Students, Faculty, Alums Involved in Campus Master Planning Process

The Athenian School is undergoing a campus master planning process involving an architecture firm, the board of trustees, and a large contingent of Athenian community members.  This past Friday, students, faculty, alumni, parents, board members, staff, etc. sat down with the architects, a student-built model of the school, and a bunch of tracing paper to share their vision of the Athenian campus.

Here are a few of the many, many exciting ideas* that came out of the session:

  • Interdisciplinary classroom pods
  • Shifting the center of campus to integrate the Middle School by clustering more dual-use buildings around the Dase Center
  • A subterranean classroom
  • Bringing the creek that runs under the campus back up to the surface
  • Yurts in the “Back 40” (the undeveloped 40 acres behind the main campus buildings)
  • Designating a building as free space, to be left as a blank slate for students and classes to use for projects
  • Opening up the Middle School into the current back faculty and bus parking lot
  • Creating a shared building for the Maker’s, Science, and possibly Art disciplines
  • There were a variety of ideas about altering the entrance to the school, from reversing the flow of traffic to creating a second entrance
  • And much more!  If you have your own ideas about how to improve our campus, feel free to share them here in the comments section and we will pass them on to the committee.

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*Please note that at this stage, these are visionary ideas only.  Practicality, cost, etc. will be analyzed by the architects and board to determine the best campus master plan for Athenian’s foreseeable future.

Athenian Named Inaugural Federal Green Ribbon School

From Head of School Eric Niles:

I am pleased and proud to announce that Athenian was one of 78 schools (private and public) nationwide to be a named a federal Green Ribbon School. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made the announcement in D.C. this morning and a delegation of 2 will travel to Washington in early June to accept the award. This is the first year of the program so Athenian is an inaugural winner. Kudos to our students for their leadership; to Bob, John, Megan, Meg, Will, and so many other adults for their vision; and to the board for supporting these efforts for all these years. We are proof that a commitment to the environment enhances education, is the ethical choice for a school to make, and creates measurable benefits for the bottom line.

From the Department of Education:

Dear Colleague,

Congratulations!  I write to inform you that your school has been selected one of the first-ever U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools. Today, at 10:30 am Eastern Time, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will announce the winners have been selected and you will be able to see the full list on our website  You can watch the Secretary’s announcement live here (skip to 4:15 for start of presentation):

More information will be forthcoming regarding the recognition ceremony for winning schools in Washington, D.C., in June.  While I wish we could invite your entire school community, you should plan to send no more than two representatives from your school to attend the ceremony, which will begin June 3rd in the evening and conclude June 4th in the afternoon.

Again, our congratulations for your innovative efforts to reduce your school’s environmental impact, improve its health and provide effective environmental education.  We were extremely impressed with your comprehensive school greening.  I look forward to working with you to share your success story with other schools, so that all may learn from your example.

Andrea Suarez Falken
U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

Students from Athenian were recently featured on Biz Kid$, a national series for public TV, in an episode called ‘Businesses Going Green’. The Emmy Award-winning show teaches kids about money and business and is produced by the same team who created Bill Nye the Science Guy. The episode with Athenian School aired in mid-April, 2012.

Eco Company TV featured The Athenian School’s efforts in 2009 with this video.

To learn more about the Green Ribbon Schools, go here.

To see Athenian’s official press release, go here.

See more about the 2012 nomination here.

Athenian Sophomore Raises a Third Guide Dog for the Blind

Last year, Paige’s guide dog Phoebe graduated from Guide Dogs for the Blind.  In what is becoming a family tradition, Paige and her family are raising a third Guide Dog puppy after their first two pups became successful Guides.  Paige wrote her year-end freshman “This I Believe” speech about Phoebe and Guide Dogs has featured her speech in their blog

Paige on giving her second successful guide to a college student in Massachusetts: “Phoebe is the greatest gift that I have ever given. Because of her I have touched Rachel’s life; because Phoebe gave Rachel freedom, I gave Rachel freedom….I would never give up my experience raising Phoebe for anything. I believe that through her, I made a difference in Rachel’s life. I believe that I became a fuller person because of Phoebe. I believe in my power to make a difference because of Phoebe.”

This year, Paige and her family have welcomed Charlene into their family.  Charlene is an adorable yellow lab who will live and train with Paige and her family for the next year and a half.

