We present here some of our favorite moments from the 2018-19 school year. In the long and storied history of Cougar News, we have consistently affirmed and reaffirmed our steadfast belief that everyone should have an awesome summer, and that solemn tradition continues today. So please enjoy the pictures and then go have fun!
One day during the trial week of the new Upper and Middle School schedules, two eighth grade girls made an appointment to talk with the Head of Middle School and co-architect of the schedule, Meg Reed.
This didn’t seem a bearing of glad tidings.
“My first thought,” Reed said, was “Oh no,” and her mind raced through any number of schedule-induced mini-catastrophes that might have led the girls to take such a formal step.
“We would like to ask if we can keep the new schedule for the rest of the year,” the girls said.
“That’s a pretty ringing endorsement, I think,” said Reed.
After 18 months of work by a faculty committee, the new Upper and Middle School schedules were given a trial run over the past eight days. Beginning next year, the schedule will govern the school day of both divisions from day one, so the trial week offered a valuable, even essential, opportunity to see it in action and tweak the areas that needed tweaking.
Such as snack time.
“I’ve gotten some student feedback, and there were some things that we didn’t consider when this was purely an exercise on paper. Snack time. That was one. It’s been made very clear to me that snack time cannot — cannot — be any later, because apparently that’s a life-or-death thing,” said Head of Upper School Jenny Gabriel.
Four and a half days into the experiment, Dean of Curriculum Laura Trout reflected on how it was going. “Well,” she said, and paused. “I think.”
“I think it’s really important that we did it, both just to try it out and see it in action and to address the students and parents who were especially skeptical,” Trout continued.
“I’ve had a lot of kids come up to me and say, ‘I thought I’d hate this but it’s awesome.’”
Was there anything the students were particularly apprehensive about? “Seventy-five minute periods,” came Gabriel’s instant answer. “I think for some of the students and parents there was a concern that teachers were just going to cram their 55-minute class into a longer period without really adapting the class to that period, and that has not been the case.”
The introduction of office hours in the Upper School and a daily advisory period in Middle School are a central part of the new schedule, and ones that should both allay students’ fears have about being unclear on some aspect of a homework assignment on a day when they don’t have the class, and provide a preview of consulting a professor in college.
“With this new schedule, kids will have no excuse for not finding a teacher and asking questions,” Trout said.
One feature of the new schedules that immediately stands out is that the Upper School and Middle School periods align with one another.
At the mention of this alignment, relief flooded Gabriel’s face. “We have eight blocks for every class, and eight blocks for every teacher, and it makes so much more sense and makes everything so much simpler for everyone,” she said.
“Because there are fewer transitions, the whole Middle School feels less frenetic,” Reed said. “In Middle School, transitions are hard, even just the change in mindset from ‘OK, that was math and now I have English.’ The new schedule has a had a really nice impact on the vibe.”
The Middle School schedule has several features unique to it, and of unique benefit to Middle Schoolers. “We really fought for advisory,” Reed said of the 15-minute daily periods that end each day in grades six through eight. “Fifteen minutes sounds small, but it’s an opportunity to touch base with an adult who’s an advocate, and to make sure you get all packed up, and to alleviate” some of the adolescent-ness of adolescence, she said.
Another programmatic peach for the Middle set is that each student can now take more electives than ever before. “As it is now, kids basically can choose between chorus, orchestra, and band, and that’s it. Now, they can also take dance, or animation art, or a brain science survey,” Reed said, naming just a few options.
However, the goal of the new system was larger than isolated perks like those, Reed said.
“It’s not just the content that’s important. It’s the learning how to learn, how to write, how to discuss. That’s what’s important and that’s what the new schedule emphasizes,” she said.
Trout elaborated on that idea.
“A lot of our kids are very highly capable and they would learn well regardless of the schedule we used. There are a smaller number of our students for whom the delivery of the material, and the structure of that delivery really matters. From a learning point of view, changing the schedule is to help those kids. And,” she added, “for the kids who are highly capable and will learn no matter what, this will give them an opportunity to dive deeper into subjects and succeed even more,” Trout said.
“Everyone is learning.”
By Haley M. and Anna S. ’20
Photos by Hayden F. ’20
Not long after waking up on our first day in Reykjavik, we had already managed to dress in full Viking regalia, with steel helmets and swords. It was an incredible and hilarious tableau that encapsulated what would be, for the 23 students and four chaperones who travelled to Iceland over spring break, a truly incredible experience.
