Turning Point School Blog
In math class this week, Level 4 students had to "Escape the Classroom" by working in groups to solve math problems related to area and perimeter before time ran out. This activity reinforced students' understanding of the current math unit and also helped them sharpen their collaboration skills.
Adding more mystery to the game, Ms. Marchbanks dressed up as a hooded character who guided students through movement only. By following her movements, students unlocked codes and worked together to solve puzzles. In the end, only one group escaped with five minutes left!
On Monday, May 22, we were thrilled to welcome Level 7 student Arya J. as our Head of School for the Day. Arya experienced this great opportunity thanks to his parents, who so generously bid on the "Head of School for the Day" item at the 2016 Spring Benefit Auction. Below is a blog post he wrote describing his day.
Head of School for the Day - Arya J.
As Head of School, I had a wonderful day. First, I went to the Assembly and introduced myself. I was very nervous, but afterwards felt very proud. Then I went to go talk to the Athletics team and discussed how they run their curriculum, and how it’s a benefit for everyone. I learned that the little kids would play with balloons so they could then learn to play badminton when they’re older. Next, I went with Mr. Segar and we talked about how we could captivate people to look at displays on the wall in Building 1. We came up with really good ideas including all the trips each grade went to, and we were going to put pictures of the trips on the wall to display. Afterwards, I went with Mr. Hinkle to talk about how we could make more students attend after school care, and what benefits there could be. Then, I read a story in Mrs. Beals’ class to the Primary kids. And I enjoyed having donuts with them.
Later, I took photos of my classmates with Mr. Cressey to use them on the website and social media. After that, Mr. Boylan and I did a Locker Check of the middle school. Then I had lunch with Dr. Konigsberg and we had conversations about the pros of the school and how we could improve the school. Then I talked with Ms. Akana to discuss the middle school schedule, and how there could be new electives like Math Club or a new Computer elective. After that, I met with Ms. Baker to customize photos and post them on Facebook and Instagram. Finally, I reviewed marketing material with the Admissions team and signed some important checks.
At the end, this was a great experience, and taught me how fun it was to be Head of School for a Day.
Head of School
Monday, May 22, 2017
This week's Head's Corner blog is written by Diana Bender, Middle School Latin teacher and Advisor
On Friday May 26, Turning Point students, teachers, and parents will participate in the annual International Village. We are excited to exchange knowledge, to spark curiosity, and to inspire positive change throughout our community.
This year’s International Village theme, A Celebration of Change Makers from Around the Globe, is a result of the collaboration and thoughtful planning of a task force of middle school teachers.
Those who have visited the village in the past may notice a change as we have moved away from studying a country as a whole to focusing on one element of the country, using guiding essential questions that allow for deeper learning and prompt our students to develop empathy and make meaningful connections. When students are presented with essential questions, their learning is endless. They think critically about their knowledge and their answers evolve as they continue to question and learn about our world.
In preparation for this year’s village, the middle school students were divided into nine groups to study a change maker from Guinea, Myanmar, South Africa, Peru, Poland, Australia, Pakistan, Japan, or Guatemala. Students incorporated Turning Point’s Core Values in their stories and focused on three essential questions:
- What inspires change makers to take action?
- What is their change maker’s legacy?
- Where is there a need for change in our community?
Similarly, in the Primary and Elementary classrooms, teachers applied grade level appropriate essential questions and infused global citizenship understandings, skills, and values to deepen the learning about the regions surrounding the International Village countries. The resulting cross-curricular projects will be displayed in and around the tents. Prior to the village on Friday, Level 8 students will have visited the Primary and Elementary classrooms to ask them what they have learned about the region they studied and where they see a need for change in our community. Through asking the same essential question that they themselves have been focusing on, we deepen the sense of community and students at all levels are encouraged to make more connections between the countries and regions they have studied.
When the Primary and Elementary classes visit each country’s tent, they will hear the children’s book and will work on a craft project that ties to the change maker and the country. Our Level 8 student leaders will return with the classes to their rooms to follow-up on the learning, and to further discuss the essential question of how we can make change in our world.
