Athenians Connected Around the World

By Chris Beeson, Director of Admission and Financial Aid

Many boarding schools travel each year internationally to connect with current parents and alumni as well as encourage prospective students to apply. I have done so for Athenian for many years, building our relationship with these important members of the Athenian community who cannot get to campus as easily as those who live nearby.

Athenian’s travel has been built around annual fairs organized in Asian cities by TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools) for U.S. and Canadian schools. This year’s travels took me to eight cities (Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Saigon, Seoul, Shanghia, Taipei, and Tokyo) in seven countries in just 19 days! Though the fast pace of the trip is challenging, the warm connections made with Athenian families and alumni are heartwarming. In each meeting, I can build a stronger relationship for Athenian with these community members abroad.

14725707_10206928662911209_6895392832755584848_nI am truly touched by how much our alumni and parents value an Athenian education and experience. It is amazing how strong the bond to Athenian can be for alumni, some who graduated many years ago and some more recently. Alumni and current parents often join me to represent Athenian at the boarding school fairs as a testament to their commitment to the School. I am so grateful to the many volunteers who are by my side that not only know the School but can help bridge any language barriers that may arise.

In meetings with alumni and parents, I can share current information about what’s happening on campus as well as answer questions from parents and alumni.  I share with each boarding parent an update about their child. Both parents and alumni often value the chance to ask questions about Athenian now and our plans for the future.  With current parents, I can often fill in where information is missing and reply to any queries they have.  

Facebook has proven to be an amazing tool in locating and communicating.  After 23 years as the Director of Admission, there are many alumni I know but who may not have kept Athenian updated with their most current contact information.  I have been able to find some alumni on Facebook and then build out through their list of friends to locate others.  These connections are often met with enthusiasm and lead to wonderful gatherings on these trips.  

Here are some highlights of the fall 2016 trip:

  • Alumni, a current parent, and alumni parents gathered in Tokyo for dinner. Noburo Nishio helped represent Athenian at the fair in Tokyo.
  • Current parents met with me in Beijing, Shanghai, and Taiwan.
  • Alumni in Hong Kong gathered with me for dinner.
  • Parents and alumni in Ho Chi Minh City joined me for a meeting and lovely gathering.
  • In Bangkok, 12 alumni and alumni parents enjoyed a great meal.  I met with another recent alum over lunch. Krittaya Pichitnapakul once again helped represent Athenian at the boarding school fair.

Thank you to everyone who joined me for dinner, helped out at a fair, or just came to say hello. I look forward to next year’s trip already! Here’s to the international community that is Athenian!

Update from Germany: The Round Square International Conference

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-4-07-21-pmGreetings from Louisenlund School and the 2016 Round Square International Conference. We arrived here on Monday afternoon after three train rides. The Athenian delegation is doing well, making many new friends, and enjoying their time at the conference. Here’re some of the highlights of our last few days.

On Saturday, we got a bus ride higher into the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) to Feldberg Mountain. It’s the highest mountain visible from Birklehof School. We caught a gondola to the top. On a clear day, you can see the Swiss and French alps from the top of Feldberg Mountain. Ours was a cloudy day, so no Mount Blanc, but it was still beautiful with great views—and a monument to Bismarck. screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-4-07-29-pm(The above photo is the group in front of this monument.)

We hiked down to and around gorgeous Feldsee Lake and had lunch at an inn that was just a few meters away. The lunch was another classic German meal, vesper. Vesper was traditionally a light meal, but we were served a huge spread with a dozen meats, a dozen cheeses, bread, fruit, sausage noodles and more. We were well fed for the eight-kilometer walk back to campus from there.

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-4-07-34-pmBirklehof held its Halloween Dance that evening because the end of October is an exam time at the school. The drinking age for beer in Germany is 16, so the older students at Birklehof were able to buy and drink beer at the party. (No beer for the conference delegates!) This seemed especially odd because the dance was for high school and middle school students.

Sunday was the last day of the preconference. We mostly spent the day on campus doing things like archery, climbing, and playing volleyball and Black Forest hockey. It was a gray, rainy day. In the afternoon the raindrops started looking very big—and then turned into the first snow of the year. The leaves were still on the trees, flowers were still blooming, and the ground was covered with snow. The other conference delegates were from Australia and South Africa and some of them had never been in a snowstorm before.

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-4-07-39-pmMonday was a travel day. We met in the darkness at 6:00 AM to walk nearly a mile to catch the train into Freiberg. We had 11 minutes in Freiburg to transfer to the train for Hamburg. After catching up on sleep on this six-hour train ride and eating some waffles from the food car, the train pulled into the Hamburg station. We weren’t standing at the train doors with our luggage. By the time some of us had gotten our big suitcases to the exit, the doors were locked and the train was rolling on down the tracks. As you might imagine, it was a bit of a shock to have half the group on the platform and half standing on the moving train. Gratefully, the next stop was just a few hundred meters away. Since we’d traveled around Hamburg on the public transit system, the Athenian students and I were able to easily navigate switching over to the adjacent subway train system and quickly rejoining the main group.

