Presentations of Learning

Athenian’s ongoing efforts to focus on mastery as we define student success has led us to experiment with when and how students receive feedback on their learning. In addition to written grade reports, parents are invited to attend conferences with their students’ teachers at the end of the first quarter. Students receive feedback directly from their teachers and then self-reflect with their advisors. Depending on the grade level, students then prepare a presentation of their learning so far this year.

Middle School

Sixth graders don’t receive grades at all in the first quarter. We want students to focus on areas of strength and growth rather than letter grades as they transition into middle school. Instead, sixth graders get comprehensive rubrics with comments from each of their teachers that assess their development across the following learning areas:

  • empathy
  • readiness to learn
  • collaboration
  • quality of work
  • demonstration of learning
  • mindset

Students then reflect with their advisors on the rubrics and develop a Presentation of Learning for their parents. They share strengths and areas of growth for each class and conclude with three general goals: academic, social, and how they will contribute to the community.

Unlike former models in which each teacher would share something about the student, now students are at the helm of these presentations. Students are at the center of this process and have active ownership of their growth and development.

6th graders also have the opportunity to share coursework including their identity shields with their parents. Aa part of an introduction to the tools in the Carter Innovation Studio, students craft wooden shields that represent various parts of their identity. Guided through a number of reflective exercises, students choose areas of identity to focus on in each quadrant of their shield, such as family, social, academic, athletic, religious, physical, or community identity. They learn how to use the laser printer, 3-D printers, and hand tools to assemble their shield and they write a poem or short prose.

Upper School

The Upper School has a similar student-centered model for conferences. All Upper School students reflect with advisors to prepare a self-assessment of what is going well in each class, what they could do better, and what specific actions they can take to improve. In addition to assessing their classes, they examine co-curriculars, social life, health and wellness, time management, and their home life. During conferences, all students in 9th grade and many students in 10th-12th grades present their reflections to their parents and advisor.

By scaffolding the reflection process with written feedback from teachers, in-person meetings with advisors, and student-written reflections, students are central in the evaluation of their own learning. These models encourage students to think creatively about how they can improve with attentive support from the adults in our community.

Visiting Artist Exposes Fine Arts Students to Four Printmaking Techniques

by Kim Palacios, Associate Director of Advancement, Alumni Giving & Engagement

Athenian was pleased to welcome Madalena Parreira, master printmaker and set designer, to serve as our 2019-20 Artist in Residence. Fine arts students in grades 9 through 12 were exposed to four new methods of printmaking under her instruction this fall. An alumni-supported Artist in Residence Endowed Fund provides a guest-instructor opportunity for an artist every year. The students’ diverse, personal, and visually-interesting prints made for an alluring display in the Center for Visual Arts (CFTA).  

Madalena was invited as a result of her long-term artistic collaboration with fine arts instructor, Sally Baker, who previously studied at Ar.Co (Center for Art and Visual Communication) in Lisbon, Portugal. Prior to serving as current head of printmaking at Ar.Co, Madalena taught art in secondary schools and colleges in Europe and the U.S., including for the United Nations International School in New York.

The program focused on four techniques. In the two weeks prior to Madalena’s arrival, Sally presented outstanding artworks in each technique and carefully explained what each printmaking processes entailed:

  • Silkscreen. A seventeenth-century method that uses stencils to block the passage of ink through a thin mesh; seen in the work of Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg.
  • Etching. A sixteenth-century technique that uses acids to etch line and tone drawings onto metal plates; seen in the work of Rembrandt, Piranesi, and Goya.
  • Lithography. An eighteenth-century technique of printing on stones that was widely used to print stamps, maps, and packaging; seen in the work of Delacroix and Kathe Kollwitz.
  • Collography. A twentieth-century technique that involves creating plates from textured materials and printing in intaglio or by roller; seen in the work of the late Cuban artist Belkis Ayon.

Students were able to choose the type of printmaking they would explore within their respective groups; workshops were designed according to their choices. Following Madalena’s arrival, students watched live demonstrations of each step as precursors to developing their own prints.

