October 30, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Mr. Newman’s room impresses us every year for holiday(holy day) spirit.

Why is the hexagon found throughout nature, in the eyes of insects and hives?

I really hope somebody took my advice from my “Magic of Elephants” lecture yesterday, and incorporated elephants into their artwork, to try and save them from extinction.

Click photo thumbnail to view full size. Images can be right clicked and downloaded at 1024px wide by 768px. Photos are also posted to the Yearbook Flickr account if you know somebody on yearbook.

October 28, 2014

Fabien Cousteau: What I learned from spending 31 days underwater

In 1963, Jacques Cousteau lived for 30 days in an underwater laboratory positioned on the floor of the Red Sea, and set a world record in the process. This summer, his grandson Fabien Cousteau broke that record. Cousteau the younger lived for 31 days aboard the Aquarius, an underwater research laboratory nine miles off the coast of Florida. In a charming talk he brings his wondrous adventure to life.

Watch more videos on our YouTube channel »

National Hispanic Recognition Program Honors Fernando Fine ‘15

Congratulations to Fernando Fine ’15 who was recently recognized as a scholar by the College Board’s National Hispanic Recognition Program (NHRP). Emily Caviglia ’15 and Sebastian Hurtado ’15 were previously named scholars in the program.

Mock Trial Tryouts Begin

Mock Trial is one of the most prestigious academic activities in the nation. Mock trial teaches students critical thinking skills, effective public speaking, the ability to think on one’s feet as well as self-confidence, all useful tools no matter what occupation students will pursue. More than 400 colleges and universities field 600 teams in addition to over 100 law schools. At the high school level, there is one National Mock Trial High School competition.

Teams in all 50 states receive a fictitious case scenario, develop both a prosecution and a defense, and then compete against other high school teams in their county. The winner of each county goes to the state competition and the winner of each state competes in the National Mock Trial Championship, last year held in Wisconsin. Bishop O’Dowd competes in the Alameda County competition along with 15 other public and private high schools.

College admissions departments give weight to mock trial participation because students are required to work for months on a single case, demonstrating commitment and perseverance, both important qualities in academic success. Rather than multiple competitions, after months of preparation, there are four trials that determine which teams advance. In addition, the small size of the teams [maximum 20 students] requires superior interpersonal skills as teams will spend hundreds of hours working together. The success of the team relies, in no small part, on the team dynamics, rather than on any single individual.

O’Dowd mock trial members have gone on to top colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, NYU, Tufts, Georgetown, as well as the UC system. Many students have continued with mock trial at the collegiate and law school level, which is even more competitive. This year two mock trial alums just notified us that they had been selected as members of their college mock trial team: Laura Penaranda [‘13] for UC Davis and Ariana Donaville [‘13] at University of Oregon. Many have pursued careers in law, while others are now engaged in careers from theatre to public policy advocacy to education.

Bishop O’Dowd in the last decade has consistently been in the top 4 schools in the county, and went to the state championship in 2002. Because of our record in a very competitive county, BOD was invited to the Empire International Mock Trial Invitational in New York City in 2011 where we competed against 60 other teams and won 10th place. Next month our team will be competing at the inaugural Empire Invitation in San Francisco.

This year’s case, People v Shem, is a case involving a high school student accused of art theft, with a pre-trial argument on the 4th amendment constitutional protection against ‘unreasonable search and seizure.’

The BOD Mock Trial team is looking for new members to complete the 20 person team, to replace last year’s graduating seniors. This activity is open to students in all grades. We are looking for students who like to act (there are 8 character witnesses) as well as attorneys, a bailiff and a timekeeper. We will be holding an informational meeting on Friday, October 31st at MP. Students and parents can find additional information on the Mock Trial program at the Constitutional Rights Foundation which provides the case scenario for California, at http://www.crf-usa.org as well as the Mock Trial page on our website.

Interested students can pick up an audition packet beginning Wednesday, October 29th from teacher/coach Bonnie Sussman, in Room 201. The first round of auditions will be held next Wednesday, November 5th from 3:30 – 5:30. Parents with questions, please feel free to contact Ms. Sussman.

