March 2023

Greetings Symbiosis Learning Center Families!

As some of you may have heard, we have been in negotiations with New England Base Camp in Milton https://www.newenglandbasecamp.org/ about moving our school to their location.  They currently have a K through 5th grade program and have been looking for a middle and high school program that shares their overall mission and philosophy to provide a nurturing, holistic, and positive learning environment for students.  We visited their campus and were very excited about the possibilities for Symbiosis Learning Center students and families.  

Located on 200 acres, nestled in the beautiful Blue Hills, the many outdoor activities include hiking, archery, a high ropes course, ice skating, kayaking, and many others (we are already talking about building a greenhouse and garden to have an Ecological Gardening Program!!)… indoor swimming pool, cool animal room (Cruella the hedgehog, tortoises, a bearded dragon, a snake, fish, a gecko), music room, rock climbing wall, and so much more!  We feel like it’s truly meant to be.

I know that a few of you have been exploring other options for next year, but I hope that all of you will join us on this new and exciting chapter.  With plans being made for next year and students from the Home Base Learning Center already committing to joining us, I need to ask that you secure your child’s enrollment for AY2023-24 before March 20th.  You can do so by responding to this email or by completing the online enrollment form https://symbiosislearningcenter.com/enrollment-2/.  Once this form is submitted, you will receive an invoice for a deposit of $1,500 due by June 1st.

This big news is the perfect opportunity to invite all of you to a Zoom Meet & Greet to talk about plans for next year, get to know new families, catch up with old friends, and to share each of our unique educational journeys – which we know can be exciting, scary, bewildering, and mostly awesome! (Carpooling possibilities will be on the agenda, too!) Here are some possible days and time below – please let me know when you are available, and I will send out a Zoom link:

  • Monday, February 27, 6PM – 8PM
  • Tuesday, February 28, 6PM – 8PM
  • Thursday, March 2, 6PM – 8PM


  • We are closed Monday, February 20, but are open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday!
  • Winter & Spring breaks are the weeks of March 13 and April 17
  • Wednesdays are pajama/wacky dress-up day!
  • Some of our students are performing in Rapunzel at the Walpole Children’s Theater on February 24, 25, 26, and March 3 and 4.  Tickets can be purchased at https://www.walpolechildrenstheatre.org/

I look forward to hearing back from you and hearing your thoughts, questions, plans, ideas, feedback, etc!

Have a wonderfully awesome weekend.


Greetings Symbiosis Learning Center Families, Teachers, and Interns!

I hope you are all enjoying these last days of summer and are as excited as I am to start classes next week!  

Our first day of classes is on Tuesday, September 6.  Students should arrive between 830 and 9 am and once everyone arrives, we will come together to share summer experiences, goals for the year, and anything else students would like to talk about.  We will think of ways we can create a positive and kind community around the theme of “What You Do Matters” and “Pass on the Positivity.”  We’ll write or draw our ideas on sticky notes and post them on our community bulletin board.  Some of these can be as simple as “be kind,” “be respectful,” and “🎶” and “🌻“.  Feel free to talk about it this week at home! After our morning activity, we will go over the daily schedule for each student.

List of what to bring!

Students should bring lunch, a water bottle, and a laptop.  We have a refrigerator and microwave.  

A pocket folder and planner or small notebook is a good idea, unless students prefer to use an app or iphone/laptop calendar.  We will help students keep organized and on top of assignments.  They will also need a notebook and pencil/pen for the classes listed below (if a class is not listed, students do not need anything for that class with exception of laptop in some cases).  Worksheets and handouts for class will be kept in labeled folders in the classroom.  A small set of magic markers and/or colored pencils are nice for them to have, too!

Civic Life and Government – 1 subject notebook and pencil/pen

Fables, Myths, and Fairy Tales Writing Lessons (Middle School) – 1 subject notebook and pencil/pen

Reading & Writing (High School) – 1 subject notebook and pencil/pen

World History II: The Rise of the Nation State to the Present – 1 subject notebook and pencil/pen

Anatomy, Physiology, and Cell Biology – pencil/pen

Math – pencil with eraser

Financial Literacy – pencil/pen

Spanish 101 – 1 subject notebook and pencil/pen

Spelling & Grammar – 1 subject notebook and pencil/pen

Media Literacy – 1 subject notebook and pencil/pen

It is absolutely fine if students do not have all of these supplies during the first week.  We have plenty of extra notebooks, pencils, and art supplies!

Snack Sign-up Sheet

Please sign up to bring in snacks for the week!  These can include fruit, chips, cookies, rice krispies treats, granola bars, popcorn, and/or whatever your favorites are at home. 

Consent and Medical/Emergency Contact Forms

If you have not done so already, please be sure to complete these forms by Tuesday!  I have attached blank ones below.  If you have additional documentation  that would help us understand your child’s learning profile (IEP’s, transcripts, neuropsych evaluations, etc.), please let me know.

Next week’s update:  Pizza Day, Cooking, Field Trips, New teacher and intern bios, and more!

SIGN UP FOR ONE OF OUR OPEN HOUSES! You will see and sense the calm and peaceful environment where students feel nurtured and appreciated for who they are and how they learn.

Please sign up here for the 17th: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/8050B4DACAE29A6FE3-open1

Please sign up here for the 24th: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/8050B4DACAE29A6FE3-open2

July 2022

Greetings Symbiosis Learning Center Families and Teachers!

Summer is flying by – as it always does – and the start of July reminds me it’s time to get to work getting ready for the fall!  Just a few items in this email, including the fall term calendar dates, August Open House information, and a summer suggested reading list.

Be in touch with any questions, thoughts, concerns, suggestions, etc! 

I hope you are all having a wonderful summer!  


Fall 2022 Calendar

Tuesday, September 6First Day of Classes
Monday, September 26 – Tuesday, September 27  Rosh Hashanah, Center is closed
Wednesday,  October 5   Yom Kippur, Center is closed
Monday, October 10  Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Center is closed
Wednesday, November 23 – Friday, November 25 Thanksgiving Break, Center is closed
Monday, December 19 – January 6, 2023Winter Break (Classes start on January 9, 2023)

Open Houses

All families & friends welcome!

Wednesday, August 10  4:00 – 6:00

Wednesday, August 17 4:00 – 6:00

Summer Reading List

There are so many wonderful books that it is difficult to choose ones for a summer reading list!  With the help from many online resources, local school recommendations, my children, friends, our Dungeon Master and Book Club leader, Kristen Kern, the following are my “final picks.”  We encourage parents and children to look through the list and see what interests them.  I also advise parents just do a quick review to make sure any book that catches their student’s eye is age appropriate in terms of both content and reading level, since some of these are more aimed toward older teens.  Please PLEASE reply with any additional recommendations to add to the list and I will share with the group.  I think the younger readers (11-12) may not find a lot on this list, so I welcome suggestions from these students, and their siblings, cousins, friends, parents, etc.!!  

There is no required reading, but we ask that each student choose 1-2 books to complete before classes start in September.  Students will be given writing assignments and discussion prompts about their summer reading book(s). 

*The high school Language Arts class will be reading To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee in class, so I do recommend they start reading over the summer.  I have attached a pdf to this email and there are many audio versions available as well.  As you know, the book uses sensitive language and topics that will require careful consideration and discussion around these topics.  Lee deliberately uses the “N” word because it is central to the injustice of the story and important to convey the society in which the story is based.  For your reference, this link has helpful information for educators around how to discuss sensitive topics in the classroom: https://www.facinghistory.org/mockingbird/discussing-sensitive-topics-classroom.  Here also is a 60 Minutes episode about a publisher who changed the word to “slave” in Huckleberry Finn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nW9-qee1m9o&feature=youtu.be

Final Picks:

Redwall, by Brian Jacques

Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell

Pop, by Gordon Korman

New to town, Marcus spends the summer before his junior year practicing football alone at a local park hoping to meet someone from the high school team. Instead, he meets an eccentric middle-aged man named Charlie who teaches Marcus more about football, tackling, and the art of the “pop” than he could have imagined, and the two strike up an unusual friendship… Gradually, Marcus figures out that Charlie is an ex-NFL star hiding a secret.  Despite the obstacles, he is determined to help his friend.

This might be the book for you if you like football, characters who are great athletes, and themes of persistence, overcoming obstacles, and friendship.

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name… What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.  But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

This might be the book for you if you like current events, drama, strong female role models, and themes of resilience, social justice, and perspective-taking.

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Divided into the four marking periods of an academic year, the novel, narrated by Melinda Sordino, begins on her first day as a high school freshman. No one will sit with Melinda on the bus. At school, students call her names and harass her; her best friends from junior high scatter to different cliques and abandon her… A girl at a school pep rally offers an explanation of the heroine’s pariah status when she confronts Melinda about calling the police at a summer party, resulting in several arrests. But readers do not learn why Melinda made the call until much later… Only through her work in art class, and with the support of a compassionate teacher there, does she begin to reach out to others and eventually find her voice. 

This might be the book for you if you like art, characters who face real-life teenage issues like bullying, and themes of fear, courage, identity, friendship, and trust.

Cemetery Boys, by Aiden Thomas

Yadriel is a gay, trans,16-year-old boy in California, and when Yadriel’s traditional Latinx family is unwilling to accept his gender, he takes it upon himself to prove that he is a true brujo (sorcerer) by secretly performing the sacred initiation rite ritual with his cousin, Maritza. However, what he doesn’t count on is summoning the ghost of his classmate who doesn’t even know he’s dead – or how he died. A romantic mystery as poignant as it is spellbinding, the novel weaves in a mosaic of culture, acceptance, and identity, where intricately crafted characters are the pieces and love—platonic, romantic, familial, and communal—is the glue. 

This might be the book for you if you like fantasy, exploring Latinx culture, emotional vulnerability, and topics like LGBTQ+ acceptance, deportation, colonization, and racism within authoritative establishments.

The Arc of a Scythe Trilogy: Scythe; Thunderhead; The Toll, by Neal Shusterman

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon

Love, Hate, and Other Filters, by Samira Ahmed

All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents or How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accent, by Julia Alvarez

Speak No Evil, by Uzodinma Iweala

Kite Runner or And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini

Joy Luck Club or Kitchen God’s Wife, by Amy Tan

Interpreter of Maladies or Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri

House of the Spirits or Daughter of Fortune, by Isabel Allende

The Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Adichie

Speak No Evil, by Uzodinma Iweala

Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi

Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. 

Joshua’s Song, by Joan Harlow

Life As We Knew It, by Susan Pfeffer

The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton

The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephan Chbosky

Guards Guard and/or Wyrd Sisters, by Terry Pratchett

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu (graphic novel), by Junji Ito

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo

Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradberry

Everworld, by K. A. Applegate

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, by Weiss & Hickman

Dracula, by Bram Stoker

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

Student suggestions:

Freya and the Dragon Egg, by K. W. Penndorf

Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud

Coraline, by Neil Gaimen 

Smile (graphic novel), by Raina Telgemeier

Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle


4/4 Mon DnD
The small, silver lizard that has been following the group seemed agitated, and took off in a random direction.  The party pursued it, and it led them to an old ruin where they met a young researcher and inventor named Newman Rossbach. 
The group made a deal with Newman to escort him through the ruins in exchange for his knowledge about the area, so that they can both find out more.  
On the way inside, they triggered a trap that caused a chunk of the ceiling to descend rapidly on top of them.  With strength and a bit of finesse, they managed to escape from under it, and found themselves in a temple dedicated to ancient dragons.

