Turning Point School Blog
Turning Point has had a long tradition of Family Nights; regularly scheduled “no homework” evenings when families are encouraged to spend time together playing games, enjoying the outdoors, reading books, or otherwise spending quality time uninterrupted by personal electronics or other distractions. These deliberate homework breaks are designed to make space for family time - a priority that becomes more difficult as the pressures of everyday life increase.
For our first Family Night, we asked our parents to make an exception to the no-electronics rule by snapping a quick photo of what their family chose to do with their evening. We think the ideas are pretty fantastic!
Activities included going to the beach, spending time with grandparents and extended family, cooking and baking, reading books and exploring photography, building with LEGOs and BRIO, playing tennis and board games, enjoying an early bedtime, and celebrating birthdays. One family even played a Presidential Debate BINGO game!
We hope all of our families were able to take advantage of the "scheduled free time" during the first Family Night, but understand that schedules can be tricky. If you missed out this time around, we hope you will be inspired to explore your own family "down time" soon, or plan to join in the fun on our next Family Night in October.
Turning Point students, parents, siblings, grandparents, staff, alumni, and friends joined together for fun in the (hot!) sun at the annual Turning Point Back-to-School Picnic on Sunday. Despite the heat, guests stayed cool under the shade of trees and canopies, refreshed themselves with ice-cold beverages and snow cones, and refueled at the delicious catered cookout. Our youngest guests had a great time bouncing in the inflatables, playing carnival games, and catching up with friends.
This annual event provides an opportunity for the entire community to celebrate the new school year, meet new families and catch up with old friends, and join together in appreciation of our shared mission and values.
This year, we also took a few moments to welcome Head of School Dr. Laura Konigsberg to the Turning Point community. After an opening welcome from Board Chair Steve Plum, students from all grade levels presented Dr. Konigsberg with tokens of welcome, including:
- The book Good People Everywhere from the Primary Division.
- A bamboo plant, representing the Chinese symbol of good luck and prosperity, from Levels K and 1.
- A loaf of bread and salt from Levels 2 and 3, which represents a life of fullness and flavor in the Russian tradition.
- Frankincense from Levels 4 and 5 which, among the people of East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, represents good health .
- From the Middle School Division, a traditional "Sai Sin" bracelet from Thailand, which represents blessings and safety.
In addition, Dr. Konigsberg was presented with a pineapple from the parent body, which has served as a symbol of hospitality since the early days of American history, and Yerba Mate tea on behalf of alumni, which is said in South American custom to bring a sense of community, companionship, and affection to all.
After the brief presentations, Dr. Konigsberg offered her own "mahalo" to the school community, which in Hawaiian culture expresses gratitude, respect, and deep admiration.
A sincere "mahalo" to all the families, staff members, alumni, and friends who were able to join us on a beautiful September day to celebrate our community. We look forward to sharing many more memorable events with you as the school year unfolds!
Whether your family enjoys time together playing board games, cooking, hiking, checking out new restaurants, shooting hoops, or listening to podcasts, with the advent of the new school year there is simply less time for the simple pleasure of unpressured family time. Despite our accelerated pace, we know intuitively—and studies reinforce—that children benefit from family time: it enhances a family’s cohesion, lowers risk of drug use in adolescents, and increases academic success. We need the downtime and the connection in order to recharge and to avoid burnout.
Weeknights are notoriously hectic. Homework often takes center stage, and with it, the cajoling, supervising, and organizing that falls to parents. At Turning Point, we strive to assign homework that is meaningful, purposeful, and efficient. It should help children to build and strengthen skills. But even the best homework is still homework, and with early weeknight bedtimes, families often have to wait until weekends to spend time together. And with more structured activities during weekends, easy-going, casual time is becoming rarer.
You may know that Denmark has the honor of being the “happiest country in the world,” according to The World Happiness Report. Danish culture emphasizes taking pleasure in everyday things and creating a sense of “coziness” or “warmth.” The term for this notion of being present is hygge (pronounced hue-gah). In our busy lives, we can see hanging out time as wasted, unproductive time, but acknowledging and celebrating the ordinary can benefit us as much as it does our children.
Turning Point has had a long tradition of Family Nights; monthly “no homework” Monday evenings. As you will see on your Turning Point calendar, our first Family Night is this Monday, September 26. These deliberate homework breaks are designed to make space for family time. While you may be tempted to catch up on laundry, grocery shopping, or even a well-deserved nap, we strongly encourage you to enjoy time together as a family doing a fun, non-electronic leisure activity (although cleaning the house together could be a viable option!).
