All posts by The Meadowbrook School

Spotlight on Ms. Matregrano

Matregrano spotlight
Welcome Yasin!

The Meadowbrook School is pleased to welcome Ms. Nicole Matregrano as our new librarian. This summer was a big summer for the Matregrano-El Gharib clan! The family relocated from the United Arab Emirates to Collegeville, Pennsylvania. For the past 8 years, Ms. Matregrano has been living in the U.A.E. working as a teacher and Head of Faculty at a local school for Emirati children. This summer was the big move back to Pennsylvania, with her husband and son, Yasin, who also attends the Meadowbrook School, is in Mrs. Langlois and Ms. Betz’ classroom. In between the move from Al Ain, U.A.E., they stopped in Egypt for 3 weeks. There, they visited family, took in the sites, and enjoyed themselves. They always love the yummy Egyptian food like Molokhiya, Ma’amar, and Mashi. They also tried to visit amazing sites in Cairo, and went to the Giza Pyramids and The Sphinx. In Upper Egypt (which is actually in the South), their favorite place to visit was in Aswan and Luxor. These are beautiful villages along the Nile River, from where the Pharaohs lived and ruled. After Egypt, they completed their move to America. Now the family is enjoying the different fall activities, cold weather, and being part of the Meadowbrook family.
Welcome, home!Matregrano Spotlight

How does your Garden Grow?

grow a garden
Spinach!

At the Meadowbrook School, our science class answers the age old question, “How does your garden grow?”

“It isn’t with silver bells and cockleshells,” says Janice Mockaitis, Meadowbrook’s science teacher.  Instead, we plant, water, weed, harvest, plant, water, weed, harvest. That has been our pattern in the science garden since last spring. In May, the students planted miniature pumpkins, cucumbers, and sweet potatoes seeds. After caring for the plants until the end of the school year, the plants grew all summer.

garden grow
Miniature Pumpkins

Overflowing with pumpkins and cucumbers, the students enjoyed harvesting the first week of school and learning the health benefits of cucumbers as they tasted them.  We counted, sorted, and watched the green mini

garden grow
Yummy cucumbers!

pumpkins turn orange these past few months. After clearing the garden (except the sweet potatoes,) the students planted spinach and broccoli. Again, after watching the plants grow, the students enjoyed spinach with Ranch Dressing in the science room immediately after picking from the garden. In the next few weeks we will harvest the broccoli and sweet potatoes. There is nothing better than fresh vegetables from garden to table!

The King Lives in the Hearts of Meadowbrook Teachers

The King Lives in the Hearts of these Meadowbrook Teachers
The King Lives in the Hearts of these Meadowbrook Teachers

The King Lives in the hearts of these Meadowbrook teachers! Yes, 42 years later, Elvis fans are still visiting Graceland to pay honor to “the King,” and this year, Mrs. JoAnn Prego, and Mrs. Debbie Fletcher-Marcolina, were among the approximately 35,000 visitors to Elvis Week in Memphis, Tennessee. Staying at the new Graceland Guest House from August 14 – 18, all of the events and tours were within walking distance, and Graceland was right next door! Every day was filled with fascinating in-depth interviews. There were conversations with many who knew Elvis intimately and performed with him for many years. Highlights were meeting Estella Brown of the Sweet Inspirations and James Burton, Elvis’ lead guitar player and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Every night there was a totally awesome concert filled with the greatest sounds one could ever experience, including an American Sound Studio 50th Anniversary Concert, an Elvis in Vegas Concert, and a gospel concert featuring B.J. Thomas of Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head fame, the Blackwood Brothers, and the Imperials. Another highlight was a day trip to Tupelo, Mississippi, to visit the two room house that Vernon Presley built and where Elvis was born on January 8, 1935. At a stop at the Tupelo Hardware store where Elvis and his mother bought his first guitar for his birthday when he was eleven years old, visitors can stand on the spot where this world-changing event took place. A tour of Graceland and, of course, the solemn candlelight vigil on August 15, commemorating Elvis’ passing away, were events no Elvis fan would ever miss! A side trip to the unforgettable National Civil Rights Museum in the Lorraine Motel in Memphis was also a must. This destination was recommended by former Meadowbrook mom and grandmom, Marci Abt! The song If I can Dream, sung by Elvis as the finale to his ’68 Comeback Special, is Elvis’ tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the uplifting ideals he gave us. This trip to Memphis was a trip of history and a trip of pure enjoyment all rolled into one fabulous time for two Meadowbrook teachers!

