Magazine of Latin School of Chicago

Published Findings from fruit fly lab

Recent upper school graduates and faculty members had findings from their ISP fruit fly lab published. Take a look at the publication

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Explore Our News & Stories

Middle School Builder Day - Experience, Explore, Engage

What is Builder Day, you ask?  
The middle school held an event in '17, '18, and '19 called "Builder Day." On that day, all middle school students signed up for 3 "not typically offered in school" classes during the first 3 blocks of the day. During these classes, students experience school in a different way, explore topics they're interested in, and engage in hands-on activities. Some classes offered in the past were "Intro to DJ'ing," 'String Art," "Button Design," and more. Classes were taught by 8th graders, US students, and fellow faculty members.

There are so many aspects of the Portrait of a Latin Learner that Builder Day embodies. Statements like, "Develop resilience by taking on new challenges and using mistakes to further their learning", or, "Use a variety of methods to creatively express themself to others" perfectly embody the work of Builder Day. I hope that events like Builder Day give life to the Portrait of a Latin Learner. 

What did Builder Day look like this year? 
This year, Builder Day was held on Friday, February 10. Students choose 2 classes from 21 different courses offered this year! Take a look at the offerings & descriptions here: 

5th grade
6th grade
7th grade
8th grade


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Graphic representation of the Portrait of a Latin Learner

Curious explorers. Inclusive collaborators. Creative communicators. Critical thinkers. These four core competencies make up the pillars of what is called the Portrait of a Latin Learner. The project is a result of a multi-year process that involved teachers, administrators, students, parents and alumni. How did this project develop, what is its significance and how it will it be used in the future?

Every piece of data was examined and became part of the portrait
-Max Rouse

The History

The portrait was identified as a concept in the 2019 Latin Leads Strategic Design. That document laid out the mission, vision, values and strategy in order to create the best conditions for the growth, wellness, and achievement of every Latin learner. The project began pre-pandemic, when a group of Latin teachers began exploring how they could flesh out the strategic plan, according to Ash Hansberry, the Computer Science Department Chair. The project took a back seat during the pandemic but then was revitalized by the former Head of School, Randall Dunn, who asked Hansberry to be the point person and lead the team which would draft the portrait. Hansberry recruited faculty members, Fiona Deeney, Lower School Computer Science and Technology Integration Specialist, Adriana Durant, Upper School Dance, and Kelly Wyatt, Middle School French to join the Portrait team and the group set to work with ideas. 

Data Examined

The Portrait Team wanted their work to be informed by data. Max Rouse, Assistant Middle School Director, and leader of the Learn Team indicated that all constituencies (parents and families, students, alumni, faculty and staff) provided data. For example, parents were surveyed and asked what skills their students were learning that would prepare them for the future. Middle school students were invited to create a billboard indicating what made Latin special to them. “Every piece of data was examined and became part of the portrait,” said Rouse. “We were looking for themes.” Additionally, the team looked at other organizations including data from colleges, other K-12 schools and workplaces to be sure that the portrait compared well with what other organizations expect from young people. 

These themes eventually morphed into the competencies. In early summer of 2022, the Learn Team began drafting a prototype which provided descriptors and examples of ways that students demonstrate the competencies. After numerous drafts, the portrait was presented to teachers and staff in August of 2022.  

Portrait Value and Next Steps

The portrait is meant to be the cornerstone for any type of learning that takes place at Latin. “We are trying to unify the language we use with students,” said Rouse. “The document provides somewhat of a road map of how to construct and refine programming and learning.” Adds Hansberry, “Long term, we want to be able to use this portrait and competencies as a through-line between all of our programs and curriculum.” Additionally, the portrait is meant to be applicable to all age groups, explained Rouse. “Students can be Latin learners anywhere along their experience.” 

The next step involves implementation. Hansberry indicated that certain departments and teachers are experimenting with the portrait already. For example, in the Upper School, the college counseling department analyzed their goals and then created a document that comports with the portrait. Professional development for faculty and staff is planned for the spring. 

...we want to be able to use this portrait and competencies as a through-line between all of our programs and curriculum.
-Ash Hansberry

Given the multi-year development of the portrait, Hansberry points out that the portrait should not be viewed as one-and-done. “Instead, the way I think about it, is that this is an alignment, a reflection and a goal setting process.” Hansberry noted that as implementation occurs, faculty and staff may identify more needs. The portrait team is open to the resulting revisions that may occur.  

Rouse is eager to see how the portrait informs programming in the future. “For new programs, the portrait will help them become mission-aligned,” he said. He envisions that the portrait will help develop programs, and that the language of new programs will be tweaked to conform with the portrait. “It will become part of the process to get new programs off the ground.”

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LS Book Awards

Each year, students in 1st through 4th grades explore different book awards in the Lower School Library. Readers learn how committees work together toward a common goal, how to analyze literature with a critical eye and how the voting process works. Award units culminate in the Latin Book Awards assembly where winners are announced to the entire Lower School. View the 2023 mock book awards list

First graders studied the Monarch Book Award, Illinois’ readers' choice award for students in grades K-3. The Monarch butterfly was chosen to “symbolize the growth, change and freedom that becoming a reader brings.” We read many selected books, challenging students to think critically and familiarize themselves with a variety of books and their creators, ultimately voting on the book they like the best. This year, we had a tie with Friday Night Wrestlefest by J.F. Fox and Micah Player and Lift by Minh Lê and Dan Santat both taking the award!

Second grade explored the Caldecott Award, given annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. We read six contenders for the 2023 Caldecott Award and discussed ways in which the books are excellent in quality, distinct in their design, and a singular achievement by the artists to create a complete “Oh wow!” contribution to our bookshelves. Readers flex their critical muscles as they look beyond the surface, choosing not only the book they like the best but one that meets the parameters of the award most fully. This year students chose Knight Owl by Christopher Denise as their Caldecott winner!

Third grade celebrated the Coretta Scott King Award, presented to authors and illustrators of African American descent whose works promote an understanding and appreciation of the "true worth and value of all beings." We read 6 distinct fiction and/or nonfiction picture books highlighting African American culture or history looking for excellence, information and inspiration as our criteria for “Oh wow!” CSK Award winners. After reading, discussing, and debating, the Third Grade Committee chose Bessie the Motorcycle Queen by Charles R. Smith, Jr. and Charlot Kristensen as the winner of the Latin CSK Award.

Fourth grade dove deep into nonfiction books for the Sibert Award. Students read 6 books featuring distinguished writing and illustration with a clear and accurate presentation in both text and illustration. Readers look closely at the informational contenders and vote using criteria that make them say, “Oh wow!” Ultimately, the Fourth Grade Committee chose Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond and Daniel Minter as the winner. 

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