Emily Marshall, GBP Student
As senior year is quickly coming to a close for the Class of 2016, the reality of going to college is really starting to set in. As we are sending in our final housing and meal plan papers to our new homes for the next four years, we can only hope that Needham High School has prepared us for all of the new classes, interactions, and experiences that we are about to have.
Unlike many of the more traditional classes that are offered at Needham High School, Greater Boston Project has offered students more than just academic lessons; it has offered real world experiences that can be utilized in college and in the professional world after that. Looking back and reflecting on the this past year in the Greater Boston Project, I can now truly see how beneficial of a class it truly was. Not only am I leaving the class with far more knowledge about the history of Boston, starting from the day John Winthrop sailed over in 1628, but more importantly, the constant group work and creative assignments has forced me to manifest and master skills that I had rarely tapped into before this year.
I have learned how to collaborate with people who I would never have chosen to work with on my own. It can be very difficult to work with someone that you don’t necessarily work well with, for whatever reason that may be, but after being put into different groups on a daily basis in GBP, you learn to work out any problems that arise in a difficult group and move forward. After each group project that we do, we have collaboration conferences with the teachers where they give us their opinion on how well we worked together, based on each group member’s individual feedback. The teacher guides us through having a conversation with our group mates about improving our collaboration techniques, which has helped us to learn how to give appropriate feedback and constructive criticism to group members.
Additionally, GBP has really encouraged all of its students to communicate more effectively, whether it be written, visually, or orally. Each of the projects that we do have at least one, if not all, of these components worked into it. We regularly were producing work such as slideshows or infographics where we were forced to improve upon our visual and written communication. Because in a stand-alone slide show, where peers needed to be able to flip through the slideshow and learn everything they needed to, if we didn’t have good visual and written communication, it wouldn’t be clear enough on its own. We also have had numerous occasions where we needed to orally present a project, from little things like Current Event Discussions, to larger ones like our recent Community Action Project presentations. In other classes, at most, there will be around 4 projects throughout the whole year that force you to use these skills and improve upon them. In the Greater Boston Project, however, we completed projects like this so often that we not only used and improved upon these skills, but we became comfortable and confident in them.
All of these skills were used in our CAP projects, which have just recently been finished, where we were placed into a group, given an issue to focus on, and given about 5 months to propose and try various solutions. Being in that group for as long as we were, groups were able to utilize the collaboration skills that we have been practicing all year, and really establish a good relationship with their group members. We also repeatedly needed to communicate well, with the teachers as well as with the different community contacts that we needed to form professional relationships with and convey our ideas in a convincing way so that they would want to support it. The Community Action Project challenged us to utilize all of the skills that we have been working on improving throughout this year, and prepared us to be able to use them and be successful in college and beyond.
GBP Periods 5-6 in front of the Boston Public Library in September (Photo by Ms. Tincher).
GBP Students in the Freshman Mentoring group prepare to present their work to the class and community members. (Photo by Ms. Tincher)
Ally White, GBP Student
This past week in class, groups have been presenting their Community Action Projects to their classmates, teachers, and community members who have chosen to attend. We have been working on this major assignment since January, and are finally ready to share what we have accomplished. The Community Action Project (CAP) has allowed us to actively make a change to an issue that exists in Needham or a surrounding community. Each group began the project with a specific issue that they had selected to focus on. Then, after initial research, the group decided potential options they have to enact a change and combat the issue. After contacting and meeting with members of the community, groups could then choose the option that would be most effective. From there groups worked to implement that final plan whether it be a club, a program, a class, or something else. Though projects took many different turns, the final product for each group included a written proposal and a 30-45 minute presentation. After listening to seven presentations, it is clear that many groups were actually successful in implementing their final plan.
