Virtual Jewish Cultural Night

PLAID held a celebratory Jewish Cultural Night on Tuesday, October 6th and, even though it was online, it was an evening filled with singing, dancing, and eating! The MC’s for the evening, Grade 8 students Ella Kowal, Bennett Wintroub and Laney Segal, taught the 80+ participants about all kinds of Jewish New Year traditions. We played trivia about famous Jewish women, watched videos of Hamlin girls dancing, blowing the shofar, making a delicious looking honey cake and so much more! Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf, Hamlin alum and K parent, invited us into her sukkah and explained the story behind this temporary structure that is built during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

In breakout rooms, participants reflected on the past year and shared with each other goals for this new year. We enjoyed eating apples and honey and all wished each other a “Happy and Sweet New Year!” Clearly, even online, the Hamlin community knows how to have fun!

Hamlin Welcomes Alum As Teaching Fellow

Get to know Hamlin’s Middle School Teaching Fellow, Mx. Westley!

Tell us a bit about yourself:
My name is Mx. Westley (Syd Westley), and I graduated from Hamlin in 2013. For high school, I attended The Branson School in Ross, where I was captain of the soccer team and student body co-president. After graduating from Branson in 2017, I went to Stanford University. I just completed my third year at Stanford where I am majoring in Comparative Literature and minoring in Comparative Studies of Race and Ethnicity. I am currently taking the year off of school in order to teach at Hamlin, and next year I will return to Stanford to graduate! After that, I plan on pursuing an MFA in creative writing in order to become a poetry professor at the college level.
What made you decide to return to Hamlin, this time in a teaching role?
Because of COVID-19, I was not very excited about beginning my senior year of college in distance learning, so I decided to look for teaching opportunities for the year and was lucky enough to stumble upon this alumni fellowship! Because I want to pursue teaching after college, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get some more experience and professional development skills in the field, and I also just thought it would be very fun to return to my alma mater (which it has been). I am teaching alongside many of my old teachers and, although it has been a bizarre adjustment to start calling them by their first names, it has been really fun and interesting and fulfilling.
Tell us a little about your role as Middle School Teaching Fellow:
In my new role, I mostly support fifth grade students in math, language arts, and Spanish. I am also one of the faculty co-sponsors for the Middle School GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance) which has been my favorite part of the job. As a queer and non-binary person who had none of these resources when I was in middle school, I am so excited to share my experience/resources with students and to begin normalizing they/them pronouns as well as the gender neutral title, Mx. (pronounced Mix). Distance learning has proven challenging for everyone (I now have experienced it both as a student and as a teacher), so I’m very happy to provide the extra support. The students are so lovely, and I’ve never held a job I loved this much before.


“I Am Changing” – A New Year Begins at Hamlin

Hamlin’s Opening Assembly looked a little different this year. Even though over 600 students, teachers, and parents logged in to a virtual version, you could still feel the excitement of the start of a new year and a deep love of Hamlin coming through the screen. Student body president, Audrey Spaly, introduced this year’s theme: “I Am Changing.” Ms. Holland-Greene beautifully sang the lines from a song in Broadway’s Dreamgirls that inspires our theme:

“Look at me, I am changing. I am trying every way I can. I am changing–I’ll be better than I am.”

At a moment in history that requires all of us to be willing to change, to adapt, and truly to meet the challenges of our timesthe girls of Hamlin are ready to begin.

Rise To The Challenge With Grade 7

Rise To the Challenge (RTC) is the intensive for our Grade 7 students Intensives are a concentrated period of study where an entire grade is working on a project or projects, with profound research and preparation, followed by a public event. These intensives are designed with Hamlin’s mission in mind, as our students meet the challenges of their time.

RTC really started in autumn when students began going on various field trips where they volunteered and learned about how nonprofits serve a community. In addition to those engaging experiences, throughout the year students listened to many guest speakers who shared their altruistic wisdom and inspiration.

