Cardigan Mountain School A boarding and day school for boys in grades 6 through 9
Habits of Learning for All Cardigan Students

Habits of Learning for All Cardigan Students

By Emily Magnus, Editor

Habits of Learning

The Cardigan classroom defies simple descriptors, refusing to be defined by one teaching method or philosophical model. Rather, each Cardigan classroom is different, determined by teachers, students, lessons, and countless other variables. Wander the halls of the academic buildings and in one room you might see students preparing for a simulated town hall meeting during which they will debate the pros and cons of single-use plastics. In another classroom, students might be working out math problems on individual whiteboards, or participating in literature circles, or deciding where on campus it would be best to install a butterfly habitat. Other classrooms might even be empty, the students spilling out into the hallway to test their Pinewood Derby cars or Gates prototypes. And outside you might find still other students, observing the campus’s natural ecosystem and gathering data for a lab experiment, heads bent in tight clusters over samples dredged from the bottom of Canaan Street Lake. The lessons are as varied as the individual teachers and students and learning objectives. 

There’s one thing, however, that remains consistent: Cardigan’s Habits of Learning. Cardigan’s Habits of Learning establish the foundation for every lesson—whether it’s a beginning Spanish lesson on vocabulary, an advanced algebra lesson on logarithms, or an elective art class on digital photography. While sometimes overt and the focus of a lesson, other times the Habits of Learning are more subtle, providing a backdrop for more complex topics. In this article, we share with you just a few lessons in which Cardigan boys will engage during their time on The Point and how the Habits of Learning become a part of every classroom experience.

Mythology: If You Hear Something, Say Something


GRADE: All Levels
TEACHER: Cooper Hemphill
HABITS OF LEARNING: Growth Mindset, Critical Thinking

Once a week Mr. Hemphill includes a mythology day in his curriculum, sharing stories from ancient mythology that use guiding Latin sentences and demonstrate the grammar the students are learning. 

“As we read through the ancient stories,” says Mr. Hemphill, “I encourage my students to speak up, and even interrupt me, if they see or hear an injustice in the story.”

Take, for example, the story of Phaethon, in which Phaethon, son of Phoebus, wishes to confirm his parentage and asks his father for the privilege of driving the sun chariot for a single day. Phaethon cannot control the horses and drives the chariot too close to the earth, burning it, and too far from it, freezing it. After many complaints from the stars in the sky and the earth itself, Jupiter strikes Phaethon with one of his lightning bolts, killing him instantly. Phaethon's tale was commonly used to explain why inhabitable lands (such as hot deserts and frozen wastelands) exist, and why certain peoples have darker complexions.

“We discuss how at the time Romans didn’t understand how deserts work, and so they created an assumption based on the logic of the time,” says Mr. Hemphill. “Then we can talk about how harmful misinformation can be when it gets spread around as fact, especially in a population that didn’t have any different explanations to turn to. My hope is that in addition to developing students’ understanding of the Latin language, our discussions about the ancient world will help them notice some of the subtler injustices that are pervasive in today’s society.”

Art Activism

Art Activism

SUBJECT: Visual Arts
TEACHER: Nina Silitch P’19,’21
HABITS OF LEARNING: Growth Mindset, Critical Thinking, Communication, Creativity

“Remember: People take action and make decisions based on emotion above all else,” reads the eighth-grade art assignment. “And studies have shown that art impacts our emotions. Use this to your advantage in your artwork.”

This assignment asks students to choose an important social issue, research that topic, and create a piece of art that expresses a clear position through visual symbolism and ideas. This fall, the students’ projects included pieces on depression, gun violence, pollution, the pandemic, child soldiers, the separation of families divided between North and South Korea, and much more. In their accompanying written artist statements, students not only shared what they learned about their chosen issue but also explained their artistic process and any setbacks they had to overcome.

“I wanted to illustrate the realistic ways people act when they confront COVID, and among those, I wanted to emphasize that in front of the deadly disease, fighting and arguing do not help. Although I drew a dystopia where the world has fallen due to COVID, the message I wanted to send was that we cannot succeed in the pandemic if we fall apart. As many social issues arose with the discovery of COVID, like racial issues and some political conflicts, I thought that it was important to emphasize that we should all become one, and fight together.” Sunghoon “Willy” Park ’23

Monarch Butterfly Habitat Installation: Which Company Does It Best?

Monarch butterfly

SUBJECTS: Science and Humanities
TEACHERS: Pat Kidder and Amy Kreuzburg P’14,’17
HABITS OF LEARNING: Coexistence, Critical Thinking, Communication, Creativity

In a simulated study, Cardigan Mountain School receives recommendations from five different companies for butterfly habitats on campus. Sixth graders are first tasked with understanding the needs of the Monarch butterfly––life cycle, food sources (throughout life), predators and environmental dangers, and habitat requirements. Then, in groups, students assess the companies’ proposals, developing maps of the proposed sites. Finally, each group creates a slideshow to present their findings to Cardigan administrators.

