GBP students and teachers help out at the Greater Boston Food Bank. (Photos by Ms. Tincher)
Michaella Callahan, GBP Student
A huge aspect of GBP is learning ways to help make the community better. Last week our class took a field trip to the Greater Boston Food Bank. It was a great experience to be able to see what goes on behind the scenes at the food bank and assist in the process of it. Prior to the trip, we did an in class preparation activity looking at statistics of people affected by hunger in Massachusetts. In this activity we found that last year the Food Bank collected enough food to feed approximately 54,000 people. They are able to make that possible with the help of over 25,000 volunteers. The company is working to increase the distribution of food in order to provide at least one meal a day for everyone in need in the eastern Massachusetts area.
When we arrived to the food bank we walked through a huge room with food stacked to the ceiling. It was surprising how much food this company is able to collect for people in need. After a brief introduction to the GBFB, the workers took us into the room where the food is organized and assigned us different roles. The different roles were re-stocking boxes, unloading the food onto the conveyor belt, separating the food into categories, weighing the boxes, and loading the filled boxes onto a forklift. It was really hectic organizing the food because it was consistently passing by on the conveyor belt and we had to be able to separate it into the correct categories. We also had to be sure there were no opened packages and no expired food. However the hard work was worth it because of the reward of helping others. Afterwards we had a quick debrief and learned that we had packaged about 8,000 pounds of food (which, we found out, was more than the students in the Period 5&6 class!). Competition aside, it was shocking to learn that we packed that much food in a short amount of time, and goes to show how much can be accomplished when you have a group working cohesively to solve a problem.
This field trip allowed us as GBP students to immerse ourselves in a situation similar to the CAP that we will be completing over the course of the next few months. The lesson of this field trip relating to our CAP is that one person can make a huge difference. The Greater Boston Food Bank started with one person handing out food from the back of their truck and expanded into a huge company with the help of donations, drives, and financial contributions. The hopes of our CAP project is that we can start something that others will be able to expand upon in the future in order to help the community. It was a rewarding feeling to be able to help those in need and knowing that we were making a change.
Mackenzie Breen, GBP Student
We’ve all learned about the “separate but equal” concept the Jim Crow Laws support, but where did the term “Jim Crow” come from and how is it still relevant today? Thomas Dartmouth Rice portrayed Jim Crow an exaggerated stereotypical black character. In Blackface Minstrel shows Rice danced around with his face painted black singing the words:
Of course these laws were extremely prominent in the Southern States; however, it cannot be denied that Massachusetts took part in the Jim Crow laws. Until as late as 1843, Massachusetts blacks were prohibited from marrying whites, sitting in the same pew at church and up until 1850 could not attend the same schools as white children. One area of segregation that used the tactic peaceful disobedience of the law was transportation. Numerous blacks tried to challenge the Jim Crow laws by sitting in the car or seat of their choosing. Many times this turned out badly causing the blacks to be beaten or kicked off the train. In 1843 it was the Governor with the help of public opinion that ended segregation on trains in Massachusetts. While the Jim Crow Laws are no longer enacted, I still see the original idea of blackface in the media. Often times people plead that they did not know what blackface was or that it is even offensive. Ignorance should no longer be plausible reason for why people are wearing blackface. It is important to talk about this dark part of American history in order to educate people about this past
GBP students propose ideas for their upcoming Community Action Projects (Photos by Ms. Tincher)
Andrea Simoes, GBP Student
Although it is only January, we are already on to phase 2 of the CAP (Community Action Project). Taking the form of our final project, the CAP gives GBP students a chance to collaborate with other classmates in becoming agents of change themselves. This project allows us to practice the skills we have been learning throughout the year by applying them to a project that makes a positive impact on our community. The focus of the CAP is more on the process rather than the success of the project, however in the past students have been able to put plans, such as the tutoring program at Hillside, into action. Last week we had previous GBP students, Talia and Haley, come to class as guest speakers to share their insight on the CAP project. Having already been through the process, they were able to provide us with helpful advice, that will be useful as we move on from the initial stages.
The first step in the CAP project was to draft a proposal outlining the issue that needs to be addressed and the reason it is important to the community. For instance, reflecting on the strong support systems that NHS students have, I focused my CAP proposal on the lack of a strong mentor system in urban areas, as I believe there role models are important for students, especially those attending inner city schools. After receiving feedback on the proposal, we then prepared to present our ideas to our classmates. We each had five minutes to explain our topic and convince the class that our issue was worth investigating. Included was information such as the research that would need to be conducted and the people that would need to be contacted. At the end of each presentation there was time for the class to ask question to gain more information regarding the scope of the issue that was to be addressed. We were asked to avoid discussing any type of solution, although sometimes conversations strayed in that direction.
