— Students explore new areas of science

Sea Crest expands science fair categories. Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on Wednesday, January 17th. By Sarah Griego Guz.

The science fair is a rite of passage for many middle school students. Many adults remember sweating out the details the night before the big day in a final attempt to consolidate months of work on a tri-fold display board.

Sea Crest School has folded this event into an open house and schoolwide science festival that is suitable for all ages.

The hands-on happening offers innovative science experiences such as a banana keyboard made courtesy of Makey Makey. The electronic invention connects everyday objects to computer programs.

The standard science fair challenge is great for students who are wired to conduct experiments and are interested in specific topics, but others view the science fair with apprehension because they can’t find a question that interests them. Sea Crest Middle School science teacher Matthew Twining decided to modify the assignment.

“Traditional science fair projects appeal to a subset of the students,” said Twining. “There are students who are interested in engineering or environmental topics. I wanted to give everybody a chance to do something more closely aligned with their interests and aptitudes.”

Taking a page from Pasadena schools’ successful Innovation Exposition, Twining added categories for Invention, Environmental Innovation, Reverse Engineering, and Science Fiction.

Seventh-grader Chase Urban has been working on a project in the Reverse Engineering category.

“I couldn’t find a project or a question that I wanted to answer,” said Urban. “I like taking things apart. I liked the idea of taking the digital camera apart and mapping it all out and figuring out how it worked.”


— Oral tradition delivers life lessons

‘Bellbird and fox’ is but one of culture’s tales. By Sara Hayden. Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on December 13th, 2017.

There was no electricity, but on Tekakwitha M. Pernambuco-Wise’s grandparents’ ranch in British Guiana, dark nights burned bright with candles and fireside chats. This was how her elders imparted life lessons. The Sea Crest head of school comes from the Wapishana tribe among whom stories and language are not written but spoken.

Some were pithy and poignant. “Hard work never killed anyone,” stands out in her memory, as does, “Today is a new day. Whatever mistakes I made yesterday are in the past,” which she shares with the students who end up in her office. Others are lengthy and illustrative, filled with twists, turns and colorful characters — often tricksters. All have a nugget of wisdom to glean.

“These are entertaining stories about how you can get through life, and they’re done in a very child-centered way,” Pernambuco-Wise said.

Here is a retelling of a classic tale from her family. She first heard it from her grandfather, and now her father relays it to his grandchildren.

“He is a gifted storyteller and makes many sound effects … and so we never tire of his stories,” Pernambuco-Wise said.

She recently shared it by memory, adding that there’s a lesson in it fit for a contemporary audience.

“I think about the internet and influences children have in their lives today,” Pernambuco-Wise said. “The message really of (this) story is not to be easily lured or easily fooled.”

You’ll have to help us out with our attempt to retell it here. We’ll do our best to share the spirit of the story in the newspaper, but we can’t quite capture the sound effects, voices and gestures that accompany an oral tradition, or even the intimate feeling of sharing a story in person. Feel free to add these details yourself.

“Why the Pigeon Lays Only One Egg and the Bellbird Lives in the Bush Instead of in the Savannah”

(As told to the Half Moon Bay Review by Tekakwitha M. Pernambuco-Wise. Story has been edited for clarity.)

One day, the fox was walking through the savannah when he spotted a pigeon. She was home high up in a tree, protecting the eggs she sat on.

Now, the fox is a very cunning animal. Hungry, he hatched a plan. He straightened his tail until it looked like a cutlass and then shouted to get the pigeon’s attention.

“Drop down one of your eggs because, if you don’t, I’m going to use my cutlass to cut down your tree!” he warned.

The pigeon cowered at the sight of the cutlass and considered her options. If the fox cut down the tree, she would lose all of her eggs. She heeded the fox’s threat and dropped down just one of her eggs. Egg in mouth, the fox proudly skulked away.

This happened again and again and again.

“Drop down one of your eggs because if you don’t, I’m going to use my cutlass to cut down your tree!” the fox would shout.

Soon, only the pigeon’s last egg remained.

The mother pigeon started to cry. A “wacucu” — bellbird — flew by and took notice of her.

“Why are you crying?” the bellbird asked.

