ONE CAMPUS. ONE MISSION. ONE GDS. EVENT PHOTOS 42
THE ABILIT Y TO ENTER INTO THE GRE AT (A ND RE A L . A ND COMPL E X .) CON V ERSATIONS OF L IF E
TWO WORLDS, TWO MISSIONS, ONE SHARED PARTNERSHIP
DRIVES ALL THAT WE DO. Georgetown Day School honors the integrity and worth of each individual within a diverse school community. GDS is dedicated to providing a supportive educational atmosphere in which teachers challenge the intellectual, creative, and physical abilities of our students, and foster strength of character and concern for others. From the earliest grades, we encourage our students to wonder, to inquire, and to be self-reliant, laying the foundation for a lifelong love of learning.
to all of our staff and alumni writers for your contributions to the magazine. We welcome submissions from all Georgetown Day School community members. THANK YOU
Please contact email@example.com to learn more. Alumni are encouraged to send their news with photos to firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion in the Georgetown Days magazine.
JASON PUTSCHÉ PHOTOGRAPHY
SPRING 2018-19 GEORGETOWN DAYS Head of School Russell Shaw Associate Head of School Kevin Barr Assistant Head of School for Equity and Social Impact Crissy Cáceres Assistant Head of School for Curriculum and Instruction Laura Yee
MAGAZINE STAFF Director of Communications Alison Grasheim
Storyteller and New Media Associate Danny Stock Magazine Design Think
GDS BOARD OF TRUSTEES 2018-19 Officers Jenny Abramson ’95, Chair Eric Smulson ’85, Vice Chair David B. Smith, Treasurer Jeffrey Blum, Secretary Lisa Fairfax, At Large Trustees Stephen Bailey Sid Banerjee Aisha Bond ’93 James W. Cooper Shawn Davis-Wilensky Franklin Foer ’92 Simon Johnson Betsy Keeley Rosemary Kilkenny Reid Liffmann Michael Sachse ‘95 Ben Soto Anu Tate Josh Wachs David Wellisch Phil West Elizabeth Westfall Laurie Wingate
ALUMNI BOARD 2018-19 Ava Jones ’02, Alumni Board President Nina Ritch ’95, Alumni Board Vice President Jason Campbell ’07 Will Fastow ’96 Batya Feldman ’07 Julia Fisher ’09 Hunter Fortney ’11 Brian Fung ’06 Branden Isaac ’08 Tayo Jimoh ’10 Elena Lobo ’04 Laura London ’07 Mitch Malasky ’04 Amy Oberdorfer Nyberg ’91 Denise Odell ’84 Stephanie Rosenthal ’98 Elizabeth Slobasky ’97
FROM WHERE I STAND A Message from Head of School Russell Shaw
AROUND CAMPUS 4 In the Classroom 14 Beyond the Classroom 24 Arts & Performances 32 Athletics 37 Faculty 41 ONE CAMPUS. ONE MISSION. ONE GDS. 43 OPEN SPACES
The Ability to Enter into the Great (And Real. And Complex.) Conversations of Life
46 TWO WORLDS, TWO MISSIONS, ONE SHARED PARTNERSHIP 48 ALUMNI PROFILES
CORRECTION: In the Fall
2018 edition of Georgetown Days, the Washington Wasps logo on page 19 was incorrectly labeled; that was designed by Chandler Marshall ’21.
David Reich ’92 Melissa Giliam ’83 Jim Ginsburg ’83 Kirin Sinha ’11
service outside the Safeway, complete with songs, poetry readings, testimonials, and a recitation of the mourner’s kaddish. When the store ultimately closed, it represented not merely the end of an era, but also the loss of our ecosystem’s primary food source.
JASON PUTSCHÉ PHOTOGRAPHY
FROM WHERE I STAND Russel Shaw, Head of School
A look inside GDS on any given day reveals a multiplicity of identities. GDS is a community. A hub of activism. A workplace. A training ground. A learning institution. And an ecosystem. An ecosystem is “a large community of living organisms in a particular area...linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows.” Four years ago, our High School ecosystem experienced a disruption in its nutrient cycle when the Tenleytown Safeway closed. The Tenleytown Safeway had played an important role in the High School ecosystem since we opened our doors on Davenport Street in 1996. To put it into context, there has been a Safeway within walking distance of the High School since it started back in 1969, despite being in four different locations. While perhaps apocryphal, I was told more than once that GDS students, parents, and faculty represented a third of the Tenleytown store’s total revenue. The Safeway was tremendously convenient, whether for picking up cookies for a club meeting, a quick deli sandwich for lunch, or a pack of paper towels on the way home. The Safeway was the “cafeteria” for a school that didn’t have one. In 2014, when ownership of Corporate Safeway changed hands, the company’s new owners decided to close some of its underperforming stores, including the one on Davenport Street. This decision proved a great boon to GDS, as we were able to purchase the site and initiate our process of school unification. It also, however, represented a loss for the GDS community, and in 2015, our High School students held a touching memorial 2
What happens in an ecosystem when a food source disappears? Science tells us that the extinction of one species can endanger other life in the same ecosystem because of the interdependency of life forms in a food web. The true test of any life form in this circumstance is whether it is adaptable enough to evolve its habits, identifying a new food source and re-establishing the health of the ecosystem. Often this takes a period of adjustment, and so it was at GDS. I am pleased to report that since the Safeway closed its doors in 2016, the ecosystem has righted itself. Quietly, without much fanfare, a student-run school store appeared in the High School Internet Cafe. At first called “Tabata” (named, in true GDS fashion, after a type of high-intensity interval training developed by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and popularized at GDS by Physical Education department chair Taylor Brown), the store, opening in the 2017-18 school year, was minimalist at first, featuring a handful of different snack foods. While it had a few patrons, it struggled to find its niche in an ecosystem where it was competing with vending machines, outside vendors, an abundance of Tenleytown restaurants and, most importantly, lunch packed at home. The proprietors of Tabata (led by founder Jonah DocterLoeb '20) determined that the store needed to evolve to survive. Selection was expanded dramatically, with food and drink orders driven by student requests and filled by weekly deliveries from Costco. A volunteer team of 20 store clerks was developed, each of whom receives discounts on their own purchases in exchange for hours overseeing the store. The name “Tabata” was ultimately deemed too esoteric, and the store was rebranded first as Story McStoreface (after the British autonomous
A poster from the Safeway memorial held by GDS HS students.
While GDS students thrive in the classroom (led by our remarkable faculty), some of their most important learning takes place outside the classroom, when they have the opportunity to work collaboratively to solve authentic problems. They can now cross off their list the task of affordably and conveniently feeding 500 students. underwater research vehicle, Boaty McBoatface) and, ultimately, The Hop Shop. The Hop Shop has become a roaring success, with students and faculty alike patronizing the store to purchase ramen noodles, waffles, macaroni and cheese, iced tea, Twix, or Starbucks Frappuccinos. In addition to taking cash, the store accepts PayPal and Apple Pay. The Hop Shop even has its own promotional materials, offering 3D-printed Hop Shop key chains for purchases over $10 (while supplies last). Perhaps most importantly, The Hop Shop was established as a fundraising mechanism, with the High School student body voting each month on a different charity to receive the storeâ€™s profits. Recent recipients have included Days for Girls (a global movement that prepares and distributes sustainable menstrual health solutions to empower girls who would otherwise miss school during their monthly periods), the Karadah Project International (an organization bringing sustainable solutions to Iraq and Afghanistan through nearly a dozen different projects) and Reading Partners (a DC nonprofit which partners volunteers with early readers with the goal of improving reading proficiency). The charity selected each month receives close to $2,000, the monthly proceeds from this impressive endeavor. While GDS students thrive in the classroom (led by our remarkable faculty), some of their most important learning takes place outside the classroom, when they have the opportunity to work collaboratively to solve authentic problems. They can now cross off their list the task of affordably and conveniently feeding 500 students.
Students working at the Hop Shop.
LMS Dining Hall coming in Fall 2020.
Of course, our ecosystem will change once again when the unified campus opens in Fall 2020. With the new LMS building will come full dining for students in grades 1-8, and a grab-and-go option for High School students. We look forward to seeing how our ecosystem continues to evolve.
G EO RG ET O W N D AYS S PRI N G 2019
Around Campus IN THE CLASSROOM
MEMORY & MOTIVATION:
HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS USE NEUROBOTS TO UNDERSTAND THE BRAIN
Of all of the organs in the human body, the brain is the least understood— how it functions, how it malfunctions, and how to help those dysfunctional brains recuperate. The thinking behind the interdisciplinary Neuroscience course at the GDS HS (led by veteran science teacher Bill Wallace and Dean of Students Bobby Asher), is that if students are introduced to the biological underpinnings of behavior in their HS years, they will be tomorrow’s advocates and researchers, on the forefront of new, yet to be discovered frontiers. This year, students had a unique opportunity to be the first students to experiment with “neurobots”—robots controlled by computer models of biological brains through a specially created app. Students performed experiments with memory and motivation in order to gain understanding of how the brain works and make personal connections to important research. “The lab is all about thinking as opposed to just getting the results,” explained Bill, a PhD molecular biologist and former National Institutes of Health (NIH) researcher. “What’s written in school textbooks or presented in lectures is based upon years of research that often began with a single experiment with results that were not immediately understood. We are helping students develop comfort with analyzing data that at first glance don’t make sense. Instead of only presenting what Eric Kandel discovered about memory from his work with sea slugs in our classroom lectures, students are developing a much deeper understanding of the work by exploring memory for themselves and then assimilating that into their understanding of how the brain works.” In one experiment this year, students explored the concept of “spike-timing dependent plasticity.” Closely linked to the idea of Pavlov’s dogs and their likelihood to salivate in response to a conditioning stimulus, students were ultimately seeking to understand how the mind understands causal events in the world and the brain's ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. The robot brains used in this lesson are programmed to emit a sound when their cameras are exposed to a red stimulus (the students used red shirts, books, Legos, etc.) and is not unlike the unconditioned response of Pavlov’s 4
dog first salivating when it sees/smells meat. The students worked to establish an association between the red stimulus and a green one in the robot’s neural pathway. They presented the two colors to the neurorobot simultaneously for progressively longer periods of time then tracked the time before the association decayed as a model for forgetting. Working from the assumption that time matters in the establishment of an association, students were asked to determine the threshold at which an association has been conditioned sufficiently that it transfers to long-term memory. Simply, how much training is required before the robot will no longer forget? In a follow-up experiment, students investigated decision making and reward systems, based in the basal ganglia and influenced by dopamine. As humans build skill in making decisions—learning the consequences of actions and how our actions can help us “win” or “lose”—we gain maximum rewards. Students used their neurobots to test this hypothesis by rewarding them with “dopamine” when they chose the correct behavior.
The experiments were made available in partnership with principal investigator Dr. Christopher Harris, a neuroscientist and educator from Backyard Brains, an organization helping students visualize and experiment with neural activity using robots constructed affordably with off-the-shelf electronics. The educational programs are funded through a grant from the NIH. Harris noted, “I like the way Bill is approaching this material as a research effort. The students are developing an important tolerance of uncertainty. We see the students engaged—not just managing to complete the exercise— but rather demonstrating interest and asking intelligent questions about the user interface and also about memory processes themselves.”
CROSS-DIVISIONAL MATH MENTORING “Math is all about finding clever approaches,” coached Sophia Bax-Wooten ’19 as she helped Middle School students find more efficient solutions to a new problem set. On Thursday afternoons, a mix of a dozen or so High School and Middle School students gathered in Jana Rupp’s Middle School math classroom as part of a new math mentoring collaboration coordinated by Jana and High School math teacher Juan Vidal. The Middle School students were invited to self-select into homework support or a collaborative problem-solving activity. Quickly at ease with their older counterparts, the Middle School students demonstrated a greater willingness to take risks, experiment with new approaches, and engage their math intuition. This mentoring program was born through “Let’s Get It Right,” a GDS-led inter-school faculty collaborative with the mission of ensuring that girls and students of color thrive in mathematics. By the fall of 2020, these students will have only to cross the street to learn from each other—no clever shortcuts necessary.
Jana Rupp and Juan Vidal with a Thursday math mentoring group.
Sophia Bax-Wooten '19 works with Kesi McDuffie '25.
G EO RG ET O W N D AYS S PRI N G 2019
FIRST GRADE MARCHES ON WASHINGTON
Forty-five 1st graders stood at the base of the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue at the MLK Jr. National Memorial and recited selections from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” and “The Street Sweeper” speeches. Then, they marched—at times with arms linked in unity and at other times pumping their powerful young fists in the air to punctuate their chants. First grade teacher Paula Young Shelton, author of Child of the Civil Rights Movement and daughter of Civil Rights leader Andrew Young, led the students in freedom songs. "What do we want? Freedom! When do we want it? Now!" They marched with their teachers Skylé Pearson, Andrew Berman, Unushe Walker, and Paula to the Lincoln Memorial, climbed the steps, stood at Lincoln’s marble feet and then beneath the Gettysburg Address inscription. In turns, they stood on the exact spot from which Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington and looked out across the city, their year-long study of civil rights reflected back to them on the silver surface of the pool.
The first-ever GDS Grasshopper Chinese Journal, here in the hands of students from one of the four contributing classes, Advanced Topics in Chinese Studies, "plus a rising 9th grade visitor," contains 35 original student essays.
STUDENT WORK PUBLISHED IN CHINESE JOURNALS The first-ever GDS Chinese language literary journal, The Grasshopper Chinese Journal, was published this year, with submissions from 35 GDS HS students. The brainchild of High School Chinese teacher Min Wang, the Journal “is an important platform for students to share their projects and learn from each other,” she said. Those essays were also submitted to the prestigious University of Iowa journal The Juhe Supplement. Each year, the journal accepts close to 30 Chinese-language essays for publication, drawn from more than 100 submissions from university and college students across the U.S.; the journal will also usually publish one essay from a high school student annually. This year, the journal accepted two high school essays—and they were both from Georgetown Day School. 陈仁毅 [Ren-E Tan ’21] and 施敬文 [Ethan Sze ’20] collaborated to submit 新加坡和美国中文教育比 较 [Comparisons of Chinese Language Education in Singapore and the U.S.]. Ren-E explained, “Our essay details the first-hand experiences of Ethan learning Chinese in America and my learning Chinese in Singapore. We make a comparison of the two education systems through the juxtaposition of our personal observations.”
Upon learning that their essay would be published, Ethan wrote, “It's not every day one gets published in a journal, let alone in another language. It’s something I am very proud of and also something I look forward to building on in the future.” 朴卫吉 [Viraj Prakash ’20] submitted the personal essay 我住过的城市 [The City Where I Lived]. He explained, “In my essay I talk about my experiences in Hong Kong, where I stayed for four years. Hong Kong is a very special city to me, and I feel fortunate to be able to share my personal life experiences with others through this journal.” Min said that the value of students’ inclusion in the publications lies not only in the prestige, but also in the way it encourages students to value their own story. Tianlu of The Juhe Supplement Editorial Committee wrote to Min: “All of your students' writings were very impressive to read, and we wished we could have more of them in the journal. It was a hard decision to make.”
G EO RG ET O W N D AYS S PRI N G 2019
F L I P P I N G T H E M AT H By HS Math Teacher Julia CL ASSROOM Penn Inherent in teaching math is a tension between breadth and depth—covering all curricular topics in a given course often comes at the expense of engaging students in rich problem solving and mathematical thinking (a.k.a. the fun stuff). This year in my Calculus Core class I’ve managed to spend more class time on the fun stuff by implementing a “flipped classroom.”
