Tag Archives: Phoenix

Russian pianist plays Scottsdale

Story and photos by Daniel Friedman

Sixth grade students in Nancy Carvone’s music history/piano class at BASIS Scottsdale were treated to a private concert by Russian-born pianist Katya Grineva, who is in town for a concert at the MIM on Saturday at 7pm.

Grineva played Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Chopin and De Falla on a brand new upright Steinway that still had the tags on it. The students listened intently as Grineva played, then asked how long she practiced. Grineva said she practiced eight hours a day when she was a teenager, but now “just” three to five hours each day, depending on how much she was traveling.

Katya Grineva signs autographs at the end of class.

They wanted to know how she played so fast. The answer was the same as the classic “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” where New York-based Grineva has played many times: practice.

Grineva told students how she started playing piano when she was 5 and decided when she was 13 to make it her life. Her family didn’t have much money but when they managed to get a piano her mother said if Katya didn’t practice she would gladly sell it.

Grineva and new fans.

On the way out of class, students asked Grineva to autograph their sheet music, and only as the students were waiting to be dismissed did they ask to have their picture taken with her.

Some students asked their friends to take their picture with Grineva.

Sustainable inventions from Tesseract 7th graders

From apps to clothes to organizational tools, seventh graders at Tesseract School have thought of and created sustainable inventions that can make life easier and better while also helping the planet.

On top of writing a persuasive letter in English class that was directed toward a company or someone who might distribute the inventions, students designed models and samples of their ideas. When they first started their projects eight weeks ago, they spent about the first month brainstorming and working on a packet to help decide what their projects would be.

“At first I was a little freaked out because I didn’t know what I was going to do, and it seemed kind of hard,” said seventh grader Max Whooley. But he said “eventually everyone got a good idea; even if it wasn’t 100 percent an invention no one had done before, they all had something unique.”

One student, inspired by a trip to Cambodia, constructed shoes from bike tires. Another created a Drive-In that goes into businesses so people can order food, leave and then drive back to find their food in a nice container ready to be picked up.

Jessica Wilder decided organization was a big problem, especially for her sister. So she devised a backpack with folders already attached for organizing papers, as well as a planner and notebook that attaches handily with Velcro to the outside of the “Pack Back.”

For virtual organizing, Landon Nutt created the app iBackpack which allows students to access a dictionary, Spanish website, grades, math books and notes that can be uploaded if they were taken online. He doesn’t like carrying all his books in his backpack, so this would be a lot easier and also save paper, Nutt said.

Biosoilable bags are handy for planting without doing a lot of the work or harming the environment, said Ariana Lesniak. The bag is made from potato starch, glycerin, vinegar, water and baking soda, and “it looks like you poured the soil in and did all the hard work, when you really didn’t do any of it,” Lesniak said.

For pet lovers, Lea Byrnes came up with the Green Pet, Pet Bed, a doggy bed made out of recycled pajamas. Because her dog continuously ruins his plastic bed, Byrnes decided to make a washable bed that wouldn’t waste materials, she said.

For campers as well as Third World countries that don’t have electricity, Gabby Vatistas created a light using zinc and copper in potatoes, an idea started because of her pet peeve of people leaving lights on. Another student, Lisa Lewson, is bothered when people leave a public restroom without washing their hands, so she made a model of her idea to have a voice asking, “Did you remember to wash your hands?” when the bathroom door opens.

Devin Gillis, wanting to do something with designing and photography, decided to create economy friendly shirts that are displayed online in pictures she took. Whenever someone buys a shirt, another shirt with a logo she designed is sent to a child in need. Her company, Sublime, means “of such excellence and grace,” Gillis said. She wants to open the idea of good karma and inspire people to “do something good just to do something good.”

 “The students demonstrated remarkable enthusiasm, ingenuity and resourcefulness from beginning to end for this project,” said middle school science teacher Andrew Martin in a press release.

The students will be presenting their inventions at Tesseract’s Celebration of Innovation Thursday, March 22 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the middle and high school campus, 3939 East Shea Blvd in Phoenix. tesseractschool.org.

Story and photos by Amy Vogelsang

EAGLE Harmony focuses on performing arts

Photo courtesy of EAGLE Harmony.

EAGLE College Prep Harmony is expanding to offer third grade during the 2012-13 school year.

The sister school of EAGLE College Prep Elementary School, a charter school in the South Mountain area, EAGLE Harmony is currently a K-2 school. It will continue to add a grade each year until students reach the eighth grade.

