Author Archives: paulgonzenbach

Snow Shoeing and Semester Showcase

It’s been a big week at the middle school! On Wednesday, we went up to Mt. Rainier with Dr. Todd (glaciologist, PLU) to see the differences in seasons with the glaciers and rivers. We talked about how the park was different a few months ago, a few years ago, 100 years ago, 1,000 years ago, 10,000 years ago, and one million years ago. We also got to snow shoe around Longmire and see the hot springs and remnants of the turn of the century retreat that used to be there. What a great day! Huge thank yous to Dr. Todd for coming with us and sharing her expertise on glaciers and Mt. Rainier, Cory for securing the snow shoes, and students S. and F. for helping plan the day.

Thursday night was our big Semester Showcase. We had a great turn out of current, former, and prospective Seabury parents and students. There were presentations on students’ Washington history Social Studies projects as well as creative writing projects on the Mima Mounds. The evening ended with a bang and a rattle as the students tried out their Earth Science final projects on the shaking table. Students were challenged to create a 1/15 scale model three-story building that would withstand a strong earthquake. On Thursday, each student got a chance to explain their philosophy and strategy in their design and try out the finished product on the shaking table. The diversity of strategies and products was truly amazing and the kind of thing you can only see at Seabury. We were finally able to topple one project by putting the shaking table on full-bore-destruction-mode for quite a while, which was strangely satisfying and fun. But amazingly, all the buildings survived the regular trials! Another great day! A huge, enormous thank you to Carlos for building the shaking table!!

Brief Update 12.11.15

It’s been a busy week at the middle school as we’re getting closer to Winter Break. Over the past couple weeks, students were reading myths that native peoples all over the world have written about volcanoes and earthquakes. Last week and this week, they got a chance to write their own myths. Math has been moving along as well. Geometry students have been working on ways of proving triangles are congruent and writing proofs, while Algebra students have been working on writing equations of parallel and perpendicular lines in point-slope, slope-intercept, and standard form. In Social Studies, students are working in small groups on various topics related to Washington State history. They’ll be writing papers and making presentations on these topics before the end of the semester.

New Space and Science Update

Whoa! The new space has been working out beautifully this week! The new classroom is quiet and cozy and set up perfectly for learning. The new Math room is quieter and larger and enclosed. There’s still a bunch of unpacking to do, mainly with the library and in the student lounge, and we’ll get to that in the coming couple of weeks.

Students worked on a challenging and fun Science activity this week. We’ve been studying plate tectonics and where the continents have been in the past. This week students worked on figuring out, based on the current information we have about how fast and what direction the continents are currently moving, where the continents will be in 100 million years. There was a lot of math and a lot of complex problem solving involved in this lesson, as students used the raw data and maps available to make the conjectures.


Why Your Kids Are at Seabury

It’s been a busy week here at the middle school! The highlight was Monday when we spent the day up at Mt. Rainier with Dr. Claire Todd, a glaciologist and professor at Pacific Lutheran University. We met Dr. Todd up at Paradise and hiked up to a spot where we had a beautiful view of the Nisqually Glacier on the mountain. There we talked about how glaciers grow in the winter and shrink in the summer, made a bunch of observations about how and where they pick up rocks as they move, learned a bunch of new vocabulary, and noted the difference between peaks that had been shaped by glaciers like the mountain and the peaks 180 degrees from the mountain that haven’t and are therefore still very jagged. After eating lunch at the visitor’s center, we drove down to an access point where we could hike down to the Nisqually River. Here we found evidence that the glaciers on Mt. Rainier were once much, much larger and noted the effects of river flooding on the landscape. It was an amazing day, and really this is exactly why your kids are at Seabury. This would not be possible at other schools! In the coming weeks, we’ll meet with Dr. Todd again at PLU and hear her lecture about how the Washington landscape has been shaped by glaciers.


First Full Week and Some Exciting News

We’re incredibly lucky that Dr. Claire Todd, a glaciologist from the Geosciences department at PLU, has agreed to work with us over the course of this semester. We’ll be heading up to Mt. Rainier in a couple weeks to talk to her about glacier basics– how they form, how they move, etc. This will be the first in a series of talks with her about glaciers and how they’ve shaped the Washington landscape. Super excited about this. More info soon!

As a part of our PNW Earth Sciences unit this semester, we’ve also been tracking the world’s daily earthquakes over 4.7 and marking them on a map. We’re using this website: The hope is that after doing this for a month or so, we’ll be able to see the Ring of Fire and other major fault systems. On a normal day, there are usually around a dozen 4.7 or greater earthquakes to map. But because of the 8.3 earthquake in Chile and all its aftershocks, yesterday there were over 50 to map!


This was our first full week for the school year, and it was a busy one! We started Math groups. Mr. G is taking Algebra and Geometry students, and Caitlin is taking everyone else. Caitlin made a nifty comic book-style expectations sheet for Math this year:


Today was also the first lesson from Ms. Head, our new Art teacher. The subject was how photography changed Art and the world, and today’s lesson was on realist art before photography. Cool stuff!

First Week!

It’s been a fantastic first week! We’ve been settling in to our temporary home at Urban Grace, while getting started with several Math activities and a couple engineering challenges. Students have had two PE and two French sessions as well.

The picture is of the engineering challenge we did the first day of school. Students were given 15 pieces of uncooked spaghetti, three large marshmallows and a length of string and asked to build the tallest structure they could. This got the students thinking creatively and also served as an ice breaker. There were several cool strategies, including building a kind of trestle using triangles like in the photo. Our winning height was 24.5″!IMG_2783

Next week we’ll be starting PE at the Y and Math groups before heading to Camp Colman for a few days for outdoor ed activities and high ropes courses!

PLU Professor Dr. Yak Helps with Independent Science Projects


Independent Science Projects are a chance for students to develop and explore their own interests related to Science. Students are asked to identify an area of Science that interests them and develop a question related to it. Once they’ve come up with an experiment design to test their question, we do class critiques. Students ask questions and offer suggestions to their classmates that often point out variables that hadn’t been controlled for. This not only helps students improve their experiments, but each student in the audience has a chance to think critically about a couple dozen experiment designs rather than just their own.

This year, Dr. Yakelis, a Chemistry professor at Pacific Lutheran University, sat in on the critiques to help the kids hone their ideas for their projects. Dr. Yakelis offers great insights into the Scientific Process and helps students think the way a working scientist thinks. Many thanks to Dr. Yak for taking time out of his busy schedule once again to help out!