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Middle School News

Love of Learning on Display at Eighth Grade Recital Night
By Louise Schultze, Communications

A bicycle-powered blender, a mixed media art portfolio, a time management app, a moving song about the school shooting in Parkland, Florida – Creativity and variety were on display at this year’s Recital Night on Thursday, April 11 when Nueva eighth-graders presented their inspiring and meaningful year-long projects to teachers, parents, and peers. 

With earnestness and sincerity, students were the educators, explaining their motivation, process, challenges, and what they took away from it all. They reveled in the sharing, and kept their audience intrigued by their stories and experiences. 

“I loved painting and spent a lot of time at craft fairs,” said Megan B., who’s Recital Project on Spray Paint Art led to her starting a small business selling her work on Etsy. “I built a structure to do the spray paint art in, taught myself how to do the spray paint art through YouTube tutorials, and learned how to make a business out of it. I’m donating all my proceeds to the Peninsula Youth Theatre to support one of my other passions.”

The Eighth-Grade Recital Project is a rite of passage for Nueva students, where they have the opportunity to investigate and learn about an interest of their own choosing. Principles of design thinking are practiced throughout the project to help students brainstorm and evaluate their learnings and process at each stage. 

Some students took on technologically-advanced projects and enjoyed explaining “how it works.” Thomas R. created a self-guiding car that can navigate small spaces and obstacles. Luca L. designed a fire detector that sends an alarm when there is a hazardous grease fire in a home before a standard smoke detector would sense the emergency. William F. built an remote-controlled airplane from scratch: “The best part was when I took a photo of the completed project,” William said. “It was so good to see the project I designed and fabricated myself.”

Cate W.’s Building a Bicycle Powered Blender combined her interests in design engineering, building, and food. While demonstrating her construction by making banana smoothies for Recital Night visitors, Cate said, “I first saw this at a farmers’ market and decided to do my Recital Project on it because it was so original and fun.” Cate answered questions about her design and iteration process, and showed exactly how fast she had to pedal to make a successful – and delicious – blended smoothie.

Established at Nueva more than 20 years ago, many students continue pursuing their Recital Project’s area of interest when they move to Nueva’s Upper School in the form of Quest. Some Nueva alums have even turned their Recital and Quest Projects into businesses and careers after they graduate. Working with an adult mentor, students draft a comprehensive project plan, write a research paper, and then present, deliver, and perform their completed work at Recital Night. 

Riyana S. chose songwriting as her Recital Project topic, and wrote and performed an original song titled Mine from the perspective of a parent who lost a child the Parkland, Florida school shooting in 2018. Riyana researched through the Parkland blogs and put herself in the experience. “I had never written songs before, but I put together my love of singing, music, and literature.” Riyana wrote an album of five original songs, each diving into a social-justice issue. 

“Recital Night is my favorite Nueva event of the year, and it is also often the windiest night of the year. This one was no exception,” said Middle School Head Liza Raynal. “Why is this wonderful evening so blustery? I used to teach my seventh graders about the literary device of “pathetic fallacy.” That’s when an inanimate thing like the weather reflects feelings in literature. In King Lear and Macbeth, there are storms to show us the inner weather of the characters, and I think of the wind of recital night being a mirror like this. We can see on that night the way the inner worlds of our wonderful students are whipped up, ready to sweep out the old and usher in the new. The wind pulls back the veil of a student to reveal the empowered learners, changemakers, and citizens of the world just below. This year, we saw future artists, chefs, mental health clinicians, programmers, and environmentalists sharing their processes and their passions. What a gift their work will be to the world.”

Coming up on Tuesday, May 21, Nueva Upper School students will share their year-long design thinking projects at the annual Quest Expo. For more information, visit

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