Turning Point School Blog
The Turning Point community celebrated another successful food drive to benefit S.A.V.E.S (Saint Augustine Volunteer Emergency Service) with a special all-school assembly. Students embraced the spirit of giving through song, dance, prose, and displays of student leadership. The items donated will help feed families in the Culver City area this holiday season.
Many thanks to our special guest from S.A.V.E.S., Priscilla Terry, for speaking with our students about the impact their donations will have on the greater community. And our sincere appreciation to our PA Community Service Co-Chairs, the Faculty Service Learning Committee, and our parent volunteers for organizing this important annual event. We are also grateful to our neighbors at Access Apartments and the Co-opportunity Market and Deli for partnering with us this year to collect items from their residents and patrons.
Thank you to all who donated and thoughtfully participated. Service learning opportunities are an ongoing and important part of the Turning Point culture, and are designed to deepen connections for our students with the school’s curriculum and core values.
Last June, Turning Point School physical education teacher and coach Sasha Andrews was one of 32 women hailing from six different continents to summit Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania before descending to play a 90-minute, 11-a-side match at 18,799 feet, setting a world record for highest altitude in a competitive football (soccer) match. The event was organized by Equal Playing Field, a non-profit grassroots initiative that challenges gender inequality in sport and promotes the development of sport for girls and women globally, with particular attention to marginalized country contexts.
More than 1 mile higher than the world's highest professional stadium, higher even than Everest Base Camp, the game took place in a volcanic ash crater where the team built their own pitch, and included FIFA referees and an altitude specialist medical team. The two teams included players with World Cups, Olympics, the Champions League and European Championships under their belts, more than ten women's national teams represented, and ages ranging from 15-55 years old.
Coach Andrews, who hails from Edmonton, Alberta and played on the Canadian soccer teams in the 2003 and 2007 World Cup as well as the Beijing Olympics, proudly represented Canada.
“Our initiative was to promote opportunity, equality and respect for women and girls who seek out a passion for something they love,” Coach Andrews explains. “To me it is impossible to know how my life would have been without football, but the problem is that the playing field is not equal.”
The game, between Volcano FC and Glacier FC, ended goalless, but the result was inconsequential as the sole purpose of the challenge was to highlight the inequality women face in sport. “Ironically it was an ‘equal’ result of 0–0. Our initiative was to promote opportunity, equality, and respect for women and girls who seek out a passion for something they love,” Andrews illustrates.
Since returning from her trek, Coach Andrews continues to inspire others by recounting her adventures and telling her story, including this feature on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls and, of course, her daily interactions with her students at Turning Point School.
“Every ball that is rolling brings a smile to my face, joy in my heart, and a sparkle to my eye,” says Sasha. “I have met so many people around the world, have had so many challenges, have earned a free education, and now have my dream job working at Turning Point where I get to play every day with students who, in turn, inspire me to be my best self.”
To learn more about Coach Andrews’ journey as well as the movement that inspired her, watch this documentary (family friendly!) that follows the astonishing journey of these talented and dedicated women as they climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to stage the world's highest-altitude football match and in doing so provide a platform to discuss gender equality in sport.
This past Saturday, Turning Point School hosted the regional qualifying tournament for the FIRST LEGO League Hydro-Dynamics Global Challenge. FIRST LEGO League is an international competition that invites elementary and middle school students to research a real-world problem and then develop a solution. They also must design, build, and program an autonomous robot that is capable of performing a variety of tasks in the Robot Game. Our Robotics students in grades 5-8 have been preparing for this competition since Summer Camp in August and, since then, after school several days a week.
The theme for this year’s challenge was HYDRO DYNAMICS. The 24 teams who competed in the regional qualifying round on Saturday were tasked with learning all about water and how to improve the process of finding, transporting, using, or disposing of it. Our Tornado Gold Team designed their project around improving access to clean drinking water in rural areas and third world countries, while our Green Team tackled how to monitor and conserve everyday water usage with the "Sink Bit"—a technology that acts like a Fitbit for your sink.
