Storytellers: Then and Now

By: Jen Hoggatt, Middle School English


In the span of ten days, three 5th graders — Mia, Cia and Evelyn — were tasked with the job of collecting the stories of three elderly residents: Claire, Jim and Jean. They live at the Buena Vista Manor House, which is located in a quiet, serene neighborhood in San Francisco. This project consisted of conducting several interviews, hours of writing, and some seriously devoted afternoons tinkering with sound bytes and voice recordings.

As a group, the storytellers collected youthful narratives, stories of change, stories of success and failure, and accounts of endless experiences, some of pain and joy. Telling the story of what used to be was an opportunity to better understand the past, to integrate with an older generation, and learn how to connect with profoundly wise people who have lost some part of their memory.


What do these senior citizens have to tell AVS middle schoolers? — To read, to explore, to never stop learning, and to develop a love of history. After all, they are living history!

Here are some of the values shared by Jim, Claire and Jean: try to be kind every day. It’s okay not to be perfect. Learn from love and loss. Learn not to be afraid.

Also, they taught these digital natives that they grew up without devices! Imagine that!

The most important lesson Mia learned from doing her interview — “You shouldn’t wait around to do things; you should do them when you have the chance.”

Thanks for listening!

Jen, Katie, Mia, Cia, and Evelyn


The First Annual Middle School STEM Day

By: Dana Bernstein

The first annual middle school STEM day took place on Friday, May 20th. Activities included guest speakers on a variety of STEM topics, Rube Goldberg presentations, engineering projects, and a celebratory lunch where the middle schoolers enjoyed eating several animals that they had previously dissected!

AVS parents shared their expertise and gave talks on topics like Protein Synthesis (Dr. Henry Maun), Astrophysics (Dr. Bart De Pontieu), Bird Adaptations (Dr. Shana Katzman and Dr. Greg Tranah) and The Science of Dance (Jo Kreiter).

Following the lectures, the students sat down to a “Biology Potluck Banquet.” They had the opportunity to sample caviar, smoked salmon, shrimp, crab, a variety of flavored chicken wings, gummi worms and REAL mealworms in a chocolate crumble desert! The vegetarian options were fresh fruit, salads and a veggie tray. The banquet showcased a variety of invertebrates and vertebrates students had studied in class.

Next up? Rube Goldbergs and mousetraps or catapults! Students engineered some very complex Rube Goldbergs, all involving several steps with the ultimate goal of putting toothpaste on a toothbrush.  For the engineering project competitions, the students took turns launching their catapults and demonstrating their mousetraps.

Congratulations to all of the middle schoolers and middle school teachers on a fabulous first AVS Middle School STEM day!