Grade 9 in Italy: The Experience of a Lifetime

Written by Jane McAleese ’19 and Celia Page ’19.

12237208_1646206695619887_933614247_nFor the past four years, every freshman class has had the amazing opportunity to go to Italy. Our grade, Class of 2019, had the chance to take this fascinating trip in November 2015. We traveled to three cities including Rome, Siena and Florence. There, we saw many famous paintings, sculptures and historical buildings. We also experienced the culture in many unique ways such as eating medieval recipes and completing a scavenger hunt in Florence based on the book A Room with a View. We started our trip in Pompeii, where we went on a walking tour of the city and were able to see how different it was compared to every other city we observed. After the first day when everyone wasn’t so jetlagged, we started our three days in Rome. We saw famous monuments such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Pantheon. On our third and last day in Rome we visited the home of the Catholic Church leader, Pope Francis. We took a tour through the The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. The next day we headed off to Siena, where we went on a walking tour and had some free time to shop in the local stores. After a night in Siena we loaded our luggage onto the bus and headed for Florence. On our way to Florence, we stopped in the hilltop town of San Gimignano, and walked around town with our friends. San Gimignano has breathtaking views that can’t be found anywhere else. After our time in San Gimignano, we had an amazing lunch on a scenic farm. What was unique about our lunch was that everything that we ate was either grown or produced on the farm, literally farm to table. It was one of our grades favorite meals while we were in Italy. Our last stop was Florence. When we were there, we went to the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Museum, and saw famous sculptures such as the statue of David.

Our trip to Italy was a great experience for our class as it provided us with knowledge on the country from different perspectives. The tour guides, who were natives of the different cities, showed us not only the educational significance of the different buildings, statues etc., but also the importance of the object to the town. For example, the statue of Romulus and Remus (located in Rome) shows the story of how the brothers founded the famous city. However, the statue means much more to the people of Rome. Not only does it depict how their city was founded, but it also symbolizes the independence and power of the Romans, two concepts that were very important in ancient times. Italy also allowed our class to connect the information we heard to concepts we have learned in English, world history and art.  As previously mentioned, we had a scavenger hunt in Florence where we had to step in the shoes of Miss Lucy Honeychurch, the protagonist in A Room with a View, a book that we read in the beginning of the year. This is a story of a young woman’s adventures in Italy and how they affect her life. In Rome, we were able to connect the famous buildings, such as the Colosseum, to the content we have studied in history thus far. In class we learned about gladiatorial combat, animal fights and the criminal executions that would take place in the Colosseum and it was quite interesting to see where these forms of entertainment took place. The art portion of our curriculum was showcased all over Italy, from the beautiful Michelangelo paintings in the Sistine Chapel to the statues shown in the Uffizi Art Gallery. Art was shown in many different forms in Italy.

Overall, our Italy trip was incredible and definitely unforgettable. One of our favorite parts of the trip was the opportunity to bond with our classmates, new and old, and form new friendships.  Another highlight from the trip that cannot go unmentioned was the delicious food. From the different types of pasta to the countless flavors of gelato, the food was all so amazing there. We’re so fortunate to have had this experience, and on behalf of the Class of 2019 we would like to thank everyone who made it possible. We hope this will be a Baldwin tradition that carries on for a long time!

Discovering Empowerment: The PA Women’s Conference

Evie Wasson ’17 and Kahlaa Cannady ’17 attended the Pennsylvania Women’s Conference in October 2016.  Evie wrote about her experience.

evie and kahalaWhen our group of ten Baldwin girls walked into the keynote address room of the Pennsylvania Women’s Conference, we were confronted with an endless sea of women. The presence of so many women created a sense of a community and support at the conference.

The first speaker at the conference was Carli Lloyd. Her speech consisted of her personal experiences as a pro-athlete and advice to other women pursuing similar career’s. She spoke about struggles she has dealt with and how she persevered. She brought a forward thinking and positive attitude to the conference. Another speaker who opened up in the morning was Rachael Ray. The crowd erupted into laughter over her jokes, and she gave valuable advice about moving up in the workplace as a woman. After these keynote speeches, we were able to meet both women. It was amazing to meet these inspirational figures. Some of the Baldwin seniors even asked Rachael Ray to be their commencement speaker. Rachel Ray gave her agent’s card to the girls, so who knows; maybe, come June, all of us will be able to meet Rachael Ray.

