Mulan!

For many years, I have listened to L-Dub girls sing (as loudly as possible) the trademark song from Mulan, “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” Its irony has been a source of pride as the girls belt out the chorus while pantomiming martial arts moves. I was excited to finally bring that song to the stage and continue our proud tradition of “fighting like a girl.” While we struggled with Disney’s sexism and racism (again!), the theme of a young woman as a warrior was perfect for our young L-Dub warriors, as they had to attack a difficult musical score and learn some challenging dances, quick costume changes, and complex fight choreography. Like Mulan herself, the entire cast and crew showed strength in mind, body, and voice in every phase of the production from long rehearsals to last minute changes to the script. I was so proud to see the girls rise to the challenge, and I saw no need to make a man out of any of them – they all fight like girls!

As usual, many thanks are in order. The nine eighth graders on the crew brought artistic talent, organization, and energy to the show. It was with confidence that I turned the show over to the eighth graders who designed the lighting, painted the sets, made the costumes, and wrangled the Huns, soldiers, and dressmakers. Daisy Zajonc P'14 brought her inimitable musical direction and even brought her own brilliant percussionist, Joe Zajonc P'14, to add so much more to the music. With the coaching of the talented Jenn Brandon P'15, the girls' voices rose to new heights. The costume design and production is the vision of Jan Frederick P'09, '14 and her endless closet full of fabric, knick-knacks, and notions. The art department loaned us Ms. Lindsey, whose skills added to the magical look of our sets, props, and costumes. Ms. Chelsea stepped in to lead the girls in some crucial character development and some charming choreography. We all know that Ms. Eva P'16 brings her clipboard and her organization system to the 42 girls in this production, but what we didn’t know was that Ms. Eva can get 42 girls to do the hustle!  Finally, I am indebted to the commitment and energy of Ms. Kirsten: she is responsible for the glorious sets as she worked out every detail of the flats, led the artistic team in creating the cherry trees, and gave attention to each blooming flower.

- Ms. Jenny

See all of the Mulan photos here.

FLEx Week Fun!

FLEx Week is one of our favorite parts of the term. While half of our girls are at the theater preparing for the play, the other is at school, hard at work on STEAM projects. This term we decided to focus the girls’ projects around aviation and women in STEAM.

To start us off with a bang, we began the week with an incredible field trip to the Museum of Flight. The girls loved it! During our tour the girls had the opportunity to not only learn about all the skills necessary for flight, but to actually put those skills to work in their very own flight simulators. We spent the rest of the day exploring exhibits, climbing through planes of all shapes and sizes, and watching our own private planetarium show. We are all hoping we get to go back soon. Special thanks to Señorita Jacquie and her family for connecting us with the museum!

Erika Wagner, PhD

Erika Wagner, PhD

The rest of the week was spent hard at work on Design Thinking projects, robotics, and film making. By the end of the week we were all happily exhausted. On Friday, as a special treat, the girls were introduced to Erika Wagner, a true woman in STEAM with a PhD in Bioastronautics. Talk about an inspiration! See Dr. Wagner's amazing bio here.

As their final FLEx Week activity, the girls were asked to showcase their work to the Mulan cast and crew, as well as a few family and community members. The films, prototypes, and robotics courses were presented with huge smiles and lots of applause. After watching all the girls’ grit and gumption throughout the week, we can definitely say that here at L-Dub, we love STEAM! 

Women's History Month/FLEX Week

If you walk down the main hallway of tall, red lockers at Lake Washington Girls Middle School, you may notice that each one has a silver nameplate at its top. These nameplates do not refer to the students whose belongings reside within the lockers. Instead, every locker bears the name of an inspirational woman – such as Ida B. Wells, Rachel Carson, and Elizabeth Blackwell – who reminds our girls of the qualities that reside within each one of them: intelligence, strength, courage, passion, compassion, and the capacity to become anything they dare to dream. As our students grow into young women strong in mind, body, and voice, we make it a point to surround them – quite literally – with strong female role models and change-makers. We lovingly refer to these women as Locker Ladies, a title that is a true badge of honor at LWGMS.

March is Women's History Month, and this year's theme is “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment”. Yesterday, our students kicked off day one of FLEx Week at the Museum of Flight, celebrating Women in Aviation.  

And here's to our Locker Lady, Amelia Earhart...

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Amelia Earhart
American aviation pioneer and author

Born in Atchison, Kansas on July 24, 1897 Amelia Mary Earhart had no idea that she was going to become the first woman pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. “By the time I had gotten two or three hundred feet off the ground I knew I had to fly.” Amelia said this on December 28, 1920 when she was in an airplane for the first time with her dad and pilot Frank Hawks. 