W H AT T H E F L I P ? In a traditional math classroom, a teacher introduces new material through notes in class, then assigns practice problems at home. The Flipped Classroom reverses the location of these two activities: students watch videos and take notes for homework, freeing up more class time for exploration, practice, and problem solving. About once a week, I create a video “lecture” introducing a new topic and assign it for homework. I try not to make videos longer than 20 minutes, as I’ve found my students’ attention starts waning if my videos are longer than 15 minutes. Students are responsible for watching the video and completing any “You Try” problems I include (usually one or two problems). Students report spending about 30 minutes on video notes. This year has been a learning experience for me, but I’ve found the benefits wider-reaching than I anticipated. Not
only have I minimized the breadth vs. depth dilemma, but my students report feeling more successful at tackling difficult problems and less stressed about the pace of learning.
YOU HEARD IT FROM THE STUDENTS I recently talked with my students about what they like and don’t like about this classroom model and, spoiler alert, there’s not much they don’t like. Coming into class after video notes for homework, students feel more prepared for what comes next. “You go into class and you’ve already seen everything once,” says Senior Dylan McAfee, “so it makes it easier to learn the material.” Senior Jordyn Lemer appreciates the extra time to let the content sink in: “It’s able to sit with me overnight and then I get to class and ask [the teacher] questions… Sometimes when we take notes in class and then go straight into problems it’s a little hard to process.” Taking notes from a video also gives students more flexibility to move at their own speed. “I don’t have to rush and I can go back and pause it,” says senior Nina DeCola. “If I don’t understand something I can watch it again.” Nina finds that her notes are better organized when she takes them from a video. Videos also remain on my Youtube Channel, which Nina says she references when studying for tests and quizzes.
Every student learns at a different pace, and in a classroom setting, this can make a student feel self-conscious or stressed as they may compare themselves to other students. “In other years, there’s always one person—and it’s not a bad thing—that needs more time for stuff, and there’s always one person who’s way ahead. I’ve been both those people before,” reflects senior Shonali Palacios. “But either way, the pace is very stressful because it’s either you’re bored and sitting there waiting for a problem, or you’re like, ‘Wait, what’s happening? Can we slow down?’ and then feeling bad about dragging the rest of the class down.” Flipping the classroom helps both types of students Shonali describes, as it allows a teacher to more easily differentiate their instruction. During the class held after a video, some students may be ready to dive into a problem set, while others may come in with questions or confusion. With notes out of the way, I can clarify points of confusion for some, without slowing down those who feel ready to apply what they have understood.
THE FUN STUFF What I call the “fun stuff,” my students call the “hard stuff.” But they appreciate the time and space to engage in this type of problem solving in class instead of at home, as they feel more supported and therefore more successful. “We do more challenging problems in class, and I can actually finish them because I have help,” says Shonali. “Class time feels more efficient because it’s more collaborative and we’re working through problems that we wouldn’t have been able to do on our own,” says junior Amelia Myre. “When we have questions about actually doing problems…we can ask in class, whereas if we were doing problems on our own at home, sometimes we’d get stuck and not be able to finish.” In this context, the teacher’s role shifts from instructor to facilitator, and students’ problem solving and mathematical thinking take center stage. “When we’re here, it’s us doing the work and using each other to learn, rather than the teacher doing all the work for us,” says senior Brion Whyte. Pedagogically, the idea of flipping makes sense in the context of Bloom’s Taxonomy. This frequently referenced hierarchy of cognitive skills goes from lower- to higher-order thinking skills, starting with knowledge and comprehension, and building up to application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. As teachers, why should we spend valuable class time on knowledge and comprehension when students can more easily do these types of thinking independently?
ARE YOU A TEACHER? GIVE FLIPPING A TRY! To all those teachers out there feeling inspired but logistically skeptical, let me assuage your fears. Using the recording device on my document camera, I am able to easily record videos of me writing out notes and examples while I narrate. The camera records my hand not my face, for which I am grateful! I believe making your own videos is essential, as opposed to sourcing videos online; you are the teacher your students know and trust, not Sal from Khan Academy. My videos are not polished or edited, a bell may go off in the middle and sometimes I even make mistakes in the math—good thing I’m always telling my students mistakes are valuable! I like to use the class held before a video to allow students to explore a new topic and build their own understanding. Then in the video, their ideas are formalized and example problems are introduced. The next class, students have an opportunity to ask questions and practice the concept in groups and independently. Since I haven’t spent a period giving notes, I don’t feel the time crunch inherent in the breadth vs. depth dilemma, and I’m freed up to spend another day (or more!) delving into more challenging problems. Flipping is easier than you might think and, according to my students, makes a world of difference in their ability to learn and do mathematics.
G EO RG ET O W N D AYS S PRI N G 2019
AN AUDIENCE AT THE SUPREME COURT
GDS High School students studying constitutional law visited the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments on a GDS snow day in March. They also had a private audience with Justice Stephen Breyer. Upon their return, students described experiencing a blend of the impressive stateliness of the institution and also the truly human side of its functioning. “It was incredible to experience the proceedings of the Court firsthand,” said Ariella Cymerman ’19. “I had plenty of prior knowledge from class about the Court and how the system works before I heard oral arguments, which was very helpful,” said Sophie Schiff ’20. “I was able to see some of the most powerful people in our country, which was amazing and a very special experience.” During oral arguments, students had the chance to see justices interacting with each other and with counsel. “It was so interesting to see the justices in action,” noted Annalise Myre ’19. “Justice Kavanaugh would lean over to whisper to Justice Kagan, and Justice Breyer warmly smiled at Justice
HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS MET WITH JUSTICE BREYER AND ATTENDED ORAL ARGUMENTS Sotomayor after she asked a question. It was clear from their interactions that they all have special relationships even though they may disagree at times.” In the following weeks, students also met with the solicitor general of the United States, Noel Francisco, and separately with U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Pamela Harris (parent of Ellen Schlick ’19 and alum Henry Schlick ’17), thanks to the planning and outreach of constitutional law (and math) teacher Andy Lipps. GDS’s proximity to the District and connections to our extraordinary parent, grandparent, and alumni bodies allows our students to learn actively at the seat of our federal government. In reflection, Ariella wrote, “Being able to spend a morning at the Supreme Court—and, more specifically, a meeting with Justice Breyer—was a special opportunity that allowed me to tangibly interact with what we have discussed about the Supreme Court in class. It was truly a memorable day!”
CHARTING HISTORY: S I X T H G R A D E R S G R A S P E A R T H ’ S H I S T O R Y I N H A L LWAY T I M E L I N E S During the 6th grade geologic time scale project, which seeks to provide students with a better understanding of the scale of and length of Earth's history, students were tasked with creating a to-scale timeline of all 4.6 billion years of Earth’s history! Students spent the days and weeks prior to constructing their timelines researching geologic and biological events that transpired during the periods, eons, and eras since Earth's formation. The project asked students to refine research skills and use unit conversion as they graphed time periods and events to scale. Throughout the project, students gained an understanding of how recently humans appeared on Earth, how mass extinctions have occurred throughout Earth's history, and when various forms of life appeared on our planet. 10
Sixth-graders Isabel Avidon, Robi Nguyen, Sophie Selfridge, and Lindsay Lamkin (pictured at right) said the process was difficult, but paid off in the end. “I was apprehensive at first about the project,” said Isabel. “It seemed impossible to put the whole history of our planet onto one piece of paper.” But after working together on creating a scale, divvying up the work appropriately (something important to agree upon beforehand, according to Robi), and agreeing on the facts to share, the end-product “really put into perspective the relatively short length of human history,” said Lindsay. Next up, 6th graders will study climate change and carbon dioxide by designing and conducting experiments exploring
Students worked together within the tight confines of their ships.
Settlers worked together during the Pilgrim games, including from the confines of their "ship."
3rd graders Justin Heffernan '28, Cia Carr '28, and Zoe Stutson '28 look back over their Pilgrim game organizers.
BEING A PART OF THE STORY:
THIRD GRADE PILGRIM GAMES This spring, the 3rd grade teachers led their students through games and activities designed to explore the Pilgrims’ experiences. Students sailed with shipmates, built and managed “New World” settlements, navigated contact with Native tribes, and reflected in regular journal entries. Thalia Grigsby ‘28 explained: “The teachers wanted us to experience for ourselves the hardships that the Pilgrims went went through when they were settling in the ‘New World.’” “You felt kind of how it was to be a Pilgrim, traveling, getting seasick, seeing friends and family die,” added Parker Dunbar ‘28. “Still, my favorite part was building the homes out of paper.”
Cia Carr ‘28 said, “I remember writing in my Pilgrim log about the thatched-roof homes they built and about what the pilgrims had to eat, including hardtack and salted beef.” Maceo Lindsay ‘28 added, “I learned that Pilgrims would have to find someone to translate when they were trying to make peace with Native American tribes like the Wampanoag, Patuxet, and Penobscot.” “We learned better this way,” Thalia agreed. “With the activities, the teachers weren’t just feeding us a bunch of information that we felt we had to memorize. [Instead], it felt more like we were a part of the Pilgrims’ story because the teachers were showing us not telling us [the history].”
“I was apprehensive at first about the project,” said Isabel. “It seemed impossible to put the whole history of our planet onto one piece of paper.” how C02 creates a greenhouse effect. Students will then look back at their timelines to see what the Earth looked like when carbon dioxide concentrations were at a variety of levels. Thanks to Middle School science teachers Ethan Burns and Stephen Harris for their reporting! G EO RG ET O W N D AYS S PRI N G 2019
ENCOURAGES STUDENTS TO QUESTION SOURCES AND DIVE DEEP INTO THEIR RESEARCH
This year, 8th graders researched one of six constitutional issues: abortion, hate speech, immigration, affirmative action, gun control, and capital punishment with their 8th grade history teachers Julia Blount and Perry Degener. For each track, students interviewed attorneys, advocates, judges, congressional representatives, and lobbyists (including several GDS parents) who are experts in their fields. Students then presented a position paper that described the history of their issue and summarized both sides with as little bias as possible, before arguing their own perspective. David Leary (parent of Sarah Leary ’23) chaperoned the gun control group. “What stood out to me was the comfort, preparedness, and poise of our students as they respectfully questioned those who advocate on both sides of the issue,” he explained. “It's not every person—much less every young teen—who can pull this off, and it’s one of those special skills that GDS nurtures so well in many aspects of its program. All together, this project is quintessential GDS. It brings together amazing classroom teaching and research with real-life experience. The result goes well beyond students learning about a particular issue. They learn how to conduct detailed research, use that research to analyze a complex issue, and then engage that issue head on.”
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut responds to questions as students take notes.
they have strong gun laws. By contrast, Eugenio Weigend quoted rates instead.” During one interview, 13 8th graders sat around a conference table with Senator Christopher Murphy of Connecticut, questioning him on gun control. Experiencing Hill Day for the first time as a trip chaperone, GDS Middle School Learning Specialist Cristina Watson said, “I found Hill Day to be a powerful example of the way GDS values the voices of children and prepares students to participate respectfully in civic dialogue. I was also impressed by how knowledgeable our students are and with how wellprepared they were for this experience.”
Students met with Olivia Warren, Law Clerk for Justice GDS Parent Ketanji Jackson, U.S. District Court for DC.
Whether meeting with Brandi Graham from the NRA or Eugenio Weigend from the Center for American Progress, students demonstrated keen attention to how arguments were made and which lines of reasoning were most persuasive to them. “Brandi Graham talked a lot about how gun control laws sometimes make gun crimes worse,” said Ben Stern ’23. “That was an awakening for me. She cited California crime, saying the amount of crime is extremely high even though
GEORGETOWN DAY S SP R I NG 2 0 1 9
Advisor Felipe Moltedo snapped this gem during the students' visit to the National Rifle Association.
For decades, Hill Day at GDS has helped Middle School students think critically and communicate their wellestablished views clearly and powerfully—while also treating the opposing viewpoint with the same amount of effort and respect.
MIDDLE SCHOOL’S HILL DAY
F INDING T HE IR WAY
FOURTH GRADERS SHOW-OFF THEIR ORIENTEERING MOXIE
"Did the parents get lost or lead you astray?" 5th grade teacher Reed Thompson asked a group of 4th graders as they emerged from woods, parents in tow. Balancing compasses and maps, the students looked incredulously back at Reed. "No, we led them,” said Merrell Palmer ’27. Each year, Reed joins 4th grade for a multi-week unit on orienteering, culminating in trips to Seneca Creek State Park, Maryland and most recently Camp Letts in Edgewater, Maryland. Former 4th grade teacher Kathy Shollenberger began this now 30+ year tradition and later partnered with Lower School librarian Vicki Velsey to train the students to tackle more challenging courses. “I like teaching kids to be aware of their surroundings,” Vicki said. “I like teaching them to see where they are on maps by noticing contours, streams, and pathways in the land, and to plot their way around big logs, dense thickets, and lost adults.”
of interacting with nature. Students work in groups, repeatedly—and intentionally—getting lost in the woods and finding their way again. “They ask themselves, ‘What do we need to do to get back on track?’” Reed explained. “They learn to stretch themselves outside their comfort zones and often end up saying, ‘Wow, we were really lost! I didn’t think we were going to find that next control location, but we stuck with it.’” These lessons in perseverance, resilience, collaboration, and wayfinding served with a healthful helping of nature have powerful implications—at every point of the compass—for our students’ development and wellbeing.
Prior to departing GDS, Vicki passed the reins to Reed. Suspicious at first, Vicki had Reed join the Quantico Orienteering Club and complete a five-weekend course. Now in his 15th year leading the program, Reed understands better than most the incredible value in the wayfinding challenge for these nine- and ten-year-olds. “Students are learning to read the story that lives on a map. Working with scaled maps—from GDS floor plans at first to large state park maps eventually—they are developing an understanding of waypoints and sequencing their route. They are beginning to see how the pieces of the puzzle fit together in a way that they cannot appreciate by using something like Waze.” Reed goes on to describe the “epic skillbuilding” and the important unstructured outdoor time these kids experience during the unit. Orienteering, a global competitive activity, hones students’ critical visual spatial skills, but it is also a meaningful and fun way
[Students] learn to stretch themselves outside their comfort zones and often end up saying, "Wow, we were really lost! I didn’t think we were going to find that next control location, but we stuck with it."
G EO RG ET O W N D AYS S PRI N G 2019
Around Campus BEYOND THE CLASSROOM
ON THE SIDE OF JUSTICE: CREATING A BELOVED COMMUNITY MLK SOCIAL JUSTICE DAYS 2019
Dr. Kaye Whitehead joined an inspired MS audience after her keynote.
FEBRUARY’S ANNUAL SOCIAL JUSTICE
teach-in days in honor of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. featured keynote speaker Dr. Kaye Whitehead, associate professor of communication and African and African American studies at Loyola University Maryland and the host of Today with Dr. Kaye on WEAA 88.9 FM. Dr. Kaye started off the days at both the HS and MS illuminating MLK’s principles of nonviolence and inspired students to take the challenge. “MLK wanted to be a man of his word. Be a person of your word. When you say you are going to do something, you do it,” she said. Students then chose from dozens of workshops at the High and Middle Schools, led by GDS parents, students, and teachers. Workshops included: “Immigration and Civil and Human Rights” with Leaon Rodriguez, who served as the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under President Obama from 2014 to 2017; “Why We Hate: The Neurobiology of Prejudice and Discrimination” with HS Dean of Students Bobby Asher; and “SDLC Brought to GDS,” led by students (Jazzmin Cox-Cáceres ’19, Katie Shambaugh ’19, Julia Hay ’20, Julia Fanta-Camara ’20, Laela Lucus-Walker ’20, Talia Rodriguez ’20) who attended the 2018 Student Diversity Leadership Conference and shared an activity around the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The days concluded with a rousing performance by worldrenowned comedy team COMETRY, a group masterful at storytelling, raising awareness, and delivering an inspirational message through laughter.
GDS parents Joanne Lin of Amnesty International and Greg Chen of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (Shanwai Lin '26) presented "What's Really Happening at the Southwest Border."