This preliminary work culminated with Grade 7 students choosing their own RTC topics, doing in-depth research, then sharing their findings, providing short and long-term solutions to various problems.

The topics were: Opiate Addiction, Oceans, Plastics and Overfishing, Teenage Suicide, Artificial Intelligence, Reducing Carbon Footprint, Gene Therapy, Improving Foster Care, Human Trafficking, Reproductive Health for Women, Fake News, Mass Extinction of Insects

This year all of the RTC teams worked online in May using technology to generate awareness through interactive Zoom presentations which included: videos, websites, gofundme campaigns, and a feminine hygiene product drive. Peers, teachers, and family members were able to participate in the 20-minute presentations on June 1.

Special thanks to the following speakers (among others) who met with students via Zoom during our intensive weeks: Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (District 58), Amy Errett (Madison Reed), Dutta Satadip (Pinterest), Lisa Craig (Matter of Trust), Marty Bennett (Pioneer Technical Services) Attorney Gywn Thiessen (Former Hamlin Parent), and Attorney Amy Stoll (Current Hamlin Parent).

Connections: Artwork from Grade 5

Grade 5 art students couldn’t be physically together these past weeks, but they still remained connected through the creative process and sharing work online.

Ms. Feldman met with her students via Zoom to set up the template for the above drawing. The template involved measuring 3.25 inches from the top of each side of the drawing where ribbon would start and end. Components of the piece included: their hand, their name, and 6 sections filled with a pattern. Students then worked independently at home and shared their completed artwork with each other online.

Influential Women in History Project (2020)

In previous years our Grade 4 students have taken the stage at the Century Club to pay tribute to historic and influential women. This year our celebration moves online, but the project continues with great success.

Grade 4 shares the following:

It is with great honor and respect that we pay tribute to our dear former teacher, Ms. Micha, for bringing this project to life year after year. We feel honored to be the 32nd annual class to present our Influential Women in History Project. We pay tribute, not only to the women who came before us in history, but also to the 1,472 Hamlin sisters in the last 32 years. These challenging times put us on a mission: to show that we can overcome obstacles just like the women we researched. 

This year’s online format features a video of each student speaking in character as their influential woman. Other components include: art artifacts, quotes, lyrics, and fictionalized Instagram accounts with fun visuals and inspiring posts.

This year girls are representing the following women:

Margaret Brend, Inez Milholland, Alice Paul, Julia Child, Melinda Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, Oprah Winfrey, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Bethany Hamilton, Florence Joyner, Serena Williams, Misty Copeland, Billie Jean King, Simone Biles, Raven Wilkinson, Cheryl Miller, Mia Hamm, Clara Barton, Amelia Earhart, Rachel Carson, Elizabeth Blackwell, Sally Ride, Helen Taussig, Katherine Johnson, Brit Jepson d’Arbeloff, Grace Hopper, Margaret Hamilton, Julia Morgan, Nellie Bly, Georgia O’Keeffe, Audrey Hepburn, Maya Lin, Jacqueline Kennedy, Janet Mock, Nancy Pelosi, Ruby Bridges, Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Deborah Sampson, Abigail Adams, Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou, Helen Keller, Josephine Baker

-The colorful artwork (above) is entitled “Women Pioneers” by Kaitlyn S.

McQuadle: Hamlin’s Very First Zoom Play

Students in our After School Academy Theater Production class (Grades 3 and 4) never wavered in their commitment to make a first historic Zoom play happen. Creating McQuadle took an enormous amount of hard work, persistence, and flexibility from everyone who was involved, including parents. Many hours of filming both inside and outside of Tuesday classes made this play possible during a very challenging time. It took about 30 minutes per page to film (24 pages total). Every scene was filmed at least 2 times after being rehearsed, and then the best video was used.

