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among friends a biannual publication for the san francisco friends school community

fall 2019

welcome to among friends—it’s our inaugural issue!

celebrating 10 years of the sffs gym

learning can be a messy lesson

the magic in staying curious catch up with friends: words from mike and updates from alums


Photo: Rylan Waterman ‘19.

Big ideas stay small unless they connect to other ideas in the community and world around them. Students need learning experiences that cross disciplines, that innately allow for seeing things from different perspectives, so that they (our children) can fully engage in the work of solving the cross-disciplinary problems of their generation... – Tracie Mastronicola, Academic Dean Read more from Tracie’s remarks on learning and curiosity in “The Magic in Staying Curious” on page 8!

among friends: fall 2019


in this issue... STAY CURIOUS dear friends: a letter from our head of school

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happy anniversary! celebrating 10 years of the sffs gym

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faculty friends: learning can be a messy lesson

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the magic in staying curious page 8 friends forever: five questions for stella malone ‘17

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class notes page 12 what it means to me

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photo album page 15

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dear friends a letter from our head of school

Dear Friends, Beaver. Hippo. Hummingbird. Heron. Bear. Honey bee. Elephant. Fox. Orca. These were among the animals identified as having characteristics and qualities we aspire to bring to our work, as revealed at a recent professional development day in the Meeting Room of SFFS. After settling into our day with a Meeting for Worship, Kristen Daniel, Director of Middle and High School Transitions and clerk of our Professional Growth Committee, facilitated an exercise that invited our identification with an animal, followed by an opportunity to reflect on who we are as individuals and what we bring to our collaborative work. It’s worth noting, I think, that Kristen emphasized that our choice be inspired not by the notion of a “spirit animal,” or a protector, but an animal the traits of which we aspire to have or develop and bring to our work with one another. She asked us to name those traits, and the words we employed included curious, adaptable, open, grounded, nurturing, among friends: fall 2019

targeted, patient, loyal, tenacious, resourceful, playful, and wise. As we reflected on who we are and who we aspire to be in our work here at Friends, Kristen challenged each of us to produce a user’s manual—that’s right, a set of guidelines or instructions that might make it easier and even more rewarding for someone to work with us as a result of knowing more about us. Four essential questions served as our prompts, and I can imagine members of a family having some fun creating a version at home (hint, hint!)... The questions included:

one of the means through which each of us learns, grows, and flourishes. The lifelong inspired learning that we do as a professional community translates into the classroom every day, as you’ll read in this issue, from Amabelle and Jake’s research and deep dive into Lesson Study, through Tracie’s musings on curiosity and wonder, to Stella Malone ’17 reflecting on the building blocks she learned from the faculty and staff at Friends that are serving her now as a high-schooler.

2. What is the best communication mode for you?

We hope that this inaugural issue of Among Friends, our first San Francisco Friends School magazine, keeps you similarly curious about all of the latest Friends news, and that you look forward to it landing in your inbox in the late fall and spring each year.

3. What are your pet peeves?

thinking sffs,

1. What gives you energy? What depletes you?

4. What do people misunderstand about you? 5. What else do you wish people knew about you? Curiosity about oneself—and the people with whom we work—is

Mike Hanas Head of School


CREATE YOUR OWN USER’S MANUAL TO SHARE WITH YOUR COLLEAGUES AND FAMILY! 1.) What gives you energy? What depletes you? 2.) What is the best communication mode for you? 3.) What are your pet peeves? 4.) What do people misunderstand about you? 5.) What else do you wish people knew about you?

