A Study of Historical French Women Inspires Cross-Collaboration

Written by Josiane Mariette, Upper School French and Arabic teacher and Language Department Chair.

When I was awarded the Reed Fellowship for excellence in teaching, I began searching for an opportunity that focuses on the empowerment of women. I discovered a program at The Sorbonne University, a one-week seminar on the role of French women in French history and their influence on politics, diplomacy, the arts and literature. I took advantage of this great opportunity to enhance my teaching practices and enrich the French curriculum.

The seminar highlighted numerous themes such as: the role of French women in the history of France; their contributions to diplomacy; the evolution of the perception of the female body; the perception of the Parisian woman between myth and reality and the specificities of female writing.

These women were influential during important moments in the history of France, such as the French Revolution of 1789, World War II and those who played a prominent role in the French Resistance during the German occupation and the transformation of French society after the events of May 1968 to the present day. This included Madame de Pompadour, one of the most influential women of 18th century France and a member of the court of King Louis XV, having been close to the king and his advisor. There was Marie-Louise d’Autriche, whose marriage to Napoléon I helped to establish a period of peace between Austria and the French Empire. We discussed Marie Curie, the famous Nobel Prize winning physicist and Chemist, having won the Nobel prize twice.

We talked about Olympe de Gouges, a women’s rights advocate who wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen in 1791. She promoted the equality of men and women and was later executed by guillotine. Simone de Beauvoir was a feminist philosopher and the famous writer of Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex), discussing the realities of women throughout history. Anne Hidalgo is the current Mayor of Paris and first woman to hold this position. We also discussed Simone Veil, a French stateswoman and a survivor of the Holocaust who became a lawyer, politician and Minister of Health. She was the first woman elected president of the European Parliament who became a member of the Constitutional Council of France, and of the prestigious French Academy.

My Advanced Topics French 5 students read Simone Veils’ autobiography, Une vie, and learned about her unimaginable personal experience of the Holocaust. The book details her pre-war happy childhood in Nice, France, her deportation to the concentration camps, her horrific experience in Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen, and the loss of her parents and brother while in captivity. She was able to overcome adversity through her strength and remarkable contributions to French society in helping others, especially French women, whom she assisted to pursue their rights. The girls were inspired by her resilience, perseverance and courage.

We saw an opportunity for cross-departmental collaboration – my students joined with students in the senior history elective titled The Holocaust to broaden their studies. Our French class gave a presentation on Une vie. Students in the history class presented brief historical overviews on antisemitism in France before the Second World War, the German invasion and occupation of France, the roundup and deportation of Jews to Auschwitz and the French resistance.

I genuinely thank my colleague, Fred Kountz, for his collaboration in this cross-departmental effort. Without his contributions and knowledge, this project would have not been possible.

While exploring Paris I was also able to connect with the Pasteur Institute to plan a visit to the Pasteur Museum for our students who are participating in the French Exchange Program this spring. As they love science, it is another wonderful way to inspire collaboration across disciplines.

Orienteering: Lessons Learned From Nature

In a world of cell phones, GPS units and technological tools for just about everything, knowing how to read a physical map is becoming a lost skill. Third grade teacher Kathy Gates has incorporated the art of topography into her curriculum, and in doing so discovered the many benefits of bringing nature into the classroom.

In the spring of 2001, Kathy attended a conference held by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and took a workshop dedicated to outdoor education options in math. Along with other methods, they learned about orienteering, a type of sport that requires navigational skills using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain whilst moving at speed. Participants are given a topographical map, usually a specially prepared orienteering map, which they use to find control points. The goal is to locate the controls in the fastest amount of time.

Thanks to a generous donation from a Baldwin family, Kathy purchased compasses and controls, which are 3-dimensional flags you place along the course. After contacting the Delaware Valley Orienteering Association, Kathy first introduced her students to this exciting program in the fall of 2001. After several years, she learned to set up the course herself.

