Turning Point School Blog
Did you know that Spring Trips for grades 4-8 are included in Turning Point's tuition? Our seventh grade service learning trip to the Dominican Republic is a middle school favorite! Learn more in this student produced video.
Turning Point provides students with real-world experiences as a foundation for a lifetime of “learning through doing.” Each trip is designed to provide opportunities for students to expand their knowledge, deepen their friendships, interact with a broader community, and develop their independence. By experiencing unique places and cultures domestically and abroad, students will become increasingly culturally competent and adaptable; they will be well-prepared for an ever-changing globally connected world. All the while, life-long memories will be made.
Get a peek into a day in the life of a fifth grade student at Turning Point School!
Turning Point’s Elementary Division offers students the highest standard of education in an engaging and fulfilling environment. The academic, emotional, social, and physical needs of students are all addressed in a balanced and creative curriculum taught by an experienced and dedicated faculty.
Want to learn more about our premiere elementary school program? Request more information.
Our preschool students love their Spanish instruction! Beginning in the youngest grade levels, Turning Point students learn to become global citizens - mindful of the opinions and talents of others, with a thoughtful sense of curiosity that inspires them to look beyond themselves.
The reflection below was written by Middle School Dean of Students, Mr. Peter Boylan. We are so grateful for the contributions of all of our student travelers and chaperones as they engaged in such meaningful work and discovery!
On June 16, 2017, a group of Turning Point Middle School students returned from a nine-day service excursion to Peru. Weary, sore, a bit dirty, and filled with a new perspective and appreciation for the world abroad, they fell into the waiting arms of their parents and loved ones. At the beginning of our journey we were a little less worldly, a touch more assumptive, and far less accomplished.
Nine days earlier, we took the nine hour flight to Lima, the nation’s capital, where we arrived at 1:00 am. We had a few short hours of sleep before we boarded the 8:00 am flight to Cuzco. Called the gateway to the Sacred Valley, Cuzco is the last major city we reached before heading up the valley by two-hour bus ride to Ollantaytambo. There, we finally rested for the night in a hotel situated next to a tributary to the Urubamba River. The sounds of falling water echoed through the halls of the rustic and well-appointed accommodations. We ate well that night at a local spot, dined on local Peruvian fare, and admired the architecture of the buildings and engineering of the aqueducts that lined almost every street with running water.
The whirlwind of activity continued the next morning with a panoramic train ride up the Sacred Valley, through the indescribable verticality of the Andes Mountains, along the rushing Urubamba, to the quaint, automobile-less town of Aquas Calientes—a town steeped in Incan tradition, cuisine, and the buzzing anticipation of experiencing one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. From there we caught a bus, the only automobiles allowed, to Machu Picchu. The bus ride, an experience in switch backs and every increasing panoramic sensory popping views, dropped us off at the entrance to the temple.
Upon entering, we were treated to some of the most breathtaking vistas and feats of ancient engineering that can be seen on earth. Mortar-less carved granite constructions of mind boggling structure and scope cascaded down the dizzying inclines of the mountains in both daring and logical ways. The students marveled at the beauty and impossibility of the temple as well as its practicality, intentionality, and well thought out urban planning. The Incan fascination with the seasonal solstices, and the incorporation of the natural landscape and directional wizardry that it took to pay tribute to the natural wonders, clearly took shape and inspired and humbled us all. Leaving the temple left a space in each of us for awe, understanding, and appreciation.
We left Aguas Calientes after a reflective lunch and bussed back down to Cuzco, where we were introduced to Jane and Selvy, the founders of Peru’s Challenge—the group we would be working with for the next four days. We dropped our bags off at a very nice lodge, complete with a dining area, foosball, ping pong, and a great room with a fireplace. We then toured a complete and working adobe greenhouse, one very similar to the one we would be constructing. Jane was excellent at creating the motivation to build a greenhouse by letting students know that the family we would be helping was surviving on five dollars a month, had medical bills to be paid, and that the greenhouse would provide year-round income of up to 90 dollars a week, potentially for generations to come. This income would pay the bills, create a healthcare plan, and pay for education for the daughters. In addition, ten percent of the proceeds from the greenhouse would be dedicated to starting the next greenhouse for a family in need. It was all the motivation that our students needed.
