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April 2010 On the Oregon Trail Pride and Prejudice

Athletics Winter Wrapup Toni’s Top Page Turner PreK Makes a Mosaic Annual Fund Goals Arbor Day April Calendar

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in this issue

Abington Friends School

Bringing the Curriculum to Life in Middle School Message from Rich Nourie, Head of School What does it mean for a curriculum to bring ideas and experience to life for children? To engage them in rich intellectual and moral dilemmas? To stretch their thinking, refine their arguments and hone powers of persuasion? To confront moral and ethical issues with intellectual force and complex reasoning? And can this possibly happen in a 7th grade history class? It did a few days ago when I was visiting the trial of Hernán Cortés in Diana Gru’s class in the Middle School. On trial was Cortés, the Spanish conquistador who engaged and ultimately brutally ravaged the Aztec civilization in the 16th century. Prepared for weeks in advance, the day of the trial was electrifying. Cortés was being tried for embezzlement of a vast treasure of gold, manslaughter in the mob slaying of Montezuma and genocide for the widespread deaths by small pox and starvation by blockade of the city of Tenochtitlan.

ave the date

The trial was introduced as a proceeding built on principles of American jurisprudence, involving a judge (Diana), a prosecution team, a defense team and a jury of 6th graders (of whom I was the foreman). Students had been mastering the roles and

April 9 EC Art Show

April 15 Science Night

April 17 Parents as Educators

April 22-24 US Play: Pride & Prejudice

April 30 Arbor Day

May 8 Roo Fest

rules of the trial system, developing well-formulated arguments, learning the feisty give and take of objections and their grounds and developing sophisticated rebuttals of anticipated arguments from the other side. The prosecution began by carefully defining the charges of embezzlement (the abuse of trust for personal gain), manslaughter (responsibility for an unintended death by negligence) and genocide (the systematic widespread killing of a people) for the wide-eyed jury. Then began the colorful testimony presented by the prosecutors who called Cuautchmoc, the last emperor of the Mexica Aztecs and Benal Diaz del Castillo, the historical chronicler of Cortés’s travels and exploits. With artful questions, and re-formulations made to step around well-placed objections from the defense, the 7th grade prosecutors painted a clear picture of the betrayals and crimes of Cortés, who ruthlessly pursued treasure and Christian conversion at all costs. The team closely tied these multiple accounts to the technical definitions of the charges, building what seemed an insurmountable case. Until the skillful defense team cross-examined and then presented their own complex defense in the testimony Continued on next page

Message from Rich Nourie Continued of Cortés himself, his slave and translator Doňa Maria and several others. Here the defense carefully drew a counter-narrative of a man of benevolent outreach, recipient of gifts of honor and tribute from a worshipping Aztec royal court, of a leader betrayed by the unauthorized brutal caprice of his second in command, Pedro de Aldarado.

Parents as Educators A conference for families of early childhood and elementary age children, with workshops on topics including technology, spirituality, literacy and more. Our keynote speaker is psychologist Tamar Chansky.

Saturday, April 17 8:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. $12 per person Online registration and more information at Childcare available with advance registration

It was a dazzling display of fact and historical chronicle to re-frame the actions of the conquistador, again artfully constructed to meet the subtle demands of court- room argument and counterargument. Students used carefully researched scripts that they had written to anchor their case, but also were called to skillfully maneuver the live action and interruptions of the other side. Throughout, Diana facilitated, clarifying rules of law, giving moments for thoughtful reconsideration upon the challenge of objections, gently guiding but never rescuing the children from the thickets of the live arguments taking place.

