Gateway’s New Marimbas

Walking around Gateway School’s campus you can hear music and laughter pouring out of the Music room. You can catch strains of songs played on Gateway’s new Zimbabwean-style Marimbas, which were hand built especially for Gateway in Oregon last spring. 

Music Specialist David Cameron was first introduced to the Zimbabwean-style Marimbas while attending a teaching conference in Seattle, Washington. He felt that marimbas would be a great addition to our Orff Shulwerk Approach to music education which emphasizes movement, speech, rhythm, and play. Marimbas originated in Africa and have become quite popular in many areas of the Pacific Northwest, and can be heard in places such as the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Australia, and Canada. 

The Zimbabwean-style Marimbas used by Gateway students are based on the marimbas developed in the Shona tradition in Zimbabwe. Much of the music traditionally played on them stems from mbira (thumb piano) music from the same region. Zimbabwean-style Marimbas were first introduced to the United States by Dumisani “Dumi” Maraire in the 1980s. Thanks to a small yet mighty group of donors, Gateway is the first school in Santa Cruz to have these instruments.

Gateway students are currently working on two songs, Simon and Tatenda to learn the rhythms and timing needed to play marimbas. Teaching music on the marimbas allows for each student to self-differentiate within the piece while continuing to be an important part of the song as a whole. The bass line is the most simple to play, while the tenor line is the most challenging. However, everyone’s part is essential to the whole – the song only works if everyone plays their part. Students have a choice about what they would like to play knowing that every part is equally important, regardless of how difficult or simplistic it is. Eventually, other instruments will be added to their marimba arrangements, such as percussion and guitar, and the students will be able to showcase their hard work at an All-School First Friday Assembly performance. In the meantime, students are thrilled to experience a new instrument – one with a special history that connects them to the greater global community.  

Gateway School provides a Neighborhood Nectar Corridor

What do cherries, blueberries, pumpkin pie, and chocolate all have in common? They all need pollinators! That’s one of the reasons why Gateway School’s 5th grade students planted a California native pollinator-friendly garden in Life Lab – Gateway’s one-third acre outdoor science learning lab.

This new nectar garden is the beginning of the students’ efforts to create a Neighborhood Nectar Corridor to provide a safe rest stop for butterflies, bees, and other pollinators — insects that are responsible for approximately one-third of all food crop pollination. When complete, the Neighborhood Nectar Corridor will consist of a series of contiguous nectar gardens filled with California native pollinator-friendly plants including Ceanothus, Yarrow, Sea-side Daisy, Coyote Mint, Coastal Sand Verbena, and Pacific Aster that connect Gateway School with the Monarch butterfly’s overwintering site at Natural Bridges State Beach. 

Gateway’s mission to inspire children to lead lives of purpose and compassion through scholarship and citizenship is evident in this project. When thinking about service-learning project ideas, the 5th grade students in Life Lab built upon what they learned about California native animals in 2nd grade — that habitat loss has and continues to impact the world’s plants, animals, and ecosystems. They wanted to do something positive to have a lasting impact and involve the larger Santa Cruz community.

In addition to creating their own garden, Gateway students, in conjunction with Gateway alumnus and owner of Rewild Designs Covey Potter, are propagating California native pollinator-friendly plants and donating them to the campus’ neighbors to make their dream of establishing the Neighborhood Nectar Corridor a reality. 

Gateway’s Kindergarten through Middle School students develop a strong sense of personal responsibility for the natural world and others. Taking what they learn in the classroom into the community lets students discover and experience the difference that each of us can make.

If you are interested in learning more about the Neighborhood Nectar Corridor or information about what to plant contact Life Lab Science teacher Caprice Potter (caprice.potter@gatewaysc.org).

Camp Gateway Is Back For A Screen-Free Summer Starting In July 2021!

“After such a turbulent past year, we are thrilled to welcome the Santa Cruz community back to our campus for a glorious, screen-free summer of fun at Camp Gateway.” 
Dr. Zachary Roberts, Head of School

Camp Gateway 2021 is a great place for your kids to unplug and engage.

