A Cross Curricular, Multi-Grade Interactive Dinosaur Board

Written by Stephanie Greer, Lower School DREAM Lab ® Coordinator and Computer Science Department Chair, in collaboration with Andre Teixeira, Lower School Art Teacher and Department Chair of Visual Arts, Kindergarten Teachers Monica Henkel and Carol Beaverson, and Janice Tan, Lower School Science and DREAM Lab ® Teacher.

How the Interactive Dinosaur Board Came to Be: A (Super Cool) Cross Curricular, multi-grade, Lower School Collaboration

Hold your hand on the tin-foil covered top rail of the Interactive Dinoboard. Now, touch the metal brad next to any one of the dinosaurs that cover the Jurassic-themed landscape, and the voice of a kindergarten student comes over a speaker reciting the name of the dinosaur you’ve selected and providing you with a fact or two about the dinosaur.

The Interactive Dinoboard is the culmination of an on-going collaboration between ECC Sciene Teacher Janice Tan, Department Chair of Visual Arts and Lower School Art Andre Teixeira, Kindergarten Teachers Carol Beaverson and Monica Henkel and myself, Computer Science Department Chair and Lower School DREAM Lab® Coordinator. We started discussions for the board in January and finished just in time to display it at the School Maker Faire in April.

To create the board we implemented a divide and conquer approach:

Mrs. Beaverson and Mrs. Henkel assigned each kindergarten student a dinosaur. Working together with their teachers and their parents, each student became the expert of their dinosaur, reading about it and writing a prepared set of facts to share with the Baldwin community.

Meanwhile, during Art and DREAM Lab classes, the students created the artwork for the board. Mr. Teixeira prepared a unique dinosaur template for each student to cut and decorate. Cutting small details such as talons, wings and back plates can be very challenging for kindergarten-aged students who are still working to strengthen their developing fine motor skills. Mr. Teixeira encouraged the students to take their time to carefully cut the complicated dinosaur templates. Students also referenced pre-selected books and pictures to inform their decorating choices. To add a bit of whimsy to the work, the students finished each dinosaur off with googly eyes.

During lunch one day, Mr. Teixeira sketched an outline for the bulletin board, so that Janice Tan and I could begin developing the background of the board with students during DREAM Lab. The 16-foot landscape was then rolled across the DREAM Lab floor and students worked together to paint, color and collage the board. They even gave it a little extra depth and dimension by adding puffy white clouds made from polyfill.

By the time the artwork for the board was done, the students had finished preparing their dinosaur facts up in the ECC and creating their individual dinosaurs in art class. We reviewed the concept of horizon lines, perspective and habitat, and each student selected a position for their dinosaur on the board.

Over the following two DREAM Lab class periods, Mrs. Tan worked with students rehearsing their facts and preparing them, while I recorded their voices down the hall in a quiet space. Using a USB microphone and the Garageband app, I recorded and saved each student’s voice. The students’ faces lit up as they learned to speak clearly into a microphone and then listened back to their recorded voices. They were each allowed to record multiple takes and they were encouraged to choose their favorite recording for the board.

At last, all the pieces were in place. All that remained was the addition of the technology. Here’s where our project stalled – for a few weeks, the board sat lifeless and incomplete, an unfinished promise, propped against the DREAM Lab wall. I knew I could easily finish the board in just a few hours and have it up and running, but it seemed like that would be such a lost opportunity. I wanted to have students do the work, but it wasn’t a task suited for a whole class. Serendipitously, my after-school Maker Club started up, and five fourth-grade students who had already had an extensive unit on building circuits were enrolled. Perfect! I approached them with the idea of finishing the board for the School Maker Faire and they were excited and on board.

During the next two after-school club meetings, the five fourth-graders built two computers, soldered multiple cables, organized and ran and insulated all the wiring (a significant amount), and programmed the computers they had built to recognize Makey Makey key-on messages to trigger audio files. They finished the board just in time for the School Maker Faire and it was a beautiful thing. When it all worked as it should and managed to survive a day of hands-on exploration from visitors at the School Maker Faire, we knew the project was a success.

Collaborating on this project improved our time efficiency and magnified one another’s teacher gifts. It provided us a context to model Baldwin’s core values and to provide rich learning opportunities for our students. Mrs. Tan and I only see Kindergarten students once a week for 30 minutes. Had we tried to complete this project in isolation we would have had to allocate months of instructional time rather than a few weeks. Mr. Teixeira drew the landscape for the bulletin board free hand in under 10 minutes. Tapping into his talent and expertise saved us hours of time we would have spent trying to figure out how to get the job done. (I will never forget watching him effortlessly draw a 16-foot sketch in the amount of time it took me to eat a sandwich. Mind blown!) Mrs. Beaverson and Mrs. Henkel set the tone for our collaboration, introducing students to the core content and providing the academic foundation for the experience. They invited parents into the project and extended the collaboration beyond school walls. By working inclusively and collaboratively, we provided a model of a community working together for the benefit of others. Older students supported younger students and they felt a sense of pride knowing they had done so. These are just a few of the positive outcomes of the collaboration.

