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Teaching Swift at Beekman

Authored by The Beekman School Technology Teacher

Last year we at Beekman added an introductory course in coding to our computer offerings. Since we are an iPad-based school, I settled on using the Swift programming language developed by Apple. Swift immediately got the attention of a lot of people, including companies such as IBM – and, believe it or not, Google. Swift also is a good development platform for iPad apps.  With Swift, I could teach introductory coding one year, then app development the next year. As luck would have it, while looking at apps that teach programming, I discovered Apple was just introducing Swift Playgrounds. Swift Playgrounds is a series of guided, interactive tutorials that teach the fundamentals of coding utilizing a lot of animated graphics. I was intrigued by the way Playgrounds looked so I decided to dive in. I had my students download the app to their iPads and we spent the entire semester engrossed in learning Swift. How did it turn out? Well, a quote by one of my students pretty much sums up the...read more

Topics: Swift, iPad, coding, Apps

Testing for the Speed of Light with Your Microwave!

Authored by Linli Chin, Math and Science Teacher

"Don’t try this at home!" This is the usual lament heard on TV or internet programs to warn against imitating a dangerous activity that you just saw. However, for my blog post today, I will be writing about something you should try at home! A fun, engaging experiment that enables you to determine the speed of light as Galileo Galilei, Hippolyte Fizeau, and Albert Michelson all did. As a high school math and science teacher, it’s always fun to take the science out of the classroom and into the home have a science and math activity that can involve the whole family during Thanksgiving break, winter break or summer vacation! To perform this experiment, you will need your microwave, a bunch of marshmallows laid out flat on a microwave-safe surface, and a toothpick to poke the marshmallows with. Since microwaves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, it travels through space at the speed of light (c) which is approximately 3x10^8 m/s or about 670,616,629 mph. They lie just after radio...read more

Topics: Linli Chin, speed of light, physics, waves, activity

Teaching Students "Loneliness"

Authored by James Vescovi, English teacher

At The Beekman School, English teachers are given the freedom to personalize the curriculum by reading literature that’s not on most high school syllabi. While we don’t neglect the classics, we do spend the first week sizing up a class to determine what texts students might find especially engaging. One novella that has never failed me is Englishman Alan Sillitoe’s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1959). Protagonist Colin Smith has become a teenage petty criminal since the death of his working-class father. Not only has his company awarded the Smiths a pittance as a death benefit, but Colin’s mother is lavishing the money on her “fancy man,” whom she’s seeing before her husband’s demise. Colin feels rage, but has no productive way to channel it. After getting caught burgling a bakery, he is sent to a “borstal,” the British equivalent of a juvenile home. The school’s governor (akin to headmaster) discovers that his new arrival has a phenomenal gift for long-distance running...read more

Topics: James Vescovi, English, novella, teaching

Some Tips for High School History Students

Authored by Ian Rusten, History Teacher

As a high school history teacher, I am frequently asked if I have any tips for high school history students.  Yes! Be an intentional, critical and analytical reader. Look deep into topics.  Read from multiple sources.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions, to wonder, to change your mind. Research can be a daunting task--especially on complex topics. But now, more then ever, we have to learn how to become critical consumers of information. It may seem that all you have to do when you want to learn about a topic is to open the relevant Wikipedia page and spend a few minutes reading. Voila! An expert on the topic has been born. Not so fast! While there is absolutely nothing wrong with using Wikipedia as the first stop on the research path, it is important to dig deeper, much deeper, on the topic.  An intentional, critical, analytical reader looks at the Reference section of the article (even a Wikipedia article).  He or she asks questions like: Where did the author find their information? Is...read more

Topics: Ian Rusten, history, research

When Should the High School Application Process Begin?

Authored by George Higgins, Headmaster

The application process for an education program, whether it's high school, college, or a pre-K program, can be stressful.  The best strategy is always to plan in advance, develop an outline, and take it one step at a time. Although each school will have its own specific procedure, the private high school application process is generally the same at most schools.  It's best to begin this understaking early in the fall of the year before you want to enroll in your new school. Start by identifying the qualities of the school that you want to attend.  Then, ask administrators in your current school for a list of names that most closely match the characteristics that you have created.  Next, take a look at each of the school's websites.  Do you like what you see?  Are you finding the information that you want? Hopefully, you have the names of several schools that could be possibilities for next year.  With that list, contact each school and arrange a visit.  Some schools will have open...read more