The proof of the design came for me in the deliberation of the jury afterward. The 6th graders had hung on every word, carefully filling out a matrix provided by Diana with notes on all the points for and against each criminal charge. In their deliberation, they recapitulated the careful arguments of witnesses and lawyers, reasoning carefully within the definitions of the crimes themselves, carefully sifting facts from insinuations. We only completed a verdict on the charge of embezzlement but the prevailing argument was a sophisticated one: Cortés had accepted lavish gifts given to him as a god. While Cortés never claimed to be the god the Aztecs deemed him to be, he sustained the illusion for personal gain, fulfilling the definition of embezzlement given by the prosecution at the start. (The other charges were decided later in the day). In all, the trial demonstrated middle school curriculum at its best: engaging, demanding, connecting big ideas with refined details, combining sharp intellectual work with moral complexity. It is thrilling to see children learning in such a dynamic environment every day.

8th Graders Set Out on the Oregon Trail It’s one thing to read about the pioneers who set out on the Oregon Trail, quite another to experience the hardships and suffering first hand. Through an innovative social studies unit put together by Erin Timmer, students in the 8th grade are getting a taste of what life on the trail was like. In small groups, Erin’s students pick cards during class that dictate how much food they have, how far they will travel that day and the state of their general welfare. The groups also get to trade with each other for supplies and weapons. Pushpins on a map chart each group’s progress as it contends with weather, sickness and other obstacles. “We’re at the beginning of the Rockies now,” student Manuel Lorenzino-Sepp noted in a recent class. “We’ve experienced lots of snowstorms and weren’t able to move for several days. We almost ran out of food.” The students write in a journal daily, elaborating on what has happened to their group. At the end of the unit they turn in a scrapbook, with journal entries, souvenirs from their travels and reflections on the towns and sights they have seen, the Indian tribes they have encountered and how the experience has affected them. “It’s a balancing act,” says Erin of the game she devised. “I want it to be engaging, but it also has to be historically accurate.”

Eighth graders Mae, Max and Jonathan assess their progress as they travel along the Oregon Trail in 8th grade Social Studies class.

Upper School Tackles Jane Austen for Spring Play Our recent Arts Day, where we honored women in the arts, proved inspirational for Upper School Theatre Teacher Megan Hollinger, who set about looking for a play by or about a woman. She ended up finding an adaptation of a Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Jon Jory. “I figured it worked since it’s an adaptation of a woman’s novel and women are so central in it,” says Megan. “We have a lot of strong women in the program right now and I really wanted to lift them up. The thought of hanging out in 1813 for a while was a really awesome prospect, too.”

Medha Ghosh and Susanne Collins during a rehearsal for the Upper School production of Pride and Prejudice.

Ready for Roo Fest? Saturday, May 8 Face painting, balloon art, stilt walkers, jugglers, carnival games, antique car auction and more!

Jory’s adaptation of the play hues closely to the original. “The thing I love about it, though,” says Megan, “is how fast it moves. The scene changes are very swift and it moves seamlessly from one location to the next. Yet all of the personalities and intentions and complexities of the novel are very much present. Mrs. Bennet and the silly

younger sisters are still there and very funny and the central relationship is very beautifully drawn.” Learning the 19th century English country dances has been both a challenge and a delight, says Megan. “We have to teach the kids to do quadrilles and four square waltzes. We’ve been devouring Regency music and watching every BBC adaptation and Hollywood production of not just Pride and Prejudice but Emma and Northanger Abbey too. The students are very serious about getting it right and it’s really charming to watch.” Megan and the cast recently visited the Walnut Street Theater, which is renting costumes to the production. “We have to be so period specific, and they’re not easy to build.” says Megan. “We’re renting from them and borrowing from the Arden. We’re borrowing and begging as much as we can. It’s all part of the process.” Pride and Prejudice will be on stage at the Muller April 2224. Order tickets at