Though groups explored many different topics, one common part of each presentation included life skills that we learned throughout the process. These skills were perhaps the most important part of the project, whether you were successful or not. One main skill learned is how to be professional. Every group was forced to write emails to and meet with community members on professional terms. This proved to be more difficult than I thought as addressing these community members turned out to be way different than talking to teachers and adults that I know. Though I always want to be respectful when emailing and talking to adults and teachers, these emails to community members was the only way to make a good first impression, and to make them want to meet with us. In emails I learned that one of the most important things to do is pay attention to the tone in which you are writing your message so that you do not sound rude or demanding. Another aspect of professionalism includes being respectful and knowledgeable at meetings, and to arrive on time and prepared. Another huge skill I learned is time management. My group along with many others struggled to stay on task a lot during in class time. Starting the project in January, it seemed that the due date in May was so far into the future that we did not have to worry about it. However, the months from January to April went by faster than we thought, and we ended up having a lot of work to do at the end with not as much time. Also, my group procrastinated a lot with actually taking action with our plan, which if we had started sooner may have been more successful. Now I know that I should have been smarter about managing my time during long term projects, and this will be a useful skill for me going into college next year. Another big skill we were forced to work on is collaboration. There would have been no way to complete this project without successfully collaborating. Knowing how to be respectful and listen to others’ ideas and opinions goes a long way. I also learned how to divide tasks and let individuals use their strengths to the group’s advantage. Everyone has things that they are good at, and things that they are not so good at. Oftentimes, what one person lacks in someone else is strong at. To me, this has become apparent through the CAP project, and will be a smart tool to use during future collaborative projects. Furthermore, we got practice in writing proposals, which I know will be extremely useful later on in life. In pretty much every career path that you will take you will have to create some sort of proposal. This project was the first real proposal I have had to make, (besides other smaller ones for GBP), and has given a good outline for any future proposals I will have to pitch. Though we have given many other oral presentations this year, I found that the CAP project has really tested my oral communication skills the most. Unlike other presentations that we did this year, the CAP presentation involved talking about what my group and I had personally done to help combat the issue that we chose. We also had to be extremely knowledgeable about our topic in order to field questions in the end. This was a more personal presentation, and I see myself giving similar types of presentations at some point in my life in the future.
Overall, the CAP project was hands down the most interactive, useful project I have done throughout high school, and has taught me not just curriculum for a class but skills I can take throughout life.
The "Water Conservation" CAP group after their presentation last week. (Photo by Ms. Tincher)
Nick Davis, GBP Student
Walking into class Monday morning, just making it in time before the 8am bell rang, I saw some unfamiliar faces. Sitting among my classmates were parents, teachers, and other NHS faculty. And standing at the front of the room were some familiar faces, but in unfamiliar clothing. These GBP students dressed in classy suits and fancy dresses meant that today was the first big day of our CAP final presentations; the culmination of this six month long project. This was the time for us to “show off” all the work we have done for our Community Action Projects to our peers and other members of the community.
All of the different presentations we have done throughout the year, in front of our classmates, have prepared us for this one. A year’s worth of work on presentation skills has led to this week. We are all ready. We started off the year awkward and timid during presentations, but our GBP teachers have shaped and strengthened our oral communication skills. They taught us how to organize our content, speak clearly and confidently, maintain eye contact, and actively participate as an audience member. But what I have learned the most, is how to execute a successful group presentation. Presenting in a group is very different from presenting alone, and in GBP this year, we have had the opportunity to experiment with this. In a group, you have to work both collaboratively and individually in order to produce a natural and cohesive group presentation.
I have always enjoyed public speaking, an opinion I doubt many other people share, but my skills have still improved so much this year. Public speaking is just like any other skill, the more you do it, the better you get. GBP has allowed for us all to develop this skill in a comfortable learning environment. I have watched each and every student progress so much in the public speaking aspect of this class. This skill, which is such an important one and is not focused on enough in school, will definitely give me a leg up next year in college. The average high school student has not had as much experience with presentations as we have had in GBP.
This next two-week period is the time for us to showcase the skills and work we have done both outside of the classroom, with our community action projects, and inside the classroom with our teachers and peers. We can finally share the amazing things that have been happening in the GBP classroom to the world.