Our amazing counselors will lead campers through designated outdoor Activity Stations like Science Corner, Garden Art, and Field Games while also balancing out the day with plenty of free play and makerspace activities within their Camp Cohort.

In the mornings campers gather for the Homebase Welcome and will spend the morning engaged in structured counselor lead activities with breaks for snack and free play. After lunch there will be opportunity for free play as well as structured counselor lead activities. Following afternoon snack the day will end with Homebase Project Time.

Camp Gateway is open to rising 1st-6th graders and will run in 2 weeks sessions from 9:00am-3:00pm:

Camp Gateway Session #1: July 12-July 23
Camp Gateway Session #2: July 26-August 6
Camp Gateway Session #3: August 9-August 20

Pricing:
One 2 week session: $600. Note: this includes a $50 non refundable registration fee.

Click here to register for Camp Gateway
Click here for Camp Policies and Guidelines

Using literature and current events to teach Social Justice issues

By Rachel Sattinger, a 4th-grade teacher at Gateway School

As a cis-gendered, white, financially stable, woman teaching in a local independent school I feel honored to be able to guide my students through Social Justice topics. I also feel nervous for a number of reasons. My lived experience could allow me to shy away from these hard topics – worried that my treatment of them might fall short or be somehow wrong – but I take a deep breath and remember that the work has to start somewhere and so I start. I keep in mind that I should listen more than I speak (a lifelong goal!) and understand that intention alone is not enough. I must be willing to own the impact of my words and actions, learning and adjusting as I go. Representation matters, and so I am committed to using diverse literature in my classroom. 

As part of Gateway’s 4th-grade literature study, we are reading Kelly Yang’s Front Desk, a relatable, fun read that is packed with Social Justice teachable moments. The main character, 10-year old Mia is a Chinese American who lives and works with her family at the Calivista Motel. The book details the family’s management of the motel including daily occurrences, diversity issues, and the building of community at the motel. Mia has a keen sense of justice. She is spunky, motivated, and takes actions that uphold her ideals throughout the book. I find this to be empowering for young readers to witness. It also gives me ways to help the students take theory into practice. 

There are so many important and tough discussions to be had while reading this book. From the description of how Chinese immigrants were subjugated to terribly unfair working conditions, to when Hank, an African American character gets unfairly accused of stealing a car. The author uses a metaphor of two roller coasters for differing sets of opportunities for people depending on their socioeconomic status and ethnicity. 

As a resource to lead our discussions and to guide me as vocabulary, concepts, and big ideas arise, I referenced Tiffany Jewell’s book This Book is Anti-Racist. Her book is a vibrant workbook for youth to learn about identity, true history, and anti-racism.

When we discussed the chapter where Mia is doubting whether she should enter an essay contest her friend Lupe tells her “You have to play to win.” This metaphor struck me as being useful on the surface, but harboring a harmful dichotomy that perpetuates racism in our country, and I wanted to unpack this with students. I assigned them the following four questions: 

  • Do all people have equal access to “play?” In other words, do you believe that life provides equal opportunities for all people? 
  • What does this have to do with the two roller coasters that Lupe talked about earlier in the book?  
  • When Lupe tells Mia “You have to play to win”, what does she mean?
  • Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Explain your thinking with examples from the book or from your own experience.

The students and I engaged in a lively discussion about these questions and the students came to the conclusion that Mia’s family doesn’t have the same opportunities that others might have. One student found their way to the heart of the matter and was able to express it so clearly. 

Student: Well sometimes we try [to give equal opportunities]. Like how there was segregation, and black people and white people were separated from eating together and stores and stuff.

Me: Yes, those Civil Rights leaders fought hard to help people have equal rights. 

Student: But it’s still going on, like with George Floyd. He wasn’t doing anything and the police killed him. 

Me: (deep breath) That was a horrible event. Was George Floyd given an equal opportunity? 

Student: No! He was treated that way because of his skin color. 

Me: It seems like we still have a lot of work to do so that things are safe and fair for everyone. 

