Turning Point School Blog
This month, our preschool students have been exploring cultural traditions and celebrations from countries around the world.
Students in Ms. Britton's and Ms. Limon’s class read the classic folk tale "Stone Soup" and then planned their own collective stone soup lunch, with each student contributing a different ingredient. In all the many cultural versions of this story the consistent theme is sharing, and students loved seeing how when each friend makes a small contribution, the collective impact can be huge... and yummy!
In Mrs. Beals' and Ms. Mullen's class, Primary parent Ken Chan led students in celebrating the Chinese New Year. Students painted cherry blossom trees and then worked as a group to decorate individual cherry blossom branches. Gung Hey Fat Choy!
Turning Point was pleased to welcome back to campus long-time friend and master story teller, Michael D. McCarty on Monday, February 13. Mr. McCarty is in his 25th year of professional storytelling, sharing a wide variety of African, African-American, and International folk tales, historical tales, stories of science, and spiritual stories.
He began the morning with middle school students, sharing little-known stories from the time of slavery to the time of the Civil Rights Movement in America. His recounting of Ellen and William Craft’s incredible journey to freedom and Paul Robeson’s tremendous and brave endeavors for equality (long before the Civil Rights Movement) were just two examples of the informative and inspiring narratives our students enjoyed.
Later in the morning, he told stories to Levels K-2, including meaningful African folktales and stories such as “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” the true story of a boy who had a dream of building a windmill that would bring electricity and water to his Malawi village.
For Levels 3-5, students were entertained and enlightened by international folk, historical, and personal tales, including a story that recounted the beginnings of the Montgomery bus boycott.
Students in all grade levels enjoyed the opportunity to ask questions and share their own knowledge. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to hear these captivating stories and share life experiences with this renowned speaker. You can learn more about Mr. McCarty on his website.
At Turning Point School, we know that there are fascinating connections between our minds and our bodies. The ability to express ourselves through movement and performance can make us happier, instill pride, and even change the brain to improve learning. Even better, when we can explore these outlets and spend quality time together—with our children, families, co-workers, and teachers—it makes our entire community stronger and more resilient.
We have three upcoming events this month at Turning Point that bring our community together and showcase these principles. They also brighten our spirits as the days get longer and the skies become a bit sunnier following several weeks of relentless (but much-needed!) rain.
This Friday, February 17 is Turning Point’s annual Hoop-a-Thon, which brings together students, staff, and families to support and celebrate our health and wellness programs. Students are eagerly practicing their shots in anticipation of demonstrating their hard work and self-confidence to parents, teachers, and classmates. Thank you to all who have contributed to this event: your time, leadership, donations, and talents are deeply appreciated. All proceeds benefit the athletics program, garden program, and our Level 8 mentoring program at Weemes Elementary School.
I hope you have also made plans to join us on Sunday, February 26 to walk, run, or cheer during the Screenland 5K! As you know, we are proud sponsors of this “friend-raising” event, which is part of the year-long celebration of the Culver City Centennial. The gorgeous Hoop-a-Thon shirts are doubling as our 5K shirts, and I, for one, am hoping to see a sea of purple t-shirts dominating this race! There are many ways to participate; I hope you will take a moment to read through the options and select the activity that most resonates with your family.
Finally, the Middle School Players will be performing The Phantom Tollbooth, the story of a child’s adventures in the Kingdom of Wisdom. This play especially appeals to those of us who relish language, as wordplay, puns, and idioms liberally season the language throughout. Show times for this family-friendly show are Friday, February 24 at 6:00 pm, and Saturday, February 25, at 3:00 pm. Reservations are appreciated by emailing Ms. Jane McEneaney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to sharing with you these opportunities to explore the benefits of movement, witness the power of performance, and of course, celebrate the remarkable work and commitment of our students and our community.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
Students in the after-school class Mod Podge have enjoyed a wonderful trimester exploring art in various forms, using many different techniques and materials. Their projects included creating monsters with oil pastels and water color, making 3-D ice cream cones, painting using string and watercolor, building snowmen out of socks and beans, stamping celery to make flowers, and making stained glass using sharpies, food coloring, and glue. Great job to all of our young artists!
