Upper School News

Creativity and Hands-On Learning with Morgan
Portrait of Morgan, an upper school student

For tenth grader Morgan T., Intersession was a true hands-on experience. From molding a newly discovered species of dinosaur out of clay, to removing a cyst from a pig’s foot in suturing class, to making frosting rosettes on top of a cake, Morgan’s Intersession classes brought new meaning to Nueva’s motto to “learn by doing.” Morgan infused her personal creativity into each seminar and activity session.

During the activity session Making a Dinosaur, students learned how to turn wire and clay into a lifelike replica of a Jobaria dinosaur. The Jobaria was discovered by paleontologists only 20 years ago in Niger, Africa, and was one of several creatures the students learned about over the course of the week. Led by renowned sculptor Gary Staab, who painstakingly builds accurate scale models of prehistoric animals and humans for museums all over the world, many students including Morgan noted that this was the Intersession class they were most looking forward to.

“My older brother (2017 Nueva graduate Griffin T.) did Making a Dinosaur and it seemed like a really interesting class,” said Morgan as she sculpted miniature skis for her Jobaria to enjoy. “I’ve always seen dinosaur bones and sculptures in museums but didn’t know how they were made.”  

From sculpting tools to scalpels, Morgan transitioned next into Suturing 101. Here students were given a preserved pig’s foot to practice removing a simulated cyst from a tendon. Since pig skin is very similar to human skin, Morgan could exercise her dexterity by slicing open the foot, removing a part of the tendon, and then stitching it closed again. As she learned, suturing takes finesse, and many students had thought they would be practicing suturing on a banana, for example, instead of a real pig’s foot. “It really sparks an interest in students to consider medicine,” said the instructor. “Medical school is a really big commitment, and with this experience students can see what it’s like and decide if it’s a future for them before selecting their major.”

Students like Morgan were inspired by suturing to continue thinking about medicine as a career path. “My mom is a doctor so it was fun to tell her about my suturing class,” said Morgan. “I’m really interested in medicine and overall interested in biology. I’m applying to an internship in medicine this summer, so I figure the more practice I have the better I’ll get.” Others, like tenth grader Tyler G., were turned off by working with real animal tissue. “I love science and biology, and I think medicine is really interesting, so I wanted to try something new,” Tyler said. “I’m a very squeamish person though, so medicine is probably not a viable career option for me after all.”

In the afternoon, Morgan moved on to Cake Decorating with the head decorator at the Prolific Oven in Palo Alto. Students were given the delicious task of icing a chocolate cake with the Prolific Oven’s famous cream cheese frosting. They started with a crumb coat, followed by the base and top coats to create picture-perfect, bakery-quality cakes they could enjoy. Morgan learned how to make artistic designs like leaves, patterns, and rosettes, mix colored frosting and pipe a perfect cupcake, as well as practice writing out messages like "Happy Birthday." It was a fun exercise all the students appreciated after a grueling first semester.

“Decorating cakes is one of my favorite things to do for fun, but I never have the time to decorate with all my college applications,” said twelfth grader Zoe L. “At Intersession, I don’t have to choose between doing college applications and something fun. This is a nice break.”

After making (and eating) her beautiful cake, Morgan attended the Indian Embroidery Art seminar where she learned about the colorful craft of Kashmiri embroidery. Taking inspiration from brightly colored flowers, blossoms, trees, and birds, Kashmiri embroidery is found most commonly on clothing and home furnishings, like pillows and curtains. Perhaps still inspired by her cake-decorating class, Morgan took her inspiration from desserts, embroidering a cherry pie design onto her swatch.

“This is a really relaxing class,” she said. “I wanted to learn how to embroider patches and cute designs onto my overalls, so that’s my goal. I’ve put my heart and soul into my classes this week during Intersession and I’ve learned a lot. We are lucky have the opportunity to learn so many random and interesting things here at Nueva!”

View photos from Morgan’s Intersession experience here.


Morgan's Intersession Experience


  • Authentic Learning
  • Intersession

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