For fellow educators and collaborators:

If you are interested in undertaking a collaborative project with a few other teachers, but you don’t have much experience doing so, here are a few tips to help ensure your success:

  1. At the start of a project, sit together and create clear and measurable goals. Who will do what and by what time? Then, communicate regularly regarding your progress. How is your piece of the puzzle coming along? Do you need support? Do you need more time? Let your collaborators know. Vulnerability is key.
  2. Be flexible. You may need to adjust expectations throughout the process. Sometimes you may think a goal has been clearly defined, but the goal may have been interpreted differently by your collaborators. When that comes up, see if you can go with the flow and be solution oriented. Embrace the work your collaborators have done rather than wish for work they have not done. Be ready for timelines to shift occasionally.
  3. Have a sense of humor or a playful spirit. Just remember not to take everything too seriously.

If you have an idea for a collaboration and you aren’t sure where to start, please consider reaching out to me. I am happy to collaborate with you on projects, or to facilitate your initial planning of a collaboration with other members of our community.

Innovative Professional Development

In order to innovate in the classroom, teachers must continually expose themselves to new ideas and learn new practices. Over 75% of our faculty participate in some form of off-site professional development throughout the year, attending workshops, classes and conferences around the country and indeed, around the world. They bring what they’ve learned back to their departments and classroom, often implementing new lessons and new approaches to keep their teaching on the cutting edge. Some of our faculty have participated in activities that are more extensive and often require an application process just to attend.  Below are a few of these opportunities our faculty took advantage of over the summer.  They include travel to England, Maine and New Hampshire as well as opportunities in our own backyard. All involved hands-on and minds-on activities that challenge teachers to think differently and see new perspectives.

sullivan_and_ameisonHistory Teacher Lisa Ameisen and English Teacher Melissa Sullivan participated in the Oxbridge Teacher Seminar Program at Mansfield College, Oxford, this July. Working with colleagues from North America, Europe and Africa, Lisa studied contemporary challenges in educational leadership, while Melissa explored British literature of the fantastic and its connections to the University of Oxford. Each morning, seminar participants began with classes, which often included field trips to places such as a local British independent school, C.S. Lewis’ home or the Oxford University Press. Afternoons were reserved for lectures by distinguished faculty, visits to the Bodleian Library and cream teas. After dinner and evening events such as a Shakespeare play, participants went back to their dorm rooms and finished their homework for the next morning’s class. The week was an opportunity for renewal, diverse perspectives, deep conversations and (with all of the homework) a reminder of what our students’ lives are like on a day-to-day basis.

Kindergarten Teachers Carol Beaverson and Monica Henkel participated in a program by the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Education department, which offers K – 12 teachers of all subject areas the chance to immerse themselves in the Museum’s collections and explore the special nature of art and its use as a classroom resource. The title of this year’s VAST program was Driving Creativity.

Over the course of a week, they participated in lectures, gallery sessions, hands-on sessions, facilitated discussions and reflections related to teaching for creativity. One of the most interesting lectures was given by Bob and Michele Root-Bernstein, co-authors of Sparks of Genius. The Root-Bernstein’s stressed that children need to be given ample opportunity to explore and play imaginatively throughout childhood. These childhood experiences can lead to more creative problem solving throughout the whole of life. Other lecturers explored the importance of giving students ample opportunity to work collaboratively and to develop/ask open questions. Children who develop good questioning skills become better problem solvers.

IMG_0046Grade 3 Teacher Peter Greenhalgh, Lower School DREAM Lab Coordinator Stephanie Greer and Computer Science Teaching Fellow Katie Burke attended the Constructing Modern Knowledge (CMK) week-long professional development opportunity, which was an amazing week of group maker space learning.  Peter spent several days with 5 teachers from across the country building a giant hydraulic hand that would play Maynard Ferguson Jazz using Makey Makey and computer coding. He had the opportunity to observe and collaborate with other teams working on a variety of STEAM projects. Katie worked with fellow educators to create virtual rain animations using the Microsoft Kinect and Processing. The group also spent an afternoon at the MIT Media Lab and heard speeches from Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, and Eric Rosenbaum, co-creator of the Makey Makey and developer for Scratch.

