MS Newsletter March 4th

UNIS Middle School | March 4, 2018

Dear Middle School Community,

I hope that this note finds you well and enjoying this surprisingly dry and pleasant weekend.

On Wednesday, we had the distinct pleasure of welcoming Ruth Westheimer, better known in popular culture as "Dr. Ruth," to speak with our M1 students about her new graphic novel, Roller Coaster Grandma, as well as her experience as a young child in Nazi Germany and her migration to Switzerland, Palestine, France and, eventually, the United States and New York City.

Dr Ruth has led a fascinating life; her selection of the metaphor of a "roller coaster" is apt on many levels. With 100 feet of vigor, energy, charm and wit packed into her diminutive 4'7" frame, she captured and owned the attention of our M1 students at their assembly, but most importantly her words and her story live on in the discussions and reflections that followed.

Born the only child to Orthodox Jewish parents in Wiesenfeld, Germany, she was sent to an orphanage in Switzerland in 1939 on the Kindertransport after her father was taken into custody by Nazi officers. Separated from her parents, she received letters for several years, but lost contact when this stream of communication ended in 1941. Years later, in 1945, she discovered that her parents had perished, possibly at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Her path forward from that traumatic junction is remarkable and an inspiring story of self-advocacy, strength, courage and innovation. She emigrated to Palestine, was trained as a scout and sniper, moved to Paris in 1950 to study and teach psychology, and then on to the United States in 1956 where she eventually earned her Doctor of Education degree from Teachers College at Columbia University. As I know from my own childhood, she then catapulted into the plane of popular culture as a radio and television celebrity discussing intimacy, relationships, and sex education.

Students in M1 are writing letters to Dr Ruth, to thank her not just for her time at school but for fueling their own inspiration and motivation through the engine of her personal narrative. I had the pleasure of reading the student letters prior to the correspondence being dispatched, and also basked in a few moments of their reflections through an interview with Ms. Rosen's Community.

Through these interactions, I was able to marvel not only at Dr Ruth's fascinating story, but also at our students' perception of her, their distillation of lessons learned, and articulation of how this narrative informs their own lives and place in our community and the world.

Aside from their impressions of her vigorous love of life and charming wit (one student described her as "the funniest person he has ever met"), their inspiration from her story is rooted in the admirable qualities of grit, persistence, resiliency and courage. Students universally honed in on the vitality that grit and persistence bring in life, and how often and in such myriad ways these virtues can be can be tested.

A subtle thread that spanned both their writing and personal reflections was that of leadership. Our students think of themselves as leaders, much more than we realize and in different ways than we might expect. The reflection from many students that in Dr Ruth's life journey, demonstrating strength is an admirable personal virtue, but the need to be strong moving forward, so that others can derive strength as well, was particularly touching. One student summarized it perfectly: "We need to be strong not just for ourselves, but for all those that will need to strong, too."

    As we look to the recent and tragic events in Parkland, Florida, we have an opportunity to express strength and to celebrate the virtue of strength with our students. An item of vigorous discussion is the National School Walkout planned for Wednesday, March 14th; this movement was sparked by the student survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but has ignited into a national movement and captured the imagination of students across this nation. On March 14th we will use our extended Community time in the afternoon (12:40-2:00) to engage with some reflective dialogue that empowers students to express solidarity with this movement, but also connect to the larger themes of courage, youth activism and our school's mission of making the world a better place. We are working with student and faculty leaders within the Middle School to design the experience on that day --- additional information will be forthcoming.

    Have a great rest of weekend.


    Chad Fairey
    Middle School Principal

    In this newsletter...