After leaving the Viking museum (and doffing our Norse battle gear), we explored the city of Reykjavik and learned about the country’s history. We took in the majestic Hallgrímskirkja cathedral and then visited the Reception House of Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, and even wandered around the grounds, as it is open to the public. This openness and trust helped give us perspective on the oft-repeated claim that Iceland has the nicest citizens in the world.
At the Whales of Iceland Exhibition we saw realistic, life-sized models of 23 species of whales and dolphins. Because of the material the models were made of, the carefully hand-painted details, and the sounds of whales echoing through the speakers, we felt as if we were beneath the waves.
The next day on the way to Iceland’s second largest city, Akureyri, we stopped at Grábrók crater and admired the breathtaking landscape of mossy lava fields. It was one of many stops amid the mountains and ridges that form Iceland’s rugged geography, and that allowed us to take in the full breadth of the tiny island’s unique beauty.
From our base at Akureyri, we ventured out to first stop, Goðafoss, which the locals call “the waterfall of the Gods” for good reason. We stood in awe of the 40-foot-wide Skjálfandafljót River cascading 100 feet to the rocks below, taking photos galore. Next came Lake Myvatn, whose frozen surface offered great snow angel-making, and from which we made our way to Dimmuborgir. The name means “dark castles” in Icelandic and looked eerily like Mordor from “The Lord of the Rings.”
Later we took a dip in the milky blue, mineral-rich Myvatn lake and kept a look out for the elves whose existence a majority of Icelanders believe in, or at least don’t deny.
We saw no elves.
We did see, through the steam rising from the volcano-heated springs, falling snow which capped the rocks surrounding us.
Iceland’s hot springs — and its entire existence — are the product of active volcanos; the island sits atop the boundary of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, and some of us were even able to straddle the two, essentially standing in two different continents at the same time. It rocked.
The next day, we suited up in bright red, hooded-parka onesies and embarked on a whale-watching and fishing expedition, looking like a troupe of frigid firefighters. We tried our hand at catching cod, the staple of Iceland’s fishing industry and therefore its national economy.
After we disembarked, we met Elvar Reykjalín, a colorful fisherman with no shortage of stories and who, among other things, demonstrated how to properly butcher a cod and chased us around with a fish eyeball in his mouth. Our fishing-themed day continued with a visit to Siglufjördur on the north coast, where learned about the early herring industry.
We stayed across from a beautiful river ringed by stunning mountains, but the most striking sight awaited us in the night sky. We flooded outside and beheld a rippling ribbon of green. The Northern Lights defy description and though we all took pictures, none fully captured their unique majesty. Our tour guide, who had worked in Iceland for 10 years, said that this was only the fifth time he had ever seen them, and they had never been as vibrant and active as they were that night. It was a truly a once in a lifetime sight we will never forget.
On our journey back to Reykjavik, we stopped at the University of Akureyri for a lecture on the effects of climate change on the fishing industry in Iceland, which engaged us all. We followed that with one more stop, at the unique turf houses made by the Icelandic people and which have been preserved from the 18th century.
Later we took in another natural wonder, Gullfoss, an impressive two-tiered waterfall which deserves its title as one of Iceland’s most famous sights. If you look over the edge just right, you can see a perpetual rainbow during the day.
Afterward, we visited one of Iceland’s geothermal power plants and learned about Iceland’s impressive use of renewable energy. Harnessing the endless supply of heat from the earth’s core that rises to the island naturally, the country is able to meet its energy needs while producing virtually no CO2.
After leaving the plant, we visited the Lava Tunnel and were given chains to attach to our shoes, and helmets with headlights to help guide us through the tunnel. We walked through the lava-formed cave, and admired the red hued, upside-down icicles. At the end of the cave, our guide instructed us to turn off our headlights and experience complete darkness. She told us this was the darkest environment we would ever (not) see. The experience was bizarre and disorienting — and fascinating.
Our journey had come to an end, but we reflected with gratitude on the friendships and memories that we will carry with us forever. Perhaps the most enduring lesson this tiny island in the North Atlantic taught us was that nature’s beauty is good for the spirit, and for that lesson we are all profoundly grateful too.
By Christopher M. ’20
Photos by Grace G. ’20
Spanish Civilizations and Culture, or Span Civ, is a course that dives into an intense study of the history and culture of Spain. Since its inception, taking Span Civ has also meant a trip to Spain during spring break, a sort of ultimate test of your Spanish knowledge at LCDS. In March, the current crop of Span Civ students embarked for the nation we have been studying since September.