COMETRY finished the days with laughter (here pictured with the DEI team).
CELEBRATING HOLI & EID
Sweet dates and baklava.
Card-making for Eid
BUDDY BENCHES FOSTER INCLUSION & FRIENDSHIP
Students and staff made Eid cards for the Muslim Community Center, performed a traditional raga with teachers Topher Dunne, Vinay Mallikaarjun, and Brad Linde, and lastly, took part in the joyous celebration that involves throwing colored powder in a symbolic display of unity and joy at the arrival of spring. (Everyone brought a change of clothes for that last part!) As Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Associate Lakaya Renfrow said, “Today was a beautiful reminder of what it means to embrace and learn about other traditions, cultures, and religions that are different from my own. I hope today remains a beloved tradition in the GDS community.”
Shonali Palacios '19 and Revati Mahurkar '19 at our Holi celebration.
In conjunction with the South Asian Culture Club and the Muslim Student Affinity Group, the GDS HS celebrated Eid (the Islamic festival celebrating the end of the month of Ramadan) and Holi (the festival celebrated by Hindus predominantly in India and Nepal to celebrate unity and the arrival of spring) in a joint day of exciting activities in April.
PK, Kindergarten, and 1st graders getting silly at the Big Toy Buddy Bench
The GDS Lower School now has two “Buddy Benches”—a social-emotional learning tool used to facilitate inclusion in preadolescent play. Students can sit at the bench when needed, signaling they are looking to join others for play or have a conversation with a friend. Students playing elsewhere are encouraged to keep an eye on the bench to invite new friends into their play. At the end of November, 2nd graders all pitched in to paint a Buddy Bench (located at the Big Toy for grades PK-2). By January, 3rd graders proudly carried their new "Buddy Bench" out to a position beside the Field (for grades 3-5). During a Lower School community assembly both presented how-to videos: 2nd graders unveiled "The Making of the Buddy Bench" and 3rd graders screened a video teaching even our youngest Hoppers how to find friends at the bench. Thanks to the efforts of those students and their teachers, both benches continue to support positive friendship dynamics and empathy within our community.
Third graders with teacher Anthony Belber carry their Buddy Bench out to the field.
G EO RG ET O W N D AYS S PRI N G 2019
HOPPER BOOK AWARDS 2019 This year’s winners of the 4th Annual Hopper Book Awards included:
PICTURE BOOK: You Look Yummy by Tatsuya Miyanishi
Hachiko by Pamela Turner FICTION
(FOCUS ON SERIES):
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Continuing our Hopper Book Awards tradition, 5th grade students once again nominated books to win the prestigious literary award granted by our esteemed institution. Over several months, 5th graders researched, nominated, and promoted books that best reflect our community's needs, aspirations, interests, and curiosities. The entire Lower School then read (or listened to) the nominated books in three categories and voted for their favorites. And finally, the winning books and the 2019 Hopper Award logo were revealed to a large crowd at the LMS library during the week of GDS’s annual Book Fair (hosted by the Parent Service Association, with books provided by alumni parent-owned Bartstons Child’s Play).
Kindergarten students with Hopper Award winner in the picture book category, You Look Yummy.
5th graders with nonfiction Hopper Award winner Hachiko.
1st graders with Hopper Award winner in the fiction series category, Harry Potter.
LEARNING AT PEAK BLOOM In April, 3rd grade students identified and photographed wildflowers as they hiked along the Potomac River through River Bend and Great Falls Parks in Virginia. Science teacher Eric Friedenson perfectly timed the trip to coincide with peak bloom for the stunning bluebells. The images they captured sustained student learning (and appreciation of this national treasure) long after they returned to school. Curricularly, temporally, and physically, this outing mirrors the leaf identification trip 3rd graders take on the Maryland side of the Potomac River in October. Throughout the year, they learn to identify and classify plant life by defining characteristics. What a beautiful day for these young naturalists to be outdoors!
THE MAGIC OF STEAM Students on both campuses celebrated STEAM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) during our GDS High School STEAM Conference on March 8 and STEAM Day at the Lower/Middle School on March 13, 2019. After registering with our STEAMbassadors, GDS High School students and those attending the STEAM Conference from other area schools enjoyed a keynote by GDS alum Kirin Sinha ’11 (see page 55). They learned about advancements in artificial intelligence, Kirin’s incredible work in augmented reality gaming, her support of girls in math through SHINE, and her time as a GDS Mathlete. Nearly two dozen workshops were offered at the High School, hosted by students and outside experts— including current GDS parents and alumni. Participants experienced making ice cream with liquid nitrogen, frog dissection, programming a robot brain, creating ensemble music through improv, and Willy Wonkainspired candy engineering. Some students had the opportunity to join a conversation with a panel of six women of color in STEAM fields. At the end of the conference, students joined an innovation building challenge to construct massive towers on the gym floor using only straws and tape. Our winners took home medals crafted in our own maker lab.
JASON PUTSCHÉ PHOTOGRAPHY
1. Hannah Sanghvi '21 and Julia Hay '20 share a laugh
during the Women of Color in STEAM panel discussion.
2. STEAMbassadors Emma Leary '19, Gil Avni-Heller '20,
Maddi Salwen '19, and STEAM Conference Chair Cori Coats.
3. Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream with (l-r) Megna Ratnapuri '21,
Emily Scarrow '21, and Natasha Zimmermann '20.
4. Jefferson Whitehead from DEI Lab celebrates with 4th
graders as they battle their Lego robots.
4 G EO RG ET O W N D AYS S PRI N G 2019
Middle School students rotated through dozens of workshops. They engaged in pollution remediation, explored facial anatomy, constructed gravity-defying cardboard towers, learned about cardiovascular disease, created hexaflexagons (paper polygons), extracted DNA, and more. Several High School students brought chemistry demonstrations and surgical training complete with musical fire, flame bursts, and orange peel stitching.
Over at the Lower/Middle School, students began with several innovation challenges. Middle School students constructed egg drop protection systems that would be put to the test during a 20-foot plunge in the gym. Lower School students engineered complex structures with limited resources and added fun features such as superhero hideouts or emergency escape routes. Third graders painted foam airplanes later used in rapid feedback flight design out on the field. Others studied wind tubes, raced pullback cars, engineered ramps, battled Lego robots, studied erosion control, explored codeable line-tracing robots, and tested buoyancy through boat design.
JASON PUTSCHÉ PHOTOGRAPHY
THE MAGIC OF STEAM, continued
JASON PUTSCHÉ PHOTOGRAPHY
While students flew their planes, battled their bots, tasted ice cream, made music, and cheered for dropping eggs, they were celebrating the magic of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.
5. PK/K students are—dare we say—blown away by the
wind tube activity.
6. Patrick Keeley '19 and creative music director Brad
Linde create a loop for ensemble music.
8. High School students treat Middle School students to
JASON PUTSCHÉ PHOTOGRAPHY
7. 3rd graders test their plane modifications.
THIRD ANNUAL SUMMIT ON SEXUAL ASSAULT AND CONSENT More than 300 participants from seven states answered the call to action at GDS’s Third Annual Summit on Sexual Assault and Consent. The event was once again initiated, organized, and run by GDS students with the support of GDS staff members. Students, parents, and educators came together to tackle culture change with the focused mission of restoring humanity, dignity, and empathy to survivors. New community partners and focused workshops inspired attendees to develop action plans to take back to their schools, amplifying the impact of this critical work. As the advisor to the students working on the Summit, Amy Killy, GDS High School Counselor shared that the Summit, now in its third year, feels a bit different: “What feels different to me [this year] is that more people are listening. Public discourse has risen, and people are talking. People are recognizing the systemic and institutionalized sexism and stereotypes, for women and for men, that allows for sexual violence to occur in the first place. What feels different to me is that it doesn’t just feel like a cause, it feels like a call to action.”
S O M E K E Y TA K E AWAY S F R O M T H I S YEAR’S CONFERENCE INCLUDE:
The Power to Change our Culture The students themselves are the ones with the power to change our culture, a vital part of progress. Ellie Asher ’20 Consent Summit Student Leadership Team Member A National Focus This year's gathering was our biggest ever, with visiting schools eager to learn from our work and highly motivated by the national focus on these issues in the past year. Our students did a brilliant job of enlisting powerful speakers and creating space for dialogue and engagement. Russell Shaw Head of School Compassion and Dignity During the Summit, I organized a session called "The Traveling Heart Project," which originated during the Policy Institute last summer [and supports organizations combating gender-based violence among youth]. This project aims to honor the brave survivors who were generous enough to share their stories and highlights the importance of compassion and dignity in our activism. Maddie Brown ’19 Consent Summit Student Leadership Team Member
The Impact Of Our Work I knew the summit had the power to change, educate, and inspire each and every person who attended it, but I had no idea how wide the initiative (and inspiration) could reach. It is incredibly impactful knowing that because of our work on this issue, there are now hundreds of student leaders across the country standing beside us, advocating around these issues. Sydney Schwalb ’20 Consent Summit Student Leadership Team Member An Inspiring Space Personally, I was inspired by the GDS students who helped develop the Summit. Their introductions of speakers, moderating the panel, [and] facilitation of our school-based conversation were expertly done. It was energizing and inspiring to be in that space with so many young people ready to tackle the issue of sexual assault and consent. Holly Hinderlie, Ph.D. Wellness Coordinator at Choate Rosemary Hall, Connecticut Everyday Advocacy Everyday advocacy starts with every day. It starts tonight, when you get home and you talk with your family. It is sharing with your friends what you learned and experienced and felt by being a part of this summit. Remember, it doesn’t have to be something extravagant to be something extraordinary. Amy Killy GDS High School Counselor G EO RG ET O W N D AYS S PRI N G 2019
SEBASTIAN HARKNESS '19
SEBASTIAN HARKNESS '19
“WHAT WAS SO MYSTIFYING TO ME BECAME CLEAR” Minimester 2019 delivered invaluable opportunities for learning, connecting, and recharging as High School students engaged in one of 36 diverse offerings for three days. In its second year, the GDS minimester program is designed to bring the GDS mission to life through an immersive and experiential learning experience wholly separate from the normal, day-to-day academic program of the school. Some students took advantage of incredible local treasures in our city while others traveled to other cities—or mountains. Many remained here on campus and took their studies in a new direction. During the culminating event on February 27, students shared details from their in-depth studies, highlighting what they learned, the connections they made with each other, and the ways their thinking had changed over just three days.
1, 2. Sebastian Harkness ’19 echoed the value of
3 5 TIM LYONS
connecting over a shared food-prep experience during Unplugged in the Wilderness. “We bonded during long hikes and while cooking together. We chopped wood and then cooked together for more than 20 people over our one tiny fire.”
3. During Art Behind the Scenes in New York
City Museums, one participant shared that she “loved the hidden experience so much as an artist.” They were able to view Salvidor Dali’s Persistence of Memory, several Georgia O’Keeffe pieces, and Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
4. In Food, Body, and Soul, students participated
in various forms of fitness classes. “Not only was it fun, but we grew closer with everyone around as we were suffering through the workshop,” explained Claire Wolsk ’19. “It was a great break from the stress of school...and we ate healthy food.”
5. One participant in Producing Music in a
Modern Digital Recording Studio explained, most succinctly, the Minimester experience. “What was so mystifying to me became clear.”
COMPLETE LIST OF MINIMESTER 2019 CLASSES 6
GAY MEN'S HEALTH CRISIS CENTER
8 6. “Not to brag, but we went into the pit,”
said Adam Leff ’22, referring to the deep excavation for our future Lower/Middle School building across Davenport Street. The 16 participants in How to Build an Amazing New School explored technology, engineering, and construction practices with visits to architecture firm Gensler and the Lab School construction project; they also observed the pouring of a 60’ x 80’ foundation slab here at GDS.
7. Colin Kirk ’20 promoted Guerrilla Girls,
the group that visited art galleries and spoke with artists. “It was so enlightening to learn about how women’s art is undervalued and underrepresented. Art by women was tough to find. It was a great opportunity to learn about feminist artists.”
8. In Stonewall Uprising & Living through the
AIDS Crisis, students started off joining a talk at NYU on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. They studied the legacy of the AIDS crisis, visited the NYC Public Library, and took in a Broadway musical.
A GreenSpace Odyssey
A March that Changed the Country: Selma, Violence, and the Voting Rights Act
A View from the Other Side: Partisan Politics in Trump's America
Art Behind-the-Scenes in New York City Museums: An Exclusive VIP Pass
Caffeinate and Educate!
Comedians and Society
Deep Dive into DC Performance
Examining the Brains of Serial Killers and Adolescents
Exploring Reproductive Justice
Film Appreciation 101: Movie Classics (and What Makes ‘Em Great)
Food, Body, and SOUL
Food, Culture, and the Immigrant Experience (Chinese track)
Food, Culture, and the Immigrant Experience (Latin track)
Guerrilla Girls: A Philly-based Crash Course in Feminist Art History
Hiking Through History in Shenandoah
Hip Hoppers Live!
Hoppers Helping Hoppers
How to Build an Amazing New School
Humanizing Homelessness: Understanding the Challenges That Undocumented Immigrants Face When Trying to Secure Housing
Introduction to Programming in Java Through Games
Lego Mindstorm RoboChallenge
Let's Talk About Sex
Modern Physics Experiments
N.C.A.A. (Numerous Conversations about Amateur Athletics)
Prisoners and Their World
Producing Music in a Modern Digital Recording Studio: Let’s Record the Band!
Relatively Weird: Time and Space on a Soft Watch
• Sabermetrics •
Stonewall Uprising and Living Through the AIDS Crisis 1981- 1991: A Personal Memoir
Ukrainian Easter Egg Decorating
Unplugged in the Wilderness
Walls or Bridges? Immigration and Cultural Encounters
Were You Born a Racist? The Neuroscience of Implicit Bias
Women Who Shaped the World
Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness
G EO RG ET O W N D AYS S PRI N G 2019
YKA DE CASTILLO
MINIMESTER 2019 CONT.
“We made a brochure for [Rosa Health Centers] and some art to help advertise an event they are hosting.”
11 9. “Eating meals together is a good way to get to know each other,” said Shonali Palacios ’19, who participated in
Food, Culture & the Immigrant Experience – Latin track. “It was so rewarding after putting so much effort into the dishes we were making to sit down and enjoy our meals. Cooking like this is a lost art.”
10. Tayae Rogers ’20 (far left) who participated in the Chinese track of the same course, added that she felt encouraged
to try more authentic foods: “We also learned how to figure out what was authentic in different regional cuisine.” Students in Food, Culture & the Immigrant Experience learned to prepare traditional foods authentically as well as the impact of culture, geography, and immigration policies on the preparations those foods.
11. Margaux Van Allen ’20 recounted her visit to the Rosa Health Center in Georgetown, Delaware as part of their
learning in Exploring Reproductive Justice. The center provides services for mostly recent-immigrant patients. “We made a brochure for [Rosa Health Centers] and some art to help advertise an event they are hosting.”
Ambassador Samantha Power joined us for the 21st Annual Benjamin Cooper lecture, held on November 19, 2018, sharing her journey to ambassadorship and seeking to inspire others to diplomacy or public service. Ambassador Power spoke about her commitment to making change in the world and ending genocide by integrating human consequences into foreign policy.
