The Countdown to Retreat

By Olivia Gubel ’21

In just a few days, middle school students will take a break from their active academic lives and embark on their retreats. Over the course of four days, students will be encouraged to step out of their comfort zones, physically and emotionally. Activities include sea kayaking, ropes courses, visiting native animals and hiking. Most of all, students will get the opportunity to immerse themselves in all nature has to offer.

As it is their first retreat, seventh grade students will stay in cabins, while eighth and ninth graders will be compelled to more deeply experience the natural world by staying in tents. In an online survey sent out to middle school students and sophomores who had attended retreat in the past, respondents offered their advice, opinions and feedback on each particular trip.

Seventh grade students will stay in cabins and lofts.

“The trip is a smooth introduction to retreat,” ninth grade dean Betsy Ilg said.

A typical day will include breakfast as a group, then dispersing into pre-picked smaller divisions where they will be introduced to ropes courses, hiking, group bonding activities, sea kayaking and even a few llamas. According to the survey, the wide range of activities usually ensures that each student usually finds something that truly interests them. Past students have described the experience similar to that of sleepaway camp. This time, however, they are given the chance to have a common experience with their new classmates. In the survey, past students strongly recommended packing bug spray. Many students expressed the new connections they made and new perspectives that were made visible to them.

“The trip reinforced my gratitude towards the luxuries I have in my life,” a survey respondent said.

For the first time, the eighth grade retreat will be on Catalina Island, where students will participate in water activities, rock climbing and explore nature during scenic hikes. Survey respondents seemed to enjoy kayaking or scuba diving, with many listing those activities as their favorite part of the trip. Students also commented on the friendships they fostered at Catalina.

Students pose for a picture during retreat.

“All seven girls in that cabin are still my friends today,” one respondent said.

Eighth grade students also have the option to go to Joshua Tree where they will experience desert camping, as opposed to cabins. Prior students who have attended this trip listed the rock climbing and the campfire as their favorite aspects of the trip.

Ninth grade students will choose to go on the upper or lower Colorado River trip. Both retreats will feature camping in tents and canoeing during the day. The upper river offers several hiking opportunities, while the lower river has sandbars where students and adults will take breaks from canoeing.  There will also be opportunities for night hiking. Students will wake up at 6:30-7 a.m. and go to bed around 10 p.m. On the last day of the lower river, students will wake up at dawn and load their canoes to float down the river under the stars.

“It is a once in a lifetime experience,” Ilg said.

More than half of the 102 sophomore survey respondents said that the Colorado River trip was their favorite retreat in all.

Students canoe down the Colorado River as water splashes in their eyes.

Regarding the logistics of the trip, the largest single aspect students struggled with was the lack of facilities. Several students spoke of the need to bring bug spray, snacks and a refillable water bottle.

Some students have said that being in the wilderness without access to technology was a benefit.

“I was able to focus on myself and my relationships with people,” a survey respondent said.

These trips also provided a sense of gratitude and appreciation for their daily lives. Most students strengthened their bonds with people they did not connect with in the past. Others remarked that the trips brought them a stronger sense of gratitude and allowed them to make friends with people they had not gotten to know well.

Because of the vast differences between the concrete jungle of Los Angeles and the pure state of nature, it is natural to feel anxious and even apprehensive regarding the upcoming retreats.

“The biggest struggle about the trip happens before retreat. Students become stressed about small details,” Ilg said.

The rumors tend to cultivate unnecessary causes for concern.

“It is not every day we get the opportunity to test ourselves in unfamiliar situations. Everyone bonds over a common experience, even if it was one they didn’t like,” Ilg said.

The views from the Colorado River greatly differ from what students see daily.


Day in the Life: Teachers

By Ethan Lachman ’21 and Allie Landecker ’21

In an effort to gauge a better understanding of our community, we will be creating an article every issue that compares the daily lives of three different people with similar roles at the Middle School. Throughout Volume 25, each “Day in the Life” column will strive to represent different day-to-day lives of people within the school in order to uncover the mystery behind the many peoples’ lives who are integral to the school because we believe it is very important to try to develop empathy for all of our companions.