Look for Charlene in the library on Thursdays and on campus more regularly in the fall, when Charlene is old enough to go to school with Paige.  Please remember to always ask before interacting with a Guide Dog puppy in training!

Tim Holm Day

Every year, The Athenian School honors the memory of Class of ’71 alum Tim Holm, an adventurous spirit who died in a hang gliding accident. On Tim Holm Day, the community joins together to remember those we have lost, reflect on life, enjoy the outdoors, and serve the community. This year, Tim’s brother Chris came to the school to speak about Tim.

Chris Holm honors his brother’s memory with a speech to the next generation of Athenian adventurers.

After Chris’s speech, the entire Upper School spent the day on Mount Diablo with their advisory groups, either hiking on the mountain or removing barbed wire fences.

National Volunteer Week

It’s National Volunteer Week! The Athenian School would like to thank everyone who embraces the spirit of volunteerism, both within our community and in the world at large.

Thank you for your service, time, and compassion!

Learn more about Athenian’s community service philosophy and curriculum here.

Athenian Alum Wins Guggenheim Fellowship

Daniel Wiener, ’72  won a Guggenheim Fellowship for his sculpture work this year.  Daniel is an accomplished sculpture artist and his work will “live and breathe” in an East Hampton outdoor exhibit this summer.

This is Daniel’s bio from the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation:

Daniel Wiener grew up in Los Angeles County but has lived in or around New York City for close to thirty years. Daniel’s first show was at the Stephen Wirtz gallery in San Francisco, held shortly after his graduation from University of California at Berkeley in 1977. In 1982 Daniel was awarded a fellowship for an unusually long stay at Yaddo, which inspired his exodus to the East Coast. Daniel went on to attend the Whitney Independent Study Program (1982–1983) and receive a NYFA grant (1995). He revisited the West Coast as Artist-in-Residence at the Pilchuck School of Glass in (2005). Daniel’s work has been exhibited nationally in both group and one-person shows, notably but not exclusively at Germans Van Eyck, Holly Solomon, and Bravin/Post Lee Galleries in New York and Acme Gallery in Los Angeles. Internationally his work has been presented at Barbara Farber (Amsterdam), Vadstrup & Bie (Copenhagen), and Galerie Filles du Calvaire and Jeff Gleich Gallery in Paris. The not-for-profit spaces which exhibited his work include the Thread-Waxing Exhibition Space, Art-in-General, and the Sculpture Center.

In the spring/summer of 2012, his work will live and breathe in an outdoor exhibition at the LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, New York.

Though he is known primarily for his intense and viscerally arresting sculptures, Daniel also works on watercolors, 3-D animations, and website design. Daniel is presently affiliated with  Lesley Heller Workspace on the Lower East Side of New York City. In a review of his most recent one-man  exhibition at Lesley Heller Project Space in 2011, critic David Brody writes:  “Wiener achieves, as I’ve said, a kind of rhythmic, cloisonné effect that can fascinate in the manner of fractals, cauliflower brain scans, ornamental overload, and state-of-the-art geometric abstraction—as filtered, that is, through the melting optics of a hippie-candle, with all due pathos.  Not that Wiener’s work drips with lassitude; on the contrary, it is restless in its artistic vacillation.  This restlessness, this pathos of vision unattained, can seem funny enough, but it is ultimately the grave pathos of entropy.” (Read An Ethos of Industrious Neurosis: Daniel Wiener at Lesley Heller.)

Daniel lives and works in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Visit his website to catch up on the most recent developments.

Daniel’s statement about his work:

I have a unique capacity for daydreaming. This is another way of saying that I like to lay down and drift off into another world. Another way of saying that I am good at doing nothing. I would like it if this drifting quality were present in the work. Many of my recent pieces are quite small and hang from the ceiling from filament, giving the feeling they are floating, perhaps like islands floating in the air. There is something very unexpected about this, but it also feels familiar because it partakes of the spirit of a child’s fairy tale –things coming out of nowhere, taking an imaginative leap. This to me has the logic of daydreams, a logic that children are much closer to than we are. This is not to whitewash the daydream; it also has a very dark side, and there is always something unsatisfying and disappointing about a daydream because it contains an unfulfilled wish, or something that is not there. I am interested in this absence, or sense of loss, that is at the heart of the imagination, of daydreaming. Winnicott once said that thumb-sucking is the first act of the imagination, which not only suggests the primacy of the imagination in human development but also its origination in loss. I think this gets at the energy of my work, the constant need I have (that we all have) to make things up. The endlessness of the imagination, I think, is reflected in the endlessness of my sequences.

