Category: Around The Circle

MacDuffie’s New Clubs 2019

Originally posted on The Magnet by Alison Jackson, Ian Hua and Vincent Buono

ASL Club

This year, senior Savannah Richard created a new club at MacDuffie for learning American Sign Language, or ASL. Richard wanted to introduce ASL to the community because MacDuffie does not offer it as a class, and most people at the school are unfamiliar with the language.

Richard’s goal for the end of the year is to have members be able to “turn to each other and have a conversation… in ASL,” she said.

Richard originally picked up ASL around second or third grade. Recently, she also took an ASL class at the Palmer Public Library. According to Richard, the class focused on “how to begin communicating” rather than accumulating vocabulary, and she will use a similar style when teaching ASL in her club.

“I want to focus on having basic conversational techniques and also helping people to watch and be able to understand signs,” she said.

For the “basic foundation” of ASL, Richard plans to use companies called Signing Savvy and Signing Time, both of which she said she will utilize more for learning vocabulary. To teach more complex skills such as understanding signing at a realistic speed and having conversations, Richard will use other resources including movie clips.

The club will be “relaxed and open,” with meetings once every two weeks at different times to accommodate members’ schedules. Richards added that since much of what she will be teaching can be found online, missing meetings is not a serious issue.

Art teacher Jena McNerney is the club’s advisor.


Barbershop Club

Senior Hanghe “AC” Cao has built up a reputation as the local barber among the boarding community, and he has recently created a new barbershop club at MacDuffie to spread his expertise even further.

To run the club, Cao partnered with senior Alex Nguyen who will schedule and plan meetings for the club while Cao teaches and demonstrates. Nguyen will also demonstrate how to perm and dye hair.

Because of his experience, Cao hopes he can positively impact the community by making something as common as haircuts more accessible (while helping them save money).

The two have other goals besides cutting hair, however. One of the issues Cao recognized as he cut hair for boarders was communication, and he hopes to solve that.

“They cannot get a good [haircut] not because the barber is bad…they don’t really know how to talk with the barber- they haven’t ever learned that,” Cao said. He gave several examples of instances when he was cutting hair and only received vague instructions like “trim my hair just a little bit shorter” and even “I don’t know what kind of hair I want.” As a result, improving communication with barbers is one of their main goals, though Nguyen specified others.

“We want this to be a thing that carries on to next year when we’re gone… our goal is to maintain this club for as long as possible. We want this to be a part of MacDuffie, where you can get good haircuts here,” he said.

In meetings, Nguyen said his plan will be to start at the basics, including “how to talk to barbers, what are the types of cuts that are the most popular…” and later on the club will move on to “more technical stuff like perming hair making the hair curly and dyeing hair,” he said.

Anyone can join the club, however, the club will focus on cutting men’s hair, since Cao and Nguyen are most experienced in that area.

Cao and Ngyuen will hold meetings in room 1309. Head of School Steve Griffin is the club advisor.


Light Art

At last week’s Club Fair, a MacDuffie tradition in which all of the school’s clubs hold booths to give students the opportunity to join these clubs, one booth literally stood above the rest—a large tripod with an attached video camera sat atop the table, and several cameras were scattered around it. Curious students would discover that this club was none other than Light Art, which provides students with the opportunity to pursue photography and videography outside of a classroom setting.

When junior Raymond Xia first came to MacDuffie, he was eager to join a photography club, but soon found that there was no such club at MacDuffie. Thus, Xia decided to take matters into his own hands and create one himself, which would become Light Art. Along with senior Pitt Pongpittayapa, who specializes in video editing, and senior Clarke Cui, Xia created a photography and videography club where students could “share ideas about taking pictures” and “have fun,” in the words of Xia.

Students do not need any prior experience with photography and videography in order to join Light Art, as Xia said that he is “thinking of teaching all members basic rules and how to use cameras.” Due to the high volume of sign-ups for Light Art, Xia plans to separate club members into a group of those who have photography experience and a group of those who have never tried photography.

When speaking of his motivations for creating Light Art, Xia said, “There’s a lot of people in the school that have the talent to capture the moments in life. However, they just don’t have the opportunity, so I want to provide it.” Xia also mentioned that he hopes to create a photography exhibition for the projects of Light Art members, considering MacDuffie already has a similar showcase for visual art and dance.

In addition to a possible photography showcase, Xia would like to take Light Art club members on field trips to take photos in nearby towns, as he hopes to make a documentary-style photo series that features pictures of local individuals.

Those interested in joining Light Art can contact Xia, Cui, or Pongpittayapa with any questions.


