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.

Exploring Our Universe with ‘InSight’

Written by Jeff Goldader, Upper School science teacher with a PhD in astronomy.

 

Today, NASA attempted another landing on Mars, and some of our Baldwin science students took the time to learn about the mission. A little lander called “InSight,” about the size of a dining room table, successfully touched down on a plain on Mars. Spaceflight isn’t easy. In seven minutes, the lander went from being an interplanetary spacecraft to being at rest on the surface of Mars.

Insight is a geology station.  Its main instrument is a seismometer, to look for “Marsquakes,” which will help us learn if Mars is geologically active at the present time. Mars boasts the largest volcanoes in the solar system, but they look to have been inactive for millions of years. A secondary goal is to drill a hole several meters deep and use what amounts to a thermometer to measure how much heat is released by the center of Mars. This is related to Mars being geologically active, because on Earth, it is heat released by the core of our planet that is the root cause of earthquakes and volcanoes.

Spaceflight is one of the areas in which science and technology blend together. A lander like Insight required the talents of probably over 1,000 scientists and engineers of every type, from astronomers to geologists, from electrical to mechanical to chemical engineers and programmers, and … it’s a long list. As I told my students this morning, Baldwin students have majored in the kinds of fields that are necessary for missions like Insight. There’s no reason they can’t one day be part of a team exploring the universe.

We study Mars to try to understand the past of our own Earth. In the past, Mars was warmer, and there are many reasons to suspect it had liquid water, maybe oceans of it. But today, Mars is in a perpetual deep freeze, with most of the water locked in polar ice caps and frozen in the soil. In the ice and rocks of Mars are clues to what it was like back when it was warm, and could have been a home for life. The upcoming “Mars 2020” rover will be landing in a place that may have had the right conditions for life in the distant past, and it will cache rock samples for return to Earth on a later mission. By studying Mars, we might find clues as to how life started on Earth long ago.

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!

Advocating for the Education and Development of Girls

October 11 is the International Day of the Girl, a global celebration of youth advocates who advance the rights of and opportunities for girls everywhere.

Baldwin’s mission is to develop our girls into confident young women who have the vision, global understanding and the competency to make significant and enduring contributions to the world. We celebrate the power of being a girl every day and consider it our responsibility to advocate for girls in our community, regionally and globally.

In Lower School, students enthusiastically participate in the Educate a Girl campaign, an annual fundraiser that benefits girls’ education around the world. Unlike other fundraisers, faculty encourage students to find creative ways to raise money, instead of simply asking their parents for help, leading to a variety of unique entrepreneurial endeavors, including bake sales, selling handmade artistic creations and giving out hugs at Baldwin events. This program also opens the door to critical conversations at home, giving our girls the opportunity to talk to their parents about those who don’t have access to quality education.

Emelie Wilkes, one of our second grade teachers, has been leading this project for over 10 years. “In its first year my class raised more than $1,000 on its own for an orphanage in Kenya,” she says. “For the past two years, the Lower School has raised over $10,000! To me, there is nothing more valuable than teaching our amazing, bright and gifted girls the importance of giving back. So many girls around this world are held back by circumstances out of their control. If we can help one child, that’s a start.”

All of the funds raised this year will be donated to Women’s Campaign International to directly benefit girls’ education. Specializing in transitional states and post-conflict regions around the world, Women’s Campaign International equips women and girls with the skills and support needed to transform their lives and communities.

Compassion, respect and responsibility are three of Baldwin’s core values, and all are demonstrated by these efforts, as well as in our curriculum. Our priority is not only to advocate for girls around the world but to continue to find new ways to advocate for our own students. In the Middle School, there’s a targeted focus on social and emotional development through lessons on identity, building empathy, healthy relationships, mindfulness and digital citizenship.  

“While one of our goals is for our students to do well academically, it’s just as important to make sure they are prepared to navigate the ever-shifting social landscape in life by giving them the tools, the language and a safe space to learn and grow,” says Middle School Librarian Lauren Friedman-Way.