Katie also attended the National Computer Science Teacher’s Association Conference in Baltimore. Highlights of CSTA included the Girls Who Code and Hummingbird workshops and the keynote speaker, Freeman Hrabowski III, President of Maryland University.

IMG-6288English Teacher Kelly Zemaitis spent a week at Columbia University with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP). Most of her time was spent with other Middle School English teachers where they learned how to elevate their reading curriculum. Some topics studied included creating a community of readers, using reader’s notebooks effectively, teaching nonfiction, one-on-one conferencing/small group work and refining the mini-lesson, as well as a plethora of other topics.

Haystack 4Art Teacher Kristin Brown had the opportunity to study and create art at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, ME. She made collaborative art for two weeks with the only distraction being the natural surroundings. She was able to hone her skills as a printmaker, carving wood blocks by hand and using a laser cutter to create plates from which to print. The class she took worked as a team to illustrate the alphabet. According to Kristin, it was a great experience to come together with 10 strangers to produce a body of work.

Finding the Art in Science

Written by Dr. Karen Z. Lancaster, Teacher of  Biology and Advanced Molecular and Cellular Biology

Science in Art (13)In March, students in Baldwin’s Advanced Topics (AT) Biology class had the opportunity to enhance their neuroscience unit through nontraditional mediums, including a neuroscience symposium, guided human brain dissection and a field trip to the Mütter Museum that included a workshop on the brain. Students were also challenged to connect science with art by exploring careers in medical illustration and art in science research.

To kick off this series, AT Biology hosted four world class researchers from the University of Pennsylvania to discuss their projects within diverse fields of neuroscience research. The speakers discussed topics ranging from the effects of elevated alcohol intake on the dopamine reward system, the effects of flavorants in e-cigarettes to nicotine addiction, mapping brain circuits that regulate anxiety and influence addiction, to optogenetic approaches for investigating the neurobiology of pain. Click here for more information.

Following the symposium, Baldwin invited Dr. Brian Balin from the College of Osteopathic Medicine to present on Alzheimer’s disease. After a discussion on mechanisms thought to contribute to the disease and other neurodegenerative diseases in general, he led a guided dissection of the human brain. Students were given the opportunity to compare and contrast healthy brain tissue against degenerative specimens.

To conclude the series, Baldwin’s AT class visited Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, where they were allowed to explore exhibits of their interest and participate in an hour-long workshop on the brain. During the workshop, students learned about different brain diseases while also looking at interesting case studies and pathology specimens. After learning about these diseases, students were provided brain samples and asked to diagnose the diseases present.

Finally students were challenged to engage both the right and left brains in science by creating any artistic piece that encompassed medical illustration or art in science research. The submissions were as diverse as our Baldwin girls. We had some phenomenal medical illustrations by Gillian Chestnut ‘17, Madeleine Marr ‘17, Anika Iyer ‘17 and Olivia Lanchoney ‘17. Gillian depicted an accurate before and after injury illustration of an ACL tear. Madeleine constructed a video montage complete with sound track of her dental reconstruction. Anika drew a slightly caricatured picture of an HIV particle highlighting the tertiary protein structure, and Olivia chose the brain as her muse, depicting multiple layers of organization and angles of the many varied regions of the brain.

We also had poetry submissions contributed by Jessica Zhang ‘17, Georgia Spies ‘17 and Madison Sanders ‘17. Jessica contributed three submissions, each a little vignette of a different neurotransmitter, accurately evoking the feel and nervous system function of each. Georgia also chose the brain for her poem and 3D printed an anatomically correct brain to accompany her work. Madison’s poem became the backdrop of our gallery as she recorded herself performing her poem on the brain soul connection.

Pallavi Sreedhar ‘17 and Angela Smith ‘17 both made models of the nervous system. Pallavi focused on the molecular synapse while Angela zoomed out and depicted the specialized functions of the lobes of the cerebral cortex.

Alexa Bartels ‘17 reflected on her family trait of blue eyes to construct a pedigree chart showing how a recessive genetic trait appears more often than predicted in her family lineage. Sally Chen ‘17 was a unique piece where she made an interactive flip work of the major organ systems in a Baldwin girl. Roya Alidjani ‘17 collected and stained her own cheek cells and then took pictures of them under the microscope. In a nod to Andy Warhol she presented variations of her cells with different colored dyes.

Last but not least, two incredibly artistic drawings were submitted by Lilly Tang ‘17 and Annie Xu ‘17. Lilly constructed an anatomically accurate human head and skull artistically intertwined with an underwater scene while Annie submitted a fun and creative steampunk heart. Congrats on all the hard work to a truly outstanding group of Baldwin seniors and thank you to Sumi Mudgil ‘17 for her contributions to the article.

