Hattie Dorion, GBP Student
It’s late March and the pressure is on for who is going to be finalizing their CAP and actually making an impact in the community. Ever since the past seniors came in from last year, it's been a daunting task to break the stigma and stand out as one of the GBP groups who actually “left a mark” at the high school. All of the groups have been working well since the start of the project, but now it's getting to a time where people start to run out of the fresh ideas that they had for the group initially, which is why I think it's a great idea to have our update presentations in front of the class so others can see where you are or where you maybe should be in the steps of the project.
Recently in my own CAP group, we reached our own conflict in terms of how to approach our topic of Sexual Education in schools. We were unsure of how to go about expanding and actually implementing what we want to happen. Our two choices were either to stay with our comfort zone and work with people in Needham or to go off and help another school community. Both sides have pros and cons that go along with them, which we went through in order to make a decision and move forward in our project. We came to a compromise and said that if we do well in Needham then we can then branch out to other schools and use that as a prototype for what we want to be able to do in other areas as well. This made more sense because it allowed us to have comfort in the people that we would be meeting up with about this, and have trust with the people who we are working with to make this change happen.
Coming to a compromise on this was somewhat difficult, because of people’s various personal opinions. But, we were able to become unified using all the information and research we had done, including an interview that we had the other day with the head of the NPS Wellness Department. This interview ended up ultimately breaking up some of the preconceived notions we had, and was eye opening to the group. Ms. Pinkham explained: “No matter where you end up going you're going to be impacting the community, because what you are doing is a needed aspect, whether you build on something that is already there or not”. Our focus on having this topic was to do exactly that, and hearing from the head of the department that even choosing this as our topic project was validating. It helped some of the stress go away and reminded us what we are doing for the community. I think it’s important not to just think about it as a giant project and let it stress you out, but to focus on how much you care about what you’re doing. This can allow us to enjoy our senior spring by focusing on something bigger than just ourselves.
This project is overall a preparation for what your college and future group situations will be like, and teaches you how to compromise and work with people. At this level, it seems different because you’ve already been working with some of these people in other groups throughout your senior year. However, when your group is able to work together for this length of time, adjusting to individual's weaknesses and strengths, the project allows for you and the people in your group to grow even more. Learning these collaboration skills helps us become a better asset to our groups and how to work productively towards a successful final product. We’re learning how to take many factors into account in order to make good decisions together and impact change in the community.
Vinh Truong, GBP student
(Left: A GBP student presents in front of the class. Photo by Ms. Tincher)
With senior year coming to a close, GBP students are preparing for their final CED. The CED is a presentation that allows students to hone their public speaking skills, a skill that is often utilized in the future. Being such an important skill, GBP focuses on oral communication as an essential part of the curriculum. It is is one of the major skills that is assessed in almost all major projects. It is incorporated into the curriculum and is a skill that is further developed over the course of senior year.
As you may know, a CED is a “Current Event Discussion”; it allows a student to take a story that relates to Boston (most commonly a news article) and present it to the class. After a topic is chosen most students prepare notes or practice before presenting to the class. This often translate into a stronger and fluid presentation. CED’s are completed once a term and underlie our oral communication practice. During the presentation the audience completes a “Feedback Form” and the presenter is recorded. The Feedback From the allows the audience to write comments during the presentation. Comments often provide feedback on what needs to be improved and what the presenter did well. The audience also grades components of the CED which include: content/organization, verbal skills, and nonverbal skills. By reviewing both materials the presenter is able to better understand what needs to be improved.
Personally, CED’s have been extremely useful to help me prepare for future. It allows me to refine skills and learn new practices that make public speaking easier. For example, before a CED I often prepare notes or general points that I would like to present before my audience. This allows me to better organize my content so that it is logical and the audience understands my topic. It also improves the pace at which I speak at. Knowing my content I feel more confident speaking, more confidence often produces better verbal clarity and pace while reducing the amount of fillers (likes and ums).
Now on the fifth round of CED’s students have vastly improved from the first one. Numerous presentations, such as those for the “Biggest Change Project” and “Propaganda Project,” have allowed students to refine their skills in public speaking and understand what aspects they still need to improve. Presenting in front of a class numerous times acts as practice, with effort oral communication can only improve. From my own experience: eye contact, body language, and verbal clarity are main sources of problem when presenting. I believe this is mainly because insufficient preparation and quality notes. With practice and notes you spend less time thinking of what to say and maintain better eye contact. Preparation only improves quality of your presentation and oral communication. Throughout my time at Needham High School, GBP is seemingly the only class that emphasises the importance of oral communication. In nearly every project there is an some sort of aspect of oral communication that allows me to improve. In my opinion GBP is an excellent class to take to refine these skills for the future.