The pigeon sniffled. “This fox came by. He has this instrument, this knife — a cutlass. And he said if I don’t give him my eggs he’ll cut down my tree with it.”

The bellbird, who was brilliant and smart, shook her head. She’d seen that fox scamper away, no weapon in sight. “You silly bird! He has no such instrument as a cutlass!” she exclaimed. “Next time he comes, tell him exactly what I tell you — but don’t tell him I told you this …”

The bellbird divulged her plan, and the pigeon agreed to follow through with it.

Sure enough, the fox returned.

“Drop down one of your eggs because if you don’t, I’m going to use my cutlass to cut down your tree!” he warned.

The pigeon was unruffled and laughed. “I won’t give you my only egg,” she declared, following the bellbird’s plan. “You don’t have a cutlass … Only a fluffy tail.”

The fox’s tail fell. “Who told you this?” he snarled.

“Nobody told me this. I thought of this myself,” the pigeon replied, as the bellbird had instructed.

This couldn’t possibly be true — the pigeon was not clever enough to figure this out on her own. The fox could tell she was lying. With a gleam in his eye, he decided to try another tack. He had his suspicions. “It was the bellbird, wasn’t it?” he said.

“Yes,” said the pigeon, taken aback.

“Aha!” The fox ran fast in search of his new prey, leaving the pigeon alone with her last egg.

The bellbird loves to bathe, so the fox knew where he’d find her. At the river running through the savannah, he grabbed her in his mouth to eat her.

“Wait, Mr. Fox,” the bellbird quickly said. “When my feathers are wet, I’m poisonous. Wait until I’m dry.”

The fox obliged and the bellbird hopped over to the river’s bank under the trees and frantically flapped her wings.

“What are you doing?” the fox asked.

“I’m flapping to help my feathers dry,” the pigeon explained. “Then you can eat me.”

But, of course, as soon as the bellbird’s wings were dry, she flew away.

Now the fox was really mad. How had the cunning fox been fooled?

It was only a matter of time before the bellbird came down from her tree to bathe at the river again. This time, the fox knew that her feathers weren’t poisonous, and had no hesitation in catching her once more.

“This time I’m really going to eat you,” the fox mumbled through his full jaws.

“Wait, Mr. Fox,” the bellbird cut in. “Parade through the village first. There will be many children who will be excited to see you’ve caught a bellbird.”

The fox was a prideful creature and so he agreed.

The children screamed in excitement as the bellbird had promised.

“Look at the fox, look at the fox! He has a bellbird in his mouth!” they cried.

“Oh, yeah!” the fox shouted proudly. The fox, so full of himself, realized too late that his jaws were suddenly empty. His mouth had opened wide to gloat, freeing the bellbird.

This time, she flew far from the savannah and headed directly to the bush. She knew the fox would never follow because he feared the predators, bigger than he, who lurked there.

The brilliant bellbird had outsmarted the cunning fox, once and for all.

And that is why the pigeon lays only one egg, and the bellbird lives in the bush instead of in the savannah.


— Grandparents Circle knits warm, tight community

Seniors, students learn together. By Sarah Griego Guz. Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on November 29th, 2017.

Grandparents Circle Half Moon Bay ReviewFirst-grader Mira Mukerji sings Bengali songs with her grandmother. Seventh-grader Aidan Popple makes food with his grandma and model planes with his grandpa. Fifth-grader Shane McGuirk watches TV with his grandparents. They’re members of multigenerational families who have the opportunity to spend time together. Sea Crest School’s Grandparents Circle seeks to strengthen that connection.

Inspired by the pleasure and privilege of having known her own grandparents, Head of School Tekakwitha M. Pernambuco-Wise said she pitched the idea to Maryann McGuirk, a Sea Crest grandparent and friend, to start the group about two years ago. Since then, it’s developed into a steering committee of six grandparents who organize socials and initiatives that weave fellow grandparents and other senior special friends into the fabric of the school’s community.

“What I was noticing more and more was the young children in our school … not (having) that good fortune to know their grandparents,” Pernambuco-Wise said. “I think it’s important for us to value and treasure our elders and their wisdom. I see them as the wise generation.”

That includes grandparents, grand aunts and uncles, family friends and other senior community members.

