Tag Archives: The Curious George

Students Don’t Mind Minding The Light

Curious George Poll: Students Bring Quaker Values Into Their Lives

by Julia Carrigan ‘20

The George School Mission Statement claims that Quaker tradition is the school’s “touchstone”–the testing point for any discussion of values or policy that goes on here. Quite simply, at George School, Quaker values are essential, including Quaker practices and, especially, attendance at Meeting for Worship.

George School’s website claims, “We don’t try to turn students into Quakers,” but the importance of Quakerism at George School was reaffirmed by students themselves recently, when sixty-six percent of students polled by The Curious George said their desire to be involved in some way in Quakerism has increased since attending George School.

One student even stated that the strong Quaker vibe at George School was “one of the major reasons I chose to go to here instead of Westtown.” Overall, it is clear that George School’s strong Quaker program has influenced the spiritual lives of many students.

However, George School is not the Bodhi tree, and let us not pretend that every student has been spiritually enlightened sitting on the firm wooden benches of the eighteenth-century meetinghouse.

What is important is that every student has sat there.

During the school year, day students spend thirty minutes a week in Meeting for Worship, and boarding students usually spend an hour and fifteen minutes. In addition to Meeting for Worship, we often pause for moments of silence and use Quaker consensus in meetings. In addition, many of our religion classes also focus on Quakerism.

Overall, it is pretty fair to say that Quakerism is central in the lives of students during the school year, but how does it affect their lives during the summer?

Fourteen percent of respondents told CG that they attend meeting over the summer. Even more significant, about a third of students take time out of their summer to practice Quakerism on a smaller level. For example, they might pause in their day to take a moment of silence.

This is incredible given the busy lives of teenagers in the summer, the relatively low number of Quaker identifying students, and the growing rate of non-religious teenagers. According to a recent study done of teenagers in Chicago, for instance, thirty-six percent of teenagers are “religiously unaffiliated.”

The approximate third of the George School student body who practice Quakerism in different smaller ways throughout the summer shows that while they may not be able to drag their families (or themselves) out of bed every Sunday morning, “Quaker tradition,” as the Mission Statement puts it, has a profound spiritual effect on them.

Although a hundred percent of those who answered the survey attend a Quaker school, only six percent attend or work at a Quaker camp over the summer. Some Quaker camps George School students spent time at over the summer include Camp Dark Waters, Camp Onas, and The George School Day Camp, which “emphasizes Quaker philosophies.”

Three George School students also attended Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s annual session, a gathering of all Quakers in the Philadelphia region.

While George School does not try to “turn students into Quakers,” apparently the school does a good job of exposing them to the values and practices of Quakerism. The students themselves decide how much of it they want to bring into their lives outside of school.

That’s a win-win proposition!

 

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Colleen Crowley: A Woman of Many Hats

This is the first in a series of articles in which Curious George staff writer Julia Carrigan interviews some of the behind-the-scenes people at George School–dining room staff, grounds crew workers, environmental services, and plant personnel; the people who keep us up and running day-by-day, year-by-year.

by Julia Carrigan ‘20

“Steady. Quiet. Good.”

These are the three words Colleen Crowley uses to describe her life.

Working at George School for over seventeen years, Colleen has served as barn manager, emergency services officer, assistant self-defense teacher, and Culinart team member in the Dining Room. Though often overlooked, down through the years Colleen has made extraordinary contributions to the George School community. And George School is all the richer for her hard work, her friendliness, and her playful sense of humor.

“I grew up in Vermont,” Colleen replied when asked about her early roots. “My parents divorced when I was five. I did see my dad during my childhood, but it was my mom who raised us. I went to college in Pennsylvania and was really surprised to find out that spring break was actually spring break, instead of freezing my butt off. I enjoyed it down here—so my first job out of college was in Pennsylvania as well, in Allentown, and then George School had a position open and they wanted me to give it a shot. So I did.”

Ever open to new experiences, Colleen helped teach a self-defense class last year. “It was learning for me, as well as helping [Doug] out,” she noted. “I would tease him and say that I was his test dummy, but at no time was I harmed, hurt, or anything. It was learning for both the students and myself.”

