Exploration Takes on New Meaning During WinterMission

The harmonious collaboration that has kicked off WinterMission 2024 in the Middle School is music to the ears of Katie Meadows, middle school performing arts coordinator, and Jason Reiff, middle school performing arts teacher.

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With composers in one room and scriptwriters in another, Meadows’ and Reiff’s course, Eight-Minute Musical, is a fun, new offering in the School’s second WinterMission, a weeklong program designed to broaden students’ horizons.

“The participants are feverishly working together writing a Masters’ mission statement-themed musical,” Reiff said. “The writing rooms are ringing with the sounds of delighted and enthusiastic brainstorming.”

“I'm on the music team and we’re in charge of writing the songs,” explained sixth grader and avid theater fan Sylvie Knauss ’30. “I really like getting the lyrics ready because even though we haven't finalized it, we're getting a sense of what we're going to use, so that’s pretty fun.”

Reiff took a cue from an annual festival in New York City that produced new spontaneous musical theater work that he used to participate in. “It's fast-paced and collaborative and intended to spark inspiration,” Reiff explained. “I thought this idea would be a wonderful addition to WinterMission.”

“I can’t wait to see the students dive into the creative unknown and build something completely original,” Meadows added.

Just upstairs from the budding music makers, other students were immersed in a different type of deep dive: an eye-opening discussion in the course Propaganda and Persuasion in Art and Media with Stephen Hildreth, middle school humanities teacher, and Bruce Robbins, middle school visual arts teacher.

“We live in a world where we are bombarded by images and ideas coming from many sources of mass media,” Robbins explained. “The emotional content of the images and words often try to lead the viewer to follow a specific agenda through faulty reasoning. The goal of our class is to have students critically question what they see, how they might be influenced by what they see, and why.”
After two days, Bodhi Schiffman ’29 is hooked. “Propaganda is everywhere and has existed for a long time,” he said. “It messes with your knowledge and emotions.”
Classmate Acelen Yama-Dang ’30 agreed: “It can be almost like lying to convince people to do something,” she said. “For example, saying debatable ideas as facts.”
Later in the week, students will design posters, memes and video commercials that use the various techniques they have learned, followed by critiques in which they try to identify what technique was used.

Middle school math teacher Binh Vu is excited for his first WinterMission with colleague Donna Komosinski, middle school math teacher and curriculum coordinator. Together they’re teaching The Amazing Game of Golf. 

“I have been playing golf since college, and Donna is brand new to the game,” Vu said. “I’m looking forward to working with new and current students on a different platform. We are always problem-solving with them, and want to see them configure challenging golf scenarios.”

Last year, seventh grader Jake Tang ’29 enjoyed the WinterMission courses Police Academy and Collaboration Cafe. This year, he took a different approach. 

Tang decided he wanted to de-stress and enrolled in Mindful Adventure: Finding Your Super Power with middle school music teacher John-Alec Raubeson, upper school Mandarin teacher Penny Peng, middle school counselor Gretchen Campbell and upper school counselor Stef Carbone.

“We get to spend a lot of time learning about things to calm our mind down, and it’s been helping me,” Tang said. “I think it's a good idea to take a break from the academic classes and learn something new.”

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