So far, only about twenty of the thirty one ideas have been proposed to the class, so it will be exciting to see the other issues that our classmates have brainstormed. There have already been a wide variety of different proposal topics including food policies, traffic concerns, environmental changes, and even the endangerment of bees. Looking forward, in the upcoming class period students we will be voting to pick the proposals we believe are the most feasible. The GBP teachers will use our input to make the ultimate decision regarding which issues we will be working with for the next few months. We will form groups based on our interest in the topics chosen and from there we will start the process of creating a plan and putting it into action. Hopefully, this year’s GBP class will be able to showcase some exciting final products after all the months of working on it!
Logan McQuivey, GBP Student
As we begin to approach the end of semester one in GBP, we’ve started to take a look at the Community Action Project (CAP). For those unfamiliar with CAP, the goal is to encourage and enable us (the students of GBP) to effect change in our community, while practicing and reinforcing the learning goals we’ve studied in the class thus far. However, I think a number of students (myself included) were having trouble grasping exactly what this project might look like - so the GBP teachers aptly decided to bring in the big guns.
As we came back from lunch on Wednesday, January 6, we were greeted by Talia Shapiro and Haley Bowse, two students enrolled in last year’s GBP class. They kindly took time out of their day to come and give a presentation - punnily named “reCAP” - about the projects their teams worked on last spring. Talia’s team initially hoped to reduce water bottle waste, but they ended up working towards acquiring a solar-powered compacting trash can for the school. Haley’s group focused their attentions on reinvigorating school spirit, through tailgates and T-Shirts. They explained the processes they went through, as well as what kind of meetings and surveys they found were necessary and how to go about doing those things. Maybe more important, however, was the plethora of advice they shared, both about how to be successful and how to avoid their past mistakes. They both stressed the importance of avoiding monetarily dependent projects, using class and personal time efficiently, and getting meetings done way ahead of time. Although neither of their teams succeeded in making their project a reality, they shared examples from their class of the projects that were a success. Overall, it was great to see project through former students’ eyes, which helped make it more relatable than a rubric is able to.
Afterwards, we had the pleasure of hearing from our Superintendent, Dr. Gutekanst. His presentation was about a CAP-like project that he has been a part of over the past few years here in Needham. This project has to do with the need to rebuild the Hillside school and the struggle of finding a suitable location. This presentation was particularly impactful because it was a “real-world” example… not that the CAP isn’t real world, but the Hillside project is something happening on a much bigger scale and it shows that this type of endeavor is relevant in our adult lives. In fact, Dr. Gutekanst had just been at a meeting presenting the building plans earlier that morning. He explained how this project evolved over time, how new options and obstacles arose, and how he and the school board dealt with those changes. He emphasized the importance of group work, open mindedness, and communicating regardless of whether it was good or bad news. His presentation showed how a project like this is translated onto a much larger scale, and made us feel that, by comparison, a CAP is much more attainable.
I’m definitely glad we had the opportunity to hear from both the GBP alumnae and Dr. Gutekanst. They all were able to share their perspectives and insights about the project, but also into the skills and processes that would be crucial to our CAPs. As we ruminate on our project proposals, I’m sure many of us are thinking back to the presentations we saw, and the advice that was offered. Here’s to hoping our final projects CAPture the very best elements of the examples we saw!
Dan Shapiro, GBP Student
Are GBP students feeling like “Karate Kids”? Keep reading and I’ll explain...
For the first two quarters of GBP, we were asked to do a CED (Current Event Discussion). This would entail us finding a recent article relating to Boston which we presented as 3-5 minute talk in class followed by discussion questions. We would analyze our articles to see how our topics demonstrated the change and/or impact on the Greater Boston area. After three rounds of CEDs the GBP teachers decided to mix up the Current Event process. From the CED, the CEP was born. Now standing for “Current Event Presentation” the CEP entails us similarly picking a topic like the CED, however the CEP is much more in depth. When we presented our CED’s, the most we had to talk about was a list of bullet points, but for the CEP we are asked to make an entire presentation of information to talk about. The 3-5 minute length is also increased to a 7 minute length.
The CEP “ups the ante” of the CED and does so in major ways. For instance, with the CEP we are asked to turn in an outline, annotated bibliography, and multimedia presentation. The outline, bibliography, and slides have been essential parts of GBP when we produced our Agents of Change and Colonial Context projects, but there was one major element neither of these projects fully explored: the individual element. In both of the earlier projects mentioned, we were working in a group, but with the CEP, we are presenting, conducting research, and making bibliographies all on their own. The CEP combines all the elements of the previous projects, but working individually it’s the biggest challenge that we have faced so far.
The Needham Historical Society, including the old schoolhouse in red on the left.
