Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Category: Peninsula School (page 1 of 14)

Bare feet, better grades!

Peninsula library this morning

This is really fascinating:

Schoolchildren who attend their lessons wearing no shoes are likely to obtain better grades and behave better than those who wear them, a decade-long academic research has revealed.

‘Shoeless’ children are more likely to arrive to school earlier, leave later and read more, according to new research by Bournemouth University.

Researchers have observed tens of thousands of children who leave their shoes outside the classroom and found that pupils are more engaged in their lessons, which in turn leads to better academic attainment.

Source: Schoolchildren with no shoes on ‘do better and behave better in the classroom’, research shows

Off to camping

My daughter left this morning on a week-long camping trip with her class. Camping is a big thing at Peninsula. The youngest elementary school classes start with overnight stays in their classrooms, and by 8th grade the students are planning a couple weeks’ worth of trips.

via Flickr

With twenty kids and about five teachers, there’s a lot of gear.

via Flickr

Camping has been a big part of the school experience for years, and alumni talk about it as one of the most highlights of their time here.

This year they’re going up to some park in the far north of the state. So in addition to all the usual stuff, they filled a trailer with firewood, and make up a convoy of four or five cars, vans, and trucks. It was hard to keep track.

via Flickr

I took Christopher with me to school, and turned him loose. He loved being able to run around off-leash for once.

via Flickr

Though I think he was a little disappointed when he wasn’t able to go with the kids. I’m sure he would have loved it.

via Flickr


About three months ago, we took in a new member of the household: a 13 year-old dog named Christopher. A friend of ours just turned 90 and is moving, and couldn't take him with her; my son knew Christopher for a couple years, so we agreed to try him out.

I haven't owned a dog in ages, and so I had no real idea what I was getting into. But with two cats (at the time), and birds whove established nests all around the house, I was feeling like, what's one more animal?

He was, of course, somewhat guarded at first, and had some health issues, but over time has become more comfortable, both socially and physically.

One thing that concerned me was that I'd have to drive everywhere with him, as he's too old, and I'm too smart, to have him run beside me on the leash while I bike. So I found an old Burley trailer, ripped out the seats, and put in a dog bed. With enough dog treats he'll hop right in, and now happily rides.

Most days we go to Peninsula in the morning, and he has a circuit he likes to make, visiting different classrooms and saying hi to different kids, and to a cage of guinea pigs. I can't tell if the thinks they're friends or food.

Some of the kids knew him from his previous life; like my son they had tutored with his old owner, who herself was a teacher at Peninsula for a long time. So he's quite the celebrity at school. And he's made a couple canine friends, too.

Being thirteen, he has a variety of chronic ailments, and so he takes as many allergy pills and vitamins as I do. But peanut butter seems able to disguise just about everything.

And despite his age, or perhaps because of it, he's quite cheerful, yet generally pretty mellow. He sleeps like a rock, and like Marlowe has a genius for finding strategically inconvenient places to bed down: getting to the coffee maker in the morning is now like the maze scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Indeed, his example, along with my dad's heading off to Singapore for two years after his retirement, has started me rethinking the nature of aging. To the degree I've thought about it at all, I've tended to assume that getting older is mainly about declining faculties, managing chronic health problems, and fighting social irrelevance– telling kids to get the hell off your lawn, but not knowing which kids they at because you don't have on your glasses.

But maybe there's more to the story. Maybe the other stuff can be epiphenomena, the friction or froth that is part of every part of your life.

I've been thinking about this particularly in relation to technology use. There's a tendency of think of elders as 1) incapable of understanding computers, 2) a set of engineering challenges (decreased mobility, reduced short-term memory) that need to be solved using technical means, and 3) something a bit less than free agents. But Steve Jobs was something like 18 months away from being eligible for Medicaid when he died; was he too old to "get" Apple's products? Do the guys (and they're largely guys) who built Silicon Valley in the 1960s and 1970s, who spent their careers in the computer industry and now are retired, somehow lose the ability to think about technical stuff when they get their gold watches?

I suspect that, for important segments of the population at least, the conventional narrative about computers and aging is completely wrong. That there are things we can learn from elders about technology choice and use– about how much to let devices into our lives, about how to use them, about what things really matter. Sure, there are things people my age can do to help our elderly parents make sense of technology; but there are things we can learn from them, too.


Light beams at Peninsula this morning

Nice light at school this morning.

Light at Peninsula this morning
via flickr

Peninsula School hallway

From today.

Camera Roll-71
via flickr


Peninsula School, this afternoon, via flickr

[To the tune of Tzimon Barto, “Preludes: Prelude No. 6 in B minor (Assai lento),” from the album Chopin: Preludes & Nocturnes (a 3-star song, imo).]

I may need to watch this just for the Peninsula School connection

The newest franchise in the Real Housewives of Wherever— Beverly Hills this time, folks!– is out, and Troy Patterson has a review:

“This town runs on status.” This remark inspires a sincere query: Are there any towns that don’t run on status? Bodie? Chernobyl? Maybe—maybe—Lego Town? Evading such questions, the RH of BH intro speeds to a comment on evanescence and an assertion of supremacy: “It can all go away in an instant, but if you can play the game, there’s nowhere better to live.” Come off it. What of Santa Monica? Malibu? Lego Castle?

Normally the reviews of shows like this are enough for me, but then I caught this:

Next comes Camille, the wife of Kelsey Grammer. “It’s time for me to come out of my husband’s shadow and shine,” she declares. This she does, not unlike a distress flare or, given her recent estrangement from the actor, an exit sign…. Then we have the sister act of Kim and Kyle, former child actresses, each of whom appeared in Escape to Witch Mountain [ed: Kyle has an uncredited appearance]. Kim racked up further credits on The Love Boat, Magnum, P.I., and CHiPs (“Ponch, I’ve hurt so many people!”), a resume she believes qualifies her as an “icon,” which is cute. I much prefer Kyle, impressed that she has gracefully aged into a luxury-shopper deft at negotiating quid pro quos with the man holding the purse strings. “Let’s make a deal,” says her husband, crying uncle. “For every $1,000 you spend, I play an hour of golf.”

For those who don’t know, the orphanage in Escape to Witch Mountain was Peninsula School. My wife was there when they shot the movie. The place looks pretty much the same.

[To the tune of The Doors, “Light My Fire,” from the album The Doors (a 5-star song, imo).]

I told them I wanted to be Avatar Aang! DAMN YOU JAMES CAMERON!

Face painting at the Spring Fair!

The chicken chant!

A few days ago, my daughter took part in the traditional Egg Drop at her school, in which the fifth graders build containers to protect eggs thrown off the balcony of the Big Building.

She took a cardboard box, filled it with Peeps, and then decorated it to look like a chicken. When the crowd saw it, here’s what happened (captured on my iPhone):

Unfortunately the egg didn’t make it, but still it was very amusing to watch.

What’s an auction without a flaming robot?

image from

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