“In addition to learning about Monarchs and developing their mapping skills,” explains Ms. Kidder, “the students practice interpersonal skills––communicating with the other members of their team, setting team goals, understanding each other's strengths in order to assign reasonable tasks and deadlines, scheduling meetings outside of class, and creating a visual and verbal presentation together.”

PEAKS students work with Mr. Caprow

The Academic Toolbox: An Ideal Learning Environment

TEACHER: Jarrod Caprow
HABITS OF LEARNING: Self-Awareness, Ownership, Creativity

This assignment requires students to think critically about the ways in which they learn best. After reflecting on all of the classroom environments to which they have been exposed, they are asked to create an illustration of their ideal classroom-learning environment. They need to consider how the classroom is arranged, what technology and resources are available, and what other features are needed to make it an ideal space in which to learn.

“While we can’t always provide students with their ideal learning environment at all times, it’s important for students to understand how they learn best and what they need to be successful here at Cardigan, and more importantly, at their next school,” says Mr. Caprow.

Drama students in class

The Slap

SUBJECT: Performing Arts
TEACHER: Jeff Good
HABITS OF LEARNING: Growth Mindset, Self-Awareness, Communication, Ownership, and Creativity

“I find that our boys are less intimidated by the physical nature of theater (movement) than the vocal nature of the art (song and dialogue),” says theater teacher Mr. Good, “so one of the foundational elements of my theater arts courses is learning a physical routine invented by the Russian director Svelod Meyerhold.” 

Meyerhold took ordinary physical actions such as “the slap” or “throwing a stone” and broke them down into 20 or so moves. Mr. Good’s students start by learning the moves in the correct order, looking for patterns, and then using their imagination to form images and narratives to assist in achieving muscle memory; then they begin to assess their execution of the moves in terms of performance skills such as expressiveness, precision, and rhythm. 

“We video their routines three times during the term,” Mr. Good continues, “and boys become more self-aware of their performances each time. By the end of the term they begin to concentrate on perfecting small details of specific moves and are acutely aware when a performance, either theirs or one of their peers, nails it.” 

Goodreads Capstone Project

Goodreads Capstone Project

SUBJECT: English
TEACHER: Marten Wennik P’15,’16
HABITS OF LEARNING: Self-Awareness, Critical Thinking, Communication, Ownership

Each year, Mr. Wennik chooses a theme for his ninth-grade English class; this year it was “American Beauty,” how Americans view themselves and how others around the world view Americans. In the fall, students began by reading short essays; in the winter they read several novels: Montana 1948 by Larry Watson, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, The Mothers by Brit Bennett, and The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh. In the spring, for their capstone projects, students got to select a book of their own, read it independently, and then teach the book to their classmates, leading a discussion on its connection to the class theme. 

Throughout the year-long intellectual journey, students reflect on what they are reading at, an online community for readers. On average students submit nine Goodreads reflections per book, as well as a final book review, which adds up to a lot of reading and writing over the course of the year.

“The reflections can’t just be plot summaries but require students to write about their emotional and intellectual responses to what they are reading,” says Mr. Wennik. “Their responses directly influence what we discuss in class and also give them a chance to think about their online presence and how to build a positive digital identity.”

Student launching a rocket

Building Rockets: Testing the Laws of Physics

SUBJECT: Science
TEACHER: Rory Germain
HABITS OF LEARNING: Coexistence, Critical Thinking, Communication

In this project, students build and launch pneumatic rockets. They begin with a research phase in which they explore the different design choices they can make in the construction of their rockets, ultimately narrowing their focus to one independent variable that they will manipulate to impact the dependent variable––the distance traveled by the rockets. Working in groups, the students set team goals, using each other's strengths to assign reasonable tasks and deadlines and schedule meetings outside of class. Students are expected to apply content knowledge from previous units on acceleration, Newton's Laws, and the other laws of physics. In the final phase, students launch their rockets across Marrion Field, collecting data and explaining their results in lab reports.

Business Letters and the Decorating of a Classroom

Business letters

SUBJECT: English
TEACHER: Alex Gray H’14, P’14,’16
HABITS OF LEARNING: Communication, Creativity

When Mr. Gray’s eighth-grade students enter his classroom on the first day of classes, they encounter bare, cement-block walls, painted an uninspiring shade of off-white. Their first assignment is to acquire decorations. The only hitch is that students must write to companies and receive the decorations for free. 

“Students learn about the specific and formal writing style of a business letter as well as how to write persuasively so that the person receiving the letter is compelled to respond,” explains Mr. Gray.

