2013 Senior Class Project Presentations
Friday night’s review written by Robin Mitchell, retired DWS Eurythmy Teacher, and
Saturday night’s review written by Jennifer Parker, Community Development Coordinator
Once a year, The Denver Waldorf School community has an opportunity to experience the riches that have unfolded in the hearts and minds of our senior students, and the 2013 Senior Class Project Presentations demonstrated qualities that were awe-inspiring and humbling at the same time.
On Friday night, following Mr. John Reinhart’s welcoming words and descriptive introduction, Julia Pierce had the daunting task of being first to present. Her novel approach involved everyone very directly through having us all follow her guidance in a brief sequence of simple Yoga exercises. As she described the training she followed, and her experience with teaching yoga to young girls, she also brought her flair for a “sharing” form of teaching to the forefront.
Gabriel Albani then took us on a journey to Venetian Masks and Beyond. Having demonstrated how these specific masks are created, and linked their appearance to characters in commedia del l’Arte, he dug deeper into the theme of why people wear masks and brought up questions about why we choose the images we decide on, ourselves. (Stage make-up, anyone?)
This was not only ‘food for thought,’ but also showed how much thought he, himself, had given to his project.
Sydney Goodman also gave her project about Climbing 14ers! MUCH thought, including her “ten essentials” for a hike. But what came across strongly was her courage to meet a self-imposed challenge. As we all know, when we challenge ourselves, all sorts of restraints appear that might hinder our progress. Sydney described how she met them and overcame them through persevering through all the trials until she reached her goal. What inspired her listeners was her quiet, unassuming approach, her gratitude and her courage.
Isaac Harden had challenged himself too, by choosing to do something he found truly daunting, Singing (in public). He overcame his fear of singing publicly by seeking out a method that appealed to him, working hard and long with it, and then stepping forward into the spotlight to accomplish it, even bringing an accompanist to make the event complete. A special moment arrived when his singing faltered. What did he do? He stood up taller than ever, shared a charming smile, laughed at himself … and continued. His entertaining and engaging presentation received a hearty round of applause.
Colin Montrose needed space for his project, space for his demonstration and space in our awareness. Since Ninpo Tai-Jutsu is one of the martial arts that has come to us from the East, Colin described the differences between the Samurai, Bushido code and that of the Ninja. He then demonstrated the philosophy of “please teach me” by showing us various defensive and a few assertive sequences together with one of his Ninpo Tai-Jutsu teachers. This presentation was as enlightening as it was exciting to watch, inspiring us to learn more about the topic.
Chenxi Lu chose a project requiring technical skill, artistic feeling, patience with uncooperative subjects and timing. Photography: Stories Through the Lens brought us a gallery of images of little children with their mothers. The stories of how the images came into being were sometimes teaching moments, sometimes humorous and sometimes warm-heartedly touching.
Tatiana Moore brought Friday evening’s presentations to a truly significant close, so moving in its intensity that listeners were awestruck. Her topic, Getting Unstuck included biographical details of her life, shared with such honesty and soul-bearing courage that it was a privilege to be in the room that night. Tatiana’s presentation brought to mind poet and author Maya Angelou’s words:
“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous or honest.”
In my mind, the potential of every presenter and their courage was present in high measure during each of the unveilings that I was privileged to experience. — Written by Robin Mitchell
The seniors presenting on Saturday night were no less inspiring, bringing us into worlds as varied as the restaurant industry, religious exploration, martial arts tricking, bellydancing, guitar lessons and more. Audience members packed The Denver Waldorf School Ginny Boone Oppenheim Festival Hall to hear from the seniors, whose presentations represented an almost year-long investigation into a topic of their interest.
Many seniors told us they stretched and challenged themselves in selecting their projects, preferring to learn something completely new, stepping out of their comfort zone rather than choosing a more familiar and safe topic. The results were fascinating to audience members because, in a sense, we were able to go along with them on their journeys of self-exploration.
Jekolia Matuszewicz brought the audience into the high-pressure world of restaurants with her exceptionally-entertaining and well-prepared presentation titled, In Pursuit of Pig and Pie. It turned out that “Pig and Pie” is the dream name of Jekolia’s future restaurant, thought up by Jekolia and her father during a delicious meal of pig and pie! Using photos, she took us to France, where she has travelled twice, and whose slow-food culture inspired Jekolia to look into biodynamic farming and organic food production and investigate farm-to-table restaurants with a similar philosophy. For her project, Jekolia spent six months volunteering after school as a sous-chef at The Kitchen, a trendy restaurant in Denver. One of the best parts of her presentation: Jekolia had the audience yell at the same time to get a feel for working in a busy kitchen. She told us an entertaining story about inadvertently flipping a switch that resulted in a soup coming back to the kitchen because it was cold. “I completed my time at The Kitchen and it taught me that whatever happens in the kitchen or in life, you just keep going,” she said. “I’ve found that I love food even more.” Jekolia interviewed numerous restaurateurs in the Denver area and intends to study culinary arts and become a chef. Her amazing presentation left us hungry to experience the farm-to-table culinary establishments that so inspired her project. She made a fascinating topic wonderfully personal and left the audience rooting for her to continue chasing her culinary dreams.
Krista Smith investigated Comparative Religious Experiences by going to various services from different religions and faiths: The Christian Community, a Buddhist meditation center, a Jewish service, a Mormon service, a Quaker service and others. Krista also interviewed a Muslim woman from Malaysia. Krista said the project pushed her out of her comfort zone because she had to approach strangers and ask them about their religious practices. “I’m more inspired than ever to continue to connect with people of faith,” Krista said. By studying a cross-section of religions, Krista said, “every religion has elevated the consciousness of mankind.” Krista spoke quietly and passionately about the “theme of love, acceptance and beautiful ideology” that she encountered throughout her study. She told the audience that while it would seem in this technological age that society is less religious, what she has found is that people are seeking a spiritual connection ever more. “Ultimately I learned about the common goodness of people,” she said.
