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Middle School CCLS Newsletter: Gratitude

By Phoenix, Antariksha, Max, and Makayla

A simple “Thank you” can mean much more to someone than we actually think. In CCLS this year, we learned many valuable lessons, including how to clearly express our emotions, be clearer with our words, and connect with other people.

One big takeaway was one lesson on gratitude, for being grateful leads to your understanding of how to be a better version of yourself. One point that really stuck with us was that a “thank you” couldn’t be forced. It has to be genuine because the person receiving the “thank you” would be able to tell our emotions. Properly expressed real gratitude could really make someone’s day.

middle school kids

Other people aren’t the only ones we can express gratitude to. We can express thankfulness to ourselves, nature, and opportunities for anything that we think is deserving. Before this class, we might have thought that thanking an object was a bizarre practice. Who does that, right?

But the truth is that when we go out of our way to recognize somebody, it makes us feel good about ourselves. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an object or a person. Just that we can appreciate someone else without expecting anything in return except for the feeling of fulfillment we get.

Being grateful is a human thing, here is what some 7th graders are grateful for:

Makayla, for the new shoes she got for Christmas; Max, for his parents allowing him to build a PC; Phoenix, for being able to win level 44 of a game; and Antariksha, for the opportunities in America she has in her life.

Consider being grateful for any of these things: pets, family, education, travel, fun, sunny day, technology, laughs!


If you have any questions or comments about this newsletter please contact Josephine Ruffin, jruffin@maharishischool.org

To learn more about our academics or to contact a member of our admissions staff, click here.

Find out about our school events and student life, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

From the Desk of the CCLS Middle School Teacher

Written by Josephine Ruffin

It was a great joy to be offered the opportunity to teach the CCLS class in Maharishi Middle School this year. You might ask: “What is CCLS?”

The Consciousness, Connections, and Life Skills course (CCLS) has grown out of the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI). All around us in Nature and in human life, we see patterns of orderliness or intelligence. Every field of knowledge studies some aspect of orderliness in Nature. Maharishi’s Science of Creative Intelligence is unique because it studies intelligence itself. Like any science, it has a practical aspect and a theoretical aspect.

First, students learn and practice the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Then they study other sciences and arts appropriate for their level of development and connect them to their experience of pure awareness.

For example, in CCLS class they studied the art of giving and receiving an apology. This raises their awareness of the importance of letting an individual know when you recognize you have done something wrong, and that you are genuinely sorry. This clears the path for moving forward, healing, and improving relationships. It shows how our words and actions can nourish the fine feeling level. This demonstrates the Life Principle: Purification leads to progress.

They also studied the life science of AyurVeda (Ayur means life, Veda means knowledge). This included selecting the appropriate diet and exercise regimen for themselves, sleep, meditation, and how to detect imbalances in their body by taking their own pulse.

We also created a colorful quilt to focus their attention on the positive aspects of 2020 when Covid-19 had such an impact on their lives. They related their experience to a principle of Creative Intelligence and illustrated it on a cloth square. These were then integrated into a quilt.

They learned the anatomy of an effective email—the receiver, subject, salutation, body, and closing—and how to connect with the consciousness of the recipient to uplift them and inspire them through communicating at a profound level.

This quarter we are working on connecting with cities and countries, to reinforce the principle: “The world is my family.” Our students have connected to those in Maharishi schools in Canada and Australia. They discovered how similar our experiences really are.

I hope you enjoy this newsletter that the students have created. Special thanks to the editors: Antariksha, Dharma, and Faeven.

Maharishi said to the press: “Watch, and report what you see.

josephine teacher maharishi school

If you have any questions or comments about this newsletter please contact Josephine Ruffin, jruffin@maharishischool.org

To learn more about our academics or to contact a member of our admissions staff, click here.

Find out about our school events and student life, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Meet Our New Teachers: Avani Bhakta

Interviewing Avani

After my graduation from the University of South Dakota, I started out my career working with adolescents as a counselor, helping them to rebuildavani teaching math self-confidence, develop character traits, and learn basic life skills through various activities. I also volunteered at an NGO in India that runs before and after-school programs in the slums. I went on to become an entrepreneur (the last 10 years of my career before teaching). I most recently served as a VP of Financial Management and Business Growth for an emerging company that I also co-owned.

Teaching Middle School Math

The pandemic provided an opportunity for me to explore new horizons and to fulfill a purpose. Teaching Mathematics to middle schoolers seemed like a perfect fit for me as I enjoy working with both numbers and kids. I am grateful to be at Maharishi School during this challenging time.

Recently, we finished a project on Entrepreneurship with 7th and 8th graders, where students brainstormed business ideas that solved common problems. Later, students developed these ideas into business plans and presented them in “shark tank” style pitches and presentations.

Here are some business ideas that students developed during this project:

  • “Text Touch” a smart whiteboard that is a tailored learning platform, designed to also monitor learning in real-time.
  • “Earth Beauty” a skincare/makeup brand that is eco-friendly, vegan, and cruelty-free.
  • “Smellaz” a non-profit company that aims to create jobs by creating eco-friendly, custom-made stuffed animals for kids, especially with sensitive skins.
  • “Sheen and Clean” a shoe cleaning machine to keep the floors clean in schools, offices, and homes.
  • “Cloud” an innovative accessory to help move large furniture single-handedly.
  • “Workivate” and “Remind Me” are apps that would be developed to help motivate and remind them to do the required tasks.

middle school teacherCurrently, I am working with the 6th graders on a kite-making project, where we plan to explore different kitemiddle school teacher designs, materials, and also kite-flying festivals/cultures around the world. At the end of it, we plan on having a kite show with our hand-made kites.

middle school teacher

My teaching experience so far has been a huge learning experience. I am learning and evolving as a teacher each day. Maharishi School is fun and resourceful, for both the teachers and the students. Finding the right balance between fun and learning is the key for me. Teaching requires one to be flexible and adaptable, and even more now with the current challenges. It is a new era, with the pandemic and the hybrid model. I like to be challenged and so there couldn’t have been a better year for me to start teaching. Overall, I am relishing my time here at Maharishi School, while also sharpening the saw.


To learn more about our academics or to contact a member of our admissions staff, click here.

Find out about our school events and student life, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Maharishi School Teachers Then and Now

Blast from the past

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we thought it might be fun to highlight our teachers who have been with us since the beginning. Here are some of our current teachers, then and now!