I want a lexicon of transformations. Or self-transformations. It often looks as though the sculptures are transforming themselves: the little ending or strange addition is a consequence of, or intrinsic to, the shape it is connected to. And I think it’s impossible to think about transformations without expectations. I like to fool around with expectations without seeming to: something grows, something turns from one thing to another thing, though of course it’s the same thing, since there’s always a thread. But the ends of things are more sensitive, I think. The tip of the penis. The feet, the nose, the hands. And what if, like clown’s feet, they are unusually large? A transformation taken too far is a mistake–like aiming for Kansas and ending up in Tennessee.

In some of my ladder pieces there is this sense of being transported. The ladder gets so small and eerily fragile, as though an attempt has been made to construct an escape, but the result is not even worth it (you’d have to be an ant to be transported by it). In any case, where the ladders lead is of no consequence, or at least it’s up in the air. That they lead away from something matters more. These are failed ladders, makeshift ladders, pieced together, sometimes broken. Yet there is a movement through space that is physical, but it is also like a mind trying to do something, trying to get itself untangled, trying to make progress. A sad, pathetic, provisional sort of progress.

What I find I cannot talk about, and what is frequently left out when artists talk about making art, is the need to make it. Let me paraphrase something from Nietzsche that has stayed with me: someone with a labyrinthine mind does not seek the truth, he only seeks his Ariadne. While the truth seeker is looking for an answer, I’m looking for an exit, an escape hatch. Sculpture, to some degree, is that escape hatch. Escape from what? Guilt, worry, anxiety, shame, self-hatred, an inability to communicate, boredom, fear–you name it. Yet it is also these emotions, hidden beneath its “whimsical” exterior, that drive my work.

Walk Like MADD: Scott Leister, ’05

This week, the San Francisco Bay Area “Walk Like MADD” Event website is featuring Scott Leister, Class of ’05, on their front page in the article entitled “Why We Walk.”  Scott was killed on August 17, 2008, when the car, in which he was a rear-seat passenger, was struck by a car going over 100 mph.  The driver was a 22 year old with a blood alcohol level over twice the legal limit.  You can support the “Scott Leister Friends and Family” walking team and read his story on the San Francisco Bay Area Walk Like MADD 2012 page.  Scott’s family have been active volunteers for MADD since 2008 and will be participating in another Walk Like MADD at Cesar Chavez Park this year.  Please join them on Saturday, June 2, 2012, or help them reach their fundraising goal of $7000 by clicking here. Continue reading

Food for Thought: The Athenian School Community Cookbook

The Athenian Parent Association is selling Food For Thought, Athenian Community Cookbook 2012.  Get one before they sell out!  This amazing premier edition cookbook is a compilation of favorite recipes from parents, students, alumni, teachers and staff and it has truly captured the Athenian flavor!

The books were constructed using recycled paper products, are $25 apiece, and can be ordered by sending an email to The book is a great keepsake and makes a wonderful gift!

From the Introduction: “Food for Thought began as an Athenian Parent Association Fundraiser suggestion in the fall of 2011.  The idea was to create a collection of recipes, culinary adventures and kitchen lore from Athenian families and campus events–a cookbook to reflect the Athenian community around the world.  We hopes that Athenians would not only embrace Food for Thought, but also pass along their recipes and stories to create this special cookbook…It is our sincere wish that you enjoy exploring and sharing Food for Thought with friends and family.”

Learn more about the APA here.

Video: Can Your Robot Play Basketball?

Athenian’s Engineering Collective competed in the FIRST Robotics Silicon Valley Regional Competition in March.  In this year’s challenge, Rebound Rumble, students built a robot that could shoot baskets while defending opponent robots.

This is a clip from Qualification match 33 from FRC Silicon Valley Regional 2012.  Athenian’s robot is 852, a blue robot in the lower left hand corner at the start of the video.  Athenian scores a basket at 1:32!

Athenian came in 11th place in the 2012 competition, out of more than 50 teams.

Learn more about Athenian’s robotics and engineering opportunities here.