VISITING CHANGEMAKER: BENJAMIN COOPER LECTURE 2018 22
ARGUING FOR TROPHIES:
GDS DEBATE ON A WINNING TRAJECTORY “As fantastic as things are now, the next couple years are really going to be a new era for GDS Debate,” explained debate coach Jon Sharp. This year boasts the largest team in GDS history with a pyramid distribution across High School grade levels: just two seniors, two juniors, and “a mob of sophomores and 9th graders,” jon said. He credits the recruitment efforts of the older debaters with building GDS strength for the future. Still, jon’s leadership continues to make GDS debate a national force. As debaters prepared to head off to the Tournament of Champions in Kentucky in spring 2019, the trophy case is stacked already: a 2019 Maryland State Championship for Jonah Docter-Loeb ’20, a win in the Stanford invitationals (Ian Partman ‘20 and Alistair Simmons ’21), a finals finish at the Harvard Invitational (Ian and Gabe Ritter ’20), and first place in the Mamaroneck tournament (Tara Bhagat ’19 and Robin Forsyth ’19). “GDS has provided the opportunity for academic and intellectual curiosity through a rigorous course load, but also through this secondary forum,” Ian said. “Debate is another space in which to think intellectually beyond what is expected from me curricularly.” Then, with a wry smile, “I’ve been arguing with people my entire life. The opportunity to travel across the country for it and get trophies—it’s just fun.” GDS debate has also grown in depth through our GDS 360 enrichment programs in the Lower/Middle School. Under the leadership of Cashel Koski and Felicia
GDS Debaters proudly display their Stanford Invitational winnings.
Kalkman, the LMS has fielded up to ten teams at tournaments—as young as third grade—who have taken on complex policy points such as “The United States should promote the development of market rate housing in urban neighborhoods.” “Justin is generally known for his athletic skills at school, but I love that GDS nurtures all sides of him,” said Danielle Schiffman (parent of Justin Heffernan ’28) who competed herself in top-level competitive debate, often as part of a visiting school to GDS. Her fond memories of the school are what initially led her to enroll her children here. Justin and Isabel Finn ’28 benefitted from the support of teammates Ananth Mangalam ’27 and Jacob Tobias ’27 as both teams took podium finishes at a recent tournament. Over at the High School, Lyra Gemmill-Nexon ’22, another child of a competitive debater (Daniel Nexon ’91), considered the notoriety that following in her father’s footsteps might bring. Still, she decided to participate and has already won some individual speaker awards. The teams are making preparations in anticipation of a single GDS debate squad on our unified campus in the fall of 2020.
“I believe in ‘never again,’” she shared with our High School audience that morning, before speaking to our full community in the evening.
The lecture was established in memory of Ben Cooper by his close friends David Goldberg ’98, Jennifer Miller ’98, Megan Palmer ’97, Jacob Remes ’98, Dan Sharfman ’97, and Jessica Wolland ’97. Ben, a rising senior at Georgetown Day School, was killed in a tragic accident on August 12, 1997. The Lecture Fund, endowed by the Cooper-Areen family, enables GDS to bring a renowned guest lecturer to the school each year to stimulate the kind of dialogue in which Ben loved to participate.
G EO RG ET O W N D AYS S PRI N G 2019
JASON PUTSCHE PHOTOGRAPHY
Around Campus ARTS & PERFORMANCES
WHERE METAMORPHOSES MEETS JEOPARDY!
Brion Whyte ‘19 with Cole Wright-Schaner ‘19 and Alex Carnot ‘19 as Poseidon and henchmen as they shipwreck Ceyx
HS ONE ACTS WINTER ONE ACTS BY THE NUMBERS: 24
3 spectacular evenings of theater
directed, performed, designed, and crewed by students each night
of contemporary theater each night
40 students total
run the tech and deliver performances “from naughty to nice, from hilarious to heartbreaking*” in the High School Blackbox theater.
would have been possible without the support of One Acts season manager Jim Mahady and technical director and drama teacher Christal Boyd. Many thanks!
Metamorphoses in The Box.
Matt—of Jeopardy! fame—is himself an alum of GDS theater and played, among other things, a severed head in a GDS production of Pippin with Ethan Slater ’10, of Broadway Musical SpongeBob Squarepants fame. As the current holder of the fifth-longest winning streak in Jeopardy! history, Matt doesn’t miss much. Still, the Metamorphoses tech crew had him fascinated and guessing.
JASON PUTSCHE PHOTOGRAPHY
“I came to see [the fall play] Metamorphoses with [HS English Teacher] Julia Fisher ’09 this evening, and it was terrific!!!!” said Matt Jackson ’10. “It was GDS Theater at its finest—every row of the oar, every sweep of the mop, enacted with an actor’s purpose and with a dancer’s attention to detail. (Also, it’s secretly a musical!) I am wowed by a dozen and a half student-actors who all have the emotional range, maturity, and perspective to inhabit such a wide swath of characters and moods, from sympathetic, inward-looking suffering to boisterous caricature.”
He asked, “Is the entire space below the wooden floorboards also filled with water?? Where does it come from!? And how do people exit and enter the stage underwater…??” Soon after attending Metamorphoses, Matt went on to dominate the Jeopardy! All-Star Games. Before disappearing into his final study sessions, however, he left this not-so-subtle note on the GDS message board: “If you were planning on skipping the fall show, you are wrong. Drop everything and get a ticket to Metamorphoses! This extremely proud alum commands you to.” Metamorphoses actors rehearse in a swimming pool.
2. Cole Wright-Schaner ‘19 directed Business Lunch At The Russian Tea Room by Christopher Durang. Max Grosman ‘22 and Jenna Schulman ‘19. 3. Bill George directed Elliot Oppenheim and Oliver Satola with (left to right) Isabelle Orr, Tess Thornton, Mia Y, and Maddie Brown in Medea by Christopher Durang and Wendy Wasserstein. 4. Izzy Adler ‘19 directed Lily Singh ‘21, Julian Galkin ‘22, Stella Tongour ‘22, Fiore Petricone ‘21, Felicia Paul ‘22, and Aidan Kohn-Murphy ‘22 in Foreplay, Or The Art Of The Fugue by David Ives.
1. Nick Moen ‘19 directed Corina Capuano ‘19, Mateo Brown ‘21, and Eli Faber ‘22 in Babel’s In Arms by David Ives.
*review from Laura Rosberg
5. Sets crew member Julia Hay ‘20 and sets designer Asta Jorgensen ‘20 plan a set piece transition during a rehearsal.
G EO RG ET O W N D AYS S PRI N G 2019
GDS Jazz and Creative Music performers at the 2019 GDS Jazz Festival.
Jazz Fest 2019 Musical Luminaries, Adjudicated Performances, and Hours of Great Jazz Now in its 20th year, this year’s Jazz Fest once again welcomed area schools to GDS to perform before a panel of judges and featured a performance and masterclass from New York City’s Fay Victor. Director of Jazz and Creative Music Brad Linde has expanded the Jazz Festival since coming to GDS, bringing in renowned artists and building the program: “I saw an opportunity to highlight internationally known musicians with broader backgrounds and experiences.” Senior Benji Ishimaru of student-led jazz band Big Band was happy with the band’s performance and felt that the feedback
from judges was helpful, saying, “I credit all my success to my teacher and mentor Brad Linde for his guidance and inspiration.” Alex Carmen ’19 was also happy with the Honors Band performance (comprised of Eli Thayer ‘19, Xander Davies ’19, Kat Liu ’19, Thomas Heist ’19, and Ben Finkelstein ’22). “The judges liked the balance of instrumentation we had: a combo of two saxophones, violin, and guitar. They felt we were authentic to [Charles] Mingus and his arrangements,” he said. “Congrats all around, to the many students involved and to the guest artists and judges, on a great jazz festival for 2019,” said HS history teacher (and honorary member of the creative music team) Topher Dunne.
THE SOUND AND THE PAINTBRUSH: 2ND GRADE ABSTRACT ART By Jenn Heffernan This spring, second graders created fabulous abstract paintings inspired by the artist Wassily Kandinsky. Students learned about the connection between music and art and the importance of principles and elements like rhythm, movement, color, line and shape!
Pictured, 2nd grade Kandinsky-inspired artwork.
When second graders moved on to their final paintings, we discussed in more detail the elements of color, shape, and line. Each layer of the painting was devoted to one or more of these elements as well as the principles of balance, repetition, and movement. Their final pieces were stellar examples of all that goes into a successful abstract painting! 26
Students were introduced to the artist and work of Wassily Kandinsky. Together we read The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock. After discussing Kandinsky’s possible synesthesia and the connection between music and art, students listened to music and sound clips while drawing different kinds of lines and shapes. They took care to notice how lines can be used to imitate characteristics of sound such as fast, loud, gentle, or slow. We also discussed the emotions color and music can evoke.
Noah Cheeks ‘25, Jack Farrell ‘24, and Isabel Avidon ‘25.
Full cast of Community Production.
INCREDIBLE STUDENT IMAGINATIONS TAKE ON ONE GDS DURING MIDDLE
When Georgetown Day School unites on one campus in Fall 2020, the new Lower/Middle School building will be built around a large cavern in the basement—a no-studentsallowed area, complete with a warning for all: Mr. Groul might snatch you if you get too close. (Spoiler: “Mr. Groul” is actually just a threat concocted to keep students away from a rockin’ faculty lounge that includes a ping pong table and an X-Box). The library will be built with a special machine that provides you with any book you request; but the members of Librarians to Power Association (LPTA) might just throw a wrench in the machine—literally—in order to protect the good work of “real” librarians. The cows living on the farm next to the new school will revolt, providing bad milk to students until they clean up their acts and stop relying on trash robots to clean everything up. And, in an effort to be more progressive with grading, tests will be paperless. Teachers will opt instead for the researchbased, proven assessment of Student Ninja Warrior, an agility competition with a threatening outcome. These and other visions of the near future for GDS were presented courtesy of the Middle School’s Community Production, which continued the tradition of being studentwritten, acted, directed, and lighted. With the theme, “Get Schooled,” the skits dove into what Middle Schoolers think might happen when we become One GDS.
SCHOOL COMMUNITY PRODUCTION
Kate Toufanian ‘25 and Rachel Schneider ‘24.
“We chose to have the kids write about the new building, because we wanted to hear their perspective on this big change, but we were worried that if we postponed it to next year, they’d already know a lot about the new building and their imaginations would be more limited by reality,” said one of the faculty advisors, Julia Blount, who was joined in advising by Erika Carlson and Middle School assistant principal Mayra Diaz. During some skits, the students’ ideas seemed to go beyond their imaginations and into the theater of the real: school staff were heard saying, “How do they know these things?!?” We’ll see if their visions become reality soon enough. In the meantime, faculty have a lot of work to do to come up with a different reason to keep students out of their rockin’ teachers’ lounge…
G EO RG ET O W N D AYS S PRI N G 2019
WAU BULAN: An Authentic Cultural Experience and an Uplifting Performance
GDS students’ voices soared like Malaysian Wau Bulan (moon kites) through the vaulted nave of Washington National Cathedral as they performed to a packed house during the Independent School Treble Choral Festival in March. Students in 4th through 6th grades from GDS joined into a massed 100+ chorus with students from St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School. It was a performance to remember—a performance, one could say, that was 14 years in the making. When Georgetown Day School LMS choral teacher Keith Hudspeth met Laura Petersen, his counterpart at St. Patrick’s, while taking their level one Orff Certification in 2005, they began a fruitful collaboration that has culminated in what Keith described as “a personal highlight of my teaching career.” When introducing the piece during the evening performance, GDS 6th grader Bijan said, “After learning ‘Wau Bulan’ at their National Music Conference in November, [Keith and Laura] knew they had to work together on this unique piece.” Earlier that day, GDS was honored to play host to representatives of the Embassy of Malaysia. Keith had contacted the embassy as part of his intentional efforts to ensure authentic cultural representations and extend learning experiences beyond a single song. Deputy chief of mission Ms. Murni Abdul Hamid and first secretary at the embassy Ms. Madonna John enthusiastically provided students with a deeper understanding of the cultural significance of this national symbol. They presented some basic geography, language, and cultural traditions before speaking in detail about Malaysian kite competitions. Steering kites above the bright green rice paddies of the Malaysian islands, competitors are judged on the artistic qualities of their 28
GEORGETOWN DAY S SP R I NG 2 0 1 9
Wau Bulan performance in the National Cathedral.
Vivienne Quintenz ‘27 holds a traditional Malaysian wau bulan (moon kite) as she, Bijan Hollinger ‘25, and Isabel Avidon ‘25 introduce the traditional kite song.
colorful kites as well as how the kites perform in the air. Notably, it is said that a good kite produces a forceful humming sound during the launch of its bamboo frame. As the piece began in the cathedral, students sent their own forceful humming sound over the audience, representative of a good kite launching. The bright timbre of a kompang, a traditional Malay drum on loan from the embassy, joined into the clapping and harmonizing of the children on the risers. To the delight of the audience—just half a minute into the piece— the 100+ students slowly settled into seated positions on the risers and floor, in the cross-legged tradition of the folk song. In rising crescendos and with arms swooping in a seated dance, the students transported the audience beyond the cold hall. Congratulations to Keith, Laura, and all the students for their beautiful performance. Thanks to the representatives of the Embassy of Malaysia for their partnership and for attending the performance. Finally, to the many parents, teachers, and GDS leadership in attendance—wow! Or perhaps we should say, “Wau!”
Watch the video online at http://bit.ly/waubulan Wau Bulan was arranged by Tracy Wong
INTO THE WOODS, JR. The fall 2018 Middle School musical was a wild, sprint-to-the-finish collaboration between the drama, dance, art, and music teaching teams, which culminated in several jaw-dropping performances in November. More than 40 middle schoolers participated in Into the Woods, Jr., affording the opportunity for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders with diverse interests to collaborate and put on a show together. Something far more magical (even than magic beans) was in store for audiences of the GDS production than Stephen Sondheim imagined when he wrote Into the Woods. Because of the large interest in participating expressed by students, teachers Brooke Houghton, Keith Hudspeth, and Felipe Moltedo created doubled roles in which students collaborated to portray a single character.
Mia Chévere ‘23 and Emery Jackson ‘23 with their set piece “Milky White.”
Full company at curtain call.
Students Naomi Borek ’25 and Sophia Moen ’25, for instance, were attached at the hip in their cow costume. “It’s challenging because we have to make sure we are both attached, but it’s also more fun,” Naomi said. They portray Milky White the Cow and collaborate even while being pulled in two different directions. The role of the double Jacks (of the beanstalk variety) was played by Shanwai Lin ‘25 and Avram Shapiro ’24 who portrayed it as brothers. “It’s a new thing we added to the show,” explained Avram. “Jack is a sillier character, which makes for an interesting dynamic when played by two people. We think about the part a bit differently when we have to interact with the other. We have to use not only dialogue specifically for that, but also our tone and gestures. It’s both a cooperative relationship and a competitive one as we figure out how to share lines. Splitting the part into two makes it more challenging and also more fun. It’s fun having a person to interact with as a foil, and I’m sure it was a lot of fun to watch.” From an educational standpoint, the doubled roles created opportunities for drama teacher Brooke to speak explicitly about choices they are making as actors. “It’s not only more dynamic than it could have been with just one actor, but their collaboration helped build a strong sense of character in the story. These two actors worked across grade levels—two actors who did not know each other before. We allowed them each to explore how they interpret the role and then helped them understand both where they are different as actors and also where their objectives line up.” Vocally, Shanwai and Avram harmonized the musical number, a challenging duet in itself. From the amazing sets supported by art teacher Susan Mols, which included movable trees and beautiful set pieces, to the lights crew emphasizing important dialogue through light color and direction; from the actors who spent hours discussing their intentions and motivations to the choreography supported by Felipe, this year’s MS production showcased breakout moments of growth as rapid as if some magic acting beans were planted.
Naomi Borek ‘25 and Sofia Moen ‘25 double as “Milky White.”
Props crew member Caroline Gann ‘25 with her golden egg-laying papier-mâche hen.
Liam Zeilinger ‘23, Lauren Petrilla ‘23, and Edie Carey ‘23 pose by their incredible beanstalk set piece.