After the morning Keynote speeches, we went to special sessions for high school students. Emily Greener was the presenter for the first session, and she left a powerful impact on the girls in the room. Emily started her session by opening up about her life. She confessed her deepest insecurities and the struggles she had faced growing up. She wanted to create a judgment free atmosphere for the girls in the room. After her introduction, Emily opened up the discussion to the crowd and encouraged girls to tell the audience what made them powerful. The statements from the crowd ranged from statements about accepting their body image to not letting bullies get to them. The second session consisted of a panel of influential businesswomen, and the audience was allowed to ask them questions. The questions were about business, feminism, poetry, entrepreneurship, and more. The sessions were extremely valuable and helpful.

During lunch, there were three major speakers: Jessica Alba, John Jacobs, and Gloria Steinem. Each speaker brought an equally important conversation to the conference but in different ways. John Jacobs captivated the audience with his heartwarming stories, which all set forth the message that one should never give up. The Baldwin table became especially animated when actress and businesswoman Jessica Alba walked on to the main stage with Gloria Steinem. Personally, I have idolized Jessica ever since I watched her in the movie Honey. I received some strange looks when I continued to clap 30 seconds after everyone had already stopped. Jessica went on to talk about how she started The Honest Company even though her idea was rejected numerous times. She gave “honest” advice to women at the conference about entrepreneurship and the hardships of business. Gloria Steinem spoke about the progression of feminism over her life span. She noted how much has changed for the better, but expressed that much more needs to be done.

This conference opened my eyes to an extraordinary truth. Women have changed the game in the workplace. The women speakers at the conference were all successful in various areas of work. Most of the speakers are dominant in a generally male field. This established a stronger sense of strength and empowerment in me. This conference proved and substantialized everything I have learned at Baldwin and has given me a stronger hope for the future. I heard a young girl say something on my way and I think her statement captures the importance and powerful effect of the conference. The young girl said, “There are so many jobs I want to do, how do I choose?”

Creating the Foundation

Dr. Laura Blankenship is the Interim Dean of Academic Affairs and Computer Science Chair.

Laura BlankenshipThe saying goes that everything you need to know you learn in kindergarten.  Although the saying references social skills like sharing, it’s also true that there is a lot of learning that happens in those pre-kindergarten and kindergarten years.  I had the pleasure of visiting our Early Childhood Center a couple of weeks ago and spent some time in the Pre-K and K classes.  It’s amazing all the material these girls are being exposed to in such a short amount of time.  Ms. Henkel, Ms. Beaverson, Ms. McCloskey, and Ms. Rohricht pack a lot into every minute while still keeping the lessons fun.

In Kindergarten, the day often begins with writing or reading words that begin with certain letters.  I was there during “O” and “C” week, so the girls were drawing pictures of words that start with O and C and writing the words to go with them.  There were cats and candy and oranges and octopuses.  These letters and words are reinforced during morning announcements where students read from the SmartBoard and the teachers ask them to find the words that start with C or O.  The girls noticed Christopher Columbus right away!

While they’re reading those words, the girls also learn something about history and math.  They talk about who Christopher Columbus was and how many ships he had, and they go to the map and talk about the continents and countries.  All that in the span of about twenty minutes.  There are songs and pictures that help them along the way, so they’re always having fun.

On another day, I visited just before a field trip, so we learned a little about trees and what they’re made of and how they grow.  So, in addition to reading and writing, the girls are learning a little science, and then they got to visit an arboretum to see that science in person.  

In Pre-K, I walked in while they were figuring out what day of the week and month it was and how many days have passed so far.  They had to read the days and month, and had to do some counting to figure it all out!  Then the girls learned about different sizes and different words to use to describe those sizes: small, medium, and large.  The had little bears of different sizes that they used to figure out what word went with what size.  