    • Upcoming Dates
    • Student News
    • Parent Events
    • Parent Coffee Dates
    • Harlem Breakfast Bar
    • Music Event: Women in Jazz
    • Musical Instrument Drive
    • Learning in Action
    • Principal's Book Club
    • School of Rock - optional broadway trip for M1 and M2
    • Spring Break Opportunities
    • March 5 - Project Cicero Book Drive Begins
    • March 5 - M2 Camp Info Session; Cafeteria, 6:00-7:00pm
    • March 8 - M3 Storytelling Evening; MS Lounge, 5:00-8:00pm
    • March 8 - Women in Jazz Concern; Theater, 6:30-8:00pm
    • March 9 - Parent Association Meeting; Cafeteria, 8:30-9:30am
    • March 14 - Middle School Parent Coffee; Cafeteria, 8:30-9:25am
      this is a date change due to scheduling conflict
    • March 14 - M4 France Trip Info Session; Cafeteria, 6:00-7:00pm
    • March 15 - MS Parent Class Rep Meeting; Room TBD; 8:30-9:30am
    • March 15 - Deadline for Re-Enrolling for 2018-2019 Academic Year
    • March 17 - First Day of Spring Break
    • April 2 - Classes Resume
    • April 5 - Principal's Book Club; Room TBD, 8:30-9:30am
    • April 5 - M1 Living Museum; M1 Classrooms & Lounge, 1:00-2:30pm
    • April 10 - M1 Camp Info Session; Cafeteria, 6:00-7:00pm
    • April 11 - Middle School Parent Coffee; Cafeteria, 8:30-9:30am
    • April 11-13 - All M2 Students at Camp Greenkill
    • April 18 - M4 Language Trips Info Session; Cafeteria, 6:00-7:30pm
    • April 19 - Parent/Teacher Conferences Begin, 5:00-8:00pm
    • April 20 - Parent/Teacher Conferences, 8:30am-3:00pm
    • April 23 - Parent/Teacher Conferences, 8:30am-3:00pm
    • May 2-4 - All M1 Students at Camp Mason
    • May 2-12 - M4 Language Trips in Costa Rica and France
    • May 5 - International Food and Family Fun Day

    Project Cicero Book Drive at UNIS, March 5-9, 2018

    Project Cicero is a not-for-profit organization whose primary goal is to create and supplement classroom libraries for children in under-resourced New York City public schools through an annual citywide book drive. Project Cicero also puts books into homeless shelters, juvenile detention facilities, community centers, pre and after school programs, and wherever else there is a need. This past year, its 18th year of operation, Project Cicero distributed more than 150,000 books. To date, Project Cicero has placed more than three million books into classrooms and school libraries reaching over 1,000,000 children in under-resourced schools in New York City. More detailed information on the program is available at

    The next all-school Parent Association general meeting will be held on Friday, March 9th from 8:30 am to 9:25 am in the UNIS Cafe in Manhattan.

    A light breakfast will be served. There will also be a live stream to the Queens campus as well as a live stream for parents to log into if you cannot attend in person (parents who cannot attend please join through An agenda will be sent out next week.

    If you have any questions, please email us at

    Minal Patel Sasha Legeros
    PA President (Manhattan) PA President (Queens)

    Teen Discussion on Social Media, sponsored by Common Sense Media

    Join Common Sense for a moderated teen panel discussion on the good, the bad, and the realities of the social media landscape in middle and high school. Hear firsthand from teens about their experiences with social media and their hard-earned advice for parents of younger kids. Learn why kids love social media, where they can run into trouble, and how parents can help them manage.

    Register at

    Raise funds for our school with tickets to NY Int'l Children's Film Fest!

    NY Int'l Children's Film Festival 2018 is just a week away! Start planning now to catch the best new films for ages 3-18. Even better, UNIS earns $3 back for every ticket you purchase!
    Celebrate the best new international films through the Festival's wildly popular short film programs - Short Films One (recommended ages 5-10) and Short Films Two (recommended ages 8-14). Plus, don't miss out on brand new feature films -

    • Opening night: Lu Over the Wall (ages 8+, in English), about a boy whose quiet life in a traditional Japanese seaside town is turned upside-down with the arrival of a mermaid.
    • March of the Penguins 2 (all ages, in English), a special preview of the sequel to the beloved documentary.
    • Belle and Sebastian, Friends for Life (ages 8+, in French with English subtitles), the final film in this beloved series. Don't worry if you haven't seen the first two! This film stands strong on it's own.

    To buy tickets and raise money for UNIS simply:

    1. Go to
    2. Select our school from the "Select My School" Menu on the top of the page (IMPORTANT!!!!)
    3. Purchase tickets

    Voila! Our PA earns $3 of each ticket you purchase!

    Please note that, due to an unknown scheduling issue with another event happening in the Cafeteria on March 7th, the next Middle School Parent Coffee is scheduled for Wednesday, March 14th.

    Also, find below the dates for our upcoming Middle School specific Parent Coffees:

    March 14, 2018
    April 11, 2018
    May 9, 2018

    Congratulations to our team of Middle School chefs, who ran a highly successful Harlem Breakfast Bar for three days last week. The team has decided to make this a regular offering once per month, as an International Breakfast Bar focusing on a national cuisine in each incarnation. Mark your calendars for April 3, 4 and 5 when we go to France!