Unity (Tap Dance) Club

Although different styles of dance classes, such as hip hop and jazz, are being offered for the first time this year at MacDuffie, it seemed that there were no opportunities for those who are interested in tap dance. Yet this is no longer the case, as one of MacDuffie’s newest clubs will offer tap dancers of all abilities the chance to hone their skills.

Unity Club began as an idea of junior Belle Yang, who began tap dancing in the third grade and won a championship for the dance style as a sixth-grader. While she took a break from tap dancing for several years, Yang said that she wanted to resume dancing by creating a tap-dancing club at MacDuffie. Yang began Unity Club with the hopes of helping students “build confidence on the stage,” as she said that “most people didn’t have the opportunity or chance to perform on the stage.”

In addition to building confidence, Yang’s goals for members of the Unity Club include learning a “short amount of tap dancing skills” as well as being able to show their skills to others when asked if they are tap dancers.

Though she may be a champion tap dancer herself, Yang intends to create a laid-back atmosphere in Unity Club and welcomes dancers of all skill levels. Yang believes that clubs at MacDuffie serve as informal opportunities to “develop people’s interests,” and emphasized that the dancers in her club do not have to be “very serious about tap dancing” or have “extensive training.”

“I just want people to relax,” Yang said and mentioned that she will begin her tap dancing instruction with the most basic skills. Specifically, Yang plans to show club members an instructional video and then teach them the tap-dancing techniques herself. Depending on the amount of improvement that club members make, Yang is considering choreographing a dance for club members to perform.

At the moment, Unity Club will meet once or twice a week in MacDuffie’s dance studio, and those interested in joining must purchase their own pair of tap shoes. Those with any questions about Unity Club can contact Yang at


Environmental Club

Junior Charlie Nguyen decided to make a new club that would help our environment. “I started this club with the hope to find people that are interested in protecting and creating a positive impact on the environment around us,” Nguyen said. This club is for people who would like to give back to there community. Nguyen’s main goal is getting people together so they can sign up for volunteer projects.

“Together, our club can volunteer in environmental projects such as river cleanups, raise awareness about environmental pollution, and fundraising for nonprofit environmental organizations to create a bigger positive impact on the community,” Nguyen said.

Ukulele Club

Senior Mike Nguyen decided for his leadership practicum that he was going to start a club on how to play the Ukulele. He also had another reason why he wanted to help teach people to play this instrument.

“Last year, I got to perform Pachelbel’s Canon during the Spring Concert in April. Then, Mr. Kaminski told me that this was the first time the ukulele was performed during the concert. I felt rather shocked because the ukulele is such a popular instrument,” Nguyen said.

Director of Information Technology Ed Gray has experience in playing the Ukulele. Starting a club here at MacDuffie is to teach people about it.

“I created the club to inspire others to play and to appreciate this underrated instrument,” Nguyen said.

Boarder Trip Bonding

Originally published on The Magnet by Megan Jacques

MacDuffie day students were treated with an invitation to Big E and Six Flags boarding trips this year after Assistant Dean of Boarding Lucy Tew shared a form for students to sign up.

In prior years, due to concerns around how the students would pay for the trips, day students were excluded from boarding trips. Since boarding students pay a different activity fee compared to the day students, the big issue with enacting this plan was ensuring that the day students would not break the bank to join their boarder friends, while still having these students pay for the activities they are attending.

The decision to allow day students to join the boarding trips is “something that [the boarding department] had been talking about for a while,” said Tew.

“We opened things up to day students, and we let them choose. It’s like an a la carte menu, you get to pick. We have space on a trip, we let you sign up, and then we give you the information on what you pay, if you pay, and who you give it to,” said Tew.

Dean of Boarding Dina Lyman added that, “Some of it has to do with vehicles. Such as, do we use a five star bus or do we use our own? That is why the sign up is so important. Because that is what tells us what vehicle to use. If we have a lot of students sign up, we have to order a larger bus.”

The new invite is not strictly limited to boarding trips that go off campus. Over the weekend of October 26th, day students were invited to attend the haunted house run by the boarding department on Saturday Evening.

“We haven’t been able to open it up before, which we are really excited about,” Tew said.

The trips that day students are invited to are not strictly local trips that only last only a few hours. Day students are invited to all trips, such as those to New York City. However, day students were not invited to the Salem trip due to overwhelming numbers from the boarding population.

The boarding students this year have shown high interest in the boarding trips, which is unusual for the boarding department to see.

“And it’s awkward because now we have 50 boarders interested in a trip, where that might not have been the case a few years ago, but now we don’t have room to offer for a day student,” said Tew.

There will be more opportunities for day students to join these trips as the year goes on, but as of now the trips have been in high demand by boarders, so having room for day students is slim.