Happy Anniversary, Turning Point... 47 years looks great on you! Our community celebrated today with games, spirit-building activities, and a sweet treat. Students and teachers got pumped for next week's Hoop-A-Thon event with student vs. staff basketball scrimmages. Friends in Primary through Level 5 had a blast cheering and delivering high fives as their middle school classmates trounced the competition in two games. Everyone then enjoyed a no-waste lunch followed by fruit bar treats courtesy of the PSA Hoop-A-Thon committee.
Thank you to all of our students, teachers, staff, and parents who contributed to such a lovely day at Turning Point. We are excited to see what year 48 has in store!
Parents who attended our Level 4 Parents at School Day had the opportunity to learn about coding and programming concepts without the use of a computer. Using simple commands written as arrows, student programmers instructed their “robotic” parents to stack and build various designs out of paper cups. Communication and perseverance are emphasized in this activity that is fun and challenging for all ages.
You may know that last Monday was Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, a day which honors the legacy of Fred Korematsu, who fought for racial equality, social justice, and human rights. In 1942, Korematsu stood up to the Executive Order that put Japanese American citizens in internment camps during World War II, after Pearl Harbor, when anti-Japanese feelings were high. He was arrested for refusing to relocate, and he challenged the constitutionality of the executive order.
The case made its way to the Supreme Court. Ultimately, he lost when the majority of justices saw the detentions as based on suspicions that Japanese-American citizens were spies, not based on racial discrimination. Although he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998, marking him as a hero for civil rights, he is still relatively unknown compared to other civil rights leaders.
I thought of Mr. Korematsu last week in the wake of President Trump’s executive order that banned travel from seven Muslim-majority Middle East countries. As you might imagine, students had questions and concerns about the implications of this order, so our Level 8 students decided to sponsor a teach-in for the middle school. They educated their peers about the specific details of the executive order, whom it affected, and why some people supported it and others challenged it.
Following the presentation, students participated in small group discussions where they explored different perspectives, learned the importance of expressing opinions with respect, and recognized the value of empathizing—even when you strongly disagree with someone. They also discussed the difference between valuing someone’s opinion and agreeing with it, and the associations they have with the notion of being American. The groups then wrote collective poems entitled, “When We Listen.”
The assembly followed an earlier session of Level 6 students participating in their Intergenerational Writers’ Workshops, during which time advisory groups, along with senior volunteers from the Culver City Senior Center, reflected together on former President Jimmy Carter’s quote, “We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”
They studied a Langston Hughes poem, “I, Too,” about the struggles of living in our country without the rights that we expect for all of our citizens. One senior volunteer recounted a cross country trip as a child during segregation and the indignity she and her family felt after being turned away from a restaurant after a long day of driving.
Finally, students in Level 8 Art have been studying Japanese Notan design, which explores the play and placement of light and dark elements as they are placed next to the other in the composition of art and imagery. In “notan,” a Japanese word meaning dark-light, opposites complement, not conflict. Neither seeks to negate or dominate the other, only to relate in harmony. The work of Sophie N., pictured below, is a compelling interpretation of this powerful approach.
I am so proud of the work our middle school students are doing to think critically about current events and to use education and creativity as tools to promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of others’ interpretations. They are torch bearers for the next generation.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
The Turning Point basketball season is over, and one can say that it didn’t go as planned. Turning Point did not win a game, but there were some times where they played like the best team in the league. If there was a team MVP, I think that it should be Kobe. Kobe played really good defense and was a monster rebounder. He was also the best inside scorer on the team.
Some of the notable performances that happened this season were Alec’s incredible 3-point shooting performance where he made six 3’s in one game. Another one was the team rebounding in the game at Park Century. Even though they lost, Turning Point dominated the glass in that game. Although it wasn’t the best season on paper, so many players improved and got so much better, I am looking forward to seeing them next season.
Level 1 students explored the traditions and meaning behind Chinese New Year this morning with help from two classroom parents, Kristy Choo (Nicholas's mom) and Christine Nam (Carina's mom). Our guests read stories about Chinese New Year and explained how families prepare for the New Year—including cleaning the house, getting a haircut and wearing new clothes—all to usher in good luck. Students enjoyed learning about how people celebrate, the foods they eat, and the gifts they give, including red envelopes with money.
Carina put on a traditional Korean/Chinese New Year dress and showed classmates how to bow correctly and greet elders. Students particularly liked learning about the Chinese Lunar calendar, and then discovering the year of the animal each student was born in.
Many thanks to our special guests for helping us understand and celebrate this wonderful tradition. Happiness and prosperity to all!
