Friday, July 12, 2013

UCHS Student Admitted to Prestigious Art Program

(This is a re-posting of an article which appeared on this blog in February, 2013)

Dancer/Choreographer Twyla Tharp famously remarked that, “Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.” 

For one University City High School student, however, art is a ticket to the west coast and beyond. UCHS junior Marina Claunch recently learned that she has been accepted into the prestigiousPreCollege program at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI). There she will join students from around the world for a five-week summer program in which she will take classes at the Art Institute, work with practicing artists, explore new media, visit Bay Area museums and galleries, take part in an exhibition, and develop a portfolio.

To be considered for the program, Marina had to submit photographs of her work, a recommendation from a teacher, and an artist’s statement detailing her primary interests in making art.

The work she submitted with her application was selected from pieces she completed in art classes at UCHS, and she credits the guidance she has received from her teachers there with greatly enhancing her painting skills. After high school Marina plans to attend SFAI to study fine arts, and hopes to one day return to University City as part of the Returning Artists Program.

University City High School has a long and storied tradition of excellence in the arts. In an era in which funding for arts education is in decline, University City Schools have bucked the tide and continue to offer a wide range of courses in both fine and practical arts.

The 2013 – 2014 UCHS Course Guide lists 24 different classes under Fine Arts. This means that any student with an interest in studio art, ceramics, ballet, jazz band, printmaking, graphic arts, choir, modern dance, theatre arts, concert band, sculpture and more will have ample opportunities to pursue those interests at UCHS. 

Providing young people with arts education has been linked to a great number of positive outcomes. At the most basic level, exposing kids to the arts increases the likelihood that they will continue to be involved in the arts as adults, thereby ensuring that our society will continue to benefit from the cultural richness that only the arts can provide. Research also connects childhood art education with a vast array of academic and social benefits. Children who participate in the arts are likely to have improved reading, language, math, thinking, and social skills. Participation in the arts motivates kids to learn and helps keep at risk and special needs kids in school. Strong art programs contribute to a positive school environment by fostering teacher and student innovation and increasing student attendance. (For a highly readable and comprehensive overview of how the arts benefit student achievement see The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies’ publication Critical Evidence ). 

From musicians like Jeremy Davenport and Peter Martin to visual artists such as Marlon West and Saaba Buddenhagen Lutzeler to countless accomplished dancers, singers, journalists, actors, writers, and performers, our community has so much to be proud of and so much to show for our historical commitment to arts education. With her drive and determination (and of course, talent) Marina is sure to one day take her place in the pantheon of great UCity artists, and with the support of our community and our administrators we will continue to celebrate the achievements of our UCHS art students for decades to come.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

UCHS AP Biology Students Participate in Washington University Study

This past school year UCHS Advanced Placement (AP) Biology students participated in an ecological and molecular genetics study sponsored by Washington University to identify cyanogenesis in white clover. Teacher Julie Ertmann's students collected white clover samples from around the University City High School campus and tested them to determine if they contained the genes to make the compounds that make cyanide.

Junior Isaac Tobias and Senior Chris States discuss the proper
 way to read test results with their teacher, Julie Ertmann

Three trials were conducted on each clover cluster collected.  Testing involved mashing up the clover and mixing it with water, linamarase (a plant enzyme), and linamarin (a sugar).   If the clover tested was cyanigenic they would be able to detect the cyanide in each of the trials, but if it only produced the enzyme they would only be able to detect cyanide in the trial with the sugar (linamarin).  

Senior Anna Soifer adds linamarase and linamarin
 to the clover samples

Samples in the incubator.
Students then collected data (number of cyanagenic plants, number of enzyme producing plants number of sugar producing plants) and calculated the ratios between them. Their data was submitted  to Washington  University, who will pool it with data collected from across the country, sorted by region.

Senior Ursula Monaghan checks to see if a reaction has occurred.

An unusually high number of cyanagenic plants were discovered on the UCHS campus, leading the students to conduct a second set of trials, which yielded the same results.

Senior Chris States uses a smartboard to record study data

Senior Grace Deitzler (who credits this class with greatly influencing her decision to become a biology major)  found it “interesting that the plant would produce just the enzyme, because it's a metabolic waste, as it serves no other purpose for the plant, whereas the sugar (linamarin) could be used if necessary for other purposes within the cells."

The author of this blog will have to take her word on this, and is very pleased that our students have the opportunity to so greatly exceed their elders’ knowledge on such matters.

Thank you to Grace Deitzler for reporting and photography on this post!

Update: Anna Soifer is now studying archaeology at Johns Hopkins University, Ursula Monaghan is studying biomedical engineering at Swarthmore College, Chris State is studying business administration at William Jewel College, and Grace Deitzler is studying biological sciences and chemistry at Missouri S&T