These basic skills are ones that we adults and many of our older students take for granted, but they provide the foundation for everything that comes next.  And while they’re acquiring those skills, the teachers are making sure they’re engaged and excited, instilling a love of learning that will carry them through their years at Baldwin.  The girls are clearly proud of what they’re learning and even the four-year-olds already show the traits of a Baldwin girl: smart, confident, and ready to take on challenges.

Inspirational STEAM: Artists are Innovators

Aileen McCulloch, Middle School Drama Teacher

Aileen McCulloughI am a producer, actor, painter, poet and educational theater director who, for the last two decades has worked primarily with students (aged 5 to adult) to teach theater skills as not just an artistic form, but as a way of living life. As we strive to give college bound children more of the contemporary skills that they need to meet the demands of continued study followed by “real life,” I am frequently confronted with questions that force me to argue the value of my field, and all of the other arts as well. Why should students be asked to focus on the arts in school, over expanding their STEM skills? I spend much of my time researching so that I can give the best answers to explain the value of the performing arts for students in K-12 study.

To me, it seems obvious. The arts are invaluable! Painting, drawing, acting, singing, dancing – they teach us technique, yes, but more importantly, they teach us that creativity involves thinking beyond technique. Where the other skills tend to be seated activities, the arts get us up and moving. They teach us to look inward, to explore our own character, and then to expand our views to explore the character of those around us. They show us that 24 eyes can look at one pot of flowers, and 12 different creative expressions can come out of the viewing – with every expression being inspirational and RIGHT. In short, the arts teach us to physically seek the strongest choice for this moment, rather than that there is only one “correct” choice to be made.

I was lucky. I never had one year of schooling pass where I wasn’t heavily exposed to the fine and performing arts. My high school produced a show for every grade and a musical that combined the grades. We had a choir, a show choir, and a battle of the bands. We had not just an art room but we also had an art wing. Since I left school, I rarely have had a day pass where I am not involved in creating something new and exciting with creative collaborators. So I can understand why many people who have not been so exposed might not understand the power of pushing children out of the box, and into the wild creative frontier of the open mind through long time and consistent exposure to the arts.

I was inspired recently by several articles on the importance of the arts in education.  Need a Job? Invent it! by Thomas L. Friedman and Probing Question: Is art an essential school subject? by Melissa Beattie-Moss. These are not the first articles about the importance of sharing the arts with students, but they were two that brought not just test scores to the argument, or personal experiences, but observations from the work force. I think the fact that bosses are seeing the difference in their employees based on the worker’s past experience in the arts is really eye opening for all educators! We need more arts, not less! Every child needs to learn how to color outside the lines and dance based on the music in their hearts.

The articles give a real world face to the fact that the humanities are not just fluff that students take to break up their day of required academics. Ironically, it is just the opposite. Fine and performing arts expand the brain’s ability to absorb and creatively work with given “facts” in a way that most academic subjects do not. They teach that there are many ways to see the same object, the same situation. The arts add power to technological STEM, so that our children can STEAM into uncharted waters. In essence, the arts teach us how to think, while many of our other studies teach us what to think. Guess what? That “what” changes through the decades, and the “how” allows us to embrace that change!

I am a strong proponent of playing in the classroom. For several years I ran Young Audiences of Eastern PA, an organization that brought artists into classes to teach everything from creative thinking to required topics through new and innovative ways, while offering performances as well. These articles points out that as we consider training our children for college, we need to keep our eye on what really matters – we need to train creators. The first article, Need a Job? Invent it!, is the most succinct argument for that approach that I’ve ever seen.

This last year I have asked every girl who enters my classroom to create an original work with the promise that there is “no wrong and right, only creating the strongest work you can.” My goal has been to teach them how to create through their own original thought, both individually and in teams. I have given them tools, but then pointed out that there are numerous different ways to use those tools. I have reminded them that their voice is essential to the creation of our projects!

I then have them journal to tell me what each of their original experiences taught them. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at some of the lessons learned that I had no idea were also in the plan. They literally played themselves to a higher level of critical thought. I’m really thrilled by that and wanted to share my inspiration.

