Turning Point School Blog
This morning, middle school students engaged in thoughtful and respectful discussion about gun control and school safety. This was a student-led “Teach In” facilitated by the Youth For Change elective class. After the Teach-In, students broke into smaller groups to further collaborate and share, and then had the option to participate in the National School Walk-Out.
During the Walk-Out, Youth for Change students led a flower-making workshop that incorporated messages of peace, kindness, and empathy. Bouquets of these peace flowers will be on display around campus through the end of the year to represent our shared values.
Our Grade 8 "Big Buddies" and their Preschool "Little Buddies" gathered today for their annual Field Day. Buddies enjoyed playing games together including Duck Duck Goose, Shark & Minnow, and Red Light, Green Light. In between, students enjoyed some impromptu dancing and a lot of laughing. What a wonderful way to spend time on a beautiful spring afternoon!
This week, students, faculty, and staff participated in an all-school Family Event with the dual purpose of reflecting upon our strength of community and appreciating artwork created by our youngest preschool friends for the Week of the Young Child.
Grade 5 took a leadership role, sharing a powerful community statement which facilitated a discussion on themes of peace, empathy, and safety. Jointly inspired by both our preschoolers art and Grade 5's community-strong message, family members then created and drew symbols representing strength in community.
This year’s Elementary Science Fair celebrated the discoveries and innovations of students in Grades 3-5, with an emphasis on asking essential questions and utilizing collaboration as a means to succeed.
Students in Grades 3 and 5 used the scientific method to complete an experiment; came up with a question, determined how to test it, and then demonstrated their process and outcomes. Some of the questions students tackled included:
- Which brand of water is the cleanest?
- Does the “5 second” rule work?
- How do plants react to music?
- How does anchor bias affect children?
- How does the size and weight of a gummy bear affect its reaction in a solution?
- Which soil type can best support a structure during an earthquake?
- Does Pavlov’s theory work on both dogs and humans?
- Which fast food burger lasts the longest?
- Which dye brand keeps flowers alive the longest?
- How do different types of glue affect the outcome of slime?
- How does temperature affect the acidity of fruits?
Students in Grade 4 used the engineering design process to create a prototype that helped solve a need of a consumer. Prototypes included a pet friendly bicycle bed, LEGO cleaner, Mars landing parachute, and garbage production for storm drains.
Along the way, students discovered that experiments don’t always work, hypothesis need to be modified, and many times a prototype is just that—a first attempt upon which to modify and build. The process was exciting, unpredictable, and occasionally frightening... but overall incredibly valuable for our students.
This time of year emphasizes change as we contemplate next steps: whether your child is going to sleep-away camp for the first time, leaving Turning Point to begin high school, moving from preschool to kindergarten. Even mundane details like noticing that your child’s pants are shorter can invoke a strange sense of sadness and distance from our child’s current identity.
I remember the first time I felt a palpable separation from my son, Jack. He was about two years old, we were at the Oakland Zoo, and I put him on a ride with little capsules of cars that gently went around in a circle. There were no seats for parents on this ride. I can still recall tearing up as his delight in this new experience meant moving away from his babyhood. I can still feel in my body his separation from me. Our children grow up and away from us. They are supposed to do this. Our goal as parents is to become less important as they become more independent. It starts early and does not stop.
We feel both proud and sad at each milestone that marks this journey, and we wonder if we are doing what’s right, if our needs are hindering their growth, if we are raising them with morals and values, if we are hovering too closely or giving them too much autonomy. The world is becoming increasingly complex, with fascinating challenges our children will have to address. And as fast as the world is changing, it seems our children are changing faster! Often it feels like there is so little time to furnish them with the tools they will need.
We know that children who develop healthy self-respect and empathy, and who live by values, are, as adults, successful and “popular” in the best sense of the word. Colleges and employers reflect this; they are increasingly interested in candidates who are strong collaborators and communicators, versus those who only possess a specific skill set or pedigree. At Turning Point we help children develop qualities such as resiliency, self-awareness, agility, and collaboration because we know these qualities will help provide the foundation for the various transitions inherent to adulthood. Not insignificantly, it also makes them happier and more well-rounded children, too!
Before our children are even born, we wonder who they might become. We imagine the path their lives might take, and typically this path is shaped by our own very best hopes and dreams. We put these dreams in context… maybe she will attend this college, and maybe he will do that for a career. Creating context is perfectly normal when we are faced with a blank slate. But as our children grow and develop, the slate we created for them early on becomes less relevant. When we are unable to let go of the specific outcome or trajectory we always imagined for our children’s future, we unintentionally diminish their personhood, and limit their possibilities. As parents we have to summon the courage to wipe that slate filled with our own hopes and dreams clean, so that it can become wonderfully filled with the child’s own potential and direction.
