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Potomac School News

French Students Sharpen Skills in Quebec

A vibrant group of 17 rising junior and senior French students, led by two US teachers, spent an active immersion week in Quebec this June. The group followed the Saint Lawrence River during their travels, making their way from Montreal to Tadoussac, and participating in a variety of activities.

Students went hiking, canoed in a large Algonquin rabaska, attended Montreal’s FrancoFolies music festival, danced in a traditional Canadian “sugar shack,” and went whale watching on the Saguenay fjord. They practiced their French skills throughout the trip, but counted two experiences as especially great language development opportunities: speaking French during environmental and historic bicycle tours of Quebec City, and participating in an interactive improv “game show” that focused on Quebecois history. As they say in Quebec, “C’était du fun!”

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Potomac Senior Wins Scholarship in Junior Achievement Essay Competition

Junior Achievement of Greater Washington recently announced the winners of its 2017 Junior Achievement Essay Competition. Potomac School senior Mike Grimes was selected as the second- place winner in Virginia. He will be awarded a $10,000 scholarship for this accomplishment.

The essay prompt was "Several great entrepreneurs, including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, dropped out of college before getting their degrees. How important do you think a college degree is to your future success?" More than 1,100 students across the region submitted essays in response. They were judged based on creativity and originality, persuasiveness, grammar and spelling, understanding of the subject matter, and relevance of the response to the topic question.
Grimes, who lives in Washington, DC, wrote about the "10,000 Hour Rule," cited by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, which posits that approximately 10,000 hours of practice is required to become truly expert in any skill or area of endeavor. Grimes asserted his belief that college is a place to begin acquiring this extensive experience – a place that offers "access to teachers, technology, and other resources critical to reach mastery."
This fall, Grimes will be enrolled in the College of Charleston's Honors College. He plans to major in finance and commercial real estate and minor in entrepreneurship. He will reside in the college's Entrepreneurship Living Learning Community, where he will have daily interaction with students with similar interests. At Potomac, Grimes plays point guard for the varsity basketball team and is involved in peer leadership activities, serving as a mentor and role model for younger students.
Founded in 2008, the Junior Achievement Essay Competition is sponsored by David M. Rubenstein. First-, second-, and third-place winners are selected from Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, and each of these winners is awarded a $10,000 scholarship. One grand-prize winner is selected to receive a $20,000 scholarship. All of the scholarship recipients are recognized by Junior Achievement and Mr. Rubenstein at a private awards ceremony, held this year on May 21.
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Varsity Baseball and Softball Teams Win MAC/ISL Season Title

Congratulations to our varsity baseball team, which won the MAC regular season title, defeating Georgetown Day with a score of 11-0. The boys played extremely well on their Senior Day. While the Panthers have achieved seven baseball league titles, this is the first time since 1996 that Potomac has won the regular season title outright. The team beat Maret 4-3 in the MAC semi-finals and will play St. James in the finals.

Potomac'S softball team defeated Holton-Arms 16-1 in the opening round of the ISL Tournament behind the strong pitching of Caroline Culp. They next beat #3 seed NCS 15-0 in the semi-finals and took on Flint Hill in the championship game. Tied 2-2 going into the 7th inning, Potomac batted through the line up and scored 6 runs to secure the ISL tournament championship and are also the ISL co-champions. 

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Students Perform On-Site Research in Costa Rica

A group of 10 sophomores and two teachers with an interest in marine biology spent nine learning-filled days in Costa Rica over Spring Break. These adventure seekers joined with Ecology Project International and partnered with field researchers during an investigation of rainforest frogs and the nesting habits of leatherback turtles. Their work took them through the Veragua Rainforest, on a visit to the Pacuare Reserve, and to Cahuita National Park for a snorkel!

In addition to exploring diverse tropical ecosystems and contributing to ongoing local conservation practices, the students spent a day conducting their own research, which focused on the effects of nonpoint source pollution and trash generated on site. One of their favorite moments was meeting a group of Costa Rican high school students, who were veteran members of the program. Everyone brought back fabulous photos and plenty of great memories!

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SERC Student Named Regeneron Scholar

Senior Jasmine Terrones has been named a Top 300 Scholar in the 77th Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation's oldest and most prestigious science and mathematics competition for high school seniors. More than 1,800 students nationwide entered the competition this year, and being selected as one of the top 300 is a significant honor.

