Fairy Tales Reinvented

Written in collaboration by Upper School English teacher Sheryl Forste-Grupp and Lower School Library and Media Specialist Emily Woodward.

DSC_0044

In the senior elective class titled “Fairy Tales Reinvented,” students read a variety of European fairy tales and discuss how those tales reflect and critique society.

Students talked about how most people assume that fairy tales are only meant to convey moral and behavioral lessons to younger children. They learned that this assumption dates back to Ancient Greece. The Greek philosopher Plato argued in The Republic that impressionable children should no longer be told imaginative, traditional stories by their nurses and mothers but should only hear serious stories sanctioned by the Greek city-state government. The seniors then considered their own experience with reading fairy tales when they were younger. They talked about how the messages of these stories and whether the messages were evolving.

For the culmination of this unit, each student selected an illustrated book from the Lower School library. Some girls chose a childhood favorite like “Rumpelstiltskin” or “The Egyptian Cinderella.” Some chose a story which challenged typical fairy tale convention such as “Princess Furball.” They analyzed their story for voice, character and message. Then they wrote a book teaser or advertisement for the book for a Lower School audience. They also wrote a review of the book for an adult audience. The book teasers were displayed in the Lower School library and on the bulletin board.

To culminate their study, the seniors were matched with second grade girls. This also kicked off our second grade’s library unit on fairy tales.  Together they sat and the seniors read their fairy tale books to their new friends. The seniors asked questions to engage the younger students: would you do the same thing? How would you feel if that happened to you? What do you predict will happen next? What do you think the moral of the story is?

The seniors were impressed by how “the Baldwin lower schoolers [were] very quick to speak their minds” about the stories. Josephine Gantz ’18 remarked that “They were extremely attentive and listened to us carefully as we read the stories. Whenever we asked questions they answered us thoughtfully with huge smiles on their faces.” When the reading time ended, Maya Hairston ’18 said,  “We did a big group hug at the end, and they told me to say hi to them in the halls.”

Update and Enhance Your Library

Cultivated by our school librarians, enjoy these book recommendations to find new favorites and new ways to upgrade and enhance your personal collection.  Discover something for every child ranging from Pre-K through Grade 12.  Purchase on Amazon Smile to support our school.

Lower School Recommendations

not quite narwhalNot Quite Narwhal (Grades Pre-K and up)
Jessie Sima
Purchase on Amazon

Kelp was born under the sea in a clamshell. He feels he is different from the other narwhals; he can’t swim as quickly, and he is less than enthusiastic about their squid dinners. One day he gets swept away by a current and sees a figure like himself! Pursuing the phantom, Kelp must swim for hours and learn to walk on land which is no easy feat. He eventually finds the unicorns (or land narwhals as he calls them). Kelp loves learning and tasting new things, but will he go back to his narwhal home?  Not Quite Narwhal is a fantastic book for any age about acceptance, being yourself, and understanding differences can be good.

pink lionPink Lion (Grades Pre-K – 1)
Jane Porter
Purchase on Amazon

Arnold is a pink lion who happily grows up thinking he’s a flamingo. When a gang of lions comes by they insist that Arnold is a lion and should come with them. The pink lion isn’t a big fan of licking himself clean, hunting, or roaring. But when he tries to go back to his flamingo family, things aren’t as they seem.  A nice book about adoption, acceptance and families.

marta-2f3emddMarta! Big & Small (Grades Pre-K-1)
Jen Arena
Purchase on Amazon

Marta is a clever girl who lives in a jungle and knows Spanish. She teaches the reader descriptive words as well as animal names throughout the book. Marta shows the reader how she’s slow compared to a horse, but fast when matched with a turtle. When a snake arrives on the scene, will Marta be as tasty as she looks? She is ingeniosa and escapes with a smile.  This fun little book incorporates Spanish & English, opposites, similarities, comparisons and animals.

rolling-thunder-rpqxmh-1bshdxjRolling Thunder (Grades K-2)
Kate Messner
Purchase on Amazon

A fresh look at Memorial Day through the eyes of a boy who accompanies his biker grandpa on the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally in Washington DC. Grandpa rides for those he was with in Vietnam, and the youth rides for his Uncle who is currently enlisted and deployed. After camping out, the pair ride to the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Wall Memorial. The concepts of POWs, MIAs, and death is brought up, but not explained in depth. The poetic verse and pastel pictures provide a powerful, yet appropriate message for young and old alike.

waterprincess-12izdweThe Water Princess (Grades K-3)
Susan Verde
Purchase on Amazon

This gorgeous picture book is based on the childhood experience of fashion model and activist Georgie Badiel. A princess, named Gie Gie, has a magnificent kingdom and wonderful powers. But the one thing she wishes for, to make the water come closer, Gie Gie cannot do. Every day she and her mother walk miles to get water, “dusty, earth-colored liquid.” Gie Gie dances with her mother on the journey there and plays with her friends while her mother waits in line for their turn. When they arrive home, mother boils water for them to drink. Gie Gie cleans their clothes, and the dinner is fixed. The next morning the journey for water is to be repeated again. This book is a gentle, positive way to introduce the struggle some societies have over water. It is also based on a true story and has pictures in the back of Georgie Badiel and how she raised money for a well in a school situated in an area with no water. A great introductory read for a service project and to help students be aware of what some children struggle with.