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happy anniversary! a celebration of the sffs gym In 2009, a small group of friends came together to help San Francisco Friends School build our gym, complete our science classrooms, and add classrooms (including an art studio), to the second and third floors of our building at 250 Valencia Street. The impact on our school continues to be felt to this day, from athletics to the arts to countless special events. This page: What would become the SFFS gym under construction in 2009. Thirty-five donors came together to help the school create the gym we know today. Opposite page: (Top) The gym hosts our school’s graduation ceremonies, as it did this past year for the Class of 2019; (Bottom left to right): The gym enables our Middle School athletic teams, such as our futsal team, to host games, provides a performance space for student musical groups, and also enables us to come together to celebrate special events, such as Winter Celebration.

among friends: fall 2019


“This gym is where our community comes together to celebrate and play in countless ways, big and small. We are so grateful to have such an incredible space.” – Marlene Sloger, Director of Advancement

Over the course of a decade in our gym, we’ve been able to: • Field 224 athletic teams • Host 10 Blue Parties • Enable an average 96 Middle School student-athletes to participate in sports each season • Enjoy 10 Winter Celebrations • Celebrate 9 graduations page 5


faculty friends:

learning can be a messy lesson by Jake Ban, 3rd Grade Lead and Amabelle Sze, 4th Grade Lead

how can we deepen our students’ understanding? lower school teachers jake and amabelle were determined to find out. The students were gathered in Jake’s classroom, barely able to contain their excitement. Just across the corridor, 80+ SFFS faculty and staff members had gathered, awaiting the main event of the day: our inaugural Public Lesson. For months prior, fellow Lower School teachers Courtney Wilde (1st Grade) and Andrea Snyder (2nd Grade) had joined us in researching and devising a new unit on fractions and crafting this public lesson to present to the faculty inspired by two key questions: • What are the best practices of teaching through problem-solving and how do we implement them? • How can teachers deepen and solidify students’ mathematical understandings? Our team wanted to learn how to create provocations that would lead to generative math conversations, lifting the level of students’ understanding. We also hoped to demonstrate how the structure of Japanese Lesson Study can drive collaboraamong friends: fall 2019

tive, in-house professional development. Lesson Study is widely used in Japanese schools, and consistently leads to higher pedagogical practice there. Now, eager students filed into Room 234, where a mock classroom was set up, surrounded by onlooking faculty and staff, ready to capture observations. Jake commenced the lesson by telling a story about his partner, Grady, baking 10 brownies for a dinner they were hosting for two friends. Puzzled, Jake asked the class, “How can I share 10 brownies equally between four people? Is that possible?” Students busily began copying the problem and independently working to solve it in their notebooks. Some drew pictures. Others used equations. Still others relied on the relationship between multiplication, division, and fractions. Jake peered over students’ shoulders, collecting data. He sought out specific examples of work, leading to a progression of thinking to share with the class. During the discussion that followed, students posed questions and debated ideas about fractional concepts.

––––––––– Our interest in Lesson Study stretches back years when, after receiving support from the Cathy Hunter Fund for the Future*, Amabelle attended the Innovative Learning Conference in the Fall of 2017. There, she first learned about Lesson Study. The name for Lesson Study in Japanese is jugyokenkyu. (Jugyo means “teaching and learning,” and kenkyu means “study or research.”) And when Amabelle gets excited about a new, educative idea, she is a force; upon her return, she extolled the value and importance of Lesson Study to anybody who would listen. Luckily, Jake and Lower School Head Jennifer Arnest were also enthusiastic, and we decided to pursue bringing Lesson Study to Friends. ––––––––––––––––––––––––––– * Established in 2016 with generous support from our community, the Cathy Hunter Fund for the Future (CHFF) supports our faculty with transformative professional development experiences at key moments in their careers. Encouraged to think beyond workshops and conferences, teachers submit an application seeking support for a professional development experience that will enrich future programs, our school culture, and our greater community.


Left: students get to work on Jake’s fraction problem at the Public Lesson last spring at SFFS; Right: Amabelle and Jake traveled to Japan to delve more deeply into the philosophy behind Lesson Study.

“Teaching through problem-solving is open-ended, and thus often time-consuming, messy, and unresolved.” A few months later, we were thrilled to attend a public lesson at Acorn Woodland Elementary in Oakland. We were impressed by the depth of practice and knowledge the teachers there exhibited, as well as the way that their students enthusiastically tackled math problems in a variety of ways. When asked to explain their thinking, these students, most of whom are English Language Learners, demonstrated an impressive depth of mathematical understanding through conversation, writing, and whole-class presentation. Throughout the day at Acorn Woodland, we heard the abbreviation “TTP” repeated often: Teaching Through Problem-Solving.

