Sterne School News

Congratulations to our 8th and 12th grade graduates!


June 12, 2018                                            Susie Cain, Director of Communications


Local Teacher Selected for Groundbreaking Ocean Exploration Aboard Nautilus 
Savanna Nilsen of the Sterne School in San Francisco to participate in a STEAM initiative and conduct deep-sea explorations; topics include biology, geology, and maritime history.

San Francisco, CA —  Local Sterne School teacher, Savanna Nilsen, has been selected as a 2018 Science Communication Fellow with the Ocean Exploration Trust. Beginning June 2018, Nilsen will sail aboard Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus during the Cascadia Margin expedition segment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

Nilsen was one of twenty-one educators and students selected to participate in the Nautilus Corps of Exploration, an initiative of the Ocean Exploration Trust. These selected fellows hail from schools, universities, science centers, and non-profit organizations in eighteen states in the US, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico. Fellows are charged with the responsibility of engaging students and the public in the wonders of ocean exploration, sharing discoveries from the 2018 mission, as well as aspects of daily life aboard a working exploration vessel. 

Nilsen shared “It is such an honor to be part of the Nautilus Corps of Exploration. I cannot wait to explore the deep ocean alongside brilliant scientists, engineers, students, and other teachers, and to share the story of our discoveries with my students and the larger community.” 

As members of the Nautilus Corps of Exploration, educators and students will stand watch alongside scientists and engineers during sea-going expeditions in the Eastern Pacific Ocean including British Columbia, the West Coast of the United States, and as far west as the Hawaiian Islands. Members will also participate in live interactions with shore-based audiences via Nautilus Live, a 24-hour web portal bringing expeditions from the field to future explorers on shore via telepresence technology at and via social media: on Twitter as @EVNautilus and on Facebook and Instagram as @NautilusLive.

“One of the major goals of our Nautilus Exploration Program is to inspire the next generation of explorers in STEAM fields,” said Allison Fundis, OET’s Vice President of Marine Operations and Programs, “we are very excited to provide educators and students with the direct experience of ocean exploration, while allowing them the opportunity to share that experience with their peers around the world.”
Ed McManis, Head of School at Sterne School in San Francisco where Nilsen teaches, stated, “We’re thrilled to have Savanna participate in this prestigious program. It’s great timing too; she’ll come back with cutting-edge information and experiences to enhance our STEAM program and our new science lab.”

About the Ocean Exploration Trust

The Ocean Exploration Trust was founded in 2008 by Dr. Robert Ballard to explore the ocean, seeking out new discoveries in the fields of geology, biology, maritime history, and archaeology while pushing the boundaries of STEAM education and technological innovation. Our international program is launched from aboard the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus, offering live exploration to participants on shore and the public via live video, audio, and data feeds. The major 2018 expedition and education sponsors are the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, the Office of Naval Research, Ocean Networks Canada, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, NASA Science Mission Directorate PSTAR program, the University of Rhode Island, CITGO, AltaSea, KVH, Global Dynamix, ESS, and additional private donors. Follow us online at, on Facebook and Instagram at @NautilusLive, and on Twitter and YouTube as @EVNautilus.

About Sterne School

Sterne School is the premier Bay Area school inspiring students who learn differently and students who benefit from a small, personalized learning environment. Sterne fosters rigorous academic achievement through high-support from specially trained faculty. The Sterne School curriculum is a strengths-based model promoting intellectual curiosity, creativity, and problem-solving.

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Photo and Video Content

General E/V Nautilus photos. Credit: OET/Nautilus Live

For specific expedition photos, email 

Submitted by Craig Brewer, Athletics Director

Over spring break, 12 SHS handball players traveled to Edmonton, Canada, to participate in a Team Handball tournament where they were exposed to the most advanced teams in North America.  Sterne High School was the newest and least experienced team in the league, competing with programs over 18 years old, and schools boasting more than 2,600 students. It was unlike anything we had ever experienced and it was an invaluable growth opportunity for our students and fledgling team.

In addition to playing against, training with, and learning from some of the toughest teams, coaches, and handball experts, students enjoyed being spectators of the sport. The visibility and respect that Handball commands in Alberta is vastly different than the exposure (or lack thereof) anywhere in the United States.

In our spare time, we immersed ourselves in local culture. Highlights included a trip to the biggest mall in North America, a poutine feast, a trip to Elk Island National Park, and the last Oilers game of the season. In the evenings we cooked dinner together as a team. Our students made excellent choices about their behaviors and actions. They prioritized their safety and well-being by getting plenty of rest, eating healthy meals, and exploring responsibly. It was really rewarding to witness this level of maturity and responsibility: Coach McManis and I were very proud.

Submitted by Lindsey Kirk, High School Teacher

The Journey Begins

Over Experiential Week and Spring Break, 14 students, along with Mr. Barton and I, embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in South Africa. After a year of planning and preparation we boarded a plane at SFO and landed in Johannesburg 23 hours later.  Immediately following that quick flight (ha!), we piled into a bus for the next leg of our journey -- an eight hour bus ride to Kruger National Park. It was a bumpy, dusty, sweltering hot bus ride (no a.c.!) and everyone was jet-lagged. Students began questioning their decision to sign up for this trip wondering, Why did I let Ms. Kirk talk me into this? Despite the rough conditions, everyone made peace with the long drive and grumbled about their discomfort quietly under their breaths. 