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-4-07-46-pmArriving at the Round Square International Conference is usually a bit of a shock. There are dozens of groups of students from schools all over the world and it’s chaotic getting everyone registered and oriented. Louisenlund School is located right on a lake and a cold wind was blowing from the water.

In our first two days at the conference, there have been dance performances, icebreakers, small group discussions, and service projects. We’ve also had three excellent keynote speakers. Ben Saunders is a polar explorer. His most recent expedition was going on foot to the South Pole and back via Shackleton and Scott’s route. Everyone else who has tried this has failed or died. And, amazingly, he is a great speaker. We heard from Dr. Manfred Spitzer, who is an expert on brain research. This sounds kind of dull, but he had excellent slides and was really able to talk about the practical applications of recent brain research. To share just one of his points, he noted that loneliness is the deadliest disease. This evening, we heard from Souad Mekhennet, a German journalist who is Muslim and has worked for the New York Times and Washington Post. She shared some fascinating stories of her work and got some great questions in the audience on Islamophobia.

Probably the best thing that happens at the conference is the new friendships that are formed and the Athenian students are making some great connections. Tomorrow is the mid-point of the conference and so our return to California on Sunday is just days away.

Update from Germany: Visiting the EU Parliament and Learning About Refugees

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-11-25-09-amGreetings from Birklehof School in Hinterzarten, Germany! The train ride south from Hamburg went well. We had a six-passenger cabin for our group, which was fun and cozy. We were all still adjusting to the time change and so we mostly slept. We stepped off the train in Freiburg and I wondered if I had bought tickets for the right city. There is also a Freiberg in Germany. I felt relief as I saw a familiar face—Carolin who came on exchange to Athenian last spring! She is a student at Birklehof and they sent her and a teacher to meet us. That’s Carolin second from the left in the picture—and the teacher even had a lapel pin with the US and German flags.

Birklehof is on a gorgeous spot looking out over the hills of the Black Forest. I didn’t realize the school was founded by Kurt Hahn. We do regular exchanges with all of the schools on the pre-conference, so as the students met each other they discovered many existing connections through mutual friends.

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-11-25-17-amThe first full day of the pre-conference was action-packed. We were up at 5:45 AM to depart in the darkness for Strasbourg. The town has bounced between France and Germany five times in the last two hundred years. There wasn’t even a sign to note when we had crossed the border into France. The European Parliament is in a stunning building. The administrative offices are in Brussels, but Strasbourg is where the Parliament actually meets, which happens for four days each month. We got a 90-minute orientation by a Czech civil servant, who was quite a character. For all its flaws, the EU has delivered on its core goal of ending war between its member states, which is something given the history of Europe!

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-11-25-24-amWe were able to sit in on an hour of the EU Parliament in session. There are currently eight parties and they are seated from left to right based on their politics. The Communists and Sinn Fein are on the far left. On the far right are nationalist groups that don’t believe in the EU, including members with views such as that only men should have the right to vote. Tellingly, the British members of parliament on the far right all had little Union Jacks on their desks. Most of the members of parliament hadn’t arrived yet, but we got to listen to speeches on two human rights issues: the ongoing crisis in the Sudan and the conviction in Thailand of a workers’ rights activist, Andy Hall. Interestingly. the parliament members speaking against these human rights violations were equally distributed around the hall.

The translation services of the EU Parliament are amazing. There are 26 member countries and the EU Parliament proceedings are translated into 24 languages. (The United Nations only translates into 6 languages.) It worked perfectly.

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-11-25-49-amWe had a traditional Alsatian lunch of flammekuech. Flammekuech is similar to St. Louis-style pizza, but different in that one of the most popular toppings is sauer kraut! It was all you can eat, so the waitresses brought round after round. We spent the afternoon exploring Strasbourg. Unlike Hamburg, it did not suffer major damage in World War II and so it is full of gorgeous centuries-old buildings. We got a tour by boat and then walked around town in small groups. I could happily have spent days there. The exterior of Strasbourg’s cathedral is stunning in the late afternoon light. Like most people, I slept on the two-hour bus ride back to school, before dinner and a campfire with s’mores.

Today was another excellent day. The focus was the refugee crisis in Europe. In the morning, a Birklehof teacher gave us an overview of the topic from a German perspective. Our students said they really enjoyed hearing from him. Before and after his talk, the students met in small groups to talk about what they thought about the refugee crisis and what refugee issues are like in their country. At noon we walked into the village, caught the train into Freiburg, and visited the town’s Refugee Accommodation Center. The building was formerly the Town Hall and then the library. A new library was opened last year and the inside was gutted and converted into accommodations for refugees; 400 refugees, mostly families, now live in the center.