So, what do we do? We persist. As our children encounter challenges, such as applying to high school or studying for an upcoming test or developing a science fair project or standing up for themselves, we can help them by demonstrating our own ability to tolerate discomfort. Anxiety is a “given” in this process, and while too much of it is unproductive, in small doses it is actually helpful… after all, the job of anxiety is to alert us to potential threats, allowing us to evaluate and respond to them in appropriate ways. We can keep our anxiety in a healthy range by demonstrating to one another that we are on this journey together, that we understand and accept each other’s challenges.
Certainly, mustering the courage to believe that what is meant for our children (and for us) will work out the way it should, is tremendously difficult. The key is not to have blind faith, but to have some faith – both in our children and in ourselves.
That feeling I can still physically replicate in my body, of the moment I felt Jack developing his independence for the first time, still echoes in me every time I watch one of my boys experience a milestone moment of independence. I can’t say it gets a whole lot easier, but it does get less unexpected. In the end, we succeed when we emulate the qualities our students work so hard to foster every day here at school—bravery when we are afraid, curiosity when we are uncertain, and faith when we cannot see the path.
As a parent, I thank you all for traveling on this journey with me.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
Grade 2 students put their writing skills to real-world use when they wrote persuasive letters to businesses throughout the country. Students first learned the format of letter writing and how to present arguments in a constructive and positive manner. They then chose a business they wanted to persuade to keep or add a product. Students first complimented the company, then presented their opinion and gave reasons why they held this opinion. They closed their letter thanking the company for their time.
After researching the corporate address and mailing their letters, students patiently awaited possible responses. Our first day back from Spring Break was met with excitement when we received our first letters. Companies thanked the students for their suggestions and some even included a coupon or sticker. The students are excited to see how they, as consumers, can interact with businesses in a helpful way!
This week, Grade 3 traveled to another time and place on their trip to La Plazita Olvera, a Mexican style marketplace and plaza, located in the birthplace of modern day Los Angeles. Their adventure began with a scavenger hunt that led students to historic monuments including the Avila Adobe, the oldest house in Los Angeles, and Pio Pico House, the town’s first luxury hotel named after the last Mexican governor of Alta California.
Students also practiced their conversational skills to locate unique Olvera Street finds, including a giant 100 year-old candle, and authentic Mexican sweet treats. They then joined together for a tasty Mexican meal, which our students ordered in their very best español. Their adventure concluded with a stroll through the marketplace for an afternoon of shopping and bargaining for souvenirs. Our students’ excitement, curiosity, and participation made this day a truly memorable experience for all.
I hope these last couple of weeks have provided you and your family with some opportunities to refuel and to enjoy a slower pace of life, whether you stayed in town or traveled far afield. Upon returning from breaks, I like to ask students what special people they enjoyed spending time with during their time away from school. This morning I heard about cousins from Las Vegas, siblings, grandparents from the East Coast, and friends from out of town.
We come back from Spring Break to the busy end of the year, with its many culminating events coupled with planning for next year. These occasions provide opportunities to honor the wonderful growth of our students.
Please join us in celebrating our eighth grade students’ placements into an array of excellent secondary schools. High school is more than a pipeline to college; it is the chance for our students to find purpose and to understand themselves and their gifts. They spent the better part of this year navigating the application process, reflecting on themselves as learners, and communicating who they are. They honed their writing skills to craft authentic personal essays, found opportunities to express their unique personalities and characteristics, and tolerated discomfort and stress as they waited to hear from high schools. We are so proud of these leaders, who will make their new schools brighter and more radiant.
We are also very proud of our most recent admissions season and look forward to welcoming many wonderful new families to Turning Point this fall! Thank you all for the warmth and openness you have extended to our prospective families this year. We will have opportunities to welcome our new families over the next couple of months.
The Admissions team is already hard at work scheduling visits for families applying for fall of 2019. If you know of any interested families, please direct them to complete an online inquiry and Admissions will contact them directly. Please note that the sibling application deadline for current families will be October 1, 2018.
These last months of the school year are filled with many opportunities for learning, celebrating, and expressing gratitude. We hope that you can join us for these upcoming events that showcase our children’s learning, offer parent education and fellowship, and thank our wonderful community members for supporting our students’ growth.
