Have you had the opportunity to view the video above starring Graded's very own? Lower and Middle School students eloquently explain why fundraising matters and outline the differences between the Graded Annual Fund and the Centennial Campaign. As we continue to strive to advance the institution, I hope that you will join me in supporting Graded at a level that is meaningful to you.
A dinosaur-bunny hybrid, a crocodile’s head on the body of an ostrich, a gecko with wings — these are only a few of the creatures students have created this semester in the WorldBuilding Program.
The brainchild of Graded alumnus Diego Dolph Johnson ’98, this new after-school STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) activity serves 34 Middle and High School students. Johnson, who double majored in political science and studio art at Swarthmore College, currently teaches art, maintains a studio practice, and serves as a board member of the Nemirovsky Foundation at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo.
Inspired by the curriculum at California’s ArtCenter College of Design, Johnson created the WorldBuilding Program to teach students contemporary design processes. From 2D sketching and planning to 3D construction and printing, the program is divided into three separate, but interconnected, modules — Concept Art, Clay Sculpting, and 3D Sculpting. His students learn how to design characters, creatures, props, and environments using 2D and 3D software, tablets and stylus pens, as well as animation clay and 3D printers.
Students are only limited by the boundaries of their creativity. "We draw and paint things that no one else would. Here, we can imagine our own things,” asserts Tobias D. E., a seventh grader in the program.
WorldBuilding allows participants to develop their art and design skills. "I now know more about values and hues, light and darkness, and how to use these principles. And now we’re starting [to learn about] environmental art,” explains junior Clara V.
Sophomore Lara D. R. is enthusiastic about the exposure to art and design she is gaining. "It’s a great opportunity to learn more about digital art, the fastest growing sector of art nowadays. It also forces you to be creative.”
"I think this program is really helping me evolve as an artist,” adds Clara V. "I would like to study animation in college, and the geometric construction we learn here serves as a basis for animation. You have to create characters that make sense at every angle.”
According to Johnson, he intends on "developing WorldBuilding into a design sharing platform that provides students the opportunity to collaborate creatively, taking over each others’ designs and transforming ideas into drawings, and drawings into clay and 3D printed objects."
Johnson also aspires to collaborate with other Graded departments. "I hope to develop synergy with the robotics, film, and programming areas by working collaboratively on robot shell designs and 3D objects for game development and animation."
Seventh grader Axel Z. uses a computer and drawing pad to “see the world differently.”
WorldBuilders’ unique designs are currently showcased outside Graded’s Auditorium.
Learn more about the 2019 WorldBuilding Program here.
1. You have several degrees in a variety of subjects, including a PhD in political science. You worked for many years in banking and consulting, both in Spain and in New York. What led you to teaching after this?
Moving to São Paulo gave me the opportunity to devote a couple of years to finishing my PhD. The first time I got involved in education was during my dissertation research. I was writing my dissertation on governments investing in education as a tool to prevent corruption. Soon after, I began volunteering with a nongovernmental organization in São Paulo, teaching English to empower women and young people and helping them to achieve their goals. Working with these students helped me understand the real struggle of people who come from low-income families and go to schools with little funding. This made me recognize how much a difference a teacher can make in a person's life.
2. How and when did you end up in Brazil?
After living in New York and Madrid, my husband was transferred to São Paulo for work. We were very excited because we had heard it was a dynamic city filled with culture and good food. We decided São Paulo was a good fit for our family.
3. You have five children. What’s the hardest part of having a large family? What’s the best part?
Whenever I say I have a large family, people ask me about the amount of work it involves and the level of noise. But having a big family is more than just work and noise. I love having a large family. For me, the best part is that there is always something happening, and there is always someone to share that with you. There is never a boring day at home. Someone always has a new topic to talk about, a new situation, or a new pet to take care of. My days are filled with events, from sunup to sundown.
The hard part of having a big family is that we can never sit together when we fly on an airplane. When we go to the supermarket, we sometimes need to get two or three carts, and we have to go back and forth to get everything we need.
4. One of your hobbies is hiking. Where have you hiked?
I have hiked many places around the world, from the desert to snowy mountains. But I always enjoy going back to my very favorite place near my village in the north of Spain.
