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.

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!

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.

Exploring Puerto Rico – A Language Immersion Trip

Saachi Singh
Written by Saachi Singh, Class of 2020

Baldwin is a school that offers so many opportunities to its students, and I am happy to say that I experienced one of the best. The Middle School Spanish class trip to Puerto Rico was a once in a lifetime experience that opened all of our eyes to many wonderful and different things. In addition to giving me the best three days of my life, this trip also pushed me to bond with some of my classmates I hadn’t been close with before, including girls in different grades. We were all so excited and ready, from the moment we met each other at 5:30 a.m. in the airport, barely awake.

Even though it is extremely difficult to choose, one of my favorite activities was the bioluminescent bay in La Parguera, the small fishing village. It was definitely a popular favorite for most of us. It was the perfect example of an interactive learning experience. We learned all about the behavior and facts about dinoflagellates in the water and why they were in this special area in Puerto Rico, and then we got to dive in and see how they made the water light up! It was very exciting and beautiful, and an experience that I will never forget.

IMG_0132The teachers and guides worked extremely hard to prepare an organized and fun-filled itinerary, including trips to the beach, hikes through the rainforest, salsa lessons, sightseeing, shopping, scavenger hunts, watching a folkloric dance show, banana boating and much more. I tried things that I never thought I would ever be able to do (like putting a baby octopus on my head!), and I learned a lot about beautiful Puerto Rico and its rich history and culture. I got to enjoy the sunny weather and eat the absolutely most delicious foods (which I crave daily)!

Thinking about it now, the trip went by in the blink of an eye and I am so sad that it is over, but we all took it in and enjoyed it so much. I would definitely recommend this experience to anyone and everyone who has the opportunity, because this is an amazing chance to explore a new place and to experience an authentic language and cultural experience!

Celebrating The Baldwin Libraries

It has been an exciting April as the Baldwin Libraries celebrated National Library Week and National Poetry Month.

By Lisa López-Carickhoff


In the Lower School, Linda Mullen and Shelly Lucia led Grade IV in creating “step riddle books.” And Grade III students had great fun “fiddling with the riddles.” Using the collection of over 12,000 books, Grade IV and V students, as well as some Grade IX and X girls, created “book spine poems.” Stop by the bulletin board outside the Learning Commons to see their work or come browse the shelves to create your own! Grade II students created some gorgeous “color poems,” inspired by Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill and Red Sings from Treetops by Joyce Sidman.


In the Anne Frank Library, Grade V students got a sneak-peek at “life in the Library” for Middle School students. During their visit to the School House, they used iPads to listen to book talk podcasts created by Grade VI students. And the Anne Frank Library’s “Brain Bender” contest had MS and US students in a frenzy! Students worked hard to match familiar faces from the faculty, staff, and administration with their favorite book picks – US winner Sarah Douglas and MS winner Sara Syed each received a Barnes and Noble gift card. The staff also got into the competitive spirit – College Counselor Naté Hall won the staff prize.

IMG_0454 IMG_0457

Finally, the National Library Week Breakfast event brought faculty and staff together for special treats and a look at the resources in both the Lower School Learning Commons and the Anne Frank Library.

Bienvenue à la Café Français

Grade V French students play host to family and friends at Café Français.

The Athletic Center looked more like a cozy Parisian coffee shop than a place of fitness on Friday morning as checkered tablecloths and flowers dressed up café tables during the Grade V Café Français.

Event hostesses, a sprightly bunch of Grade V girls donning aprons and stylish French berets, ushered hungry friends and family to open tables and took orders.  Balancing trays of espresso, café au lait (coffee with milk) and an assortment of French pastries like tarte aux pommes (apple tart) and mousse au chocolat (chocolate mousse), the girls bounced between tables while speaking French.

A student takes a food order, en Français.

Over the course of the past week, the girls put their baking skills to the test by preparing a variety of homemade Parisian pasties, in addition to designing posters and food menus for the big day.

Click here to view more photos from the event in our Media Gallery.

Technology Growing Pains: A Short Essay

I wrote the following short piece to teach my Grade VIII students basic essay form – state the subject, consider both sides, and then having synthesized, decide what you think.

My husband sent me an article from Science Daily, (March 2, 2012) about new “emotion sensing software” that an application development company is trying to incorporate into academic tutorials.  Using the research and formulae that game developers rely on, the “auto tutor” will supposedly have the ability to sense when a student is bored or frustrated, and it will adjust its content accordingly.  The article praises the development, indicating that it could be a real breakthrough in teaching students, as there would be more concentration and focus and less downtime.

My initial reaction was to be horrified, in large part because I think that a certain amount of boredom and the ability to handle boredom are essential in the development of a thinking and creative person.  I am reminded of George Eliot’s remark that nothing in adulthood could compete with the sweet monotony of childhood.  Was it in this monotony that one of the great authors and thinkers of the 19th century was first formed?  Was it in part because her world was green fields and libraries rather than flashing lights that she went on to study Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French, Italian, Spanish, not to mention Philosophy and of course Literature?  Modern day psychologists will tell anyone willing to listen that more and more they have trouble treating teens and adolescents who have not developed the skills to manage discomfort, and that video games systematically lower an individual’s ability to be patient and to handle frustration.

