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Together 1.20.23

January 20, 2023 | Nancy Van Epps

by Head of School, Abby Hall Choi

A Case for Small & Mighty

In 2020, MSS Learning Specialist Dana Baker approached Science and Sixth Grade Teacher Melissa McCallihan about an exciting partnership opportunity she had seen with CAST, a publisher who specializes in books on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) for educators. CAST was seeking reviewers in primary and secondary education for a new graphic organizer product that would live online. Graphic organizers are a useful tool for students in managing their thoughts and ideas visually in social studies, science, and language arts. Because it encourages and facilitates higher-order thinking, students as young as first grade at Mustard Seed employ paper-based graphic organizers.

After receiving her assessment for CORGI, the company contacted Ms. McCallihan to see if she could try it and then further inquired if her students would be interested in acting as beta testers. So last year and this year, MSS students were able to participate in real-world, design thinking research for a product that they use every day. Sixth and seventh grade students measured its capabilities collaborating in the Cloud, modifying forms, and integrating with their Google drive for school projects. They provided positive and negative feedback on their experience to the company which will now be integrated into future renditions of CORGI by product engineers.

It may seem counterintuitive that a little school in the heart of Hoboken would be able to provide its students with this professional opportunity for agency and influence. In fact, our students are offered many such opportunities. Our size, location, and receptivity to connections actually allows for our characteristic agility and flexibility.

It is this MSS ability to be both nimble and thoughtful that will empower us to thrive in the next phase of our history. For example, before rolling out new features of the school in response to parent feedback, we are already running and/or planning pilot programs for Before School Care, new Enrichment Classes after school, a Toddler Class, and Summer Camp. We can use the learnings from these pilot programs to ensure the success of the full rollout.

We continue to speak with our current families to increase our responsiveness and gather even more ideas. Your input and support are invaluable during this important time. We are also building valuable relationships with members of the local community through partnerships with the Hoboken library, the Hoboken Farmers’ Market, and the mayor of Hoboken as well as colleague schools in the area. 

I feel so fortunate to lead such a wonderful community together, and look forward to the future of MSS.

Nancy Van Epps

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