She felt the importance of knowing self-defense tactics lay in the fact that we are all vulnerable. “Anybody can get attacked, anybody. So it’s important for us to be able to get out, get away, be willing to put them down, and run like crazy.” She added that some of the more physical techniques can be especially useful for people who are not naturally loud or fast. “I don’t have a good scream; that part of my defense doesn’t work,” she said.

Additionally, Colleen added, learning self-defense is fun. “It’s good to know and it’s fun to do. I would have loved to see more kids do it.”

Teaching self-defense, though, was just the latest of a long list of jobs Colleen has performed at George School through the years. “Basically, I’ve had three hats. My first and my longest stint, was down at the barn teaching horseback riding lessons. I was the community lesson person, and my title ‘Barn Manager’ was just a fancy title for getting the crap done that has to get done—the non-glamourous stuff. So I did that for sixteen years here. Then I got tired of dealing with the horses, and it just wasn’t any fun anymore.”

Colleen is always trying to re-invent her “place” at George School. “George School has been good to me,” she noted. “Doug [Walters] was the first person who said to me, ‘Are you interested in working security? Do you want to try it?’ and I said, ‘Sure!’ and I do like it. I do. I pray we never have an incident, but I do enjoy it. I like hanging out. I like wandering around helping out the kids as needed.”

Unfortunately, Colleen noted, the security position is part-time. “I had to find something else, and again through somebody who knew me. I knew him [Joe Ducati, Food Service Director] through his wife Kate, because she worked down in the garden. We were all the earth girls down there. The dirty girls, all covered in dirt and never paying attention to it. And Kate said, ‘Do you want to try this? They need some help,’ and I said, ‘Okay.’”

So, Colleen started working a second job with the Dining Room staff, and she likes that position, too. “I do like talking with the kids and visiting with the kids and stuff like that. I like that interaction. I don’t enjoy the messes. It’s not bad, though—it’s good.”

Colleen Crowley at The Renaissance Faire.

All of Colleen’s memories seem positive—happy memories that may explain why she is such an upbeat and optimistic person. “My family has always been supportive,” Colleen said when asked about her childhood. “When we were younger, I think I was thirteen, my dad took us on a cross country trip. I don’t know how we didn’t kill each other. The whole summer, we drove along the exterior states, you know, exploring things.”

Colleen’s tightest bonds, though, are with her sister and her mom. “I’ve always had good memories with my mom. It’s my sister, my mom and I. We’ve always been pretty close. We harass each other constantly. I have a nephew who looks like me so my sister can’t say I’m adopted anymore.” She laughed. “You know, the sibling thing.”

Teaching for Colleen is all about long-term rewards, and not the material kind. “I love it when I’ve taught a kid, then they go on with life, then they see me again, and it’s like—huge hug! ‘Oh my god. Thank you.’”

“For most people, you affect people, you help people, but in the back of your mind, you don’t see yourself as a huge part of their life. You don’t see yourself as a huge factor. I’ve had parents come back and they say, ‘Thank you for believing in my child.’ That hits me here [gestures towards heart]. I’m not a big, crazy, out-there-in-the-world person, but I like to know that I’ve had some influence, some effect on someone in a positive way.”

Asked if she would change anything about George School, Colleen waxed philosophical, in a down-to-earth way. “The big thing that I would love to change about George School,” she said, “is that it’s a bubble. It’s this community, it’s different from the real world. There’s this mentality that ‘it’s not going to happen to us,’ and that scares me.”

As anybody can tell from just talking to Colleen, respect is a big part of her life, and she would like everyone to show more respect for themselves and others. “We should be respectful of each other,” she says. “Be respectful of property. Respectful in every way you can look at it. Respectful towards the earth, towards people, towards animals, towards everything. I’m a big proponent of animals. Senseless violence makes me angry.”

For George School students in particular, Colleen has pointed words of wisdom. “There is no such thing as being entitled—no one’s entitled to anything. The world is not fair—it doesn’t give you things because you did this the right way. You want to try to make it as fair as possible. Do right, do good, no matter who’s watching, but at the same time I know that not everybody is going to do that. You want to try to change that, but you can’t expect everybody to do that.”

