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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Gaggles of Gobblers Go

Thanks in large part to the the work of parent organizers Hannah Hannan, Lisa D’Amico and Joanie Preyer, Saturday’s DA Turkey Trot was a huge success.

How huge? The Turkey Trot by the numbers:

  • 535 total participants – a record high.

  • $10,000 raised for Parents Council reinvestment in school programming

  • 500 T-shirts donated by the Moylan family and Sports Endeavors

  • 24 training sessions donated by ActiveEdge

  • $100 in gift cards donated by Tutti Frutti

  • 120 bagels donated by Bruegger’s

  • 120 bagels donated by Jenny Leach

  • Gallons of coffee and hot water donated by Saladelia

  • Dozens of XIV Hours and In the Pocket CDs donated by Michael Meyer

  • Scores of bananas, cups, and hot chocolate donated by the Hanna family

With …

Posted by in Preschool, Lower School, Middle School, Upper School, Other, Alumni on Wednesday November 20, 2013
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Grateful for a great partner school

My morning was brightened by a touching 2-minute video from our friends at Durham Nativity School. In it, DNS students answer the question, "What are we grateful for?"

Among other things, we at DA are grateful to have a partner (and sometimes feeder) school like DNS. Here's to our continued collaboration!

Posted by in Other on Tuesday November 19, 2013
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Abraham linked in

Today is the sesquicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. To celebrate, Middle School Digital Learning Coordinator Karl Schaefer created a mashup - including clips of Middle School students and faculty reading the address aloud. Click here to see it, and stay tuned for more participants (and even a Chinese language version from Chinese Teacher Joanne Shang).

Click here to see the two-minute mashup that inspired Mr. Schaefer (one that includes Presidents Obama, Bush, Bush, Carter, and Clinton, along with personalities from Bill Gates to Taylor Swift, from Marco Rubio to Usher)

Or click here to see Mrs. Hall's 5th Grade students (and a stray raccoon) reciting the Address.

Click here to learn more about the project behind the mashup, Ken Burns: “Learn the Address”…

Posted by in Middle School on Tuesday November 19, 2013
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Raising their voices

Lee Hark sent the following message to our parents of 11th and 12th Graders.

Kathy Cleaver forwarded this essay ["Let Go of the College Essay and Let Your Teenager Speak for Herself"] to me this weekend. It's an excellent crystallization of the increasing tension and fear I'm sensing from parents about the college essay specifically and the college application process in general. My sending it to you is in no way meant as a chastisement. It is instead a recognition of how difficult this process can be for parents. I'm sharing this with you merely because I believe there is good advice within.

This line alone made it worth my time:

In writing the personal statement, students are beginning to tell the story of themselves. Ultimately they’re the only ones who can. Remember how that …

Posted by in Upper School on Monday November 18, 2013
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Middle School: where all the action is

The following (posted with permission), comes from the blog of DA parent and child psychologist Tina Lepage.

One evening while the three of us were enjoying dinner on the deck, Page said excitedly, “I can’t wait for middle school!” This was the year before she was going to enter middle school. We asked her why, to which she enthusiastically responded,

“Because that’s where all the action is!!”


My husband looked concerned and started to go pale.


“What kind of action?” we inquired. To which Page replied oh-so-seriously, “Good action, and bad action.”

My husband continued to look ill. I asked Page to give us an example of good action and bad action. She explained.


“Good action is that you have a lot more freedom. You can …

Posted by in Middle School, Other on Sunday November 17, 2013
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Listen up! Survival Island

Every Tuesday afternoon, a group of intrepid 4th Graders meets to brainstorm, write, edit, and record a serial radio show modeled on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion. In previous years, students have told the stories of

  • "Crater Kids," which took place on the moon;
  • "The ETB-9000," which was on a blimp,
  • "Zapped," a story about a kid who was transported into his television set after his dad's science experiment went terribly wrong, and
  • "Museum Madness," in which a group of students tumbled into a painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This year's show, "Survival Island," is about the fateful trip of our thirteen characters on the SS Paradise. The ship sinks in the first episode and…..well you'll just have to listen the rest! The kids in this year's show …

Posted by in Lower School on Saturday November 16, 2013
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Slow. Children at play.

Why spend three hours with a boy and his squirrel?

Kathy Cleaver (Co-Director of College Counseling) and Jordan Adair (English Department Chair) independently found and shared a terrific article by art historian Jennifer Roberts, who makes the case for teaching students "the value of deceleration and attentive immersion." An excerpt from "The Power of Patience:"

I want to focus today on the slow end of this tempo spectrum, on creating opportunities for students to engage in deceleration, patience, and immersive attention. I would argue that these are the kind of practices that now most need to be actively engineered by faculty, because they simply are no longer available “in nature,” as it were. Every external pressure, social and technological, is pushing students in the other …

Posted by in Other on Thursday November 14, 2013
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All the lonely people

A few friends (the real kind) shared this jarring and beautiful animation about the differences between:

  • the quality and the quantity of our friendships
  • connection and conversation
  • social networks and social skills

Click here to see it - worth four minutes of your time.

Posted by in Other on Thursday November 14, 2013
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The Dean muses

Every few weeks, Dean Lanis Wilson emails the Upper School students with thoughts on the Handbook, rules, and expectations of our community. Today's missive struck me as relevant for all of us.

Hello all,

Some of you may have met my daughter Maddie who was at school on Monday. She is bright and charming and not afraid to call her dad out. She is also one of the most intuitive and thoughtful people I know. Just yesterday, in the car on the way to school, she posed a question, “you know what’s not fair?” Recognizing the seriousness of her tone and the rhetorical nature of her question I did not offer a barrage of witty rejoinders but instead asked simply, “What?” She said that because her name was Wilson she was always last in line when her class went to lunch …

Posted by in Upper School on Wednesday November 13, 2013
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A prestigious apple for our teachers

Last week we learned that Durham Academy has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School – the first private school in North Carolina to be so recognized.

Stay tuned for more news on this one – a well-deserved pat on the backs of Karl Schaefer (MS Digital Learning Coordinator), Trevor Hoyt (Director of Technology), and dozens of DA teachers who have found new and better ways to help students learn.

The Distinguished School designation is reserved for schools that integrate Apple technology in education and meet criteria for the five best practices: visionary leadership, innovative teaching and learning, ongoing professional learning, compelling evidence of success, and a flexible learning environment.

While it shares some criteria with Apple’s Distinguished …

Posted by in Other on Sunday November 10, 2013
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