October 27, 2014

TEDx Youth at Sacred Heart Cathedral – Speakers Wanted

Hi All,

Hope you can help spread the word! We are hosting our very own TED Talk in January, TEDx@SHC. This is an entirely student-run event, and we welcome students from our sister schools to apply to be speakers! We are also still accepting applicants for the audience. I hope you will share this opportunity with your student leaders… can’t wait to see what the students come up with!

Please see the release below for more information. Feel free to contact me with questions, too.

Sacred Heart Cathedral
Click for the event page »


SHC is pleased to announce the inaugural TEDxYouth@SHC event taking place on January 17, 2015. This event created by and for the young people of San Francisco invites local youth to apply to participate as speakers or attendees.

TED, an organization dedicated to spreading good ideas through short, powerful talks, created TEDx to give local communities the opportunity to host TED-inspired events. TEDx events take place all over the globe and feature talks on a range of topics that spark community connection and meaningful conversation.

TEDxYouth@SHC brings together San Francisco youth through an entirely student-run event. “Students will design the set and website, gather sponsors, coordinate sound and lighting, write the speeches and get the word out,” says event student-leader Rebecca Harvey ’15.

The event celebrates the voices of San Francisco youth, a community whose experience and leadership will define the future of the City. As SHC instructor and TEDxYouth@SHC moderator Dr. Ramsey Musallam shares, “No one over the age of 19 is allowed onstage.”

“We’re working together to come up with the best ideas to make this event as memorable as possible. The agenda is to find the best student speakers we can, to tell their stories and represent the San Francisco community,” says Rebecca.

To ensure the most meaningful experience for both the speakers and the audience, TEDx requires attendees to complete an online application. The application deadline for both youth speakers and attendees is November 1.

For a sample of inspiring TEDxYouth talks, click here.

October 21, 2014

Holocaust Film Screened at O’Dowd

Watch more videos on our YouTube channel

More than 150 O’Dowd students got an intimate look into the life of a Jewish partisan during a special screening of the documentary film Survival in the Forest: Isidore Karten and the Partisans held in the theater Oct. 20. The film’s west coast premiere was held in San Francisco that evening, with an east coast premiere set for New York City on Nov. 3.

Founder of the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation (JPEF) of San Francisco, Mitch Braff, arranged for the screening with social studies teacher Bonnie Sussman, who teaches a semester-long Holocaust class at O’Dowd. She also leads a Holocaust Study Tour each spring, serves on the Regional Education Corps of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and works with the JPEF.

Survival in the Forest: Isidore Karten and the Partisans details the experiences of two New York teenagers who travel with their father to Poland and the Ukraine to learn about their grandfather’s experiences as a partisan during the Holocaust. Watch film trailer…

Braff came to O’Dowd last spring to show a rough cut of the film to students in Sussman’s class. The students had the opportunity to critique the film and make suggestions at that time.

On Oct. 20, Braff and JPEF education manager Jonathan Furst brought along Harry Karten and his sons, Jonathan and Izzy, who spoke about the resistance work of family patriarch, Isidore Karten. After the screening, students had a chance to ask the Karten questions.

The film was particularly interesting to Meredith McCleary ’15, whose great uncle was a partisan fighter in Russia. In fact, she’s currently undertaking an independent study project on partisan fighting on the eastern front during World War II.

“It was really interesting to hear their story. Not many people know about the partisans,” McCleary said.

While six million Jews perished in the Holocaust, it’s estimated that more than 30,000 escaped from Nazi ghettos and camps to form or join organized resistance groups.

Partisan Isidore Karten was responsible for saving some 400 Jews – including more than 50 children – guiding them to a forest near Swirz, in what is now the Ukraine, where they hid in underground bunkers.

Still, dozens of Karten family members were killed. “I never knew my grandparents nor most of my family,” Harry said.

Harry was impressed by the attentiveness of O’Dowd students to the subject matter.

“I was looking at you while the film was showing and everybody was staring at the screen – nobody was talking or twitching. It hit everybody in some way, and I think when you walk out of here you’re not going to be the same person that walked in,” he said.

Harry hoped that the students learned that not all Jews went like sheep to the slaughter in World War II. “There was resistance,” he said.

McCleary was struck by how different life might have been for so many families had the Holocaust never occurred.

