Students organized a rally in support of the students of Parkland, Florida, and in protest of gun violence. They invited PA State Representative Carolyn Comitta and CeaseFire PA Director Jeff Dempsey who both spoke at the rally. After a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting, Head of School Tori Jueds kicked off the rally by speaking of her and Westtown School's support of student action. "I would like to infuse this moment of grief and outrage with an expression also of pride and hope. I am exceedingly proud to stand here with students of Westtown School, proud that it was students who conceived, organized, and are carrying out this most important public action. I am inexpressably proud of a school community that exhorts its young people to step up and take action where they see injustice."
Freshman Alanna Rogers introduced the rally's speakers, and Sabrina Schoenborn '20 and KC Miller '18 spoke on behalf of the students. Miller said, "We are going to march on every street, knock on every door, call every member of Congress, and push them at every moment until they act. And if they don't, we are going to vote them out." Miller also led the students in a call-out of local politicians who received money from the NRA. After the rally, they participated in an action workshop writing letters, making calls to politicians, and registering to vote. The event garnered the attention from local media, which was covered on NBC, ABC, Fox 29, and in the Daily Local newspaper.
SENIOR PROJECTS - FOLLOW THEIR JOURNEYS
The seniors are on their Senior Projects! Senior Projects give students the opportunity to create an independent experience, away from the familiar classroom setting, with a focus on inquiry and personal growth. They must research, design, implement, and accomplish a project independently or they may choose to participate in a school-sponsored trip.
The Class of 2018 has chosen an impressive variety of locations and project themes. They will engage in 42 independent projects across the globe in 14 countries and in states around the US, and some seniors are on the school-led trips to China and Quebec. Many of them are writing about their experiences in the field on the Senior Projects Blog. Subscribe to the blog to follow along on their journeys!
ENVISIONING THE FUTURE
Head of School Tori Jueds recently sent an email to the community with updates on and highlights of the Campus Master Plan. In case you missed it, you can read this letter about the Campus Master Plan here.
MAPS, MATH, AND MIDDLE SCHOOLERS
By Jon Kimmel
After seeing a map of Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District this fall, my Middle School math students asked how somebody came up with that shape. The fact that many of us live in that district increased our interest. At this point the history of the census, congressional redistricting and gerrymandering are becoming quite familiar to residents of states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Maryland. My students, getting their first taste, were amazed at the audacity, flabbergasted at what this meant about Democracy, and more than a little amused at the stupidity of adults.
“We could do better than that!” said a kid in the back row. Let me tell you how my 8th graders did a better job than our illustrious legislature.
There are several publicly available Internet databases that link interactive maps with the voting precincts of Pennsylvania, their populations, and their vote totals for past elections. Together, my students agreed on several non-partisan approaches to grouping voting precincts into Congressional Districts, recognizing the accepted criteria for making districts: equal population, contiguous territory, and compactness. While the current Pennsylvania maps meet the first criteria, they are contiguous in letter only, with districts such as the 7th barely more than a street wide in three separate spots, as it lurches over many counties seeking to include some voters while excluding others. The third standard, compactness, was visibly not considered in making this map.
As a math class, we tried to define compactness. While a circle is the most efficient shape as a ratio of perimeter to area, it is not a good shape to use in dividing up a state as it leaves many gaps. A rectangle, or even better a square, was my students’ solution. So, one group made districts as much like squares as practical. Two other groups made maps as much like rectangular grids as possible. Another tried to follow county lines, on the theory those residents already had established common interests that transcend political party. One group just clicked randomly until they had enough people in each district. Others experimented with promoting competition (our only group to use voting records), and creating multi-member districts.
In fewer than ten 43-minute classes, my students created eight different redistricting maps. They are not perfect. We concluded that there is no mathematically perfect way to do this, but there are ways that seem reasonable and ones that do not. And, pretty much anyone can tell the difference when looking at maps across a large room. The existing CD map plainly does not pass that test.
We suspected that looking compact and being compact were the same thing but wanted mathematical proof. By measuring the area and perimeter of our districts and the existing ones, we could compare, say, the districts’ areas to that of a square with the same perimeter, and vice versa. While the current legislature-created districts are about 45 percent as compact as a square, each of my students’ creations was closer to 70 percent, with some distinctly higher. Some of our lines are still less regular than we’d like, as we followed the existing irregular voter precinct lines.