Celebrate 100 Years at Meadowbrook!

100 Years of Meadowbrook

The Meadowbrook School was excited to have celebrated 100 years with  with a day long  birthday party for all students and faculty on October 4, 2019.  The celebration was full of decade-themed activities, such as 1940’s and 1950’s dance and history of music, DIY lava lamps in the art room to celebrate the 1970’s, and 1980’s video games in the computer lab. Our students were amazed by the ability of our teachers to “hand-jive” as well as out-play them in Donkey Kong and Mario Bros.!

100 years of beautyStudents also enjoyed a school-wide scavenger hunt that allowed the them to explore our grounds and learn more about The Meadowbrook School’s rich 100 year history. As they walked around the school, they were also delighted with many photographs and artwork of former students, as well as fun memorabilia from the last century. A particular point of interest was the history of phones in the Art Wing. It was fun to show the students how to actually use a rotary phone. In addition, with the help of Mr. Frank and Mr. Tom and under the guidance of Mrs. Mockaitis, the students helped to beautify the campus by planting bulbs donated by our families. These daffodils will bloom in the spring and be another reminder of this great day.

After the celebration, grades 4 through 6 played in the annual Red vs. Gray Soccer match. This tournament is an ongoing tradition that all students participate in over the course of 3 weeks. After the soccer match ended in a tie,  students, parents and faculty were invited to enjoy special Centennial Cupcakes lovingly created by Erica Sweigard, mom of Olivia ’21 and Ethan ’23 and prizes for the winners of the scavenger hunt – Clifford ’26, Drew Davis ’26, and Zachary Johnson ’26 and Finn ’22, Luna ’22, and Madison ’22.

100 Cupcakes for 100 Years

This day was 100 years in the making and we are so grateful to Mrs. Kristen Haugen for her role and to all the teachers, staff and parents who were there to lend a hand. More pictures of this great day can be found on our Facebook page.

Executive Functioning

Executive Function Every Day

The idea of executive function may seem abstract, but it’s a very practical concept. The words sound as dry as chalk, like what a bunch of academics debate over stale doughnuts. Yet it represents how each of us figures out how to manage life. The brain evolved a perspective that supervises and keeps track of the big picture, and EF is it.

Put yourself in a child’s shoes and consider these real-life situations:

  • A teacher assigns a several-page project. How do you pace your work so it’s not done last minute, and also avoid throwing a fit each time a part takes longer than anticipated?
  • You have chores and homework, and you want to go play. How do you figure out where to start, stay on task, and avoid distractions while all the other kids play outside?
  • A child takes the toy you’ve been playing with for the last half hour. You need it to continue your game, and she refuses to give it back. How do you resist knocking her down and grabbing it?

The bottom line is that EF represents a variety of skills needed to overcome obstacles and make good choices. It includes the ability to focus attention when needed, and for as long as needed. It involves learning from mistakes, coordinating activities, and planning for the future. It includes managing emotions and behavior. Kids need time to figure out the nitty-gritty while wading through all the increasingly complex situations life throws their way. That’s why kids need parents (and teachers and mentors) acting as their brain manager, so they can take their time growing up.


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SEPTEMBER 17th

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When you look at things this way, it’s understandable that without grown-ups, most kids wouldn’t eat as well as they should. They probably do not realize that staying up late means being cranky and tired the next day. They may not consider the consequences of carving their initials into the dining room table. They’re kids, after all, and getting in trouble for wrecking furniture is one way they learn. Without us, and without limits and discipline, it would take a long time to see the implications of much of anything.

Understanding Developmentally Appropriate Expectations

Expecting kids to act more maturely than possible at any particular age can be quite counterproductive. The phrase “You can’t walk before you run” may be a cliché, but you also can’t read before you achieve several steps that precede fluent reading — which, in part, relate to EF. The same goes for writing, math, homework, and morning routines.