Topics: George Higgins, high school, admissions

Talking TOEFL

Authored by Touria Ghaffari

There are many tests to evaluate your ability in the English language. One such test is the TOEFL or the Test of English as a Foreign Language. It is the test most widely used during the admission process by schools, colleges, and universities in the United States to evaluate a non-native English speaker’s proficiency in English. There are two types of TOEFL currently being administered worldwide--the Paper Based Test (TOEFL PBT) and the Internet Based Test (iBT) that replaced the Computer Based Test (TOEFL CBT) in 2006. According to the official TOEFL website, 97 percent of TOEFL test takers worldwide take the TOEFL iBT. This is because it measures all four skills of reading, listening, speaking, and writing. The PBT TOEFL does not test speaking. All TOEFL scores remain valid for 2 years after the test date. To get a desired score, you must study strategies related to each skill. For example, to improve reading, you must know how to skim, scan, and find the meaning of words you do...read more

Topics: TOEFL, Touria Ghaffari, standardized testing

23 Questions to Ask When Choosing the Right Private High School – Free Guide

Authored by The Beekman School

High school years are some of the most pivotal years in one’s life. Children transition to becoming young adults and the surrounding environment, including the high school he or she attends, plays a major influence. But what happens when the student has a particular set of needs that don’t easily fit into a mold? Since its founding in 1925, The Beekman School, a coeducational college preparatory school located on Manhattan’s East Side, has been providing differentiated instruction based on each student's unique interests and needs through flexibility, focus on the individual, and compassionate educators. Beekman is offering families a free 23-question guide to help parents and students evaluate and choose the right private high school. Here are some of the most important questions to ask during your school evaluation process, and Beekman’s responses. What is your school’s educational philosophy and what are its values? During its existence, The Beekman School has remained true to its...read more

Topics: high school

Living in Spanish

Authored by Daniel Shabasson, Spanish Teacher

Learning Spanish, or any foreign language, is great for many reasons. It develops the language center of your brain, which helps you speak, read, and write better in your own language. It teaches grammar. Studies show learning a foreign language can protect against mental deterioration as we age.  Some say that learning the melodious sounds and rhythms of another language develop your ear for music.  The benefits are many. Learning a language is within anyone’s grasp, but it takes patience and determination. Beekman´s high school Spanish curriculum is designed to give students the knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, and culture that they need to become proficient in Spanish.  Nevertheless, those of us teaching Spanish in high school can encourage our students to practice in their daily lives by implementing the following strategies both inside and outside the classroom: Begin to speak the language as soon as possible. Don’t worry about making mistakes. You aren’t expected to speak it...read more

Topics: Daniel Shabasson, Spanish, teaching

Ethical Thinking

Authored by Michelle Koza, English Teacher

I have always wanted to teach ethics and philosophy in a high school English class, and this year I started my AP Literature class with Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics. I like to call this an “anchor-text,” as it provides a framework for understanding the literature we will be investigating throughout the course. But it is really much more powerful than this. We can use ethics to see the choices of literary characters in a more objective way, and not in a morass of relativism and emotional confusion. But also, as literature imitates life, so can our analysis support a more robust understanding of ourselves and our own choices. Students need a framework to think about their values and how these connect to their behavior; ethics gives them that vocabulary. Aristotle in particular shows them that action is important above all else. I teach ethics in my high school English class because it helps my students understand how a character’s actions shape who that character becomes. By proxy,...read more

Topics: Michelle Koza, AP Literature, ethics, empathy

Holy Mole-y, That Was Fun!

Authored by Vanilla Macias-Rodriguez, Science Teacher

What specific lessons do you remember from your school days?  I remember Mrs. Gallegos letting us watch Romeo and Juliet after reading the book in English class.  In Spanish, Sra. Huerta celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a Hispanic food pot luck.  The cat dissection in Anatomy and Physiology is a memory I won't soon forget.  I can still recall the first 20 digits of pi thanks to the competition held in math class on Pi Day.  However, while I remember the fundamentals Mrs. Gibson taught me in high school Chemistry because I use them every day, I can’t say there are any lessons from that class that particularly stand out.  The high school science curriculum is rigorous.  We are preparing students for college.  Unfortunately, there aren’t many chemistry holidays where high school science teachers can be creative, go a little crazy, and throw a party.  We chemists are a sad bunch.  As a Chemistry teacher in my 17th year of teaching, I know that many of my students will not go on to be...read more

Topics: Vanilla Macias-Rodriguez, Mole Day, Chemistry, science