July 31, 2014

Project Green Challenge 2013

Project Green Challenge: October 2013

Throughout the month of October (2013) the O’Dowd community participated in an exciting sustainability competition, called PROJECT GREEN CHALLENGE (PGC): a global call to action to transition from a conventional lifestyle to a conscious healthy sustainable lifestyle. Each day participants went on an investigative quest and were tasked with reflecting or taking action on the following sustainable topics: Food System, Consumption, Paper, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Toxins in Body/Cleaning Products, Carbon & Water Footprint, Sustainable Labels & Certifications, Climate Change, Waste and more.

Project Green Challenge had two layers, an external competition for our Students for Sustainability (S4S) members to participate against teens from other high schools and colleges, and an internal competition for students and adults in the O’Dowd community. Many people join in the fun and the results were overwhelmingly positive – see details below:

1) External – Teens Turning Green Project Green Challenge: Congratulations to our four Students for Sustainability (S4S) PGC leaders – Siena Vendlinski, Alice Beittel, and Anashe Barton – in leading their team to success in the first year of O’Dowd participation. Team BOD placed #19 out of 675 student groups and #24 out of 407 high schools and universities! Alice and Siena were also chose as one of the 16 finalists for Green University - a three day eco-summit where they competed against 16 other student leaders from high schools and colleges to create an award winning platform for social action.

Check out the Winter 2014 Dragon Magazine for a full length article on their PGC experience.

2) Internal – Bishop O’Dowd’s Project Green Challenge: Our month long competition drew in over 100 participants (students, faculty and staff, parents, alumni, etc.), and had many winners from all corners of the O’Dowd community. Congratulations to all who played and won a healthy sustainable life, and to the following daily winners who also won eco-friendly prizes: Students: Tyler and Chris Leboa, Danielle West, Audrey Byrne, Marina Ramsey, Sydni Resnicks, Elizabeth Keating, Valentino Leite-Hall, Kendall Kijika, Jolene Chan, Julian Nesbitt, Lyndsey Wong, Olivia Olmos, Torrey Hart, and Allisun Coote. Adults: Linda Leboa, Sarah Tunik, LizaDawn Ramirez, Audrey Irwin, Sarah Brabec, and construction manager Marielle Price.

Montana Science Research Trip 2014

Photos by Tyler LeBoa ’15 and Mr. Newman
Click photo thumbnail to view full size. Full size images can be right clicked and downloaded.

July 22, 2014

O’Dowd Delivers Mission Drive Funds to Typhoon Haiyan Victims

Campus Chaplain Fr. Gerald Pedrera hand-delivered a check for more than $9,000 to Fr. Francisco and Ms. Maricel in the Philippines recently. These funds were raised during the 2014 Mission Drive for Typhoon Haiyan victims, and will allow for the purchase of fishing boats and nets. Fr. Gerald also brought them a T-shirt that the Filipino Club sold to raise funds during the Mission Drive.

July 21, 2014

From Snorathon to Crowd Pleaser – How to Make a Better Video

By Donovan Rittenbach
O’Dowd Web Master and Videographer

I am sitting in a classroom watching a video. It has a laborious opening title that floats across the screen at a snails pace. Then it transitions to a bunch of still pictures that move slowly across the screen. I am trying to decide whether I want to nap, doodle, surf YouTube or chat with a friend. Sound familiar?

It is your job as a video editor to create the best content you can. You don’t want to create a snorathon. You want to communicate clearly and effectively and you either want to entertain, inform or persuade. The only way to do that is if you keep your audiences attention.

I want to communicate, just like you. We want people to understand what we are thinking and feeling in our head using a primitive form of telepathy called “storytelling”. Ideally they will be able to relate to our mind, and maybe even adopt its point of view. That is the meaning of the word communicate. Com means “with” and un means “one”, so you are trying to make your audience’s mind and your own become as one, and tool of choice for this tutorial is video.

If you want people to give you their most precious gifts, time and attention, you have come to the right place.

Before You Begin

Before you start editing your video, stop and think. Ask yourself some questions:

What are your assets? – Are you using photographic stills or do you have video too? Video is always preferred, but you may just have photos. What content feels like its strong and what feels like its weak? Ask a trusted friend if you aren’t sure. Throw out your weakest assets. Life is too short for bad content. Everything you put into your video should be your best. Every picture should tell a story (have a narrative) and preferrably have an emotional connect to make it more memorable.

Who is your audience? – Are they kids or adults? What is their attention span and what holds it? If you graphed your audience’s attention, where would it dip and where would it peak? What content will alienate your audience and what will resonate with their values?