4/4 Improv
We did a couple quick rounds of Categories to warm up first (US States and flavors of ice cream)
Our main exercise for the day was a type of skit we’ve done before, but with three participants instead of two.  One person is the “suspect,” and two are the “good cop” and “bad cop,” interrogating the suspect for a crime decided on by the group (examples include “climbing into the drive-through window,” and, “not celebrating their own birthday”) 

4/6 Book Club
We did something pretty different this week in honor of the first week of April (and April Fool’s day!) and took the time to look at the man often called the “worst poet in history,” William Topaz McGonagall.  We read through one of his most (in)famous poems, The Tay Bridge Disaster, and discussed why certain elements weren’t successful.
This led to a larger discussion about art and media in general that we consider “bad” or “unsuccessful,” of course always keeping in mind that these judgements are subjective.  In fact, one of the key purposes of this discussion was to emphasize that even “failed” art has value, and is worth examining on its own terms.  
The students had a lot of interesting thoughts about various pieces of media they liked and disliked, so I’m considering using this as a jumping off point to a whole discussion day about media analysis and critique

4/7 Thurs DnD
This group has already entered the old dragon temple and has discovered that they need four weighted objects to place on pedestals to proceed.  They’ve found one- a stone that looks like a dragon egg- in one of the six mysterious rooms of the temple. 
This session, they went through a door bearing a blue gem and found themselves in a series of illusions with different requirements to break through.  This culminated in a fight against a dark creature that had disguised itself as their guide, Newman.  
They also discovered that, through the door with a silver gemstone, there’s a small pool of water that has healing properties, which will be very helpful as they continue to explore. 

4/7 Art 
We began with a video focusing on several elements of character design- assembling references and inspiration, then using those images and ideas to build costumes, color schemes, and so on. 
After this, students were welcome to either find a reference image to draw a character they love, or try out designing their own original characters, depending on their comfort level. This way, we were able to practice finding and using references, and considering various elements of design. 

Where: Metropolitan Waterworks Museum, 2450 Beacon Street, Boston
Date: Friday, January 28
Time: 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Cost: $7/student. Please let me know if your child(ren) will be attending (parents and siblings welcome). Students can bring cash to me this week. Venmo is fine, too.
Program: Taking Action for Safe Water
10:00 – 10:10 Arrive/Intro
10:10 – 10:20 Yoke and Bucket Challenge
10:20 – 10:50 Primary Source Analysis
10:50 – 11:20 Great Engines Hall Tour & Demos
11:20 – 11:50 Lunch/Restrooms (please bring lunch)
11:50 – 12:25 Water Testing
12:25 – 1:00 Filter Build/Conclusion


Financial Literacy
This course introduces students to the mathematical concepts related to financial literacy. This course will provide students with the knowledge  and skills they need to become self-supporting and able to make critical decisions regarding personal finances. Topics this term will include paying for post-secondary education, entering the workforce, taxes, retirement readiness and more. Upon completion of this course students should gain an increased confidence in their mathematical ability and be able to make informed decisions about several real life financial situations of today. 

Class Update 1/21/2022
So far this term we have learned about and discussed knowing how to determine approximate post-secondary education expenses, how to save for these education expenses, and how to combine 
savings with financial aid, student loans, scholarships, and work to finance post-secondary education to make career goals more attainable.

Chemistry is the study of matter through observation and experimentation. In this course, students get a rigorous hands-on introduction to the topics, tools, terms, mathematics, and practices of the study of chemistry. Students will engage in hands-on activities, inquiry-based quick labs, written assignments, and creative ways to explore chemistry principles and their real-world applications. Using the scientific method, data analysis, powers of observation, and critical thinking, students will learn to solve problems and perform comprehensive labs. 

Class Update 1/21/2022
Students have been learning about physically changing matter and the properties of gases, including the gas laws. We have discussed and practiced how to do temperature conversions, how rainfall is measured, and the relationship between volume and density, as well as the relationship between volume and temperature, and how these concepts are applied to weather forecasting. We completed an experiment that demonstrated Charles’s Law and the relationship between volume and temperature. 

English Language Arts – High School
Coursework is designed to help students become better readers, writers, speakers, and thinkers. Along the way, we’ll enjoy great pieces of classic literature, including Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. We’ll improve grammar knowledge, advance vocabulary, sharpen public speaking skills, and, I hope, have a great time learning.

Class Update 1/21/22
Students have been learning the importance of punctuation and how it can completely alter meaning. We will be working on weekly M.U.G.s (Mechanics, Usage, and Grammar) and correcting grammar
and punctuation on practice sentences. We will also be looking at one literary term each week, starting this week with the importance of theme.  We also studied the qualities of a personal narrative and read Gary Soto’s “The Pie.” Students were assigned their first writing assignment this week to write their own personal narrative.

English Language Arts – Middle School
This class is designed to enhance each student’s reading, writing, and oral skills. It is also specially designed to encourage open and clear communication, and foster reading for comprehension, information, and enjoyment.   English Language Arts is a reading and writing centered course in which students increasingly become more willing and able writers and readers while appreciating the diversity and beauty of the human experience. The course focuses on narrative, descriptive, and analytical writing. Readings and discussions focus on the five major genres particularly as they serve the goal of growth in writing. 

Class Update – 1/21/2022
This class will begin on Monday, January 24 studying Arthur Conan Boyle’s Sherlock Holmes.  Students will learn about the author and the methods of Sherlock Holmes while studying the structure of story, character analysis, and why his stories became so popular. Students will also hopefully enjoy considering whether they would make a good detective!

Writing Prompts
This week’s prompts included:
 Write a letter to yourself to read one year in the future.
Sometimes adults find it hard to remember what it’s like to be a student.  Tell them the most important things they need to know about people your age. (Expository)
Reflect on the following quotation:  “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

Spelling and Grammar
Using a morphemic strategy, students learn basic spelling patterns and progress to new and more irregular spellings.  Carefully planned multisensory sound discrimination exercises are utilized to nurture and develop phonological awareness and segmenting skills. Students do dictation exercises including sentence writing to learn and practice correct punctuation and grammar. The objective is to enable students to feel confident writing academic-level compositions.

Class Update 1/21/2022
This term we continue to review and practice previously taught and newly introduced spelling patterns, 
including new prefixes, suffixes and morphographs. The emphasis will shift to words of Greek and 
Latin origin. These are highly predictable in morphology, but they cannot be spelled as they sound. 
Learning the morphology will reduce the amount that must be memorized to a minimum. 
Additionally, the meanings of these words will be taught via definitions and in context. 

Math Groups Update 1/21/2022
Middle School Math: multiplication and order of operations
Pre Algebra: An introduction to solving linear equations
Algebra 1: Simplifying radicals, translating word problems into algebraic equations, graphing on the coordinate plane
Geometry: Volume and surface area of geometric solids

Spanish Update 1/21/2022
Hola, families! So far this semester, we have been practicing the pronunciation of the Spanish alphabet, and learning about aspects of the calendar such as days of the week, months and how to say the date. Next week, we will begin reading a beginners level book in Spanish and continue studying calendar aspects. The seasons and weather are next week’s topics. Further ahead, we will be learning vocabulary words for classroom items and daily schedules in Unit 2.  

World History
In our World History class we finished the Italian Renaissance and are now learning about the Northern Renaissance. Up north, we studied Thomas More and read passages of his book Utopia. We also discussed More’s falling out with King Henry the VIII over the King’s divorce and re-marriage. More’s devotion to his religious faith caused him to literally lose his head, which was then put on public display. In this period of Royal Absolutism, it was dangerous to quarrel with the monarch.

Moving to the south into Germany, another risk-taking writer named Martin Luther is taking chances by questioning Papal Infallibility. In this cliff-hanger, will Luther’s refusal to renounce his ’95 Thesis’ lead to another execution? In this period, heretics could be burned at the stake. Will his loyal criticism of the Catholic Religion be forgotten? Or will the newly invented printing press spread the word? Students must stay tuned for the next installment of The Reformation.

As the new semester began, we spent two days skipping ahead to look at and discuss the major events of the last 500 years on a spreadsheet. I’m sure many parents use spreadsheets for work, it’s an important life skill to learn early. So on Tuesday, we used a spreadsheet to vote for what I call the ‘Fun Five’ major topics we will cover in class. In this election the leading topics are:

1. Major developments in Chinese & Japanese history in the 19th and early 20th centuries
2. The Great Wars, 1914-1945
3. The Growth of the Nation State in Europe & causes and events of the French Revolution

One benefit of using the spreadsheet is it can be used by our students to assist in deciding what topic they will independently study to create an ‘artifact of social relevance’ for their final World History project.

The artifact must demonstrate knowledge of ‘something important’ from the period 472 AD to 2022 AD in World History. Each student should choose something that is intrinsically interesting to them, because most of the work will be done outside class. This artifact should be high quality so it can be included in their college application portfolio. By Valentine’s Day each student should find a topic they ‘love’ and be ready to commit to this final project, See the Homework Log in Google Classroom for more info.

An integrated reading and writing approach is used to teach reading skills and the writing process through the study of literature. Units are developed to present literary forms including short stories, poetry, and non-fiction. The use of class novels supplements the numerous self-selected novels read throughout the year.  The six traits of writing provide the framework for writing instruction.   Peer editing and revision are also emphasized.  Students are required to demonstrate the ability to compose argumentative, informative, and narrative pieces of writing that address a specific topic, purpose, and audience.  Students are also required to demonstrate the ability to compose an essay based on text dependent evidence (TDA).  The curriculum is aligned to the PA Core Standards.  

An integrated reading and writing approach is used to teach reading skills and the writing process through the study of literature. Units are developed to present literary forms including short stories, poetry, and non-fiction. The use of class novels supplements the numerous self-selected novels read throughout the year.  The six traits of writing provide the framework for writing instruction.   Peer editing and revision are also emphasized.  Students are required to demonstrate the ability to compose argumentative, informative, and narrative pieces of writing that address a specific topic, purpose, and audience.  Students are also required to demonstrate the ability to compose an essay based on text dependent evidence (TDA).  The curriculum is aligned to the PA Core Standards.

Our Improv class is focused primarily on teaching students the techniques to feel more comfortable and confident with thinking on their feet and presenting or “performing” in front of groups.  We use games and exercises that encourage creativity, spontaneity and collaboration.  While much of what the students will practice is based on improv comedy in the traditional sense, the true goal is to train the skills that help students to improvise in a variety of ways.  

Book Club
This week, we read the poem “The Highwayman,” by Alfred Noyes.  We took time throughout our reading to stop and break down complex or antiquated language, and get a solid sense of the story’s plot.
Afterwards, we chatted about why people read, watch and enjoy tragedies like this one- why do we intentionally experience something that makes us feel sad?  We tossed around some ideas, but were not concerned with coming to one solid conclusion.

Dungeons and Dragons
We finalized our new students’ character sheet and got a few items and supplies set for everyone else. In-game, the players navigated a dark underground market inside of a pyramid, and earned a bit of trust with the less-than-savory folks down there.
Once prepared, they set out towards the mountains to the East in search of the lost adventurers they’ve been hired to find.  On the way, they’ve disturbed an Earth Elemental, which emerged from the side of a mountain and attacks the party. 