So what should you expect while on a boarding trip?

Regardless of where the trip is going, students are required to stay in a specific area. If the trip is to a bowling alley, the students are expected to stay in the bowling alley, and not wander off.

If the trip is to a larger location like Six Flags, or even a city, the same expectation applies. Although there is more room to roam, you are required to stay inside the location you are in and not leave the area for any reason.

Ms. Tew says that “the big important rule for any free time we give in a city or exploring is don’t be by yourself.” In places like Six Flags, it is less crucial as you cannot go very far without running into someone from the trip. In larger cities, it is important to stay with students who have a cell phone and can contact the duty phone if necessary.

What the boarding department expects from any student on these trips is that everyone will be respectful and continue to uphold the values that the school expects from everyone.

“What I’m really looking forward to is having the day students come in and have the experience of going out be this special thing for the borders because ‘oh, it’s not the same group of people. Now my day friends are here’,” said Tew.

“Boarding interactions is one of my favorite things and I really like seeing that happen on these trips. So I am really looking forward to that kind of community building between the boarding and our day communities, because it’s nice to have more people on campus over the weekend.”

Hua, LaChance, Jackson Named Commended Students

Head of School Steve Griffin of The MacDuffie School announced today that Ian Hua, Madeleine LaChance, and Alison Jackson have been named Commended Students in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program. A Letter of Commendation from the school and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), which conducts the program was presented by the Head of School to these scholastically talented seniors.


About 34,000 Commended Students throughout the nation are being recognized for their exceptional academic promise. Although they will not continue in the 2020 competition for National Merit Scholarship awards, Commended Students placed among the top 50,000 scorers of more than 1.5 million students who entered the 2020 competition by taking the 2018 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). 


“Those being named Commended Students have demonstrated outstanding potential for academic success,” commented a spokesperson for NMSC. “These students represent a valuable national resource; recognizing their accomplishments, as well as the key role their schools play in their academic development, is vital to the advancement of educational excellence in our nation. We hope that this recognition will help broaden their educational opportunities and encourage them as they continue their pursuit of academic success.”


Trash is a Treasure for Learning

Tuesday, October 22, middle schoolers took a very “gloves-on” approach to their studies. Students spent time exploring one of archaeology’s greatest treasures: the trash! A lot can be learned about a civilization by analyzing its waste, and the MacDuffie community is no exception. With an understanding of stratigraphy, students could assess which items were thrown away more recently than others and they used their supreme sleuthing skills to identify where each bag of trash had come from. It was a very smelly and informative adventure!

MacDuffie’s New 3D Printers

Originally published on The Magnet by Mohammed Abbasi

This past summer The MacDuffie School obtained two new 3D Printers by Monoprice using a grant from GE Additive. This included features that improve the ease of use and quality of the printers making more opportunities available for students.

The Monoprice MP Voxel printers bring many new possibilities. The printers are equipped with a built-in camera that can be used for monitoring prints when Director of Information Technology Edward Gray or IT Specialist Andrew Perkins are not nearby. This is an improvement next to the custom camera and stand Gray and Perkins built for the previous printers.

According to Gray, the printers can maintain consistent temperatures with their enclosed cases which improves the plastic’s adhesion to the surface of the print bed. The new printers can also connect to WiFi, which allows prints to be initiated wirelessly by a computer in the IT Department. The size of the print beds and cases of the new printers are also noticeably larger than the previous printers.

Interested in the rewards involved, MacDuffie applied to the GE Additive Education Program which provides a grant to purchase 3D printers. It also provides a free extra plastic filament and software programs for schools involved in STEM teaching. When MacDuffie was selected, GE Additive gave one 3D Printer for free and offered a 50% discount on a second printer, which Gray said was a deal of “very good value.”

With these additional printers, there will be “a quicker turnaround time on projects” and at the same time, they will have “better quality.” The extra software from GE Additive known as Polar 3D Cloud allows someone “to upload models and then put in cues to the printers…so the workflow [can be managed] better.” Gray hopes that these features will encourage teachers to incorporate 3D printers with more projects in their classrooms.

Gray and Perkins were influenced to buy new printers when they saw that “3D printers were available for the education market, they were being more affordable, [and] more prevalent.” Gray also said that they provided a way for students to get exposure to STEM-related concepts such as engineering and prototyping. In the past, classes like Biology and BC Calculus have used 3D printers in their projects to do things such as model plant and animal cells.

If the “demand increases or if [the school adds] a 3D design print class,” then the school would consider getting more printers. As of now, Gray believes that they “are in a good spot,” as the school currently has a total of four 3D printers available for use by teachers and students.