Tracking the developmental trajectory of EF helps us better comprehend our children’s lives. You would not expect a four-year-old to organize getting out the door for school. A preschooler could probably list the steps: Get dressed, have breakfast, brush teeth. But a preschooler cannot coordinate time, remember the details, or stay on task, whereas most teenagers manage mornings on their own. Much of what changes relates to EF.

Let’s reflect for a moment on the consequences of rushing children’s development. In preschool, children advance around both social and life management skills that eventually serve them in a classroom, though most aren’t ready for actual academics. A generation ago reading and writing were six-year-old skills, with a big push in first grade, not kindergarten. Society’s expectations shifted, but nothing much has changed about our kids. Development still happens at its own unhurried pace.

Overly high expectations that can’t be met create false fears that a child is behind developmentally. Not every kindergartener can sit in a structured academic setting, then listen and learn; they’re geared for play. Many perfectly brilliant five-year-old students aren’t ready to read or write. One common consequence of pushing children academically too early and expecting young children to behave like older children is the misdiagnosis of ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. ADHD itself is a disorder of executive function. For all the children who actually have it, false expectations around development make it seem that others have fallen behind when they have not, potentially leading to misdiagnosis.

These expectations ramp up stress for both parents and kids. If someone suggests that reading is supposed to happen by age five, that creates a false benchmark, and you may end up wondering why your child struggles. If you’ve been led to believe that middle schools should assign two hours of homework, you may compare your own child’s behavior to those misleading expectations. Unreasonable demands challenge students. Well-meaning kids who want to please adults also become stressed as they reach to handle more than whatever made sense in the first place.

The same applies when setting overly high expectations for older students. If a high schooler strives toward competitive colleges or other lofty goals, guide them toward a viable resume but also around personal health and a balanced lifestyle. Support a broader perspective, because the expectation of the high school and extended community — even for something as basic as sleep — may be utterly off base. Teens need lots of rest, but they encounter both crazy early school start times and huge homework loads. Place value on downtime and family time and whatever else contributes to overall well-being, because with a teen’s EF, she may find it hard to do that herself. Support her goals, but neither you nor your child is going to gain from an unrealistic expectation that she has the life skills of an experienced CEO while wading through the pressures of high school.

A developmental view even explains why technology has potential benefits but a distinct downside when under-monitored by adults. Screen time looks like intense concentration from the outside but provides constantly shifting content that encourages little sustained attention. Too much screen time has been linked to disrupted attention, compromised EF, and other childhood concerns. Well-used and well-moderated tech time is fine, but the implied assumption that anyone lacking a mature brain manager (all children) would handle screen time on their own sets up a developmental risk for kids.

Until recently, kindergarten screening included a child’s ability to write their name, recite the alphabet, rhyme, and count. That’s still appropriate, though some schools have added reading and writing into even pre-kindergarten settings. So how do you determine what your child needs? Take care of the bare facts, accept you’d rather your kids not be pushed at all, and then stick to your own personal view of what’s best.

Helpful Tips for Setting Age-Appropriate Expectations

Here are some guidelines for sustaining age-appropriate expectations while acting as the loving brain manager your child requires to thrive:

  1. Focus on building EF. In younger children, encourage skills through traditional play, along with lots of exposure to spoken language and books. Language is another major predictor of school success. Thankfully, another direct way to build organizational skills at any age is through the routines parents create. In other words, when life gets busy, the short-term solution of adults adjusting family routines (everything runs easier) is the same as the longterm solution (more independent kids with better EF).
  2. Monitor the big picture. Allow for discussion and options, but keep a bottom-line focus on what makes sense. Don’t expect kids to make rational choices about scheduling and daily health routines until they show those skills themselves. Talk to your kids often about, and demonstrate to them, whatever your family values most in life.
  3. Be selective in scheduling. Plan activities, but stick to only a few. Specialization in sports, in particular, is not recommended for most children until late middle school. Too much baseball by age eight means they may burn out, get hurt . . . or fail to realize that tennis is their thing.
  4. Seek support when children fall behind. Consider specific developmental intervention, academic classes, or tutoring if your child seems behind; early catch-up is better than later. Some children benefit from academic interventions or services like behavioral therapy, speech language therapy, or occupational therapy.
  5. Trust your own judgment. Whatever external pressures exist around you, come back to your own sense of what feels natural. Put your child’s temperament first. If you are in a demographic that pushes kids faster than you would like, stick to your own ideals whenever possible. Find a middle path when you can between the reality of your community and your own perspective. Most concretely, act as the brain manager whenever needed because your child’s ability to thrive greatly depends on that.

