Oxbridge Alumni


Faculty Blog

An important part of our mission at Oxbridge is to foster a love of knowledge that will encourage students to become lifelong learners. We are committed to supporting our faculty's professional development efforts, which in turn enrich the classroom experience for our students. Throughout the school year and during the summer, faculty members blog about their experiences attending classes, conferences, and academic competitions around the world.

Summer 2018

Dr. Marjorie Chiarolanzio: University of Cambridge

Sunday, July 8, 2018

All the way with British Airways! Excellent greeting at Cambridge, welcome reception and orientation. Dinner with a Dane, a Canadian, a Brit, a Chinese woman and three uproariously festive people from Hong Kong. Can't wait for breakfast tomorrow morning. Classes start early!

Monday, July 9, 2018

The dynamic of this place is awesome. After just one day, we are waving hello to people from all over the world that we just met yesterday. International lines appear blurred in this academic community where everyone has a shared purpose. Those from last night’s dinner group seemed to be magnetically drawn together for breakfast today. The amount of material covered in courses was astounding ranging from the international order, how and why war has shaped our world, to economics and world trade. A plenary session about artificial intelligence broke the pattern or possibly legitimated the discussion about the future and what it holds if we allow technology to expand to its greatest potential. The question asked by a student that resonated throughout the day was “If you’re saying that robots chose human interaction as their most meaningful experience, then you are implying that they have feelings. Therefore, why is it less cruel to send them into battle where they could face destruction than to send a human into battle to face death?”. Ran into town before dinner with newfound friends from Singapore and Canada and came back to dine with a wonderful group of current college students from Spain, China and Australia, all seeking advice about their futures! Spent hours listening to their situations and reassuring them that if they follow their passions, they will surely come out happy in the end. A great group, of all ages, engaging in meaningful discussion and constructive dialogue! Working on the outline for my essay tonight and looking forward to another fabulous day tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018
There are so many wonderful highlights about this excursion, but I have to say that the one that tops all is the incredible group of scholars I have met. We have not limited our interaction to class time, which is inspiring, but have found each other at meals, at breaks, and at the end of long days, just to engage in meaningful and memorable discussions. Individuals from ages 25 to 75, from a plethora of nations, talking as if we’ve known each other for years, bound by a common passion, and that is for the good of the world order. The discussions out of class bring out an incomparable emotion that we wish we could transfer to our countries’ leaders and remind them that we are all one species desperately trying to live together in a peaceful, productive world. Today’s lecture was focused on the power of diplomacy, the effectiveness of international law, and the consequences of a world without such a regulatory body. Our sessions were intercepted by a special speaker on “Einstein’s impact upon science and its consequences for modern society”. The day ended with an evening talk from Dr. James Grime on “Alan Turing and the Enigma Machine”, a decoding device that turned the tide of espionage in World War II. After 12 hours of lectures and classes, you would think we would have all collapsed, but instead found each other engulfed in our essay research, quickly to evolve into an amazing study group. What a day! Looking forward to tomorrow when our topic is the effectiveness of the United Nations. Our group will engage in a role play activity as the United Nations Security Council……Hmmmmmm right up my alley!!!! I wonder if my United Nations medallion gave me away?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018
It is so difficult to know where to begin in describing this incredible day. I skipped breakfast because a group of us worked on our papers into the night and chose a cup of coffee on the run to class this morning. Our lecture was a case study on the United Nations with the essential question to ponder “Is the United Nations still fit for purpose?” We answered through role play as each group of four was assigned a country vying for permanent status and veto power in the Security Council. The countries were Australia, Argentina, India, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, trying to convince each other as well as the current P5 countries of the United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia to not only vote them in, but to approve their quest for veto power. The result that was most surprising was the United Kingdom’s veto of the admission of Australia as a permanent member of the Security Council. My group represented Saudi Arabia and thankfully was allowed permanent membership (largely due to our numerous bargaining chips☺), but we had to relinquish our appeal for the right to veto as those holding power were adamant about keeping their elite positions. The lesson was valuable, and once again, brought a group of forty individuals, from all over the world, together to make vitally important and relevant decisions. Our mid-morning plenary session entitled “The pourous prison: exploring the impact of Learning Together” was worthy of further exploration for any country examining the effects of education in prisons as it relates to rehabilitation and reduction of reoffending. The presentation demonstrated education as “individually and socially transformative”. Dinner placed me next to a Brazilian who was taking the English Law Classes for the quality of instruction and the various new perspectives as he was already serving in a position as a high-ranking judge in his country. Quite an interesting conversation! A third of our dining room ran off to watch the soccer match that ended sadly for England, a third went off to an intriguing lecture on the cases of Pompeii and the Herculaneum, and the rest of us went to a night of Ceilidh, which is a Celtic dance form, more familiar to me as American Square dance. As we have discovered through the week, the majority of the participants in every lecture and activity seem to be those from the Global Relations Interdisciplinary Program. So, we further cemented our relationship by dancing for hours. Tomorrow, we start with a new professor on the conflict in the Middle East. Eagerly anticipating another wonderful day!

Thursday, July 12, 2018
I feel like this is my home already. Crazy right!! This post is dedicated to a fine young man named Shi (apologize if I got the spelling wrong) from Australia. He is an aspiring journalist and will surely turn informational communication on its ear. He is the best example of the change we hope to see. Shi is in my Global Studies cohort and communicates on an intellectual level with those of us who have decades of experience ahead of him. He let me know that he is following these posts so I wanted to give him a huge shout out and thank him for being our hope for the future. Today’s class was too complex for the short amount of time we had. Believe it or not we had less than four hours to cover The Israeli-Arab conflict, The Saudi-Iranian Cod War and Western interventionism in the Middle East: Iraq, Libya and Syria. We could have gone on for days, weeks, even months and not scratched the sup while in the thick of the British academic world! The subject addressed was the potential relationship the UK will be able to maintain with its former neighbors after the official split. Questions asked were “Why is the outcome so unclear and what are the options for the UK as it approaches the end of its time as an EU member?” Tomorrow, we travel to Asia with another new professor as we delve into human rights in China, Chinese nationalism and Chinese economic reform. The energy is building here and I don’t know how it will feel at the end of this amazing journey. Trying to make the most out of every moment!

Friday, July 13, 2018
Tonight’s shout out goes to my new friend, Ally, from Hong Kong. She is a well-educated young lady with an open mind and a big heart. She explained her devotion to her country and her government for reasons that have affected her personally and also had a very accurate assessment of the interesting political activities in the United States over the past three administrations. I was surprised at the expanse of her detailed knowledge of fact, devoid of the coloring of propaganda or media bias. It was an invaluable conversation that taught me a great deal about the inquisitive nature of the youth in countries that we have been lead to believe only formulate their opinions based on limited access to informaiton.

I have only a giant “Thank you” to Oxbridge for this incredible week. Is it only Friday???? The friendships I have forged are as solid as those that have taken years to cultivate. So difficult to understand the dynamic unless you are imbedded here, but it is like nothing I have ever experienced! We (meaning 100 or so people from our respective college), see each other in the dining hall at night, wave hello, and address each other by name. Keep in mind that we are talking about people from a plethora of nations around the world who yell across a huge room “Hi Margie!!! Come join us!”! Tonight, it was dinner with Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany. After dinner, we had our evening guest speaker on “Macbeth”, after which we all congregated once again to chat about world affairs. The group at our table was Singapore, Germany, Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong, and Brazil. Australia popped by to see if we wanted to go into town to watch the Bastille Day fireworks and left his contact number. Some of the group is heading into Stratford tomorrow, but I chose to stay behind to finish my essay. However, I have been coaxed into venturing just a short distance to view some of the historic churches. I may just meet up with that group and enjoy the sites! Our classes were the highlight of my day, however, with an impressive and energetic professor who specializes in the area of Chinese history and politics. OMG, what I have to bring back to my Comparative Government class is astounding. One fifth of our group is from China and the discussion on Maoism drew out candid commentary that was a once in a lifetime experience. None of us wanted to leave class today. Life is short, but rubbing elbows with this huge group of intellectuals makes it worth every minute. I’ll take some pics on my journey tomorrow to post on the blog tomorrow night. Thanks to all!

Saturday, July 14, 2018
Tonight I had fleeting, but meaningful conversations with students from Mexico, Denmark and most significantly, a forlorn and frustrated young lawyer from Poland who wanted to make a difference in the recent election, but not enough of his age group came out to vote. He was impressively aware of what was happening in his country and hopes that enough countries in the EU will support the preservation of a perpetual, successful Poland. This country has been dealt a bad hand and it’s time they see their revival. His eyes told more than my words could ever express.