As is often the case when we discuss deep/important issues, we ran out of time. The student then asked, “Can we have more time to write about these questions? Will we have time to share?” In my opinion, when your students want more time to discuss injustice, you make the time. We postponed the next subject on our calendar and a rich conversation ensued! 

The next chapters we discussed brought up the topics of socioeconomic inequity. The popular girls in school make fun of Mia because she doesn’t own jeans, which are just too expensive for her family to buy. All kids have been teased at one time or another and while Lupe suggests that Mia “just ignore” the taunts, but I asked my class to rewrite the script; “What could you say or do? What words or actions could you use to help Mia?” My hope is that giving kids a chance to literally rewrite the script not only empowers them to take action in their lives but also prepares them to be upstanders. 

When I was getting my M.S. in Education at Indiana University, one of my Professors, Jerome Harste said, “You can teach kids about hard things – about injustice – but you’ve got to also empower them to know they can fight that injustice.” I try to keep this in mind so that no matter what we’re discussing my students know that even their smallest actions can make a big difference. I want them to know themselves as Agents of Change, as one of my inspiring colleagues has dubbed his students. I set forth in the next lesson to empower my students to be Agents of Change in their own lives with the hope that these lessons will ripple outward as they continue to grow and learn. 

Alumnae Anicia Timberlake and Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

Alumnae Anicia Timberlake and Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn started their lifelong friendship when they met in Patricia Skowrup’s Kindergarten class 32 years ago. After graduating from Gateway, their strong friendship continued over the years as they attended the York School and Harvard University together. They even lived together for a year in Berlin after college. 

Anicia, Assistant Professor of Musicology at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, uses the “Talk-It-Out” conflict resolution method she learned in Patricia’s Kindergarten class where all students have the opportunity to express their feelings. This has helped her find common ground with colleagues over the years. She is especially grateful for the “Talk-It-Out” method as she navigates different ideas and opinions about how to manage things in her department during the Covid pandemic. Anicia appreciates the musical education she received at Gateway. The Orff Schulwerk method of teaching music that Gateway uses is popular with many of her students at the Peabody Institute. She plays the viola, violin, guitar, piano and the french horn. She even played the viola in the German World Cup with Toni Braxton! The all-Gateway School Sings with former Head of School, Peter Lewis, are some of her favorite memories. 

Deirdre is currently the deputy editor at The New Yorker Magazine and over the years she has worked for Harper’s, Paris Review, and California Sunday Magazine. At Gateway she was encouraged to be creative and imaginative, especially in her writing and she wrote several children’s books, survival books, and short stories during her time at Gateway. She was on the editorial staff of Gateway’s Dead Seaweed, a student published magazine. She was taught to believe in herself and this gave her the confidence to pursue a career as an editor. Recently she played an integral part in publishing the stories about Harvey Weinstein

Deirdre was part of the editorial staff of Gateway’s student published magazine Dead Seaweed.

Anicia and Deirdre have many fond memories of their time at Gateway: Friday nature walks, exploring tide pools, and making sun tea and tinctures in Gateway’s Life Lab. They both recalled the many experiential learning activities while at Gateway. The overnight field trips in Middle School introduced Anicia to camping, and Deirdre remembers grinding acorns into a mash and starting a fire by rubbing sticks together as they embodied the characters they were learning about, as well as panning for gold during their overnight field trip to Sacramento.

Deirdre fondly remembered a 5th-grade class Anthropology assignment. They were tasked with inventing a society, including creating a language using code letters, symbols, and a Rosetta Stone. They then buried the evidence in Lighthouse Field for the students of another school to find. Deirdre and Anicia became fluent in the language they developed and wrote letters to each other in code. They continued to do this when Anicia went to Ireland a year later. 

Both women appreciated Discovery Based Learning and collaborative projects and they credit Gateway for their love of learning! Anicia shared how learning at Gateway wasn’t just memorization – “everything was discovery”. History was personal, not the “dry past”. This helped to lay the foundation for Anicia to become a music historian. 