Visual Art
This week was all about portraits and faces.  We began by practicing our diagram of a human face and reviewing several of the proportions we’ve discussed in past semesters (and catching up new students)
After that, we used a number of photo references, a painting by Alice Neel (after a brief discussion of her work), and my own drawings all as different faces and styles to practice from.

December 3, 2021

Greetings Symbiosis Learning Center Families, Teachers, and Interns!

This update will include:
Intern news
Invoice reminder – please respond
Monday lunch menu – please respond
Winter/Spring 2022 calendar 
Field Trip to ICA next Thursday – please respond
Class News


This week, we have had several new interns join us from the Intro to Human Services class.  They are required to volunteer for 10 hours at Symbiosis Learning Center and have already made wonderful connections with the students.  Ask your child about Jessica (and her unicycle!), Jade, Sophie, Caitlin, and Arianna!  Anh will be coming in for her last days of internship on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.  We will really miss her so much!  

Invoices for the Winter/Spring 2022 term were sent out last week.  If you have made a payment or arrangements for a payment plan, thank you!  If you have not made a payment, please make a payment as soon as possible.  You can pay either by check, Venmo, Paypal, or Apple Pay.  If you need to set up a payment plan, please let me know.

Kitchen stove is in working order, so we are back to the spaghetti and meatball plan! If your child would like a plate of pasta with salad and garlic bread, please send in $2.50 with them on Monday and let me know if they prefer the vegetarian option.


Here is the Winter/Spring 2022 calendar for you to plan ahead https://symbiosislearningcenter.com/about-us/academic-calendar-fall-2020/.  We are working on our weekly schedule of classes and will send this out within the next couple of weeks.  The class offerings will remain the same, with major changes to the writing curriculum.  We will be adding separate writing workshops for the middle and high school students, with more opportunities for students to practice and improve their writing skills in our classroom with the assistance of writing coaches and instructors.  

Our Visual Art teacher (and DnD dungeon master and Book Club leader), Kristen Kern, has organized a field trip to the Institute of Contemporary Art next Thursday, December 9th. Thank you, Kristen! 
We plan to take public transit via the green and red lines (about 45 minutes) starting at Riverside at around 11 AM and returning to Symbiosis at 3 or 330.
The ICA is not extremely large- the galleries are all on the fourth floor.  If we take our time and stop to discuss the works with the gallery attendants (many are very well educated in art and/or art history, and are able to flesh out our understanding of the works on view), it may be two hours to three hours actually in the galleries.  
Admission will be free for everyone under 18 years old, and for any other visitor information and/or details about the exhibits on view, feel free to poke around the ICA website https://www.icaboston.org/

There are quite a few lunch options nearby, including Shake Shack and Chipotle, so we will fit in a lunch after the train ride.  

Please let me know if you give your child permission to go on this field trip with Samantha, Kristen, and me (and perhaps a few interns) as chaperones.  (Parents and siblings are welcome to join!)


This week, we downloaded a Myhomework app to our phones/computers and added our classes and assignments.  This app is a great way to stay on top of assignments and learn important organizational and time management skills.  It is still new and we will continue to practice using it and setting notifications with deadline reminders.  For students who did not attend advisory on Thursday, we will be working on this again on Tuesday.  You can download it at home as well and see how you like it!  https://myhomeworkapp.com/  I have heard from some of our students that they struggle with understanding what the homework is in some of their classes, and we are working to improve communication from teachers.  If you are helping your child with homework and need clarification, do not hesitate to contact me via email, text, or a call.  We will be using the app consistently next term and making sure that teachers give students part of their class time to enter updates to their assignments.  As you know, we do not want to overload students with homework, and we schedule time in the day to work on it at Symbiosis, so if you feel your child has too much, let me know!! The app is a good tool to develop important skills and we will refer to it throughout the week to see what they can be working on during their independent study time at Symbiosis.

Since the last class update, students completed their formal lab reports for the Flame Test of Ionic Compounds lab. This was the first formal lab report written for this class, and everyone did a really great job! We are currently learning the ins and outs of covalent compounds and finished Chapter 8 on covalent bonding. We saw how valence electrons paired and were “shared” by atoms, the octet rule and exceptions, and the different mechanisms of covalent bonding, including double and triple bonds and coordinate covalent bonds. We also looked further into the theories and structures of covalent bonds, including quantum mechanical models, 3D models of molecules, and bond and molecular polarity, a very important chemical characteristic. We completed the Paper Chromatography of Food Dyes lab to separate and identify food dyes in various samples. We are moving on to Chapter 9 where we will learn how to name and write formulas for acids and bases and learn the laws governing formulas and names. Our next lab (coming up this Wednesday, 12/8) is Double Replacement Reactions, where students will be introduced to microchemistry assays.
Financial Literacy
We spent a couple of weeks discussing and learning about credit cards, the good and the bad. We went over credit card basics, interest and fees, choosing a credit card, and consumer protection. We also practiced calculating minimum payments, finance charges, total cost when using credit for purchases, and evaluating and interpreting credit card statements. The next unit, which we started this week, is Paths to Employment. We began by talking about the students’ interests, strengths, skills, and aptitudes that can help them identify a number of different career options as they move toward adulthood. We will be studying wage and employment trends, salaries, job growth and rates of income change in various career paths. After that, we will discuss how to determine approximate post-secondary education expenses, how to save for these education expenses, and how to combine savings with financial aid, student loans, scholarships, and work to finance post-secondary education to make career goals more attainable.

The spelling class is progressing forward with our program, focusing on homophones, possessives, and contractions. In addition to new irregular words and learning new morphemes and how to combine them, I’m challenging the students by adding to the number of dictation exercises they complete in one class period.  

Middle School Math
Regrouping in Addition and Subtraction
Regrouping Twice in Subtraction
Regrouping with Zero Tens
Rounding 2-Digit Numbers to the Nearest Ten
Rounding 3-Digit Numbers to the Nearest Ten
Focus on Word Problems with the Above Concepts
Division by 6
Finding the Area of a Triangle
Division by 4
Finding the Average

Negative Numbers with Exponents: Raise an integer to a power, Explain how the use of parentheses affects the value of an integer raised to a power 
Roots and Radicals: Identify the square root symbol, Find square roots of perfect squares 
Solve for an Unknown: Explain how adding the same amount to both sides of an equation does not affect its validity, Solve equations for an unknown by using the additive inverse

Algebra 1
Solving More Complex Equations: Solve linear equations with variables on both sides of the equation
Polynomials: Know the vocabulary for polynomials, Indicate the degree of polynomials
Factors and Factoring: Identify prime numbers, Write numbers in prime factored form,
Factor algebraic terms containing a coefficient and variables
Adding Polynomials
Greatest Common Factor: Find the greatest common factor of whole numbers and algebraic terms using prime factorization
Complex Relationship Between Values: Write algebraic expressions for three related unknown values
Solving Equations with Fractions or Decimals: Solve equations with fractions as coefficients by clearing the fractions, Solve equations with decimals as coefficients by multiplying by least exponent on 10 to eliminate decimal points
Subtracting Polynomials

Area: Define the terms area, height, and base,  Find the area of a rectangle, parallelogram, triangle, square, and trapezoid 
Constructing and Identifying Triangles: Define the terms equilateral, equiangular, isosceles, and scalene, Define the terms obtuse, right, and acute as they relate to triangles, Explain why the sum of the lengths of the shorter two sides of a triangle must be greater than the length of the longest side of the triangle
Regular Polygons: Define the terms polygon, concave polygon, convex polygon, regular polygon, pentagon, hexagon, octagon, decagon, dodecagon, interior angle, and exterior angle, Calculate the sum of the measures of the interior angles of a polygon, State the measure of one interior angle of a regular polygon, State that the sum of the measures of the exterior angles of a polygon is 360

Advanced Geometry
Chapter 3, Congruent Triangles: 
Understand the concept of congruence
Accurately identify the corresponding parts of figures
Identify included angles and sides
Apply SSS, SAS and ASA postulates
Apply the principle of CPCTC
Recognize some basic properties of circles
Apply the formulas for the area and the circumference of a circle
Identify medians and altitudes of triangles
Understand why auxiliary lines are used in some proofs
Write proofs involving steps beyond CPCTC


In Spanish 101 we have just started our fourth and final unit of the semester: El cuerpo y la ropa  [The body and clothes]. This week in class we were introduced to the new vocabulary words we will be studying for this unit, and we created our own crazy creatures made up of all different animal body parts in a partnered writing and art activity. Last week we finished up unit 3 with a test and everybody did really well! Going forward, we will be learning more about the Spanish words for body parts and articles of clothing, and the use of related verbs such as “llevar” – to wear and other grammar.

World History
We have been learning about Asian history with an emphasis on China and Japan.
In our last class we read samples from the Kokin Wakashu, an anthology of poems from 12th century Japan with an emphasis on timeless topics such as nature, friendship and life. Students are to write a 5-line Waka, the form of poem found in Kokin. To avoid writer’s block, we learned about the ‘free-write’ strategy to connect what they are thinking onto their computer screen or paper ASAP.  We also learned about personification, metaphor/analogy and simile.

For Chinese history we spent several days learning about the longest-reigning Han Dynasty Emperor, Wudi, through videos and text. In one class we learned debate strategies and divided into two teams debating the wisdom of Emperor Wudi’s policies- were they wise or unwise? After the debate, students wrote the lyrics to a song offering advice to the emperor, using a Jamaican Ska/Rocksteady song as an example of song lyrics.

Of course no trip to China is complete without a trip to the Great Wall, So, we polished our geography and inference skills learning about this wonder of the world. We introduced the students to the philosopher Confucius through the primary source of ‘The Analects’. Confucian thought was instrumental in the unification of China, which we also studied.

In the remainder of the term, we travel to Europe to learn about the Renaissance and the Reformation.

Building Confidence in Writing

The week of Thanksgiving, we did the creative writing exercises in which each student wrote a sentence and then passed the story on and also one where I gave a prompt and let them write whatever came to mind. For some reason, we ended up with a lot of stories about dead cats!
This week, we reviewed evidence and analysis and how each is used in a standard MEAL (i.e., Main Idea/Evidence/Analysis/Link) paragraph and then discussed types of author’s purpose (e.g., to inform, entertain, instruct, etc.).
Homework this week is to write a new MEAL paragraph and to write a sentence that demonstrates each author’s purpose.

Book Club (11/17)
We read two poems from the Harlem Renaissance: “We Wear the Mask,” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and “If We Must Die,” by Claude McKay.  These are emotionally intense pieces about two opposite but equally valid responses to oppression, so we took care to discuss the experience of being mistreated and how one responds to that treatment- by “wearing a mask” or by raising your voice and fighting.  Naturally, we also discussed the comparison of Dunbar’s metaphorical mask with our recent experience with literal masks, and how both are meant to protect. 
We spent a chunk of our time chatting about everyone’s individual books as well, getting an update on what everyone’s reading and how they feel about it so far.

Visual Art (11/19)
Today we did our color lesson; this was a bit of a refresher for my students who were in my class last semester, but color is best learned through experience!  We reviewed what we learned about Josef Albers (and his wife and fellow artist, Anni Albers), widely considered the father of modern color theory.  We reviewed primary and secondary colors, the color wheel, and how color combinations with pigment function. After spending some time practicing mixing secondary colors, we tried a challenge where I mixed a color of my own, and the students had to try to imitate it, doing their best to figure out how I arrived at that specific shade using what we’d learned.  Everyone did impressively well, and I was grateful that everyone also did their part to clean up.

