Around the Globe and Still Back in Time for Lunch

~ Andrew Hallowell, Mandarin teacher

I’m still new here at SCH. I can’t always find my way around campus, I’m still learning some names and faces, and I’m trying to figure out the nuances of our dress code. In the six months I’ve been working here, however, I’ve been consistently struck by how much time, energy, and enthusiasm we, as an institution, put into capturing our students’ imaginations and engaging them in creative ways in the academic work that is the lifeblood of our school. Our students have opportunities to explore the world around them through, to name just a few examples, film projects, entrepreneurial ventures, and international travel.
I teach Chinese language and culture, which, to me, means that part of my mission at school is encouraging my students to see both the world and themselves in different and more complicated ways. I don’t want them to think about the places we learn about as abstract concepts located between the front and back covers of textbooks, but as complex, dynamic places full of people with similarities to, and differences from, themselves.

One tool for achieving this is virtual reality (VR). Immersive “virtual” experiences have the ability to transport participants to places beyond the horizon where they can explore and learn, all without leaving the classroom. With this in mind, my colleague David Cool and I applied to, and were accepted into, beta testing for Google Education’s new virtual reality Expeditions program. This program features over one hundred academically significant sites around the world that have been developed into 360-degree virtual reality panoramas through partnerships with organizations and institutions around the world, including the American Museum of Natural History and the Planetary Society. David and I lined up more than twenty classes, representing all five of our school’s divisions, to participate in our virtual reality day, held simultaneously in the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) Space and our “Maker Spot” for digital fabrication.

Google’s representative arrived around 8:15 am lugging two giant cases, each containing thirty VR headsets and a single tablet. Faculty learned how to manipulate the devices during a quick training session before students began arriving to participate at 9 am. The first group of the day in the CEL Space was all thirty of my third grade Chinese students, each of whom picked a headset off the table and held it up to his eyes, eager to embark on a journey to the Great Wall of China.

I have to admit: I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure how students would react. Would digital natives, seemingly born with smartphones in their hands, be impressed with the technology? Would it come across as a novelty, full of flash but short on academic substance and value?

I picked up the tablet and pressed “play,” which brought up on their headsets our first stop along the Great Wall, and I was immediately treated to my favorite ten seconds of my school year so far: a chorus of thirty third grade voices let out an excited “Whoaaaaaaaa, look at that!!!!!” as they felt themselves be transported to China. We spent the next thirty minutes stopping at a few virtual vistas along the Great Wall, pausing periodically along the way to chat about its history and features.

I watched throughout the day as different teachers and classes cycled in to go on their own half-hour adventures. I saw Middle School science students journey to Yosemite National Park, observed a group of Upper School history students travel through Moscow, and watched as Lower School girls explored the ocean depths. Everybody seemed to be smiling, laughing, and learning.

Our VR experience ended at 3 pm, but the events of the day demonstrated to me the enormous academic potential of the technology, provided we continue to identify how to use it in creative and innovative ways. I am excited about exploring ways to integrate these types of experiences into the different classes we offer on campus.

My favorite part of teaching is the difficult-to-get-to moment when I can really feel a student get as excited about what we are learning about as I am. I wasn’t crazy about school when I was young, but I later fell in love with learning about everything while going on adventures around the American West and East Asia. More than almost anything else, I want my students to feel that same energy and life in their studies. The unique learning opportunities that we emphasize here at SCH are designed to capture the natural curiosity and excitement that our students bring into our buildings every single day, and direct them into pursuits that can turn this world into a better place. I feel very lucky to work in that environment.

To learn more about Google Expeditions:

Enjoy our collection of blog posts:

List of 30 news stories.

  • What can we learn from mud?

    ~ Anya Rose, Lower School Boys Science Teacher 

    On the day we planned to have Science in the Woods, it was a muddy 50 degrees in January. What to do with all this mud? Should we postpone our outdoor session? The kids would just get dirty, and not all of them were prepared with the right clothing. We went out anyway and I used the weather to my advantage. “Nature is always teaching, as long as you are paying attention.” I learned that from the wilderness school where I used to teach at the White Pine Programs in Cape Neddick, Maine. And as Julie Lythcott-Haims said in her recent parent program at SCH, we must find ways to encourage unbounded curiosity and independent thought in our students. Science in the Woods provides students with ways to learn about natural history, and science, yes, but also respect, thoughtfulness, decision making, preparedness, resilience, courage, and self-reliance. On this particular day, I used mud, water, and the cold to teach these lessons.