Middle School faculty focus on the five core competencies of CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning): self-management (managing emotions); self-awareness (recognizing emotions, values, strengths and challenges); social awareness (developing empathy and understanding); relationship skills (developing healthy, positive relationships and team-building); and responsible decision-making. The goal is to give Baldwin students the support and skills they need to become women who make a positive impact in all parts of their lives – from the classroom and the playing fields to their homes and local communities.

The Baldwin School Library Services Team: Experts in the Education of Girls

The library services team of The Baldwin School regularly goes above and beyond when it comes to facilitating the education and development of the entire community.  Their mission is to “foster a lifelong habit and love of reading and learning,” and they accomplish this through an intentional drive to encourage the thoughtful and responsible exchange of ideas.  This is particularly important for the School’s position as a leader in the education of girls. As literary experts and constant advocates for our students, they are not only always finding new ways to work with each classroom and creating avenues to encourage our students to use their resources, but they make it a priority to research new trends in the development of girls and women.  At the library, students discover new talents, push their limits and find their voice in a supportive setting.

As experts, and understanding how essential the exchange of ideas is among educators, the team regularly attends and presents at conferences.  Lisa Lopez-Carickhoff, Director of Libraries and Information Services, Lauren Friedman-Way, Middle School Librarian, and Emily Woodward, Lower School Library Media Specialist, enjoyed three action-packed days over the summer at the National Coalition of Girls Schools – Global Forum on Girls Education, in Washington, DC. In addition to the many session presentations, they found the list of keynote speakers to be very impressive — Billie Jean King, Rachel Simmons (author of Odd Girl Out, Enough as She Is), Azar Nafisi (author of Reading Lolita in Tehran) and many others.

While at the conference, the team co-presented the session Identity Making: A Novel Approach, which examined the ways our libraries encourage identity exploration by enabling student agency in literacy practices.  They discussed how exploring and constructing identity is an integral part of school life, and supporting agency throughout this identity-building process is a unique value that distinguishes independent schools for girls. Reading is an essential component, providing a space for girls to try on, try out and build identity.  Learn more about their presentation here.

“NCGS was truly a remarkable experience and such a valuable opportunity for the Baldwin Libraries team. The most important piece, for us, was looking at our work with girls and reading within the context of the national and global girls education endeavor. I think we felt simultaneously validated about the work of the Baldwin Libraries and challenged by the depth and breadth of the work going on in our sister schools. Not to mention – it was supremely cool to present at the same conference as Billie Jean King. Wow,” said Lisa Lopez-Carickhoff.

As a whole, the Baldwin libraries are a hub for all members of the Baldwin community.  Made up of three unique libraries to fully embrace the needs of every student from Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12, as well as all faculty and staff, the libraries include more than 25,800 titles and over 40 databases and digital learning tools. In the 2017-2018 school year alone, the library team facilitated over 600 classes in their spaces and archives.  We encourage you to stop by the next time you’re on campus!

5 Life Lessons

Taken from a speech given by Lower School Director Elizabeth Becker at our 2018 Lower School Moving Up Ceremony.

First, pursue your passion. Don’t be a spectator in the game of life. Get off the couch and make your mark. Don’t lose sleep thinking about what might happen, don’t worry about what people might say, and please don’t let anything or anyone extinguish your flame. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. You won’t be successful if you don’t try. So pursue your passion, follow your dreams, and make it happen.

Second, make a difference. Be a positive force in people’s lives. Making a difference doesn’t always require a monetary gift, more importantly it is the gift of a caring heart. Make people feel special; bring out the best in others; and be genuinely happy for their achievements. The truth is, success isn’t measured by what you accumulate in life, but by what you give to others.

Third, appreciate what you have. It won’t always be easy but be thankful for what you have in your life. Sometimes it is easier for us to want to focus on what we do not have; but when we do this we sometimes lose focus of what we do have. So appreciate what you have before it becomes what you had. The truth is, happy people don’t necessarily have more; they’re just satisfied with what they do have.

