September 26, 2016

Sequoia PTSA's weekly eNewsletter in partnership with the Sequoia High School Education Foundation
Principal's Message
I played a game not long ago as part of a fellowship I'm participating in at Stanford.  The game required us to stand in place within arm's reach of three or more colleagues.  We were imagining a cat and a mouse were jumping from one person's head to the next.  Each "jump" was signaled by tapping an adjacent person's shoulder and saying "Cat! Cat! Cat!" or "Mouse! Mouse! Mouse!"  This was the only verbal communication allowed.  The "cat" chased the "mouse," the "mouse" fled.  It was lively and chaotic.  Then we closed our eyes.

Instantly: fewer smiles, less laughter -- the mood was determined and serious.  It was instructive to witness how much really goes into the act of "listening" and how slight changes in the "game" lead to great shifts in tone and mood.  The activity was a standard warm-up for actors in improvisational theater, but the lessons for educational leadership were instructive in understanding group dynamics, power structures, communication, and trust.

Special Education teacher Rebeca Goodwin and Speech Pathologist Mary Phoenix co-teach a class called Social Academic Communication at Sequoia.  Students identified as being on the autism spectrum qualify for the class as part of their individualized education plans.  Ms. Goodwin and Ms. Phoenix use strategic activities similar to the one described above to address developmental deficits typical of people with autism.

I mprovisational technique, according to Ms. Phoenix, "requires students to initiate conversations with a variety of people, to think flexibly, to stay in the moment, and to see situations from different perspectives."  The emphasis on relationships between characters in a "scene" means participants must behave in an affirming way ("yes, and..." as a response to contributions from partners, celebrating mistakes, not dominating/blocking a scene, not having to be funny).

Improv activities have, of course, worked their way into many segments of our culture.  Much popular entertainment relies heavily on improv.  There are strong connections between improv and the design thinking paradigm dominant in startup culture.  The Stanford Graduate School of Business offers improv courses.  It's everywhere.

Ms. Goodwin and Ms. Phoenix are on the cutting edge with these strategies, however, when it comes to students with autism.  They have been using improv exercises routinely over the past two years at Sequoia.  "Our observation is that improv fosters all of the skills included in the ILAUGH model developed by Michelle Garcia Winner at the Social Thinking® Clinic in San Jose, CA," comments Phoenix, and "improv also addresses the prerequisite developmental milestones of Theory of Mind; Joint Attention; and Flexible Thinking."  Ultimately, she observes, "Improv requires students to pay attention and work as a team with other people."  

"A Sequoia education develops responsibility, communication skills, self-esteem and self-direction..." reads our mission statement .  I am proud to work with teachers who take these words to heart to ensure all students, especially those with special needs, are supported with innovative approaches.

Have a great week!

Photo Re-takes on Thursday
Students who wish to have their school photos re-taken should report to Gym 3 during brunch or lunch this Thursday, September 29.  If the process takes longer than that allotted time, students will be provided with passes to class.  

Key Club: Serving Others
From last spring's PTSA Mini-Grant Program, Sequoia's Key Club used their award money for Polaroid film and ink for a photo printer.  These materials will help the club document their events and provide the people they serve with a take-away from the event.

Key Club is an international service organization that looks to promote the health and well-being of children across the world.  Sequoia's Key Club is sponsored by the Woodside Terrace AM Kiwanis Club here in Redwood City.

The ornament pictured here is from Sequoia Key Club's annual Children's Holiday Party at the San Mateo County Jail.  During this event, Key Clubbers work with kids to create ornaments from pictures with Santa to brighten up their lives during holiday time.  They partner with the Service League to host Santa and give away presents.  In addition, throughout the year they work at community events like the STEM Festival and Oktoberrun to help local organizations with their fundraisers.

PTSA Mini-Grants are supported by funding from the SHSEF

Stampede Rounds Up Runners
The accent was on fun this past Saturday morning as hundreds of runners and dozens of volunteers showed up bright and early to participate in Sequoia's 6th Stampede 5K Run.  The three-mile race through the neighborhood surrounding the school was followed by a "Tot-trot," where kids aged five and under ran twice around the school track.  