As the girls venture into the woods at Ridley Creek State Park, their main focus is that they won’t be able to rely on familiar technology to find their way. But the beauty is that it’s a multi-faceted learning experience. Along with learning to use a compass and read a map, they’re using mental math – using the scale on the map to estimate how far you need to travel. They’re honing their sense of direction. They’re enjoying the outdoor exercise that comes with hiking. They’re also applying what they learn in other classes – science covers landforms and waterforms and the topography of PA, and they bring that knowledge onto the course.

They work in groups of four, shadowed by a teacher, and work to find the control before their other classmates. When they go off course, they aren’t automatically corrected. Instead, they’re asked questions that prompt critical thinking and collaboration to get back in the right direction. At the end of their journey, they’re asked to reflect on what they’ve learned in a journal.

The world is constantly evolving and progressing, and so should the classroom. Lower School science teacher Becky Lewis is interested in the benefits of using a map versus a GPS unit and decided to join the program this year to give students the experience of both. The first half of the course was spent using the compasses, the second half the units. The girls loved using both tools and discovered that map readers still had to use problem-solving strategies to help interpret instrument readings.

“What we found is that if the girls learn how to read a printed map and they become spatially and directionally savvy, then they can make intelligent decisions using the compass or the GPS, because they’re just tools. You still have to make intelligent decisions,” said Kathy.

Of course, one of the most important parts of the program is that it takes the classroom outside, giving the girls the chance to enjoy our local natural landscape. “Nature is one of our best teachers. It reminds you to pause and take a breath and enjoy our world, which gives us another wonderful way to introduce mindfulness into our girls lives,” said Kathy.

A Study of Roman Daily Life

Written by Latin Teacher Stephanie Vogel
I received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to spend three weeks in St. Peter, Minnesota at Gustavus Adolphus College working with fifteen other Latin teachers to study Roman daily life. In the morning, we read from the Satytica by Petronius, which is one of the most robust primary sources in Latin that exists on Roman dining practices and daily life. We focused on the cena Trimalchionis (Trimalchio’s dinner party), which describes a dinner party held by a wealthy freedman, Trimalchio, that is a spectacle in every sense of the word. Its descriptions of food, leisure, and relationships between masters and slaves, men and women, and other groups are among the most detailed and insightful in Roman literature.

In the afternoon, we examined graffiti that was uncovered in Pompeii and Herculaneum and used that as a lense to consider the lives of the 99% of Romans, which was exciting given that the wealth of sources that we have today is written by and about the Roman elite. The goal of most classics programs, including Baldwin’s, is to build one’s grammatical, historical and vocabulary knowledge to read the canonical Latin texts that actually represent a very limited percentage of the Roman population in antiquity.  Thus, learning how to locate graffiti on the internet and how to translate different types of inscriptions was extremely useful and interesting to me. We worked with Dr. Rebecca Benefiel, one of the world’s foremost experts on ancient graffiti, and helped add to her online catalog of inscriptions which is already an exciting resource for Latin teachers. Right now, inscriptions are only accessible via a large, expensive, and unwieldy book called the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinorum (CIL for short) and only a handful exist in the entire world. For this reason, Rebecca’s work on uploading all of the inscriptions from the CIL to her website and organizing it in an easily searchable way will make it significantly easier for Latin teachers to access them.  This has far-reaching implications for sharing these inscriptions with our students.

At the end of the program, we were each charged with conducting independent research on a topic related to daily life that was of interest to us, and of creating a unit plan or other materials that we could eventually use in our classes. I researched the electoral process, electoral advertisements and exactly what made one ‘electable’ in Italy. It was fascinating and informative and I am planning to leverage my work on this topic into an election simulation around the mid-terms in November.  I will have my students create their own electoral advertisements in Roman style around the same time. I’m really looking forward to it!

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.

At Baldwin, I Learn for Life


Written by Cassandra Stecker ’18.