To me, teachers are the heart of a school. Just as the heart takes in blood, oxygenates it and sends it out to sustain and build our bodies, teachers take in students, inform and inspire them, and send them out to sustain and build our society.
Their attention, energy, commitment, and intelligence is at the core of education, and they deserve our deepest appreciation this week–and always.
-Cohead of School Dr. Richard Beall

Dr. Richard Beall

       cohead richard beall


Lynn Shirai

      maharishi school teacher lynn

Anne Balf

   maharishi school teacher anne

Charlotte Zmachinsky

      teacher charlotte

Katherine Walmsley

     elementary teacher katherine

Jason Walls

teacher and alumni jason

Camille Morehead & Sheila Higgins

maharishi school alumni

science teacher                   art teacher camille

Lawrence Eyre

      maharishi school teacher lawrence

Laurie Eyre

      maharishi school teacher laurie

Diane James

diane james teacher


To learn more about our academics or to contact a member of our admissions staff, click here.

To learn more about school events and student life, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Pioneer Tennis Announcements

coach lawrence eyre

Coach Lawrence Eyre

Meet the tennis coaches

This year we have two very reputable coaches teaching the Maharishi School Pioneer tennis teams. On the Pioneer girls’ team, we have Coach Lawrence Eyre, who is both a school teacher and tennis pro and has received the Gold Star Award (making him one of only 100 people to receive such an honor). The award is part of the USTA’s 100th anniversary and goes to those individuals who have grown the game of tennis in their communities.

Lawrence has contributed to the tennis community in many influential ways. Whether it’s through officiating, coaching juniors or college-level players, volunteering at adult tournaments, providing tennis in schools, and even starting the first Community Tennis Association in Fairfield years ago.

coach steve briggs

Coach Steve Briggs

For the Pioneer boys’ team, we are very lucky to have Steve Briggs who has coached the boys from the 2013 season on. During his six years of coaching the Pioneer boys’ team won the triple crown and had a total of five 2nd place finishes at the state level competition. Steve was a former head coach at the Vic Braden Tennis College in Germany and a Head Tennis Pro at several country clubs including Denver, Colorado, and Moline Illinois. He has also trained two Top 50 ATP tour players as well as numerous sectional ranked junior players. Before he came to coach at Maharishi School Steve was a 3-year varsity member of the team at the University of Arizona.

Match reports

Both of our coaches have been asked to write a report about the match from their point of view. We will be hearing from them after home games and this blog will be updated accordingly. You can also find more photos and scores from our Pioneer Tennis team at the Maharishi School instagram and facebook pages.

Steve Briggs’ Summary


pioneer boys tennis teamThe Pioneers opened the season with a gut churning victory over Mt Pleasant at the Punj Center yesterday.
But first a story from 2018, the last time the Pioneers took the court as a team.
April, 2018, Burlington

Fifteen minutes into Devan Burke’s rookie match as a Pioneer, the former Swedish boarding student complained, “Coach, I have no idea what I’m doing out here.” Devan came from behind to win that maiden match before going on to become one of the winningest players in Pioneer history (2 time district champ, state runner-up in doubles).

The Pioneers are two weeks into the 2021 season and I’ve already told Devan’s story twice. Why? Because every guy on our team is in the same
 boat Devan was in at Burlington’s Dankwardt Park three years ago.
March 30, 2021, Punj Center, Fairfield
Playing in typically blustery March conditions, the Pioneers took the court for the first time since Devan played in the state championship match in 2018.  Our opponent, Mt Pleasant, is a school that has produced a number of quality players over the years.
Every team develops a unique personality characterized by leaders and supporting players, but the identity of our fledgling squad is a work in progress. Just 24 hours before the Mt. Pleasant match, two of our players requested that they play lower on the lineup than their ability suggested, and a third boy wasn’t sure he belonged in the lineup at all. I told the boys, “this isn’t a democracy but I’m okay with adjusting the lineup.” Rather than assume the team lacked confidence, I decided that humility would become part of our team’s core identity.
Sports has arguably generated more cliched phrases than any other walk of American life. Coaches rely on the same trite phrases year after year. One of my favorites is: “Nobody remembers how you start, they only remember how you finish.”
That axiom proved to be the reason James Nyugen earned “Player of the Match”  honors along with his doubles partner, Budhil ThijmJames started poorly in his match and could have thrown in the towel (see how easy the cliches flow) but when he was reminded that the team needed his point, he launched a come from behind victory that proved pivotal to the outcome of the match.
Playing one court over, Pioneer #2 Budhil Thijm got off to the best start of the day, dominating his mammoth opponent, Jack Schimmelpfenig (shining penny) 6-0, 7-5. Big Jack stands 6’4” and weighs nearly as much as James and Budhil combined. Jack, a 2 way mainstay on the Mt Pleasant football team, has great touch for a big guy, but Budhil played with impressive focus as he moved Jack around the court.
At #1 singles, Romil Patel overcame a poor 2nd set to win in 3 sets, and Dominic Dupoux played with a lot of poise for a first timer in his win at #5.
After singles play, the Pioneers held a commanding 4-2 lead and it appeared that we would cruise to victory the way Pioneer teams have for the past 30 years. But the Panthers weren’t ready to head home. Surviving 2 match points, the Mt P  #2 doubles evened the team score at 4-4.
It was up to our #1 team, James and Budhil, to clinch the decisive point. After falling behind 5-2 in the deciding tiebreak, the Pioneers won the final 8 points of the match as daylight faded and spectators’ shivered.
If our inexperienced squad continues to improve the way Devan Burke did, the Pioneers return to the courts after a 3 year absence will be fun to watch.
The Pioneers are in action against a veteran Keokuk squad on April 8th at the Punj Center.
Match Results:

#1  Romil Patel  defeated  David Nyugen  6-2, 1-6, (10-1)
#2  Budhil Thijm defeated Jack Schimmelpfenig   6-0, 7-5
#3  James Nyugen defeated Owen van Sickel 2-6, 6-4 (10-6)
#4  Jayanta Wegman lost to Levi Graber 6-2, 6-4
#5  Dominic Dupoux defeated  Link Henrickson  7-5, 6-2
#6 William Nyugen lost to  Brian Hyunh 6-4, 5-7 (10-7)
#1  Budhil/James   defeated  Nyugen/Schicmmepfenig  9-8 (10-5)
#2  Romil/Jayanta lost to van Sickel/Graber 9-7
#3  Dominic/William   lost to  Henrickson/Hyunh 8-1

Lawrence Eyres’ Summary


pioneer girls tennis teamMaharishi School girls’ tennis team played their first match in two years and won 9-0 versus West Burlington/Burlington Notre Dame at the Punj outdoor courts today.
Team captain Lily Fenton (11)  won her #1 singles match 8-1 and teamed with Ishita Mukadam (9) to win a come-from-behind #1 doubles thriller 8-6.
“Our players adjusted well to windy conditions and found ways to balance their opening day excitement with the need to keep the ball in play.” -Coach Eyre
Other winners for the Pioneers include Vaisnavii Mohanraj (11) 8-3 at #2 singles and 8-5 at #2 doubles with Daira Queveda-Valls (9); Sara Queveda-Valls (10)
8-1 at #3 singles and 8-2 at #3 doubles with Evelyn Ding (10).
Pioneers’ next match will be Monday, April 12, when they host Centerville at 4:15 pm.
Ishita Mukadam won 8-0 at #4 singles
Daira Queveda-Valls won 8-4 at #5 singles
Evelyn Ding  won 8-3 at #6 singles

Steve Briggs’ Summary


On an idyllic April afternoon, Fairfield’s cross-town rivals delivered some quality tennis beneath a brilliant azure sky.