EAGLE Harmony is a college preparatory school with an emphasis in performing arts. Students are exposed to college starting in kindergarten through field trips, guest speakers, presentations and lessons about college readiness, life on a university campus, information about scholarships, and much more.

All students receive two performing arts classes daily, including movement, choral and piano. In addition, the arts are embedded into the curriculum.

EAGLE Harmony currently is housed on EAGLE College Prep’s campus near 27th Avenue and Baseline. It will exist independently on a new site as it continues to grow.

For more information, visit eagleharmony.org. To schedule a tour, contact Principal Ariel Elgar at 602-885-7333 or ariel.elgar@eagleharmony.org.

Student awarded scholarship to attend Tesseract School

Freshman Ellis Green has received the first Ruth and David Learner Scholarship from Tesseract School.

The scholarship was created in August 2011 to allow talented high school students to enroll at the private school when they otherwise would not be able to afford it.

The scholarship was awarded to Ellis because he “embodies the zeal for learning and education that was envisioned when creating this scholarship,” Nathan Learner, Tesseract School parent and board member, said in a press release.

Green participated in many academic competitions throughout middle school, including spelling bees, science fairs and Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth competitions. He also enjoys playing clarinet and piano, hiking, swimming and creating computer-aided design projects. In order to incorporate a challenging yet nourishing academic environment that also met Green’s other interests, his parents began looking for the right high school.

After an unsuccessful start to his freshman year, Green’s parents looked into Tesseract.

“Tesseract’s learning environment is ideal for Ellis – it is personal, creative, challenging and meaningful,” Green’s father, Tyler Green, said in a press release. “The start to his freshman year at another school was distressing to him. Now he comes home and describes his classes as ‘awesome’ and ‘fantastic’ and his teachers as ‘really, really there for me.’ This school has been miraculous for him.”

The Ruth and David Learner Scholarship made it possible for Green to experience Tesseract School.

“We hope he is the first of many students who will gain access to Tesseract education via the Learner Scholarship,” Learner said.

The school also offers other scholarships in a variety of areas. To learn about the scholarship program and how to apply contact the director of admissions and community relations, Scott Salk, at 480-385-3673. To learn more about Tesseract School visit tesseractschool.org. — Amy Vogelsang

Fun photos found factchecking

One of the more tedious (but absolutely necessary) tasks of factchecking our annual Schools, etc. education guide is verifying that the website URLs schools provided are accurate and working.

Don’t laugh. The most well-meaning administrators can accidently type “.com” instead of “.org” — or leave out a letter or two — while typing a URL into a questionnaire. They may not know it, but we’ve got their backs.

Wacky Wednesday at 91st Psalm Christian School in Phoenix.

Our 2012 book goes to the printer on Friday. So while Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist spent much of Monday troubleshooting questions that arose during proofreading, I picked up the URL checking.

Quite unexpectedly, the task became kind of enjoyable — a process of discovering some of the whimsical and creative things that are happening at Valley schools as I visited their websites and Facebook pages.

We like to run “Friday FUN Photos from School” in this blog each week. (Send yours to editorial@raisingarizonakids.com.) Consider this one a bonus. I needed something fun to keep myself on task. —Karen Barr

Not sure I want to know what this goopy stuff is, but the kids at BeiBei Amigos Language School in Phoenix were clearly having a ball with it. Might be good therapy for weary editors?

Garden planting day at Natural Choice Academy in Phoenix.

Thanksgiving hats at Paradise Valley Christian Preparatory in Phoenix.

Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash is a big contributor to Educare Arizona in Phoenix but during the school's grand opening event he just looked too big for the slide.

Children’s Museum of Phoenix hosts college savings awareness event

State Superintendant for Public Instruction John Huppenthal. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Department of Education.

Arizona’s Superintendent for Public Instruction, John Huppenthal, will visit the Children’s Museum of Phoenix Thursday as part of the museum’s College Savings Awareness Campaign. October is Arizona College Savings Awareness Month.

The event will take place between 1 and 2pm and will feature a variety of interactive activities and giveaways. It’s sponsored by the Arizona Family College Savings (529) program.

Huppenthal will attend to help families understand the importance of saving early for their child’s postsecondary educational expenses. Admission to the events is free with paid Children’s Museum of Phoenix admission of $11. Members and children under the age of 1 are free.

“Saving is an important step in college preparation and motivation for a child,” says April Osborn, Ph.D., executive director for the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education. “Children with savings accounts are up to six times more likely to enroll in college, according to research by the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis.”

The Arizona Family College Savings Program is sponsored by the State of Arizona.