Another consideration was whether the views of Pennsylvanians were reflected in their congressional representation. In a state where Trump won by less than 1 percent, one would think that the U.S. Representatives would be evenly split, not the current 13-5 Republican majority. The efficiency gap takes the difference between the wasted votes for each party and divides that by total voters. The “wasted votes” are all votes for a losing candidate plus all votes above those needed to win. Thinking about a Congressional District, such as PA-2nd, where 92 percent voted for Clinton, one can visualize wasted votes. The point is, that’s not an accident. But it is avoidable.
Political scientists argue that an efficiency gap over 7 percent is a likely sign of gerrymandering, and unlikely to be overcome by elections over the ten-year life of the CD map. Pennsylvania’s efficiency gap is over 14 percent. The districts my students created, in contrast, had efficiency gaps around 3 percent, with several groups significantly lower.
If my 8th graders can draft congressional district maps that are very representative and compact, why can’t the Pennsylvania Legislature? Obviously, the wrong people are in charge of the process. If the goals of the mapmakers are nonpartisan and the mapmakers themselves do not have a personal or partisan interest in the resulting maps, this is not a complicated or unfair process. The mapmakers should have the goal of promoting democracy and equal representation for all Pennsylvanians. And if the state legislature cannot figure out how to represent its citizens, I know some great 14-year olds who already have.
NB: Since this was written, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has released new district maps.
Editor’s note: This project has garnered quite a bit of attention from local and international media, getting coverage in print, on the radio, and on television. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation sent a TV crew to interview Kimmel and the 8th graders as part of a larger piece on politics and gerrymandering in the United States, and their piece will air soon.
THE EMPATHY PROJECT
The Art Department and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion teamed up to present an installation by artist and graphic designer, Karen Watkins, who is also parent to alumni Max ’08 and Wynne Lewis ’10. The interactive installation is centered around empathy related to experiences of shame. In the first phase of the project, ballot boxes were placed at key locations around campus with a sign posing the question: Have you ever experienced any of the feelings attached to shame such as embarrassment, guilt, humiliation, or vulnerability? Community members shared their experiences by checking a category including body image, relationships, sex, trauma, stereotyping, and bullying and then wrote about their experience in an anonymous way. Karen, art teachers Chris Wills and Joyce Nagata, and Marissa Colston, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, selected a range of responses to be featured on panels in the installation. Participants were invited to visit the gallery, read these panels, and mark the narratives that they have also experienced.
Watkins explains, “The feeling of empathy is connected to the shared experience of shame in this interactive public installation. In Phase I, anonymous responses were collected over a period of three weeks. Using simple materials, a direct and unbranded aesthetic was created to tell the participants’ stories. With a simple prompt in Phase II, viewers responded to the statements by affixing a white sticker to the panels they related to — physically connecting with the feelings described — invoking a cultural response similar to a Facebook “like.” The measure of success was agreed to be the number of white stickers placed on the black boards by ‘empathic’ participants that ultimately grew to eliminate the dark background, just as empathy helps eliminate shame.”
The show, called The Empathy Project, will be in the gallery until March 30. It’s a powerful exhibit, and we encourage you to visit. Chris Wills adds, “Many students and community members have visited the exhibition already, and have witnessed the power of this project. Because the installation is interactive, it is a living piece, and reflects the evolving conversations we have been having as a community over the past few weeks. We invite you to come and see it in person and participate in its growth and documentation.”
THE METAL MOOSE HOSTS MID-ATLANTIC REGION ROBOTICS COMPETITION
Join us as we host the Mid-Atlantic Region Robotics (MAR) Competition March 9 - 11 2018! This is the third year Westtown will host this event, and every year we get better at it thanks to the contributions of volunteers like YOU!
We will welcome as many as 2000 competitors, coaches, and parents PER DAY and we need volunteers to help feed them! Profits from concessions will be used to purchase equipment for next year's competition and to support the Metal Moose Robotics Program at Westtown. Sign up today! It's LOTS of fun to volunteer and you'll get to see what a robotics competition is like...PLUS you get to help Westtown put on the best of all eight MAR events this year! We cannot pull this off without a team of enthusiastic volunteers, so we hope that you will give a little of your time to help make this a success!
The Metal Moose is also engaged in the Good Robot Challenge again this year and the team would like to invite you to participate in their 2018 Good Robot Challenge - a LEGO Drive. They are collecting LEGO Mindstorms at this FIRST Mid-Atlantic Region Robotics Competition here at Westtown. Your donations will be used to help elementary and middle schools in our region to jump start their FIRST LEGO League team! If you wish to make monetary donation, please click here to learn more. Questions? Contact Steve Compton, Metal Moose Head Coach.