Student Learning Highlights:
- Elementary Science Fair on April 13
- Poetry in the Park (K and Grade 1) between April 24-27
- Living Gallery (Grade 4) on May 10
- Grade 4 & 5 Track Meet on May 11
- Spring Concert (Grades 3-8) on May 16
- International Village (All Grades) on May 25
- Candle Lighting Ceremony (Grade 5) on June 1
- Graduation (Grade 8) on June 5
Parent Education Events:
- Lori Getz – Social Emotional Learning in Technology on April 11
- Denise Pope – The Well-Balanced Student on April 19 (at Lainer School)
- Annual Giving Leadership Reception on April 19
- Teacher Appreciation Luncheon on May 8
- Parent Association Leadership & Volunteer Thank You Breakfast on May 24
Of course, you can always refer to the Wednesday Weekly or your Parent Portal for more information on these events. Additionally, we are pleased to announce that we are soon introducing a new app for parents. The app will serve as a one-stop shop for all Turning Point events and activities, where what you view and receive is customized to your child(ren)’s specific grade level(s). We will be “piloting” this app for the remainder of this school year with the intention of adopting it permanently in the fall of 2018. Courtney Baker, Director of Communications, will send more information via email to parents next week.
I look forward to seeing you all at our various year-end events and activities as we celebrate the accomplishments from another wonderful year of discovery, learning, giving, and growing.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School
As part of the second graders’ cultural study of their families, students were asked to bring in recipes that represented their family’s background or culture. Mrs. Marchbanks shared gumbo from Trinidad and Tobago with her students, and Mrs. McArdle shared black eyed peas from her southern heritage. Orson also brought in traditional Brazilian brigadeiros for his classmates to try. Students from each class will be bringing home a cookbook full of the recipes their classmates chose. Both classes will also be sharing their cookbooks with their student partners in a school in New Zealand!
Our first graders have been learning about rain forests and their various layers and climates. They began with a KWL chart, brainstorming what they already knew about the rain forest and then listing what they wanted to learn throughout the unit. As a class, students use this chart to answer all the questions raised during their brainstorming session. The non-fiction book Rain Forests by Nancy Smiler Levinson helped students learn about rain forest layers, climate, and plants and animals that live in the rain forest. They also watched a BrainPop video about rain forests, which helped them explore why rain forests are important and reasons for preserving them.
After gaining a basic understanding of rain forests, students worked in small groups to examine a particular rain forest layer in depth. Groups researched plants, climate, resources and animals found in their layer. They also began discussing the essential question, Why do people move? Students learned how cutting down the world's rain forests has forced both people and animals to move or become displaced.
Last week, Grade 2 students received a visit from Valentine’s Traveling Nature Class. It was a chance for the students to take all of the learning from their Animal Unit and apply it to real (a)live animals. While discussing how the animals interact with their environments and their life cycle, the students were able to hold many of their visitors.
Ms. Sunny is a long time friend of Science teacher Mrs. Goo, and she has visited Turning Point every year to showcase all kinds of animals. She rotates the animals for each visit and last week's visit included a chinchilla, albino hedgehog, tarantula, blue-tongues skink and much more.
Students and staff were thrilled to welcome our guest Head of School for the Day, Miss Kayla K., for a day filled with idea-generating, exploring, and lots of fun! Miss K. got our day off to a great start by declaring that cookies shall be available at the front desk for all staff to enjoy. Miss K. clearly knows that happy bellies equal energetic employees!
Miss K. started her day by meeting with Dr. Konigsberg to review her itinerary, pick up her nametag and business cards, and write a speech--which she delivered to rousing applause in an Annual Fund breakfast meeting. Afterwards, she spent her morning meeting with Division Heads and other administrators to discuss program ideas (more Study Tours for all!). She also read a book to Ms. Britton's preschool class, took photos with Mr. Cressey, and then created a "My Day as Head of School" booklet with Ms. Baker.
The day's work concluded with a debrief lunch with Dr. Konigsberg, where Kayla shared all of her recommendations and observations. Thank you to Kayla's mom for successfully bidding on this great item at the annual Spring Gala. We loved having Miss K. serve as our benevolent leader... and Dr. Konigsberg was SO excited to have the day off!
Last Friday, Grade 5 participated in Patriots’ Day where they lived the life of a child during the time of the American Revolution. Each student drew upon what they learned in class to create an 18th century character of their same age. Students then wrote journal entries from this character’s point of view, thereby expanding their empathy and overall understanding of what life was like for the colonists during the Revolution.