If you are like me, you have a stack of books next to your bed that threatens to topple over like a game of Jenga. As I work my way through the stack, I thought I would share just a few recent selections that have made an impression on me:
How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success
Drawing on research and on her own experiences as Dean of Freshman at Stanford University, Lythcott-Haims writes compellingly and personally about the overparenting epidemic. As parents, we worry about our children’s future success and their psychological health. Getting over-involved is not the answer; in fact, it compromises our students’ ability to navigate the demands of young adulthood. How to Raise an Adult offers advice about how to create opportunities to allow children to have their own space, which in turn helps them learn how to apply themselves, to solve problems, and to become more confident about their abilities.
What struck me most about Lab Girl was Jahren’s steadfast curiosity, determination, and passion for science. She studies plants, seeds, and soil, and her “curiosity-driven” (as opposed to “product-driven”) research has uncovered much knowledge about paleobotany. Rather than using scientific language to describe the workings of the natural world, Jahren writes striking poetic narratives. Lab Girl, which shifts between memoir and scientific insights, shares with us Jahren’s struggles a female scientist, her unwavering resolve to pursue her research, and her personal, very human, challenges. It is a beautiful, inspiring book.
The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds
Lewis is well-known for examining innovators who disrupt the status quo in various fields from major league baseball to bankers. In The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds, he explores the work of two psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who challenged conventional wisdom about people’s rationality, motives, and decision making. The book follows Kahneman and Tversky’s research, which has deeply affected economics, sports, politics, and military protocol, as well as at their unique collaboration and friendship. It helped me to understand why we think we make rational decisions when they are more emotional and illogical than we are aware.
A More Beautiful Question
In A More Beautiful Question, Berger examines the power in asking “why?” Noting that the most creative and successful people are expert questioners, Berger asks how educators can spark kids’ natural desire to question. He discusses the power that comes from questioning deeply and authentically. These “beautiful questions” are “ambitious yet actionable.” For those who want to foster inquiry in our children, think about how to utilize questions to help our businesses, or use questioning to reckon with our lives, this book will help develop a method for innovative questioning.
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
After the recent election, I find myself wanting to understand a wider range of people’s stories and perspectives. Currently #2 on the New York Times Best Seller List, Hillbilly Elegy is an unflinching examination of Vance’s upbringing in the Rust Belt. Vance compassionately and honestly portrays the lives of the working class and articulates a voice of many people who feel disenfranchised and primed for a change. This first-person account, intermingled with sociological analysis, lays the ground for empathy and understanding of a region and culture that differs quite broadly from ours in Los Angeles.
What has occupied your reading list lately? I would love to hear your suggestions. Please share in the conversation by posting a comment on the link to this blog that appears on our Facebook page. I look forward to exploring your recommendations!
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
During the Staff Development Day on January 13, faculty and staff enjoyed learning from each other in collaborative workshops led by their peers. Topics included Backwards Design: Creating Curriculum Through Essential Questions, Confident Communication, Effective Parent Messaging, and Respectful Discourse in the Classroom. During the afternoon, teachers also met in small groups to work on curriculum mapping, which helps us further link learning and pedagogy to the schools larger goals, mission, and identity.
Did you know that our very own Physical Education and Athletics Coordinator, Coach Kameron Spies, is a part-time professor at Loyola Marymount University?
She is teaching a methods course to new P.E. Teachers in LMU’s Education Department specialized urban education program. In her class, Professor Spies brings her wealth of experience and inspiring energy to important topics such as using best practices in the field, addressing diverse student needs, providing structures for curriculum planning, developing effective methodologies and authentic assessment, and facilitating differentiated instruction.
Coach Spies is excited and energized by her role in helping others enhance student learning and increase student success. She explains, “I am passionate about spreading the message of professionalizing Physical Education and getting young teachers to understand the value of a well-designed curriculum. P.E. teachers should take the same curriculum and instructional approach to their class as a math or English teacher. If we all do that, P.E. will be valued at a higher level across the country.”
Of course, Coach Spies does this all with her joyful approach to teaching and learning, and her commitment to encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle for all. How lucky these young teachers are to have Coach Spies as a key part of their professional training.
Turning Point students, teachers, administrators, and staff joined together in their Family groups this week to participate in the Youth Uplift Challenge – an initiative that seeks to help overcome poverty in global conflict areas by making investments in financial literacy, job and entrepreneurship training, and youth-led groups and networks.
