All posts by Talia Cieslinski

Dana Okeson Weeks: A New Member of the GFS Community

As everyone should be aware, Germantown Friends School is welcoming a new headmaster for the first time in twenty- five years.  Dana Okeson Weeks came to us from Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, New York, where she worked mostly in the high school. She has one daughter who is in ninth grade and enjoys cooking, running, reading and working out.  I had the pleasure to interview her about her experiences at GFS so far. Continue reading Dana Okeson Weeks: A New Member of the GFS Community

What to Write on Your Holiday Candy Gram

The tradition of the candy grams strikes Middle School once again this holiday season. Did Joe give one to Sally? Or did Sally give one to Joe? Did Ruth get one from the teachers? Did the BFFLs in your homeroom give them to each other? But most importantly, what did it say? For those of you who don’t know, candy grams are the legendary Graffiti biannual fundraiser, where you can send a card and candy cane to anyone in the middle school, and Graffiti will deliver it to that person.

There’s usually a TO space, where you can write the name of whoeever your holiday message will go to, and a FROM space, where you can leave your name or the just anonymous or guess who? Then there’s the HOMEROOM, where you write the homeroom of the recipient—which from personal experience, is a pain in the butt if people put “?????”  Then the problematic _______________ , where you are free to put a personal message. Well, all your candy gram problems will be solved today.  Here’s what we recommend you write to each type of person on your candy gram list:

FRIENDS: A nice “have a good holiday” would be nice, or if you have an inside joke that would confuse the Graffiti staff who make sure to read all of them.

TEACHER: It’s nice to show your appreciation for a teacher by sending them a candy gram. A word of advice: when sending one to a teacher it might be better to have a couple friends sign it too; that way the “I love you!” that I know you’re all dying to say to your teachers, will be turned into the much less awkward “We love you!”  If all your friends are too preoccupied with their own candy gram needs, an “I hope your holidays are nice!” works too.

ANYONE AND EVERYONE WHO ASKED: You might want to be careful with this one, because if they’re specifically asking for one, they probably aren’t going to be getting a lot themselves. So be nice!! Don’t say, “Hi” or “Hey” because it will be so obvious that you don’t give a crap…at all. Just settle with one of the below:

  • “Have an awesome holiday!” cause then they will think you care
  • “You’re really awesome!” because if they’re asking you to give them a candy gram they probably need an ego boost
  • “I hope your winter break is fun!” That’s always a good one to have up your sleeve if everything else fails

THAT SPECIAL SOMEONE: So it really depends if you will be receiving one from them also. If you aren’t it may be easier to write “I like you” from anonymous. This is good if you’re too shy to tell them who you are, but not how you feel. This way it gives them a notice that even if it doesn’t seem it, there’s someone out there who likes them. It also benefits you because once they start thinking about who it is, they will start imagining who they want it to be, then whoever it is will automatically fit the mold in their mind. If you’re one of those people who want to give an all out confession, then that’s what you should give. Not just a dinky “I like you <3” no, not for someone that brave, if this is you, you should go with, “I really like you and this is why,  _____________ (fill in the blank) I know you might not like me back but I had to let you know” then sign your name REALLY NEATLY! That always makes people think the best of you whether they like you or not.

If you’re one of those love birds who are expecting one back, it’s a bit harder to find a suitable message. By “a bit” I mean a LOT. You don’t want to be too forward with a whole “Roses are red” thing but you also don’t want to give an “anyone who asks” kind of message either, because then it would be awkward if they write a “Roses are red” kind to you. So if I were you, I would go with the “I’ll really miss you over winter break!” then sign it with some inside joke, or just “<3<3<3”.

I hope this helps with any candy gram uncertainty that you might have. Have a great holiday!

P.S. The space they give you to write in is NOT mandatory, or realistic, so don’t freak out when you see the massive blank space they give you. You don’t have to fill it all up!

Everything You Wanted to Know About Kate Jones But Were Too Afraid To Ask

Kate Jones, New Middle School Math Teacher

Unless you’re dead or are in a candy coma, you probably have noticed that we have a new eighth grade math teacher who also happens to be a seventh grade math teacher, and now that you know that she’s here, let’s find out a little more about her.

Kate Jones has previously taught math at Mariana Bracetti, a charter school, and PS 138 in New York (where the public schools are numbers, yikes). Her favorite color is green and sometimes orange, and she especially likes them together, big surprise there. Her favorite movie is The Never Ending Story, which came out when she was a kid, and I haven’t heard about it so I guess it did end. Her favorite actor is Helena Bonham Carter. Kate loves her versatility—how Bonham-Carter can be Bellatrix in one movie, Queen Elizabeth in another and in the next the evil Queen of Hearts. Her favorite book is Harry Potter, her favorite food Thai curry, and her favorite holiday Thanksgiving. (Her family celebrates it on Saturday because her brother has Thanksgiving with his wife and she has Thanksgiving with her fiance.)

The best project she has ever done with a class was one involving proportions. Kate had her students measure the different parts of their body and then she had them leave footprints on the classroom floor. They had to figure out whose footprint was whose, based on the proportions of their bodies. Another of her favorite projects was when her class was studying slope interception, and she had her class run the length of a football field, at a constant rate of change.