Still image of the Spotlight team in the film. (Photo from The Independent)
Lindsay Antaya, GBP Student
When GBP students walked into class last week to see the projector set up and a DVD on the desk, excitement filled the room. Everybody knew that we were watching a movie, and to high school students, this is the ultimate sign to kick back and relax. However, no one expected that this movie day would actually have a profound impact on the way we looked at Boston, and how much it related to the curriculum of GBP.
It’s not every day when a high school students have the opportunity to watch an Oscar Best-Picture award winner in class, and can then have a genuine, meaningful conversation about it. On Wednesday, GBP watched Spotlight, a film about the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe and how they uncovered the child molestation scandal in the Catholic Church. The movie deals with extremely heavy topics that hit very close to home, taking place in Boston, however the class handled it in a mature and sensitive way.
Sacha Pfeiffer was a member of the Spotlight team that had a huge impact on the story. Played by Rachel McAdams, Pfeiffer uncovered detailed and graphic information from victims about their experiences and the effects that the molestations had on their life. Many victims expressed how they felt unable to report the priests that abused them because they were embarrassed and ashamed. Furthermore, many priests targeted vulnerable youth from at-risk neighborhoods, so the children relied on the Catholic Church for hope and stability. When the people that children admired so whole-heartedly acted in the most sinful way, many children did not know how to react and still were driven by a loyalty to the church to not report.
This loyalty is similar to the loyalty seen in the novel All Souls, that prevented neighbors from reporting each other’s crimes. As we read and discussed in class, “ratting out” your friends was not accepted, because no one wanted to portray Southie in a negative light to the outside world. Similarly, in Spotlight, viewers see how many Boston residents did not want to report the molestations because they did not want to disrespect the Catholic Church or draw attention to such a scandal. The Spotlight team was met with huge pushback from the community as they investigated. Citizens who were considered moral, good-hearted people did not want to participate in, or even hear about, the investigation because their loyalty to the church was unwavering. The movie also highlighted the role that priests had in impoverished neighborhoods, where many households had only one parent and children often had little hope. People looked up to priests and saw them as role models, and often as father-figures as well. Some victims from the film said that reporting a priest, or going against him in any way, was “like disobeying God.” For that reason, most of the molestations occurred in poor neighborhoods, where the Church was most present.
It was very interesting to watch Spotlight and see this crisis unravel in our home town. The film showed students that no city is immune to tragedy, and everyone goes through things that they do not share. The final scene of the film takes place after the Boston Globe story of the scandal is published, and hundreds of victims call into the Spotlight office sharing their stories. This scene proved that one person or group talking about an issue and raising awareness can open the door for many more victims to come forward and seek justice.
The "NHS Freshman Support" CAP Group of (from left)
Alex Dorion, Jeremy Stern, Colby McMahon, and Josh Rosenbaum (Photo by Ms.Tincher)
Josh Rosenbaum, GBP Student
With the end of the school year fastly approaching, the CAP groups are furiously working to have their proposal implemented. It is a stressful time for all of the CAP groups in GBP, but it is a good stress that will force us to create work that we will certainly be proud of when we leave the high school. Part of what makes us work so hard to implement our solutions is that we know that all of the hard, and long work that we have done since January will be able to positively impact the community. We will be able to leave something in the Greater Boston Area that can effect change, which is an integral part of the Greater Boston Project class.
As Friday is the start of presentations, all CAP groups are starting to hone in on what they would like to talk about in their 25-30 minutes that they will be allotted during their presentation day. Being given all of this time for a presentation is not something that we as students are use to. However, we know that a presentation of this long manner is the ultimate culmination of our GBP experience that focused intensely on presenting, and advocating change in the community. Our presentations will focus on the extent, and scope of our projects. They are truly a report of almost everything that happened during the course of the project, from the time in which just an idea of what to focus on was born, to the where we are now when we are trying to implement a solution. To help guide as in this long presentation, the GBP teachers having given as a few questions to focus on. These questions range from why we chose the issue that we eventually did, to what we learned about ourselves in terms of self-direction, and working in groups. The presentation will be followed by 10-15 minutes of a question, and answer session which is also something that we have previously done in order to prepare us for this momentous presentation.