Our middle and elementary teams participated valiantly, reflecting Turning Point values through their innovation, perseverance, and teamwork. In fact, our “Green Team,” composed of upper elementary students, took the “Champions Award”—first place overall, an exceptional achievement! They are now on to the Los Angeles Regional Championship where they will compete once again on Sunday, December 10. In the judging room, the Green Team scored high in robot design, project design, and core values. They also scored in the top 40% for Robot Performance, where students stayed remarkably composed and collected while programming their robots to perform timed tasks.
The fact that Turning Point School is able to sustain not one but three Robotics teams is a reflection of the skills and values students develop and embrace as students, from a very young age and from various areas of their school experience. Some of these skills include:
- Systems thinking: Professional roboticists must be comfortable with complicated systems, as robots involve electronics, engineering, cognition, mechanics, and programming.
- Programming: Students develop an affinity for learning new languages, and learn to think differently about how information flows.
- Lifelong learning: Students understand that they can’t learn everything they need to know from a manual; they become adept at learning on the go and understanding that the field is always evolving.
- Mathematics and science: Students love exploring abstract mathematical concepts and logical thinking that derives from both disciplines.
- Judgment and decision making: Students are adaptable; they understand the need to implement these skills along the way as they develop new projects.
- Critical thinking and analysis: Troubleshooting involves looking at a problem from different angles and reasoning ways to solve it.
- Persistence: Students learn to to stick with a project, even when they get frustrated or encounter a dead end.
- Technology design: Students need to create and develop a product that will actually work.
- Collaboration: “We are a team.” This is the first core value of FIRST Lego League, and emphasizes the need for students to work together to become effective developers.
Robotics has been compared to sports, in that both pursuits require students to synthesize the skills they learn and apply them in new, uncharted ways. Real world applications mean we cannot rely on tried and true answers; we must generate our own unmapped solutions.
Our Green Team excelled in the areas mentioned above, but it was the individual judging room where their apparent poise and confidence earned them the “Champion’s Award.” They won this competition because in the absence of adult teachers and coaches they were able to shine by demonstrating their robot and explaining their thinking and development process clearly and articulately. We are so proud of our innovators, and of the learning that they spearheaded.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
*I would like to express my deep gratitude to Travis Reynolds, who has been coaching this group, who volunteered to host the competition and who organized it masterfully, and who continues to take the lead in innovating our academic technology curriculum and program. Thanks, too, to Judy Castro and John Wan, for assisting Travis with the Robotics program, and to all our faculty and staff who support this program. Finally, thank you to our parents, who so enthusiastically engage in our collective goal to provide children with opportunities to explore and stretch their interests and talents.
Turning Point School was thrilled to welcome military veteran Chase Millsap to campus today. He spoke with students in kindergarten through middle school about his experiences serving as an Army Green Beret and Marine Infantry Officer, and how he has dedicated his post-military career to protecting citizens of U.S. ally countries who have been affected by post-war conditions.
Mr. Millsap shared with students a very personal story that inspired his passion for helping others. On one of his tours, as a young platoon commander in Al Anbar in 2006, an Iraqi solider saved his life. When ISIS gained power after the U.S. withdrew its troops, it targeted the Captain and his family (along with many others who served alongside the U.S. military). Fearful for his life and the safety of his loved ones, the Captain and his family fled to Turkey, where they still live as refugees.
For three years, they have been waiting for a visa to resettle in the United States under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. The case is currently on hold due to the President’s executive order on immigration and refugees. Mr. Millsap remains close with the Captain and continues to advocate for him. “I owe him the same level of commitment that he gave me on the battlefield,” Millsap explains.
Mr. Millsap served on three combat tours in Iraq as a Marine infantry officer and then as an Army Green Beret for five years in southwest Asia. Upon his retirement from the military, he earned his master's degree from USC in Public Policy and is now a veterans’ advocate. He is the founder of the Ronin Refugee Project and a member of the Board of Directors of No One Left Behind, two organizations dedicated to supporting U.S. wartime allies and refugees who seek resettlement in the United States—including Iraq and Afghan allies who qualify for Special Immigrant Visas because of their service with the U.S. military.