The goal of every theater artist I know is to do the best work possible and to explore many different approaches. There isn’t just ONE way to do anything. Actors know this. Inventors know this. Lawyers know this. Much of the time we are teaching just the opposite! Here’s to moving past STEM, and giving our children the STEAM they need to make a better world in the future.

And for a never-ending stream of STEAM, join this Facebook members only group PlayMore: Education Inspiration that focuses on education and the arts, founded by my long-time friend Elizabeth Rubenstein. It brings daily inspiration to my feed.

Why Course Titles Make a Difference in the College Admissions Process

By Director of College Counseling Sara Shapiro Harberson

harbinson 3 headshotThe college admissions process is like watching a Baldwin squash match: fast-paced and highly competitive. The players dance around the court with quick feet, not knowing which direction their opponent will go, while the ball flies through the air so fast that it’s sometimes hard for the outsider to see where it is at any given moment. College applications are the proverbial ball. They move through the reading and selection process faster than what seems humanly possible. An admissions officer reads through the application with speed and urgency, and the discussion about whether the student will be admitted happens even faster. As a former admissions officer and dean of admissions, I know how quickly judgments are made in the admissions process. That’s why I am a stickler about every piece of our girls’ applications being as clear and powerful as it can be.

In addition to speed, there’s also another reason why our applications need to speak for themselves. Most admissions officers are young and often don’t stay long in the job. Every few years, sometimes even every year, we get a new admissions officer for each college our students apply. Admissions officers have hundreds, even thousands, of high schools to cover, and every high school is different. Some schools use Advanced Placement courses, some have the International Baccalaureate program, while others even have a combination of the two. Baldwin’s curriculum doesn’t have either. This is never a disadvantage to a student as long as the curriculum options are clearly laid out and the course designations (Honors, Advanced Topics, etc.) are consistent on the transcript. Therefore, no matter what curriculum Baldwin has, we need our transcripts to be clear, straightforward, with not a hint of confusion for a new admissions officer who has to read through an application in a matter of minutes.

When I first arrived at Baldwin in 2014, I took a hard look at our transcripts. I learned through careful reading and many conversations with our faculty that the Advanced Placement courses were eliminated for thoughtful reasons. Over time, I became acquainted with the little quirks of our Upper School curriculum and the varying course designations in each department. I had the time to invest in learning the ins and outs of Baldwin’s courses and departments. But it got me thinking about what happens when a new admissions officer starts reviewing our applications. They usually don’t have a lot of training, and they rarely have extra time to learn the nuances of a particular school. Would they know that the “Advanced” science courses are the most rigorous science courses offered? Would they understand that we don’t have “Honors” courses in English? Would they confuse “Advanced” at Baldwin with the “Advanced” designation that some less competitive high schools use to identify courses that are not quite Honors-worthy? I reached out to my former admissions colleagues to get their opinion. They had a similar reaction. They recommended a consistent set of titles across all disciplines if possible.

Over the course of last year, I worked closely with Academic Council to reassess our titles and adopt a new set of consistent designations for all academic subject matters and departments. After careful consideration, Academic Council chose “Advanced Topics” as the highest designation for Upper School courses. Incidentally, one of the first independent schools to eliminate Advanced Placement courses, The Fieldston School in New York, uses the “Advanced Topics” designation to identify their highest level courses as well. While the “AT” courses have evolved from our former Advanced Placement offerings, there is consistency with the students who are taking them. For example, a student who would have taken Advanced Placement Biology years ago at Baldwin is now taking Advanced Topics (AT) Biology.

The academic departments worked hard to offer our humanities students the same opportunities for higher level courses as our math and science students have. We want our students to be able to pursue these disciplines in depth at the highest level in all departments. The English Department is now offering an AT Senior English Seminar; the History Department offers four different AT electives for seniors; and all of our highest level language courses now have the AT designation. This puts our humanities offerings on equal footing to math and science at Baldwin.