More about McQuadle:

You’ll find tons of silliness packed into this charming comedy that has a little something for everyone and even a nice moral.  McQuadle is a dragon who wants to know his purpose in life, and he will go to almost any length to find it out — even if it means visiting an Evil Queen who lives in a castle on top of the hill.  When he arrives, McQuadle learns that the Queen has lured him there for her own secret purposes, and she doesn’t intend on letting him get back home at all.  But McQuadle promised his mother he’d be home for dinner!  Two storytellers with crazy personalities of their own lead the audience through this fun adventure.

-Special thanks to Meher (’20), Alayna (’21), Kate (’16), Mr. Louie, and of course Ms. Abbott, who all helped make this production possible.

Science at Hamlin: An Interview with Konika Ray

Konika Ray is in her 15th year teaching Lower School science at The Hamlin School. She has a diverse background growing up in Beaufort, SC, Buffalo, NY, Metairie, LA, and Herndon, VA. She attended seven different schools from Kindergarten through High School. She earned her BA from Virginia Tech in Wildlife Science with a minor in Biology, later receiving her Master’s degree from University of San Francisco.

What do you love about teaching science at Hamlin? 

Science is so hands-on and fun! As Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus says we get to “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!” Our students absolutely love it and their passion for science inspires me to keep learning and innovating our program. Science is constantly evolving so the content is always changing which makes it exciting.

As a scientist, Hamlin mother, and teacher, how do you talk about COVID-19 with younger students? 

I focus on silver linings and having gratitude that we are safe and healthy. I also emphasize ways we can reduce our risk of exposure and strengthen our immune systems. The pandemic is a powerful teachable moment that has the potential to deeply engrain healthy nutrition and hygiene habits from this point forward.

Given your life background, tell us your perspective on Hamlin’s upcoming Adventure Year.

I went to several different schools when I was younger. I have also had seven different office / classroom spaces at Hamlin, including the middle school science labs, movement lab, and the learning center. One could say I’m an expert at moving and that I embrace change and uncertainty. I taught at NatureBridge before Hamlin and I love being outdoors so I am so excited about the proximity to Crissy Fields and the Presidio Native Plant Nursery. I’m hoping to tap into opportunities for ongoing habitat restoration projects in the Presidio.

Tell us about your environmental activism work at Hamlin.

Ms. Gonzalez and I like to celebrate Earth Day every day! This year, we especially enjoyed teaching our students about climate change and participating in the march in our neighborhood. For my project year, I developed a K-4 Environmental Stewardship scope and sequence including fun field trips all over the Bay Area. I’m also really passionate about solar energy and other renewable energy sources. I always tell our students, “Ms. Ray loves sun rays!” I built a solar oven and when we have hot weather in the fall, I love using the solar oven to bake cookies with our students.

Environmentally speaking, what makes you optimistic about the future?

The coronavirus pandemic has given us a glimpse that our collective actions can have a dramatically positive impact on our planet. For the first time on record, the U.S. is on track to produce more electricity this year from renewable power than from coal. The global air quality has never been better. Most importantly, we have become conscious consumers focused on buying locally and supporting small local businesses. So many folks have taken an interest in gardening that Bay area plant nurseries recorded a 300% increase in sales. I am hopeful that the silver lining of this challenging time is that we see the profound implications of being conscious of our footprints and we step mindfully moving forward.

Chalk Pastel Drawings with Grade 6

This spring in Studio Art girls created realistic paper airplane drawings with chalk pastel.

Escape Room Challenge With Grade 7

On Friday Grade 7 students participated in a fun Escape Room activity as a way of celebrating the end of regular academic classes, and the beginning of Rise To The Challenge (a two week intensive group project).

The whole grade was split into 9 teams on Zoom, then girls went into various virtual rooms to complete faculty-led challenges. In the rooms students did things like sing Cyndi Lauper with a spoon on their nose, and play “horse” with balled up socks. Some rooms emphasized creative writing, others focused on teamwork and communication. Whatever the challenge, girls worked to finish the task quickly, because they were timed against each other in a friendly competition. The overall goal was to have fun and escape out of the various rooms using good humor and a growth mindset. The day concluded with a festive awards ceremony complete with heartfelt and laughter-filled student speeches.