Friday, October 27, 2017

Sustainability at Seabury!

At Seabury, the city IS our classroom, and this week was a great example! Seabury Middle School students made a visit to the Center for Urban Waters. Located along the Foss Waterway in Tacoma, this organization is a collaborative team of environmental scientists, engineers, law and policy makers, and analysts who are working together to make the Puget Sound a safe, protected, and sustainable environment. (

Part of the Center for Urban Water's mission involves community education, particularly about their totally green and sustainable work space. We took a tour of the building, learning about the green roof, recycled materials, built in rain gardens, and even the super-smart temperature system. Windows glow green or red, depending on the buildings ability to regulate the internal temperature. The color lets employees know when they can open windows for a breeze without disrupting the temperature inside the building.

Students used this visit as a research opportunity for an upcoming project that will integrate Science, Math, Social Studies, and Language Arts. Based on the year's theme of Modernity, and building on a discussion in Social Studies about the "modern, sustainable city," students asked about ways they could help create sustainable technology for Seabury School, and possibly even for the city of Tacoma. We talked with environmental engineers about ways to take our hundred-year old historic building and make it greener. It was easy to see the wheels turning in our kids' brains as they worked out what they wanted to do on their projects.

We're excited to see what the students come up with. They are obviously passionate about making sure the world is a safe and sustainable place for their generation and beyond!

Friday, October 20, 2017

George Elbaum Visit

I was very impressed with Mr. Elbaum’s story. I have read over twenty books on the Holocaust, and I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable on the topic, but I was shocked at how his tale moved me. It was very eye opening. I started seeing this less as a catastrophe of the past and more of a horrible thing that people had to live through. It was a real thing that ruined people’s lives. They never got a chance because they were born at the wrong place at the wrong time. I can not imagine never being able to see my sisters, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, all of my family again ever again. I lost my uncle last year, and that threw everything off for me. One loss was hard, but losing your entire family in a matter of months? It’s impossible to fathom. I read about the horrors of the concentration camps, historical fiction about spies, biographies of survivors. But I didn’t consider the mental state that the world must have been in. It shakes your faith in humanity knowing that millions of people justified this horrible event.

Mr. Elbaum’s story was fascinating to me, and I especially loved learning about how lucky he was. One time George was eating some soup when there was a knock on the door. Everyone else rushed to the door, but George just kept eating his soup. Suddenly he felt someone staring at him and looked up. Standing above him was a Nazi officer with a machine gun slung across his back. George, being interested in engineering, stared at the gun for a long time before looking into the officer’s face. Then for some reason, unknown to him, he smiled and went back to eating his soup. If he had not smiled or instead had shown any sign of fear, the officers would have made him stand up and pull down his pants, and then he would be revealed as a Jew and he and his adopted family would have been sent to the concentration camps. Another instance of Mr. Elbaum’s luck was when he and a family he was staying with went to a family farm. On the way they stopped for a short break. George wandered away from the cart and found a small blue ball lying on the side of the road. He picked it up and started playing with it, he pulled on the ring that was attached to it. Just then Leon, the father of the family, called to him to come back. George tossed the ball over his shoulder into the river they had just crossed. After a few seconds the bomb went off. If Leon had not called him, George would have blown up. If he had not thrown the bomb into the river, any Nazi nearby would have heard the bang and George and the family would have been sent to the camps because nobody was allowed to be seen with a weapon. I really enjoyed Mr. Elbaum’s visit, especially hearing about all his narrow escapes!

It was awesome to meet George Elbaum, it was really cool to hear his story. What's really special about him is not only that he survived the Holocaust but that he is willing to share his experiences with kids and schools. It was crazy to hear how he was passed around for pretty much his entire toddler years.  

George Elbaum who talked yesterday was very lucky in WWII. I knew everything that Mr. Elbaum told us, but I was saddened when he said that the man who delivered the food sold them out to the Nazis and everyone in the bunker was killed. It must have also been hard for him to be away from his mother for so long. And how his mother found him at the farm with no knowledge of where he was, was amazing to me. The story of when he was little and he was eating soup and smiled at the Nazi soldier was quite funny. Like he said he was very lucky in the Holocaust and because of his luck and mother's smarts, he survived.

Yesterday’s presentation, from George Elbaum, was a really special and interesting experience. It was great we got to hear from a primary source and his experience during the Holocaust. I found very interesting that Mr. Elbaum’s mom had to steal identities of dead Polish Catholic women so she was like an early identity theft. I’m also intrigued about how Mr. Elbaum didn’t share his story until a much later point in his life and why he didn’t ask more questions about the Holocaust to his mother. Although this is a sad subject it was a great opportunity to hear first hand what the Holocaust was like from Mr. Elbaum, a child’s point of view, during the war.