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-11-25-34-amThe best part of our visit was getting to ask questions of four young refugees. Most of the talking was done by a 16-year-old girl from Iraq named Zarah. Zarah was so impressive: calm, articulate and personable. She spoke to us in German, a language she started learning just in February of this year when she was able to begin school in Germany. Her parents were killed and she was brought out of Iraq by her aunt and uncle, with whom she lives at the center. She traveled to Germany through Turkey and then in a boat to a Greek island. They are still waiting for a decision on their application for asylum in Germany. She said that she has friends at her school in Germany, but that it’s difficult to connect with her fellow students outside of school. What would improve her life? “An apartment for my uncle and aunt, jobs for my uncle and aunt, and being able to stay.” All of the Round Square delegates, including the ones from Germany, talked about how hearing from her brought home in a human way what the refugee crisis is about and the challenges the refugees face. In Zarah, I think we were seeing the face of Germany’s future—and it looks good.

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-11-25-42-amIn the late afternoon, we headed to the center of Freiberg to have a look around the town. Dinner was the traditional local dish of maultaschen, which is akin to fried German dumplings. They were delicious—and good food makes this group of Athenian students very happy. The Athenian delegation had our daily debrief session on the train ride back to Hinterzarten. Two students from other schools joined our group as honorary members. Tomorrow we have a day-long hike through the Black Forest.

The Athenian students are doing great—healthy, happy and making many new friends.

Athenian Round Square Delegates Arrive in Germany

by Mark Friedman, Community Service and Round Square Director

Greetings from Hamburg, Germany!  Athenian’s delegation to the Round Square Conference in Germany flew from SFO to Copenhagen and then on to Hamburg.  I always find it exciting and unsettling to get on a plane one day and get off the next day on the far side of the planet. In the short time we have been here, we have reconnected with friends, eaten delicious food, and had moving experiences learning about WWII at a historical church and concentration camp.

picture6As we were finishing breakfast at our hostel yesterday, we were met by Franzi.  Franzi lives in Hamburg and attends the Round Square school that is hosting the conference.  She came to Athenian on exchange last year.  Franzi liked Athenian so much she wanted to transfer, but her parents said it was too far away.  So she has enrolled in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program because she is interested in coming to the USA for college.  We had Franzi as a tour guide for half of the day, which was a huge treat.  (Franzi is second from the left in the photo, which was taken at the front door of Hamburg’s Town Hall.)

Yesterday was a national holiday in Germany, Unity Day, so Franzi had the day off from school. The town was deserted and the shops closed when we headed out at 9:00 AM.  We wandered the streets and waterways of Hamburg, visited the historic warehouse district, and took a boat tour. We visited what remains of Saint Nicolai church.  It’s tower is still the second highest structure in Hamburg.  Almost all of the church was destroyed in the Allied bombing of Hamburg during World War I.  The ruins have been left as a memorial to the horrors of war.  We went up the tower, which was a scary elevator ride.  We also went into the crypt, which is a museum that focuses on the Nazi bombing picture5of the English city of Coventry in 1940 and the Allied bombing of Hamburg in 1943.  The Germans introduced the concept of saturation bombing of cities, along with innovations such as incendiary bombs.  Later in the war, the Allies used these same techniques to bomb many German cities, including Hamburg.  Over 900,000 people in Hamburg lost their homes due to the bombing, code-named Operation Gomorrah.

Our day ended with a little help from another friend.  Athenian 12th grader, Kiana Amir-Kabirian, lived in Hamburg for 11 years.  We ate dinner at a pasta/pizza restaurant she recommended, Vapiano.  We ordered our dinner from the cook and watched with them as they made it—or chatted with them if we were feeling really friendly.

picture3This morning, we took an hour-long train and bus ride into the countryside east of Hamburg to visit the Neuengamme concentration camp.  Our group had a three-hour guided tour.  I didn’t know anything about this concentration camp before this trip, but it was the largest camp in western Germany and had 84 satellite camps. It wasn’t an extermination camp like Dachau or Auschwitz. Our guide called it a “death through work” camp.  Half of the 100,000 prisoners who worked in the brick and munitions factories here died. It was a profound experience to walk around the almost deserted grounds and imagine the horrors that took place here.

picture2There are different exhibits for the prisoners and for the perpetrators in their respective barracks.  The many drawings by former prisoners of the camp powerfully conveyed their fear and terror. Our guide explained that in designing the memorial they made a conscious choice to put information about the conviction of SS troops as the first thing you see when you enter the perpetrators building. No flags with swastikas. No pictures of confident SS soldiers.  If any supporters of the Nazis visit the museum, the folks at the memorial didn’t want them to find anything to make them proud.  Only 14 of the 4,500 SS guards at Neuengamme faced trial.

picture1After returning to Hamburg in the mid-afternoon, we did some shopping.  Then it was off to dinner at yet another restaurant recommended by Kiana.  With friends like these, who needs TripAdvisor?

Early tomorrow we have a six-hour train ride to Southwest Germany and Birkelhof School, where we’ll meet up with delegations from Round Square schools in South Africa and Australia.

A Community of Kindness, Compassion, and Respect

By Eric Niles, Head of School, read at Convocation, our annual all-school kickoff meeting.

