Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 

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Like our snow day contest, but bigger

Retired DA history teacher Dave Gould sent news of an interesting online student film screening today at 2:30.

A few months ago, the White House challenged students all across the country to create short films answering a simple question:


Why is technology so important in the classroom --
and how will it change the educational experience for kids in the future?

The response was overwhelming. And today, the 16 official selections are going to be screened at the first-ever White House Student Film Festival. Click here to see the films.

Photo and text from The White House Film Student Film Festival


Posted by in Other on Friday February 28, 2014
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Two powerful films, one brave conversation

This morning DA parents Karen Berman and Rajeev Dharmapurikar shared news of tonight's PBS re-airing of the documentary film The Prep School Negro. For those unable to watch tonight, the film will also be streamed on worldchannel.org.

The Prep School Negro is the visual memoir of André Robert Lee, who attended Philadelphia's Chestnut Hill School on a full scholarship. Durham Academy hosted Lee in 2010 for a screening and Q&A - part of our longer and deeper conversation about how to make DA a place where all families thrive. Click here to read a great Slate article about the film. Or see the synopsis below.

Better still - join us on March 25 for a screening of American Promise, a film with similar themes that has energized our faculty this year. Click here for more information …

Posted by in Other on Thursday February 27, 2014
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This thing just won't die

While Lee Hark and I would prefer to return to our un-goggled and pre-sweater lives, our Durham Academy Weather Announcement continues to spark chuckles around the world.

Within 18 hours of our posting the song, we had emails from friends who heard it in Australia and the South China Sea. The story appeared on news sites in India, Canada, Israel, England, Russia, Japan - and on the front page of Italy's largest newspaper. Last week we did an interview with a German radio station. Yesterday the TV show Good Morning, Japan asked permission to use the video on today's show. Here's the segment - a fun window into a Japanese window into American culture.

One thing is clear: no matter the country or creed, we are all united by a yearning to make fun of school administrators.

Last night a friend …

Posted by in Other on Tuesday February 25, 2014
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Durham to DC to Beijing and back

Last week our 7th Graders traveled to our nation’s capital to enjoy an array of monuments, museums and tours - including a behind-the-scenes tour of the Supreme Court (enriched by shooting hoops at the “Highest Court in the Land,” the basketball court located directly over the Supreme Courtroom). Thanks to our 7th Grade team - and particularly to Jim McGivney for his Herculean work in rescheduling the snow-delayed trip.

This weekend, I received the following message from 7th Grade parent David Hoffman – more testimony that DA teachers and parents do all they can to delve beneath the surface with experiential education.


Dear Michael and Jon,

I wanted to share an exciting thing that happened this past week. Betsy Brown and I planned a visit for nine of the 7th …
Posted by in Middle School on Tuesday February 25, 2014
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Think you know your teachers?

Our friend "On the Road" Steve Hartman (click here and here to see his recent stories on DA alumnus Chris Rosati) told another great story last weekend. From CBS news: Steve "meets the students of St. Francis High School near Los Angeles who thought they knew everything about their math teacher, Joe O'Connor. But what they found out at a local hospital taught them a life lesson."

Posted by in Other on Thursday February 20, 2014
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Sophie's birthday

Today is the 16th birthday of Sophie Steiner – among the most painful and meaningful days of this year for me, my family, and many more.

Upper School families may remember my Parents Night comments about Sophie’s passing and the ways in which it inspired me to treasure the glorious here and now of our adolescents. My Carolina blue “We Love Sophie” bracelet reminds me daily of the ways in which she lived – honestly, bravely – giving and receiving love as freely as anyone I’ve encountered. Sophie’s attitude and words (see some of them below) made it easy to take my recent and ridiculous leap into rap infamy.

The Steiners (no relation to us - other than deep friendship; shared family travels in the US, Switzerland, Turkey, and Singapore; and the…

Posted by in Other on Wednesday February 19, 2014
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"Our greatest whole-team performance ever"

This just in from DA Debate Coach Robert Sheard:

We're still in snowy Boston, and the weather reports and airport projections worry me about getting home tomorrow, but there's so much good news from the Harvard National Invitational Tournament that we'll deal with what comes with plenty of smiles.

This was without doubt our greatest whole-team performance ever at the largest and most prestigious of the country's invitationals. Some 3,500-4,000 students compete at Harvard, surpassed only by our national championships.

The Cavaliers sent twenty competitors (including an 8th grader!), and of those twenty, sixteen of them made it into elimination rounds. That kind of "breaking" percentage is unheard of and we're so proud of the whole squad.

The highlight we'll all remember is Justin Katz and …

Posted by in Upper School on Tuesday February 18, 2014
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Distant runners

At yesterday's Harvard-Yale-Princeton track meet, DA parent Eric Ward took this picture of alumni Fred Ward (2011), Erik Kraus (2010), Christopher Crawford (2012), Carl Ward (2011) and Jordan Myers (2012).

At a meet in Illinois two weeks earlier, Betsy Wiener (2013) of Washington University in St. Louis connected with Francesca Tomasi (2011) of the University of Chicago. This weekend, Francesca ran on a 4 x 400 relay team that broke the school record for U. Chicago.

Thanks to DA Track and Cross Country Coach Dennis Cullen for these running tidbits - and for helping launch scores of collegiate running careers.
Posted by in Other, Alumni on Sunday February 16, 2014
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Ropes, hearts, and tears

Our Lower Schoolers were skipping and pumping last week at Jump Rope for Heart, a fundraiser for the American Heart Association. They have already raised more than $17,000, with pledges still rolling in.

The paragraphs below, exerpted from a letter to North Carolina schools by the American Heart Association's Youth Market Director Kimberly Burrows, captures some of the emotion invested in the event by our teachers and students:

Since it is Valentine’s Day, I thought I would leave you with a little story. Last Friday was the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics. I was particularly emotional that day because I had been thinking a lot about my Dad. My father was a sports fanatic and he loved especially loved watching the winter Olympics (he could spend hours watching…

Posted by in Lower School on Saturday February 15, 2014
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Citius, Altius, Fortius

The highlights from Sochi have been inspiring, but our own Science Olympians are generating some serious buzz as well. Click here to see a terrific 3-minute video about Science Olympiad in North Carolina.

This past Saturday, Upper School teachers Meg McNall (physics) and Kari Newman (chemistry) took 32 students to the regional Science Olympiad competition. They brought home a 2nd place trophy (20 team field) and many individual medals. Our less experienced JV team also did well with 3 events of 15 coming home with medals. Click "read more" below to see more photos of the tournament. Congratulations to our Science Olympians:

Varsity

  • Janae Best- 7th Anatomy, 4th Water Quality
  • Rahul Sharma--1st Green Generation and Mystery Architecture, 2nd Experimental Design
  • Justin Katz--1st Mystery …
Posted by in Upper School on Friday February 14, 2014
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