Sally James

Seattle Science Writer

Year 12

An early 1900s photograph of thirteen children standing in front of a tree. The children wear work clothes and labor as cherry pickers.
National Child Labor Committee collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Do you remember anything about the year you were 12 years old? As part of a fellowship in 2023 with the nonprofit Town Hall Seattle, I pursued a deep dive into the changes in the brain around that time and how it impacted people. I’m still collecting stories.

Maybe you remember a national news event that hit you extra hard during your Year 12. Maybe you got braces. Maybe you changed neighborhoods or moved to a different country at that age. Maybe your parents divorced, or got evicted.

For some of us, that year can be a pivot. It can shape how we see the world because we marched in a protest or saw a forest fire or smelled an oil spill.

WNYC Radio Series link

WNYC radio produced a series about “Being 12” in 2015. You can listen to that series here, which includes interviews with educators, brain scientists and young people.

Recent events

April 28, 2023 at Town Hall – I interviewed psychologist Laura Kastner on stage at Town Hall about the brain changes of this year.  Listen to audio here.

May 30, 2023 – I was on stage again at Town Hall with stories gathered during this project.  Watch via the video link below.

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Resource two – Blah blah blah blah downloadable link

Year 12 blog posts

Excerpts from stories

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At that myopic age, I couldn’t discern how his particular brand of charisma was only a front for the domination through violence and abuse that he used to corral all of us riders into his cult-like stables. We and his horses were prey to his predatory self. But, I loved him at this threshold age even as he was methodically grooming me into the object of his desire.

- Year 12 writer whose year was 1972
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I had my first boyfriend. Bob asked if I would "go with him" on a Monday. During the week, we had a few awkward phone calls, and on Friday we held hands as we walked between classes. He wanted me to go roller skating that night, because Fridays at the rink were for 7th graders. I couldn't because I had family plans, and neither of us would go on Saturday, because that was for 8th graders. The next Monday morning I started menstruating for the first time. I arrived at school extremely self-conscious and to the taunts from one of Bob's friends of how I got dumped. And apparently it was so. Bob found someone else to hold hands with at the roller rink. It was truly an ugly day.

- Year 12 writer whose year was 1977
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I grew up on a small island north of Seattle. We lived 6 miles outside of town in what might be described as idyllic, and attended a k-6 elementary school with the same kids who also lived outside of town for 7 years . So .. I turned 12 in my first year in the junior high school with all the town kids . Here I was— a 6-foot tall extremely shy girl with size 11 feet. You can imagine how that went— the boys, who hadn’t for the most part begun their teen growth spurt, took to calling me the Jolly Green Giant. That period in my life, as painful as it was, launched me into a more mature sense of myself as an independent thinker who was sensitive to the feelings of others.

- Year 12 writer whose year was 1964
Disney Dream
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It was my first year in the band, a tiny wisp of a thing whose saxophone was nearly as big as I was. It was hot, so we did not wear much under our heavy wool blend uniforms suited for fall in northeastern Pennsylvania. After we performed, we went backstage to change into our park clothes, and when I removed my navy blue band uniform, there, along with the sweat running down my legs, were bright red streaks. I started my very first period while performing in the Disney World Magic Music Days parade.

- Year 12 writer whose year was 1989