Jasmine's research examines possible adverse health effects of sustained exposure to WiFi radiation. To begin exploring this question, she developed an experiment to assess the cellular-level effects of continuous WiFi exposure on the common fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster). Jasmine explains that a new generation of fruit flies is produced every 20 days, making it possible to study any potential effect over the course of several generations within a compressed timeframe.

Jasmine's research advisor, Dr. Isabelle Cohen, notes, "As a student in our SERC program, Jasmine exemplifies the innovation and creativity that are foundational to success in scientific research. I have been impressed by her hard work and dedication throughout this project, and I am struck by her humility upon receiving national recognition for her work. It is well deserved, and I am thrilled for her."

As a result of being named a Top 300 Scholar, Jasmine will receive a $2,000 award. The Potomac School will also receive $2,000, to be used in support of STEM education. Later this month, the Regeneron Science Talent Search will name this year's 40 finalists, who will compete in Washington, DC, in March. We congratulate Jasmine on her accomplishment and wish her continued success!

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Congratulations to the 27 MS, IS, and US musicians who represented Potomac at the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association Solo and Ensemble Festival this past weekend. The students received valuable feedback on their performances, all of which were rated either "excellent" or "superior." To view a complete list of the students who participated in the festival,

Upper School Participants
Superior Rating
Alexis Watkinson, flute
Henry Boehm, violin duet (with David Boehm)
Tiffany Huff, violin

Excellent Rating
William Bailey, violin

Intermediate School Participants
Superior Rating
Audrey Lee, flute solo
Maia Phillips, flute solo
Ashleigh Watkinson, saxophone solo
Ben Choi, violin
Alex Christ, viola
Terrence Jen, violin
Teddy Ross, violin

Excellent Rating
Kate Stockton, bass

Middle School Participants
Superior Rating

Aidan Corwin, trombone solo
Selma Elrefai, trumpet solo
Garrett Hicks, tuba solo
Christopher Lee, clarinet solo
Nicholas Marks, trombone solo
Sydney Rushing, flute solo
Jake Adamac, Nathan Alexander, Stefan Harvey, trumpet trio
Lara Barabanov, Erin Pacious, Mimi Vrondran, brass trio
Charlotte Caulfield, Natalia Vilela, woodwind duet
Aidan Corwin, Nicholas Marks, Alex Mathews, low brass trio
Diane Hallam, Fifi Loza, Audrey Rentzepis, Sydney Rushing, woodwind quartet
Christopher Lee and Ben Levy, woodwind duet
David Boehm, violin
David Boehm, violin duet (with Henry Boehm)
Kate Choi, cello
Bella Kim, cello

Excellent Rating
Zachary Lighthammer, saxophone solo
Lindsay Baker and Isabella Chumpitaz, woodwind duet
Caroline Kaleda, Ava Rentzepis


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Boys and Girls Varsity Squash Teams Become National Champions

Last weekend was a truly remarkable one for Potomac's girls and boys varsity squash teams as they swept the competition in the 2018 US Squash High School National Championships in Philadelphia.

The girls varsity squash team seeded 5-8 in Division 4 of the High School Team Championships, and took home the national title with a 4-3 victory over Westminster Schools of Atlanta. To get to the finals, Potomac beat Tabor Academy 4-3 and Darien High School 6-1. In the semifinals, they toppled number-one seed Middlesex School in a very close 4-3 match.

In the finals on Sunday in Philadelphia, freshman Elizabeth Egger led off with a brilliant 3-0 trouncing of her opponent. Senior captain Justine Thoma, sophomore Jun-Young Hong, and senior captain Caroline Jackson faced tough opposition, and came up short. Next, freshman Aalia Husain forced her opponent from corner to corner. Sophomore Charlotte Ellis won three games, and senior captain Mary Kate Ausbrook played the final match, to the deafening chants of the Westminster crowd.

Mary Kate split the first two games, lost the third, and won in the fourth, bringing the game score to 2-2. Sensing the tide had turned, the Potomac team amped up the cheers, and Mary Kate took the final game with an impressive 11-4 score.

The boys team entered the championships seeded at third place in Division 3. They began their campaign against Millbrook School in the Round of 16, winning a closely contested match. In the quarterfinals, the Panthers faced the Packer Collegiate Institute, cruising through with a 6-1 win.

