Guitarist and singer Chic Streetman spent several days on the Rutgers Prep campus recently as an artist-in-residence, working primarily with our Middle School students. Streetman expressed his message of positivity and connection through both word and song, and noted that in his experience, the Rutgers Prep community is graced with an unusual degree of diversity and openness.
“A lot of my work,” he explained, “ is about trying to look at who you are, working towards learning about who you are, and then feeling good about who you are. Nobody can be ‘you’ as good as you can be you! As we get older, we become more concerned about what other people think. I love working with students, because they’re open to connecting and participating; part of what I try to do is help students re-focus on who they are.”
He was fun. — Gabriel F. ‘21
I liked his unusual ways of getting us involved. He really pulled us in. — Krithvi K. ‘22
It’s cool how a lot of kids sometimes think stuff that is supposed to be inspirational is boring, but he was really fun… and he remembered kid’s names! — Harrison S. ‘22
I liked how he wouldn’t explain things ahead of time, we would just jump in and start doing things… and then later he would go back tell us what we had done. He took things we already knew and then changed it up and made it new. — Siddhi P. ‘22
His speaking voice doesn’t sound all that strong, but when he sings and plays the guitar, it is beautiful. You can tell that he loves music. And he really understands how we learn, and the connections between music and rhythm and learning! — Jamie S. ’22
On his final day on campus, Streetman performed at the Upper School’s morning meeting; much to the delight of the assembled students and faculty, he welcomed Student Council President Gita Ganti ‘17 to join him for one song. Before heading back to the west coast – Streetman makes his home in Seattle – he shared one more thought about his work. “I understand that there are always going to be positive and negative forces at work. That’s just the way life is; there has to be a balance. It’s a little bit like a seesaw. And given that… I’ve taken it as my work to try to come down as heavily on the side of positivity as possible.”
Rutgers Prep is well-known for its culture of appreciative inclusion; as a learning community, we understand that everyone learns best when they feel able to bring their complete and unique selves to the challenges ahead. Visits from artists like Chic Streetman help reinforce and reinvigorate our core values; we hope that the students and staff with whom he connected during this recent visit will continue to resonate with the powerful perspective he so eloquently shared.
Singapore Math is a math education program which is centered on problem-solving and critical thinking. As part of their continuing professional development this summer, six of our Lower School teachers were able to attend the SDE National Conference on Singapore Math. While there, they explored best teaching practices with some of the developers and master teachers of the program. Lower School Math Coordinator Gail Moskowitz shared, “We have such a collaborative orientation as a faculty; we’re constantly sharing ideas and strategies with each other. Going to this conference as a group was a phenomenal experience. And this program, with its focus on developing collaboration and the critical thinking skills so necessary for future success, just seems like a great fit for us.”
Math Department Chair Jalaj Desai added, “Our Math curriculum in Middle and Upper Schools has changed significantly over the past few years and many students are now taking advanced classes in their junior and senior years. This school year we have 75 students enrolled in AP Calculus, 40 in AP Statistics, and 25 in Differential Equations classes. All our students in 6th grade take Pre-Algebra, giving them an opportunity to advance early on. To better prepare our lower school students for these successive classes, I strongly believe in utilizing the Singapore Math program. Not only does Singapore Math teach our students to work on math skills but its unique approach helps students retain what they learned.”
Rutgers Prep is now in the process implementing Singapore Math (Math in Focus) as the core of our program throughout our Lower School. Singapore Math builds mathematical understanding through concrete (manipulatives), pictorial (visual models), and abstract (symbolic) representation. It emphasizes the “why” before the “how,” which leads to a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. Problem solving is central to the program. Students are encouraged to think of several alternative ways to solve each problem, sometimes individually and other times with a partner or in small groups. Reading strategies and comprehension skills are also sharpened as students analyze word problems in a logical manner. This, in turn, helps develop metacognition (the ability to monitor one’s own thought processes). All of these skills are of paramount importance for our young students as they prepare for a future filled with jobs that may not even exist yet.
Sepehr Gharavi ‘16 wasn’t expecting to be asked to help with a Middle School art class. But when the call came, he was ready.
RPS Middle School Art Teacher Susan McCloskey took in an exhibit at the Met a few years ago that included some incredibly beautiful bowls from ancient Persia, dating all the way back to the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries.
The bowls were primarily white, and in many cases the decorative element on each was created through a calligraphic inscription. After seeing the exhibit, Ms. McCloskey wanted to find a way to invite her students into that spirit of inspiration. And she remembered having a conversation with one of her students whose family origins were Persian.
When she reached out to Setareh Gharavi ‘22, the RPS sixth grader in turn recommended that the teacher reach out to her older brother, Sepehr (“Seps”) Gharavi ‘16. When Seps learned of the possible project he was immediately interested in helping. “I know how to write in Farsi, so I thought I could maybe help students develop their own designs.” Seps went to the eighth grade class and essentially took over, teaching them about Farsi, serving as a scribe, transcribing students’ names for them, and helping to translate quotes into Persian. The students then studied examples from history and created their own pieces of pottery, which were carefully kiln-fired here on campus.
“This was a cool opportunity to express part of my culture to other people, and it also gave me a chance to realize how long its been since I really used my “Persian” muscle,” Seps reflected. “In some ways it was a warning for me that I need to look for more ways to keep my Persian up to date! And then of course it was great to see the finished products and feel like I was a part of making them possible.”
Art gives us a window into lives long since past, and transports us to parts of the world that we may never visit in person. Throughout our own history, art has been a vital part of the Rutgers Prep curriculum, and sometimes, art becomes a bridge within our own community… in this case, between a classroom full of eighth-graders on the cusp of becoming Upper Schoolers, and an Upper Schooler who is himself about to move on to the next stage of his journey as a life-long learner.