5. When you are happy, how do you like to celebrate?
I like to celebrate with friends and family at home. We enjoy cooking together and spending time in our garden.
6. You teach math. What is one mathematical concept that many people don’t know but should?
I usually find that many people believe that mathematics is mainly about speed, which seems to be confirmed by my grade 6 students crying over long division or having to compute fractions. Many people incorrectly believe that being good at mathematics means being fast at mathematics. I don't think it does. I believe that we need to dissociate mathematics from speed. We no longer need students to compute quickly; we have computers for that. We need students to think deeply, to connect methods, to reason, and to justify. That is why I feel so happy working at Graded, where we promote critical thinking skills and perseverance over fast computation.
7. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
I really love being part of our community. We have felt welcomed and cared for since we first arrived. I have two sons who have already graduated from Graded, and we have seen how the school’s diversity and strong core values have prepared them for the “outside world,” promoting their critical thinking skills, their respect for diversity, and their appreciation for kindness. My other three children participate in all sorts of academic, sporting, and community events, which provide my family with enriching experiences. As an educator, I enjoy the diversity of our student population and its energy and enthusiasm. There is always something going on at school! I also appreciate working with colleagues from a variety of backgrounds. It makes our working environment a rich one. Graded is also constantly improving, applying new trends in education, and promoting continuous teacher professional development.
1. You majored in Portuguese and English at the University of São Paulo (USP) and also have a degree in education. Why teaching?
Teaching inspires me because it allows me to provide my students with opportunities to develop their expression in a foreign language and their views of the world. Therefore, what I do impacts what students can do, in the new country they are living -- Brazil. It also may influence the future actions they may take. Who knows if their Portuguese will affect their ability to communicate, or help to make decisions when they're out in the world as the CEO a of a multinational company, the secretary-general of the UN, or the founder of a start-up company which positively impacts the world?
2. What’s your favorite podcast? Why?
I listen to lots of podcasts. I love Hidden Brain, Invisibilia, and Braincast, but my favorite one is Mamilos - Jornalismo de Peito Aberto. The main goal of the two hosts is to discuss controversial or important themes with the help of subject experts. However, what really inspires me is that rather than just trying to prove a point, everybody in the podcast is engaged in building bridges and being open to new perspectives and points of view.
3. You have co-written several coursebooks for teaching English. What’s your favorite part of being a published author?
I like the amount of creativity you are allowed to put into writing a coursebook. Having an exciting idea and being able to put it into practice has always made me happy. I also love thinking about how this kind of material can impact, support, and guide teachers and their classes.
4. Did you have any nicknames growing up and do you have one now?
I was named after my Spanish great-grandmother, Laureana Castanho. Since Laureana is long and unusual in Portuguese, I have had tons of nicknames: Lau, Laurie, Lauren, Laura, and even Lana. Different people call me by specific nicknames. Friends normally call me Laurie, my oldest and closest friends say Lau, and my family calls me Lana. Here at Graded, my coworkers call me Lau and my students call me Ms. Lau.
5. You teach Portuguese as a second or additional language. If you could identify one thing that international students learning Portuguese could do to improve, what would it be?
I would say it's the realization that learning a language is inextricably related to learning about culture. Being open to a new culture gives you greater experience with the language and, of course, more experience with a language opens you up to the culture. Learning a language allows you to see the world in a different way, through a new lens. Moreover, learning a new language makes your brain even more complex! For instance, in Portuguese and other Latin languages, the whole feminine, masculine, singular, and plural choices for nouns and adjectives certainly change how our brains process information. Isn't it beautiful that languages shape the way we think and see the world?
6. If you could change one thing about your appearance, what would it be?
I wouldn't be so short-sighted! I have been wearing glasses since I was seven!
7. Do you have any pets?
I have an adorable Yorkshire Terrier named Mel. Like the owner of any pet, I love her to the moon and back. She has won the hearts of our whole family.
8. What’s the last movie you went to the movie theater to see? What’s your view of the movie?
One of the last movies I saw is Tully. I found it extremely accurate (and disturbing). It is a candid, yet sensitive, look at being a parent, especially a mother.
