Fall Concert Delights

During the Fall Concert, students from the Performing Arts Enrichment delighted the audience from the MTS stage featuring chorus, cabaret ensemble, scene studies, dance ensembles, and jazz band. Highlights from the evening were the African drumming ensemble and the final act “Under the Big Top,” a musical medley. The show also included a digital presentation of photos from the Digital Photography Enrichment Class, as well as Frank Stella inspired artwork created by the Visual Arts Enrichment Class. Enjoy selected photos from the event.

STEM Fest 2018

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We all had so much fun at our inaugural STEM Fest 2018! Children from preschool to third grades explored Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math stations in different rooms across campus. From looking at the moon through a telescope in the observatory to programming robots, there was something for everyone. Students filled up their event “Passports” and received STEM Toolkits to continue their explorations at home. Many thanks to everyone who came out and to the MTS staff and volunteers who made it happen! Enjoy a brief overview of the STEM activity stations and photos from the event below.


Students looked closely at microscopic life, explored optical illusions, and learned how to make homemade harmonicas.


Our technology stations allowed students to experience the fundamentals of programming through problem solving and logic. Students created sequences of commands using Osmo Coding with iPads and physical blocks to run computer games and direct robots’ movements.


Students were given engineering challenges to experience the design process.


What better way to learn math than making it fun through games? We set up a variety of games to engage students with math. Many of these games can be done at home as well. Here is short video that introduces “Pig,” a dice game that is popular in MTS math classes. You can make it more complex by playing with two dice, multiplying the two numbers rolled, and adding it to the previous number. We have also put together a list of commercially available games that develop mathematical thinking and are fun for the whole family.

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A Spectacular Grandparents Tea

We had a record turn out and gorgeous weather for this year’s Grandparents and Special Friends Tea. This year, we started the morning with classroom visits, which were a highlight for many. Afterward, everyone moved into the gym for student performances, a talk by Head of School, Andrew Davis, and a light lunch and tea on the lawn. Thank you to all the families who joined us from near and far for this wonderful, time-honored tradition!

MTS Volunteers Bag 1,560 lbs of rice at SF Marin Food Bank

Mount Tamalpais School families volunteered their time over the weekend at the SF Marin Food Bank. The shift that participated at the food bank bagged 1,560 pounds of rice for distribution. Today, in support of the volunteer day, our second graders will collect the food donated over the past few weeks for their SF Marin Food Drive. Thank you to the parents who organized our community and to all the families who have donated and helped out to make a difference!

Successful Designer Imparts Wisdom to Students


Guest speaker, Katy Tisch, Creative Director of Global Retail at Nike, recently visited the Art Enrichment Class in grades 6-8 to talk about her life experience and share words of wisdom on how a career path in the arts can develop. A friend of Evy’s from college, she shared her experiences from dabbling in drawing and art growing up, working at fisheries in Alaska, studying French literature while living in Europe, and proofreading the phone book (back when we used phone books), leading up to her very successful career working her way up in design at Nike.

Katy talked about her discovery when she started design school at CCA in San Francisco (then it was called CCAC, California College of Arts and Crafts) that design people “were her people” and how that and her love of running coalesced into an entry-level job at Nike. She discussed the politics of working as a woman in a male-dominated company and how she gained the confidence to be herself and focus on making good work. More than anything, she emphasized the importance of passion and being able to get lost in the process and truly love what you’re doing as the basis of finding success in a career.

“A real key to what you want to do in life is what are the things that you get lost in, if it’s reading or math. It’s called Flow - where you lose time and become completely absorbed, and you find your joy there. It doesn’t matter what it is, but I highly recommend that if you choose to do anything in life that it be the central core of it. And the only reason I say that is you’re going to do more of it if you feel good when you do it, and if you do more of it, you’re going to get good at it. It’s just a simple equation. So, you can start out with a lot of talent, but if you hate to do it, you’re never going to develop. But if you start out with a passion, you’re going to develop, because you’re going to do it. I’m sure you’ve heard 10,000 hours. You’re not going to be very good at it for a long time, but you’re going to get good at it because you’re doing it.”

Below are excerpts from her visit:

“I don’t think I ever really thought I was talented, I always thought it’s just something I really like to do, so I wasn’t a really confident kid. In my family when I grew up - it might be different from yours - women didn’t really work, and my mother didn’t work, and my father didn’t expect me to work, so there wasn’t really a conversation about what are you going to do to make money, it was more ‘oh - she likes to draw.’ There wasn’t a lot of attention put to, what can you do with that, what can you do with that passion.

