Dear Members of the SHS Community,
I am pleased to present this third quarterly update for the 2020-21 academic year. At the forefront of our thinking is the upcoming transition to full-capacity in-person instruction on Monday, April 19. Allow me to share a number of important reminders and information which will help facilitate a smooth transition.
Student schedules for Quarter 4, which begins on Monday, are available in the Campus Portal and accurately reflect the shift to our full-week, 7-period schedule. Please refer to these instructions to access student schedules. Our Counseling Department hosted an informational webinar on Wednesday, April 14, which is available here for your review, to help students understand the new schedule. Specific questions related to individual schedules should be directed to the student’s dean.
We are pleased to announce that our Library will begin to host students in person. At this time, due to capacity restrictions, the Library will be available only for 12th-grade students; once Senior Options begins, the space will become available to 11th-grade students. Students can access the Library during assigned study halls on a first-come, first-served basis; however, for students wishing to access the Library during period 5 lunch, they will need to reserve a spot via the Library website. In addition, select hallway lockers will be available for student use as in the past. A student can claim any hallway locker they wish to use by bringing their own lock to secure it.
We expect that arrival and dismissal will be very busy. There will be significant traffic issues and related delays. Please consider arriving early to stagger the arriving traffic, or later at the end of the day. If you live close to the school, please encourage your students to walk or bike. We ask for your patience as we adjust back to a full school arrival and dismissal. For students who travel to school together, we ask that you continue to exercise good judgement and follow local health and safety guidelines. We do remind students that eating lunch in a car together is not advisable and urge them to access our indoor dining options on days with inclement weather. The campus will remain open for all students.
Students in full-capacity classrooms who are masked will need to be quarantined if they are within six feet of a confirmed positive case. Said differently, if a student is found to be positive for Covid, the students immediately adjacent to that student (within six feet) in any direction will need to be quarantined. (Students who are fully vaccinated will not have to be quarantined and will have to provide a copy of their vaccination record card to the nurse’s office to be released from quarantine.) Therefore, teachers will have seating charts that reflect how students are seated in their classrooms in case contact tracing needs to be performed. While students may be excited to be with their classmates from the opposite cohort, we ask all students to be mindful of following their teachers’ instructions regarding classroom seating. Students are reminded to scan their seats during their lunch periods, as any contact during lunch within six feet of a positive case will also result in a quarantine order.
As a reminder, we will return to our traditional way of scheduling tutorials during students’ and teachers’ unscheduled periods throughout the week. As we make these upcoming transitions, we are reminded of our statement about the tutorial model in the handbook: “One of the unique features of Scarsdale High School is our tutorial system. All teachers are expected to provide academic assistance to students during unscheduled time during the regular school day. Teachers may meet with students in their offices, classrooms and/or department centers either under a sign-up system or a drop-in system or both. If students do not have free periods that coincide with their teachers’ free periods, arrangements can be made to meet before or after school.” The caveat here is that a teacher can have a tutorial with a student via Zoom, even if both are in the building, if either or both are uncomfortable meeting in person. Teachers help students understand how this system works and will clarify how to schedule this time in person and/or on Zoom. It’s important to note that, with office capacities limited, the total number of students teachers can see in a day may be lower than it typically is.
While we are very much looking forward to this transition, we know that students’ reactions will range from exuberance to wariness, and that students and teachers will need time to adjust to the new schedule with different meeting times of their classes. While we expect the overall impact to be largely positive for student learning and wellbeing, we must be generous as all members of the community adjust to our regular schedule.
On a personal note, one of the many joys of serving as principal is witnessing the energy students have in our classrooms and hallways brought about by their love of learning and interactions with their teachers and peers. It is my fervent hope that our students will experience more fully the joys of school as we make this transition, and I appreciate your partnership in keeping that as our focus as we complete the journey of this school year.
In the third quarter, A-School students returned from their internships to dive back into academics. Juniors In American Studies researched connections between the Progressive Era and contemporary issues, practicing essential academic skills while exploring topics of personal interest. Some students worked with partners to create podcasts; for example, Micah Arenstein and Sam Drescher compared the immigration policies of the two periods, while Maya Zilberstein and Juliana Zraick contrasted the problems of Progressive Era workers to those of warehouse workers today (see screenshot). Other students chose to write research papers, such as Jayho So’s examination of racial bias in immigration law, Jacob Zik’s essay comparing the attitudes of industrial business owners to those of the NFL regarding employee safety, and a joint paper by Audrey Gendel, Claire Kaufman and Talia Levenson comparing the fight for gender equality in the early 1900s to the impact of the #MeToo movement.