9. What would make you totally content right now?
I know it's wishful thinking, but what would really make me happy right now is to witness people truly putting the needs of the community before their own. Community can be just a group of friends, or it can be much bigger – such as a school, neighborhood, city, or country.
10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
My favorite thing about Graded is its sense of community and its diversity. I teach or have taught American, Swedish, Argentinian, Colombian, Korean, Japanese, South African, French, Danish, Mexican, and Spanish students -- to name a just a few! I also love learning, and each and every day I learn something new because I work here. I learn a lot from my students! I also love to see how Graded students take a leading and enthusiastic role in their learning journeys.
by Olga Molina, Lower School Music Teacher
Music has been shown to help develop concentration and reasoning skills, improve language fluency, promote motor skills, and inspire better performance in technical disciplines such as mathematics and physics.
At Graded, the Lower School Music Program prepares children to join the Middle and High School ensembles, providing students with a variety of experiences, from pantomiming and folk dance to improvising and composing. Our eclectic music curriculum involves two main approaches: conceptual learning and music literacy. We expose children, throughout their musical education, to pitch, length, form, dynamics, and meter. We teach music literacy sequentially, based upon the Kodaly methodology by using folk songs from various cultures. Students not only sing these songs but also learn to play the recorder.
A musical education provides each student with a new mode of expression, clearer ideas, better memory retention, and enhanced problem-solving skills. Children, specifically, benefit from singing songs, which allow for rapid enunciation improvement. Singing can also spark significant increases in vocabulary. Socially, the practice of chamber music (music performance in groups) helps one build interpersonal skills through non-verbal means. Music is an especially apt medium for the development of a balanced and harmonious personality.
Experts speak of a “musical intelligence,” one that is not only intrapersonal (involving control over individual feelings and movements) but also interpersonal (involving the ability to understand one’s place in the world through relationships with others).
Ensuring that Graded students have access to the extraordinary benefits of a musical education in childhood has been one of my primary professional objectives over the last twenty-five years.
More recently, however, I have also taught courses for aspiring music educators. In these classes, I stress the importance of having a solid background in music and education and staying up-to-date with national and international instructional methodologies for childhood music education. Teaching children how to sing properly through vocal training is also crucial. I am honored and thrilled to have shared some of my experiences as music instructor – for children and adults – by answering viewer questions on TV Globo’s Como Será?
Click here to watch Olga Molina’s interview (conducted in Portuguese).
by Richard Boerner, Superintendent
The cycle of renewing and updating a school’s curriculum is a process that all schools undergo. This valuable exercise is necessary in order to ensure that content is being effectively delivered and accurately assessed. At Graded, we are committed to this process. Currently, our talented faculty are engaging in a variety of curricular reviews throughout the school.
For the purpose of this article, I am proud to highlight our Portuguese Department and expose you to some truly transformative curricular review that is underway.
With the release of new Brazilian National Standards, Base Nacional Comum Curricular (BNCC), our Portuguese faculty, under the direction of the Teaching and Learning Department, immediately began to examine these new requirements in relation to our existing curriculum. They then shared them with our English Department, which adheres to American Education Reaches Out (AERO) Common Core standards.
This exciting collaboration between faculty members represents the first time during which our Portuguese and English Departments have reviewed each other’s curricula, comparing areas of focus in literature and writing. Interdepartmental conversations have become richer and deeper, as faculty have engaged with one another across language and content.
As faculty began to examine BNCC and AERO standards, they started to understand and articulate where the two sets of standards intersect. These similarities allow us to align K-12 curricula across multiple languages and national/international requirements.
"We are approaching this work from the perspective of skills,” asserts Lower School Portuguese Department Head Mari Formicola. “Doing this work emphasizes the student's educational experience in English and at the same time, enhancing an additional language. Doing this work is a focus on student learning."
As we complete the review of the AERO and BNCC standards, we are determining the common skills to be assessed in English and Portuguese coursework. This effort will allow us to gather and analyze data across disciplines to address student needs.
