Dear Members of the SHS Community:
I am pleased to share with you this report of the second quarter at Scarsdale High School that concluded last month. There are three points I would like to address in my opening comments before the reports from the different departments.
Pilot of suspending testing days
The Assessment Committee has been studying our school-wide grading and testing practices, and as part of their work, we are piloting the suspension of designated testing days at the end of the third quarter. To be clear, there will still be exams and assessments at the end of the quarter, but we will not designate specific days for different subjects. Instead, teachers will discuss with students how to best schedule assessments and due dates, and students can take advantage of the Test and Assessment Rescheduling Policy (TARP), which states that students who have three or more single-day in-class assessments which require preparation outside of the classroom and are scheduled for the same day may speak with their teachers to have one of them rescheduled. All efforts should be made to reschedule the test or assessment which was most recently assigned. Assessments which constitute routine homework checks are not covered under the policy. The Assessment Committee will be administering surveys to students and teachers to determine whether subject-specific testing days are preferable to this method for the future.
When we return from break on February 28, we will allow students to use the cafeteria and Learning Commons as they wish, regardless of grade level. With the warmer weather hopefully upon us, we can rely on outdoor spaces to reduce lunchtime density in these areas and will no longer require students to use the auditorium or gymnasium unless inclement weather requires it. As a reminder, guidance for lunch spaces requires six feet of distance between students while eating.
Behavior at athletic events
Recently we had an unfortunate situation where SHS spectators demonstrated poor behavior by coming on to the basketball court after the game and chanting a vulgar jeer at the visiting team before and after the game. As a result, we have limited spectators until Sunday and will send a message about appropriate spectator behavior as we welcome spectators back on Monday and thereafter. I spoke with the principal of the visiting school to apologize on behalf of our school community for the behavior that the visiting team was subjected to. We must remember that especially during athletic events and at all times each of us represents the Scarsdale community, and that visiting teams, families, and spectators are entitled to a respectful and welcoming environment. Sportsmanship requires the celebration of victory with humility and the acceptance of defeat with grace. Regardless of rivalry or past behavior, we must exemplify the best standards of sportsmanship at all times. Attending games is a privilege, not a right, and we will be asking for your support in sharing this message and meeting these expectations.
I am pleased to present below updates from the various departments in the school on what’s been happening during the second quarter.
The A-School is on their annual January internship. They begin securing these placements in October and they work the entire month of January. We have students working with fellow teachers, like Molly Klein and Carolina Vittori in the SMS, and Jade D’Agostino, Audrey Gendel, Sydney Rothschild, Alessia Schettino, Arianna Wilson and Cayden Yang at Greenacres Elementary School. Abby Fine and Audrey Heidbreder are working on the front lines with the Scarsdale Fire Department and Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corp. In addition, we have students commuting to the city. Micah Arenstein is interning at the Eastern District Federal Courthouse, where Robin Glicker is working with the Youth Chorus of NYC and Ben Flicker is exploring the real estate industry. From retail to finance our students are getting a taste of the world outside of our high school.
On February 8th we will begin our annual recruitment process. Students will be presenting our program to all of our freshman English classes.
Visualizing Mathematics...Janna Johnsen of the art department, collaborated with Monica Palekar's Math 454i class to bring math and "hands-on" learning into the art studio. The students were studying fractals. Students designed and composed finished presentation models to illustrate stages of each fractal.
The Math 454i Interdisciplinary students designed and built laser cut plexi-glass models of various fractal types. After research and thorough calculations, students generated several iterations of designated fractals. Working in teams, students translated their calculations into precise, geometric shapes created in the Adobe Illustrator program to laser cut, etch, and score, their visual representations of each fractal iteration.
Models and design process images are available on the High School Art Department website for your viewing pleasure.
The Deans continued to engage students throughout the second quarter. We supported our ninth graders' ongoing transition through both Freshman Seminar and Civic Education, gained insight about their experiences, and invited mental health professionals to speak about their work with students. Having recently concluded Junior Seminar, a week-long introduction to the college application process, we will soon meet with our tenth graders in Sophomore Seminar, where they will have the opportunity to explore personal and career interests. Our work with seniors continued through both formal and informal experiences, including Senior Workshops, an opportunity for seniors to connect with their Deans and receive timely updates and information.