Next month, Mr. Matt Kline, middle school teacher and community leadership coordinator, will lead a trip that will take fourteen middle school students on a great adventure to one of our International Village countries, Peru. Our summer service learning trip involves a deep dive into Community Development in Peru’s Mountain Villages, including Machu Picchu. Because they will actually be traveling to their country, this particular International Village group studied a change maker named Maritza Marcavillaca Vargas, who has spearheaded the efforts to create a weekly marketplace in Cuzco. Over the past decade, her efforts have led to improving the lives of over 8,000 indigenous farmers. She has also fought hard to secure greater respect and equal rights for indigenous women in Peru. As part of this summer service program in Cuzco, Turning Point students will have the opportunity to visit the weekly market that Maritza created, experience Machu Picchu, and then spend five days working in the Cuzco area on a service project.
This is one example of how studying change makers enables students to discover for themselves what it takes to effect positive change in a challenging and changing world.
We hope that the stories presented by the students, and the International Village as a whole, will inspire you and your families to think about where there is a need for a change in your community, and will promote positive conversation, collaboration, and transformation.
Middle School Latin | Level 6 Advisor | Facilitator of Level 6-7 Transition
Turning Point School
Our kindergarten students have been talking about water and why it is important to think about reducing water use. They read the book Why Should I Save Water? and discussed the many reasons given in the text. During the shared reading, students made personal connections, giving examples of what they do in their family to help reduce water use and help the environment in general. As their discussion developed, students realized they have a direct impact on their world, and how is important for everyone to do their little part to help.
As a follow up, they answered the essential question, Why is it important to save water? Students brainstormed ideas and wrote down their answers in speech bubbles, then acted out their favorite water-saving activity.
In Latin class, Level 6 students are analyzing how mosaics were made and used in ancient Rome. They have also been using music to help them conjugate verbs in the present tense. Last week, they combined both of these activities to create verb mosaics by writing specific verb forms on six different shapes – triangles, rectangles, pentagons, octagons, decagons, and dodecagons.
Each geometric shape corresponded with a different verb ending. Working in pairs, they then created mosaics with the different shapes. The students’ creativity was on display with mosaics depicting faces, initials, "the verb who sailed the seven seas," a temple, and "some verb over the rainbow." Latin is alive in the Middle School!
What makes us say, “Awww” when we see cute animals and babies? It turns out we don’t learn this at school, it’s in our genes! This interesting fact is only one of many that the Level 5 students learned from their visit with author Stuart Gibbs.
Stuart Gibbs, author of Belly Up, Spy School, Spy Camp, and The Last Musketeer book series, spoke to Level 5 about how his experiences in zoos and studying wildlife inspired some of his books. His love of combining science and literature prompted intriguing discussion and questions, particularly around the topic of preventing the illegal hunting of endangered animals.
Students were engaged and motivated by Mr. Gibbs’ personal stories, knowledge of wildlife biology, and gallery of fascinating creatures!
This year provided me many opportunities to listen and to learn about Turning Point School’s community and history. As we anticipate and begin to plan our 50th anniversary in 2020, there is much to celebrate in Turning Point’s transformation from a small school that shared its living quarters with Leo Baeck Temple in Bel Air to its current incarnation as a P-8 school on our beautiful Culver City campus.
In first grade, I played the part of the “Little Engine” in a theater production of The Little Engine that Could. This Little Engine’s determination to overcome obstacles to get its load of presents to the children who await them leads to some resilient, problem-solving moxie and is a useful role model for our children, who can do many unexpected things if they “think [they] can.” Perhaps it is my own self-centered projection, but I think of Turning Point’s journey as an example of the fortitude and determination that we want our children to emulate as they take risks and throw themselves into the unknown—which we all must do in order to grow.
Turning Point’s decision to evolve into a P-8 school from a P-6 school is especially striking to me. Recently I met with a long-serving Trustee for a “history lesson” about this development in the school’s chronology. To that point, I had not really thought about the reasons behind the decision for this change, but what I learned was striking: Turning Point purposefully moved from a P-6 to P-8 model knowing it might be difficult and against the norm, but with the conviction that this truly is the best model of education for students. It was not about courting more students or building more buildings; it was about making a principled decision based on the strong belief that students are best prepared to launch into young adulthood when they have opportunities to experience what it feel like to be a leader and mentor during the formative years of the early teens.
