Community supports disaster relief

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Students buy baked goods and treats for the fundraiser.

By Laura Kors ’21

Members of the middle school community purchased baked goods, pizza and popcorn provided by the Simon Says Girls Club, as well as Coolhaus ice cream bars and sandwiches supplied by Emma Limor ’21 in order to support Natural Disaster Relief Day. The event took place on Sept. 28 at the Middle School from break to ninth period. The proceeds were split between the Houston Food Bank, UNICEF and Red Cross to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and the earthquakes in Mexico.

The event was a collaboration between the members of Simon Says Girls Club and Limor who started an event to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey but later expanded it to include those affected by Hurricane Irma. After the earthquakes in Mexico, Simon Says Girls Club planned an event to help the schools destroyed, but due to the similar nature of the events both fundraisers were combined.

“I really didn’t care [that they combined our events], as long that we were doing something so that we could raise money to help the people. My motivation strictly comes from helping the people, particularly […] the students because so many schools have been devastated and I just feel like as a school we should be looking out for other schools,” Brenda Simon, Middle School Attendance and Health Coordinator and Simon Says Girls Club Faculty Advisor said.

The fundraiser raised $3,000.07 for disaster relief. Every item was sold out, and there were also many donations.

“I wanted to create a pathway for the school to be able to directly help those in need as well as bring conversation on natural disasters as a whole, because natural disasters can occur at any moment, any time, and we as a community need to be prepared,” Limor said.

Students said they enjoyed the event as well.

“I think it’s a really good cause, and I’m happy so many people are coming out to support it,” Samantha McLoughlin ’21 said during the event.


Contest winners announced

By Tanisha Gunby ’21 and Laura Kors ’21

Spanish II  students competed for a pizza party during their third unit assessment.

At the end of each unit, students create a presentation to practice interpretation, conversation and presentational skills in Spanish. In the “La vida cotidiana,” (Daily life) unit, students learned words that relate to houses and neighborhoods. Their assignment was to film a video of people buying and selling a house.

Spanish II teacher and World Languages department head Edgar Jurado said that the goal of this project was to motivate students to push themselves, be rewarded for their hard work and create a fun experience while practicing their Spanish. The Spanish II teachers said that they enjoyed the results and hope to do the project again in the future.

“I was very proud of the work they turned in because the movies, I think, were a cut above the norm… they really did put in a lot of extra effort and it was obvious. So I was really grateful for that… I was really proud of them,” Jurado said.

The Spanish II teachers took input from their students to choose some of their classes’ best videos. Then the Spanish II students voted for a video from this smaller selection of videos created by all classes. They voted for the video with the best content, best moviemaking technique and the one that they enjoyed watching the most. One video was chosen in each category and won a pizza party for their class. The winning classes were Jeannette Rodriguez’s seventh and eighth period classes and Spanish II teacher Anamaria Ayala’s eighth period class.

Students said that they enjoyed sharing their work with classmates and seeing what their peers created.

“Winning the Spanish video [contest] is a great honor because we put a lot of work into that project, and it was nice to see our work pay off and be recognized by our peers,” Landon Poon ’20 said.

Getz lectures eighth grade students

By Ethan Lachman ’21
Getz speaks to students in Saperstein Theatre. Credit: Ethan Lachman ’21/SPECTRUM

Internet expert Lori Getz spoke to seventh and eighth grade students about internet safety and technology use during class meetings over the past month. Getz earned her master’s Degree in Educational Technology from San Diego State University and has educated students across the country since 2008.

Students learn basic internet safety skills in the seventh grade Library and Technology course, but Getz said that her goal is to teach new information. On her website,, Getz said that she wants students to understand where and when to use technology, and how much time to spend utilizing it.

Getz explained to students how they should balance technology in their lives.

“To decide when and where to use technology, [students] have to focus on physical and emotional health, manners and time management, and less on ‘How much time should I spend on a device?’” Getz said in an email.