In delightful company with the cast of the Middle School fall musical Into The Woods Jr. PHOTOS: MICHAEL DESAUTELS
SE A RC H I N G DE E P LY:
HIGH SCHOOL IDENTITY ART SHOW High School students contributed pieces to this year’s Identity Art Show that told powerful, personal stories. We honor the bravery demonstrated by our students to search deeply within themselves and express their stories through art. From “Ensueño” (dream) to “unable,” the gallery pieces reveal the pain and joy in their journeys, for our community, and the world. Special appreciation to Michelle Cobb, Nick Ryan, Adrian Loving, and Laura Tolliver for their support of our students in the creation of this impactful gallery.
“Parallel Reflections” by Colin Kirk ’2o
“Ensueño” by Virginia B Heinsen ’2o
“I created this piece in an attempt to capture the beauty and vibrancy of the Dominican Republic. My dad grew up there and moved to the United States when he was in his 20s, but the rest of his family still lives in the DR. We are fortunate enough to be able to visit our family there twice a year. I wanted to create a piece that reflects the tranquility I feel in the DR.”
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“Disguised Inside” by Hailey Irwin ’19
“Choose Your Player” by Aden Sheingold ’22
“This image represents how every day, I decide how much of myself I want to share with the world. I am an introvert so sharing anything about myself is difficult.”
Theo Hockstader ‘19 and Jacob Greene ’19 consider
“ם׳׳חה ץע. Tree of Life. Etz Chaim” by Emma Eichenbaum ’19
“unable” by Sophia Meng ’19
“I visited a neurosurgeon last semester to examine my progress since my surgery six years ago. I asked if I’d be able to drive. Turns out, for the safety of the general public and myself, I can’t because the C1 and C2 cervical vertebrae responsible for the majority of my neck mobility were fused. My mobility has decreased by 80%. It’s not something extremely noticeable just by looking at me, but it’s life changing.”
“The brokenness of my sculpture represents the jagged holes that anti-semitism and all hate crimes are causing and have been causing in society. I chose to rest the nest in a sculpture representing a tree branch to signify my last name— Eichenbaum—which means oak tree.”
“Good Morning” by William Fitzgerald ’20
“I chose to show my insomnia as I have suffered from it throughout my life. For me insomnia feels like a spiral of different thoughts that keep me awake most nights. The numbers in the spiral convey the passage of time as I’m stuck awake and also how thinking about how much time has passed often keeps me up even longer. The spiral ends in a sunrise. No matter if I managed to fall asleep or was awake all-night, morning still comes.”
“Allyship Theater” by Jazzmin Imani ’19
“Allyship Theater critiques those in the art world that take advantage of marginalized people. The piece explores ‘performative allyship’ and how it is detrimental to all of us. The women at the center of the piece represent oppressed groups that have been tools to further far too many careers. As an artist with the ability to show others what they cannot see, it is my job to bring these underrepresented voices into the spotlight.” G EO RG ET O W N D AYS S PRI N G 2019
Around Campus AT H L E T I C S
MAKING A SPLASH F I R S T- E V E R M A C C H A M P I O N S H I P S I N S W I M M I N G
Our retiring athletic director Kathy Hudson left another legacy for our historymaking, record-breaking swim team this winter. At the beginning of February, area independent school male swimmers had the chance to compete in a MAC Championships for the first time ever. Kathy organized and served as the official event host for the meet held at the Holton-Arms School pool. Not to let an opportunity pass them by, our Men’s Varsity swimmers made sure to leave their mark. The 200-meter medley relay team knocked five seconds off the school record, finishing in first place. The 400-meter freestyle relay team knocked three seconds off the school record, also finishing in first place. Andrew Smith ’19 dropped the school record by one second on his way to winning the 200-meter freestyle. (He also
Jalen Friday '21 powers through the butterfly en route to a win in the 200 Meter Individual Medley at the MAC Championships.
won the 100-meter freestyle.) Sophomore Jalen Friday, who swam on two of the record-setting relay teams, also won the 100-meter breaststroke with a personal best. Even without a diving team to boost the total points tally, the GDS swimmers took second place overall. The day before these first-ever MAC Championships, our women posted several top ten finishes and many personal bests in the ISL Championships. They brought that energy back to the pool to support the men. In a message to all his GDS swim team athletes, head coach Tony Hurst said, “So many of you had personal bests which really made this a fun weekend! It is a testament to all the work you have put in over the season.”
Did Athletic director Kathy Hudson make a splash organizing the MAC Championships? GDS swim coaches Tony Hurst, Kristina Lennox, and Selma Aniba seem to think so!
WOMEN’S VARSITY SOCCER
In November, our Women’s Varsity Soccer team capped off a great season by finishing second in both the DC State tournament and the ISL AA Division. They also broke into the DC area top ten. Congratulations to the student athletes and coaches! Also, special thanks to the seniors for their leadership in their final season with GDS athletics. Athletic director Kathy Hudson proudly announced, “Thank you to all the students, faculty and parents who came out to support the Women’s Varsity Soccer team in the DC State Championship game. They fought hard and it was exciting to the end. Congratulations on an excellent season.”
I MILL ER II SOM RAN
Lower/Middle School Physical Education & Health Education Department Chair Peg Schultz came out to the DC State Championships to support our wrestlers. She said, “Congratulations, Saul, Ransom, team, and coaches! It was great to watch each wrestler in action...no matter what weight class, the Hoppers left everything on the mat!” Thanks to coaches Grayson Shepperd and Josh Perelman for a great season.
The GDS Wrestling team after the DC State Championships.
In their respective weight classes, Saul Atwood ’20 won the DC State Wrestling Championships and Ransom Miller IV ’19 finished as vice champion. Both student athletes were MAC Champions—Ransom had an undefeated 18-0 run in the regular season.
made it to the semifinals of the DC State Tournament.
EMILY AXELROD '20
Thandiwe Eversley digs as teammates look on.
MEN’S CROSS COUNTRY finished 2nd in the MAC Championships. Here, our Hoppers cross Kenilworth Park at the DC State Championships.
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HOPPER ATHLETICS FALL AND WINTER SEASON AWARD WINNERS
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NOT PICTURED: Saul Atwood ’20
Eli Whalen ’20
Champion / MAC Champion
All-Star / MAC All-League Award
Men’s Varsity Swimming / MAC
Men’s Varsity Swimming / MAC
Men’s Varsity Wrestling / DC State
Men’s Varsity Soccer / DC State
Alex Arioti ’21
Ren-E Tan ’21
All-League Award Ben Howell ’20
Men’s Varsity Soccer / DC State All-Star / MAC All-League Award
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Around Campus FA C U LT Y
‘KATHY BLEEDS GDS GREEN’
Athletic Director Kathy Hudson and Trainer Veronica Ampey set up on the field for the day.
GDS Says Farewell to Athletic Director Kathy Hudson
Athletic Director Kathy Hudson is retiring after leading our High School athletics program for 23 years. She has overseen tremendous growth and accomplishment over those two decades: GDS proudly holds the banners from 17 Independent School League (ISL) championships for women’s athletics, 22 Mid-Atlantic Conference (MAC) championships for men’s athletics, and three sportsmanship awards. Each year, more than 500 student athletes participate in the GDS HS athletics program across the three seasons—in a program that is not required. “Most take for granted the sheer number of hours Kathy spends organizing daily practice schedules, game schedules, coordinating transportation and off-campus venues for our student athletes, as well as ordering/replacing uniforms, lining the field, securing referees/umpires, guiding coaches, and serving as the department chair—all this is just the tip of the iceberg,” explained athletic trainer Veronica Ampey, who has worked alongside her for 22 of Kathy’s 23 years. “You won’t find anyone with more passion for GDS athletics than Kathy. She is by far the GDS student athletes’ greatest fan.” “Kathy ‘bleeds GDS green’, said Head of School Russell Shaw. “Kathy’s passion can translate as a strong, fiery will, and underneath that fire is a soft and caring heart. She loves our kids, loves our sports teams, and loves our school.” “Kathy is incredibly kind and incredibly loyal,” said alum Andie Asher ‘15. “She helped me to grow both as a student and an athlete. She taught me how to build community, she
taught me how to believe in my own thoughts and ideas, and she taught me how to be a leader.” Andie worked in community relations for athletics at the University of Wisconsin prior to graduation this spring. During her time at GDS, Kathy also earned a master’s certification in athletic administration from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA). She maintained leadership roles in the ISL and MAC leagues, including treasurer (MAC–19 years, ISL–six years), MAC tournament director (14 years), and league commissioner (four years, each league). Kathy was named Athletic Director of the Year for the District of Columbia in 2015. She coached golf and lacrosse and was involved in other areas of school life, including serving as a grade dean for the classes of 2011, 2015, 2017, and 2021. “Kathy’s passion for GDS athletics was infectious,” said alum Alanna (Tievsky) McKee ‘03 who was a collegiate athlete and returned to coach Varsity Women’s Lacrosse for several years. “Her love for the school and her students came through in everything she did. She was an incredible role model for me growing up: she puts the needs of others before her own, is never afraid to laugh at herself or apologize if she’s in the wrong, and challenges those around her to reach their full potential. I greatly admired these qualities and have strived to emulate her in the leader I am today.” Alanna is now a senior consultant at McKinley Advisors, a research and strategy consulting firm specializing in mission-driven organizations.
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Alum Mac Andrews ‘15 had the privilege of playing golf with Kathy as coach, playing other sports as a student athlete, and learning under her guidance while she was a grade-level dean. “Kathy embodied GDS’s mission beautifully, and it is a better school for it. From the way she honored each athlete on every team, supported their efforts whether they were a team that traditionally drew crowds or not, or showed other students how to care deeply about other student athletes, she taught us all ‘strength of character and concern for others.’” “Personally, GDS has shaped me into the person I am today,” Kathy said. “I have grown so much in my time at GDS, and the supportive environment has allowed me to accept myself for who I am. My hope is that the athletics program continues to grow and that the focus remains on developing each student athlete with honor and integrity. And my parting wish? That the program is loved the way I have loved it for 23 years.” “I have grown tremendously because of your guidance and mentorship, and I know I’m not alone when I say how much you’ll be missed,” said Mac. “GDS is tremendously grateful to Kathy for her more than two decades of stewarding our athletic program. She will be keenly missed,” said Russell. Mac speaks for all of us when he says: “We’re very thankful as your students, athletes, and friends. Let’s catch a round of golf soon!” Kathy plans to make many visits to GDS, including for Sports Saturday in the fall and annually in early May for the 20-Year Club reunion. She’ll be enjoying her retirement “playing a lot of golf, working out, spending time with family, and relaxing.” 38
Kindergarten teacher Joanna Phinney is retiring after being an integral part of our play-based early childhood program for 28 years. Generations of GDS kindergartners have had the chance to learn at her hand, whether it be gaining fine-motor skills through increasingly difficult bargello sewing or getting support in conflict resolution through age-appropriate tools such as the “peace rose,” Joanna’s mark on GDS has been indelible and long-lasting. One thing Joanna’s colleagues consistently point out is her unwavering belief in play being the most important work of young children. As LS math teacher Holly Balshem said, “Joanna has been a champion of play-based learning [at GDS]... In these days of increased pressure to provide more ‘academic’ learning environments, Joanna has held strong in carving out and preserving time for play. She is a true child advocate.” Joanna’s current partner teacher Angela Sandford echoed those sentiments,“To this day, she fights hard for every second where children can learn through play and self-driven exploration. She understands that this is how children learn best.” Both Angela and Holly also point to Joanna’s growth mindset as something to be honored.
‘YOUR ULTIMATE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER’ “I truly admire Joanna’s consistent desire to learn and grow, no matter her age...Her ability to push herself beyond her comfort zone in order to grow as a teacher, as well as an individual, is remarkable,” said Angela. “I hope that she can be an inspiration for teachers (old and young) to ALWAYS see themselves as learners and recognize that none of us have ‘arrived and know it all.’” Lastly, Joanna’s ability to connect with her students has ensured that some of our youngest students have had a teacher who truly saw them. Joanna’s co-teacher Elaine Ogden shared, “My years with Joanna were my best teaching years. Her relationships with children were just remarkable. She touches their hearts, and they touch hers. It’s lovely to see.” Former LS Principal Gloria Runyan agreed: “What is most special about Joanna is her love for children. She is your ultimate kindergarten teacher.” Joanna’s personal reflection is below. You will be missed, Joanna. At GDS, I have loved facilitating creativity through children’s play in kindergarten. Helping children plan and create an ice cream shop, plan as a group to build big block structures, and then create a play to perform for their friends, or think through the process of making papier-mâché creatures — all of those things have been such fun, but these types of projects are also the best way to develop children’s brains, build their self-confidence and self-esteem, and increase their academic, physical, and social skills, as research shows. I have loved being able to facilitate play and do projectbased learning. I know that projects like bargello sewing and papier-mâché support students in so many ways without their even realizing it! I have felt rewarded every time I have helped my kindergarten children go through the process of conflict resolution with the Peace Rose and proud every time children have the courage to speak up and express their feelings and needs when there is a conflict. I know these are life-long skills that they will need in all their relationships—at home and at work—and I also know that being able to self-
advocate will not only enable them to be change makers but also sustain their mental and emotional health. I chose GDS because I was looking for an excellent school for my biracial son and for me as well. I am extremely grateful to all the teachers who gave him such a fine K-12 education and appreciated him as a whole person. I am also grateful to GDS for giving me so many opportunities for professional development, whether it be the White Privilege Conference or SEED at GDS. I am also grateful to those co-teachers who have helped me grow as a person and teacher. Judy Oswald introduced me to the fun, creative, and flexible GDS of the 1990’s and was enthusiastic about going on one or even two field trips a week. I learned how to do musical plays with children, sing songs to teach alphabet letter sounds, and tell personal stories from Elaine Ogden. Marnie Lipnick Weinstein regaled me and the class with her creative stories and fun artwork. Nichelle Dowell brought her passion for character development through stories. And Angela Sandford shared her expertise in Responsive Classroom and reading and writing as well as her passion for social justice. The process of team teaching with these excellent dedicated teachers has been exciting and stimulating. Two committed teachers, sharing observations of their students, curriculum ideas, and their own authentic lived experiences has been a growing experience for each teacher and a better classroom experience for children. I think children learn a lot about how to navigate differences by watching different teachers—of different ethnicities and races, ages, gender, religions, socio-economic background, and sexual orientation—work together in a classroom. I hope team teaching continues at GDS. Is there life after GDS? I sure hope so! I can’t wait to read more, practice the piano, hike, maybe volunteer in play-based classrooms, and perhaps even investigate music therapy.
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The Trajectory of a Physics Teacher First, the students in my quantum mechanics class this past year have been more exceptional than ever and clearly [are] a driving force for my interest in continuing to teach this coming year. But there’s also something else going on that needs to be mentioned. That is the level of mathematical and intellectual rigor that these high school students have reached compared to when I was in high school, college, and graduate school. After 17 years of teaching advanced science courses at the GDS High School, Kevin Cornell will retire this year. From launching our first quantum mechanics course and running the Science Bowl to supporting Georgetown Day School’s first robotics club (helping students build battle bots) and senior quest projects focused on building Tesla Coils, Kevin brought with him years of hands-on field expertise that elevated our physics program and helped our students achieve early science success. Before coming to GDS, Kevin was an AVP at George Washington University, a VP at Grinnell College and American University, a deputy director at the United States National Resource Council, director of the United States Senate Nuclear Regulation Subcommittee, an associate professor of physics at American University, and a postdoctoral fellow in physics at Wayne State University. (He also has a crafting speciality of making wooden bowls and furniture!) Some years ago, he shared the following statement on his social media account regarding his decision at the time not to retire: After months of soul searching I have decided not to retire this year...At the age of 72 the pressure was mounting for me to retire. But, teaching high school Physics has been the most rewarding experience, so why not continue? Five years later he reshared and added to it: It’s been five years since I’ve made that decision. I’m still teaching this coming year, and while those words are still as appropriate today as they were five years ago, thought I’d like to make a few additional observations.