On Patriots’ Day the students stepped into character and participated in several period appropriate activities ranging from preparing chicken and vegetable soup, making cornhusk dolls, playing games, and writing letters to family members at war with quill and ink on parchment paper. While enjoying the fruits (or vegetables!) of their labor, they each rose to toast a Revolutionary War figure who had an impact (for better or worse) on one of these four categories of their choosing: peaceful solutions to conflict, underrepresentation of minorities, ethical use of power, or gender roles. Students made powerful statements about how they hope their chosen topic is presented in the future.
After sharing their moving toasts, students led a discussion with their parents on one of the aforementioned topics. It was wonderful to see students and parents engage in discussions that are relevant to our lives today. We hope the conversation continues at dinner tables all over the city. The students of today are the leaders of tomorrow; we encourage them to find their voice and support their ideals. Huzzah!
We have seen much to admire lately from young people across the country who have been finding their voices and speaking confidently and passionately about current events. Underneath every act of youthful bravery and exuberance lays a strong foundation of experience and wisdom placed by previous generations; elders who, themselves, were once finding their voices and places in the world. At Turning Point, we have found that a particular magic happens when you provide opportunities for young students and elders to come together to tackle important issues and share perspective.
We are lucky at Turning Point to have developed a mutually beneficial relationship with the seniors at the Culver City Senior Center, who share experiences and write about important issues like peace, kindness, moral courage, and citizenship with our sixth grade students in our Intergenerational Writers Workshop. The students and seniors meet for six Wednesday morning sessions, and everyone reports that they have learned profound lessons and been transformed by the collaborations.
I am delighted to introduce this week’s guest blogger, and regular IGWW participant, Sandra Coopersmith (top left in the photo above), who writes about her experience with the Intergenerational Writers Workshop for the Culver City Observer. The article provides a wonderful depiction of the power of intergenerational learning, and the inspirational moments that take place at the intersection of wonder and experience.
Learn Something New at Any Age
By Sandra Coopersmith
Culver City Observer Columnist
March 15, 2017
Want to know how to create a positive catalyst for change? Try combining life experience and wisdom with fresh, youthful perspectives over six Wednesday morning sessions of creative and thoughtful interchanges between the sixth-graders of Culver City's Turning Point School and senior citizen volunteers.
"The Intergenerational Writers Workshop is always a highlight of my year," said Jill Thomsen, the Parks, Recreation & Community Services Specialist at the Culver City Senior Center who coordinated the seniors' involvement. "The teachers, students and seniors all seem to enjoy it and learn a lot from each other. I'm glad it's been happening for nine years and look forward to many more!"
The sessions, some at the center and some at the school, commenced Jan. 17 and ended March 7. Participants included 33 students, four teachers (Stephanie Grissom, Diana Bender, Marc Braunstein, and Elizabeth Davis) and nine senior volunteers (Lillian June Davis, Marilyn Russell, Bernadene Coleman, Peggy Cullinane, Anita Jasko, Janet Rohrbacher, Eloise Logan, Pauline Neilly, and me).
At our first session we split into four table groups, with mine consisting of Stephanie Grissom, Lillian June Davis, and students Niko, David, Mika, Ava, Alexandra, Ramsay, George, Jordan, and Carter. We had received advance instructions to bring in three six-word descriptions of significant events in our lives, together with accompanying photos or illustrations. Sharing these provided a great introduction.
We then read a fable about a lion sparing a mouse that vowed to repay the kindness, and when hunters later caught the lion and bound him in ropes, the mouse gnawed through the ropes to free him. We discussed the moral of the story, and homework was to write a short fable illustrating the importance of kindness.
Ms. Grissom advised me that "this year's focus was to share experiences and perspectives, break down cross-generational barriers, and enhance our local community connections by raising essential questions: Why is kindness important? What is moral courage? Why is moral courage important? What does it mean to be a citizen? "
Hmmm . . . it would have been good for the movers and shakers of this world to sit in on these sessions, I thought, but hopefully these youngsters will generate productive and socially conscious replacements.
At our second session we read and discussed our fables, and Ms. Davis shared an inspiring true story of a community that raised funds so children could see the Black Panther movie featuring a superhero they could relate to and who would leave them with a powerful and positive image.
We then read a quote by Mark Twain: "It is curious that physical courage should be so common and moral courage so rare." We discussed the differences between physical and moral courage, whether we agreed with the quote, if there was a time when we showed moral courage, how it felt, the impact of our courageous act and, conversely, a time when we could have shown moral courage but didn't and how that made us feel. Homework was to write a poem about the importance of moral courage and/or when it should be shown.
After sharing those poems at the third session we created a found poem, which consists of a line from each person's poem. Two of my favorite lines were "moral courage will call upon you when you least expect it" and "kindness doesn't have a 'use by' date."