The semifinal was a repeat of last year's Round of 16 match against Rye Country Day School. This year, RCDS was seeded second in Division 3. Last year's defeat was still fresh in Panthers' minds and served as excellent motivation to overcome their opponents. Freshman Eric Lovallo managed to defeat his opponent in a nail-biting five-game match, clinching the fourth win needed to put Potomac through to the final.

In the final, the Panthers faced The Masters School. With the overall score tied at 3-3, freshman Matthew Granovsky made an impressive comeback after losing the first two games, and ultimately won final score of 11-4.

Congratulations, Panthers!

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25 Potomac School Students Earn National Merit Scholarship Recognition

Twenty-five seniors at The Potomac School have earned special recognition from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

Potomac students received the following distinctions:

  • National Merit Semifinalist (among the top 16,000 scorers nationwide): Madeline Cunnion, Tracey Mills, and Jasmine Terrones
  • Commended Student (among the top 50,000 performers nationwide): Caroline Case, William Debayo-Doherty, Laila Germanis, Jason Gould, Seyoung Hong, Helen Horan, Caroline Jackson, David Kiernan, Nicole Manning, Maria Petrosinelli, Matthew Plaza, Thomas Rollins, Catherine Rooney, Tyler Sanok, Chloe Searchinger, William Socas, William Thompson, Brian Wilson, Jolie Zhang, and Tina Zvinys
  • National Hispanic Recognition Program Recipient (among the top 5,000 scores out of the 250,000 Hispanic students who took the PSAT): Farris Sepúlveda,
    TJ Sharkey, and Jasmine Terrones
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IS Debaters Excel at Tournament of Champions

Eighth grade debaters Kay Rollins and Christian Herald gave strong performances at the National Middle School Tournament of Champions (TOC) at the University of Kentucky this past weekend.

Kay is a double national champion, winning in both extemporaneous speaking and original oratory. Having also competed at the High School TOC earlier this spring, Kay is the first 8th grader in the 44-year history of the high school tournament who advanced to semi-finals. Christian, who had only competed in two other tournaments this season, also saw success in Kentucky, taking 6th place in original oratory.

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VISAA Honors Girls Athletics  Director

Girls Athletics Director Dr. Cas Blanchard has been honored as one of seven members of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association's (VISAA) inaugural Hall of Fame class. She was inducted into the Hall of Fame at a ceremony held in Richmond, Va., on May 8.

Dr. Blanchard was recognized for her outstanding accomplishments as an educator and her extensive work with the VISAA. She helped to establish the organization's structure as a member of the initial VISAA committee from 1997 through 1998, then served as the northern region representative on the VISAA Executive Committee from 2001 to 2014. Beginning in 2002, Dr. Blanchard concurrently served as VISAA secretary. Since 2006, she has chaired Virginia's state-wide sports committees for girls tennis and lacrosse, having founded the girls lacrosse committee.

Dr. Blanchard has been Potomac's director of girls athletics since 2001. She also coaches in Potomac's Intermediate School girls basketball and soccer programs. Asked what she most enjoys about her job, she observes, "It's a privilege to work with our student-athletes, coaches, and parents. There is a terrific spirit at Potomac that makes every day enjoyable." She adds, "I always like to see a team improving over the course of time. And every once in a while, you have a special team that has a special season, and that's really rewarding."

Head of School John Kowalik notes, "For the past 16 years, Cas Blanchard has set a high standard, encouraging our student-athletes to give their best in terms of effort, perseverance, sportsmanship, and teamwork. At Potomac and across the state, she is recognized as someone who genuinely cares about students and has helped to make athletics an integral aspect of independent-school education. We are delighted that she has received this honor from the VISAA."

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Robotics Teams Named U.S. Open National Champions

Potomac's Upper School robotics teams participated in the U.S. Open National Championship in Omaha, NE, April 6-8. Three of the school's teams, 12A, 12G, and 12E/F, competed as an alliance to become the U.S. Open champions.

The members of the teams that formed the winning alliance were seniors Randall Kliman, Krishna Kumar, and John Tofil; sophomores Ben Adolphe, Matt Giuliano, Jake Levingston, Arjun Kumar, and freshman Akshay Gupta; and sophomores Zoe Dubelier, Marshall Riccardi, James Jordan, Kenny Lin, Max Wehner, and Jared White.

