Phoenix Philosophy

Phoenix Philosophy

Founder of the Phoenix School provides a window into the unique and dynamic approach to the academic philosophy behind this K-8th grade school.

You heard it first here on Find out about Phoenix!

Tell us what content you want to learn about next?

Founder of the Phoenix School provides a window into the unique and dynamic approach to the academic philosophy behind this K-8th grade school.You heard it first here on Find out about Phoenix!Tell us what content you want to learn about next?#phoenixfounders Barbara McFall & Betsye Sargent

Posted by The Phoenix School, Salem, MA on Thursday, February 21, 2019

Why We Travel With Students.

Why We Travel With Students.

What is the importance of students doing research for their travel study programs during grades 6th -8th grade?

Join Mistral and James (7th grade) to learn about Phoenix travel program curriculum.

What is the importance of students doing research for their travel study programs during grades 6th -8th grade?Join Mistral and James (7th grade) to learn about Phoenix travel program curriculum.

Posted by The Phoenix School, Salem, MA on Thursday, March 7, 2019

Just How Do We Teach Math and Science During the Week of Thanksgiving?

Just How Do We Teach Math and Science During the Week of Thanksgiving?

At Phoenix we always start Thanksgiving week by cooking, in multi age teams of students ranging from K-8th grade. These connections allow students to learn real life and valuable lessons from the variety of teachable moments.  The Thanksgiving holiday reminds us of the importance of connection – not just with friends and family, but within our school. Phoenix is a family of students, alums, teachers, and friends. Our annual Thanksgiving Feast at school allows us to be able to celebrate together as one large family, connecting current students, with past generations of students.

Our community works together, where teams have to learn collaboration, and older team leaders learn to guide their younger partners through different aspects of cooking, from cutting and peeling apples and potatoes to different measuring terms, like rounded teaspoons versus flat teaspoons. Did you know cooking involves a variety of sciences, math, discovery, taste, textures, team building, real life learning and so much more? Students learn fractions in action, and how they apply to real life situations. During cranberry sauce making, students actively observe the physical changes of cranberries while they are being heated and cooked, and from sour berries to sweet sauce! Even the simple act of cooking can bring feelings from joy to frustration, to exploding taste buds and smells!

Older students learn to lead, guide and share their knowledge, while engaging the younger grades, encouraging them to participate and teaching them how to do certain jobs safely. Younger students are able to fully participate from measuring, to cutting to cooking the food. Students have to learn how to read recipes accurately and follow directions, otherwise their creations might just not succeed! These are real life skills, at all grade levels, and they teach students patience, team building, collaboration, guiding, teaching, and knowing when to lead and when to allow others the spotlight and so much more. All of these skills will transfer into situations students will find themselves in throughout their whole life, from highschool, to college and to their careers.

The students spend two days preparing and cooking a Thanksgiving Feast for our school community. From cooking and cleaning to decorations and dessert all grades are actively involved with creating their feast. On our final day we redesign the school to create one long table for the students, a smaller table for our Alumni visitors and a teachers table. Students are able to learn the dining etiquette of a formal meal, but in a very kid friendly way! By gathering around the table, students are able to share stories of their family traditions and enjoy the feast that they were a part of creating.

This also opens the opportunity for our community to reflect on the things we are grateful for, to find gratitude and begin to think about setting new goals for following year.  And while it is important to recognize the gift of giving to the community, it is also the time to show respect and indifference to each other. Students are given the opportunity to reflect, in a group sharing moment students comment on what they are thankful for. Kindergarteners are often thankful for something in their family, while the older students often reflect on life events or global events that are making them think on a deeper level.  Being thankful for parents is a common theme, from being given the opportunity to go to a school they value to pushing them to grow outside their box, to providing them with a safe home.

Students keep our local shelter, Lifebridge,  in mind and make extra food to donate for their Thanksgiving Feast the following day. Students here are used to giving, helping, volunteering and being thoughtful. From a young age students learn to be mindful and considerate of their peers, their community and to students around the globe. As active members of the EarlyAct Club of the Salem Rotary Club our K-8 students discuss, vote and implement community actions that involve volunteering or donations. The learn early that giving comes in many forms—time, energy, money, goods and services, and more. But all have something in common at their core: they are gifts offered without expectation or implication of repayment, only the desire to create a better future.

Have a safe and grateful long weekend!

The Week of Thanksgiving


Laying Aloft….Lay On

Laying Aloft….Lay On

Excited Phoenix School 6th – 8th graders and teachers heading to Los Angeles, for a week of marine studies at Catalina Island Marine Institute begin their day early at Boston’s Logan Airport. As weary as we are when we reach San Pedro, we find a second wind as we board the brigantine, Exy Johnson to spend the night until we can catch the ferry to Catalina Island in the morning. Sleep is all we want….or so we think.