For the past couple of years, our “Conversations with the Deans” program has transitioned to a virtual format, and during the second quarter, we held these for parents of sophomores and juniors. While an in-person experience would be ideal, this model has provided more flexibility for parents to participate, and we have subsequently witnessed a rise in attendance. We appreciate answering what is on our parents’ mind, providing an overview of their students’ experiences, and allowing parents to see the collaborative approach Deans have towards our work.
The Deans are looking forward to a busy winter, as we begin college planning conferences with juniors and scheduling conferences with our freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. As always, we are excited to work with all our families as we continue to support students throughout their high school journey.
In the English Department as elsewhere, second quarter was a tale of two halves: before Omicron and after it. Before Omicron, academic life returned to something close to normalcy, with some teachers even able to bring in-person guest speakers to their classes. In November, Stephen Mounkhall hosted SHS alumna Rachel Wolfe. Ms. Wolfe spoke about her work as a journalist for the Wall Street Journal, and about how the skills taught in an English class—analytical thinking, self-expression, reconsideration of word choice to consider an audience—are applicable outside the classroom. Also in November, Jennifer Horne, the poet laureate of the state of Alabama, visited Pamela Kroll’s AT class to talk about her poem “Out Walking,” a poem about life during Covid. Meanwhile, thanks to the efforts of Kathleen McGreal and other faculty members, students had the opportunity to meet Anthony Ray Hinton in person.
After Omicron arrived challenges followed, and yet the vital work of reading great literature and developing writing skills has continued uninterrupted. Several ninth-grade classes recently read Jacqueline Woodson’s 2016 novel Another Brooklyn; many tenth-grade classes began the study of Macbeth, with teachers curious to discover whether Joel Coen’s brand-new adaption of Shakespeare’s play might offer a fresh interpretation that students would enjoy. Teachers and students have shown great fortitude in maintaining high academic standards through this challenging time.
Last week, the Global Entrepreneurship Challenge held its second meeting. SHS students in Ms. Yokana and Mr. McDonald’s classes, along with students from Hong Kong, Italy, Miami and St.Louis, explored ways to improve their communities through innovative ideas. Students were able to see how the same issue impacts communities differently in various countries and in parts of the United States. Students will meet again in March for feedback on their problems, plans, and projects.
In December, students engaged in a well-received virtual international summit entitled Changemakers in Focus: People Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Students should check their school email for upcoming opportunities for virtual international engagement applications due in February.
We have three global virtual Saturday summits: International Women’s Day on March 8, The Urgency of Earth Day on April 23, and Improving Civil Discourse in the Digital Age on May 21. In addition, there are two other virtual international dialogues which will be run during the school day: UN SDG on Production & Consumption on Feb. 17, and UN SDG on Gender Equality on March 1. Students interested in these opportunities should reach out to Ms. Heather Waters at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Health and Physical Education
Some of our 11th and 12th grade students were the recipients of an (almost) annual Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Residency! Professional dancers Wayne Williams and Theara Ward, along with percussionist Joe Barnes, were with us for four weeks in November and December, bringing their knowledge and expertise of the Lester Horton Dance Technique. Our students learned the fundamentals of the Horton Technique, the foundation for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Our students then proceeded to learn a modified version of three different sections of Revelations. The three sections included I’ve Been Buked, Wade in the Water, and Rocka My Soul. Each class performed their unique version for an audience on the last day of the dance unit which showcased our students' commitment and hard work.
Our students have been working on the Health Fair, the culminating activity for Health 10 class. Students create videos to educate their peers on a health-related topic and have access to over forty videos on topics that range from safer sex, mental health, and prescription and non-prescription drug abuse. Students work cooperatively in small groups and each group is responsible to comprehensively research their topic and to make connections to longevity, quality of life, and personal, family & community health care. As students work in their groups, they are also honing their skills in the digital world by critically analyzing health content, making real-world connections, and learning to make informed conclusions. Once students have presented their videos, they answer an essential question focusing on how they can make change(s) to positively influence their own personal lives. While the format is modified due to COVID-19, it maintains the rigor and integrity of the traditional version of the Health Fair.
From public policy research to book talks, we have been busy meeting with classes, promoting use of our vast online subscription databases and book collection. In addition to coming with classes, students are making good use of the library for group and independent study. Beyond our usual functions, we also had the privilege of hosting Anthony Ray Hinton, author of The Sun Does Shine. Wanting to pay a visit to SHS, Hinton came to share his story with, and gratitude for, students and faculty with whom he has made a special connection through the work of our school’s Innocence Club.