He recently produced the short-film, “The Captain’s Story” in collaboration with National Geographic to highlight the struggles faced by America’s wartime allies. His written works have been published by the Columbia (SIPA) Journal of International Affairs, National Geographic, and the Huffington Post.
We are very appreciative to Mr. Millsap for spending the morning with our students, sharing his stories, and answering our many questions! We thank you and all of our veterans and active duty military for your service.
The elementary Spanish and art departments invite you to visit their "ofrenda" for Dia de los Muertos, located in Building 2 near the middle school art room. Students in Grades 2-5 learned about Day of the Dead and made beautiful contributions to create their own "community altar." Each offering was designed by students with creativity and respect for this tradition.
- Grade 2 made tissue paper marigolds
- Grade 3 decorated string with colorful beads and created patterns which complemented nicely with the hummingbirds, made by Grade 5. The strings were used to hang the birds and give a flying appearance.
- Grade 4 illustrated calaveras with meaning, feeling, and expression.
- Grade 5 sculpted and painted clay hummingbirds.
The ofrenda will stay up til the end of November. Please stop by and view our students' creative work the next time you are on campus.
During this month’s Family Event, students, faculty, and staff worked together to help build understanding about peace, and to demonstrate the value we place on peaceful resolutions and mutual respect. Inspired by the good work done in our classrooms to form peace and justice connections, Families discussed peace, peacemakers, and words that could be associated with peace. We decorated rocks with words and symbols, and relied on enthusiastic student volunteers to create a powerful display.
The Turning Point Family Program provides a multi-age environment that builds a sense of community among faculty, staff, and students. Faculty and staff “elders” facilitate monthly Family meetings that help younger students benefit from interaction with older students, encourage older students to practice responsible modeling, and inspire all members of the Turning Point community to learn, share, and grow together.
This week’s Head’s Corner blog is written by Will Segar, Elementary Division Head.
My grandfather, who became a school head in the early sixties, inspired many of the next two generations of my family members to become educators. Joseph C. Segar spent a good portion of his professional life working to imbed diversity as a criterion of excellence in private schools; he rallied his community in Cambridge, Massachusetts around the idea that a school cannot be great and be all white. Despite many challenges, he stood firm and was able to influence others to share his conviction
My family is not unique in drawing off grandparents' actions as a way to inspire direction. So many of the elders in our collective lives are innovators and change-makers. Their experiences and values transcend our passing interests, and influence how we manage the dynamics of making positive contributions to the world.
As November arrives, many Turning Point families will be making plans to spend time with extended family. Much of grandparents' attention will rightly be showered on adoring children—the focus centered on the interests and enthusiasm of our youngest family members. We encourage families to also find opportunities to engage grandparents in discussion about the triumphs and obstacles in their lives. As children age, ways to revisit conversations with an increasingly complex lens emerge, and connections are made about how family identity and history help shape moral integrity.
Turning Point's Grandfriends' Day serves as one such meaningful opportunity to connect. During the morning’s activities, students will draw from their own experiences with process-based learning to lead Grandfriend visitors through a hands-on exploration.
We hope grandparents and other special friends will join us on Tuesday, November 21 as we construct meaning with our words, hands, and hearts.
Elementary Division Head
Turning Point School
Enjoy a sneak peek of the type of activity many of our students and Grandfriends will engage in together:
The video above demonstrates how Turning Point School uses process-based learning to inspire students (and teachers!) to explore and expand their aptitude for design and discovery. Utilizing the method of "Learn, Practice, Share, and Revise," we create experiences that encourage collaboration, develop resiliency, and inspire joyful learning. Learn more in our Glass Classrooms.
Have you ever built something without instructions? This year's Halloween Carnival assignment required our eighth grade students to do just that - create ideas from scratch and share them with the community. Even building with a step-by-step, illustrated guide can be "mind wrenching." Now, imagine being asked to invent or re-envision a carnival game out of found or recyclable objects.