We are pleased to report that the program was also viewed as a success by the artist herself, who remarked, “It has been an enormous pleasure to spend these days with such inquisitive and talented students. I was particularly impressed with their warm, polite and welcoming attitude from the first day, as well as their commitment and sustained effort and focus in all sessions. I have rarely seen young artists demonstrate such mutual respect and interest in learning.”

I Can Cook!

Our Athenian 8th graders were in for a delicious treat for the first ever I Can Cook Focus Day! The idea behind this Focus Day was to give our students practical life skills and an understanding of the work and effort that goes into preparing a meal.

Earlier in the week, students were asked to get into groups of three or four and pick two recipes to prepare. The recipes were chosen from a list curated by the faculty and included dishes such as guacamole, chicken nuggets, meatballs, pasta, and lasagna, all from scratch.

The Focus Day began with an enthusiastic field trip to our local Safeway. Students were each given $20 and copies of their recipes, and they had to determine what to buy. Pantry staples, such as spices, flour, and eggs were provided for them to help keep them under budget, but many still struggled with finding the items they needed while staying within their price range. Students made it work by exchanging brand name supplies for store generics as well as by collaborating with other groups to share items they both needed. While the groups did manage to stay on budget, many students were surprised at the price of groceries. One student was particularly scandalized that three avocados would cost more than a third of her group’s budget!

Once we were back on campus, half of the groups were given cooking stations to begin prepping their meals. Lanny Lee, our Middle School art teacher, gave the students a comprehensive safety lesson on how to properly use the burners, knives, and other kitchen essentials, and then the students were given one hour to make their dishes. There was much trial and error involved: one group realized that it helps the cooking process if you turn the burner on, while another learned that subbing out vegetable oil for olive oil will give your chicken nuggets a green tint. A general panic ensued when we gave students a fifteen-minute time warning, but all of them managed to have a plated appetizer and main course by the time the rotation was over.

While half of the students were cooking, the other half were filming them and creating cooking shows. This involved going to each group and filming them cooking, pulling the chefs aside and doing interviews about the cooking process, and having non-chefs weigh in as announcers, hosts, or food critics. The students were given free rein as to what style cooking show they wanted to create, and their products were as varied as the food that was prepared.

At the end of the rotation, each cooking group shared samples of their food with the filming crews, who then rated each group based on appetizer taste, main course taste, and food presentation. We collected all of these scores to determine a “top chef” group for the rotation. We took a break for lunch and then the cooking and filming groups swapped places for the afternoon.

The focus of the day was cooking and filming, but the skills that the students learned and practiced on Friday extended far past cooking a meal or using iMovie. Students had to create and stick to a food budget, using creative solutions if they ran into a problem. They had to work as a team, taking turns being chefs and sous chefs on their dishes, and supporting their team members throughout the cooking process. They had to manage their time effectively, making sure that they weren’t focusing too much of their time on their appetizer at the expense of their main course. And they had to hone their ability to stay on track in the face of distractions, specifically, a horde of their peers filming their every move.

Overall, it was inspiring to see how the 8th graders cooperated and encouraged each other through the process. During the afternoon rotation, many of the videographers were offering tips to the chefs by letting them know what worked for them or what obstacles they ran into while cooking similar recipes. There are few opportunities for the whole grade to spend the entire day together, and it was a great bonding experience for this cohort.

Middle School Focus Days: Kicking Off the Year with Fortune Cookies, Flowers, and Film

Focus Days are in full swing in the Middle School! Focus Days are designed for students to find relevance and deep meaning in what they are learning, connecting content with interpersonal skills while engaging in hands-on activities. Last week, we had three action-packed days that encouraged our students to get creative, get moving, and get out of their comfort zones:

The 8th graders had a field trip to Chinatown in San Francisco, where they got to explore the neighborhood and learn about its history. Their day started with a trip on BART, followed by a guided tour of Chinatown. In their English classes, students have been reading stories by Amy Tan. One of the highlights of their tour was the First Chinese Baptist Church at Waverly Place, featured prominently in The Joy Luck Club. Later in the day, students talked about the significance of Chinatown as an immigrant community and also had the chance to hear faculty tell their own family immigration stories. Sama G, ’23 said, “I very much enjoyed learning immigrant stories. I also loved having 30 minutes to roam around with friends. The boba was spectacular and the fortune cookie factory was interesting.”