The Community Action Projects come from a wide range of topics like enhancing sexual education education in schools to increasing bee populations. With such an assortment of topics, it is clear that GBP students are making a difference in many different fields in the Greater Boston Area. For my group’s CAP Project, we are focusing on the freshman transitions programs in the high school. We wanted to create something that could supplement the current “Senior Mentor” program. Through our surveys, and other forms of research with community members, we decided to create the “Mentoring Club” in which upperclassmen will be paired with incoming freshman for the whole year. The incoming freshman will be able to receive individualized attention, and mentoring through the year, which is something that is not available in the current “Senior Mentor” program. To advocate for our club, our group has done a presentation with each cluster at Pollard to talk about the transition into high school, as well as selling the idea of our club to interested incoming freshman. Once we figure out how many incoming freshman want to be a part of the club to be mentored, we will be able to pair them with a upperclassmen mentor who they can create a very positive relationship with.
As our deadline for CAP approaches at a furious pace, we as a class are continuing to work very hard to have our proposal either implemented, or handed off to someone else who will be able to implement it in their field. The preparation for the presentation has begun, and proposals are being fine tuned so that our projects can have the best impact on the community as they can. With such little time left at the high school, and in the greater Boston community, it is awesome to know that your legacy can live on in the community even when you aren’t here.
Jacob Freeman, GBP Student
The most important lesson learned from not only the Greater Boston Project, but from all history classes in general is to be taught from the choices and mistakes of history, to not make the same mistake twice when history repeats itself. At first I found it strange that the curriculum focused almost exclusively on the story and history of Boston chronologically, but makes students pay attention to the current situation of the city and it’s current events. But now that the year has all but come to a close, it has become obvious that this was all extremely intentional, to walk us through the epic of the new world and to understand the trials and tribulations of the times, and how they were so pivotal and crucial to the hearts and minds of the time, to learn them any other way would be to look at their situations only as a viewer, and understand and truly comprehend only a fraction of forces at play.
This focus on the current state of affairs in the big city and, more importantly, how it seems to have gotten that way is a huge contributing factor to how all of us perceive modern day current events. A raging problem throughout the course of America’s history, and a defining issue of the country is that of immigration. Even though the issue has persisted constantly, we perceive the issue much in the same way compared to decades upon decades ago. Travelers and pilgrims from other regions, especially ones of slightly different ethnic or cultural backgrounds, are seen as undesirable and immediately restrictions are placed on them and their influx into the country, as fear of the others taking over this great country from the inside is as harrowing as any terrorist action to some. But now with historical hindsight, we can dismiss these fears as unsubstantiated, nowadays there is nothing seen as more American than an Irish or European immigrant fleeing to the land of opportunity and beginning their life anew. But even with these learning opportunities and centuries of historical lessons and examples more than comparable to today, individuals continue to hold onto these purely emotional beliefs and shun immigrants and the right side of history.
One of the most remarkable traits of humans and what truly separates us from any other real form of sentient life is our ability to learn from our mistakes as individuals and a species, it is regretfully said that hindsight is 20/20, but this can only help in the future. In the past year with the raging civil war in Syria and the advance of an Islamic state in the Middle East, the issue of immigration to the first world has only multiplied. With most of the entire country being built and inhabited by immigrants and the generations of historical record of migrational benefit to America and the entire populace, one would think that new souls and cultures would be welcomed with open arms upon arrival, but history is never that clear headed. Immediately the public and media exploded with arguments and counters to acceptance of these refugees and fear of the country's goals and morals being undermined by these subversive terrorists. As it stands America has only accepted a few hundred Syrian refugees and plans to yield more have mostly been shut down by the fearful minority.
Events like this are precisely why this class focuses so heavily not only on Boston’s past and present, but how they play into each other. The ability to look at past events and see their connection to the modern day is a skill rarely exhibited in this day and age, which is why the Greater Boston Project makes sure to hammer in this analysis and connection skills so humanity doesn't get caught making the same mistakes.
