Harker School Shadowing and Giants Baseball Game

Anita Chetty and her team at Harker School have embraced our visit and gone out of their way to make our experience unique, educational and inspirational. Today our students had the opportunity to attend some classes with Harker School students and some classes made especially for us.

The day started early with breakfast hosted at the school. Our students had already chosen the classes they wanted to attend, and they included a Biotech Class, Computer Science, Research Class, Analytical Chemistry, Anatomy Lab and Advanced Physics.

While the girls were in their first class – Biotech and Computer Science- we had a meeting with Anita and a couple of her staff.  When the group of the girls emerged from Biotech, they were pink in the face with excitement and grinning from ear to ear. They were extracting DNA strands and used a spinny thing, as Imogen explained, and which Laura kindly clarified as a centrifuge. Many of our girls don’t have this standard of equipment at their school and they were buzzing. They had so much fun.

Our computer science girls did well according to the teacher who took the class. She said the girls knew more than they led her to believe – the Kiwi way of underplaying their skills and quite different to the American style. She was impressed with our students and found them to be warm and engaging. Great feedback for us.

Neither Gaylene nor I have a science background, but we joined in with the girls to get a taste of what they were doing as they went to their other classes. I went to the Research Class and Gaylene went to the Physics class, where she learnt about circuits!

In the research class we had fun learning about the ‘conservation of angular momentum’ by spinning around. I now know how ice skaters get their speed when spinning. It’s all to do with physics! Experimenting with this caused great hilarity, especially when they had me spinning! We learnt about the black hole, ogled at the university-standard lab equipment, shared a bit about our science experiences and heard about how research projects are planned and carried out. We then got to sample chocolate chip cookies made from a variety of fats (the ones with butter tasted the best!).

In the afternoon, Gaylene joined in the Advanced Physics (lucky Gaylene). You can see by the photos that there was lots of concentration going on. They loved the problem-solving technique of the teacher.

I joined in the anatomy class. This was incredible. They have an anatomy table called an Anatomage Table (cost US$60,000 and donated by six parents), developed by Stanford University. When bodies are donated to science they are scanned, and MRI’ed. Surface images are taken and incisions the width of a dime are imaged. These are put into the computer and the body shows up (faces are changed for privacy). This is an image of an actual body with actual conditions. Vicki had stomach cancer, Carl, who was a murderer, had leukaemia, and we saw co-joined twins and someone who had a bullet through their skull. These images can then be used to study the anatomy. You can see the image covered in muscle, and with the tap of a stylus, this can be stripped away to see the skeleton with the organs underneath, or you can remove a portion of the skeleton to see organs more clearly or make them more transparent so you can see through them. The vascular system can be traced, and all the body parts and veins can be viewed with names. It was an incredible teaching tool.

Afternoon tea was gelato and some traditional snacks from the Kiwis – vegemite and crackers, pineapple lumps, squiggles, Minties and RJ Licorice. Anita shared her story about her family being taken from India three generations ago indentured to work in Fiji. She shared how she is the first in her generation to get an education and how her family sacrificed so much so she could achieve this. The girls found it an incredibly powerful and moving journey and were inspired by her determination and her family’s sacrifice. We know this because they shared how much it meant to them during their peaks and troughs at the end of the day.

What made us super proud as Chaperones was the leadership Malaya and Bree showed when they taught the Harker hosts the Haka, gave a Karakia and led our students in a Waiata. It was an incredible moment for me, Laura and Gaylene. Students exchanged gifts, phone numbers and emails. Bonds had been formed. What an extraordinary experience for the girls.

Our wonderful day was topped off by a trip to the San Jose Minor League Baseball game. This was lots of fun. We were once again spoilt by the Americans. The man who Laura organised the tickets through reserved us seats behind home base, gave us all a gift of a bobblehead – a toy baseball player who bobbles!

The girls were invited to partake at the end of each innings in fun competitions of air guitar, which Emily won, musical chairs, which Wenjun won, and of course our very own Bree threw the first ball of the game. We also experienced American BBQ Baseball game food. I can tick that box and don’t feel the need to try that again!