Rory Kelly, GBP Student
For a recent activity about women in the antebellum era, we were randomly put into small groups of three, thanks to Mr. O’s handy-dandy sorting cards. For this task, we were given four sources to read, analyze and summarize into a brochure. Those sources were “Advice To Young Ladies” by Timothy Shay Arthur, “Ain’t I a Woman” by Sojourner Truth, “Women In The Nineteenth Century” by Margaret Fuller and, the group’s favorite, Maria W. Stewart’s speech to the “African American Female Intelligence Society”. All the sources provided a different point of view about the perceptions of equality, or lack thereof, of the sexes in this time period.
Each group started off by reading the speech given by Stewart and the piece written by Truth. Then, as a group, we had to perform multiple tasks to understand the sources, while at the same time pulling out quotes for the brochure. Once this difficult part of the process was completed, we had to choose the strongest reader from the group to read Fuller’s “Women In The Nineteenth Century”. While the strongest reader was chipping away at Fuller’s text, the other group members didn’t get off so easy. They had to read Arthur’s “Advice To Young Ladies”. We then had to come back and discuss what we took from those sources and create a list of possible quotes and information we could use for the brochure. Now you have heard me say the word “brochure” a few times while reading this blog. Yes, we did have to create a brochure about the Women in the Antebellum Era and you know what? It is not as easy as it seems! The brochure was double side allowing for five places to express your ideas about the readings. I felt that this was a very collaborative process as we used many different viewpoints and ideas from the group that went into the decision process creating the brochure. In doing so, we learned a great deal about women in the Antebellum Era.
For me, this lesson was an eye opener, especially Arthur’s account of “Advice To Young Ladies”. One quote from this source that stood out to me was, “Keeping this in view, it may readily be seen, that what makes a man a man, and woman a woman, is not the body, but the mind … mind of man must be different from mind of woman”. This stood out to me because this text reinforced that men and women were basically equal; however, their minds have different approaches on problem solving. Men in this time thought they were smarter than women because their approach to a problem took a different path and men didn’t want to listen to a woman's point of view. While gender is still an important issue today, Arthur’s limited views help show how things have changed today. For example, Hillary Clinton may be the next President of the United States.
Photos from South Boston in the 1970s. (Photos from WBUR)
Grace Connolly, GBP Student
It is obvious through the name of this class, The Greater Boston Project, that we are learning about the evolution of Boston and the surrounding area. Up until recently, the focus of the class has been on colonial, pre-revolutionary and antebellum Boston, and how these historical events have defined the city. We have learned how each one of these time periods have imprinted their legacy on the city of Boston through the people, culture, customs, landscapes, and businesses that thrive here today. Yet, as students in 2016, we often lack the ability to feel a deeper connection with events that took place hundreds of years ago. This all changed recently when we started reading All Souls by Michael Patrick MacDonald.
MacDonald starts his story in the 1960’s and progresses along until the reader reaches his present day life. MacDonald is an exemplary narrator due to his unique perspective. Growing up in the Southie projects allowed him to experience the city during some very influential events. One of these being the Boston Busing riots. MacDonald’s first hand account of the incidents, mainly in chapter four, become very real to the reader due to the descriptiveness of the individual riots. In addition to MacDonald’s account, many parents of the GBP students were in and around Boston during the riots. The combination of the two perspectives gives us students a way to connect with the historic events better.
In fact, the very reason I am in Needham Public Schools is a direct result of busing. My two sisters and I were born in Boston. We lived around the corner from an elementary school where we played on a regular basis with the other children in the neighborhood. However, due to the busing lottery system that was in place at that time, it was most likely that we would not attend our neighborhood school and we had no guarantee of being placed together as sisters. My parents had three choices: face the uncertainty of the lottery system, pay for private education, or move. The decision to move to Needham was difficult given that we left behind a wonderful home, with great neighbors, and close friends. Here in Needham I attended Mitchell Elementary, a short walk up the hill from my home. The proximity to home, made it easy for my parents and I to attend events, meet neighbors, and participate in and strengthen the community.
