Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Seabury Success at International Model UN Conference!

Seabury students had a blast touring New York and debating real world policy at the UNA-USA International Middle School Model United Nations Conference! Representing Italy and Guyana in simulated United Nations Committee sessions, students researched and prepared policy statements on issues ranging from human experimentation to transnational border security to the protection of World Heritage Sites. This was no easy task- months of research and preparation were necessary to fully understand what our nations would support and countless classroom hours were spent in preparing students for the "art of diplomacy."

Students attended four separate committee sessions, ranging from two to three hours each, where they presented issues in formal speeches, formed alliances, prepared draft resolutions, and voted on these resolutions. They spent time in the hotel lobby and conference halls further building alliances--this started from the moment we arrived with our suitcases in hand! Seabury students felt prepared and successful and most actively spoke and debated in their committee sessions, some even successfully preparing a resolution that was ultimately voted in. In fact, students were told that their resolutions would be taken to the actual UN committees for review and potential adoption- middle school students CAN change the world!!

The conference ended with an awards ceremony in the real General Assembly Hall of the United Nations, an amazing experience to say the least. Seabury was especially honored when the delegates of Italy won the Honorable Mention award in the ECOSOC committee, given to the delegates "deserving honorable mention for their diplomatic performance." Way to go!!

All in all, we had an amazing time, and a few new lifelong MUNers were born!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Start Spreadin' the News!

What an amazing time we're having in New York this week! Before we buckle down to some intense Model UN action, we've had the chance to see a TON of New York city. We've mastered the subway system (even with transfers!) and have otherwise hoofed it all over this beautiful city. Dr. Greenfield's Fitbit counted over 20,000 steps on Monday alone! It's been raining and our feet may ache, but we all have smiles on our faces. Yesterday we visited Rockefeller Center, Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, and the Empire State Building. And today we had the chance to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island before splitting off into lunch groups in either Little Italy or Chinatown. We all left with happy bellies! We can't wait to show you all pictures, but if you can't wait, don't forget to visit the Seabury Instagram page. Mr. Mackenzie has been posting as many as he can in almost real time.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Ada Lovelace Day Pictures

Students examining radio sonde from a weather balloon used in Antarctica, brought by Climate Scientist Dr. Penny Rowe. Dr. Rowe came to help use celebrate Ada Lovelace Day and women in STEM fields.

 Microbiologist Jacqueline Baltunis ran a DNA extraction lab with our students. She is a great role model for being passionate and curious about science.

Our students using hashtags to show their excitement over doing hands-on science.

Cancer researcher Dr. Cindy Sprenger also visited on Ada Lovelace day and gave us a fabulous presentation on her work that is part chemistry and part biology.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Exploring Culture Through Religion

Seabury Middle School students embarked on a virtual trip around the world this Spring semester via a study of World Religions and Culture. We've spent time learning about what makes up a person's culture, from the obvious things like nationality or food, to less obvious things like being a Girl Scout or traditions in our families. Students created "culture boxes" using magazine clippings to visualize their personal culture on the outside of shoeboxes. Inside they placed "artifacts" from their personal lives. We presented our culture boxes orally to practice our public speaking skills. This week we moved into a discussion of religion as an element of culture. Students explored religion as a concept and attempt to define the difference between religion and spirituality. Today's class involved a comparison of creation stories from the five major religions (Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism) as well as religions from several Native American and African nations. We are excited to begin visiting some of our neighborhood places of religion, beginning next week with a stop to the local Buddhist Temple!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Last week we had a Skype conversation with Dr. Penny Rowe. She was calling in from the Antarctic Peninsula. This was a great follow-up to her presentation on climate change and infrared. She is working with Chilean scientists to study clouds in Antarctica. The kids had lots to ask about how she lives down there (sleeping quarters, weather), and what the South Pole is like. Penguins!

She also told us about her work with radiosondes also called "weather balloons." Each day she is there she launches two balloons, that travel high into the atmosphere sending back information about clouds and their make-up. She is interesting in clouds because they interact with incoming UV and out going Infrared to create changes in climate, some beneficial.

She told us the Peninsula in recent years has seen temperature rises much higher than elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile, Antarctica as a whole has been insulated from global temperature rise by a number of factors including how air pollution and the ozone hole influence the polar vortex.

