The Latest EMS News · 14 February 2023

Morrow House 2022–2023

Character and Community Programming

To continue building our character education and emphasis on community, Morrow House faculty have integrated Responsive Classroom, an evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning, Middle School advisory, and structures for successful classrooms designed to meet the unique needs of pre-and early adolescents.

Responsive Classroom

All faculty participated in a comprehensive, four-day training last June and, since then, have been applying the techniques. A Responsive Classroom consultant visited in January to conduct observations across Morrow House and provide feedback on how we’re continuing to provide high-quality education for every child, every day. Her assessment revealed that our Morrow House faculty show a level of proficiency well ahead of what is typical during implementation. This assessment will be the basis for ongoing professional development.


Advisory lessons teach middle school skills related to personal management and organization, self-awareness, self-reflection, self-advocacy, and collaboration. Advisors advocate for and nurture a small group of students, thus personalizing the school experience for every learner. Research shows that the type of community and connectedness provided for by Advisory is linked to better outcomes in school and beyond, and is also highly
valued by students.

Students decorating a classroom door during Advisory.

Structures for Successful Classrooms

These structures are designed to meet the unique needs of pre- and early adolescents. Some examples of our division-wide systems and routines include the introduction of organizational materials (e.g., a zipper binder with color-coded folders, a Morrow House planner to record daily homework and plan for long-term assignments); consistent routines for entering and exiting the classroom, writing down assignments, and getting ready for learning; the implementation of consistent rubrics for group work and creative projects; and ongoing education on engaging in classroom discourse, problem-solving with peers, and self-advocacy.

Did You Know?

As a result of these changes, here are a couple of the improvements we’ve measured:

29% — percentage that incomplete homework assignments have decreased since this time last year, as students have been better able to manage their homework loads

2x — Students using their Personalized Learning Time (PLT) for independent or small group projects, clubs, and enrichment activities this year rather than treating the time as “study hall”

Expanded Leadership Programming

Developing Young Leaders

Leadership programming provides opportunities for students to voice their opinions, feel a sense of belonging, and play an active role in their community, which we know are the most powerful influences for students to believe they can make a difference in their world.

start-of-school orientation

Our start-of-school orientation engages students in imagining the school they want to attend, creating agreements for behavior and engagement, and making goals for the year.

Winter Leadership Workshop

The Winter Leadership Workshop provides students with explicit instruction and practice in problem-solving, communication, and collaboration through project-based and community-building activities.

Middle School Advisory

Advisory lessons teach skills related to personal management and organization, self-awareness, self-reflection, self-advocacy, and collaboration.

Student Government

Elected student officials develop their leadership potential while working to create a positive school climate and oversee a range of social, spirit, and service opportunities.

Leadership in Action

Design Thinking

A recent project engaged students in developing interactive bulletin boards to teach the community about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Each mixed-aged group was assigned one of the SDGs and challenged to use the design thinking process to create a board that would teach adults and students what they can do to achieve the goal. In addition to identifying ways that they can help change the world, they built their capacity to collaborate, communicate, give and accept feedback, design, iterate, and create!

Morrow House students helping Chilton House students with a cooking class.

Role Models

During Read Across America Week, Morrow House students will help Chilton House students make books and engage Little School students in a service learning event with the Center for Food Action (CFA). Our Morrow House students will conduct a read-aloud about food insecurity and conduct a morning meeting in each homeroom to explain how organizations like CFA support local families. They will also help Little School students prepare snack packs* to be sent home with children in Bergen County.

*The school is grateful to EMS Board Trustee Jen Maxfield Ostfeld and Scott Ostfeld P’21, ’22, ’25, longtime supporters of CFA’s Weekend Snack Pack program who have underwritten the school’s annual participation since 2014.