Dungeons & Dragons
Tuesday Group 11/16
The gang finally managed to find concrete evidence that the  Captain of the Guard is the one who planned the sabotage of the protective barrier around the village.  On investigating his home, they found a secret study area underground and were ambushed.  After fighting off their attackers, they investigated the room.
They found an ashtray full of burned letters, and schematics for the magical barrier- both incriminating evidence.  Once they brought the ashes to the village Elder, another elf was able to magically restore the burned letters, providing even more damning evidence.  Now, the party have been asked to help apprehend the subject.

Thursday Group 11/18
This group also spent the bulk of their session investigating the Guard Captain’s home, getting ambushed, and gathering some evidence.  However this group also captured one of their attackers as a witness, and decided to forgo meeting with the Elder about their evidence, instead going directly to confront the Captain. 
Both groups will level up at the start of next session, then move into the final phase of clearing their name- apprehending the true criminal.

That is all for now! Be in touch with any questions, concerns, thoughts, or ideas about how we can improve your child’s experience at Symbiosis.

Thank you,

October 15, 2021

Greetings Symbiosis Learning Center Families, Teachers, and Interns!

Hope you are all enjoying this beautiful weekend!  Here is some of what’s happening in our classrooms! (Math is individualized for each student and not included here. Let us know if you would like an update on your child’s math progress.)

Also, a few other notes:
1. Spaghetti & Meatballs tomorrow! Vegan option available.  
2. Hayride and pick-your-own pumpkin field trip is Friday at 11:00 AM to 1:15 PM at Ward’s Berry Farm in Sharon, MA.  $10 per family. Let’s meet there at 10:45 – park in regular parking lot and walk down to our reserved picnic area.  Bring lunch. Let me know if you can come!
Class Updates!

A World of Particles:  The students have been learning more details about atomic structure. Using the periodic table, we determined the number of protons, neutrons, and electrons of different atoms. We also discussed isotopes, including those that are stable and radioactive. To understand radioactive decay and half-life, we completed an activity using red licorice as our radioactive isotope. Our next chapter is called Moving Electrons, and we will learn about electron configurations in an atom and the role electrons play in forming ionic compounds.

Financial Literacy
Spending Wisely:  We have been learning about savings accounts and the process of saving money. The students learned how to calculate interest payments and ending/beginning balances. We also studied the power of compound interest and applied present and future value to calculate discount factors. We analyzed data from savings spreadsheets to draw conclusions about savings strategies and to determine the amount of time it would take to save a specific amount of money. Next week we will begin learning the ins and outs of checking accounts. 

Writing your way to confidence 
As we prepare to craft our first formal writing, we are taking our time and working through the all-important steps of the Writing Process together. Though they may be at a bit of a disadvantage, the fact that some students were absent last week gave us ample reason (as if we needed more) to review. The plan is to take at least one class on each step (i.e., rewrite, draft, revision, and editing) and to guide the students step-by-step through the Process. As we will be starting the draft Monday, I also plan (thanks to Kristine’s idea) to turn what had been planned as a Review Day (in which students would be invited and encouraged to ask questions) to a combination Review/Conference day in which I will also spend time individually with each student discussing their progress and hopefully eliciting some comments and questions that they might have otherwise been reticent to share.
The students have already shared some fascinating and diverse ideas for their papers and I look forward to proceeding with and learning from them!
10/12 Tues DnD
We started by leveling everyone’s character up to level 2
The party continued travelling northward, and their new companion, Tony, told them he had a task to complete as initiation into a “group” he’s joining, and he wants their help.  He has to retrieve a certain flower- but that flower tends to attract monsters. 
Today was a bit looser and more casual than usual- wanted to make sure everyone got to enjoy their pasta lunch and the start of a short week! 

10/13 Weds Book Club
We read Anton Chekhov’s short story, Joy.  We discussed whether the man in the story is under the influence of the head injury he has suffered- or whether his behavior is actually more understandable and more common than it seems.  We discussed the desire for fame and attention, and what people are willing to do to achieve it. 
We also went over the concept of Chekhov’s Gun, since we were already talking about him- including how it’s used in well known stories to this day. 
As always, the last chunk of class was set aside for the students to read on their own

10/14 Thurs DnD
This group also leveled up to start the session, and then were asked by Tony to help with his mission.  He brought them to the gorge where a cluster of flowers he was told to retrieve are blooming- but they’re being guarded by a Griffon (who seems to see these flowers as a ‘catnip’ of sorts)
Through some shenanigans and some strategy, they manage to distract the Griffon and snag the flowers, then escape
The flowers bloom and open up at midnight, creating a glowing trail that continues North, presumably leading them to their next clue on this mission.

10/14 Art
We looked once again at an artist we discussed once last semester- Manga author, Yoshihiro Togashi- as an example of using ink, pens and paints to create varied types of lines and textures.  
Then, students picked “the weirdest pumpkins they could find,” to use as reference for their drawings.  Using a collection of paint pens, brush pens, and other ink based tools, they illustrated their pumpkins at a variety of angles, paying close attention to the unique bumps and shapes of each one.

Spanish 101
This week in Spanish 101 we have been continuing our Unit 2 theme of la familia y la casa. Today we presented our family tree projects! We started talking about la casa and the Spanish words for the rooms in a house. We will be learning more Spanish words to describe furniture and other parts of the house next week. Upcoming events in class include a “my dream house” project and a fiesta at the end of the month! Have a great weekend!

World History
We wrapped up the Encounters Between Christianity and Islam section, so we made the short trip to the continent of Africa.
In our African history section we are exploring the role of oral history and storytelling, and our reliance on Griots. Griots are poets, musicians, and storytellers who maintain a tradition of oral history in Africa. Pre-1490s Africa is unique in regards to primary source material because we do not have as much written documentation as ancient Greece or Rome. Some theorize that the modern day successors to Griots are ‘slam poets’ and Rappers. We analyzed a Griot poem about hunting and gathering for food, specifically elephants. Then we learned about the Aksum kingdom that reached the height of its power in the fourth century A.D. Aksum is located in modern-day Ethiopia, across the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia. On Wednesday we mapped out trading routes and the economics of providing goods and services in the port city of Adulis, the chief seaport of Aksum. We are fortunate to have a travelers and a shopper’s guide to Adulis written by a Greek sailor 2000 years ago so we read and made notes about that together.

October 7, 2021

Greetings Symbiosis Learning Center Families, Teachers, Interns, and Staff!

Please enjoy update on what is happening in our classrooms!  Monday we will  be having spaghetti & salad lunch using an electric countertop burner brought in by one of our families (thank you Makaih!).  Vegetarian and non-vegetarian options will be available.  Let me know if your child will want spaghetti and please have them bring in $3-5 and/or some salad fixins, pasta, sauce, or parmesan cheese. (Please remind your child to have some money with them in the event they join the Starbucks group when they walk over with intern(s) to get a treat!)

During “Advisory,” students have an opportunity to ask questions about assignments and share thoughts about classes.  This is also a time when they log in to their Google Classroom Advisory & Homework Folder and review the homework for the week.  In their groups, they complete the “What I learned this week” form together.  Students also spend some time organizing their handouts and notes in their binders – and having their homework ready to turn in that day.

World History I – Dave Tamasy
This month we focused on Encounters Between Christianity and Islam to 1500. Class activities have been focusing on complex and very old primary sources with challenging vocabulary. We’ve been learning about the religious and political origins of conflicts between Islam and Christianity, including the causes, course, and consequences of the European Crusades against Islam in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries.  

We read a primary source from 1191 by Beha-Ed-Din describing The Massacre at Acre of prisoners during the battles between Muslim leader Saladin and English King Richard (the Lion Hearted). Crusaders took over the city of Acre and killed 3,000 Muslim prisoners. The goal is to consider the point of view and the motives on each side of the conflict.  

We just finished an active reading and note-taking project about the rise of the Ottoman Empire in the 14th and 15th centuries.  Here we read a primary source document dated 1493 titled “The Tribute of Children” describing the form of slavery in the Ottoman social structure. Slavery was common and slaves had the opportunity for social and political advancement.  The readings assigned as homework describe cultural diffusion in 3 Muslim empires and the building of the Taj Mahal during the Mugal Empire in India.

Chemistry – Samantha Rowe
The first three weeks of chemistry have been an exciting introduction for the students with hands-on activities, discussions and focused work. We started with an introduction to chemistry and matter. We went over laboratory safety rules and basic laboratory equipment. We talked about matter vs. non-matter and how to distinguish between them. The students learned about the tools chemists use and got to practice performing and recording measurements with a ruler, digital scale, and graduated cylinder. They used the water displacement method to calculate the volume of different objects and used that information to calculate densities. They each constructed a graph with their data and used it to determine the volume of oddly shaped substances that are difficult to directly measure. This past week we started a new chapter where the students were introduced to chemical vs physical properties and reactions, the differences between an element and a compound, and the law of conservation of mass. The activities this week included making oobleck to observe the different states of matter and color-coding a blank periodic table in order to learn the groups, basic trends and structure of this important tool in chemistry. Next week we will be busy learning all about atoms and the particles which are contained within them and how they behave. Other important topics for this week will be the composition of stable and radioactive isotopes, fission, fusion, and radioactive decay.

Writing your way to confidence – Matt Robinson
Since the beginning of class, we have been building a foundation for improved communication (and thus stronger communication confidence). Starting with grammar, we moved on to sentence structure and then the basic elements of a paragraph. Along the way, we looked at some effective note-taking methods that will hopefully help engage texts in an efficient way and also talked about bias and other matters to consider when engaging and writing texts. We are currently discussing various parts of an essay (e.g., introduction, conclusion) and are on our way to our first formal writing assignment which will be a summary. Everyone seems to be engaged and the questions and comments are flying. A teacher could not ask for much more!

Spanish 101 – Rachel Taylor
Hola, families! So far in Spanish 101 we have been reviewing and learning more about the Spanish basics. This includes: Colors, numbers 0-100, animals, and an introduction to some basic grammar such as definite and indefinite articles and verbs. Recently we have combined our knowledge of articles, colors, and animals by writing short sentences to describe the color each animal is. Coming up, we will be beginning Unit 2 and learning the different phrases that can be used to describe the people in a family and the Spanish words for household items. This week we completed Unit 1 and everyone did really well on the Unit 1 test! Next week, we will begin Unit 2 which will cover more grammar material and the new themes of “families” and “in the house.” 

Math Groups – Samantha Rowe

The geometry group learned how to recognize and name points, lines, segments, rays, planes, and angles. We discussed sets and the meaning and symbols for union, intersection, subset, and empty or null set. The students identified coplanar and noncoplanar geometric elements. Interpreting geometric diagrams is critical for this class and the student had lots of practice over the last three weeks. They also used a protractor to measure and draw angles and learned to recognize the vertex of an angle. 

Algebra 1
The algebra group has been reviewing and practicing pre algebra skills. These include, types of numbers, graphing real numbers, absolute values, real number properties, fractions and integers (adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing), variables, constants, and algebraic expressions. 

Pre Algebra
The pre algebra students have been reviewing arithmetic and order of operations. We are now focused on understanding the language of algebra. Topics included expressions and equations, properties of the four operations, simplifying expressions and the distributive property.

Middle School Math Group 
We are reviewing and honing our skills using the four basic operations, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The students are learning mental math strategies to help them find solutions. We are also cementing multiplication facts using  mnemonic strategies.