Sunday, July 15, 2018
The weekend was a continuation of this ongoing learning process. Saturday, I finally explored multiple modes of transportation, which felt as foreign as any aspect of this adventure. With the company of new friends, I went to Ely Cathedral, where we had a wonderful tour and also explored on our own. We were the only riders on the train with two young men who felt compelled to give us directions, at which time I asked, what part of America they were from…Philly of course! My colleagues remind me that I am still the only American who travels in our “pack” and I happily respond with how special I feel. Yesterday was a day of research and writing interrupted by the traditional daily walk into town. I have finally mastered every turn, and have thus far, avoided getting lost. Still on the hunt for a good piece of sushi, I finally went to a grocery and bought some of their famous “take-out”. Remind me on my next visit to bring my fishing pole☺ The weather is still a blistering 87 degrees with no movement of a breeze and no hum of an air conditioner. We all decided that next time, we should take up residency in the Ely Cathedral where we would be cooled by the thick stone walls. I was eager to get back to classes today for yet another transition of professors.

Our topics were “Dealing with the Eurozone Crisis”, “Dealing with the Refugee Crisis” and an analysis and debate about the future of the European Union, the interdependence of nations, the question of austerity, and the justification for the Euro as a cohesive element toward unity and economic development. I have retired, once again, to my essay which is taking on a form larger than life, so I must re-read and refine. Hopefully, it will be completed soon, as my Chinese friends are begging me to join them in a round of “ping-pong politics” (but with a real ping-pong table). Wish you were here!!!!

Thursday, July 19, 2018
I am a few days behind on my blog, but with good reason….going at an unbelievable pace trying to soak it all in! This blog is dedicated to a miraculously talented young employee of the “Apple” store who saved my life (on Tuesday afternoon). Doing my research while simultaneously trying to watch American News and the BCC, I think my computer rebelled and decided to send off screaming sirens and a frantic coil of (what they wrote as) malware. The program office advised me that they have no tech support at the college for anyone except professors and so I had better get to the “Apple” store immediately. Easier said than done as the City Centre is a leisurely 20-25 minute walk from my classroom. I had all of an hour between sessions and attendance is mandatory. So, as my Oxbridge students will attest, when Dr. C. needs to get somewhere I get there no matter what. I walked briskly (to say the least) and made it in 10 minutes, only to walk in and find that the one store from here to London that could service my computer, looked like a Saturday at the “Apple” store in Town Center Mall, Boca. When they told me that the next appointment was on Sunday, I drew out my skills from college drama class and told them my essay and all my research from the term was on this computer (I did BTW save everything on a USB drive along the way). I also told them that I had great faith that the next appointment was within 30 minutes. With that said, I proceeded to sit at the service bar and wait. Finally, in a concerted effort to get the pushy American out of the store, they went and “fetched” Leo (my savior) from the back room. “Thank you Leo” for getting me out of the store, problems resolved, in less than 30 minutes. I hoofed it back down the road and slid into a seat in the classroom, 20 minutes late for class. The professor was very understanding as I explained my tardiness after class and all has been well. For all of the tech people reading this who now fear I have contaminated the whole Oxbridge system, you can relax in knowing that it was not a virus, but just a ploy to make me download the anti-virus software that “cleans up” these problems. All is well!

Getting back to the important things, on this incredible instructor, AKA Baroness, AKA Department Chair, delivered the most insightful lecture on Brexit, the UK’s Awkward European Adventure, the reason for the vote to leave, the process of the departure, and the future of the now (or soon to be) EU27. She mapped out all of the still present possibilities for the outcome of this UK/EU crisis and I now join these countrymen in watching daily to see how it will all turn out. Thanks to our leader, she does have to get up extra early in the morning to re-write her lectures☺ Following class, I did venture into town (yet again) to relish in the four floors of “Waterstones” book store (pics attached). All I can say is “Barnes and Noble” eat your heart out!!!!! Stayed for hours!

Yesterday, our China expert returned to complete his series on human rights in China, the rise in Nationalism, Western hypocrisy, the Hong Kong handover, North Korean bluster, and every detail about the rise of China that can’t possibly be shortened into a paragraph. Today, we had a prominent international ambassador and scholar deliver probably the most intellectually based assessment of the historical transition of world powers into the world order that we are currently experiencing. He covered the liberal world order from its evolution in 1528 to its peak from 1989-2008, and finally the rebirth of power politics under which we are currently living. Today’s plenary lecture covered the impact of other languages on the development of English and tonight we have a presentation on the science behind the 1943 “Dambusters bouncing bomb”.

I have one more full day of this fantastical experience and then I will only wish that I could have stayed longer. I’ll blog again tomorrow!

Thanks All!

Friday, July 20
The last day at Cambridge was difficult for all of us. Not only had the courses and lectures become a routine, but the faces we saw every day became as common as the morning sun. We had an expression for those we got to know that weren't in our classes, as "our friends on the path" (the walk from the dorms to the classrooms). We called each other by name, with a greeting and a smile several times throughout the day. Our final day of coursework focused on Russia, it's history of leaders, the Soviet Union, the post-war Russian Republic and the rise of Putin. Our professor spent a great deal of his career as a diplomat with a significant time as British ambassador in Moscow during the most difficult time in British/Russian relations. He, therefore, had an insight that we, as those looking in, have not been privy. The opening topic "Is the bear out of its cage?" says it all. Our afternoon plenary session was an interesting look into a case study of the ideas and iconography of Western art. There was no evening lecture in lieu of our closing dinner. We all lingered a bit longer than usual and talked to as many of our new friends as possible. Pictures were taken and contact information exchanged. In my case, skypes were set up for Comparative Government:) My closest companion was a young woman, originally from India. Nandita has been practicing as an international head hunter in Singapore. Our walks into town and philosophical discussions were priceless and I know she will be a lifelong friend. My

day in London, prior to going to Heathrow, was a hectic race to see as much as possible. "Hopping on and hopping off" the tour buses, my plan was to see all of the city's historical landmarks, and while I saw everything from the top level of the bus, I spent most of my time at the National Gallery and the British Museum. It was worth every minute. Unlike any day on this excursion, this one had a memorable anecdote. While walking to catch the bus to Heathrow, I couldn't help but notice a young girl, heavily laden with a suitcase and backpack. There was an endless stream of tears coming down her face as she walked. I asked her if she was ok, and she said that she was just very sad to have to leave her family in China to attend college in England. She broke down and said she would miss them so much and didn't want to be here. We stopped and sat on a ledge to talk awhile about the friends she would meet and the knowledge she would gain. I also assured her that her achievements would make her family very proud. She dried her tears and we walked the rest of the way to the bus station together. Her name was Julie and I've thought a lot about her since then. Her loneliness resonated, but also the sacrifices her parents must have made to send her there. After befriending the wonderful Chinese students at Cambridge, who had once been in her shoes, I found consolation in the hope that Julie will be just fine. Regardless, children still pull at your heartstrings no matter where you are or how you happen to meet.

P.S. I made it home safely and my luggage made it too, just a day later. I guess when it "hopped on" at Heathrow, it forgot to "hop off" in Miami!

P.S.S. Thank you to my Oxbridge family for making this trip possible.

Greta Mills: Teaching at Phillips Exeter

Mrs. Greta Mills, Chair of our Mathematics Department, was chosen to teach at Phillips Exeter this summer, at the Anja S. Greer Math, Science & Tech Institute. The one-week summer conference at the Institute is designed for teachers to enhance their mathematic and pedagogical knowledge. Mrs. Mills taught two courses: Deepening Student Understanding of Functions, Statistics and Trigonometry through Modeling, and Logic and Coding and Arduinos.

Friday, June 22, 2018
My alarm is set for 2:15 am, and I arrive at the airport at 3:45 am. It’s an uneventful flight and I am in my hotel by 12:30 pm. A few errands later I return to my room and sleep for 12 hours!

Saturday June 23, 2018
I arrive at Phillips Exeter in time for the leader dinner. Most of the leaders have been with the Anja Greer conference for many years; I am one of perhaps two new faces this year out of approximately 25 leaders. Fortunately, I know several of the leaders, having worked with a few through the Math Modeling Faculty Mentoring Network as well as from my time as an attendee at this conference. I am excited to begin!

Sunday June 24, 2018
Today is the day I meet my students! They come from all over the world with a wide range of experience and background. I am teaching two courses, Course 26 called “Deepening Student Understanding of Functions, Statistics, and Trigonometry through Modeling” and Course 27, “Logic and Coding and Arduinos”. I have teachers in my classes that have taught for 40+ years, and teachers who are starting out, and everything in between. They seem excited to learn from me and from each other. In Course 26, we look at a video of a former colleague shooting a basketball – but the video cuts out before we can tell: did he make the shot, or not? To be continued – tomorrow!

Monday June 25, 2018
Today is our first full day of classes! In Course 26, we continue our discussion from yesterday, focusing on technology that will allow us to analyze the motion of a ball. I give them a lot of different options: analyze existing videos, or create your own to analyze. There is value in creating your own materials and I encourage them to try that out. Some teachers opt to analyze existing video of a bouncing ball and how its bounce height decays over time, others analyze the ball toss video or the basketball shot video. We discuss how to incorporate vectors into video analysis and how to scaffold that into a discussion of velocity vs speed. My goal is to have each participant look at every activity through two lenses: as a teacher and as a student. We look at ways in which different students might approach a problem, as well as the kinds of questions that each activity might generate.