As we killed time at the Newark airport, the energy in the air was anxious but excited. Sure, we had studied the culture and the history, and we knew Don Quijote cold, but we all felt unprepared for our first real conversation with a Spaniard. There wouldn’t be any time to fix confusing the past tense with the past perfect tense. There wouldn’t be any way to correct some grammatical gender slip-up. Everything would be one take, and we were terrified. What we would come to find out, however, was that we had been prepared all along. As the week went on, our Spanish would become more cohesive and fluid, to the point where it felt unnatural to speak English when we returned.
Our first full day included a trip to a place that would become a favorite for many of us: Segovia. We arrived in the ancient city, beneath the massive Roman Aqueduct that has towered over the Old Town for the last 2,000 years. We continued to stroll until we stopped at el Alcázar de Segovia — a medieval castle where Queen Isabella once stayed. Its beautiful views left us breathless. For many of us, el Alcázar was when it first hit us: We were in Spain.
For all its beauty, el Alcázar wasn’t what we most wanted to see. That honor belonged to the windmill of Don Quijote, or los molinos de viento. The story of Don Quijote and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, had captured our hearts, and visiting the iconic windmills was a fantastic way to commemorate our favorite knight errant (caballero andante). We reenacted scenes and took photos, and then made our way to Granada.
Our first night there, we ventured through the old section of the city for a traditional Flamenco performance. Our guide, Ulises, told me before the performance that at really good shows, there is something called “duende” in the air. There’s no equivalent word in English, but it connotes the emotions evoked by a fantastic piece of art. As soon as the performance ended, I rushed over to Ulises and whispered, “I think there was duende at that performance.” His nod told me all that I wanted to hear. The whole experience was pure magic.
The next day, we left for Sevilla, where we saw another Flamenco show and had the opportunity to learn a short routine. This lesson, taught completely in Spanish, left us tripping over our feet and smiling through it all. The lesson was one of many experiences that brought each one of us closer to the rich culture of Spain.
Our next day in Sevilla centered around La Alhambra, a Moorish fortress dating back to the ninth century. La Alhambra is famous for its intricate azulejos, a kind of mozaic, and beautiful gardens, called the Generalife. The atmosphere was illuminating.
From Sevilla, we travelled to Córdoba to visit La Mezquita, a mosque with a Christian cathedral inside of it. We were mesmerized seeing in real life the beautiful architecture that we had studied in class. The smell of the blooming orange trees in the courtyard provided a wonderful ambience that suffused our adventure. After a morning in Córdoba, we boarded a high speed train for our next destination: Barcelona.
Barcelona was the city that many in our group were most excited for. We had just finished our study of Antoni Gaudí, the famous Catalan architect. His creations dot Barcelona, and we could not wait to see them. We saw Parque Guell and Casa Mila, but the most incredible was La Sagrada Familia. This unfinished basilica has been worked on for more than a century, with the inside only being completed in 2010. When we walked into the basilica, the grandeur of the forest-like columns stunned us all. No other church that we had seen on this trip could touch the wondrous colors and sights of La Sagrada Familia.
Our final destination of the trip was Montserrat, a monastery about an hour outside Barcelona. The almost 1,000-year-old abbey rests completely within the surrounding mountain, and is spectacular. After touring the monastery, we took a funicular to the top of the mountain where we hiked in small groups. During these hikes, we really bonded as a group. Whether through the struggle of making it to the top, or the camaraderie engendered through helping someone find their headphones after they rolled down the side of the mountain, this final trip brought us even closer together.
As we woke up the following day, ready to depart for the airport, the feeling was bittersweet. We were excited to see our families again, sure, but we were dispirited that we would have to leave Spain behind. After bidding goodbye to Ulises and boarding the plane, we assured Señora Heim that we were planning to return as soon as possible.
My constant objective as a photographer is to capture fragments of life that can connect to the individual viewer. During this trip, my goal was to create a series of powerful, expressive images to encompass the inspiring environment I was surrounded by for 10 days. I hope you enjoy the series.
Starting off our trip in Florence (or Firenze, in Italian) directly following 20 hours of airport naps and multiple flights was an exhausting yet refreshing endeavor. The chill air relaxed us as we walked toward the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, or St. Mary of the Flower. Commonly referred to as “il Duomo,” meaning “the Dome,” this red-bricked architectural feat designed by Brunelleschi is a staple of the Florentine skyline.
The next few days we spent in Florence were packed full of adventure and history. The medieval town of San Gimignano, just south of the city, captured our hearts with its tall stone towers and picturesque views of the Tuscan countryside that made it feel as if we were living in a fairytale picture book. In the city, ordering coffee at a local bar (cafe) and painting frescos with an Italian artist in his studio introduced us to Florentine culture and gave us a chance to practice our Italian conversational skills.