Financial Literacy – Samantha Rowe
The students began learning important aspects of building a solid financial foundation on their path to building their future. First they learned some astonishing statistics about trends in the U.S. with regard to spending, debt and saving. We discussed key considerations important for deciding how to spend money. These included needs vs. wants, total cost, taxes, and long-term value. Then the students discussed how to establish a good plan which includes creating a budget. We went over different types of income, monthly expenses and how to put it all together in a spreadsheet to stay on track and analyze the estimated vs. actual budget. Next, we will discuss smart saving including the different ways to save money and creating savings goals.

Teen Talk – Interns Abby, Anh, Sofia
The past few weeks we have been encouraging the kids to interact and connect with their peers.  We have looked at common interests that they share and other hobbies as well.  We have also encouraged the kids to come up with some healthy coping mechanisms that they can use at points where they feel overwhelmed or stressed.  We also discussed how they can support one another as a community.  

Next week we will start “Mythology for Teens,” reading aloud classical myths and relating ancient stories to the culture, history, art, and literature of today.  The book we will be using prompts students to question topics such as vanity and greed, fate, revenge, forgiveness, love, and national identity.  All topics and discussions are age-appropriate and the “tweens” may at times form their own group separate from the older students.  

Book Club – Kristen Kern
Week 1-2
We read “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll, then went through the poem and replaced all of the “nonsense” words with “real” words to create a very different story.  Then, we repeated this exercise, but could not repeat any of the same words chosen for the first version.  This way, we ended up with two very different moods and stories from the same base. The goal is to emphasize the importance of choosing certain words to create a specific image for the reader.  Word choices matter! 

Week 3
We discussed two Emily Dickinson poems- “Because I could not stop for Death” and “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”, in addition to talking a bit about Emily Dickinson herself and her life.  We covered some of her struggles as a deeply introverted, possibly neurodivergent and possibly queer female writer, and that her poems were mostly published post-humously. We related the themes in her work to the pressures of social media to be seen and known (particularly relevant in “I’m Nobody!”), and discussed the complications of work being “adapted,” separately from the original intent of the author, which happens constantly now, with holywood currently obsessed with adaptations. As always, we ended the ‘class’ with ten minutes of time for the students to read their own books of their choosing. 

Dungeons & Dragons – Kristen Kern

Tuesday Group
1.  Woke up in Fairland on a dirt road with a note in their hand directing them to the second floor of the Dandelion Tavern that evening.
They go and are told the second floor is reserved, but they show the notes they have and are allowed up.  They introduce themselves to each other, then are joined by a man who calls himself Matthias.  He claims he’s met people like them before- people who were taken from their home place and time and shunted into this world.
He offers them gold and information in exchange for acting as his bodyguards for a time, but doesn’t offer much detail.  They agree, only to immediately be attacked by a bunch of thugs storming the tavern looking for Matthias

2. The group finished off the thugs who were trying to attack their new employer, but quickly noticed the scent of lantern oil, and so used some creative means to escape the now-burning tavern.  In a panic, they escaped town on horseback, while still pursued by the remaining members of whatever group is after Matthias.As night falls, the party and their horses need rest, so they take cover in some bushes off the main road, hoping that their pursuers also need rest and if they keep out of sight, they should be safe for the evening. Thursday GroupThis group began the session dealing with the now-on-fire-tavern situation.  The party managed to escape through various means, while checking to ensure that the civilians got out as well (notably, Felix’s character knocked an enemy out by accidentally falling on him from a second story window) A chase on foot and then on horseback followed, and then the party set up camp when night fell.  During Alex’s watch, he discovered some kind of oversized wolf monster, and we’ll pick up next session with figuring out how to deal with that.

Thursday Group
1. Their circumstances are the same as the other group- having woken up in a strange place with a note guiding them to a nearby tavern, where they meet Matthias, who makes them an offer of gold and information in exchange for protection.
The attack on the tavern commences, and some of the party keep their distance and try not to get involved while the others fight alongside Matthias.  However, when we wrapped up the session, at least one of them had picked up the scent of lantern oil from downstairs, and it seems the situation is rapidly escalating. 

2. This group began the session dealing with the now-on-fire-tavern situation.  The party managed to escape through various means, while checking to ensure that the civilians got out as well (notably, Felix’s character knocked an enemy out by accidentally falling on him from a second story window). A chase on foot and then on horseback followed, and then the party set up camp when night fell.  During Alex’s watch, he discovered some kind of oversized wolf monster, and we’ll pick up next session with figuring out how to deal with that.

Art – Kristen Kern
1. We looked at the work of Art Nouveau pioneer, Alphonse Mucha, as an example of how to properly use references from photos and real life to guide your artwork.  Afterwards, we reviewed and discussed facial proportions.  We first made a loose diagram of a face to understand the generic proportions of a human face, then we looked at a few illustrated characters to see how those proportions were utilized or subverted.  We used these characters as reference for a few practice drawings.

2. We tried something a bit different this week- I had the students draw a portrait step-by-step along with me.  I used the whiteboard to break down the process of drawing a face so that they could each follow along. After the initial portrait, I opened up the floor for some suggestions for characters to draw, so we did two more together, noting the ways in which even very different looking characters can be broken down into the same basic process. 

Music – Ryan Cimon
For music class this year, I hope to engage students in learning musical concepts taking a less traditional approach to musical education.  We focus on learning music, while also making sure everybody is happy and comfortable.  Students can learn music they bring to me, as well as songs we like to make up.  The goal is to surround ourselves with music that doesn’t overwhelm, but excites.

March 4, 2021

Here is an update on our classes, details about the field trip tomorrow, a request for permission to post student testimonials on our website; and enrollment for Fall 2021.

Field trip tomorrow  (TICKETS MUST BE PRESENTED AT ENTRANCE OF PARK – DIGITAL TICKETS FROM THE TRUSTEES OF RESERVATIONS WILL BE FORWARDED TO YOU.)  COST IS $10 PER PERSON.  Please give to Kristine in cash or check payable to Symbiosis Learning Center.

Student testimonials
Fall 2021
Class News

Field Trip tomorrow:  
Those of you who are coming on Friday, let’s meet there at 11:00 AM.  Our allotted time is from 11:00 – 1:00, and the indoor museum is only accessible to us during the 11:00 – 12:00 window.  Guests must present ticket at entrance.  I will forward the tickets to you via email.  The cost for tickets is $10. You can give me cash or check payable to Symbiosis Learning Center.  Here is a link to their website for the address and more information:  de Cordova Sculpture Park and Museum.  (Text or call me at 617 564 1089 if you need to reach me.) 

List of RSVP Yes’s!
Kristine & Lucinda
The Rowe Family
Brad, Lilah, Kristopher Staeban
Alex and Joel and Cyon Sawady
Jimmy Driscoll
Ella and Nicholas Adams
Godson Tompson
Jamie Herland

Fall 2021:
If you are planning on returning for Fall 2021, please let me know as soon as possible by completing the Enrollment Form here.  Once I receive the enrollment form, I will send out an invoice requesting a deposit by May 1st and payment in full by July 15th.  As always, installment options are available.

Class Updates:

Earth and Environmental Science – 
In Earth and Environmental Science we finished the unit on environmental health with an in-depth look at toxic substances in the environment and how they affect living organisms. The students were introduced to the topics of bioaccumulation (the buildup of toxic substances in living organisms) and biomagnification (the increased concentration of toxic substances at each step in the food chain). Another aspect of environmental health introduced was how natural disasters affect living things. Volcanoes, earthquakes, storms and avalanches were discussed. As an extension of our discussion on household products and environmental health, students learned about the chemical reaction that produces soap (saponification) in which a fat, lipid or oil reacts with an aqueous alkali to form a fatty acid salt (soap). This week students made their own bars of soap.

3D Design – This week continued our introduction to the new software Blender.  We finished making the basic shape of a wine bottle, with its curves, bends, and bumps.  We finished the week with starting the project of making a tree shape.  This uses the same tools as the wine bottle project.  The tree is just a larger project that requires more fiddling, tinkering, and trusting your eye.  This should give the students something to consider and fiddle with over the break week, should they be inspired by Blender.

Brad’s math – This week we finished folding the modular crane and then began talking about how all the angles and shapes talk to each other.  How one shape informs another and can let you know what the angles are.  We also measured all the angles with protractors to see if we were speaking the correct language.  We finished off the week by looking at the area of a circle and how that formula is created just by drawing triangles in a circle.  

Dungeons and Dragons Weds 2/24 (Kristopher, Lilah, Nick, Ella, Shane):
First investigated the camp where the missing soldiers were last spotted.  They found it picked clean of anything valuable, but did manage to follow some tracks towards a nearby forest. 
Once there, they attracted the attention of two Oni, who were fearsome, but entirely blind.  Once the party discovered this, they used magic and misdirection to get away, then investigate the forest further.  
Eventually, they found a secret trap door in an old, rotted out tree trunk.  On entering, they’ve met what appears to be a commune of thieves who all share the same name to avoid detection.  Next session, they hope to learn more from these thieves. 
Thurs 2/25 (Alex, Sebastian, Jimmy, Ben):
The gang spent most of this session in combat against the two blind Oni that had been attracted to their location by seemingly intentional sounds used to get their attention. It was a tough fight, Alex’s character even getting briefly knocked out. 
Overall though, everyone handled the challenge well and used their characters’ abilities to the fullest.  They survived the encounter, killing one Oni and scaring off the other, and we left off on the party discovering the tree trunk concealing a trap door into the ground. 


– This week, we started working with color!  We began by reviewing the color wheel, primary/secondary colors, and looking at the works and theories of Josef Albers, Then, we applied what we learned to looking at movie posters, superhero designs, and other modern color choices. 
– The students then created color “swatches” of the primary colors, then practiced mixing the secondary colors, then lighter and darker shades.  
– Finally, we tried out a quick song exercise – we listened to “Riders on the Storm” (jointly chosen by me and a couple of the students) and the students used colors and lines to express what the song felt like to them.  I hope to try this sort of thing repeatedly in the future as a more relaxed “cool down” activity that will allow the students to work with color more freely 
– I was thrilled to see that they were fascinated by how brush cleaner works lol.  Everyone helped me clean up a bit, which was lovely, since we did go a few minutes over-time.

Academic Writing 
These past few weeks we have been working on picking a topic and creating a research paper. This week we have been discussing how to find articles and use them as resources. The students have been working one-on-one with the interns who have been helping them develop their ideas and begin the writing process. We can’t wait to see where their research will take them! 

Spanish Conversation 
This week in Spanish we played Spanish BINGO where the students were exposed to a variety of words, and were able to practice them throughout the game. Throughout this class we are trying to come up with fun interactive ideas, and this past week we also watched COCO in Spanish, which was a big hit. We are excited to learn more about the Spanish language and the culture. 

Teen talk 
In Teen Talk we had an open discussion about “social thinking” and our nonverbal communication skills. During our discussion we talked about how to present ourselves appropriately by the way we use our body language and tone of voice. We discussed how these are important skills to have and will continue to practice in the future, and the students were able to connect and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.

February 3, 2021

We are happy to welcome our new intern, Godson Tompson, a senior psychology major at Lasell University. Godson loves sports and looks forward to getting us all outside to play some kickball, basketball, and volleyball when the weather warms a bit. He also enjoys bowling, go-carting, museums, music and anything that keeps him active.  We are also so happy that Jackie, Isabel, and Jamie are back this week.  It isn’t quite the same here without them!

