Doing Science

At Seabury, students are scientists, historians, mathematicians, writers, etymologists, linguists, and engineers. We don’t just learn about subjects, we actively engage in them. A great example of this is our current study of geology. Instead of reading about glaciers in a book, we’ve been taking field studies to Mount Rainier and observing rock formations with Dr. Claire Todd, a professor at PLU.

This week, we had the opportunity to go to the PLU campus for lunch and field work with Dr. Todd.


Students eating lunch in the University Center

After lunch, we made our way to the Rieke Science Center, where Dr. Todd showed us maps of the Pacific Northwest, and how glaciers had affected the region. We found where Seabury was in the Puget Sound and what would have happened if we were around when the ice sheet covered the area. We discussed geologic sorting and how glaciers don’t sort rock like rivers and lakes do.IMG_5902


After that, we headed outside to really do some geological research. PLU has a pit that’s used by the geology department to study rocks in the area. Our students made observations on how we could tell glaciers were once in the area using geological clues.

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Here are the observations they came up with:

  • Most of the rocks are smooth, which is evidence of glacial erosion.
  • There was no rock sorting like you’d see in places with rivers and lakes. Glaciers are unique in that they don’t sort rocks by size, like rivers and lakes do. You can see this in the layers of rocks in the pit.
  • There were scratches on the rocks, which is evidence of glacial erosion.
  • Most of the rocks were the same type.
  • Most of the rocks were faceted with rounded features.

Dr. Todd also mentioned that most of the rocks were the same type that you would find in Canada, which is more evidence that they were brought down by glaciers.

Dr. Todd then showed us a faceted, glacial rock and students hypothesized theories about why it was so uniquely shaped. They came to the conclusion that because the tops of glaciers move faster than the bottom, the rock would flip and then get smoothed out again and again, which gave it its faceted shape. They then named the rock Clarence (they are still middle schoolers, after all).

It was a great opportunity for our students to really do science, and we thank Dr. Todd for all of her expertise and help!

New Space and Science Update

Whoa! The new space has been working out beautifully this week! The new classroom is quiet and cozy and set up perfectly for learning. The new Math room is quieter and larger and enclosed. There’s still a bunch of unpacking to do, mainly with the library and in the student lounge, and we’ll get to that in the coming couple of weeks.

Students worked on a challenging and fun Science activity this week. We’ve been studying plate tectonics and where the continents have been in the past. This week students worked on figuring out, based on the current information we have about how fast and what direction the continents are currently moving, where the continents will be in 100 million years. There was a lot of math and a lot of complex problem solving involved in this lesson, as students used the raw data and maps available to make the conjectures.



Each quarter, we poll the students on their interests and have them brainstorm enrichment classes they would like to take. This year, they came up with quite a few good ideas like, entomology, astronomy, ancient history, and book club. After much deliberation, we decided on cryptozoology, film club, and debate. We had students rank them in order of interest, and last week, we started on our electives cycle for this quarter.




In debate, we’ve been researching debate topics such as “Democracy is the best form of government”, “We should only use solar energy”, and “Students under the age of 14 should not be allowed to use Facebook.”
We’ve been discussing why it’s important to have evidence backing up your arguments and why it’s important to be able to see both sides of an issue.
This Monday, students did their first Lincoln-Douglas debate style about whether or not kids should be able to use Facebook. They did a great job and came up with compelling arguments!
Check back soon to see what the other electives have been up to.

Why Your Kids Are at Seabury

It’s been a busy week here at the middle school! The highlight was Monday when we spent the day up at Mt. Rainier with Dr. Claire Todd, a glaciologist and professor at Pacific Lutheran University. We met Dr. Todd up at Paradise and hiked up to a spot where we had a beautiful view of the Nisqually Glacier on the mountain. There we talked about how glaciers grow in the winter and shrink in the summer, made a bunch of observations about how and where they pick up rocks as they move, learned a bunch of new vocabulary, and noted the difference between peaks that had been shaped by glaciers like the mountain and the peaks 180 degrees from the mountain that haven’t and are therefore still very jagged. After eating lunch at the visitor’s center, we drove down to an access point where we could hike down to the Nisqually River. Here we found evidence that the glaciers on Mt. Rainier were once much, much larger and noted the effects of river flooding on the landscape. It was an amazing day, and really this is exactly why your kids are at Seabury. This would not be possible at other schools! In the coming weeks, we’ll meet with Dr. Todd again at PLU and hear her lecture about how the Washington landscape has been shaped by glaciers.