Here’s a rundown of the day’s events:

1-1:15pm: Coin Rubbings. Huppenthal will be join children in an Art Studio project of coin rubbings from gigantic pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and silver dollars. This activity is designed to teach the value of money and the importance of saving.

1:15-1:30pm: Story Time – Making Cents. Huppenthal will lead the group in a story time with an educational narrative to teach children what it truly means to save, spend, and budget money.

1:40-2pm: Q&A. Huppenthal and Osborn will host a Q&A session about saving money, the AZ 529 Program and the importance of Arizona College Savings Awareness Month.

Earnings in a 529 Plan grow federal income tax-deferred. Withdrawals from a 529 Plan college savings account are federal income tax-free if they are applied to qualified higher education expenses such as tuition, fees, room, board and books. For Arizona taxpayers, qualified withdrawals are also Arizona income tax- free and annual contributions to the 529 Plan are Arizona state income tax deductible up to $750 per person and $1,500 per married couple.

A 529 Plan can be used for college expenses at any accredited postsecondary institution, including vocational schools in the U.S., and for educational expenses at some institutions abroad.

Arizona Family College Savings Program offers investment options through three providers: Fidelity Investments, College Savings Bank and Ivy Funds InvestEd 529 Plan. The Arizona 529 Plan offers an array of investment choices among state-sponsored 529 Plans including a variety of FDIC-insured CDs, direct-sold mutual funds and advisor-sold mutual fund products.

For more information on the Arizona Family College Savings Program, visit az529.gov.

The Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education’s mission is to expand access and to increase success in postsecondary education. ACPE is the state’s administrator for Arizona Family College Savings Program, administers student financial aid programs, hosts College Goal Sunday, and numerous other postsecondary education initiatives. azhighered.gov.

BASIS Schools to open north Phoenix campus

BASIS Schools, Inc. will open a new Phoenix location for the 2012-13 school year. The Arizona State Board for Charter Schools approved the new campus at its meeting yesterday.

BASIS schools have gained national recognition for accelerated curriculum and extraordinary student achievement results. Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post all named BASIS Tucson among the top 10 high schools in the nation and BusinessWeek named BASIS Scottsdale the #1 Arizona [High] School for Overall Academic Performance. The schools were featured in the 2009 documentary “Two Million Minutes: The 21st Century Solution.”

BASIS currently operates schools in Chandler, Flagstaff, Oro Valley, Peoria, Scottsdale and Tucson.

BASIS Phoenix will serve students in grades 5 through 10 in its first year of operation, the 2012-13 school year. The school will add one grade per year until it becomes a 5 -12 campus in the 2014-2015 school year. While a specific site for the new campus has not yet been determined, BASIS representatives are working to secure a location in the north Phoenix area.

“We have had incredible success opening schools in Arizona and we have every reason to believe BASIS Phoenix will follow in the footsteps of its sister schools,” says Nick Fleege, new school development director for BASIS Schools. “Last year we opened three new Arizona campuses – BASIS Chandler, BASIS Flagstaff and BASIS Peoria. We completed construction on time and exceeded enrollment expectations at all three locations.”

“We are so pleased to be able to extend our academic program to students in Phoenix,“ says Sheri Pierce, new schools curriculum director for BASIS Schools. “With the mature BASIS schools earning top spots in national rankings, our goal now is to offer that same great education to more students in Arizona and beyond.”

Registration for the 2012-13 school year will begin in January 2012. Details will be announced to members of the BASIS Phoenix Interest List via email as that time approaches. Add your name to the list by visiting basisschools.org and clicking “Sign Up.”

Tesseract launches first senior class

Back-to-school time had added meaning for the Tesseract School’s seniors, who will be the first graduating class since the school expanded in 2008 to include a middle and upper school campus.

Tesseract’s seniors will start the year with their “All Work and All Play College Prep Retreat,” hosted by Prescott College. During the retreat students will participate in events designed to strengthen their senior-class bond and guide them through some final steps in the college admissions process, such as writing college essays, refining résumés, checking the status of college applications and continuing to work toward their senior-year goals.

“Being part of the inaugural high school class has been a powerful experience, especially looking back and seeing all we have accomplished,” said Sam Anderson, a 12th grader who has attended Tesseract since preschool. “During my entire experience at Tesseract I have learned what it means to truly be a part of, and participate in, a unique and caring community with an amazing global perspective.”

“It is a wonderful experience to see the board’s vision of offering a preschool through 12th-grade program come to fruition,” said Nigel Taplin, head of school. He credited trustees, parents, donors, volunteers, faculty and staff for seeing that vision through.

