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

US Blazer Buzz 3 Feb

This week's highlight: Film Making

Students in grades 9-12 recently wrapped up a project that drew upon their mastery of historical research skills, story construction, and filmmaking expertise to produce short original pieces set against the backdrop of local history.

Beginning with research, students in World History I, AP World History II, and European History looked into how cultural and political developments in the Lake Norman area could connect to their respective courses of study. In groups or flying solo, students then crafted fictional tales with historical details and context woven throughout. These tales were developed into "pitches," full synopses that covered all traditional elements of plot, with each group finally choosing one key scene from the potential epic to develop into a short film.

Films were produced in anticipation of the first ever Woodlawn Film Festival, where projects will premiere alongside films independently created by students outside of class. On Thursday, February13, the Red Barn will be the place to be to see the premiere of historical dramas, comedies, and adventures set in familiar locations around town, including Woodlawn's own Stinson Hall back when college students square danced in the foyer. Also on the bill: a handful of documentaries, comical social commentary, and even a piece on the lesser known downside of being a zombie. The show starts at 7PM, tickets are $3 at the door.

Contributed by Jeff Donnelly

Us Blazer Buzz 27 Jan

This week's highlight: Now That's Epic: Woodlawn Ninth Graders Compose Epic Poetry

In English class, the Woodlawn ninth graders have been thoroughly immersed in the world of epic poetry. Having already studied The Epic of GilgameshThe OdysseyBeowulf, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the time arrived for the students to try their hand as poets.

Each student is currently in the process of creating a completely original story to be told in 350 or more lines of poetic verse. Students must create a hero and tell the story of that hero's quest. In addition to designing the story and the fictional world in which the story takes place, the students will be experimenting with a variety of ancient poetic devices. The students will conclude the writing experience by reciting these poems aloud for their classmates. Keep an eye out in Woods Hall for the final results: 20 epic poems from 20 promising poets will be on display in the coming weeks!

Contributed by Tim Helfrich