Turning Point School Blog
I have noticed something interesting about my sons since they started at Turning Point School. The choices they make during independent playtime have expanded: they are just as likely to turn towards interactive activities (such as building a fort), as they are static activities (such as watching TV). They seem less afraid to try new activities and reach for new goals. In a nutshell, their curiosity has blossomed.
I have enjoyed watching this unfolding of independence as they start gaining the confidence necessary to try new ideas and take calculated risks. But there is a shadow lurking right around the corner that has me—and maybe you as well—worried that this growing curiosity and confidence might recede: Summer Break.
This is how I picture the summer: my children, happily engaged in play with their peers, intent on creating something they envisioned, gaining the courage and confidence to take risks and view failure as a pathway to success, continuing to exercise and grow their creative muscles despite the absence of the regular school day and talented teachers to guide them.
This is what I fear will really happen: Too much screen time. Too little play time. An atrophying of creative muscle. Unhealthy snacks. A deep, diving plunge into… boredom.
What if I told you that during the summer months your child will not simply maintain, but expand their curiosity, creative expression, and thirst for innovation?
Turning Point has specifically developed our summer programming with a “what we imagine can happen” mindset. We do this both through our in-house programs as well as our partnership with Galileo Innovation Camps, which provides students from Levels K - 8 with six different innovative week-long programs from which to choose.
We chose Galileo as our partner in summer programming because their mission is to develop innovators who envision and create a better world—a natural complement to Turning Point’s mission, philosophy, and core values. Inspired by the Stanford d.school, their award-winning curriculum is designed to encourage children to be bolder, more creative, less discouraged by failure, and hungrier for challenges.
Campers in Kindergarten through Level 5 unleash their innovators by exploring art, science, and the brave outdoors; they develop the courage to create, celebrate mistakes, and boldly transform their ideas into reality. Imagine what they might explore in one or more of these weekly themes:
- Galileo Amusement Park: The Art & Engineering of Circuses and Carnival Rides
- Galileo Makers: Move It – The Art of Science and Motion
- Medieval Adventure: Royal Art and Inventions of the Middle Ages
- African Safari: The Art and Science of the Serengeti
Students in middle school can choose from more than 14 immersive majors—including brand new offerings rife with puzzling escapes, YouTube-ready videos, and inventive breakfast bites—that encourage them to think big.
Galileo has a great track record, with over 60+ camps in the Bay area, Southern California, and Chicago. And their program works – after just one week of camp, we see children developing a new mindset about themselves and the value they can bring to the world through their creativity and innovation. In fact, Stanford has been conducting a longitudinal study on Galileo campers to measure how creative confidence increases as a result of attending the program. I know I am excited to see the results of this study and will share those as they become available.
And, of course, our in-house programming—which book-ends the Galileo program with an End-of-School Camp and Back-to-School Camp—is specifically designed to provide students with the opportunity to explore their passions and curiosities in several different disciplines, with an emphasis on student choice. So, in the elementary grades, some students will make robots and others might elect to work in the garden to make and serve healthy snacks through our Dirt to Dish program. In middle school, students can participate in our Counselor-In-Training program and hone their skills in specific areas of athletics and arts.
In addition, throughout the summer, programs for our returning Primary students act as a bridge to the next school year as we create a nurturing, stimulating, challenging, and familiar setting to meet the needs of our students as they continue to explore the world.
If you have yet to explore the myriad options Turning Point provides through our Summer Programs, please explore our website to learn more. We would love to help you make this the summer you imagine for your family.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
Photo Credit: Galileo Innovation Camps
Level 5 recently completed their favorite project-based learning activity of the year: Budgeting for a Good Life. Students worked in groups to create a persona and then searched for jobs, found apartments, decided on transportation, and budgeted for food, entertainment, and luxuries. They used Google Docs and Slides, Google Classroom, Excel, and several pre-approved websites to inform their decisions and create their presentations.