day i became a birdThe Day I Became a Bird (Grades 1 and up)
Ingrid and Guridi Chabbert
Purchase on Amazon

In this sweet and unusual book, a boy falls in love with a girl for the first time. She however, only has eyes for the birds. The boy decides instead of passively waiting, to do something that will definitely catch her attention.  Whether in class or on the soccer field, he wholeheartedly makes a transformation into a large bird. Will it be enough?

dyamonde daniel seriesThe Dyamonde Daniel Series (Grades 1-3)
Nikki Grimes
Purchase on Amazon

Dyamonde Daniel is a spunky, outgoing girl whose classmates go through a variety of difficulties. The topics feel genuine (being new in school, someone who lives in a homeless shelter, a classmate who loses everything in a house fire) to the story and are great discussion topics with students.

 

lou lou and pea

Lou Lou & Pea and the Mural Mystery (Grades 2-5)
Jill Diamond,‎ Lesley Vamos
Purchase on Amazon

Throughout this beautifully illustrated mystery two best friends need to use their gardening and art skills to bring about justice. Smatterings of Spanish (with a lovely glossary in the back), a close-knit neighborhood including beautiful murals, and a Día de los Muertos celebration bring this multicultural story to life. Great for readers who grew out of Ivy & Bean and love a little mystery.

 

sybil ludingtonSybil Ludington: Revolutionary War Rider  (Grades 3-6)
E. F. Abbott
Purchase on Amazon

Sybil Ludington is part of a spy family during the Revolutionary War. Her father, in charge of a unit of militiamen, needed help with the war effort.  When someone is needed to gather her father’s men to fight, sixteen-year-old Sybil braves numerous dangers to sound the alarm. A very interesting book about a period in time not many know about. There are historical photographs and pictures throughout the book.

goodstory-2i326zw-vmuxk0This Would Make a Good Story Someday (Grades 4-8)
Dana Alison Levy
Purchase on Amazon

Sara is going into Middle School after the summer and has detailed plans to spend time with her friends and improve herself. But surprise, Mimi (one of Sara’s moms) has won a month long train trip! Mimi is going to write about the trip and their family, college age Laurel, her boyfriend Root, Sara, their other mom, and Li, the little sister. Sara does not want any part of it but is dragged along anyway. To make matters worse, the other prize winner and his family are going to be traveling companions with them.

 

Middle and Upper School Recommendations

optimists-rjnhm3-2jhlnbiOptimists Die First (Grades 7 and up)
Susan Nielsen
Purchase on Amazon

Petula is scared of everything and spends her days thinking of the myriad ways in which people can be killed. Before the accident that killed her little sister, Petula was an average adolescent girl with a passion for crafting.  Petula, however, has never stopped blaming herself for what happened, and she has cut herself off from everything that reminds her of that time, including crafting, and her best friend. When Petula meets Jacob, a new boy with a prosthetic arm, a warm and open demeanor, and a tragic past of his own, her life slowly starts to knit back together. Jacob, however, is keeping a huge secret, and when Petula inevitably finds out, it completely alters the way she views him.  Nielsen does a wonderful job getting into Petula’s psyche; the way her grief and guilt manifests will hit home to a lot of people.  Petula is constantly hounded by that little voice going “If only…,” a voice that beleaguers everyone at some point in their lives.  While the heavy emphasis on crafting may turn some people off, at its heart, it is a story about two lost, grieving souls finding each other, and finding joy.

namestheygaveus-1f0jotw-1ds4003The Names They Gave Us (Grades 7 and up)
Emery Lord
Purchase on Amazon

This is a book about the power to shift your perceptions, and the lasting impact it can have on your life.  Lucy is secure in her faith; her father is a pastor, and Lucy genuinely enjoys going to church each week, and she especially looks forward to being a counselor at Bible camp each summer.  However, after learning that her mother’s cancer has returned, Lucy’s faith is completely shaken.  Her parents convince her to try a new camp this summer, Daybreak, a camp for “troubled” kids, where her mom believes she’ll find solace and kinship. Lucy is skeptical, and after her rocky start, she’s sure she’ll never fit in, or be any help to anybody. Thankfully for Lucy, her fellow counselors are welcoming and forgiving; Lucy finds that the more open she is with them, the more open they are with her. These diverse teens challenge everything she thought she knew and believed; it’s a pleasure to watch Lucy’s transformation as she explores what it means to be a true friend. When Lucy discovers something shocking about her mom’s past, connected to Daybreak, it will test her literal new found faith, and her new relationships. Every teenager should read this book to learn about what compassion looks like, and what allyship looks like, as Lucy expresses and embodies both.

eliza-1wtt7fg-1sxs4jmEliza and Her Monsters (Grades 7 and up)
Francesca Zappia
Purchase on Amazon

Fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl who have been looking for a follow-up, look no further!  Eliza has a huge secret; she is the author and creator of the webcomic Monstrous Sea.  Since she is only known as LadyConstellation online nobody knows her true identity.  While she is an internet superstar, her offline life is less than ideal. Eliza feels beleaguered and misunderstood by her classmates, and her parents, who are baffled by her ties to her “fake” internet friends, and her desire to spend all of her time on her phone or computer. Then hulking, football player-looking Wallace comes into her life.  Wallace, who inexplicably and shockingly is a huge fan of Monstrous Sea, writes his own stellar fanfic too; a more unlikely pair you won’t find.  The slow build up of their friendship is well done; there is some skeptical orbiting, followed by cautious interaction, and eventually, full-fledged trust.  However, when Eliza’s secret is exposed her entire world comes crashing spectacularly down around her. Even if you’re not into webcomics or fandom, Eliza is a relatable character; her love of her digital community, her desire to spend all of her time with her friends, and her mixed feelings for her parents and siblings are all things that teens will identify with.

strangerdreamer-1zt2k1s-19edkowStrange the Dreamer (Grades 7 and up)
Laini Taylor
Purchase on Amazon

A city with no name. A boy with no past.  A girl with no future.  Though it sounds bleak, Laini Taylor’s newest novel, Strange the Dreamer, is a magical, imaginative, heartbreaking story that will leave readers on the edge of their seats.  Lazlo Strange is an orphan, and a dreamer, with little memory of his childhood, save for the day that the name of the city was taken from him, and replaced with the name “Weep.” Consumed with a desire to know more, Lazlo, through an accident of fate, becomes a librarian, and garners all he can about the enigmatic city, including its language. When an entourage from Weep arrives, looking for people to come help solve a mysterious problem, Lazlo jumps at the chance. Meanwhile, in Weep, Sarai, a blue-skinned demi-goddess, is stuck; she and her three companions are trying to navigate an increasingly grim future by using their gifts, bestowed upon them by their god and goddess parents. Sarai is a dream walker, but uses her abilities to bestow nightmares on the people of Weep, punishing them nightly for their treachery.  When Sarai enters Lazlo’s dream, it unleashes an unexpected and intense series of events that will forever change the lives of the dreamers, and all of those around them. Highly recommended to all fantasy lovers.

wild beautyWild Beauty (Grades 8 and up)
Anna-Marie McLemore
Purchase on Amazon

Wild Beauty is a story about a family of women who have the ability – a compulsion, really – to grow flowers simply by reaching into the soil and willing them into existence.  As with all good stories, however, it is much more complex. Up until about a century ago, the Nomeolvides women had been persecuted, hunted, shunned, or killed because of their gifts. When they are offered sanctuary at La Pradera on the estate of the wealthy Briar family, they take it gratefully. It comes with a price, of course: the Nomeolvides women can never leave; if they try to escape, or outrun their destiny, they will die. La Pradera also takes their lovers; if a Nomeolvides woman loves someone too hard, they disappear. This is a story of love, betrayal, heartbreak, jealousy, but above all, family, and the lengths one will go to to protect those she loves.

languageofthorns-24zbqdw-2nj7bk2The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic (Grades 8 and up)
Leigh Bardugo
Purchase on Amazon

Leigh Bardugo reimagines classic tales in her newest collection of stories, The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic. Every story here is a gem, but there are two standouts.  “Amaya and the Thorn Wood” is a spin on the Minotaur myth, with a hint of “Beauty and the Beast.” It is a story of two outcasts, both of whom are ostracized because of their looks, and both of whom are second-fiddle to their more attractive, more talented siblings. Through a shared love of stories, they redefine the idea of a “happy ending.” “The Witch of Duva,” a take on “Hansel and Gretel,” challenges the tropes of the evil stepmother, and the child-snatching witch, and explores the ways in which women mistrust each other; it is richly told, and Bardugo once again utilizes repetition to great effect. A common thread throughout the book is the complexity and diversity of women; each tale forces the reader to confront their own preconceived notions of how women should behave. Give this to lovers of fairy tales, self-proclaimed feminists, and anyone who needs a wake-up call about a woman’s place in society.

the upside of unrequitedThe Upside of Unrequited.  (Grades 8 and up)
Becky Albertalli
Purchase on Amazon

Becky Albertalli’s sophomore effort, The Upside of Unrequited, is just as delightful, irreverent, and charming as her first novel, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Molly believes she’s just an average girl, especially when she compares herself to her beautiful, shining star of a twin sister, Cassie. Despite Cassie’s insistence that anybody would be lucky to have her, Molly staunchly refuses to put herself out there, despite her 26 crushes over the years; the idea of rejection is just too unpalatable, and since she’s a self-described “fat girl”, way too likely.  Readers will cheer Molly on as she finds her courage, and figures out what she’s really looking for. Molly is the perfect blend of teenage cynicism, angst, self-doubt, and naivety, and she will resonate with anyone who has ever had a crush or felt the crushing weight of rejection.

logic-udtn4h-15drajuThe Inexplicable Logic of My Life (Grades 9 and up)
Benjamin Alire Saenz
Purchase on Amazon