Students were asked to synthesize and integrate skills gained from their study of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics to collaboratively design and build games which they then played with our youngest students during the annual Halloween Carnival. The project emphasized the importance of the Four C's (critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration) while also reinforcing the educational practices of Design Thinking and play.
The future has no blueprint or road map, and our students will need to think outside the box while working under pressure with various constraints and unpredictable circumstances. Furthermore, conservation and sustainability efforts will also be part of future solutions as our population continues its exponential growth.
At the carnival, students and parents were encouraged to play, have fun, and ask many questions. We hope everyone walked away having learned something new, or seen something they had not seen before. And most of all, we hope our younger students felt inspired to see their own creations and ideas come to life, while making a positive impact on their community.
To view additional photos, please visit our Facebook Halloween photo album.
Our annual Thanksgiving Supply Drive to benefit S.A.V.E.S. begins on Monday, November 6. This annual event encourages students, staff, and families to connect with and help others in their community through a partnership with St. Augustine Volunteer Emergency Services. S.A.V.E.S. offers nonsectarian assistance to families and individuals who are experiencing economic difficulties. Our collection of non-perishable food supplies continues through Friday, November 17.
Items requested by S.A.V.E.S. include:
- Canned vegetables
- Canned fruit
- Canned fruit juice
- Canned tuna
- Canned soup
- Canned beans
- Canned pasta
- Canned meat
- Peanut Butter
- Soup in microwaveable containers
- Macaroni and cheese in boxes or microwave containers
- Microwave oatmeal
- Boxed cereal
- Dry or powdered milk
- Plastic containers of jam or jelly
- Disposable diapers
Thank you in advance for your generous support of our community.
Your PSA Community Service Co-Chairs & Faculty Liasons,
Deb Magidson, Gretchen McAdams, Orit Michiel, Caro Pasvolsky, Ms. Habib, Mr. Kline, and Ms. Short
At Turning Point School, we integrate project-based learning into our curriculum, in order to improve learning and to allow students to perform work that can make a difference in their communities and the larger world. First grade teacher and Service Learning Coordinator Tessa Short was selected by the Buck Institute of Education as one of seven teachers nationwide to create a project based learning unit for the Facing Difference Challenge by Students Rebuild. Her working group focused on resolving conflict through peace, and together they designed curricula for elementary and middle school students that addressed the charge: How can student leaders advocate for peace?
If you wander the hallways on the ground floor of Building 1, you will see the first grade interactive bulletin boards integrating the five senses with expressions of peace. Children described ways in which they see, hear, smell, touch, and feel peace and invite community members to contribute their own impressions of peace. Whether it is the soothing smell of your grandmother’s chicken soup, the feel of a cozy blanket, the sight of a good friend whom you know will listen to you—please come by and post your experiences and read what our wise, young students have reported.
Ms. Short recently published a blog post on the Buck Institute’s website about her experiences with the other six fellows implementing design thinking for the Peace by Piece curricula. I hope you will all read her post, which serves as a primer in design thinking as well as a fascinating step-by-step unfolding of relevant, real-world lessons that even our youngest elementary students can appreciate. We are lucky to have innovative teachers like Ms. Short who strive to inspire students to make a mark on their worlds and to be able to reflect meaningfully on their efforts.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
Grade 8 Humanities students participated in their first independent reading book club last week. Each student read a book within one of our three year-long themes: Award Winning Novels, Alternative Format, or Where Science Meets Fiction. Last week, students held enthusiastic discussions in their book club groups.
Students who read J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye analyzed the importance of opening one’s self up to community and creating meaningful relationships with peers. In another group, eager debate filled the room where students discussed Isaac Asimov‘s I, Robot and the challenges of responsible invention. Those who read John Lewis’s memoir, March, analyzed Lewis’s leadership style and discussed how his actions impacted the civil rights movement.
These conversations illustrated a high level of critical thought about decision-making (real or imagined). They also exemplify our graduating students’ grasp on the role that community-focus, curiosity, and innovation play in analyzing literature. They are looking forward to the next book club meeting in November!
