Category Archives: Academics

Faculty Spotlight: Yea Afolabi, Director of Learning Services

On Friday, I sat down with Yea Afolabi and asked her as many questions as I could in five minutes.

Jonathan Zucker: How long and in what capacity have you worked at College Prep? 
Yea Afolabi: This is my third year as the Director of Learning Services.
Yea Afolabi

Yea Afolabi, Director of Learning Services

JZ: Tell me about your job?Yea: I love that I get to help people for a living. I love that students who are coming in who have problems with anything from time management and organization, to having backpacks that are too heavy, to needing support with writing essays and history papers, can come by my office and always feel welcome to get the help that they need and that there’s absolutely no stigma associated with getting that help and support.

JZ: What’s the goal of the Learning Center?
Yea: The goal of the Learning Center – the actual physical space of the Learning Center – is to provide a space where students can come and either work by themselves at the laptop bar or work collectively with each other on homework. So they can work by themselves, they can work with other people, and we have a little study room. Students go in there and often work on group projects or study for tests together. It has a dry erase wall, so often times the students work out math problems on the wall. We also have a group work table that has a dry erase tabletop so students also do work on the table and leave notes for each other, which is really fun for them. It’s a welcoming, inviting space for people to work on their homework and anything they need support with.

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Bay Area Blend-Ed Consortium Course Announcements

Bay Area BlendEdExciting news! I wrote earlier about the official announcement of the Bay Area BlendEd Consortium. The group consists of five local independent schools: College Prep, Athenian, Lick-Wilmerding, Marin Academy, and Urban. Students from each school will be able to enroll in courses that will have online delivery components as well as regular in-person meetings and field trips. The Consortium will take advantage of the resources and personnel at each of these great schools while making use of the entire Bay Area as a potential classroom and learning environment.  We are  thrilled to announce the first round of course offerings. In all, 10 classes will be offered next year, five in the fall and five in the spring. In Fall 2014, the following classes will be offered:

Climate Change: Scientific Principles, Impacts, and Human Responses

Some scientists and politicians have identified climate change as the single greatest issue that humans will grapple with in our lifetimes. This class will study scientific principles that govern earth’s atmosphere, see how humans are affecting earth’s energy balance, and explore how human-caused changes will likely affect earth systems in the future. In addition to thoroughly studying the science behind climate change, we will look at how economists respond to global warming and offer strategies to address climate change. Similarly, we’ll examine political proposals to address climate change, on a local, national, and global level. We will interview people in the governmental, energy, and non-profit world to see how the approach the problem from different perspectives

Field Study Photography & Bay Area History

The class will explore the history of the Bay Area through a group photo project. Through readings, discussions, and student interests, the class will decide on a central theme relevant to the Bay Area. Each student will explore that theme through a photo and research project in their own area. Together, we will produce a website and an exhibition that covers the diversity and personality of the Bay Area while showing its past and present. Potential themes could be the housing crisis, racial tension, or transportation. Face to face meetings will include a trip to the Mission District of San Francisco as a case study, one or two photo field trips to locations connected to the class-selected theme, a studio visit with a photographer, and a culminating group critique and editing session.

Literature of the Golden Gate

How well do you know the place you call home?  What does it mean to be a Northern Californian? An inhabitant of the Bay Area?  This English elective will take an interdisciplinary approach to the natural and human history and to the literature of the greater Bay Area.  We will begin with a look at the geological processes that created this region and the natural environment humans encountered when first arriving.  In these points of origins we will look for metaphor and theme to connect with the human experience in the area.  We will look at our unique place on earth and the record of it.  In addition to keeping a reflection journal, we will explore other forms of writing, including a place essay, poetry and fiction. Face-to-face meetings will include urban, suburban and natural outings. This course will also have regular online office hours and online group meetings.

Race, Place, & Toxics

Race relations, environmental hazards, and natural disasters intersect everyday news stories, which reveal the social inequities and injustices that exist locally and across the globe  – stories of toxic waste, water scarcity,  and health disparities. Culture, race, class, and geoscience are at the heart of many of these issues.

This course will explore the environmental hazards faced by some Bay Area communities and under-represented people around the globe. We will investigate the cumulative impact environmental and resource inequities have on health. To mitigate the disparities, we will examine concepts, processes, and practices in geoscience, environmental science, ethics, and public health.

During our face-to-face sessions we will be touring hazardous sites around the Bay, meeting with environmental justice advocates, participating in habitat restoration activities, and educating peers at a culminating event.  Students will be expected to think critically and scientifically about the causes of environmental inequities and to propose solutions that can help all people enjoy equitable protection from environmental health hazards regardless of race, national origin, or economic status.

Web Design & Development

This course is a semester-long introduction to web design, programming, and online media. Course topics include web aesthetics, adaptive interface design, browser compatibility, streaming media, site architecture, project management, and essential programming concepts in HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. Students will gain the knowledge and skills necessary to create a range of web sites and dynamic media for web publication. Students will work on both individual and team projects, ultimately forming production teams that will collaborate to meet the web needs of local non-profit organizations. Our face-to-face sessions will be dedicated to visiting local web companies, meeting with our non-profit clients, and presenting student portfolios at a culminating event. There will also be regular virtual meetings for office hours, group collaboration, and mentoring sessions with guest experts in project management, graphic design, and programming.