Athletics: Winter Season Overview by: Jeff Bond Our winter athletics season resulted in many individual and team accomplishments of note, including 9 upper school student-athletes receiving Friends Schools All-League or Honorable Mention recognition. Upper School Varsity highlights are below. For JV and Middle School sports, please visit the Athletics section of the website Boys’ Varsity Basketball advanced to the Friends Schools League postseason for the 26th time in the last 27 years, finishing with a 17-5 record, including two in-season tournament championships. FSL All-League honorees Jabril Trawick and Kenny Johnson led the Kangaroos into a tie for second place in the competitive FSL. Seniors Nick Keefer, Dan Green and Shane Bernard will be missed, but among the returners are Dylan Moody, Joey Gripper and John Simone who join Trawick and Johnson to provide a strong nucleus for the 2010-11 season. Varsity Wrestling capped one of their best seasons to date by sending Ely Manstein to the National Prep Wrestling Tournament. Manstein finished 3rd overall at the Pennsylvania State Tournament while teammate Jake Segal placed 8th. Program bests in top-8 States’ finishes (2) and dual match wins (6) are marks of a successful season on the mat for the ’Rasslin ‘Roos. Senior Hayden Sammak graduates, but with the rest of

Junior Joey Gripper is among the strong returning players next year for Boys’ Varsity Basketball.

the 11-grappler roster back, hopes are high for 2010-11. Girls’ Varsity Swimming, despite facing teams with rosters two or three times bigger, recorded their own piece of history this winter as they prevailed in the program’s first-ever dual meet victory,

Toni’s Top


Winter Athletics, continued topping Shipley School 66-63 on January 8. Alex Zega and Meghan Daly earned FSL-All-League recognition for their exploits in the pool this season, with Emi Silebi and Alison Rubin contributing strong efforts as well.

King of the Screwups: A Novel by K.L. Going. Grades 10 and up Liam Geller is the son of a world-famous model and a wellknown businessman. Liam screws up everything; he acts out so much that his dad throws him out of the house. Liam then moves in with his cross-dressing uncle, “Aunt Pete,” in a trailer park in a tiny town. He strives to become someone his father would like; someone who enjoys academics and is not fashionable or popular. He begins this process by joining the AV club. Liam even screws up trying to not be popular. I love the five older men in this book who try to help Liam fulfill his potential, but not in the way his father is thinking. High school boys would love this book, though they might not admit it!

Boys’ Varsity Swimming saw seniors Sean Kirwin and Andy Zega lead the squad to a 4th place finish in the FSL Championship Meet, with four top-three finishes combined. Kirwin, an NCAA Division 1 recruit, shattered two long-standing FSL records this season on his way to another impressive campaign. Kirwin and Zega earned allFSL honors in 2009-10 and will move on, but improving swimmers Daveed Buzaglo, Ryan Rosen and Daniel Gorziglia return. Girls’ Varsity Basketball fell just short of their sixth postseason appearance in the last seven years, finishing in 5th place in the FSL, despite missing FSL All-Leaguer Bashira Anderson for 8 games due to injury. Anderson, the lone senior and a three-time All-FSL honoree moves on to college basketball, but the rest of the roster returns, including experienced Juniors Donna

Girls’ Varsity Basketball loses Bashira Anderson to college basketball, but the rest of the roster returns, including Kelly McGlynn, above.

Kolodesh, Casey Mutchler, Kelly McGlynn, Maria Savarese, Emily Delany and Hannah Weitz. Girls’ Varsity & Boys’ Varsity Indoor Track saw 6 out of 10 scheduled meets wiped out by snow. Nonetheless, girls’ team members recorded several noteworthy accomplishments including Desirae Moten (60 meters) Emily Beaton, Bria Biddle, Robyn Harding, Susie Meyer, Maria Ratskevich (relays)and Rebecca Fisher (mile). The boys’ team benefited from strong leadership from Stephen Pettit and Payne McMillan and recorded an excellent 5th place finish in the Distance Medley Relay at Haverford College. Members of that relay team included Vin Manta, Sami Aziz, Rick Treston and Gavin Davis.