People ask me why I chose Turning Point, knowing what a momentous decision it was for me and for my family. I am honored to serve as the Head of this wonderful school at this juncture in its history, and I was attracted to Turning Point with my head and my heart, but my respect for Turning Point boils down to this: it is a school that has made its major decisions about its mission and its structure inspired by and rooted firmly in research-based evidence. It is a school that rightly believes that if you are going to invest time, talent, and ingenuity into our most precious resources, our children, then you should move forward armed with evidence and not be deterred by a local system of P-6 and 7-12 that doesn’t fit with this ideal model.
What makes the P-8 model exemplary? A recent study published in the American Educational Research Journal showed that all middle school students (sixth, seventh, and eighth graders) do better academically in K-8 schools, where they feel safer, more at home, and more engaged. The study examined a “top dog, bottom dog” theory, and found that students who were “top dogs” for longer – that is, as middle-schoolers in K-8 schools – were more likely to excel in the middle school years, and also more likely to smoothly transition to “bottom dog” status in high school. This finding is supported by a 2012 study from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, which found that K-8 students are more academically purposeful than if they transfer away from a K-8 in middle school.
In this P-8 model, middle school students develop purpose and self-esteem as mentors and role models for younger students, rather than having to establish themselves in new middle school settings. The P-8 curriculum is more unified and consistent, as it is developed with our graduating eighth graders in mind and planned backward so that even in our preschool, students are beginning to develop skills that will help them to become the incisive thinkers and confident doers that characterize Turning Point graduates. These youngest students benefit from the mentorship of older students and from seeing themselves as leaders as early as our Primary program, and even more so as they grow into the roles that enhanced their own development and growth. If you are interested to learn more, I wrote about this topic in detail in a previous blog post last fall.
Last week I attended our annual young alumni reunion celebrating former Turning Point School students who are graduating high school and leaving home for some of the most selective colleges and universities in the country. It was a spectacular turnout, with many students and their families in attendance. Many of our teachers and administrators were there, too, to reconnect with these admirable young adults who were not just intelligent and accomplished, but funny and poised, friendly and discerning.
They all had fond memories of their experiences at Turning Point and great attitudes about life. Looking back on their children’s journey, the parents were grateful for the excellent high school educations, but they lavishly praised Turning Point’s foundational experiences. While I cannot take credit for these successes, I am inspired by them, as they confirm the perspicacity and foresight of the Board of Trustees and of former Head of School, Deborah Richman for establishing a school that honors what is truly best for children. I am proud to continue in this tradition of excellence.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
This weekend in Philadelphia is the Dream Flag Project Celebration. The Dream Flag Project began in 2003 and now has students in over 27 countries and 42 states participating through writing and sharing poems about their dreams. This year, Level 6 students participated in the project as a culminating writing piece for the Intergenerational Writers Workshop, an annual project in which Level 6 students partner with seniors from the Culver City Senior Center to share writing and learn from one another during weekly sessions.
This year’s workshop assignments followed a reading and discussion of Langston Hughes’ poem Dream Keeper, after which students and seniors wrote poems about their dreams. In lieu of sending flags to the celebration, Turning Point was asked to participate in a beta test of the Dreamline app, which allows students to make a Dream Flag with others in their class, then display and celebrate their work on the app with other students from around the world. Each Level 6 student had his/her flag photographed and was recorded while reading his/her poem. Level 6 was excited to be a part of this international celebration of dreams and poetry.
The Level 6 dream flags will be on display at the Intergenerational Village on May 26.
To read more about this year’s Intergenerational Writers Workshop, see this article written by one of the seniors for the Culver City Observer.