The project not only helped students develop a framework for understanding affordability, it gave them practice in working with positive and negative numbers as well. In the end, students learned that if you follow a budget you won’t accidentally spend the money you needed for rent on something you don’t really need... like a new pair of shoes!
This week's Head's Corner blog is written by Amy Philpott, Librarian and Research Specialist
A report issued this past November from the Stanford History Education Group found that middle and high school students from across the country have a poor ability to understand and evaluate what they read online. They had trouble distinguishing ads from true news articles, failed to question beliefs presented as facts, and neglected to notice when a claim came from a dubious source. For some, this news came as a shock. Shouldn’t these enthusiastic, young tech consumers - these so-called digital natives - be savvier? In truth, their findings should come as no surprise when we consider the challenges facing youths trying to make sense of their world through the wealth of information available to them in this digital age.
It was not long ago that students primarily read from books issued from just a few publishers and periodicals targeted for young people. Teachers, librarians, editors, publishers, and parents were collectively responsible for vetting sources for children. This meant that their reading materials weren’t particularly diverse, but a sense of the world could be provided in a tidy package. Children primarily needed to learn how to read, extract information, and synthesize it.
Today, our children have a massive amount of information available to them. This is undoubtedly a positive development. It means children are exposed to a richer variety of viewpoints, voices, and formats for content. There are fewer gatekeepers of information and far more ways access it. We all have relatively easy access to experts and can fact-check nearly any claim.
In theory, this allows a child to grow up incredibly well-informed and aware of perspectives beyond his/her community. But in order to tease out facts and find a cohesive narrative amid the cacophony of voices online, readers must be able to sift through mounds of information, locate relevant sources, determine the author of such sources, evaluate the credibility of the author, consider whether the source aims to inform, persuade, etc.—all while there are internet sources actively trying to mislead readers as to their intent. What’s an educator to do?
At Turning Point, we begin how we always have: by first considering the developmental stage of the child. Reading has always been central to Turning Point’s program. Now more than ever, we recognize that from an early age it is imperative that we not only teach students to read—we must teach students to take a critical approach to what they read. Our project-based approach to learning provides a natural foundation for this vital skill.
Through project-based learning, children ask questions and discover answers independently. Our youngest children are led to credible online databases, such as Britannica School and CultureGrams. From their earliest introduction to web-based sources, they are encouraged to note who wrote the information, just as they would note the author of a book. Beginning in Level 3, students compare the publication process for books and websites; they learn that not all web-based sources are the same, as they concretely identify differences between websites and online databases. Lessons such as these invite students to consider the editorial process and set them up to advance their critical approach as development allows. By middle school, students are equipped to engage in more sophisticated conversations about detecting bias online and investigating a claim.
Our children are inheriting a world rich with opportunities to seek knowledge and better understand our diverse and complex world. Together we can ensure that our students feel confident as they take their place as global citizens.
Resources for Parents
- Common Sense Media, “News and Media Literacy”
- American Library Association, “Great Websites for Kids”
- Turning Point Library
- Lori Getz
We hope you can join us this Wednesday, April 19, for our last Speaker Series installment. Cyber Education expert, Lori Getz, will discuss how parents can have productive, effective conversations with tech-savvy children about the safe, responsible, and ethical use of technology.
Library and Research Specialist
Turning Point School
Parents and guests are invited to join us next Wednesday, April 19 from 8:30 – 10:30 am for the final event in our 2016-17 Parent Speaker Series:
Parenting the Tech-Savvy of Today
Wednesday, April 19 | 8:30 – 10:30 am
Building 2 Theatre
How do we have productive, effective conversations with tech-savvy children about the safe, responsible, and ethical use of technology? Learn to talk to your child about how technology can improve our lives and how to avoid the pitfalls of over sharing, over-friending, and over-connecting. Discover ways of establishing rules that apply both in and outside of the home.
Instructional Technologist and founder of Cyber Education Consultants, Lori Getz speaks to students, parents, and educators about internet safety, security, and ethics. Her mission is to help bridge the gap between a young generation of digital natives and their parents and teachers.
