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.

Girls on the Run is So Much Fun!

Written by Girls on the Run coaches Janice Tan, Erin Hesketh and Liz Tily.

You may have heard this cheer around the Lower School or maybe you have seen some girls and their coaches running up and down the hall or on the fields. Curious? What you have witnessed is the first Girls on the Run (or GOTR for short) team at Baldwin. Before the season even started, months of training and meetings went on behind the scenes – Coaches Erin Hesketh, Liz Tily, Janice Tan and Megan Rohricht were well prepared and excited for the first season to begin!

For those who are unfamiliar with the GOTR curriculum, it consists of 20 activity-based youth development lessons that are completed in 10 weeks. The mission? A world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. Girls on the Run is more than just a fitness club. Each week begins with an educational lesson designed to offer confidence, build relationships and teach life skills to young girls. At the end of the program, the girls participate in a 5k to celebrate their hard work. Every lesson builds upon a topic from the week before. The goal is to help girls be happy, healthy and confident.

A typical afternoon with GOTR starts with our girls “getting on board.” During this time, the girls transition from school to their run session. We introduce the theme of the day during a short activity. These themes include: balance, self-talk, emotions, empathy, friendship, teamwork and communication. Next, we incorporate some stretching and strengthening activities before we head off to the warm-up. The warm-up consists of movements like a game of freeze tag or a group relay. Soon after, the workout of the day begins. During this time, the girls make a lap goal, don the lap counter bracelet Coach Erin came up with and we get to work!

In between laps includes some type of journaling or communicating about our theme of the day. After laps we process our lesson and transcribe a picture, word or phrase about our day onto our “identity cards.” These cards have become very busy, demonstrating all the hard work and season’s accomplishments. At the end of each lesson, the girls give out a great big cheer and an energy award is given. An energy award is a super fun way to recognize a girl or group of girls who has given their all on that day. The girls have embraced the positivity and enjoyed celebrating their teammates throughout the season.

This past week, we completed our practice 5K and it went beautifully. After navigating some tricky spring weather, the team managed to get their laps in and build the fitness and confidence they needed to get the job done. The end of the season brings our community impact project so look around Baldwin’s campus for some GOTR personal touch!

The season finale ends on May 20th with our GOTR 5K at Montgomery County Community College. All are welcome – boys, girls, friends and family. It will give our girls a chance to share some of the positivity our season generated. If you want to join us for our season closing 5K, grab some sneakers and we’ll see you on May 20th!

As GOTR coaches, we were excited to be a part of a new program. We wanted to meet girls in other grades and get involved in a running program. The Girls on the Run program was much more than that! We were able to develop relationships and help build confidence in the girls to see that they are truly stronger than they believe! We were amazed by the responses and ideas generated by the girls during the group discussions. Many friendships were built through the GOTR program and we had so much fun interacting with the girls. The program even helped the coaches to reflect on and improve different aspects of their lives! We loved being Girls on the Run coaches!

A Cross Curricular, Multi-Grade Interactive Dinosaur Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For fellow educators and collaborators:

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

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

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

Middle School Service Trip: Discovering Marine Conservation

During Baldwin’s Spring Break, 12 Middle School students traveled to Key Largo, Florida, for a week of activities involving service, culture and exploration.  The group worked with Marine Design Lab to learn about marine biology and conservation.  Grace Halak ’22, Blake Landow ’22, Thea Rosenzweig ’22, Sarah Ying ’22 and Elva Chen ’22 discussed their experiences:

“When I first heard about the Rustic Pathways service trip to Key Largo, I immediately began imagining what I would tell my parents that night to convince them to sign me up. I had received many positive reviews from my peers who went on the New Orleans trip two years ago, so I was incredibly excited when Baldwin offered another Rustic Pathways experience, especially since it relates to marine biology, which fascinates me. I had always thought it was wonderful that Baldwin offered so many opportunities for service as a student, but environmental service had always been my favorite. This trip promised that and more: a week of snorkeling, experimenting and collecting environmental data in Key Largo with MarineLab. The trip sounded like the perfect blend of education, service and fun, and it did not disappoint me.”