Maharishi School defeated FHS to improve their record to 3-1 for the season.

“FHS played us close, but our boys have been putting in the work and it showed today,” observed Pioneer coach, Steve Briggs. “Doubles has been a work in progress for us. We had 3 new doubles teams out there and the boys had to figure things out on the fly.”
Romil Patel led the Pioneer assault at the top of the lineup, overwhelming FHS 3 year varsity mainstay, Blake Holden. “Romil is finding his game… playing with confidence and that has a domino effect throughout the lineup,” noted Briggs.
James Nguyen played his best match of the season, defeating former teammate, Jeremy Goodale, at #2 singles. “James has such quick hands that sometimes he relies on it too much, but today he was solid everywhere… James served well, played consistently from the backcourt, and won most of the exchanges at the net. We’re really pleased with Jame’s progress. He kept his focus and played with a lot of purpose today,” said Briggs.
Having won all 4 of his matches in straight sets, Budhil Thijm is the Pioneer’s lone undefeated singles player for the season. Once again, Budhil’s intelligent play kept his opponent off balance. “Budhil’s the hardest worker on the team by a fair distance,”noted Briggs. “If he’s not happy with a particular shot, he stays after practice and works on it… every day… weekends too.”
“Our top 3 players push each other in practice because they’re so evenly matched. It’s been great for the team and now that we have Polo Altinski-Ross back in the lineup, I think we’ll see him pushing Romil, James, and Budhil.”
The #4 position proved to be the pivotal match. Polo Altinski-Ross was playing just his second varsity match and his gritty opponent, Garrett Flanagan, kept raising his play as the match reached a critical stage. Leading 6-4, 5-2, Polo discovered that crossing the finish line isn’t always easy, especially when facing an opponent as determined as Flanagan.
“Polo had a baptism by fire today and he survived the ritual,” said Briggs. After dropping the second set in a tiebreaker, the momentum shifted to Flanagan’s side of the court, but Altinski-Ross was up to the test, winning the final set super breaker, 10-8. The win gave the Pioneers a commanding 4-2 lead heading into doubles.
“With 3 newly formed doubles teams, we weren’t sure how it would play out, but the teams communicated well. Chemistry is a big part of doubles as is familiarity with your partner. There were a few miscues out there today, but nothing that concerns me,” observed Briggs. “If our doubles continue to improve we’ll be in good shape by May.”
The Pioneers won #1 and #2 doubles in convincing fashion to seal the 6-3 victory for the team.
steve briggs   
#1  Romil Patel  def  Blake Holden  6-1, 6-2
#2  James Nguyen def Jeremy Goodale 6-2, 6-1
#3  Budhil Thijm def Brecken Courtright 6-2, 6-1
#4 Polo Altinski-Ross def Garrett Flanagan 6-4, 6-7, (10-8)
#5 Jayanta Wegman lost to Jace Hannes 6-4, 4-6, (10-5)
#6 Dominic DuPoux lost to Tristan Paton 6-4, 6-3
#1 Patel/Thijm def Holden/Goodale 6-2, 7-6
#2  Nguyen/Altinski-Ross def Courtright/Paton 6-1, 6-3
#3 DuPoux/Wegman  lost to   Flanagan/Hannes 6-3, 6-4

The following match report is for an away game, Maharishi School Pioneers versus Keokuk.

Lawrence Eyres’ Summary


Pioneer Girls Top Centerville 6-3
Season record 2-0. Next event: Fort Madison Invitational Saturday, April 17.
“An athletic, senior-laden Centerville squad challenged our young team today. I’m proud our girls raised their level of play and came away with a 6-3 win.” Coach Lawrence Eyre
Team captain Lily Fenton (11) prevailed in a barnburner at #1 singles 8-7 (8-6);
Lily teamed with Ishita Mukadam (9) for an 8-6 win at #1 doubles.
Ishita Mukadam, Sara Valls (10) and Evelyn Ding (10) also posted singles wins for the Pioneers. In doubles #3 team  Sara Valls and Bella Castle (10) trailed 1-4 but roared back to win 8-4 and clinch the team victory for the Pioneers. “I love how our #3 doubles girls battled back–they never gave up.”

Steve Briggs’ Summary


Waiting for the road construction crew to waive us through on our way to Keokuk delayed but didn’t reverse the outcome of the Pioneers previous match with the Chiefs.

“Having lost a close match (5-4) to Keokuk at home, we knew it wasn’t going to be any easier at their place,” observed Steve Briggs. “They were better 1-4. That was pretty obvious.”
Keokuk has possibly the most idiosyncratic courts on the planet. Often referred to as the ‘Lego Courts,’ the plastic? purple and green surface looks a bit like a two-tone waffle or quirky breakfast cereal from Boulder, Colorado. The surface is both slippery and unpredictable.
 Five minutes into Budhil Thijm’s match against Ivan Lopez, a lanky Spaniard whose family moved to Keokuk for an educational sabbatical, Ivan lost his footing and bloodied his knee.
Crafting clever points, Budhil had built a 4-1 lead when Lopez’ backhand sailed a foot beyond the baseline. Lopez’ mom cheered loudly, causing Ivan to question whether his shot was in. After Budhil confirmed that the shot was out, Ivan cast a bemused smile at his mom, who was grinning ear to ear.
“I looked over at Mamma Lopez,” said Briggs. “She was clapping because it was a great point but Ivan thought she was clapping because he’d won the point. Realizing that his mom was cheering even though he’d lost the point, Ivan cast a bemused grin in my direction, turned his palms up, and started to laugh. It turned out to be the highlight of the match.”
The moment of mirth proved pivotal for Lopez who went on to capture the first set tiebreaker before dominating the second set.
The meet ended minutes before sunset. The disappointment of the Pioneers 6-3 defeat faded faster than the remaining daylight. After raiding a nearby Hy-Vee the Pioneers headed home. Hunger and thirst held at bay, the boys noticed my cottage cheese and wanted to know how long I’d been a vegetarian. “50 years,” I replied. “Why?” my co-pilot asked. I answered with a question. “Did you know that the strongest animals on the planet eat a plant based diet. It’s true… silverback gorillas, elephants, and horses are all grazers.”
After various dietary perspectives were discussed, the conversation turned to global politics. It was possibly the first time the topic has been discussed with calm and clarity since the dawn of man. Had I recorded the conversation most of America would have benefitted.
I’ve never nominated an opposing team’s player or his parent for Pioneer Player of the Match, but Ivan Lopez deserves recognition as does Mama Lopez for their priceless reaction to a lost point.
#1 Romil lost to  Haner 6-3, 6-2
#2 James  lost to  Takes 6-3, 6-1
#3 Budhil lost to  Lopez 7-6, 6-1
#4 Polo lost to  Stoneking 6-3, 6-3
#5 Jayanta defeated Thompson 6-2, 6-4
#6 Dominic defeated Worster 6-2, 6-1
#1  Romil/Budhil lost to  2 & 4 6-4, 6-4
#2  James/Polo  lost to  1 & 3  6-4, 6-2
#3  Jayanta/Dominic defeated 5 & 6 6-7, 6-1 (9)