When I was in high school, I didn’t have the easiest upbringing, I went to a new school every year and sometimes I felt like I didn’t fit in. One of the things I started to do was run. I first started running around our driveway, and I drove the car around, and I figured out it was a 10th of a mile, so I’d run it 10 times to run a mile, and we didn’t have Nikes or anything like that back then, we just had Converse. I really liked it, and it made me feel better. So when Evy met me, I was a runner.

I dabbled in art, and then when I went to college with Evy, I was starting to think, OK, what can I do, and funny enough I thought I would become a teacher. When we were growing up, you didn’t get exposed to any other professions other than doctors, teachers, the person who cleans your teeth, and a nurse. They never had career days or anybody come to talk to you about what you might do when you grow up, how to earn money. Then I went to college, and I didn’t really think art was a thing you could do unless you were Picasso. So, I got a French Lit degree. I wasn’t a super great student. I have to say I barely passed. We had to do an oral exam and a written exam, and I could read and write really well, but the teachers almost had to cheat to get me to graduate.

I realized I had to work and earn a living and get a career going, so I decided to go to design school. And I didn’t really even know what design was, I just knew it was art that you do in an office. I went to CCA, it was called CCAC, California College of Arts and Crafts. When I went there, it was like I’d finally met my people. I met people that thought like I did. When I was there, Nike called, and companies will call all the graduates of a school when they’re recruiting, and so Nike called me, and I thought, OMG, it’s design and running. Wow, I can really get behind sports and running. And I moved to Portland, and I never looked back.

I started as a Designer 1, the very bottom there, and I just kept focusing on the work and loving the work. I started in graphic design - which is kind of what you’re doing here, which is 2-dimensional work - there were no computers then - there was no web - so we were making books and printed materials and catalogs. And then as the web started up, I started working in that, and I started doing buildings and exhibits and things like that. After about 8 years there, I got the opportunity to start a company with some people, and I was in charge of everything visual. So I did that for a couple years, but when I was there, I missed Nike because I missed the global reach of Nike, how big it was, and how big the projects were, and a small budget at Nike was a gigantic budget at other companies, so you get to do a lot of really big projects. So I went back there. I’ve been in product design, footwear apparel, equipment, I’ve done retail, all the t-shirts, you know 2000 t-shirts a year, and I lead really large teams of people. And one of my big passions is creating an atmosphere where everyone can do their best work and encourage people become their best selves at work.”

I guess the final thing I’ll say - the How - how did I keep moving up? Again, is just loving the work. Being at a company is kind of hard because there’s politics and all that, but I always try to keep connected to the design work and the designers because I love creative work - I love that space where you’re coming up with something nobody has ever done before. And Nike is a really good company for that - they like to be on that edge.


Q: How did you get past the frustration of not being a part of the male dominated environment?

A: I have been frustrated. One of the things when I went back to Nike is I made some rules for myself. I would never apologize for what I thought. Because when I was younger, I would - and I think this was training from being raised by people who didn’t work - I would always say, well I don’t really know what I’m talking about, but this is my opinion. I would hurt myself, so it wouldn’t hurt if someone else disagreed with me. You know what, I’m not going to do that anymore, I’m just going to say what I think. And that was really good because it pushed me forward. I also thought, nobody can tell what you feel on the inside, so if you don’t feel confident, don’t talk about it, just fake it until you make it. The other thing was is that I would always ask for what I wanted.

At work I have this thing that goes through my head - you know and you may not be able to relate to this yet, but I think - I’m not dating you - so I work with a lot of men who might want me to be nice and cute - and I think - I’m not dating - this is what I think - take it or leave it. So I check myself when I start to feel insecure, oooh, do they not like me? How do I make them like me? You know what? You don’t have to like me. When I take jobs,  I go to work, and I try to be respectful and kind to people, but people opt out of you, not everyone is going to like you. And I’ve gotten much better at taking it and being confident in myself and being confident that I have the best intentions. I never try to hurt anybody, and I’m always focused on trying to get the best work done and giving my designers the best experience.

Q: How do you feel some of the jobs that led you to your final career path informed your experience, like you mentioned you worked on fishing boats in Alaska or editing the phone book, how do you feel those things contributed to your overall character or your experience later in life?

A: I don’t know if I’m compulsive - I’m not fearful. I’ve sometimes have regretted things that I’ve bound into - but I don’t think there are really any mistakes. You either find out what you want to do or you find out what you don’t want to do. And sometimes finding out what you don’t want to do is just as valuable as finding out what you do want to do. I think there’s a lot of value to be had in having a job that you really hate. That’s what got me to take the bold move of going to design school because I really didn’t like proofreading the phone book. And, so it made me stop and think about the life that I wanted, and it gave me energy to pursue that. I was running from that and trying to run into something that would give me energy every day. I don’t think there are any mistakes, I think you just need to pay attention and never feel stuck, always feel like you have options and use the thing you love to catapult you toward more of it or use the thing you hate to catapult you toward something you love. I’ve had jobs at Nike that I didn’t like, and I - one job I had I eliminated while I was in it. I took all the work and gave it to other people, and I told my boss, I don’t have anything to do now, so can I do that… So, I’ve done things like that to keep moving.