Stecker_Cassandra_1841277As I enter into my final few months as a Baldwin student and reflect upon my thirteen years here, the extent of one of the lifelong skills with which Baldwin has equipped me has become especially striking: my strength in languages. I am lucky to have been able to study both French and Latin throughout my time at Baldwin, and this year, I have added Ancient Greek to my language course-load. To have the ability to study three languages simultaneously is a testament to Baldwin’s remarkable academics and course schedule. Plus, I did not have to sacrifice any other academic subject to accommodate this.

This past summer, I realized the value of my Baldwin French studies outside the classroom. As an intern at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, I spent my summer evaluating correspondence from the Pennsylvania Abolition Society during 18th and 19th centuries discussing and negotiating the freedom of slaves. Since (also thanks to Baldwin) history is my primary academic passion and my internship was entirely historical and archive based, I didn’t think that my knowledge of French would be particularly relevant to my tasks.

However, when I noticed that a significant number of documents I was tasked with were written in French, I readily accepted the challenge of translation. Since the Pennsylvania Abolition Society was closely allied with “La Société des amis des Noirs de Paris,” or “The Society of the Friends of Blacks of Paris,” most of the letters sent from the Pennsylvania Society’s Paris-based peer were written in French.

A little bit to my surprise, it did not take significant special attention for me to read and understand the French of which the letters were composed. In fact, the main problem I faced in understanding the letters was acclimating to the French style of manuscript writing. Another interesting challenge I faced was understanding the French Republican Calendar which the society used to date their letters. Since this system uses different months and monthly durations than the Gregorian Calendar, it was not always an easy task to match the Republican date to the Gregorian date.

During my internship, my passion for history intersected with the remarkable proficiency in French which I have achieved through Baldwin’s wonderfully effective French curriculum. To make use out of my academics in this way and draw from my knowledge in all sectors regardless of the constraints of different subjects, in my opinion, is the epitome of the Baldwin academic experience. At Baldwin, I learn for life, not for a grade or a class; the disciplines of history and French complement each other especially well.

French spring Trip (7)As a junior, I participated in Baldwin’s French Exchange with Notre Dame de Mongré outside of Lyon, France. As a part of this trip, we spent a few days in Paris before heading south to stay with host families. I remember being avidly excited to visit the Musée de Cluny in Paris, one of the best Medieval collections in the world, because we were studying Medieval art in my Art History course. This year, we are read Simone Veil’s biographie Une Vie (A Life) in Advanced Topics French, which is a memoir about this French political figure’s experiences during the Holocaust. Last semester, I took an advanced topics history elective, the History of the Holocaust. Because I have a background in the Holocaust from my history course, I am able to further understand the events of Une Vie, and my French class collaborated with my Holocaust class to teach the history students about Simone Veil’s life.

It is remarkable that my class is able to carry on long conversations in French, both intellectual and conversational, with ease and precision. Yet, what is less obvious but equally as useful and incredible is the doors that my French knowledge has opened to me in all sectors. Who knew that making paper cup dolls in seventh grade French to learn about professions or reading Le Petit Prince in tenth grade French would be so important to unleashing the full potential of my academic endeavors in all of my subjects?

On the Road with the Seventh Grade

independence hall phoot

Written by Middle School Teacher Bridget Doherty

This year the seventh grade is embarking on a new journey: civics.  The new social studies curriculum includes not only global citizenship as in years past, but also national and local citizenship.  As part of this adventure, we are taking advantage of some of our local resources to enrich the classroom experience of students.

After wrapping up a role-playing research project on the Constitutional Convention, students traveled to Independence Square in Old City Philadelphia.  They walked into the assembly room where the delegates debated and immediately recognized George Washington’s chair. They tried to locate the tables for particular states and speculated where “their” seat would have been during the convention.  Seeing our students’ open enthusiasm about our national heritage was inspiring.

