School Dispatches: Feb. 14, 2018

Emerson students watched a screening of “For Akheem.” (photo courtesy of Isabel Fajardo)

British International School of Washington

One of the exciting upcoming events at the British International School of Washington is our yearly participation in the Global Issues Network Conferences.

On March 12 and 13, students will be attending the conference, which provides an opportunity “to empower young people to collaborate locally, regionally and globally in order to create project based sustainable solutions for our shared global issues.” This year an anticipated 80,000 students from more than 100 different countries are expected to come to the 12 conferences worldwide.

The conferences include keynote speakers from non-governmental organizations like UNICEF, as well as various fact-checking agencies who report on government notices. The speakers not only talk about the purpose of their organization, but also present on broader issues such as climate change or the ongoing crisis in Syria.

However, the conferences also provide an opportunity for students to engage actively with many of these polarizing topics. For example, one activity involves students being split up into groups, with each group representing a country. In each country they are given a crisis that must be resolved. Countries are required to collaborate in order to end the crisis peacefully.

Students are also able to give presentations on any topic that they wish, so long as it relates to global issues. There is even an art competition included; each student who attends the conference is able to vote online. The art is required to reflect modern-day issues, but at the same time enables students to express their opinions in a creative way.

— Sofia Hollowell, Year 12 (11th-grader)

Eaton Elementary School

In January, students in fourth- and fifth-grade had the chance to compete in a spelling bee, a geography bee and an oratory competition.

For the Ford’s Theater oratory contest, fifth-graders memorized historical speeches and presented their speeches in front of judges. To prepare for the speeches, we presented them in front of our class to get feedback from fellow students and our social studies teacher, Mr. Parodi. We had to memorize the speeches and practice our posture, gestures, tone and voice projection. The speeches were all impressive and in the end there were seven winners who will get to perform at Ford’s Theater.

In the spelling bee, fourth- and fifth-graders prepared by studying a packet of words. When the competition got down three players, they got to seventh-grade words! The last two students went back and forth spelling words correctly for at least 10 minutes until they ran out of words. Mr. Lewis had to find another list. The three final students will all go on to the citywide spelling bee.

Eaton also had our school’s National Geographic GeoBee where fourth- and fifth-grade students who love geography could compete. The winner had to take an online test to qualify for the citywide bee. We hope he gets to go and represent our school.

Congratulations on all the memorizing and hard work, Eaton Eagles!

— Ethan Faustin, Lia Feleke, Jami George, Zadie Hunt, Justice Lamar, Zhenya Nikolayeva, Marianne Treguer and Hillary Zavala, fourth-graders; and Roman Bystriakov and Morgan Hubbard, fifth-graders

Emerson Preparatory School

On Feb. 7, Emerson hosted a special screening of “For Ahkeem,” an eye-opening documentary that beautifully follows 17-year-old Daje “Boonie” Shelton’s life as she matures quickly from child to adult. The film is based in a poor and crime-stricken neighborhood in St. Louis, Mo.

The murmur in the crowd of students immediately ceased when we saw that, due to her disruptive behavior, Boonie would have to attend Innovative Concept Academy, a court-supervised high school. Literal gasps erupted in the group as we watched a life-changing sequence of events unfold for her, as Boonie’s boyfriend is shot and killed, she falls pregnant, and tries to graduate on time.

Although some were shocked at Boonie’s difficult life, others did not see her story as foreign to them. Truesdale asks the audience “to fall into this world and accept it,” to see gunshot wounds in children, and a world that continuously fails African-Americans as the reality that some of us may not see.

The film was incredibly inspirational because, despite her behavior and clearly being a product of her environment in a world of systemic racism, and an unbelievably painful teenage pregnancy in many ways, Boonie persevered and graduated. She did it all “For Akheem,” her baby boy. We saw how incredibly painful it was for her to constantly see black boys being shot by police on TV with no consequence as she holds her child with the same complexion.

Not only has Boonie been successful in her own right, but has also displayed her universal story to six continents, showing that no matter how much the world tries to perpetuate the cycle of defeat, there is hope in the world for a better tomorrow. Teachers recognized that her story is an excellent teaching moment for the school.

— Isabel Fajardo, 11th-grader

Hearst Elementary School

One thing our class has been working on in math is geometry; more specifically classifying angles, triangles and quadrilaterals. Some of the shapes we have been learning about are triangles, rectangles and squares.

We learned to classify triangles by side length as scalene, isosceles or equilateral; as well as by angles measured as right, obtuse or acute. We learned about the different kinds of angles: obtuse, right, acute or reflex. We learned that obtuse angles are greater than 90 degrees, but less than 180 degrees; straight angles are exactly 180 degrees; acute angles are less than 90 degrees; right angles are exactly 90 degrees; and reflex angles are greater than 180 degrees. We also learned to measure angles with a protractor and how to align the vertex and baseline of the angle up with the protractor’s zero line.