Welcome to our seniors, the Class of 2017. Welcome to our 8th graders, the Class of 2021. And welcome to our 6th graders, the Class of 2023. I always like to say that because it sounds so futuristic. Welcome to the faculty and staff—I hope you all had a great summer and a great start to the year. Welcome to members of the Athenian board of trustees.  These trustees are all volunteers, so they do this work not to get paid, but to support the efforts of a school they love. They are, in short, making a very meaningful contribution in our world.

My summer was mostly great.  I am not one to focus on the negative—trust me, my “glass” is way more than half full as a member of this Athenian community—but there was one particular time that was very hard.  In early August, about 30 of us came together in the CFTA to honor the life of Safar Shakeyev, an alumnus from 2010 who sadly passed away in late July. Mark VanWarmerdam, Michelle Park, and Emily Shinkle are in Kazaksthan with Safar’s family as I say this.  He was actually the second young alum who died this summer.  Dan Goldberg ’03 had passed away just the week before.  Also, this summer was a time of deep unease, both politically and socially, in the United States.  We have a presidential campaign that is more divisive than any in my lifetime and this June we witnessed the death of unarmed people of color at the hands of police and then the death of 5 police officers in Dallas.  I was reeling.  And you know what I wanted rather than the quiet of summer vacation?  I wanted my community together.  Sure, there was a smattering of us here working this summer and we hugged and cried at the deaths of our young friends.  That was comforting, but I wanted the power of the whole community here.  We feed and nurture each other.

So I see some people looking around.  Is he advocating year-round school?  Is this the end of summer at Athenian?  Well, no.  Selfishly I would want you around, but I understand the power of summer to help us all catch our breath.  But that is what I wanted in that moment.

Why?  Because this community, at its core, is about kindness, compassion, and respect for everyone. Everyone.  If you are new to Athenian, that is an important message for you to take in today.  Because not all communities have those values, live those values.  But we do.  It means that you will be welcomed here, respected here, with open arms.  It means that we will soon be confused about who is new to 9th grade and who came from Athenian’s Middle School.  Wait, hasn’t she been here for 3 years?  Well, no.  Three months.  It means that if you fall short of that standard—if you are mean—your fellow students will likely intervene before any adult has a chance to respond.

I wanted to thank you for that ethic of kindness.  It is a power of this community and, trust me, the world needs all of you right now.  We need to be strong and united in the face of a world that sows divisiveness and fear.  Equity and inclusion can’t just be words we say to be politically correct; they must be truths we live because they are the right and human things to do.

Not having you all with me this summer, more than anything, reminded me not to take it for granted.

There is so much power in this community each day that I can sometimes take it for granted, I can feel entitled to this and more.  Not deeply thankful, but instead wondering what the world has done for me lately.  I lose my perspective.  The deaths of Safar and Dan gave it back with a slap in the face.  And I can see that entitlement around me at times.  The dishes left out at lunch, the complaints about things—from all of us—that honestly seem so small in the face of all we have.

Knowing that we have each other, the respect and kindness of each other to lean on, let’s together shed that entitlement.  Instead let’s see what we have as a call to do more, to be of deeper service to our community and our world, to be a beacon of kindness to which other beacons can attach and gain strength.  We are not simply the joiners of communities at Athenian, we should be the creators of communities.  There is so much human goodness out there.  All of you are proof to me of that.  It took Safar’s and Dan’s deaths this summer to remind me of it, and I won’t soon forget.

I hope you had a rejuvenating summer and thanks for coming home to Athenian for this year.  I am glad to have you all here.  Have a wonderful year.

Faculty Play Pokémandala Go

Ever wonder how Athenian faculty get ready to dive back into the school year? This year, we played Athenian-themed Pokémon Go! Which really means we had an elaborate scavenger hunt on campus framed around the Mandala, our blueprint for quality education. Just as we ask our students to get out of their seats and/or put their hands and minds directly on the materials, our Deans of Faculty designed an opening game that would get us moving, talking, feeling, and thinking. Activities included writing a haiku about the Center for the Arts, singing a ditty about the Dase Center, calculating the number of people who could lie down in the Peanut (the grassy area in the Middle School), taking a selfie with the AWE Gate, and writing a poem about the School’s campus and land. We thought we’d share some of the creative thinking that came out of our talented Upper and Middle faculty in just one short hour. See how many types of thinking and learning you can count.

Haiku About the Center for the Arts

Shine paint into fire
Sway bodies cheek to moon
Here we mold desires

Hands oozing in clay
Bodies swirling to the dance
Creating magic

Metaphor made real
Heads hidden among the trees
Student legacies

Lights and camera
Songs, music of the ages
Dance sculpt create live

Sound Movement Beauty
All of you joined In this house
Alas, no parking

Building late at night
Dancing, singing, creating
Gather and reflect

art lives here always
reflecting what’s in our souls

Clay bust enigma
Dancing acting and building
Magic happening

Methods for Calculating How Many People Can Fit in the Peanut

17 Esteban leaps across the length of the peanut, 10 Esteban leaps across the wide part of the peanut, roughly 4 people per leap, we estimate 500 – 680 adults lying down with an average person height of 5 ft 5 inches.