Watching development unfold requires patience and more patience. We’d love our child to have more mature EF, because we know how important it is. The same goes for reading, writing, soccer, dance, or any other skill. We teach what we can when we see an opportunity. At the same time, we can’t force development to progress any more quickly than it wants. Resiliency builds from early success, and success itself relies on appropriate childhood expectations along the way.

Consider This

Don’t worry that you must get everything right because that is, of course, entirely impossible. Kids are remarkably resilient and will do well across a wide range of life experiences. There’s no perfect — just an opportunity to explore, make mistakes, and adapt along the way. Notice when you find yourself comparing your child to other children or someone else’s arbitrary expectation. Pause and make choices founded in what you feel is accurate and true.


Content in this blog includes adapted excerpts from Dr. Bertin’s book How Children Thrive: The Practical Science of Raising Independent, Resilient, and Happy Kids (Sounds True 2018).

Mark Bertin, MD, is a pediatrician, author, professor, and mindfulness teacher specializing in neurodevelopmental behavioral pediatrics. He’s a regular contributor to Mindful.org, HuffPost, and Psychology Today. He is the author of Mindful Parenting for ADHD and How Children Thrive: The Practical Science of Raising Independent, Resilient, an Happy Kids. Dr. Bertin resides in Pleasantville, New York. For more, visit developmentaldoctor.com.

To Resist, Use DARE. Written by: Nelson C’19

By: Nelson C ’19

Dare has influenced me greatly this year and has made me a more confident person when it comes to being in a tricky situation. We, the sixth graders, have learned so much in DARE class and know what to do in situations involving drugs, resistance, stress, and bullying. DARE has changed my perspective on stressful and negative events. From my DARE classes with Officer Ammaturo, I now know what I will do when I am faced with extreme choices and pressure. Without the knowledge and experience that comes with the DARE sessions, it would be hard to handle the unsuspecting turns and thrills we call life.

Situations such as drugs, stress, resistance and bullying can affect our personalities and lives greatly. Alcohol kills seventy-five thousand people a year in the United States alone. Alcoholic beverages can cause loss of coordination, memory loss, slow reflexes, and loss of self-control. It weakens the heart and can damage every organ in your body. Smoking kills more than four hundred-fifty thousand people a year in America. Whether you are using cigarettes, cigars, the pipe, vape pens, or Juul, tobacco contains nicotine which causes heart disease, colds, respiratory problems, lung cancer, tooth damage, and ruined skin. Alcohol and nicotine are both considered a drug and are very addictive. Remember what they can cause, so you can avoid them in the future. This knowledge can save your life.

Stress is another negative problem that you will most likely run into. You may get frustrated, warm, and start to sweat. Having a fast heartbeat and blushing are other symptoms of stress. You may have a temper tantrum when you are stressed. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of your words and not get mad at people who are trying to help you. Possible ways to relieve stressful feelings are breathing deeply and calming yourself with relaxing thoughts. Bullying is probably the most feared negative situation. There are four kinds of bullying: social, verbal, physical, and cyber. Social bullying is delivered by a group of people. Cyberbullying takes place on social media while verbal bullying is with words. Physical bullying is probably the most serious kind and it involves fights and injuries. All forms of bullying can be solved by telling a trusted adult or standing up to the bully. Use your DARE experience to stick up for yourself and others, for resistance is a mountain, and you can use your strength to charge up the first part, but your knowledge will get you to the top.