“This trip was one of the best and most exciting weeks of my life. We got to go snorkeling almost every day, which gave us so many wonderful opportunities to explore and learn about marine life. Our first day’s activities included learning about coral reef ecology and then later getting to experience the reefs ourselves. Later that evening, we had a fish identification class where we learned how to discern different types of fish, and engaged in a water quality lab. This prepared us for the next day when we headed out to the reef again. This time it was so much more enjoyable and compelling because we knew exactly what we were looking at. During the few days we had left, we enjoyed a seagrass ecology class, snorkeled in the mangroves, took part in a coastal clean-up, participated in a micro-plastics lab and an invertebrate identification lab, referred to as the ‘rock shake’, in which we observed minuscule marine creatures living on algae growing on rocks from the ocean. On our final day at MarineLab, we went on one last snorkel in the mangroves on the bay, and then we headed back to Miami. It is incredible how much everyone learned on this trip and it felt good to help our environment in the process. There was an exhilarating adventure ahead of us every day. I was extremely satisfied with Rustic Pathways and MarineLab’s program, and I can say the same for the rest of the group. I am grateful for the opportunity, and the only thing I would change would be to make the experience last longer!”

“On this trip, I learned a lot about marine life and our environment. We had lessons on the coral reefs, seagrass and mangroves, fish and how humans affect these things. Now that the trip is over, I am more aware of my actions that affect the environment. At MarineLab, the group participated in a micro-plastics lab, in which we observed the amount of plastic in a sample of water from the boat dock. The results were staggering. I learned about statistics and how the ratio of micro-plastics to plankton was very large, and how plastic in the ocean is detrimental to animals and their habitats. This lab and the whole experience made me think about things I can do to help, even if it is just changing a small part of my life.”

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?

The Sour and the Sweet

Foreword by Cindy Lapinski, Director of Middle School.  Story by Defne Doken ’24.

The term ‘growth mindset’ is regularly discussed in the Middle School. We talk with the students about what it means to have a growth mindset in relation to learning and trying new things. According to Carol Dweck, “those with a growth mindset believe their talents and abilities can be developed. Fixed mindsets see every encounter as a test of their worthiness. Growth mindsets see the same encounters as opportunities to improve.” The following story was written by one of our students to illustrate the idea of growth mindset as part of a class assignment.

Doken_Defne_1831081The Sour and the Sweet

Once upon a time, in a dark, leafy green forest lived a rabbit. The rabbit’s name was Cocos nucifera, Coco for short. The rabbit was creamy white with chocolate brown spots and soft, almond eyes. One day, the rabbit became hungry. It nuzzled the grass for a bit, searching for bits of edible clover and then looked up, perplexed. A bright, lemon yellow parakeet had flown onto a branch overlooking Coco.

“Who are you?” asked Coco.

“A hero,” said the bird.

“What have you done?” Coco inquired.

“I have saved the world from mosquitos.”

“Have you, now?”

“I have defeated their ruler, Culicidae.”

“How have you done this?”

“Well, first I saw his servants, buzzing irritatingly around the pond. Then, as I caught a glimpse of him and his beady, little eyes, I decided enough is enough. I flew over and told him there was a juicy pear in the depths of the pond. The stupid little thing flew over and drowned. Such a talent I have, such a talent.”

The bird seemed too full of himself.

“May I ask your name, bird?” Coco wondered.

“Oh, not bird. I am Sire Citrus the Great.”

“How elegant. Well, I must go. Please visit me with more heroic stories.”

At that, Coco wandered off in search of fresh vegetables. However, Sire Citrus the Great was left with a thought that nagged at him.