Let’s start off with teachers, who play an essential part in the school community. Without teachers learning would not be possible. Teachers’ daily lives can consist of teaching up to five classes along with their other activities and hobbies aside from teaching. Aside from teaching different subjects and grade levels, teachers’ schedules are very diverse and do not follow any particular pattern. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Ian Ulmer, Middle School History Teacher




As soon as the clock hits 6 a.m., history teacher Ian Ulmer dives straight into his morning routine so he can leave the house by 6:30 to get his daughter to school. Instead of teaching five classes like many instructors at school, Ulmer teaches four because he is a part of the Teaching and Innovation Learning team, which focuses on helping teachers use technology effectively in their courses.

School Day:

Although all students have an assigned lunch period, Ulmer does not have one, and he said that the time at which he eats really depends on his day-to-day frees. Additionally, Ulmer is a middle school cross country coach, and he does not leave campus until 5:30 p.m. to pick up his daughter. Ulmer then greets his normal hour and a half drive home by listening to many different podcasts.

“I listen to a lot of podcasts in the car. There are a couple of great ones. There’s the BBC Radio ‘For in Our Time,’ and I listened to all of Dan Carlin’s ‘Hardcore History,’ Ulmer said.

Night/Free Time:

“ I get home sometime around 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and then it’s dinner, get [his daughter] to bed, and maybe play with my baby. And then I work; I work somewhere from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., or 10 p.m. to midnight, and that means preparing for the next day,” Ulmer said.

Even though the weekend is often an outlet for other doing activities that get lost during the busy school week, school plays a big part in his free time.

“I always have work if it’s a school day…there is always grading; there’s always prep. And anytime that I am doing my personal reading, there is a purpose behind it for school,” Ulmer said.

Erin Creznic, Middle School English Teacher and Field Hockey Program Head


At 6 a.m., English teacher and field hockey program head Erin Creznic wakes up to take her two children to school. The younger of the two, a preschooler, gets dropped off around 6:30, and her eldest gets dropped off at elementary school soon after. Then, she drives to the Upper School to attend a daily hour-and-a-half long athletics huddle meeting. Afterwards, she drives back to the Middle School to teach English class.


Creznic teaches three eighth grade English courses during third, fourth and fifth periods. Following her classes, she drives back to the Upper School to coach field hockey from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on normal practice days, though the times of games and practices are different depending on the day of the week.

Night/Free Time:

Depending on whether or not the varsity field hockey team has a game, she gets home at a different time every night.

“We have late nights a lot. So basically, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are later days for us, because Tuesdays we usually have an away game in Orange County, Wednesday night practices are late night practices so we don’t end until 7:30, and then Thursdays are home games, but varsity games are at 5 and JV is at 6:30.” Creznic said.

Often, when field hockey is in season, her wife will pick up their two sons from school.

Creznic said she does not get a lot of sleep often, as she has a young baby at home, who requires nursing at night. On the weekends, she tries to balance her workload throughout all three days, as Creznic wants to spend as much time possible with her children.

David Fromme, Middle School Science Teacher


When comparing science teacher David Fromme’s morning routine to Ulmer’s and Creznic’s, Fromme gets 45 more minutes of sleep than both of them because he lives significantly closer to the Middle School. Usually, it takes Fromme twenty to thirty minutes to get to school because the traffic can be unpredictable. Fromme tends to arrive at school at around 8 a.m. because he either drops his daughter off at school or gets her ready.

School Day:

During the second half of the school day, Fromme has a schedule packed with classes. He teaches five periods of science, and he consistently eats lunch at seventh period. Although the school day ends at 3:05 p.m., Fromme often does not leave till a bit later.

“I try to leave no later than 4 p.m. because I have a little bit of time to do work so that’s nice… Then I go back to Santa Monica to pick her up [my daughter], and then we spend some time at her school, and then I usually get home anytime between 5 and 5:30 p.m.,” Fromme said.