Although she claims that her life “hasn’t been as adventuresome as some other people’s,” and although she may never have climbed Mt. Everest, or starred in a Broadway musical, or worked as an FBI agent, Colleen has led her own uniquely individual life that is exciting in its own ways. She dares to be an earth girl and dress like a pirate at the Renaissance Faire. She dares to tame horses and she dares to learn to defend herself. She even dares, when exam week comes around, to stop a hungry high-schooler from grabbing six chicken fingers instead of the allowed five.

Although Colleen’s life may be summed up as “steady, quiet, and good”—that sounds pretty adventuresome to me.

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Mathemagic – The Perfect Combination

In an Amazing Assembly, Math Professor Squares Everything but the Circle

Arthur Benjamin, also known as the Mathemagician, mesmerized students at assembly this fall by being faster than a calculator.

by Bea Feichtenbiner ‘19

Have you ever been sitting in math class and your mouth just dropped open because you were so astounded by what you just heard? To be honest, this probably happens to me two or three times a week. And if it hasn’t happened to you, just wait. It will.

In fact, it might have happened a couple of times in assembly on Friday, October 27. That’s when Arthur Benjamin, a math professor at Harvey Mudd College and a total math savant, performed some really cool tricks.

Professor Benjamin has performed on the Today Show, CNN, The Colbert Report, and National Public Radio. He has been interviewed and written about in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Scientific American, Discover, OMNI, Esquire, Wired, People Magazine, and Reader’s Digest. He has given three Ted Talks with some enticing titles: “A Performance Of ‘Mathemagic’,” “Teach Statistics Before Calculus!” and “The Magic Of Fibonacci Numbers.” He’s also authored or co-authored a number of books on the art of mental magic if anyone wants to advance their math skills, as I probably should.

Professor Benjamin began his George School performance by squaring two-digit numbers faster than audience members could type them into their calculators. Then he squared three-digit and four-digit numbers. For his finale, he squared a five-digit number.

Mind you, he did all this in his head.

I can’t even subtract two-digit numbers in my head, and this man squared a five-digit number!

That’s a nine-digit answer!

Who can keep track of that many numbers—in sequence—in their head? Professor Benjamin’s mental math skills were astounding.

Having warmed up with squaring three- and four-digit numbers, he took one of the squares and had a panel of five people multiply it on their calculators by any three-digit numbers they could think of. That was 499 possibilities, mind you. Then he had the panel read out their answers in any order. From just that information, he could tell the audience the last digit in each sequence.

Max Malavsky ’18, one of Professor Benjamin’s onstage “guinea pigs,” remarked, “that’s crazy” when the professor got the last digit of Max’s answer right. Max certainly spoke for all of us.

But that wasn’t all.

The mentally prestidigitatorial professor made a magic square that featured junior Jenny McArthur’s lucky number forty-three (the number that her date of birth added up to) in almost every arrangement of four blocks you could think of. I was sitting in the front row as he started explaining the magic square. I turned to Camille Drury ’19, who was sitting next to me, and remarked, “It’s everywhere.”

I meant Jenny’s number, of course, and it really was. The rows, columns, diagonals, corners, and two by two boxes all added up to forty-three.

It was spectacular.

Professor Benjamin’s second-to-last trick, right before his finale, seemed to have little to do with math. He was able to tell audience members the day of the week they were born on from the date of their birth. He could go all the way from the time the Gregorian Calendar became popular to thousands of years into the future. He did explain at the end that he knew because of the way the numbers added up, but unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time for him to tell us exactly how.

This assembly was incredibly engaging. I have never had so much fun feeling so stupid. The most incredible part was that he did it all in his head. He never touched a calculator.

Some people are just born to do math! It’s in their genes, I guess.

The rest of us? We have to work at it.

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How many clubs is too many clubs?