By the time we finally arrived at Kruger, we were a gang that vultures might mistake for a herd of dying wildebeest due to a lack of deodorant and showering. We stumbled out of the bus and dragged our luggage and stinky selves to our beautiful oasis: Kudu Safari Lodge. A refreshing juice drink awaited us and the staff passed out keys to our rooms: rooms adorned with African decor and beds carefully draped with mosquito netting. The view from our back porch was straight from a National Geographic documentary: kudu, impala, and springbok roamed freely and grazed under the hot African sun. While I was busy admiring the views from my back porch, most of our students flocked to the cold pool like a watering hole scene out of The Lion King. It was a well-deserved dip that washed away some of their jet-lag. 


The first part of our experience centered around conservation. A large facet was our volunteer work with African Impact, an organization providing fun, safe, and structured volunteer placements in partnership with local communities and conservation efforts. In our particular volunteer placement we learned about the severity of poaching in the area and how to track animals, collect camera traps and input data, remove invasive plant species, and survey the area for snares. One of our students even found a snare on his assignment! Multiple students came to me expressing their interest in volunteering with African Impact for a summer or an extended time after graduation. 

When not volunteering at African Impact, students and chaperones piled into open air vehicles and roamed through Kruger National Park with very knowledgeable safari tour guides. From the moment we entered the park, we were blown away! We saw everything! There were elephants right in front of us sucking up water in their trunks and spraying themselves to cool down. As a pack of hyenas relaxed in the grass, two of their cubs approached our vehicles to sniff and greet us. Giraffes, watching us with caution, stuck out their long purple tongues to snatch some leaves. Hippos popped curiously out of the water, flicking their ears as we called to them from the shore. We watched the almighty lions as they feasted on a hippo carcass and roared to the motor of our vehicles. A shy lone rhino let us approach with caution, as he grazed in the dusk. There was even a tame cheetah that had no qualms with us scratching her on the back of her head as she lay in the sun swatting her tail. 

One evening, while visiting the Kinyonga Reptile Center, we met one of the most passionate conservationists on the planet, Donald Strydom, who spoke to us about the creepy crawlies and slithering creatures that are feared by so many. We learned the docile behavior of some snakes, and the misperceived aggression of others.  We held tarantulas, pet cobras, and put puff adders in a box with a snake hook! 

Another highlight was visiting Moholoholo Rehabilitation Center, where students fed vultures, watched fearless honey badgers play, listened to cheetahs purr against their cage, and witnessed a demonstration of agility and speed by leopards racing after a piece of chicken. Another night, while on a game drive in Tshukudu Game Reserve, we saw bush babies leaping from tree to tree.  We also visited the Jane Goodall Chimp Eden, where we learned about chimpanzees rescued from the circus and other inhumane environments, now living in the most beautiful sanctuary. And we even walked hand-in-trunk with rescued elephants, who kissed us on our necks with their big, sticky, snotty snouts. 

It seemed that each day couldn't top the day before, but somehow each did. After seven amazing days in the Kruger region, we said our farewells and flew to Cape Town for the second chapter of our experiential program -- cultural immersion.

Cultural Immersion 

Once we arrived at our beachfront hotel in Cape Town, students darted straight into the ocean -- ignoring the 50 degree water temps on a windy day. Brrrrr! Our first excursion was to Boulder’s Beach, home to the endangered African penguins, where we watched them waddle just inches away from us.  From there we took a tram up to Table Mountain where we hiked while taking in views of the city from 3500 plus feet above sea level. In diving cages, we got up close and personal with Great White Sharks through Apex Shark Tours.  Our travel program even arranged for us to spend an evening in the home of Jasmina, a Cape Town local who taught us how to prepare a Cape Malay dinner, which we all enjoyed together. 

Toward the end of the trip, students volunteered at a local preschool made out of three small shipping containers. This school was surrounded by lean-tos, had broken windows, and very limited supplies -- including water.  We found running water to be scarce during our time in Cape Town. Signs denoting running water few and far between.

On our very last day, we focused on the slave trade and Apartheid. We visited the District Six Museum and had a personal tour from Noor, a former resident of District Six. Noor told his story of displacement and racism, and yet he was filled with pride for being able to share his time and history of Apartheid with our group. A poignant moment, felt by the entire group, was when we realized, if it were just a few decades back, this trip would not have been possible because of our skin color and ethnicities. 

The Journey Ends

This trip was extraordinary in every way. We were across the world! For some of our students it was their first international trip. Regardless of travel experience, each tour, each volunteer post, each excursion and lecture, and informal learning moment was truly magical. Yet above all of this, it was the laughter, newly kindled friendships, kindness between students, and the shared experience that brought us all closer together. 

Our school has some truly remarkable young adults, and spending two weeks with 14 of them personified this sentiment. It was an honor to be on this trip with these awesome teenagers, and I'll cherish this time with them forever.