Night/Free Time:

Even though Mr. Fromme is very busy during the day, he must be very engaged in the evening as well.

“I cook dinner, and then we eat dinner, we play a little bit, I get my daughter ready for bed. Usually I am free again around 8:30 p.m., do dishes, and then if I have homework, I have to do my homework,” Fromme said.

Fromme also grades and plans for classes the next day when he gets home. However, he must do this late at night starting at night because of his lack of freetime during the day.

Checking in with new positions

Compiled by Ethan Lachman ’21

Matthew Cutler, Middle School Dean:

“Although I miss the day-to-day camaraderie of the history office, I am loving my new role as academic dean. It is taking me some time to adjust to a more flexible schedule, but I am really enjoying getting to know the 8th graders in a more holistic manner. This is something you do not always have time to do when you are teaching four or five sections. Plus, I get to work with Karen Fukushima every day, which is awesome.”



Kyong Pak, History Department Head:

Kyong Pak, History Department Head:
“This is my first year as chair of the history department, and so far it has been a great learning experience. In some ways, [I am] responsible for the MS history program/curriculum, your colleagues, communication between the department and outside parties (ex deans, admin, alumni) so it’s definitely given me a better perspective. Before, I was focused on my own classes more.
I have the incredible support from my colleagues and my former department chair, Matt Cutler, whom I still go to for advice.
I love my department, were like a family, so in a way it’s not that hard to represent them, advocate for them, and work with them in a new capacity.”

Alex Ras, Science Department Head:

“The school year is moving along fine. My new position as Science Department Chair is a lot of work, but I am looking forward to moving into the holiday season. Hopefully I am succeeding in being like a duck: serene and peaceful on the outside, but paddling furiously under the water.”

Robert Ruiz, Physical Education Department Head:

“This year is off to a great start. It is assessment week. Something I have brought back. The students are all running, jumping and throwing as far as they can. [It has been] busy but good busy.”



Celine’s Suggestions

By Celine Park ’21

How can I balance my academic life inside of school with my social life outside of school?

There are many ways to balance your academic and social life, and it all comes down to your organizational skills. If you utilize your frees and get most of your homework done before school ends, you can relax at home without stressing too much about school, and maybe even hang out with your friends during that time. You can also mix the two together by having study sessions with your friends on the weekends. By doing this you’re spending time with your friends while studying, which is a win-win! If you’ve finished all of your homework at school and have nothing to do at home, getting the next day’s homework can sometimes make life easier for you if you have a game or an event the next day. Plan accordingly, be organized, and you can have a happy and balanced life throughout the school year!


What are the key components to a successful club?

First off, you should create a set of goals that you want to achieve in your club, as this will give you a clearer sense on what you want your club to be. After you have an idea of what you want your club to be, find other people that would join your club and work with you. Having one or two people help you lead your group can be good because it is always good to have a partner for any project. It can make the club more fun if you’re doing it with your friends or people that have the same opinions/interests as you. Also, try to attract people to your club by posting information on the daily bulletin, or just talking about it with your classmates. Planning events and big projects in your club at school can spread the word and can also get more active members. Whatever club you make, if you follow these steps, then you’re set!


There is a person who does not like me for some reason. I have never done anything bad to this person, and we have a pretty good relationship on the outside. However, this person always talks behind my back and tries to always keep me out of her extremely large group chats. Once, I was on the bus, and she started talking about me ( she didn’t know I was on the bus ), and I heard many untruthful and hurtful things. How do I prevent this person from hating me in the future?

Please help!

To be completely honest, if this person is spreading rumors and excluding you from her group, I don’t think you should focus on trying to get her to like you. People are people, and it will take a lot of your effort to make things better with her. Try to give her space, and avoid responding to any rumors or talk about the situation. It is never good to keep the negative things in your life because it weighs you down, and everyone already has enough stresses to deal with, inside and out of school. Since our school is so big, try hanging out with a different crowd of people, and try to connect with the friends that really care about you and are able to empathize with you and your problems. In a few months, you probably won’t even be thinking of the rumors, and realize how unimportant they are. Stay strong and be positive, you have many people that support and love you!