O’Dowd is made of a very diverse group of people. If you are making a homeroom video or announcement, you would have to consider their many backgrounds. Most of them were born and raised in the city, but a fair amount have some connection with nature. All of them use technology and are trying to go to college. 3 out of 4 play a sport. There are social clusters of varying size that care about the environment, sports, debate, drama, science, music or some other passion. How will you connect with them?

As an example, if you are trying to convey an environmental message, it is easy to become boring. Convenience, ease of completion, and fun are some universally appreciated values that span philosophical divides. What other trigger words would describe what your audience is looking for?

Keep These in Mind When Making Your Video

It’s time to make your masterpiece. It’s going to be shown to the whole school. Everybody will know it’s you, so how do you leave a good impression?
Tell a story – We remember stories much longer than facts, and far longer than numbers. That is just how our brains are hardwired. Stories build neural connections. The more sensory associations (smell, sound, sight, touch, and taste), the more vivid the picture, the better the story will be remembered. This is especially true because every good story has emotions, and emotions are the foundation of memory.

Make it emotional – People aren’t persuaded by facts. They are persuaded by emotions. If you want to motivate action, you must first create emotion. It’s a neurological fact.
The more intense the emotional associations, the longer we will remember an experience. Emotion is the foundation of memory, so if you want to be memorable, you have to be emotional.

To illustrate this point, I am over 40. Like most adults, I don’t remember most of my high school education. I do remember my best friends. I remember that guy who was a jerk. I remember Eugene O’Neil’s tale about morphine addiction in a “A Long Days Journey Into Night” which we read in literature class, but I don’t remember how many molecules are in a mole. 99.9% of the facts, figures and formulas are gone. I do remember the Pythagorean Theorem though, because it doesn’t get simpler than A2+B2=C2, and how to figure out the area of a circle or rectangle, because I’ve used those equations quite a bit.

What is your hook? – A hook is something so compelling that you have to know what happens next.

One of the most treasured tales in Arabic literature is a “1001 Arabian Nights”. It is the story of a young woman named Scheherazade. She is going to be killed by the Sultan, so she tells him a story about Ali Baba and the 40 thieves. Day begins to break and she is too sleepy to finish. The Sultan can’t kill her, because he wants to know how the story ends.

The next night she comes back, and is almost killed when her story starts out weak. She barely recovers and saves her life. Shaken, she visits an old storyteller in the bazaar for advice.

The old man shares a storytellers trick with her. She has to “hook” the Sultan. She must start her story with something so amazing, the Sultan can’t help but want more. He gives her an example that goes something like this: “I was walking through the bazaar the other night, when I noticed Death walking towards me. I asked him if he had come for me and he said no. He said he was on his way to visit somebody else, but that I would see him tomorrow night.”

Don’t you want to know what happens? If you are like me, you can’t help yourself. Since the storyteller is telling the story, he must have escaped Death, but how? Nobody escapes death.

That is what a good hook feels like. It is so intriguing, crazy, bold and compelling that you HAVE to know what happens next.

When you are trying to communicate an idea, remember you are Scheherazade, and your audience is the Sultan. If you don’t keep your audience’s attention, they will “kill” you. They will start texting, looking for faces in the ceiling tiles or (worst of all) falling asleep. Game over. You lose.

Always have a great hook if you want to keep your audience paying attention.

End on a positive/empowering note – When informing an audience about an important issue, don’t just bum them out with doom and gloom. They’ll feel powerless, and will shut down. Give them a solution that empowers them to do something concrete to make a change. Stay away from abstraction, because the more abstract something is the less it will connect.

Stay away from large numbers. Use pictures instead – A picture really is worth a 1,000 words, at least, maybe more. Don’t use statistics and graphs unless you absolutely have too. Use easy to comprehend pictures.

Abstract ideas don’t have the impact that a great visual does. Take a look at this TED talk by Chris Jordan. Chris makes huge incomprehensible numbers that our chimp brains can’t really understand, then turns them into something anybody can immediately get. This talk is one of my all time favorites.

If you need to use numbers, relate them to something concrete – Don’t say “Bees are responsible for 33% of our food.” A much more memorable way to say the same thing is “1 in 3 bites of food is made possible by bees.” That’s something anybody can remember and share with their friends.

Editing Tips

Follow the formula – Every type of presentation has a basic formula. Say you want to persuade an audience.

You have to start with a solid hook, a short mini story that leaves them wanting more. Now that your audience is paying attention, hit them with something emotional and concrete. Stay away from abstract ideas and show them real world examples that will convince them this problem is real. When you have invoked some fear or anxiety, show them they can make it go away by doing what you say. Make the payoff clear. Then give your call to action and provide the times and dates of availability.

The formula is almost the same for informing, only you don’t make a call to action and provide event info.

In practice it would look something like this: Cue intense music. “E-waste is a major problem. Much of it ends up in Gansu province in China.” Show polluted water, smoggy air and red clouds of acid smoke. Now that your audience is totally bummed, you have to empower them and give them hope. Cue upbeat music. “That’s why you should use O’Dowd’s eco friendly recycling program. Now is the perfect time to clean out your garage. Drop off your batteries, computers and tech devices at school from now until Saturday at 3pm. Thanks.” Show contrasting shots of cheerful people, sunny days and clean environment.

Get to the point – You have a goal. Your audience is listening for a few precious moments, but they might “change channels”, so don’t dilly dally. Keep things moving towards your goal.

Pick up the pace and vary it – Title graphics should show for about 3 seconds. If you are showing an image on the screen, like “people with a trophy” 3 seconds is a good rule of thumb, maybe 5, but never more. Putting a picture on the page longer doesn’t make it more dramatic. It makes it boring.

If you do what I suggest, your video will stay snappy.

The only transitions you should use are cuts and fast dissolves – Any other transition is distracting. Cuts are great because they cause an “orientation responses”. This makes your brain pay attention, which is why you see it in today’s best TV shows and movies. Imitate the experts and follow their lead.

Vary the emotions you invoke – You are creating an emotional rollercoaster ride. Don’t just have sad moments or happy moments. Mix them up and end with a good one. Think of how Disney paces their films.

“Here is the happy kingdom. Something horrible and traumatic happens to everybody, like a curse. There is a big struggle. Things work out at the last minute. The end.”

Variety is the spice of life, so make your video a tasty visual and auditory feast.

Getting Better

Ask an expert or trusted source – Most people aren’t qualified to give good feedback about your video. You need feedback from a good writer, speaker or other type of communicator to assess whether or not you did a good job. Only a qualified communicator can articulate a specific response and give feedback about flow, timing and whatever else is important.

Watch your audiences faces and listen to their vocalizations – The best performers and presenters are sensitive to unconscious and unsolicited audience feedback. They are listening to the audiences vocalized responses and watching people’s response.

Watch and listen for this feedback when your video is playing:

  • Does your audience respond with the six universal emotions of anger, disgust, surprise, sadness, fear or happiness when you want them too?
  • What kind of vocalizations does your audience make? How many wows do you get? Did you get any “oh”s and “ah”s? What other vocalizations do you hear?
  • Do they laugh when you want them too? Are the laughs jeering, cynical, mean, loud, uncontrolled, or hysterical? Are they short or long, loud or soft? What percentage of people in the audience laugh? Do people double over or cry with laughter? Or just snicker and hrumph? Are their laughs uneasy or relaxed?

Remember that when you show something publicly, you should pay attention to your audience feedback. Assess the audience response to make sure you connected like you intended. Find the moments that connected best so you can keep getting better at communicating.

Wrap Up

Being a great communicator is a great goal. Good communicators are successful in all walks of life. They make things happen. Use every chance you can to communicate better.

By Donovan Rittenbach
O’Dowd Web Master and Videographer

New Parent and Student Website Orientation

By Donovan Rittenbach
O’Dowd Web Master and Videographer

“Don’t make me think”
- Steve Krug, Usability Expert

The following is an overview of key landmarks in the O’Dowd website. Hopefully this map will make your website experience more enjoyable whether you are a parent or student.

People who don’t read the manual miss out on important tidbits they’d never figure out on their own. This orientation definitely has some nuggets, including at least one gem that will change how you use EVERY website. It will cut the search time in many cases from minutes to seconds and mostly eliminate the need for reading to search. We will also tell you how to download most photos you find on the website.

The O’Dowd website is pretty large, but most people visit for the following purposes:

  • 1) Dragon Den – clothing and other apparel
  • 2) Administrative forms or documents
  • 3) School calendar and important event info
  • 4) Game schedules and locations
  • 5) School news
  • 6) Staff directory

The Most Important Content Locations

90% of your daily needs will be in one of the following locations:

1) Home page - A visual overview of events at school will be shown in the slideshow, which is updated often. Click the pictures to get stories or more photos. Many parents find this is a quick way to keep up with what’s going on at school.

The Home Page also has the Dragon Den, daily school calendar and basic news updates. Important school events throughout the year, like Fund a Dream, will be featured here. Videos of major event highlights are posted on YouTube, if you want to see skit, talent show or other performance highlights.