The 7th graders also ventured out to San Francisco on Friday to visit the Botanical Gardens and the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. In small groups, they investigated different species suited to a variety of ecosystems, from the ferns that grace the Ancient Plant Garden to the towering trees in the California Native Redwood Grove. Students were asked to observe and draw the plants they saw, paying special attention to how they have adapted for survival in different environments. After a quick lunch break, the 7th graders hiked over to the Conservatory of Flowers to continue their adaptation reflections while marveling at carnivorous plants and tropical flowers.

Meanwhile, the 6th graders got the Middle School campus all to themselves. Their Focus Day, Tool Cool for School, showed them how to use a variety of physical and digital tools that will be relevant throughout their Athenian careers. The students spent half of their day in the new Carter Innovation Studio, learning “making” fundamentals in their creation of an art piece using hammers, nails, and string. The string art they created is integrated into the Identity Projects that they have been working on in their English classes. The second part of the day involved students using iMovie to create a film titled “The Hilarious Tale of a 6th Grader’s First Month at Athenian.” In groups of four or five, students had to write scripts, film, and edit their movies, which were shown at the end of the day to much laughter.

Let’s hope that the rest of the year is full of Focus Days that are as exciting and fulfilling as the ones we experienced on Friday!

Athenian Students’ Innovative Projects

by Kate Oxley ’20
Originally published in the March 2018 edition of The Pillar, Athenian’s student newspaper

A scalable bionic heart. A bio-digester to make methane from compost. A mobile refrigeration unit with electronic generation for third world countries. A prosthetic limb that simulates a ball and joint socket. What do all of these have in common? They can all change the world, they all took hundreds of hours to develop, and they were all made by students while at The Athenian School.

Classes such as Applied Science, CADFab, and Engineering enable students to pursue personal projects while receiving class credit for their efforts. Many students rise to the opportunity and exceed all class expectations in their projects for more than just a good grade. These students can spend hundreds of hours in a semester on their project, but what drives them to do and learn so much in such a short period of time?

“I think individual passion should lead students through the learning process,” Dave Otten, teacher of Athenian’s new Science and Engineering class, said. “It should be the thing that keeps them going when they get stuck. When doing projects, it should help determine what they need to learn.”

One former student who thrived in project-oriented classes is Baxter Eldridge ’13. In high school, he claimed he had a tendency to work on “way too many projects at any given time” in and out of class. One of these projects was a scalable 3D printed bionic heart.

“There are these ventricle assistive devices, which were a super recent medical device when I worked on it,” Eldridge said. “They work like a motor, but the rotor in the motor is a turbine, think a jet turbine, so it pulls fluid through it as it runs…. There was this popular science article about these two doctors who were trying to use two of these ventricle assistive devices to make a complete artificial heart. The reason that’s currently somewhat challenging is that while these devices work quite well, they do damage blood cells. So, while one patient can handle the damage to blood cells caused by one of these devices, if you use two you damage too many blood cells to use as a long-term heart. My idea was to take the concept of the ventricle assistive device and the premise you eventually get to make it a complete heart, and focus on trying to make the device so you can tailor its output depending on the size of its patient… The goal of my project was that you could choose, let’s say three motors, then 3D print the size of the auger so the optimum running speed of the motor pumped out the optimum amount of fluid for the patient.”

Projects like these are one of many reasons that The Athenian School is developing a more project-based curriculum for the coming year. Whereas in some classes students currently find interest in the topics presented to them in class, Eldridge pushes Athenian teachers to tailor their curriculum to take cues from students’ passions, and to teach students how to deconstruct their ideas into smaller, quantitative milestones.

