Service and Advocacy: Impactful Learning

As educators, we are always considering how we are creating opportunities for students to master the “Four C’s” of 21st century learning: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. The implicit element that makes all of these meaningful for students, however, is engagement: Why does this matter? Who am I, and how can I make a difference in the world? 

Seventh and eighth grade students are exploring these questions now through their Service and Advocacy elective class. With the goal of carrying out a project that will create positive change, students researched philanthropic organizations whose missions resonated with their own interests, presenting their findings in order to persuade their classmates to commit to partnering with their selected cause.

I had the pleasure of joining the class as students presented their “cases” (and research) to their peers through Google Slides presentations. Classmates listened in rapt attention as their peers introduced proposals to care for abandoned animals, to fight hunger, and to provide arts and enrichment to underserved communities, among others.

After careful review and consideration of a wide variety of worthy causes over two class meetings, the class voted to support the Foster Children’s Resource Center in Northridge. (To learn more about this organization, visit In the coming months, the class will engage in on-site volunteer work with the organization, as well as contribute to the program through fundraising, including their recent bake sale.

We are so proud of your commitment to make a difference, and we look forward to hearing about your work with the Foster Children’s Resource Center!

Student Voices: Black History Month

Last month, our students were privileged to view the fruit of almost two months of research and preparation by the dedicated members of our Middle School Black Student Union, guided by faculty advisor, Ms. Donna Hicks. On February 27, these students (in grades 6 through 8) took the stage to present an assembly in honor of Black History Month.

Over the course of their presentation, students considered the contributions of African Americans to politics, science, engineering, athletics, and the arts, reflecting as well on current events and culture, and acknowledging the work that is still to be done in promoting a more diverse and equitable society.

We are so proud of your work and creativity, and we thank you for your leadership in engaging our community in reflection on the contributions of African Americans, past and present, to our culture and community!

¡Olé! Celebrating World Languages Week with Flamenco

In celebration of Viewpoint’s World Languages Week, our students were treated to a music and dance performance on Tuesday, March 6, by Sakai Flamenco. In addition to learning about how world migration and the melding of different cultures in Spain resulted in the creation of the art known as flamenco, students were also treated to a quick lesson in the braceo (arm movements), palmas (clapping) and taconeo (foot movements and tapping) that are integral parts of this music and dance form.

Next, two lucky volunteers were introduced to the castañuelas (castanets) and other props that are used by flamenco performers:

Our study of other languages leads to greater understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity, including the tremendous variety of art, music, cuisine, ideas and innovations created by all cultures. World Languages Week is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the richness of our diverse community, and the enjoyment those differences bring to our lives every day!

Mathcounts Competition

As I entered Mrs. Giuffrida’s room during I Block on Thursday, I found her with a group of math students engaged in animated debate. “I think I did horrible, but it was fun!” exclaimed one student. “What answer did you get for this question?” “No, that was wrong!” “How about this question?” “YES!!” Pizza and chocolate chip cookies fueled students’ energy as they pored over a packet of answers and grilled each other (and themselves) on the details of their performance.

What I was witnessing was the celebration–and debrief–of this year’s Mathcounts competition. At 8:00 am on Saturday, February 24, a team of nine Viewpoint Middle School students, led by Middle School math teacher Pat Giuffrida, arrived at California State University Northridge to participate in the Mathcounts contest, sponsored this year by Raytheon. Each year, students in grades six through eight are invited to challenge themselves and engage in friendly competition with approximately 150 other students from about 16 participating schools.

Competition rounds include the “sprint round” (focusing on speed and accuracy), the “target round (emphasizing problem-solving and mathematical reasoning), the “team round” (testing collaborative problem-solving), and the optional “countdown round” (again, focusing on speed and accuracy through timed questions).

At the moment of my arrival to their debrief, the Viewpoint team had not yet received their scores. However, as Mrs. Giuffrida reminded them, the score wasn’t the point. As I watched our team expertly analyzing their participation and strategizing with their coach about how they might prepare for next year’s event, all the while joking over pizza and sharing anecdotes from the day, it was clear that our team had hit right on target. As Daniel Pink notes in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, when the process is enjoyed as much or more than the outcome, that is when the work itself becomes meaningful and rewarding–and our students were clearly winners. Congratulations, Mathcounts Team!