The students shared some of their thoughts on the trip:

  • “I really liked how we had lots of background info, and we got to apply that info to the new things we were learning.”
  • “I could really make connections between what I had learned before and where it had taken place.”
  • “I loved how we were able to be really up close to all the meeting rooms.”
  • “It was also really cool to see some of the original artifacts that were saved since the day that they were used.”
  • “I was very surprised about all of the things that I know about the Constitution. It felt good to put all my knowledge to use!”
  • “Everyone got a chance to be in the shoes of the delegates when they were anxiously seated at the feet of George Washington. To me, that was something that I’ll never forget. I was so lucky to see history right in front of me.”

Our course is now set for civil liberties as we examine the Bill of Rights and the evolution of these rights through history.  Students are beginning to understand that being a citizen might start in the classroom, but true citizenship involves active participation and commitment to justice even after they leave Baldwin’s gates.  Taking our civics classroom out into the world, like our trip downtown, provides memorable lessons that will empower students and foster an appreciation of our institutions of government.

The Stuff of History

Written by Gretchen Boger, Upper School History teacher and History Department Chair, and Anne-Mette Hansell, Grade 5 Teacher; with contributions by Athan Biss, Upper School History teacher and Noor Bowman ’20.

When students in history class set out to learn about the past, they typically expect to read. They have a textbook, scholarly book or even historical fiction that provides a narrative about things that happened long ago. Recently, however, Baldwin students have found themselves invited to learn about history in a different way: not from books, but from stuff. Instead of reading about what the past was like, Baldwin girls have been figuring it out for themselves from the material objects left behind. The following accounts describe the experience of fifth graders, quite literally holding objects from ancient Egypt in their hands, and tenth graders, working their way like detectives through the lists of belongings left behind by 18th-century Americans.


DSC_0095Imagine holding a 4,000-year-old brain hook in your hand. The very tool the ancient Egyptians used during the mummification process to drain the brain from the deceased. They believed the brain was of no use!

Or imagine delicately holding a beautifully crafted shawabti or ‘answerer’ figurine. Picture yourself saying the magic word in the Afterlife and never again having to worry about chores. The shawabti springing to life was intended to make the Afterlife very comfortable indeed for all eternity.

These are just some of the ancient artifacts on loan for one month from the Penn Museum and in use in the 5th grade classroom. The girls study ancient civilizations during their year in 5th grade. The first such civilization is that of ancient Egypt. The girls read various sources, take notes and lay the foundation for a research paper with a whole host of topics pertaining to ancient Egypt. The extraordinary primary sources are all connected to ancient Egyptian life. They have prompted much wondering, questioning and newfound drive to find answers. Like researchers, archaeologists and egyptologists, the 5th graders have been able to question, wonder, reason and infer. Why is a brain hook so long and delicate yet strong? Strong enough to break through the nasal cavity? Or imagine for whom the beautiful shawabti doll was made. What kind of chores would the crude clay answerer be called to do? Hold a real canopic jar intended to contain the lungs of someone who died long ago. How do we know it held the lungs? Because the lid is decorated with the baboon headed god, Hapi, guarder of the lungs.

The students have photographed, cropped and learned to cite these artifacts. Soon they will be inserted in research papers bringing to life 4,000-year-old tools, everyday items and shawabti dolls in the imagination of Baldwin’s 5th grade Egyptologists.


Tenth and eleventh graders haven’t gotten their hands on actual colonial American goods, but instead, have found themselves puzzling over lists. Specifically, they have worked with records from an archive of digitized probate inventories from 18th-century colonial Virginia and Maryland, made available by George Mason University on its Probing the Past website. The inventories record every saleable item—or person—in the estate of a deceased American colonist, together with a value assigned to it by the assessors. Though originally used for legal settlements, the lists today provide a window into the material life of Chesapeake colonists—how they supported themselves, what kind of work was done in their households, with whom they might have lived, what items were of particular worth and so on. In trying to piece together a picture of life from a list of static objects, students learn many lessons along the way.

