Coding in a Waldorf High School Humanities Class

Coding in a Waldorf High School Humanities Class

by Marina Budrys | High School Humanities Faculty Member

Rudolf Steiner believed that it is really important to understand how things work in the world in some basic way. This doesn’t mean, for example, that we all need to know how to build an Audi TT engine, but some experience with acceleration is important.

Coding has become such an important part of how our world works that I started to look at bringing it into my Humanities curriculum. Our high school students are not necessarily experiencing coding unless they’re members of the Robotics Club or pursuing an independent interest, and yet a general knowledge of how code works is essential for our graduates.

Confession, I am no coder. I took one rStudio class in college and it was really hard for me. So I called up my sister, an alumna of the class of 2017, who works in a plant science lab at Stanford and asked her if she would be willing to Zoom in for a demo with my 12th grade Economics students. We came up with an ideal exercise: 12th Graders would use R code to create visual representations of data they’ve been collecting for their Economics work. Each student worked through an example where they followed her through importing the data, adding instructions, and running different lines of code. They each ended up with a colorful graph that matched hers. Their homework was to ask a question related to the research they needed to do for their Senior store, collect their own data, and create their own graphs from those data. Did everyone figure out each part perfectly? No. Did everyone create a graph? Yes.

A big part of this education is building capacities. With each new task students do, they work through something. Visualizing data is a new skill that I hope opens their minds to what they believe they can do, however daunting it first appears to be.

 

Sixth Grade Statistics Projects

by Dr. Lisa Babinet | Middle and High School Math Faculty

Being able to capture phenomena in the world with numerical data is a powerful skill. Traditionally, sixth graders undertake just that by embarking on a statistics research project with a topic of their choosing. The more interested the students are in the topic, the more fun they have with their project. Students are given guidelines to create a survey, collect data from their peers, and then find participants to complete their survey. Once their data is collected, students calculate basic statistics and create beautiful, varied tables, charts, and graphs capturing the essence of their findings. This project empowers the students to know they can study the world around them, often leading to a desire to ask more questions.

P.S. They’re practicing decimals, fractions, and percents throughout this project with information that is meaningful to them, which is an added bonus!

Here is what they found. Of the people they surveyed:

  • Maya learned from the process that if you can’t answer the question yourself, you should not put it on your survey.
  • Tessa learned that the majority of people liked vanilla ice cream.
  • Matvei learned that on a scale from 1 to 10, 1/3 of them liked music 10 out of 10.
  • Misha learned that more than 80 percent of the people ate breakfast every day.
  • Mai learned that most people traveled within the United States.
  • Rhea learned that teachers were the ones who got into the most mischief.
  • Amira learned that most of them dislike homework.
  • Ava learned that most people read and/or draw before they go to bed, and that only one person cries before they go to bed.
  • Yumeng learned that two people said they had “Deuaphobia.” She is pretty sure that is not a legit phobia, but if it is, she deeply apologizes.
  • Jack learned that so many people like basketball.
  • Sepehr learned that some people think hip hop is a sport.
  • Felix learned that a very large number liked to use graphite pencils to draw.
  • Spencer learned that someone never wants to eat deep fried care glow worm fritters again.
  • Jordan learned that a lot of people like Halloween and that they save their Halloween candy.
  • Jenna learned that most teachers spend $100 – $150 per shopping trip on clothing.
  • Luisa learned that most liked chicken tacos the best.
  • Gloria learned that most people wear five outfits in a school week.
  • Caedence learned that the reason 40% own or don’t own pets is because of their parents.
  • Jasleen learned that the majority of them absolutely love pets.
  • Jasper learned that a lot of people play basketball.
  • Clara learned that most people liked to fill out surveys and don’t like completing their statistics project. Dr. Babinet begs to differ.
Meet Coach Sarah

Meet Coach Sarah

by Melanie Ingler | Communications Coordinator

Coach Sarah Triolo comes to WSP with a background in kinesiology, fitness, sports nutrition, and enjoys working with people who are struggling with health issues. We are so excited that Coach Sarah has expanded her pre-pandemic WSP role from middle school volleyball coach to Athletic Director and PE teacher for grades 6 – 9.

During the pandemic, Sarah overheard her son’s high school Zoom PE class plod through Standards Tests and rote repetition. She was inspired to create a way to not only make movement and activity more fun, but to help students learn how to integrate overall wellness and health into other activities. She wants our students to learn that improvement, not an arbitrary number, is the goal.

In Sarah’s first year her primary goal has been to make movement and activity fun for students in hopes that as they grow they will gravitate towards recreational movement as an opportunity for relaxation and enjoyment. She wants them to build positive associations with physical activity now that will keep them active for years to come.

In middle school, the students have been doing relay races, but not as you might imagine. In addition to typical running, they also run backwards and skip. When they finished for the first time she told the students they had run ¼ of a mile and they were so surprised! The students had fun working up to one mile without even realizing it. One student even said, “Who knew running could be so fun?” Some of her classes have also played variations of Ultimate, where they have made up their own rules. The group went from many students learning how to throw a disc short distances, to the group using up nearly the entire length of the field at the park for their games.