PreK Families Come Together to Make a Fishy Mosaic

Toni Vahlsing Director of Librairies

AFS Open House Tuesday April 20 8:45 a.m. Amira getting help from her mother, Angela, and her little sister Amani at the PreK’s mosaic family day.

PreK Teacher Paula Cohen knows that good ideas can come from all quarters, and being open to those good ideas can take an already succesful unit of study to the next level. That’s why she was all ears when Susanne Frey, mother of PreK student Adrien and an art teacher, suggested making a mosaic with the two PreK classes to complement their curent study of art. Since Paula’s class had recently completed a study of sea creatures, and since Susanne happened to have a surfeit of blue tiles, they decided on a fishy theme for the mosaic. “I had thought our study of sea creatures had ended, but this was a nice way to bring it full cycle.” A clay exploration day followed, where the students made their own sea creature templates, cut the clay and then stamped, embossed and glazed their pieces. Art Teacher Sam Matlock fired the artwork and Susanne’s husband Bruce Widdows, also an artist, built a frame for the mosaic triptych. Finally, on a Saturday morning in March, families gathered in the classroom to put the pieces together. “The community part was so important,” says Paula. “It was a great way for our families to connect with each other, and the kids were so pleased and proud.They had a real sense of attachment and connection to the project.” The next step in the project is grouting, after which the sea creature mosaic will be installed in the hallway leading to the playground.

Thank You 2nd Grade Parents! Second grade parents are the first class to reach the goal of 65% participation in the Annual Fund. Thank you for your generous support! Participation in the Annual Fund shows you believe in AFS. Every gift of every size is essential to helping us reach our participation goals. In addition to supporting teachers and students at AFS, your Annual Fund gift sends a strong message to those who can support AFS with larger gifts (like outside Foundations and leadership donors) that our School is worth supporting. Did you know that our parent participation rate is lower than many of our peer schools in the area? Right now, 45% of parents have made a gift to the Annual Fund. If you are the proud parent of an AFS student, please make your gift to the Annual Fund today and show your support for the School! Let's pass our 65% goal this year!

afs calendar April/May Sunday










School Reopens

Post Prom Meeting 7 pm





Alumni Phonathon

Annal Fund Calling Night

Alumni Phonathan

All School Science Night 7 pm







Home & School General Meeting 7 pm

Open House Registration 8:45 am

School Committee Visit Day

Pride and Prejudice 7 pm

LS Closed LS Conference Day

Pride and Prejudice 7 pm






US Choral and Instrumental Concert 7 pm



EC Art Show 5 pm



17 Parents as Educators Conference 8:30 am-1 pm



Arbor Day 1:30 pm

May 2




6 5th Grade to Washington DC

Follow us on


Pride and Prejudice 7 pm

LS Spirit Day 3:30 pm

Gifts of all sizes are welcome and can be made online at> Support AFS.

From the Parents Committee for the Annual Fund


9th & 10th Course Planning Night 7 pm



7 5th Grade in Washington DC

8 Alumni Weekend Roo Fest

US Choral Cabaret 7 pm

Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Jenkintown, PA Permit 14 575 Washington Lane Jenkintown, PA 19046 215-886-4350

Editor: Judy Hill, Design: Peapod Design, New Canaan, CT

Join us on Smith Field as the entire School gathers for Arbor Day, where we celebrate the blessings of spring and begin the series of events in which our seniors transfer leadership to the junior class. Seniors and their 1st-grade pages will plant two trees, honoring Do you have another special each class, and Upper School talent? If you have ever students will read poems on thought about performing in nature themes. At the end of public – singing, playing the ceremony, the crowd will music, dancing, juggling, move over to watch our sendoing magic, telling jokes, iors, as well as several Lower reading poetry – here’s your and Middle School classes, chance! You need not be a dance around maypoles. professional. All we ask is that you be willing to share your talents with the AFS community.

This year’s AFS Community Talent Show is set for Satur-


Kanga April 2010  

April 2010 Kanga News