A year later, Summer Institute and Conservatory reawaken on-campus life


Selina Xu

Members of the S@TC Intensive Cast rehearse the musical scene of their show “Star Crossed Lovers.” Unlike last summer, the upper school held in-person activities on campus for Conservatory Intensive and Summer Institute courses in the past couple of months.

by Aastha Mangla, Asst. A&E and Lifestyle Editor

The Summer Institute and Summer @ the Conservatory (S@TC) returned to the upper school in person with a variety of courses, including supplemental courses such as Advanced Placement (AP) Chemistry, AP Biology, Advanced Programming and Programming; credit courses such as Algebra 2/Trigonometry and Geometry and recreational courses such as The Chef’s Institute.

Both recreational and credit classes included non-Harker students. Administration required masks and social distancing, and supplemental courses split in half, morning classes and afternoon classes, to maximize social distancing in an enclosed space for in-person learning. 

In early June, students and teachers were also required to be vaccinated before returning for the next school year. While Harker’s COVID-19 regulations were still in place to account for non-vaccinated students, Summer Institute principal Carol Green reminded students to social distance by placing markers on the ground and on lunch tables. 

“The students are so much fun, the faculty is really fun and everybody wants to be there,” Green said. “Nobody’s doing summer at Harker because they have to, especially not the teachers or the amazing TAs.”

As the new principal of a remote learning Summer Institute in 2020, Green was shocked by how smooth the transition to in-person learning was. According to Green, she would not be able to manage Summer Institute or be such a “positive energetic principal” without Lola Muldrew, former Summer Institute principal and current associate-chair for teacher education at UC Davis.

“I was really hesitant about the shift this year, but it worked out surprisingly well,” Green said. “I think it’s because we’re all so grateful to have that opportunity to be back together and kind of have a sense of normalcy.”

Upper school science department chair Anita Chetty, upper school biology teacher Matthew Harley and upper school biology teacher Eric Johnson, who joined the upper school this year, taught the AP Biology course for three hours each day over four weeks. A series of lectures and labs covered the diversity and unity of life, evolution and ecology. For the biology labs, students examined specimens through microscopes.

“We were able to walk to each table and see the specimens and actually use the equipment,” Jessica Zhou (11), an AP Biology student, said. “That part was huge. If we hadn’t gotten to use the equipment and just looked at pictures of it online, the course would have been really boring.”

All supplemental classes lasted four weeks. Though programming courses required less hands-on learning, students expressed relief at being able to tackle the material physically. 

“Seeing all my teachers and friends in this in-person environment boosts my willingness to learn,” Advanced Programming student Daniel Lin (10) said. 

In the upper school kitchen, Production Manager Brian Larsen opened a cooking class called “The Chef’s Institute.” Although Larsen is a tech theater teacher, cooking holds a special place in his heart, and he eagerly shared his knowledge of knife use, preparation techniques and food culture with students through this course. 

The Conservatory also emerged from a year of online theater by attending the Conservatory Intensive course from  July 19 to Aug. 6. Each day of the course was split into two parts: practicing improvisation and attending workshops in the morning and learning lines and blocking in the afternoon. Students rehearsed three plays—“In the Village of the Brothers Grimm,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Star-Crossed Lovers”—and attended workshops conducted by guests in the performing arts industry, such as one by producer Marilyn Atlas on special character play. The final productions were performed on the final day of  Conservatory  Intensive on Aug. 6. 

“My favorite thing about being a [performance assistant] this year has easily been seeing these very young actors grow,” said Richie Amarillas (12), a performance assistant for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” “[It’s a] very cliche and seemingly easy answer, but honestly I relate to these kids to an extent. I remember when I was this young and just seeing them have fun in theater is a really nice experience.”

Additional reporting by Selina Xu and Katelyn Zhao.