“Six million (people killed) is such an indiscriminate number. You just can’t fathom how many people that is,” she said. “But when you hear the personal stories you really understand the impact.”

Added classmate Kelly Johnson, “It’s hard not to think about all the lives that could have been.”

Avi Reichental: What’s next in 3D printing

Just like his beloved grandfather, Avi Reichental is a maker of things. The difference is, now he can use 3D printers to make almost anything, out of almost any material. Reichental tours us through the possibilities of 3D printing, for everything from printed candy to highly custom sneakers.

Ethan Grossman ’18 – The Voice of O’Dowd

If you ask Ethan Grossman ’18 to name his favorite professional athlete, you’ll get a surprising answer.

“Talking about sports is a joy for me. I never expected that I would have this opportunity. It’s a dream that came true.”

Unlike most teens, Ethan doesn’t cite a past or present NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL great. Instead, he points to Giants play-by-play announcers Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow. “I’ve always looked up to them and thought that it would be awesome to do their job,” Ethan said.

As the “Voice of O’Dowd” on High School Cube, the platform O’Dowd is using to livestream athletic events, Ethan is on the path to achieving his dream of being a professional announcer.

Ethan has electrified the airwaves with his knowledgeable, enthusiastic play-by-play announcing of varsity football games and will continue to call the action during basketball season. Listen to a sample of his work…

Getting Started

Ethan first learned of the opportunity to do play-by-play announcing in August, when Associate Athletic Director Carlos Arriaga invited students to come to a meeting to learn about how they could participate with livestream broadcasts. Ethan subsequently got Arriaga’s OK to call the football team’s home opener on Sept. 12.

Arriaga said that while it was unusual that he would entrust a freshman with the microphone, Ethan’s interest in and knowledge of sports was impressive.

“You always have reservations when someone is doing something for the first time – especially in such a public forum. But we thought we’d give it a shot and see how it went,” Arriaga said. “Within the first few minutes of the first quarter I knew he was perfect for the job.”

Ethan admits that he was a bit nervous before calling his first game. “I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “But everything just came naturally.”

Prior to each game, Ethan meets with Arriaga to get the scoop on key players from the opposing team, and he tries to gather background information that can be used as “color” filler in between plays. But that’s easier said than done.

“I heard Mr. Cushing playing a broadcast and I heard my voice. That was a little odd.”

“It’s not like college or the pros where there is a lot of information out there. Mostly I just have to be ready to gauge who the star players are once the game starts,” he said. “Because there is a lack of information there are gaps during the broadcast when I’m not saying anything and it’s kind of awkward. But I just have to push through.”

Ethan hasn’t yet developed his catchphrase (think Chris Berman’s “He. Could. Go. All. The. Way.” or John Madden’s “Boom!”), and isn’t going to try and force one. “All the best announcers have an iconic phrase,” he said. “It will eventually come naturally.”

Being the Eyes, Ears and Heart of the Game

Ethan understands that his role as a play-by-play announcer is to cover the game fairly and accurately while informing and entertaining the audience.

“It’s hard since we have only one camera and we’re not able to do replay. Explaining things well is really key so people can understand (a play) they’ve missed by just by listening,” Ethan said.

Ethan says family members, friends and O’Dowd faculty and staff have been complimentary of his work as a play-by-play announcer.

Still, he’s adjusting to hearing his own voice on game rebroadcasts and clips. “I was walking down Hurley Hall one day and I heard Mr. (Kevin) Cushing playing a broadcast and I heard my voice. That was a little odd. I didn’t say anything – I just kept walking,” Ethan said.

Cushing says Ethan’s skills as a play-by-play announcer are terrific. “My observation is that we have a burgeoning Bob Costas. Ethan’s enthusiasm and clear descriptions make the livestream events a must watch,” he said.

Ethan’s favorite sport is baseball and he’s a lifelong Giants fan. That’s why he has such an affinity for announcers Kuiper and Krukow, as well as Dave Flemming and Hall of Fame announcer Jon Miller.

“Kuiper and Krukow are the classic team. Both of them played, which is a huge advantage when you are listening to them because they give so much insight,” Ethan said. “They have great voices too.”