For “Social Hour”, I met up with former colleagues from Hanover High School and a friend from Taipei. We participated in a challenging, collaborative puzzle book called “The Librarian’s Almanaq”. This book required us to tear out select pages and work together to try to create an 8 x 8 grid from the pages. The completed grid led us to another puzzle… which led to another… we did not finish tonight!

Tuesday June 26, 2018
A full day! In course 27, we have been looking at circuits and switches; today they got to try their circuits both as a simulation and using breadboards and components. Very satisfying when the circuits work! In the afternoon, I gave my first CWiC talk (CWiC stands for Conference Within a Conference, and is a 45 minute one-time presentation). My CWiC session, titled “Pythagoras, Music, and the Mathematics of Harmony”, focused on the use of ratios and trigonometry to replicate musical notes, first using Pythagorean tuning to try to create an octave scale and comparing it to equal temperament tuning, and then using harmonics and exponential decay functions to synthesize the sound of a plucked ukulele string or the striking of a xylophone. This activity is one I do in my FST classes, and was a very fun project!

For dinner, instead of going to the dining hall, I had the privilege of driving with several wonderful mathematicians and educators for an excursion to the Oarweed Restaurant in Perkins Cover, Maine, about 45 minutes from Exeter. One educator in particular, Ron Lancaster, is extremely well known for his work in mathematics education as well as his regular column in Mathematics Teacher magazine. We had a waitress-in-training, so in appreciation of her efforts, Ron created a memento for her with some expert folding, which we all signed.

Wednesday June 27, 2018
The Librarian’s Almanaq continues to dominate after-dinner activities. Many people have stopped by to try their hand at the remaining puzzles. We (my friends from Hanover and Taipei, and I) decide that we are going to try to knock off the remaining three puzzles… which, when all eight are completed, will lead to the final puzzle and “enlightenment”. After a couple of hours, we have solved all but one. Time to call it a night!

When I return to my dorm, Nils Ahbel from Deerfield Academy, Maria Hernandez from the North Carolina School of Science and Math, and Julie Graves, also from NCSSM, are in the study and I join them as they discuss all manner of math education topics. This is why I love conferences so much – as the conversation flows, it nourishes the soul and I am reinvigorated. I’ve known Maria for years – she was my instructor the first time I attended the Exeter conference, and she is one of the leaders of the Math Modeling Faculty Mentoring Network. She’s an amazing resource and so encouraging. Nils Ahbel has written math textbooks and given talks at multiple conferences; we met at the annual conference last April and discovered a multitude of shared interests, including the mathematics of music as well as a fascination with the application and utility of 3-D printing.

Thursday June 28, 2018
Super busy day! I have two CWiC sessions today – one on indirect measurement and one on 3D printing. The first presentation focuses on indirect measurement as a theme integrated throughout the first semester of FST. I finish with a video called “Jurskis on a Swing”, featuring Oxbridge English teacher Amy Jurskis swinging on a swing which was part of an art installation at the Tate Modern Museum in London. This video found its way into the FST classes as a bonus problem for a project: From the video, can you determine how tall the structure is?

The second presentation showcased several student projects from my Calculus classes as they created solids whose volumes could be determined using Calculus. The students created the solids using Google Sketchup, and we printed them on the Math department’s 3-D printer.

Tonight we were able to solve the last of the eight puzzles, and we continue to try to figure out the final puzzle. I think we are going to have to work on it after the conference!

Friday June 29, 2018
Last day! I am packed and out of my dorm by 7:30, off to breakfast, and then a final meeting with both of my classes. We have done so much this week! Course 26 has looked at projects dealing with motion, sound, vectors, statistics, measurement, volume / surface area, apparent size, and more. Course 27 has been really fun for me to watch the students’ progress in working with Arduinos, from not knowing what one is to being able to modify and extend code. After a final lunch, I say goodbye to my friends old and new, and head off to the next adventure. I hope to be able to come back next year as a “seasoned” leader!

Amy Jonas - Seville, Spain

¡HOLA! I had the most amazing opportunity to travel to Seville, Spain for professional development. Mundolengua, a company that hosts our Oxbridge students in Cádiz, Spain, also offers continuing education; one week of intensive culture enrichment and language immersion, and one week of professional development. To keep my readers “immersed” in this account of my experience, I’ve added a few Spanish palabras throughout.

My program included 22 teachers from all of the United States, all staying with “familias sevillanas” scattered around the city. We shared the best walking routes, best tapas, and how to get free wee-fee (Wifi) around the city. I met teachers from both public and private schools from as far away as Utah and as near as Alabama. We bonded as we clumsily learned to dance the flamenco, skillfully participated in a taller de paella, but most importantly we bonded over our experience learning of the historia of Spain.

Walking through the streets of Seville brought its history to life and me and my "Stan Smiths” were transported back in time. With the legends and romance of the old quarter of Santa Cruz, and decorative architecture of the Alcázar and the Giralda Tower,there is a treasure around every corner. After just a few days, I was thoroughly convinced Colon had no idea what he had left behind when he convinced Queen Isabella to sail the ocean blue, I felt like I wanted kneel at her feet to beg for honorary ciudadana (citizenship) Española…¡Olé!.

Each day I was filled with awe-inspiring pasión and entusiasmo, which was only surpassed by the intellectual stimulation that sent my brain buzzing. My PD courses’ focus was on how to create “task-based” assessments to raise the level of students’ ability not only to understand Spanish, but to their ability to produce Spanish. Our instructor was top-notch and shared a plethora of resources. My class colleagues contributed almost as many resources to the pool as our teacher; I left this course with maleta of tricks and tools of how to create theme based teaching units and assessments.

Seville is the 4thlargest city in Spain and probably and the hottest (median summer temp surpasses treinta y cinco grados Celsius!) The sun doesn’t set until 10:30 or so, and people stay up until wee hours of the night, take siestas and wake up and do it again the next day. Was it hard to adjust to the Spanish way of life?, you may ask…..¡Qué va!

Glossary available upon request 😉

Francia Lamus - University of Florida

I was thrilled to participate in a summer educator workshop held at the University of Florida by Humanities and the Sunshine State: Teaching Florida’s Climate. This five-day institute brought perspective from the humanities into dialogue with current research in ecosystem science.

It was an intense program guided by scholars and Master Teachers. We were a selected group of Florida’s educators from a variety of subjects taught across the humanities, science, culture and environment. We experienced first-hand how Florida history and environment informs the decisions we must made about our future. We visited human-shaped landscapes including Cedar Key, Seahorse Key, the Santa Fe river, the UF Austin Cay Forest, the Florida Springs Institute and locally source-restaurants.

It started with the system thinking as a model to understand the complexity of climate change and seeing our world as a system. Then we collaborated in strategies for teaching hope as an outcome of climate change. Following with the big questions: What are the sources of Florida’s fresh water? What challenges of quality and quantity are Florida’s fresh water currently facing? How do political and economic forces shape how we use water in Florida? Floridians shape their environment but are also sensitive to environmental changes.

Some of the activities I enjoyed were canoeing trough history on the Santa Fe river, picnicking and swimming at Blue Springs. Engaging into informal discussions about ecology of the lazy river and its springs. Also, learning an interesting trending topic, climate fiction as a new genre of science fiction among youths and adults. We also had the opportunity to boat ride and explore the Seahorse Key Marine Laboratory Island. One of the hardest activities was the forest walk and carbon calculations, it was hot, humid and there was a chance to get bitten by small living creatures.

The workshop ended with the creation of an action plan that helps students to connect multiple ways of studying the social and physical world and see how these connections play a key role in supporting Florida’s society, environment, and economy. Looking back into my notes, I will leave you with the question: Is climate change anthropogenic? And the first law of system thinking by Peter Senge “Today’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions”.

Dr. Jennifer Bird - University of Cambridge


August 4, 2018
My trip to Cambridge represents my first passport stamp! Life never presented the opportunity to travel out of the country until now. On the plane ride from West Palm Beach to Atlanta, I began rereading one of the required books for the creative nonfiction class I am taking. Now, waiting to board my flight to London, I'm writing my first blog post.

First, I'll describe the class. Creative nonfiction is an intense, two-week seminar. It requires participants to write an essay a day, which means in two weeks I will write ten essays.
Welcome to the writing Olympics.
This class features writing workshops, a technique I use in my own English classroom. The secret involves being personal with writing so that readers care, but not too personal that readers feel uncomfortable.
I look at Rebecca Skloot's "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," my reading on the plane.
I knew all summer I needed to write about a person.
I'm going to try to write about my mom. Fifteen years ago she died, but I don't want to write about that. I want to write about her life. I'm taking her with me to Cambridge.