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by Eden McEwen ‘17

Who remembers club fair? The throngs of underclassmen and overeager club leaders put on the show of a festival, offering everything from mini donuts to fun sized candies to samosas as not so subtle bribes for student emails and half hearted pledges of  interest. The Fitness and Athletic Center last September was stuffed with dreamy promises of a club filled future. What happened to those promises?

The first weeks of a club are glorious. As a long time club leader I can tell you 30+ people at a meeting feels like an early Christmas. But by Christmas, the email lists or Outlook group members dwindle from plenty to enough to depressing. That is just the number of those willing to receive the weekly emails, never mind who actually bothers to show up.

Why does every club season have such a drop off? And why, every fall, do two dozen clubs pop back up just to die before November? It seems that we have too many clubs and too few club survivors. The culture of clubs at George School follows a steep wave of interest, but there must be a secret to those who survive the winter.

The long lasting clubs are easy to name. Argo, JSA, MUN, Body Project, UMOJA, Open Doors, Goldfish, and Java. They fulfill the basic needs of club culture, hitting on the basic interests of George School students. Other clubs have been born and died all the while, or existed as a “why not” instead of a “must have.” They are harder to name, as they come up only as we laugh at the yearbook page in May. Anyone remember PRO, or maybe Puzzle club? Terra, Beatbox Club, Medical club, or Young Writers? They have come and gone, but existed for the hot second long enough to be featured in an decently size club photo taken in late October.

If you look at any population graph, there is always a carrying capacity, an asymptote that represents the line the population will always return to when it crosses over. Let us break it down. Let us talk rabbits.

Spring sees a huge spike in the cotton-tailed population, but the environment they are in can’t sustain such rapid growth. There are only so many holes to live in and so much grass to eat, and with the introduction of predators the population is forced back to a stable carrying capacity.

Clubs can be seen to operate the same way. There are only so many places we can comfortably congregate in, only so many days of the week, only so many times.

We only have four days in our club-week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday  (Friday only sometimes, for those leaders who are daring and believe in their club members’ loyalty). There is only a limited number of meeting places, too. For large clubs, a classroom does not cut it, and there are not many community spaces focused enough for the agenda of a club.

But what kills off clubs the fastest are the predators. Sports games, night classes, and the relentless struggles of stressed-out, overloaded students kill club attendance like the plague. No one is going to tell their teacher they could not study because they had to go to Badminton Club; no coach is going to take Wednesday night Improv as an excuse out of a varsity tournament.

So what happens to the club community? Is it possible that the number of clubs George school allows shoots the clubs themselves in the foot, stretching the student body too thin to keep any one of them alive?

There have been attempts to curb the club population. A few years ago, Student Council had proposals up for different kinds of clubs, downgrading some to interest groups and raising the prestige of others. There was outrage, there was apathy, and ultimately the plan fell through. As of now, with all of the things George School demands of students, club participation is the first sacrifice.

Our club population will forever fluctuate, you can tell by looking through past yearbooks. Take a look at the Club Fair week one, and then at the Community News postings by the last month of the year, and you can see the decimation. Is there a way to build a healthier club system that will get approval of Student Council members?

Until something in the culture of clubs changes, it does not seem likely that we will have any more long term clubs, or any fewer short-term start up clubs. The constraints of George School keep our outside gatherings at a steady carrying capacity. Living the life of a struggling club’s leader is heartbreaking. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine that the behemoth clubs of 30+ attendees could ever fail.

In the long run, far longer than any of our matriculation here, clubs will maintain themselves according to the student body’s interests.

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Sky Reviews

April 3 2017

April 3

April 4 2017

April 4

April 5 2017

April 5

April 6 2017

April 6

April 7 2017

April 7

by Joey Cifelli ’19

April 3, 2017

Billowing and bellowing, as far as I am concerned. That is the kind of sky we are dealing with here. A rather blustery day, Pooh might say. The clouds roll like the hills of Yorkshire, I understand. Or the waves of the Pacific, if you are into that sort of thing. Those two darker gray splotches near the Northwest look similar to eyes. If we can accept that, then the bright light area and the dark bar underneath are a nose/mouth or nose/mustache combo. Honestly, once we discovered the face, it ruined the rest of the sky. It is difficult to concentrate on the murky bits to the East now. If the same has afflicted you, our apologies. 9.1/10

