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.

Global Learning-More than Just Checking a Box

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Mark Twain

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Upper School students visit Peru during a language immersion trip.

Representing the Baldwin School, Kelly Schonour, Assistant Lower School Director, and Cindy Lapinski, Middle School Director, had the opportunity to participate in a conference hosted by the Holton-Arms School outside of Washington, D.C., on September 29-October 1. This conference, Global Gathering: Pedagogies and Passports, invited educators to think about how to infuse global learning in a meaningful way both inside the classroom and beyond. The two attended a number of different workshops, led by speakers as well as participants. One of the most interesting experiences of the weekend was the “un-conference” sessions. These informal sessions were created and led by participants based on certain elements of Global Learning that they wanted to explore further through critical conversation.

Ms. Schonour participated in the “un-conference” about Global Learning in Elementary Schools. The discussion group consisted of teachers and administrators who were looking to share ideas about what global learning looks like for younger students.  Success stories as well as ideas that did not work were shared. One of the most helpful ideas that stemmed from the conversation was that each school is different and needs to define global learning in a way that complements their mission.

Ms. Lapinski attended one of the “twin workshop” sessions focused on authentic assessment. Defined by Jon Mueller, authentic assessment is “a form of assessment in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills.” Educators from around the country shared many examples of how assessment methods could be effectively designed to put students in charge of their learning and bring them more fully into their education journey. Diana Gross, Senior Instructional Facilitator for Johns Hopkins and National Geographic Traveler of the Year 2012, guided participants through a multi-step collaborative process to design authentic assessment tasks that had meaning for their schools. It was very interesting to listen to what other schools are doing as well as share examples from the Baldwin School.

Ms. Schonour joined the other” twin workshop,” which explored effective use of Project-Based Learning (PBL), with guest speaker Jennifer D. Klein from the World Leadership School.  Ms. Klein discussed various strategies, pedagogies, tools and resources for infusing project-based learning into academic units in a way that engages students in inquiry and action. She created an open dialogue for teachers and administrators to discuss the difference between projects, which many teachers already do, and project based-learning which integrates deep foundations of academic content.

Inherent in any authentic global learning program is the aspect of travel. Presenters from the World Leadership School led an informative session to guide schools to start and sustain discussion and planning around risk management. Effective strategies for administrators, trip leaders, students and parents were shared.

The weekend experience was a meaningful professional development opportunity that allowed Ms. Schonour and Ms. Lapinski to network, learn and share approaches for teaching global competencies in an increasingly global world. As a result, the pair quickly recognized that the Baldwin School’s Global Initiatives’ approach is positioned well to continue to challenge its students to look beyond what they know and understand, to appreciate differences and to embrace their responsibility to be active, thoughtful, empathetic global citizens.  Baldwin’s mission reinforces this message and its embedded programming ensures that the global experience is much more than just checking off a box on a list.

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.

What We Did Over the Summer

Written by Dr. Laura Blankenship, Dean of Academic Affairs

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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!

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.

Welcoming New Beginnings

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

Laura BlankenshipI have always loved the beginning of school.  I remember my first days of school from my childhood: the new lunchbox, new shoes, new pencil box, the smell of rubber cement.  It meant a new start, connecting with old friends, meeting new ones, and learning new things.  I always approached the new year with excitement and anticipation.  To me, a new school year offers the opportunity to hit the restart button.  Many people make resolutions in January.  I do that, too, but I do it again in September. 

We encourage the same mentality in our faculty, staff, and students.  At eighth grade graduation, Eric Benke, our Upper School Director, encourages the soon-to-be-ninth graders to rest and relax over the summer, and to think about reinventing themselves.  Moving into a new division offers girls the opportunity to try new things, to create new habits, or to recommit to activities they love.  This reinvention doesn’t just happen at big transitions like moving to the Upper School.  Advisors have girls in Middle and Upper School write down their goals for the year and check in with them periodically on their progress.  Teachers in every class encourage a fresh approach to the material.  Our faculty, too, have set goals for themselves, perhaps to learn something new, to create a new assignment, or to become better at some aspect of their teaching.  At Baldwin, we encourage everyone to grow and learn.

For our new students, the idea of reinvention is even more prominent in their minds.  Many of them in Middle and Upper School participated in pre-season and so have already made some new friends and set some goals and gotten an idea about what’s in store for them at Baldwin.  New students in the Lower School will have the opportunity to meet new friends and become a part of the fabric of the school through first day activities like our annual Pool Party.  The Baldwin community is excited and ready for our new students to become a part of the community and they will find that students, faculty and staff are all ready to help and support them as they learn their way around Baldwin.