Having felt certain that this software was just the newest iteration of an electronic attempt to dehumanize us, I reflected back on my own childhood.  As an only child growing up in the countryside of Litchfield Connecticut, I can appreciate the sweet monotony that Eliot so fondly recalls.  I can also remember, however, my own love of television and video games, and hearing my boarding school headmaster complain that “kids today need to be constantly entertained.”  That was more than twenty years ago.  I wonder if he heard the same thing from the adults in his life; I am almost certain that he did.  And then I remember, going back even further, to fifth grade and my teacher, Mrs. Mitchell, utterly joyful when I told her our television had broken.  She seemed to think that this was the best thing that could ever happen to me.  Her pleasure was matched only by my own, when three days later I told her we had replaced our television with a new one – this time with a larger screen and colors!  Did having a color TV and my presumably constant demand to be entertained, keep me from reading or writing?  My decision to become an English teacher would suggest otherwise. And to make a further point, not everyone kept from a flashing screen turns to a book or to painting pictures – some kids blow up frogs, or beat up other kids, or do generally nasty things.  And if the Cartoon Network keeps a few more frogs or bookish kids from a beating, that doesn’t seem like such a bad compromise.

So in the final analysis, I am not sure what I think. I am still not crazy about the boredom-proof electronic tutor, but maybe the real point isn’t whether or not the software can interact with kids, but whether we can as well.  I don’t know how much entertainment, diversion, and distraction is healthy and how much goes toward making future maladaptive adults, but I do know that all kids need adults to listen and to care and to respond – the very thing that this new software is designed to simulate.  I know that my 11-year-old has an ipad, apple TV, an extensive collection of audio books, and a laptop, but he still wants his dad and me to read to him every night.  Would taking away one of those devices make him any more human?  Probably not.  But telling him that it was OK to use them while he is eating dinner with us or watching the school play might.  It is a difficult question.  Let me know if you figure it out.

– Jill Brown, English teacher

Traveling Notebook

My Grade VIII English class is studying Romeo & Juliet, including writing anonymous responses in notebooks that traveled back and forth to the Grade VIII students at The Haverford School, where the boys were also studying the play.  The “traveling Romeo and Juliet notebooks” started in January, and mirrored, in a small way, Romeo and Juliet’s reliance on messengers to communicate with one another.  More important, the notebooks allowed the girls to see the boys’ perspective of the play and vice versus.  The students would respond to questions, provided by me and Nakeiha Primus at Haverford, but they would also respond to one another – starting a dialogue about the play – agreeing, considering, and sometimes strongly disagreeing.  Specific entries included writing about how cultural expectations were different for Juliet than for Romeo and how these expectations have evolved.  Students also analyzed contemporary songs on Valentine’s Day and made comparisons to specific themes in the play.  Some students went to great lengths to identify others’ handwriting or to leave secret codes revealing their identities, but for the most part the notebooks remained anonymous and each student had the opportunity to read several different responses to the same question.

The study culminated on March 2 with a Baldwin/Haverford trip to the Bryn Mawr Film Institute for a screening and discussion of the film The Illusionist.  The film is clearly inspired by Romeo and Juliet and does a brilliant job of drawing attention  to many of the play’s themes (time, youthful impulsiveness, etc.) by bending them just enough to change the story.   Interestingly, before the girls saw the film, they were asked: if you could change one thing about the play, what would it be?  Almost every single suggestion the girls made, from the role of Paris, to the age of the lovers and the reason for the quarrel made can be found in The Illusionist.

– Jill Brown, English teacher


Shakespeare Abridged

The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater arrived at Baldwin with a bang on February 13, rendering two very animated, 75-minute performances of Hamlet to eager Baldwin juniors who recently concluded their study of the play.

The production, which transformed the Athletic Center’s Multi-Purpose Room into a dynamic performance space, featured four actors who moved across the stage swiftly, speaking spiritedly in different voices as they assumed the roles of the 20-plus characters that make up the play’s cast. With limited props, they utilized colorful scarves – tying them around their heads, necks or across their bodies, to help convey each character change to the audience.

To conclude each performance, the actors and the director engaged the students in discussion to get their thoughts on how watching the play impacted their in-class study. Students shared the following impressions:

  • “Before I saw the play, I was confused about what the characters meant in their speeches, but the play helped me to see what exactly the characters were feeling.”
  • “Reading and seeing a play are two very different things. Words on a page do not give justice to the emotion of a character.”
  • “I enjoyed the use of music, modern references, costumes and quality acting. I like how the troupe incorporated the pivotal scenes of the play.”
  • “The physicality of the actors was amazing, in that they used different postures for different characters that were played by the same actors.”