Monday, August 6, 2018
I enjoyed my first day of classes at Cambridge! I love my Creative Nonfiction class, taught by author Midge Gillies. Yes, I bought her book Writing Lives: Literary Biography and hopefully she will sign it for me before the end of the class. In my English classes, I love connecting life lessons to literature. Here are five life lessons I learned at Cambridge today.
Explore: The writing lectures take place in room SG1. Anyone remember the old show Stargate SG1, where the explorers went on adventures through a giant gate? That’s how I see my Cambridge experience: An adventure for which I feel grateful.
If in doubt, ask a Porter: Porters, the brave men and women who work the desk 24/7 at Selwyn College where I am staying, know everything about Cambridge and are always willing to answer questions. The joke in my family is that while my dad is a city planner and reads maps for a living, I did not inherit the geography gene and can get lost in my own neighborhood. The kind porters smiled and informed me the destination I sought was only a few steps away. I know I will be asking them more questions in the next two weeks.
Establish a safe environment. In writing seminars, the key to success involves giving writers the gift of blending confidence and vulnerability. What’s said in the writing workshop stays in the writing workshop. I practice the same philosophy in my classroom when students share writing. I already feel comfortable with my classmates; four of us walked across campus together today. They are from different countries in Europe, Asia, and America. Ages range from recent college graduates to retirees. I look forward to sharing my writing with them.
Celebrate the international environment. Last night at dinner and this morning at breakfast, I met people from all over the world. Interestingly, most people I met have an idea of Florida but are most fascinated about my home state of Ohio. No, I did not grow up on a farm or go to The Ohio State University, and my conversation companions laughed about perceptions of the Midwestern United States. I also had my own ideas about tea time in England, but a popular beverage at the café where I ate lunch was Diet Coke. Just like I tell my students, you learn by talking to others, and (couldn’t resist the Jane Austen reference since I am in England), first impressions can be misleading.

Celebrities are people too. Today I attended a reading and lecture by author Jem Poster. I will meet other authors throughout the week, and famous writers have the same journey as the adults taking this Cambridge class and Oxbridge students in their English class. Jem’s advice? For all writers, the best way to improve is to read more.

August 7, 2018
I love the quote from the late Randy Pausch, author of the book The Last Lecture, who believes that while it is important to live your own dreams, it is also fun to enable the dreams of others. I met a staff member from the International Summer Programmes office who was excited to learn I was from Oxbridge. He met the group of Oxbridge juniors when they attended Cambridge in March and enthusiastically stated how kind they were. I enjoyed hearing the news, because I had taught five of the fifteen students. As a teacher, the best gift is knowing I helped prepare them as writers during their academic journey.

For my own Cambridge adventures, the past two days I spent time in the Selwyn College Chapel. I am a Stephen Minster at my church, which means I am a layperson trained to help people in need. When I walk into the chapel, I notice both the beautiful stained glass window and the gold eagle holding a Bible. A message on the eagle states to visitors not to turn the pages of the Bible, because it is designed for people who visit the chapel to read the passage of the day and, perhaps in a moment of serendipity, find the inspiration they need. Today’s messages are Psalm 41 through Psalm 43 about helping people in distress. I feel called to look at the prayer requests and pray for the people who wrote their names in the prayer book. I look, stunned, at the first two names. Susie and Robin. Different last name of course, but they share the first names of my aunt and cousin. I love such signs that show me I was meant to be in a certain place at a certain time.

The ten students in my creative nonfiction class gather in a circle to critique each other’s writing. Our goal: Be supportive and encouraging while simultaneously asking open ended questions of the writer. I receive helpful feedback on my writing. Because of the confidentiality of writing workshops, I will not share the content of my classmates’ writing. I did have the opportunity to work with classmate Rosalind Seneca, author of the book Lucy Page, a Cambridge Story of Love and Loss. For more information about Rosalind and her book, check out the site

Vocabulary lesson of the day: My new favorite phrase is “sort it” which means “figure out things.” Looking forward to student expressions when I tell them, “we’ll sort it out” when classes begin!

Going into town tonight so will have more to report tomorrow!

August 8, 2018

On the way to town, I see Oxbridge’s own Sedric Simon, who is on a different part of campus in the business program. As you can see, we are both excited about our Cambridge classes!

I then explore town with the purpose of seeing the famous Corpus Clock. According to both my guidebook, England by Rick Steves and a nice town tour guide named Chris, the clock was commissioned by alum John Taylor and unveiled by Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking. Chris captures the attention of my tour group when she tells us that Stephen Hawking’s funeral was in Cambridge and Eddie Redmayne, who played him in the movie The Theory of Everything, gave a reading at the funeral. On top of the clock is a giant grasshopper, symbolic of the fact that time is being eaten, so enjoy life. Time for me to attend another seminar, so this blog will be continued with more adventures!

August 9, 2018

Last evening, I attended the 95th anniversary party of the Cambridge summer programmes at St John’s College. Musicians played, while guests enjoyed wine and cake. I learned that people from other countries are intrigued by American politics, but it was a party so I attempted to change the conversation to lighter topics, such as the beautiful buildings which surrounded us. I looked around the garden seeing numerous countries represented and couldn’t help but think this is what the world should be: People of different nationalities talking to each other and laughing. The cake was fabulous too!

People also talk to each other during meals. Breakfast and dinner are formal affairs, and while I have found new friends in my classes, I try to sit with different people every meal. The two most common questions are: Where are you from? Which classes are you taking? I have shared meals with people from Germany, Italy, Hong Kong, Sweden, Poland, India, Australia, and of course, England. The meals also remind me to slow down. How many times have I eaten breakfast in my classroom while grading papers?

I love my creative nonfiction class. Midge Gillies gives her students different prompts every day. For example, one day we were asked to write about shoes and another day write about cake, but we couldn’t describe the object without telling a story. I thought I would spend the seminar writing about my mom, but Midge has encouraged me to explore the lighter side of my writing. I wrote about the three forms of my name (Jennifer, Jenny, Jen), and a humorous story about the time my grandma and I threw a wedding party for my dolls, complete with cake that the dolls couldn’t eat, but we could.

For a research topic, I built on the research I began a few years ago with Dr. Claudia Jayne Brahler and Dr. Eric Wanner. In a previous research study, we learned that physical therapy patients who wrote short answer responses, like journal entries, healed faster according to objective physical therapy measures. I loved sharing my ideas with a global audience.

To learn more about Dr. Brahler and her work, visit the University of Dayton website at

My moment of serendipity for the day: When I looked at the prayer book of the Selwyn College Chapel, the newest entry asked for prayers for Jenny. Different last name, but a reminder for me to enjoy every moment of my Cambridge experience! 

August 9, 2018

I stand in Waterstones, a bookstore in the middle of town, teaching Asian tourists about American literature.  This story begins when I submit my writing assignment early so I can explore town.  The big news is the temperature has dropped from 80 degrees to 55 degrees in one day, and it is raining.  I wear a warm sweater (or what my British classmates would call a jumper), and my raincoat as my purple umbrella and I join the sea of umbrellas walking to town.  I cannot resist books, so I am standing at a display table when an Asian student introduces herself and asks if I can recommend a great love story.  I tell her I am from the United States and don’t work in the bookstore, and she explains she wants to read an American love story.  I find a copy of The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks for her, and buy a British version of the book myself when I learn Mr. Sparks has added new content for this edition of his classic novel.  I also buy One in a Million by contemporary British author Lindsay Kelk and resist the desire to buy another copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Predjudice (because I already own three) and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby(because I already own four).  I find it interesting that the British version of Gatsby does not display the iconic cover of the pair of eyes above the city, which all Oxbridge sophomores can describe, but a more subdued cover of a woman (presumably Daisy) drinking champagne.  I hurry back to campus in time to throw on a dress (or what my British classmates would call a frock) for dinner and pause to take a picture of one of the bright red phone booths located on street corners.

I learn something new with each lecture.  In addition to my small writing group led by Midge Gillies, I attend a seminar by young adult novelist Rupert Wallis and another seminar by Shakespeare Institute fellow Dr. Catherine Alexander.  This weekend I will attend a performance of Hamlet at the Globe and explore London, so I will update you, dear readers, next week with more adventures!

August 10, 2018

On the weekend free of classes, I feel determined to make the most of my first trip to England.  On both Saturday and Sunday, I took day trips from Cambridge to London.

Saturday finds me on a double decker bus which drives through London on a whirlwind tour.  If you are ever new to London like I am, I recommend a bus tour.  It is a fun and easy way to see the highlights of the city.  As the bus crosses the Tower Bridge (often known as the London Bridge), I stare at Big Ben, the clock tower on the Houses of Parliament.  With my phone camera in one hand and my digital camera in the other, I snap a few pictures.  Then I put down the technology and continue to stare, having one of those “I can’t believe I’m here” moments.