Additionally, Team 12B, comprising juniors Becca Crawley and Jasmine Terrones and freshman Jodie Kuo, was a member of a finalist alliance. Additional highlights include the following:

  • Team 12A was also a finalist of the 1v1 tournament, Team 12E/F won the Amaze Award for their outstanding robot, and 12G was picked to be in the skills final competition
  • Teams 12C (juniors Caroline Case, David Kiernan, and Amelia Mazloom), 12D (sophomores Whitney Bowen, Hollis Cutler, Eleanor Nuechterlein, and Anna Takis), 12X (freshmen Michael Djorup, Jun-Young Hong, Charlotte Ellis, Ethan Lee, and Kat Plaza), and 12Y (freshmen Amelia Cook, Harper Malesardi, Kelsey Norton, and Sarah Raman) also competed at the tournament, demonstrating their hard work from throughout the year

Congratulations to all who participated in the competition!

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Under the leadership of Speech and Debate Coach Harry Strong, a school record of 11 Potomac students have qualified to compete at the 2017 National Speech and Debate Tournament this June in Birmingham, AL.

The students competing are senior Alex Arroyo (original oratory), sophomore Jessica Kwon (worlds school), senior Quentin Levin (public forum), senior Bonnie McKelvie (public forum), junior Max Morehouse (worlds school and public forum), eighth grader Kay Rollins (middle school extemp and middle school oratory), junior Tom Rollins (international extemp), junior Ramses Rubio (worlds school), sophomore Max Shenkman (worlds school), junior Will Thompson (public forum), and junior Jay Younger (public forum).

Last year, five Potomac students (a school record at the time) qualified to compete in the national tournament. Congratulations and good luck to this year's participants!

Girls Tennis and Soccer Teams Win ISL AA Championship

The girls varsity tennis team and the girls varsity soccer team have each been named ISL AA champions. The soccer team claimed their title on October 17 after a 3-0 win over Stone Ridge, having had three victories within a seven day span!

The tennis team won the ISL AA banner after beating Georgetown Visitation 6-1 on October 24. This is the first time in Potomac's history that the team has earned this distinction, and the team is currently ranked third in the VISAA.

Way to go, Panthers!
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SERC Student and Advisor Receive Honors

In March, senior Peter Holmes and faculty member Dr. Isabelle Cohen were recognized at the regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), held at Georgetown University.

Peter, a student in Potomac's Science and Engineering Research Center (SERC) program, was awarded third-place honors at the JSHS. He received a scholarship and the opportunity to present his research, which focuses on a new method for producing ethanol as a biofuel, at the national JSHS in San Diego in April.

This is not the first time Peter has been recognized for this research. In January, he was named one of 300 Regeneron Scholars as part of the Regeneron Science Talent Search, a prestigious pre-college competition that also awards scholarships.

Peter began working on his project as a junior. Having read about using algae to make ethanol, he notes, "I tried to think outside the box about a way that could be more productive and more efficient. That would be to have a single organism, or at least one system, that can both ferment and photosynthesize at the same time, making the whole process more effective." Peter's research advisor, Dr. Isabelle Cohen, says, "His scientific approach was one of the soundest I have witnessed in my many years of research and teaching."

The admiration is mutual. At the JSHS, Dr. Cohen received the organization's 2017 Teacher Award, having been nominated by Peter. He wrote, "I would characterize Dr. Cohen as the most intelligent, hard-working, and considerate person I know. Within her role as an advisor in the SERC program, Dr. Cohen oversees approximately 10 students a year in their independently crafted research projects. ...Dr. Cohen does much more than merely monitor; she becomes a trusted confidant throughout the whole process. ...Without Dr. Cohen constantly pushing me to my greatest potential, I would not be where I am scientifically, nor appreciate the field nearly as much."

Congratulations to both Peter and Dr. Cohen!

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MS and IS Robotics Students Receive Honors

Potomac's 6th, 7th, and 8th grade robotics teams performed strongly at tournaments held on January 7 and 8, collecting many awards.

Participating in the First Lego League Regional Qualification Tournament, 6th grade team "Robo Squad" finished 7th out of 17. Fellow 6th grade team "Buzz Builders" took 2nd place and received a 1st place trophy for Robotic Design. They will advance to the Maryland State Championship, which takes place in February.