MacDonald further articulates how Boston busing affected communities from the Southie point of view. Many of the families being bused didn't have the opportunity to move or go to a private school, thus they were forced to watch their neighborhoods and communities deteriorate. There were multiple reasons that caused the communities to fall apart. The fact that many students had to go across town to their schools played a major role in the deterioration. A neighborhood school is a place where parents have the ability to connect with other parents and form a close knit group. When their child’s school is in another area, parents don’t always have the option to travel across Boston to that school and meet other parents. This creates a lack of community and close connection among the adults, that transfers onto their children. Because the communication aspect is missing, many communities slowly fell apart. In addition to the lack of close schools, people became less open to welcoming ‘outsiders’ into their lives. The strong sense of community felt before busing prevented the formation of other communities due to the us-versus-them mentality shared by many. The racial stereotypical views people had prevented many interracial relationships to form, especially in an area like Old Colony. Although the bulk of this issue occurred in the 1970's, the city of Boston is still changing because of it. Many parents with children approaching school-age continue to move out of the city in order to provide the education they wish for their children.
Although the forced busing was with good intention, the unintended consequences of busing have hurt the city. Desegregation of the schools was necessary, but forcing the two poorest schools in Boston, with some of the strongest communities, to immediately accept the changes caused many issues that could have been prevented. Thankfully, the Boston Public Schools have successfully desegregated, but the painful process has left many scars on Boston, as shown by MacDonald and existing issues within the system.
Before reading this novel my perception of Southie came mostly from its depiction in the movie Good Will Hunting. I realize that Good Will Hunting is fiction and represents the views of its screenwriters— it is not necessarily an accurate representation of Southie. But, because I had never visited or studied Southie, it was the view I was most familiar with prior to reading All Souls. Seeing as it is such an iconic movie Good Will Hunting has probably shaped the opinions of many people who, like myself, have never visited Southie or had contact with residents of Southie. In Good Will Hunting Southie is poor and run down. The characters from Southie are from large Irish families and have a tight-knit community; they go to their local pub and everyone knows their names. The main character, Will, is very hesitant about leaving Southie because he feels so attached to his friends there. Eventually Will’s friend Chuckie convinces him to leave. Chuckie tells Will that he has an opportunity that all the other boys in Southie would die for, that he must to escape now or he will never leave. Chuckie and the other characters from Southie were trapped there by poverty and lack of education. Characters from Southie seemed to use their pride in the town to hide their despair. This movie shows Southie as a depressing place, loosely disguised by Irish pride, that needs to be escaped from. This is a pretty common depiction of poor, urban neighborhoods and one that I did not question very much when it was presented in Good Will Hunting.
All Souls shows a more complex perception of Southie. Despite the poverty, drugs, and crime that seem ubiquitous in Southie, the author says that he is considering moving back. This is in direct contrast with the narrative I am most familiar with where people try to escape areas like South Boston. The reporter who MacDonald talks with is surprised by this decision; the reporter had researched Southie and concluded that it was dangerous and poor—an undesirable place to live. MacDonald’s claim that he is considering moving back to Southie proves that there is something about Southie that makes up for its negative characteristics.
I’m excited to learn more about MacDonald’s experience living in South Boston. As I read this book it reminds me of our Neighborhood Projects and how we are looking at the neighborhoods the same way the reporter was observing Southie—as outsiders. We are using statistics and outsider observations to understand a town but, as MacDonald shows us, there are some aspects of a town that need to be observed firsthand. As outsiders we have prejudices, which is only natural, but we must recognize these prejudices before attempting to learn about a neighborhood. We need to try to learn about areas that we are unfamiliar with with an open mind; it’s important that we try to see an area like Southie the way an insider would. My prejudice going into our study of Southie was the narrative from Good Will Hunting. I believe that Southie was a place people wanted to escape from but were trapped in due to economic circumstances. As I read All Souls I have to set aside this preconceived notion so I can learn the much more complicated truth about Southie from MacDonald, and insider.
Spencer Ress, GBP Student
As one of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston has many neighborhoods rooted in rich history. Each of its neighborhoods have possessed unique and distinctive characteristics, as people from all over the world have came to Boston to foster and cherish their respective cultures in it. Through this great history, Boston has sustained its vibrant neighborhoods, which is evidenced in the highly-diverse and energetic populations that make up each part of Boston. With all this in mind, it is no surprise that GBP has asked us to look more into these neighborhoods with our latest major assignment - the Neighborhood Project. In pairs and trios, we’ve been assigned the task of creating an infographic that depicts information about the history and development from the 1950s to today of a certain neighborhood in Boston. A list of neighborhoods in Boston was presented to each group to pick from and observe. My group happens to be a trio, including fellow classmates, Michael Dateo and Vinny Troung, and we ended up choosing Beacon Hill to investigate.
