What Makes McT Special

Art Integration

Art Integration is a foundation of who we are as a school. McCarthy-Towne integrates art in all units of study. Art, for us, provides another pathway of understanding and exploration; it provides an environment in which students can take risks and work through problems.
Focusing on the process of learning through art exploration is a foundational aspect of learning at McCarthy-Towne.  Art, for us, provides another pathway of understanding and exploration; it provides an environment in which students can take risks and work through problems and learn from them. Art Integration is also used as a means for students to learn patience and a greater understanding of themselves as a learner. Our philosophy is to present materials in a variety of ways in order to accommodate different learning styles, to help students develop their own set of problem-solving strategies, and to support individual student goals, strengths, and needs. These habits of mind are nurtured through art exploration but then applied across all aspects of learning.

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Family Involvement

Our Family Involvement Coordinator works with parents who are interested in volunteering. Parents play an important role in our school. Our library and art studio have a number of parent helpers who assist weekly. Other areas of our school have parents who volunteer on a rotating basis. Volunteering for classroom celebrations, such as our Acton Long Ago Activity Day and our Teddy Bear Picnic, is always popular and becoming a Mystery Reader is a favorite rite of passage for kindergarten parents. Our many after school events, such as the Fall Social and Family Field Day, are only possible because of our numerous parent volunteers. And we have many committees on which parents can help as needed. Our Landscaping Committee works a few times a year to tidy up the area around the building, culminating in our big springtime project done in collaboration with A-B high school seniors who arrive on Senior Community Service Day to spread fresh mulch in our garden.
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Community Assemblies

McCarthy-Towne hosts monthly community assemblies that bring together all of our staff and students. These assemblies give students across the grades a chance to interact with each other, share projects, and celebrate learning throughout the school.

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Classroom Assistants

Assistants play a crucial role throughout every grade at McCarthy-Towne. In the classroom they help direct small group lessons and provide other support. They are also responsible for supervising lunch and recess and helping with conflict resolution when social conflict occurs. 

Fall, Winter & Spring Conferences

Every teacher schedules two conferences per year, one in the fall and one in the spring. Teachers also offer an optional winter conference. Conferences are a chance to view and discuss your child’s progress. Teachers will share assessments and class work, highlighting areas of strength and opportunities for growth.

Curriculum-based field trips

Students in every grade partake in a variety of field trips. Some recent examples include:

Kindergarten visits a local orchard for apple picking

First grade goes to the Boston Children’s Museum to explore the Japanese House as part of the unit on Japan. They also make a trip to Good Harbor beach for the unit on tide pools and habitats.

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Second grade visits the Hosmer House, as well as the one room schoolhouse in Boxborough as part of the unit on Acton Long Ago. Second grade also often participates in an endangered turtle project in collaboration with MassWildLife. They spend the year caring for their turtles before working with MassWildLife to release them into the wild. Turtles Turtles2

Third grade - with its focus on Massachusetts - is a year filled with field trips that take advantage of our proximity to so many historical sites. Students begin the year with a trip to Plimoth Plantation and learn about the settlement of the Plymouth colony. Later in the year they visit the Lowell Boott Mill as they learn about the Industrial Revolution. Students may also visit the Paul Revere House and Fenway Park in Boston. Students will also often visit the Museum of Fine Arts to learn about Massachusetts artists.

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Fifth grade features our multi-day trip to Merrowvista Camp in New Hampshire, which focuses on finding our own growth zone, social emotional learning, and environmental issues.

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Sixth grade visits the Museum of Fine Arts to explore the collections of Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. They also have an "in-house" fieldtrip with a local professional to learn about archaeology.
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Reading Buddies

Reading Buddies is a cross-grade program that pairs students from one class with students from another class - typically the grades are three years apart. These pairings meet once a week throughout the school year. Often the students will read to each other, but they will also play games and work together on special projects together.

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Unit Celebrations

Learning is a constant process and what better way to acknowledge this process than through sharing and celebration! These are just a few of our favorite celebrations:

Kindergarten wraps up their unit on bears with the ever popular Teddy Bear Picnic. Families are invited to contribute picnic fare and join their child on a Bear Scavenger Hunt throughout the building.

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First grade invites parents/guardians to their Desert Open House. Students proudly show off all they have learned about the Sonoran Desert.


Students in second grade travel back in time for Acton Long Ago Activity Day. Teachers and students dress as they would have dressed 150 years ago and participate in a variety of activities. Students learn how to do laundry using a tub and washboard; they practice spool knitting; and they play a variety of old games, such as Tiddlywinks. Families are invited to assist with these activities and join the class for a tea party.

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Cranberry Day is a popular third grade celebration, following the visit to Plimoth Plantation. Students delve more into the life of the colonial settlers and the Wampanoag People by completing a cranberry facts book; creating their own Wampanoag toy, fashioned out of twigs and string; and baking a variety of cranberry treats. 
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Sixth graders revel in sharing all they have learned about ancient civilizations during their Egyptian Open House. Families and students from all grades are invited to tour the sixth grade classrooms and examine their displays and projects. Sixth grade tour guides are on hand to talk about their work. Mesopotamia Mesopotamia2


Classroom Potlucks

Classroom potlucks are a popular tradition to help families connect with each other. These events are hosted outside of school hours and the specifics are determined by the attendees. They can be held in someone’s home, at a local restaurant, or even an outdoor venue such as NARA park. The potluck can be limited to just adults or can include children. A potluck can be limited to just one class or can include families from the entire grade. The specifics are nearly unlimited, but the goal is the same: for families to connect with one another and have a good time.


