The diversity of activities on campus last Saturday stands as an example of Mayfield’s excellence and determination in mathematics, arts and science. This “Actions Not Words” day in education, albeit wet and gloomy, offers an impressive look into what Mayfield learning is all about.
At 7:30 a.m. in Strub Hall, two student teams logged onto their computers and were greeted by a massive math problem, part of an intense national competition called the MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge. A few hours later, our robotics team, among the elite teams in Southern California, assembled in Hayden to practice for a major regional competition this weekend. Upstairs in Hayden, as they do once a month on a Saturday morning, our AP Bio students converged in their lab to deepen their knowledge as they prepare for the upcoming AP test.
Meanwhile, more than 30 creative and performing artists began their pre-show tech week, rehearsing in Pike for our upcoming musical, Into the Woods.
And although this win didn’t happen last Saturday, we just found out that for the fourth consecutive year, Mayfield French students have placed second and third in a national video contest sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French and designed to test students’ proficiency in the language!
“All of this achievement shows in amazing ways what Mayfield is doing right when it comes to educating girls,” said Head of School Kate Morin. “These students are smart, they are collaborative and learning that starts in the classroom extends to meaningful activities in their lives. Plus, they are having fun. I love it!”
Let’s start the day with the early risers.
At 7:30 a.m. sharp, two teams of mathematicians, statisticians, graphic designers and research specialists logged onto their computers to solve a big, real-life national problem. They had 14 hours to submit a 20-page math model analyzing and predicting the effects of substance abuse on individuals.
The teams had practiced for months and, along the way, learned how not to be intimidated by seemingly unwieldy problems. On Saturday they built a mathematical model to predict the use of nicotine by vaping over the next 10 years, among other tasks. Here is a snippet of their discussion as they formulated their model:
“It’s called probability of use, so let’s call it P u.”
“OK and T= .271."
With their equation on the board, Niamh Diver ’19 began entering numbers in her calculator.
“OK, I got a value of 46.8%,” Niamh said. “So there is a 46.8% chance that she will be a nicotine user—and I think that’s probable!”
The team breaks out into victorious cheers of relief.
“Oh my God! Oh my God! This is beautiful,” one said.
“Now let’s back-check it,” said another. A second round of calculations yields another good answer.
“We did it!” said team captain Sara Lydon ’19. “This took us five hours to do. If it was wrong we would have had to start all over.”
The teams submitted their papers within minutes of deadline to the national competition judges. Whatever the outcome, these students have learned, as they like to say, about the beauty of mathematics.
“Our two teams did an incredible job,” said Melissa Tighe, Math Department Chair and Director of Innovation. “This is the kind of work in which our students show how they go above and beyond in their studies and are redefining what they see as their place in the world.”
‘Brew-ce’ and Team Javabot
Meanwhile, the robotics team, a joint partnership between Mayfield and the Girls Scouts of America, was busy tending to “Brew-ce.” That’s the name of the robot they built, because their team name is “Javabots” and they are all about coffee puns.
But the play on words belies the seriousness of their work. The team has advanced to a major pre-world regional competition taking place this weekend. Practices have heated up as they refine their self-engineered mechanisms and maneuver Brew-ce around a pen, where he lifts balls and block and deposits them into a bin, among other movements.
“Our robotics team is well-poised for their competition,” Mrs. Tighe said. “The fact that we have advanced as one of the top teams in Southern California really distinguishes Mayfield STEM education.”
Team member Bella Leifer ’19 is on the home stretch of her senior year with a new-found interest in engineering after Mrs. Tighe suggested she explore joining the team.
“I really wanted to get some real-world experience, plus I have never done anything like this before,” Bella said. “I was really nervous at first, but I have actually learned how to build a robot!”
Beyond the competition, Bella and others said they have learned life-changing lessons about taking on new challenges.
“Once you start building something, if it doesn’t work you figure out why—that’s engineering,” Bella said. “I have really gotten to experience what learn-by-doing means.”
The magic of theatre
This takes us inside Pike Auditorium, where the magic of theatre was unfolding during the first tech rehearsal for Into the Woods, a showcase for Mayfield’s Conservatory for the Arts. Tech week brings together all the musicians, lighting and sound designers and set builders as the actors rehearse.
Our Technical Theatre Conservatory members built the set. Nail guns, 2 x 4s, ladders and paint are part of these girls’ toolbox of skills.
Five members of our Instrumental Conservatory are taking a spot in the orchestra pit. Our Dance Conservatory is behind the choreography and ensemble numbers. And our Theatre Conservatory members and the voices of our Women’s Ensemble take center stage.
“This all-conservatory, school-wide production of Into the Woods will be more than just a showcase of Mayfield talent,” said Kimberly Gomez, Director of the Conservatory for the Arts. “It’s a creative activity that teaches our students about organization, collaboration and responsibility.”
Alumna Andrea Sweeney ’12, a professional actor and director, has served as a guest Theatre Conservatory instructor this year and said every student “has brought their best to the show while keeping on top of their academic studies.”
The sun sets
By late afternoon—after multiple bowls of fruit, cookies and Porta Via take-out lunches—the activities began to shut down for the day. Hours after the sun set, the math competition teams were on the home stretch and filed their papers minutes before the 14-hour deadline expired at 9:30 p.m. and Mrs. Tighe locked up Strub Hall for the night after 10 p.m.
This glorious Saturday of achievement and camaraderie had come to an end, giving way to another cycle of learning.
Early Monday morning the lights were back on at Mayfield—math classes on a new chapter, more run-throughs of the play and, as late at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night, laughter from the busy robotics lab resounded across Pergola Lawn.