View a media gallery of the ‘Art in Science’ exhibit.

Middle School’s ‘Survival Challenge’

Written by Ryan Barnes, Coordinator of the Middle School DREAM Lab ® and co-organizer of the ‘Baldwin Survival Challenge’.

MS Survival Project Part 2 (14)Last year, the Middle School introduced a brand new experience, known simply as “It Isn’t Easy Being Green.” It was an opportunity for our girls to experience new things, and learn outside of their academic classrooms, all while making awesome things. With the theme of “green technology,” the girls navigated challenges like designing efficient wind turbines, creating effective water filters and building geodesic domes.

This year, we continued our newly formed tradition, again taking the time to break away from classes just before winter break to learn something entirely new, and learn simply by doing. This year, our theme took the form of “Survivor,” creating experiences focused around survival and natural disasters. The theme, and many of the new features of this project, were informed by the sage feedback from all of our participants last year.

They had the opportunity to take the role of FEMA representative in a game titled “Model FEMA.” Through their knowledge of natural disasters, groups earned the funds needed to purchase the kind of mitigating infrastructure that would help prevent serious and costly damage by natural disasters. Complete with its own “Disaster Simulator,” Model FEMA proved to be a challenge that showed the girls how difficult it can be to predict and plan for mother nature.

In the Science Building, students worked to design and build model passive solar homes. These homes had to be carefully designed to soak up and maintain as much heat as possible. The homes that proved to be most efficient were crafted to use all of the materials in their best possible way.

Down in the spacious MPR, they took on the task of building the gold standard in survival shelters, a lean-to. Armed only with a pile of bamboo reeds, and plenty of twine, students crafted structures to house their entire homeroom group. With a whole lot of knot tying, testing and teamwork, teams managed to build amazing, innovative structures.

On the third floor, the whir of robots echoed as students took the role of rescue robot pilots. Tasked with solving multiple challenges, students had to think outside the box and work with their teammates. Through real world programming and custom made video monitoring, students lived the experience of being robot pilots.

Along the way, teams earned materials based on their performance during each activity. These materials were used to construct a raft. Using cardboard, duct tape, pool noodles and paddles, students crafted boats for the final challenge —a  chaotic and crazy race across the pool.  

These activities serve as an incredible opportunity for our girls to break away from the classroom, work with their peers across the grades and gain new and unique experiences that aren’t often seen in school. Through these opportunities, the girls work on different kinds of skills. Collaboration, persistence, creativity, innovation and leadership were all pushed to their limits throughout the project. In the Middle School, we strive to ensure our girls not only grow academically, but as individuals as well. It is these skills and opportunities that ensure we strive to educate the whole of our students, from academics to life skills and everything inbetween.

The Baldwin School would like to extend a special thanks to the faculty team that lead this effort, for without them, this project could have never become a reality. So thank you dearly to Ryan Barnes, Kelly Zematis, Bridget Doherty, Kristin Brown, Margaret Epstein and Matthew Bunn.

What We Did Over the Summer

Written by Dr. Laura Blankenship, Dean of Academic Affairs

Myriam Harvey lead a 9-day trip to Peru for Upper School Spanish classes in June.

When I was in school, we often had to write a “What I Did Over the Summer” essay during the first few days of school. I’m sure many of us did, and I’m sure many of us filled the page with descriptions of leisurely activities like swimming, hiking, or just watching tv. While faculty do have the opportunity to get in those leisurely activities, many are just as likely to have spent some portion of their summer participating in workshops or classes, attending conferences, reading new materials for their courses, or redesigning their curriculum. What follows are some of the highlights of the activities our faculty participated in that ultimately create a better educational experience for our students.

Kathy Gates (3rd grade) and Christie Reed (Science) both traveled and did work under the Reed Fellowship. Christie received the fellowship for the 14-15 school year and Kathy received it for the 15-16 school year. Kathy spent time traveling to National Parks while Christie continued her work at the Biology Institute at Exeter. There will be a more extensive overview of their work coming soon.

Athena Anthopoulos (4th grade) spent three weeks in Greece visiting her family and spending time with her two daughters. In addition to some rest and relaxation, Athena also visited museums and historic sites. She also observed and learned from the austerity measures that the Greek population finds themselves under. She says she is already making changes at home to curb the wasteful use of valuable resources and plans to bring some of those ideas into her classroom.