Fall Social: Families are invited to enjoy food and drinks, play games, and do some crafting. Our Book Fair coincides with this event.
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Book Fair: Our fall Book Fair is always a hit! Students can shop the fair during the week and families can shop together on the night of our Fall Social. BookFair BookFair

Game Night: Families are invited to spend an evening at school learning and playing popular games.

World Heritage Day: This event celebrates the diversity and wonderful cultures of our community. Families set up country booths that students can visit to learn about different traditions, food, games, and much more. Kids have a great time getting their “passports” stamped as they travel the world. 

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Family Field Day: Families and staff spend an early spring evening enjoying fun events like the Three-legged Sack Race and the Beach Chair Relay and after all the fun there are ice cream sundaes to cool off.

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Movie Night: We typically have two movie nights each year. The first is offered as a drop-off night, with staff on hand to chaperone while parents enjoy a night out. The second is a family event with “picnicking” in our cafeteria. MovieNight Popcorn

CPAC: Our Cultural and Performing Arts Committee brings enriching assemblies to school. In the past we have hosted Li Liu, a chinese acrobat; Crocodile River Music, sharing music from “Trinidad to Timbuktu”; Mad Science; Improv Boston, and dozens of other performers.

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Sixth Grade Celebration

After seven years at McCarthy-Towne, it’s time to bid farewell to our sixth graders. This festive evening features presentations by our teachers, an art show, awarding of “diplomas” and time for yearbook signing. SixthCelebration SixthCelebration2


Student Council

Each fourth, fifth and sixth grade class elects two Student Council representatives at the beginning of the year. Interested students write a speech explaining why they would like to be on Student Council. Classroom teachers read the speeches without identifying the nominee and the class votes for their representatives.

Student Council typically elects to raise money for a special project at school or for a favorite charity. They have held food and clothing drives for local charities and raised money to donate to special projects for our school. 

Student Council representatives also act as guides during school tours and orientation events, help with Community Assemblies, and organize Spirit Weeks.

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Giving Back

UNICEF: every Halloween we partner with UNICEF to provide our students with orange collection boxes. While entirely optional, many of our students choose to collect both candy and donations on October 31st. Our students have collected and donated thousands of dollars to UNICEF over the years.

The Spoons Project: one of our favorite traditions! Every fall our classrooms participate in this fun activity to raise money for Project Bread. You can read more about it here: Project Bread Spoons6andK Spoons6andK2 ProjectBreadAward


First Grade Penny Sale: an exciting rite of passage for our first graders! In the weeks leading up to Winter Break, students bring small toys and other items into school to donate to the sale. First graders work on their math skills as they measure each item for pricing. Regardless of what it is, the item will sell for one penny per inch. On the day of the sale, first graders gather in our Multi-purpose room and get to shop from a wide array of treasures with nothing costing more than twelve cents. All proceeds are donated to our local food pantry.
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Responsive Classroom

McCarthy-Towne uses the Responsive Classroom social curriculum. This is a research- and evidence-based approach to elementary education that leads to greater teacher effectiveness, higher student achievement, and improved social climate. The philosophy of Responsive Classroom asserts.

The social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum
How children learn is as important as what they learn: process and content go hand in hand.
The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
Knowing the children we teach – individually, culturally, and developmentally – is as important as knowing the content we teach.
Knowing the families of the children we teach, and working with them as partners, is essential to children’s education.

Classroom Practices and Strategies

From https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/about/principles-practices/

Responsive Classroom is an approach to teaching based on the belief that integrating academic and social-emotional skills creates an environment where students can do their best learning. The Responsive Classroom approach consists of a set of practices and strategies that build academic and social-emotional competencies. This approach works well with many other programs and can be introduced gradually into a teacher’s practice.

These core classroom practices are the heart of the Responsive Classroom approach:

Shared Practices (K–8) 

Interactive Modeling—An explicit practice for teaching procedures and routines (such as those for entering and exiting the room) as well as academic and social skills (such as engaging with the text or giving and accepting feedback).

Teacher Language—The intentional use of language to enable students to engage in their learning and develop the academic, social, and emotional skills they need to be successful in and out of school.

Logical Consequences—A non-punitive response to misbehavior that allows teachers to set clear limits and students to fix and learn from their mistakes while maintaining their dignity.

Interactive Learning Structures—Purposeful activities that give students opportunities to engage with content in active (hands-on) and interactive (social) ways.

Elementary Practices (K–6) 
Morning Meeting—Everyone in the classroom gathers in a circle for twenty to thirty minutes at the beginning of each school day and proceeds through four sequential components: greeting, sharing, group activity, and morning message.
Establishing Rules—Teacher and students work together to name individual goals for the year and establish rules that will help everyone reach those goals. RuleCreation RuleCreation2 RuleCreation3
Energizers—Short, playful, whole-group activities that are used as breaks in lessons.
Quiet Time—A brief, purposeful and relaxed time of transition that takes place after lunch and recess, before the rest of the school day continues.
Closing Circle—A five- to ten-minute gathering at the end of the day that promotes reflection and celebration through participation in a brief activity or two.

The Responsive Classroom components are strengthened and supported by integration of Social Thinking concepts, such as understanding the size of the problem/ size of your reaction, or the Zones of Regulation, which help identify emotions, actions connected to them, and how to use strategies of emotional regulation.

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