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The course that I am teaching, and which these kids are able to access, is on the same level as the quantum mechanics and math courses that I took as a senior math major at Swarthmore College 55 years ago. The fact that these 10 high school seniors are able to learn at this level of mathematical complexity blows my mind. It says [a] great deal about how far advanced high school math education has come in general. But, it also underscores the quality of a small private school like Georgetown Day School... ...For me, I am taking it one year at a time...enjoying the best job I’ve had. As I have said, with no disrespect intended to our own five children, “TEENAGERS CAN BE A LOT OF FUN WHEN THEY ARE NOT YOUR OWN.” On the occasion of his actual retirement, his commitment to the craft of teaching and his interest in supporting students’ scientific inquiry will be missed at GDS. As Kevin’s teaching partner for the college-level quantum mechanics course, Matt Friel said, “Kevin has had a tremendous impact on developing new science curriculum at GDS and was the driving force behind offering the quantum mechanics course.” Matt also shared, “I think the hallmark of Kevin is that he was always available to students. He would meet with any student anytime to provide extra help.” If a hallmark of a true GDS’er is a lifelong love of learning and a desire to serve others, Kevin has proven himself a Hopper again and again. We wish him all the best and thank him for helping students understand the beauty and intricacy of the physical world.
ONE CAMPUS. ONE MISSION. ONE GDS. F
or decades, GDS has dreamed of unifying our School on one campus, and now, the stars have aligned. With the purchased property adjacent to our High School, construction is well underway on our new Lower/Middle School. Now all of our students, PK-12, can be together.
To make this vision a reality, GDS embarked on a historic campaign that supports three essential elements, reflecting the importance of our school’s priorities: a unified school, financial aid, and the Annual Fund. Already, the GDS community has pledged more than $51,000,000! Unifying our school has countless benefits for our GDS family. It advances our academic program through collaborative, flexible, and contemporary learning environments, increased ability for department alignment, and cross-divisional learning opportunities for our teachers and students. It strengthens our community through mentoring and leadership across all grades, greater crossdivisional support, and more frequent and accessible all-school celebrations. It enhances efficiencies as administration will operate on a single campus, there will be greater flexibility in assigning cross-divisional
teaching loads, and we will experience significant savings from operating a more modern, efficient facility. Nearly 800 people from all segments of the GDS community gathered to celebrate the announcement of the One Campus. One Mission. One GDS. Campaign on March 9, 2019. This historic campaign supports three essential elements, reflecting the importance of our school’s priorities: a unified school, financial aid, and the Annual Fund. Held in conjunction with this year’s alumni reunion, the event was full of celebratory entertainment.
If you have not made a contribution, please join us now using the envelope inserted in this magazine or visit www.gds.org/onegdsgiving.
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ALL PHOTOS BY JASON PUTSCHÉ PHOTOGRAPHY
Critically acclaimed singer Anna Bergman ’79 kicked off the evening.
Comedian Gianmarco Soresi ’07 emceed the event and had the audience rolling!
The audience roared with applause as Head of School Russell Shaw announced that the initial $50,000,000 goal had already been reached as he officially launched the campaign! He thanked campaign supporters and volunteer leadership, including Campaign Chairs Kate Koffman and Sid Banerjee. He shared his vision for the future of GDS and invited those who have not yet given to join us and make this vision a reality.
Teachers Peg Schultz and Bryan Williams represented the GDS staff component of the Campaign Executive Committee.
Board of Trustees Chair Jenny Abramson ’95 thanked the Campaign Executive Committee and all the One GDS supporters.
The High School Honors Jazz Ensemble performed.
Russell Shaw connected with fourth Head of School Peter Branch.
High School students performed a number from this year’s musical Urinetown.
GDS and Broadway alums Ethan Slater ’10 and Noah Robbins ’09 reprise their High School performance in The Producers.
The Ability to Enter into the Great [And Real. And Complex.] Conversations of Life
s a District-based school, GDS is certainly not insulated from the political rhetoric, 24-hour news cycle, or struggles that are so intrinsic to life in early 21st Century United States. “As I was witnessing our students navigating discomfort during challenging moments, processing painful news on TV or social media, and trying to find the balance between their existence as young people and the realities of their contemporary world, it was clear they needed a way to proactively build their capacity and skills to help them through such situations,” said Crissy Cáceres, Assistant Head of School for Equity and Social Impact. That is how, in the fall of 2017, High School Principal Katie Gibson and Crissy found themselves considering a complex question: How could the Georgetown Day School High School community converse proactively, meaningfully, and safely in the important questions of our time, engaging and collaborating across difference? What followed was the first of what would become a recurring, rich, all-division experience that put the students at the center and supported the entire community in navigating difficult conversations— learning to listen and grow together. Lee Goldman, Nevada Lomax ‘20, Eduardo Gonzalez, Maribel Prieto, and Lakaya Renfrow work on Open Spaces planning.
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Preparing the Spaces and People for Positive Discourse After learning about and participating in meetings using the “open space technology” concept of holding meetings driven by their adult participants, Crissy approached Katie three years ago about the concept and asked her if she was willing to learn about it, try it, and support it as a practice. “This practice, which allows for open engagement by all present, lifting voices and diverse perspectives, is freeing. It allows for honest engagement in ways that are respectful of all in the room,” said Crissy. The “Open Spaces” envisioned by Crissy and Katie evolved the concept to be school-based and student-driven. After announcing the endeavor in an all-school meeting, Crissy and Katie first focused on identifying topics of conversation and building a coalition of students and faculty who could guide the conversations. They used GDS’s advisory structure to gather topic ideas from students—500+!—which were then grouped and whittled down to 35. Crissy and Katie put out a call for student and staff facilitators, 75 of whom worked together over a series of meetings in October 2017 to define the program and prepare to launch to the full community. They developed the school-generated ideas into workshop titles, created norms for positive discourse as well as a list of potential questions that could come up during discussions, and learned how to guide and support their groups. “The biggest piece we were trying to communicate during training was, ‘You are not necessarily the experts on this topic—you’re not teaching this,’” said Katie. “Instead, we wanted facilitators to understand that they were responsible for holding a space in which all voices could participate and abide by agreed-upon norms.” Crissy and Katie trained facilitators to know how to pull in a participant who was not engaging and how to pause a voice that might be dominating the conversation; they talked about when to allow for meaningful silences and when to push people’s thinking without leading them to a specific outcome. The norms created by facilitators ensured Open Spaces were run confidently and conscientiously. Norms have included guidelines such as, “Challenge ideas not people,” “Speak from the ‘I’ perspective,” and “Everything that is said in the room, stays in the room.”
“Ultimately, facilitators came out of the process feeling confident in the art of facilitation, seeing themselves as part of a school network that is building much-needed capacity, and willing to pass their learning down each year so that it lives on in our community,” said Katie.
Open Spaces in Practice On November 10, the GDS HS held its first Open Spaces, when every member of the HS community engaged in hour-long meetings in large groups, each led by two students and one faculty member. Participants were assigned to a topic within their top three choices according to an online survey. (See list of topics in sidebar.) Open Spaces were held three more times during the 2017-18 school year, using the same 35 topics. While facilitators hosted the same topic each time, participants rotated to new ones. Over the course of the year, the conversations revealed students’ capacity to tackle complex ideas and thoughtprovoking topics. After each Open Spaces, participants took a survey, rating their experience, sharing feedback, and making suggestions for future topics. One teacher shared, “From a personal standpoint, having an experienced student facilitator meant the subject wasn’t being ‘taught’ by an adult. I also feel I can lean into difficult conversations more easily.” A student facilitator wrote, “I am now comfortable leading my peers and okay with uncomfortable situations. Also, there are now people trained and ready to step in and guide conversations if something comes up.” During the 2018-19 school year, Open Spaces has continued, this year focused on different topic areas lifted up by students, including “ability” and “stress at GDS.” Once again, student and staff facilitators gathered to support the creation of topics and norms. They also worked on developing guiding questions; for the “ability” topic, they included, “Where do we see ability intersect with identities?” “What kinds of privileges are taken away from you with regards to a temporary disability (i.e., crutches, concussion)?” and “Where do you ‘see’ ability privilege?” In follow-up surveys, students weighed in with their feedback as well. “This is a conversation that
This is a conversation that needed to be had.”
needed to be had,” wrote one student. Others called the experience, “eye opening,” “engaging,” and “a safe space.” They gave kudos to their facilitators who were “vulnerable,” “willing to lean in,” and “genuine.” Though the feedback is overwhelmingly positive, there are learning moments as well. Open Spaces have evolved this year to be held by grade level, in a nod to supporting students’ comfort level. One student asked for more opportunities to hear controversial viewpoints and others requested even smaller groups. The regular feedback allows those leading the effort to revise plans and iterate the process. From the post-discussion survey on “stress,” Katie says the feedback has practical implications beyond the Open Spaces environment: “Students are helping identify stressors that are school related and making suggestions about what the school can implement. We’ve already integrated that feedback in our ongoing work to support students.” Future topic suggestions include religion and spirituality, political difference, socioeconomic status and class, gender, and sexual orientation.
A More Just and Kind World During the two years that GDS has been holding Open Spaces, Katie and Crissy say that there have been multiple positive outcomes. For one thing, it has helped to build up the High School community. Additionally, the School now has a cadre of trained facilitators at the ready when critical issues arise. “If something happens either in our community or world that we need to pause and talk about, we have the structure, the practices, and the people comfortable leading any topic and able to safely engage,” said Katie. Katie and Crissy also said that GDS’s Open Spaces demonstrate that an entire High School division can successfully incorporate supportive, timely listening and learning sessions into its regularly scheduled programming—and that’s something that can be replicated and taught. “A couple of years from now, I hope to see schools in our region and beyond begin to embrace this practice as a way to grow the capacity and skills of community members to immerse themselves into the core of the uncomfortable and difficult, confident that if they navigate it together, clarity and growth is possible,” said Crissy. Ultimately, GDS’s Open Spaces are a testament to our belief at GDS that a more just and kind world is possible—that taking the time to listen to others, even those with opposing viewpoints, with open hearts, open minds, and open ears is not only possible, but necessary.
The following were the discussion topics for the 201718 school year’s Open Spaces: • A Non-Denominational School in a Political War-Zone • Antifeminist Language: These Words Are Harmless, So What Are They Bitching About? • Being a Boy at GDS (Facilitated by adults and students who identify as male - open to all participants) • Breaking Stereotypes: The Macro Problem that is Micro-Aggressions • “Can’t You Take a Joke?” The Dangers of Normalizing Sexist Humor • Colorism and Gender • (De)Centering Whiteness at GDS • Deconstructing Weight Room Culture at GDS • Fluid Identities: Gender & Sexual Orientation • From the Casualness to Stigma: Mental Health at GDS • Good Intentions for a Guilty Conscience • How Does Your Social Media Engagement Impact Your Gender Identity? • It’s Not A Joke (To Me) • It’s Such a GDS Thing: Conversations about Conversations • “I’ve Got 99 Problems” and the N-Word is One • Mental Health within the Communities of Color • Modern Anti-Semitism - From College Campuses to Charlottesville • Participation in an Unbalanced Space: Tokenism and Having to Represent Your Identity • Power of Socio-economic Status: Let’s Just Postmates It! • Riding the Short Bus - Why Special Education “Jokes” are Unacceptable • Self-Deprecating Humor: Hate Speech, Mental Health, Self-Oppression • Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones and Words STILL HURT • “Tolerance” Paradox - How Can we Tolerate Intolerance? • That’s So Gay • The “N” Word: “I’m Allowed to Use It” • The (Im)Possibility of Equity and Inclusion at a Private School • The Weight of Words: Who Feels it, and Why? • Transparency and Accountability at GDS : Do We Have It, and Are We Living our Mission? • Victim Blaming or Rape Culture • Wealth Inequality at GDS: How do we conquer the Divide?
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TWO WORLDS, TWO MISSIONS, ONE SHARED PARTNERSHIP GDS and Davis Construction Partnership Goes Beyond Our New LMS Building
By Crissy Cáceres, Assistant Head of School for Equity & Social Impact
What started as a business partnership between GDS and our general contractor company to build the new Lower/Middle School building has turned into so much more than one between client and service provider. The story of this partnership is one that the new buildings’ walls alone cannot tell. The layers of the partnership between Davis Construction and GDS is also revealed through the social justice, mission-aligned commitment that both entities have embraced to map a future together and spread our impact further. For many months, Davis team members and I sought genuine opportunities for our students to engage in the historic experience of unifying our two schools onto one campus. To start, we made time to focus on who we are, what we stand for, and why it matters that we think about more than “brick and mortar.” Teams from Davis and GDS worked together, planning and most importantly, getting to know each other’s stories. There have been so many exciting and important outcomes. When representatives of Davis understood the importance of gender and sexuality diversity, they voluntarily constructed our first all-gender restroom, shower, and changing room at the High School. High School students participated
To start, we made time to focus on who we are, what we stand for, and why it matters that we think about more than “brick and mortar.” in a Minimester with Davis and other building partners to learn more about the building process. Students in all divisions will experience assemblies led by Davis in the 2019-20 school year as well. The latest phase of our partnership with Davis is equally exciting. Early on, Vice president of Education Matt Weirich from Davis said, “We would like to develop a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project within the GDS community that will have a lasting impression and continue to give back to the surrounding community long after the construction of the Lower/Middle School is completed. We believe that this project would also be a great opportunity for the students of GDS to get involved and lead. Together we can make a dramatic impact in our community while mentoring your students in the process. We look forward to working together in helping GDS’s mission carry on in perpetuity.” When representatives from Davis asked us for an ideal community partner for this CSR project, we could think of no better place than Friendship Terrace, a nonprofit senior living apartment building in Tenleytown.
For years, Georgetown Day School students have had connections to the elders at Friendship Terrace. From learning about their favorite songs and playing them at regularly scheduled concerts, to recording their life stories and writing them, to simply spending time and sharing laughter as a way to brighten their days, our students have been invested in an experience that is not about servicing a community, but rather about a mutual appreciation, respect, and growth on all fronts, for all involved. The greenhouse, on the very top floor of the main building of Friendship Terrace remains a favored place for its light, warmth, and ability to support a plethora of beautiful plants, although it has seen better days. Despite the peeling walls, lack of a useful water source, and the difficulties in maneuvering through it, the residents still love their tough indoor garden. Given the request from Davis, we felt that directly improving the greenhouse at Friendship Terrace would be a perfect opportunity to support members of the Friendship Terrace community, while also creating opportunities for further engagement with our students. Catherine Pearson, current Director for Community Engagement and Experiential Learning reflected, “The greenhouse renovation is the exciting extension of a partnership between GDS and Friendship Terrace that has spanned nearly a decade. Friendship Terrace provides excellent care to the seniors of Tenleytown, and this project will allow the residents to more fully use a greenhouse space that has existed on the top floor of the building for more than 50 years. As GDS prepares for campus unification, it is my
sincere hope that the greenhouse can become a shared space where our students and the Friendship Terrace residents take part in intergenerational activities on a regular basis.” In a recent visit to Friendship Terrace, we heard from Chuck Thornton, Director of Marketing and Community Relations, “This joint project could benefit the residents of Friendship Terrace, as well as allow for increased collaboration between its residents and GDS. The greenhouse space is not easily accessible for residents in wheelchairs, and the current configuration means there is no space for someone to turn around so residents in wheelchairs are forced to exit backwards. This space could be used by GDS students of all grades for botany/ environmental science projects as well as other wonderful possibilities!” Now, we embark upon the magic that true partnerships make possible. Years from now, it’s the retelling of these stories by students, families, faculty/staff, Davis personnel, and residents of Tenleytown that will continue to shine the light on two worlds, two missions, and one special and missionaligned partnership. When writing to Chuck Thornton following our first GDS/Davis visit to Friendship Terrace, Matt said, “We look forward to helping you and GDS through our trusted partnership.” When we have the opportunity and privilege to make a lasting difference, not just because we are able to give, but rather because in giving, friendships and connections are forged, and so much more will be received, the response should always be this poignant, direct, and simple.