Today at the Level 4 Living Gallery, historical giants such as Pablo Picasso, Sally Ride, Lucille Ball, Pele, Frank Lloyd Wright, Harriet Tubman, and Albert Einstein rubbed shoulders with some of history's lesser-known figures: Carl Gauss (mathematician), Elizabeth Blackwell (America's first female doctor), Katherine Johnson (one of the first female physicists to work for NASA), and Ada Lovelace (mathematician and writer, and one of the first tech visionaries). Each student chose their own historical figure to represent, and then came to life to tell their stories to visitors.
The Living Gallery was the culminating activity of a biographical research project where students had to answer the essential question, “Why should my historical figure be remembered?” Students then wrote five-paragraph essays and crafted their own memorable oral presentations. Thank you to all who visited our gallery opening, and congratulations to our Level 4 students!
“There is something that’s a great deal more important than parental approval: learning to do without it. That’s what it means to become an adult.” – Julie Lythcott-Haims, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Child for Success
Take a few minutes to close your eyes and imagine your child as a graduating high school senior. What are the qualities that you most desire for them to have developed?
As a culture which is characterized by increasingly narrow measures of success, we have redefined the paradigm of parenting as focused on accomplishments and future prosperity for our children. Many parental acts are measured by whether they will tip the scale toward accomplishment or failure for our children, and the very definitions of “accomplishment” and “failure” have narrowed dramatically. With the stakes seeming so high, what are loving (and anxious) parents to do?
In our well-meaning quest to ensure our children are set up for success, we often inadvertently respond by hovering and micromanaging. We joke about being “helicopter parents,” but we can feel that the choices are beyond our making, and we do not always see what the other pathways are for our children to be happy or successful. We also can have blinders on when we step into—and often cross the line of—their lives.
Will Segar, Turning Point’s Elementary Division Head, likes to remind us that we are not solely preparing children for their future lives; they are living their lives right now. This is wise advice that we ignore at our peril. Anxiety fosters narrowed perceptions, dictated by our amygdala—the fight, flight, or freeze sections of our brains. We cannot see the bigger picture when our amygdala governs us; we just want the danger to be dispensed with and our equilibrium restored.
It is understandable that we get pulled into this daunting outlook. We love our children and want what is best for them. But we would do well to think more about what “the best for them” means. Raising children means always considering the long game, and we are better served by thinking about what kind of adult we want to send into the world at the end of their time with us.
The essential goal of parenting is to raise our children to leave us. It is a bittersweet goal, to be sure, but there is no more important outcome. It is heartbreaking to contemplate that in our zest to support our children, we may actually be limiting their abilities to be successful. You may be familiar with the research on grit and resilience, which posits that these qualities, more than any other, predict success—not standardized testing, intelligence, talent, grades, charisma, or where you go to college or graduate school. Grit, resilience, resourcefulness, confidence: will you stick with a project after its novelty wears off? Will you bounce back when someone tells you no or critiques your work? Will you be able to find new ways of solving a problem when facing a dead end? Can you define and appreciate your unique abilities and qualities?
It is my hope that as a community, we can support each other’s journeys as parents and educators of the next generation, we who are dedicated to help our children navigate their own lives—current and future—capably and joyfully.
To aid us in this vital work, I invite you to participate in Turning Point School’s first community read, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success, by Julie Lythcott-Haims. Lythcott-Haims is a former dean of students and freshman advising at Stanford University whose first-hand perspective and deep research of the overparenting epidemic demonstrates its dangers—not just economically, but psychologically. Through relatable and often humorous stories and insight, she offers strategies on how we can support our children’s growth and development in a way that can help them become thriving adults, and just might make families happier along the way.
How to Raise an Adult will be the focus of our Back to School Coffees and other parent-school programming. We look forward to some productive dialogue among parents and faculty in the fall. So please read or listen to a copy over the summer. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and impressions as we share the journey and responsibility of raising your phenomenal children to be happy, successful adults!
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
Level 4 students recently enjoyed an overnight trip to the Lazy W Ranch in Cleveland National Forest, near Mission San Juan Capistrano. Upon arrival at the picturesque canyon, their guides informed them that time travel was not only possible, but essential to discovering the stories of California.