In the American Politics course, seniors participated in a simulation designed by Ryerson University, “The Game of Social Life,” which explores the complexities of poverty. Students were randomly assigned identities including factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, as well as starting income. During the simulation, students had to make choices such as which neighborhood to live in, which school to attend, and how much to spend on health care, and the impact of their choices played out as the game unfolded. The simulation gave students new understanding of the role factors such as property, health, and social status play in poverty. The discussions after the simulation were thoughtful and lively.
The art department continues to support students in their artistic endeavors through our shifting landscape. One way we have done this is to encourage our students to participate in outside exhibitions. Below are two museum shows in which our students exhibited their work. The art teachers worked closely with these students throughout the creative process which included framing and delivering their work to the venues.
"Young Artists 2021, on view February 6 – 28, 2021, brings together works from high school seniors across Westchester, Putnam and Fairfield counties. Now in its 38th year, this perennially popular exhibition represents some of the best in student artistic talent and it is comprised of nearly 300 artworks from more than 30 regional schools. The works range in scale, concept, media, and process, reflecting the diversity of expression in the region’s young artists." https://mnikitin5.wixsite.com/youngartists2021
The student artists who exhibited are:
Mia de la Fuente
The Hindsight is 2020 High School Student Art Exhibition features submissions created during the year 2020, illustrating a diverse portrait of what young people experienced during these challenging and unique times.
The exhibition features close to 200 entries from across Connecticut and New York, including painting, photography, digital art, drawings, sculpture, and more.
Jurists for the exhibition include Paul Efstathiou, Director of Contemporary Art at Hollis Taggart Gallery; Amy Kaplan, a Westport-based artist and RTM member; and Tessa Moore, Vice President of MoCA Westport’s 2020-2021 Teen Council and a Staples High School junior. https://mocawestport.org/exhibition/hindsight-is-2020/
The students who exhibited are:
The Deans continued their individual and group work with students. The scheduling process was an especially prominent component, one that required a significant investment of our time throughout the third quarter.
Our work began with the logistics of scheduling approximately 150 conferences for each Dean and their respective students. While in many other schools, scheduling conferences take place in group settings, we value the individual interactions of these meetings. For ninth-graders, we incorporated parents or guardians, while conferences with rising juniors and seniors included the student and Dean. Teachers and departments provided us with course recommendations, and Deans reviewed those as we worked with students to consider a program that thoughtfully reflected curricular needs, strengths, and overall balance. Once the initial process concluded, course requests are reviewed by our administration, who will in turn create a master schedule based on student choice. Later this spring, Deans will be provided with course conflicts that may arise, and we will then communicate options to our students. Of course, all of us recognize that as the year unfolds, changes to recommendations can occur. To that end, we encourage students to reach out with any questions regarding their individual course selection.
The Deans value the unique needs of students, and remain committed to recognizing that individuality in our work. By understanding our students’ aspirations, our goal is to support their academic success while encouraging their overall wellness. The scheduling process is but one example of our commitment to this overarching theme.
At the end of second quarter and the beginning of third quarter, all English classes viewed the 2019 film Just Mercy. The film, a dramatization of Bryan Stevenson’s bestselling memoir of the same name, depicts Stevenson’s work as a lawyer with disadvantaged clients on Death Row in Alabama. Our department-wide screening of the film prepared students for the mid-February visit by Anthony Ray Hinton. Mr. Hinton was exonerated after 28 years on Death Row thanks to the work of Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative. He spoke to the school community via Zoom in a moving presentation about his experience with racism in the criminal justice system, as well as about the sustaining power of the human imagination during the most difficult experiences. In English classes, students analyzed the filmic techniques used in Just Mercy. After Mr. Hinton’s visit, classes reflected on his words of wisdom about the justice system. In many classes, these discussions connected with issues of racism that students had explored in works such as To Kill a Mockingbird, A Raisin in the Sun, Beloved, and The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.