Stephanie Greer (LS DREAM Lab coordinator) was very busy this summer. First, she went to Constructing Modern Knowledge, where she spent the week prototyping, programming, networking, attending lectures and fully immersing herself as a learner. One of the highlights of the workshop was when she had dinner with Carla Rinaldi (of the Reggio Schools in Italy). It was a very special night, she says, as she is a fan of both Carla and the Reggio approach to learning on which she had spoken. She also attended a conference on the Question Formulation Technique, a process she’ll be sharing with the rest of the Lower School faculty and she visited a company that makes a machine that will allow us to upcycle 3D filament as part of her plans to make her classes more environmentally friendly.

Monica Henkel and Carol Beaverson (Kindergarten) attended a class at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Unlocking Creativity. They learned about fostering creativity in students and incorporating playful learning into their classes. They heard from world-class educators and participated in hands-on activities such as creating a Rube Goldberg Machine that encourages creative problem solving. They took away several important messages. From Scott Barry Kaufman, Scientific Director of the Imagination Institute at University of Pennsylvania, they were encouraged to rethink the definition of educational success and the ways in which education might stifle creativity. And from Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Temple University Professor of Psychology, they learned to appreciate the importance of play in the learning process, especially when it comes to interpersonal and collaborative skills.

Anne-Mette Hansell (5th grade) and Kathy Gates (3rd grade) attended a workshop on Google Apps for Education at the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit. The workshop focused on educational strategies, identified differentiated strategies within Google’s suite of tools and gave the participants an opportunity to experience Google Classroom from a student’s perspective. For more about Google Apps, check out this video.

Lynn Cohen, Christy Renninger, Barb Cass, and Jen Lee (Middle School Math) all worked together to develop curriculum for the new math sequence in Middle School. They created more hands-on activities and plan to leverage tools such as Khan Academy in order to further support student learning and to provide opportunities for review and challenge as needed. Lynn Cohen worked on strategies to support the MS teachers within the classroom, further assisting in differentiation for students. Christy Renninger also spent a good portion of her time developing the new Micro and Macro Economics classes, which she is very much looking forward to teaching.

As part of researching new approaches to the math curriculum, Jen Lee attended the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of Mathematics where she learned about some new techniques for teaching math, both hands on and online. She learned about foldable notes, an interactive physical method for taking and interacting with notes. She also discovered that Rubik’s Cube has a lending program and will be borrowing 30 Rubik’s Cubes to use with her students.

Matthew Bunn used his grant money to purchase some new books and spent time developing the new 8th grade History course. Thanks to Baldwin’s support, he was able to complete the curriculum for all seven of his units!

Kristen Brown (Art), Gabbie Alvarez-Spychalski (Spanish), Cindy Lapinski (MS Director), and Katie Burke (Computer Science) went to the MCRC session with Rosetta Lee and Alexandra Scott. Kristen had seen Rosetta Lee before, but appreciate hearing some of the same topics again. And she was impressed with Alexandra Scott’s discussion of supporting transgender students.

Lauren Friedman-Way (Library) attended Columbia Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Project where she learned specific strategies for teaching Reading and Writing. Her big take-home was following: “[E]very student is capable of greatness, but we have to measure that greatness by the abilities of the individual student; that every child works harder when praised for what they did right instead of scolded for what they did wrong; that we have to manage our expectations of our students, while still keeping them high – you have to go into your class assuming that all of your students will rise to your expectations, instead of going in assuming that they will probably fail; and that being a student is hard!”

Aileen McCulloch (Drama) participated in an online course, called Untangled – Educating Adolescent Girls led by Lisa Damour, the author of the book Untangled. She found it tremendously enlightening and recommends the book itself to parents and teachers. She especially learned a lot about the ways middle school girls interact with each other and their parents and how we tend to make some of the changes girls naturally go through into a negative, when we don’t do the same for boys. I highly recommend talking to Aileen about her experience and to look for more details coming out on the blog soon!

Caedmon Haas (Latin) attended Rusticatio Virginiana, a one-week program in which participants pledge to speak, read, and write entirely in Latin for the duration of their stay. She improved her oral proficiency in the language and gained many strategies for using “active” (i.e., spoken and heard) Latin to generate higher levels of student engagement and achievement. One of the official “work” sessions each day had participants reading texts from 100 BCE to 1800 CE (all about Africa; that was this year’s theme), and she came away with a renewed sense of Latin’s importance to cultural continuity in the West.

Vicky Gold (Art) attended a class on making different kinds of books. The class was intense, 9 hours each day. She made 7 different types of folded books, and 3 bound books, a Mongolian Board Book, a Pyramid Book and an Accordion Book. She learned about various inks and techniques to make decorative papers. She cut stencils, made mono prints and layered images on top of the decorative papers. She learned about many different kinds of paste, inks and tools. Every day was a completely new experience. She looks forward to sharing what she learned with her students.

