Grade 2 Explores Chinatown

Earlier this week Grade 2 visited Chinatown. (This is a guest blog from Mattea, a student who went on the field trip).

Today was really, really fun! We got to go on a field trip to Chinatown. When we got there, we played on a playground until our tour guide, Ms. Lee, came. When she arrived, Ms. Lee gave us a little bit of history on how and why some Chinese people moved to California. She also told us about Chinese medicine and walked us through an herbal pharmacy. I liked all the interesting things that I saw. I never knew that something from a deer leg can help with joint pain!

Next, we saw a building that used to be a telephone company. We found out that Ms. Ching’s mom used to work there! She needed to speak many different dialects of Chinese to help people call or speak to others. She also needed to memorize over 2,000 phone numbers and addresses.

We then walked to the fortune cookie factory. I never knew that fortune cookies could be bought as flat cookies! We actually saw how the workers fold the cookies. I also learned that you only get fortune cookies at Chinese restaurants in America. It’s not really a Chinese tradition and was started by a Japanese man in America.

After, we went through the Stockton Street food markets. We saw a lot of interesting things people buy to eat including an armadillo! I would sort of want to try tasting an armadillo, but Ms. Lee explained that it could carry a disease called leprosy. That changed my mind!

Last, we explored a Chinese temple. The inside was really cool! I loved the decorations. Ms. Lee explained the meaning of the different things on the shrine. People pray to a doll that represents the goddess of the sea. Also, there were fruits that had different meanings. Outside, we found an address that was 20-A, so we took a 2OA class photo in front of it. We ended our day with having lunch at a Chinese restaurant.

Raising Trout in Science Class

During the month of March, lower school students are learning about the fragile lifecycle of fish through their participation in a program called Trout in the Classroom.

Trout in the Classroom is a community-based program which allows students to experience first hand the delicate balance needed for animals to survive in aquatic ecosystems. Using eggs provided by a hatchery, classes set-up and maintain an aquarium for the purpose of observing the development of fish from the eyed-egg stage until they become young fry. Students engage in a course of study which supports the learning experience across curriculum area. This program is run cooperatively by local schools, fishing clubs and government agencies.


-Provide a positive learning program for classrooms on the value of aquatic ecosystems through the hatching and release of trout.

-Help students learn about their local watershed and how human activities affect the quality of water in local streams, lakes and the bay.

The 49 healthy trout eggs (seen in the photo above) were received on March 6 and will hatch in the coming weeks. Once hatched, the fish will have their pure spring water changed twice a week, with a carefully monitored feeding schedule. Throughout the process students will see firsthand the various life stages of the trout as they move from embryonic, to hatching, to larval, to becoming juveniles.

On April 10, students will go to Lake Merced in San Francisco to release the trout.

To learn more about this program, please visit:

Hamlin Shows the Documentary: Waking Dream

Tuesday evening, Hamlin’s PLAID parent group showed the film Waking Dream. Theo Rigby, who last shared his creative visual work at Hamlin in November of 2016, created the film.

PLAID’s mission is to support a vibrant and inclusive environment in which all members of the community can celebrate their authentic selves. We foster open dialogue through family programs, parent education, and community outreach.

Waking Dream weaves together the stories of six undocumented young people as they sit in limbo between deportation and a path to citizenship. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) has provided nearly 800,000 undocumented young people a chance to work legally, go to college, start businesses, and pursue the “American Dream.” After DACA is rescinded, Waking Dream follows the unfolding fate of six of these young people as they fight for legal status in the U.S., struggle with the deportation of family members, and pursue their dreams in a country that is trying harder and harder to push them out. They know their fate must go one direction and they are fighting for their future in America.

After the film, Wanda M. Holland Greene (Head of The Hamlin School), led a discussion with a panel speakers. The three panelists were: Theo Rigby (Director of Waking Dream), Iliana G. Perez (Director of Research and Entrepreneurship with Immigrants Rising), and Dilan Pedraza (a Social Studies Teacher who is in the film).