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  • Polly (right), Taliah, from Israel (center), and her student Ben (left), standing on a bridge over the Shannon River on the campus of the University of Limerick while at the Narrative 4 conference in Ireland.

    Fearless hope through radical empathy

    ~ Polly Kimberly, Associate Director of College Counseling and Upper School Diversity Coordinator
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  • How do you define freedom?

    ~ Mel Graves '17

    The Springside Chestnut Hill Academy SCHout 2017 diversity conference was the culmination of months of hard work and commitment. It was exciting to see our work come to life and to be in a space full of love, understanding, and radical empathy.
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  • Entrepreneurship at the Core of Private School Programming

    ~ Ed Glassman, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership

    "Independent schools traditionally determine success by whether you get into your favorite college. CEL turns that on its head."
    Inspired School Marketers interviewed SCH’s Ed Glassman for their “The Sparkcast,” a podcast providing brilliant ideas and brain food for the private school market. We invite you to enjoy the full recording here. Highlights and excerpts follow.
    The Sparkcast:
    According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 65% of today’s grade school kids will end up in a job that hasn’t been invented yet. Ed Glassman is Executive Director of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy's Sands Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership where they have developed a program that takes on this paradigm and “embodies a bold and innovative vision that challenges the constraints of traditional education, preparing students to change the world through an entrepreneurial mindset—a mindset of curiosity and courageous creativity.” The Sands Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at SCH strives to develop students who will shape this uncertain future.
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  • Essay: A tale of two Cubas, before and after Castro died

    ~ Sam Gerlach, Class of 2017

    The following essay was published on Newsworks (12/9/16).

    Sam Gerlach, a senior at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, loves to travel. He has spent much of his life exploring different cultures, from a 7th grade trip to Rome, to a 9th grade trip to Ethiopia, to his latest travels in Cuba. "Immersing myself in other cultures is how I get away from the craziness in America," says Gerlach.
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  • Walking and Stumbling

    ~ Karen Tracy

    SCH boasts a 62-acre campus.  I’m a fitness-minded person and those acres represent a daily opportunity to hit the red brick pathways and walk as much as possible—to meet with a colleague, to return coffee mugs to the cafeteria, to be present in the place I call home.  I love this time traversing the campus.  It is my happy time.  And without fail, when I walk, I also stumble.
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  • Be the person you want to be

    ~ Dr. Pam Brown, Educational Psychologist for Lower and Middle School for Boys

    Your child is a gift to you. Your child is also your legacy. Who they are and how they carry themselves is in part a reflection upon you and the values you hold high. The task for all parents is to prepare their child for life. Yet, every parent imagines somewhat differently the skills each child will need to successfully navigate life. You entrust your child to us, and you and we both hope that the education your child receives at SCH and the experiences your son or daughter has while here will be part of the foundation on which their future successes will be built. In our mission statement, we reference the values of courage, integrity, and respect. On the boys’ side, there have always been the five stripes of integrity, honesty, loyalty, courage, and sportsmanship. We believe that all these are values to strive towards and cultivate in ourselves.
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  • Be seeing and be seen

    ~ Frankie Zelnick, Class of 2003

    What can one little person—and the community behind that person—do? Here’s a feel good story for the ages. Recently, an SCH employee created a GoFundMe campaign for a colleague who had urgent need for money to help pay for medical bills and a driveable car. She quietly posted the campaign to her personal Facebook page one afternoon and went to bed that night stunned to see over 130 replies in just a few short hours. The next morning she said, “It was like I was a kid and it was Christmas morning!” The overnight response had nearly funded the entire goal of the campaign: $17,000. The outpouring was staggering. And the names on the donor list included students who had graduated over 20 years ago, many of their parents, former teachers, trustees, and one alumna even came into school with a bank envelope brimming with cash. The note we are sharing here, written by Frankie Zelnick, Class of 2003, captures the voice of so many and the collective heart of our community.
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  • Your job is cocoa