The Importance of Preparation

By Chloe Schaeffer ’21After Harvey and Irma, can a thinly stretched FEMA come through for Puerto Rico?

Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Maria. 8.1 and 7.1 magnitude earthquakes in Mexico. Wildfires in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Colorado. South Asian floods that have displaced 40 million people. La Tuna fires just 30 minutes from the Upper School.

Mother Nature bombarded the earth with one devastating natural disaster after another, and the impact has echoed across the world. Although these phenomena devastated the places they’ve hit, they brought communities together and built bonds among volunteers, first responders, fundraisers, politicians and victims. Even at school, students and faculty have been working together to fundraise and volunteer.

In order to raise funds for disaster relief, Ms. Simon’s Girl’s Club and Emma Limor ’21 headed Natural Disaster Relief Day, including the fundraiser with CoolHaus Ice Cream to raise money for the Houston Food Bank.

“The victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas really need our support. All the necessities like shelter and food are absent. We need to help these people simply because we have the ability to, and because we have the necessary connections,” Limor said.

In addition to helping the national and international community recover, these natural disasters may also leave students wondering what precautions the school is taking in the event a natural disaster were to affect the campus.

“We are prepared for any kind of catastrophe that could happen on campus,” Attendance and Health Coordinator Brenda Simon said of the school safety measures. According to Simon, the key is to keep it simple.

“During a real emergency, the simpler you can keep it, that will produce more results. You don’t need complication when you are already in a complicated situation,” she said.

Simon also spoke of improvements the school is making in the wake of all of these natural disasters.

“We are working on an app that will tell you exactly what to do in case of an emergency. It will first be rolled out to the faculty and then the students and parents,” Simon said.

These natural disasters may also raise a question about how people can stay safe at home.

“In Southern California we are concerned about fires and earthquakes, where you have to evacuate quickly and don’t have time to gather everything in the moment. That’s why it’s important to have a grab bag,” LA County Sheriff Mark Robertson said.

In the bag, he recommends having the following: A flashlight, two weeks’ worth of prescription medicines, batteries, a first aid kit, water and a Multi-Tool. Robertson also said that it is important to have an evacuation plan with family.

These recent natural disasters have been devastating, and it is very important that the school joins together to help build back communities abroad as well as re-evaluate the safety precautions students are taking at home.


Sarah’s Suggestions


All my friends have fun traveling plans over summer, and I don’t have anything to do. What would you recommend doing? Sincerely, Bored

Dear Bored,

Summer is the best opportunity to do things that you wouldn’t be able to do during the school year. For instance, you can read books that you have wanted to read but have not had a chance to, learn a new language or try a sport. It is also a great opportunity to hang out with friends, especially those you don’t see very often. You can go to the beach, have a party, see a movie or do whatever you want to together.  Staycations are also very fun. You can go to a hotel or stay home and just spend the days relaxing and taking care of yourself. Explore the city, go to the spa (or have a spa night at home), have a shopping spree, etc. All that matters is that you have fun and do what you want!

I’m very over whelmed because of upcoming finals. What are some ways that I can de-stress and relax? Sincerely, Stressed

Dear Stressed,

A great way to de-stress is to take a hot bath. Light some candles, use Epsom salts and bubble bath and just relax for as long as you need. If you are not a bath person, you can also take a shower. Another option is to use calming aromatherapy scents like lavender or eucalyptus. Spray pillow mists, especially lavender-scented ones, are very nice because they make your bed more comfortable and calming. On that note, sleep is one of the best ways to de-stress and let both your brain and body relax. Make sure that you are getting enough sleep, ideally eight hours a day. Finally, doing yoga or meditation will clear your mind of any negative energy and give you a fresh start. There are multiple apps that you can download on your phone with yoga instructions, or you can simply play calming music and close your eyes while you clear your head.