With many women (and some men) coming forward to share stories of sexual harassment in Hollywood and beyond, conversations about gender stereotypes and power have gone mainstream. Sexual harassment is alarmingly common, in part because of ensconced gender stereotypes and biases which have served to silence women from reporting experiences that made them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
For decades I have been researching, teaching, and writing about issues of power, stereotypes, and the factors that shape the most intricate relations between men and women. When I earned my Ph.D., my dissertation research consisted of closely examining various pop culture representations (horror films, self-help books, memoirs) in order to extrapolate the ways in which society’s fears and fantasies about sexuality are projected, specifically onto adolescent girls. In the late 1990s when I taught introductory gender studies classes to undergraduates, we discussed sexual harassment and assault on college campuses, and very few students were outraged about a culture that made precautions necessary, such as going to parties in groups and watching drinks being poured. Young women and men accepted these conditions as simply the way things were. But unchecked aggressive and objectifying behavior has long-reaching ramifications, creating environments that prevent victims of harassment from coming forward for fear of being seen as looking for attention, unable to handle situations, or making too much of a meaningless incident.
As women have made great strides in the past decades, a backlash of sexist and objectifying representations and language has increased accordingly. And while most men are supportive of the progress of women and girls and hold them in deep respect, we are still trapped by gender biases and habitual predispositions. A 2015 survey found that more than one in 10 American girls experience catcalls or general street harassment before the age of 11. When girls and boys hear language that normalizes an emphasis on physical beauty and desirability, girls begin to organize their worth through the lens of attractiveness, not on their inner strengths and qualities. And boys begin to organize their identities through a twisted definition of strength and toughness, and shut down their feelings as a result.
As parents and educators, we want to raise confident, empathic children who are not afraid to go against the grain and challenge oversimplified depictions of masculinity and femininity. At Turning Point School, I have seen incredibly meaningful discussions on gender, and differences in general, taking place—both inside and outside our classrooms. Our teachers and staff consistently pursue professional development opportunities that empower them to help students become thoughtful, educated advocates for others’ perspectives and experiences.
Below you will find some strategies for how to help your own children explore gender roles in an empowering and inclusive way. This advice was curated from various experts I have encountered through my work on this topic (much of which transcends gender and can be applied to numerous situations involving differences):
- Talk about differences respectfully.
- Expose children to stories from varying perspectives and embrace the multifaceted nature of each human being, and of people who share a particular background or feature. You might ask your child to think about what might feel positive or feel challenging about being another gender.
- Teach children to think critically, to use evidence to support their claims, especially when they may reflect unconscious biases or prejudices.
- Foster active, nonjudgmental listening so that your child will talk to you about his or her experiences.
- Expect students to be “upstanders”—to support others even if it is not a popular stance. Provide your child with a script, encouraging either a direct approach (“I don’t think what you said is cool,” or simply, “We don’t do that”) or an indirect approach (“What made you say that?”).
- Teach children that no means no, and that boundaries—theirs and others’—need to be respected. Talk about what it means to be an ethical person by connecting discussions about relationships, stereotypes, and harassment to our responsibility to be respectful of others and to intervene with others when they may be at risk.
- Check yourself: what verbal and non-verbal messages are you sending your children about women and their value, and gender stereotypes in general?
- Pay attention for teachable moments: when you see stereotypes in films, books, or movies, ask your child what they think or tell them why you find it unacceptable or offensive. You can use language like, “I know we are seeing this, but in our family, we do not treat women that way.”