Sal never thought of himself as an angry kid.  And yet, here he is, getting into fight after fight for no real reason and hating himself because of it; Sal can’t help but wonder if he’s more like his biological father than he thought. As in Aristotle, parents and adults play a major role throughout the book.  Both Sal and his best friend, Samantha, are molded by their parents. Even though Sal has been raised by a steady, kind hearted, loving adoptive father, Vicente, a man who fully embraces the idea of turning the other cheek, he fears that, ultimately, his character will be shaped by the temperamental, unstable father he never knew. The matriarchs, Sal’s terminally ill grandmother, his deceased mother, and Samantha’s mother, also get a starring role here. This novel highlights in ways no other YA book in recent memory has just how powerful and pivotal adult-child relationships are and addresses head on the age old question of nature vs. nurture. Another powerhouse of a novel from Saenz. The platonic friendship between Sal and Samantha is a also refreshing change from the best-friend-to-boyfriend/girlfriend trope in many contemporary YA books.

hateugive-1vsz1gf-10tjbqeThe Hate U Give (Grades 9 and up)
Angie Thomas
Purchase on Amazon

Starr Carter is leading a double-life.  There’s the Starr Carter who attends an exclusive private school with mostly white students, has a long-term boyfriend, who is also white, and who faces daily microaggressions.  Then there’s the Starr Carter who lives in a poor neighborhood overrun by gang violence, who has a father who used to be a gang member, and who is best friends (or is she?) with Khalil.  Starr thinks she has a handle on navigating these two worlds until the night she witnesses Khalil’s murder at the hands of a police officers.  Angie Thomas has written a provocative, moving, and often times enraging book that feels incredibly current, given the multiple deaths of unarmed black men in the last few years, and the resultant simmering anger across the nation.  Starr is a heroine of our time; her indecision, her fear, and her rage, are realistic; never do we, the reader, forget that she is just a sixteen year-old girl who has a monumental weight on her shoulders. Her support network, her family, her boyfriend, her friends, are extremely well-drawn; there are no caricatures here.  From feeling like an outsider wherever she is, to embracing, and melding, both selves into a confident young woman who finds her voice, Starr’s evolution is glorious to behold.  Her character is one that everyone can see themselves in – the impulse to hide parts of yourself in order to just get through the day is universal. While this is not an easy book to read, it will hopefully inspire empathy in those who do read it; an extremely worthwhile book for allies and advocates alike.

when dimple met rishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi (Grades 9 – 12)
Sandhya Menon
Purchase on Amazon

Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel could not be more different.  Dimple is an independent young woman, passionate about coding, who feels confined by her parents’ expectations – specifically her mother’s, who seems bent on making Dimple into the perfect wife.  Rishi is a rule follower to his core; he wants nothing more to please his parents, even if that means setting aside his own dreams.  Rishi is thrilled with the idea of an arranged marriage with Dimple, something that he’s known about, and daydreamed about, for a long time.  Dimple, on the other hand, has no idea that there is any arrangement with Rishi, and anyway, marriage is the last thing on her mind.  So when the two of them meet for the first time at Insomnia Con, a summer coding program, it goes hilariously awry.  Sandhya Menon has written a delightful, smart, funny romantic comedy, starring two protagonists who think they know exactly what they want out of their lives, but after some unexpected revelations, realize maybe there’s more out there for both of them.  The way Menon depicts microaggressions, and the different ways that Rishi and Dimple deal with them – Dimple clams up, and Rishi confronts it head-on – is both realistic and poignant.

 

On the Road with the Seventh Grade

independence hall phoot

Written by Middle School Teacher Bridget Doherty

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

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

The students shared some of their thoughts on the trip:

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

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

The Stuff of History

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Innovative Professional Development

In order to innovate in the classroom, teachers must continually expose themselves to new ideas and learn new practices. Over 75% of our faculty participate in some form of off-site professional development throughout the year, attending workshops, classes and conferences around the country and indeed, around the world. They bring what they’ve learned back to their departments and classroom, often implementing new lessons and new approaches to keep their teaching on the cutting edge. Some of our faculty have participated in activities that are more extensive and often require an application process just to attend.  Below are a few of these opportunities our faculty took advantage of over the summer.  They include travel to England, Maine and New Hampshire as well as opportunities in our own backyard. All involved hands-on and minds-on activities that challenge teachers to think differently and see new perspectives.

sullivan_and_ameisonHistory Teacher Lisa Ameisen and English Teacher Melissa Sullivan participated in the Oxbridge Teacher Seminar Program at Mansfield College, Oxford, this July. Working with colleagues from North America, Europe and Africa, Lisa studied contemporary challenges in educational leadership, while Melissa explored British literature of the fantastic and its connections to the University of Oxford. Each morning, seminar participants began with classes, which often included field trips to places such as a local British independent school, C.S. Lewis’ home or the Oxford University Press. Afternoons were reserved for lectures by distinguished faculty, visits to the Bodleian Library and cream teas. After dinner and evening events such as a Shakespeare play, participants went back to their dorm rooms and finished their homework for the next morning’s class. The week was an opportunity for renewal, diverse perspectives, deep conversations and (with all of the homework) a reminder of what our students’ lives are like on a day-to-day basis.

