Seniors visit UVA observatory

Margaret and Maggie accompanied the seniors on a trip to the historic Leander McCormick Observatory at UVA. Students were able to take what they had learned in science and thoughtfully apply it to questions and answers regarding space exploration and the possibility of reaching Mars someday. As was pointed out by UVA Astronomy Professor, Ed Murphy, it is believed that the first astronaut to reach the red planet is being “trained” in middle school right now.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A hike to Lower Shamokin Falls

The Middle School hiked to Lower Shamokin Falls today with Maggie and Margaret. The class has been studying streams. They explored the lower part of the Stoney Creek earlier this month and learned about the organisms and animals that live there (see the post below from October 6th). Today’s trip was to see the mountain origins of the creek. Included are three group photos because everyone somehow smiled at different times.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Native American life

At Friday assembly, Charlotte and the Juniors provided an overview of Native American life as it was lived over 500 years ago from the Northeast, across the Mississippi River, to the Northwest. The students built models and wrote stories incorporating animals from the region, crops, and customs. The audience was also treated to a saxophone solo.

Stream monitoring in Afton

Over the last two weeks, Maggie’s middle school science students visited Stoney Creek in Afton to participate in a fall stream survey. This included taking measurements of the stream characteristics–width, depth, temperature, streambank composition–as well as including a survey of the biotic (living) members of the stream community, macroinvertebrates. Students jumped right in, wading into the cold water to unfurl the collection nets. They sorted through pebbles and mud to find and identify wriggling lifeforms that they had previously researched in class. Maggie will take the middles schoolers back to do another round on stream monitoring in the spring when the macroinvertebrates will be more plentiful. An interesting note on this project, between Thursday, 9/25 and Thursday, 10/2, the width of the stream was a full 2 meters wider, about 15 cm deeper, and much more active. It was astonishing to see the effect that all of this recent rain has had!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1st Annual Dragon Dash 5K & Fun Run/Walk


CONGRATULATIONS to all who braved the rain to participate in the 1st Annual Dragon Dash 5K & Fun Run/Walk on Saturday, October 3. A BIG THANK YOU to our Dragon Dash Sponsors:  Registration Table – Mosaic Yoga  Food Table – Relay Foods  Race sponsors: Becerra Lawncare, Integrative Health Center –, Jim Duncan at,, and Trager Brothers Coffee

Top 3 Overall Finishers:

Male:  Andrew Neils, Joe Hawkes, Roberto Priani

Female:  Kristin Krop, Jessie Hudson, Ellen Graap Loth

More race photos are on the North Branch School Facebook page:


Dragon Dash update

We ARE planning on having the Dragon Dash this morning.  The rain is supposed to taper off by 8am and drizzle for the start of the race!
Please wear layers  to stay warm!  Hats and gloves, especially for kids, are a good idea too.  Also, remember to bring clothes to change after you are done with the race.  There are restrooms at the school to change clothing.  Looking forward to seeing everyone soon.

Breakin’ down Lockn’

North Branch School was well-represented once again by a group of volunteers at this year’s Lockn’ Festival in Nelson County. As festival-goers visited the school’s booth, they were able to see and hear about what the school has to offer and in turn, place a pin on a map showing the city, state, and even country from which they came. At last Friday’s assembly students got the opportunity to combine math and geography and come up with some statistics for the festival.

Joan of Arc on trial

Joan of Arc went on trial today at school. After the prosecution and defense had opportunities to question witnesses, the jury of 5th and 6th graders deliberated and found Joan innocent. She was found not guilty on counts of heresy and treason. Katrien said “The Seniors voted 21 – 5 “not guilty” on both counts.  They were definitely persuaded that Charles VI was insane when he signed the treaty, and that his wife should not be trusted, so they were very comfortable throwing out the whole treaty.  They were also surprisingly comfortable saying that Joan was led by God, so the acts she committed were excusable.  They didn’t really say what convinced them that she was led by God; they just seemed willing to trust that point.”

Katrien’s middle school students spent three weeks preparing for the trial. She has been doing these trials since 1993-94. Katrien explained: “The trial also mimics beautifully many other experiences students will have, such as trying to prepare for a big test and having to answer questions they knew were coming as well as those they did not know were coming.  We’ll work a lot this year on how to answer a question you think you don’t know the answer to.”

From today’s handout: “In this courtroom, Joan is charged with heresy and treason, Both charges have ample evidence on both sides, which is what makes this trial so interesting. The charge of “heresy” accuses Joan of faking her religious zeal, alleging that she was not led by God, but rather was at best a liar and at worst a sorceress. The charge of “treason” accuses Joan of fighting against the true king of France…the trial also symbolizes an important moment in European history, when being “French” became more important than being loyal to the official king. To many historians, Joan of Arc’s trial is closely linked to the decline of feudalism and the rise of European nation-states.”