On Friday, people of all ages attended Grandparents and Special Friends Day that coincided with a fall performing arts showcase.

Grandparents Circle member Kay Beffa greeted these guests of honor with roses as they filed in to watch students perform musical and theatrical numbers.

“I just want to make sure it’s very special for grandparents and special friends,” Beffa said.

The circle gives something special back to her — she gets to spend time with her grandson and meet his friends, Beffa said. “It makes a nice, community feeling.”

Grandparents Circle Half Moon Bay ReviewGrandparents Circle members also led an effort to transform the school’s innovation lab into a museum that day. They curated “artifacts” from their lives including a sewing machine, bound atlases, school textbooks, and models of cars, helicopters and other means of transportation from decades past.

Denny Freezer, a former captain for the U.S. Coast Guard, put his manual aviation computers and slide rule on display.

“I love them and I’d like to increase interest in how things used to be done — I guess because I’m getting old,” Freezer said.

He and his wife, Linda, relocated to the area to be near their family, including grandson Shane McGuirk, a Sea Crest fifth-grader.

“They can experience our life and we can experience their adventures too,” she said. “It’s priceless.”

Grandchildren spoke of the unique relationship they forged with their elders during these times.

“You end up with a very special relationship,” Aidan Popple said.

Pernambuco-Wise echoed this. Sometimes, a grandparent gets the job of passing on knowledge in a gentle way, she said.

“There’s just this feeling of warmth and being wrapped in a warm blanket and having them listen to you,” Pernambuco-Wise said.

As Linda Freezer phrased it, “What happens at Nanna’s stays at Nanna’s.”

At a reception for grandparents, Jana Mukerji sat between Donna and Ankur Mukerji, enjoying the company of her granddaughter’s parents. She was visiting from India, creating not only a multigenerational connection but also a multicultural one, said Donna Mukerji.

Jana Mukerji said she missed Mira’s birth, but was with the family three months later. Since then, she’s made an effort to make the transcontinental trip every other year for three months at a time.

“He’s my only son and she’s my only daughter-in-law. We have a special bond,” Jana Mukerji said.

And she dotes on Mira, whose classroom she visited later that day to see what she was learning in school. They also snuggle a lot, her parents say.

“Just having her as a part of Mira’s life is really a blessing,” Ankur Mukerji said.

Aidan Popple’s grandparents also traveled to visit him and his siblings, this time for their dad’s 40th birthday. Coming from Park City, Utah, the journey was a bit quicker for them. They visit often.

“They’re more like secondary parents,” the seventh-grader said.

His grandparents can attest to that. During visits, Cheryl Popple said she helps make sure the three grandchildren are fed and clothed and John Popple gets them to school on time.

“I drop off the kids. I pick them up. I know exactly what time we have to be out the driveway,” John Popple said.

“I’m a real believer in extended family involvement. Just because you’ve moved away is not an excuse not to be involved,” grandmother Cheryl Popple said.

Grandparents Circle Half Moon Bay ReviewHowever, the extent to which Sea Crest opens its doors to senior generations is something that’s different from when she was a child, she said. Grandparents might have been invited to a dance recital or an Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony, but not to day-to-day activities. Later this year, the Grandparents Circle will help make a date night possible for parents as they recruit grandparents and special friends to babysit the children at Sea Crest.

“You look at how education has changed since I was in school. They just didn’t have this type of thing,” she said.

Expectations for family arrangements in the United States have evolved over generations. Pew Research data suggests that multigenerational households became less common after World War II as people moved to the suburbs as nuclear families, and aging populations had better health and economic prospects. They’re on the rise again, driven by various economic and cultural factors.

At Sea Crest, the school community is modeling a way to connect different generations in a modern context.

“I think this is one thing I like best about Sea Crest: It’s so welcoming to the whole family,” Grandparents Circle member Diane Sikes told the audience at the performing arts showcase. “It’s really important for kids to hear their grandparents stories and see the items they’ve handed down … Kids have an opportunity to place themselves in time and see themselves on that long generational line they’re a part of.”

The payoff is invaluable.