Kindergarten Teachers Carol Beaverson and Monica Henkel participated in a program by the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Education department, which offers K – 12 teachers of all subject areas the chance to immerse themselves in the Museum’s collections and explore the special nature of art and its use as a classroom resource. The title of this year’s VAST program was Driving Creativity.

Over the course of a week, they participated in lectures, gallery sessions, hands-on sessions, facilitated discussions and reflections related to teaching for creativity. One of the most interesting lectures was given by Bob and Michele Root-Bernstein, co-authors of Sparks of Genius. The Root-Bernstein’s stressed that children need to be given ample opportunity to explore and play imaginatively throughout childhood. These childhood experiences can lead to more creative problem solving throughout the whole of life. Other lecturers explored the importance of giving students ample opportunity to work collaboratively and to develop/ask open questions. Children who develop good questioning skills become better problem solvers.

IMG_0046Grade 3 Teacher Peter Greenhalgh, Lower School DREAM Lab Coordinator Stephanie Greer and Computer Science Teaching Fellow Katie Burke attended the Constructing Modern Knowledge (CMK) week-long professional development opportunity, which was an amazing week of group maker space learning.  Peter spent several days with 5 teachers from across the country building a giant hydraulic hand that would play Maynard Ferguson Jazz using Makey Makey and computer coding. He had the opportunity to observe and collaborate with other teams working on a variety of STEAM projects. Katie worked with fellow educators to create virtual rain animations using the Microsoft Kinect and Processing. The group also spent an afternoon at the MIT Media Lab and heard speeches from Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, and Eric Rosenbaum, co-creator of the Makey Makey and developer for Scratch.

Katie also attended the National Computer Science Teacher’s Association Conference in Baltimore. Highlights of CSTA included the Girls Who Code and Hummingbird workshops and the keynote speaker, Freeman Hrabowski III, President of Maryland University.

IMG-6288English Teacher Kelly Zemaitis spent a week at Columbia University with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP). Most of her time was spent with other Middle School English teachers where they learned how to elevate their reading curriculum. Some topics studied included creating a community of readers, using reader’s notebooks effectively, teaching nonfiction, one-on-one conferencing/small group work and refining the mini-lesson, as well as a plethora of other topics.

Haystack 4Art Teacher Kristin Brown had the opportunity to study and create art at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, ME. She made collaborative art for two weeks with the only distraction being the natural surroundings. She was able to hone her skills as a printmaker, carving wood blocks by hand and using a laser cutter to create plates from which to print. The class she took worked as a team to illustrate the alphabet. According to Kristin, it was a great experience to come together with 10 strangers to produce a body of work.

Defining The Baldwin School’s Five Core Values

At the All-School Assembly to officially begin the 2017-2018 school year, our senior student leaders were asked to choose one of The Baldwin School’s five core values – Honesty, Compassion, Responsibility, Respect and Learning – and explain what that value means to them.

All School Assembly (39)Learning – Carly McIntosh ’18, Head of Senate

At Baldwin, our community centers around five core values, which determine how we carry ourselves and how we interact with our fellow community members.  Of the five, Learning often gets lost in the shuffle. While it can sometimes be a challenge to adhere to each of the core values, learning seems to be the easiest. In fact, it would require a much stronger effort NOT to learn anything while at Baldwin, than it would to take to learn. After all, every day we go to an assortment of classes where our teachers provide of us with the skills and information that we need to succeed.

But is it possible that we have overlooked the true message behind this simplistic core value? Are there more ways to learn than attending a class, and are there more people we can learn from than our teachers?

After asking myself these questions, I began to realize how many learning opportunities are offered outside of the classroom here at Baldwin. From our friends, we learn about different cultures, custom, and traditions. From coaches, we learn about teamwork, commitment, and grit. And if we step outside of our comfort zones and commit to new challenges, we can learn a great deal from ourselves as well. Whether on the field or on the court, in the dining hall, or on center stage, we must ask ourselves what we can learn from new experiences, and we must challenge ourselves to seek out these opportunities. We have all been afforded an amazing opportunity by receiving an education from Baldwin. Let’s make sure that for the 2017-2018 school year, we take advantage of this opportunity.

Respect – Natalia Schafer ’18, Senior Class President

Everyone says you have to give respect to get respect, but what does that mean? To me it means not only treating others the way you want to be treated, but acknowledging the differences between you and someone else and loving them regardless. I apologize in advance, but I’m about to bring some math into this. 6+3=9. That’s a fact I think we can all agree on. But, so does 5+4, 8+1, 2+7. The way you do things is not always the only way to do them. Just because 6+3=9, does that make 5+4 any less valid? Not at all.

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what someone else has to say. Not only listening, but understanding their perspective. Understanding where they are coming from and why they believe what they believe. We are privileged enough to go to a school like Baldwin. A school that supports us, encourages us, and pushes us. From a young age we are taught to stand up for ourselves, for what we believe in. This means we all have opinions, strong opinions, and sometimes we don’t agree. Respect is acknowledging those differences, tolerating those disagreements, and still coming together and being kind to one another. I hope that as you walk through the halls and see the 5 core value signs, you think about respect and what it means to you.