However, Getz does not disapprove of technology, and in fact welcomes its influence on daily life.

“Technology is an amazing resource that should make our lives better, easier, and more efficient, giving us time to be more human and connect with…family, friends and community,” Getz said.

Although the class meetings with Getz lasted for one hour and extended into their activities period, students spoke about the benefits of the lectures.

“Although [the lecture] went into break, everyone really liked it and she also gave us a lot of good information,” Jacky Zhang ’21 said.

Getz is scheduled to speak to ninth graders in their class meetings at the end of March.

Teachers shadow students


By Sydney Hogan ’20
Ninth grade dean Karen Fukushima shadows Keila McCabe ’20. Credit: Sydney Hogan ’20/SPECTRUM

Teachers have been visiting classes as part of the Teacher Shadow Day program.

Teacher Shadow Day allows for teachers to experience their students’ school lives. It was optional for students, and they signed up through a survey sent out by Head of Middle School Jon Wimbish, who created the program. About 60 students and 15 teachers signed up for the program, which will continue periodically through the middle of March.

Wimbish said that his inspiration to start the program came after he read about National Shadow Day, an event held last year where principals shadowed their students.

“I had read about it and seen it and thought, ‘Well, it’s not only good for administrators, it’s good for all teachers,’” Wimbish said.

Teachers can shadow students the whole day, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., or 5:30 p.m. if they have after-school activities. They also have the option of riding the bus together both in the morning and afternoon.

“[The program] will be varied enough that we will get lots of different experiences,” Wimbish said.

Other teachers volunteered to substitute classes of those participants.

Teachers have reacted very positively to these shadow days.

“My favorite part about Shadow Day was how much learning I got to experience,” ninth grade dean Karen Fukushima said.

‘Screenagers’ film presented

By Samantha Morris ’21
Students, teachers and parents pay close attention to the film. Credit: Samantha Morris ’21/SPECTRUM


The documentary “Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age” was shown and discussed in an event on Jan. 25 in the Saperstein Theatre. Created by filmmaker Delaney Ruston, the movie examines the effects of technology use on children and teenagers, while discussing the responsibilities of families in adjusting to the digital age. The decision to show “Screenagers” was based on input from parents, who attended an event with Head of Middle School Jon Wimbish last year. Having heard about the documentary through these parents, Wimbish saw a showing of the movie at New Roads School, and then decided to schedule a screening of the film for our community.

“I wanted to provide conversation starters for parents and children,” Wimbish said.

The award-winning film features experts such as neuroscientists, authors and psychologists. According to many students, the documentary made them aware of surprising issues concerning technology overuse.

“I learned that you can get addicted to technology,” Marcelo Blander ’20 said.

Both adults and students were invited to the screening, which occurred from 7 to 9 p.m. The event was sold-out, and it is estimated that about 350 people attended.

“I went to the event with my mom, and the experience really opened my eyes to the problems surrounding technology overuse,” Sydney Gartner ’21 said.

The event was connected to the message of guest speaker Dr. Lori Getz, who has been speaking to middle school students at class meetings. Since its release, “Screenagers” has been shown across the country at more than 2000 school and community events.

“The movie helped me understand how to better manage my screen time. I found the experience worthwhile and informative,” Simran Yogakumar ’21 said.

At the end of the screening, power difficulties, which were apparent earlier during the school day, reappeared. Although this prevented the last 10 minutes of the documentary from being shown, the majority of the screening was unaffected. After the power outage, a panel composed of faculty members fielded technology-related questions from the audience. In addition to Wimbish, this panel included middle school teachers Julia Grody and Ian Ulmer and Upper School Psychologist Kavita Ajmere.

Co-ed Panel discussion held

By Skylar Graham ’20
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Female students answer questions for the inquisitive parents of female applicants. Credit: Caitlin Chung ’20/SPECTRUM

The Admission Office hosted a coed admission panel on Jan. 19 to discuss the benefits of coeducation in the school’s community and why teaching boys and girls together creates a more successful environment. The event was led by the Associate Director of Admission Janine Jones.