333 adults will fit in the peanut lying down.
9 yd radius
5 yd radius
We calculated the approximate diameter of each of the two approximate circles of the peanut. We assumed a person takes up one square yard.

Our answer is 378 people. Lying on the ground, we figured that a person fit in a square yard. We paced off the two circles of the peanut and averaged the two to find roughly a rectangle of 27 yards by 14 yards. Since our yardage is easy…one person is one square yard…out 378 square yards means 378 people.

We used computational thinking to separate the problem into parts and then wrote an algorithm to compute the solution.
3.14 x 27 squared
= 2289.06
2289 + 594+157= 3040
Avg human height = 5 ft 6 inches
3040/7.15= 425 people

350 adults (average 5.5 ft grand 1.5 ft width) lying on their backs, minimum, adjusting for curves, tree and rocks.

We think 380 adults could lie down in the peanut. We added and averaged all our guesses.

340 people
Method: Took nut, made it into 2 circles. Found area of each. Added together. Estimate area of average person. Divide.

The Land

golden rolling sacred
ground squirrels

So many stories
What’s truth?

Monte mistranslated mountain, thanks invading Spanish.

Blessed abundance
Invaders besieged
Global redemption

Alluding Spaniards; Murrieta’s hideout; inspiring growth.

Devilish beauty; “nothing gold can stay”

Mountain breeze
Our Home

The Food on Your Plate: The History, Culture, and Making of Food

by Sanjev de Silva and the Food on Your Plate classes

Greetings Athenian Community, 

You may have noticed some new faces serving meals in the kitchen a few times over the past couple of weeks: the members of the Food On Your Plate seminars. One of the activities that we as a class have been assigned to partake in is to further understand the effort that goes into preparing a meal for a large group of people and in the process we have been serving our very own Athenian community. A few of the dishes that we have prepared included:  chicken gyros and falafel, cheese pizza, fried rice, enchiladas, lasagna and more. On Tuesday, April 19th, the B Period Food On Your Plate class prepared the enchiladas, and we are sharing with you all to describe what went into the preparation of the meal you received and also provide a bit of history about the dish. After learning about the enchiladas, you will hear  from the students in the other Food On Your Plate classes that cooked the pizza, fried rice and lasagna.

You may be surprised to find that there is a lot more that goes into the preparation and background of these meals than you may think! Enjoy! 


enchiladasEnchiladas originated in Mexico. The practice of rolling tortillas with cheese, tomato, and other ingredients has been dated back to Mayan times. The first reference and recipe to the modern enchilada is dated back to 1885. The enchiladas prepared in the United States is different than the traditional enchiladas found in Mexico today. Although they are often eaten in California, the type we eat here at Athenian is different than the type eaten in Mexico. In Mexico, the spice is more prominent in the enchilada and is most commonly a maize tortilla stuffed with meat and covered with tomato and chili sauce. The spicy tradition of the current Mexican enchilada is related to the fact that the meaning of the word enchilada in Spanish is literally “to have seasoned with chili.” The enchiladas that you ate last week had ingredients that had to travel a total of 7,236 miles to reach you.

Ingredients Used

Cheese: (3,027 miles): Vermont

As most people know, cheese is a dairy product, meaning that it’s made from milk. What most people don’t know is that it’s one of the oldest dairy products ever made by humans with a history dating back 4000 years. It’s generally believed that cheese was first discovered by people who carried their supply of milk inside sheep stomach pouches and discovered that the bacteria inside the stomach would ferment the milk causing it to solidify into cheese. Cheeses made their way from Asia to the Roman Empire to the rest of Europe and finally to America aboard the mayflower. Cheese is still a huge part of our culture today, although as it has become increasingly processed, it has turned into a huge industry that profits over 2 billion dollars annually. In America, about a third of the milk produced is turned into cheese each day!

Tortilla: (3,946 miles): Mexico

The Spanish conquistadors named the tortilla. It was a flatbread that the Aztecs had eaten for centuries. They have been made since 10,000 BCE and are one of the main foods of the Aztecs. The Aztecs used corn to create tortillas and they cooked them on large stone slabs.  Today, tortillas are commonly used for burritos, enchiladas, and many other dishes. They have expanded out of Spanish cuisine to be used in food worldwide, including here in California.

enchiladasGreen Pepper: (44 miles): California

Columbus brought peppers from South America to Europe. They were cultivated in Europe. They come in many different colors, such as green, red, and yellow.  In the United States, California produces the most bell peppers while the largest country that produces bell peppers is China.  Today, they are used in a variety of dishes.  They are a large source of vitamin C and vitamin A, making them a staple in vegetarian diets.  Also, they have a lot of fiber and promote blood circulation.