    ~ Bethany Meyer, Middle School Boys Administrative Assistant and mother of four boys at SCH

    “Your job is cocoa.”
    It’s the only thing I remember from any Back-to-School Night that I’ve ever attended. To date, I’ve been through 29 of them.
    “Cocoa,” Ann Dimond announced to the fresh crop of 1st grade parents in her classroom. With a four-week-old baby on my shoulder—my fourth in seven years—I was deliriously tired, sufficiently overwhelmed, and desperate for parenting hacks. Ann’s 25 years of teaching experience more than qualified her.
    “When your son comes home from school, pulls out his homework, and proceeds to tell you that it’s too hard and he needs your help with it, tell him, ‘Gee, that sounds rough. Can I make you some cocoa?’ Because I don’t send anything home that we haven’t already done in class. He’ll tell you he’s never seen it before. He’ll tell you he doesn’t understand it. The work isn’t difficult, and you’ll be able to help him easily. I ask you instead to offer him cocoa. The work is his. His homework. His to understand. His to complete. His to turn in. His to muddle through. Would doing it with him get him through it faster and make your life easier? Short-term, yes. But you’re not doing him any favors in the long run. Now that your son has homework, your job is cocoa.” 
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  • "Animals in Winter" project goes on the road...

    The Lower School for Girls’ signature Kindergarten “Animals in Winter” Project goes on the road … to the Sands Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education

    This year, kindergarten’s annual Animal in Winter unit teamed up with the Sands Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) to enhance and expand the scope of this much-beloved unit in which each girl becomes the expert on a local wild animal, researching her animal and eventually teaching the class all that she has learned. Looking locally, the kindergarten team was thrilled to partner with the Schuylkill Center, one of the first urban environmental education centers in the country. 
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  • Around the Globe and Still Back in Time for Lunch

    ~ Andrew Hallowell, Mandarin teacher

    I’m still new here at SCH. I can’t always find my way around campus, I’m still learning some names and faces, and I’m trying to figure out the nuances of our dress code. In the six months I’ve been working here, however, I’ve been consistently struck by how much time, energy, and enthusiasm we, as an institution, put into capturing our students’ imaginations and engaging them in creative ways in the academic work that is the lifeblood of our school. Our students have opportunities to explore the world around them through, to name just a few examples, film projects, entrepreneurial ventures, and international travel.
    Read More
  • Teaching for Relevancy and Curiosity

    ~ Vince Day, Program Director for Computer Science and Interactive Technologies

    Three years ago, which in the world of gaming might as well be a lifetime, I had the opportunity to offer a Game Design class to a group of SCH Academy Upper School students.  While my classroom teaching experience up until that time had been limited teaching teachers, I was more than ready for the chance to connect and collaborate with students. At the time my gaming prowess was bound by a childhood immersed in Atari, Nintendo, and Sega Genesis, along with a freshman year of college solaced in NHL 97 on the Genesis console.  Although an argument could be made that I should have been more dedicated to course work, the hours I spent gaming were the most engaging and focused time for me during that transitional year.
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  • Authentic Purpose

    ~ Christy Yaffe, Lower School Girls Reading Specialist

    Authentic purpose. That is what makes the 4th grade news tick. Each week a news team of three 4th grade students in the Lower School for Girls comes to meet with me to plan the following week’s broadcast. I never cease to be amazed by the creativity, thoughtfulness, and hard work that the girls put into this project. Students have assumed responsibility for reporting the news and are careful that the stories they present will appeal to their youngest viewers. “Seriously, a piece on Ebola would be too scary if you’re in Kindergarten!” one team decided this year. While we always keep an eye on the weather and report something related to health or wellness, all of the stories come from the students. I coach and mentor, but the ideas belong to the girls. We’ve covered everything from current events and green initiatives to ear piercing and black holes. It isn’t fancy, but it is always an adventure!
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  • Visit a world outside your own

