High Point Academy: Creatively Exploring Complex Issues Through Multiple Lenses

Published : Friday, April 13, 2018 | 12:05 PM

What is the purpose of education in today’s ever-changing global world? What are the big concepts and overarching skills we want High Point graduates to embrace? Among these big concepts, the research points to the paramount importance of teaching students how to think and how to analyze issues through multiple lenses and perspectives. How to realize that there is not one “right” answer but rather a range of possibilities. High Point embraces the notion that creativity is just as important as knowledge and that complex issues cannot be understood by a singular approach or point of view.

In this spirit, during the past summer, High Point explored options to generate excitement and camaraderie around the challenge of deeper mathematical problem solving. A team of elementary teachers (Sarah Nguyen, Stephanie Kyle, Rob Woodward, and Julia Woodward) and parents (Tanya Potts and Nathan Lee) united around this vision and launched High Point’s first-ever Math Club. We hired a highly regarded math consultant, Cathy Hoyt, to guide High Point in this pursuit. Cathy Hoyt designs math curriculum for publishing companies and has been coaching and preparing students for math tournaments for over a decade.

At first, we thought the Math Club would generate modest interest at best. To our pleasant surprise and perhaps even astonishment, over forty 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students eagerly signed up for the Math Club during the fall of 2017. Under the guidance of our 6th grade teachers, Mrs. Nguyen and Ms. Kyle, these students meet as a group during their lunch

The primary purpose of the Math Club is to inspire students to love math. Math is so much more than crunching numbers and computing. Math is about developing a sophisticated approach to a wide array of problem-solving strategies and applying that learning to real-world experiences. Students are building grit and resilience as they tackle complex math problems that cannot be solved in thirty seconds or even several minutes. Through trial and error and thinking outside the box, students utilize creative strategies to finally crack the code and devise a process that allows them to arrive at the correct destination.

On April 23rd, 2018, High Point will host its first-ever Math Tournament. Held at High Point, the Math Tournament will be the culminating event of this year’s Math Club. The goal of the Math Tournament is for students to apply mathematical concepts and problem-solving strategies and to develop a deeper sense of excitement and teamwork around mathematical problem-solving. The Math Tournament will consist of both individual and team events. The competition will develop the minds of our “mathletes” with each team working collaboratively to create a plan to complete complex problems in an efficient and strategic manner.

Our students are the best gauge for the success of our new Math Club. When we asked our students about participating in Math Club, this is what they said:

“It is very educational and enriching. Math Club teaches multiple interesting and helpful ways to solve problems.” – Kelton Lin, 6th grade

“I like Math Club because it helps me in class! I struggle with problem-solving and Math Club has made me improve and increase my confidence.” – Kayley Bao, 6th grade

“You learn a lot. There are different ways to solve problems. Also, you’re taught shortcuts that you probably didn’t know, which makes it easier to solve. I’m excited about the Math Club competition that’s coming up!” – Sergey Barseghyan, 6th grade

The Math Club started because parents and students had an interest in exploring math on a deeper level with opportunities to tackle Math Olympiad problems, work cooperatively in groups, share math strategies, play math games, and complete math puzzles. Sarah Nguyen, Stephanie Kyle, Rob Woodward, and Julia Woodward love making math accessible and exciting for students and led the fall session for 4th-6th graders. Sarah Nguyen and Stephanie Kyle are leading the spring session and will see our Mathletes through the spring competition. Sarah Nguyen believes that, “Parents want their children to not only be successful at understanding how to use a standard algorithm but also understand how to approach difficult problems, use various problem-solving strategies, get some cool tips and tricks under their belts, and ENJOY math!” Sarah Nguyen wants to teach students to have grit and determination and challenge themselves to take on problems that they have never seen before.

In addition to Math Club, another exciting opportunity for our students to observe and evaluate circumstances through multiple lenses is by participating in National History Day. Eighth grade students who choose to embark on a National History Day project enroll in a year-long class under the guidance of our history teacher, Mr. Gint Valiulis. Participation in National History Day does not follow a script, but rather encourages students to chart their own path as they research a historical topic of interest.

Opportunities for participants to learn, explore, think critically, collaborate, research, and express themselves creatively are endless. With most students working in small groups, they present a research project in one of the following formats: Documentary, Exhibit, Paper (individual project), Performance, or Website. Each year, National History Day selects a theme for students to use as a lens to guide their research as they delve into historical content and develop unique viewpoints and understanding of the events covered in their projects. This year’s theme is Conflict and Compromise.

Eighth grade student, Henry Atkinson, selected the research topic of the Armenian Genocide because of personal interests and family ties, and Jonah Lessuk partnered with Henry because Jonah was looking to learn about a topic that was completely new to him. Both students agreed that making a website was the best vehicle for their presentation. With the theme being Conflict and Compromise, the partners took a deeper look into what caused the Armenian Genocide, the instabilities in the area, the changes in the leadership at the time, and how the events could have been avoided.

Atkinson and Lessuk discovered that “if a few leaders had made different choices, been more reasonable, and were not blinded by hatred, the Armenian Genocide could have been avoided.” An upsetting discovery for the boys is that “the Turkish government has not admitted to any wrongdoing and has not been held accountable. Unfortunately, similar events in other areas are still happening today.”

8th grade students, Wyatt Hall, Aaron Liem, and Jiashu Wang created a website on Japanese Internment in World War II. According to Liem, this group began the project “thinking we were going to focus on how horrible the conditions of the camp were, but our research led us to focus on how the Japanese American Citizens League (“JACL”) fought for Japanese American redemption after the internment ended.” The students were pleased to learn that the JACL persuaded Congress to distribute retributions.” Wang discovered the following about working in a group, “Had I done this project alone, I would not have been able to delve as deeply into the topic. As a group, we were able to focus and accomplish a great deal.” Hall expressed that he, “hopes to represent High Point proudly at the History Day competition.”

Eighth Grade students, Renee Deramerian and Anya Millard, competed in the Junior Group Performance category with a musical format where they rewrote clever lyrics to existing tunes to fit their research topic of the Hollywood Blacklist. Both students knew nothing about the Hollywood Blacklist and were fascinated by the topic that began in nearby Hollywood, California. When asked to share a snip it of their lyric rewrites, Deramerian and Millard broke into song to the tune of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, “No one thinks like Trumbo, no one writes like Trumbo, no one types scripts off in bathtubs late at night like Trumbo.” A big surprise to Deramerian and Millard was that “half of the people who were blacklisted were not actually communist. One actor was blacklisted because he played Joseph Stalin in a film. He was not himself a communist.” Deramerian very much enjoyed working with Anya and said, “We became close friends through the experience, which was something I was not expecting.” The newfound closeness will continue to bloom as the two girls head to Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy next year.

On Saturday, March 18th, 8th grade HPA students competed at History Day with their research projects. The following students qualified to advance to the state competition in May: Evan Nahra for his website on the Fall of the Aztec Empire, and Henry Atkinson and Jonah Lessuk, for their website on the Armenian website. Congratulations to Eamon Binns, Hayden Crawford, and Megan Barrett who received medals for their projects. High Point is very proud of all students who presented such interesting research topics!

By encouraging our students to evaluate all subject matter through multiple lenses, High Point is growing inquisitive, dynamic thinkers who will push themselves and others to ask insightful questions and examine solutions thoughtfully. As Alan Blinder once wrote, “Life is not a multiple-choice test; it is an open book essay exam.” High Point is setting up our students for success in life!

High Point Academy, 1720 Kinneloa Canyon Road, Pasadena, (626) 798-8989 or visit www.highpointacademy.org.








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