Principals’ Post #20

Dear SCIS Families,

These are busy days in the Upper School. The first assessments of the new semester are underway, the Grade 10 students are looking to the future, the Mandarin Department is preparing for Chinese New Year, and our varsity volleyball teams are off to Macau, representing the Green Dragons at our ACAMIS Tournament. Many of you were on campus to support these events this week. The support of our community is a defining feature of SCIS. Go Dragons! 


This four-week session between the holidays has provided an ideal time for building on the students’ self-evaluations completed at the end of the first semester. Each MYP student has set a SMART Goal for their personal academic development, and has already gotten started putting their plans into action. We have been working on goal setting during the academic Advisory sessions, using the Approaches to Learning (ATLs) as a framework for breaking down the specific skills we all apply across disciplines in order to achieve academic success. Students may choose to work on Communication Skills, practiced on Lab Reports in Science and oral presentations in Language Acquisition. They may set a goal for improving their self-management, applying planning strategies to work through breaking down long term assignments into manageable short-term chunks. Others may be focusing on critical thinking skills, looking at how they use evidence to support an argument in both Language and Literature Humanities. While your students will no doubt have much to share about their growth toward their goals at their Student-Led Conferences in March, there is no reason to wait. We encourage you to invite your students to tell you about their goals, and ask how you can best support them in their efforts to develop themselves as learners. 


The Grade 10 students achieved one of their most significant goals of the year on Tuesday, as they presented their Personal Projects in an exhibition for the entire school community. Those who came out witnessed something special. The Personal Project is the capstone of the Middle Years Program. In order to complete the MYP, every student must take this opportunity to follow a passion, articulate a goal, specify a unique criteria for success, and apply their skills to move through a process of investigating, planning, taking action, and reflecting. The range of topics explored and products created by this year’s cohort was both wide and deep. Our Grade 10s learned to play the guzheng, established an MS Model US delegation, built a computer, quilled a world map, wrote an anthology of short fiction, animated the human experience, and much much more. The Personal Project is unique in that it bridges the routine work of the student–using skills to explore academic subjects in the classroom context–with the work of life, applying these same skills to developing ourselves and contributing to society, within the global contexts in which each of us move every day. It was wonderful to hear the Grade 10s talk about their process and learning through the experience, and to see younger students inspired and engaged, considering the projects they themselves have in mind for the present and future. 


This week the High School Jazz Band enjoyed a visit from Walter Blanding, from Jazz at Lincoln Center Shanghai. Mr. Blanding has been playing saxophone professionally for over 41 years and has performed with many of the jazz greats including Cab Calloway, Wynton Marsalis, and the Count Basie Orchestra. While he was on campus at SCIS, he offered valuable advice to the ensemble about practice techniques and motivation. He also gave helpful feedback to raise the level of music the band is preparing for upcoming performances. We are grateful to Mr Blanding for sharing his time to mentor our young musicians, and also thank Mr Demas and Ms Whiteside for their efforts to facilitate this opportunity for our students. 


Warm regards,

Frank Volpe, PhD                   Naomi Shanks

Upper School Principal           Upper School Vice Principal

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