Three English teachers were part of the faculty committee that made Mr. Hinton’s visit possible: Kathleen McGreal, Stephen Mounkhall, and Kimberly Summerfield. Ms. McGreal is also coordinating a school-wide Zoom discussion of Mr. Hinton’s 2018 memoir The Sun Does Shine, which will take place on Monday, 4/26. Interested students can obtain a copy of Mr. Hinton’s book from the SHS library.
In March, groups of students engaged in an informative international conversation with peers from three continents. They discussed issues of power and equity in the dissemination of the Covid-19 vaccine nationally and internationally. Another group represented SHS at the Envoys' International Women’s Conference. The guest speaker was teen climate activist Sophia Kanni who created Climate Cardinals. She created a teen network, connected through social media, that translates key climate documents into 100 languages and dialects and our students were invited to join. Students worked together in small internationally diverse groups to tackle a gender equity issue. Our SHS participants reported leaving these international activities informed and inspired. The Global Learning Alliance (GLA) student team discussed selected pieces of literature from the US, Singapore and Finland that helped them dive deeper into a meaningful discussion of identity and belonging. These discussions will culminate in presentations at the GLA Summit at the end of April. If interested in future opportunities that may help you develop your global citizenship skills, please contact Ms. Heather Waters in room 366 or at email@example.com.
Health and Physical Education
Nelson Mandela said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand.” We take these words to heart in the PE Department. We have always viewed our class time as an opportunity to focus on connection and engagement among our students. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the need for this aspect of our teaching and learning, and these themes have continued to be a priority in our classrooms.
Embracing cultural diversity and awareness, we introduced an international game, Floorball, as a brand new unit to some of our 9th & 10th grade classes. Floorball is an indoor hockey game that is currently played in over 70 countries, and is now one of the many world games we offer in the PE Department.
Our 11th & 12th grade students spent their time with one of two units of instruction: basketball or tennis. The basketball unit provided an opportunity for participation in a sports-based learning experience where students worked to improve a variety of skills. The tennis unit offered a few racquet sports including tennis, platform tennis, and a brand new Speedminton game. While working on sport-specific skills, students were also increasing their levels of endurance, improving balance and coordination, and developing concentration and cooperation.
Ms. Levenberg’s Health 10 class spent the second half of the third quarter focusing on our mental health unit. This is a timely topic as we are all experiencing increased pressurization during the global pandemic. The goals of the unit were for students to be able to recognize and classify personal and academic stressors, and empower them with an understanding of the various ways to manage these stressors. Our study included both positive and negative stressors, their effects (physical, emotional and/or psychological), handling the resulting stress, learning to relate to others, and developing a series of good choices in response. We spent time analyzing case studies and engaging in class discussions in order to apply the theoretical dynamics to real world scenarios. The culminating assessment was a reflection that allowed students to apply their acquired knowledge to a series of critical thinking questions. This unit of study was designed to continue to build upon the foundation of positive decision making and its connection to the increased quality of their life.
As we eagerly work on plans to re-open, we continue to connect with students through classes and individual research help. Whether researching Ancient Rome or McCarthyism, we encourage students to reach out via email for guidance on print and online resources. We are happy to report that even during the pandemic, use of our resources remains high and in some cases has increased. Our Proquest databases have seen an uptick and our year-to-date book circulations are up just over 10%.
We have added two new subscription databases to our already robust collection. We now have Proquest’s Stem Database and Historical Wall Street Journal as well as a number of new reference ebook titles. Some of these include: Race and Ethnicity in America and The World of Jim Crow America.
Students in Mr. Menick’s AT Statistics classes gained some insight into the work of a data scientist by engaging with the online platform CODAP to seek patterns in data. Students were provided a data set from which they chose variables of interest with respect to categories such as a subject's demographic information and biochemistry, then created graphs to observe possible relationships between the variables.
In Sheilah Chason’s 432 classes, students explored applications of exponential functions. Students saw first hand the power of compound interest and the incentive to save early. These financial discussions lead to topics such as the difference between traditional and Roth IRAs, importance of credit scores and how pensions work.
Applications of the Triangle Inequality Theorem
Ms. Ying’s Geometry students learned to apply the Triangle Inequality Theorem and its corollary to real world situations. They used the theorem and the corollary to assess if the 6-foot social distancing rule, then created their own real world applications for the theorem. Some of the student ideas included how to find the length of a cell under the microscope and how to find the distance between two places on the map. They appreciate how the Triangle Inequality Theorem is used by popular websites such as Google Map and MapQuest.