In addition to the moments which inspire awe, humor becomes part of the day as well.  Lunch takes place at a place called Pret A Manger (Ready to Eat).  I bring the remains of my tomato and mozzarella croissant with me, unaware I drop a few crumbs on the sidewalk.  One pigeon arrives and snaps them up, which makes me smile.  Then four of the pigeon’s friends fly to the scene, startling me.  The remains of my lunch land on the sidewalk while the pigeons enjoy a nice meal.  As they would say here in England, “well played, pigeons.”  I treat myself to a cheesecake frappuccino at Starbucks and find it interesting that I saw some of the same restaurants as in the United States, but with different menus.

Speaking of food, on Sunday a charter bus delivers my classmates who chose this excursion and me to a place near the London Eye, the famous ferris wheel.  A classmate from India really wants American food, so we go to a place called The Diner.  Music from the 80’s greets us, while staff members wearing 60’s inspired clothes hurry through the 50’s décor and place menus inspired by the 90’s in front of us.  I cannot think of a good response when asked if all diners in the United States look like this.

After a too quick visit to the National Gallery (I could have spent an entire day in the museum), the time arrives for a performance of Shakespeare’s classic play Hamlet at the Globe.  Horatio, one of the first characters the audience sees, is a woman.  Hamlet appears and the audience gasps.  Hamlet is a woman!  Laertes is also a woman, and Ophelia is a man.  I love it!  Critics, such as Mary Pipher, who wrote the excellent book Reviving Ophelia, discuss the passive role of women in the play.  Now, women play the lead roles and, without changing the dialogue, use action to perform a detailed commentary on gender in society.  More surprises follow.   Guildenstern speaks only in sign language and Rosencrantz plays the role of interpreter.  At one point, Hamlet appears onstage as a creepy clown.  Some of the Shakespeare purists in the crowd grumble a little as the show ends, but I adore modern interpretations of classic texts and this one takes its place as the best version of Hamlet I have ever seen.

Tired but exhilarated after two amazing days in London, I write the events in my journal and on this blog so I can relive the memories whenever I need a smile.

August 11, 2018

After a fun London weekend, Monday brings a return to another inspirational creative nonfiction class with Midge Gillies.  Today I attend a lecture by Dr. Sarah Burton on Writing as Therapy, one of my favorite topics and subject of my own research.  I am mesmerized.  Dr. Lucy Durneen describes transgenre writing, also known as multigenre writing, which brings my educational journey full circle to my undergraduate class at Miami University in Oxford (Ohio, not England), with Dr. Tom Romano, another expert on the subject.  Below is a picture of the London Eye I took yesterday to celebrate my love of full circle moments and things.  

Fun fact:  The word “Oxbridge” is used in England to describe someone who attends either Oxbridge or Cambridge.

I then learn this Thursday there will be a writing showcase.  Ten of the seventy students will have their writing chosen to be shared in a formal presentation to an audience of a few hundred people.  I tell myself if I don’t get chosen, I will have an enjoyable evening watching others present.  If I were writing fiction, my Cambridge story would end with receiving the award.  But I’m not writing fiction this week; I’m writing creative nonfiction.  So this story is to be continued, but it means I am wrapping up this blog for the day to work on my writing for both myself and the event.

The Selwyn College porters are enjoying my questions.  When I asked them what the symbols on the college shield meant, they said no one had ever asked them that question.  They loved the research, and by the end of the day, they presented me with a paper on George Augustus Selwyn.  He was a missionary, much like the Stephen Ministers of today.    

August 13, 2018

After a fun London weekend, Monday brings a return to another inspirational creative nonfiction class with Midge Gillies.  Today I attend a lecture by Dr. Sarah Burton on Writing as Therapy, one of my favorite topics and subject of my own research.  I am mesmerized.  Dr. Lucy Durneen describes transgenre writing, also known as multigenre writing, which brings my educational journey full circle to my undergraduate class at Miami University in Oxford (Ohio, not England), with Dr. Tom Romano, another expert on the subject.  Below is a picture of the London Eye I took yesterday to celebrate my love of full circle moments and things.  

Fun fact:  The word “Oxbridge” is used in England to describe someone who attends either Oxbridge or Cambridge.

I then learn this Thursday there will be a writing showcase.  Ten of the seventy students will have their writing chosen to be shared in a formal presentation to an audience of a few hundred people.  I tell myself if I don’t get chosen, I will have an enjoyable evening watching others present.  If I were writing fiction, my Cambridge story would end with receiving the award.  But I’m not writing fiction this week; I’m writing creative nonfiction.  So this story is to be continued, but it means I am wrapping up this blog for the day to work on my writing for both myself and the event.

The Selwyn College porters are enjoying my questions.  When I asked them what the symbols on the college shield meant, they said no one had ever asked them that question.  They loved the research, and by the end of the day, they presented me with a paper on George Augustus Selwyn.  He was a missionary, much like the Stephen Ministers of today.     

August 14, 2018

Today was an amazing culture day at Cambridge.  The highlight was attending a concert with composer and pianist Toby Hession (center), who debuted a new composition entitled “Soliloquy (2018) Op. 31” for the audience.  The audience sat in silence, enjoying the incredible moment of a musician whose music has been played worldwide, performing a new piece of music.  For the rest of the concert, Toby Hession was joined on flute by Jack Reddick (right).  My classmates and I who attended loved the wonderful evening.

I visited the Fitzwilliam Museum, and did not have enough time as I would have wished to tour the art galleries, but I made the most of the time I had there.  On my way back to campus I walked through the Princess Diana Memorial Garden, with its stunning flowers and a stone with the dates Princess Diana lived.  One of the porters told me about an apple tree supposedly descended from the tree which inspired sir Isaac Newton to study gravity.  I spent some time looking at apple trees.  I’m not sure if I found the right one, but it turned into a fun quest.  

I also attended a lecture today by author Katherine Stansfield, and continue to enjoy participating in writing workshops with Midge Gillies and my classmates.  I need to turn in my final writing piece in a few days and look forward to adding more wonderful memories to my Cambridge collection by the end of the week. 

August 16, 2018

The instructors chose my writing!!!  Yesterday I experienced a series of amazing moments.  When I arrived to class, Midge Gillies asked me to read an essay I wrote about my grandmother.  Each person in the program writes eight essays, and seventy people are in the program.  Out of all those essays, only ten could be selected to have the author read it at the showcase.  And one of mine got selected.  It is incredible that a team of the best writing experts in the world liked my writing and that I received this honor from Cambridge.  When I arrived to the symposium, I learned I would be the first reader.  Nothing like leading off a performance!  Midge introduced me.  My classmates sat together cheering for me.  A beautiful moment that I will look back on years from now and smile.

I have one more day of classes with Midge.  After that, I will submit my two final papers (yes, in creative writing we write two), and will attend the closing dinner.  This weekend I fly home, excited to share all I learned with my colleagues and students. My time in Cambridge passed too quickly, and I’m happy I made the most of the experience, both academically and socially through meeting people from around the world and enjoying my time in London.

Thank you, dear readers, for following my blog!

Sedric Simon - University of Cambridge


August 5, 2018

I have arrived!

Traveling from the Heathrow Airport to Cambridge was truly a journey. However, after three trains and a taxi I finally arrived at my destination. It was then time for me to check into my castle where I would reside for the next two weeks. The college is truly a site to behold and the fact that it was home to 14 of the world’s most famous Nobel Prize winners only adds to this euphoric-like experience. I was one of about four Americans staying at the college which led to some very intriguing conversations as we shared our first meal in the dining hall. Everyone was so interested in learning about their new neighbors and how they found out about this amazing opportunity.

August 6, 2018

Back to School

I am very fortunate to be part of the very first entrepreneurship and business course offered by the international summer program at Cambridge. In a class of 60+ students and 33 nationalities, I was one of only two students from the US. Our class was hosted at the Judge School of Business which is one of the newer buildings in Cambridge and is designed to be an incubator for the entrepreneurial mind. With plenty of spaces and resources it is no surprise that Cambridge has built such a successful business and entrepreneurship program.

August 7, 2018

Going to the Market

Between 11am and 2pm the entire town of Cambridge does one thing…. Eat! The streets are flooded with tourist and students with a very large portion of the crowd heading to market. The market has been around for decades and is full of food and merchandise vendors who set up in the morning and dismantle in the afternoon. It is what happens in between that time that is so amazing. Walking through the tented area you see the steam from food being prepared, you smell the aroma of various dishes from around the world, and vendors yelling out prices such as: 5 POUNDS, 7 POUNDS, 8 POUNDS. As an entrepreneur that studies systems and processes I was astonished with how my entire meal was prepared in under 30 seconds by one Greek food vendor who was also holding a conversation with another individual.

August 8, 2018

The Tea Party

The entire International Summer Program was invited to St. John college for a tea party. Even though we were all part of the same program living arrangements and course schedules made this the second and last time that all participants would be in the same area. It was a great social event that allowed all students from the different courses to mingle and talk about their experiences at Cambridge.

August 9, 2018

I was given the opportunity present a skit called “Idea” to the class. Idea is an essential part of Entrepreneurship I at Oxbridge and was well received by my international classmates. 