Mid-Atlantic Robotics "combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology,... and is the ultimate Sport for the Mind. High-school student participants call it 'the hardest fun you'll ever have'. Under strict rules, limited resources, and an intense six-week time limit, teams of students guided by volunteer professional mentors are challenged to raise funds, design a team 'brand,' hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors. It's as close to real-world engineering as a student can get."
THE LAST STRAW
Recently the fourth graders launched a campaign to educate Lower School students and families about the pollution created by plastic straws. They staged fact-filled infomercials during the weekly Gathering, created visually compelling posters, distributed “NO STRAW” pledge forms, and promoted a friendly competition between the grades. By the end of their campaign, the fourth graders achieved 90% participation from faculty, students, and families in Lower School! Next up? They are planning a “Ban the Baggie” campaign to eliminate single-use plastic baggies from student lunch boxes!
BLACK HISTORY MONTH
A variety of activities took place throughout the school during Black History Month, and some will continue into spring term. The Lower School chose LOVE as the theme for their study of the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders. These essential questions framed discussions with students: Who can we love? How can we show love? and How can we love those who are hard for us to love? The faculty presented a skit to the students which was narrated by Dr. King as he introduced other people who worked with him towards greater equality. Teachers wanted to demonstrate the importance of teamwork and introduce changemakers such as John Lewis, Claudette Colvin, Bob Dylan, Joan Mulholland, and Joachim Prinz. Classes read stories about changemakers, learned songs about peace, and participated in service projects for the greater community to show love in action. Faculty will present a second skit in the spring, again featuring Dr. King as he meets contemporary changemakers, and the scope of civil rights study will be expanded to include immigration and gender and racial equality. Their work will culminate in April during One Story Week, which will celebrate Preaching to the Chickens, the story of the childhood of John Lewis.
In the Middle School, faculty designed an interactive approach to teaching about Black history. Every morning of February an image of an important figure in Black history was posted on the hallway wall. During recess, students tried to identify the person in the photograph. The first person to correctly identify the person earned a point for their team competition. Once the person was identified, a short biography was posted, including QR codes that lead students to more information online and to videos, followed by classroom discussions.
Upper School students observed Black History Month in many ways. Celebrations were kicked off with a Caribbean-themed dinner sponsored by the Students of Color Association, with SOCA members helping to prepare Sunday night dinner for the community.
Upper School U.S. history classes participated in the Douglass Day event on February 14th in honor of Frederick Douglass. There was a nationwide transcribe-a-thon of the Freedmen’s Bureau Papers sponsored by Colored Conventions and the Smithsonian Institution. This transcription project enlisted digital volunteers to help transcribe nearly two million image files of handwritten documents from the Freedmen’s Bureau records. According to the museum, “this is the largest crowd sourcing initiative ever sponsored by the Smithsonian...The Freedmen’s Bureau Transcription Project will allow anyone with Internet access to research his or her family’s history online. The Museum began this project in an effort to help African Americans discover their ancestors and help historians better understand the years following the Civil War.” On Douglass Day, US history teachers devoted their class time to having students join the transcription efforts.
On February 16th, Bernard Hall spoke at the Upper School Assembly on the topic of Black History Matters. Hall, who has spoken at Westtown for the last two years, engaged students with questions, shared facts and information about policies that impact people of color, and shared how white students can play roles as allies in anti-racist work. His words were powerful and resonated with students: he got a standing ovation at the end.
Black History Month came to an end much as it began - with a community dinner celebration! The Families for Multicultural Community (FMC) and SOCA students once again helped prepare a delicious meal for the community. There was lively Community Sharing with poetry reading by Lauren Turman ’18, an interactive quiz, and live music with Teacher Kevin Eppler and Nkosi Johnson-Thornton ’18.
Fidder on the Roof
The Upper School Theater Department staged a stunning production of Fiddler on the Roof in early February! Under the direction of Will Addis, Department Chair, the musical soared. Thank you to all the hardworking and talented students and faculty: actors, stage managers, sound technicians, set designers and builders, makeup artists, costumers, and musicians! If you missed it, check out the gallery of photos from the show.