We hope to see you there!
Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.
—Rainer Maria Rilke
Driving to Berkeley over Spring Break, my family could not stop marveling at the lush landscape and bursts of color that accompanied us along the way. All that winter rain—first a blessing, then still a blessing but also a nuisance, then still a blessing but enough already!—diminished in the face of this abundant, verdant landscape. I, for one, felt comforted by seeing these very real results that yielded from the investment of our wet winter. Spring comes every year, and it seems especially striking and vibrant this year. At the same time, spring is fleeting. It’s a brief harvest, with delicate fava beans, asparagus, English peas, and strawberries; here and then gone in a heartbeat.
When you teach children, every spring feels this way: admiration for these energetic, vital young people who are prepared and ready for their next challenge mixed with the sadness of time passing. Parents feel these mixtures, too: how did my child, who just started kindergarten, become ready to move to first grade? How is it possible that my child will be starting high school in just a few months? Our students come back from Spring Break and their pants are too short, some of their teeth missing; they are shrugging off their younger selves like ill-fitting clothes, and we watch proudly and helplessly as they burst into bloom like desert wildflowers.
We cannot grow without leaving things behind, and we leave a lot behind in spring as the school year winds down and we make ready for what’s next. For some, you are leaving the Turning Point community for the next step in your child’s (and your) journey, and this can be bittersweet. Students especially can look for ways to get a running start to progress to the next step. It is not uncommon for our eighth grade students, who have been heretofore happy at school, to find complaints that make them content to leave. This about-face is developmentally normal and appropriate; as we grieve for what we are leaving behind, we can mask it in anger, an activating emotion that provides momentum. Even moving from one grade level to the next can provoke anxiety and sadness as well as anticipation and excitement. It is our responsibility, educators and parents alike, to help students manage these transitions while acknowledging all the richness and complexities of such metamorphoses.
If you are leaving Turning Point at the end of this year, I hope that you will find ways to stay engaged with our community as you move to a new place and that you will recognize your own complex feelings about leaving and loss, as well as eagerness for what’s ahead. Your family will always be part of this dynamic, vital community. For the majority of you who will continue your journey with us, I look forward to tackling new adventures and exploring new opportunities together in the months and years to come.
In the meantime, I look forward to a brilliant spring that involves learning, growing, risking, and abundant, reckless blooming of all our wonderful students.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
Last Friday, Level 5 celebrated the much anticipated Patriots’ Day. This is a day where students take on the character of an 18th century child they have invented. Leading up to the event, they use this persona to write journal entries about various aspects of the Revolutionary War and how their family was impacted.
Students spent the day preparing wonderful food (chicken and vegetable soup, cornbread, apple crisp, butter, and cornhusk dolls), playing games, and writing letters to family members at war with quill and ink on parchment paper. While enjoying the fruits, or vegetables, of their labor, they each rose to toast the Revolutionary War figure on which they wrote a biographical paper. It was wonderful to see the students show what they had learned through their behavior, toasts, and informative group presentations. Huzzah!
On Saturday, March 18, the Tornado Robotics teams competed against 41 other teams at the annual Spring Showdown robotics tournament at Legoland in Carlsbad, CA. Robots of the Hidden Temple was the theme for this year’s competition and students were required to program their robots to travel over and around various obstacles, “rescue” an archaeologist, and collect various "shrines" along the way.
Creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking were all on display as students tinkered with their robots and programs throughout the day to achieve their desired outcomes. Both teams deserve a lot of credit for their hard work and dedication throughout the year. Congratulations is also in order for our youngest students on Turning Point's White Team (#29523) who brought home the Referee’s Award which recognized them for their competitive and collaborative spirit. Go Tornadoes!
The Turning Point community is thrilled to welcome Zoe Lawrence as the newest member of the Turning Point Board of Trustees. Ms. Lawrence was elected on Friday, March 17, 2017 during the monthly Board meeting.