Throughout Japan, this method of teaching is widely used—rather than teaching concepts, with a traditional “I do, you do, we do” structure, students engage in a problem for which the solution is not known in advance. Teaching through problem-solving is open-ended and thus often time-consuming, messy, and unresolved. A leading Japanese math teacher and strong proponent of Lesson Study, Akihiko Takahashi, reflected on this process, “[Math teachers] are too impatient. You expect children to learn a concept by the end of the lesson.” To see Lesson Study in practice in a place where it has flourished, we traveled to Japan in the Summer of 2018, visiting schools in both Nikko and Tokyo, drawing inspiration from

the classrooms we observed and making connections with other educators. –––––––––– This trip, and all of the related opportunities that we’ve pursued in recent years, culminated in that Public Lesson last spring—which turned out to be a lot of fun for both kids and adults—as well as the integration of Lesson Study into many of our classrooms at SFFS. We’re grateful for the chance to keep growing—and learning— with both our colleagues and our students at SFFS, and we’re always looking forward to that next inspired lesson. •

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the magic in staying curious how can we stay inspired? academic dean tracie mastronicola argues that we’d go a long way by letting our curiousity guide our learning.

On the evening of September 26, 2019, the families and professional community of San Francisco Friends School came together to both celebrate the start of another year and get some insight into their students’ daily lives at 250 Valencia. As is tradition at the SFFS Backto-School Night (BTSN), the evening began with refreshments and remarks from Head of School Mike Hanas. But this year, as our school leans into a new schedule that allows for longer class blocks, deeper dives into learning, and more cross-collaboration amongst grades and disciplines, Academic Dean Tracie Mastronicola also shared some thoughts with our families about the philosophy behind among friends: fall 2019

this change—namely, the beautiful magic of curiosity, and the transformative effects of an education that allows us to more fully explore our curiosities. “What is something you’d want to know out of pure curiosity? What if we had a little more time—or a little more drive/ encouragement to put that sort of thing on our to-do list?” Tracie summed up the drive and philosophy behind our new use of space and time at Friends: “We took on a big charge this year at SFFS— to break down silos in education and preserve space for self-driven curiosity, to stake our claim in progressive education, and to rededicate ourselves to a cross-disciplined approach to teaching and learning...

Tonight is a time to catch a tiny glimpse of the magic that happens here on the daily.” Read on for Tracie’s complete BTSN remarks... Tracie’s to-do list: • Pick up chocolate milk and bleach wipes • Change Thursday’s meeting time with Mike • 5:00 p.m. Barry’s Bootcamp with Yvette • Drink water • Call Mom on Sunday • Replace all the gum you took from Jennifer’s office


Your to-do lists are likely similar to mine—a mix of work items and family-related things. Maybe a workout class or haircut appointment; but other than that, it’s about getting stuff done.

heard of Isaacson, he is a Professor of History at Tulane University, a writer and journalist who has profiled innovators like Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein. His latest book examines the life of Leonardo da Vinci.

But our to-do lists often lack wonderings. What is something you’d want to know out of pure curiosity?

I started to read Isaacson’s biography of LdV partly because I’m fascinated by how tiny things like to-do lists define our daily lives—and our entire lifetimes. I also started reading it because it reminded me of my brother.

• Why are bubbles round? • Why is there wind? • How does music make us feel such a broad range of emotions? • If atoms are mostly empty space, and everything is made of atoms, then why don’t we fall through the floor? What if we had a little more time— or a little more drive and encouragement to put that sort of thing on our to-do list? Walter Isaacson talks a lot about curiosity and how it’s a driver of life-long learning (likely not news to many of you). In case you haven’t