Highlights of the discussion included:

-It is important to stay curious and continue to ask probing questions about immigration and DACA, rather than just believe homogenized media-generated opinions.

-It is important to stay proximate to both the nuanced issues related to immigration and to the individual people and their specific stories.

-It is important to remember that we are all interconnected as human beings.

Audience members were very moved by the film.

One Hamlin father stated, “You did an outstanding job with the film. You really humanized the situation.”

To watch the trailer and learn more, please visit:

Spring Flowers Bloom in Lower School

Spring has indeed sprung in Lower School. McKinne lounge is bursting with color, flowers big and small, butterflies too.

Grade 4 made all the large flowers, and first and second grades helped out with some smaller ones. Kindergarteners made the papier mâché butterflies.

Art teacher Andy Witrak shares:

“Our theme this year was garden, but we just loosely adhered to that and created a flower wall.”

Hamlin Welcomes Nthabiseng Lizzy Matsetela

During most of March, South African teacher, Ms. Nthabiseng Lizzy Matsetela will be sharing her talents with our Hamlin students and faculty as part of the program Teach With Africa. Ms. Matsetela is especially focused on instilling a love of math in her students. Ms. Matsetela is partnered with Hamlin teacher, Gillian Curran. Hamlin has participated with Teach With Africa for several years and always welcomes the cross-cultural exchange of ideas and friendship.

Teach With Africa is a non-profit organization empowering students and teachers in a reciprocal exchange of teaching and learning in Africa and the United States. Teach With Africa seeks to reduce the embedded inequities in our societies by working to provide access to quality education in order to transform children’s lives, schools and communities.

Ms. Matsetela shares:

My name is Nthabiseng Lizzy Matsetela; I was born and bred in Limpopo province, and currently live in Johannesburg. I’m studying for my B.Ed. with University of South Africa (UNISA) and am in my second year. I want to be a teacher because I believe I have all the qualities needed to be a teacher and a role model. I enjoy reading inspirational books. I also enjoy exercising and sharing information either by teaching or by having positive conversations.

To learn more about Teach With Africa, please visit:

Hamlin Attends International Ocean Film Festival

On March 7, a group of eco-conscious students went to Cowell Theater (Fort Mason) to watch films from the 16th Annual International Ocean Film Festival. The films provided inspiration and crucial information about the need to preserve and take care of our oceans.

The International Ocean Film Festival is:

Dedicated to using film as a medium to increase public awareness of the environmental, social, and cultural importance of marine ecosystems and foster a spirit of ocean stewardship, IOFF is now the premier venue in North America for ocean-related films.

Every year, IOFF produces an acclaimed festival of ocean-themed films from all over the world that are largely unavailable to the general public. Themes range from marine science and industry to sports and adventure. We look for films that entertain, educate, and encourage active participation in ocean conservation.

Students watched several films from all over the world. Highlights included learning about:

-The lives of wild dolphins
-How little plastic actually gets recycled
-How much plastic a blue whale ingests
-7 species of Sea turtles on the planet -all endangered
-Education about turtle conservation

The film festival runs through Sunday, to see the schedule, click here:

A film made by Hamlin students will be shown on Sunday at 10 a.m., to learn more, please visit:



Secondary School Admission Counseling: Teebie Saunders

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Ms. Teebie Saunders, Director of Secondary School Admission Counseling for The Hamlin School. Ms. Saunders is in her 7th year at Hamlin and has a daughter in Grade 1.

You have an impressive academic background (Groton HS, Princeton BA, Duke MBA). How has your education helped inform your work at Hamlin?

Groton shaped me the most. I grew up in North Carolina. Going to school outside of Boston was a big switch. I learned that I didn’t have to be one thing. I could be an athlete (basketball and tennis), a scholar, and sing in the choir. I was able to be my authentic, best self at Groton. That is why I do what I do at Hamlin. Groton was SO transformative for me. I know how pivotal high school can be for a student. I love supporting Hamlin girls in the process of finding their life-shaping high school experience.