Responsibility – Marissa McGarrey ’18, Head of AA

Responsibility is an extremely valuable and critical characteristic and helps in many aspects of our daily lives. Responsibility is defined as “the state or fact of being accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management.” This shows that as students, we have the obligation to be liable for our own actions. It is our duty to come to school each and every day with a positive attitude, eager to learn more and excited to better ourselves as students. Being responsible does not require doing all the big things, but it is rather the little and simple things that people notice most. Turning in your papers to Ms. Luttrell or even turning in your homework on time are little responsibilities that go a long way and don’t go unnoticed.

Being responsible and accountable for your actions is a way to gain trust from those who surround you, like your teachers, coaches, and even your fellow classmates. I like to think of responsibility as a cause and effect chain. If YOU set the precedent and are responsible, your classmates and teammates WILL follow your lead. This not only makes you a great leader, but it also shows that you are role model for others. Additionally, being a responsible individual not only allows people to trust and look up to, but it also creates more powerful and genuine relationships. Of course, being responsible is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes being responsible leaves you feeling uncomfortable, but in the end just remember that you are developing a skill and bettering yourself as a person and student. With this skill, an unlimited amount of opportunities will unravel and you will see how powerful being responsible can really be.

Compassion – Katie Mostek ’18, Head of Arts League

I thought the best way to define compassion was through an example. In the Baldwin community, compassion is very prevalent in my everyday life. Not only do I strive to be as compassionate as possible but I find the students, teachers, and staff harbor deep compassion in all of their actions. But one moment that has stuck with me occurred when I was in the seventh grade. I had just had the worst day of my life. I had two tests, a long swim practice, and was desperately trying to memorize lines for a play I was in at the time. I exited the locker room after swim team and somehow dropped all of my mortal possessions onto the floor of the athletic center. Now this incident is not all too important in the grand scheme of my life, but in that moment, it was all over. I just stood there, too exhausted to even comprehend the fact that I had to pick up my bags. In swooped my friend, Audrey Senior, who is still near and dear to my heart. She helped me pick up my things, but she also could somehow see how utterly bereft I was and paused to ask me about my day. We only talked for a couple minutes, but having someone actually take the time to listen to my venting turned my day around. Even though it did not seem like a huge grandiose act of kindness, I still remember it to this day.

This is what compassion is to me. It is not a huge commitment, nor is it an expression of blatant pity. It is the ability to recognize when others need help and to actually help them without expecting anything in return. At school and in life, I urge everyone to take time out of their day to not only acknowledge the feelings of others, but to take the time to assist and listen to your community as well. Even the smallest bit of compassion can go a long way.

Honesty – Kate Park ’18, Head of Service League

When you think about the importance of honesty, one of the first things you think of is probably telling the truth. I, personally, think about all the times I lied to my mom when I was younger about whether or not I ate the chocolate in the cupboard. I probably thought I was being very clever, but in hindsight, it was quite obvious. Lets just say if you’re trying to sneak chocolate, throw away the wrapper.

Of course telling the truth is a very important part of being honest, but telling the truth is only a small part of a much bigger picture. In order to be truly honest, you have to be honest with yourself. You have to know yourself. Know what you like, what you don’t, your strengths and weaknesses, what you value and what makes you get out of bed in the morning, and then, you have to be honest with those feelings, because you can only be honest with others if you’re first honest with yourself.

So I challenge everyone here today, and that includes myself, as you go through this year, lets all try to be honest with ourselves. Every one of us has our own perspectives and our own unique thoughts and feelings and we have to be understand all these things in both ourselves and others, because sometimes, the biggest step towards becoming your best self, is much, much closer to home than you might think.

The Great American Eclipse – A Conclusion

Jeff Goldader is in his fourteenth year as an Upper School Science Teacher at Baldwin, teaching Honors Physics in 9th grade, and AT Physics and Astronomy in 11th and 12th grade.

eclipseIn August, “The 701” featured a short piece I wrote about the “Great American Eclipse.”  That event is now history, and I thought readers might enjoy reading about (and especially seeing!) the outcome of the trip my oldest son and I took to the path of totality in South Carolina.

In my “bio” for the previous 701 piece, I wrote, “This will be his third total solar eclipse, which he will be spending desperately dodging the clouds in South Carolina.”  Well, that was the literal truth.  On the afternoon of August 20th, forecasts of clouds at our hotel in North Charleston, and at our three backup sites, led us on a search for a place to observe near Columbia, SC.

On the day of the eclipse, our 90-minute drive first resulted in our being rained on after the start of the eclipse, but before totality.  But, after I’d given up hope, the clouds cleared 10 minutes before totality.

The above image is a compilation of a few of the images we took through my telescope, showing (left to right) the last sparkling bits of the disappearing Sun, known as “Bailey’s Beads,” at the start of totality; a specially processed image during totality showing the solar corona, and the famous “diamond ring” at the end of the total phase.