It was crazy that people were risking their lives to keep him safe from the Nazis. What are the chances that he found a grenade, pulled the pin and walked away throwing it over his shoulder  before it exploded, he would have been dead. It made me feel sad that his grandma was killed. I was shocked on how George Elbaum described how many Jews were killed and sent to concentration camps. I was happy that he was reunited with his mom in France.

The thing that I found most interesting about George Elbaum's presentation is how strong he was during the war. The part that I found most interesting was when the Nazis came to one of the houses he was staying in. He said that he was eating soup as everyone “in his family” were rushing to the front door. Something he told us is that if he didn’t play it cool and continue to eat his soup and give a smile to the Nazi, then he would have been killed. That part interests me because he wasn’t afraid, and wasn’t scared of all the panic that was going on.

I thought his background story was really sad because he didn't get to live with his mom and dad for long time growing up. What was really sad was that his grandma's food person sold them out to the Nazis. He had a lot of good luck in his life. He found a blue potato object and a ring on it. He pulled the ring than a grown up called him. He threw the object behind his shoulder and got in a wagon. When he got in the wagon his family heard a big boom. The object was a German hand grenade.

Throughout the presentation by George Elbaum, I learned many new things both in general and in first person perspective. Before said presentation, I really knew nothing about the Holocaust except that it involved the mass murder of Jews, and Hitler was the main cause of it. Now, after listening to George Elbaum presentation, I’ve learned that it started in Poland in 1933. Hitler was attempting to cleanse the world of homosexuals, Jews, and intellectuals, along with so much more as he wished for a “cleansed population”. He did so by forcing Jewish families into what was called the ghetto, in which later he ordered that all these Jewish people were taken into concentration camps. Among that, areas were raided and killed of people. According to George, if you showed any form of fear, Nazi soldiers would order you to drop your pants to check if you were German. All of these horrible events happened all because Hitler blamed Germany’s economic drop on specific types of people. In the end, those who survived the concentration camps were released and Germany had to sign documents that put the blame of the Holocaust and World War II on their own country.

The presentation that George Elbaum did about his experience during the Holocaust was a cool experience for me. One of the coolest things about it is that my generation might be the last one to hear a firsthand account of the Holocaust from Holocaust survivors. What made his story interesting was the way he told it. He did not say his experience like a speech but more like a talk. His story was really cool and I am lucky to be able to hear a Holocaust survivor speak.

George Elbaum was a holocaust survivor who told us about his life during and after WWII. He was born in Warsaw, in a house that would soon be part of the ‘ghetto’, a place where the Germans put Jewish people. One day, about a dozen people came into his house, and his mother explained they were going to stay with them for a while. As time went on, the people living in the ghetto were sent to concentration camps, and his mom only saved him by talking to her boss, who gave them a permit to keep living there. His mom smuggled him out and for a while they lived in a shed-like building with many other people. This was where he saw a plane, which inspired him to learn aerospace engineering later in life. After the shack, his mother sent him to live with different Christian families to hide him, and after a while, the war was over. He and his mom were the last surviving people in his family of twelve.

I thought the visit from George Elbaum was interesting, fun and sad. One thing I found was fun to hear about was his mom and the lengths she went to in order to protect him. What made me sad yesterday was all the large numbers and that all of his family except his mom were killed in the Holocaust. I liked the way he described things in such a clear and descriptive way especially the shed and living in it. The story I liked the best was when a Nazi soldier came into one of the houses he was living in while everybody else got up to the door he stayed behind eating soup. George was just sitting there eating the soup because he was so hungry and even when the soldier came in with a machine gun he just kept eating his soup and would look up occasionally to the soldier just staring at him. Eventually the soldier just left and I found that story fun to listen to because he didn't really acknowledge that soldier and nobody would dare to do that. Those are some things that I found interesting, fun and sad about the speech George Elbaum gave.

Yesterday, a man named George Elbaum came to our school to talk about his experience in the Holocaust and how he survived it. Overall it was a very good presentation and I learned a lot more about what happened in the Holocaust than what I already knew, but there was one story that I will probably remember for a long time. He talked about having to live in a shed for a while and in that shed there were a few other families, and one family owned a dog. They said that dog never barked, and it didn’t. George played with it all the time and it was a very good dog too. One morning he woke up and could not find the dog, he asked its owner's where it was but all they would say was that it was gone. Later, after the war was over, he learned that that night the owners had to choke the dog to death so that it wouldn’t bark at the footsteps outside. I have had a lot of pets throughout my life, and having to choke one is something I can’t and don’t want to imagine doing.

