Seventh-grade humanities class figuratively travels around the globe to delve into culture and current events. We learn about other peoples through literature, history, art, and film, but sometimes, we seek understanding through a somewhat unlikely curricular source–food. Food is a medium, a nourishing social art, which invites others to experience a culture through a language of flavors and a palate of aromas. We celebrate with food; we heal with food. Our students recognized this while reading I Lived on Butterfly Hill, a coming-of-age novel set in an allegorical depiction of Pinochet’s rise to power in Chile. Throughout the novel, the protagonist, Celeste, lyrically revels in the power of food. Of her grandmother’s journey to Chile as a WWII refugee, she learns, “Abuela suffers from an illness called nostalgia, which is often cured with a sprinkle of love, some lemon, a few raisins, and many slices of avocado.” The contrast of flavors and textures triggers sensations, awakens memory, alerts us to the present, and quite literally keeps us full.
As Celeste matures in her own journey as a refugee in Maine, she finds the strength to persevere through writing, reading, and preparing the comfort food of her culture, sharing them with her newfound friends. Celeste shares the food of her culture as both a celebration of difference and connection. Following Celeste’s example, seventh-graders collaborated with our kitchen staff to research and design the school’s lunch menu last Friday, sharing the knowledge during this unit. Chef David and Chef Jessica, always open to student collaboration in the kitchen, visited our humanities class sharing items and culinary knowledge with our seventh-graders. Each seventh-grader presented a salad, main dish, soup, side, and dessert, sharing their research and rationale. Our chefs selected recipes from student presentations and prepared them for our school lunch. Before we ate, seventh-graders introduced the meal to their peers and faculty. We were impressed with our student appetites for knowledge and understanding. Their presentations were emblematic of their appreciation of the novel and the history of Chile. We learned that food is a universal element that blurs the borders that we create between cultures.
Students in Upper School Performing Arts had a very energetic and creative master class in Drama! They read a synopsis of a play, Willy Wonka, and then put on the ENTIRE show in a one minute pantomime. Their creativity in designing their scenes showed that they clearly understood the sequence of the show’s plot and could pick out the most important elements to highlight for the audience. There was lots of laughter and risk taking on stage! What a great success … and terrific practice for our Spring musical!
Today in advisory, seventh grade did some mini-team building activities that helped them learn new things about each other and led to a bigger activity of working together. One activity was especially challenging! In my ten years of doing this activity, only one group has managed to untie the knot. Success requires patience, communication, cooperation and focus. I challenged the group to complete this task slowly and to work together.
First we gathered as a group and linked hands to form a human knot. Once locked together, they hesitated and worried that they couldn’t undo the knot. And then they were off! As they worked through their first attempt, they found themselves almost to the end but were unable to break the chain. Instead of giving up, they dropped hands and re-formed the knot and started over. Their second attempt proved to still be difficult…but they got closer! The third time was the charm.
It was amazing to see saw every single person in the room with such intense focus and determination to figure it out. Afterwards, we talked about how this activity relates to real life. Working together as a group, we proved that we could complete the challenge. Bravo, 7th Grade!
7th grade has being studying organelles and the role they play in keeping animal and plant cells healthy. The students learned about how cells are essentially factories for making proteins and the role organelles serve in this process. To wrap up their exploration, they created a dance to demonstrate the job of their “little organs.”
The seventh graders spent time with the PreK classes this week to help introduce the use of our Preschool Unquowa library. The older children helped to pick out a book, read to them and then explained to them how they borrow a book, take care of the book and bring it back to school. PreK students were are also learning about geometric shapes, so the older children stuck around to help the younger students work on finishing their math project using marshmallows and toothpicks.
Seventh grade Spanish is learning about open-air markets in Guatemala, the most famous of which is Chichicastenango (say that five times fast!). The market of Chichicastenango is so large and labyrinthine that the tourism board of Guatemala recommends hiring a guide – recognizable by their khaki vests – so that visitors don’t get lost in the market and accidentally miss the once daily bus out of town.
To combine the students’ love of saying Chichicastenango with our new clothing vocabulary, we decided to work in groups to put on a skit about Guatemala’s largest artisan market. Our seventh graders spent a week writing and rehearsing their skits, incorporating every single new vocabulary word as well as some of our new irregular verbs.
The skits were a success! With elaborate costumes and unexpected set pieces, the students performed inventive and comical skits about the perils of the marketplace. If you ever go to the market of Chichicastenango, Unquowa’s seventh grade students definitely recommend that you get a guide – lest you get eaten by a giant man-eating banana!