    ~ Richard Blyweiss, Lower School for Boys 5th Grade Teacher

    Have you ever read a book so powerful that you say, “How are more people not reading and talking about this book?” If we’re lucky, we’ve read a few of these books in our lifetime. When I spoke with fellow teachers about the books that they claim really taught them or moved them in a way they never thought possible before, I got some amazing answers: The Giving Tree, The Last Lecture, Oh, The Places You’ll Go, The Giver, and dozens more. When I began my teaching career, I made a promise to myself that I would vow to my students on the first day of each school year, “You may leave this room at the end of the school year smarter than you were when you came in. But I guarantee that you’ll all leave here as better people.” I always wanted to keep an open and honest relationship with my students; one full of discussion and celebration for their accomplishments both inside and outside of school. I wanted to make sure my students understood my care for their lives, not just as students, but their lives as athletes, musicians, brothers, cousins, artists, and any number of other ways they describe themselves. But talking alone wasn’t enough. I needed stories and examples outside of our own. I needed us to have the opportunity to, each day, visit a world outside of the one we lived in. I decided that literature was one way to do this. Unfortunately, being a math and history teacher, that doesn’t exactly lend itself to much story reading time during class. So, I did what any teacher would do—I improvised!
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  • Lessons that Stick

    ~ Josh Budde, Head of Middle School for Boys

    We have all been inspired in some way by the people in our lives, people who, knowingly or unknowingly, have helped guide us and helped us to be who we are. For many, our parents play or played a large role, but I have difficulty identifying exact moments, turning points if you will, when they set me on the course I am on. The lessons they taught are not so singular as to be identifiable as distinct moments in time, yet I cannot deny their influence on who I am. My wife has had a more direct effect on inspiring me to be the person I am. An educator herself, my wife has always pushed me directly through her words and deeds, and indirectly by being an example of what a teacher, parent and spouse can be. It is not an overstatement that I would not be the educator or person I am today were it not for her presence in my life.
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  • Service and the Global Travel Program

    ~ Michael Ferrier, English Department, Coordinator, Global Travel Programs
    A week ago, I returned from an 11-day immersion trip to Peru with 19 students and two of my colleagues. At the end of our trip, we spent four days in a Quechua village called Llanchon, nestled on the southern shores of Lake Titicaca, to assist in a development project at a local high school. One of the most important aspects of the Global Travel Program is our commitment to educating students about meaningful service.
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  • Outward Bound Day #5: The Stories We Tell

    ~Matt Norcini, Dean of Student Life

    It was mid-morning on Day 5, and these were our final hours together. We were back at Fort Washington State Park, and the students were busy cleaning—water bottles, dinner bowls, equipment—the objects that had been so new to us just five days ago but which had, by now, become a part of us, our routine, the things that had provided comfort in the unknown. Sentimentally attached as some might be to these objects, though, I’m pretty sure everyone was ready to wash their food bowls. By the morning of Day 5, those bowls had become a fossil dig through four days of meals.
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  • Lessons from SCH's Model UN Conference

    Smith Hambrose, Grade 12, Head of SCH’s Model United Nations Program
    This past Saturday, SCH hosted its annual Springside Chestnut Hill Model United Nations Conference (SCHMUNC), marking the fourth conference I have attended and my second year moderating the conference. In attendance were members of varying experience levels of the SCH and Germantown Friends School’s Model UN teams. The purpose of this conference was mainly to prepare members of our team for future conferences and demonstrate the structure of a UN conference; it was also an opportunity to learn from oneself and from others. This year the topic for discussion was the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
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  • How I Learned to “Think Outside the Curriculum Box”

    ~ Jessica Satryan, Theatre, CEL, MS Drama, Players

    Our school has gone through a lot of changes over the last few years. We have become one school with five divisions, uniting two longstanding educational communities. We launched the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, equipping our students with a future-ready skill set as resilient and creative problem solvers. For me, however, it feels like the changes really started in the fall of 2009. That was the year we initiated the seven-day rotating schedule, and the impact of that change began my journey into curriculum development.
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  • Outward Bound Day #4: A Simple Game

    ~Matt Norcini, Dean of Student Life

    Lines were drawn in the dirt of the forest floor.  The students examined the final tally, and they assessed how far they had come both as individuals and as a group.  While this task wasn’t the most difficult of their first four days together, it was a significant one.  They were given a minute for a quick huddle to discuss strategy for the next round.  After a furious exchange of ideas, the students of G-Unit returned to the starting line and prepared to face the challenge. 
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  • CONGRATULATIONS to my Alma Mater!