Fourth, own your life. You’ll be faced with decisions every day. You have the freedom to choose the direction that you want to take, to determine the choices that you’ll make, and to decide how hard you’re willing to work to achieve your goals. If you want your life to be different, don’t look to others — change it yourself. The truth is, your life is determined by the choices that YOU make every day not by the decisions of others.

Fifth, make yourself proud. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you meet the expectations of others; what counts is that you meet your own expectations. So set the bar high, live your life with integrity, and make yourself proud––you have to face yourself in the mirror every day. The truth is, if you don’t respect yourself, why should others?

One day when you’re old (yes…over 25), you may stop and ask yourself the question: “How did I do?” Here are clues to the answer: Have you learned that happiness is as important as success? Do you care not only about where life has taken you, but also how have you been involved in where it has taken others?

So find your passion, be courageous and make yourself proud!

A Final Opportunity to Say Goodbye

Director of Upper School Eric Benke addressed the Upper School in his newsletter one more time before the beginning of summer and the end of his tenure at The Baldwin School.

This is my last opportunity to say goodbye to you. Seniors, we’re in a similar situation – getting ready to leave a place that has been home to us for many years. Like you, I have mixed feelings – excitement about what the future holds yet a little nervousness as well. In any case, it’s the right time in our lives to move on to the next thing.

I have so many people to thank for the experience I’ve had here that I would be all day listing them. My colleagues have been a great part of my career here, and our mutual trust and respect have been vital to making these years so good.

I believe the coming century will be the time when women take their place in the world. We desperately need your leadership and creativity. There will be resistance to this new order, but this battle will be won in your lifetime. We need you to take on the great problems of the world, and my generation is putting its hopes in you to apply the solutions we already have to solve the great issues that face us: disease, hunger, poverty.

The biggest problem we face is hatred, which cannot be solved by technology. Instead, we must be strong in our love for others and demonstrate the power of love. Every day, you have the power by your words and actions to make a difference, whether it’s saying hello to a teacher at school or how you treat the guy behind the counter at the coffee shop. A few simple words can make someone’s day – don’t forget that power.

Usually I assign you homework over the summer, but I’m not going to this year. You’re getting a break. Instead, try to live with an awareness that your love and respect for others makes a difference. You can be an example of what the world needs even in your day-to-day lives.

So, it’s time to say goodbye; to quote Robert Frost: “I have promises to keep/ and miles to go before I sleep/ and miles to go before I sleep.”

For the last time, Seniors are dismissed.

Upper School Environmental Science Capstone Project: Our Students Become Teachers

Written by Maggie Epstein, Science Teacher

In honor of Earth Day, and as a capstone project for their senior elective, the Environmental Science class took on the challenge of becoming experts on an environmental issue and then educating and acting on that issue as well. Throughout the year, the class has focused on the depletion and sustainability of common resources. And while we span the breadth of the subject, there is rarely time to go as deep into specific issues as we may like. So, during the month of April each student chose a topic that they were personally motivated to address. In class and outside of school, they researched and found small solutions to the problem. Most excitedly, this was by far everyone’s favorite part of the project, they were tasked with teaching about their topic to a lower school class.

This was the first year I attempted this project (at this scale at least) and it was daunting. The seniors would have to budget their time and be on their own as “teachers” when it was their turn. However, as soon as the first lesson happened in mid-April, I knew it was going to be an amazing experience. Mary Rose Shields ‘18 and Haley Smith ’18 hadn’t just prepared lectures about deforestation and pollinators, they arrived in gardening clothes with soil and seeds, beaming with enthusiasm. Their lesson highlighted the importance of bees and trees within the ecosystem. They got their hands dirty with the Kindergartners, planting, teaching and being just amazing role models for the younger girls.