Members of GDS, Davis Construction, and Friendship Terrace meet in the greenhouse that will soon be updated through a unique community partnership
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Seeing the Past Through an Ancient Ear Geneticist David Reich ’92 is mapping human history It is important for all of us to appreciate where we come from and how that history has really shaped us in ways that we might not understand.” – Justice Sonia Sotomayor A lab technician reaches one hand into a sealed and sterile chamber to grasp a sandblasting tool. Inside, his other hand gently holds a 4,000-year-old skull fragment no larger than an oreo cookie. Precisely, he zeroes in on the genetically rich cochlea, a spiral chamber of the inner ear. After removing the surface of the bone, he will grind the tiny cochlea into a homogenous bone powder, a material found to yield up to 100 times the amounts of DNA gathered from teeth or other bones. David Reich ’92 is a professor of genetics and principal investigator at Harvard Medical School’s Reich Lab. He is also the winner of the 2019 National Academy of Sciences Molecular Biology Award for his work in the field of ancient DNA. His team’s large-scale sequencing of ancient DNA has revealed hard data about who we are genetically and historically, interrogating aspects of how we are all related to each other. David’s background expertise in medical genetics allowed him to vastly improve efficiencies in ancient DNA analysis and subsequently—as with the invention of the microscope centuries ago—this new scientific instrument is revealing astounding truths about ancient human populations living in a world previously invisible to us. David explained, “The newfound ability to measure the way people are related to each other and to people living long ago makes it possible to pursue questions directly about human interactions in the deep past. We can study the changes that are perceived in the archaeological record and identify what movements of people—or lack of movement of people—correspond to these changes. What the genetic data are showing again and again is that prevailing consensus is often profoundly wrong. Frequently, what we find from ancient DNA lies outside the realm of what the great majority of archaeologists and anthropologists believed was most plausible. The work presents challenges to traditional understandings of how human populations interacted with each other in the past.”
GEORGETOWN DAY S SP R I NG 2 0 1 9
David’s primary aims at present include promoting cross-disciplinary cooperation between geneticists and archaeologists, and publishing analyses of population history based on the 6,000-plus individuals for whom he and his colleagues have generated genome-wide data. In 2013, the year his lab opened, the total number of published ancient genomes was 14. By 2015, they had passed 100, and by the beginning of 2018, they had more than 1,000. “In our laboratory alone, we have generated more than 6,000 sequences of ancient people; most of them are unpublished and generated only in the last couple of years, and we are working to bring them to publication. The number of published sequences by our lab and others has been increasing rapidly—more than 100-fold in five years.” To date, the Reich Lab has generated slightly more than half of the world’s data. David’s 2018 book Who We Are and How We Got Here introduced the wider academic community—and the public at-large—to the field of ancient DNA. “I decided to write a book without jargon that would be useful for humanists, historians, sociologists, and archaeologists who wanted to come to grips with this new scientific tool. Its primary audience was other scholars including students, like many of the ones at GDS, who are interested in these topics. My lab reflects my own peculiar mixture of interests in history, social studies, human relationships, and also in the hard sciences—interests that were already manifesting themselves at GDS.” “David was absolutely brilliant in math, anything STEM, and in my field of history,” said history teacher Sue Ikenberry. “Because other classmates were also outstanding in academics, that time period was the making of him. He learned how to work with other incredibly smart people and get his voice heard without alienating others.” “Sue was a particularly important teacher-mentor to me, and her mentorship helped me to flourish,” David said. “She had an academic, critical approach that introduced me to alternative ways of thinking about the past and how things work.”
STEPHANIE MITCHELL/HARVARD UNIVERSITY
ALUMNI PROFILE S
“I think the eclectic nature of the School and the broad curriculum probably helped David develop a sense of the use of history and the breadth of it,” Sue explained. “The 11th grade course, for example, encourages students to consider different perspectives of historical events. For a lot of kids this focus is particularly exciting, and I think it was for David. When you look at his work, which is so technical and yet so historical, you can see how that class could have served as an influence in him realizing that his strengths in STEM and history could in fact be combined, which is exactly what he has done in a remarkable way.” In the global community hard at work in this field, David has found enormous value in collaborations, especially those across significant lines of difference. As just one of many examples, David and his colleagues have recently published a study of the people who first practiced herding in East Africa—a project made possible through an interdisciplinary collaboration with archaeologists, many of whom have spent their entire scientific career on this work. “The genetic data in some cases agree and in some cases are in tension with archaeological explanations. Genetically, the first herders of Kenya and Tanzania derived 40% of their DNA from ancient peoples who came from Northeast Africa around 5,000 years ago and were rather closely related to people who lived in the Middle East around 5,000 years ago. It raises the question, ‘Where does this DNA come from?’ “It is easy to jump to the conclusion that this DNA derives from farmers or herders from the Near East who migrated to Africa, but an alternative—and entirely possible— scenario is that this DNA traced to ancestors who lived entirely in Northeast Africa for many thousands of years; we just won’t know until we get ancient DNA from places like Egypt and Ethiopia from that period. In parts of Africa, there is appropriate concern about falling into a trope that suggests important innovations traced their origins to human migrations from Europe and the Middle East, when in fact we know of many counterexamples where there were spreads of people and ideas in very different directions. “Even though we geneticists are not trained in the language that archaeologists use, we and they are working hard to learn to speak each others’ languages better. This is a constructive dialogue that will eventually help all of us to get to a better place and to understand the world in a richer way.” David explained that some of the criticisms that have emerged as a result of this work reflect the tensions that come about with new knowledge. Still, these are the sort of rich discussions that David welcomes. The team specifically seeks out topics where there are unresolved major questions—even where others see these topics as too controversial for study—and aims to address them with cross-disciplinary collaboration, which becomes increasingly
important as the data erode some of the false, simplistic constructs society uses to frame how we talk about differences among people. He said: “It’s no longer defensible to say that there are no meaningful differences amongst human populations or that there is not enough time in human evolution for any differences to have developed that would affect traits we care about. Genetics has shown that not to be the case. Genetics has also shown that while the average differences that exist among people in different groups are very small relative to the differences we might see among a typical pair of individuals in a classroom, they are there. We need to develop the sophistication to talk about the genetic differences among individuals and a tolerance as a society to understand that people are different from each other genetically. We must deal with human diversity in its genetic manifestation just as we strive to deal with diversity in people’s cultural backgrounds.” The response to David’s work has stirred up strong emotions and reactions. A cover article in The New York Times magazine on January 20 argued that David’s work was revolutionizing our understanding of the past but at the same time was “indistinguishable from the racialized notions of the swashbuckling imperial era.” David replied in a letter to the editors saying: “Ancient DNA findings have rendered racist and colonialist narratives untenable by showing that no human population is ‘pure’ or unmixed. It is incumbent on scientists to avoid advocating for simplistic theories, and instead to pay attention to all available facts and come to nuanced conclusions. The same holds true for journalists reporting on science.”
“We need to develop the sophistication to talk about the genetic differences among individuals and a tolerance as a society to understand that people are different from each other genetically.” The rapid increase of visibility for the field of ancient DNA reflects the growing appreciation for the statements David and others’ findings make about the past. “We are just at the beginning of this field.” Over the next five years, a $15.5 million funding award for the “Ancient DNA Atlas of Humanity” from the John Templeton Foundation to David’s lab will make possible a 10,000 genotype-strong ancient DNA database, gathered painstakingly from 10,000 grains of bone.
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All Kinds of Wisdom
Melissa Gilliam ’83 tackles adolescent health in Chicago
Dr. Melissa Gilliam MD, MPH ’83 is Vice Provost at the University of Chicago, where she oversees faculty development and institutional diversity and inclusion as well as the University’s Centers of Study for Race, Politics & Culture, Gender & Sexuality, and Center for Identity + Inclusion. She is an obstetrician, gynecologist, and pediatrician, with a particular interest in adolescent reproductive health, which led her to establish and direct UChicago’s Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3). At her core, Melissa is a healer. The faculty at the University, youth community members from the South Side of Chicago, and her clinical patients benefit from Melissa’s ability to listen deeply, build collaborative teams, and work tirelessly to address the obstacles preventing them from being at their best. “I work with young people in community and clinical settings as well as here on campus at the University of Chicago,” she said. “Systemic biases prevent many young people from recognizing their capacities and realizing their potential. Inequalities in education and opportunity get created in multiple ways; some are [perpetuated] in the expectations and the opportunities that adults give to young people. The idea of thinking of each student as an individual and helping them recognize their assets and build upon them is something I learned at GDS.” Melissa began at GDS in the 1st grade, where she recalled feeling empowered from the start. “GDS was a place where teachers were able to step back and help you see your own potential; they saw you. We were told we were smart and capable. GDS gave me the sense that I was being taken 50
Dorothy Butler Gilliam and Melissa Gilliam ‘83 with the Rev. Jesse Jackson at the University of Chicago
seriously even when I was very young. This idea is key to the work that I do with young people now. ” EQUITABLE ACCESS Melissa’s work straddles what she calls the story of “Two Chicagos.” Originally planning to pursue general surgery and oncology, Melissa shifted to adolescent health and teenage pregnancy when she realized in her clinical work that “a lot of what was needed to improve health was outside of the clinical realm.” Some people live in communities with structural privileges not accessible to others in Chicago: “easy access to safe outdoor spaces, healthy food, transportation, museums, high quality jobs, high quality daycare, and high quality schools.*” Those outside the confines of a “safe” neighborhood may endure physical and mental stressors—not to mention intergenerational health problems—that undermine health and wellbeing. The three distinct labs of Ci3 are founded upon the ideas that sexual and reproductive health is dependent upon far more than access to healthcare and medicine, and also that engaging with the most vulnerable young people through processes that feel relevant to their lives has the most potential to dismantle barriers to their well-being. The Ci3 “Game Changer” lab Melissa launched in 2013 with University of Chicago Associate Professor of English Language & Literature and Cinema & Media Studies Patrick Jagoda uses gaming and game-making to involve young people in learning about sexual and reproductive health and careers in science and health. Scavenger hunts take them through renowned STEAM-focused institutions like the Museum of Science and Industry and the Art Institute of Chicago and introduce them to diverse leaders in STEAM
fields. Students also invent and compete in hexagonal grid-based board games and games using cutting-edge technology. Hexacago Health Academy, a summer program hosted annually by Melissa’s Ci3, for example, seeks High School students for their expertise—no quotation marks—for games teaching health and science topics. Ever mindful to ensure accessibility, the center pays for students’ attendance, transit, and food as well as for each survey or phone followup in which they participate. “The experts are the young people,” Melissa explained. “I was 16 once, but I’m not any more, and I can’t remember what I wanted when I was. There are lots of different kinds of wisdom.” Youth engagement in the project has served not only to educate these adolescents, but has also allowed Melissa and her diverse team of clinicians, storytellers, mixedmedia specialists, mobile health service providers, and neighborhood organizers to iterate real-life health service models. Notably, a Ci3 study published in the Journal of School Health concluded that adding sexual and reproductive health care to existing mobile health units (MHUs)—like UChicago Medicine’s Comer Children’s MHU— was feasible and highly acceptable to adolescents. Students also prototyped a birth control kit for use during counseling. All told, the labs of Ci3 have been successfully answering the questions Melissa had originally set out to answer: “How can we all come together and work in different ways to support young people? How do you design a system in which the end user is actually taken into account?” TRANSFORMATIVE COLLABORATION Melissa is the daughter of celebrated civil rights activist and journalist Dorothy Butler Gilliam and the legendary color field painter, Sam Gilliam. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that she brings a creative and systematic approach to her commitment to humanitarian causes. In her pre-clinical training—as at GDS—Melissa came to value the benefits of group learning and collaborative problem-solving. “I understood that it takes lots of different experts to be part [of a solution]. In my current work, we use a model involving multiple experts addressing a problem working with young people whom we see as experts on their own experience. GDS is the place where I first began to develop the ability to work across differences,” she explained. Then, “It’s either that or being a middle child.” It was also while at GDS that Melissa learned to treasure the diverse areas of expertise within herself. She remembers when GDS English teacher Gary McCown first called her a “renaissance person”; no one had yet articulated her diverse interests as a valuable quality. He told her, “You can do arts and sciences—you are curious about all these things—and that’s a good thing to be.” Eventually, Melissa was able to
own for herself the benefits of being fascinated by, as she says, “everything under the sun.” She was a pre-med English major at Yale. She received a master’s degree in philosophy and politics from Oxford University before earning her medical degree from Harvard Medical School and her Master’s of Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago. As Vice Provost—yet another one of her many roles—Melissa is keenly focused on the lifecycle of the university’s faculty members, supporting faculty at all stages of their careers to help faculty maintain and build academic excellence. Her work includes special tracks supporting new faculty, faculty of color, and academic leadership. Since 2017, she has led a campus-wide initiative on diversity and inclusion, which has included increasing the diversity of the faculty, engaging more deeply with our neighboring communities, and creating an inclusive campus with workshops like “Hearing One Another,” which coaches participants in “listening across difference in order to create more cohesive and collaborative environments.” The echoes of GDS’s “build networks and collaborate across difference” are unmistakable. “Melissa’s range is remarkable and rare,” explained Patrick, Melissa’s “Game Changer” Lab “partner-in-crime” at Ci3. “As a medical doctor in obstetrics, gynecology, and pediatrics, she has made major contributions to clinical practice and research. As the founder of Ci3, she has put public health in closer dialogue with digital media and design. As Vice Provost, she has initiated new conversations on the University of Chicago campus about institutional diversity. Across these roles—ones that are difficult to imagine a single person inhabiting—her commitment to patients and energy for new projects seem boundless. My collaboration with Melissa has been transformative for me. She is never fearful of transdisciplinary projects that map imperfectly onto existing divisions of knowledge. That adventurous spirit has allowed her to grapple with big contemporary problems in experimental ways.” THE WORK WE CARRY FORWARD In January 2018, Melissa interviewed her mother on the dais in Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago during a commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. She asked her mother to reflect on her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement and share some guidance. “What do we do in this moment in time?” she asked. This spring, we asked Melissa to reflect on her GDS roots, the ongoing challenges in adolescent public health, and look ahead to our shared future. We asked, “What do we do in this moment in time?” “We must be engaged; we must pay attention; and we must vote—this type of work is more important than ever. In the various domains in which I work, I’m committed to profound curiosity and caring about other people—values instilled in me while I was at GDS and that I’ve worked to carry forward.”