Katie Burke (Computer Science) participated in an online class called Introduction to Independent Schools. New to independent schools, Katie thought it would be important to find out more about the culture and expectations found in independent school classrooms.

With his grant money, Fred Kountz (History) purchased books for his already extensive collection and traveled to the Holocaust museum in D.C. in preparation for his elective on the Holocaust. He hopes to have students visit the museum and conduct research in the library.

Caitlin McLane (History) spent her summer working on curriculum for the new 9th grade Modern World History course. She worked with fellow 9th grade History teachers Ingrid Herrera and Matthew Bunn to lay out the units, transfer the resources from the current 10th grade Modern World History course, and create new, developmentally appropriate assignments and assessments for 9th graders. Ingrid and Caitlin also spent time discussing essential study skills and discipline-specific history skills that they want their new 9th grade course to teach. Along with her work on the 9th grade course, Caitlin spent time revising and building out my elective on Modern East Asian History and attending two professional development conferences: Facing History and Ourselves seminar “The Reconstruction Era and the Fragility of Democracy” in Brookline, MA and Gilder Lehrman’s seminar on World War I in New York City.

Gretchen Boger (History) traveled to France and Switzerland where she visited the sites related to John Calvin and the Protestant Reformation. She was able to see the churches Calvin established for early Protestants and the Huguenots, and a museum documenting much of the Reformation’s Geneva-specific history. In Paris, Gretchen particularly valued an exhibit at the Shoah Memorial Museum about women of the French Resistance. Finally, she spent the third leg of her trip in Normandy, visiting the D-Day beaches, as well as Impressionist sites and the ancient abbey of Mont St. Michel, where she was able to witness Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France.

Josiane Mariette (French) attended the Oxbridge program’s seminar in Paris where she met other French teachers and spent time discussing curriculum and strategies for teaching French. Josiane noted that the teachers were from a wide variety of backgrounds, so she got to hear many different points of view about the teaching of the French language.

Myriam Harvey (Spanish) used the Blair D. Stambaugh Award for Student and Faculty Enrichment grant to lead a 9-day trip to Peru for Upper School Spanish classes in June. The journey began in Peru’s capital city of Lima.There the students spent 2 days learning about the fusion of several ancient civilizations with the Spanish conquest and the city’s evolution into its current contemporary state. Then they flew to Cuzco where the students spent 3 days learning about the Incan Empire. In Cuzco, they explored the ruins of Ollantaytambo and Sacsayhuaman before traveling by train to Machu Picchu. The journey ended in Puno, where they took a boat ride on Lake Titicaca and visited the Taquile and Uros islands. The students spent 3 days visiting indigenous communities living on the floating islands. Most important, the students and Myriam experienced first-hand the importance of learning language and history outside of the classroom.

Adrian Cox (Athletics) directed the Baldwin Summer Select soccer program for U10 and 11 girls. The program ran for five weeks in June and July on Lower Field and attracted over 35 players from the area. The teams trained two evenings per week and played in two tournaments in Lancaster, PA and Fort Dix, NJ. Baldwin varsity soccer players Lauren Bracken ’19 and Celia Page ’19 were assistant coaches in the inaugural program. Megan Adelman’ 23, Violet Paiva ’23 and Gabrielle Reiser ’24 participated in the program and did a fantastic job. The program was a big success and in 2017 there will be teams offered in the U9-13 age groups.

Mira Ramchandani (Jewelry) enrolled in a stone setting class. It was a one-on-one hands-on workshop that focused on four different types of stone settings.  Settings included a pre-made tube setting, claw settings and a four-pronged setting to a rectangular faceted stone. The class was one of the more advanced and fun classes that she has taken in a long time.  She plans to show the girls how to set faceted stones and inspire them to be creative not only in working with metals but in stone setting as well.

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.

The Actors Behind the Stage Door

We asked several of our actresses to talk about their experience with the Masker’s production of Behind the Stage Door, the last play to be held in Baldwin’s Grey Gym.

Behind the Stage Door (12)Why was this play chosen?

“I think the musical was a quick, yet also cute and fun piece. …It still turned out to be a musical that evoked laughter, tears, and joy.” -Katie Phillips ’17

“This musical was a fun mash-up of many different songs from different musicals. This was a fun way to make up an entertaining story line and sing songs that the audience knows very well.” -Annie Xu ’17

What are you most excited about when it comes to performing in the Simpson Center?

“…We will have a place where we can have a home for all of our performing arts. I am also excited to have full seating and a sound and lighting board for all of our shows. I hope that the Simpson Center will get everyone excited to come to all of the shows that will happen there in the future!!!” -Cristina Artis ’17

How long have you been involved in theater and why do you love it?