While Ethan has his sights set on becoming a professional announcer, right now he’s enjoying his high school gig.

“Talking about sports is a joy for me. I never expected that I would have this opportunity. It’s a dream that came true,” he said.

October 20, 2014

Pope Francis Receives Support for Environmental Encyclical

In January 2014, Pope Francis announced that his next encyclical will address Creation, respect for the environment, and human ecology, with an expected release date is early 2015. He has reportedly spent months drafting his new encyclical, and has called on many (including the Franciscans for Ecology), for support and guidance. Throughout Spring, Summer, and Fall he has also received international support from a number of Bishops and Dioceses. Here are some recent highlights:

1) U.S. Catholic Bishops: The U.S. Catholic Bishops Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, led by Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, released an analysis of the EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standards Draft in July 2014. The bishops evaluated the proposed EPA air pollution plan on the basis of whether it evidenced respect for human life and dignity, acted prudently on behalf of the public good, gave priority to the poor and vulnerable (already excessively harmed by climate change), served social and economic justice, sought to care for God’s creation and aimed to encourage popular participation. The committee found that the EPA plan largely satisfied the Conference’s ethical criteria, and their concerns lay mostly in ensuring that Congress ensures additional necessary actions.

2) Bishops of the Philippines: The Bishops of the Philippines released a statement signed by their president, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen Dagupan, regarding climate change and care for the environment. In it the Archbishop asks Filipino Catholics if they are doing their part to protect God’s creation, and reflects that the task of addressing global warming, “begins with a deep gratitude for the created gifts God has given us, and a renewed commitment to the sacred trust of caring for these gifts. We are called to respond with care and creativity as individuals and communities, as nations and as one human family.” Read more here…

3) Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB):
The KCCB has joined the the Kenya Interfaith Network on Environmental Action (KINEA) to help the country address the consequences of climate change. The network shall engage in programs related to climate change and livelihood enhancement including; promotion of tree growing in faith owned/managed institutions and land, faith based education for sustainable development, faith based sustainable agriculture and faith based wildlife conservational programs through advocacy, awareness and practice. Read more here…

4) Bishop William Crean of Ireland: in the Diocese of Cloyne, Bishop Crean ( Chair of Trócaire, Ireland’s Catholic development agency), recently called climate change a human crisis that requires urgent attention.He reminded the faith that one of the central tenets of Christianity is the notion of stewardship of God’s Earth and passing it to the next generation in good health. Additionally he added, “While climate change is a technical, scientific and economic issue, it is also a moral one. The choices we make can undermine the wellbeing of millions of people and condemn future generations to live in an inhospitable world.” Read more here…

5) Southern CA’s Diocese of Orange: Bishop Kevin Vann in the Diocese of Orange addressed California’s persistently devastating drought, pointing out that adverse climate and environmental degradation always hurt the poor and vulnerable most. He also recognized the Catholic Climate Covenant for their leadership in providing resources and actions that one can take, locally, nationally and globally, to care for God’s creation. Read more here…

6) Support from Ohio:
Ohio Catholic Rural Life Conference members, Pat O’Bryan of the Social Action Office, Diocese of Cleveland, and Fr. Ed Brienz of the Diocese of Youngstown, have created the “Care for Creation Calendar: A Catholic Calendar Honoring the Patron Saints of God’s Creation,” which includes important public days on behalf of the environment. Check out their calendar here…


Bishop O’Dowd also stands proudly with these supporters as leaders in the Education for Sustainability (EfS) movement. Working each day to strengthen our efforts in creating an environmentally sustainable, socially, just, and economically viable world.

Check out past Sustainability News here

October 16, 2014

Win 2 Tickets to Any Game

These creatures were found in 3 drops of Living Lab pond water.

First person to name 4 of the microfauna(animals) presented in these video will win 2 tickets to any game, including Homecoming.

Answers must be provided in email to drittenbach@bishopodowd.org. The first O’Dowd student to correctly identify 4 of the animals shown in the two pictures(not videos, those are there to clarify) will win. Yes the LeBoa Boys can enter, so that means you better move fast if you are going to beat them.

Don’t forget to go full screen on the video for the best view.

A suggested starting point for your research »

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Finding God in All Things

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