Yesterday when George Elbaum came in to talk about his experience with the Holocaust I thought the fact that they had to strangle to dog was sad. He said that he and his mother had been moved into a shed with a couple of other families, one with a dachshund which he had played with for the first day but woke up in the morning to find it gone. I think that strangling the dog was sad because that was the only companion he had. Also the dog had probably been with the family for several years which probably didn't make the family too happy. Though the killing was sad it was also needed because the dog was barking at some footsteps outside so that was the only way to make it silent. This is why I thought the killing of the dachshund was sad.    

When George Elbaum presented about his experience through the Holocaust I learned a lot. The thing that stood out to me the most is how his mom came with papers at the last minute and saved his life. It's crazy how a piece of paper lets you temporarily live. It's hard to imagine a little boy being put in a gas chamber and killed. What also stood out to me is that he lived with different families and didn't know his religion. Those are the main things that stood out for me from George Elbaum’s presentation.

I found the presentation yesterday very interesting as it showed a very unique, first hand account of a period I have been interested in for a long time. It was quite a special story many parts of it were fascinating, however the parts that stand out to me are the parts that involved the great strokes of luck that he and his mother had during the war. Such as soup incident. It involves so much luck it’s almost comical if the circumstances weren’t so grave.

George Elbaum giving his presentation was really eye-opening for me. I always assumed that during the Holocaust, there were only a few Jews that went into hiding, and all the others were put into concentration camps to work. I never knew that they were gassed if they couldn’t work, and that really shocked me. It was also interesting to hear how he survived the Holocaust, with his mother’s smart thinking and all of the people who were willing to put themselves in danger to protect him. It’s very reviving to know that there were and probably still are people out there who really care and will try to help the greater good, even if it puts themselves in danger.

The speech given by George Elbaum, a Holocaust survivor, was deeply touching and emotional. He discussed his experiences as a child in Poland as it was in possession of Nazi Germany. George was passed between a variety of Polish-Catholic families free from the persecution he’d have experienced if his Jewish ancestry came to the attention of the Nazis. His speech, detailing his experience during the war, was exceptionally emotive and gave me a new perspective on the Holocaust and World War II.

George Elbaum was a very awesome guy. He survived the Holocaust and that is very difficult thing to do. He did a really good presentation and it was very interesting. I'm really happy I got to hear a Holocaust survivor. In conclusion it was very cool to hear a Holocaust survivor because I'm probably the last generation to hear one of them.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Elbaum’s presentation, but I wish I could’ve asked one question. That question is about when he learned to read. I think it would be interesting to learn about how he learned to read when the war was going on, or if he learned how to read after the war. If he did learn to read during the war, I’d like to know how he learned. That was the only question I wish I asked him, as I thought it would be very interesting.

What inspired me was how he lived with three to four families. I could never do that. Another thing is how his mother cared so much about him. She sent him away for so long. What made me so sad was the story about a family that killed their dog.

What stood out to me in George Elbaum’s presentation were mostly lucky events. Some things which weren’t luck also stood out, but not as much. One of the events was when a Nazi soldier entered the house of the family he was living with, and he was just eating soup. He showed no fear of the Nazi, but if he had, he would have been shipped off to a concentration camp. Another one was when everyone was in the courtyard, and some groups were being taken out through an arch, and his mother showed up with a piece of paper, which was a temporary permit to continue living in the place they were living, and had she been a few minutes later, he would have been shipped off to a concentration camp. Those two events are what stood out to me most in George Elbaum’s presentation.

I found this interesting thing about George Elbaum. The Holocaust survivor survived many battles and his mom was smart and kept them alive for all the battles. He went through a lot of harsh times. One of his close calls was his mom was able to smuggle her and him out of the country.

I found the George Elbaum Holocaust story really sad and touching. It would be horrible to go through what he went through. The worst part would be being separated from your parents for so long. I couldn’t imagine what that would be like. He was really lucky to get out of there and I’m really lucky to get to hear him speak first hand.

I thought that it was really cool that we even got to see George Elbaum speak because we will probably be the last generation to ever see a Holocaust survivor talk about their experiences. What really stood out for me was that he was very lucky. He said that when he was a kid in WWII he was sent to live with other families and to other places so he would be safer. He was going to France with some other kids and they were rough housing after dinner the night before they were going to leave, and he fell and broke his leg. In the morning instead of going to France he went to the hospital and then got sent back to his mom and if this had not happened he would still be living in France. This is lucky because if he had not broken his leg his mom may have not been able to find him after the war.

