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  Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Middle School at SDFAS

By Tom Faure
Middle School at SDFAS.pptx
  Monday, June 7, 2021

Time for the Sorting Ceremony – Sorting Hat included!

By Tom Faure

Fans of Harry Potter will recognize this tradition! For the past two years, Mme Addo has assigned the Middle School students their own “House” – one of five groups based on the school’s core values:

Open-mindedness, Intellectual Curiosity, Integrity, Empathy, and Resilience.

During the school year, Houses accumulate points through games and individual achievements. Each House has prefects to guide them. Last week, the outgoing prefects in 8th Grade held the Sorting Ceremony (complete with Sorting Hat) for this year’s 5th Graders as they prepare to enter Middle School. It was a lot of fun! Glory to your Houses!


  Saturday, May 29, 2021

SpongeBob, Star Wars, and Cyrano

By Tom Faure

On Friday, the 8th Grade students of Mme Addo’s French class showed off their brilliant adaptations of scenes from Edmond Rostand’s 1897 Cyrano de Bergerac. A full write-up on the project with lots more photos can be found here. Check it out! Bravo to the 8th Graders! The projects demanded both creativity and a lot of time. Check out the meticulous creation below.

Balcony scene, Act III

  Saturday, May 22, 2021

6th and 7th Graders Showcase French Lit Project-Based Learning

By Tom Faure

This week, I meant to include a picture or two while extolling the projects Mme Toudic’s French class have undertaken. What can I say, it was hard to cull just a few examples when there were so many interesting projects to display! The students did great work and the 6th grade dioramas were on display for the whole school to see.


“I strongly believe that project based learning in literature is the best way to keep students engaged in reading books and building up a lasting literary culture,” says Mme Toudic, “I think this activity was a great success!”

6th Graders have been reading adventure novels based on castaways stories, such as Vendredi ou la Vie Sauvage by Michel Tournier and Le Royaume de Kensuké by Michael Morpurgo. They created dioramas to present these books in a fun and creative way. 

Each box includes quotes, students’ opinion about their chosen novel, six images or objects, five key words, five emotions, and a summary of a passage. They could be as creative as they wanted.

“The 7th Grade reading journals are based on the same idea. Students delve into a project that they end up owning and accomplishing for themselves, not for the teacher or a grade. They each created a journal they want to keep because they are proud of it,” Mme Toudic continued. “In the end the goal is the same: using engaging projects to ensure students love reading. I was very impressed with the quality of both the 7th graders reading journals and the 6th graders Castaway Dioramas – we clearly have very talented students at SDFAS!”

Il n’y a aucun doute. Merci à Mme Toudic pour toutes les photos et les projets stimulants!

  Friday, May 14, 2021

Hand-Eye Coordination For the Win

By Tom Faure

This week, I’m happy to share with you the delightful debut of a scrappy, humble new SDFAS initiative: its E-Sports Team, The Nebulas!

Scrappy and humble, I figured, because it was entering its first competition ever and it was only formed by Mme Addo a few weeks ago. Well, guess what…

The Nebulas made the playoffs!!!

Dozens of teams from around San Diego County are competing in this tournament organized by the San Diego County Office of Education, using the High School E-Sports League platform. Students can select from a number of games including Minecraft, Super Smash Bros, Rocket League, NBA2K21, and others with a variety of platforms (XBox, PS4, Switch…). Online video game competition is a booming industry now, but when I asked our students why they had joined The Nebulas, it came back always to the same thing: “fun.”

Fun and some healthy competition, ultimately – 7th Grade student Matias Bas, for one, made the Top 15 in Smash in a field of 39. The Nebulas are also excelling in Rocket League. After three legs, we’ve made the playoffs. Mme Addo said: “They were super pro – it was fun to watch them work autonomously and represent SDFAS up against other schools.”

Wish them luck!

Here’s the full roster:
8th: Angelo Do-Vale, Luca Guizar, Richardson Liou, Thomas Vidon
7th: Matias Bas, Aidan Desrosiers-Kutchuk, Aimee Desrosiers-Kutchuk

  Friday, May 7, 2021

Heart Specialist Visits MS Science Class

By Tom Faure

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!

For more photos please click here to visit our Google album.

  Friday, April 30, 2021

Silver Linings in Orange Tier – on-campus graduation ceremonies approved

By Tom Faure

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!

  Friday, April 2, 2021

What are the odds? 8th Grader David Deutsch’s Gold Medal in math

By Tom Faure

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 with his Kangaroo Math Contest prize from last year

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.

  Tuesday, March 16, 2021

A Year Like No Other…and a Rare Anthropological Experience

By Tom Faure

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.

Mr Ericson leads a discussion outside in the MS area

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.

Student creativity on the MS Deck

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

  Sunday, March 14, 2021

It’s an art / It’s a science

By Tom Faure

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!