Students have been getting both in-person and virtual math help in the math center from Ms. Landau, Ms. Haker and Michele Getselevich. The installation of the whiteboard has been a wonderful help in the math center and there has been an uptick in student use. Students can stop in the math center without an appointment or can email to set up a virtual appointment.
Math Team Update
The math team is gearing up for the virtual NYSML State Competition on Saturday April 17th! Out of 45 students in Westchester that qualified, 13 of them are from Scarsdale. Our very own Matthew Zhou tied for first place out of those 45 in the county.
DRAMA: Acting II classes are writing Theatre for Youth plays focusing on Discrimination, Pressure and Stress, and Body Image. Independent Study in Acting students are working on two very interesting projects: how Shakespearean characters relate to today's politicians and Feminism in Ancient Greek poetry.
The Drama Club adapted two Jack Benny radio plays and hand selected songs for musical interludes to create our Spring Musical: Raiders Do Radio. All actors have been hard at work these last three months rehearsing and recording the plays which were featured in the Jack Benny national radio conference. Then, the orchestra recorded followed by vocalists and, finally, choreography. Following the final video editing process, the entire show was streamed on the school website April 16th -18th. Below is a sneak peek of our opening number.
THEATER TECH: Students are using virtual emulators of the various district consoles including the Lighting Console, the ETC Nomad for our ETC Ion Xe and Sound Console X32 Edit for an X32 Audio Console to learn and practice how to program.
They're also learning to mix multi-tracked music, convert it into a stereo file, and set up the audio console.
ORCHESTRA: Students are preparing for their upcoming spring concerts to be held at SHS on May 3-4! (Details on live-streaming and audience options to be determined.)
CHOIR and BAND: Students have been preparing repertoire and recordings for their virtual spring concerts to be streamed online soon.
Earth Science has taken a very student centered approach to teaching with a great deal of scaffolding embedded into the lessons. The lack of input from student interactions is notable and without that sharing, the scaffolding attempts to bolster the learning experience. To this end, we have modified lessons, activities, and assessments.
One example of this is transforming physical labs into online learning experiences that utilize photographs of rocks and minerals as well as “cards” that describe the characteristics of the samples that might be tough to determine with only a photograph. Here is an example:
We also continued to integrate human stories of scientists and their work in order to keep a sense of humanity in the course during this time of isolation. See our sample below.
Lastly, we’ve created interactive slideshows that allow students to navigate forward and backward through the topic with less direct instruction or direct instructor pacing. This is not preferable to live classes, in our minds, but it is a good way to allow students to self pace and we may keep components of this as we return to a more typical school experience. In the sample provided, note the links from slide 3 (table of contents) to slide 6 (activity 3) and back to the Table of Contents.
Heather Waters' Criminal Justice classes hosted several guest speakers including Brian Kennedy, a former Brooklyn Senior Assistant District attorney who served on the New York City Narcotics Task Force. Also visiting the class was Rebecca Lowell Edwards, the American Civil Liberties Union Chief Communications Officer who spoke about the role of civil rights and liberties as it relates to criminal law.
9th grade World History students in Jeff Beals's class embarked on the study of Islam with an exercise that pitted their preconceptions about Islam against realities. Students viewed and discussed the classic Arabic film “The Message,” a Cecil B. Demille-style epic on the founding of Islam.
Students in Jeff Beals's 11th grade U.S. History class concluded their study of labor movements and the Gilded Age with an investigation into that period's legacy in America today. Students explored the work of labor unions through interviews with family members, teachers in public and private schools. Moreover, some students journeyed into retail America where they interviewed a Walmart worker on his life and working conditions.
In Rich Diefenbach’s US History classes, students studied the iconic Norman Rockwell Four Freedom paintings based on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1941 speech. Students were challenged to rebrand or redraw and update Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms.
In Chris Hughes’s 12th grade Food for Thought class, there were several guest speakers including Michael Moss, the author of the new Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions and the previous book, Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.
The third quarter of the year kicks off the Annual Review season for LRC teachers and families. All CSE meetings will be held via Zoom. Please be on the lookout for meeting dates and times from your child’s LRC teacher.