I spent a month in France with my brother the summer of my 16th birthday. It wasn’t a fancy trip: my brother was there studying music on scholarship and I decided I should join him. My parents were happy to have us both out of the house. In fact, we were recently reminiscing about the trip, and both of us are fairly sure that my parents didn’t know where we were that summer—the jury is still out. In any case, my brother, being a musician and an artist, drags me all over

to see world-famous art in France, including the Mona Lisa. We get a spot right up front and I’m thinking—this is it? This is TERRIBLE. My brother ignores me because he’s been transported into the painting. I roll my eyes and move along to give some other chump a closer look at the most famous painting in the world. What my brother tried to explain then and what Isaacson masterfully explains in his latest book, is that da Vinci didn’t just create this painting in one sitting, or even over the course of a decade—he took 12 years to explore questions, to follow his curiosities—and that led to something bigger. Da Vinci studied anatomy for decades, not just because he was a painter, but because he was interested in a vast number of things. For example, he was interested in how we might build churches to have the same proportions as a human body. He sketched humans moving, humans standing, humans sitting still; he page 9


peeled the skin off of a cadaver to reveal the inner workings of the body, to reveal our muscular system and our skeletal system. He dissected the eye to find that the cones in the center of the retina detect detail, while the cones at edge of the retina detect shadows.

We took on a big charge this year at SFFS—to break down silos in education and preserve space for self-driven curiosity, to stake our claim in progressive education, and rededicate ourselves to a cross discipline approach to teaching and learning.

Now back to the Mona Lisa: if you look at her mouth in the painting, directly at it, she isn’t smiling. But when you look at her cheekbones, or her chin, your eye focuses away from the actual smile and more on

The paradigm of siloed education was already being challenged, from programs coming out of schools and universities across the country and in Finland looking to do away with traditional disciplines in schools as

classrooms, in a presentation for the MS Applied Learning Class, in the 4th Grade integrated dance and science classes, and more. Tonight is a time to see a tiny glimpse of the magic that happens here on the daily. So when your kid comes home talking about something that makes you think “I’m paying how much money for what??!!” You can keep in mind that the true beauty of learning stuff, including the apparently useless stuff, is that it

“We took on a big charge this year at SFFS—to break down silos in education and preserve space for self-driven curiosity, to stake our claim in progressive education, and rededicate ourselves to a cross-discipline approach to teaching and learning.”

the shadowing of her face, it looks as though she is smiling. In da Vinci being curious in just about everything, he created an interactive painting: depending on where you look, depending on where you are in mind, body, and spirit, the painting changes with you. Isaacson highlights what might be the best window into da Vinci’s curiosities: his to-do lists. Perhaps the most well-known one, made famous by Isaacson, includes the directive: “Describe the tongue of a woodpecker.” Regarding da Vinci’s lists and his curiosity to know more about a woodpecker’s tongue, Isaacson says, “These are things we could all do if we would pause a few times a day, maybe even a few times an hour and say, ‘Let me look a little bit more closely at that.’ And by doing so, we would see how things cross different disciplines in nature and form certain beautiful patterns.”

among friends: fall 2019

soon as 2020. We aren’t quite on the same path as Finland, but we always have, and always will, want our students to be innately curious, to have curiosity live in their souls. To wonder about how a ramp at a skatepark arcs up towards the sky in a specific way, to come running into school seeking to figure out why bubbles are circular and not square. Or, perhaps, how a woodpecker’s tongue works—and why is it four times the length of its beak. Big ideas stay small unless they connect to other ideas in the community and world around them. Students need learning experiences that cross disciplines, that allow for seeing things from different perspectives, so that they can fully engage in the work of solving the cross-disciplinary problems of their generation. We hope you catch glimpses of this throughout the night: in the student questions that are hanging outside of the Kindergarten and 7th Grade

takes us out of ourselves and on to something much, much bigger. •

Do you have an idea for an article in an upcoming issue of Among Friends? Let us know; we’d love to hear from you. Shoot an email to us at communications@sffriendsschool.org. Thanks for helping us get better and grow!