August 10, 2018

On Friday, we were put into our official groups with task of creating a very detail business plan for a business idea that our group voted on. My team unanimously voted for the idea that I presented. I was voted CEO of my team which proved to be more difficult than I initially expected. We had one week to apply all the concepts we were covering into this realistic business venture that was to be presented to a panel of Judges on the last day of the course.

August 11, 2018

Our schedules were clear on Saturday, which gave us a chance to go site-seeing. After stopping by the various shops and markets we ended the afternoon with a putting tour down the river. This gave us an exclusive view of the many colleges along the river as well as an in-depth history lesson on the making of Cambridge University and the interactions between colleges. 

August 12, 2018

Going To The Globe

Early Sunday morning we were loading onto to the bus heading to London. Upon arrival, we were given two hours to explore London before returning to the rally point that happened to be right in front of the London Eye. There were hundreds of people going in every direction. However, it was the historic buildings and architecture that would ultimately steal my attention. At times, it seemed like a dream seeing landmarks and buildings that you spend your life hearing about and seeing on TV. After grabbing lunch, we loaded the bus and took a brief ride over to the Shakespeare’s Globe. With exclusive tickets acquired by the University of Cambridge we were able to see Hamlet in the Tower seats. Although, I have read the play multiple times it was very exciting watching everything unfold in front of my eyes.

August 13, 2018

Social Experiment

The entire class took part in a social experiment. The class was split into three groups: the bottom, middle, and top, then sent to separate rooms throughout the building. Each group was given clear instructions on how they were to interact with the other groups. The bottom group which was also the largest had the lease amount of freedom. The top being the smallest were given a nice and cozy board room with a complete continental breakfast. There were no actual instructions as to the objectives of the activity, which quickly made each group very anxious and curious about their purpose and what was expected of them. I was chosen as an observer and given the task of documenting any new developments as I did my rounds between the rooms. The ultimate lesson was how quickly an organization can begin to unravel where there is no communication and direction. Oddly enough, the top made peace with the bottom group by bringing down food and snacks before laying out a very comprehensive plan for starting a international private school. The exercise was executed perfectly and I was excited that I was able to see every stage of the process.

August 16, 2018

The class was introduced to a master presenter who took us through the key elements of an effective pitch. He utilized several members of the class to illustrate the 5 most used presenting styles. This was by far the most beneficial class of the course. As the lead presenter of my group, I was able to implement the “Boom” element which he said sets the tone for the presentation.

August 17, 2018


The last day was very bitter sweet. We were nervous and excited that our two-week project was finally coming to an end. However, saying good bye to such an extraordinary group of people was also saying that this dream was coming to an end. The Director of the Entrepreneurship Program at the Judge Business School gave us one last assignment. We were to right a letter to ourselves that will be mailed out to us 6 months later. For the next 20 minutes, we sat in our seats just writing away. I am looking forward to receiving my letter in the future. I am working hard now to make sure I keep all my promises.


Fall 2017

Amy Jurskis - Cambridge Scholars Planning Trip - November

Last week, I traveled to Cambridge and London with John Klemme and Greta Mills to plan the 5th year of the Cambridge Scholars Program. I’ve been involved with this program since its inception, and I can honestly say that it gets better every year. The topic for this year is The Crown: a look at the challenges and changes in the monarch that occurred between the reigns of Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II. In addition to a full schedule of lectures from noted Cambridge professors, this year’s trip features some exciting excursions: a trip to London to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral and see (what else) the crown jewels at the Tower of London, a day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s hotly anticipated new staging of Macbeth (starring the 9th Dr. Who, Christopher Eccleston), and a trip to Hampton Court Palace, a favorite residence of monarchs from King Henry VIII-King George II.
As in past years, students will spend the first week of the program in residence at Madingley Hall, the estate
that served as a home for Queen Victoria’s eldest son while he was attending Cambridge. On our trip, we had a chance to spend a day at Madingley, where we met with program directors Sarah Ormrod and Emma Whybrow to brainstorm lectures and iron out the timeline for the trip. Each year, we invite a Cambridge professor to visit Oxbridge as a guest lecturer, and we are thrilled that Sarah will be joining us in early 2018.
We also had a chance to tour the grounds of Sidney Sussex College at Cambridge, where students will reside during the second week of the program. Sidney Sussex was founded in 1596 and we loved its spacious gardens and beautiful architecture. As a bonus, Oliver Cromwell—who orchestrated the overthrow of the monarchy in 1659 and will be featured in several lectures—is a graduate of the college.
On the last day of the trip, the three of us ventured into London and had a chance to see Albion, a brilliant new play about reconciling contemporary England with nostalgia for the glory of the past. That evening, we got to experience “Bonfire Night”, a holiday featuring incredible fireworks and bonfires commemorating and celebrating the failure of an attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605 (the Gunpowder Plot).
Students are selected for the Cambridge Program based on their completion of a project related to the year’s theme during their junior year. This year’s projects are due the day before Thanksgiving Break.

~Amy Jurskis, English Department Chair

Summer 2017

Mr. Laucas - MIT's Science Engineering Program for Teachers - June

For a second consecutive year, I attended the MIT Science & Engineering Program for Teachers, (SEPT), June 25 – July 1. At this week-long workshop, MIT researchers share their cutting-edge discoveries with 25 teachers from all over the nation. My highlight of SEPT was listening to the work of Leslie Pack Kaelbling, Panasonic Professor of Computer Science & Engineering, as her presentation helped me develop the format for Oxbridge Academy’s Robotics program. Professor Kaelbling is wonderfully talented at explaining how machines can become intelligent systems capable of learning.

Attending SEPT inspired me to plan my classroom activities and labs with content that aligns to the current scientific trends, and research being conducted in the professional field. Throughout my week networking and listening to presentations, I closely observed how the scientific method has evolved and how we as educators can adapt this progress into the classroom. My goal is that Oxbridge students can conduct experiments and evaluate their results just like MIT researchers.

I am so thankful that Oxbridge Academy supports professional development, and the opportunity to explore how every nation in the world is coming together to break scientific boundaries. It greatly bolsters my belief in science and gives me hope for the future. What is most fascinating to me when I attend conferences is discovering that Oxbridge Academy’s curricula shares, or exceeds, the progress made by other experiential-based high schools.

Professor Kaelbling’s full lecture on robotics:

Professor Kaelbling’s MIT page:

Professor Kaelbling’s Research Outline:

Renato Lucas de Campos is the chair of the science department at Oxbridge Academy.

Ms. Wyatt - The National Gallery of Art, DC - July

At the end of July, I left South Florida to attend a Summer Teacher Institute focusing on the Renaissance at the National Gallery of Art in DC. For a week, 25 teachers from around the country immersed themselves in the renaissance collection of the NGA. Each day we attended lectures with art historians, took gallery walks with curators, and participated in hands-on demonstrations including renaissance printmaking and the techniques of oil painting.
We spent our afternoons brainstorming curriculum connections and teaching techniques to engage students across disciplines. We studied the perfection executed by the Florentine masters like Raphael, the vibrant colors and distinct style of the Venetian artists like Titian, the attention to detail and belief in reflecting the natural world achieved by Northern
Renaissance artists like Van Eyck, and Eastern textiles and pottery beginning to appear in the Western world during the Renaissance. We were able to go behind the scenes in the museum and view Durer prints up close and spend time in the galleries before the museum was open! Our week ended with a concert in the gallery atrium entitled "Listening to the Art," an exploration of the music of the Renaissance as a companion to what we had studied.

I am so grateful to Oxbridge Academy for their belief in continuing teacher education. I can directly apply what I learned to my Honors Seminar European History course and am full of ideas of how to incorporate the knowledge and resources provided by the National Gallery in other classes and disciplines. I can't wait to get back in the classroom and share what I have learned with our students!

Rainey Wyatt is a history teacher and the librarian at Oxbridge Academy. She has a Master of Library Science degree in young adult literature with a minor in archival studies from the University of Kentucky and a Bachelor of Arts degree in history with a minor in medieval studies from Indiana University.

Mr. Benjamin Matzen - Cambridge University Summer Science Program - July

This summer I had the amazing opportunity to participate in Cambridge University’s Summer Science Program, studying the topics of immunology and fossils. These courses were accompanied by daily plenary lectures focused on a theme of prediction in science.

My first week’s course was on the topic of immunology. I was excited to learn more about this topic, but was concerned that the material might be so specific and detailed that I would quickly become lost. Nothing could have been further from the truth! My professor- or tutor as they are called- guided my fellow students and me through the intricate choreography of our innate and adaptive immune systems. Although the material was quite detailed (our bodies produce up to 1018 different forms of white blood T-cells via a complex of gene regulatory mechanisms!), the lecturer talked us through the intricacy of this process with an experienced ease.

Over the weekend the Summer Program offered excursions outside of Cambridge to enrich our cultural experience. I chose to travel with my classmates to the Globe Theatre in London, to enjoy a rather unconventional performance. This interpretation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was set in the 70s and starred the famous Nigerian actor “La Gateau Chocolat.” The performance was so entertaining that we almost didn’t notice the occasional rain that fell through the Globe’s open roof, onto ponchos sold onsite that read “it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath”.