When I was younger, I would get scared when thinking of bullying, drugs, and stress but thanks to DARE I now know what I will do when faced with challenging choices. If I am ever in a situation involving drugs, I know that I can remind myself about the negative health effects of drugs, use resistance strategies to avoid them, and use the DARE decision-making model. We all know now when in times of uncertainty, to D) define the problem, A) assess the situation, R) respond to the problem, and E) evaluate your decision. As confident people, we should be able to fight against stress and know yourself and your mistakes as well as you know your good points. Life does not focus on mistakes; eventually, you will realize that happiness is the key to a good life. Along with stress, bullying is not an unsolvable matter. It is not something to dread. It can be solved and there are ways to avoid it. Just appreciate the joyful moments, and when a difficult moment comes, harness your rope, hold it tight, and take a big step forward.  The way you approach a situation is the way you overcome it.

Growing up can be stressful and challenging, but I know I can overcome and take care of these situations, so I should not be scared of them.  I can deal with bullying when I am older, and I will strive to be nice to people and not become a bully myself.  Resisting bullying and drugs should be easy if I think of what I know about them and confidently stand up for myself or say no to drugs.  As I get older, I know we will run into these challenges and face them confidently.  To choose the right path is a mediocre problem, to stay on that path is the greatest challenge of life.  Remember DARE and use it wisely, for we are the future and the future is great.

DARE has greatly changed my perspective on many topics including drugs, stress, and bullying.  Along with being confident about what to do in these problems, I have learned what these situations can cause and create.  Resistance is not hard when you learn and experience what can happen in the difficult settings of life.

Meadowbrook Students Recognized In National French Competition

Meadowbrook French Club
Winners of Le Grand Concours

Le Grand Concours is a national competition sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French. Students were evaluated for their written, oral and listening comprehension skills in French. More than 72,000 students in all 50 states competed in the 2019 event. Second-grade student, Juniper Oser, earned a platinum medal, plaque and certificate for earning the highest score in her level/division. This is the first time a Meadowbrook student earned this placing! Sixth-grade student, Zara Clark-Schecter, ranked in the 95th percentile earning a gold medal. Fifth-grade students, Delaney Stout, and Gabriella Cordon ranked in the 90th percentile nationally earning silver medals. Sixth-grade student Nelson Cordon ranked in the 85th percentile nationally also earning a silver medal. Elizabeth Grohsman (4th grade), Peyton Abbott (3rd grade), and Lia Khoury (2nd grade) ranked in the 80th percentile nationally earning bronze medals according to Lisa Narug, National Director of Le Grand Concours.

AATF President Anne Jensen indicated: As the president of AATF, I would like to extend my special congratulations to those students who ranked nationally in Le Grand Concours.
They have shown a superior level of French language skills, cultural competence, and commitment to French. It is my hope that these students will continue their interest in French and pursue study and travel opportunities as future ambassadors of the French language and the many cultures it represents. I would also like to congratulate the teachers who prepared nationally ranked students because without their dedication and hard work these students would not have attained their ranking. Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to the parents who have supported and advocated for the French programs in their children’s schools. Our Association is grateful to the dedication and hard work of everyone who shares our passion for the promotion of French.

The Meadowbrook School’s French Club, hosted by World Language teacher, Suzanne McDowell Cordon ’95 and Khyber Oser, prepares students for Le Grand Concours by conversing in French, preparing and eating French food, and having fun! Just another way the Meadowbrook School is bringing life to learning.

In the classroom or on the field, Meadowbrook students are good sports

This Friday, May 24th 2019, The Meadowbrook School will host their annual Field Day from 9am to 12 pm. A tradition started in 1926, Red and Gray teams have been battling it out in good fun on the Friday before Memorial Day for 91 years. The tradition and non-traditional races are guaranteed to delight the youngest students and fiercest competitors.

In this day and age of children tuning out, Meadowbrook students tune in to learn the Grande Parade of Flags and practice the proper procession for weeks. Farah Horgan ’19, the captain of the Red Team carries the 2018 flag in recognition of her team’s victory last year. Kennedy Hayward ’19, carries the 2016 as that was the last year that the Gray Team won Field Day. This tradition was started in 1988 by Red Team captain, Dave Sirota.