Upcoming important dates:
February 15 – 19 – Center is closed
April 19 – 23 – Center is closed

Below are updates on what is happening in History, Earth and Environmental Science, 3D Design and Printing, Brad’s Math Group, Art, and Dungeons and Dragons!  Will send notes on Raspberry Pi, American Sign Language, Spanish Conversation, and Creative and Academic Writing soon!
In History we have been discussing the history of the House of Tudor monarchy from England. We discussed the reign of Henry VIII and how his desire to have a male heir and his multiple marriages forever changed the power of the monarchy in England. Plus we discussed how his six marriages and the murdes of two of his wives reflect on his legacy and character. We also discussed his eldest daughter Mary I who is best remembered for the many executions under her reign that mainly attacked Protestants and how she struggled as a Catholic ruler in a mainly Protestant country. In one class, students were asked to write a paragraph using text-based evidence to support their claims on why Mary is widely remembered for the executions she ordered. We will be wrapping up our study of the House of Tudor by studying Henry’s youngest daughter Elizabeth I and her legacy and will compare it to her father and sister. 
In current events, we talked about several things including the inauguration of Joe biden, the second impeachment of Donald Trump, and Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

Earth and Environmental Science
The past two weeks the students have been learning about environmental health, including environmental and social health hazards, infectious diseases, epidemiology, and toxicology. They have begun an in-depth chemical investigation to assess the health hazards of common household products. We will continue to explore the chemistry of hazardous chemicals present in the home by creating structural models of these chemicals and understanding how they react with other substances in the environment.

3D Design and Printing

This session in 3d Design/Printing we have started off with a large class project.  Creating a castle siege game.  We have brainstormed the basic make up of the game, targeted the parts that need to be engineered, and assigned teams and individuals to begin making and testing prototypes.  This is our largest project yet and will take the next 2 to 3 months to complete.

Brad’s Math Group
This week we have delved into geometry.  We are using origami to look at how shapes, angles, and lines are interacting.  Geometry is about how all of these pieces talk to each other.  Realizing what that conversation is reveals many things.  We made a modular compass star and started on a modular crane.  Along the way we are analyzing the shapes and angles, measuring them, and discussing the interactions between them all.  

Dungeons & Dragons

Wednesday group
Lilah’s character discovered that the ‘dead end’ in front of them was an illusion by charging into it and falling on the floor on the other side.  From here, the final challenge against a stone golem began.  It was a tough fight, but they eventually took it out.
The Sphinx gaved them several rewards for surviving the labyrinth, including gold, healing, and a bag of magic beans.  It then teleported them back to the capital where their whole first job had begun.  
Back just outside of the city gates, they decided to try out one of those magic beans, and by random dice roll, it spawned a monster they had to fight off.  Nbd.
Thursday group
The bulk of the session was the combat encounter with the stone golem.  This was tough going, but Jimmy’s character eventually managed to force the golem to remain inactive long enough that the sphinx appeared and yelled at them for being “dumb mean cheaters.”  At this point, they managed to make a deal with the sphinx that they would play with her for a bit before leaving, and she was thrilled about this arrangement.
The party received the same rewards as the other group, plus one small extra protective item for Sebastian’s character, then were teleported back home.  They spent some time identifying the magic beans and learning a bit about magic items in general
The group returned to their employer, the Exalt, who was pleased to hear of their successes.  Their boss, Brutus, received word during this meeting that a battalion of soldiers had gone missing, and so tasked the party with hunting them down. 

 Students filled out an index card with info about what kind of art they’re interested in learning, what kind of art they like to look at, their favorite movies, shows, video games, etc. and a few songs that have been stuck in their heads. With this, Kristen has a fairly solid idea of their own goals and what kind of media interests and engages them.
– We discussed that making art comes down to 1. technical skill, developed through practice, critical observation, and challenging our own assumptions, and 2. making conscious decisions.  To illustrate the first point, we did an exercise where each student drew an eye first from memory, then with a reference.  For the second point, we looked at two paintings (The Death of Socrates and The Treachery of Images) and had a group discussion about what choices were made to create the piece and why.  
To give students the tools to break down anything they want to draw into basic shapes, we practiced by drawing the shapes and lines identified in a collection of still-life images.  Then, the students drew their own still-life compositions, first from a photo reference on screen, and then from real life objects in front of them, always focusing on making the process easier and more effective by focusing on basic lines and shapes, critical observations, and comparing objects to one another.

January 31, 2021

Due to the impending snow storm, Symbiosis Learning Center will be closed tomorrow, Monday, February 1st and Tuesday, February 2nd. Stay safe and warm, everyone!

December 11, 2020

Greetings Symbiosis Learning Center Families, Interns, and Staff!

I would like to first say THANK YOU to our wonderful and amazing interns, Jackie, Isabel, Sydney, and Jamie for everything you do for us.  Your kindness, positive energy, and hard work are invaluable to the success of our learning center.  To Sydney, we didn’t get to give you a proper good-bye, but please come visit us when you return from winter break!  (We have to get your handprint on our “Intern Wall”!)  To Jackie, Isabel, and Jamie, we are so happy you will be returning next semester to continue your internship with us.  Have a peaceful, safe, and relaxing winter break with your loved ones!  We are so grateful for you. 

As we begin our final week of the term, I wanted to send out a few updates to families and staff – Students will be working on completing their final projects during the final week and I will be sending out photos and videos, so please stay tuned! On Friday, December 18th, from 11AM to 2PM, we will be celebrating with waffles and hot cocoa, bingo and prizes, and other fun activities!  Please let me know who can come. We will be sharing final student assessments with you by the end of the week!  If you would like to discuss your student’s progress and learning with us, please let me know and we can schedule a time to meet. In the meantime, here are a few of our class updates…

Earth and Environmental Science
For the past few weeks in Earth and Environmental Science we have covered a unit on communities and ecology. This included identifying the different trophic levels in an ecosystem, understanding how inefficient energy transfer affects community structure, and examples of the way the laws of physics control ecosystem function and the interaction between biotic and abiotic factors.
We also completed an exploration lab where the students dissected owl pellets to determine the owl’s diet and to construct a food chain to show how energy is passed from one organism to another in an ecosystem. The students assembled and identified the bones present in the owl pellets and constructed a display. They also learned the process of owl digestion, including anatomy of the digestive system. 
Finally, the students were introduced to soundscape ecology, a specialized field of ecology and environmental research. In addition to learning the new term, soundscape, they were also introduced to the terms bioacoustics, geophony, biophony, anthrophony and anthropogenic, all important aspects of soundscape ecology and bioacoustics research. They watched a short TED Talk given by a leading soundscape ecologist, Dr. Bernie Krause. He discussed how soundscapes have been altered by human actions in the last few decades and how this indicates the negative impacts on ecosystems. 

3D Design & Printing The last couple weeks have been “Let’s focus and get things finished.”  Throughout the class there is a mix of in-class projects, to teach certain techniques or thought processes, and personal projects.  With multiple projects there have been many students with projects at a late prototype stage.  We are working on getting those final issues overcome and final creations manufactured.

Language Arts We completed our identity projects with everyone creating a silhouette cutout of images and words that shape who we are.  As part of the project, students wrote poems and narrative essays about important events and memories that have influenced them.  This last week we read the fable, “The Moth and the Star,” and compared the message with the story of Philippe Petit who walked across a tightrope between the Twin Towers.  Students learned the difference between a formal and informal email by sending their essay analysis in email format to the teacher.  (This makes me think that students might begin thinking about opening a more professional email account.  We can open a Symbiosis email account for those who would like one.)

Dungeons and Dragons
– Wednesday was almost entirely housekeeping matters- everyone leveled up (level 6) and Shane and Michael created their characters (Jimmy was a huge help getting Shane set up), and we caught up newbies and each other on basic plot stuff up to this point.- The party arrived safely on the shores of the mainland and were guided to the capital city, where they will soon meet the Exalt and learn more about the types of adventures they’ve been employed to undertake. – We all discussed their answers to my character prompts as a group, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that just about everyone had responses for every question and seemed comfortable discussing it in person,- On thursday, Alex’s character got involved with some shady folks, who promised riches stashed away in the sewers beneath the city.  They and their companions went forward with this plan, and our session ended in the middle of combat with some ooze-like creatures in the sewage. 

OCTOBER 24, 2020

  • Next Friday, October 30th, we are planning a Halloween party from 11AM – 3PM.  The plan is to carve pumpkins (and roast a lot of pumpkin seeds!) and watch the movie, Princess Bride.  Students can wear a costume and should bring lunch and a pumpkin and carving tools!
  • On Friday, November 13th, at noon, Mitchell College is planning a Zoom meeting presentation for us on its different programs and admissions requirements.  I’ve asked that the presentation address the application process specifically for students who complete their requirements with Symbiosis Learning Center.  Please let me know if you will be attending and send along any questions you might have now and I will ask him to answer during the presentation.
  • This Wednesday, October 28th, at 330 PM, an admission counselor from Landmark College (and a mother of an alumnus who has ADHD), developed a webcast to provide in-depth information about the range of supports for neurodiverse students in post-secondary education today.  Here is a link to the webcast for those interested:  Navigating the College Search for Students Who Learn Differently.  Admissions will also send me a copy of the slideshow that I will forward to all of you.
  • We are sad to say goodbye to our second Dungeon Master, Matt.  Matt has accepted a full time job offer and has brought on a friend, Kristen, to take over the position.  We hope this one stays with us!!
  • Leo Rusinov, the Math in Real Life teacher, has also let us know that he will not be continuing teaching due to his concerns about the virus.  We have been filling this time with other activities, including improv games, an Astronomy lesson with Alex, and independent work.  If you have any work you would like your student to work on at the center with a tutor/teacher, please let us know.
  • I will be sharing with all of you a google doc with class updates and student progress reports at the end of this week.  I will send out a sign up link next week for any parents and caregivers who would like to schedule a meeting with me and the other teachers to discuss your child’s learning and their experience here at Symbiosis.
  • I will also be sending out invoices for the spring term requesting half of the tuition payment by December 5th, and the other half by January 5th.  If there are any changes in enrollment, please let me know, and/or any need for an adjusted payment plan.

OCTOBER 3, 2020

Earth and Environmental Science

This week in Earth and Environmental Science we investigated the relationship between climate and trees as well as the Vermont maple syrup industry. Students considered the habitat and living conditions of a typical maple tree, and the ideal weather conditions for maple syrup production. Students graphed and analyzed long-term climate data from the region in and around Burlington, VT.  

3D Design and Printing

This week was independent study on both the class project and personal projects.  The main challenge for some of the students is the need to clearly define their personal projects, while for others it is not.  Everyone has made good progress on the class project of reverse engineering the spinner.

Nature Journaling

This week, we read aloud short biographies of two environmentalists, Rachel Carson and Jane Goodall, and discussed the impact of their work.  While some of the students focused on independent work and enjoyed our natural surroundings, others worked on using graphic organizers to outline their compare and contrast observation notes on trees from last week.  Some of the students chose to write about Carson and Goodall in their compare and contrast essay.  I’ve encouraged students to continue working on their essay independently and share what they’ve written next week.  On Tuesday, we will be creating “found poems.”  Found poems enable students to compose poetry by ‘borrowing’ lines from a text, or several texts.  For this activity, we will be looking at national park brochures and generating a list of words and phrases, then combining them into a poem, filling in with words of their own.  I will include some examples in my next update!  We will also visit the Lasell pond and take notes in our journal and create some other forms of poetry – zigzag, haiku, and acrostic.