Whereas my first week’s course was in an area in which I did not have much expertise, my second week’s course was in my academic background - fossils! My amazing professor took my class on a journey through the history of life changing over Earth’s history. The professor also brought an extensive teaching collection of fossils and rocks to aid with our discussion topics. I was in dino-geek heaven! I certainly have a lot to share with Honors Seminar in Biology next year.

The science program’s afternoon plenary sessions were often field trips to various sites where science is conducted at Cambridge. We visited the museum of archaeology, the astronomy observatories in the Cavendish laboratories, and the especially lovely botanical gardens. As a transplant from California myself, you can imagine my surprise seeing Sequoia sempervirens, a coastal redwood, growing tall and strong in a well-manicured English garden!

There were three trips that were particularly fascinating to me, both personally and in my role as a science teacher. The first was a trip to the Cambridge Department of Chemistry’s undergraduate laboratories. The chemists there had set up three separate lab demonstrations for us. As a chemistry teacher, I am excited to possibly use two of the demonstrations, or variations on their theme, in my own classroom next year. The third demonstration, which demonstrated the extraction of DNA from living cells, is a lab activity Oxbridge students conduct in their Biology classes. DNA has a special connection to Cambridge, as it was James Watson and Francis Crick, while working at Cambridge, who were the first to correctly demonstrate the double helix structure of our genetic material. Almost as famous locally is “The Eagle”, the pub where the two scientist ran to announce their discovery and where I was able to enjoy a few meals during my stay.

Our group also visited the Sedgewick Museum of Earth Science. This museum housed remarkable rock and mineral collections, a stunning gem collection, and was full of fossils - my academic love! The stunning fossils of this “modest” museum ranged from numerous invertebrate fossils from around the UK to a specimen of iguanodon, one of the first dinosaurs discovered. The museum also boasted a collection of Darwin’s personal papers and equipment that he had taken on the famous voyage of the HMS Beagle- wow!

Finally, our group took a trip to the Department of Zoology. The trip included a discussion of earth’s major groups of vertebrate animals, including live examples of each major group. They showed us giant cockroaches, a huge chameleon, and a meerkat! While there I was also able to meet with a paleontologist who was also a curator of the Department of Zoology collections. I had struck a conversation with him at a previous plenary lecture and learned that the Cambridge collections held a pareiasaur specimen, a rare group of extinct reptiles I researched during my graduate studies. The curator took time out of his busy schedule to allow me to see the specimen, which is an absolutely remarkable exemplar of the group! This professor, as well as all the educators and students I had the pleasure to meet at Cambridge, had a wonderful spirit of academic openness and enthusiasm for learning. From this spirit springs a willingness to go that extra step whenever possible to enrich the learning of others. This is the same spirit I feel we have at Oxbridge, that makes our school such a special place to learn.

Cambridge is not just a wonderful university, but also an amazing city with a tremendously rich history and culture. As you walk along the cobbled streets of town, the architecture of the buildings reminds you that the city has existed for centuries. Should you visit, hopefully you will take the time to punt on the River Cam and walk through the painstakingly maintained gardens, unique to each college. Just drink in this beautiful city and all it offers. I learned so much in just two weeks, both academically and culturally. I am very grateful for the opportunity I was given to study there.

Ben Matzen is a science teacher at Oxbridge Academy.

Mr. Paul Rave - Metacognition and Mindsets, UC Santa Barbara - July

“I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.” –Albert Einstein

Meta cog… what?

Like most teachers, I am always excited about a chance to further my own education, and once again this year I had an opportunity to participate in a Learning and the Brain summer institute. After an incredible experience last year with their institute on The Neuroscience of Executive Functioning, I couldn’t wait to dive back in. For a week this July I was able to travel back to my alma mater UC Santa Barbara to enjoy the beautiful weather and fine dining with a small group of about 35 educators from around the world set to discuss “Metacognition and Mindsets”. I know that title may be confusing for some, but you’ll find out that it’s a pretty simple concept. Metacognition is simply the awareness and understanding of one’s own thought process; and mindsets are all important mental starting points that define how ready the brain is to accept new information. Research is now showing that strategies designed to boost metacognition before teaching has a much stronger and longer lasting effect than simply instruction alone.

Pluto isn’t a planet anymore

Pluto didn’t change or go anywhere new, we simply discovered that there’s more in our solar system than we thought and chose to update our definition of “planet” as a result. As we learned in my institute, our understanding of how the brain works has grown at an incredible rate over the last ten years. With emerging technologies and many researchers devoted to unlocking more and more secrets, we are now able to monitor and map specific parts of our brain as it reacts to varying stimuli. With these advances in neuroscience we too are challenged to update our understanding of how learning occurs and in turn how we teach. I’m extremely excited to share my knowledge with students, parents, and teachers this year as I’m confident that it can have a very positive impact for all of us.

Old dogs can learn new tricks

For years we thought that everyone was born with a level of intelligence that cannot be increased. The point of IQ tests was to specifically sort individuals by intelligence in order to maximize their potential with appropriate placement. Not only do these tests give us inaccurate measures of intellect due to a wide range of variables (social, financial, emotional, cultural, gender, etc.) but they rely partially on preexisting knowledge instead of purely testing thinking ability involved. I learned that intelligence is found in the thinking process as opposed to the outcome and we now know that there is no set intelligence for each student. Just like how a stroke survivor can retrain a different part of their brain to relearn motor skills, anyone can continue to “learn new tricks” throughout their life. In fact, you’ve probably heard another fancy word for this, “neuroplasticity”. The more we understand how our own brain works (aka metacognition) the more students believe in themselves and the better the learning experiences.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

I’m talking in terms of mindset. A fixed mindset is very limited, less engaged, and more likely to shut down in a challenging environment. Our goal is the growth mindset. Think about the toddler that keeps asking “Why?” A discussion like this can keep going forever because even if you get to the “I don’t know” response, that can have the reply “Why?” As frustrating as it can be at times, this is a great start for a child. A growth mindset is always ready with one more idea, another question, a different perspective. Not everyone has a growth mindset, but if we first take the time to understand our own brain then it becomes a choice as to whether or not we want to work towards a growth mindset. One thing I’ll be asking the teachers to do this year is to pay close attention to how they’re supporting students that get stuck. Instead of approaching a student with the thought “What do they need to know in order to complete this task?”, we get those better longer lasting results by thinking “How do they need to think to solve this problem?” We’ve all heard it before, “It’s not the destination that matters, but the journey.”

That’s not all folks!!!

I tried to fit as much information as possible into this blog, but it’s really only the tip of the iceberg. I also left out the wildfire that was burning just over the mountains, seeing old water polo friends, the delicious burritos, the buddy who shapes surfboards and his impromptu explanation of so much more than I ever imagined matters in his designs, the owner of a small sushi restaurant that remembers me even if I only make it there twice every five years, the beach and its cold water, the new friendships and professional connections, and so on and so on. I couldn’t be more thankful for this opportunity given to me by Oxbridge Academy, and I am excited about the new school year and my chance to use this information and make a difference for our students.

Paul Rave is on the Learning Support Team at Oxbridge.

Ms. Kate Kilian - Cambridge University Summer Science Program - July

Taking classes this summer at the University of Cambridge was one of the best experiences of my life. As a part of their continuing education science program, I had the opportunity to select two science courses. The first week I took an intensive course on the effect of climate change on Antarctica, and the second week I took one on quantum physics. I also attended daily plenary lectures about various topics in science taught by top Cambridge professors, completed lab experiments in the famous Cambridge laboratories, and toured museums and research institutes where I learned about current and historical studies in science.

It has been years since I graduated college, and I was quite nervous when I attended my orientation. I was blown away by my fellow students and professors. My program consisted of approximately 400 adults, who had come from over 60 different countries. I made friends with university professors from South Africa and Australia and graduate students from the UK, South Korea, China, and Brazil. Although we all shared the same passion for science, speaking to these highly intelligent adults about world issues and politics, all I could think about was how lucky Oxbridge students are to visit Cambridge and have experiences like this at the age of 17.

Our days were jam-packed with learning. These 12 lectures were given by not only the highly regarded Cambridge professors, but the current top researchers in the world in their fields. I learned from Dr. Hugh Hunt about how Hyperloop travel, Elon Musk’s brainchild, could save our climate. From Dr. Martin Welch and Dr. Austin Smith, I learned that human genetics and embryonic stem cell research and knowledge, and how this goes so far beyond everything I learned 10 years ago. From Professor Simon Conway Morris, I learned the importance of convergent evolution and, even more interestingly to me as a teacher who has taught in several religious schools, about his beliefs in the relationship between science and religion. Finally, I learned all about the history and current statistics regarding the equality of women in science, which I cannot wait to share with the newly developed Oxbridge Women in STEM Club, run by Kate Maloney.