The relationships she formed with teachers inspired Anicia to become a professor. Their teachers cared, inspired, loved, and believed in them. They encouraged Deirdre to reach beyond herself and gave her the confidence to pursue a career she loves. Deirdre appreciated “the freedom to explore and not just the pressure to achieve”. She has rarely experienced that again after Gateway. 

L to R: 1995-96 Deirdre and Anicia

Anicia and Deirdre are so grateful for their experiences at Gateway. The Social Emotional Learning program at Gateway encouraged them to express themselves and lean into their feelings and not to be discouraged by them. In their adult lives, they are grateful they had the opportunity to learn these skills at a young age. 

The fact that Anicia and Deirdre remain close to this day is a testament to Gateway’s core values. Anicia is the godmother to Deirdre’s young daughter. Although Anicia lives in Baltimore and Deirdre in New York, Deirdre said Anicia is the only person she has seen in her home during the quarantine. They joked that they are podding across state lines. Talk about a lasting sense of community!

Celebrating Deirdre’s wedding.

Talking Heads

As part of its 50th celebration, Gateway School hosted the virtual Talking Heads Roundtable discussion on January 14, 2021. The theme of the Roundtable was Forever Community. Past and present students, parents, and staff members gathered virtually to listen as all six Heads of School participated in a discussion led by alumnus Michael Sikand, Gateway Class of 2014. 

Hannelore Herbig who founded Gateway in 1970 and was the Head of School for 17 years started the discussion with some highlights and stories about the beginnings of Gateway. Peter Lewis (1987-2000), Kathleen Warren (2000-2001), David Peerless (2001-2008), Percy Abram (2008-2014), and Zachary Roberts (2014-present) then joined a lively discussion as they headed down memory lane. They shared their memories about activities with the students, going on impromptu field trips, and community events. They talked about their goals while at Gateway and highlighted their favorite projects and programs. They all agreed that deep community bonds and committed teachers and parents have strengthened Gateway’s program over the years as they look forward to seeing Gateway thrive for another 50 years.

Click here to watch the recording of the Talking Heads Roundtable. Enjoy the conversation and the slide show at the end.

Teaching and Learning in the time of COVID-19

By Patricia Lucas, Spanish teacher at Gateway School

As a teacher of over forty years, I felt I had  “seen it all” — every educational trend, methodology, pedagogy, and innovation. This most recent challenge sent this “maestra”, a World Language middle school teacher at Gateway School, into a near free fall. The educational challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic have caught all educational constituents off guard scrambling for the best ways to move forward. 

My students’ varying responses to Distance Learning have brought me new insights, unexpected innovation, flexibility and challenges.

It is my belief that the most critical need for all students is to feel valued as members of a school or class community. This can be difficult to achieve through a computer screen particularly for the youngest of our learners or those with specific learning differences or challenges. The innate need for inclusion, self identity, and basic security is all-encompassing to most students. Some say that without the steady maintenance of these vital connections the next epidemic we may face could be the most serious of all, one of mental health. 

The well being and feelings of connectedness for our students must be of the highest priority. Ideally, we must tend to this every day, in every class, and at every minute spent in the “on screen” classroom. I am very fortunate that Gateway School subscribes to this philosophy and places it into practice every day.

While learning and skill mastery remain paramount it truly cannot effectively happen without first considering and tending to each student’s social emotional needs. This Social Emotional Learning (SEL) must be firmly in place to nurture the entire class community, foster connectedness and ensure student engagement. 

In short these tenants might be prioritized as such:

  • Students over Standards
  • Compassion over Compliance
  • Patience over Procedures
  • Empathy over Enforcement
  • Grace over Gimmicks

Some may argue that potential delays in curriculum delivery and mastery due to the extra time SEL requires make it too hard to implement. The well being and feelings of connectedness are my highest priorities in order to create the best environment for learning. The above tenants remain key lessons in my curriculum as an educator teaching AND learning in the time of COVID-19.