“Rather than telling students to produce this report, then this report, and this little thing, when you’re not really excited about each milestone, it’d be better to [build milestones where] you’ll be able to say ‘ok, now this is a real thing, I’m holding it in my hand,’” Eldridge said. “The school could [work on] taking ideas from understanding students’ goals and visions, then helping them see how to break those down into distinct and satiating milestones.”

Rock Williams ’17 and Ryan Keller ’17 were another pair of students who took project-based learning to a new level in their Applied Science class.

“I worked with Ryan on a ball-and-socket motor, which we’d originally planned on purchasing online for a robotic arm,” Williams said. “For all the joints of the fingers where all the phalanges meet the metacarpals, all of those have the range of motion of a ball-and-socket. Because of this, we thought it’d be easier to use a ball-and-socket motor, rather than a set of multiple motors.”

Upon looking for a ball-and-socket motor, the pair discovered that it did not exist. Rather than moving on to a new project, they “decided to delve deeper into how [they] could counter this problem, and into the possible future applications of a ball-and-socket motor,” marking the beginning of a school-year long project to create a ball-and-socket motor for a functional prosthetic limb. Williams hopes more people can work on projects they are passionate about, however, he has some concern about the visibility of such projects.

“I think it’s difficult because, at least with the old Makers Studio, it’s a little hidden, like its own little world,” Williams said. “I think Eugene, Lori, and Dave do a really great job of getting projects going and getting them completed, but as a whole school, I don’t think the Makers Studio is completely integrated. It’s kind of like an isolated event.”

Another way to participate in these projects is through the entrepreneurship program. Laura Victorino, teacher of the entrepreneurship G period class, hopes to bridge the gap between business, technology, and social justice issues, however, she fears that false assumptions about entrepreneurship could discourage student participation.

“One of the things that disappoints me is that people associate the word ‘entrepreneurship’ with too narrow a set of ideas. People think it’s all about being the next Facebook or Tesla, and while those are very high profile entrepreneurial ventures, to me entrepreneurship is a much broader thing which involves making social change or solving health problems, or environmental problems, or education problems. I think you can bring an entrepreneurial attitude and toolset to all the important problems we have, not just entertainment or transportation or finance… Entrepreneurial thinking is one of the most valuable things you can learn to take to almost anything you do.”

Athenian will be opening the new Carter Innovation Studio in the fall of 2018, a significant upgrade from our current tucked-away Maker Studio. The Carter Innovation Studio will stand at the entrance to our campus and will be an integrated hub of learning for all of our students to work on projects. Athenian believes in hands-on education where students can work on real-life projects that have meaning to them. We can’t wait to see what our students will create in this new space. Learn more about the future of project-based innovative learning at Athenian.

Students Redesigning Spinal Surgery

Reprinted from the Athenian Magazine 2017


When Sofia Kavanaugh ‘17 started Applied Science at the beginning of her senior year, she thought she would learn how to use a saw and wasn’t really sure what else. Little did she know that she would embark on a project that could change the way surgeons treat scoliosis.

Applied Science is an untraditional course, Sofia explains. “Eugene [Mizusawa] sets us loose and tells us to think of something we’re interested in, not something that’s going to bore us a couple months from now.” Some of Sofia’s classmates set to work on a range of projects. William Yao ‘17 wanted to build a robot that could carry heavy camera equipment on movie sets. Emma Cottrill ‘17 used a personal experience with a concussion to fuel her search for an on-the-field concussion detection device. Rock Williams ‘17 and Ryan Keller ‘17 wanted to build a motor that mimicked the movement of a joint socket, rolling around rather than backward and forward or side to side. But Sofia wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.

Eugene prompted her to think about what she was passionate about. “He asked what my interests were and I told him I was interested in medicine and anatomy,” Sofia remembers. Eugene thought of a 9th grader on the robotics team who he knew had scoliosis and had undergone an experimental surgery. In short, Grace True ’20 had a spinal surgery that in time overcorrected her scoliosis, forming a curve in the opposite direction and necessitating a second surgery. Surgery is always risky, so Grace, Sofia, and fellow Applied Science classmate Peni Magari ’17 set about creating a mathematical and computerized 3-D model that could help surgeons perform the surgery with more precision necessitating fewer surgeries.