With increased applicant pools, admissions officers are forced to read applications in record time. It was this backdrop that informed our decision. We want to make sure that our curriculum, course titles and transcripts are clear and straightforward to any admissions officer reading our applications. Applying consistent course titles across all disciplines is crucial in such a competitive and fast-paced environment. We aren’t changing how we teach these courses; we are just giving credit where credit is due.

Disrupting the Technology Gender Gap

Dr. Laura Blankenship is the Interim Dean of Academic Affairs and Chair of the Computer Science Department.

Laura BlankenshipA few weeks ago, I gave a TED-style talk on why there are so few women in technology, and what educators can do in their classrooms to combat the problem.  Addressing this issue has long been a mission of mine, and I’ve read and researched in this area for years, but suddenly, everywhere I look, there is new research about attracting and retaining girls in Computer Science.  

This is really an exciting time to be working in this area, and it’s especially exciting to be working in this area at an all-girls’ school.  The research I’m seeing on retaining girls in Computer Science aligns well with Baldwin’s approach in providing leadership opportunities and academic challenges within a supportive environment.  I promise to share the video of my talk with more complete information, but for now, I thought I’d share some of the key findings that parents, teachers, and students might find useful.

First, some of the bad news.  Last year, top technology companies like Twitter, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft released information about the percentage of women employed in technical jobs.  The percentages were 13, 14, 17 percent; the highest was 20 percent, depressingly low compared to fields like law and medicine, both of which also used to skew male.  In researching those figures for my talk, I made the mistake of reading the comments on some of the articles. People said things like “women aren’t as good at programming as men” or “women just don’t want to be in technology”.  These were common arguments made against women who wanted to be doctors, lawyers, and scientists years ago, and we’re seeing them now for women in technical fields.

Also last year, I read The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.  The book covers a lot of research about where confidence comes from and why women seem to be less confident than men, in general.  One of the most revealing studies to me was one where participants took a test about three-dimensional shapes.  When the researchers tallied the results, they found that men had outperformed women.  Rather than just leaving it at that, the researchers looked at the results more closely and found that the women had actually not answered a good portion of the questions.  They hadn’t event ventured a guess.  So they gave the test again, and this time, they told the participants to answer every question, whether they felt they knew the answer or not.  And this time, the women performed just as well as the men.  It wasn’t that they didn’t have the skills.  They just didn’t have confidence in those skills.  They needed to be encouraged (or flat-out told) to take the risk, to just try.

In the twelve years I’ve been working exclusively with young women, I’ve certainly seen this dynamic play out.  Girls sitting in my 6th grade technology classes (precursors to the DREAM Lab®) would say, “I’m just not good at technology.”  Or, the girl who told me she “wasn’t smart enough” for robotics.  It’s heartbreaking, and I’ve always seen it as my job to convince them otherwise.

But, the good news is, there are lots of things we can do, as parents and educators especially, but students themselves can start to recognize these patterns and work against them.  In a Google-sponsored study, researchers examined the key factors that retain girls in CS.  The biggest factor by far is the parental encouragement a girl receives to either take a CS course or continue pursuing CS.  It doesn’t matter if the parents are in the field or not, but it’s important for them to support her interest even if it’s not their interest.

Exposure to Computer Science courses and activities also increases the likelihood that girls will continue in the field beyond high school.  At Baldwin, we have Computing and Engineering embedded in our Lower School and Middle School DREAM Lab® and three full years of CS in high school.  Having those opportunities in an all girls’ environment is also important. Several studies have shown that girls’ confidence improves when she’s not competing with boys for attention in the classroom, especially in a class that is typically seen as a “boy class” like Computer Science.  In all girls’ environments, girls are less likely to think, “I can’t do this because it’s for boys.”

With the right attitude, a little encouragement and support, any Baldwin student can achieve whatever she wants in any field. Given what I’ve seen in my Computer Science classes, I think I’ll see the gender gap in technology start to close.  The research supports my hypothesis so far.  And that really is good news.

Design Thinking: Learning, Creating and Being Through Empathy

Written by Lower School Teachers Anne-Mette Hansell and Monica Henkel

design thinking 2This summer we attended a four-day Design Thinking course offered through the Hirtle Summer Program for Innovative Schools.