“Does she think that I am a joke? I must be more convincing for anyone to believe I can achieve such greatness without being born like so. What if the real Culicidae comes back from his Starbucks run? I will be ruined!” thought Sire Citrus the Great.

So the worried bird flew away in search of more ways to appear brave. Meanwhile, Coco was sitting by the edge of the pond where Culicidae was supposedly slain; however, as she looked toward the “former” mosquito nest, she saw Culicidae sitting on his throne made of an apple core, sipping a cappuccino.

“How could it be? Culicidae back from the dead?”

“Back from the dead? I’ve only just entered my senior years!” Culicidae cried.

“You should have been slain by Sire Citrus the Great? Was this…was this a lie?”

“The Great Citrus who?”

“The heroic yellow parakeet!”

“You mean Melopsittacus? The boastful bird who believes that all who appear dumb are cursed forever?


Melopsittacus roamed the forest and found a stone by the edge of some shrubbery. Suddenly, he had an idea. He collected some blueberries and peeled the skin off with his beak. Smearing the blueberries against the rock gave it a navy tinge. Everyone would think he had a magic blue rock!

“Sire, or should I say Melopsittacus!” Coco suddenly cried, running up to the bird in the midst of his rock painting.

“Oh no! You have found out!” Melopsittacus shrieked.

However, Coco’s tone became softer.

“Melopsittacus, you do not have to lie to be something you aspire to be.”

“Yes, I do! No one can be a hero unless they are born with strength and courage. And a bird like me? No hero has ever been a measly parakeet!”

“Melopsittacus, if you tell yourself you are brave, you will be brave. If you tell yourself you have courage, you will have courage. You have to make yourself believe, not others.”

“Magical rabbit, I am simply a lying old failure. I cannot do great things.”

“Say you are brave.” Coco told the bird.

“I am brave.” The bird said.

Suddenly, the rock Melopsittacus had painted began to glow.

“Have hope and never give up,” Coco said as she hopped away.

Team Up Philly & Baldwin – Empowering Young Women

DSC_0002Torrie Smith ’20 talks about her experience with Team Up Philly and how she’s helping students at The Baldwin School partner with this organization to inspire and empower young women.

Team Up Philly is an organization designed to empower girls from underserved areas in Philadelphia. By promoting individualism and unity, they teach the girls to become independent while also working with one another.

I originally saw Team Up Philly at the tennis courts where I train every week. Next I saw them at Ludington library every Thursday afternoon for months while I was doing homework there. After seeing them many times, it seemed such a meaningful experience to bond with these girls. I eventually was introduced to their executive director, Marian Fischer Pearlman who helped me to become a tutor. During my freshman year, I attended Thursday sessions at the library from 4:00-5:15 whenever I could where I would help the girls complete homework, work on a special project, or play fun math games. As a very avid tennis player, I also wanted to help out with the tennis aspect. I talked with Marian and ended up volunteering as a coach at Team Up Philly’s tennis camp this past summer. I watched them progress over the course of the six week program.

After working very closely with Team Up Philly, I began to think about my time at Baldwin and realized that there were so many similarities between the two places. Team Up Philly is an organization that inspires girls to reach their full potential. Since Team Up Philly and Baldwin had many similarities, both designed to empower young women, I thought it would be a perfect fit to partner the two organizations.

The girls from Team Up Philly come to Baldwin once a month. Through this partnership, all of the girls are able to create long-lasting bonds with one another. We do fun activities like sports, arts and crafts, and games. During our first session, members of Baldwin’s tennis team instructed and played tennis with the girls. Some players were brand new to the game so they were taught the fundamentals, while others had played much more so they played games with one another and Baldwin girls. Overall it was an extremely fun and rewarding experience. Our second session was devoted to crafts and games. Some of the Team Up Philly girls decorated holiday cookies with the help of Baldwin girls and others played fun games like Jenga and Taboo. In the future, we plan to continue with games, sports and crafts to continue linking the two organizations.