In addition to the plenary sessions, in the afternoon I completed labs and toured Cambridge museums and research institutes. The most exciting one for me was completing an X-ray diffraction lab in Cavendish Laboratory. A quick lesson: Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA in Cavendish Laboratory using knowledge that they gained from Franklin’s X-ray diffraction. Using this same technique to do research, in this same lab, gave me goose bumps. If that is not impressive enough, every year, I spend many classes teaching my students about Ernest Rutherford, JJ Thomson, and James Chadwick, who discovered the positive nucleus, the electron and the neutron, respectively. They too studied and made their discoveries in Cavendish Lab, and I don’t think I have ever been as excited as I was when I saw that the actual equipment that they used to make these discoveries was sitting in glass showcases, like we use to display Mrs. Mill’s math modeling projects, right outside my lecture hall.

My individual classes also did not disappoint. During the first week, I heard from the top researchers from the British Antarctic Survey about the current effects this is having on our world. At Cambridge, my professors were not only explaining the current theories and research, they were responsible for coming up with the current theories and completing research right now in Antarctica. I personally believe this is the biggest issue facing our student’s generation.

The second week I studied quantum physics, a course I love. I was the only American in the class and one of only a very small number of females. My class consisted of top math professors from top universities around the world and top graduate students in physics from China, South Korea, and Australia. My professor, Dr. Jardine-Wright, was quite possibly the most intelligent and best teacher I have ever had. The class was based around differential equations and not lecture-based at all. Instead we were provided with problems to solve in groups, similar to how we teach our students at Oxbridge. I could not just take notes and follow along, I was forced to actually learn and work out the problems myself. While I love math, I have not used many of these calculus concepts in years, and I found myself spending my evenings practicing advanced calculus problems to be prepared for the next day's class. Taking this course was one of the most challenging things I have ever done and I am so thankful that I did. We teach physics first at Oxbridge, because it is the basis of all science. I walked away with a deep understanding of Schroedinger’s equation and the complexity of the quantum mechanical model of the atom, and I was surprised to learn how much is still unknown and how far we still have to go. I lugged my textbook for the entirety of the rest of my summer travels, just so I could pass it on to my former student, Brian Reinhart, who I know will love to read it.

In this blog I only highlighted a small handful of my experiences at Cambridge, and I can’t say enough how this impacted my teaching career. I am thankful to have the opportunity to teach at Oxbridge and to have the opportunity to be supported and encouraged to have experiences like Cambridge and my recent summer internship at Max Planck. I met just about everyone in the science program, and none of them were high school teachers. These experiences have changed and shaped who I am as a teacher, and I feel like I am not teaching from a textbook, but I have the opportunity to teach my students about what is happening right now in science. While I know Oxbridge teachers take turns going to this program, like Mr. Fierroz, I will without a doubt be returning on my own next year!

Kate Kilian is a science teacher at Oxbridge Academy.

Mr. Zach Halpern - A Midsummer's Trip to Cambridge - August

Walking through the streets of Cambridge is like walking through layers of time. There’s the Eagle Pub, where Watson and Crick announced their discovery of DNA and where American and British Airmen during WWII burned their names into the ceiling. There’s the apple tree in the botanic garden that inspired Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity.

When I get footsore, I see the city by punt. A punt is a narrow flat-bottomed skiff that you push along the river with a long metal pole. Sometimes the metal pole gets stuck in the muddy river bottom. If this happens, you have to drop the pole or you take a dive into the cool River Cam, the river from which Cambridge gets its name. I don’t do this punting business myself. I have a guide, a quick-witted student who tells me colorful stories about Cambridge history.

Some of the stories are very colorful indeed. I wonder if he’s pulling my leg. “Do you ever make stories up?” I ask him.

“Sometimes,” he says. “When I get bored, I do.”

He tells me how he once hoodwinked some rowdy Danish tourists about the construction of the legendary King’s College Chapel.

“I told them that the cathedral was built from the top down to the bottom because Isaac Newton hadn’t invented gravity yet.”

“That’s brilliant,” I say.

“I know.”

Suddenly, though, I’m wondering if he’s told me a lie.

“Don’t worry,” he says, “If I tell a lie, it’s only for fun, and I always correct the lie afterward.” Then he’s on to the next story: “Have you heard how the Bridge of Sighs got its name? Queen Victoria thought it looked like the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. If you’ve ever seen the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, you know that the two look nothing alike. Queen Victoria was going blind.”

I do a bit of research later and confirm that this tidbit is likely true.

Each evening, dinner is served at Selwyn College Hall. I meet people there from all over. A couple PhD students from Paris and Moscow, both studying English literature in their home countries. Two Marias from Italy who fearlessly act Shakespeare. A Chinese student majoring in economics who takes literature courses just to try something new. Many people here know three or more languages.

On the weekend, Sef and Estella Fieroz and I walk south along the River Cam toward Grantchester, a small village neighboring Cambridge. It’s the site of a TV series (apparently, very good) about a sleuthing Anglican vicar. We’re not going for the clandestine clergy, but for the famous tea room, The Orchard, an idyllic little spot where Virginia Woolf, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and John Maynard Keynes used to sip Earl Grey. I’m happy to relax in their style after a busy week of lectures. I studied Shakespeare’s Sonnets, his comedies Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing and his tragic history play Richard II. All my lectures were great.

We talk about how we’ll introduce our new knowledge into our classrooms, and it gets us excited for the coming year.

I can’t wait to share all that I’ve learned with my students.

Zach Halpern is an English teacher at Oxbridge.

Mr. Seferino Fierroz - A Letter to Oxbridge from Cambridge - August

Dear Oxbridge,

A warm welcome to all of you out in Oxbridgeshire from a not so warm Cambridge. Still the weather is a nice reprieve from our summer weather in West Palm Beach.

The is my second summer here; how lucky am I. Last year my focus was on the scientific revolution and philosophy. This year, I concentrated on early Islamic science and history of western medicine. There is so much to talk about in regards to Cambridge; for now let me focus on my classes.

Let’s start with the early Islamic science. Islamic Science is the precursor to all things relevant to contemporary science. At a time of cultural decay during the European middle ages, the Islamic culture was displaying a renaissance period of its own. It has a good backstory, and the emphasis of this course was more on the roots of early Islamic science and how it came to be and what its relevance was to mainstream science. In particular, how did it influenced the scientific revolution? It also traced the roots of early Islamic science back to its foundation, in other words ancient Greek, Chinese and Indian science and the origins of Islam and how the two were intertwined. It made for an interesting mix and an interesting course.

So, what was the ancient medicine course about? In a nut shell, it was the story of how medicine evolved from the Babylonians through to the middle ages. It kind of left us hanging for what happen to medicine going forward from the Renaissance onward but it did include a lot of the details about what was going on with the Babylonians, Egyptians, and all types and flavors of Greeks (Homeric, Hellenic, Hellenistic (there is a difference) and Alexandrians amongst others). Of course, we cannot forget what was going on with the Romans, early Christians (both eastern and western) and the Muslims (both the Abbasidians and the Moors). The focus was on medicine of course but there was also lot of context in terms of cultures, religions and the peoples. So how successful were they? Could the Egyptians do surgery? Did anyone ever survive a concoction made for leprosy? Hmmm, I now know and I might tell you when I see you but to really find out you need to take the class.

How does this all fit in with my Oxbridge courses? A well-rounded teacher tends to try to develop well-rounded students. Yes, I teach math, physics and computer science. All of these disciplines have deep ancient roots, yes even computer science. I’m always asking my history colleagues to put more math, science and technology content and contexts into their curriculum and for the most part they already do (history courses have changed since I took them back in the century) but the challenge for us as math, science and engineering teachers is to incorporate more of the history and culture of what we teach as well. Some of the math we teach is thousands of years old; some of our technology is almost as old (concrete, steel, surgery, architecture, farming to name a few). We as STEM teachers don’t still teach it because it’s history, we teach because it’s relevant. A lot of these discoveries incorporated exchanges of ideas across a myriad of different culture groups, something scientist and mathematicians to this day still do. Most of our technical terms are Greek, Latin or Arabic words, though the lingua franca of today is English.

We are so concerned with our big picture of trying to get our students to understand why we do the math or science that we don’t bother to step back even further to appreciate that this was all cutting-edge issues back in the day and what takes us a week to cover in class probably took centuries to discover or invent if not more so with many painful trips down blind alleys or dead ends as part of that journey. It was not easy for the ancient masters so why should we expect it be easy for our students? At the end of the day, we all teach world culture. Yes, math and science is part of world culture, the same as literature, art and music. We are here to teach our students to be the magicians of the future. To be good at that, they need to know where they come from, from a humanistic, mathematical and scientific perspective. If I need a magician in my future, I want a well-rounded one. In short, I’m doing my part to help the cause, and so are my colleagues. That is why as a math and physics teacher this year, I took these courses.

Mr. Fierroz is a teacher at Oxbridge.