Stephen Walker-Weinshenker brought his unique presentation, “Building a Rube Goldberg Machine.” A Rube Goldberg machine, named after an American inventor and cartoonist, is an overly-confusing and overly-complicated machine or solution performing a simple task. Think of the animated Wallace and Gromit short films. Stephen said his project choice was spurred by his desire to combine his love of art and science. “This was the most elegant solution to my problem,” he said. Throughout his Waldorf career, Stephen said, a lot of his creativity was expressed in notebooks but not expressed in the outer world. This was his chance. The highlight of the presentation was the YouTube video showing Stephen’s parents’ house, which was transformed with a labyrinth of confusing tubes, wires, pulleys, beeswax and more. His system even forced his family to “limbo” to get into the bathroom. Stephen’s parents seemed to get in on the fun, his mother even making a cameo appearance in the video, herself becoming a human cog in the overly complicated machine. Stephen’s “Rube Goldberg” contraption did in fact work, putting toothpaste on Stephen’s toothbrush and raising the garage door, all in an effort to help Stephen get ready for his day. Check out his video here.
Miles Justice, a talented musician, said he wanted to try something truly new and foreign to him, selecting Sculpting and Metalwork as his senior project. Miles started an initial effort to create a bronze sculpture of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, to give to The Denver Waldorf School. His uncle, David Justice is a bronze sculptor and artist and Miles enlisted his help as a mentor. However, Miles said he found the project was much more challenging than he first imagined. Working with oil-based clay, Miles said he could only work on the initial bust for an hour at a time. When he was finished, the project looked nothing like Steiner but was instead a “likeness” of Steiner, he admitted. Then, he and his uncle used 100-percent recycled, melted-down stainless steel cutlery, most of it donated from The Denver Waldorf community, to piece together metal pieces over the clay, created a metal bust in the likeness of Rudolf Steiner. “I think this piece represents man and all the little pieces that we hold,” Miles said, “we often only see one piece but in fact we are more that the sum of the pieces and we are all the same.”
Next up was Erica Zwahlen with her unique presentation on Bellydancing and Beyond. Erica studied classical bellydance and fell in love with it, learning about the history and techniques of the traditional middle eastern “woman’s dance.” She told us about the restrictions on bellydancing in certain middle eastern countries and how bellydancers are often revered in Middle Eastern culture, making a lot of money, but the profession isn’t considered honorable.She said learning to bellydance for her senior project represented a “good study break” and challenged “muscles I didn’t know I had!” Erica joked that when she selected her senior project and got it approved, she didn’t think about the fact that she’d have to perform a solo bellydance in preparation for the presentations for her advisors, Mr. John Reinhart and Mr. Mike McHenry. “If you can do that in front of us,” they told her, “you can do anything in life.” Indeed, Erica performed a fun, upbeat and traditional bellydance for the audience with dignity and poise.
Ruta Smith brought her study of English as a Second Language and Community Service. Ruta spent time teaching a class for Burmese refugees and a mom-tot class designed to build community for recent immigrants and hone English-speaking skills. “I wanted to explore and expand my own leadership capabilities,” Ruta said. A self-described introvert, Ruta said she chose her project to challenge herself as a teacher and a leader. “It was an opportunity to find my own individuality,” said Ruta, a twin. The project offered her and her sister the opportunity to be on their own for large chunks of time during the day, a new experience for her. “It fostered my sense of determination to help others who are new to America,” Ruta said.
Paris Johnson showed us his incredible tenacity in mastering something called Martial Arts Tricking. Part gymnastics, martial arts and dancing, Paris introduced us to this interesting, physically-demanding, active art form designed to express oneself. After a humorous introduction where Paris recounted a story about emerging from his room and actually talking to his mother about his project, Paris showed us a video of the many tricks he mastered during his study. Of course, ‘the best ones weren’t actually caught on camera,” Paris quipped. Check out the video for yourself here.
Last, but certainly not least, was Kira Fleischer with her project, Learning Guitar. Kira said that when she presented herself for guitar lessons as someone who had never played before, the teacher asked her poignant questions about why she wanted to learn guitar that she carried with her through her study. While playing guitar Kira reported a “feeling of happiness and light that was unconnected to anyone but myself.” She treated the audience to three songs that she learned to play and sing, the first: Blackbird, by The Beatles.” She said the lyrics made her think about her future. ‘It’s my time to go out into the world and find myself,” she said. Kira handled a hiccup during her presentation with professionalism. When her guitar strap rubbed against her lapel microphone, Kira handled herself with sweet professionalism, saying, I can do better,” removing her guitar and playing beautifully. The song, “Me and Bobby McGee” was next. Songs have the power to remind ourselves of certain experiences and certain times of our lives, Kira said, telling a lovely story of the feelings she experienced when her grandfather died and how that song brings her back to a place of questioning death. Deciding to play the song and feel her feelings instead of overanalyzing, Kira said, brought her peace. The third song Kira played was titled, “Headlock” and the passion and force of her performance blew me away. I was singing this song in my head for days after the performance. “I’ve always been more of a person who observes things, being more of an introvert.” Kira said she felt a new-found power in facing her fear of learning guitar and singing in front of an audience. “I can make it through anything if I’m not holding myself back.” —Written by Jennifer Parker.