Our Global Town
Town School for Boys
Through the Halls of Town School and Beyond
Welcome to the latest edition of Our Global Town, a quarterly newsletter that highlights how our community works with and connects to our greater global and "glocal" community. Town Global Education Committee members Jessica Boualavong, Rachel Hollister, Lizzy Laidlaw, Flora Mugambi-Mutunga, Christine Park, Caitlin Shapiro, Corbett Simons, and Kim Stuart contributed to this newsletter, with additional content provided by Jackie Cvar and Shokooh Miry.
"Global Education" means much more than culture and social studies. You'll see in the articles below that we're talking about STEM, math, history, foreign language, and cultural competency. We're proud of the efforts of our faculty to weave this important strand across a wide variety of student experiences while here at Town School. We have recently launched an updated version of our web page Global Citizenship, Service Learning & Stewardship, which you can view here.
Town's Global Education Mission Statement
Town School for Boys builds students' inter-cultural competencies and character through academic experiences and global and local partnerships. Beginning with an awareness of multiple perspectives, students develop respect, empathy, and kindness through authentic inquiry and engagement. By fostering non-judgmental curiosity, teachers guide students toward a rich understanding of their own identity within the tapestry of their community, the importance of belonging and including others, and the value of acting as allies and engaged global citizens.
The Mohebi Family On Celebrating Norooz
The Mohebi family kindly shared this description about Norooz (or Nowruz). Please see the Norooz haftseen display in the Town School lobby or check out books on Norooz from the Town School Library.
Norooz is the Persian New Year, and has been celebrated for over 3,000 years across what used to be the Persian empire and is now Iran and the greater Caspian region. Norooz occurs on the day of the vernal equinox and marks the beginning of Spring, at the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator.
Hundreds of millions of people across the world celebrate Norooz, including Iranian Americans of different religious and nonreligious backgrounds. The holiday symbolizes a time of renewal and community.
Norooz celebrations last thirteen days. We traditionally start on the Wednesday before the New Year, when families gather to jump over fire to symbolize a New Year that brings warmth, health, and positive energy. For thirteen days, we visit family and friends, and children collect gifts. On the last day of Norooz, we traditionally enjoy a picnic in the outdoors.
During the thirteen days of Norooz, families set up a special and beautiful display in their home. This display, called a haftseen, features symbolic elements: flowers to represent love and beauty, candles to represent light, a mirror to represent self- reflection, coins to represent prosperity, living sprouts to represent renewal, garlic to represent health, apples to represent good deeds for others, and spices to represent wisdom, power, bravery, patience, and tolerance. Also displayed is a book of poetry or, for those who practice a religion, a religious text such as the Koran, Torah, or Bible. When people visit you during Norooz, you offer them sweets and tea. When children visit you during Norooz, you offer them money or a small gift.
In our home, we celebrate Norooz with our own beautiful display, plenty of visits with family, and a formal dinner. Every Norooz, we also visit our teachers, our Mayor at City Hall and Members of Congress in their offices— leaving trays of sweets and a book of poetry as a token of gratitude for their work to support our community.
We are so happy to share Norooz with our Town community in the years ahead! Happy Norooz! May the year ahead bring you, your family, and our shared community much joy, peace, and good health.
Warmly, Steve, Shokooh, Cyrus '24, and Violet Mohebi
4th Grade Works with NASA to Save Coral Reefs
Last fall, while working at the Bay Area Science Festival, Lower School STEM Teacher Jessica Boualavong met Jarrett Van Den Bergh and Alan Li, game designers and engineers working at the NASA Ames Laboratory. They were showcasing a prototype of their new game, Nemo-Net, which displays real data scans from coral reefs, collected by drones (flying over water) and underwater cameras (captured by divers). With these scans, they created 3D visuals of coral reefs, and then tasked players with identifying different types of coral and monitoring the growth and decline of coral reefs. The game asks users to think like citizen scientists to help train an AI to correctly identify coral, hoping to one day use this technology in NASA satellites that scan our Earth, and maybe other planets as well.
In January, Jarrett and Alan came to Town School to share their game and process with our 4th graders, who study coral reef ecosystems. They showed how NASA created a program to remove the optical distortion of water from drone scans, revealing the coral beneath. They demonstrated the prototyping process of game development from using a lasso tool to indicate coral to the more user-friendly coloring method.
4th graders tested Nemo-Net during their visit and identified several bugs, which provided valuable feedback about ease of use and replayability. Jarrett, Alan, and their team have already made updates to their program based on our students’ feedback, and hope to launch this citizen scientist game in the app store later this year.