In the morning we began what we had come for— service to the international community, bonding, and a sense of contribution and accomplishment. Before us lay only a cement foundation carved into the side of a hill on the outskirts of Cuzco. An interior of the foundation that clearly had to be leveled, and over 5,000 30-pound adobe bricks to be laid. With no hesitation, we began. There was no language barrier, as the instructions were simple: “Mas adobe,” or “barro, barro” (mud) were the only things need be said. The students worked more than impressively, they worked hard. Assembly lines were formed to move bricks, pick axes began to sound, and the appertaining adolescent gossip and chatter ceased.
For the next three days, eight hours each day, we worked. The elevation was 11,000 feet, it was hot, and it was uphill. This was not easy, it was not scaffolded, and it was real work that had a timeline. We communicated, combined, grunted, and dirtied ourselves to exhaustion each day. Students alternated between knee deep mud and dusty bricks in their efforts to complete a task to benefit others. It was, in fact, beautiful. Students asked, “What can I do now?” and “When is my turn with the bricks?” They would often be heard saying, “We can do this!” or “No way we don’t finish!” It was an unintentional testimony to the reveal of deep character and embedded work ethic in our students. It was marvelous, motivating, and, at the end of three days of grueling high altitude work, beautifully rewarding.
Each night ended with a meal of on-site vegetables and meats prepared with great care and presented in Peruvian farm style cuisine. It was delicious, and we were ravenous. We would then retire to the great room for a fire, and to reflect both in writing and in story our experiences of the day.
The Greenhouse was complete. It included thirty Eucalyptus poles that we cut and carried from the surrounding forest. There was a presentation; the students were covered in confetti and ribbons from the family and the multitude of locals that had come to help us finish the greenhouse. Clear in the voice of the father of the house was his gratitude and the emotion that he felt as his family stood on the precipice of financial stability, societal contribution, and good health. We hugged, cheered, commemorated a large and particularly stubborn rock, and took lots of pictures. We even built the celebratory Huatia ovens, used to cook potatoes, to serve our lunch a little later. As the students marveled at their accomplishments there was a tangible mood of something deeper happening.
The students later expressed in a variety of ways their understanding of sustainable service, of hard work, and the clear appreciation for what they can do. A platform was established from which the students can never go back. That platform is one of character, extending limits, and the satisfaction of a job well done. They accomplished something that cannot be taken away, something they themselves can count on, and something they did, solely for the benefit of others.
So, when we retuned, sore, work weary, and with Peruvian mud still clinging to our shoes, there was a deep satisfaction in overhearing students regal their experiences to their parents by saying that it was the trip of a lifetime, it was so hard, it was so much fun, and that they would definitely go back.
Satisfaction and the broadening of understandings and horizons never felt so good... or required more Advil.
Middle School Dean of Students
Rising Level 8 student Fauve B. is participating in the Young Center California Youth Think Tank at USC this summer, and has earned a leadership award for her contributions to the program. She also served as the captain of a debate team, successfully defending the use of the term "multiculturalism" versus "assimilation" in a peer debate.
The California Youth Think Tank is an award-winning youth leadership training program that identifies and brings together bright and motivated youth from diverse backgrounds and communities, trains and inspires them to become future leaders, and empowers them with knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and beyond.
Fantastic job, Fauve, for being selected for this prestigious program, and for being recognized as a leader among your peers!
Thanks so much to our friends at Lodge Bread for bringing their magical bread and working with our Dirt to Dish students to serve avocado and radish bread for snack earlier this week. Chef Alex and Chef Alex were patient and positive and incredibly generous with their beautiful food.
Turning Point’s Dirt to Dish Program helps students harvest produce from our garden along with products from local chefs and farmers to serve snack to the entire Summer Camp every day. Dirt to Dish is designed to instill in our students an understanding that keeping and harvesting a garden, along with cooking and eating together, allows for a true expression of affection for others and leads to long-term good health and a clearer mind.
As I greeted our arriving students and parents at carpool this morning, it seemed almost impossible to believe an entire school year has passed. Yet here we are, on the last day, and I can’t help but reflect on how many incredible events we have shared: The Back-to-School Picnic, Book Fair, Hoop-A-Thon, Grandfriends’ Day, music and theater performances, sporting events, Hoop-A-Thon, the Spring Benefit, Candle Lighting, and Graduation—just to name a few!