Q: What’s your favorite sneaker that Nike’s ever made?

A: The fly net racer. They’re just very thin, they’re almost crocheted. They’re easy to pack. My favorite running sneaker is the Pegasus.

Q: What do you want to do after Nike?

A: I dabble around in art a lot now, I don’t have a lot of time, but on the weekends, I try to play with new processes and materials, and I try to get good at little things. Like when I went to design school, all the things I was a little bit good at kind of went into a little pile. I do a lot of little small projects because I want to illustrate children’s books. I don’t know that I’m going to write them, but my daughter has had a lot of emotional issues - she’s 20 now - so, I’d like to write books that help kids understand their emotions and how to manage their emotions, when they’re having something that they’re overwhelmed by. I want to write books where kids feel like they’re OK even if they don’t feel normal. So, that’s what I want to do once I’m out of “Nike school.” I was looking at the bird prints you’ve been doing. I’ve been trying to figure out printmaking.

Teddy Bear Day

Today, we are celebrating Teddy Bear Day, a longstanding MTS tradition. Students bring their favorite teddy bears to school, we have an all-school parade, and students enjoy time with their buddy bears along with teddy bear shaped popsicles as an afternoon treat. This dear tradition unfailingly warms the hearts of all involved.

Air Bear Toss.

3 Groups, 36 Miles, & 1 Head of School


Last week our 8th graders spent four days and three nights backpacking in the high country of Yosemite National Park. This annual trip is the culmination of our outdoor education program that starts in fourth grade.

This year, our Head of School, Andrew Davis, hiked with all three groups on their first day in the woods. His planned 17 mile day turned into a 30 mile day of hiking/running as he assisted an injured passing hiker out to the rangers, returning to camp in the dark.

Here are a few highlights of his trip as he describes it.

After hiking with each group Andrew remarked at how well the MTS students were handling the challenge:

Despite heavy packs, hard trails, and long days, spirits were high. As a former outdoor educator, I was impressed by their maturity and willingness to persevere in the face of challenge.
— Andrew Davis

While the 8th graders braved the mountains, our 6th and 7th graders were off on their own trips as well. More on those adventures in the weeks to come.

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Welcome Back on the First Day of School!

We are so excited to have the students back at school! We had a great turnout of parents at our Morning Coffee, and we welcomed new families at our orientation that followed. During the all-school assembly this afternoon, Head of School, Andrew Davis, shared with everyone our guiding principle for the year, "How Matters" and the ways that we will be focusing on process rather than end-product throughout this year. You can read his full welcome speech on the TGIAM blog post here. The assembly wrapped up with a faculty and staff flash mob singing and playing "Don't Worry About A Thing" on ukuleles. The 2018-19 school year is starting out on a fantastic note! 

Spring Musical Performance of Oklahoma!

Sixth through eighth graders performed an excellent rendition of Oklahoma! for the Mount Tamalpais School Spring Musical this year. Set in Oklahoma territory in 1906, this popular musical tells the story of a farm girl, Laurey and her courtship by two rival suitors, cowboy Curly and the sinister Jud Fry. One student performer commented that this was the most fun he's had in an MTS musical as it was great fun to dress up as a cowboy and talk "cowboy talk." Enjoy watching selected scenes in the video below - you 'Cain't Say No!' 

Students Have a Blast on Field Day

Field Day is an annual tradition in the spring organized by the PE teachers full of fun physical activities. Stations include games out in the field like sack races, tug-o'-war, 50 meter dash, and hula hoop, as well as indoor stations include golf putting, juggling, and musical chairs.

After a busy morning followed by an awards ceremony, students and faculty gather on the field once again for relay races. Fueled by an ice cream snack, the day concludes with the much anticipated volleyball match between the 8th grade and faculty. Rumor has it that the faculty has lost before, but nobody can remember when (10 years ago?). This year the 8th graders put on a valiant fight with raucous support from the other grades, but faculty won the first two games (out of a potential 3) to end the match. Everyone had a blast!

3rd Grade Field Trip Highlights

The third grade San Francisco field trip is an annual tradition. Students enjoyed a ferry ride to and from the city and visited the Aquarium of the Bay, highlighting the sea life right in our bay. They also explored the Presidio and Aquatic Park reflecting on the historical significance of both areas all while riding on an iconic San Francisco cable car. A super fun day was had by all!