This collaboration between our Portuguese and English teachers is a powerful example of the way in which our faculty are changing, transforming, and improving their practice. Currently, a similar collaboration between our Brazilian Social Studies and Social Studies Departments is underway. I look forward to sharing their progress with you in the coming months.
1. You have a Master’s degree in Brazilian literature from the University of São Paulo (USP), and you were a professor of Portuguese and Brazilian culture at the University of Pennsylvania's Lauder Institute. What is one element of Brazilian culture or literature that you feel is most misunderstood by non-Brazilians?
Just a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to senior Guilhermo G., and he showed me a New Yorker article written by Benjamin Moser entitled He’s One of Brazil’s Greatest Writers. Why Isn’t Machado de Assis More Widely Read? The article aptly addresses your question.
Moser writes that most foreigners during Machado de Assis’s time envisioned Brazil as “an unspoiled tropical paradise, swarming with noble savages. Yet - boringly enough - Brazil turned out, in so many ways, to be far more familiar than they imagined. This might be one reason that Machado never really caught on abroad. He was not interested in national folklore, and described a milieu that most foreigners did not want to recognize."
2. You teach Theory of Knowledge in the Graded High School. What is one concept you teach students that you wish the entire Graded community knew about?
That knowledge is provisional. The knowledge we have now is the best knowledge we have been able to get. It will change, for sure, but for now we can build things, probe the universe, create beauty, and all sorts of other amazing things – all from using our knowledge base as a jumping-off point, whether that knowledge is objective for all times, pure, and the absolute truth or not. I tell students they have to assess their knowledge, assume it's good, choose a direction, and take a step. They should then share what they find and others will correct it, incorporate it into the body of knowledge, and someone else will take the next step. We have to accept the imperfection of knowledge and move on.
3. What’s your favorite restaurant in São Paulo? Why?
Restaurante Nandemoyá, in Liberdade. I simply love the chill atmosphere and the amazing tempura ice cream!
4. What is one thing you would always prefer to pay someone else to do than do yourself? Why?
My taxes. I dread having to deal with those forms, the spreadsheets, the receipts...
5. What is your greatest weakness?
My greatest weakness is probably taking on too much at work and not being able to balance family and professional life.
6. You’re a Peer Group Connection (PGC) Advisor at Graded. Why are peer groups important?
A recent study published by neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore at University College London shows that until very recently, it was assumed that teenage behavior was mostly explained by hormonal changes. However, recent studies have found that adolescence is actually a period of neurological change. In other words, what may look to us like incredible self-absorption is, in fact, essential neurological development. Teenagers achieve this through creating new allegiances independent of their parents. That’s why their friendships are so important. Peer groups are a powerful lever for developing safe, supportive connections. At the heart of the PGC Program at Graded are relationships built on mutual respect and support, and open communication between senior leaders and freshmen.
7. What is the best book you have read in the past 12 months?
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, by Reza Aslan. I liked it because Aslan discusses more than just religious knowledge. He talks about humanity and the development of ethical values.
8. What family tradition has special meaning to you?
Sunday lunches at my parents' house. The whole family comes together and we talk for hours.
9. What’s the best New Year’s resolution you’ve ever made?
In 2017, I made the resolution that I would go back to the University of São Paulo (USP) and finally get my doctorate in Portuguese literature. I am studying the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, whose passionate writing resonated with me while I was studying poetry as an undergraduate. I particularly like his notion that poetry is something divine.
10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
Graded is truly international! We embrace diversity, and our curriculum focuses on learning about ourselves, about others in the community, and about the world around us. Our students are encouraged to put this knowledge into practice by communicating with open hearts and actively contributing towards making our global community a better place.
1. You received an Excellence in Teaching Award in Canada, which recognized your creativity and innovation in education. Tell me more about it.
Before teaching internationally, I taught in the province of Alberta, Canada. That’s when I received the award. At the time, I was teaching second grade and developing games and projects to help students learn. Improvisational drama games are also a huge part of my regular program, which helps English language learners practice their speaking skills.
Before Escape Rooms became trendy, I invented a spy game called “Math Impossible” where students have to solve math problems to escape a series of buildings before they explode.