April 4, 2017

We decided to go with a close up shot today. It is a deviation from the norm, we know, but this one is worth it. This whole day was chock full of intriguing cloud portraits, actually. This just happens to be the one we went with. A new flavor of ice cream based on this example would be called Ethereal Swirl, I imagine. These drops of periwinkle whisked in with the cream puffs look delightful, and probably taste even better. Some sort of Wyvern or sky serpent appears to be crossing over the Northeast section. We only see the body, and maybe a hint of a claw, but the rest remains a mystery. 9.4/10

April 5, 2017

The way the three lights along the horizontal axis line up make it feel like we are all on an alien planet. Very cool. In all seriousness though, we have no idea what those two lights beside the sun are. UFOs, maybe, or breaks in our cloud cover. Regardless, their symmetry is impeccable; they must have coordinated it. The clouds make a satisfying curtain, which mutes the intense light we see in those center three areas. We can tell it is been thoroughly used, from the worn marks near the South and Southeast. If the curtain ever gets pulled, it will be interesting to see what is on the other side. 9.7/10

April 6, 2017

Great palette today. We have traditional grays and whites, as well as dark blue in the background, and the yellow of the branches. Shot from a new vantage point today, which is why we get to see those complimentary trees. We could have gone to the usual place, but this shot was too good to resist. This sky elicits the image of a pastry of some sort. The trees make a crumbly crust, the solid blue sky forms a dense filling, and the clouds make perfect whipped cream. Certainly a creation that would make both bakers and astronomers jealous. 9.8/10

April 7, 2017

What a way to end the week. A beautiful, conflicting sky that mixes warmth and chill. This picture was taken at dusk, so we get to see bright moonlight on the right, and the receding glow traveling to the left. A small beacon of illumination breaks through the chaos, near the tiny cavern to the center right. It could be a single star, or a plane. It all looks the same from here. There is something comforting about knowing that, the object we observe could be a fireball many times the size of our own planet, or a metal carriage carrying people. To us on the ground, they are equal in this cosmic desert. 10/10

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We Live in a Republic, Not a Democracy

social-2016-trump-hil

by Chris Brodbeck ’18

Just how does the electoral college work?

With the installation of President Donald J. Trump as the forty-fifth president of the United States, many people throughout the United States are still questioning his leadership and even how he got into office. In this article, though, I will not be discussing whether Russia hacked the election in favor of Trump; a more fundamental question is what role the Electoral College plays in every presidential election.

Now, according to NPR, Hilary Clinton received almost 2.1 million more votes than President Trump. This fact leads many people to raise questions about the Electoral College. Many are saying it is undemocratic and does not go along with the people, and, believe it or not, that is what it was built to not do. The United States is not a democracy; we are a republic.

The issue goes all the way back to 1787 and the Constitutional Convention. There was great discussion about the smaller states feeling oppressed by the bigger states with greater populations. New Jersey and Rhode Island wanted an equal representation of the states, while bigger states (Pennsylvania and Virginia, at the time), wanted representation by population.

The men in the room realized that they would not have a country without everyone’s help, so they decided on both. Very creative. There would be a Congress focused on the will of the people, with representatives elected or re-elected every two years, and therefore remaining more accountable to the people’s will. Then there would be a Senate, whose members would be elected every six years, and which would focus on the state’s needs, with each state being given two senators no matter what.

The main reason the founders did not want to have a democracy (besides the fall of Athens, the quick conversion from democracy to a republic in Rome and the divisiveness in other democratic communities down through history) was that they did not want two wolves and a lamb deciding what is dinner. (You get that?) So they went with being a republic.

Now, one might be thinking that is unfair. However, when one casts their vote for Hillary or Donald they are casting their votes for a panel of men/women who will vote for their choice of candidate. In half the states, the panel is forced to vote for the candidate the state wants, but in all the other states voters actually vote in a panel of people who will hopefully vote the way the state voted.

