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Upper School Director's Notes

A message from Upper School Director Anna Bachman Barter:

May Crowning Photo

Dear Upper School Families,

Thank you to all of the parents and students who sent messages and tokens of appreciation to our teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week! The Upper School team felt the love!

We continue to engage in wonderful learning in and outside of the classroom. Here are but a few of the anecdotes I shared at this past week's Virtual Town Hall:

Physics students are completing a unit on diffraction with a virtual lab on Young's double slit experiment. Astronomy is working on a project classifying stars according to size, luminosity and temperature. Honors physical science is finishing a unit on acids and bases while viewing a virtual lab on pH.

The American literature classes are reading The Great Gatsby, and the girls do such a good job of demonstrating their sophisticated understanding of the novel. Students show up every day, armed with questions, insights, comments and good cheer. Great nonfiction students have attended live lectures regularly and are discussing topics ranging from relationship violence to mass incarceration.

The biology classes have become evolutionary biologists! They sorted birds into species, using appearance, song, and spectrograms. Now they are comparing DNA sequences of different mammals to classify them and determine which mammals are most alike. They are using DNA evidence to support and defend their own scientific arguments. Meanwhile, in honors biology, students are studying phenology, the study of seasonal changes. Students have been photographing an area of their yard or neighborhood two times a day for a month, watching for signs of spring. They'll compare these changes to data on temperature, daylight hours and precipitation to understand what triggers these changes. It has been a great excuse to get outside and pay attention to nature.

World cultures is looking at the cultural significance of jade and its presence in artistry across the many centuries of Chinese history. Students have read a reflection written by a scholar who grew up in China explaining the significance of jade as well as watched a video of a contemporary artist working with jade. As a culminating experience students are looking to museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art to examine, closely, several works using jade over the centuries to identify and describe the continuities and changes they observe in the use of jade in art.

In AP environmental science, students reflected back on campus visits from earlier in the year or online research to learn about the sustainability initiatives at college campuses of their choice. Students wrote about so many exciting happenings, ranging from a bee keepers club to extensive solar panels, student gardens, internship opportunities, newly insulated buildings and so much more. It has given APES students an opportunity to see the concepts they learned play out in the real world.

Ninth graders are tackling a very challenging book, Jane Eyre. They've done a fantastic job and are able to grasp concepts of power dynamics, class structures, the role of women and personal identity. This week the classes started their small group discussions (3-4 students) via Google Hangout. These breakout conversations will be well worth it as students get the chance to speak, share ideas and ask questions.

Honors Spanish IV/V students are reading a short story that actually appears on the AP Spanish literature and culture exam. It is a short story called Dos Palabras by Isabel Allende. It introduces students to the Latin American genre of magical realism, and it is one of the most beautiful love stories.

In Spanish III, students just wrapped up a Google Meet debate project in which pairs or groups of three debated the pros and cons of various aspects of technology like virtual assistants and the "linguistic" merits of emojis. And in AP Spanish, students recently wrapped up a mini-unit on urbanization and its causes and effects, both in the Spanish-speaking world as well as here in the United States.

French students just completed a special Mother's Day Project: Une Tarte aux Pommes (apple tart). Bon app├ętit!

Students in religion classes are celebrating Mary's month by working on a mini-unit about Mary, Mother of God. As part of their study, they will take part in Marian Jeopardy!

The senior Salesian leaders recorded video lessons for their Lower School classes. They talked about where they are finding joy in this time while sharing books or stories with the kids, inviting the children to reflect on where they can find joy, and closing their lessons with a special prayer. They also shared a link to a special Lower School Padlet with which kids can continue to share their experiences of joy with one another!

Whereas there is no denying the toll that accompanies our present circumstances, learning is alive and well in the Upper School. Such is a tribute to our teachers and students. I couldn't be more proud of them.


Anna Bachman Barter, PhD
Director of Upper School