I found the WWII presentation very moving and important. I personally felt very connected, because the night prior to the presentation I had spent an hour trying to persuade my mom to let me cancel my bat mitzvah because I thought I could not do it, and I would disappoint everyone. While I still am completely terrified by the prospect of doing my bat mitzvah, I was inspired to try because  this is part of my heritage.  I felt really honored to be able to hear Mr. Elbaum because I may never have that chance again.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Ada Lovelace Day

Gifted girls need strong role models in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Ada Lovelace Day was founded in 2009 by Sue Charman-Anderson in order to highlight the achievements of women in STEM fields. Women are still underrepresented in these fields and in receiving awards for STEM. Seabury MS celebrates ALD every year in October to bring women working in STEM into the classroom and bring attention to gender issues. 

Ada Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron. Her mother gave her the best education, and she excelled especially in language and mathematics. She translated an article on the work of Charles Babbage who was theorizing about a mechanical computing machine, in the 1800's. Ada wrote an extensive critique of the article, suggesting ways the machine could be used to do even more tasks. Her work with Charles Babbage is consider the precursor to computer programming. In her honor a programming language is named after her, "Ada."

This year we celebrated Ada Lovelace Day with Dr. Cynthia Sprenger, a researcher in the field of microbiology and cancer treatment, Dr. Christine Hartzell a former Seabury alumni who is an Aerospace Engineer who has worked on NASA projects and is now teaching at the University of Maryland, Alexis Massey also a Seabury Alumni, now a student of microbiology and zoology at University of Washington, and Dr. Sharon Amani who works in the field of sustainable development with the farmers of Subsaharan Africa. 

Cynthia ran a science lab using electrophoresis to create DNA gels of cancer cells. This lab mimicked her own work with targeting cancer cells and determining if they have immunity to a treatment. 
Alexis Massey assisting during DNA lab.
Dr. Cynthia Sprenger running electrophoresis/DNA Lab.

 Dr. Christine Hartzell called in via Skype. She explained her path to becoming a scientist, and her research with asteroid dust. She gave girls great advice like: Don't compare who you are on the inside to who others are on the outside. She also discussed her early struggles and how she learned from failures and upsets. 

Dr. Hartzell Skyping in.
Ada Lovelace art activity.

 Dr. Sharon Amani is a parent of Seabury students, but her work in Africa and as a consultant for the UN really had our students engaged. They were amazed by all she has accomplished and the incredible places and people she has worked with. One story about a nomadic tribe who subsist on a diet of 80% milk, 10% milk, and 10% meat, who are the poorest people on the planet, had the middle schoolers enthralled. She described her work creating micro-loans for farmers and tribes people in Africa. 

Dr. Sharon Amani discussing micro-loans in Subsaharan Africa

Later in the week our students engaged in addition science work in the field of inheritance and genetics.

Friday, October 6, 2017

90 Second Newbery Comes to Seabury!!

Seabury students had a special treat on Thursday with a visit from author James Kennedy, author of The Order of Odd Fish! Mr. Kennedy came to tell us more about a fantastic and super fun program he created called the 90 Second Newbery ( This program asks students to create ninety (or thereabouts) second films that summarize the plot of a Newbery Award winning novel. Students are asked to be creative, jumping genres and telling the story in a new and intriguing way.

After telling us about his brief stint as a classroom teacher, with an uproarious story of the time a snake got loose in his classroom, he showed us some examples of great 90 Second Newbery videos. He showed us of Charlotte's Web done in superhero style and also as a horror film (remember all those baby spiders at the end of the book?? Yeah, not so cute when they're crawling all over the house!) We enjoyed a portrayal of The Whipping Boy done as a Star Wars movie (The Whipping Droid!) and laughed through a hilarious puppet portrayal of Frog and Toad Together.

This project encourages kids to read and think about the story line. It gets them creatively engaging in film making and cinematography. It encourages collaboration and creativity as students figure out how to take a detailed plot line and condense it into ninety seconds. Because they are limited to Newbery Award winning books, students also get a chance to explore a novel that they might not have otherwise read on their own. It is also a great example of differentiated learning at its best- students can contribute to this project in their own, unique, and individual ways. They are encouraged to use their strengths and individual talents in the creation of their final project.

You know you've got a great and engaging speaker when lunch time hits and students don't want to leave. But, that's exactly what happened- students asking engaging questions about how they could do one of these videos, asking to watch more examples, having a great time. We could see the wheels in their brain turning and full speed and it was wonderful to watch!