Steve Briggs’ Summary


The Pioneers got back to their winning ways with yet another down-to-the wire 5-4 win over US-34 rival Mt Pleasant.
If you like thrillers, you’re guaranteed to find one at the Punj Center. The Pioneers boys team followed the script perfectly, keeping everyone in suspense until the final ball was struck.
“Like our earlier match with Mt Pleasant, four matches went to a deciding tiebreaker,” said Coach Briggs. “Last time we won 3 out of 4 tiebreaks. This time they went the other way.  Even though we didn’t win the close ones, our boys played better today than two weeks ago. We couldn’t be happier with the result.”
“Every meet different guys step up to get big wins for us,” said Briggs. “Today, it was Jayanta and Dominic who earned the deciding point. Dominic and Jay have only played together a couple of times, but they’re learning quickly.”
In the singles play, once again Budhil Thijm got the Pioneers on the scoreboard early.  “Budhil matched up well with his opponent last time so we were happy to see that matchup again today. “Romil Patel and Dominic DuPoux earned the Pioneer’s other singles points, sending the match to doubles with the score tied at 3-3.
James Nguyen appeared exhausted after singles, but he and partner Polo Altinski-Ross bounced back from their singles losses to win convincingly at #2 doubles. The Pioneers nearly swept the doubles when #1 team Romil Patel and Budhil Thijm reached match point before losing.
Briggs added: “When I asked James after the match if his tank was empty, he replied, ‘It’s all mind over matter.’ I liked hearing that because we emphasize perseverance.”
The Pioneer Player of the Match is Dominic DuPoux, the lone Pioneer to secure 2 points in the match.

“We had a chance to clinch the match in singles, but Mt Pleasant outplayed us in the third set tiebreakers at #3 and #4,” observed Briggs. “James and Polo battled, but the steady play of their opponents down the stretch made the difference.”

“Dominic demands a lot from himself, but I reminded the boys the other day that even the great Roger Federer has only won 54% of the points he’s played as a professional. You’re not going to win every point. It’s more a matter of winning the key points,” noted Briggs.

The Pioneers are back in action Saturday when they host the Pioneer Invitational at the Punj Center. If you

need a little drama in your life, the Pioneers will be happy to provide it but you’ll need to bring your own popcorn and maybe something to settle the Pioneer coach’s stomach.

#1   Romil  def  David Nguyen  3-6, 6-3, (10-5)
#2   Budhil  def Jack Schimmelpfenig 6-0, 6-0
#3   James lost to Owen van Sickel 5-7, 6-3 (10-8)
#4  Polo lost to Levi Braber 6-3, 1-6 (10-8)
#5 Jayanta lost to  Lincoln Henrickson 6-1, 6-0
#6   Dominic def Jake Ensminger 6-4, 6-4
#1 Romil/Budhil lost to Schimmelpfenig/van Sickel   9-8 (7-0)
#2    James/Polo def Nguyen/Hunh     8-4
#3    Jayanta/Dominic  def Henricksen/Ensminger 8-5



Lawrence Eyres’ Summary


Snowed out last Monday
Scorcher today welcome to
Iowa tennis
Maharishi School girls’ tennis upped their dual meet record to 3-0 with an
8-1 win at home over Keokuk today. The Pioneers swept singles play and won 2 of 3 doubles matches.
Ishita Mukadam blanked her opponent 8-0 at #2 singles and teamed with Lily Fenton to claim an 8-2 victory at #1 doubles.
“Ninth-grader Mika Rodriguez played three consecutive JV singles matches and won them all.” Coach Lawrence Eyre  “She wins our Marathon Award today.”
The Pioneers will compete at Saturday’s Grayhound Invitational at Dankwardt Park in Burlington.

Steve Briggs’ Summary


Pioneer Boy’s Tennis Invitational

Gusting winds whipped balls about the court, but despite the testy conditions the Pioneers never took their eye off the ball as they pulled away from the field to win the Pioneer Invitational over Albia, Davis County, and Fairfield HS. The Pioneers racked up a commanding 103 points. FHS finished 2nd with 85 points. Davis County and Albia each earned 56 points on the day.

“Conditions were tricky at best,” said Pioneer coach, Steve Briggs, “30+ mph winds are difficult, but everyone faces the same challenge on days like today. We try to lock into every shot, but it’s not so easy.”
As expected, the best matches of the day pitted the Maharishi Pioneers against Fairfield HS in doubles. In the #1 flight, James and Polo defeated the Trojan duo of Jeremy Goodale and Blake Holden 6-3, giving the Pioneers 1st place with an aggregate of 29 games while FHS scored 26. “Our guys raised their level when it counted and that takes confidence. A week ago the self belief wasn’t where it is now,” said Briggs.
In the 2nd flight of doubles, the Pioneer duo of Jayanta and Dominic also saved their best tennis for Fairfield, narrowly winning 5-4. Fairfield’s team came up with some outstanding reaction volleys and winning serves after the Pioneers had built a 5-2 lead. “Our guys need to be consistently aggressive. In doubles, if you don’t finish the other team will,” observed Briggs. “Closing out matches is a learning process. We’re getting there.”
In singles play, seniors Romil Patel and Budhil Thijm have led the Pioneers all season and they continued that trend today. Romil lapped the field by winning 31 out of a possible 36 games while Budhil lost just 4 games on the day.  “We know what to expect from our seniors,” noted Briggs. “They play solid tennis day in and day out.”
The Pioneer Players of the Match are Romil and Budhil in singles and James and Polo in doubles.
The Pioneers are in action against Davis County on Tuesday at the Punj Center.
Individual Results 
#1 singles — Romil Patel 1st place
#2 singles — Budhil Thijm 1st place
#1 doubles — James Nguyen/Polo Altinski-Ross 1st place
#2 doubles — Jayanta Wegman/Dominic DuPoux 3rd place
Team Results — Total Games Won
Maharishi   — 103
Fairfield  — 85
Davis County — 56
Albia — 56

Lawrence Eyres’ Summary


All six singles players recorded wins as the Pioneers finished 4th in Burlington’s Grayhound Invitational Saturday.  Lily Fenton brought home silver as runner-up in the #1 singles flight.

