Scituate Water Treatment Plant, the students got hands-on experience of how everyday things — like showering or driving a car — play a role in how the water changes now and in the future.

Click on the video to see the “Work of Water”

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Upper Elementary Montessori Students Make Science Stick with Maple Syrup

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Throughout late winter on Inly’s campus, some puzzling contraptions greeted onlookers as they drove along Route 123. At first glance, they looked like faint white blobs next to the trees. Look more closely, and you might very well have asked yourself: Why are there tubes coming out of the trees and connecting to buckets?

Upper Elementary science teacher Jeff Klein had a simple answer: It’s maple syrup harvesting season in New England.

“This is what you do in New England in February,” said Klein. “We are always trying in our Montessori science curriculum to connect kids to the land and have them understand more of what is happening all around them.”

The students, with Klein’s assistance, learned the how to take ordinary sap from maple trees and turn it into delicious syrup. First, they researched which trees produced the best sap and how to identify those trees. Then they researched the correct steps to successfully gather that sap from the trees without damaging them.

Once they learned what needed to be done, it was time to put those new lessons into action.

The classes were broken up in to several groups of four or five students each, and the groups had to choose a tree to try and tap. The tree had to be the right species, the right size, and it had to be healthy enough to produce sap. Once they found a tree that worked, the students worked with Klein to drill a small hole and embed a hollow metal tap into the tree. That tap acted like a straw, and connected to a tube that led to a sap collecting bucket. What started out as a few unimpressive little drips turned into bucket after bucket of sap pouring out of the trees over the course of a few weeks.

While it may look like a large amount of sap to be taking out of a certain tree, Klein stressed that there is plenty of sap to go around to keep the tree alive and well.

“Each tree produces hundreds of gallons of sap to give the little buds on the ends of their branches enough sugar to get them through spring when the tree has enough leaves to make more. We’re jumping in to take a little bit of that sap,” said Klein. “Not enough to hurt the tree—that’s why we take careful measurements of how big each tree is before we tap it.”

After a few rounds of gathering the sap it was time for phase two of the process: boiling down the sap to make actual syrup. “Right now only 2 percent of what you see is actual sugar, pure sugar,” Klein said as he pointed to a large bucket of sap coming from the tree. “Maple syrup is about 67 percent sugar.” The process required the students to boil the sap in big vats on the stove. “Sap is mostly water, but if we boil it long enough, the water turns to steam and disappears in the air. The maple sugar part doesn’t go anywhere. At the end, all you have left is that sugar and a little water, and that’s maple syrup.”

Once the sap was captured and boiled down to syrup, the last step of the process could be realized. The students were asked to become “marketers” and come up with different names and labels for the maple syrup. The Upper Elementary students also had a chance to show off some of their knowledge to the students in Lower Elementary.

“It’s a team process,” said Colin M., an Upper Elementary student. “Everybody does their share and it all comes out really good.”

“There’s that connection to the land piece that is huge,” said Klein. “They have probably seen maple syrup operations. They have all had maple syrup, and now this is a chance to see how they are connected to the trees around them.”

But what would the collection of maple syrup be without a big pancake party at the end of the long process? The students created both a light and dark grade of maple syrup. Klein admitted that neither he nor the scientists who study the maple syrup fully understand why different trees produce different grades of syrup.

But that didn’t deter the students from enjoying it.

“It turned out good,” said Upper Elementary student Amelia A., who took a big bite of her pancake smothered in her homemade maple syrup. “Very good.”

To read more about the Inly science curriculum, check out their web site, Upper Elementary Science: Keepers of the Land.

Upper Elementary Merges Science and Technology to Learn About Tracking

Upper Elementary Science teacher Jeff Klein took several students outside to learn the art of tracking animals after the latest snowstorm that blanketed Massachusetts. Klein and his students used a new application with the Apple iPads to decipher between animal footprints in the snow.

Click the video to see the latest installment of “Outdoors with Jeff”

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