Patricia Lucas is a World Language educator of over forty years. The past 23 years she has been teaching middle school Spanish at Gateway School in Santa Cruz, CA, the only CAIS accredited school in Santa Cruz County. She has a passion for teaching and learning and credits much of the knowledge she has gained to the hundreds of wonderful students with whom she has worked these many years. Gracias por todo a mis muchos estudiantes estimados!

Alumna Stephanie Miller

Alumna Stephanie Miller (Class of 2006) never dreamed she would be a teacher when she was a Gateway School elementary student. She remembers struggling in all of her subjects. She credits Gateway’s Resource Support Coordinator Joan Saia for being the person who taught her how to read and to become an engaged student.

“Joan is dear to my heart. She took the time to work with me many times a week for several years and reached that part of me that wanted to learn, that quite frankly, I didn’t know was there because I struggled so much.”

Stephanie graduated from Santa Catalina High School in Monterey and earned her Bachelor’s degree in History from Santa Clara University in 2010. After college Stephanie was involved in special education in the Hawaii public school system until 2014 when she moved back to the Bay Area to teach 4th and 5th-grade humanities at a Title 1 school in East San Jose. 95% of her students were English language learners and were struggling to learn how to read English. Stephanie could empathize with her struggling students and applied many of the same methods Joan did when reaching Stephanie all those years ago. 

Stephanie clearly remembers one thrilling moment when one of her students read a complete sentence out loud for the first time in a small guided reading group. She said the look of accomplishment on his face was amazing. He was nervous, but not scared, and his excitement at achieving his goal was invigorating to Stephanie as well as to the other students. 

Last year Stephanie was looking for a new challenge. She accepted a position as a 5th-grade math teacher at the Charter School of Morgan Hill (CSMH) though math was Stephanie’s least favorite subject when she was a young student. 

“I struggled in ALL school subjects when I was a young child, and math just happened to be my least favorite. But nothing in school came easy for me. Joan Saia taught me how to read, and how to be a better student in all subjects. And that’s where the other Gateway teachers dovetailed with Joan’s efforts and taught me that all learning could be fun, even areas that were extra challenging, like math. And it’s because of my unique learning challenges, and the dedication of all the Gateway teachers who helped me, that I can now teach other children how to learn.” 

Stephanie’s most poignant Gateway memory was the 8th grade trip to Washington, DC. Her class was the first 8th-grade class to go on the DC trip, so it was very special. She distinctly remembers her classmates’ reactions at the Holocaust Museum, and how the experience brought them even closer together as a class. 

Her favorite memories from Gateway are times spent with former classmates and their families. She still sees many of them to this day, and also has enduring relationships with many of her Gateway teachers. Stephanie says that she takes the Gateway community with her into every experience she has as an adult. 

In the spirit of giving back, Stephanie is currently serving as a Gateway School Trustee. She has been on the board for three years and is a key link to the alumni community. 

Thank you, Stephanie, for passing along your love of learning to future generations, for reaching struggling learners, for acting with grace, and for advocating for those who need extra help.

When Data Meets Candy: A Voting Story

Sixth Grade Math and Science teacher Michael Matthews has integrated an interdisciplinary study of data science with the Humanities curriculum. Middle School students have been studying different aspects of the elections in their Humanities classes for the past several weeks. Michael used the math and science classes to add data analysis to this study and decided to use Halloween candy as a way to get them involved in the election process.

We sat down with Sixth Grade Math and Science teacher Michael Matthews and asked him to tell us more.

What’s going on with this election project we’ve been hearing about?

MM: Students in Middle School Humanities classes have had studying different aspects of the elections for the past several weeks. I wanted to use our math and science classes to add data analysis to this study and decided to use Halloween candy. It’s been a great way to give kids a tactile experience and get them involved in actual elections.

It really hooks to their lived experience too.