Part of the Ridge Hill Reservation trail in Needham. (Photo by Peter Oehlkers)
Will Barber, GBP Student
We have now reached the sixth, and final stage of the CAP project: Final presentation and written proposal. By this stage, most groups have come up with what their final plan of action will be. It is the most important stage, as here we see the output of everyone's hard work, and the impact that we are making on the community. It is very interesting to see how every ones work translates into a change in real life within our community.
The most eye opening part of this project for me has been in the final stages. Our group has been working on exercise, and recreation opportunities within the community, and how we can implement new ways to get people more active. Through our process, we worked our way from meetings with the NHS wellness staff, to Needham’s Parks and Recreation department, and eventually all the way up to the Needham Department of Conservation. Our current goal is to implement a new “cross fit trail” as a replacement for the fitness trail at Ridge Hill Reservation. This crossfit trail would be re-branded with a different name, along with new and improved exercises and equipment. It would be a place where gyms could come outside of their own facilities, as well as where general civilians could be exposed to the new cross-fit trend in exercise.
We have a scheduled presentation to the Committee of Conservation at their next official meeting where we will present our idea in support of a refurbishment of the current fitness trail. All these meetings out in the community have very eye opening to me, as I am now given a dosage of how business was done outside of the classroom. This experience forced me to use negotiating and communication skills that I have not previously used, and along with it I have been receiving the reward of actually accomplishing something with hard work. Each meeting I have been a part of has given me a sense of confidence in my work, as people appreciate it, and have supported us all the way to a very professional level. I look forward to finally pitching our proposal to the committee, and telling the class about our experience and the impact that we will be making on Ridge Hill. As hard as the work is sometimes, I have learned to appreciate it for the impact that you are making, and the fun that you can have through negotiation with official people in a professional setting, it gives a very good taste of how business functions outside of the classroom.
Jocie Spitz, GBP Student
Boston is a big, complex city. As a main hub for the east coast, where our local politics and sports are noted throughout the entire country, our city is experiencing challenges that are important locally and nationally. From the opioid epidemic to the Green Line expansion, there are many crucial issues happening daily in our backyard. In our Greater Boston Project class, we learned how to create Current Event Discussions (CED) that allowed us to look into the events happening in Massachusetts, give a short synopsis, and ask question about how the audience felt. We also gave a Current Event Presentation (CEP), which provided us with the opportunity to choose a major event within Massachusetts, pick a side of the issue to argue for, and present in front of a small group. With these types of assignments, our class learned and practiced how to research, write, and present to a group of people what we had learned.
Presenting current events allowed for detailed discussions, and learning how turn that information into a paper was important as it gave us the knowledge to take what we have learned in this paper and use it for essays in the future; that is where the Current Event Essay (CEE) we just finished comes in. The CEE takes what we have learned in the CED and the CEP, including how to research and find sources, and put them together into a presentation, as well as learning new things, such as adding statistics into a narrative structure for a new type of essay. This project also gave us an opportunity to learn about another topic more in detail, as the topics used had to be different then the topic picked for the CEP. Each student in the class was allowed to choose almost any topic for their essay, which gave meaning to what was written. If we weren’t interested in a specific topic, trying to find information and write an essay would have been difficult. I can relate to this as I look back on some of the essays I've written about books and historical topics that were not my favorite. This essay will not only help us now, but also in college and beyond in our future endeavors. Although we have written many essays throughout our high school careers, most of us have not written essays with statistics added in or with an event going on that hasn’t ended yet.
Although there are many events going on in Massachusetts, for me, choosing a topic to write about was a difficult choice. With a list of superficial events that the class is not allowed to write about, such as sports, weather, and the presidential election, picking a topic with the goal to explore more involved themes was a little easier, but not much. With many people writing about General Electric moving its headquarters and its likely effect on Boston, or about marijuana joining the ballot to become legalized, I wanted to use a topic that wasn’t on the minds of everyone in the class; so, I chose to write about the MBTA’s Green Line expansion, which is still a major issue in boston today. I began my research by reading many different articles and trying to understand how people who used the T for work and their social lives feel about it and why this change might be necessary. From my research, I learned that, like all issues, there are two distinct sides to the issue with valid arguments and agendas. With that, I had to pick a side of the debate, as this is a persuasive essay. I chose to argue that the Green Line expansion should continue. The opposing side of this debate is, although the extension had already started, that the extension should be stopped as there are many considerations and setbacks, such as cost. With this, I can’t wait to show what I have learned about the green line expansion and completing this essay.