We are fortunate to be able to participate in this learning experience, to see scientists and gamers explain the iteration process to our students, and to be able to harness the students' enthusiasm to further a worldwide scientific cause. For more about this project, please visit: http://nemonet.info/
7/8 Spanish Class: More Than Speaking Spanish
When most people think of their language instruction, they remember speaking and writing useful phrases, and occasionally exploring culture through food, drink, and popular culture. At Town, language instruction is centered on current themes and important issues, which deepens learning about the culture and history of many Spanish-speaking nations.
In the Fall, the 7th grade Spanish classes read a novel about an American family that wins a trip to Perú, which was paired with lessons about famous Peruvian sites and the ancient Incas. Seventh graders also read a novel set in Guatemala and México. This unit was grounded in recent history with a film based on true events of a young Mexican boy crossing the border to join his mother in the U.S. Soon 7th grade will explore another contemporary topic through a novel about Felipe Alou, a professional baseball player who became the general manager of the San Francisco Giants, which touches on some of the history and life in the Dominican Republic. They will end the year by learning about Ecuador, where mining is an important industry, through a novel about the lives of the gold miners and the challenges they face.
Presently, the 7th grade is learning about César Chávez and the United Farm Workers as well as the Filipino farm workers who were joined by Chávez to bring social justice to farm workers in California and then all of the U.S. César Chávez Day is also known as Day of Service, which Town has expanded into a Week of Service, from March 25 - 29.
The 8th grade Spanish classes focused on México by reading a short graphic novel, Superbruno y Nati. They then learned about the independence of México and read a short novel based on the true story of how México lost a large part of its territory to the U.S. Students contextualized this through a book that takes place right after the Spanish Civil War and a movie about a teenage girl and her friends and family living in Spain during this time.
Soon 8th grade will learn about Argentina, through a novel called La Guerra Sucia, followed by a feature movie called La Historía Oficial. Both cover the Dirty War, a time during Argentine history in which people were "disappeared" during rule by the military dictatorship.
Through their readings and additional resources, students at Town have many avenues through which they learn about the diversity of Spanish-speaking cultures.
“Is it a livable wage?”
in math class, 5th graders considered whether minimum wage is livable. Beginning with a look at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, students computed the income a household would earn with two adults working full-time, minimum-wage jobs. Then they examined pay stubs and discovered that people don’t actually get to keep all of the money they earn! This realization resulted in their deducting 18% of the gross income to determine the net income for families.
Many students predicted that the remaining 82% of the income would not cover the average cost of living. Using national average costs for housing, utilities, transportation, food, and health care, students set out to determine if the net income from two full-time, minimum-wage jobs would cover the living expenses for a family of four. Many students were startled to see how much in debt a family could become. Additional computations showed that two adults working two full-time, minimum-wages jobs each would not be enough to cover the national average costs of living.
Since San Francisco has a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum wage, is it enough to make it a livable wage in our city? Students repeated the computations using San Francisco’s minimum wage of $15 per hour and used www.bestplaces.net/compare-cities to determine San Francisco’s average costs for the same categories, concluding that despite being more than double the federal minimum wage, San Francisco’s minimum wage is not likely a livable wage.
In a continued exploration, students read and discussed the arguments for and against minimum wage, ultimately beginning to realize the complexity of the issue.
11 Years with Teach With Africa!
Raised in the Township Crossroads in Cape Town, Zuko is a second year student at the University of South Africa, majoring in History and Xhosa. He has interned as a high school teacher for two years, often leading extracurricular activities including a cricket club. Zuko is interested in the impact of sports on academics, so he has been observing and participating in some PE classes at Town.
A special thank you to Javin deMello-Folsom who is Zuko's peer mentor and to host families Chapman, Sandler, and Wheeler! For more information on the Teach with Africa/LEAP program please look here.
Global Links and Resources
This is a living document of international teaching and professional development opportunities that are available for all teachers. When applicable, application deadlines and additional costs are noted.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals are targets for global development adopted in September 2015, set to be achieved by 2030. Data across all available indicators from the Our World in Data database track progress towards these goals.
Incredible storytellers create empathy challenges alongside incredible organizations and communities to help youth practice empathy, global understanding, and social change while learning math & literacy.
To effectively develop cultural competency, this school provides opportunities for students to think deeply about the intersections of identity, culture, equity, and inclusion.