All of the great energy in the library is making for an awesome 2021-22 school year.
Relay Game for the Triangle Congruence Proofs (using an invisible baton due to COVID social distancing)
In Ms. Ying’s 423, students are enjoying the relay games they play, as a whole class to complete triangle congruence proofs. One student starts by marking the diagram based on givens; the next couple of students come up with a plan based on the given information and the deduction from the given information; the rest of the students take their turns to contribute to the two-column proof one-by-one. If a student doesn't include all necessary information, the baton drops and the whole class helps make the corrections, picks up the baton and the relay goes on. If a student has a question, he has the right to pause the game. After the class helps clarify the student's question, they can resume the relay game. The whole class was proud of their teamwork when they wrote Q.E.D. at the end of the proof on the board.
Students in 423 participated in a geometry scavenger hunt for the quarter 2 project. They had the choice of going around the school, home, Scarsdale to take photos of images that contain geometric terms from Math 423.
Students in Ms. Palekar’s 454 Interdisciplinary class worked with the laser cutter, to create fractals. Ms. Palekar collaborated with Jann Johnsen from the art department, so students could learn about the software and how to turn their visions into beautiful physical models. A fractal is a complex geometric structure generated by the iteration of complex numbers through a quadratic equation having self-similarity. Students explored the Apollonian Gasket, Vicsek Curve/Box Fractal, the Koch Snowflake, among others, and showed calculations about their characteristics at each iteration.
Drama: After a successful musical production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in November, our drama students are currently working hard to prepare the Student-Directed plays which will be recorded for online streaming. 4AM and Crazytown will be made available for a 48-hour period on January 28-30. Stay tuned for details!
Theater Tech: With new productions on the horizon, the theater tech students are working behind the scenes building sets and designing lighting and sound for the spring play.
Orchestra: The orchestras successfully held two concerts in November. If you missed one of the last opportunities to attend a live performance, you may enjoy the recorded ORCHESTRA CONCERTS here on our district website’s SPS TV link!
Band: The bands also had the opportunity to perform live in December before a live audience. You can find the recorded BAND CONCERT here on our district website’s SPS TV link!
Choir: The choir performed its winter concert in the format of a live stream due to reinstatements of Covid protocols. Of course, we DID record it for those of you who could not tune in, and the video recording will be posted alongside our instrumental concerts shortly!
Piano Class: The piano class will follow the same model as the choir. Be on the lookout for the link!
Earth science, at its core, is a model driven course that allows students to study phenomena, which they cannot directly observe. In order to facilitate a deeper understanding of concepts, such as Plate Tectonic theory, teachers have worked to make these macroscopic occurrences more tangible for students by relating easily obtainable samples - such as rocks - to the various topics of study throughout the year. Students collected rock samples from the area surrounding Scarsdale High School, during the first few weeks of school. This elicited a series of questions that became guiding themes for the rest of the year. What is this rock made of? How was it formed? And most importantly, What does this rock tell us about our surrounding area? In doing this, students are engaging in one of the most important scientific skills, which is being able to make inferences and predictions about their observations, which are supported by an evidence-based justification.
This approach also facilitates the incorporation of real-time events into the story of a local area or the overall Earth system. For example, the recent volcanic eruption in Tonga allowed students to make connections between rock composition, plate tectonics, and volcanic activity. Using footage of the eruptions, as well as plotting its location among other past volcanic events, students examined how this additional data point can facilitate a more comprehensive understanding of geology. They were able to relate their prior knowledge of igneous rocks to the Tonga event by investigating how the rock composition influenced the type of eruption that occurred, as well as what rocks are likely to form.
Social Studies teachers provided exciting experiences to brighten up students’ days as the weather turned colder. Patrick Healy and Michelle Britto’s students researched historical rulers from across the globe in the “Emperor Project.” Groups gave presentations about why their leader should be the next ruler of America (see photo). After each presentation, students role-played a “hiring committee” and asked questions to challenge the claims of the presenters, which led to some lively and insightful exchanges.
Ron Widelec’s world history students read the West African saga Sundiata and wrote papers on the culture of the region, with a focus on the concept of the oral tradition, the role of the griot (musical story-teller), and the role of destiny. The unit ended with a visit from an actual West African griot who performed for the class and shared his experiences.