“I think that it is important that boys and girls learn together. I think that it mirrors the real world very well and gives boys and girls an opportunity to lead with each other,” Jones said.

The guests were from applicant families of female students. The discussion was focused on how girls felt about a coed learning atmosphere. They listened to three current female students’ experiences at the school; Caitlin Chung ‘20, Skyler Calkins ‘20 and Haley Hicks ‘17, who shared their opinions on the counterparts of single-sex and coeducation. The guests asked questions throughout the panel about what they looked for in a coed environment, as well as their experience in a single-sex school. The purpose of the panel was to examine the important distinction in choosing between the two types of education.

According to Jones, this event opened the families’ eyes to the possibility of more leadership opportunities for girls and boys, in hope that they grow and learn together. The panelists agreed that they received honest responses from the families, specifically on how a coed environment affects girls self-confidence and focus.

”We talked about how coeducation [benefits a student’s] middle school and high school development. I talked about how I learn with boys in my classes and how their opinions can be different from girls,” Hicks said in an email.

According to members of the Admission Office, the motivation behind the panel was not to pressure the applicants into changing their opinions about choosing a single-sex school, but that coed education is great too.

The panelists said that the event was an informative exchange of views with the families of female applicants.

“I really enjoyed it because it was a fun and interesting way to share my honest opinions as a student with a very active audience. I think it is important to discuss coed and single sex education at Harvard-Westlake with prospective families because it is a big part of the community,” Calkins said.

School hosts tournament over MLK Weekend

By Athalia Meron’21
MSPDP Debaters.jpg
Seventh grade debaters sit after a round. Printed with permission of Mike Bietz.

The debate team held a tournament from Jan. 12-16 at the Upper School, with over 350 participants from 74 schools in 13 states. Middle and upper School debaters competed in and helped run the tournament. This is the second year that the school hosted this tournament.

The first two days were the debateLA Round Robin, which was held at the Burbank Airport Marriott. The next two days, held at the Upper School, was a Lincoln Douglas-style tournament. On the last day, which was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, there was a Parliamentary style tournament, also at the Upper School.

The tournament ended in a public debate on a Civil Rights issue. Its goal was to demonstrate what debate can teach regarding political involvement. The final debate was held in world schools format, and featured Team USA, who compete at the World Championships. Since the tournament was during MLK weekend, the team wanted to honor the legacy of Dr. King, which they did by holding the public Civil Rights debate.

“There aren’t many tournaments dedicated to doing things the way we think they should be done,” debate program head Mike Bietz said.

For example, tournament judges are usually predominantly white males. However, the school hired judges who were all women or people of color.

Debaters of all skill levels and grades participated at the tournament.

“[The tournament] strengthens our team because everyone is involved and doing something collectively,” Bietz said.

Students volunteered to help run the tournament and spoke of their experience.

“I volunteered because I think debate is an important and fun activity, and I wanted to support the program. I had lots of fun doing it with my friends,” Samantha McLoughlin ’21 said.

Zhang speaks to FBLA

By Alex Daum ’20
Zhang lectures the FBLA club during a meeting. Credit: Alex Daum’20/SPECTRUM

Entrepreneur Mike Zhang spoke to students in the Future Business Leaders of America Club at break on Jan. 27.  Zhang, who founded the company Airsoft Megastore when he was 14, shared with students how to start their own business careers and run a successful company.  Tammer Bagdasarian ’20, leader of the FBLA club, said that he wants students to learn from Zhang’s experience and start businesses early.

“I hope they learned that it’s possible to start a business, or to start getting into the entrepreneurial mindset at a young age, while still in high school, and learn some of the basic skills that are necessary in running a business and starting a business,” Bagdasarian sad.