Fairfield High School won the team trophy with 18 points. Camanche was 2nd with 14, followed by Davis County with 10, the Pioneers with 9 and host Burlington with 7. Burlington Notre Dame finished sixth.
Maharishi School’ will host the Pioneer Invitational Saturday, May 8 at the Punj Tennis Center.

Lawrence Eyres’ Summary


pioneer tennis

Maharishi School girls’ tennis finished 2nd in the round-robin Pioneer Invitational today at the Punj TennisCenter. Lily Felton (17 games won)  and Ishita Mukadam (19 games won) earned silver medals in their #1 singles and #2 singles flights; the Valls sisters Sara and Daira won 11 games at #1 doubles; Bella Castle, Yeobseca Tafesse and Mika Rodriguez won 11 games competing at #2 doubles.
                                                                       Team standings:
1st Davis County               74 games won
2nd Maharishi School     58 games won
3rd Centerville                  49 games won
4th Albia                             35 games won
“Our young team has been improving with each event this season. We look forward to competing in Burlington Monday [May 10] versus Notre Dame.” Coach Lawrence Eyre

Steve Brigg’s Summary


Ideal conditions prevailed for the district tennis meet yielding plenty of quality tennis at the FF Middle School courts Wednesday as 7 area teams plus a newcomer battled one another to advance to the state tournament. The newbie happened to be the defending state 1-A champs, Cedar Rapids Xavier, who dominated the event, amassing 30 points. Keokuk finished 2nd and Centerville 3rd with 13 and 9 points respectively. The Pioneers finished tied for 5th place with 7 points.

The Pioneer’s disappointing result had less to do with the bounce of a tennis ball than it did a can full of ping pong balls.
Eight head coaches huddled together in the FF Middle School weight room with a box of pink frosted donuts and an egg carton full of white ping pong balls with a black number on each ball. Aside from the top 4 singles and doubles seeds, the fate of the other 36 players entered in the tournament depended on their coaches’ ability to extract a lucky ball from a rusty can. An archaic method to be sure, but a fair one…
“I’ve been drawing balls from that can for 7 or 8 years now and my method is totally random,” laughed Coach Briggs. “Some years we’ve been lucky… other years we’ve nearly lost the meet before taking the court because of a silly white ball. Today was by far my worst effort. My selections literally cost us any chance of advancing in the postseason.”
Some coaches are superstitious. Davis County’s coach blew into his hand each time his turn came up, proclaiming ‘this is how I do it at the casino.’ The DC coach’s method proved far from perfect as his team finished last and scored a meager 2 points on the day.
The Pioneer’s first drawing paired Budhil Thijm against the tournament’s #1 seed, Abbot Haner, who went on to win the event.
“The odds of drawing the top seed are about 16%,” said Briggs, “but I managed to pick the worst possible ball for Budhil. As Budhil and Haner warmed up, I walked around the courts and noted that Budhil could have probably beaten 11 or 12 of the 16 players. Fortunately, our other singles player, Romil Patel, received the #2 seed and so his fate was in his own hands as seeded players don’t participate in the ping pong process.”
Romil easily dispatched Fort Madison’s Kadim Medland 6-0, 6-1 before facing a stiffer challenge from Keokuk #2, Callum Tackes. “I think being seeded #2 was a bit of a shock for Romil. To be a high seed puts a target on your back and you definitely feel the pressure.”
Romil dropped the first set and quickly fell behind 3-1 in the second before finding his game. Patel advanced to the semi-finals with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win thanks to some dominant net play and timely serves down the stretch.
In his semi-final match, Romil faced Xavier’s top singles entrant, Trent Link. Again, Romil started slowly, losing the opening set 6-1 before playing Link evenly for the first 8 games of the second set. “Xavier’s guy hit with a lot of power which caused Romil problems at the start, but in the 2nd set Romil had his chances. Romil’s been solid all spring. He’s come from behind plenty of times. He’s been our leader all year.”
Romil is the Pioneer Player of the Match for the 2021 district tournament.
Although the ping-pong ball selections didn’t do the Pioneers any favors in doubles, both Pioneer teams played inspired tennis against higher-ranked opponents. The Pioneers #3 team of Jayanta Wegman and Dominic DuPoux’s match against Mount Pleasant’s #1 duo was the last match to finish in round one. “Jay and Dom had a good couple days of practice before the tournament and so I felt they were going to give someone problems. They lost a close one to a Mt Pleasant team that beat our #1 doubles team a few weeks back.”
Regardless of who James Nguyen and Polo Altinski-Ross play, they always bring a lot of energy to the court. The Pioneer duo topped Mt Pleasant 6-2, 6-2 before facing the #3 seeds, a veteran Xavier team in the 2nd round.
“Xavier has a ton of experience from winning state in 2019 in addition to facing perennial powers like Iowa City West and CR Washington in their conference,” said Briggs. “Our guys played well against Xavier and they now believe they can eventually get to that level.”
And so the Pioneers ended their 2021 journey with a 5-2 dual meet record in addition to 1st place finishes in the Ottumwa and Pioneer Invitationals. Their 5th place district finish ended a run of six consecutive district titles for the Pioneers.
“The season’s been a good one… really a great group of guys who represent our school with class,” said Briggs. “We’ll practice until the school year ends and have a team celebration next week. We’ll create some wonky (weird) games and go for pizza. Some of the guys have already earned their pizza. I’m even thinking of drawing ping pong balls for free pizza. I don’t go to casinos so I’m not very good at this stuff. Hopefully, by next May, I’ll figure out how to pull the right ball from the can.”

Lawrence Eyres’ Summary


tennis pioneers maharishi school sports   Pioneer girls finished their dual match season with a 5-1 record today, bowing out of postseason team play with a 5-3 loss to Oskaloosa.
Pioneers earned a 3-3 split in singles after a 2 1/2 hour battle highlighted by wins from #1 Lily Fenton (6-0, 7-5); #2 Ishita Mukadam (5-7, 6-4 [10-5] ); and #4 Sara Valls (6-2, 6-4).
Oskaloosa clinched the team win in doubles, with victories at #2 and #3
(6-2, 6-1 for both matches). Pioneers’ #1 Lily Fenton and Ishita Mukadam led   6-4, 3-2 when play was suspended.
“Our girls all improved during competition today. Our first-year player Ishita Mukadam staged a remarkable comeback at #2 singles. Trailing 5-7, 1-4, she won 5 straight games to take the 2nd set and scored a convincing win in the match tiebreak to send us into the doubles tied with senior-laden Oskaloosa. I’m proud of our whole young team.” Lawrence Eyre
The Pioneers will play singles and doubles in the regional individual tournament
Wednesday (5/19) at Fairfield Middle School.

