As we mentioned in the Echo last week, Mr. Ericson’s 8th Grade US Science class kicked off its unit on systems of the body with a dissection lab featuring special guest Dr. Riaz Ahmed, SDFAS Parent to Gabe (8th) and Anya (5th) and an award-winning cardiologist with the Scripps Clinic.
While following all the necessary COVID-prevention protocols, Dr. Ahmed – who has trained many med students – joined Mr. Ericson in leading our students through a dissection of a pig heart. With the help of a document camera, students on distance learning were also able to follow, and they will now be able to practice the same experience at home (if they would like – in fact, any student who wished not to take part had the option of working on a different project).
During recess not long after, I chatted with the students about their experience. They expressed enjoyment and even a little bit of awe. According to Dr. Ahmed, the 8th Graders showed great composure and curiosity.
Their maturity was not surprising in the least, and we’re proud of their good work. As Mr. Ericson had reminded the class: “We will treat the Pig Hearts and the exercise with respect. We will honor those lives by focusing our attention to learn all we can.”
All the better to have Dr. Ahmed on hand – we thank him again for sharing his time and expertise!
This week I keep returning enthusiastically to the prospect that, after what is now over 13 months living and learning during a global pandemic, our school will be allowed to hold a modified, live graduation on campus.
We have received from the San Diego County Department of Public Health more details about our ability to hold an outdoor graduation ceremony on campus that can includes students, staff, and students’ immediate households.
The gloves aren’t completely off – it won’t be a completely “normal” graduation. Everyone will have assigned seating, and will need to register beforehand. Masks will be required, and socializing will be limited. And, at least as of now, extended family and friends who do not live in the immediate household will not be able to attend. We will incorporate ways to include those who cannot attend in person – borrowing from lessons learned this past year, includingthe alternative – and terrific – event held for graduates last year.
Kindergarten will also be able to hold its traditional graduation ceremony. For Middle School, we are saving the date for Monday, June 14, 5pm!
What are the odds, I asked 8th grader David Deutsch, of scoring a Gold Medal with a perfect score of 120 out of 120 on the Kangaroo Math USA competition? What are the odds of achieving it two years running? Well, it’s a rare achievement, that’s for sure. Last year, he was one of 56 students in the country to receive Gold – and the only one in San Diego County.
56…out of nearly 35,000!
His achievement was deservedly celebrated in Advisory during the morning meeting. Asked how that felt, David is very humble: “It doesn’t mean you’re a legendary mathematician, but it’s something to be proud of.”
David also participated in the AMC8 and AMC10 competitions. On the AMC-8 he was in the top 1.8% among over 50,000 participants, and on the AMC10 he finished in the top 13.33% among all participants (9th and 10th grade included).
Stellar stuff. So what’s it like to get ready for a big math competition?
“It’s a lot like stage fright,” David says. “You generally feel stressed before, and then after that you don’t feel anything anymore […] it doesn’t really help to feel nervous because then you lose your concentration.”
David described his passion for math and for the piano, at which he also excels. Which one’s more difficult? “Piano requires more concentration but the objective is clearer. In math, the destination is more unknown, more abstract…”
One day, David hopes to become a researcher in neuroscience, to study and better understand how to combat and treat brain cancer. As it so happens, one area of promising research in the battle against cancer: applied mathematics.
I – Way back long before COVID – way back long before schools existed, even – the great pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said: “Time is a game played beautifully by children.”*
Time indeed has passed – it’s been an entire year since schools closed due to the COVID-19 global pandemic: a barely comprehensible experience that we would qualify in French aptly as “inédit,” as if the very words do not exist for a period in which, at the rare, very best of times, we were able to remember the primal joy of seeing those children play.
Since then, a staggering amount of K-12 students have not stepped back into a classroom – a tragic consequence of a complex array of factors, of which those children are a glaring (though far from sole) victim. I’m grateful and privileged to be part of a school that has, by digging deep and calling on all available resources, succeeded in remaining open for its students. Here’s to the students – the children.
II – Joining a new community is always a bit challenging – and it might be even more so in the midst of a “situation inédite“. With that context in mind, I wanted to share an unusual and enlightening experience I’ve had – one that could only occur at a rare time such as during a global pandemic. It’s an interesting anthropological event amid a tragic period.
When I arrived at SDFAS, I met hundreds of students and staff all wearing masks due to COVID-19. As I got acclimated, I put names to faces and faces to names, but those faces…of course…were still wearing masks, and thus my knowledge of them were incomplete. Sure, I looked at past yearbooks, but students in Middle School change greatly from one year to the next. As I went about my day-to-day work, I thus began unconsciously to project onto all these faces an incomplete understanding of what everybody looked like. Then, one day, we started testing students and staff for COVID each week, and I was one of the volunteers who helped administer the anterior nasal swabs. So there I was at the testing table, swab in hand…
You can imagine: what a fascinating experience to then encounter these whole, complete, real faces when students and co-workers lowered those masks!
Some faces resembled to a “T” the projection that I had unconsciously formed upon arrival, while others differed greatly. A sharp or rounded nose, a differently set cheekbone, a wider or narrower mouth…a myriad number of elements contribute to giving each of us a unique visage. I kept asking myself: what experiential, environmental, and/or other factors contributed to my accurate or inaccurate initial projection? It’s yet another reminder of how the global pandemic has made the last year quite jarring, in any case.
Regardless of whether the face behind the mask differed from or resembled the initial projection my mind made when I joined this wonderful community, one thing is sure: a cloth barrier does not prevent people from being kind to a new face. There’s more to a book than its cover, and there’s more to a person than their (masked) face, and my particular experience only serves as further proof.
*supposedly, anyway – sources on Heraclitus are incomplete at best
Every so often, we enjoy nice weather here in Southern California…So indeed, as we mourn now the dubious anniversary of one entire year since many schools closed and have not since reopened, I am glad we can make the most of our outdoor learning environment here in beautiful San Diego.
Without ever forgetting our students on Distance Learning, it was nice to see our 8th Grade students in action on campus – combining Art and Science in a recent mural project that spanned the wall facing the school field. Under the guidance of French Science teacher Mme Ducloux, with help from Humanities teacher Ms. Mitchell, the 8A and 8B covered the façade in designs illustrating the foundations in genetics they had learned about in class. A select few photos below – thanks Mme Ducloux!
The MS Blog may have been quiet this school year, but the campus has been abuzz with activity!
Our clever problem-solvers have been putting their blended French-American math lessons to the test, with volunteers participating in the AMC8 (on-campus only) and MOEMS math competitions. We’ve recently received the results – congratulations to Jorge Bas (8th), Sashi Chuckravanen (8th), Blake Matz (6th), and Julian Rosenblum (7th) for scoring in the national top quartile on the AMC8! On the MOEMS, David Deutsch (8th) and Eleanor Meyer (7th) achieved the top two scores of SDFAS! Congratulations to them and kudos to all the SDFAS students who participated!
Next up in Math: the Kangourou in French in honor of Pi Day and the next edition of the MOEMS!
Announcing… the 8th Grade Virtual Graduation and festivities on June 12th, 2020. “The best is yet to come, class of 2020!” You will move mountains! – Dr. Seuss
Desmos is the tool students are using now to learn about plotting linear equations. In this example they play a game. There are virtual coins spread out on the paper and the students plot lines to “capture” the coins. Later the students create problems for their peers to solve. Bravo!