FOOD IS CULTURE, FOOD IS LOVE
What better way to celebrate culture than through food? Our amazing kitchen staff, under the guidance of Food Services Director Beth Pellegrino, works with students to provide menus and meals for special occasions and sometimes just because. From Thanksgiving to celebrations of Divali, Hanukkah, the Lunar New Year, and Black History Month to dinners made by Westtown families, food features prominently in community and residential life and is an expression of our diverse backgrounds. Here's a link to a gallery of photos taken at the Lunar New Year Celebration which was prepared by our International Student Organization.
Congratulations to Westtown’s Pennsylvania Music Educators Association District 12 qualifiers! Troy Larsen '18 and Sophie Hofmann '19 for District 12 Chorus, and Heidi Suh '19, a violinist, for District 12 Orchestra. District 12 is made up of all schools in Chester, Philadelphia, and Delaware counties. The top musicians (close to one thousand) in grades 10 to 12 audition for festivals and from that pool a select number of students are chosen. Sophie ranked 10th out of 45 singers; Heidi is the #11 violinist in the three counties - her second year being selected for districts; and, Troy is the #1 tenor for the third year in a row.
Violinist Heidi Suh ’19 participated in the District 12 Orchestra Festival at Kennett High School. Under the direction of Maestro Michael Hall (center), conductor of the Kennett Symphony Orchestra and the Prince George Symphony Orchestra in BC, Canada, the nearly 100-piece ensemble represents the top high school musicians in Philadelphia, Chester, and Delaware Counties. Heidi was selected from this elite group of musicians to go on to the Region 6 Orchestra comprised of the top musicians in 5 counties: Philadelphia, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Bucks. The Region 6 Orchestra festival will be held in New Hope, PA during March break. (Orchestra/band teacher Robert Frazier also pictured, right.)
The winter sports season gave us memorable performances from our student-athletes and our varsity teams. Two teams won Friends Schools League (FSL) titles, and numerous student-athletes were named to All-League Teams. You can view the roster of Westtown’s All-League athletes and Honorable Mentions here.
The wrestling team won its first FSL Championship in four years and finished with a record of 19-7. The team had seven wrestlers earn All-League Honors this season. Alex Taylor '18 broke the all-time school wins record with 118 career wins, and Ethan Gadra '18 earned his 101st career win this season. Five wrestlers qualified for nationals. Jamie Mosteller was named Assistant Coach of the Year by PAISAA Wrestling Committee, and Jay Farrow '75 received the 2018 PAISAA Jeff Jacobs Sportsmanship Award. Congrats to both coaches and all our wrestlers on a successful wrestling season!
The boys varsity basketball team earned its fifth consecutive FSL championship and has won six of the last seven FSL championships. The team ended the season with a 23-12 record. Senior Cam Reddish scored his 1000th point this season, and was named a McDonald’s All-American, making him the second player in the program’s history to receive this honor. Coach Seth Berger was recognized for his 200th win this season. The team also made it to the semi-finals of the PAISAA State playoffs. Seniors Cam Reddish committed to Duke, Jake Forrester to Indiana, and Harrison Eichelberger will be headed to Skidmore College. Four of the starters earned All-League Honors this season. Congratulations on an amazing season!
Our girls varsity basketball team had another memorable season, and they finished their season with a 14-8 record. They made it to the FSL semifinals and won their first PAISAA playoff game in program history. This was also the first time the team made it to the quarterfinals of the state tournament. Jojo Lacey earned All-League honors. Congratulations to this hardworking team!
Several athletes signed commitment letters to compete at the college level.
Jake Forrester signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball for IU; Cameron Reddish signed his NLI to Duke University.
These three seniors signed commitment letters to play collegiate lacrosse:
Jordany Robleto-Baltazar with Haverford College,
Trent Kellner with Limestone College,
and Peirce Eldredge with Emerson College.
Seniors Ethan Gadra and Ryan O'Donnell signed their letters of commitment to Haverford College - Ethan for pole vault and Ryan for cross country and track.
Arts Department Chair Will Addis was the spotlight feature in this great article posted by the Educational Theater Association.
GOLF & TENNIS OUTING
Tuesday, May 22
Applebrook Golf Club & Westtown Stadium Courts
Here are some ways you can support this event:
- Participate at one of the many sponsorship levels
- Sign up for a golf foursome or to play tennis
- Join us for cocktails and dinner only
- Donate an item to the silent or live auction
- Can't make the event? Please consider making a donation
Upcoming Regional Alumni Events