The Stampede's goals are to nurture Sequoia's relationship with the community, involve all of the athletes in a common project, and raise funds to support all athletic teams at Sequoia.  The Boosters would like to thank all of the runners, volunteers, and staff who participated this year to make it a great day!

Runners start the Stampede 5k (above) and Tot Trot (below)

Model UN Offers Global Glimpse
Sequoia now has a student-run Model United Nations Club! In Model UN, students research the positions of a country and then represent that country's interests in a mock session, complete with the same formal rules of engagement used by the real United Nations. 

Model UN helps students learn to think on their feet as they engage in extemporaneous public speaking. Students will also gain a greater understanding of world events as they try to deal with global issues while considering the viewpoints of multiple countries. If a student wants to improve their public speaking, become a more informed citizen of the world, or simply be able to confidently and diplomatically debate with family members at the dinner table, Model UN might be a perfect outlet. The club meets Tuesdays at lunch in room 252.

Mini-Grant Applications Now Open
The PTSA Fall Mini-Grant application is now open!  Grants of $50 to $400 are available through funding from the Sequoia High School Education Foundation (SHSEF).  Grants can be used for club or classroom programs, projects, supplies, etc. 

Students, teachers, and staff are encouraged t o apply for a Mini-Grant .   The application deadline is Friday, October 7, 2016, at 8:00 PM.
Parents, would you like to help support some of the innovative programs and projects happening at Sequoia?  Do you have a few hours in mid-October and again in early spring?  V olunteers are needed for the PTSA Mini-Grants committee.  Please join us!   Contact our Mini-Grants committee chair Marlena Griffin at if you are interested.

Thank you to the SHSEF for making the PTSA Mini-Grants Program possible!

nullThank you to Elizabeth Gomez for being our PTSA's Family Support Chair this year!  In this role, Elizabeth serves as a liaison with Mayela Ramirez at Sequoia's Parent Center to provide help for families in need -- from everyday items to our holiday giving events.  Elizabeth is also on the SHSEF Board as the SHSEF/Parent Center liaison.

Thank you also to those who responded to our email blast last week to donate household goods for some new Sequoia families! These types of items can always be used; contact  Mayela Ramirez at  or Elizabeth
at if you would like to donate goods to the Parent Center.

In This Issue
Monday, Sept. 26
Collab Day

Wednesday, Sept. 28
6 PM - 11th Grade College and IB Info Night, Carrington Hall

Thursday, Sept. 29
Photo re-takes

Monday, Oct. 3
Collab Day

Tuesday, Oct. 4
7 PM - PTSA Meeting, MPR

Wednesday, Oct. 5
6 PM - 10th Grade College and IB Info Night, Carrington Hall

Friday, Oct. 7

8 PM - Deadline for PTSA Mini-Grants Applications

Tuesday, Oct. 11
Freshman College Day

Friday, Oct. 14
Freshman Parent Welcome at the SHS football game

Tuesday, Oct. 18
7 PM - Band and Orchestra Concert, Carrington Hall

Wednesday, Oct. 19
PSAT, 10th and 11th grades

Saturday, Oct. 22
12-4 PM - Sequoia International Festival

Wednesday, Oct. 26
6 PM - 9th Grade College and IB Info Night, Carrington Hall

Thursday, Oct. 27
6:30-8 PM - 8th grade info night
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Community News

Amigos de las Americas
Amigos de las Americas will hold informational meetings for interested students and parents on the dates listed below. Come learn about the exciting opportunity for high school students to train with the AMIGOS Peninsula Chapter and then spend next summer leading youth in community service projects throughout Latin America. 
  • Sunday October 2:  Gunn High School, Palo Alto 4:00 PM
  • Thursday October 6:  Boys and Girls Club, Redwood City 7:30 PM