The first of these is a sober confrontation with slavery. It is one thing to know that Americans practiced slavery until the Civil War; it is another thing to see individual human beings listed with prices next to their names as part of a household inventory. Students grapple with this cold evidence of an economy built on the exploitation of humans in bondage. They are troubled to see people assigned different prices based on their ability to contribute to the labor of a household. As students make their way through pages listing many unfamiliar tools, they begin to realize that the heavy labor of providing for a household in early America—the farming, animal husbandry, carpentry, blacksmithing, weaving, sewing, knitting, cooking and cleaning required to keep a farm running—was performed primarily by the slaves themselves also listed on the record.

There are other lessons. Students learn etymology, discovering that many words once in common use no longer are familiar, and others that we think we know once meant something quite different. They see a “plate” listed in a storehouse, worth more than any other item on the inventory by a great deal, and finally a skeptical student speculates that it isn’t the same thing off which they eat dinner. And so they plunge into research in the Oxford English Dictionary, until someone, triumphant, discovers that plate once meant precious metals in bullion form. Likely this plate represented a plantation owner’s liquid wealth in an era before saving banks were prolific. Other etymology hunts ensue. A girl with a gleam in her eye deduces that a “bundle of blades” in the barn probably isn’t a set of cutting tools but more likely a wide-leafed crop … such as tobacco! One girl spots “diaper” in the linen closet and suspects there was a baby in the household; another frowns and asks what a “diaper tablecloth” might be. Together they discover that diaper was, in fact, a type of highly absorbent cotton.

As students continue making deductions from a list of goods, a picture starts to emerge in granular detail of a colonist’s home and life. They are discovering for themselves the ways in which life in the tidewater Chesapeake of the late 18th century must have been starkly different from the 21st century. As they grow invested in developing this historical snapshot, they come up against the questions they can’t answer. At some point the goods stop telling a tale, even to the shrewd detective. The student hits a stubborn unknown: Was this person married? Did he really make all this money practicing law, or did he inherit it? Why would someone keep “chocolate, bad” in the barn? This, too, is a lesson: that history doesn’t descend pre-written from on high but is pieced together carefully, even laboriously, from the clues that have lasted. The work of putting it together is a very different kind of work than passive absorption of facts already strung into a narrative by someone else. It requires critical thinking, careful noticing and even a bit of imagination. For Baldwin girls, investigating material goods is an introduction to writing history for themselves.

Noor Bowman ’20 researched the estate of Philip Thomas, Sr., a wealthy landowner from Annapolis, Maryland who died in 1763.  After puzzling over the inventory, Noor wrote that she “began to see this project as the story of Thomas’s slaves.” In order to dramatize their story Noor adopted a novelistic tone. In the excerpt that follows, Noor transforms a list of names and objects into a lively scene:

Meanwhile a slave named Bridget ,58 years of age, will be slicing her special butter cake in the kitchen. She made the cake with butter from the cellar, and baked it in one of the six baking pans found in the new kitchen. She calls Hannah, a slave of 28 years, to place the slices on four china plates and serve them in the hall. The hall is a decorated room meant to impress guests with an elaborate rug imported from Turkey.

Hannah hurries from the kitchen to the hall carefully carrying the four plates, when she is beckoned by Peter, a slave 27 years of age. Peter leans against the walkway of Thomas’s study holding a cloth brush found on a small old oak desk, playfully brushing his hair. As Hannah approaches he points to the parcel of books placed on an old wooden chair. Intrigued by these new books she reaches to open the parcel. But before she gets a chance to read the titles, she is reminded of the task at hand and continues toward the hall. She places the plates on a walnut waiter until the first guest asks for a slice.

Moments later Thomas looks at the clock and informs his guest he must depart to his study, to write a few letters. One to a tobacco distributor wishing to purchase some of his 27,145 pounds of tobacco. Another to a local restaurant interested in two barrels of corn and 20 pounds of bacon. When Thomas enters his study, he notices his brush and places it next to his 3 old Razors, in a case with a Hone strap. He then unlatches his gold watch, sits it on a writing stand and begins to write the letter on one of his 6 quire pieces of paper.  