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Robotics at Maharishi School

Maharishi School is not new to robotics as this is their sixth year participating in the First Tech Challenge. This year’s team has eight members, five of whom are participating for the first time, and two of which have been participating for three previous years. In terms of skills and interest, this may be the most diverse robotics team in Maharishi School’s history, with over five countries represented. With the guidance of our experienced mentors and returning members, as well as the novel ideas of our new members, we strive for innovative and effective solutions to the problems presented to us.

Last Years Robotics Team

Fundraising and Outreach with COVID

During the lockdown, the team has come up with various ways to fundraise and spread information about our robotics team. Through a new Instagram account, and the help of our local businesses, our team was able to financially support our innovations.

Programming Innovations

The programming team has been leveraging the use of Vuforia** technology to detect rings, a new addition to our team̗’s skill set and robot̗’s capabilities˼ We are also increasingly mindful of optimizing the driving experience and have devoted a lot of time towards significantly reducing the precision and number of controller movements required to complete tasks such as launching rings and placing wobble goals.

Current Robotics Team

Technical Advancements

The most demanding and new task for the design team this year has, by far, been the in-taking and launching of the rings. Our answers to these criteria were an intake ramp and a hopper with a fly-wheel powered launch ramp. Difficulties mainly arose around efforts to maximize effectiveness and efficiency as well as minimizing complexity, given the complications of building with new materials and mechanisms. Successful construction was owed to a balance of practical and systematic engineering methods, along with communication within the team, particularly with programming.

Who’s on the team?

maharishi school student 2021
Budhil Thijm- Engineering Notebook Supervisor

As a senior at Maharishi school participating in my first year of robotics and possibly my last, I hope to do the best I can with my team. As the future progresses I believe robotics and automation will benefit all of us depending on how it is used and learning about it, I hope to be capable of being involved in that future.

Dominic Magnus Dupoux- Fundraiser and Calculatormaharishi school students 2021

Being a junior in my second year of robotics, I hope to take on responsibilities and go out of my comfort zone so that I might help lead the team next year. I worked as the head of fundraising initially as well as in design and construction, particularly in calculations, hoping to approach design in a more systematic way. My strengths are my attention to detail, creativity, and focus.

maharishi school students 2021

Ishitia Paras Mukadam- Junior Programmer

As my first year in robotics, I truly wanted to learn the basics in this field, especially the programming side of it and how it worked alongside the mechanics, so I can use that knowledge in the future. I loved being there and learning the process of connecting the dots between the code and the robot. The main thing I learned is to be patient and persevere through the challenges. There’s no doubt in my mind that I will continue to be a part of this robotics journey throughout my years of high school.

Miles Christopher Siemsen- CAD Mastermaharishi school student 2021

I joined robotics in search of developing new skills and finding other ways I could work with a team. It has been a great experience this year in learning the basics of coding in java as well as learning how to almost replicate the robot my team has built-in CAD. My strengths are that I’m a fast learner, persistent, and cooperative in a group.

maharishi school students 2021

Saraswati Paz Quevedo-Valls- Business Chef

I joined the robotics team to get out of my comfort zone and learn a variety of new skills. As the season is coming to an end, I can say that I have learned a lot since joining the team. Before joining, I was unable to even screw and tighten screws. As well as better communication skills, as I worked a lot on fundraising˼

Shristi Sharma- Senior Programmer

maharishi school student 2021

I love learning new technologies such as programming mecanum wheels, experimenting with Vuforia, and creating driver enhancements. In my last robotics season, I’m optimistic about the team’s future and have been working with our fantastic members to help them take on the programming portion of the challenge for future years. My strengths are my ability to be organized and collaborative.

Skylar Anthony Halley- Head of Design

maharishi school student 2021

As a senior in my third year in FTC, this year my goals have been to help design mechanisms for the robot that will allow us to succeed at each element of the task as well as share some of my knowledge to help prepare future teams after I graduate.


Yeabtsega Woubishet Taffesse- Public Relations

I joined the robotics team because I was always interested in engineering and coding. Once I joined the team I realized that I like being involved in the community so I specifically focused on reaching out to people to talk about the robotics team. Before joining the robotics club, I was not aware of the process of making a robot. I have worked on the base of the robot-like the wheels and the motor part of it. I also worked with fundraising and that helped me build up my communication skills.

Fundraising Goals and Efforts

Our fundraising goal this year was to fundraise ̥2000 to put towards our robot. In an effort to do so, we made a list of 38 target companies that we would like to contact for donations. We contacted each of these companies by either calling or emailing in an effort to fundraise money. After contacting all of our target companies, we spent a couple of hours driving to local businesses to get more donations.

When contacting companies or speaking to the managers of our town’s local businesses, we made sure to include what a robotics team is, what we were working towards, and what we would use the money for. If the companies we emailed did not respond, we respectfully sent a follow-up email. So far this season we have been able to raise 1803, which is 197 away from our season fundraising goal.


The Legacy

This year was the last season for three of our robotics team members as they will be graduating. Two of the soon-to-be graduates have been doing robotics their whole high school careers and are the head of our robotics team. The three seniors have been taking this season to not only work on our robot but to teach all of the members who will be here next year.

Our head coder, Shristi, has been working closely with a freshman who is very interested in coding, Ishita. For the whole season, they have been working side by side on the coding elements of our competition. Another soon-to-be graduate, Skylar has been making sure to educate and teach us his thought process and skills he uses when building the robot. I have been working with him alongside Dominic, Miles, and Yeabstega. They take every opportunity they get to let us in on their past experiences and knowledge they have gained from their years in the robotics team. 

Recruiting New Members

At the beginning of each quarter at our school, teachers have the chance to advertise their clubs to students. During the first quarter, the robotics club takes the opportunity and advertises the club to high school students. When we present, we explain all the aspects of robotics such as fundraising, to show how much thought is in the club. As well as pictures of past robots and competitions. We make it clear that you don’t need any experience to join the club, to not limit the students. As someone who has only been doing robotics for less than a year and is fairly new, I think that the team does a good job of teaching and making new teammates feel welcome.


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**Vuforia is an augmented reality software development kit for mobile devices that enables the creation of augmented reality applications. It uses computer vision technology to recognize and track planar images and 3D objects in real-time.

Consciousness, Connections & Life Skills (CCLS)

What is CCLS?