Tomato: (219 miles): California

The tomato is native to the Americas, with origins tracing back to 700 AD (when it was first used by the Aztecs).  The first widespread cultivation of tomatoes began in modern day Peru. During the 16th century, the Spanish conquistadors brought the tomato to their colonies in the Caribbean, and then to the Philippines. From the Philippines, the tomato was spread throughout the entire continent of Asia and was soon considered an important crop. Eventually, the tomato made its way to Europe, where its shiny red exterior led to rumors of it being poisonous.  It was later adopted by the Europeans and was soon brought back to the United States when the colonies were formed. Tomatoes are now utilized in cooking in most cultures globally.

Making Enchiladas in the Athenian Kitchen

Step One: Safety: Just like any time you work with food in a professional setting, we had to follow certain health and safety standards. That meant hair tied back with a hairnet, plastic gloves, and no flip flops or sandals.

Step Two: The tortilla: every enchilada that we made had to first start as just a meager tortilla. Although we didn’t make the tortillas, we had to heat them up a bit on the stove at first so that they could easily be rolled into enchiladas.

Step Three: The filling: The filling of each enchilada is pretty basic. Just a bunch of cheese and some peppers. We had this mix in a giant bowl and we would put a little bit of it inside each tortilla. Then we would roll the enchilada up and put it in the pan. Each pan had to fit 30 enchiladas for serving purposes. Reaching this exact number was one of the most difficult parts of the job.

Step Four: Waiting: The enchiladas are prepared a day before we actually eat them so they sat overnight until they were ready for the final steps the next day.

Step Five: Sauce: A creamy tomato sauce is added to the enchiladas right before cooking them.

Step Six: Cooking: The enchiladas are cooked right before its time for lunch so that they’re still warm by the time everyone eats them.

Step Seven: Eat and Enjoy!


Paula Jurado ‘16, Matt Ota ‘17, Lilly Huang ‘17, Maya Duggal ‘17, Alyssa Tlera ‘16, and Kaylie Wang ‘16 

Hope you enjoyed!

D Period Food on Your Plate Class

What are the Historic elements of the dish?

The first lasagna dish itself originated in Ancient Greece with the individual pasta sheets originally called “lagnon” around 146 BC.  From there, the “Lagnon” pasta travelled to Italy, where it began to be layered to form the traditional lasagna dish we know today. In Italy, the name Lasagne was given to the individual pasta sheets in a lasagna dish.  The traditional Italian way of making lasagna, historically, has included alternating layers of ragu sauce, parmesan cheese, eggs and lasagna pasta sheets. However, after lasagna was spread outside this region, the dish began to incorporate ricotta, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, meat, spinach, garlic, and onions. These ingredients are used in the lasagna we made today.  

What is the Regional Context?

This is the way lasagna is traditionally prepared today, as well.  Authentic recipes contain Italian sausage, ground beef, eggs, minced onion, and tomatoes.  At Athenian, however, due to the particularity of the regulations, our lasagna is generally a cheese lasagna. It contains alternating layers of tomato sauce, lasagna pasta sheets, ricotta and shredded cheese.

What is the Conduit?

Conduit: process of each ingredient & preparation

Tomato sauce: tomatoes are washed, peeled, and then condensed in the canning process

Pasta squares: A ball of dough is kneaded then passed through a pasta machine which stretches and thins the pasta into the sheets used in lasagna                             

Eggs: Taken from mother hens

Ricotta:  Leftover whey from cheese making is fermented for several days and then cooked until the residual protein solidifies into cheese

Parmesan: Part skim milk is combined with rennet to curdle and is then strained and placed into molds where it ages for, on average, 2 years.

Garlic powderPeeled garlic cloves are placed in high heat ovens to roast and then transferred to dehydrators where moisture content is reduced to 6.5%. After dehydration, the garlic is then pulverized into powder through a food processor.

Where do the ingredients come from?

Tomato sauce: Arezzio /Houston, Texas (1,766 miles)

Pasta squares: Arezzio / Houston, Texas(1,766 miles)

Parmesan: Arezzio / Houston, Texas (1,766 miles)

Mozzarella: Morgan Hill, California (61.4 miles)

Ricotta: Arezzio  / Houston, Texas (1,766 miles)

Italian seasoning: Arezzio  / Houston, Texas (1,766 miles)

Eggs: Glaum Egg Ranch / Aptos, California (85.5 miles)

Garlic: Gilroy, California (68.6 miles)

Oregano: Arezzio  / Houston, Texas (1,766 miles) 


pizzaWe hope you find this debrief interesting and thank you all for supporting us through this process!

Redden Alexander Ludwig Thompson, Matthew Ian Chabala, Peony Bethny Ho, and Sofia Luisa Kavanaugh

To start, here is a little bit of the history of pizza. The original forms of pizza were made in mud ovens by The Greeks, Egyptians, Armenians, and Babylonians. At first, these flatbreads were only topped with olive oil and spices, now known as focaccia. Working people and their families ate it because it was quick and easy to make.