As a child and adult Amelia was daring; her parents did not raise their two children to be "nice little girls," and Amelia and her sister were thought of as tomboys. Not normal for the times, Amelia aspired to a future career; she kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about successful women in male-oriented fields, including film, law, advertising, management, and engineering.

After her first plane ride in 1920, Amelia got to work saving money for flying lessons in California. On May 15,1923 Amelia Earhart was the 16th woman in the world to get her air license. According to the Boston Globe Amelia Earhart was on of the best women pilots in the world. When she was 30 she was asked to fly across the Atlantic accompanying pilot Wilmer Stultz and co-pilot/mechanic Louis Gordon, really as a passenger, but she was allowed to keep the flight log. When she landed she told the reporter, "Stultz did all the flying—had to. I was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes." She added, "...maybe someday I'll try it alone." Lo behold a few years later, at the age of 34, on May 20, 1932 Amelia became first woman to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic and for her bravery was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress, the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from the French Government and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society from President Herbert Hoover. 

Between 1930–1935, Earhart had set seven women's speed and distance records, became good friends with Eleanor Roosevelt – the two shared interests and passions, especially women's causes – but her eyes were on a new "prize...one flight which I most wanted to attempt – a circumnavigation of the globe as near its waistline as could be." She attempted this flight two times – the first time was successful because of mechanical failures and though she flew a lot farther the second time – 22,000 of the 29,000 miles – she disappeared without a trace. Amelia was a brave women and a mentor to all girls.

Margaret’13

Film Festival: Claymation!

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We were so excited and proud to feature our talented LWGMS filmmakers at our inaugural Film Festival last week. As we enjoy the new STEAM Studio, girls in all grades have learned new ways of telling stories, learning history, and creating art from pictures and words. The 8th grade Social Studies class spent a good part of this year making documentaries, first about Washington State and then about topics relevant to this year’s History Day theme: Rights and Responsibilities in History. In the STEAM classes, girls have created claymation films using colorful clay and stop motion animation. FLEx Week has produced some great films about being a strong girl, and the Drama class has used filmmaking as another way of exploring the dramatic arc and the role of conflict in stories. In only our first Film Festival, we had so many wonderful films to choose from – clearly, our girls have a lot to say and now have a whole new medium to express ideas and art. Here’s to the beginning of a great new L-Dub tradition!

– Ms. Jenny and Ms. Caitlin

Thank you to those who provided feedback to our 8th grade students about their documentaries. When the girls finish editing their pieces for the WA State Regional History Day competition, we'll post them here. Today, though, enjoy these wonderful stop-motion pieces from our STEAM class! All LWGMS videos can be seen here.

"Good things grow from horse manure"

Sam Mitsui brought an uncomfortable, but very important, part of United States history alive when he came to speak to our eighth grade class at Lake Washington Girls Middle School last week. Anytime someone can speak from personal experience, history becomes more meaningful and more relevant. We were lucky that Mr. Mitsui, a second generation Japanese American, a Nisei, who grew up in the Pacific Northwest during World War II, could do that for our class. 

Mr. Mitsui relayed his life experiences as a young boy in Skykomish WA, doing well in school with lots of friends, playing on the school basketball team, and proudly identifying as a citizen of the United States. Those are things we can all relate to, but that is where the similarities stopped. Once the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, his life changed as did the lives of 120,000 Nisei and Issei living on the West Coast. In that instant, they became pariahs in their communities, even though they had done nothing wrong. The war hysteria coupled with racism and fear caused many of their friends to turn their backs on the Japanese Americans. Mr. Mitsui remembers just one person in his community who publicly stood up for him. His basketball coach. 

When President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, the Japanese community’s fate was sealed. All Nisei and Issei were sent to one of ten concentration camps scattered throughout the western United States. Mr. Mitsui was sent with his family to Tule Lake in Northern California. He told us a little of what life was like in the camp: grim, with very intense weather. It was either very cold or very hot, and extremely boring. Some of the families had to go to temporary camps and sleep in horse stalls. He also told a story of a son telling his father that the stalls weren’t clean and smelled of horse manure. His father told him, “Remember, son, a lot of good things grow from horse manure.” Which as it turns out, was eventually true.

The Nisei decided that the only way out of the camps was to prove their loyalty to the United States. So, they offered to serve in the US Army. Finally in 1943 they were permitted to serve. Nearly 5000 Nisei from Hawaii and from the camps volunteered to serve in the 442nd regiment. And they became the most decorated regiment in history. In addition, 6000 Nisei served in the secret Military Intelligence service, and were credited with shortening the length of war by two years! 