A map of the proposed Green Line extension. (Image from StreetsBlog USA)
Promotional collage for "Big Little Town" by the Needham Historical Society.
Georgia Meyer, GBP Student
Every day on my drive to school I pass the Town Hall, historically distinguished houses, Hershey train station, and all kinds of old churches. I also pass a Dunkin’ Donuts, a Japanese steak house, and a unnecessarily high number of Closet Exchanges. I never really give any of these sites any extra thought. Maybe the occasional, “I really want a coffee”, or, “maybe I’ll take the train into the city this weekend”, but nothing to appreciate the vast history of Needham. I never think about the difference between Needham Bank and Citizen’s Bank— just two places to cash a check or get some money, when in reality only Needham Bank has a fascinating history, complete with a robbery. After watching Big Little Town, my ride to school has become a little less boring. Sitting in traffic at the intersection of Great Plain and Webster means looking at house with a plaque stating it was built in the 1800’s and wondering what it has seen.
Big Little Town is a film created by Kathryn Dietz and Marc Mandel to honor Needham’s 300 years of history for its year-long tricentennial celebration. The film examines different aspects of Needham’s creation; from its original split from Dedham and Wellesley to its ethnically divided neighborhoods in the 20th century. The film looks at images drawn more than 300 years ago and interviews Needham residents today. The effect is an intriguing and relatable story which pulls together all the pieces of Needham we see today.
I was particularly interested in the story of William Baker. I remember hearing brief snippets of the story throughout the years but nothing that stuck with me for too long. But when I heard the details of Baker’s eccentric personality and saw the pictures of the attractions he commissioned in Big Little Town I was amazed! A friend of mine, and fellow GBP student, lives on a piece of what’s left of the estate, so I have had the chance to see how beautiful it is. I can just imagine what it would have looked like with the gardens, the rides, and the hotel it had back in its glory days.
When I walked into class and found out we were watching a movie right before April Break, I was just glad to have a class I could relax in for a little like every other student. But, by the time the movie was over, I was filled with excitement; I was ready to share what I had learned with my friends and family and maybe find out more about my town on my own.
Harry Smith, GBP Student
Throughout the year I figured out that when you work in a group there is always going to be a clear leader who emerges, the one who will give out roles and lead the way. Coming from my experience in sports and school, I know what it means to be a good and bad leader. A bad leader is someone who is only concerned about themselves and tries to degrade people and doesn’t give good feedback. A good leader is one who stays calm gives help when people need it and gives people good and constructive criticism. An example of constructive criticism is staying calm while helping a group member and not making them feel bad about needing help.
While working on the Neighborhood Project with my group, I was able to take away that it's essential to work together, plan and be productive. At first my group didn’t do enough because we thought we had so much time to get the project done, but due dates were much closer than they seemed (as they usually are!). We eventually started to get going and different members of our group started stepping up. For instance, I was able to get the visual piece down while Max was able to finalize the research, and Will was able to make all of the citations. Even though we were able to get the project done, our procrastination cost us a better final product; had we done a better job at getting started on the right foot and working throughout the whole time, we would have been more successful.
Depending on who you are with, sometimes you need to step up and take charge of a group, even if you’re not used to it. As hard as it can be to take charge, sometimes you need to and step outside of your comfort zone to enhance communication and professionalism in your group. Though I don’t tend to choose the role, there have been times this year where I was forced into taking the leadership role. It can be very stressful to do so, as I sometimes feel like if I make one mistake as a leader it will bring down the whole group. But, I’ve learned that the best route is to have a leader, but also give clear roles/responsibilities and organize everyone so you can all get things done for the final product. This is something I plan to keep in mind in future projects.
This blog is powered by both the students and teachers of the GBP course. Check back often for features on what we've been up to in class!