On Final Exams (guest post)

I loved this post by senior Alex F. so much that I decided to share it here:

Today I had the greatest final exam of my life. I’m not kidding.

The end of the semester is always a strange experience for me. It marks another eighth of my high school career completed. For us seniors, it marks our initiation into second-semester-seniorhood. First semester finishes up with a week of studying and a week of testing. There are many things about final exams that I don’t love: the stressed students, the busy teachers, the frustration of forgetting a detail I know I knew, the crowded library and the chilly weather. It’s altogether hectic. But at the same time, I’m always exuberantly proud of the amazing quantity of knowledge I’ve gained in the previous five months. (I’m a nerd. Maybe you can tell?) We have collectively and collaboratively achieved so much in one semester. I can’t help but look back at it all every once in a while. I look back and smile.

Quick Disclaimer: Don’t get me wrong: final exams are not the end of the world. Not even close. Despite their busyness, teachers are so caring and helpful. Our Learning Center specialists have their doors wide open. AND my math teacher brought us chocolate on the day of our exam.

Finals are never bad. They’re serious. They’re two hours. They make you think. Usually I find them interesting, maybe exciting, maybe a little stressful, but overall absolutely fine. I wouldn’t even call them “a necessary evil,” as some teachers do. And today I had a fun final. F-U-N.

Mr. Tucker, my American Government teacher, said it would be fun. I didn’t believe him. But he was so right. Half my test was a guided essay of comparing and evaluating the many levers of power in the political system. I got to consider the chair of a Senate committee in comparison to the president of a major corporation in comparison to a political consultant in comparison to a news commentator in comparison to a militant activist in comparison to a career bureaucrat… I could spend hours discussing and debating the web of power! Oh the checks and balances!

It was awesome. Since I’m a senior, a number of my classes are semester-long electives. Including American Government class. As you might guess, I’m sad that it’s over. I went into that class with miniscule knowledge of the politics and current events. I signed up because I love American history and was curious. But now I understand! I read and understand the newspaper. I’m eighteen, registered and ready to vote! I can’t wait until the June elections!

Government class ended in the best possible way. And you know what? Next semester I’m enrolled in Mr. Wilson’s history elective on modern American history. I can hardly wait!

New Classes for Spring 2014

I find it rather remarkable that a school with 363 students can offer 100 unique courses each school year, but that’s just what we do at College Prep. Students recently submitted their course selections for Spring 2014, which gave teachers of brand new courses a chance to discuss their classes during a “course shopping” period. Among the courses being offered for the very first time at College Prep are the two English seminars and two history seminars described below. Admittedly, I could read interesting course descriptions like these all day, but it shows the depth and breadth of the offerings at College Prep. Continue reading

The New School Year: Innovation, Collaboration, Experiential Learning….Excitement!

I always enjoy the start of the school year. Watching the new students integrate into the College Prep community with their energy and enthusiasm gives me great optimism for the future. But it’s not just the students that bring a sense of renewal and joy to campus. The adults play a large part, too.

Our first faculty meeting of the year was quite inspiring. What I enjoyed most was all of the innovation and creative thinking happening at College Prep. Continue reading

Edutopia Explores Collaborative Learning at College Prep

Edutopia is a fantastic resource for educators. It is supported by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, whose mission is:

To improve the K-12 learning process by documenting, disseminating, and advocating innovative, replicable, and evidence-based strategies that prepare students to thrive in their future education, careers, and adult lives.

College Prep was extremely honored when Edutopia approached us to help explore the topic of collaborative learning. Group work and collaboration have always been a big part of College Prep’s success. It’s not the only way we teach, but it is a core philosophy that teachers across all disciplines use. Among other benefits, collaborative learning focuses on process, builds accountability, and allows students to teach and be more in tune with one another. It leads to high levels of student engagement and creates the often-times electric atmosphere College Prep classes are known for.

For an in-depth examination of collaborative learning, I recommend you spend some time looking at the resources that Edutopia put together. To see College Prep’s unique brand of collaboration in action, please view the stunning video below!

College Prep’s Got Talent!

College Prep is known as a school with a lot of intellectual firepower. It is true that our students and teachers possess some of the sharpest, most creative minds around. Yet, there is so much more than intellectual talent at College Prep. From athletes, photographers, musicians, poets, debaters, and more, College Prep students practically ooze talent.

Take for example seniors Leo. G (headed to Wesleyan) and Abby S. (headed to Brown). Leo and Abby designed their own independent songwriting study for the second semester of their senior year, and created the fantastic new band, Chambray & Chambray. Abby writes:

This semester Leo and I worked with music teacher Tina Harrington in an independent study in song writing. Throughout the semester, we met on Thursdays to share and workshop our music from the week. I have been writing music for a few years on my own, but it was a really amazing experience to work with both Tina and Leo and I loved having their input. Leo helped me add percussion and Tina helped with song structure and harmony. At the end of the year we also made recordings of some of the songs and had a concert during lunch. The class was one of my favorite things I have done at College Prep. It was fun and relaxed but we accomplished a lot and I had a great time performing the finished pieces.

You can download five of their songs for free! Below is a video of their end-of-year performance. Great stuff!