A native of Southern California, Ms. Lawrence attended San Gabriel Christian School through 8th grade, and Maranatha High School in Pasadena for grades 9-12. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration – Accounting from California State University, Los Angeles.
After college, Ms. Lawrence worked in the tax department for Ernst & Young for seven years. She is currently a partner at Grant, Tani, Barash & Altman, a business management firm located in Beverly Hills.
She is also a proud Turning Point parent, and active member of the Turning Point Parent Support Association.
“We have been at Turning Point for five years, which has been such a rewarding experience for our entire family,” states Ms. Lawrence. “I am truly honored to serve as a member of the Board of Trustees.”
Level 5 had a wonderful time on their Study Tour to the Blue Ribbon Children's Festival last week. Held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Festival is an annual admission-free program that is designed specifically for fifth grade students. Our Level 5 students experienced a live professional performance by Alvin Ailey’s dance company and then gathered together to perform a short choreographed dance inspired by the production. A great time was had by all!
The Children’s Festival is sponsored by The Blue Ribbon, a support organization of The Music Center, founded in 1968 by Dorothy Buffum Chandler. The festival began in 1970 as part of The Music Center’s commitment to engage young people in the arts, and is one of California’s longest ongoing free arts education programs.
Level K celebrated the Persian New Year today with the help of their teacher, Ms. Tahmasebi. They learned how Nowruz, widely celebrated across the Middle East and Asia, celebrates renewal and rebirth, symbolizing the coming of spring.
Students loved hearing about the mythical characters Nane Sarma (“cold granny”) who represents winter, and Amo Nowruz who represents spring. They also learned about the traditional Haft Seen table, which includes items that symbolize rebirth, love, prosperity, wisdom, good health, patience, and spirituality.
It didn’t take much encouragement for students to join in a traditional dance to new year music—a definite highlight of the celebration! They capped off the lesson by decorating eggs to represent Haji Firooz, the traditional herald of the Nowruz season.
Wind and rain have gone.
Lord Nowruz has come.
Friends, convey the message.
The New Year has come again.
The spring be your good luck
The tulip fields be your joy.
Nowruz Folk Song
Perhaps you have recently noticed that carpool has been easier to navigate or that the campus seems rather quiet. Our middle school students have scattered far afield, excitedly engaged in exploration, learning, and bonding during their transformative middle school spring trips. Our Level 6 students leave today to visit the Grand Canyon, and our Levels 7 and 8 students have ventured internationally to the Dominican Republic and Italy.
At Turning Point, we do not ask families to pay additional funds for spring trips; every student can attend as part of their enrollment. There is a reason for this: these are more than fun excursions, they are meaningful experiences that thoughtfully and purposely allow students to connect more deeply with the subjects they are studying. Their travels and itineraries expose them to different perspectives on history and culture, and offer them the chance to make a difference in a local community and see the world through a new lens.
As a member of the Council of International Schools, one of Turning Point’s key objectives is to help our students develop global competence—which requires them to understand issues of global significance. Students learn about the complexity of world events and issues, while developing self-awareness of their individual and collective identities as the foundation for understanding other cultures. Taking students out of their regular routines and immersing them in another culture helps them be more aware of the assumptions they take for granted. There, they can value multiple perspectives and develop adaptability, humility, and empathy. Most importantly, students can reflect on their lives and dreamed-of futures in the context of understanding something bigger than themselves, their local community, and even our home country.
Our Level 7 students are exploring Santa Domingo, the first city to be colonized in the “Americas,” and participating in an environmental summit with peers from the Dominican Republic. Across the world, in the cradle of Western civilization, our Level 8 students have researched and are teaching each other about ancient sites and monuments in Italy. In both cases, students are investigating the world by framing key questions, analyzing and synthesizing evidence, and drawing conclusions that lead them to deeper inquiry about these critical historical settings and their implications for centuries to come.