Last month we partnered with the Counseling Department for our annual “College Night for Students with Learning Differences.” Once again, parents were invited to hear from a school admission officer as well as from a parent who has been through the process multiple times. We had a large virtual turnout and parents were able to gather useful information as they think about their child’s next steps in their academic journey.
Finally, we are looking forward to welcoming all of our students on April 19 as we return to the pre-pandemic schedule. Of course, for those students who remain virtual, we will continue to support them as we have for the past year. We have learned so much about adapting and flexibility during these challenging times and we are so proud of our students and their perseverance through this. While there were bumps along the way, together we were able to move forward to the best of our abilities.
The Design Lab has been busy this quarter with students building prototypes, testing them and reiterating their ideas. In our capstone class, AT Entrepreneurship, students work to solve a real problem in the world. Our Entrepreneurship teams have been building out their ideas and testing them with real users. Students were asked to find a problem within the areas of sustainability, equity and wellness, or disability. One group is focusing on encouraging sustainable home gardening by providing a kit which comes in the mail with all the customer needs to start a home garden along with an accompanying app that gives daily instructions on how to plant, maintain and harvest. Another group is working to create a navigation system for people with visual impairments so it is easier for them to find their way around college campuses. Yet another group is working on a wearable piece of technology that helps someone who is deaf or has hearing loss be aware of sounds around them as they bike or run, to ensure they are safe. Students are creating working prototypes in order to test their solutions in the world with real users. Once they receive feedback, they go through an iterative cycle of improving their ideas/prototypes and creating a viable business model. Teams will pitch their products on May 13th in a final pitch night which will be open to the public via live stream. Details will be available here soon.
During the 3rd quarter, School Government continued working on unifying the school community through both virtual and in-school events. Student Government started the quarter with a free cookie giveaway to brighten school spirit. Through various school clubs, Government began promoting the new MySchoolBucks app, which allows students to pay for school activities from their phones. Students and teachers were all invited to participate in International Day, an event that showcased cultures from across the world, where they could choose to attend or host hands-on workshops ranging from making Chinese paper lanterns to fresh pasta. Mandarin students led a workshop on paper lantern making (see photo). There were also sessions on crepe making courtesy of the French club, making guacamole and Flamenco dancing with Ms. Bryant and the Spanish club and even a demonstration on toga wrapping by Dr. Van Way!
Towards the end of the quarter, School Government held elections and welcomed a new group of officers, who immediately began work reviewing new club applications.
As we enter the Spring season, students have been delving even deeper into their study of World Languages.
Many French students participated in the Grand Concours (National French Exam) in early March. Students were also invited to participate in a webinar organized by Ms. Calhoun about the French baccalauréat exam given by a high school senior in France and many students enthusiastically participated in the Q&A that followed. The French 344 students have just finished reading their first full-length novel, Maupassant's Pierre et Jean. In French AT, students are exploring the French education system both at the secondary and post-secondary levels through the film Nos 18 ans. The French 343 students concluded their study of the Belgian comic series Tintin by designing their own original comic strips using structures recently studied.
Spanish students have been just as busy! Students in Sra. Bray’s classes enjoyed corresponding with pen pals in Spain. Students in Spanish 344 were treated to a visit from our very own Beth Colleary to discuss the portrayals of women in Spanish and Latin American art (1600-1950) in works by Velázquez, Murillo, Sorolla, El Greco, Picasso, Rivera, Botero and others. AT Spanish language students incorporated thinking routines used in the design lab to create their own memorials for victims of the military dictatorship in Argentina. AT Spanish literature students have been examining short stories by notable Latin American writers such as Borges, García Márquez, Cortázar, Allende and others.
Mandarin students have been exploring a variety of topics including health and wellness, travel, and hobbies. Latin students have been studying poetry from ancient sources, and have now begun to read works by the poet Ovid. They are also beginning a project on poetic devices used by Roman authors, and investigating the various effects these devices have on the reader. Linguistic students, inspired by the greater school discussion on systemic racism and the visit by Anthony Ray Hinton, have explored systemic bias through dialects.
The World Language Clubs have remained active throughout the 3rd quarter and have planned two exciting collaborations, the multilingual Spring festival on Wednesday, April 14th which will consist of trivia games and presentations by students on Spring festivals in various cultures and the second annual Polyglot, the interactive literary magazine, which is currently accepting submissions.