It was an enriching four days spent with DEEP Design Thinking trainers from the Mount Vernon Presbyterian School/Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation in Atlanta, GA, and 23 teachers from local independent schools.

Throughout the course, we were given the opportunity to experience Design Thinking in much the same way that our Baldwin students do. Wearing “student hats,”  we were asked to discover, empathize, experiment and solve problems well out of our comfort zones. The latter are the fundamental principles of Design Thinking.

To discover: One of the most important and time consuming steps in the Design Thinking process is discovery. True discovery requires observation, curiosity and questioning. What, where, who and how? What if? How might we? Is there a way?  

To practice our observation skills, we took a field trip to the Please Touch Museum.

We were asked to observe children interacting with the displays and think critically about how things were arranged within the museum space. Were children drawn to certain areas and not others? Were they engaged and was their natural sense of curiosity piqued? Given that a museum has a limited amount of space, did the curators plan wisely? And finally, how could we transfer our discoveries and observations to our schools and make our own learning spaces even more engaging?

Back on campus, we attended “Circuit School.” Collaborative teams of four participants were invited to tinker with various materials including LED lights, batteries and copper. The instructors did not teach us about electricity. Instead, we made discoveries on our own. Through trial and error and many ah-ha moments, we were able to light the lights. With this new knowledge in hand, each participant created a model with at least two working lights. After putting our models side by side, we stepped back to share our discoveries and frustrations, and marveled at what we had created together.

To empathize: Empathy is another important step in the Design Thinking process. To produce a product, we must have a clear understanding of the user’s needs. We become emotionally invested in meeting the needs of our users once we fully understand their needs.

During the course we were given a very interesting way to practice our empathy skills. On day three, we were invited to meet with elementary school students and ask them what makes them most excited and passionate about learning. Students shared that they feel most engaged when they are given choices in the learning process and when they are able to move about their learning spaces. Hands-on learning and experimentation is key.

To experiment: The following day, we took what we learned from the elementary school students and brainstormed how we might invigorate our own learning spaces and teaching practices. Our instructors encouraged us to think big and put any/all ideas on the table. We experimented with various materials including wood, cardboard, fabric, paper, etc. and then created prototypes.    

To produce: The prototypes came in all shapes and sizes. Examples include a multi-use “creation station,” learning spaces with a variety of seating and standing options and a learning space with flexible partitions. The elementary school students were then invited to try out our prototypes and give us feedback. The students were excited about what they saw. They touched, explored and were eager to offer their suggestions for changes.  

Throughout this course we learned new and innovative strategies to create greater student involvement in the learning process. We have ideas about how to incorporate elements of Design Thinking into our classrooms and are eager to begin! 

A Journey Through Baldwin’s History, Part 2: Preserving the Voices of Baldwin Girls

Written by Jane Bradley, ’17

Jane BradleyThis past summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to work in the Baldwin archives. From reading letters more than 100 years old to scanning pictures of Baldwin’s first graduating class, I was both surprised and pleased by how much I took away from this experience. Baldwin’s history is rich and meaningful on so many levels, and I learned so much about the School’s impact on individual young women and the world of all-girls’ education as a whole.

My primary focus was reviewing and scanning copies of The Hourglass, the student newspaper. I loved knowing that I was helping to preserve the ideas and words of Baldwin girls from as early as the 1940s. I often found myself flipping through the articles in the middle of scanning them, and it was intriguing to see the clear risks many girls took in expressing their opinions. It taught me that girls, armed with a strong sense of self and a good education, are fearless and not ashamed to express their opinions, no matter how controversial or ahead of the times. It’s incredible to think that Baldwin girls have always been like this, even in eras when it was certainly not the status quo for a woman to unabashedly state her views on political happenings or social norms or even a sports game. As I flipped through many publications of The Hourglass, I saw articles about everything from the pros and cons of the death penalty, to debate on the ERA, to pro-choice vs. pro-life stances.