This subject, originally called SCI or the Science of Creative Intelligence, has been part of the school since its inception and has gone through many changes over time. Eight years ago, there was a major overhaul of the curriculum based on alumni response. In 2018, the curriculum underwent a further change with the addition of SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) and Comprehensive Health lessons to the curriculum. The name of the subject changed from SCI to CCLS (Consciousness, Connections, and Life Skills) to reflect this change. To expand on the name: Consciousness (the understanding and experience of consciousness through Transcendental Meditation), Connections (between different areas of life; interdisciplinary), and Life Skills (practical skills useful to everyday life, including SEL and sexual health).

The mission statement of the school is: To create an innovative, consciousness-based educational environment, where students think deeply and become creative,project period maharishi school compassionate, contributing citizens of the world.

There are four components of CCLS that directly teach to this mission statement: SCI (Science of Creative Intelligence), SEL (Social and Emotional Learning), the Comprehensive Health Curriculum (called Rights, Respect, and Responsibility), and Positive Discipline. We also have incorporated Restorative Justice talking circles.

What is SCI?

SCI (Science of Creative Intelligence) is the study of creativity and intelligence and principles found in everyday life that allow us to make connections between different fields of study and human experience. SCI deals primarily with the experience and understanding of consciousness.

  • The experiential part of this subject is that all the students practice Transcendental Meditation as part of curriculum every day in the morning and afternoon. (Students begin practicing TM starting in 4th grade. From ages 4 to 10, the students practice a simpler technique that is preparation for sit down meditation. Included in this program is a series of yoga asanas (postures) and a simple breathing exercise which serves to prime the nervous system for meditation, pranayama.
  • The theoretical or intellectual component involves an examination of the nature of consciousness, the relationship of consciousness to the physical world and the laws of nature. This exploration of consciousness is age-appropriate and occurs at all grade levels throughout the school, beginning in Preschool with more concrete activities and becoming more complex and theoretical in upper school.

What is SEL?

SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) in our Upper School consists of five main competencies as formulated by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). SEL is implemented differently at various grade levels, including the Preschool, Lower School, Middle School and Upper School.

  • Self-Awareness: the ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior.
  • Self-Management: the ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations.
  • Social Awareness: the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
  • Relationship Skills: the ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups.
  • Responsible Decision-Making: the ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions.

Comprehensive Health Curriculum

We use the K-12 curriculum from Advocates for Youth called Rights, Respect, and Responsibility. This curriculum includes age-appropriate lessons that cover a wide range of health areas, including relationships and consent, STDs and contraception, dating abuse, etc. In Preschool, the students are taught early consent, boundaries, and becoming comfortable with using anatomically correct words to describe their bodies. In upper school, we do a couple lessons a month and design our own slide presentations to supplement the materials.

Positive Discipline

Positive Discipline is designed to teach young people to become responsible, respectful, and resourceful members of their communities. It teaches important social and life skills in a manner that is deeply respectful and encouraging for children and adults. In the summer of 2018, the school adopted Positive Discipline as part of our professional development program and invited a specialist to provide in-depth training. Our overall goal for positive discipline is to culture mutual respect between peers and adults, and to make sure all children are heard, respected, and intrinsically motivated.

  • In Preschool, the focus is on conflict resolution, but also includes understanding feelings, recognizing their own voice, making sure every child is heard, and maintaining boundaries, with class meetings or circles to facilitate communication.
  • In Lower School, the emphasis is on classroom management and conflict resolution.
  • In Middle School, communication skills and conflict resolution are the main focus.
  • In Upper School, many aspects of Positive Discipline (such as effective communication and problem-solving skills) are covered in the SEL curriculum and practiced in the classroom. Upper school also utilizes Restorative Justice talking circles and practices, which are much in line with Positive Discipline.


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The Sisterhood of the Girls Who Code

Starting a Girls Who Code Club in Fairfield, Iowa

Girls Who Code (GWC) is an international non-profit organization whose programs educate, equip, and inspire girls with computing skills they’ll need to pursue 21st-century career opportunities. Maharishi School student Shristi Sharma has been a self-taught coder since the 4th grade when she heard about a GWC club that had opened in the local public high school. Even though there were only 3 other kids at the time Shristi says, “It was the first time I had found other girls who were also doing something that I was interested in, and the club became a way of making new friends for me. When the club shut down I was very sad that I couldn’t continue to find this support group. That’s when I asked myself, why can’t I start my own club?”

Shristi found out that you have to be 18 to start a club and at this point, she was only 13 but felt strongly that she had the skill set necessary to teach coding. 

girls who code club maharishi school“I did something which is pretty uncharacteristic of me. I cold emailed the founder of GWC, Reshma Saujani, who is a huge celebrity in the tech world. I told her how even though I was too young, I had the skill set necessary to start my own club, and that there was a need for it because there wasn’t a single club within a 50-mile radius of Fairfield.”

Shristi’s desire to have a community of female coders, coupled with her exceptional ability to code, got the founder’s attention. She responded to Shristi’s email and gave her the contact person that would help bypass the rule of being 18 to start a club.

“I got to start my club! Our first supervisor was Sophia Blitz who was our math teacher at the time and also had software engineering experience, so it was a lot of fun. Now my co-facilitator is Anne McCollum, a Computer Science professor at Maharishi International University.”

Learning How to Lead

The club not only attracted girls from Maharishi School but some were traveling from surrounding towns to attend, as well as home schools and the local public school.

“I enjoyed meeting people from all around the area, we are open to anyone willing to travel. There’s a saying in the GWC organization, be a guide on the side, not sage on the stage. I took that to heart during my first year of teaching because it’s not about me lecturing them as much as it’s a collaboration. We teach each other and learn together.”

Each year the 6th-12th grade girls have a goal to create a project that benefits the local community in some way, while the 3-5th grade girls learn the fundamentals of computer science. Once they decide on a project they learn the necessary technology to build it.

“The first year we wanted to raise awareness about food insecurity and how much food goes to waste. We made an IOS Apple game, it was very simple. You have a trash can on the bottom of the screen, then there are fruits and hamburgers falling from the sky. The goal is to make sure the fruit doesn’t fall into the trash and every time you lose you’re faced with a statistic or fact about what you can do to decrease food insecurity and increase sustainability.”

“I had never made an IOS app before so I had to teach myself Swift, which is a programming language. Then I had to teach the other girls how to use it as well. We had to get verified and pay a $99 setup fee. Through GWC I learned about how to write grants and how to get funding.”

