Month: March 2016

Spring has Sprung!

APRIL ’16 NEWSLETTER

 

There’s only two months left in the school year, Pinnacle Prep Student’s. Let’s make them count. Now is the time to put forth our best effort so that we can finish the year strong and carry the momentum into the 2016-17 school year. April, a month known for its cleansing rains, provides us with a great opportunity to shake off any dust from the months prior and start fresh for the final stretch.

A Classic April Fool’s Day Hoax

April also starts us off with a day to get a little goofy. Many companies and networks even manage to have a little fun on April Fool’s Day. Google pulls a prank on its users just about every year, including last year when they announced PacMan view for Google Maps which would allow people to play PacMan through renderings of real streets.

April Fools DayHowever, before Google was announcing something wacky every April 1st, a British news program managed to convince its viewers that spaghetti grew on trees.

Panorama is the world’s longest running televised current affairs program. The show first launched on the British Broadcasting Channel in 1953, and even today it still retains a peak time slot on BBC One.

Highly regarded as it was, Panorama still decided to have a little fun with its viewers. On April 1st, 1957 the program announced that a mild winter had rid Switzerland of its dreaded spaghetti weevil problem. Thanks to the species’ near-extinction, Swiss farmers could finally begin harvesting the spaghetti crops. In order to sell the hoax, the announcement was paired with footage of farmers removing long strands of spaghetti from “spaghetti trees.”

The announcement garnered huge ratings. Viewers were captivated by this seemingly absurd natural occurrence. An estimated eight million saw the broadcast, and hundreds more even called the network, seeking advice for how they, too, could grow their own spaghetti crop. BBC representatives replied, tongue-firmly-in-cheek, “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.” But not just the public was fooled by Panorama’s story. The BBC director-general at the time even admitted that he opened up his encyclopedia to see if that was how we really got spaghetti after hearing the story.

Panorama cameraman Charles de Jaeger was the mastermind who created the whole idea. He claimed the plot came from remembering how his teachers in Austria used to tease students by telling them that they’d believe spaghetti grew on trees. With a budget of 100 euros, de Jaeger got to put his teachers’ old joke to the test. Respected broadcaster Richard Dimbleby lent his voiceover to the story and gave it the credence it needed to work. Dimbleby knew that his authority would make or break the joke, and so he tackled the broadcast with enthusiasm.
CNN would later call the broadcast “the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled.” This year, Pinnacle Prep School will have April Fool’s Day off, so if you want to try a prank of this scale, you’ll have to pull it on your family or wait for 2017.

Earth Day

While April’s first day may revolve around pranks and goofing around, the month is also home to Earth Day. Every April 22nd commemorates national and global efforts in environmental protection.

celebrate-earth-dayThe first Earth Day was held on April 22nd, 1970. On that day, 2,000 universities, 10,000 primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities participated in the event. The Environmental Protection Agency describes it as an event which “brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform.” Both Republicans and Democrats supported the holiday’s creation, but many were surprised by just how successful it was. As such, historians often credit the event for launching the modern environmentalist movement.

That year also saw the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a book also heavily cited as the beginning of environmentalism. Carson initially released the book in a serialized form via the New Yorker before the collected essays became a national best seller later that year. The book took its name from Carson’s musing that fewer and fewer species of birds would be singing each spring unless the nation did something about pesticide, and her mission riveted and revolutionized an American public disillusioned by the Vietnam War. Skeptics criticized her book of basing its claims shallow science, but audiences flocked to her cause regardless. Environmentalism was off and running in the United States.

In the shadow of the first Earth Day and Silent Spring, the US would pass the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Those landmark legislations were some of the first and most influential of the US’ environmental laws. The Clean Air Act, in particular, is one of the most comprehensive air quality laws in the world.
Earth Day would eventually go global twenty years later, spreading to 141 different countries. Its organizers claim that 1 billion people now participate in the environmentalist holiday. This makes it the “largest civic observance in the world.”

Environmentalism has been prominent in recent news thanks to a conference in Paris held just last year. At that conference, scientists gathered to limit the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius. Over the course of two weeks, the conference negotiated a series of regulations and policies that would eventually be the Paris Climate Deal. Symbolizing Earth Day’s importance to the movement, 55 of the world’s highest greenhouse gas producers would need to sign the deal between this year’s Earth Day and next in order to make it legally binding.

Jazz Appreciation Month

You probably already knew that April housed both April Fool’s Day and Earth Day, but you might not be aware that the whole month is also Jazz Appreciation Month (appropriately acronymed JAM). In 2002, John Edward Hasse, PhD., curator of the Smithsonian, created the event to “honor the history and heritage of Jazz,” one of the first distinctly American art forms.

This month’s featured musician is Benny Carter, a black musician, composer, and bandleader. Known as “The King,” Carter is remembered for the strides he made in both music and social justice. He began playing at a time when venues barred certain musicians from playing because of their race. By the 1940s, Carter broke barriers by being one of the first black musicians accepted into Hollywood. He arranged and composed music for major motion pictures—even though jazz wasn’t commonly scoring films during the ‘40s.

In addition to writing music, Carter helped negotiate the merging of unions for white and black musicians in Los Angeles. His negotiations increased the number of job opportunities for musicians of color who were often blocked from bands and venues because they were denied the proper credentials. And his efforts didn’t stop at music. In 1945, Carter fought a legal battle that would eventually grant African Americans the right to buy homes in certain neighborhoods where they had once been restricted.

Though not often written about, Carter maintains a great deal of relevancy today. As such, the Smithsonian has chosen to bring his career to the limelight during the month of JAM. The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra will honor Carter with a concert this April in which the group will explore his vast discography, highlighting his innovations in saxophone, trumpet, and composition.

Pinnacle Prep can learn a lot from Carter and from jazz in general. Carter, and many other black jazz players in the early twentieth century, rose above their station and created one of the most influential genres in the era of modern music. Many forms of jazz revolve around improvisation and experimentation with many elements of a given song written on the fly between the interplay of just a few musicians. Life is often compared to jazz given that both are at prone to many twists and turns, and while the comparison may be a little stale now, it maintains some level of truth. Like the members of a jazz quartet, Pinnacle Prep students are learning to be comfortable in the ever-changing song that is life. As a result, they will be the innovators of the future, using their solos to send the song in new, enthralling directions.

Upcoming Events

yellow-camping-tent-in-a-spring-landscape_23-2147542779

April 1 – No School
April 15th – Heritage Village
April 22nd – No School
April 27/28 – Day Camping K-4th
April 29-30 – Camping Upper School

Spring is here!

March ‘ 16 Newsletter

“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.”
– Pablo Neruda

FIRST DAY OF SPRING

This year the vernal equinox, otherwise known as “the first day of spring,” falls on March 20th. We get our word equinox from Latin words which mean “equal night.” On this day, the earth’s tilt, relative to the sun, is exactly zero. This means that the Earth’s axis is pointing neither toward nor away from the sun, and that the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west.

First day of SpringThe vernal equinox, traditionally, is a sign that Spring has come and is most often associated with renewal and new beginnings. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the vernal equinox plays an important role in determining when to celebrate Jewish Passover and the Christian holiday, Easter. Many Christian cultures decorate chicken eggs during this time. You might know them as “Easter eggs.” These eggs, in accordance with the season, represent rebirth and fertility.

Ancient Chinese cultures also brought out the eggs on the equinox. Like the Easter eggs, these eggs stood as a symbol of fertility. The tradition called for people to balance eggs on the day of the March equinox. Doing so, the people garnered good luck and prosperity. This custom eventually gave way to urban folklore. Many believe that the vernal equinox is the only day on which an egg can balance perfectly on its end. This, of course, is not the case. An egg can balance on its end, no matter what day it is.

Iranians don’t just celebrate the beginning of a new season but also the beginning of a new year. For 3000 years, Iran has used the vernal equinox to mark its New Year or No-Ruz, as they call it. Preparations for the holiday begin 12 days prior to the equinox—these preparations include buying new clothes and thoroughly tidying up the house. Wheat and lentils, representing new growth, are also grown in a flat dish, just a few days before the holiday. Meanwhile, Japanese cultures honor their ancestors on both the fall and spring equinoxes. The practice is called Higan and has been a national holiday in Japan since the mid-nineteenth century. Higan roughly translates to “other shore” and refers to the period in which spirits cross the river of existence and reach Nirvana, otherwise known as leaving the world of suffering for the world of enlightenment.

While these cultures celebrate the beginning of spring in very different ways, the ideas of rebirth and fertility often appear in all of them. Perhaps, this is because, in the Northern Hemisphere, our flowers begin to bloom, ladybugs land on our shoulders, and the familiar chirping of birds can once again be heard outside our windows. The dreariness of winter is shed for the warmth of spring, and it feels like life can thrive again. Or, in the words of E. E. Cummings, “Spring is like a perhaps hand … changing everything carefully.” Observe the world around you—specifically the plants and animals. In what ways do you notice spring is on its way? How will you celebrate?

SPRING CLEANING

With all the emphasis on rebirth during the spring season, it’s no wonder that it became a chance for family’s to get their house in order. With the early warm weather this year, you may have already received your spring chores.
Many trace the beginning of the practice to the Jewish tradition of thoroughly cleaning their homes before Passover. Passover commemorates the Israelites escape from captivity in Egypt and is followed by a seven day observance known as the “Days of the Unleavened Bread.” During this time, those of Jewish faith are not permitted to eat or drink anything that has been fermented with yeast and are instructed to remove even the smallest remnants of leavened food product from their home. Thus, a thorough “spring cleaning” became necessary to anyone who observed Passover to the letter.

spring cleaningThe Persian New Year, also known as Iranian No-Ruz, may also be the source of “spring cleaning.” While getting ready for the holiday, Iranians engage in the practice of khooneh tekouni which, literally, translates to “shaking the house.” Everything in the house, all the way from the curtains to the carpets to the furniture, is meticulously cleaned. The Persian New Year dates 3,000 years back and is rooted in Zoroastrian religious practices, though it has become widely celebrated by many diverse ethnic communities.

Whatever the origin, spring is always a good time for a fresh start. Pinnacle Prep students, now is a good time to do a little “spring cleaning” on ourselves so that we can finish the year strong and well.

 

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME (Spring forward!)

This year Daylight Savings falls on Sunday, March 13th at 2:00A.M. Don’t forget to set your clock ahead one hour before going to bed that night!

Daylight SavingsThe idea was first proposed by a New Zealander named George Hudson in 1898 but was never implemented nation-wide until World War I. Germany was the first to use DST on May 1, 1916 in an effort to conserve fuel for the war effort. The rest of Europe soon followed suit. The United Sates did not adopt the change until World War II when President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted the practice, calling it, “war time.” DST, in America, has been debated ever since, and its role and implementation has undergone several changes since FDR first set it in motion. Defenders of the practice cite that DST reduces energy consumption by lessening the need for lighting and heating during certain periods, though this effect has been disputed over the decades.

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

Spring Break

March 14th – 18th: Spring Break!