We do much more than sleep. Exy Johnson’s crew invites us to stow our gear below in bunks, then offers us opportunities to climb aloft on the Irving Johnson, berthed at the same dock. Some of us scramble out on the bowsprit, sitting astride the spar or lounging in the net below. Diving cormorants gulping fish entertain the net-perchers who happily wave to boats passing by. We watch others step out onto the shrouds to climb the ratlines to the top-mast platform 50 feet above the deck. They place their feet and hands carefully as they ascend, clipping in to master the last climb out and over the edge of the platform.

Raya and Devon reflect on their climbs.
Raya: “I can’t do this!” My mind tells me, “You won’t be able to make it to the top!” My heart has other plans, though. Using the last of my dwindling strength, I use my displeased muscles to pull myself onto the deck. What I see below me is worth the climb.”

Devon: I grapple up tarred line, hooking my talons onto thin ratlines. I am like an eagle in his nest. I am loving my time, savouring every second until I call, “Laying low,” and it is time to descend,

With legs hanging over the platform’s edge, our top-men gaze out to sea, over alien-like cranes waiting to load and unload thousands of piled containers, and out to the west, all the way to Catalina Island in the distant haze.
Smiling and waving at each other, some from below, some from above, we let the peacefulness of the sun and sea wash over us and soothe our tiredness.

Soon we “lay low” (descend from above) and pitch in to cook a delicious dinner in our ship’s galley. There is no better meal than one shared on the deck of a 2 masted sailing vessel with the sun setting in the distance, painting the sky a brilliant orange.
After dinner we gather at the helm to share our writing with the crew and then Ken brings seine twine to our bunk area ready to teach us how to make a monkey fist knot to hang around our necks. One by one, Phoenix kids succumb to the long day and its adventures, and turn into their berths to dream of our first day “at sea.”

Marine Critters: Microscopic to Enormous

Marine Critters: Microscopic to Enormous

Morning comes too soon for some of us after being rocked to sleep aboard the Exy Johnson last night, but we must catch our Catalina Island ferry where we hope to see our first sea creatures….and we do. Dolphins swim alongside and grey whales spout in the distance as we ride along in sunshine on calm seas.

On Catalina we clamber over slippery rocks covered with red algae (plocamium) called sea carrot. Anyone feeling a bit hungry takes a nibble, describing the taste as “a carrot in soy sauce.” We are in search of Pacific sized tide pools to catch eels and octopuses and anything else we can study without endangering. We drop our “hooks” (binder clips) into teeming tide pool waters and hope for good luck. In the beginning we are a bit grossed out with the fish bait, but soon we become old hands at handling and baiting our fish clips, anxious to collect specimens for study.

CIMI eels are sneaky and strong. One was as long as James was tall. They steal our bait, but drop off of our hooks before we can get them into our collecting pail. We can see their fangs as they try to get our bait by biting the fish right off the clip. One swims right over Mike’s foot, easily escaping our grasp. Even a bright orange garibaldi tries to steal our bait.

An octopus wraps around the fish bait at the end of our line. We know we have it because it caresses the bait with its arms, but when we pull it up it must realize that something is “fishy” and lets go. Octopuses are smart so it knew something was up and did not attempt to grab our bait again.

We tuck in Algae and Invertebrate Lab before dinner, getting an up close and personal with green, red, and brown algae. We meet sea stars, sea hares, sea urchins, sea anemone, an octopus, nudibranchs, lobsters, and other tide pool dwellers, which we now can see long enough to study and draw. There are abalone shells like the live one we saw stuck tightly to a rock in the tide pool so we can admire the beautiful inner shell’s glistening metallic, pinks and purples.

Moonshine reflects on the calm waters of Toyon Bay at the end of our first day at Catalina Island Marine Institute. Even though we are tired and full of learning from our day’s adventures, we linger with TJ, our Cimi teacher, in the Marine Mammal Hall where we study skeletons of seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins, walrus, and all manner of marine life. Devon becomes a toothed whale and Anna (assisted by Ella) becomes a baleen whale. Simulating how toothed whales eat, Devon may only devour one Cheerio (squid in real life), using only his teeth, at a time. As our baleen whale, Anna and Ella may slurp up as many tiny Cocoa Krispies as possible, but must spit out the milk before swallowing the tiny food morsels on which they live. Our results suggest baleen whales have the advantage. Anna and Ella consume more than Devon suggesting that baleen whales might have the advantage in the wild.

We stroke a velvety sea otter pelt and can finally truly understand why Russians and Aleuts came to the Channel Islands in the early 1800s and took thousands of pelts. Sea otters have 1 million hairs per each square inch of their pelts. Magically, at the end of the evening we even become seals and sea lions to demonstrate how they move. We are mother and baby seal lions calling to each other to simulate the cacophony of a seal rookery…even louder than a pack of Phoenix kids having fun. It must be bedtime!