US Blazer Buzz 17 March

This week's highlight: Intermezzo

Woodlawn's sixth Intermezzo went off without a hitch as students tackled an extensive Olympic-themed puzzlehunt. Framed in the context of Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences and Duckworth's concept of "grit," students solved excruciatingly difficult multi-layer puzzles in teams of four. The puzzles, created by Woodlawn faculty members, required a variety of approaches to generate one-word solutions. Predictably, Mr. Bowman's puzzle incorporated a periodic table-based code, while Dr. Stutzman's four-part puzzle could only be solved by identifying the single error in each part. Mental challenges were punctuated by physical Olympic events, including a synchronized skating competition to "Let it Go" and a four-man bobsled through an obstacle course. The team biathlon of crab-walking and soccer was a riotous hit in the hallways of Woods. In order to win the gold, teams had to use the solutions from each puzzle to solve a meta-puzzle. Genovia went into the finals with a dominant lead, but # ("Hashtag") pulled out a come-from-behind victory after cracking the final clue and racing to the hidden location of the gold medal: Mr. Jones!  By all accounts, this was the most popular Intermezzo yet; the puzzlehunt may become an annual Woodlawn tradition.

Contributed by Beth Helfrich

US Blazer Buzz 10 March

This week's highlight: AP Bio

The AP Biology class finished February with a field trip double header. To begin an in-depth study of the evolutionary relationships between flowering plants at Woodlawn, students visited the McMillan Greenhouse at UNC Charlotte, which is home to nearly 1,000 species of orchids. Students dissected orchid blooms with greenhouse assistant director, Paula Gross, and explored the concept of co-evolution between flowering plants and their pollinators. Students also toured several plant exhibits, one of which demonstrated the evolution of plants from land to water.

The following day, the class ventured to the laboratory of Dr. Julio Ramirez to mark Brain Awareness Week and complement its study of signal transduction in the nervous system. The highlight of the visit was the opportunity to see the effects of a signal transduction experiment testing the ability for neurons to learn by responding strongly to high frequency stimuli. Students were also treated to a technical presentation on signal transduction, a tour of the research facilities, and a look into microscopes to view sections of brain tissue used in Alzheimer's research. Both trips were excellent forays into the world to see science in action.

Contributed by Adah Fitzgerald

US Blazer Buzz 3 March

This week's highlight: Science Olympiad

Science Olympiad is a team interscholastic science competition consisting of approximately 20 rigorous academic competitions where students participate in a variety of hands-on, interactive, and inquiry-based events designed to enhance and strengthen both science content and process skills. In their preparation for the upcoming regional competition in Hickory, a dozen Woodlawn upper school students spent the winter trimester elective creating, honing their skills, and learning outside of the science curriculum. Woods Hall and the surrounding outdoor areas were often filled with sights and sounds of students creating, testing, and experimenting, and were known to include the distinct smells of glue, power saws, and burning wood.

Each student picked a construction event — for example the Bottle Rocket, Scrambler, Boomilever, or Rube-Goldbergesque Mission Possible — to work on throughout the term, as well as a pair of self-study events such as anatomy and physiology, rocks and minerals, or forensics and astronomy. Scrambler is a typical student- and crowd-pleasing event where an egg-carrying car (hence the name) is made to travel towards a wall about 10 meters away as quickly as possible using gravity as its only source of power. Upon reaching the wall, the car must stop as close as possible without breaking its fragile passenger perched with its nose over the edge. The study events are typically presented in the form of tests or labs written at the level of an introductory college survey course. The students prepare for these challenges by information-gathering and knowledge building, often creating a compendium of reference materials.

In addition to expanding their academic abilities and knowledge, the students also practiced team skills and perseverance. The group plans to return from the competition on March 22 well-stocked with tales of the contest and medals to celebrate.

Contributed by Bryan Stutzman

US Blazer Buzz 17 Feb

This week's highlight: Spanish Literature

“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” -Jacqueline Kennedy

The upper school students have really been flexing their literary muscles these last few weeks during Spanish classes! The ninth grade class has been spending its time in 16th century Spain, following the escapades of Lazarillo de Tormes, a sly and crafty orphaned boy who serves a series of masters including a blind man, a priest, a squire, and a seller of indulgences. His craftiness often benefits him in the short run, but as the freshmen are learning, trickery often goes hand in hand with the age-old phrase “what goes around, comes around!”

Dominican pre-teen Anita de la Torre is the tenth graders current protagonist. In “Antes de ser libres” (Before We Were Free), the sophomore class has traveled back in time to the Dominican Republic of the 1960’s. Anita has learned that some of her family members were caught organizing a rebellion against the dictatorship of her country’s leader, Rafael Trujillo. Trujillo, also known as El Jefe, has already arrested or killed several members of Anita’s family and their friends. Will Anita’s immediate family be spared the same fate? The sophomore class is anxious to find out!

Junior and senior AP Spanish students have been hard at work exploring authentic Spanish writings throughout the school year. The juniors have studied literary works such as Pablo Neruda’s poem “Maestranzas de noche,” and also explored current events articles such as one about the robot name NAO. NAO is currently being used in Mexico to assist special education teachers to better aid and communicate with autistic students in their classrooms. These AP Language students will be prepared to discuss nearly any topic, a skill they are perfecting by conversing solely in Spanish during class. Meanwhile, AP seniors have been exploring some of the most celebrated works that have come out of the Hispanic world during the 20th and 21st centuries. The abundance of ideas presented in José Martí’s essay “Nuestra América” occupied their inquisitive minds for over a week, and Miguel de Unamuno’s short story “San Manuel bueno, mártir” did not disappoint, either.

The intricate conversations that have taken place while reading these books are proof of Lyndon B. Johnson’s wise observation that “a book is the most effective weapon against intolerance and ignorance.” Let us all aspire to avoid intolerance and ignorance with the same amount of zeal as these upper school students!

Contributed by Hahna Hayden

US Blazer Buzz 10 Feb

This week's highlight:The Learning Collaborative

As part of their service course covering issues in education, this year the tenth grade students have taken several trips to Charlotte's NoDa neighborhood to visit The Learning Collaborative, a tuition-free preschool for students from at-risk families. Families with preschoolers who are accepted into this program are generally in fragile economic circumstances and often in unstable communities; one of the conditions of acceptance into the program includes parents' willingness to attend monthly parenting meetings, and the program generally encourages as much parent involvement as possible. TLC loves older student visits during the school day, too!

On a recent visit, Woodlawn's students heard from a developmental psychologist about the importance and purpose of preschool as well as from a TLC supervisor about federally-subsidized preschool programs and the families that TLC serves. Of course, the students had plenty of time to spend with their new friends in the classrooms and on the playground. TLC students showed the Woodlawners all their favorite activities, from playing at the water table to reading stories and swinging on the swings. When the day came to an end, some tears were certainly shed — but mostly by the little ones!  

Woodlawn students will return to visit their new friends at The Learning Collaborative several times before the end of the school year, and they are looking forward to delivering the results of the holiday school supply drive during the next trip.

Contributed by Kyle Tilley