Ten minutes after totality ended, it poured rain.  But we didn’t care.  My son left for his first day of college two days after we returned home.

The “Great American Eclipse”

At new Moon on August 21,  the path of a total solar eclipse will cross the entire continental US.  The Moon will pass directly between the Earth and the Sun, and the shadow of the Moon will fall upon the Earth.  Observers at the center of the shadow, in a band about 60 miles wide, going from roughly Salem, OR, to Charleston, SC, will see the Sun completely covered by the Moon for up to about two and a half minutes.

For everybody else in the continental US, including people near Philadelphia, the Sun will never be completely covered by the Moon.  Instead, the Moon will appear to take a “bite” out of the Sun.  The closer you are to the line of total eclipse, the bigger the bite will be.  In Philadelphia, about 75% of the Sun will be covered by the Moon.  As seen from here, the eclipse starts at about 1:21 pm, reaches its peak at 2:44 pm, and ends at 4:01 pm.

Even though most of the Sun is covered, there will never be a time in Philadelphia where it is safe to look at the Sun directly.  It only takes seconds of staring at the Sun for permanent eye damage to occur.  There are no commonly available household items through which it is safe to look at the Sun.

Credit: University of Illinois, eclipse.illinois.edu
Credit: University of Illinois, eclipse.illinois.edu

However, nature has provided us with a handy way to see the crescent Sun: look in the shadows of trees!  The normally round images of the Sun cast on the ground by light peeking between the leaves will look crescent-shaped, as shown in picture to the left.

This is a fun, completely safe way to view the eclipse.  Be sure to look only at the ground, not back at the Sun through the trees!  Of course, the news will be wall-to-wall eclipse coverage, so you can get great views from the center of the path on your TV or online.  For more information, please see https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov

Jeff Goldader will be starting his fourteenth year as an Upper School Science Teacher at Baldwin, teaching Honors Physics in 9th grade, and AT Physics and Astronomy in 11th and 12th grade, in September.  He holds a BSc in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Washington in Seattle, and a PhD in Astronomy from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  Before coming to Baldwin, he had a research fellowship with the Hubble Space Telescope project, and taught astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania for five years.  This will be his third total solar eclipse, which he will be spending desperately dodging the clouds in South Carolina.

Life Was Really Simple!

Written by Madeleine Marr ’17 for our student newspaper The Hourglass.

Miss_Cross_and_Students__1951The Baldwin Residence acts as a constant reminder of our School’s historic past; the School has been educating young women since 1888, and to many it seems as though the atmosphere has stayed the same ever since. However, Sue Howson Pillsbury (Class of 1953) would state otherwise.

“How simple life was!” reflected Mrs. Pillsbury about the differences between Baldwin now and when she matriculated. She began attending Baldwin fulltime in 1943, when she was in third grade. Her family’s educational choices reflected a pattern that is still true today. Many of her female relatives had attended Baldwin, while her brothers attended The Haverford School. After graduation, Mrs. Pillsbury attended Wellesley College.

Her memory of her time at Baldwin is impressively sharp – she recalled in our interview the many rules that were enforced during her tenure, including a ban on pierced ears, thick belts and “tie shoes.” There was mandatory swimming once a week, and the classes were more structured. She remembers that her teachers, while helpful, “weren’t close.” The students all stood when a teacher entered the classroom, revealing what exactly Mrs. Pillsbury meant when she recalled that the teachers and students “weren’t buddy buddy.” Overall, Baldwin in the 1940s and ‘50s differed in that “there weren’t the choices there are now . . . it was more structured.”

While Baldwin was much more regimented, Mrs. Pillsbury’s recollections of the surrounding culture while she was attending Baldwin suggest a more uncomplicated era. One astonishing example she gave was of contacting her grandmother. “I would talk to the operator… and to call my grandmother, I would say ‘972.’ And this was for anywhere on the Main Line!” Over the decade, the number gradually increased in digits, but the fact that so few numbers were even necessary at this time truly reveals, as Mrs. Pillsbury puts it, “how simple life was.”

Another defining feature of Mrs. Pillsbury’s Baldwin experience was World War II. She explained to me that Baldwin students were all fingerprinted so that students could be identified if the school were to be bombed. Practice air raid drills were performed in the Residence during this time as well. However, the War permeated daily life in less dramatic ways. During and even some time after the War, oil and gas were rationed. Mrs. Pillsbury walked a mile to the train station every day in order to get to school because “a mile was not worth using the car.” She can remember sitting in the car for upwards of three hours while her mother stood in line at the grocery store to buy the meat she was allowed.

The social scene of Baldwin in the mid-century was far different from that of 2017. Mrs. Pillsbury could not recall one person who owned their own car; instead, they asked for use of “the car” for the day. If she were to visit a classmate outside of school, she would go over for the afternoon to someone’s house, instead of to the movies or out to eat. Mrs. Pillsbury did mention one hamburger joint she would occasionally visit, where she could get a burger for fifteen cents. The lack of a car curtailed how social Baldwin students could be, as you “couldn’t just hop into the car. You had your transportation planned.” At home, there was no television or electronic gadgets, except for the family’s radio or phonograph. As Mr. Pillsbury helpfully interjected during our phone interview, “From today’s standards it seems primitive, but then it seemed cutting edge!”