If you are searching for ideas, consider the following:
- Skype with an extended family member
- Cook and eat a family meal together
- Go bowling
- Throw a Frisbee at a local park
- Walk on the beach
- Look at photo albums together
We would love to know about your “hygge” activity. Please send a photo of your family time to email@example.com by noon on Tuesday, September 27. We will publish these on our Facebook page and feature a few in next week’s Wednesday Weekly.
Enjoy your time together as a family to recharge, reconnect, and simply enjoy. I look forward to seeing your photos next week!
In connection with reading Sandra Cisneros’ novel composed of vignettes, The House on Mango Street, Level 8 Humanities students embarked on a personal vignette assignment this week. Students were challenged to describe themselves and their families through a metaphor of their choice.
Inspired by Cisneros’ prolific use of figurative language, students used metaphors, similes, personification, and alliteration to discuss the deeper significance of a physical trait or object in their lives. Students took advantage of the writing process to revise their work and enjoyed adding movements and tone to these dramatic pieces. The depth of thought and honest self–evaluation resulted in meaningful performances.
Many thanks to Sophie, Kenna, and Toshi for allowing us to capture their creative work on video!
The Turning Point Families 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.
Today, during our first Family Event of the new school year, new Primary through Level 1 students were informally welcomed by Middle School "family members" visiting their younger friends’ classrooms.
Last week in Level 7 Humanities, students took a look at the feudal system in Europe as a precursor to the rise of absolutism and eventually European imperialism. The students had the opportunity to participate in a feudalism simulation activity that bound serfs to their lord's manors and had knights pledging oaths of fealty to the class monarch. Roles were assigned randomly to represent the hereditary class structure, and students were shown how each level of the social hierarchy was interdependent on the other.
The lesson was followed by a reading of "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, which explores themes of conformity and rebellion while telling a twisted tale of the misguided beliefs and rituals of a small-town American village in the 1940's. After reading the story, students drew parallels between the story and European feudalism through discussions on the merits of traditionalism and the power of a mob mentality. They then discussed how these characteristics could have been used to foreshadow the revolutions specific to each of the two time periods.
Last week in Level 6 Humanities, students completed their unit on hominins during which they looked at cave paintings from the Lascaux Caves in France. As a part of the unit, each student created their own cave art by drawing images that reflect our society while under their desks with the lights turned off. After completing the drawings, they were asked to explain how the image reflected society. Here is one example of the fabulous and creative work completed by our Level 6 students.
“I drew a lightbulb, which illustrates the importance of electricity because almost everything we use now uses electricity.” (Allison R.)
Earlier this week, Level 6 enjoyed a study tour to the Chasing Dreams exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center. Students engaged in art activities that celebrated their heroes, discussed prejudice and discrimination, and learned of such legendary and transformational baseball players as Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, and Tiby Eisen.
The visit to the Skirball will prepare the class for their upcoming choral concert, which examines baseball, social justice, and breaking barriers through song and story.
The After-School Players had their first rehearsal on Tuesday. This year, they are performing a collection of Japanese folktales. Along the way, they will learn about the rich cultural traditions of Japan: songs, taiko, festivals, arts, crafts, food and more.
Their first folktale is called “Tasty Baby Belly Buttons,” a variation on the more commonly known story of Peach Boy. Our performers learned new words in Japanese, wrote wishes and tied them to tanabata sticks, rehearsed their play, and made origami samurai hats - and that was just in their first class! We can't wait to see what else they learn and explore this trimester.
At Turning Point, we raise resilient children who can flourish in any environment. Children are active participants in every aspect of their own education, and we leverage their creativity and enthusiasm to effect positive transformation. Much of this happens organically, as a natural result of the configuration and diversity of our programs – including opportunities to build confidence and test limits through service learning, performing arts and athletics, experiential learning trips, and hands-on learning projects. But, as experts in education, we also actively study the science behind learning, and purposefully and thoughtfully integrate best practices of neuroscience into the planning and curriculum we offer at every grade level.
Understanding the neuroscience behind children’s brain development is an essential step in guiding us, as a school, to create dynamic lessons geared toward helping young brains to activate. It is also helpful (and fascinating!) for parents to have a basic understanding of brain development, as it can provide clues to the “mystery” behind those “phases” our kids go through as they navigate childhood and adolescence.