Zhang explained to students how one must first know the market of the product he or she is selling and the right time to release it.  Zhang discussed the evolution of Airsoft Megastore, from reselling airsoft gun products through Amazon and eBay to being the CEO of a company with $20 million in revenue.

Students learned some of the many values that Zhang said it takes to become an entrepreneur, such as perseverance and strategic thinking.  Zhang told students about his own business experiences, the problems he had to overcome and other times when ideas came to him.

Zhang also showed students that their interests can help them in their business careers. He used the idea of adding model airsoft guns from all his favorite games like “Call of Duty.” to the Airsoft Megastore website. Andrew Sington ’20, a member of the FBLA club, described  how they were taught how to  start off their careers.

“[Zhang] talked about starting a business, getting it on it’s feet and how he sold it for a lot of money.  I learned mostly about starting a business and the concept of how a business works.  He had a very successful business, so I will definitely follow what he taught me,” Sington said.

The FBLA club will have Russell Korobkin, Professor of Business at UCLA, speak to their members on Mar. 3.

New clubs form for second semester

By Zoe Redlich ’20

The start of second semester has brought not only new courses, but also a diverse range of new clubs. These clubs include the Magic Club, the Pen Pal Club and the Current Affairs Club.

Carli Cooperstein ’20 founded the Pen Pal Club, which meets every Tuesday in HC 222. This club is centered around writing emails to students in other countries across the world.

“My club is the Global Pen Pal Club and during the club, we reach out to students all around the world to create a safe and inviting environment for them to share their thoughts and opinions,” Cooperstein said.

Clay Skaggs ’20 founded the Magic Club. Skaggs said the club is meant to be a place where students learn how to perform different magic tricks. They meet in HC 220 on Wednesdays.

“My club is the Magic Club, also known as the Magic Circle. We learn magic tricks and watch magic tricks,” Skaggs said.

Amelie Zilber ’20 founded the Current Affairs Club. This club meets every Wednesday in Wang 104 in order to discuss current affairs, both on the international and national level, from different points of view.

“We discuss current affairs and each side, the Liberal and the Conservative, state their opinions. We have lively debates and try to become familiar with the other side’s point of view, so we just become more informed overall,” Zilber said.

Robotics teams travel to compete

By Noah Aire’20


On Jan. 13, the middle school robotics team participated in a tournament in Bakersfield. After the eight hour tournament, team “A Vex Odyssey” placed 33rd, team “TNTech” placed 29th and team “IronGiants” placed 8th overall. The other two wolverine teams were able to qualify for the upcoming VEX tournament on Feb. 11. Each team has said that they are looking forward to the next tournament. Coco Kaleel ‘20 said that this tournament was a learning process and an improvement from the last one.

“I think we did well, we definitely improved from last tournament. We were able to make it past the qualification rounds and into the finals, which was a lot of fun. We definitely learned a lot,” Kaleel said.

Jenna Kronenberg ’20, a member from the “IronGiants”, shared some thoughts on the whole process.

“I think that we can definitely do better once we do well enough in the beginning rounds, continue our stride and improve our robot,” Kronenberg said. “We have a good group of people who come every week.”

Robotics teacher and STEAM Room Coordinator Juan Colin was confident in the team’s building ability and is looking forward to future tournaments. For some, the tournament was a first glimpse into the robotics world. Member of the “TNTech” Tyler Kim ‘20 said that that he enjoyed his first tournament.

“[The turnout] was not what we would have hoped, but it was fun as it was my first tournament and I think that we did really well. A lot of the … teams were able to collaborate when we were faced with an issue. This was not only a building process for me, but a teaching process as well,” Kim said.

The robotics team has dedicated numerous hours to their craft. Their improvement was evident in their placings for the VEX tournament in Simi Valley. The highest placing team was “TNTech”s which placed 15th. The school were unable to advance to the quarter-finals, but will still attend the VEX tournament in Northridge on Feb. 17.