Tesseract has been educating Valley students in preschool through eighth grade since 1988. The high school was part of the school’s strategic plan and a response to Tesseract families wishing the school’s innovative curriculum and student-centered approach could extend through high school.

In early 2007, the capital campaign to raise funds to build a new campus for Tesseract’s middle school and the new high school was launched and Chris LaBonte, Tesseract’s founding director of high school, was brought on board to lead the high school and develop a curriculum that was a natural extension of the school’s mission and philosophy to prepare students for the challenges of a more interconnected and complex world.

“It has been, and continues to be, an amazing experience to be involved from the ground up in developing a high school program for Tesseract,” said LaBonte. “Tesseract has such a strong curricular foundation; we all wanted to create a rich, deep program that further promoted the development of intellectual curiosity and critical thinking, as well as prepared students to excel in college and beyond, in a thoughtful and meaningful way that the students could truly connect with as individuals.”

Tesseract School is a non-profit, independent private school for students in preschool through grade 12. Campuses are located in Phoenix and Paradise Valley. 480-991-1770 or tesseractschool.org.

Choosing a quality childcare environment

The task of choosing a quality childcare environment for a child can be overwhelming, especially to first-time parents. Expect More Arizona and Phoenix Day have put together a short video that provides a quick and visual summary of the key components you should seek.

Expect More Arizona is a public-private partnership dedicated to creating a movement of Arizonans who value education as our state’s top priority and are actively engaged in strengthening the entire education continuum – from birth to career.

Phoenix Day, is Arizona’s oldest early education and childcare center. It was established in 1915 to provide a safe, nurturing and diverse environment with age-appropriate curriculum that promotes a lifetime of learning.

Young refugees see the sights in ELL summer school

Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, laughter and fun are the same.

I was reminded of this within the first few minutes of the arrival  of Phoenix Union High School District’s English Language Learners summer school students at the Arizona Science Center. I watched as they pointed and laughed together at a giant telescope on the ceiling over the entrance, with a large eye staring back and shifting about. You wouldn’t guess that most of these kids didn’t know one another, or that many of them weren’t even able to speak to one another. They all had the same expressions of wonder and amusement.

Phoenix Union High School District ELL students played in the stream table in the "Forces of Nature" exhibit at the Arizona Science Center.


The students of Phoenix Union’s ELL summer school are refugees from all over the world, many of them displaced from their home countries, some as recently as a few weeks ago. The students speak more than 20 different languages ranging from Farsi to Swahili to Nepali. All have lived in the U.S. for less than one year, and all are at various levels of proficiency in English, from “pre-emergent” to literate.

The students have been exposed to activities like bead working, making ice cream in a bag, songs, math and other concepts in the classroom, according to Carl Hayden High School ESL department chair Karen Grimwood.

rope maze

Phoenix Union High School District teacher Debbie Kunes, left, explains how the rope maze works to Masoka, from Mozambique, in the MAZES exhibit.

In addition to time spent in the classroom, the 4-week summer school has taken the young students on field trips to see the sights around Phoenix, journeying to a bowling alley, an IMAX movie, the Musical Instrument Museum, the library, Shamrock Farms, the zoo, a candy factory and the State Capitol, to name a few.

At the Science Center, the kids romped upstairs to the third floor, where the MAZES exhibition awaited them. They immediately scattered across the large space, exploring the various maze games in the exhibit.

Zarsanga from Afghanistan enjoyed having a fort of foam blocks built around her in the MAZES exhibit at the Arizona Science Center.

I loved watching how the kids got creative, taking games and activities that were designed to be played one way, and playing them in completely different ways of their own invention. Foam beams meant to be arranged in a maze on the floor became the walls of a fort. Other students competed to see who could balance the beams on their noses the longest.

Yadav from Nepal balances a foam block on his nose in the MAZES exhibit at the Arizona Science Center.

As I observed the students at play, I realized that the exhibit allowed them to explore new concepts without the use of language. They could feel textures, see colors and shapes, follow paths and build structures, all without saying a word. Some of the kids spoke to one another in English, others had made new friends who spoke their native tongues and others weren’t communicating with words at all. Whatever the case, everyone was having fun.

I guess goofing around is a universal language.

marble mazes

A group of students in the ELL class played with the confounding marble labyrinths in the MAZES exhibit at the Arizona Science Center.

When it came time to leave, a boy from Burundi named Edgar, whom I had met playing a rotating maze board and marble game, turned and smiled at me, using one of the phrases he’s come to know well, “Have a good day!”

Story by Sadie Smeck, photos by Daniel Friedman