At the end of the geometry unit, our class started a project called the Geo-Artist Cornerstone. For this project students will create a collage pieced together by geometric shapes.

Within our collage we had to identify parallel and perpendicular line segments by naming the segments that create them. We also had to identify at least one obtuse, acute and right angle.

In addition to our collage we had to write a paragraph explaining how we know our angles are acute, obtuse or right, as well as why our identified line segments are parallel or perpendicular.

— Dima Brandt and Reva Kelly, fourth-graders

Horace Mann Elementary School

At Horace Mann, a play about building the Brooklyn Bridge (and the many immigrants who got the job done) is being written for all audiences to see at the Greenberg Theatre. This musical will be performed by fourth- and fifth-graders who attend Mann.

On Dec. 14 they did the auditions! The kids’ auditions could be something they made up, or something from a movie, book, play or musical. When one of our reporters interviewed the fifth-graders (or at least some of them), they said, “It was kind of nerve-wracking to act out in front of everyone. It was sort of hard if you made the script up on the spot, but if you got practice it was a little easier.”

Practice makes perfect! Obviously getting the part is not easy, but it looks like these fifth-graders got it.

Last year it was about women suffragists. The year before that it was about the Wright brothers, and the year before that it was about ancient history.

Two other reporters talked to the performing arts teacher Ms. Cherry, and fifth-grade teacher and former performing arts teacher Ms. Frei (who wrote the script). Ms. Frei said her inspiration was a book by David McCullough called “The Great Bridge.”

“And while I read I could see part of the musical unfold so I started to write the script,” she said.

They are both excited about “educating the audience about real events and teaching the fourth- and fifth-graders their lines because they know it’s their time to shine and show their skills.”

Ms. Cherry said the auditions she saw were great and well prepared. Both teachers also said, “Come see the show on May 23-24.

“This will be an amazing opportunity for the 4th and 5th graders to perform on a pro stage. Also read the book ‘The Great Bridge’ by David McCullough that inspired this musical.”

— Christopher Maltas, Gabrielle Cutts and Simone Rogers, fourth-graders

Key Elementary School

We’ve had another week of rain and ice at Key. Although neighboring schools in Virginia and Maryland missed school, District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) continued to keep the doors open at all D.C. area schools with no closures. Here at Key we are prepared for the weather with lots and lots of salt.

“The salt is so big it looks like a blue rock,” said Robert Swift.

We see so many trucks go out on the streets in advance as they prepare for huge downfalls. Even though it’s been an unusually cold winter we’ve only missed one day of school. We asked one of our custodians, Mr. McFadden, what he thinks about the weather this year.

“It’s been up and down,” says Mr. McFadden.

He also says he doesn’t really think we have been hit by much cold weather this year yet. No matter what the weather though, he said, DCPS (and the mayor) have been well prepared.

— Jackson Mello and Roberts Swift, fourth-graders; and Michelle Dunkley, fifth-grader

Sheridan School

Over the past couple of weeks, the seventh-grade French class has focused on immigration in great detail. We watched “Le Havre,” looking at the experiences of immigrants trying to find a better life in France. The movie, which tells the story of a French man who helped a young African immigrant seek opportunities, prompted in-depth discussion about immigration.

Coincidentally, in social studies, the seventh-grade students also recently started their immigration unit. Because of this link, we could interpret what we learned in social studies and make connections with our learnings in French class. The social studies unit has helped students in French class, because our prior knowledge has allowed us to go more in-depth and better understand issues surrounding immigration across cultures.

During the unit in social studies, the students learned about the hardships associated with immigration, like poverty and discrimination. We broke into different groups to understand fully a certain immigration group and then came back together to discuss and to make connections. After studying these different immigrants’ experiences in the United States in social studies, we were interested to see a different point of view in French class.

Moving forward, we will explore the history of immigration in French class, as well as issues surrounding immigration in France today. French teacher Jared Winston hopes to continue using the lens of the French language to explore the topic of immigration with his students to develop a greater understanding of the impact of immigration.

— Mr. Winston’s seventh-grade French class

Washington International School

This year’s middle school musical is “Shrek The Musical JR.” I thought it might be boring at first, but soon realized I was wrong. Based on the hit movie, it is full of comical moments, with all of my favorite fairy tale characters, including Ugly Duckling, the Three Blind Mice and Gingy, the gingerbread man.

Our choreographer, Ms. Carla, is challenging us in ways we didn’t know were possible. Jumping and stretching and twisting our way through songs leaves us sweaty and tired. Of course, it will all be worth it in the end.

Shout-out to our amazing director, Ms. Moore, and vocal coach, Ms. Gondek. I can’t wait for my face to be painted green! The musical will run from May 3 to 6.

— Abby Bown, seventh-grader