MM: Yes, it’s perfectly in-the-moment and works for this season. It wouldn’t come off the same in February or July. Last month the students voted for Student Council, and the actual process was somewhat complicated or confusing to some, and I could see the stress on their faces. After that experience, I asked them, “do you think that voting for President is easy?” and I could see the lights go on for everyone that this is a big deal. So the idea that elections sound easy but are complicated is something we are exploring throughout the whole Middle School. For example, the Humanities curriculum has looked at topics such as voting access, voting complications, and whether ballots get counted or not. The candy election was set up to allow for spoiled ballots, for example, if someone selected more than four candies their vote didn’t count.

So students voted for their favorite candy?

MM: The first stage of this project was choosing the top four, and I did that in honor of the local experience and the race for the Santa Cruz City Council. All of the candidates are women, which is pretty cool. I opened my ballot with the class and talked through it, which helped them understand how ballots work. I had a set of candies to include, and the kids added some more ideas, so in the end, we listed 15-20 choices. We sent it out to all students and staff with a Gateway email account and got back about 90 responses. The data is anonymous so we can’t analyze who voted for what, and the students talked about whether to do an exit poll, but we didn’t.

The second phase will use ranked-choice voting, which is happening in Maine and some other districts around the country. This is a way of voting that potentially changes the divisive nature of elections because it might encourage people to appeal to the middle instead of the extremes. We’re having the top four vote-getting candies run for mayor, which are Sour Patch Kids, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Skittles, and Kit Kat. This phase is also a week long.

The third phase will be a “ticket” election, just like how the President and Vice-President choices are presented in pairs. The students will help decide on the tickets among the candies. There are four or five ticket choices on Presidential ballots in California, but nationally there are only two big parties who have a realistic shot, so we might add in a fringe third-party candidate like licorice to see if that siphons off any votes.

Phase four is where this initial idea for this whole project came from, which will be creating power rankings. This is something that often happens in sports, and it’s a way of going through one-on-one matchups to find out which is most favored. 538 did this with about 80 candies, and that was inspiring to see. I think the kids will really enjoy it.

Why is teaching data and measurement important?

MM: I’ve always appreciated how mathematics comes alive when numbers and patterns are paired with images. It’s a pleasing combination, like complex flavors in food, where there is a mix of sweet and salty and savory — data visualization does all of that. I’m also fascinated by how people manipulate data visualizations and represent things nefariously, and want our students to be literate in that way so that when they are being lied to or told half-truths, they can determine that for themselves.

That really ties right to our mission statement!

MM: Yes, it’s sinking in there with their innate sense of justice, and I know the Humanities program is addressing this directly too. For example, we did a gerrymandering puzzle in class, since this was brought up in Humanities. One party was underrepresented compared to the other, and the kids could redraw the map to address this issue. The only rule is that each voting district has to be comprised of five contiguous squares. And what they recognized was that politicians have the right to draw districts that don’t make sense outside of supporting their party — they aren’t based on neighborhoods or simplicity. They had learned this concept in Humanities, and this activity actually put it into practice. So this gets us to questions about what is legal compared to what is ethical.

What else are students learning in this project?

MM: So far we’ve been looking at how data is represented, and we’re using this project to help the students learn how to use Google Sheets, which is an important technical skill for managing information. Later on, they are going to learn what makes a good survey question, what makes a good poll question, and what does not. I recently introduced a “double-barreled” survey question, and we talked about why those are not good questions to ask. And all of this helps prepare students for the rigors of the Science Fair, which comes later in the year.

Have you had any surprises thus far?

MM: The level of background information that students have, and how they are able to take the language from Humanities and apply it in this new context. They are becoming informed citizens about the challenges to our democracy. And all in three weeks, this isn’t a ton of class time! And the rest of the curriculum is continuing too. It’s really great to see that this is being woven into the Sixth Grade curriculum successfully.

Welcome On Campus!

In the last few weeks, we’ve welcomed Kindergarten, First, Second, and Third Grade on campus. Fourth and Fifth Grades are next!

P.E. fun!
Kindergartners heading out to their play area.
Happy reunions!
Lunchtime!
Students used rocks in their engineered tower buildings today for the first time ever because, you know, they were right there on the ground! Teachers are finding many bonuses when teaching in their outdoor classrooms.