“I’ve been acting for about 8 years and I love it so much. Musical theater lets me express myself in some way other than talking, and embodying other characters gives me a chance to see life through another person’s perspective.” -Katie P.

“I have been involved in acting since I was in kindergarten and I love music and dancing. I love theater because it helps me express myself through movement and voice, two of my favorite kinds of art. The fact that I am able to participate in musicals make me very happy and I hope I can continue to do so.” -Cristina A.

“I’ve been in musicals since middle school, and I have been in a performing ensemble since I was 6 years old. I love being on stage and performing because of the teamwork that has to happen on and off stage and the friendships that I’ve made participating in shows and performances.” -Annie X.

Connectedness, Relationships, and Community

Written by guest blogger and Grade V teacher Anne-Mette Hansell

20150325_071204 Baldwin is indeed a global school. Over Spring Break, Baldwin students and teachers traveled together to just about every corner of the globe. One such trip was the Upper School Music Exchange with Ordrup Gymnasium in suburban Copenhagen, Denmark. Over the years we have developed a strong relationship with Ordrup Gymnasium. Our relationship began with the friendships made through the universal language of music. The exchange developed into an additional smaller exchange where students discuss and compare the two countries, their social structures, educational systems, etc., and this year Baldwin’s singers were joined by the Haverford School’s Notables to participate in the music exchange with Ordrup Gymnasium. These exchange programs are the keys to our global connectedness, to the relationships we build, and to a clear sense of being parts of the global community around us. It starts with friendships.

This time the students stayed with host families and traveled everywhere the way the Danes do, by train, by bus, and always by foot! This was a rich and authentic experience for our students because we stayed with families, we made friends, and we got around like everyone else.

The students were invited into the homes of students at Ordrup Gymnasium. These students are all members of Ordrup Gymnasium’s B-Sharp musical performance group and thus share a love of music and song with us. We all rehearsed together at Ordrup Gymnasium to get ready to sing together at our joint concert at Ordrup Kirke. You make friends when you have a common goal and work together. The concert in Ordrup Kirke for host parents, the local community, and Ordrup Gymnasium’s Board of Trustees was a fantastic success. The atmosphere was nothing short of electric and clearly American students and Danish students alike had found their voices and connectedness in making beautiful music together. The performers, regardless of nationality, became a community.

20150327_110420During the week, students were invited to join classes at Ordrup Gymnasium and first hand got to see how culturally specific education really is. We followed the rhythm of the school day together and our students went home with their host students. Most days our students were picked up later in the evening because we had been on the road for performances or sightseeing. Phone calls, texts, and rides are much like at home. Every single pick-up took place seamlessly and quickly. The students were clearly happy to see one another again in the evening. Their parents were too. Our students were good guests. Their hosts were caring families, who now feel comfortable about their sons and daughters traveling to Baldwin and Haverford in November of this year.

We had planned several performances during our stay in Ordrup. It is about finding one’s voice in front of a large audience, about becoming connected to the audience through the music, and about finding the community which, like us, deeply appreciates music, song, and gorgeous voices. We found all that and more. We found it in Lyngby Kirke, a beautiful church from 1100 C.E. Yes, it’s an old church, rich in history, but also an active part of the local community. That community came to hear the young Americans and they did not leave disappointed. The students again connected with real and local Danes at Rigshospitalet. Rigshospitalet is the University Hospital of Denmark and the foremost research hospital for all of Denmark, Greenland, and the Faeroe Islands. Any short or long stay there will go through the Main Hall, where our students performed and clearly lifted the spirits of many! Our last formal concert took place in the most impressive venue, Frederiksborg Slot. The castle was built in the 1600 by King Christian IV. It is a beautiful renaissance castle in Hilleroed, north of Copenhagen. The gorgeous voices of our students matched the beautiful castle church with it’s exquisite artwork and acoustics. Again this time, students connected with the well known Danish organist, Sven-Ingvart Mikkelsen. You’ll be able to hear Sven-Ingvart Mikkelsen here in the spring of 2016 when he tours the U.S. Accompanied by Sven-Ingvart on the Frederiksborg Castle church’s world renowned organ, the students sang Mozart’s Requiem for a most appreciative audience, who had braved the cold and rainy Danish spring to hear the Americans. It’s now a tradition that we continue on to dinner at Grete Liv Andersen’s and Asgeir Gudmonsson’s farm.

The students enjoyed the Icelandic ponies, the beautiful landscape, and the lovely farm. Grete had made Danish delicacies for us, which were consumed with gusto. You work up an appetite traveling by train and foot to sightsee and perform! As the stomachs felt better and our bodies felt warm again, so did the voices in the barn/studio with its high ceiling.