Baldwin girls have always been unafraid to speak up, share their opinions and debate contentious issues within their community and outside of it. Seeing this sort of empowerment in issue after issue of our School newspaper made me feel proud and very inspired to continue the tradition in my role as this year’s editor of The Hourglass. And I am certain that Baldwin girls will continue to act just as fearlessly as time goes on. Hopefully, in another 50 or 60 years, there will be a girl like me, reading articles from our newspaper today, and feeling exactly the same way.

The Legacy of an All Girls’ Education

Dr. Laura Blankenship, Interim Dean of Academic Affairs and Chair of the Department of Computer Science.

Laura BlankenshipI first encountered all-women’s education when my husband and I moved here in 2001 so he could take a job at Bryn Mawr College, the all-women’s college across the street from Baldwin and with whom we have a shared history. A little over a year after we moved, after I’d gotten my bearings a bit, I also ended up working at Bryn Mawr in their IT department, specializing in working with Educational Technology. As part of my job responsibilities, I took over a Multimedia Development Institute (SMDI for short), a summer-long internship and learning opportunity for about 8-10 Bryn Mawr students. And that was my first experience of having only women in a classroom setting. And it was awesome!

What was awesome about it was that the girls were so much more open than in any of the co-ed classes I’d taught in the past. They were able to ask crazy questions, cover the content as quickly or as slowly as they wanted, and they were not made to feel inferior by some guy in the room who’d been programming for 10 years. I realized that I had missed this in my own Computer Science classes, where not once but twice I was the only girl in the room. In fact, I didn’t go down the Computer Science path until later in life because I didn’t think I was good enough (despite getting paid to do technology work). It was just too intimidating to me to be surrounded by all those guys.

Over the course of the next five years, I had the opportunity to work with more than 50 students, many of whom I am still in touch with, thanks to the wonders of the Internet (Facebook, mostly). They have gone on to do many things, from working at Twitter to becoming a librarian. Recently, I asked them about where they are and how being able to learn technology skills in an all-female environment impacted them. Here is some of what they had to say:

“[T]he program was the first step to a lifelong career in digital technology, art and design” –AnnaLisa Allegretti, freelance web designer and artist working in 3D animation and modeling

“I owe my career as a web developer to SMDI … I wouldn’t have known I could get paid to do web development without SMDI, much less launched a career in it. … I credit SMDI with imprinting on me the importance of mentorship and knowledge sharing for women to succeed in tech.”  –Catherine Farman, Technology and Innovation Fellow and Front End Developer at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and volunteer, Girl Develop IT

“I don’t think I would have the confidence to do this without SMDI. I’m so grateful that I got to know you. Because of your example, I take it for granted that moms code, too.”  –Flora Shepherd, Graduate Student in Math and Statistics at The University of New Orleans

“SMDI made me less fearful of technology. I deal with IS about 95% of the time and it is still a predominantly male field. SMDI may not have prepared me for everything tech-wise, but I think I am less likely to shy away from the new and unknown because of it.”  –Eebs Chan, Clinical Research Operations Specialist, Penn Medicine

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a job post-SMDI that didn’t have some sort of web development component to it! …I remember Laura and David both being very encouraging about my dual interests in humanities scholarship and in technology.” –Anne Harding, Web Development and Strategy Team, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

There are other stories, from lawyers who serve on their firm’s website committee to poets building their portfolios online to Computer Science teachers like me. They went in many different directions and felt empowered to do so.

Our theme this year is legacy, and I’m proud of that legacy at Bryn Mawr, a legacy that I think was about 5 percent created by me, and 95 percent the impact of those students being at an all-women’s college, with the ability to feel confident in taking risks and rising to challenges. The legacy of an all-girls’ education is higher motivation, higher achievement, being more engaged in learning, and feeling more supported in their interests (all according to the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools). These are all qualities that lead to success not just in school, but in life.