For my MBA I studied marketing and nonprofit management. That degree helped me hone my communications skills. Because of my time at Duke, I’m better able to articulate the cultural essence of a school, dissect marketing materials, interpret data, and understand trends. Schools have institutional needs, my ability to look at longitudinal studies helps me better comprehend the whole landscape of the secondary school market.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Building relationships with our girls. I get to know them intimately, through the eyes of their teachers, coaches, and piano instructors. It is amazing to get to know a 13 year old so closely. It is great to be an adult that is not their parent, thinking about their best interest. I also enjoy many close relationships with Hamlin parents. I stay closely connected to admissions people all over the country, that peer group is one of the things that keeps me deeply engaged.

What impresses you most about our Hamlin Grade 8 students?

They are so mature. They are self-reflective about how they learn best. They are great about being serious in class and silly and still a kid outside of class. They have a profound sense of responsibility; they embody the Hamlin creed on a daily basis.

What is one piece of advice would you give someone (parent or student) going into the high school admission process?

Have an open mind and let yourself be surprised by something you didn’t expect to love about a school, and let yourself also be open to the fact that nothing is perfect.

Student Film Selected for International Ocean Film Festival

A talented team of Hamlin girls created the film Our Ocean as part of their Grade 5 intensive work last spring. This coming Sunday the film will be shown at the Cowell Theater (10 a.m. at Fort Mason) as part of the International Ocean Film Festival.

Now in its 16th year, the IOFF is an acclaimed festival of independent ocean-related films from all over the world. Themes range from ocean adventure, science, and marine life to sports and coastal cultures. We look for films that not only entertain audiences but also educate and inspire people to participate in environmental efforts in and around the ocean, as well as promote better ocean stewardship.

The student film explores the importance of the ocean and delves into the crucial environmental threats that it currently faces. Our Ocean blends beauty and splendor, with a call to action, echoing Hamlin’s mission to meet the challenges of our time.

To learn more about the International Ocean Film Festival, please visit:

To watch the film, please click on this link:

Hamlin Celebrates Japanese Girls’ Day

Today, the Lower School celebrated Japanese Girls’ Day with a presentation by four of our students.

Celebrated on March 3 every year, Hinamatsuri (Japanese Girls’ Day) is one of Japan’s most beautiful unofficial holidays; a day on which Japanese households with young daughters decorate their homes with ornamental dolls (Hina dolls) on red-cloth covered platforms. The dolls are said to represent the emperor, empress, attendants, and musicians in traditional court dress of the Heian period, and are used to pray for girls’ prosperity, and health.

Dressed in kimonos and holding decorative fans, our presenting girls performed a cherry blossom dance with traditional Japanese music playing. The students then spoke using a slideshow to explain various aspects of Japanese Girls’ Day, including information about the specific arrangement of Hina dolls and the eating of special foods like mochi.

Hamlin Excels at Theater Festival Competition

On February 16, our seventeen Hamlin thespians excelled at an incredibly challenging theater festival. We competing with 257 students (Grades 6-8) from 22 different middle schools from all over California at the Middle School Stage Fest in Pleasant Hill, earning 5 gold medals, 4 silver medals, 5 bronze medals, and 18 Bravissimo Awards for Excellence in Theatre Artistry. The adjudicators assessed our monologues, scenes, musical solos, and musical duets.

The CETA Middle Stage Fest, now in its eighteenth year, is an exciting event for middle school drama students. At the festival, students perform monologues, scenes, and musical theatre numbers for panels of adjudicators and compete to earn bronze, silver and gold medals. In addition, while judges are tabulating the scores, students get to participate in high-energy theatre games. Unlike involvement in sports, it is rare for theatre students to have the opportunity to meet peers from other schools, share their passion, showcase their talent, and learn from one another. This festival brings together hundreds of students to do just that. All participating students qualify to attend CA YOUTH IN THEATRE DAY, where they meet and perform with other award-winning students from throughout the state.

To learn more, please visit: