Month: August 2016

Let’s Fall Back into School!

Hello September!


Hopefully, everybody is transitioning to the new school year. We have tried to sprinkle the first couple of weeks with a lot of fun activities so that there’s a little bit of summer still left for all of our students. We’ve had a bounce house on the premises, snow cones for all of our students, and we even got to wear our PJs this past Friday while we enjoyed some delicious pancakes. And to celebrate the beginning of the new month, we’ll be catching a movie matinee! So while we are hard at getting back into the swing of accelerated learning, we haven’t forgotten to let loose a little too.

Labor Day

September is a great month to focus on the benefits of hard work as the 5th of the month marks over 100 years of Labor Day observances. Always falling on the first Monday in September, Labor happy-labor-day-with-hand-holding-a-wrench_23-2147566699Day is dedicated to honoring the contributions of American workers. We observe the holiday in order to recognize the social and economic achievement ours laborers have made over the years and all the ways that they have contributed to the “strength, prosperity, and well-being” of our country.
Labor Day was first introduced in New York state legislature between 1885 and 1886, but the first Labor Day observance to become a law was passed by the Oregon state government in 1887. That year saw four more states (Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York) adopt the legislation, and before 1890, three more states followed suit. The holiday proved a popular idea, and by 1894, 23 states now had holidays honoring American workers. On June 28th, 1894, Congress passed legislation declaring Labor Day a national holiday.
While we know the order in which the states adopted the holiday, there are some questions surrounding who first introduced the idea of Labor Day. Two similarly named champions of American labor have both been credited with first having the idea—Matthew Maguire, machinist, and Peter McGuire, carpenter. At the end of the 19th century, Peter was working as the general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and was also a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor. Some records quote Peter as first suggesting we have a holiday that honors, in his words, those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”
Recent research, however, suggests that Matthew Maguire might have been the progenitor of Labor Day and not Peter McGuire. Records show that he may have proposed it as far back as 1882 while serving as the secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York, the first state to consider legislating the observance. We know for certain that the Central Labor Union did adopt a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to make arrangements for a subsequent demonstration, even though we don’t know for certain who made the proposal.
Indeed, the first Labor Day, before any of the legislation was passed, was held on September 5th, 1882 in New York City under the guidance of the Central Labor Union. The day went so well that the CLU held another Labor Day celebration the following year on the same day, and in 1884, they decided to set aside the first Monday of September for the holiday. The organization urged similar groups to celebrate the “workingman’s holiday” on that date as well, and their campaign was successful. Labor organizations latched onto the idea, and in 1885 many of America’s largest industrial centers were celebrating Labor Day.
The first proposal for the holiday included a street parade that would exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” and would be followed by a festival for the “recreation” and “amusement” of workers and their families. Later, prominent men and women began to deliver speeches during the festivities, so that the holiday can better acknowledge the civic and economic significance of the holiday. Because of difficulties holding such large displays and massive parades in industrial centers, the manner with which we celebrate has had to change. Speeches are still given yearly, and the Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are often covered by major media outlets. What hasn’t changed is the spirit of the holiday. No matter how we’ve celebrated over the years, the holiday has always been held in order to honor the American worker.

First Day of Autumn

September also holds another important day, this one in observance of the natural world. On September 22nd, we’ll experience the Fall Equinox also known as the first day of fall.
Equinox denotes the day on which night and day are nearly exactly the same length all across hand-drawn-autumn-tree-background_23-2147520267the globe. On that day, the sun is out for 12 hours; the moon, likewise. The word equinox, in fact, comes from Latin and roughly translates to “equal night.” Of course, while that is the idea behind the equinox, night and day aren’t exactly equal in reality. During the equinox, the sun shines directly on the equator, and the length of day and night is close to being equal but never exactly.
There are many holidays and customs surrounding the Fall Equinox, just as there are with the Spring Equinox.
In Ancient Greece, the day is associated with the goddess Persephone. Fall is the season in which Persephone returns to the underworld to be with her husband Hades, the god of the underworld and a figure commonly associated with death. During this time, the Ancient Greeks held rituals for protection and security, and they would reflect upon the successes and failures of the past months.
Native Australians have, for quite some time, been proficient in reading the seasons and have had good understanding of Astronomy. The September Equinox, which in Australia actually occurs in their spring, have often played an important role in Aboriginal Australian culture. They celebrate the equinox as a time of rebirth and renewal. In order to track the changing of the seasons, they set up numerous stone arrangements, and though researchers can’t say for certain how these stones were used, it is widely believed that they were used to track star positioning.
China celebrates the Moon Festival during this time, celebrating the abundance of the summer harvests. One of the most important foods during this period is the appropriately named “mooncake” which contains lotus, sesame seeds, a duck egg or dried fruit. As with the Ancient Greeks, the Fall equinox is associated with the afterlife in Japan. During the equinox, Japanese Buddhists observe Higan which lasts for a week. Higan translates to “the other shore,” and practicing Buddhists honor those spirits who have reached Nirvana. This week gives them a time to set aside to remember those who have passed by visiting, cleaning, and decorating their graves.
As always, the changing of the seasons gives just about everyone a chance to pause and reflect on the passing of time. No matter how we go about it, it’s good to use these astrological events as a means of reflecting on the world around us, whether that’s honoring the food we’ve produced, the work we’ve done, the people we’ve lost, or the good that’s still to come.


The school year is still young, Pinnacle Prep School, but we are laying the foundation for all that is still to come. Yes, we have had plenty of opportunities to have fun these past couple of weeks, but let’s use that energy to keep us motivated on having the best school year possible.

Welcome Back!

Welcome to the 2016-17 school year, Pinnacle Prep School!

Hopefully, your summer has left you rejuvenated and energized for what promises to be an exciting school year.

When you return and once again walk through these familiar halls, you may now notice flags from a variety of nations, pictures of sights from all across the world, and road signs directing you to various historical locales. Don’t be alarmed! You are right where you belong. This year, Pinnacle Prep will be themed around our interconnected world. All students, in addition to honing their fundamentals in English, math, social studies, and science, will work through diverse and globally-oriented curriculums.
Every year, advances in technology and shifts in cultural and social landscapes shrink our world, so to speak, bringing disparate parts of the world closer than ever thought possible, and while that frightens some, the flag-icon-set_1063-23prospect excites us here at Pinnacle Prep. We have always sought to provide our students with a culturally rich and diverse education, one that’ll prepare our students to be active participants in our big small world. As such, we will spend this year developing global-minded students, comfortable in our ever-changing world. We’ll explore a variety of cultures, learn about an abounding and dense world history, and think about the role we’ll play in shaping this massive green and blue ball of clay.
As a culturally diverse school, we believe it is our responsibility to better understand the world around us. We know that it isn’t static and unchanging, and we know that what happens elsewhere can have a profound effect on the home front. To this end, we have planned exciting lessons, projects, and trips that will help our students grapple with world issues, and our teachers are looking forward to bringing this globalized education to life.
Of course, the world stage is particularly relevant as we begin our 2016-17 school year given that August 21st, the day before school starts, marks the final day of the Rio Olympics. This year’s Olympics, as always, boasts a great deal of interesting storylines—from an inspiring team of refugees that haabstract-shapes-rio-2016-background_23-2147559708s even caught the eye of Pope Francis, to the many questions surrounding Brazil’s capability of (and responsibilities in) hosting the games. Not to mention, the many captivating, multifaceted, and often heart-warming stories that accompany just about every athlete who has made it to this stage in their career.
The Olympics have a way of calling attention to not just the current relationships between nations but the history of those dynamics as well. As NPR recently pointed out (, the Olympics tell a fascinating and insightful story about world history, to the point that you can even locate the two world wars, which saw the cancellation of the games during the years they were waged, that so dominated global politics.
Furthermore, the 1936 summer Olympics in Berlin famously became a signifier for the rise of fascism in Germany and the global conflict soon to ensue.  The Germans, newly revived after World War I (after which they didn’t participate in the next 3 Olympic games), sought to use the games as an exhibit of Nazi propaganda, showcasing what their leadership suggested was a “superior race of men.” Germany even went so far as to try and prohibit Jewish and black people from participating in the games, but when the other nations threatened to boycott, Germany relented. Medal wise, the host country performed very well. The Germans took home more than 30 more total medals than the US, which finished in second, in addition to taking home the most gold medals as well, suggesting that this was a German nation on the rise. However, the 1936 games also gave us Jesse Owens, a black American, who won 4 gold medals and outperformed all individual athletes at that year’s games. As that year’s Olympics demonstrated, the world was already drifting into the conflict that would eventually explode into one of its most disastrous wars.
Likewise, the Olympics became a stage for the US and the Soviet Union to exercise their conflict with one another during the heights of the Cold War. The US boycotted the 1980 games hosted in Moscow because the USSR refused to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Then President Jimmy Carter called the Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan an attempt to subjugate and steal from an independent Islamic state and also placed a trade embargo on the nation. The Soviet Union returned the favor by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympic Games held in 1984, claiming that they did not want to participate in the games because they viewed the games as a political ploy by their western rivals.  During both Olympics, with their primary rivals absent, the two host nations dominated the medal counts once they were tallied at the respective closing ceremonies.
Once again, this year’s Olympics has become its own microcosm of global politics, reenacted with all the drama of sport. Amid renewed tensions between Russia and the United Nations, due to the former’s military involvement in the Crimea region of Ukraine, more than 100 Russian athletes have been barred from this year’s games for violating the substance abuse policy. On top of that, this year’s host nation, Brazil, is mired in its own controversy. With a recently ousted president and the arrival of the Zika virus, many questions arose in regards to the nation’s capability to host these games; furthermore, these games have continued to call into question the Olympic committee’s responsibility when choosing a host nation.
With the Olympics drawing so many nations, both large and small, to one stadium, it becomes easy to see the good and bad in our world dynamics. Globalization brings with it all the burdens of how to best manage our world’s resources and its people, whatever their class distinction may be. The last few summer and winter Olympics have seen the host nations destroy land and dislocate impoverished populations in order to build the facilities required to host an event of this magnitude. Images of young, poor Brazilian children watching the torch lighting in tattered clothes from vacant buildings have proliferated as the games began. Similar images arose when China decimated whole villages for the Beijing Olympics and likewise in Sochi, Russia. These images call to mind all the burdens of global poverty, not just the ones highlighted by the Olympics. As our world expands and grows closer together, it becomes easy to justify the poor management and utilization of its resources and the displacement of its less politically and economically viable populations, and preparation for the Olympic Games has become its own metaphor for global commerce by way of mass corruption and exploitation.
mardiniBut a globalized world doesn’t have to be an exploitative one! The Olympics also have a way of putting humanity on display. Athletes like Yusra Mardini are indicative of the kind of human narratives that make the games compelling when they come around. Mardini competes on the newly created refugee team, and while she once used her swimming abilities to help pull a boat of Syrian refugees to safety, she is now chasing medals while the whole world watches. These are the kinds of stories that remind us of human tenacity and capability. Mardini, and the other members of her refugee team, are not considered serious medal contenders in this year’s games, but their presence and their drive inspires all those able to watch and even their fellow competitors.
They also drawing attention to a plight that might otherwise go ignored. After being announced as a member of the first-ever Olympic refugee team, Mardini told the press, “I want everyone to think refugees are normal people who had their homelands and lost them not because they wanted to run away and be refugees, but because they have dreams in their lives and they had to go.” Throughout the games, she has talked of one day bringing her story home, back to Syria, when it is safe to do so. She dreams that her experience will provide hope for her fellow Syrians who might now feel hopeless. “Everything is about trying to get a new and better life,” she says, “and by entering the stadium we are encouraging everyone to pursue their dreams.”
Of course, the global community has to first take notice. While it is fun to get excited about our nation’s competitors and the medals they earn, the Olympics are best watched as a display of global humanity, full of diverse stories and people. It is under this light that Pinnacle Prep School wants to pursue this year’s theme. We want to look around the world and see opportunities for learning, enrichment, and betterment. There’s no better way to broaden your knowledge than to step outside of your borders and start taking notes.
We hope you are ready to embark on this global trek with us, students. Grab your maps, open your minds, and get ready to see what’s happening all around you!