Although so many traditions have been lost and added, the tradition of a spring dance has only been modified since Mrs. Pillsbury’s tenure. Instead of the present-day Prom, the junior class hosted the May Dance. Mrs. Pillsbury actually brought her husband as her date to her senior May Dance. They had met on October 11, 1952 (a Saturday) at Baldwin’s Autumn Fair. That Tuesday, he called to ask her to a movie. Mrs. Pillsbury laughingly explained to me that she “had no idea who was going to show up at the door!” The two eventually got to know each other, and “by Christmas, that was it.” They will soon be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary this year.

Sue Pillsbury’s memories of Baldwin from so long ago truly demonstrate that our School, while it may sometimes feel like a reason for stress and anxiety, is a source of stability in our changing world. Not only are her stories fascinating and enjoyable, they also serve as an important reminder of how Baldwin has steadfastly endured, despite large cultural shifts. The differences between Mrs. Pillsbury’s and our School experiences may vary, but Baldwin represents an institution that unites students across generations through traditions and core values. We are all Baldwin Girls at heart, no matter what age we are.

Finding the Art in Science

Written by Dr. Karen Z. Lancaster, Teacher of  Biology and Advanced Molecular and Cellular Biology

Science in Art (13)In March, students in Baldwin’s Advanced Topics (AT) Biology class had the opportunity to enhance their neuroscience unit through nontraditional mediums, including a neuroscience symposium, guided human brain dissection and a field trip to the Mütter Museum that included a workshop on the brain. Students were also challenged to connect science with art by exploring careers in medical illustration and art in science research.

To kick off this series, AT Biology hosted four world class researchers from the University of Pennsylvania to discuss their projects within diverse fields of neuroscience research. The speakers discussed topics ranging from the effects of elevated alcohol intake on the dopamine reward system, the effects of flavorants in e-cigarettes to nicotine addiction, mapping brain circuits that regulate anxiety and influence addiction, to optogenetic approaches for investigating the neurobiology of pain. Click here for more information.

Following the symposium, Baldwin invited Dr. Brian Balin from the College of Osteopathic Medicine to present on Alzheimer’s disease. After a discussion on mechanisms thought to contribute to the disease and other neurodegenerative diseases in general, he led a guided dissection of the human brain. Students were given the opportunity to compare and contrast healthy brain tissue against degenerative specimens.

To conclude the series, Baldwin’s AT class visited Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, where they were allowed to explore exhibits of their interest and participate in an hour-long workshop on the brain. During the workshop, students learned about different brain diseases while also looking at interesting case studies and pathology specimens. After learning about these diseases, students were provided brain samples and asked to diagnose the diseases present.

Finally students were challenged to engage both the right and left brains in science by creating any artistic piece that encompassed medical illustration or art in science research. The submissions were as diverse as our Baldwin girls. We had some phenomenal medical illustrations by Gillian Chestnut ‘17, Madeleine Marr ‘17, Anika Iyer ‘17 and Olivia Lanchoney ‘17. Gillian depicted an accurate before and after injury illustration of an ACL tear. Madeleine constructed a video montage complete with sound track of her dental reconstruction. Anika drew a slightly caricatured picture of an HIV particle highlighting the tertiary protein structure, and Olivia chose the brain as her muse, depicting multiple layers of organization and angles of the many varied regions of the brain.

We also had poetry submissions contributed by Jessica Zhang ‘17, Georgia Spies ‘17 and Madison Sanders ‘17. Jessica contributed three submissions, each a little vignette of a different neurotransmitter, accurately evoking the feel and nervous system function of each. Georgia also chose the brain for her poem and 3D printed an anatomically correct brain to accompany her work. Madison’s poem became the backdrop of our gallery as she recorded herself performing her poem on the brain soul connection.

Pallavi Sreedhar ‘17 and Angela Smith ‘17 both made models of the nervous system. Pallavi focused on the molecular synapse while Angela zoomed out and depicted the specialized functions of the lobes of the cerebral cortex.

Alexa Bartels ‘17 reflected on her family trait of blue eyes to construct a pedigree chart showing how a recessive genetic trait appears more often than predicted in her family lineage. Sally Chen ‘17 was a unique piece where she made an interactive flip work of the major organ systems in a Baldwin girl. Roya Alidjani ‘17 collected and stained her own cheek cells and then took pictures of them under the microscope. In a nod to Andy Warhol she presented variations of her cells with different colored dyes.

Last but not least, two incredibly artistic drawings were submitted by Lilly Tang ‘17 and Annie Xu ‘17. Lilly constructed an anatomically accurate human head and skull artistically intertwined with an underwater scene while Annie submitted a fun and creative steampunk heart. Congrats on all the hard work to a truly outstanding group of Baldwin seniors and thank you to Sumi Mudgil ‘17 for her contributions to the article.

View a media gallery of the ‘Art in Science’ exhibit.