    Women In Jazz & The UNIS Music Department presents
    Women in Jazz Concert

    Featuring: Allison Miller, Carmen Staaf, Nadje Noordhuis, and Noriko Ueda

    Thursday, March 8th, 2018
    6:30pm (please note this is a time change)

    Suggested Donation $10- All proceeds to benefit the Women in Jazz Organization

    To attend, please RSVP Here:

    For parents of students going on curricular M4 languages trips to either Costa Rica or France, please find below the required forms that must be completed and turned in to the trip leadership within the next few weeks.

    UNIS Travel Abroad Medical Form
    Release of Liability
    Student Behavior Contract
    Parental Authorization Form (for Costa Rica)
    Parental Authorization Form (for France)

    Calling all instruments! The UNIS Adopt-a-Band Club is collecting musical instruments to donate to schools in need. All band and string instruments are welcome (such as trumpets, trombones, flutes, saxes, violins, violas etc.) and can be dropped off at the Music Department. Please contact: Allegra Levy or Mr. Lambert (Senior Wind Ensemble Director) with any questions at Hosted by the UNIS Adopt-a-Band Cl

    M3 and M4 Theatre Students Work with Joe Salvatore

    In connection with students' work in their unit on Character Creation through Ethnodrama, a world leader in the theatrical field of ethnodrama, Joe Salvatore, taught two workshops on his craft and art with the M3 Theatre class. Not only was he impressed with the students' critical thinking and courage in diving into this complicated theatre style, but he invited the class along with the M4 Theatre class to see the world premier of his new play at NYU. Forty-six students saw the play Of a Certain Age, which explored aging and experiences of lifelong performers and entertainers who are now over the age of sixty-five. The students engaged in a talkback with the actors and director after the play, and Joe even invited the students on stage to explore the set and speak with the cast directly.

    Ethnodrama, which the process of using primary sources to create documentary style theatre, comes in multiple forms. From verbatim style ethnodrama, which is the recreation of other people to the most minute and distinctive vocal tics that you may have seen in plays like Fires in the Mirror or The Laramie Project, to political theatre that challenges biases like in Her Opponent.

    M2 Narrative Still Life
    Concepts: Identity, Personal Expression and Composition

    After experimenting with a variety of media including charcoal, colored pencil, graphite, ink and watercolor, M2 artists were asked to choose a media in which to further their exploration. Students brought meaningful objects from their back backs, lockers and homes to the art studio. There, we developed thumbnail sketches and studies of each object in their process journal. Students considered size relationships, angles and light source before deciding upon a final composition.

    Each artwork is a personal narrative communicating a memory or a story about the artist's life.

    Throughout this unit students were encouraged to keep a growth mindset about their drawing skills and abilities as they explored strategies for improving observational sketching and composition.

    For our next Principal's Book Club selection, we will be reading Ana Homayoun's Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World. In discussing goals for writing the book, Homayoun shared a desire to articulate pragmatic strategies to help teenagers:

    • Manage distractions
    • Focus and prioritize
    • Improve time-management
    • Become more organized and boost productivity
    • Decrease stress and build empathy

    buy on Amazon
    buy on Barnes & Noble

    We will meet on Thursday, April 5th, from 8:30-9:30am to discuss the book. I look forward to the conversation!

    2018 International Food and Fun Fair: Ideas for Raffle Prizes Needed!!!

    The raffle is one of the most exciting and fun features of the UNIS annual fair. Our Raffle Committee is looking for ideas for prize items with a focus on the students and family fun. We encourage UNIS parents to find out from their kids what they would want to win so that we can get ideas of what to go after. Also, please let us know if you can help with a contact or securing an item from a particular company. Please reach out to Amy Cohen, Raffle Committee Chair, at with ideas and suggestions by March 1, 2018.

    The drama department is excited to offer M1 and M2 families an optional evening theatre trip to see SCHOOL OF ROCK on Broadway in late May. Details about the discounted tickets and joining this celebratory event are found here. Seats are limited so don't delay!

    Looking for Spring Break Camp opportunities? Join us for i-2 camp at UNIS!
    When: March 19-23, 2018
    Time: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
    Grades: M1-M3
    Cost: $950
    Enroll at