The excitement builds in anticipation for this wonderful day during PE classes with students vying for a role in “colors”, the baton color relay that puts the two fastest Red and Gray team runners from each class in a race around the field. Alumni are invited “home” to Meadowbrook to join in the 100 yard dash and tug ‘o war competition. In a dramatic fashion, the Walker Cup, named in honor of Rev. Walker, Meadowbrook’s first Headmaster, is presented by Michael Reardon, Meadowbrook’s current Head of School, to the team that has amassed the most points. This long standing tradition is a testament to the students’ character and ability to rise above their respective teams and celebrate collectively after a hard fought battle. Both the students and the spirit of competition is applauded on this special occasion.

Meadowbrook students are given the foundation to be life-long learners. When they leave Meadowbrook’s warm, loving campus, students take with them a solid knowledge of how to be a scholar, a self-starter, and a team player. These learned abilities make Meadowbrook graduates successful in all their future endeavors.

Second Grade Post Office

During our morning assembly, The Meadowbrook School had the honor of presenting Linda Barila a check for $150.00. For two weeks in February, the 2nd grade class at The Meadowbrook School worked tirelessly to sell stamps to our students, faculty and staff. Our community then had the opportunity to mail letters to one another within our school. Kelly Mosteller, 2nd grade teacher, took a class vote on where they would like to donate the money and ultimately decided on Stray Network Animal Rescue. Mrs. Barila spoke to the student body about the impact their contribution would make along with thanking them for their generosity and efforts to do something important for the community.

Teacher Spotlight: Mrs. Suzanne Cordon

Mrs. Suzanne Cordon-World Language Teacher

1. What is one item on your bucket list? Why?

Machu Picchu.  I just have to make it there someday, and I believe in my heart that I will.  I am so fascinated by all of the mysteries behind the ruins and knowledge of this ancient civilization.

2. What book are you currently reading?

Inés del alma mia by Isabel Allende. Reading novelas in Spanish is one of my favorite pastimes. This one is a beautiful memoir of a woman looking back on her life.

3. Who is your mentor?

I have been lucky to have had many wonderful mentors at different times of my life. I had an incredible French professor in college who pushed me and encouraged me during my first years and became a trusted advocate and friend by the time I graduated. I’ll never forget the experience I had traveling with her through France and learning first-hand a lot of what she taught us in the classroom. My biggest mentor throughout my entire life though, was definitely my grandfather who passed away a few years ago. His words of wisdom are still very present in my mind and often come in handy. There are still times I wish I could ask him for advice.

4. What would your superpower be?

I would want to be omnilingual. I believe that when you understand another language and culture, you adopt a new way of thinking and I’d love to be able to understand everyone in the world’s way of thinking.  I also love the deep and meaningful connections you make when you speak a foreign language with a native speaker. It’s a wonderful thing. 

5. Where is the best place you have traveled to and why?

That is a very hard question. I have been fortunate and have traveled to many places. I’m torn between two; France and Guatemala. I have family in Guatemala so traveling there is like going to a home away from home, just a little more rural and tropical.  However, Mont Saint Michel, Normandy in the gulf of Saint-Malo, France is definitely the most breathtaking and beautiful place I have ever been. I love meandering through the medieval village as you make the steep climb up to the very top of the abbey on this secluded island where you stop and take in the magnificent view of the French countryside and the bay.  I remember being overcome with an overwhelming sense of peace both times I visited there. I’d love to go back!

6. If you could do any job for just one day what would it be?

When I was younger my dream was to be a multilingual interpreter for tours and travel groups. I imagined myself traveling to exotic places and serving as a multilingual guide for tourists. So that would be my dream job for a day. 

7. Tell us something that might surprise us about you.

I am learning Russian. I have been for several months now. It is thanks to some of the wonderful families here at Meadowbrook that have inspired me and provided me with awesome books and videos to be able to study this beautiful and incredibly complicated language. I think it’s a good thing to be in the same position as my students and remember what it is like to be a learner in the field I am teaching and not only the teacher.

8. What is your favorite thing about Meadowbrook?

Wow, I love so many things about Meadowbrook it is hard to choose just one.  I think what I love most having been a student, a teacher and now also a parent at this wonderful school is that there is always something to look forward to.  It’s the passion of the amazing faculty and staff that keep such incredible traditions alive; while also introducing new endeavors that make learning so exciting for the entire community.