Similarly, Emma Bradley ‘18 and Gabbi Pettineo ’18 got the other Kindergarten class to rally behind polar bears. A visit from Winnie got the girls excited, but what really thrilled them was getting to experience how blubber insulates the bears and is vital for their survival. Learning about the importance of blubber was key to understanding how the bears are threatened when they have to travel further and further for food. Less food and more walking means less blubber and a very cold bear. The girls coated their hands in simulated “blubber” to test this theory. Their “blubber” covered hands stayed perfectly warm even in a bowl of ice water – some very fun hands-on science for sure!

Earth Day is a global day of awareness and Rhea Li ’18 was able to share her knowledge of Mandarin with the 1st grade – teaching them Earth themed vocabulary! The girls in her class were all joyful and eager participants leaning to say Earth, ocean, the highest mountain and more. Even the Pre-K was on board for an Earth day lesson. Kate Park ’18 and Dagny DeFratis-Benway ’18 taught them about the size and importance of the oceans. The girls had fun sorting aquatic animals and making their own watery “Earth” to take home. I know their lesson was a success as my own Pre-K daughter came home and told me how “litter is dangerous for all the ocean animals.”

Not all the lessons were quite as sunny though. Melia Hagino ’18 tackled water inequity with the 5th grade; Emily Thompson ’18 got 1st graders to consider their carbon footprints; Natalia Schafer ’18 and Julia Love ’18 warned about the dangers facing the coral reefs. Though these topics were complex, students were still engaged and excited for the experience. The seniors commented on the impressive level of intellectual curiosity from Lower School students and also on the incredible empathy they encountered on their visits.  Maya Hairston ’18 and Miyanni Stewart ’18 were concerned at first that Ms. Fitzpatrick’s 4th grade would be too young to understand the concept of environmental racism. They were confident though that the topic was one they wanted to address and they did so with incredible maturity and thoughtfulness. They had the girls participate in a roll play game that modeled the disparity among the environments of  some communities inhabited by people of color. They spoke to them about the causes and consequences of this injustice and allowed them to share their own thoughts as well. The experience was powerful for all involved. Maya reflected, “I was worried at first that this topic would be too much for fourth graders, but they handled it so well. I feel so honored to have presented in front of a class of such smart young thinking girls. I look forward to seeing them in the halls from now on!”

Beyond just learning and teaching, our class took action. In one month, the Environmental Science class, collectively,  raised money for the Natural Resource Defense council and the United Way, created an Instagram to promote reducing carbon emissions (you can follow it @iamparisca), signed numerous petitions, planted two trees, created a pollinator garden, reduced the flow on their toilets and more!

Watching students combine what they’ve learned with their myriad talents and skills was inspiring. I hope to not just continue this project but expand it to include even more of the Lower School and possibly the larger community in the future. As Haley noted in her reflection, “At the end when we were outside planting, a bee flew by and none of the girls flinched. They watched as it flew around and one girl said, ‘Don’t worry bee! My flower for you will be ready soon!’ This was an adorable moment that made me realize I had done my job.” I have to agree with her. As I saw all the photos of the girls from Pre-K on up to my class of 2018 smiling, learning and working together, I absolutely felt the same joy.

See more of our favorite photos on The Baldwin School’s Smugmug.

Teaching Our Students to Love Science

Written by Christie Reed, Science Department Chair, Becky Lewis, Lower School Science Teacher and Maggie Epstein, Middle School Science Teacher. 

Winnie, our School mascot, is missing! Where did she go and who took her? As the 5th graders entered their Science class, this was the crime scene they faced. It was up to them to figure out what had happened, and they were going to use their newly gained knowledge of the microscope and their well-trained observational skills to do so. Piecing together bits of information provided, along with various microscope slides containing evidence, the students went about solving the disastrous crime. After all, a pep rally is no pep rally without our mascot! When science class is this engaging, who wouldn’t love it?