Over the years, students have written to The Pope, professional sports teams, athletic equipment manufacturers, colleges, auto and cycling companies, fashion designers and retail companies, the NH State Police, and the Marine Corps. In return they have received dirt from Fenway Park, a warm up suit from the LA Lakers, hockey sticks used during professional games, signed posters and flags, hockey pucks, and hot dogs. Acceptance as well as rejection letters are also posted on the walls.

Students doing field research

Field Research: Understanding Cardigan’s Forest Biome

SUBJECT: Science
TEACHERS: Pat Kidder and Amy Kreuzburg P’14,’17
HABITS OF LEARNING: Growth Mindset, Critical Thinking, Creativity

In the fall students learn about the habitats of various animals and explore the woods around the Cardigan campus. Practicing their observation skills, they look for tracks, scat, and any other evidence of the creatures that inhabit The Point. Then, with the help of a motion-activated camera, students confirm their observations with footage of the animals they are studying. This year, with the help of bait––sliced apples, chunks of pumpkin, and eventually the carcass of a beaver––students captured footage of squirrels, deer, rabbits, and a lone weasel. The project continued through the winter and spring, and the boys recorded where different animals can be found around campus on a map. While building their understanding of the biological needs of living beings, students also learn to see themselves as scientists, asking questions about the world around them and seeking answers through scientific research, both written and experiential.

Science student working in the lab

Murder and a Meal Mystery Lab

SUBJECT: Science
TEACHERS: Melissa Escalante P’20,’22 and Meredith Frost P’25, Science Department Co-Chairs
HABITS OF LEARNING: Coexistence, Critical Thinking, Communication

This laboratory investigation involves several phases, the first of which focuses on developing students’ knowledge of biochemistry and nutrition and how to use indicator testing in the laboratory to analyze food for the presence, or absence, of biomolecules. Their first lab is the "Junkfood Jamboree" in which students test common snack items for the presence of important macromolecules––carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. Next, they test the stomach contents of a mock murder victim, using forensic science to determine the location of the victim’s last meal. Analysis of data and applied research is a major milestone in this project, requiring the use of strong critical thinking as they solve the mock murder mystery.

Plastic bottles

Grappling with the Impact of Plastics

SUBJECTS: Science, History, PEAKS, English
TEACHERS: Cheryl Borek P’10,’12,’15, Austin Cabot, Doug Clark, and Chris Kenny 
HABITS OF LEARNING: Coexistence, Critical Thinking, Communication

In this multi-disciplinary project, students learn the geopolitical, chemical, and environmental impact of plastics. They first face questions about how their own bodies may be adversely affected by the chemistry of plastics, and then they also grapple with the historical, economic, social, and political ramifications of the plastics industry. The project begins with research on the synthetic chemicals found in plastics, providing students with the basic knowledge from which they can evaluate the effects of petrochemicals and create persuasive presentations in collaboration with their peers. Divided into groups, the boys take on the persona of a fictional character who lives in the town of Plasticville––an unemployed worker, for example, or a surfer who is an environmental activist––and then present their case, pro or con, to the “city council” that is seeking to ban single-use plastic bags. Part of their grade is dressing the part, so during the day of the town meeting, activist surfers and Dow chemical execs can be found walking around campus.


The Making of a Monologue: Illuminating an Idea, a Fictional Character, or a Real Person

SUBJECT: Humanities
TEACHERS: Meg Lloyd and Rich MacDonald
HABITS OF LEARNING: Critical Thinking, Communication, Creativity

In this end-of-year assignment, students reflect back on all the characters––historical and fictional––they have met and the ideas they have encountered throughout the year. Guided by open-ended questions of their own creation, students then choose one character or idea to research in more depth and develop a main message that they want to convey in a monologue. Before writing their scripts, students practice “being” their characters during an open mic performance, experimenting with their costumes and mannerisms to determine how best to portray their characters. As a culmination for the project, students dress in character and present their monologues to their classmates.

Student artwork

All Are Welcome

SUBJECT: Visual Arts
TEACHER: Nina Silitch P’19,’21
HABITS OF LEARNING: Growth Mindset, Self-Awareness, Coexistence, Critical Thinking, Communication, Creativity

In this art project students consider what makes them feel welcome and the ways in which they can make sure others feel welcome. Students learn about the work of artists Suzanne Kaufman, Carmen Lomas Garza, Kadir Nelson, Stephanie Boutari, Adrienne Gelardi, Karen Anderson Singer, and K.R. Santhana Krishnan. Then the students create their own works of art, keeping in mind the eight Artist Habits of Mind: Develop Craft, Engage and Persist, Envision, Express, Observe, Reflect, Stretch and Explore, and Understand the Art World. When their projects are complete, students compose artist statements that consider the skills they are developing, the challenges they had to overcome during the creative process, the connections they hope to make with their viewers, and the areas they want to explore next.