In John Harrison’s AT US History class, students participated in “Abolitionist Speed Dating”. After preliminary research, students role-played their abolitionists as they engaged in two minute “speed dates” with one another, looking for those with similar views on goals, tactics, and more. This assignment was a creative lens for exploring the range of views within the movement.
“Food for Thought” teacher Chris Hughes brought in a number of guests to share their expertise with his seniors, such as Ben Cooper of Wild Harmony Farm. He engaged students in lively discussions about the logistics of running a farm, the economics of local vs. industrial agriculture, and the role of public policy in our food systems.
We are incredibly proud of the work our students have done despite the on-going challenges. LRC teachers continue to support our students whether in person or quarantined at home. Incorporating mindfulness into our classes has become a priority to many of our teachers. Starting the class by asking what’s good or new or taking a moment for gratitude practices are some of the activities we have integrated into our daily classroom routines.
LRC teachers continue to attend workshops and professional development classes to keep abreast of the latest trends in Special Education. These workshops have focused on Executive Functioning, Mindfulness in the Classroom, and Positive Psychology.
Coming down the pike is our College Night for Students with Learning Differences in March. The workshop will be held via Zoom and we hope you can join us as we hear from college admissions officers, special services representatives, and a Scarsdale parent who has successfully completed the process. More information will be forthcoming shortly.
The end of the semester means final course projects for the second level STEAM courses, as they are half year courses. We look for “real world” problems for our students to solve. In Robotics, students were challenged to create an autonomous system to deliver a meal-like a McDonald’s Happy Meal, complete with burger, hot dog and juice. Working together, they brainstormed the design of the system and then divided into smaller teams to design, build and code the different robots. Although they built and coded separate robots, they continually had to check with each other, to ensure that all the robots would work together to deliver the “McDonald’s” meal. Watch the videos to see the system working!
In Electrical Engineering, students have used microcontrollers and sensors all semester, learning to build circuits and code microcontrollers for various outcomes. For their final project, students are trying to make a puzzle “talk”. Working with a speech-language pathologist, students are hacking a wooden puzzle that she created and uses to help with language acquisition, so when a child puts a puzzle piece in the correct spot, the puzzle will “say” the word, reinforcing the word for the child. Our students are creating the circuits, coding the microcontroller, and figuring out how to add it to the physical puzzle. They will finish by giving the completed puzzle to the speech-language pathologist to use with her students. Creating something real for someone whose needs are different from your own is a powerful experience.
The School Government kicked off the second quarter with high morale from students and faculty. In November the Student Government held a community barbeque, where teachers, students, and families got together to enjoy tasty food, eat Bona Bona ice cream, play games, talk, and relax. The barbeque was a huge success and brought the community together. The Student Government also reviewed several club applications, approving multiple clubs and adding more diversity to Scarsdale High School’s extracurricular opportunities. Unfortunately, the planning that went into the Winter Pep Rally was for naught as the spike in COVID cases forced us to postpone multiple times. Looking forward, School Government elections will take place at the beginning of February, and we look forward to transitioning in new officers with fresh ideas.
In spite of the challenges of “pandemic school,” students and teachers continue to deepen their study of world languages. AT Spanish students have been immersed in the Spanish classic drama, La casa de Bernarda Alba by Federico García Lorca, in anticipation of the Repertorio Español production here in the SHS auditorium, thanks to the generous support of the Curriculum Office. Other senior Spanish students have created and pitched original Shark Tank projects such as a magic pencil that writes for the user or a battery operated robotic goose hunter to protect students from the Canadian geese on campus. AT French students have been researching different themes in their Francophone countries and recently presented to one another on the relationship between the state and religion in different French countries. Upper level Latin students have been working in pairs to research people of influence in the Roman republic. Mandarin students invented a holiday for wellness, which they presented and will observe in class.
The clubs have also remained active. The French club conducted its traditional (yet Covid safe) Buche de Noel contest. Students made 18 different cakes and a jolly time was had by all! The Spanish club conducted a successful medical childrens’ book drive on behalf of White Plains Hospital. The Latin club held a mirthful Saturnalia Festival complete with games and traditional Roman dress. The Mandarin club has organized Covid safe New Year celebrations in each of the Mandarin classes with festive food to go and Chinese cultural workshops. 新年快乐!