A special feature of our Level 7 trip to the Dominican Republic is the emphasis on service learning, which, by design, connects community service to classroom learning. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, service learning is “…a method under which students learn and develop through active participation in…thoughtfully organized service experiences that meet actual community needs, that are integrated into the students’ academic curriculum…and enhance what is taught in school by extending student learning beyond the classroom and into the community.”
On the Dominican Republic trip, our Turning Point students are attending an environmental summit in Jarabacoa, where they work side by side with twenty students from the environmental awareness and action program, Brigada Verde, to build solutions to strengthen the community. Together, they discuss the conference’s theme, “watersheds,” and they have worked in groups to brainstorm and present differences and commonalities between our communities’ water basins. These collaborative conversations have resulted in various projects as students work in teams on service projects at Escula Ambiental: sorting saplings in the nursery, planting celery in the terrace gardens, painting recycling cans, and hauling gravel to build steps in the aquatic area.
We hope that these trips will inspire our students to seek different perspectives when solving problems, encourage them to enjoy lifelong learning and reflection, and translate analyses and ideas into action to improve others’ livelihoods and the world around them. We are proud of our students’ willingness to open their minds and hearts to the beauty, mystery, and grandeur of the world, and to embrace experiences that will transform their sense of who they are and what they can accomplish.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
The Middle School STEAM Expo is a culmination of student led investigations into the fields of science, technology, engineering, art, and math.
For this year's projects, students focused on a personal area of interest, which led them to define a problem or inquiry within that area. Student projects ranged in creativity from moringa seeds which purify water to research on atrial fibrillation. The scientific analysis and research that informed each topic was just as impressive as their presentation skills. Our younger preschool and elementary students had a fabulous time learning more about what their older friends created.
A big kudos to the middle school students on a wonderful display of science and learning!
At Turning Point, we are proud of the joy our students express daily in their learning, creativity, accomplishments, and community. We had many opportunities to witness it this past week during the school-wide Festival of the Arts, the Middle School STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) Expo, and the Middle School Art Installation at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Outlook. These events were reinforced by the observations of the CAIS/WASC Visiting Team, who commented on the joy and pride our students take in our wonderful school.
This year’s Festival of the Arts allowed students to explore the diversity found in nature and cultures by studying flowers and flower-making traditions. Each grade level, from kindergarten through middle school, created flowers using approaches from a specific world culture. They then “cross-pollinated” their flowers with flowers from another culture (made by a different grade level) and then fabricated a collective work of art in the tradition of a specific contemporary artist, culminating in a multi-cultural piece. Students learned about botany, art history, various cultural traditions and materials, and hands-on making skills. These interdisciplinary, inter-grade level projects allowed students to express their ideas creatively while staying true to the materials, traditions, and artistic styles that were framing their projects. If you have not had the chance to visit the Lobby in Building 2 to witness these wonderful pieces, please do stop by.
Students flexed their interdisciplinary muscles again at our Middle School STEAM Expo. They identified open-ended problems or questions in categories such as scientific inquiry, reverse engineering, robotics, inventions, and environmental innovations. Students solved problems ranging from creating inexpensive and safe water filters, to designing binders that would better help to organize students’ work, to imagining an ideal planet to learning about astrophysics, to discovering whether music is a hindrance or a help during homework, to designing a way to make toast before you get out of bed. Projects were imaginative, thoroughly researched, and well-presented.
Students had yet another chance to demonstrate their creativity and ingenuity in a public exhibition at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Outlook this past weekend. The incredible view from the summit inspired one of our students to design signs in elegant calligraphy encouraging climbers ascending the steep stairs to persevere until they reached “Nirvana” at the top. Another exhibit featured the Native American Tongvas, who lived in the hills ten thousand years ago, while another encouraged visitors to save the black walnut trees that were almost extinct at this location. In the Visitor Center, you could view the marine layer in the distance through a rendering of 18th century Spanish ships, a striking sight. Students utilized creativity, research skills, and empathy in order to compose these exhibits that resonated with visitors to the Outlook.