An x-ray of Grace’s spine

Unlike older scoliosis surgeries that fuse the spine together restricting movement, Vertical Body Tethering (VBT) works to correct spinal curvature by screwing a tether into the spine of a still-growing scoliosis patient. As the patient grows, the tether pulls the spine back while still allowing for a full range of motion. The problem is that there is no way to test how tight to screw in the tether. In Grace’s case, she grew more than was expected in a short amount of time, and the tether pulled her spine past vertical into a curve opposite of the one she started with. While the first surgery went well, after a year, Grace needed a second surgery to alter the tightness of the tether to accommodate her rapid growth.

Sofia and the team were left with the question: How can we measure the tension in the tether and figure out a mathematical and computerized model of predicting how tight the tether will pull and how much the spine will correct? They set about creating a model that surgeons could use to enter the patient’s height, weight, predicted growth, and other measurements and predict using a 3-D model what tether pressure would have the best outcome.

3D printed spine

After extensive research and pulling into the project a 9th grader with coding expertise, Kate Oxley  ’20, they used Grace’s x-rays and cat scans to create a digital 3-D model of Grace’s spine. They were able to print the model using 3-D printers so they could feel and see for themselves what they had been studying. Using the Cobb Method, they set about measuring the degree of spinal curve. Measuring the Cobb angle at various stages of growth is the baseline data needed for making predictions.

A highlight of the project, the team spoke with Grace’s surgeon to get more information on the flaws in the surgery and what problems he anticipated with the model.  Sofia says, “Up until we met with the surgeon, it had been all talk. What if we did this? What if we did that? The surgeon showed us what we needed to work on. He saw the project for what it was and really believed in it. It was definitely a cool moment.”

Sofia notes how important and also how unusual this class is, even at Athenian. The students are given freedom to explore a passion and see where it takes them. “In other classes, you’re more dependent on the teacher, but in this class, it’s all you doing it. Athenian is one of the only places that would allow that kind of freedom.” A class without strict attendance rules and no specific assignments may not sound like a class at all to some people. Yet the outcomes of this course make its value self-evident. Sofia shares the impact the class had on her, “I’ve always been a motivated person, but this class tested me: if someone isn’t watching, will you still put in the work? It taught us how to be self-motivated and learn about the things we really wanted to. The kind of perspective the class gave me I’ll definitely carry with me through college.”

Sofia further raves, “This class and these types of classes are really important. Getting to learn in a new way that is purely directed by you is incredibly beneficial. It gave us more confidence as there’s no one telling us this is the exact procedure you have to follow. Everything was driven and created by us. Since we are younger and we still have a lot of school left, we often get told we don’t know or can’t do certain things. This class was the complete opposite of that. A high schooler can come up with a super complex project and have it be used by the world.

The team made a lot of progress during the year but there is still more to do. Sofia isn’t exactly sure where it will go from here, but she hopes Grace and Kate will keep working on the project the next couple of years and take Applied Science as seniors. She also plans to stay involved in whatever way she can as she moves on to college.

Sofia started at University of California Los Angeles in fall 2017; while her major is undeclared, she plans to be in the pre-med track. Asked what she wants to do after school, she responded with a wise smile, “Right now, I want to be a vet. But there’s still a small chance that I might become a physician given that I would probably be the 5th generation. It’s kind of in my blood.”

Athenian Continues to Send Leaders Into the Educational Community

Two years ago, after years of contributions to and growth at Athenian, two employees went on to become Heads of Schools at independent schools in Marin and Washington, DC. This past year, two more veteran Athenians moved into leadership roles in the world of education. Nancy Nagramada is now the Head of Middle School at the San Francisco School and Lisa Haney is the Executive Director of the California Teacher Development Collaborative. Both Lisa and Nancy embodied so much of what makes Athenian special and we will miss their dedication, joy for teaching, genuine love of the students, and sense of fun and humor they brought to their work at the School.