In Washington State this year, there was a person who voted for an Indian chief. A vote like that is mainly a throw away or protest vote.

Wyoming, according to statistics of people and population, has more electoral voting power than California. It is meant to be that way. We are NOT a democracy. The founders wanted the candidate to focus his attention throughout the United States and not only in the south, north, east, coastal west, Midwest, or southwest. They wanted the candidate to have appeal throughout the states, so the states would have the voting power to determine how many senators/congressmen they would have. The candidate has to appeal to city workers and farmers in order to gain control of the electoral map.

This is a control mechanism that is used to stop a specific populace from gaining power, which by the way does not work out all the time, as is obvious if you consider the elections of Andrew Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt (3rd and 4th term), and Donald Trump.

One criticism of the system is that, under it, candidates usually focus on bigger swing states and not little states. In 2000, however, George W. Bush won not just the state of Florida, but also West Virginia, a safe democratic state, after it flipped to being a Republican state, winning Bush five electoral votes. This last election, Donald Trump campaigned in northern Maine and he gained one extra electoral point for campaigning in a four elector state.

The Electoral College is a safeguard against campaigning only in populous states, encouraging presidential hopefuls to appeal to a range of people throughout the United States because this country has a range of different beliefs and backgrounds.

You may like that idea or not, but that is the way it is. We live in a republic, not a democracy.

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Uncomfortable Conversations

Students who attend the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) spend a weekend engaged in dialogue that challenges their morals and beliefs.

by Ayushi Kokroo ’15

In a room filled with African American students, there was a single different face. The room was silent and the girl repeatedly received disapproving glances and whispers from the people around her. Contrary to what many in the group believed, the girl was not an outsider. In fact, she was one of them. Her Asian appearance caused confusion, but once she uttered her first words, she left everyone in the room speechless. With her heavy Jamaican accent, she called out each and every person in the group who had judged her for being different, and they realized their mistake.

This is only one of many realizations people make during SDLC, the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, where young people across the nation come together and think about diversity through different lenses.

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George School students Miranda Riccardi-Coon ’15, Paolio Aligheri ’13, Fatima Akbar ’14, Arne Nelson ’13, Maia Valdepenas-Mellor ’15, and Qudsiyyah Collings ’15 at SDLC 2012.

This three-day conference takes place once a year and thousands of students of all ages are able to meet, discuss, and share their viewpoints and experiences on diversity issues with others similar to them as well as those who are very different. Students are first divided into different groups of around fifty people and then broken down into smaller groups, called family groups, of five to ten people.

Qudsiyyah Collings ’15, who attended the conference last year said, “I definitely connected the most with my family group. I felt safe and I could talk about anything with them.” Most of the activities students partake in are conversation based, and they categorize discussions based on a wide range of topics that include race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. While at the conference students have to live by guidelines, but especially when difficult discussions arose, which included being respectful to others and being willing to share experiences.

“Because we’re having discussions about diversity, which can be uncomfortable, we have to be respectful but we also have to lean into the discomfort to be able to really have the discussions and also help group mates understand our situations,” Qudsiyyah said. The conference affects people personally based on the people they meet, the activities and discussions, or just from the experience as a whole. Last year a boy spoke about how he hated when people assumed he was rich just because he had a big house, and this caused Qudsiyyah to think about her judgments. “This was one of the uncomfortable experiences I had. I thought about how my mom raised me and how she judges people whom she considers wealthy, so that made me think a lot about how my mom has affected my views.”

In only three days students are able to learn a lot about other individuals across the country, but most importantly, they are able to learn more about themselves. This conference enables students to realize the judgments they make rather than ignore and continue them in the future. “I feel like everybody should go to SDLC,” Qudsiyyah said, “It was such a great experience and everyone should get the opportunity to reflect on important parts of their lives.”

Once a year students are given the opportunity to go on a trip that widens their understanding of diversity and what it means to different people. Although it is only a three day conference, the experiences and learning from those three days are enough to last much longer.

This post originally appeared in The Curious George, the George School student newspaper. Select articles from The Curious George will appear here. To learn more about The Curious George, visit our website

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