Each of these projects enabled students to discover and to learn deeply about an unfamiliar subject and to teach others about these passion projects. As we move into our final trimester of the school year, I am so inspired by the visible and vibrant ways our students continue to revel in the joy of discovery; how they consistently expand their knowledge and develop expertise; and how they continue to express their ideas in new, innovative ways. I cannot wait to see what else they have in store for us during these final months of the year!Laura
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
Turning Point is thrilled to be a 2017 Silver Level recipient of a California Green Ribbon Schools award through the California Department of Education. This award is reflective of our ongoing commitment to programs that impact sustainability, such as Dirt to Dish, composting, No Waste Lunches, the Carpool Challenge, and many of our community service and service learning initiatives. In addition, it reflects our commitment to environmental education, particularly in incorporating STEAM education, civic skills, and green career pathways.
This is the second year the school has been recognized; in 2016 Turning Point was recognized at the Bronze Level of achievement.
Green Ribbon Schools demonstrate exemplary achievement in three “pillars.” Pillar I: reduce environmental impact and costs; Pillar II: improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and Pillar III: provide effective environmental education that teaches many disciplines and is especially good at effectively incorporating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, civic skills, and green career pathways.
Photo: Assistant Head of School/Middle School Division Head, Gaby Akana (left) and Middle School Teacher/Advisor Matt Kline (third from left) receive the Silver Level award from State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson (2nd from left) and CAPSO Executive Director, Ron Reynolds (right).
This year has provided several occasions for the Turning Point community to reflect upon our history and our future, and to set goals to chart our progress in the years ahead. A highlight is our accreditation through the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), which affords us the opportunity to assess our evolution as a school in the company of experts in the field.
Accreditation requires schools to undergo a rigorous assessment process every seven years. All members of the school community engage in a reflective examination of both the challenges and opportunities facing the school; the end result of this process is a collaborative, written self-study that openly and honestly reflects the culture and inner-workings of the school. This self-study incorporates 16 standards focusing on strengths, challenges, and future goals regarding every element of the school—from academics to finance, community, facilities, leadership, governance, and more. This report is reviewed by a Visiting Committee composed of CAIS independent school leaders from various California schools as well as a WASC representative, usually a curriculum specialist.
Turning Point’s Visiting Team of educators are spending March 5-8 with us, learning more about our culture and program so they can assess Turning Point’s ability to fulfill the goals we have outlined in our self-study. They are meeting with various groups of key stakeholders: faculty, staff, students, Trustees, and parents, and visiting classes to see teaching and learning in real time. The Visiting Committee will offer commendations and recommendations, which will form the basis for our strategic vision over the next seven years, articulated in the Future Planning Document that CAIS requires as a follow-up document.
This growth-minded process of assessment is thoughtfully designed; while of course the product of our work is key, getting to the product required us to pause and take stock of the big picture: what we do, what we stand for, what makes us distinct, where we want to go; in other words, how effectively we are living our mission. Getting to the bottom of these crucial questions requires critical analysis, active listening and empathic dialogue, clearly communicated ideas, and a balance of confidence and humility—skills that we got to practice and to model for our students. With the Visiting Team on campus, we have new partners to help us ascertain our next steps as a teaching and learning community.
I have had the honor of serving on several Visiting Teams, and I have found it to be profound professional development, offering me the chance to help a school develop a plan to implement its mission more purposefully, to bring back ideas to improve my own school and provide a more robust opportunity for students, and to give back meaningfully to the independent school community. At Turning Point, several other administrators have also been asked to serve on visiting accreditation teams, a testament to the excellent regard which our regional association has for our school.
Many of our parents will be on campus Tuesday morning, delivering and arranging flowers to celebrate our wonderful faculty and staff. I cannot think of a more fitting symbol for the renewal and rejuvenation that our accreditation process infuses into our community. There’s a reason these visits come in springtime. If you see any of the Visiting Team members, please say hello. We are thrilled for them to see our wonderful school in action.Laura
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School