At Seabury we are excited to bring real scientists' voices into the classroom, and especially when they can share about careers in science.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Seabury is research driven education

One of the hallmarks of appropriate education for gifted students is acceleration and compacting curriculum.
The concerns I sometime hear are:
"If my child moves quickly through this or skips it, then do they really know it?"
"Would they do better in a prep program where emphasis is on drilling certain skills?"
These concerns are especially prevalent in mathematics, but research on gifted students shows these concerns are unfounded. A 2013 longitudinal study found gifted students who were accelerated one grade were more likely to obtain high-level degrees, publish work, and receive patents in STEM areas.

2. You might think working with older students might cause difficulties with friendship making, but again research shows overall self-concept and friendships for accelerated students are improved by the process. In addition, compacting curriculum, meaning not repeatedly practicing things students already know, does not cause any dips in test scores on SATs and other standardized tests, but instead reduces frustration and boredom which lead to underachievement.

Students across grade-level doing the same work.
2. How does this play out in Seabury middle school? As a teacher I've learned, meeting students where they're at is best for all learners. This is exactly the program we run at Seabury. We have highly talented mathematicians at the middle school. Grade-level does not come into play when determining our groupings. We have sixth graders who test into geometry and algebra I, and that is where we group them. We also have students who test into lower levels, and they a grouped there. Our goal is finding ways to help each student grow, by providing them with the most challenging experience they are ready for. The caveat for this is that we are not just trying to challenge them with more work. Many programs operate under the bad idea that gifted children should do more work. "Sally does one sheet of math, but Billy is gifted so he should do two." Nothing frustrates a child more than the unfairness of that situation. No one likes more work. We do not to push kids into this unfair situation, but to create work that does not insult their intelligence.

Students working on High School Geometry
The level of differentiation at Seabury is intense. Differentiation, a catch word in the education biz, is often paid lip service, but seldom lived up to, especially in the direction of acceleration. I know as the parent of a twice-exceptional child, that getting more challenging work at a public school is a battle. My son at age 4 could read a newspaper to you and explain the article, yet he needed to show his teacher five times he could identify "A" says "ah, ah, ah," before he could more on. Eventually, he got so bored, he started writing his own little assignments in the margins of the paper. Truly differentiating for each individual student is challenging for teachers. It requires a gifted and knowledgeable staff, and it requires you to be flexible and thoughtful.

For me, Seabury keeps me on my toes more than any other teaching job. Staying a few steps ahead of students who have minds that make the quantum leaps that Seabury kids do is a constant exercise in critical thinking. But, as a once gifted child myself, I love it.

 Jared MacKenzie, Seabury math science teacher

(1) Park, G., Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. P. (2013). When less is more: Effects of grade skipping on adult STEM productivity among mathematically precocious adolescents. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105, 176–198.

(2) Lee, S. Y., Olszewski-Kubilius, P., & Thomson, D. T. (2012). Academically gifted students perceived interpersonal competence and peer relationships. Gifted Child Quarterly, 56, 90–104

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Astronomy Fun

Talk about challenging! Our students traveled to Eatonville and the foothills of Mt. Rainier to visit the Starry Hill Observatory, a private observatory run as a non-profit by two wonderful teachers, Tom and Gracie. The observatory is equipped with several telescopes, equipment for astro-photography, and a planetarium. The highlight of our trip was the highly interactive planetarium show emceed and created by our host Tom. He grabbed the students attention with an amazing sense of story and challenge. He set up situations and questions to challenge their thinking, and was rewarded with complete engagement and the joy of scientific thought. Wow! We learned what a telescope really was. Tom nearly convinced the students that the sun went around the earth, before finally guiding to a deeper understanding of seasons and sunrise and sunset. And we were challenged with a high school level physics lab on gravity and orbits.

In the observatory, students practiced using software to orient the telescope. They learned how to maneuver the turret tower. Tom explained how the telescope and camera create clear images of the galaxies and nebula. Although we couldn't take our own photos, we went through all the steps, learning a lot.

Some Seabury Students also attended Tacoma Astronomical Society's public nights and a student night at Pierce College's Planetarium. T-AS provided some great experiences about the Doppler Effect, gravity, and spectroscopy.

There are continuing opportunities with the T-AS student program. The next student event is November 18th. Check out T-AS' website for public nights.

Taking practice photos in the Observatory.

Students in the warm room. Telescopes need to be the same temperature as outside, so the Observatory can be quite cold.