2) Student portal - Important links to Dragonmail, Powerschool, Naviance, and Schoology are located here. Smart students will create bookmarks in their bookmark bar for easy reference. Then they won’t have to keep coming back to the portal to access these commonly used links. A weekly TED video is also featured to provide insight from the best and brightest. All performance videos and event photos will be found here.

3) Parent portal - The Parent portal has news and important forms. It contains directions on getting to school. It also contains links to Powerschool and Naviance, where you can follow student progress. This is where you find bookstore information, and any other reference information relevant to the all parents. In a moment I will share a tip for finding content on this page without reading.

4) Athletic page - Game times and schedules are on every athletics page. Coach contact info is on the page in the upper right hand corner. Weight room and weight training videos are an important part of this section.

General call for photography – We constantly need photography to update these sections. Parents are our primary source of this information since we can’t get to all games. We greatly appreciate parents who submit photos and I will make it a point to post them as quickly as possible and give credit. Photos should be clearly focused, well composed and have good lighting. We have a number of ways to get photos from you including email, Drop Box and more.

5) Staff Directory
This consistently ranks in the top ten site destinations. It contains all teacher contact info, as well as some personal insight into your child’s teachers.

You can organize the view by clicking one of the view options at the top of the page. The compact list is text only. The other items have pictures associated with them.


Course descriptions and bookstore info can be found on the Academics sidebar.

You Tube Channel
If there is a major event at school, it will usually be posted on the portal page. A selection of highlights is found by clicking on the YouTube button on the home page.


If you want to share a performance but can’t find it, try clicking on “View YouTube Channel”, to view all videos that have ever been posted.

Search Strategies

The two easiest ways to find what you are looking for (besides calling the front office) are:

1) Built In Google Site Search Engine- We use Google for our site search engine, and the results are as good as they come.

2) Don’t read pages to search – Use the Find command - If there is one thing you should remember from this tutorial, it’s this.

This trick will revolutionize how you use web pages. It is the fastest way to find any text item on a page, and will all but eliminate the need to read a page to find what you are looking for. It works on every browser on every platform and will cut your search time from minutes to seconds.

  • 1) Locate “Find” under the File menu. You can also press the keyboard shortcut CTRL+F(PC) or CMD+F(Mac).
  • 2) Type the word, or part of the word, you are looking for into the field that pops up. It’s better to start with a partial word rather than a full word to keep your options open.
  • 3) Press return. You can press return again and again to find the next time your word appears on page.

If you are searching for page text that is not hidden in a tab or contained in an image, the browser will highlight the word on the page.

You can also press CTRL-F/CMD-F again to move to the next instance of the search item, and thereby move rapidly through a page.

Here is an example. If you were looking for the word “Dragon” on the parent portal, you could search any part of the word including ‘drag’, ‘ragon’, or ‘agon’. ‘Drag’ would find dragging, but it would also find Dragon. ‘agon’ would find flagon and dragon.

It is better to search for a small string rather than a large one in some cases.

Can it search tabs? - Content is by default hidden in tabs. You can only search a tab using CTRL-F or CMD-F after the tab has been clicked and its content made visible.

Can it search dropdown menus? - Yes you can use the find command in a rollover menu that is visible.

More Tips

Home Page Shortcut - The O’Dowd logo, located at the top of every page, is a shortcut to the home page. This is a relatively common website standard but if you didn’t know about it, now you do.

How to Download Large Image Size
Most pictures on the website can be downloaded by right clicking on the thumbnail image, then selecting “Save Image As…”.

This works on Firefox, Chrome and Safari for certain.

Other Sources of School Information

Our iPhone/Android App
O’Dowd has an iPhone/Android based phone app that contains a lot of popular content including calendar information, all in one location. It is easily download from iTunes or Google’s app store.

Facebook and Twitter
We actively use social media. If you want the latest news about O’Dowd, these are good places to start.

You Tube Channel
If there is a major event at school, it will usually be posted on the portal page. A selection of highlights is found by clicking on the YouTube button on the home page.


If you want to share a performance but can’t find it, try clicking on “View YouTube Channel”, to view all videos that have ever been posted.

This weekly email contains much of what is on the website. It’s a nice way to scan school.

Web Site Contact
Donovan Rittenbach

July 20, 2014

Sustainable Energy Initiatives

Sustainable Energy Initiatives

When it comes to environmental sustainability, one of the biggest challenges to reducing one’s ecological footprint is energy use. Improving energy systems at O’Dowd requires examining conservation efforts, and shifting to renewable energy sources.