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WITH PERMISSION FROM THE GINSBURG FAMILY
Coming Alive at GDS Jim Ginsburg’s ’83 Cedille Records Provides Rich Collaboration for Chicago’s Classical Artists
Jim Ginsburg ‘83 with his mother Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
PRELUDE Six-time Grammy-winning nonprofit classical music label Cedille Records, founded by Jim Ginsburg ’83 in 1989, has enhanced the world’s catalog of classical music with more than 185 albums and 250 world-premiere recordings with a unique Chicago focus. A Grammy-nominated producer himself, Jim released Notorious RBG in Song—the label’s 178th record—in June 2018 in honor of the 25th anniversary of his mother, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s, appointment to the Supreme Court. More than 70 artists (soloists and ensembles) have made their first commercially released album with Ginsburg’s Cedille, including Third Coast Percussion, Anthony McGill, and Eighth Blackbird (whose four Grammy-winning records were all on Jim’s label). Still others, like violin virtuosos Rachel Barton Pine and Jennifer Koh, joined Cedille early on in their careers. These extraordinary artists have found the same kind of rich, organic collaboration with Jim and collaborators at Cedille that he found at GDS. MODERATO Jim Ginsburg ’83 (known as James in High School) came to GDS in 1980 when his mother—whom he lovingly and interchangeably refers to as “mom” and “RBG”—got “a good job” in DC, as his father Martin Ginsburg liked to say of his wife’s appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
They moved to DC from New York City, where Martin was teaching at Columbia University Law School, while Ruth was at Rutgers, Columbia, and the ACLU, and Jim was attending the Dalton School. Jim recalled, “Sophomore year, my first at GDS, was a transitional year for me from being a horrible student to becoming a good student. Frankly, at the Dalton School, I was not a good student because [Dalton in the 70s] was, for me, an uninspiring place to learn.” It was while at Dalton in 1973 that third-grader Jim commandeered an elevator, and the Dalton Headmaster ran afoul of RBG. The story has been preserved in “The Elevator Thief,” the seventh track of Notorious RBG in Song. In soaring vocals, Jim’s wife Patrice Michaels, the featured performer and composer of the album’s main work, invokes young Jim the prankster— “I did it on a dare. I only took it up one floor. (I wish it had been more!)”—
and the headmaster’s blunder—
”I find I need to call you once again, Mrs. Ginsburg. It’s unfortunate I’m calling you once more.”
And with her remonstration, Mrs. Ginsburg won a clear point for equal rights—
“My dear Headmaster Barr, things have really gone too far / I remind you that this child has got two parents! / Beginning now, henceforth, today, ad infinitum, / Please alternate the calls about our son and his behavior.”
“My behavior didn’t improve,” Jim told NPR’s Nina Totenberg. “But somehow the calls became much more infrequent when they had to consider bothering a man about my behavior.” SCHERZO “GDS was a whole new world for me,” Jim explained. “It was so intimate, and my classmates were so amazing. I loved the informal atmosphere, and I thought it was wonderful being on a first-name basis with my teachers.” Jim came alive at GDS: he joined the math team under coach Joe Wolfson, Model U.N. with teacher Gary Nicolai, studied art history with Janet Hahn, and wrote English papers that still bring him pride today. Long-time English teacher John Burghardt remembers Jim being “alive to the text from the start. A student who was one of the live minds in the room. I also remember him being an eerily good piano player.” Jim and his family lived in the Watergate, across from the Kennedy Center, and between there and GDS, his music life thrived. In September 1981, the National Symphony Orchestra gave a tribute concert on what would have been the 75th birthday of Dmitri Shostakovich. It was a turning point for Jim. “He was a composer I was completely unfamiliar with, and it was a life-changing experience,” Jim recalled. “The music was like nothing I’d heard before. I became fascinated—even obsessed—with Shostakovich. I started going to the library to gather every record I could find of his music.” Jim carried Shostakovich with him, weaving his music into his time at GDS. After taking a music history class at GDS with Terri (Williams) Surabian during his junior year, Jim taught the class in his senior year—with a new two-week unit on Shostakovich. “Back then,” Jim explained, “there were still a lot of critics who had turned up their noses at Shostakovich as being too romantic or a soviet realist. They didn’t understand the true nature and genius of his music. Today, he’s one of the most popular 20th century composers. I like to think I was on the leading edge of that.” “In my 15 years teaching at GDS, I don’t believe I ever had a student who loved classical music as much as James did,” Terri wrote in a recent reflection. “One of my favorite
memories of James, however, was his role as emcee for our High School concert featuring the music of P.D.Q. Bach [the fictional composer created by musical satirist Peter Schickele]. James, of course, wrote a well-researched script, full of corny jokes, and appeared in the loudest plaid jacket you can imagine. James won my heart not only with his passion for classical music, but also with his endearing sense of humor. At the same time, James had an extraordinarily advanced knowledge of musical form, style, and repertoire. Add to this his genuine delight in the music of masters such as Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven and you had a scholarly, dynamic, and funny musicologist.” Then, as is the case for many GDS alumni, the passions developed while at GDS continued into adulthood. Even as Jim started to pursue the law, his pursuit of classical music continued in counterpoint. LARGO Always, it seemed, classical music conspired to keep Jim close. While at the University of Chicago as an undergrad, Jim worked as a classical DJ for the mixed-format campus radio station WHPK and eventually ran the format. Then, serendipitously, during the second week of Jim’s summer internship at Nonesuch Records, the office secretary was promoted to sales at the parent company Elektra Records. “For two and a half months, I was the secretary,” Jim recalled. “Everything went through my desk, and I really got a sense of how to run a record label.” “[While reviewing for the magazine American Record Guide after college] I began to notice the difference between a recording that was well-produced or not, realizing it was the recording that could make a difference,” he said. Jim at long last set about to try his hand at producing. While preparing to return to the University of Chicago for law school, he connected with an engineer friend working part-time at WFMT, Chicago’s classical radio station. As Jim considered whom to record, the friend “started sending me tapes of live broadcasts, and I very quickly settled on the Russian emigree pianist Dmitri Paperno.” In the fall of 1989, Jim’s first album was released. It found distribution right away, and Jim found himself creating a classical music label and beginning law school simultaneously—he chose music, leaving behind law school after one year. For the first time, classical music took the lead melody in his life. From day one, Cedille has been devoted to recording and promoting Chicago’s finest classical musicians to a worldwide audience.
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at the Supreme Court, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of her appointment to the Supreme Court. Jim explained, “It was such a success that Patrice started thinking, ‘What if I looked at other aspects of her life and made an actual song cycle.’”
Jim with Grammy nominee medal.
“What’s unique and fantastic about his recordings—aside from the quality—is the added element of local artistry,” explained Nick Martin ‘84, Director of Operations at Chicago’s Lyric Opera and now co-author on his mother’s Ms. Manners (GDS alumna Judith Martin) publications. “For me and for Chicagoans, there is a great deal of civic pride still in the city. That’s not an outdated concept here, and Jim has made such wonderful use of the many talented artists in the city that we also use at the Lyric Opera: Barbara Haffner the cellist—his wife Patrice...” In 2013, soprano and composer Patrice Michaels, who has been with the Cedille label since 1991 (and married to Jim since 2010), created a song that eventually became part of a song cycle that is the centerpiece of her Notorious RBG In Song album. ALLEGRO On the occasion of RBG’s 80th birthday, Jim and his sister Jane Ginsburg commissioned three songs by three women composers based on texts from RBG’s life. Patrice was one of them, presenting “Anita’s Story,” the feminist awakening of a law firm typist working her way through RBG’s legal pad notes on gender discrimination. The 80th birthday party was held
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On her own, Patrice began expanding the collection, which eventually included the aforementioned “The Elevator Thief,” several RBG dissents, two additional collaborators— enough for nearly an hour of song about RBG’s life. Patrice had originally planned to record the song cycle archivally, but Jim sensed an album in the collection. He produced the sessions for what became a remarkable celebration of RBG’s completion of 25 years on the United States Supreme Court. A touching tribute—or perhaps penance for all those prankster years before Jim found himself a home at GDS. Jim continues to carry GDS with him, echoing the spirit of our mission in a behind-the-scenes interview for Cedille. He might just as easily be speaking of the way Georgetown Day School values the wisdom, talents, and passions of each individual. “One thing that makes Cedille special is that we aren’t really pitching repertoire. The artists come to us with their ideas and tell us, ‘Here’s the music I’m most passionate about’.... When artists play the music they care most about, we get the best performances.” “2018 really was the year for RBG,” Jim reflected. You can learn more about Jim and and the Ginsburgs’ story between the documentary RBG, the album Notorious RBG in Song, and the feature film On the Basis of Sex, written by Jim’s cousin Daniel Stiepleman. You can also contribute to support Cedille’s musical mission by visiting http://www.cedillerecords.org.
Kirin in 6th grade and at HS STEAM Conference 2019.
You are the Genie Kirin Sinha ’11 full STEAM ahead. “Yes, before anyone asks, I’m the girl that gets to play games for a living,” said Kirin Sinha ‘11, founder and CEO of Illumix, during her keynote address at GDS’s 2019 High School STEAM Conference. Kirin launched the mixed reality technology and gaming start-up in 2017, after a series of start-ups, some of which “failed spectacularly.” Combining her expertise in technology, engineering, math, and business with her love of storytelling, Kirin’s Menlo Park, California-based company appears destined to make a splash when its first augmented reality (AR) game drops this fall.
If one were to catch a glimpse into Kirin’s office, it would be like getting a peek at the director’s notes to her personal story. “You’d see a thousand memes posted on the wall behind me,” Kirin explained. “They are a remnant of our first awful office, when we were just building Star Wars stuff. Even though I’m in a nice office now and everyone insists they make me look less professional, I’ve kept them. I find them inspirational.” In so many ways, the memes are the projections of her positive self-talk— or rather, for a Harry Potter lover like Kirin, they are her personal pack of patronuses*.
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“When I was in school, feeling different and isolated was something I struggled with. GDS created a community in which individuality was valued,” Kirin said. “I learned to become comfortable in my own skin. Looking back, it might have been the most valuable part of my early experiences.” “Rarely does one encounter a child with such selfmotivation, determination, and unquenchable thirst for learning at such a young age,” said Mary Lou Berres, retired Lower School math coordinator and Kirin’s third grade teacher. “Kirin reminded us all to remain open to adjusting instruction to meet the needs of individual learners.” Kirin rocketed through the math curriculum at GDS—Middle School geometry by 5th grade, calculus by 8th, and in 10th grade, an advanced linear algebra seminar tailored to Kirin’s exceptional talents. “A lot—if not all—of what I have become today is a result of Mary Lou and Kevin Barr making that first leap of faith that I could be accelerated in math,” Kirin recalls. “It’s a simple thing of believing in someone. It’s really the story of Peter Pan: you need magic dust, sure, but if you jump off a cliff with just that, you’ll fall. You need belief also. Whether a kid or an adult, everyone has some kind of magic dust—some kind of spark—and all you really need is someone to believe in you to fly.” From High School onward, Andy Lipps was and has been Kirin’s predominant teacher/mentor and fan, as he has been for so many GDS students. “I’m incredibly thankful to have such a strong advocate and supporter in Andy,” she said. “He made me believe in myself and that changed my whole trajectory.”
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Kirin herself had studied classical Indian dance from the age of three. In 2013, she told MIT News, “[Dance] teaches you discipline, attention to detail, and creativity. It gives you the confidence to stand up there and not apologize for anything you’re doing. And that’s something I thought was missing with girls in mathematics.” The success of the program—both in meaningful, reproducible outcomes for students as well as requests to expand all over the country—drove Kirin to pivot from her ongoing studies in machine learning and artificial intelligence at Cambridge and the London School of Economics to pursue an MBA at Stanford so that she could better understand how to manage a growing business. SHINE’s creative work continues across the U.S. and overseas, and Kirin remains the chair of the board. At the start of Kirin’s MBA program, a professor asked the students to imagine a genie that could grant any wish. The genie, he told them at the end of the semester, reveals what you would want if you could remove the fear of failure. Kirin’s wish looked a lot like Illumix. “The real secret, of course, is that you are the genie,” Kirin explained. By shifting the narrative for young girls away from “can’t” do math and emboldening them to try without the fear of failure, she has inspired countless girls to believe in themselves. That’s where the magic starts.
Kirin co-captained the math team for nearly all of her time at the GDS High School. The ranks of the team swelled as Kirin convinced classmates that it was cool and fun to be on
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A graduate of MIT and Stanford, Kirin found her love of storytelling at GDS where she began as a third grader. “It was the GDS literary curriculum that exposed me to different worlds that would be the inspiration for Illumix. While I was here, I sailed to Ithaca, hunted a white whale, partied with Gatsby. I could jump in and out of any number of stories, environments, and adventures.” On her own, Kirin found an enduring love for Harry Potter. She related deeply to the characters’ coming-of-age-as-outsiders tale.
In her career, Kirin has created as much for others as for herself. While volunteering and teaching in Cambridge public schools near the MIT campus, Kirin launched her first start-up SHINE, an after school program targeted at middle school girls. She noticed that girls were using the word ‘can’t’ when boys said ‘don’t’ to describe their frustrations in math. And so she created a program that combined math and dance based on kinesthetic learning. “The abstract nature of math was simplified through the physicality of dance,” she said.
the math team. Even this year, as Kirin mentioned her love for the GDS math team, applause broke out in the forum. Andy Lipps shared, “Her enthusiasm for math is contagious, and the students love and respect her for it.” Kirin was also editor-in-chief of the Augur Bit during her junior year. “I’m really thankful for what it taught me about storytelling and observation. Telling a story—presenting information in a compelling way—is a huge part of everything I do today, from the visioning of the company to crafting a VC pitch. Being a little bit of a loner myself, having the experiences at the Augur Bit forced me to watch people around me and really try to make sense of the world from different points of view.”
As Kirin prepared to leave GDS for MIT in 2010—after her junior year—Andy Lipps then shared, “With all of her extraordinary talent, Kirin remains a down-to-earth teenager—warm, funny, gregarious, with a generosity of spirit that makes her admired by students and teachers alike. This is a student with a boundless future.”
Kirin had completely immersed herself in the Harry Potter series from a young age, but had never considered that building that kind of magic world could be a legitimate career path. “Advancements in augmented reality and artificial intelligence have meant I get to do more than build games. I get to build worlds,” she said. Kirin and others are taking the next step in storytelling by inviting story-seekers to become active participants in those stories. In AR, you actually walk in Neverland or step into Ahab’s boat. “One of the bigger things I’ve learned since business school is that anything you really want to do— anything that you think should exist—there is a legitimate path to making that passion your job. STEM gave me the power to create.” “Startups aren’t all fun and games—even when they are,” Kirin acknowledged. “Things that you don’t anticipate happen all the time and you have to be able to react, keep your head, and make decisions. Every day, I’ve learned to become comfortable bouncing up and down on this sea. It doesn’t mean I don’t get seasick or soaking wet or near drowned, but I accept that’s what the journey is.” As she’s surmounted each wave on this journey with Illumix, what Kirin has been most excited about has shifted over time.
“First, it was proving that we could build the tech no one thought possible. That was hugely thrilling. Next it was seeing whether we could build a team of experts, hiring people from Google and Zynga and other top tech companies, and convincing them to leave their comfortable jobs and join this small boat. Now we are building products, and the next big thrill will be when it’s out in the hands of consumers later this year. The challenge I have my eyes on now is, what happens then? Is anyone going to play it? Are we going to make any money? Are we delivering on the fantasy of the consumer?” With the consumer reception for their game as yet unknown, Kirin knows there will be some important decisions to make whether it goes big or bombs or lands somewhere in between. Yet, like Captain Jack Sparrow facing all the waves and mayhem cinematic world-builders may sling, she’s trusting the journey—laughing through the storms—trusting that somehow, she’ll walk out okay in the end. “We don’t know if there’s a terrible storm heading for us or if we are about to land on a giant happy island. But I believe in the team and the ship we’ve built...and I think we’ve got a map.” Kirin looked out onto the rows upon rows of rapt High School students in the Forum as she closed her keynote. She clicked the remote and advanced her presentation to the final slide. J.K. Rowling’s tweet, posted on the 20th anniversary of the first publishing of Harry Potter, appeared on the screen. Kirin said, “This is how I imagine I will feel when the worlds I have been dreaming about and building are out there for everyone to experience.”
Illumix’s games will be playable on any smartphone with available in-app purchases. The first, which drops October 4, will fit the Halloween genre. Next year, she’ll release an open world fantasy-style game. Kirin jokes that the first will be the nightmare and the second the dream. *Patronus: “a kind of positive force, a projection of...hope, happiness, [and] the desire to survive”
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