“Every time I walk in the door, there is always someone inside who always gives a warm welcome with much tail banging and body wagging. When looking at my work I am trying to convey that if you are ever worried, there’s always going to be a dog or any other pet out there who any time they see you will be full of joy. I wanted to paint my dog because he is what I think of when I hear the word welcome.” Amanuel “Mano” Levine ’23


Math of the Hunga Tonga Volcano

GRADE LEVEL: Eighth and ninth
TEACHER: Morgan Wilkinson
HABITS OF LEARNING: Growth Mindset, Critical Thinking, Creativity

“Nobody is born knowing math,” says math teacher Morgan Wilkinson. “It is something everyone has to learn, like walking or talking.” For Mr. Wilkinson that means not only teaching mathematical skills but incorporating lots of practice on number sense and creative thinking. Take for example, the connections he made between math and the eruption of the Hunga Tonga Volcano in December 2021. 

“We watched a news report, read an article, and then discussed relevant mathematics concepts,” he says. “My Algebra I students discussed how to measure sound waves to predict how long they will take to reach various points around the earth (distance = rate * time), while my Algebra II students made connections between the Richter scale and their knowledge of the logarithmic scale; and my Pre-Calculus students talked about the resulting tsunamis and how accurately predicting and measuring them (using trigonometric wave functions) can help officials give advance notice to seaside communities around the world.”

Justice statue

Manifest Destiny on Trial

SUBJECTS: PEAKS and Humanities
GRADE: Seventh
TEACHERS: Rich MacDonald, Jarrod Caprow, and Meg Lloyd
HABITS OF LEARNING: Coexistence, Critical Thinking, Communication, Creativity

When the U.S. assistant to the associate undersecretary for historical perspective learns of the seventh grade’s research into Manifest Destiny, he writes to ask that they put Ms. Destiny on trial and determine whether she is good or bad. Students are assigned roles from historical figures––Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson––to common citizens––a white female Quaker from Pennsylvania, an indigenous member of the Blackfoot tribe, an environmental scientist from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault––to members of the press. Prior to the trial, students conduct research and write persuasive essays that accurately reflect the varied perspectives of the people they represent, as well as present clear, convincing, and compelling arguments in support of or in opposition to Manifest Destiny. During the trial, witnesses are called before a committee for questioning, and then the committee determines whether Manifest Destiny’s legacy is good or bad.     

“Every year the verdict is different!” says humanities teacher Mr. MacDonald. “Because the boys are playing characters, how Manifest Destiny fairs depends on who is arguing in her defense. Having said that, after years and year of doing this activity, the boys don’t remember the verdict, they just remember how much fun they had and are grateful for the practice researching.” 

Students launching paper airplanes

The Great Paper Airplane

TEACHER: Kyla Joslin
HABITS OF LEARNING: Critical Thinking, Communication

Students begin this unit by learning how to collect statistical data, starting with the formation of a question that results in variable answers. For example, “How old am I?” is not a statistical question, but “What are the ages of the students in the classroom?” is.

Then the fun begins: developing a paper airplane and creating three different prototypes out of three different weights of paper. Students then take their research outside, measuring their airplanes’ horizontal flight. With the resulting data, students learn about mean, median, and mode and develop different kinds of graphs including box plots, histograms, line pots, dot plots, and scatter plots.


Macbeth Today

SUBJECT: English
TEACHER: Nicholas Nowak
HABITS OF LEARNING: Critical Thinking, Communication, Creativity

After listening to Shakespeare’s Macbeth and completing close readings for each act, students are asked to select one of the following prompts:

  • GENDER ROLES: How do values of manhood differ in modern times? What do you think it takes to be a good man? Explain how your views are like or unlike those in the play. Use examples from the text.
  • AMBITION: What is Shakespeare trying to say about leadership? Who do you think the best leader in the play was? What qualities make that character a successful leader? Use examples from the text.
  • SAME OLD STORY: Compare Macbeth to another historical figure or series of events. Using evidence from the text, prove that history repeats itself by showing the similarities in the storylines. 

Students are instructed to use convincing evidence from the text and real life to compose a persuasive essay, remembering that part of persuasion is not just what you say but how you say it. To that end, students learn to use advanced figures of speech to create purposeful syntax with style.


Fall 2022 Feature: Habits of Learning for all Cardigan Students

Early morning view of Cardigan's campus

FROM THE EDITOR: When I look back over the many months it takes to produce an issue of the Chronicle, and I think about the countless conversations I have with the people in this community, there are always details that overlap unexpectedly, adding surprising nuances and subtleties to the stories within each magazine; history repeats itself, characters long forgotten resurface, faces in archival photographs look eerily similar to faces in the present.

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