And Baldwin itself is always changing.  We have new spaces like the Upper School DREAM Lab®, and soon The Simpson Center.  Many rooms got new coats of paint and new furniture.  There are new books to explore and new computers to learn with. There is a new schedule in the Middle School and new classes in the Upper School. We have new people joining our faculty and staff teams in many areas.  They will bring new ideas, experiences and perspectives to our hallways and classrooms.  Walking into the front doors of our iconic residence building gives you the sense of history and tradition that is so important to Baldwin, but we are always creating something new out of that history and tradition, taking our spaces, our classes and our students into new directions.  I am looking forward to seeing where these new directions will take us, and I’m thrilled to have such wonderful students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumnae to be a part of the journey.

Choosing an All Girls’ School for Your Extraordinary Daughter

Written by Sarah J Goebel, guest blogger and Director of Enrollment Management and Financial Aid

Sally GoebelSelf-esteem, confidence, and leadership are just a few of the benefits attributed to enrollment in a girls’ school.  At the heart the girls’ school advantage is the understanding that there is tremendous power and potential in being a girl.

Baldwin takes things to the next level, offering bright, motivated girls unbounded opportunity to explore ideas, discover talents and become confident risk-takers.   Considered a second home by our Thinking Girls, Baldwin assures that each student will discover her own voice and become a passionate, life-long learner, as she grows into an accomplished woman leading a balanced life.

Amidst a landscape of independent and public school options, discerning parents choose Baldwin; they are committed to investing in their daughters and providing them an extra-ordinary educational experience, one where each child is known for the unique learner she is.  At Baldwin, we do not teach to any test, and our dynamic teachers are not constrained by the limits of a standardized curriculum aimed to serve a broad range of students.  At most schools, the more talented students can sometimes be accommodated by special accelerated sections or enrichment programs, aimed to keep stronger students from being bored.

At Baldwin, we don’t accommodate exceptional girls; we are dedicated to them.  The Baldwin difference ensures a comprehensive experience, specially designed for the ways extraordinarily talented girls think and learn.  Given the tools to develop mind, body and spirit, Baldwin girls learn the power of problem solving, collaborating and learning from others.  Baldwin graduates enjoy exceptional college admission success, with three-quarters of each senior class earning acceptance at their first or second choice schools; this is especially notable, since the highly selective colleges and universities they attend typically have single digit acceptance rates.  Baldwin’s young alumnae embark on their college experiences prepared to take full advantage of the faculty and other resources, furthering the return on the life changing investment their parents have made in their education from a young age.

Choosing an All Girls' School for Your Extraordinary Daughter

Written by Sarah J Goebel, guest blogger and Director of Enrollment Management and Financial Aid

Sally GoebelSelf-esteem, confidence, and leadership are just a few of the benefits attributed to enrollment in a girls’ school.  At the heart the girls’ school advantage is the understanding that there is tremendous power and potential in being a girl.

Baldwin takes things to the next level, offering bright, motivated girls unbounded opportunity to explore ideas, discover talents and become confident risk-takers.   Considered a second home by our Thinking Girls, Baldwin assures that each student will discover her own voice and become a passionate, life-long learner, as she grows into an accomplished woman leading a balanced life.

Amidst a landscape of independent and public school options, discerning parents choose Baldwin; they are committed to investing in their daughters and providing them an extra-ordinary educational experience, one where each child is known for the unique learner she is.  At Baldwin, we do not teach to any test, and our dynamic teachers are not constrained by the limits of a standardized curriculum aimed to serve a broad range of students.  At most schools, the more talented students can sometimes be accommodated by special accelerated sections or enrichment programs, aimed to keep stronger students from being bored.

At Baldwin, we don’t accommodate exceptional girls; we are dedicated to them.  The Baldwin difference ensures a comprehensive experience, specially designed for the ways extraordinarily talented girls think and learn.  Given the tools to develop mind, body and spirit, Baldwin girls learn the power of problem solving, collaborating and learning from others.  Baldwin graduates enjoy exceptional college admission success, with three-quarters of each senior class earning acceptance at their first or second choice schools; this is especially notable, since the highly selective colleges and universities they attend typically have single digit acceptance rates.  Baldwin’s young alumnae embark on their college experiences prepared to take full advantage of the faculty and other resources, furthering the return on the life changing investment their parents have made in their education from a young age.