Conservation Efforts at O’Dowd include two major strategies:

  • Improving efficiency through facility retrofits (lights, boilers, windows, etc.): After completing an energy audit in 2013, it became clear that O’Dowd has already made a lot of progress in becoming more efficient, some notable items include, switching 99% of lighting to more energy efficient compact fluorescents (CFL), and replacing old appliances with more energy efficient appliances.
  • Campaigns to help individuals conserve energy in offices and classrooms: Inspired by their participation in the Green Cup Energy Challenge, the Students for Sustainability (S4S) Committee/Club highlighted energy issues in early 2014 (Jan-Feb). Their efforts included: community education on why energy is such an important issue (guest speaker from NRDC, fact posters, and a video campaign), and publishing O’Dowd’s daily energy usage. Additionally, they engaged in a behavior change campaign through posting “Lights Off” reminders in classrooms and offices, and by hosting a Black Out (Unplug) Day.

    *Please see Alice Beittel’s “Energy Recap” article for a full overview of the S4S Energy campaign.

To help enable conservation, O’Dowd currently tracks energy usage daily on PG&E’s website. This tool allows users to check real-time usage data for O’Dowd’s natural gas and electric meters. Additionally, O’Dowd collects monthly trend data through Energy Star Portfolio Manager. By analyzing spikes in energy use, the campus can isolate peak times and diagnose inefficiencies.

Shifting to Renewable Energy Sources is a long-term focus for O’Dowd. These efforts began with the construction of the Center for Environmental Studies (CES), and the decision to include solar (pv) panels as part of the rooftop design. Currently this includes 46 250W panels for a total of 11.4KW, which is projected to be responsible for up to 35-40% of the CES’s overall energy use.

Sustainability Certification

Sustainability Certification: Ongoing

Under the guidance of the Director of Sustainability and the Sustainability Advisory Council, Bishop O’Dowd is pursuing sustainability certifications and recognitions. Here is a brief overview of this initiative:

What is a sustainability certification, and what are some of the sample criteria we might be assessed on? A third party audits to what extent our mission and daily operations meet chosen sustainability criteria (see diagram), based on the results of the audit O’Dowd will then be certified or recognized for our sustainability progress

Why would we pursue a sustainability certification or recognition program? A certification will help us in our planning process and help us design the road map for making steady progress toward becoming a high performing sustainable school. Financially, obtaining a certification will allow us to make capital investments to improve our facility to more efficient and healthy, which will provide us with long-term savings. Obtaining a sustainability certification will also differentiate O’Dowd as a sustainable leader in the marketplace.

How do we know which certification program to choose? There are a number of sustainability certification and recognition programs we could pursue. Some our more focused on the facility and others are more focused on curriculum and community aspects. The goal is to choose a program that will maximize our strengths, but push us to develop our weak areas in a prioritized manner. This year O’Dowd will be pursuing the Bay Area Green Business Certificationand will enter the Federal and CA Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Recognition Program.

July 17, 2014

“Speak Up!” Summer Debate Program Wraps Up with Awards Ceremony

Caitlin Walsh ’14, Sean Walsh ’16, and Nathan Woods ’15 hosted “Speak Up!”, a free summer debate program for middle school students in Oakland Diocese schools including St. Liz, St. Jarlath and St. Anthony. At the end of the camp, students received an encouraging critique and awards for their work.

Photo by Lisa Coffey-Mahoney

Photo by Lisa Coffey-Mahoney

Photo by Donovan Rittenbach

Photo by Donovan Rittenbach

Photo by Donovan Rittenbach

Photo by Donovan Rittenbach

Photo by Donovan Rittenbach

Photo by Donovan Rittenbach

July 8, 2014

Adventures Under the Deep: Day 2

Day 2: We had the first real day of the program today. In the morning we took a tour of the Graduate School of Oceanography. The place is like heaven. Every room seems to have the Hercules feed live streaming and there are also a lot of amphoras laying around. These clay jug looking things were actually used as shipping containers 2,000 years ago.

In the morning we were supposed to have a video chat with Dr. Robert Ballard, the guy who found the Titanic, but 60 minutes is on the ship this week so he was busy. We also had our first experience of the Inner Space Center and got to watch on a giant projector as Hercules found a never before seen shipwreck.
Then we had a lesson on videography because we need to create a video to share with each of our schools when we get back.

Adventures Under the Deep: Day 1

We did not officially start the HRP program today (7/6/2014), but nevertheless it was a great day. I flew into Rhode Island at 4:30 EST and the eight of us all moved into our dorms. Since this is graduate student housing we each get our own room. Then we all went over to Sam’s (our leader’s house) and played soccer, well by playing I mean attempting to play because it was two on two and half the time we were trying to figure out how to get the ball out of the bushes or back from over the fence. Then we went to the Jamestown fireworks because Hurricane Arthur made the town delay their fireworks until the 6th.

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Finding God in All Things

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