When I think back to my college students and their passive acceptance of sexism, I wish so much more for our next generation of women and men. I hope that they become more aware of and less accepting of misogyny and harassment in our culture. I hope that we make empathy a value as important as academic achievement and test-taking, that we create broader definitions of masculinity and femininity and the ways in which we can define our gendered identities, and that we reject tired and useless clichés like “boys will be boys.” We owe our children the chance to experience the richness of life and not to feel like they must cut themselves off from feelings or opportunities that will cultivate them as fully-realized human beings.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
- The Making Caring Common Project: Harvard University Graduate School of Education: How Adults Can Promote Young People’s Healthy Relationships and Prevent Misogyny and Sexual Harassment
- Girl Scouts: The Conversation You Must Have With Your Kids Today
- Parents Magazine: #MeToo: How to Talk to Your Kids About Sexual Harassment and Assault
Students in first grade are learning about peace and what it means for our world. Tying into their studies of the five senses, students have considered the essential question, "What does peace feel, sound, taste, smell, and look like to you?" Students recorded their ideas and posted them on interactive bulletin boards outside their classrooms.
They now invite the school community to also consider the question, and add their thoughts using the blank sticky notes provided. Students love seeing all the positive contributions to this visually and philosophically beautiful display.
Last Wednesday I read We’re All Wonders to our first graders. The protagonist is a boy with only one eye, who yearns for others to see beyond his difference to experience him as a “wonder.” Together we defined words like “unique,” discussed how the narrator was feeling when he hears others whispering behind his back, and mused about the advantages of imagination and the intricacies of friendship.
Later in the week, I engaged in a discussion of The Catcher in the Rye with some sharp eighth grade students, focusing on the teenage protagonist disconnected from family and friends as he struggles to leave childhood behind. With our oldest students, I could follow their lead. They made astute observations regarding the novel’s syntax representing Holden’s distance from his feelings and spoke perceptively about the very real perils and joys that accompany the transition to adulthood
According to writer Teju Cole, literature has “vaunted power to inspire empathy.” Novelist Marilynne Robinson has described fiction as “an exercise in the capacity for imaginative love, or sympathy, or identification,” which even our youngest students can experience from a simple picture book. Literature forces us to deal with complexity, which we often face in real-life situations where simple rules are inadequate and unhelpful. Interpreting literature helps our students to become “amiable skeptics,” by requiring them to develop a point of view supported by evidence and to reject arguments that lack persuasive proof. This process develops critical thinking skills our students need to approach challenges with order and rigor.
By analyzing literature, students also become better able to narrate their own stories and write their own histories. Last week, students in both first and eighth grade reveled in the opportunity to understand the books’ characters and their struggles, and to talk more broadly about big, messy questions: What is the value of adulthood? What do you leave behind in the transition to adulthood? Can you ever be innocent? How do you look past the surface to find the wonder in other human beings?
The proclivity to use literature as a means of creating and defining self-awareness lies at the heart of communities as well as individuals. On Wednesday evening, over 40 parents, administrators, and teachers came together for a Community Book Read discussion to explore the challenges of nurturing our children into successful adults, a profound commitment for all of us. We came away feeling nourished by each other’s stories and connected to shared values and empathy. Many participants let me know afterward that they appreciated the support to challenge some patterns and assumptions to find new opportunities for their child’s (and even their own) growth.
As an educator, I am always grateful to have the opportunity to participate in these discussions—with students, with parents, and with peers. In the process of sharing and exploring our own stories and those of others, we expand the beliefs and values that shape our families, our communities, and ultimately, our school.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
As part of a cross-curricular classroom unit on farms, fruits, and vegetables, second graders traveled to Underwood Farms to test their knowledge in the real world. After admiring the many farm animals, the students participated in a presentation on how farms grow fruits and vegetables. They then traveled by tractor into the fields and learned how to pick lettuce, celery, bok choy, and spinach. After filling their bags with fresh vegetables straight from the ground, they headed into the pumpkin patch to pick their very own Sugar Baby pumpkins. At school, they will apply this knowledge in science, in the garden, and through group presentations in Social Studies.
At Turning Point School, "Study Tours" such as the one Grade 2 took to Underwood Farms, provide valuable opportunities for students to apply what they are learning in an immersive, real-world experience. Following each Study Tour, students participate in reflective exercises both as a group and individually, which bring the academics and the experience full circle. Occasionally, students attend Study Tours at the beginning of a unit as a springboard and inspiration for the lessons to come.