When tomatoes were brought over to Europe in the Colombian Exchange, they were originally thought to be poisonous, but they eventually became a part of the poorer people’s diets. These workers made flatbreads with whatever ingredients they had- generally, they were limited to flour, olive oil, cheese, and herbs for cooking their meals, and thus came the invention of pizza. 

Eventually, cook Raffaele Esposito decided to use tomatoes in the making of pizza because he thought it would be aesthetically pleasing to include the colors of the Italian flag- the white was the cheese, the red was the tomatoes, and the green was the basil on top.  He was called to make this for Queen Margherita, hence the name of Margherita pizza. 

Now for a little bit of Regional Context:

Athenian has made it a mission to use locally sourced, organic ingredients in order to promote sustainability and a healthy lifestyle for all who enjoy the food. Using healthy foods, Athenian Dining by Sodexo provides a solid diet that checks the main nutritional boxes. Sodexo prides itself in ensuring that all of its food processes are clean, safe, and benefit the overall satisfaction of Athenian lunch-eaters. Sodexo provides food service for many school and universities all over the nation.

The pizza’s main ingredients are whole wheat dough (for the crust), canned tomato sauce, parmesan and mozzarella cheese.

pizza2The average miles from where the ingredients were grown to Athenian are:

1.     Whole wheat dough

  • Average distance: 880 miles
  • Supplier: Mostly from Italy

2.     Canned tomato sauce

  • Average distance: 8,344 miles
  • Supplier: Mostly from Italy

3.     Parmesan cheese

  • Average distance: 1,759 miles
  • Supplier:: Mostly from Italy

4.     Mozzarella

  • Average distance: 1,604 miles
  • Supplier: Mostly from Italy


And lastly, how we prepared the pizza at Athenian:

1.     Step 1, while wearing gloves and hairnets, we applied two circular pieces of whole wheat dough to a tray sprayed with olive oil a day before preparation and left in the refrigerator to thaw.

2.     The next day, we spread the dough evenly along the steel bake pan so that all dough reached all corners.

3.     Next, we spread tomato sauce throughout the dough, making sure that we don’t get any sauce close to the corners (this burns the sauce and makes it harder to clean later on).

4.     We sprinkled parmesan cheese on top of the sauce for flavor.

5.     Lastly, we heavily applied mozzarella cheese to the top of the pizza before placing the pizza in the oven. 

fried rice 

Athenian Alum Creates Open Dialogue Platform at Westpoint

Originally published in The Pillar, Athenian’s student newspaper

by Priya Canzius ’16

This past fall, Athenian alum Cadet David Weinmann ’14 helped to develop a social media platform called Let’s Talk Jihad with 15 other classmates at The United States Military Academy at West Point.

“The idea was essentially to provide an unbiased forum where people could come and discuss Jihad, Islam, current events, the Islamic state, [and more],” Weinman said. “We moderated discussions and invited vetted experts to join the forum to provide their opinion.”

Athenian teacher Kal Balaven was one of the experts contacted.

“I contacted [Balaven] because I knew that he was aware of the history behind some of the origins of these radical groups; and because he is an educator and knows how to reach youth,” Weinmann said.

According to NPR, “a big part of the U.S. fight against ISIS is happening online, [and] the U.S. government is looking for ideas from all corners to try to figure out how to get better at countering the ISIS propaganda that is so central to the group’s recruiting strategy.”

Rather than using social media as a recruitment tool, Let’s Talk Jihad uses its platform to reach out to youth around the world.

“Our group also reached out to Imams and community leaders in the US as well as the UK and we are still trying to get leaders and other nations on-board,” Weinmann said. “We also worked with instructors in the Arabic and Middle Eastern history departments as well as Muslim cadets here at the academy. We sought out people we were confident would be able to provide advice to troubled youth.”

Because ISIS uses its extensive social media network to appeal to the younger generation, Let’s Talk Jihad’s goal is to redirect youth to less radical solutions.

“Most people do not know the presence that the Islamic State has online,” Weinmann said. “The internet is powerful. It is far more powerful than most of us think and the Islamic State uses it better than any other terror group… There is no single profile that people who join ISIS fit; anyone is susceptible to their propaganda.”

To combat this influence, the U.S. Department of State created the Peer to Peer: Challenging Extremism (P2P) initiative. The goal of P2P, according to its website, is for “university students from around the world [to] develop and execute campaigns and social media strategies against extremism.”

Photo taken by EdVetnture Partners

Photo taken by EdVetnture Partners

Weinmann and his fellow cadets won second prize in this competition for their Let’s Talk Jihad page.

“We knew about the [P2P] initiative being put on by the State Department (DOS) when we started,” Weinmann said. “We looked at previous campaigns and wanted to build something that was different, something that would specifically target the audience we were reaching out for, which we called fence-sitters.”

Fence-sitters, according to Weinmann, are people who are “having thoughts about joining the radical group [ISIS].”

“These fence-sitters are what ultimately fuels ISIS’ ranks and are part of what makes them such a force,” Weinmann said. “We wanted to talk to these individuals before they became radical and traveled to join ISIS.”