The Culture of Girls Who Code

For the 18 girls this year, it’s more than just a club. It’s a sisterhood. Not only do they learn complex coding languages but they celebrate holidays, and sometimes throw a party just because they feel like it! Shristi explains, “I’m a big foodie and I like to have snacks at every meeting. I think food brings people together, so every week we have a fun snack. It’s a club and extra circular but it’s become more than that. In GWC you find a group of friends. You meet people who you would never usually talk to. I’ve learned a lot about how to manage and work with different people.”

“The whole reason I’m doing this club is that; I’m a self-taught programmer and I understand how difficult it is to get yourself up and running on your own. I’m doing it because I like coding and I enjoy it, it’s a hobby of mine. As a girl in coding, you’re on a different playing field and it’s not always equal. There’s a lot of discrimination and prejudice. I’ve faced some of that too. GWC is about having a community of female coders that can support each other while learning a challenging subject.”

GWC exists to close that gender gap in the technology profession. Shristi explained that while younger girls are excited and curious about STEM-related fields, that interest is diminished when they become a teenager and are told: “this is not a field for girls, it’s a guy thing.” The whole point of GWC is to overcome this challenge and flip that thinking so more women are normalized in programming.







“We need more women in programming. Especially women of color, because technology has taken over the world. It’s pervasive in every single field, and being able to code and create those technologies is an extremely useful skill to have. It’s also important that we have diversity represented in the room when we’re coding because if we don’t, then we can’t cater to those populations in the end. Products and tools are being made that are not taking into account the female perspective. So that’s why I feel it’s important to emphasize diversity and create an environment for younger girls to thrive. That way they can feel supported enough to pursue this as an actual career opportunity.”

What Shristi learned from GWC

“I’ve had to work with all sorts of girls over the last four years and it’s been amazing for me to open up my bubble. I’m a naturally introverted person. Through GWC I’ve learned to lead in a way that I’m not overpowering others but I’m also not letting things stray off course. Especially with the younger girls because I have to come up with creative lesson plans that are fun and engaging. Taking incredibly difficult concepts and breaking them down into simple step-by-step solutions is a skill I’ve had to learn. That has helped me help them be more interested in what they’re doing and have fun.”

“Because of GWC, I’ve become more confident in my ability to have an impact. For example, there was a girl at the beginning of the year who was ready to give up. I worked through the issue with her and calmed down her frustrations. Once I got her to a successful point with her work, she then turned to her friends to help them out. It was such a powerful moment for me because I helped her and her immediate thought is to then help her friends with the same problem. I love that I can have a domino effect in that way.”

“Moments like that encouraged my participation in interact which is a Rotary club for youth. We do community service projects in Fairfield and internationally. I also joined the Student Council in high school and am president this year, so I’ve taken on a lot of leadership positions. Because of what I learned in GWC, I now enjoy the idea of being able to make small impacts that can snowball and help people on a grander scale.”

Future projects for GWC

This year because of covid the Fairfield community has been missing our “First Friday Artwalks” in the town square. The older GWC club decided that their community impact project this year will be to create a website where local artists can upload what they’ve been doing to an online gallery. The girls will also create a 3D map. This way you can virtually walk around the square and click on all the various shops to see coupons and different ways that you can support local businesses during this time.

Shristi says that the girls are currently learning the necessary skills to be able to create this and she hopes to be finished with it by the end of this school year.

“Through this whole process, we are learning industry-level concepts that real software developers use when they’re working in their companies. The main goal is to go through that process. No matter the end results, no matter how polished or perfect it is, we are proud to have a product that reflects what all that we have learned throughout the year.”


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To learn more about Girls Who Code watch this video:

Hands-On Learning in Middle School

Sheila Higgins gets Middle Schoolers hands dirty with hands-on learning

In my experience, middle school students naturally resonate with the open-ended structure of hands-on learning. They’re more excited about, engaged with, and invested in the learning process when they’re given the freedom to actively create their own knowledge, rather than passively consuming it.  Hands-on learning is an immersive experience that enhances a student’s ability to think critically and take ownership of their inquiries. Hands-on projects offer a safe space to make mistakes and learn organically through trial, error, and iterative thinking.

I love this approach to teaching because it creates the conditions for play, which is such a natural (and important!) way of engaging in authentic learning. While a hands-on model can take many forms, it’s essentially “learning by doing”–a practice that not only develops competency, but also strengthens the
qualities of curiosity, creativity, and collaboration within the learner. Students retain more
information about experiences that are memorable; for instance, investigating Newton’s Laws of Motion becomes much more engaging–and impactful–when they are physically explored in the context of a design challenge…rather than a traditional textbook lesson. In my 8th grade class, students design Balloon-powered Race Cars for a competitive engineering experience. Through this, their learning becomes a dynamic process in which scientific principles are explored in a real-world, immediate context.
I believe that learning is a lifelong process. Through hands-on projects, I hope to cultivate a sense of wonder and empowerment in my students’ approach to school.
Click here to watch Sheila’s Middle School class in action!

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What is Project Period?

Project-Based Learning: Discover and test-drive your passions

Upper School students are given 70 minutes to work on a passion project 3 days each week. They problem-solve, experiment, falter and keep striving. Through the process, they learn real-world project period cookingskills that will serve them when they are adults working on projects at their workplaces.

Each project is either designed by a teacher or proposed by the student at the conception stage and addresses an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. The students work either independently or in small teams and exercise real-life skills in their areas of interest while being fully supported by teachers, community experts, and leaders brought in to match the students’ interests. At the end of each quarter, all the students’ projects are showcased as part of a community-wide event.

Goals for Projects:

Creativity. Students achieve project outcomes in a variety of ways and are given the tools, resources, and freedom to do so. Students experiment with a variety of possible choices/solutions. Students engage in original thought based on their own understanding and experience. Students understand that foundational knowledge and basic skills allow for more nuanced creativity.

Collaboration. Students work together to achieve project outcomes. Students apply effective strategies to get the most out of group work, in terms of conflict resolution, division of labor, peer feedback. 

Communication. Student practice using various communication methods: reading, writing, speaking, listening, and visual expression.  

Critical thinking. Students use goals/criteria to assess the quality of their group’s ideas/outcomes. Students explore various material and come to an informed, justified conclusion. 

A growth mindset. Students experience that hard work and constructive critical reflection lead to improved outcomes. Students make use of opportunities to complete several drafts/prototypes for a project. Failure is delayed success.

Societal Impact and Service. Students understand that the value of a project comes in its ability to contribute to society. Project outcomes will be considered in terms of both local and social sustainability. 

Interdisciplinary Integration.  Students explore topics from a variety of perspective and integrate skills from across disciplines to create meaningful project outcomes.

Portfolios. Students work towards creating products that can be documented and shared.

2021 Projects to choose from…

  • iPhone Film Production 
  • Podcasting
  • Rocketry
  • Music
  • Robotics 
  • Improv 
  • Cooking
  • Science Fair 

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