Mandarin Class Visits Chinatown

The Mandarin Class recently took a field trip to Chinatown in San Francisco giving students a taste of Chinese culture. The first stop was the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum, where students learned about the history of the relations between China and the U.S., and immigrants’ journeys to San Francisco from China. After exploring the museum, the group went to a local Chinese market where students all purchased bags of da bai tu, a White Rabbit Candy. Next, the group walked down to the Li Xiang Can Guan or the Lai Hong Lounge where students had the opportunity to taste a wide range of Chinese dishes. Feeling content after lunch, the group stopped at a sculpture shop and a gift shop. Students also tried to speak Mandarin as much as possible when on the field trip. Agnes Li, MTS Mandarin teacher who led the trip, said she felt proud of her students, and parents raved that their kids couldn't stop talking about the trip!

5th Grade Outdoor Education Trip to the Marin Headlands

Fifth graders spent three days at the Marin Headlands through the Nature Bridge organization.  Students hiked trails out to the Point Bonita Lighthouse, experienced hands-on marine science learning, participated in environmental service projects, and enjoyed team building activities.

Environmental Service Projects:
Harbor Seal Count at Point Bonita - Students spent an hour counting adult and pup harbor seals sunning on the rocks and swimming in the water. The data collected will be used to monitor the growth or decline of the Harbor Seal population at Point Bonita. 

Ice Plant Eradication: 
Students helped with the slow eradication of Ice Plant, a non-native species, at the Marin Headlands. They did this by rolling down hills of Ice Plant, which kills the plant slowly so other native plants grow in its place. 

Focus on Marine Science:
Students explored tide pools at Rodeo Beach, experienced Nature Bridge's touch tanks, and they saw numerous whales along the coast!

Team Building Activities:
Time for games, discussions, and reflection at Scotty’s Bluff in Marin Headlands. Games focussed on communication skills and tasks that could only be accomplished with the help of everyone in the group. 

MTS Track Teams Lead the Pack

It's a speedy bunch! Both the Lower and Middle School MTS Track Teams placed very well in the final meets of the year. Fifth grade boys and fifth grade girls won second place in their relays in the meet prior to the final races (pictured with their ribbons). Middle School runners had to qualify for the final championship races, which were held at Mount Tam High School over the weekend. See below for the final results in the Middle School races. Congratulations, Runners!

Middle School Marin County Championship Meet Results

Natalie Harle  100M  A Girls 1st place

Halle Hanna  200M A Girls 1st place
Natalie Harle 200M A Girls 2nd place

Halle Hanna 600M A Girls 1st place (tied school record!)
Marissa Lumpkin 600M C Girls 4th place

400M Relay A Girls 4th place
Piper Fleece
Halle Hanna
Natalie Harle
Marissa Lumpkin

Mile Relay A/B CO-ED 2nd place
William Bennett
Finn McKibbin
Halle Hanna
Marissa Lumpkin

Natalie Harle Shot Put A Girls 3rd place

Tara Curtin Long Jump D Girls 4th place

Author Shannon Messenger Visits the School

Grades 5-8 students were ecstatic to have Shannon Messenger, author of the Keeper of the Lost Cities and the SkyFall book series, come visit the school, talk about her writing approach, and sign some books. We learned about her love for cats and cupcakes, not to mention did you know that unicorns with wings are not actually called unicorns, but alicorns? She encouraged the students to follow their dreams and to never give up. A special thanks to the Payne, Reilly, Charkin and Estes families for bringing this popular author to our doorstep! 

Margie Burke Speech Tournament

On Saturday, April 28th, eighteen of our MTS students competed in the 36th Annual Margie Burke Memorial Speech Tournament at Ross School. Each year our students work diligently to prepare for this highly competitive and prestigious event. This year, with eleven Marin County schools participating, Mount Tamalpais School earned 18 medals. This was the 25th year that Performing Arts teacher, Deborah Marcom, took a team of students to the tournament, with notoriously amazing results over the years. Please join us in congratulating all of them! 








Community Day!

Community Day was a huge success!

Kindergarten and First Graders have been learning about the idea of community. As a way to explore what it is like to be a member of a town/city community, First Graders were given the opportunity to open their own "stores." They came up with an idea and a business plan and created a store where they would provide a good or service. Stores ranged from selling things like used books or hand-made crafts, to teaching a skill like shooting a mini basketball or learning to make a rubber band bracelet. 


While there was an economics aspect to this project, the focus was to emphasize the many services that are shared by the members of a community. With this in mind, each customer received 10 small cubes to use as currency, and each item or service cost 1 cube. The Kindergarten class was invited to come to shop, as well as parents and faculty. Fun was had by all, and customers left feeling very pleased with their new purchases and experiences!