Nancy began at Athenian in 2003 as our Dean of Diversity. Nancy wore many hats in her 14 years at the School. Teaching in the Middle School for ten years, she created signature curricular components including the 8th-grade English class family migration story project, the annual production of West Side Story, the 8th grade speech project, and the hallmark Interim trip to Washington, DC. Nancy ran Athenian’s Summer Programs for five years, furthering Athenian’s “public purpose” work through engineering programs for girls and a pilot partnership with Aim High. Nancy lived on campus with her family for ten years and was a pillar of the residential community. She rallied the faculty and staff every year for the Faculty/Staff show, pulling off elaborate musical productions to benefit the Starehe Schools in Kenya. Nancy was also the Middle School Dean of Faculty, a leader and participant in many school improvement projects and task forces, the leader of the Admission Ambassador program, and in her last year was the Special Assistant to the Head of School for Strategic Initiatives, and 9th grade history teacher. Nancy was always the first to volunteer, whether it be an improv performance, setting up a meal train for new parents, cleaning up a messy room, or rallying students and faculty alike for fun and games.

Nancy has now moved across the Bay and is taking her extensive teaching and leadership experience to a philosophically similar school in the heart of San Francisco. Like Athenian, The San Francisco School has been delivering an education rooted in intellectual curiosity, playfulness, diversity, and engagement to preschool through middle school students for over 50 years. We will miss Nancy’s energy, can-do attitude, and sense of fun that she brought to everything she was involved in. We know that Nancy will continue to be a fierce advocate for students and a champion of social justice in the world of education in her new role.

Lisa came on board at Athenian in 1991 as the Director of International Programs. Lisa taught ESL and started the first student club focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion at the School called The Multicultural Alliance. Lisa’s continued interest in supporting deeper cross-cultural understanding inspired her to lead six international interim trips, two to China and four to Tanzania. Lisa’s global interest reflected in the courses she taught, including the 9th-grade world literature program. She developed a variety of seminars including Utopian Literature; Migrants, Nomads, and Aliens; and regional literature seminars focusing on Africa, South Asia, and India.

As Lisa’s role in the community expanded, her care for student and faculty wellness continued to focus her work. Lisa held a number of leadership roles during her time at the School, including Humanities Department Chair. She became the Upper School Dean of Faculty and advocated for and supported her colleagues as a member of the Upper School leadership team with strength and compassion. Lisa spearheaded a process to develop Athenian’s professional development and evaluation program and helped the School define its “Standards of Excellent Teaching.” Lisa worked closely with student members of the Gender Equity Coalition to found the Athenian Sexual Assault Prevention Program, now a required part of the Athenian curriculum. Creating a warm and welcoming space wherever she was on campus, students and faculty alike looked to Lisa for guidance and support.

Lisa’s substantial work developing teachers at Athenian was complimented by her work with teachers through UC Berkeley Extension and the Berkeley and San Francisco Unified School Districts. Lisa also has leadership experience with international and diverse school populations, including working with the State Department improving English language education in Tanzania. Lisa will bring all of this experience with her to California Teacher Development Collaborative where she will continue to be a teacher of teachers. Lisa is the perfect person to continue CATDC’s mission of supporting teachers to collaborate and create a teaching and learning environment that is rewarding, inspiring, and productive. Athenian faculty will continue to benefit from Lisa’s wisdom and care through CATDC professional development opportunities.

While we miss seeing Nancy and Lisa on a daily basis, we are lucky to have them remain members of our community. Both Lisa and Nancy’s spouses, Mark and Charlie respectively, work at Athenian and they both are parents of alumni. Nancy has a son in the Upper School who will now commute from San Francisco to remain an Athenian Owl. We are so grateful for Lisa and Nancy’s nearly 40 years of combined service to Athenian and we are thrilled they will remain directly connected to Athenian.