My students practice making change in a “Math Mall” where they sell goods or provide services. I also use Teams Games Tournaments (TGT), a cooperative learning technique that enhances academic achievement in my classroom. Students work in teams of four to compete against others at the same level. Teaching definitely allows me to express my inner TV game show host!
2. What led you to study education and become an elementary school teacher?
As a child, I attended summer camps in northern Canada where I had incredibly positive experiences. Not only was summer camp a lot of fun, but it also built up my self-confidence and taught me resilience. It allowed me to try new things independently. Later on in high school, I became a camp counselor and that was a natural springboard into teaching.
3. Before coming to Brazil in 2013, you taught in Canada, Venezuela, and Macao. What has surprised you the most about Brazil?
I was told that São Paulo was this huge, concrete jungle, but this city definitely has a lot going for it. What makes São Paulo unique is that it has one of the most amazing food scenes I have ever encountered. There are also incredible markets and remarkable street art. My favorite street artist by far is Kobra. I love his use of bright colors and bold lines, which sums up Brazil - colorful and bold! I also love walking and biking throughout the city.
4. You studied history as well as elementary education in college. If you could travel back in time and live there for a week, what time period would you choose? Where would you go? What would you do?
That’s an easy question. I’d love to travel back in time to 776 BC to Olympia, Greece to take in the first Olympic games. Ancient Greek culture has always fascinated me.
5. What song really moves you? Share a line from it.
My favorite song is While You See a Chance by Steve Winwood. I first heard this song in 1980 and it still resonates with me. Life is all about taking chances even when it gets tough.
When some cold tomorrow finds you
When some sad old dream reminds you
How the endless road unwinds you
While you see a chance take it because it’s all on you
6. Who was your favorite teacher growing up, and what did you like most about him or her?
My first grade teacher, Miss Langois, was an amazing educator who knew all about balanced literacy before it became a research-based best practice. Having a great start in school is important, and she gave me that. I still keep in touch with her!
7. What do you think is the most significant event in the history of the human race?
I'm not sure if it's the most significant event in the history of the human race, but I think the Age of Discovery is quite fascinating because it was the beginning of globalization. Extensive overseas exploration began to take place in the 15th century as European countries searched for new trade opportunities. On a personal level, I love discovering and learning about new places.
8. Where’s your perfect dream vacation spot?
I’m not one to repeat a vacation spot because there are so many places in this world I have yet to see. In June 2018, I spent a couple of weeks traveling throughout Egypt. Traveling back in time to explore ancient ruins, followed by a relaxing afternoon at the pool reading a great book is my idea of the perfect vacation.
9. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
Graded could not exist without a great group of kids, and the diversity of those kids is what makes Graded a wonderful place to work!
by Angela Park, Communications Associate
"Toss-up question. Social Studies."
Every Monday at 3:15 pm, students in Graded’s Knowledge Bowl Club gather in faculty member Michael Prosalik’s classroom and set up buzzers.
Mr. Prosalik, who is in his fourth year as an Upper School science teacher at Graded, also serves as the club’s faculty advisor. During the team’s weekly practice, he reads through a deck of sample questions while his students, divided into two teams, race to answer them.
"In the 1980s, US states could have repealed it by passing instead a District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment that would have given Washington, DC a US Congressman and two US Senators. Identify this Amendment to the Consti-" The sound of the buzzer interrupts Mr. Prosalik.
“The answer is the 23rd Amendment."
“That is correct,” he answers.
Knowledge Bowl covers a breadth of subjects – social studies, humanities, science, mathematics, arts, sports, music, and current affairs. Through several rounds of questions, contestants are challenged in speed, knowledge, and assertiveness. Participation in the club equips students with invaluable life skills. It instills confidence and fosters collaboration.
For team captain and junior Martin H., “Knowledge Bowl is different from any other trivia competition because success as a team is more important than any one individual’s performance.”
“It has taught me to have less fear in being wrong and to be more assertive," says Nicolas S., a senior on the team.
Aside from weekly practices, Knowledge Bowl Club members do not formally prepare for the competition. For sophomore Samuel B., staying competitive is not a task but a mere consequence of pursuing his interests.