In the first decade of a child’s life, the brain forms trillions of connections. Each individual neuron may be connected to as many as 15,000 other neurons, forming a complex network of neural pathways. As neurons mature, more synapses are made, and the neural network expands exponentially. As ability develops, skill circuits begin to fire more optimally. Children learn to sense how something feels when it is done right, and just as important, they develop awareness of how it feels to struggle.
Ironically, struggle is essential for building mastery and resilience; one must struggle in order to get the skill circuits to fire optimally. Children must “teach” their circuits to become optimal through the experience of having them fire suboptimally. Brains become better at doing what they practice, which is whatever they do frequently. You may have heard the saying, “brains that fire together wire together.”
Much of this firing together happens during the elementary school years. This is the time when the brain has grown almost to its adult size and can focus on threading together, forging, and organizing. As their brains develop, children move from being dependent on others to becoming ready to take a place in the world. This is also the time when the parts of the brain most closely associated with being human begin to become honed: impulse control, ability to reason, focus, and plan for the future. The brain is at its peak for learning, organized enough to gain mastery, but still fluid and elastic.
Next, the adrenal glands mature, promoting muscle maturation and growth in the areas of the brain involved in social and emotional development. An individual theory of ‘mind’ arises; an awareness that other people have their own minds, plans, and personal desires. Children’s brains are highly active, sorting through an unexplored world.
Elementary school-aged children’s thinking is concrete, meaning that their thinking and reasoning is more logical and organized than it was during the preschool years. This is the time to strengthen social skills and encourage exploratory behaviors and imagination. At Turning Point, we build in opportunities for social growth and the development of imagination through programs such as our Drama Workshops, which use games and story dramatizations as a means to develop students’ natural sense of play and wonder while building communication and collaboration skills, with increasing focus on developing empathy and self-knowledge.
As educators, we understand that brain development and learning are intimately connected, and we are constantly holding a mirror to our programs with the intention of reflecting back increasingly brilliant ways to ensure healthy age-appropriate growth, and steady advancement. This not only anchors our curriculum and teaching to research-based methods and materials, but most importantly allows our students to appreciate learning as a journey that consists of a sense of purpose, increased confidence and resiliency, and limitless potential.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
Former Level 3 students participated in a project-based learning activity as a way to integrate learning from our Energy unit and California Science Center roller coaster lab.
Combining potential and kinetic energy with the six different types of simple machines, students built a complex machine that displays the physical properties of load, friction, and resistance. The machine is themed "Pancho's Treehouse," our bearded dragon's imaginary lair, and serves to remind students of their learning and show the community an example of STEAM incorporated into our curriculum.
Many thanks to our innovative current Level 3 students for restoring our Energy in Motion display to its former glory!
After reading the book Building a Bridge by Lisa Begaye, Level K and Level 1 Buddies worked together to build a bridge of friendship using wooden blocks. This beginning-of-the-year activity fosters cooperative learning, encourages creativity, and allows students to collaboratively practice their problem-solving skills. Great job, Level K and Level 1!
Students in Level 5 enjoyed getting to know one another during the 5th annual Level 5 Museum Tour last week. Each student brought in eight to 10 primary sources that represented something about them and their interests, and set them up around the classroom. Then, students visited each display to determine which sources matched with which classmate.
Students worked in silence to write down at least two items from each display, and used inference to make guesses about what the items told them about the owner. Once everyone had seen all items, students made their guesses. Most groups of items were guessed correctly, which speaks highly of our students' ability to get to know each other in meaningful ways. Way to go, Level 5!
Last May, Turning Point students gathered donations of school supplies and clothing for children who had been affected by the earthquake in Canoa, Ecuador. This past June, 16 middle school students traveled to Ecuador for a Summer Service Learning Adventure. They packed all of the supplies into two large duffel bags and delivered them to their tour director, Lorena Gencon, upon arrival in Ecuador. In July, Lorena drove the supplies out to Canoa, and personally distributed them to the children in the village.
We so appreciate all of our families who thoughtfully contributed, and send a big thank you to the middle school students and faculty who transported our donations to Ecuador.
This Friday, September 9 from 3:30-4:00 pm in the Building 2 PC Lab, Mr. Reynolds is holding a special meeting for parents and students in Levels 4-8 who have already registered or are interested in joining one of Turning Point’s after school robotics teams. There are only 20 spots available, so sign up quickly!
The season runs from now until the Spring, and classes take place on Fridays from 3:15-5:15 pm with an optional class available on Mondays from 3:15-5:15 pm. For more information, please check out the After School Classes page on the Turning Point website or email your inquiries to Mr. Reynolds at firstname.lastname@example.org.