Upper School News

Intersession: A Time to Explore Passions


“Intersession is an opportunity for kids to experience and meet authentic purveyors of their craft...it gives students an opportunity to see different permutations (of) real life (and) how people leverage what they’ve learned.”

— Linda Yates, Intersession Committee Co-chair

Upper School students were exposed to an assortment of real-life examples of integrated learning while they explored a variety of topics ranging from digital animation to the science of food to urban planning to law during Intersession over the past two weeks.

“Intersession is an opportunity for kids to experience and meet authentic purveyors of their craft,” Intersession committee co-chair Linda Yates said. “It gives students an opportunity to see different permutations (of) real life (and) how people leverage what they’ve learned.”

It is also intended to be an “intellectual feast” full of stimulating, rich introductions in a variety of subjects and fields not necessarily covered during the course of the school year.

Approximately 150 different incredible hands-on seminars, activities, field trips, intensives, and job shadows were offered for seven days. Ninth and tenth graders chose a total of four two-hour seminars, six 90-minute activities, and one field trip from an amazing catalog of options. The eleventh graders selected full-day intensives or job shadows, allowing them to dive deep on a topic, and participated in one field trip.

All of the events were led by highly esteemed experts in their respective fields, including Rick Welts, President and Chief Operating Officer of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, who presented on the Business of Sports; Kristin McIntyre, senior software engineer at Apple, who taught “Talking to Space: Build a Ground Station to Talk to Amateur Radio Satellites”; and award-winning children’s author and illustrator Elisa Kleven, who led “Scrap and Imagination: Writing Children’s Books.”

“What I hope people come away with is how extraordinary the people are who are coming to share their talents,” Yates said.



Making Graffiti and Street Art — Intersession is about exploring passions; be that through the business of sports, the analysis of business data, or expressionist graffiti.


Digital Animation

In the Digital Animation seminar, students were taught the basics of building 3-D models, characters, and art using the computer program Maya.

Instructor Austin Broder of the Digital Media Academy walked them through how to create a bouncing ball, a good warm-up for animation; how to prepare a character for animation, including stimulating gravity; how to make characters look realistic; and how to make a character express emotion.

“It’s so cool that these students get to be exposed to all of these alternative experiences,” Broder said. “It’s something that people usually don’t get exposed to until they commit in college or the real world.”

Ninth-grader Sarah H. said she really enjoyed the class.

“It’s refreshing to be able to choose classes and have more in-depth classes,” she said.

A Day in the Life of a Supreme Court Judge

On location at the Supreme Court of California in San Francisco, eleventh graders job-shadowed Catherine Rivlin, Supervising Deputy Attorney General in the Criminal Division of the California Attorney General’s Office.

They observed a hearing about “sitting on the job” —whether CVS employees should be provided chairs and be allowed to sit at work; watched the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit while it was in session; and witnessed the charismatic judge Alex Kozinski in action, eleventh-grader Meera S. said.

Attendees also met United States District Judge James Donato (appointed by President Barack Obama) and witnessed one day of the murder trial of Chinatown’s Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, during which they heard a playback of the accessory’s testimony.

“I absolutely loved sitting in on the hearings and trials,” Meera said. “As a debater, I was particularly fascinated in the parallels between ‘cross fire,’ a period in which opponents challenge each other with questions in a round and the questions posed by the seven justices of the California Supreme Court.

“The intersectionality and multifaceted nature of the Supreme Court judges’ role was also particularly interesting; they got to play the role of lawyer, codebreaker, analyst, debater, and speaker all at the same time,” she added. “It seemed like the perfect way to bridge several interests.”

The experience also provided a wonderful way to gain exposure to the court and to truly understand the range of disciplines it encompasses.

“Just within those two days, we met a wide variety of people: criminal attorneys, judges, lawyers, students, translators, and even security personnel,” Meera said. “Observing this diversity was a uniquely compelling opportunity.”

Bay Area Glass Institute

At the Bay Area Glass Institute, students toured the studio and then dove right into working with glass. Everyone completed two projects: a glass fusing creation and either a flower or a paperweight molded out of hot glass.

Students spent the majority of the time working on glass fusing, the process of placing fragments of glass onto another piece of glass and heating it up to fuse them together. Some cut their glass base into pieces and made coasters for cups, while others recreated images out of glass fragments or created beautiful abstract designs.