A history enthusiast, Samuel reads voraciously and pays extra attention in history class, which helps to improve his knowledge of the subject. “It’s really fun when you’re asked a question about something you’re interested in,” he says with excitement.
While Knowledge Bowl is competitive in nature, Graded’s team emphasizes that humor is essential. “Humor is what makes the difference for us,” explains Nicolas. “We always have fun during practice; there’s always friendly banter going on, and this fun-not-work mindset allows us to push each other further.”
As it turns out, humor + practice = success.
In mid-October, five members of the team traveled to Santiago, Chile to compete in the 2018 Knowledge Bowl Tournament. Twelve schools participated in the competition, which took place at International School Nido de Aguilas. With an astounding eleven wins and two losses, Graded came in a close second.
"The tournament was great! Our last match with Nido was very tight, but we're already looking forward to our next one," asserts senior team member Gabriel Y.
Knowledge Bowl has allowed Graded students to build lasting friendships with students from other Latin American schools. “We’re especially good friends with the Nido team, even though we only see them twice a year during tournaments,” remarks Nicolas.
Graded team members also exhibited exceptional sportsmanship during the tournament. "They became known for their leadership and friendliness. During the final round,” relates Mr. Prosalik, “they were joking back and forth with the competing team. It's evident they view the tournament not as a competition but somewhere they can truly celebrate knowledge."
By Rob Switzer, Director of Athletics and Activities
A new school year brings about a fresh start and novel opportunities. This certainly is the case for our Graded Athletics program.
With the Athletics Center set to open in February 2019, a new generation of Eagles will be training and competing in our world-class facilities. Along with the brand new Athletics Center, our students will have some exciting athletic opportunities this year.
In the past, Graded has participated in the Big Four, Big Eight, and Little Eight Tournaments at Nosso Recanto (NR) camp. In February 2018, an additional opportunity emerged. The South American Activities Conference (SAAC) accepted Graded as its seventh member school. SAAC includes the following institutions:
Colegio Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Lima, Peru)
American School of Quito (Quito, Ecuador)
International School Nido de Aguilas (Santiago, Chile)
Uruguayan American School (Montevideo, Uruguay)
Lincoln - The American International School (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
International School of Curitiba (Curitiba, Brazil)
Joining this international conference places Graded on par with the world’s most elite international schools, much in the way that our arts students participate globally in The Association for Music in International Schools (AMIS).
It is a benefit to our High School students when they can report that they have competed in athletics tournaments on an international level. By participating in SAAC, Graded will also be able to expand its sports opportunities and compete internationally, not just in soccer, basketball, and volleyball, but also in swimming, track and field, cross country, and in the future, tennis.
Graded athletics teams will now compete in tournaments at NR camp one semester and participate in the SAAC tournament the next. This new format doubles our athletes’ opportunities to compete while better managing out-of-school time. Additionally, the combination of SAAC and NR will allow us to develop year-round competitive opportunities for our students.
Beginning in 2018-19, our basketball, volleyball, and swimming programs will be full-year. We are evaluating the possibility of this arrangement for other sports, too. We are still working to resolve first-semester SAAC and Big Eight soccer travel date conflicts for this school year but there are ideas for the next school year. Our junior varsity (JV) Little Eight tournaments will maintain their current schedule.
We are excited to bring international school tournaments back to our Graded campus as well. In 2019, we will host the SAAC Track and Field/Cross Country Tournament. The following school year, we will host the SAAC Swimming Tournament at our new swimming facility. These events will bring our community together as we showcase our spirit and hospitality. We will host approximately 150 students per tournament, equivalent to the number of students we hosted during our last Model United Nations event.
To see a bit of what your child might expect at a SAAC tournament, please watch this track and field, cross country, and basketball video from Quito, Ecuador from April 2018:
We are confident that Graded’s participation in the SAAC and restructured Big Four and Big Eight Tournaments will be a true enhancement to our High School athletics offerings. As we approach our centennial and the opening of our new, state-of-the-art Athletics Center, Graded continues to strive for excellence in all aspects of the student experience.