Friday, October 11, 2019

Group Work, the Seabury Middle School Way: Practicing, Building Resilience, and Reflecting

If you ask most gifted students if they like working in groups, their response tends to be pretty negative. The Gifted Guru recently posted an article about all of the things teachers at traditional schools do during group work that makes it particularly challenging for gifted students. We are very cognizant of the ways that group work challenges highly capable learners, some of whom have twice exceptionality.

We started this round of group work with a team building problem solving activity. Then, we reflected. What inhibited a successful experience and what behaviors encouraged success? The students generated some terrific lists.

They focused on positive communication vs. negative communication, feeling "heard," and listening to diverse strategies before deciding how to proceed. 

Now that they are working on the project at hand, emotions sometimes run high. Students are very invested in the work that they are doing, and they want to do thoughtful and thorough jobs, just not always in the same ways. This week, I have seen middle schoolers stretch their limits to be patient with one another, to clearly articulate problems they are encountering with group dynamics, and to admit when working together is challenging. They are building resiliency for group work and reflecting on the process thoughtfully.

Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? The research would resoundingly say yes. The skills the middle schoolers are learning about how to work together --"soft skills"--are exactly the types of skills more likely to make them successful in their future careers. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Ada Lovelace Day 2019

Girls like Ada

Ada Lovelace was a woman born during the 19th Century who became a forward thinking mathematician who rivaled in ability her male contemporaries. She is said to be one of the first people to recognize the potential of computing machines. Women around the world make up only 30% of researchers in STEM fields. Ada has become an icon for promoting young women entering STEM field. Seabury MS celebrates ALD each year to support women entering the STEM Field. We invited 10 women working in STEM fields to talk about their experiences, run science labs, and present their ideas to all students.

The guest list included:

Penny Grellier an administrator from Pierce Transit, who talked about the complex machine that is a transit facility and jobs/internships available.

Dr. Diane Bartels a pediatrician, who taught our students how to suture a cut.

Sonja, a Seabury parent and a member of the board, is also an accomplished architect. She asked students to design a structure from materials found in our maker space.

Alex Cole is a former Seabury Student and a recent graduate of the University of Washington, Tacoma. She is now pursuing a masters degree in urban design from a university in Wales. Alex got the students thinking about sustainable cities and had them make plans to sustainably meet the needs of a future community.

Dr. Amani is a sustainability scientist with a focus on sustainable agricultural development. She attended the UC Davis for her undergraduate degree, studying agricultural economics, philosophy, and Japanese. From there, she went on to earn a Masters from Cornell University in Agricultural Economics and then a PhD in Sustainability from Arizona State University. In addition to teaching at the college level, Dr. Amani has worked in the Peace Corps, served as a regional market coordinator for the United Nations, and now works as a consultant. In her work with food aid and food assistance, she helps address issues such as market dynamics, organizational development and community resilience. Dr. Amani opened our eyes to how we need to be partaking in a "fact diet" to combat a human tendency to dramatize global issues.

Jamie Mackenzie, Nadia, and Ariel Hicks presented information about working for the Navy and the Department of the Navy in various capacities. Ariel is an air traffic controller on a nuclear carrier. Jamie MacKenzie is an occupational health nurse, and Nadia Almomory works in HR for the DoN.

Dr. Sprenger is professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She researches the role of the microenvironment in tumor dormancy and the role of androgen receptor splice variants in castration resistant prostate cancer. 

After doing her undergraduate work at UPS here in Tacoma, she completed a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington, Seattle. She has completed postdoctoral work in the Urology Department and the Department of Medicine at the UW. 


Christine Hartzell

Dr. Hartzell, a Seabury alumni, is an assistant professor of aerospace engineering. She is a scientist on the OSIRIS-REx mission, which is currently orbiting the asteroid Bennu.  Another mission she works on, called Janus, is working to fly by two binary asteroid systems to understand how those systems formed. 

As a professor, she conducts research, trains new researchers, and teachers astrodynamics. Her research specifically focuses on the behavior of granular materials that are dominated by non-gravitational forces--or, more simply, she studies dust on the surface of the moon and asteroids in order to understand why those surfaces look how they look and to enable the design of robotic spacecraft to collect samples from those surfaces. 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

At Camp, Becoming a Community

Our fall camping trip to Camp Sealth on Vashon Island was a chance for students to bond as a learning community. Over the course of the three day excursion, the students laughed together and struggled together. They had a chance to be in awe of nature and sit together in silence in the dark. 

Outside of our regular setting, every student has the chance to stretch and grow into the 2019-2020 version of themselves. We have planned activities and downtime for students. This year, during their downtime, the student volunteered to clean the camp's gaga pit. They also spent a considerable amount of free time building a dam on the beach. Others, opting not to take up shovels, set off on hikes in the woods with Alex, our lower school aide who used to work at Camp Sealth and who knows the trails well.

Please enjoy these photos from the trip.

On the Ferry

Arriving at Camp

The Place of the Dam Has Been Discovered!

Marine Class

Choosing to Clean the Gaga Pit

The Beach at Sunset

Hikers Returning from a Hike

The Dam, Day 2

Team Building Class

Hanging Out in the Hang Out Room

Astronomy in the Star Lab