Competing at the Northern Virginia VEX IQ Challenge-Crossover Tournament, Potomac 7th and 8th grade teams saw impressive accomplishments, which include...

Team E (Elie DeLaVille and Christopher Kang) and Team D (Rajan Bhargava, Hudson LaForce, and Clay Socas) received the Teamwork Champion Award, as they were the top two teams on the winning alliance in the Teamwork Challenge Finals Matches.

Team G (Michael Fields, Bryce Lukacs, and Cole Morehouse) all received the Teamwork Challenge Award as members of the second place alliance in the Teamwork Challenge Finals Matches.

Team E also received the Excellence Award—the highest award, which recognizes successful overall performance—and the Robot Skill Champion Award.

Team A (Rachael Fields, Julia Jackson, Alejandra Monzon, and Elizabeth Oskoui) received the STEM Project Research Award.

Team H (Margaret Taylor, Charlotte Whitehurst, and Ellie Yoon) received the Design Award.

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Senior Named Regeneron Scholar for Research on Biofuel Production

Senior Peter Holmes, a student in Potomac's Science and Engineering Research Center (SERC) program, has been selected as one of 300 Regeneron Scholars (previously known as Intel semifinalists) as part of the Regeneron Science Talent Search, a prestigious pre-college competition.

Peter, who will attend Duke University next year, was chosen for his innovative approach to the production of ethanol as a biofuel.

His project advisor, Dr. Isabelle Cohen, explains, "Peter developed a system in which baker's yeast in the presence of photosynthetic organelles from algae produced ethanol as efficiently as in the presence of the common sugar glucose. This is a new approach to the production of ethanol as a biofuel." She adds, "His scientific approach was one of the soundest I have witnessed in my many years of research and teaching."

Peter began working on the project as a junior, devoting time over school breaks to continue his research. Having read about using algae to make ethanol, he notes, "I tried to think outside the box about a new way that could be more productive and more efficient. That would be to have a single organism, or at least one system, that can both ferment and photosynthesize at the same time, making the whole process more effective."

For his selection, Peter receives a $2,000 award from Regeneron, with an additional $2,000 presented to Potomac. On January 24, Regeneron will announce 40 finalists, who will then compete for the top award of $250,000.

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Potomac Teacher Receives Education Leadership Award

The JASON Project has honored Mary Cahill, Middle and Intermediate School science teacher and Intermediate School academic dean, with its 2016 Education Leadership Award. Formerly a division of the National Geographic Society, the JASON Project (named for the mythical hero-explorer who captained the Argo) designs curriculum for K-12 inquiry-based STEM education, promoting learning "that mimics what scientists are doing in the field," Ms. Cahill says.

In a career spanning 35 years (28 of them at Potomac), Mary Cahill has become a master teacher and an advocate for inquiry-based learning in the sciences. She has served as a consultant for National Geographic since 1994, training teachers in Canada, Japan, and throughout the United States to effectively use various curricula produced by that organization and its affiliates, including the JASON Project, Crittercam, Giant Traveling Maps, and Geography Action. National Geographic has filmed Ms. Cahill's science lessons at Potomac as examples of best practices in teaching, and she taught a master class entitled "Exploring Your World with National Geographic" at the Chautauqua Institute in 2009. In addition, Ms. Cahill has worked with the National Science Resource Center's Biodiversity Academy since 2006.

At Potomac, Ms. Cahill partners with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to offer her students unique and exciting learning opportunities. Under her direction, 6 th graders learn about an urban watershed through hands-on experiences at the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers; 7 th graders participate in an ecological restoration project involving underwater grass beds (they grow the grass from seed at school then transplant it along the lower Potomac); and 8 th graders spend three full days on a remote island in the Bay, working as "watermen" and "waterwomen" and learning about the connections between the Bay, its watershed, and broader environmental issues. She says, "The opportunity to have our students experience one of the most biologically productive estuaries in the world is a real treasure. When students mirror the kinds of research scientists are doing in the field, they see that they too can make a difference."

Ms. Cahill is a National Board Certified teacher; she has received a Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship (1994), a Fulbright Fellowship to Japan (1997), and a Grosvenor Fellowship for travel to the Arctic Ocean (2009). Her undergraduate degree, in biology, is from Regis College,and she earned a master's degree in science education at Boston University

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