I hope some of your questions about Kate have been answered, but as I also learned from my interview with Kate, she’s not that scary, so she will probably accept any other questions that you might have been too afraid to ask. Just drop by  S-1 by and have a chat.

~Photos courtesy of Will Terry and GFS Advancement Office

Just Lounging Around!

Walk through the doors of the Sharpless, and walk up the stairs to your right. To your left you will see a sitting area; go to it. Where are you?

That’s the question a lot of students have been asking recently. Is the Lounge called “the Eighth Grade Lounge” or “the Middle School Lounge” and who is it for? I talked with Principal, Ken Aldridge to see if I could get some of these answers. (Details of my talk with Ken will follow later in the article).

A couple weeks ago, there was a lounge incident that caused more than just a little debate.  Let’s just say for now that when the seventh graders refused to leave the “eight grade lounge” even when the eighth graders told them to, things got…  uhh messy.

It went down something like this: “So do you wanna like get out of the lounge now?”  snarked an eighth grade boy, as the unintended revolution began. This time, unlike in Harry Potter or The Hunger Games when the underdog child wins against all odds to break out of the mold and beat the powers that be to win the revolution, we,  the seventh graders, lost. So as the seventh graders left in defeat, eight graders once again assumed their rightful place on their so-called throne. Wel, I guess it only makes sense.  Where else would the Kings and Queens of the Middle School watch as their rightful subjects walk through the doors, and enter the kingdom of discreet power.

But hey, when sticking up for themselves failed, the seventh graders did what any other seventh graders would do. TELL. Thanks to Tom Levy, the eighth graders got the message. But then promptly forgot and/or ignored it. So that’s when I decided to go talk to Ken to get his opinion on who the lounge should belong to.

Here are some of the basics I found out during my interview with Ken. The lounge was created in 1997 when the Middle School was created; its official name is, “The Middle School Lounge”. Some seventh graders a while ago asked Ken to remind the eighth graders what the name of the lounge was and some faculty have also had some complaints about it.

As for Ken’s opinion of who should be allowed on the throne of the Middle School, he thinks that it should belong to the Middle School, because that’s who it was intended for. Between study sessions and group projects, private meetings with teachers, all grades actually do use the lounge during the day. As I found out from Ken, it’s just in the morning that it’s exclusively eighth graders . Ken stated that throughout the day “I really get to see how it’s used by all three grades.”

From exchanging crayons in first period to precious novels in seventh, sharing is a part of life. If you have any ideas of how we can share the lounge, email them to me at

~Photo by Rhonda Levy

Running vs. Walking in the Rain

Talia + Cassie

Picture yourself in the rain. You have to go from the Sharpless building to the Smith Gym. How would you choose to get there? This has been a huge debate in our 6th grade class. Some of us think that to run through the rain will result in being much dryer. Others believe that when walking through the rain will somehow “dodge” the raindrops. Cassie and I decided to get to the bottom of this mystery one rainy day.

I thought that walking in the rain would result in a dryer outcome, but Cassie thought that running through the rain would decrease the time in the rain, therefore resulting in a dryer outcome. At first Cassie ran from the doors of the sharpless to the trash cans in the court yard out side with a piece of dark blue paper above her head. I did the same, but I was walking. After a couple of try’s we got our finished result. I was disappointed to find out, that Cassie’s paper had less water on it than mine. We went back to research and found some surprising news. Cassie and I both were smacking our foreheads because we didn’t realize it sooner. Can you spot why Cassie might have an advantage?

Cassie was running right into the rain, therefore having all the rain hit her stomach, not her head. Where as, since I was walking slowly the rain came down on my head. We did the test again, with our pieces of paper held in front of our stomachs. This time the results were different; they were just as we predicted.

So weather you run or walk in the rain, you have a chance of getting as equally wet, it just depends if you want a wet head or wet clothes. I will try my best to stay out of the rain, because neither are very appealing to me.

Sophy’s Cakes

The smell of Sophysticated Minerva Cakes lingers in 6th grader, Sophy Jarka-Sellers’ kitchen. Sophy has started her own cake-baking business, (Sophysticaed Minerva Cakes) and it is going great. Sophy’s cakes range in price from $18 to $25, and can  servebetween 12 to 14 people. It was a pleasure to sit with Sophy and talk to her about her business. She gets about one order a week, and bakes her cakes on Sundays; then delivers her cakes on Tuesdays and Fridays. The types of cakes she bakes are: Vanilla, Rum Chocolate Chip, Lemon and Germantown Favorite. She will also take special requests. Sophy uses the same recipe, which is the Boston Favorite, but just puts different variations on it. Sophy says that she doesn’t really have a favorite cake, since she likes them all, but if she had to choose then it would be either Vanilla or the Germantown Favorite.

Sophy’s biggest customers are members of the Germantown Meeting and sometimes student groups and teachers from GFS. She can also make cupcakes and cookies. The cookies are $15 a batch. She makes all kinds of cookies. All of Sophy’s products are made with only the finest ingredients. Sophy has great references, some being students and some being members of Quaker Meetings.

To place an order call Sophy Jarka-Sellers (215-951-9668) or email,