Learning about the Library and Makers’ Space

One of the things that we’re pretty proud of at the middle school is that we use the resources in our community as supplements to our program. This not only allows our students to form a greater connection to their community (something that’s important for middle schoolers), but also broadens the resources that are available to them.

We use the Tacoma Public Library a lot throughout the year for research, students’ personal reading, and extension activities in Social Studies and Science. This week, we were lucky enough to get a tour of the library from the Teen Librarian at the Tacoma Public Library. Ms. Holloway showed the middle schoolers how to work the library’s catalog system and narrow their search to find what they need, went over the myriad of resources available online, and gave us a tour of the Northwest Room and some of the unique features of the library. For example, did you know that they have a time capsule of human hair that will (hopefully) be opened in the year 3000? That way, civilization in the year 3000 will have a genetic record of us.

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This week, we were also able to go to the Lower School campus to use their newly created Makers’ Space! This is an area filled with odds and ends that students can tinker with and put together. Makers’ spaces encourage engineering, creativity, and spacial awareness. We had students create miniature zip-lines, futuristic looking vehicles, and some beautifully decorated flower pots. Middle schoolers are also allowed to use basic tools, and it turns out we have some stealth woodworkers in the group!

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First Full Week and Some Exciting News

We’re incredibly lucky that Dr. Claire Todd, a glaciologist from the Geosciences department at PLU, has agreed to work with us over the course of this semester. We’ll be heading up to Mt. Rainier in a couple weeks to talk to her about glacier basics– how they form, how they move, etc. This will be the first in a series of talks with her about glaciers and how they’ve shaped the Washington landscape. Super excited about this. More info soon!

As a part of our PNW Earth Sciences unit this semester, we’ve also been tracking the world’s daily earthquakes over 4.7 and marking them on a map. We’re using this website: The hope is that after doing this for a month or so, we’ll be able to see the Ring of Fire and other major fault systems. On a normal day, there are usually around a dozen 4.7 or greater earthquakes to map. But because of the 8.3 earthquake in Chile and all its aftershocks, yesterday there were over 50 to map!


This was our first full week for the school year, and it was a busy one! We started Math groups. Mr. G is taking Algebra and Geometry students, and Caitlin is taking everyone else. Caitlin made a nifty comic book-style expectations sheet for Math this year:


Today was also the first lesson from Ms. Head, our new Art teacher. The subject was how photography changed Art and the world, and today’s lesson was on realist art before photography. Cool stuff!

Camp Colman 2015!


And we’re back from camp! What a trip! When we first arrived on Wednesday, students learned about all of the energy that goes into growing, producing, shipping, and cooking their food and why it’s important not to waste food. This continued throughout the trip, with students trying to get “zero ort (scraps of food)” at each meal. The middle schoolers met that challenge head on, and we had several cabins that had zero food waste during the week!

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One of the primary reasons we go to camp at the beginning of the school year is so we can build a healthy community between students and teachers, and so students can work on problem solving together. Because of this, we had students complete many team-building activities together, where they worked on communication, grit, and cooperation. It was so interesting seeing their different solutions to the challenges they were given!

Students also got to participate in traditional camp activities like archery, the ever popular Gaga Ball, boating, and arts and crafts. We also were able to go on a night walk with the Camp Colman counselors, where we learned about nocturnal night life, experienced echo-location, and watched a beautiful sunset over the Sound. We ended the week with a lesson on Pacific Northwest Geography, and a couple rounds of  “Jedi Tag”. It was a great week!

We were sharing photos throughout the week on Instagram, so be sure to check out @seaburyschool to see more photos!

Also, look for more photos on the blog this week! (Your blogger was having some technical difficulties at press time)