On Tuesday, we focused on discussing the 4th Social Ethic in the yogic practice: moderation. We explored where we find ourselves out of balance off the mat (eating too much sweets, not enough sleep, too much TV, etc.) and then did a flow, paying attention to where creating balance between effort and ease helps to sustain the pose. Next week we focus on the 5th and final Social Ethic, letting go of expectation. Can’t wait to discuss with these amazing yogis!   
Updates on Dungeons and Dragons, Music, History, Teen Talk, and Math in Real Life next time!  Math at Your Level is very individualized and difficult to include here – will be part of student progress report.

I’m excited for our owl visit on Friday.  I am a lifelong owl lover. My nickname when I was little was búho – the Spanish word for owl, because I didn’t sleep at night but would sit at the window and look out at the moon.  

Have a peaceful evening and rest of your weekend.  

My Best, Kristine

OCTOBER 3, 2020

Weather permitting, next Friday, October 9th, from 1:00 – 1:45, “Eyes on Owls” will be visiting Symbiosis Learning Center!  A dynamic team of passionate bird lovers will introduce us to live owls and teach us about their habitats and adaptations, food chains, predator-prey relationships, anatomy, physiology, ecology and wildlife observation, all in an interactive forum. Mark and Marcia Wilson both have a degree in Biology, and are teachers, photographers, and writers.  Here is a link to their website for more details:  http://eyesonowls.com/.  I’ve attached below a description of Mark Wilson’s book OwlingEnter the World of the Mysterious Birds of the Night (Storey) 2019 for anyone interested. They will bring copies of the book to the presentation. Program will include a slide show and ‘hooting’ lesson!
Let’s plan on arriving between 11:30 and 12 and enjoy lunch together (hopefully outside).  Interns will have planned activities starting at 1030 for those students who would like to arrive earlier.  We will plan to end the day by 2:30 PM.
Please let me know as soon as possible if you will be able to join us.  If not enough people are able to join, we will need to reschedule.  All family and friends are welcome! (Let me know who will be attending so I have an accurate count for the presenter).  
I hope you all have a nice and relaxing weekend.  Stay tuned for a weekly update on class activities and projects a bit later today.
My Best, Kristine

SEPTEMBER 24, 2020

This update includes details about our hike tomorrow; an upcoming Zoom presentation; as well as a brief summary of what we have been learning in some of our classes.
Hike tomorrow, Friday, September 25Let’s plan to meet at 1030 (changed from the original 10:00 time) at the Trailside Museum at 1902 Canton Ave in Milton, MA.  Bring water and a picnic lunch and an extra layer.  I’m thinking we will be back to the bottom by 2-3.  Let me know if the change in time is a problem – I can be there at 10 if necessary to meet anyone who is being dropped off.
Here’s who I have on the list as coming:
Ella and NicholasBen and Sebastian (and mom and dad)Lilah and Kristopher (and dad)KeiraAlex (and dad)
Please let me know if you are coming and not included on the list!
Mitchell College Zoom PresentationFriday, November 6, 2020 at 12 noon.  Colin Brady, Director of External Recruitment and Student Success, as well as current students at Mitchell will talk with us about the programs offered at Mitchell as well as the admissions requirements and application process with a focus on Symbiosis Learning Center students. Please let me know if you will be attending – and the time that works best for you on this day.
Class Update:
Morning meetings – This time gives us an opportunity to check in with each other and share a personal story, project, or thoughts about classes or anything else.  We have been practicing some simple Spanish conversation as well.  Martin Haroutounian has been joining us with an “instrument of the day” and given us a little ethnomusicology lesson on each as well as a brief musical excerpt from a popular song.  


On Tuesday, he brought in a saz (Persian: ساز‎, “to make; to compose”, pronounced [sāz]) and played for us showing us his circular breathing technique.


On Wednesday, he brought in a hulusi (traditional: 葫蘆絲; simplified: 葫芦丝; pinyin: húlúsī), also known as the cucurbit flute and the gourd flute.  It is a free reed wind instrument from China, Vietnam and the Shan State and by the indigenous people of Assam.


Today he brought in a quena (hispanicized spelling of Quechua qina, sometimes also written kena in English).

Earth and Environmental Science (Samantha Rowe)


The first day of class was an introduction to Earth system science and the four interconnected spheres that make up the Earth system. We walked to the pond at Lasell University. This became our study site to observe and infer connections between the different elements of the Earth system contained within the biosphere, atmosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere. There was a great blue heron awaiting us when we arrived. 


Continuing our study of the Earth system, the students annotated a photograph of the pond and its surroundings. They described interactions between elements of the different spheres. We discussed the movement of energy and matter throughout the Earth System.


This class period introduced students to the scientific method, and we discussed how scientists investigate the natural world using a transparent method of inquiry and peer review. We discussed the scientific method in relation to the work of bat scientists studying white nose syndrome, a fungal infection that has threatened bat populations in the U.S.


We continued our study of the Earth system by comparing our study site to other regions. Some specific topics covered included:  Earth’s energy balance, how a change in one element of the Earth systems affects others, the movement of matter between spheres, and the differences between open and closed systems.


We began a new module focusing on climate, weather and the biosphere. Students chose a tree to study to observe and understand the effects of changes in climate on the health and growth of the tree. We discussed the differences between climate and weather, as well as natural climate variability vs. climate change.
3D Design and Printing (Brad Staeben)
In design we approached an in-class project that started with a focus on building using negative space.  This showed the need to plan ahead in many projects and helped students learn or re-familiarize themselves with the most important tools in Tinkercad.
In the printing aspect we have downloaded the slicer for everyone and began showing everyone how to manufacture with the 3d printer. 
Nature Journaling (Kristine Fringer)
The first week of class we spent observing the natural surroundings of our learning center.  Through a combination of sketching, labeling, recording thoughts, and forming questions, we used numbers, words, and drawings to record in our journal what we noticed with our eyes, ears, nose, and touch.  During one of our classes, we each selected leaves from various trees and bushes and sat quietly with our journals to record our observations.  We then placed our leaves in a central area and shared with the class our observations.  Students then tried to guess which leaf was being described.  Next week we will be taking our “compare and contrast” notes on different trees to develop a short essay.  
U.S. History (Katie Marotta)
9/10:-we started to talk about the constitution, asked students if they knew anything about the constitution beforehand. We also spent the first 15ish minutes of class talking about the events of September 11th as the anniversary fell on the day after we had class.
9/15:- We started to go through Article 1 of the constitution which discusses the Legislative Branch. We talked about the Senate and House of Representatives, the requirements to be in Congress, etc.
9/17:We finished Article 1 of the Constitution by discussing the powers of Congress and different things they are able to do under the Constitution. The 17th also marked the anniversary of the signing of the constitution so at the beginning of class we went over some interesting facts about the constitution. 
9/22:- At the beginning of class we talked about the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and watched some videos about her life and talked about her legacy. We then began the second article of the Constitution.

Math in Real Life (Leo Rusinov)Aluminum Foil Boats! Students learned about the math behind buoyancy and why heavy objects can still float. We talked about weight, mass, and density. We calculated (using the metric system) the density of objects given mass and volume, and discussed whether or not they would float in water. The students were given a container with water and a piece of aluminum foil, and tasked to spread out a handful of pennies on the sheet such that it still floated. Then, they were asked to take the same number of pennies and the same sheet, but this time crumple it up into a tight ball – they discovered that even though the mass stayed the same, the volume decreased, so the density increased and it sank. Then they were given another piece of foil and asked to experiment creating a design that holds the most number of pennies…they reflected on what they designed and considered how the shape of the foil (tall sides, short sides, etc.) and the placement of the pennies (spread out, all in one place etc.) affected the buoyancy of their boat. A few students even successfully floated rocks on aluminum foil! 
The Great Egg Drop! We connected last week’s lesson on buoyancy to acceleration and gravity. Students learned about the difference between speed and velocity, as well as the formula to calculate force. We talked about how the gravity on Earth is close to 9.8m/s squared, while on Jupiter, and other planets, it is different. We even talked about how scientists consider gravity when looking for life on other planets. We performed some calculations including figuring out the speed of an object vs time after it is dropped from a building. Then, we talked about how an egg breaks when it is dropped because it cannot withstand the force of impact…so we came up with a few strategies to create a contraption to house the egg that would mitigate the force of impact. Ideas included reducing acceleration (using a parachute), increasing the contact surface area (popsicle stick frame), and absorbing the shock (sponges). Finally, students used various household supplies to create their egg casing, and dropped it from several heights to discover which ideas worked. They were asked to explain their best design and think about why it worked so well. 
Yoga (Mary Walek)
The focus in this class is on the Yamas and Niyamas (the social and personal ethics) within the yogic practice. So far we have talked about the first 3 Yamas – Kindness and Honesty and Nonstealing. 
With each class, we discuss one concept and how we are ideally supposed to practice it in our daily lives. We then have a physical practice, where I incorporate that topic as the theme of the physical practice. For example, with kindness, we focused on not over exerting to the point of discomfort, as well as being aware of how our thoughts can become unkind quickly so that we can reframe them to something more positive. 

Because the math class is so individualized, updates are different for each student.  These will be included on student progress report I will send out in early November, unless requested sooner.
As always, please let me know any questions, thoughts, suggestions, etc!
My Best,Kristine

SEPTEMBER 12, 2020

  • Please visit our website to see our staff and intern bios (if you haven’t seen Facebook updates).  There are a few bios that still need to be added, but will be updated soon!  About Us 
  • I am still in search of a music teacher – I have invited Anna Dushanin to join us this coming Wednesday to see if she might be a good fit. She is a college student who teaches piano and music.  She is full of positive energy and absolutely loves teaching music!  
  • For students enrolled in the 3D Design and Printing class on Mondays and Wednesdays, next week they will be starting to use the 3d printer.  To do that, students will need to install the slicer.  They can do in class, but if you would like to download and install Flashprint before Monday, here is the link:  https://www.flashforge.com/download-center.  If you do not wish to install Flashprint on their laptop, Brad can do the slicing for the student, although they would need to email the file to Brad and would miss out on an important part of the process.
  •  For students who attend Math in Real Life with Leo, he has requested a list of supplies for Tuesday’s activity, the Egg Drop Challenge.  If I had more time, I would have no problem collecting all of the materials, but if I could ask that each student bring in some, any, or all of the following 3 raw eggs and as much raw material as you have, for example:  styrofoam, packing peanuts, coffee filters, paper cups/plates, straws, construction paper, rubber bands, a lot of popsicle sticks (10-15 per student), boxes/cardboard, cotton balls, plastic shopping bags, sponges, string/rope (few feet per student), toothpicks, paper clips, masking tape, “a lot of glue” .. in Leo’s words, “literally anything you have lying around..”  I think if we collect everything in one big box for everyone to share, they can figure it out… I have been collecting recycling and plastic bags and will bring in as much as I can, but anything you can contribute would be appreciated!  
  • We will be closed next Friday, September 18, but will be announcing events, workshops, and activities on future Fridays.  Please let me know if your student(s) has interest in attending September 25, October 9, 16, and/or 23 for a day filled with fun activities, crafts, and games with the interns and other guests, including pizza and music (and a movie on some days).  November dates will be forthcoming. Times will be 10AM – 330/4.
  • In November, I would like to begin a series of virtual presentations from several local college admissions representatives.  These presentations will include an overview of the college and its programs; and importantly, the admission process and requirements.  These will focus on Symbiosis Learning Center students specifically, and how our program meets their requirements.  The colleges that will be presenting include Landmark, Mitchell, Lasell, and MassBay.  Please let me know if you are interested in attending and if Fridays work for your schedule.  We will continue the series throughout December and the new year.  I know that it is early for many of you, but if college is or might be a goal for your child, and you would like some peace of mind that Symbiosis (and/or homeschooling) puts you on the right track, hearing it from college admissions can be validating!