Level 8 students in each Family led a brief presentation on the challenge, discussing how our school’s efforts will contribute to programs that empower youth in Nicaragua and Indonesia. Then, each Family worked together to create and decorate hands containing messages of hope. For each hand created, the Bezos Family Foundation is donating $1.90 to Save the Children. Collectively, we raised a total of $1,208 which will help create secure, nurturing learning environments for conflict-affected children.
Thank you to our Level 8 Community Leadership students who counted and boxed a total of 636 hands, and great job to all our students and staff for their meaningful discussions and contributions.
The Turning Point Family Program provides a multi-age environment that encourages continuity and builds a sense of community among Faculty, Staff, and students. Faculty and Staff “Elders” facilitate monthly Family meetings designed to 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.
On January 18, three of our Level 8 leaders, Natalie, Jade, and Gemma attended an optional event to learn about the history and purpose of protests and to inspire young elementary students to use their voices in civic discourse. Gemma’s mom, Esta, helped organize the visit and the students were accompanied by their Youth for Change elective class teacher, Ms. Montesano. The attendees were empowered by guest speakers such as attorney Lara Stemple who addressed the topic, “Why March? A Quick History of Protests” and Federal Judge Elizabeth Esparza-Cervantes whose talk was entitled, “How Laws, Governments & Citizens Can Promote Equality.”
Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase. — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person. — Walt Whitman
I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change—but in yours. — President Barack Obama
At the beginning of this week we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and on Friday we will see the transfer of power from our first African American president to a new administration. In the face of globalization and changing demographics, our country is struggling to define itself and navigate a clear path to the future. This is not the first time that the United States has weathered concerns about identity, economic upheaval, and the integration of new markets; these issues have been a constant in the narrative of our country. Democracy is about managing differences, not about universal chorus, and now more than ever our children must grow up with the tools to successfully navigate these dissimilarities.
Nineteenth-century American poet Walt Whitman, fondly remembered as the “Bard of Democracy,” celebrated America in his ambitious and expansive verse. His iconoclastic style broke the conventions of traditional poetry and blurred the distinction between nature and art. He celebrated high and low culture and attempted to reproduce life as he saw it. In “Song of Myself,” written as a distinctly American epic poem, Whitman says: “I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” He is referring not only to our individual intricate and elaborate identities, but more broadly to our collective nation, its energies and contradictions that Whitman deemed exciting and optimistic. Whitman’s message of hope and change sounds just as relevant and radical today.
I don’t know about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s literary heroes, but I can’t help but think that he appreciated Whitman’s hopeful, expansive vision of America. Each year, many return to Dr. King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, which at the 1963 March on Washington galvanized countless followers in his call to end racism and to enact civil rights. Generally, we focus on this speech as a cultural artifact; less often do we analyze it for its expert rhetoric. Dr. King knew the power of metaphor to make an argument. Metaphor helps people to absorb ideas because we are hard-wired to think in the language of comparisons. Metaphors create an embodied, emotionally-rich experience, and therefore connect us and inspire empathy. In “I Have a Dream,” Dr. King artfully used metaphors of hot/cold, soft/hard, dark/light, and thirst/satisfaction to sway his listeners. With a brilliantly constructed speech and his powerful conviction, Dr. King roused his audience of millions to share his dream of freedom and equality for all. His speech still resonates 54 years later, not least of all because we have more work to do on behalf of equality and justice, but also because of its strategic design that continues to speak to us.
Last week President Obama ended his moving farewell address with young people in mind: “This generation coming up—unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic…you believe in a fair and just and inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, that it’s not something to fear but something to embrace; you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. …I believe…the future is in good hands.” Our students are inheriting our complex world and are grappling with how to be in it.
Issues of identity, economic upheaval, and new markets will persist; our country will continue to diversify, and we will need to continue to make hard choices about how we will want to engage these changes for the betterment of upcoming generations.
At Turning Point, we teach our students to learn how to think critically about complex situations—viewing them with a broad lens representing multiple points of view and multi-faceted causes and effects. Like Dr. King we want them to learn how to represent their beliefs with profound power and impact; like Whitman we want them to invent innovative ways to express their ideas; like President Obama we want them to act out of love and empathy for their fellow citizens and to expect as much from themselves as they do from their country. With history to guide them and hope to carry them, our children will continue to develop into thoughtful, ethical, bright national and global citizens.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School