During their stay, students journeyed through a California Time Capsule to glimpse the day-to-day activities that have shaped lives throughout our state’s history. They learned and shared nature stories as the Native Acjachemen on trail, relied on teamwork and hands-on discovery learning in order to build a functional aqueduct, designed their own cattle brands, and dipped tallow candles as Mexican settlers.
Mixed in with these adventures through time, students also reveled in the glory of winning "Gaga Ball," splashed through the creek and hiked through the beautiful hills surrounding camp, and shared nighttime stories in the cabin with their friends as they faded off to sleep. And with a final morning a gold panning and hiking like the American Pioneers, students rounded out their journey through time with smiles on their faces and memories to carry: the Lazy W Ranch was an adventure not soon to be forgotten.
Ms. Castro's Level 3 Spanish class had a fabulous time on their recent Study Tour to Olvera Street. Students learned about the history of early Los Angeles by visiting some of the city's longest standing landmarks, including the Avila Adobe (the oldest house in Los Angeles) and Los Angeles’ first fire station. Students also visited the Pico house, the city’s first grand hotel, which was built by Pio Pico, the last governor of California under Mexican rule.
Students also practiced their Spanish by asking questions and ordering food at a Mexican café, “La Golondrina.” The afternoon was spent taking in the lively and colorful culture of the marketplace and shopping for souvenirs. A great time was had by all!
After months, years, and sometimes even a decade or more of watching our Level 8 students arrive on campus each day, it is hard to believe that their time left with us here at Turning Point can measured in mere days. At the same time, we feel a deep satisfaction and sense of accomplishment in knowing that they are fully ready to infuse other school communities with their unique personalities and contributions.
Members of the Turning Point School class of 2017 were accepted at many highly-regarded high schools in Los Angeles and beyond. The quality and distinctiveness of these schools reflect the varied talents and interests of our students, and each will provide a different pathway to success as our graduates continue their journey to adulthood.
Top schools embrace our students because we foster strong critical thinkers and writers who are challenged to construct their own understandings of the world around them. They are flexible in thought and opinion—able to reframe and redefine their views to develop deep understanding of themselves, their community, and their world. They know how they learn best, and can advocate for themselves with confidence. Our students have learned how to fail and try again with resolution and optimism, and will enter high school with a track record of overcoming challenges and developing resilience.
Turning Point graduates are able to make their thinking visible by explaining ideas to one another, debating compassionately, offering creative solutions and alternative interpretations. These effective thinking routines evolve from a mindset that students develop here: open-mindedness, curiosity, the propensity to challenge assumptions, and creativity.
Our service learning program has provided them opportunities to develop awareness and empathy for those whose backgrounds and life experiences differ from theirs. As global thinkers, Turning Point graduates also understand the interconnectedness of the world and have begun to connect ideas in order to determine creative solutions. They know the value of learning from a wide range of sources and perspectives, and want to act in the world for the greater good.
As demonstrated by the list above, high schools see the strengths, skills, and dispositions our students will offer their new communities—qualities, by the way, which cannot be measured in test scores. I could not be prouder of the Turning Point School class of 2017, and I cannot wait to watch as they continue to serve as stewards and influencers of an ever-changing world.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
Photo Credit: Galileo Innovation Camps
Our kindergarten students have been having so much fun learning about the life cycle of a plant during their unit on Farm to Table.
In Social Studies, students read the story "Tops and Bottoms" as they learned about the various parts of a plant, and worked to identify the different types of plants. For example, they discovered that carrots are the roots, celery is a stem, lettuce are the leaves, and broccoli is the flower of the plant.
Next, students worked in groups, using various fruits and vegetables to build a model of a plant. To celebrate all their wonderful learning, the class had a chance to sample all of the yummy fruits and vegetables. Everyone did an amazing job working together!
Level 2 students had a fantastic time learning about the culture and customs of Japan with Turning Point teacher, Ms. Nakayama. Students listened to the short story, "The Seven Gods of Luck," and then practiced Japanese phrases such as "konnichiwa," "ohayo," and "sayōnara." Ms. Nakyama also showed students how to write their names in Japanese katakana.