How can I make my own money as a teenager? Sincerely, Entrepreneurial

Dear Entrepreneurial,

As a teenager, it can be limiting because you are likely not old enough to have a real job. However, there are many things you can do even from your room to make money. For instance, selling clothes and other items you no longer want online or in a yard sale is an easy way to make money; just make sure that things you sell are in good condition. You can also ask to do chores in the house for your parents, or even for your neighbors. Walking dogs, caring for pets while owners are away and vacuuming are some examples of easy tasks. Babysitting is probably the most classic form of making income as a teenager, and it is very easy to do. You can also tutor kids in your neighborhood; however, you must be qualified and able to help them. Lastly, if you go to a camp and are old enough, most will pay their camp counselors or counselors-in-training. This is not only a great way to make money, but it’s also easy and gives you something to do over the summer.


Students reflect on the importance of happiness on campus

colored drawing lauren nehorai
Illustration by Lauren Nehorai ’20
By Lauren Nehorai ’20

Happiness is defined as a state of good fortune, contentment and bliss. It can be considered a key to success or a spell that possesses the power to transform someone’s state of mind for the better. In addition to its emotional advantages, happiness is a valuable tool that can benefit people in other aspects of their lives.

Ensuring students’ happiness is a key motive of the school. It is a prominent theme in the mission statement aiming to be “a diverse and inclusive community united by the joyful pursuit of educational excellence.” Students said they believe this goal has been attained, describing school as a welcoming environment in which happiness is close within reach.

“School is a generally happy place, and people here are always smiling. All of the fun activities and we incorporate into each day at school make it even more enjoyable,” Laina Bolton ‘21 said.

For some, school can also be thought of as a stressful place. Between all of the activities students are involved in as well as the deadlines, tests and events that come along with them, finding time to relax can be difficult. Happiness can play an instrumental role in helping students perform well under stressful conditions and guide them through overwhelming times.

Methods of relaxation can serve as a short term solution to stress, but happiness does much more. It can be harder to achieve, but its effects are be life-changing.

Students can achieve happiness in a number of different ways. A popular way students alleviate stress and increase contentment is by spending time with their friends and family. Middle School Psychologist Kelly Decker said she believes that good relationships are essential to maintaining a happy life.

“The closer you are with the people you love, over time sustains feelings of joy, euphoria and happiness,” Decker said.

Many students also look to sports or other types of athletic activity for enjoyment. Decker explained that studies have proven that the more people move, the happier they tend to be because of the endorphins the body releases.

“Playing basketball makes me happy. Working together with my teammates and playing well in a game is an indescribable feeling,” Ryan Zoller ’22 said.

Another popular method of acquiring happiness is through artistic activities. Students look to performing and visual arts as an outlet to escape from the pressure of everyday life and take time for themselves.

“Choir is something I am really passionate about and is a class I look forward to every day. I think music is a great way to make people happy, especially during school hours,” Jake Schroeder ’20 said.

Random acts of kindness are also a quick and easy way of obtaining happiness and increasing that of others. Picking up trash, pushing in chairs, holding the door open or even greeting new people are all simple ways by which one can brighten others’ day and spread happiness throughout the school community. Happiness is something that all humans are capable of acquiring, but it is in the hands of the individual to let themselves accept it.




Sarah’s Suggestions Issue 4



By Sarah Healy ’20

I feel like I need to improve in every aspect of my life right now. What are some things I can do? Sincerely, Overwhelmed

Dear Overwhelmed,

The first piece of advice I can give you is to think about what you are doing right. This will automatically improve your self-esteem and set you up for success. Whether it’s going to bed on time or dedicating a certain amount of time to your family, thinking about what you are good at gives you one less thing you have to improve. Next, think about what you are unhappy with and you feel you need to work on. Map out how you want to fix each of these issues on a piece of paper or your computer, or just make mental notes. For instance, maybe you aren’t connecting with your friends as much as you used to. You can make an effort to hang out with them more often and bond over the things you enjoy. If you keep working on each of your problems individually and gradually, you will find that you are even happier because you were able to work hard and achieve your goal.