Life in Flight: What’s Possible After Athenian

Updated November 28, 2017

The core values of Athenian’s mission provide the foundation for 21st-century success: critical and analytical thinking, collaboration, teamwork, and creativity.  For proof of this, look no further than Keenan Wyrobek ’99.  During his Athenian experience, he built rockets, competed on the swim team, and embraced failure in projects and experiments as a learning opportunity. The skills Keenan built at Athenian served him well at Johns Hopkins and Stanford, and in developing the reading app Bam Boomerang and the Personal Robotics Program at Willow Garage.

In founding Zipline, Keenan combined his robotics expertise and a strong desire to help others. Recently featured on National Geographic’s Chasing Genius series and CNN, Zipline gets medical supplies to communities that are difficult to access. Keenan’s drone-operated delivery system sends urgent medical supplies to patients who can’t be reached otherwise. Health workers can order critical items like blood by text message from Zipline; within minutes, a drone takes off and medical products are delivered quickly and safely by parachute. Zipline, one of Keenan’s service-oriented tech startups, has raised nearly $50 million in funding for its innovative, humanitarian, life-saving projects and has delivered thousands of units of blood saving countless lives. Keenan tells us, “My Athenian education prepared me for what I do at Zipline. In my work at Zipline, I draw on the hands on the problem-solving experience, technical knowledge, and leadership skills I gained at Athenian every day.”

Keenan delivered a TEDMed2017 talk at the beginning of November sharing about his work providing blood and medical supplies to hard to reach populations and Zipline was a winner of the 2017 INDEX: Designs to Improve Life Award, which came with a €500,000 grant. One of the jury members, Ravi Naidoo, said Zipline “is a great systemic interplay of designers, governments and society bringing the best first-world technology to the poorest.” With a successful operation in place in Rwanda, Zipline will be establishing four distribution centers in Tanzania in 2018 and plans to continue expanding to countries across the world. Plans are in the works to begin delivering blood to remote areas of Maryland, Nevada, and Washington as well, serving as a pilot project for a global rollout redefining the delivery of emergency supplies.

Watch ZIPLINE – 2017 BODY WINNER from INDEX: Design to Improve Life® on Vimeo.

Athenian’s New Food Services Provider: Epicurean Group

by Dara Goldfein ’19, published in the May 2017 student newspaper, The Pillar

After a long history of relying on the Sodexo food service company as the primary food provider for the Athenian community, the Athenian administration has decided to make changes in the food program and switch food providers to another Bay Area company known as Epicurean Group.

“Epicurean Group is a food-service management company headquartered in Northern California and dedicated to sustainable dining,” the company’s statement said. “Our artisan approach and sustainable practices support local, organic farms and ranches and the sustainable seafood model of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.”

The change in food providers was unknown to many students but fits into the general pattern of change that the Athenian community will experience over these next few years with the Master Plan, new classes, and new faculty.

“Sometimes it’s really a good time for a change and to get some fresh blood and fresh ideas. Our contract was coming to an end with Sodexo so it seemed like a good time for a change,” Chief Operating Officer Leslie Lucas said. “We’re looking at a change, a change in our master plan and our Main Hall, etc.”

The decision to use Epicurean was based on a few factors, one of which was the necessity of finding a provider that can accommodate a boarding program.

“It’s key that we found a service provider that can handle boarding programs because there are a lot of service providers that just do lunch,” Lucas said.

A main factor of choosing to leave Sodexo for Epicurean Group was Athenian’s interest in companies with progressive values that are more suited to the mission and image of The Athenian School.

“One of the the things that was really important for us was to make sure that our food service provider was really in line with our mission, ordering from local vendors, and managing environmentally sustainable purchasing programs as well as providing some educational programs in nutrition,” Lucas said.

Epicurean’s website makes sure that their clients know that their top priority is invested in more progressive, forward-thinking ideas.

“Epicurean Group follows environmentally and socially responsible management practices. Everything is made from scratch, not from cans delivered from a warehouse,” a statement from the Epicurean Group said.

Epicurean is also invested in the wellbeing of their clients and alters their agenda to fit the specific considerations of their clients.