    ~ Rashad Campbell '08, Franklin Square Capital Partners, SCH Football Coach (part-time)

    I was fortunate enough to recently serve on the Search Committee that just announced the next Head of School. Dr. Stephen L. Druggan will succeed our Interim Head of School Dr. Mark Segar, effective July 1, 2016.
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  • Members of a Global Community

    ~ Michael Ferrier, English Department, Coordinator, Global Travel Programs

    A year ago, I had the incredible privilege of taking a group of 20 students to the northern island of New Zealand. However, the inspiration for the trip began a few years earlier in my 9th grade English class. I had been drawn to Aotearoa, or the “land of the long white cloud,” primarily through my experience of teaching Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider along with Niki Caro’s wonderful film adaptation of the novel. The story is about a young Maori girl who is destined to become the chief of her fading tribe and who must overcome significant odds to prove herself as a worthy leader. When I first saw the film, I was captivated by the vibrancy of the Maori culture and the breathtaking beauty of the New Zealand landscape. In my more sanguine moments, I also hoped that my 9th graders, who themselves were facing the challenges of being newcomers to Upper School, would see themselves in this modern-day Antigone, emboldened by her determination to realize her potential and uplifted by her commitment to her convictions and her intense pride in her culture. About three years ago, I began in earnest to design a trip itinerary and curriculum that would complement our study of the text and bring the richness of Maori culture alive for my students.
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  • Telling Stories to Cultivate Radical Empathy

    ~ Polly Kimberly, Associate Director of College Counseling and Diversity Coordinator
    It’s a simple but powerful process: two people pair up and each shares a story that is essential in some way to his or her life. When the pair comes back to the small group, each person tells his or her partner’s story—in the persona and voice of the partner.
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  • Outward Bound Day #3: That Magic Moment

    ~Matt Norcini, Dean of Student Life
    It was raining hard, the temperature was dropping, and our morning hike had turned into a slog. Attempts at trail games and songs were drowned out by the constant patter of rain against the hoods of our rain jackets. The trail turned to a stream, and our boots were soaked through. No one was talking, and at this moment, I’m pretty sure everyone wanted to be home bingeing something on Netflix.
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  • Outward Bound Day #2: On the Trail

    ~Matt Norcini, Dean of Student Life
    It was Day 2, and it was hot. We broke camp earlier than expected and made our way north on the Appalachian Trail for what promised to be a long day of hiking. Our destination was a campsite 11 miles away, and for many of us, it would be the longest hike we had ever made.
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  • Making it better

    ~ Katie Mersky, Upper School Admissions, Varsity Field Hockey Coach

    Many people in my life have heard me say, “I hate losing more than I like winning.” And the look on their face after I essentially say, “Well, that whole winning thing? It’s not really why I play,” is, needless to say, very interesting. The feeling of winning a game after weeks and weeks of difficult practices and grueling fitness circuits is a relief, I agree. Giving everything you have for 60 minutes, in addition to those long practices and grueling fitness circuits, and losing is a feeling that I hope everyone in athletics experiences. This feeling is something that I carried with me throughout high school sports, college athletics, and now it is something I hold dearly as a coach.
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  • Outward Bound Day #1: We were all in it together

    ~Matt Norcini, Dean of Student Life

    “Camouflage!” Jenna’s cry sent us scurrying in all directions around the woods in search of hiding places. It was early afternoon, we had just arrived at camp, and one of our two Outward Bound facilitators had called for a game of Camouflage—essentially, a forest hybrid of hide-and-go-seek and tag. It was unexpected, simple, and fun. For a few minutes, we were all kids again, and the only thing that was important was finding a good hiding place. 
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  • Ready. Set. Go.

    Josh Budde
    The first day of school can come with a stomach full of butterflies—new teachers, harder classes, and a year full of memories to be made.
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  • True Grit

    Deidra Lyngard
    Perhaps failing is the very thing that will make us successful. This article touches brilliantly on the building of resiliency at SCH.
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  • SCH teachers continue design thinking study through summer workshop

    Lan Ngo
    The audience of teachers and staff members watches as Jonathan Torch, Upper School mathematics teacher, demonstrates a one-foot-tall electronic “tree” that he built with the help of James Martin, Upper School engineering teacher.
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