(Photo from the North American Reciprocal Museum Society)
Sam Cruickshank, GBP Student
On a frigid morning in January, the GBP class headed over to the Needham Historical Society. Located directly next to the Newman Elementary School on Central Ave., the Needham Historical Society is often overlooked or mistaken for a regular house. Founded in 1915, the information that the society has in the form of many historical maps and documents is immense for such a small venue and non-profit organization. On this specific visit, our second one this year, our class focused on several documents and maps from the Antebellum Period, which is the period in U.S. history that goes from the early 1800s all the way up until the Civil War. As we entered the Historical Society, half of our forty four student class crammed into the old one room schoolhouse that the Historical Society uses as an educational space for students, shedding jackets and coats as soon as we felt the warmth.
Right away, we started looking at documents, which were set up into various stations around the room. I found two of the stations’ documents particularly interesting on this visit. The first was a selection of four maps of the town of Needham. These maps were from the years 1771, 1836, 1856, and 1854. I paid special attention to the maps from 1836 and 1856, because there were two interesting changes between those maps. The first was that the town of Wellesley, which borders Needham, was a part of the map in 1836, but not in 1856. My group joked about this, referencing the recent Thanksgiving Day Football Game played at Fenway Park, noting how we “didn’t want them anyway” and that “they were better off as West Needham in the first place.” All jokes aside, this was a major development in the suburbs of Boston, as it allowed for two different communities to develop, and eased the space clenches on a growing population. Additionally, the addition of a railroad to the town of Needham was very significant on the map from 1856. My group noticed that there were many streets and roads located around the railroad stops, and it was clear that the railroad led to population growth in Needham. The railroad and the train is still an integral part of the town of Needham today, as many people (including the Greater Boston Project classes, on occasion) take the MBTA Commuter Rail into Boston every day to get to work.
The second document that piqued my interest was a document that talked about an anti-slavery meeting that was held in the Unitarian Meeting House in Needham. We recently finished reading the book Ten Hills Farm by C.S. Manegold, which talks about how slavery existed in the North, basically to the same degree that it existed in the South. I found the book somewhat disturbing, and I was confused as to why I had not learned this history before. I found the document from the Unitarian Meeting House reassuring. It showed me that the community of Needham did realize the injustices of slavery,and they were going to try and do something about it.
Although we mainly focus on the history of the city of Boston, it was nice to slow things down and take a look at our local history right here in Needham. We took the time to look at and analyze specific documents, a hallmark of the GBP experience.
The 54th Regiment Memorial, The African American Meeting House, and a Beacon Hill street light marking the trail's path.
(Photos from: Virtual Tourist, Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, Boston.com)
Tom Beacham, GBP Student
One of the main points focused on in The Greater Boston Project is interacting with the community that is Boston. One of the best ways this is done, and our favorite as students, is leaving room 728 of NHS and going out into the community. These are opportunities to see these types of things with our own eyes. The trip to The Black Heritage Trail in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston was a great example of this, as we got to go into Boston and see the buildings where the events we read and talk about take place.
Over the course of the day we all walked the beautiful area of Beacon Hill all while looking at historical places that all played a major role for the black community in Boston. One of these places that we visited was the 54th Regiment Memorial Statue in front of the Massachusetts State House, where we talked about how this regiment was the first all African-American fighting unit in United States history; and, despite being thought of as bad and cowardly soldiers at the time, they took on one of the toughest jobs of the war. On July 18, 1863, the regiment became famous for leading an assault on Fort Wagner, deemed a “suicide mission” that regiment General Shaw volunteered for to prove the soldiers were not cowards. This was part of the move to capture the Confederate city of Charleston, South Carolina. In the hard-fought battle Shaw and many members of the regiment were killed. This is just one example of the many different places that we went to on the Black Histroy Trail.
One thing in common at all the different sites is that at each of the places we stopped at, the teachers told us stories of how African-Americans lived in Boston at the time. THe stories were often about these residents having the courage to stand up for what they thought was right, as well as defining what they were up against and overcoming it. Some examples of this were at the Phillips School, which was also known as the dividing line between white and black areas of town in the antebellum period as it was the best of the white schools in the city. Another stop on the tour was the Lewis & Harriet Hayden House, where slaves would reportedly hide in the North as part of the Underground Railroad. The house showed support for African Americans because when slave catchers showed up, the Haydens would threaten to blow up the house with a single match, having stored gun powder in the basement. A third place we went was the African American Meeting House. The meeting house became the host to giants in the Abolitionist Movement who were responsible for monumental historical events. These are just some of the many places we went to on the tour.
All of the buildings showed a different side of historic Boston which we explored on the trip. Specifically looking at the black heritage in Boston, it was interesting to see how African Americans interacted with the community and how the community interacted with them. As a whole, this trip was a good representation of the GBP course as a whole. We went into the community and learned about the history of the city, thinking about the things we learned in class in a real-world setting. We were able to enjoy time out of the classroom while taking in the interesting city history of Boston with our own eyes and experiences.
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!