“Our clients benefit from eating fresh, healthy ingredients – and they assure us that our food tastes better!” said Mary Clark Bartlett, Founder and CEO of Epicurean Group.

While Epicurean maintains progressive ideals, some hope that the tradition of Athenian’s food is still honored.

“I’m hoping that they are able to take in some of the old tradition and cultures [of the food] and bring in even more cultures to our food” Jennifer S. ’19 said.

Currently, the Athenian students are comfortable and happy with the employees of Sodexo that make and serve students and faculty food everyday.

“I think that they [Sodexo’s employees] are doing a really good job having them help out and everything I really think that they are taking good management and they take safety as a priority” Jennifer said.

Even with the new food company, the Athenian administration made sure to implement a course of action in order to retain the Sodexo employees that have been a part of the Athenian community.

“They are all going to be interviewed….and Epicurean has talked about looking at the employees that are currently here and seeing who is going to be a good fit for us,” Lucas said.

Epicurean Group is the main provider to many other schools in the bay area, including Sacred Heart Prep in Menlo Park. The students at these private schools seem to enjoy the staff and management that Epicurean provides for them.

“I love the staff. They are all very nice and helpful, and they keep the cafeteria running smoothly,” Gabrielle I., a sophomore at Sacred Heart Prep High School, said.

However, while the current Athenian food system connects the students very well with the employees, at other schools where Epicurean is provided, the process strays away from the same environment that is fostered at The Athenian School.

“We don’t get to interact with the cooks very often but the servers and cashiers are always nice,” Daphne C.. a sophomore at Sacred Heart Prep High School, said.

Concussed: Learning for Living


The moment the soccer ball slammed into my head, everything went white and then black. When I first opened my eyes, a blurry, light, and dizzy world surrounded me. I will never forget that view of the world. – Emma Cottrill ’17

At Athenian, we believe the best way to master academic subjects is to experience their application firsthand. Our academic program resonates and sticks with students because we all learn by doing, by applying what is learned to real world situations. Whether in or out of the classroom, this approach allows our students to incorporate their learning with their living, laying a strong foundation for a life of intellectual exploration and meaningful contribution.

Inspired by a freshmen Interim trip where Emma Cottrill ’17 bonded with classmates and teachers over photography, she continued to study photography throughout her Athenian experience.  Emma’s final photography project created a digital gallery of photographs and reflections on her recovery from a traumatic concussion. Emma begins her piece with the following:

My life changed forever the night I was hit in the back of the head with an over-inflated soccer ball. The impact from the ball caused my head to whip forward. Simultaneously, the momentum forced me to the ground, where my head violently slammed into the turf. Concussion was the immediate diagnosis, but the two-week normal recovery morphed into months. Isolated. Bored. Angry. Initially, I hated that this happened to me, but eventually, I recognized that I could resent the accident or embrace it.

My approach to the world altered after I got hurt. Before my injury, my life was black and white. Numbers and science drove my beliefs, and I required proof for acceptance. However, after my injury, the gray areas became more interesting to me. Less rigid, more whimsical, I embraced the magic in the daily simplicities. I found energy and inspiration in the imperfect.

In Concussed, I photograph all aspects associated with my concussion: the way I see the world, my view of soccer, the doctors, the medicine, my brain, and who I became.

Emma describes herself on her project’s website, “In addition to the creativity that comes with photography, I also enjoy structure and procedure and a rigid schedule. I love my Chemistry and Math classes, and I am a competitive swimmer who is training intensely with a goal of qualifying for the Olympic Trials.” Emma’s work reveals a mastery of photographic theory, a comprehensive understanding of concussion science and medicine, a facility with meaning-making, and a great capacity for self-reflection. As a senior, Emma applied her many skills learned through years of scaffolded Athenian experiences to conceptualize an independent, self-expressive project, applying her usual rigorous and creative approach.

This is just one example of what is possible here. Each one of Emma’s 83 senior classmates could tell their own Athenian story revealing how they have discovered “there is more in you than you know.” We could not be more proud of our students.