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.

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.

Reed Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching

Written by Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Laura Blankenship

Grade 3 Teacher Kathy Gates explores Sedona
Grade 3 Teacher Kathy Gates explored Sedona in August 2016

Baldwin provides a wide range of support for faculty professional development, from providing funding for a single-day workshop to an extended trip. We reserve a few special awards that are more substantial and allow our faculty to immerse themselves more fully in professional development. The Reed Fellowship is an award that provides faculty with the opportunity to dig in a little deeper in their chosen field.

The Reed Fellowship is given to a faculty member who is nominated by his or her peers and is recognized for his or her excellence in teaching. He or she receives a stipend to go toward something that will benefit the enrichment of the teacher’s classroom experience. In the 2014-15 school year, Christie Reed, chair of the Science Department, was selected for the award and in the 2015-16 school year, Kathy Gates, 3rd grade teacher, was selected. Both used the funds from the Reed Fellowship to travel this past summer and explore opportunities to bring into their teaching.

Christie traveled to New Hampshire to spend a week at the Biology Institute at Exeter. She took a long course on teaching science using Harkness, and while she questioned how this could be done with such a content-laden subject, she is now a total believer in using the Harkness method. While she may not completely switch everything, there are many ways she has reorganized things to implement much of what she learned and use some of the methods.

Additionally, she had some short courses on topics such as using Vernier probeware in new ways and utilizing Google goggles for teaching purposes. She took field trips to Appledore Island, an undergraduate research facility on an island that is part of the Isle of Shoals, where they learned about the ecosystem there, including the nesting habits of several species of birds.

They visited the Harvard Museum of Natural History and had a behind the scenes tour, along with presentations of some PhD thesis work. They went tidal pooling to collect invertebrates for the tidal table, and they did lots of bird watching. Perhaps the most interesting field trip included an unexpected washed up Humpback whale on the coast of New Hampshire. The whale was enormous, very close to shore and no one was sure why or how it died. It was a full week with little sleep, a lot of collaboration, and a huge amount of professional development in terms of new ideas for how to teach biology.

Kathy Gates travelled to Boston University and attended the 2016 Poetry Institute for K-12 Educators.

Led by Boston University professor Robert Pinsky, current United States Poet Laureate, the Poetry Institute provided educators with a professional development experience based on the principles of the Favorite Poem Project. In conception, the project, with its videos at favoritepoem.org and popular anthologies, celebrates and documents poetry’s place in American culture. The Institute is devoted to improving poetry’s place in American classrooms. Teachers worked in groups throughout the week to develop lessons inspired by Favorite Poem Project materials and by the presenters, award-winning American poets: Maggie Dietz, Mark Doty, David Ferry, Louise Glück, Major Jackson, Gail Mazur, Eric McHenry, Heather McHugh, Carl Phillips and Rosanna Warren.” Learn more about the Favorite Poem Project: The Summer Poetry Institute.

In addition to her trip to Boston, Kathy recognized that this year, 2016, celebrates the National Parks’ Centennial. So, she chose to visit Arizona and explore National Parks in that area such as The Grand Canyon and The Petrified Forest, just to name a few. As a result of this amazing experience, she plans to include a research project about US National Parks in the third grade States unit this year. She also hopes to be able to connect her 3rd graders to the 9th graders through this unit as the 9th graders are traveling to The Grand Canyon in November.

These two faculty members are just two examples of our amazing team of teachers who go above and beyond for our students every day and who take time out of their busy lives to enrich themselves in ways that will benefit their curriculum and teaching. At Baldwin, our passion for learning isn’t restricted to our students. Our faculty, too, continually demonstrate their own passion for learning through experiences like these, and that passion enriches our whole community.