“(It’s) just the importance of knowing grandparents, their story, their journey, an appreciation of what the journey has entailed,” said Maryann McGuirk, Grandparents Circle founding member and Shane McGuirk’s other grandmother. She added that she wished she had asked the generations that came before her about these experiences. “You don’t know what you have missed until later in life.”


— In the News: Boys Cross-Country Team finished first place in the Small Schools Intermediate League

Young runners reach finish line. Middle school cross-country SEASON comes to end. By Sarah Griego Guz. Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on November 15th, 2017.

As the fall sports season comes to a close, Coastside middle school cross-country teams are finishing strong.

athletics, boys cross countryLast week, Sea Crest School’s middle school boys cross-country team finished first place in the Small Schools Intermediate League Cross- Country Championship.

The triumphant win capped off a rather unusual season in which many of the meets were canceled due to poor air quality triggered by regional fires.

“Our top runners were mostly our eighth-grade boys,” said coach Jennifer Dill. “They definitely worked as a team. There wasn’t one superstar that carried everybody.”

Dill, who is also the co-director of the Half Moon Bay International Marathon, credits the collective finish of the boys as reason for the championship win.

Eighth-grade students Connor Moore, Matthew Spink, Billy Ou and Sean Andrasick snagged the fourth- through seventh-place spots. Jay Alsadir, Cade Ford and Ethan Lucas also finished well, their collective scores contributing to the team win.

Dill and her husband, Franz, have deep ties to the Coastside running community. When asked if she drew from her experience as leader of the marathon, she replied that her main focus is instilling a love of the sport.

“My sole focus is I just want them to like running,” she said. “It’s really great when you win, but at this age running is really hard. People have pretty strong feelings about running one way or the other. I want to make it fun and for the kids to enjoy it.


— In the News: Sports participation nears 100 percent for 6th- and 7th-graders at Sea Crest

Sea Crest School fifth- through eighth-graders gathered in the school gym for the end-of-year sports recognition assembly last week. Photo courtesy Ambar Pina.

Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on June 14th.

A unique approach to play. By Sarah Griego Guz.

In early June, Sea Crest School hosted a special athletics recognition assembly. The Kohrs Family Center erupted into thunderous applause as the coaches reflected on the banner year.

The girls volleyball and soccer teams as well as both the girls seventh- and eighth-grade baseball teams had earned championship titles. The golf team had also won a championship.

Even more impressive than the highlights was the school’s philosophy: Sports should be accessible to everyone, and all students should be able to take risks while learning something new.

This is not an “everybody plays” approach. Students who have put in the time to master athletic techniques are rewarded with increased playing time and opportunities to play at a high level.

The athletic department, however, has mastered the art of allowing all students to participate without compromising the degree of competiveness needed to win championships.

“Sea Crest Athletics has a no-cut policy and a philosophy of participation stemming from our daily P.E. program where risk-taking is not only encouraged but also celebrated,” said Craig Strong, director of athletics at Sea Crest School in an emailed statement. “We regularly ask students to take risks by giving a particular sport a try and see how it goes. We have generally had a very high participation rate because of this philosophy.

“Sea Crest Athletics relies on the participation of our fifth-grade and middle school students,” he continued. “This year, once again, we had great participation from our student athletes.”

The school experienced participation levels of 94 percent for fifth grade, 99.5 percent for sixth grade and 99.5 percent for all seventh-grade students. The total participation rate for all middle school and fifth-grade students slid in at 95 percent.

The impressive level of participation was evident when the last student athlete was called to the stage to be recognized — the section of the gym where the middle school students had been sitting was virtually empty.

“Children often play a sport because they feel part of something. They want to be included and be part of what all their friends are doing,” said Strong.

Strong also feels that including fifth-graders in the middle school athletics program not only provides an opportunity for students to get a taste of athletics, it also provides them with a foundation resulting in a stronger program overall.

“Including fifth-graders in our middle school program has proven to capture the attention of students due to the level of enthusiasm at this age,” said Strong. “Once we have them engaged, we focus on player development to give them the skills to be able to continue playing at the next level.

“As our athletes begin to develop a passion for a particular sport, we continue to encourage them to play as many sports as they can manage,” he continued. “And, as our students end up in the upper grades, they typically have an extra year of experience from their fifth-grade season, leading us to the number of competitive teams at the varsity or A level.”


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