Middle-schoolers try out Shalhevet co-curriculars at ‘Winterm’

IMPROVISED: Seventh- and eighth-graders spent three Sunday mornings learning from co-curricular teachers. (Eva Suissa)

IMPROVISED: Seventh- and eighth-graders spent three Sunday mornings learning from co-curricular teachers. (Eva Suissa)

By Eva Suissa and Jordan Fields

There were people jumping, dribbling and dunking the ball, although there was no actual ball.

In fact, there was not one sound in the room.

It was the second of the three Sundays of “Winterm” – a new recruitment event devised by the Admissions department — and five middle school girls were studying drama in the Wildfire Theater, under the direction of Shalhevet Drama director Ms. Emily Chase.

On the other side of the Annex, 18 built robots out of Legos at a mini-CIJE.  Elsewhere, six students tried their hand at journalism in a Boiling Point workshop.

In the main building, 20 kids were arguing in a mock Debate workshop. And on the Sport Court, eight boys were playing basketball coached by Firehawk freshman Eytan Rosenman.

More than 60 seventh- and eighth-graders got a taste of Shalhevet co-curriculars at Winterm, held on three Sunday mornings, Dec. 15, Jan. 5 and Jan. 12. Devised by Admissions Director Natalie Weiss, the sessions were designed to show off some of school’s most popular programs.

“Co-curriculars are a key component of the Shalhevet experience,” Ms. Weiss said.

She explained that though many of the eighth graders had already made up their minds about coming to Shalhevet, she hoped Winterm would encourage seventh-graders, who were still thinking about it.

Ms. Chase put the five participating girls to work. She gave them improv exercises, fixed their mistakes, and hoped to help them become better actors.  Ten girls had signed up, but some missed the second or third sessions because of scheduling conflicts.

One of the drama exercises was pretending to be in a basketball game. In their second session, Mrs. Chase gave them a notepad and writing utensil. She told them to get into partners, think of a scene between two people, and start writing.

However, she told them that there could be no conversation — one person writes a line for their character and the other person writes the next one, based on the previous line.

One group wrote a scene between a basketball coach and a complaining player.

“’You don’t get a lot of playing time, because you also really suck,’” said the character of the coach.

Mrs. Chase told them that was too harsh, and they needed to make the scene more realistic. The students then talked about a better way to tell the player why he wasn’t getting much playing time.

Mrs. Chase said that this was just a little taste of Shalhevat drama, and that in the actual program, they do a lot of plays, and not as much acting games and exercises.

“I was sort of already gonna go to Shalhevet, so when my mom told me about this program, I was like, sign me up!” said Hannah Merritt, a seventh grader at Maimonides Academy.

There were only two students in the basketball Winterm, but it seemed they were having a great time.

Firehawk basketball coach Colin Jamerson was there, along with three current students.

“I’m learning to get past defenders,” said Benjamin Zaghi, who played on varsity for his 8th-grade team at Maimonides.

One drill that was done was to run to the baseline, then take one dribble and finally shoot. They were holding a three-point contest, scrimmaging, and had a free throw contest.

“We’re teaching them all the main basketball moves – dribbling skills, ball handling and shooting,” said Eytan, who is a forward on Shalhevet’s junior varsity squad.  “Maybe one day they’ll be on a Shalhevet basketball team.”

Ms. Weiss was very pleased with the program.

“The benefit for the students was they probably learned something new about debate, journalism, whatever the topic was,” she said, “and it gave them an idea of the opportunities they’ll have at Shalhevet if they end up there.”

For the school, it was helpful to get seventh-graders onto campus.

“Overall we think it was a big success and we’re definitely doing it next year,” said Ms. Weiss.

Staff writer Anna Gordon contributed to this story.