On the page itself, the cadets chose to remain anonymous.

“We tried not to make assertions in our social media posts,” Weinmann said. “We just asked questions, and as a result we hid our biases. We used articles, stories and pictures from a number of sources, and some of our posts were in Arabic in order to keep things ambiguous.”

Furthermore, according to Weinmann, in order to “gain legitimacy among fence-sitters… [Weinman and his classmates] were careful to try and distance the campaign from the military academy and DOS.”

“By leaving our site anonymous we were able to talk with people without having them immediately discredit anything that we said,” Weinmann said. “Teenagers in Cairo won’t take advice from the US Army! [The goal is to help] people come to an understanding that what ISIS is talking about is really a bastardized version of Islam in order to further their political goals.”

However, the cadets’ identities were publicized in many online news outlets in early February.

“We had asked the DOS keep our identities a secret, but that didn’t work out once the media got involved; we did not intend to have the project go public,” Weinmann said.

According to Weinmann, “it’s still too early to tell the effect that [the media attention] will have on the campaign. [Moreover, the cadets] still update the page, but less frequently.”

Let’s Talk Jihad has made an impact on social media.

“We knew that we were making an impact when ISIS members started telling members of their group not to come to our page or listen to what we were saying,” Weinmann said. “They also- may or may not – have tried to shut down our Twitter. We aren’t entirely sure since it was anonymous, but we believe it was them.

Although Weinmann and his fellow cadets currently maintain the Let’s Talk Jihad page, according to Weinmann, they “are looking to turn the campaign over to a group that would be able to run it full-time and provide even better support than we can.”

“With our limited time and resources, we don’t see ourselves maintaining it forever,” Weinmann said.

Balaven believes that the use of social media is important to redirect fence-sitters and supports the cadets’ mission.

“It was a pretty phenomenal thing that [David and his classmates] did,” Balaven said. “He tried to find a non-violent way of trying to use social media to try to get those that would sympathize or empathize with ISIS into a place where they can dialogue and get their frustration out outside of those venues.”

Monotheism Day: Visiting Houses of Worship

Bringing their Social Studies lessons to life, the 7th grade spent a recent Friday exploring houses of worship of the three major Monotheistic religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  They met with religious leaders at each temple and church who shared with the students the basic tenants of the religion.

As 7th grade is the year many Jewish young people come of age with a Bar or Bat Mitzvah service, it so happened that one student was going to have her Bat Mitzvah that weekend.  As the students were looking at the Torah (the holy scripture), the Rabbi invited Sydney B. ’21 to read her Torah portion.  With encouragement and a blessing from several boys–Ethan B., Matthew W., and Bernie B.–who had already completed their Bar Mitzvahs, Sydney read from the Torah in front of her class.  This bringing together of the personal and the educational in front of one’s classmates was a powerful experience for all the students.

Building Rome in a Day

by Lauren Railey, Head of Middle School

Rome5This fall, as part of their study of ancient Rome with Sven Miller and Matt Zahner, students investigated the impacts of the great ancient civilization on modern history: roads, sewer systems, the calendar system, central heating, and more.  This year, students had the opportunity to physically construct for themselves many of the city structures the Romans pioneered.  

In small groups, the students researched, designed, and created either a Roman shoe, an aqueduct system, an arch, or a model Roman city.  With the help of Maker Studio expert Lori Harsch and several Upper School students, the seventh graders spent a few days in the Maker Studio learning how to use tools they had never used before to recreate various aspects of Roman life.

FullSizeRenderSven Miller, one of the planners of the day, described three anecdotes of student groups applying their knowledge and solving problems in the course of their building.  One group who was working on building a model Roman city began by researching the types of structures a Roman city would have.  They quickly found many CAD files that they could print on the 3-D printer or laser cutter.  However, they encountered the issue of scale.  Some students, eager to see their city come to life, sent CAD files to the printer and saw enormous models of a coliseum being printed next to a tiny model of a library.  Realizing the problem, they had to decide as a group what a millimeter would equal in their model world and then use their math skills to scale the CAD files to print at the correct size.

An aqueduct group was given the task of crossing a culvert up on the hill by the baseball field.  They brainstormed in the classroom before they realized that they needed to go walk up the hill and look at the culvert directly to measure it in real life.  They created an inverted trapezoid and used their geometry skills to figure out the correct angles to build an aqueduct that could cross the culvert.

Finally, one of the arch groups realized that the central problem in building the arch was determining the correct angles for each piece of the arch.  They began by measuring a model of an arch and tried to copy it.  That led them to realize they would need to use geometry to figure out the supplementary and complementary angles.  Using trial and error, they determined that they needed to have an odd number of blocks with a central keystone for pressure.  They did calculations and determined that 9 blocks yielded the most workable numbers.  They then made the cuts in the blocks in the Maker Studio using the measurements they had calculated.

All in all, the students engaged in a challenging, hands-on variety of activities that engaged their minds and bodies as they “built Rome in a day.”