I haven’t been here long enough yet to have some of my students go on to graduate school or careers, but if you walk the halls of Baldwin, you can see the accomplishments of many Baldwin Alumnae represented in the Notable Alumnae photos that grace the walls of many of our buildings and passages. They have left a legacy here at Baldwin, but their accomplishments are Baldwin’s legacy, the legacy of support and education that only comes from an all-girls’ environment where girls are nurtured in their interests, supported through challenges and encouraged to achieve whatever they can dream of.

A Journey Through Baldwin’s History: Introducing Our Digital Archives

Written by Madeleine Marr ’17

Madeleine MarrWhen people ask me on Lamplighter tours what my favorite thing about Baldwin is, I have always told them that it’s the history of the School. I’ve always loved that there are stories from decades ago that are set in the same classrooms where I’m making my own memories; it gives me a sense of sisterhood with all of the girls who came before me, who walked down the same hallways and sat at the same desks. Before this summer, I knew only the pieces of Baldwin’s history that I have heard from the Admissions team and from the alumnae who have spoken at assemblies. I had also gleaned snippets of information about student life at Baldwin from the decades of old yearbooks that are available in the Anne Frank Library; I spent many free periods sifting through the pages, picking my favorite senior quotes and attempting to understand what life was like at Baldwin forty and fifty years ago.

Pouring over the Prism yearbooks, I began to notice how astonishingly ahead of the times Baldwin students were in the 1950s in terms of women’s education. In the spring, I decided (in true Baldwin girl fashion) to spend the summer researching and writing about the radical nature of Baldwin education during that period, using the old Prisms as my primary sources. When I asked Ms. López-Carickhoff if I would be able to access the yearbooks over the summer, she invited me to join her and a small team of student interns in digitizing materials from the archives over the summer. I said “yes” immediately, and I couldn’t wait for school to let out so I could get started sifting through 127 years of photographs, records, and correspondence.

My first week in the archives was overwhelming! I was working together with Lolly Anapol, and we knew that we would have to begin developing an organizational system if we were to work through the thousands of stored photos and documents on the third floor. We spent hours learning the cataloging system developed for the archives in 1989. I decided to focus first on scanning selections from the ten boxes of catalogued photographs, as the 60+ boxes of written documents seemed daunting. In addition to the boxes of catalogued photos, we later discovered dozens of additional photo boxes and piles of polaroids scattered throughout the archives rooms.

As I began combing through the photo boxes, I couldn’t believe the snapshots I was finding. My favorites were the prom pictures from 1968 and 1969 – my first prom will be this year, and it was so incredible to see the same ritual played out by Baldwin students forty-seven years ago. I also loved seeing candid pictures of Baldwin girls having fun with each other between classes or after school. I felt such a connection with my predecessors who had the same experiences that I am having now. I read recollections written by alumnae, and they spoke of the same anxieties about homework, the same joy at having dances and parties, and the same guilty pleasure for the cafeteria cookies.

As I continued wading through the thousands of papers in the archives, I learned so many bits of information about life at Baldwin. I will forever have a surplus of information stored in my mind about my alma mater. Realistically, this will serve me no real purpose other than impressing other Baldwin students with how much I know about, for example, the history of flu epidemics on the campus. As I am a nerd, I immensely enjoyed every new item I discovered, and many of my friends can attest that I sent them multiple texts about the “coolest” new thing that I had learned. For example:

  • Ida Tarbell, the famous female journalist and muckraker, was the Commencement speaker in 1920
  • The 75th Anniversary of the school was celebrated with a conference on women’s roles, which included speakers such as Margaret Mead
  • Baldwin students were featured twice in Seventeen Magazine, in the 1970s and 80s
  • An alumna who went on to become a celebrated Broadway and Hollywood star in the 1930s used the name of a beloved Baldwin music teacher as a tribute

The information about our school’s past helped connect me to the generations of women who graduated before me and went on to achieve amazing things. I had always loved the history connected with Baldwin, but through my immersion in the archives I was able to create a fuller picture of what life was like at Baldwin so many years ago, and through that I feel like I am a part of this huge, connected story. I am so proud of the amount of information that the other interns and I have made available through the Baldwin Digital Archives project. I hope that by making this invaluable resource available online, more people will be able to discover the history of our school and benefit in the same way that I have.