I have been procrastinating a lot lately. I have plenty of time to do what I need to, but I instead waste that time on meaningless activities. When I finally get to my homework, it’s late at night and not only do I do poorly on assignments, but I don’t get enough sleep either. How can I do better? Sincerely, Distracted

Dear Distracted,

A large amount of procrastination in teens comes from cell phones and electronic devices. Turn your phone off while you are working, and don’t use it unless you absolutely have to. You can also use website and app blockers that will deny you access to websites that you name for a certain amount of time. One computer program that I really like is called Self Control because you can block all of the websites that you find yourself getting distracted on for as long as 24 hours, and there is no way of undoing it. A good phone app is Forest because the longer you stay off of your phone, the more trees are grown in your virtual forest. It’s a really great incentive because it’s so much fun to see all of the trees! In addition, make sure that you take breaks every 30-40 minutes. This will give your brain a rest and give you time to you to get a snack, talk to your family, etc. Another way to stay focused is to work at a desk. Working in your bed will cause you to feel tired, and working on the floor is uncomfortable, causing you to be less focused on your work. Working at your desk is better for your posture, gives you a better work environment and you most likely have all of the supplies that you need at your desk, so it’s more convenient as well.


How can I stay kind in this politically volatile time? Sincerely, Concerned

Dear Concerned,

To begin with, try your best to avoid political discussions, especially if you aren’t in a completely comfortable space to discuss them. This is easily done if you’re not in a political setting. Find other common ground with people in your sports teams, choir groups, etc., so that your discussions will most likely not be based on politics. While political discussions are good, approaching them in a school setting is not the best place unless you are totally willing to have an open mind. If you do find yourself in a political conversation, listen to the other people and when you speak, speak with regard to other people’s feelings. Accept that they may have different beliefs than you, and don’t disregard their opinions. Finally, help out the community and the world in ways that promote your beliefs. Volunteer at places you support, go to marches and follow your own beliefs – don’t let other people change them!



Second Semester 2016-2017 School Year


By India Altschul ’20

The second semester started on Jan. 23. Seventh, eighth and ninth grade students as well as the deans have shared their thoughts about the second half of the year and everything that comes with it.

Andrea Yagher ’20, a new student, explained her first semester experience.

“I felt I had a really great introduction to the school. I like all my teachers a lot. They really helped me integrate into the community,” Yagher said.

According to Yagher and other new ninth graders, the first semester was a good introduction to both a new school and a challenging new school year. Because of the first semester, Yagher said she now feels prepared for the second semester.

Middle school dean Karen Fukushima has also said she feels that the first semester is a good introduction to the more challenging second semester.

“When you start in ninth grade, you are really an eighth grader in terms of what you’ve learned. By the time it’s second semester of ninth grade, you’re almost a tenth grader, and your teachers are trying to prepare you for what that rigor is going to be like,” Fukushima said.

According to Fukushima, the start of second semester at the Middle School is most important for ninth graders because it is the time at which teachers begin preparing students for similar experiences at the Upper School. Fukushima said this typically starts at the beginning of the second semester.

Although they have had a semester to adjust to campus life, seventh graders are still very new to the middle school campus. Emma Valle ’22 said that she is still adjusting to campus life and the cumulative grading. To Valle and others, the seventh grade school year, especially the first semester, is a time of adjustment. With cumulative grades, said she believes that one can enter the second semester with much less stress.

“I like that grades are cumulative…I think grades that restart are stressful because it’s like you’re starting the whole school year over again. If you get a bad grade on your first few tests in second semester, then there’s not that much to average it out of, so it could hurt your overall second semester grade,” Valle said.

India Spencer ’21 said she believes that the second semester is off to a great start, particularly with positive schedule changes.

“I was affected in a good way by schedule changes because my dance class is starting, and I’m starting art. So there’s a lot of new, fun things I get to do in second semester,” Spencer said.