As teachers at Baldwin, we have the privilege of being able to craft our classes, tailoring what we are doing according to student interests, current events and new discoveries. Our classrooms are our creative space, a place where we can try new things while introducing the girls to the world of discovery, a place where one teacher noted, “We can make science zany.” In Lower School, for example, a student may learn about the parts of a flower inadvertently while engineering a way to pollinate flowers if there are not enough bees. Or in Middle School, a student learning about density may be asked to take advantage of a snowy day to collect some snow from outside to then determine if there is a difference between the density of snow and the density of water. Or in Upper School, a student may be called upon to determine if gene therapy in a fetus is the best course of action for a genetic condition after having diagnosed the mutation with her knowledge of protein synthesis, research on the condition and a determination of its severity. As teachers at Baldwin, we can differentiate to the needs of our classes.  If students want to take a deep dive into how technology is being created to help patients with Parkinson’s disease by performing a neural micro-stimulation experiment on cockroaches, we are able to indulge those curiosities. We are not limited by the constraints of a national standard and we often exceed those guided standards.

Beginning in Pre-Kindergarten our Lower School science program has a dedicated science teacher and a separate science classroom. Science is not something “extra” or being taught by a teacher who is unfamiliar with and uncomfortable teaching science material. The goals of Lower School science are exposure, immersion and engagement. Science is presented in a meaningful tangible way for our littlest scientists. Our girls become scientists, using real science equipment and engaging in science experiments.  The girls are encouraged to find science “cool,” and even the teacher keeps them guessing each day with a science outfit that often relates to the topic for one of the science classes. On an average day, students might be attempting to prove that Snow White’s mishaps were not because of a poison apple, but instead a gluten allergy,  predicting phenotypes in live zebrafish, engaging in a live surgery with surgeons or writing an infomercial trying to sell metamorphic rock.

Middle School and Upper School classes are all taught by subject specialists who are experts in Physics, Biology, Chemistry or Environmental Science. Skills are emphasized while content is explored with experiences and problem solving. For example, when a particular 8th grade class showed a concern for the number of un-recycled water bottles left on school grounds, it led to an entire shift within the unit toward the chemistry of water quality and plastics. These girls saw the science classroom as a place to find answers, and they saw themselves as the ones to figure out a solution. They designed experiments to test the water for common pollutants and even for taste. They planned control groups and shared their data. The middle school years are often when confidence wanes, replaced by the burden of wanting to fit in while still discovering what that even means. These 8th graders showed real risk-taking and were empowered by the results. The structure of middle school science is predictable – the tools, the labs … but the built-in spontaneity of not having the answers (or even the questions) constantly fed to them encourages girls to see science as the exciting, evolving discipline it is. When a middle schooler sees herself as a scientist, she can feel more confident tackling any problem. This approach continues in Upper School where our ultimate goal is to educate science literate critical thinkers who are not afraid to solve any problem in whatever their future fields of endeavor. Learning opportunities are everywhere and are seized upon to keep science exciting, engaging and relevant. For example, the Physics teacher recently asked his students how their driving was on the snowy, icy roads after a few snow days in order to introduce his discussion about static and kinetic friction, and the Biology classes used the recent cloning of a monkey to begin their discussion on DNA.

From the moment our students begin their science journey in our pre-Kindergarten, to the capstone advanced elective courses they take in senior year, we work to excite, empower and instill a love of learning and questioning in our girls. They believe there is nothing they cannot do, and if they ever meet a challenge that seems too big or too overwhelming to solve, they gather their best problem-solving tools and go about figuring it out anyway. Risk-taking is the norm, and throughout their work in science at Baldwin, the students quickly see that the wrong answer is often more celebrated than the right answer! After all, the best learning occurs after mistakes are made. How great to turn a misunderstood concept or an incorrectly solved problem into an opportunity to discuss why that is not necessarily the answer. Students are encouraged to speak out and to think through a solution verbally as they work through their own understanding. Guided questions from the teacher, contributions from classmates and thinking out loud allow the girls to work through their understanding in a way that gives them the confidence to be a leader in their own learning. The message to our girls is loud and clear: trust yourself. The worst thing that can happen is that you are wrong and learn from your mistakes! This is one of the most powerful benefits of an all-girls’ education—the girls are not afraid to speak up loudly and confidently, whether they know the answers or not! There is no one to impress, and learning is the most important thing in the classroom.

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?