I think that is all for now… please do remind your children to wash their hands throughout the day here at the center.  Besides our masks, it really is the best way for all of us to keep from spreading germs!
As always, I welcome your thoughts, feedback, comments, suggestions…Have a great weekend and I look forward to seeing all of you next week!
My Best,Kristine

AUGUST 28, 2020

Below are some of our class descriptions, including Earth and Environmental Science, Math at Your Level, 3D Design & Printing, Nature Journaling, and Math in Real Life.  The descriptions of Teen Talk, Yoga, History, and Music will be coming soon.  Also below is a list of supplies and other necessities students need to bring to the center on the first day of classes. 


Earth & Environmental Science

Earth and Environmental Science at Symbiosis Learning Center  is a laboratory and project-based course that will explore multidisciplinary scientific principles from biology, chemistry, physics, geology, meteorology, astronomy and others, in order to provide an understanding of the natural functioning of our planet.  Students will study Earth’s four spheres, the lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and atmosphere, and explore the interactions between this intricate system and all living things. Students will delve further into the biosphere, learning about energy resources, major biomes, ecosystems, chemical cycles and the role of living things in ecosystems. We will learn about fundamental ecological concepts and focus on the consequences of human interactions within our environment. In addition to learning about environmental problems, students explore practical alternatives for protecting the environment, moving toward a sustainable future.  This course will help to increase students’ awareness of global environmental issues, as well as their role on a local and global scale.  

Math at Your Level

21 + 22 is 43.  That is a fact, and what is all this new math about?  While 21 + 22 equals 43 is true, there is more than one way to figure out that fact.  You can memorize it.  You can stack the numbers on top of each other.  You could focus on the place values and say 2 tens + 2 tens is 4 tens and 1 + 2 is 3 ones. Together they are 43. You could also build the problem with manipulatives, as some people prefer a visual representation when solving math problems. Everyone’s brain approaches math differently, and there are different ways to solve even the simplest problems.  In the end mathematics is about thinking and puzzling out a path to the answer you need.  When learning mathematics, effort and the process of discovery count more than how fast you get the answer. 

Here at Symbiosis Learning Center we endeavor to find approaches to learning mathematics that fit each student.  What official level the student is at does not matter, as people learn different aspects at different paces.  An area that is particularly frustrating can be touched on, left behind for a while, and circled back to multiple times if need be, until a better learning approach is found or the student simply has that “Aha!” moment.  Conversely, some students may quickly achieve goals in math and require a faster pace. Understanding in the end is what matters, not how fast that understanding happens. 

In this course, we will help each student create an individual plan for their mathematics education and provide the instruction and guidance to support their success along the way. 

3D Design and Printing

In the past you could draw and render in 3 dimensions on your computer screen.  Now you can manufacture your creation right in front of your eyes.  Whether you are looking to replace something that broke around the house, create a one of a kind toy, or a work of art.  The possibilities of 3d printing are both staggering and extremely fun! This class combines learning how to use the software to create 3d designs, as well as learning what is necessary in the designs so that a 3d printer can actually manufacture your creations.  We will encourage personal projects in this class, which will allow the students to create a personal emphasis on engineering or art, whichever path their passion lies.  Symbiosis owns a 3d printer and students will be taught how to use it to manufacture their creations, as well as maintenance for the machine. 

Nature Journaling

This class will broaden and deepen student curiosity, wonder, and attention.  Through a combination of sketching, labeling, recording thoughts, and forming questions and explanations, students will embark on a journey of scientific inquiry and self expression.  Using such prompts as “I notice… I wonder… This reminds me of…” class will focus on recording and reflecting on observations made in nature (a leaf, clouds, grass, flowers, tree, acorn, etc.) The goal will be to sharpen critical and creative thinking skills, build self-confidence, and improve writing skills.  Activities will focus on using metaphors, similes, and descriptive writing and will include poetry, persuasive writing, narratives, descriptive essays, map making, etc.    

Math in Real Life

Hey – have you ever looked around the world and wondered how math is in pretty much everything around us?  Me too!  This course explores real world math applications.  We will look at how numbers, patterns, and relationships show up in everyday life.  The goal is to provide a fun, interactive, and hands-on learning experience for students looking to see how math concepts apply beyond the classroom ranging from paying your bills, to bridge construction, to parachute design, the election process, stock market, and everything in between!”

US History

For the fall of 2020,  students will be studying several different US History topics. To start out the course, students will be studying the US Constitution and be examining different sections and amendments to understand the Constitution. Students will also learn about the US election process, what happens when you cast a ballot, what the Electoral College is and how it works in order to better understand the 2020 election. Another possible topic students will look at this semester is Westward Expansion with an in-depth look at topics such as The Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Oregon Trail, the Mexican American War, Gold Rush, etc. and one final possible topic would be the Cold War which would cover topics such as the Space Race, The Cuban Missile Crisis, etc. And during each class there will be a few minutes set aside to discuss current events that are going on. This will vary depending on what events are going on at the time and student interest.

American Sign Language

In American Sign Language this semester we have been reviewing the alphabet and numbers, as well as colors, foods, animals, and jobs. We have also covered basic ASL grammar and syntax and are working on applying our vocabulary to beginner conversational skills. In class we also discuss Deaf culture in order to ensure a well rounded understanding of the Deaf community and language.

Teen Talk

Welcome to Teen Talk! In this discussion group we will be building connections with one another while exploring various topics. These topics include mental health, forming healthy relationships, developing mindfulness skills, stress management strategies, exploring current events, planning for life after highschool, and much more! The goal of this discussion group is to support one another in a positive light and experience personal growth as individuals and as a collective. The number one rule for Teen Talk is to HAVE FUN! This is YOUR group. Let’s make it memorable! 


  • facemask (Symbiosis can provide one for students who need one)
  • laptop and charger (let me know if you need Symbiosis to provide one for you)
  • fold-up chair and/or blanket for outdoor classes
  • lunch and snacks
  • water bottle
  • yoga mat (if attending)
  • 5 subject notebook
  • journal for Nature Journaling class (can be lined or unlined – unlined may be better for sketching, any size, can also be loose leaf paper in a binder)
  • colored pens and/or pencils for Nature Journaling class
  • pen and pencil and eraser for note-taking and math worksheets
  • book for quiet reading
  • outside classwork that can be done at Symbiosis during independent work time (teachers and tutors available to help)
  • sunscreen and bug spray

If you have not submitted an enrollment form, you can complete one here: Enrollment Form

As always, please be in touch with questions, concerns, and/or suggestions.  

JULY 22, 2020

Keeping everyone safe and healthy and minimizing the risk of virus transmission is our priority. In compliance with Newton Department of Public Health COVID-19 health and safety requirements, we are working closely with the United Parish of Auburndale to implement the safety and precautionary guidelines listed below.

Daily Checks: We will screen all students daily for symptoms, including a temperature check at the entrance. We ask that any student who has symptoms or any risk of being exposed to the virus, stay at home and self-quarantine for 14 days. We will have online options in the event that a student may need to stay home.

Face coverings: All students, staff, and visitors will be required to wear face masks at the center. We will have some classes outside where the mask requirement may be loosened if students are far enough apart from each other. We will provide students with face masks but we ask that students also bring additional personal face coverings.

Social Distancing: Classrooms, offices, hallways, and meeting rooms are being reconfigured to allow for social distancing of at least six feet and in some instances (hallways and some offices and classrooms) no less than 4 feet apart. Our modest enrollment, large open spaces, and access to the outdoors work in our favor. We hope to hold many of our classes and workshops, as well as breaks and lunchtime outdoors whenever possible.

Cleaning and Disinfecting: Our staff and intern team will continue to perform regular intense cleaning of all public spaces. They will consistently disinfect classrooms, common areas, and workspaces to help minimize transmission. Hand sanitizing stations will be installed throughout the center and periodic reminders for hand washing will be announced throughout the day. At the end of the day after all students leave, a cleaning crew will clean and disinfect all classrooms, offices, bathrooms, floors, doors, etc.

We are still working to make sure all guidelines and precautions are in place before the fall. I hope this update on our plans to return to the clean, open, and safe space of our learning center gives peace of mind as families plan for the fall during these unprecedented times.

JUNE 26, 2020

Dear Prospective Families,

I am so very happy (and relieved!) to report that the church has informed me that we are welcome to return to the center in September.  The church administrators and I are currently working together on developing safety procedures to minimize exposure to Covid-19 and keep everyone in the building safe and healthy.  Guidelines will be posted on the website and sent to all families once they have been finalized.

As I work to develop the schedule of classes, I ask that you please confirm Fall enrollment as soon as possible.  Even if you have confirmed verbally or via email, please do complete the enrollment form here:  Enrollment Form.  In the space provided on the form for additional comments, please indicate any requests for a specific class topic.  If you are missing only a few high school requirements and are hoping to graduate this coming academic year, please indicate what those missing requirements are.

Fall classes and days offered, if scheduled:  

Science Math (Mondays and Wednesdays)

3D Design & Printing (Mondays and Wednesdays)

ELA – Nature Journaling (Tuesdays and Thursdays)

Music with Ryan (Wednesdays)

Yoga (Thursdays)

Financial Literacy with Leo (Tuesdays and Thursdays)

Teen Talk It Out

History (World and/or US)

Psychology (Intro or Adolescent)

Art (and possibly Ceramics)

*I am also hoping to start a Dungeons & Dragons group depending on interest. Are you?

Due to public health concerns over the spread of the virus in our shared kitchen, we will not be offering a cooking class this fall.  (We will have plenty of pizza days, however!)

Some other notes:

  • Student updated progress reports should be available in Google folders by July 6.  You will receive an email notification.
  • Ryan Cimon’s summer plans have changed and he will be teaching his music class on Wednesday afternoons beginning July 6 – please let me know if you are interested in participating via Discord.  Class fee depends on the number of students enrolled.
  • We currently have five Lasell students fulfilling their internship requirement with us in the fall!  We love those interns!
  • My hope is to get back into the space by mid-August so that I can offer tours to prospective students.  If you have not done so already,  and if you are so inclined – no pressure 🙂 – I would appreciate if you could take the time to write a review on the website!  These make a difference!  Here is a link for your convenience:  Reviews
  • Once I receive your enrollment form, I will send out an invoice for payment in full by August 14th.  Fees remain the same as academic year 2019-2020 and are as follows:  Part-time is $2,500 per semester.  Full-time is $5,000 per semester.  Additional fees for field trips and some supplies may apply.  If you would like to request a payment plan with the option to pay in installments, please let me know.
  • Classes start on Tuesday, September 8.    

Be on the lookout for more updates and news as we prepare to come back together in September.  

I look forward to seeing all of you! 

My Best,