As the year comes to a close, I am flooded with gratitude to so many of you who have warmly welcomed me to this wonderful community. I am humbled by how many people love and serve Turning Point, a devotion I have come to understand, and indeed, share. I have been drawn to this passion ever since I met the search committee almost two years ago, and I have seen it reflected in families, faculty, staff, trustees, and students. It has provided me with purpose and direction through the wilderness of my first year at Turning Point, and it has been gratifying to find so many like-minded partners who devote their time and energy on behalf of our school. This year has provided me with the opportunity to see the community with fresh eyes, and to learn from all of you about your experiences, hopes, and dreams for Turning Point and for your role in its growth and evolution. We will continue to move from strength to strength, living by the words of my wise mentor, Lucinda Lee Katz, Head of Marin Country Day School, “Mirrors freshly polished, windows wide open.”
I have spent much time this year reflecting on my work and discovering new ways that I can contribute to the success of Turning Point. Educators generally stay committed to this work by investing in their own growth. I am no different. This year I have continued my development as a leader and a person; while I anticipated the kinds of hard decisions that might face me and the areas that I wanted and needed to learn more about, I grew exponentially from so many new experiences—from collaborating with a whip smart and highly knowledgeable Board of Trustees, to experiencing the wonder of a Montessori-based Primary program, to managing my dual role as a Head of School and a mom of two.
Even the “lighter” moments stretched me out of my comfort zone—shooting hoops in front of a crowd, performing a walk-on part in the middle school play, and singing carpool karaoke. In all areas, the rewards were satisfying and helped our school, and so I hope that my engagement with discomfort will serve as a model for our students to try new things. I am committed to finding more “firsts” next year and beyond.
As I move into my second year, with a successful CAIS/WASC accreditation visit behind us and a vision for the school’s next steps—thanks to all your participation and feedback about what makes Turning Point unique, how people view the school, and what people hope for the school’s future—I am grateful to be more settled not only at Turning Point, but in Los Angeles more generally. Thank you for welcoming my family so warmly, knowing that while children handle transitions with resilience, change is still taxing and takes time to process. My sons have thrived here, as I knew they would. My son, Jack, is off to Peru in a few days for Turning Point’s summer service learning trip, and my son, Miles, is excited to be an Athletics Big Buddy to our Primary campers at Turning Point’s Start-of-Summer Camp. As you can see, both are already embodying so much of Turning Point’s mission and core values.
While much of the “behind-the-scenes” work is accomplished over the summer, I do look forward to taking a little time to enjoy summer blockbusters, beach days, time away in New Hampshire with my extended family and friends, and opportunities to catch up on my reading. I wish you a glorious summer with much-needed downtime. I hope you will share with us at Turning Point your summer adventures. Please send us postcards, which we will share with the community when we return to school in the fall.
Again, I am so thankful for all of you in this wonderful community who helped make the transition to Turning Point so meaningful and positive for my entire family. I look forward to seeing many of you over the next few months at Summer Camp, and will be happily awaiting your return to the carpool line in August!
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
Students in Level 4 celebrated the end of their Core Literature book, Hatchet, with a morning full of themed activities that showed them just how hard it was for main character, Brian, to learn to survive. Students made their own bow and arrows to shoot foolbirds, built planes and landed them in the lake, and worked together to follow directions to locate a survival pack. A lesson on light refraction was also built-in to the activity as students used tools to try and spear "fish" in water. Lastly, students tapped in to their inner performers by creating tableaus (living pictures) that represented the major parts of the story.
This type of Project Based Learning lesson allows students to gain additional knowledge and skills by using multi-modal, hands-on activities to solidify their knowledge of the material. It provides the opportunity for students to deepen their understanding of what is being taught in the classroom, and then apply that knowledge more meaningfully in their lives.
Great job, Level 4!
Last week, Level 5 completed a day long "final exam," working diligently in their Project Based Learning groups to complete 10 challenges covering a variety of content learned throughout the year. Having worked together on several projects already, each group is familiar with the strengths of the various members and was able to distribute the challenges so each piece was completed by the student or students who were most equipped.
The largest challenge tends to be ordering lunch. Students needed to remember the school address and phone number, communicate the details of their order, and relay all of the information in a polite, respectful way to the person taking the order.
The students did a great job and everyone will be moving on to middle school next year!
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!