Since the topic for the next session was integrity, our homework was to think about when it is hardest to keep our integrity and to create an image reflecting that moment. Using descriptive vocabulary, we were to include words and phrases demonstrating why it is important to keep our integrity in that moment, and how to accomplish that.
After sharing our homework at the fourth session, we read a poem by Richard D. Marco III called "Peace Begins With Me." We were asked to think about what peace looks, feels, and sounds like, and to share a time or moment involving it. That led into our homework assignment: Write a poem about peace, either global, local or personal, and include a simile or metaphor.
At the fifth session we shared our peace poems and discussed the writing process. Then we read Mother Theresa's wonderful "Anyway" poem that encourages us to give the best of ourselves despite negative conditions or influences. After being instructed to focus on kindness, moral courage, citizenship, and peace, my table then split into two groups, each creating an advice poem. Here's what my group came up with:
To thine own self be true.
Don't change yourself because others want you to.
Believe in what you want.
Avoid the people who are trying to get the best of you.
Don't let money determine what your aspirations are in life.
Be unique. Let kindness toward others determine your attitudes and actions.
Don't be afraid to ask for help, and be generous in giving it as well.
Don't fear failure – it is a learning tool.
To thine own self be true.
The advice poems were compiled in just a few minutes. After they were read, Ms. Davis and I were pleasantly surprised when the students briefly interviewed us with questions they'd prepared in advance. Homework was to create a found poem using a line from each person's peace poem.
At our sixth and final session, after discussing the found poems everyone was asked to suggest a slogan for this project. I was very taken with what the students at my table came up with (see the title of this article).
Toward the end of the session one of our ever vibrant senior volunteers, Peggy Cullinane, had the students doing the Macarena. (Thinking ahead, I used to do a pretty mean twist . . .) The students, accompanied by Mr. Braunstein on the guitar, also sang "This Land Is Your Land" as a treat for the seniors.
Ms. Bender, at whose table I'd sat in previous years, told me that "the Intergenerational Writers Workshop is always one of the highlights of the year for me. I am always impressed by the depth of conversation between the students and seniors and by the reciprocity of the learning and the connections that are made."
Comments from the students at my table bore that out and were very gratifying, as these brief excerpts indicate:
- "It helped strengthen my writing skills and my focusing abilities."
- "I enjoyed it quite a bit because it's not like you get to interact with seniors every week."
- "I enjoyed the poems that we wrote and then doing a found poem all together because it was interesting to see everyone's take on what moral courage or peace is to them, especially the seniors."
- "It was very fun getting to know Ms. Davis and Sandra."
- "I thought this was a great learning experience that helped me improve my poetry skills."
- "My favorite assignment was the fables because we got to do creative writing,"
- "I learned that experienced people can definitely tell you things to put your life in the right direction."
The extensive scientific and medical background of my volunteer partner, Ms. Davis, came through in her comments.
"This intergenerational class is an unveiling of one's DNA," she said. "It starts with the outside epithelial layer of the skin and goes deeper into the fleshy layers of tissues; that really tells the complete historical synopsis of the human it embodies. The intergenerational class gives all of the participants the chance to evolve as individuals, writing our own opinions about worldly situations without worry of criticism or judgment. This program is so phenomenal. It is the ultimate format where a person interested in having a meaningful ongoing relationship with young people could enjoy the experience for a couple of months in this space."
As for me, given that I will be 80 before this year ends, it may seem strange that I would gladly accelerate time to get to Jan. 2019, but I'm that eager to have this constantly evolving experience reboot and replenish me yet again. "Learn something new at any age" works for me!
Read the Original Article
See the original article by Ms. Coopersmith, as published in the Culver City Observer here.
This morning, as part of Grade 5's annual Patriot's Day event, Lower School Division Head Mr. Will Segar and Middle School Dean of Students Mr. Peter Boylan led a discussion with a group of fifth grade boys about the power of symbolism and the importance of varying perspectives.
Students adopted the role of the “Toussaint Louverture Advisory Group,” and were tasked with creating a flag that adequately represented all people. When learning about Toussaint Louverture, a leader in the Haitian independence movement, students discovered that history is filled with accessible lessons on liberty and equity. Louverture helped disassemble race as a basis of social ranking and he leveraged trade power to help maintain the abolition of slavery in France.
Grade 5 students stayed “in period” while learning about a revolutionary leader of color from another country. They spoke animatedly about what they learned, and recognized the value in sharing alternate perspectives when understanding and deconstructing history.