“I really enjoyed this field trip because there was a lot of freedom to be creative and work on projects at our own pace,” tenth-grader Hilary N. said. “Despite the fact that little pieces of glass are sharp and have lots of potential to cut the tips of your fingers like a small paper cut, I think the trip was a huge success. This form of art is not quite something you can do at home, so it was really a treat to have the opportunity to work with glass during my Intersession.”

Living History: I Was There!

In “Living History: I Was There!” students listened as individuals who survived World War II shared their stories. Sophie Stallman, author of My War, My Life, spoke about living in Poland under German occupationHerb Barasch touched on surviving the Holocaust; and Mary Anna Matsumoto and Geraldine Watanabe discussed Japanese Americans and their lives in internment camps.

Stallman recapped the experiences she wrote about in her novel, the story of a teenage girl who became a member of the Polish resistance organization and survived the German invasion of Poland.

“She was inspirational and she talked about how she persevered through all of the terrible times,” tenth-grader Adrianna D. said. “It was very awe-inspiring. It’s hard to think of myself in her shoes. I feel I wouldn’t have been able to survive the same way she did.”

Learning to Cook

In the hands-on activity of “A Little Yumminess: Cooking and Culture — Indonesia: Rice at the Center,” students prepared traditional Indonesian dishes, including Balinese bumbu, a paste made from a blend of herbs, roots, spices, and other savory ingredients; and kare ayam, a chicken curry.

They learned how to finely chop vegetables and spices, grind ingredients with a mortar and pestle, and cook everything without burning it on a stove. Instructors Simran Singh and Stacie Dong also discussed the culture behind the dishes they made and explained that rice is a staple throughout Indonesia and is part of nearly every meal.

The Art of Storytelling

During “The Art of Storytelling: From Homer to Story Slams (Writing and Performing)” workshop, students learned about the structure of stories through a variety of engaging exercises.

One day, students replaced the characters in “Little Red Riding Hood” with random ones — Clifford the Big Red Dog, Donald Trump, a fairy princess, and an optometrist — that they energetically brainstormed.

Instructor Willy Claflin, a performer and writer, said he was trying to teach students a story outline, and a trick for generating endless stories.

“It’s powerful if you have a basic structure in mind, a plot,” Claflin said. “It gives you confidence to write your own stories.”

Another day, they created “problem stories” during an improvisation exercise on developing structure. The seven roles students covered were animal, problem, first solution, why it didn’t work, second solution, why it didn’t work, and the final solution.

They also explored voices, alternate personae, puppets, improvisation, memorization, and monologue.

“I love it,” ninth-grader Nico P. said. “I like the voice work we’ve done; the quality of speaking and how to take one story you’ve heard before and to tell it differently again and again so you never run out of stories.”

Claflin said he was struck by the students’ degree of inventiveness and how they could create astonishing plots and fantasies within a tight format.

“There’s essentially no discernable difference between doing this and an adult workshop,” he said. “They’re imaginatively and intellectually very gifted.”

Program Designed into School Model

The Intersession program, which was part of the original design of the Upper School, is in its third year. It began with just 30 sessions and has grown to five times the size.

Assistant Head of Upper School Mike Peller said the idea was to provide students with a deep exposure to different disciplines in a relaxed learning environment.

“We want students to take risks,” Peller said. “Our goal when students graduate is to have them be both deeply passionate and proficient in different areas; when they get to college, to have a sense of urgency to tackle real-world problems and to know what they are like.

“When students have a chance to work with people who they see in the field doing that work it’s immediately relevant,” he added.

Both Linda Yates and co-chair Kate Bloch find the presenters through suggestions from Nueva parents, ideas from returning presenters, and cold calling.

“A lot of networking goes on to find the right mix,” Yates said. “We really are trying to cover a broad range of subjects and a broad demographic of presenters as well.”

Yates and Bloch are already planning for 2017. If you have ideas for Intersession 2017, please email Yates at linda@hollandyates.com.

“All of Intersession is designed to stay true to the Nueva philosophy of hands-on, interactive, experiential, project-based, authentic learning by doing and engaging with the world,” Yates said.

Click to watch a video highlight of Intersession 2016

January 14, 2016

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