friends forever five questions for sffs grad stella malone ‘17

In each issue of Among Friends, we’ll catch up with a Friends alum in this column. Would you like to be profiled or know an alum we should talk to? Please email Alissa at akinney-moe@sffriendsschool.org! 1) What stands out to you most from your time at Friends? So much stands out from Friends, I don’t think I could ever pick one specific teacher or class or experience. I think as I got older, especially during 8th Grade, I started to understand more that my teachers were not only there to teach me about basic math or English or science, but were also there to mentor me and have conversations with me and make sure I was the best person that I could be. Having multiple teachers/mentors like that

in my life as I got closer to high school and the bigger world was so great, and I always felt like I had people by my side encouraging me every step of the way. 2) Where are you now? I’m a junior at SOTA in the musical theater department. I used to be in a different department at SOTA, but it ended up being really unhealthy for me, so I transferred in the middle of sophomore year, which was rough. But SFFS really taught me to respect and listen to myself, so I took myself out of that

bad situation and now I really love where I am. I came back to SFFS most recently to talk with Kristen and a few 8th graders who were interested in SOTA and try to give them a better perspective of SOTA and why it’s a great school, and to offer any advice I had about high school in general. [And I’ve visited] in the past because I will always have love for SFFS: the teachers who mentored and cared for me, the friends I made, the values that have shaped me. 3) Did you learn anything at Friends that you brought with you to high school? I learned so much at Friends. Growing up with the SPICES in continued on page 14... page 11


class notes class of 2011: Maya Buffet graduated this past spring from UCLA with a full entourage of family members in attendance! ______ Molly Carleton graduated from Amherst in the spring, where she majored in neuroscience, before taking some time over the summer to travel with friends. ______ Joseph Fink graduated this past spring from West Point. ______ Dezáray Lowery’s father Greer writes that Dezáeay graduated from City College of San Francisco with an Associate of Arts Degree and an Associate of Science Degree after attending Spelman College for a little over two years! She is now attending San Francisco State University to obtain her Bachelors Degree. Fun fact: Dezáray works in the Extended Day after-school program at Friends. Her middle brother Immanuel ’18 is a fellow graduate of Friends (and is currently a sophomore at San Domenico) and her youngest brother Greer Jr. is in 3rd Grade at Friends! “I’m am the proud father of them all! Also one of the parents that has been at Friends school for the longest time! I am one of S.F.F.S.’s biggest cheerleaders!” ______ among friends: fall 2019

Zac Oji graduated from Haverford College in the spring. ______ Lane Unsworth’s parents, Mary and Chip Unsworth write: “Our daughter Lane, graduated from Yale in May. She was also the first student from SFFS to go to boarding school for HS (she attended Phillips Academy Andover). While at Yale, Lane was a member of Women’s Crew for all 4 years. She was Art Director for the Yale Record a sartorial publication, and was head of the Yale Cucumber, a stand up comedy group. She graduated Yale with a degree in English and Film. She is living in Los Angeles pursuing the Hollywood dream of becoming a screenwriter.” ______ Stephanie Woodford invites everyone to check out her music on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play!

class of 2012: Trent Hommeyer says: “After attending Lick-Wilmerding High School, I decided to take an alternative path for the college experience and attend a school called Minerva. Each semester, I dive into a new culture in one of seven campuses around the world (San Francisco, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Seoul, Hyderabad, London, Taipei), while studying computer science. I’m still skiing as much as possible.”

class of 2014: William Kahn graduated from Stuart Hall High School, and is now a sophomore at Penn State. He’s playing varsity baseball there as a catcher, and now his cousins attend SFFS (Nathaniel in 3rd Grade and Elliott in Kindergarten)!

class of 2016: Nathan Liang says: “Everyone in the Lick-Wilmerding galaxy has been good! I was just in Vermont for a semester. Sorry to see Garth and Andrew go—they helped me so much!” ______ Johnny Mudawar has been running track and playing the trumpet in high school. ______ Danny Neeson attended reunion last spring and wrote: “I loved seeing Garth and Andrew, and wish them well in their future endeavors!”

class of 2017: Luke Krieger-Gilchrist attends School of the Arts (SOTA), and is liking it. ______ Stella Malone writes: “I go to SOTA and do musical theater! It’s poppin’, but I miss the teachers