Over the years we have developed a relationship with Ordrup Gymnasium, we have made friends with students, teachers, and administration alike. We appreciate our connectedness and our mutual ability to provide global insight and understanding for one another’s students. We saw it at work, felt it in our hearts and bones at the Open Mic night in Ordrup Gymnasium’s new cantina. There was no end to the line of eager performers, to the palpable inspiration which spurred more performers to try out their craft and newfound performance voices. At 10PM we had to call it a night. My favorite were the performances by Danes and Americans, together. The Americans and the Danes had connected, they had built a relationship, and they had become a community. They can’t wait to see each other again in November.

Considering the World of Online Classrooms

Written by Janice Wilke, Visual Arts Teacher and Art Department Chair

During the summer I enrolled in a professional development course with the Online School for Girls. The course, entitled Introduction to Teaching Online, was a four-week class requiring about six hours of work per week.  Perhaps you’re wondering why an art teacher would spend precious summer studio time exploring some do’s and don’ts of online teaching– a more than reasonable question.

The obvious reason is that I am interested in adding a facet to the art history classes, but I was also looking for new avenues for our interdisciplinary classes. As a small school with an impressive array of course offerings, we have difficulty scheduling two (or more) teachers in the same room at the same time. I was wondering if a possible solution might be for one teacher to be “online.”

The guidelines for a successful online class are similar to successful face-to-face teaching, but a bit more stringent: online teaching is less forgiving. Organization is key–expectations must be clearly stated at the outset and there should be a discernable rhythm to the work load and due dates. Keep the introductory presentations short and highlight student collaboration. In an independent learning setting, timely teacher response is a major factor in student motivation.

As interesting as this was, and as much as I enjoyed re-thinking my class content for online presentation, I found myself renewed for our face-to-face classes and our passion here at Baldwin for cultivating in-class, synchronous discussions and creating respectful relationships. A family-type feeling can develop online (I have experienced it as a student) but there is nothing like a family sitting down, so to speak, and having dinner together.

Both these strains of thought (the opportunities and advantages presented by online interaction and the delightful proximity of creative individuals) were brought together for me, by a chance conversation–as so often happens. I was sitting next to our new jewelry teacher, Mira Ramchandani, at the lunch table, and she mentioned how she was thinking of using Haiku for her studio classes. Haiku for studio work? (What will these technology natives think of next?) As students are avidly pursuing their art during the studio time, they could have a running critical conversation about influences and possibilities–examples included–online. I had not thought of that!

So here we have it–the possibilities and teaching spaces of online interaction and those irreplaceable relationships with students and colleagues in a real-world, timely setting. I am very happy to have a new teaching “tool” under my belt. But I am happier still to be using that teaching tool in the community we have here.

The Hills Were Alive With the Sound of Music

Written by guest blogger and Lower School Music Teacher Angela Bensinger


I vividly remember watching “The Sound of Music” in the movie theater for the first time as a little girl. I sang all the way home.

And along with many other young girls at the time, I dreamed that I would someday be like Julie Andrews and sing in “The Sound of Music.” Although that initial dream did not come true, I finally came close when I had the opportunity to play Mother Abbess in The Baldwin School’s production this Spring. This was truly an experience that I will never forget.

Baldwin’s theater department has presented several productions in the past that have included faculty and staff members. I was also fortunate to be a part of “The Boyfriend” under the direction of Lois Goutman in 1993. This season, in honor of Baldwin School’s 125th year, our theater department chair, Cynthia Angst, took on the challenge of presenting a production that involved faculty, students, and guest performers from other schools in the area. She chose a musical that people of all ages could relate to and that would bring the school together as a community. This not only provided a bonding experience for the cast but also allowed us to get to know the directors, stage crew, and other helpers from the many school divisions. It was fun for us to meet and spend time with people from other areas of the school whom we otherwise may not have crossed paths with.

Playing a nun posed some challenges beyond hitting the high notes. The costume alone took some getting used to, and I now have much more empathy for anyone wearing a wimple. The students really enjoyed seeing some of their teachers walking through the hallways dressed in their costumes. In addition to such creative costumes, we shared in the transformation of the gym into a stage. In a matter of two weeks we were transported to the hills of Austria, as we all learned very quickly how to adjust to working with the set, props, lighting, and sound.

We practiced for many days and spent many fun-filled moments together, sharing a musical experience that has created an unforgettable bond for all of us. Through our temporary connection with the Van Trapp family, we became an even closer Baldwin family. “The Sound of Music” provided the very type of community building experience that makes Baldwin the wonderful place that it is!