Finally in 1988, forty-six years later, the story about the value of horse manure began to ring true when President Reagan signed a letter of apology for putting our American citizens, 120,000 Nisei and Issei into internment camps. In 2000, a National Japanese American Monument was dedicated in Washington D.C., in 2001 the Federal Courthouse was named in honor of a Nisei veteran, and in 2002 the Medical/Dental Center in Fort Lewis was named in honor of another Nisei veteran. Mr. Mitsui talked about how “we had come full circle” when the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association invited the Nisei Veterans Committee to attend their Memorial Service in 2003. He was hesitant to attend, but was amazed and relieved to be welcomed with open arms.  
Because Mr. Mitsui shared his personal experiences with us, we now have an even deeper understanding of what Japanese and Japanese-Americans experienced. The conviction that states the importance of never disrespecting a person for the color of her skin, religion, or sexual orientation was branded even more deeply into our minds and hearts. Like he reminded us, everyone is human and just wants to love and be loved.

Thank you, Mr. Mitsui.

--MengMeng '14

Totally Like Whatever You Know

Taylor Mali's, Totally Like Whatever You Know, is almost an L-Dub student mantra. The piece has been performed at our annual Festival of Lights Poetry Night for ten of 16 years, and this year the girls delivered: three SIXTH grade students performed it, and nailed it. These representatives of the Class of 2016 say it all...they are a group of girls with conviction, strength, and strong voices indeed.

FLEx Week: Bike Works

This year during LWGMS's second of three FLEx Weeks (for more information, see our Curriculum Guide, p. 42.), our girls spent each morning working on Design Thinking projects focused on alternative transportation. As a part of this project, we wanted to get the girls out of school and into our community, giving back and getting some real world experience at the same time. Our friends at Bike Works offered to have the girls come by to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of being a biker in the Seattle area, and to let us offer a helping hand repairing some of the donated bikes.The girls had the opportunity to learn the skills and techniques for fixing a flat tire, and helped the staff repair over 20 flats. We had a wonderful time with the Bike Works crew and we hope to visit them again soon.

Peter Pan!

LWGMS's production of Peter Pan was filled with firsts: the first Fall musical, the first play with only half the school, and the first Disney-based musical. As part of the first Fall musical at LWGMS, the girls jumped right in to the rehearsal process bringing creativity, enthusiasm, and talent. With lots going on at L-Dub during the Fall, the cast and crew of Peter Pan showed resilience with their flexibility and willingness. We all had to adjust to the idea that half the school was not part of the production, but regardless of who was "officially" part of Peter Pan, every student, teacher, staff member, and parent contributed to making this production possible. A special thanks to everyone who helped with sets, costumes, props, load-in, load-out, driving, singing, and dancing. This production was, as always, a true community event. It took a village to get girls to fly.

As we began working with Disney's Peter Pan, we came across some explicit and implicit sexism and racism in the script, something we could not live with in our production. So, we used Design Thinking to answer the question "How might we address the racism and sexism in our script?" The girls readily engaged in the process and came up with some inspired ideas to give our production a new twist on an old story. L-Dub's Peter Pan is not your grandmother's Peter Pan. We hope you enjoyed our punk rock fairies, the introduction of some Greek Gods and Goddesses, and the homage to Seattle's beloved Seahawks. 

Finally, many thanks are in order. The nine eighth grade students on the crew are truly invaluable -- they took charge of Peter Pan, from wrangling the Lost Boys and sewing beautiful costumes to designing the lights and running the entire show. The musical direction from Daisy Zajonc P'14 was brilliant. She could play any song we came up with, and most importantly, she inspired and led our gifted student musicians. Once again, the costume design and production fell under the artistic vision and talent of Jan Frederick P'09, '14, a woman who brings so much more than a serger to the production. We needed some added creativity from the Art and STEAM departments, and they delivered Nana the dog and Hook's dreaded Crocodile with the help of Ms. Chelsea and Ms. Caitlin; Ms. Lindsey's creativity brought our sets to life. While not a job that brings glory and applause, Ms. Eva's organization skills were indispensable as we shuttled, fed, and cared for 41 girls during our week at Broadway Performance Hall. We are indebted to and awed by the work of Señorita Jacquie. Having not yet worked on a theatrical production in her career, she gave the girls her complete attention and energy every week, from helping paint the sets to listening to girls practice lines. In the end, we discovered her true gift for choreography when Señorita took charge of the Fairies, Pirates, Lost Boys, Mermaids, and Greek Gods and made the dancing come alive. And finally, thank you to our fearless leader, Ms. Jenny. She brought out the best of everyone around her and helped make the production - indeed, all of our productions - so special.

Thank you also to Steven Brown P'15 for opening the doors to Eltana for our girls each morning before their walk to Broadway Performance Hall.

See all of the Peter Pan photos here.

Congrats, girls!