Clockwise from top left: Zac Oji, Joseph Fink, Lane Unsworth, Dezáray Lowery, Maya Buffet, and Molly Carleton, all at their respective graduations from college this past spring.

here.” Want to hear more about what Stella’s up to these days? She’s the subject of our first alumni-focused friends forever column on page 11 of this publication! ______ Zoe Mogannam had cancer at the beginning of her sophomore year of high school, but reports that she is now okay and all is well in her world. ______ Journey Moore-Prewitt has been traveling for numerous slam poetry competitions, and as of last spring, she was planning on going to the national competition.

class of 2018:

particpates on the dance team. ______ Mikhail Khaishgi attends a math-focused high school now and says, “it’s interesting and fun, but you can’t forget your roots—I still miss Friends a ton!” ______ Kira Moss writes that high school is great—she’s participating in tennis, has made new friends, and has discovered a love for physics. ______ Talia Harrison is loving Urban, where she runs cross country and track and says: “the community is just as beautiful as it was at Friends.”

Do you have news to share in Class Notes? This is a place to catch up with SFFS alumni, faculty, staff, and former faculty and staff—and we want to hear from you (as do all of your friends)! Email Alissa at akinney-moe@ sffriendsschool.org.

Sofia Arnest attends Head-Royce, where she plays Varsity Soccer and page 13


continued from friends forever on page 11... my life has really helped me—I learned how to make my own decisions, how to stand up for myself and what I believe in, and honestly how to make friends and reach out to others that may not have had the same experiences as me. I learned so much, both in and out of class, that I don’t know if I have enough room for it all. But of course, I learned the importance of caring for those in your community, and how to make learning fun! Also, taking care of yourself mentally and physically is super-important because you do not want to end up like me having to visit Mick’s office almost everyday for an ice pack! 4) What are your hopes for the future?

Right now, I’m focusing on college prep, whether it be for a four-year school, or community college first. I’m not exactly sure what I may want to study or what I want to go into, but I definitely know that I want to make a difference or an impact in the world somehow. I have been raised—through family and school—to keep the ambition and passion for change alive and strong within you, despite the obstacles or hardships you may face. 5) What’s the best thing about growing up in San Francisco? I feel I have been so lucky to have grown up in San Francisco. It is not only a diverse community, but there are also a multitude of different ideas, mindsets, and perspec-

tives that are so beneficial to have around you. And going to a school like Friends was also great, because everyone, including the teachers, was there to learn from and listen to each other. Having those assemblies, where people from outside came in to perform something or tell a story or bring their perspective, was so wonderful and eye-opening to the world around us. I know I don’t want to stay in San Francisco for college, but getting to grow up here and experience this amazing assortment and of identities and ideas, plus having that all enhanced by Friends, was such a privilege and I’m so lucky. •

testimony: integrity The testimony for the 2019–2020 school year at SFFS is integrity, and we asked members of our community to share their thoughts. In each issue of Among Friends, we’ll share one Friend’s take... What Integrity Means to Me: “The integrity testimony really informs my work in the high school counseling role. Building trust with the students, with parent/guardians, and with the high schools, is critically important so that I can speak truth and aim to be honest, open, and kind in my communications. If people trust me, then they will accept my advice or perspective, even when it might be hard to absorb. I also need to keep an open mind and be open to new truths and understandings. Everyone’s experience with a particular school is as unique and different as the young person I’m supporting.” – Kristen Daniel P’15 & ’17, Director of High School Transition

among friends: fall 2019


photo album photos from the past few months at sffs that capture this issue’s theme: stay curious

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san francisco friends school 250 valencia street san francisco, ca 94103 have any questions or requests regarding among friends magazine? please contact sffs director of communications alissa moe at akinney-moe@sffriendsschool.org.

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Among Friends Magazine – Fall 2019  

A biannual magazine for the San Francisco Friends School community.

Among Friends Magazine – Fall 2019  

A biannual magazine for the San Francisco Friends School community.

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