Personalized Learning

Morrow House has focused on enhancing personalized learning by improving learning support programming, enhancing enrichment opportunities, and giving students more choice and voice in their learning. Three times a week students have a dedicated Personalized Learning Time, which is an opportunity for students to exercise agency in how they use their time and lead their learning. Supported by their advisors, students choose between independent study projects, clubs, study halls, and learning labs.

A student helping compost in the EMS garden.

Independent Study

Students choose a topic of interest, conduct research, produce a final product, and share it with an authentic audience. This program provides for enrichment, talent development, and the identification of passions and interests.

Students working independently.
Elisabeth Morrow School is shown on Friday November 18, 2022.

Learning Labs

Students participate in skills-based groups for enrichment in various subjects, improving executive functioning skills, developing reading comprehension, enhancing writing skills, and strengthening mathematical reasoning and fluency.

Students participating in a cubing competition.


Model UN: A simulation of the UN General Assembly and its other multilateral bodies where students perform an ambassador role. They take on the perspectives of countries around the globe, research important issues, write position papers defending their countries’ perspectives, and present their ideas to other students from different schools who also strive to consider the world’s current problems and future solutions

GLOW: “Gay. Lesbian. Or Whatever you are.” is an educational LGBTQ+ organization that aims to educate students about the history of LGBTQ+ as well as what it means to be an ally.

Cubing Club: This club was designed by students who love solving the Rubix cube and were inspired by the connections to math and computer science. Students practice various cases to improve their skill and speed in solving cubes and can participate in competitions.

Math Club: This club was generated by students who want to practice for national middle and high-school-level mathematics exams and competitions.

Dynamic curriculum

We take the best of the old — in terms of lifelong learning habits and skills, instilling a sense of wonder, and core content and traditions — and constantly reinvigorate it with research-based gold standard pedagogy, updated topics and themes, and the integration of technology tools to enhance learning.

Students showing off the board game they created.

Added Choices for Electives

We’ve doubled the number of elective offerings — semester-long, project-based courses that inspire students to explore their interests with peers and teachers who share their passion for a particular topic — and introduced 11 brand-new elective courses.

Student posed for a photograph with his NuVu project.
Elisabeth Morrow School is shown on Friday November 18, 2022.

New Units of Study

Morrow House faculty are introducing a total of 14 new units of study to the curriculum this year, by creating new or revitalizing existing units. This tremendous undertaking is the equivalent of more than three school years of content.

Teacher assisting students as they work on their NuVu projects.
An Elisabeth Morrow NuVu class is shown in Englewood on Wednesday, November 9, 2022.

Studio Learning

Following the success of our studio learning partnership with NuVu, we are excited to announce the next iteration of this programming — the Leadership Lab! This proprietary, co-curricular program will provide Morrow House students with the leadership skills, ethical reasoning, and social-emotional awareness necessary for success at EMS, in high school, and beyond the classroom.

Eighth-grade student working with the Little School students on their classroom play.
Elisabeth Morrow School is shown on Friday November 18, 2022.

Eighth-Grade Capstone

The Capstone Project is exclusively for our eighth graders, our leaders of EMS. It’s a project begun in the seventh-grade year that offers them choice based on personal interests, academic pursuits, or potential career paths. The Project is both a synthesis of classroom study and real-world perspectives. The end result will be a product they create that will solve a present problem, add a new idea to the community, or make something better.

Highlights from EMS’ Divisions and Administrative Departments

2022–2023 State of the School: Updates from Chilton House, Little School, and Morrow House, as well as Enrollment, Advancement, Auxiliary Programs, Communications & Marketing, Facilities & Operations, Finances, and Community Highlights

EMS prepares students for an impressive range of top-tier secondary schools.

Our students cultivate the ability to learn, think, explore, empathize, and lead. They graduate with the ability, mindset, and competencies to navigate a global world and are well-prepared to face an unknowable future.

Accustomed to a challenging academic environment, EMS students welcome the demands of competitive secondary schools and are often placed in advanced sections where they perform very well.


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