Another way that Sarah is working towards this goal is to show the students various ways that are readily accessible to them, with little to no equipment or financial investments required. For example, she took a class to the skate park at Rengstorff Park to do parkour. Some students immediately said “I can’t do it,” but she said, “You can!” And they did! They challenged themselves and succeeded, improving a bit class by class. Parkour is an example of an activity which is really good for developing core strength without the typical repetitive drills or standard push ups, pull ups, squats. And all you have to do is just try.

She has also incorporated physiology into their lessons and focused on helping the students learn to listen to their bodies. They have found and measured their heart rates learned to calculate their maximum heart rate and learned the meaning of both. The classes spent several weeks doing yoga and working on breathing techniques and ways to lower their heart rates and relax. They discussed other times in which that could be useful, such as if they are stressed or nervous about something. Some noted they could use it before presentations in class, or during high-pressure moments in team sports, like a free throw. Sarah is also planning to work on practical daily movements such as the proper ways to lift objects and how to carry this knowledge into other areas of their life to avoid injuries down the line.

Looking ahead this year Sarah has planned for classes including rock climbing, which will encourage students to reach and stretch, a unit on wheels and balance where they will work with scooters, bicycles, roller skates and skateboards, and nutrition where they will learn about nutritional labels, and what “eating from the rainbow means and how each color provides different nutrients. In future years Sarah is even hoping to add some new league sports such as swimming and golf.

We are so lucky to have Coach Sarah creating such fun and meaningful athletics experiences that will serve our students for years to come.

WSP’s Roots and Branches in Full Bloom on GrandFriends’ Day

WSP’s Roots and Branches in Full Bloom on GrandFriends’ Day

by Marina Budrys | HS Faculty and GrandFriends’ Day Event Coordinator

chalkboard drawing of an adult with grey hair and two children with their feet in a streamOn the night before the Los Altos campus GrandFriends Day, I woke up many times. I’m no diagnosed insomniac but I definitely struggle to sleep when big events or new responsibilities are on the horizon. To my sleep-deprived 3AM self, welcoming 80 guests to our campus after a two year hiatus suddenly seemed totally crazy. I checked the weather and saw, to my dismay, that rain was predicted. How had I not thought of a contingency plan for this?

Fast forward a few hours, several raindrops fell. And that was it. Guests snacked on scones and croissants from Midwife and the Baker. Introductions were made. Conversations started. What followed was a lovely coming together of young and old. Generations met one another on the playground, in a circle, partnering for mathematical equations, and creating props for a play. I peaked over the nursery fence and saw GrandFriends holding hands with little ones, singing. My heart filled. What a special and unique experience this was. What an expression of what our community is. The following morning in Mountain View was just as special. GrandFriends reflected on their experiences being in the classroom. Some of their observations included the words joy, empowered, community, respect, super, and wisdom.

We are more than individual faculty, student, and parent. We are an extension of every community of which we are a part. Inviting and hosting the important roots and branches of our community allowed me to realize that this school is an ever shifting and living organism. Instead of a rigid structure, it reflects and is what the community is. My favorite quote from Rudolf Steiner is an oft used one but also appropriate for reflecting on this moment: “A healthy social life is found only when, in the mirror of each soul, the whole community finds its reflection, and when, in the whole community, the virtue of each one is living.”

WSP Hosts FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics Tournament

WSP Hosts FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics Tournament

by Melanie Ingler | Communications Coordinator

16 local schools competed in a FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifying Tournament at our beautiful campus in Mountain View earlier this month. For many teams, this was one of the first in-person competitions since the start of COVID.

FIRST Tech Challenge teams are composed of students from grades 7 – 12. They are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format. Each team is guided by adult coaches and mentors from their school or community as they develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles, while realizing the value of hard work, innovation, and working as a team.

The winning alliance from Saturday’s event was captained by team 12635, “Kuriosity Robotics” a community affiliate team, with their alliance partner from team 13216 “Deja Vu” from Santa Clara High School & 49ers STEM Leadership Institute (SLI). A full list of the award recipients can be found online.

As a host team, our robotics team, the Walbots, did not compete. They joined forces with 78 other volunteers who gave up their Saturday to make the event possible. Parents, students, alumni, faculty, staff, of the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, along with other community members served as judges, inspectors, scorekeepers, referees and more!

FIRST’s ethos of “Gracious Professionalism and Collaboration” was evident throughout the event. Participants from the 16 teams enjoyed the school’s campus, especially the massive garden. They took breaks from working on their robots to hold chickens, jump on tree stumps, play football, tetherball, or ping pong, and enjoy the rope swings hanging from a nearby tree. One participant said, “The whole event had a fun, chill, vibe and was so much fun.”

Due to covid, there have been a reduced number of in-person tournaments, and a limited number of teams permitted at the events. While teams are able to compete up to three times to attempt to earn a spot at the NorCal Regional Championships, this year many teams have been limited to just one in-person event, if at all. This inspired Walbots Team Captain Lysander Schmidt and Team Sponsor Dr. Lea Fredrickson to approach WSP with the idea of the school hosting, not just the school’s first robotics tournament but, their first tournament of any kind on their Mountain View campus. At the end of the day, the joy of this major accomplishment was emanating from all of the parent, teacher, student, and administrative volunteers; and of course the Walbots!