A couple days into the project, we have commenced preliminary research on our neighborhood, having already found many basic current statistics. Many of these happen to be demographic statistics, which relate to race, gender, income, housing, etc. Michael and Vinny have also found some statistics, but I have mostly been responsible for this part of the assignment. For this reason, Michael and Vinny have mostly conducted research to find stories/developments related to Beacon Hill in contemporary news as well as past news. I will also look to find more demographic statistics from the past. As far as the infographic, I have started the formulation of one in the program, known as Piktochart. A small amount of progress has been achieved so far, as the overall theme and fonts have been chosen for the infographic and some basic information has been put in. As seen in this project as well as many others we have done this year, is the unique opportunity to practice skills that will be needed for college and the application of the real working world.
As three of many great skills we learn in GBP, this project allows us to practice visual communication, collaboration, and MSA skills. In regards to visual communication, this skill will be vital for things most likely such as presentations in college and business meetings beyond that. It is very important that pieces of visual communication such as power points, should be enticing and compelling to drive your main points you wish to convey in your dialogue. Along with visual communication, collaboration will also be important obviously. I would say this is the central and most important goal in GBP, as it will be a core practice in anything we do beyond high school. Whether in small or big groups, it will be critical to have the ability of communicating individual roles, decision making, feedback, evaluation of group progress or quality of product, and dynamics. If all of this can be achieved, only then will it be possible to successfully complete a variety of task in any subject. Lastly, this project will benefit our ability to model and do analysis of statistics in the future. As a core element in mathematics, perhaps any future job or internship I take on, may require me to break down statistical data to obtain key information and insight.
Eliza Corderman, GBP Student
The CAP (Community Action Project) is now fully underway and each group is hard at work to achieve their goal and make a positive change in the Greater Boston community. This is one of the most interesting and engaging components of the course, and to finally be getting the wheels turning on this project is an incredibly empowering feeling.
At this point in the CAP, each group has done a significant amount of research about their issue and is currently working on contacting members of the community or other individuals/organizations who could play a role in the success of the group. We have been given a substantial amount of time in class- for example, we were able to work on the project for the entirety of the first long block this morning- which has been very helpful in actually being productive in class. With the large amount of class time given, I think that groups are definitely starting to make progress and many ideas are beginning to blossom. Moving forwards, we are going to be getting a more time to work (2 classes every 7 days) which I think is going to be hugely beneficial to everyone.
My group is focusing on the issue of the declining bee population in the Greater Boston Area and we are striving to come up with some ways in which we can make a difference. From our research we figured out that bees are responsible for nearly ⅓ of the world’s food supply and that their population has been declining rapidly since the 1990s, with a 40% decrease of commercial honeybees since 2006. The more time we spend working on this project, the more excited and eager I feel towards our work. We have recently contacted individuals, as well as some local organizations in order to see where we can take this issue and we are using these contacts to explore the many ways in which we can combat this issue. We have even contacted a woman who was recently featured on the ABC show Shark Tank, where she presented a honey-substitute solution aimed at helping support bee populations. My group has been able to make very good use of class time, and we all are very enthusiastic about our topic, which is making this project even more enjoyable.
This assignment truly makes use of a numerous amount of critical skills. This project continuously tests our collaboration skills, as this is a group assignment and each decision should be made collectively as a group. As you look around the room, you can see each group hard at work at their different tasks and each day becoming increasingly more informed and passionate about their topic. If there are any problems within the group, it is up to the other members to work through that problem as this is a very independent assignment and students must be self motivated. Skills such as writing proposals and formal communication are being exercised at this point in time, as groups must send emails and begin organizing ideas in a more professional format to be shared. With the recent practice in class learning how to write a proposal, groups will be able to compile all their information in this format and be able to present this information to a corporation/person that can help them to achieve their goal.
Although we are still in the relative beginning stages of the CAP, I am getting the feeling that many amazing results will be accomplished by the end of this year. I think that each group feels motivated to accomplish something remarkable, and the work and energy seen thus far foreshadows the impressive results that are to come.
Chloe Kennedy, GBP Student
Oral communication is an important part of Greater Boston Project and an important part of life after GBP. We were able to practice this skill by arguing for ideas such as the right to nullify the Fugitive Slave Act or trying to convince the government that they should standardize the rail size. Oral communication is important to succeed in informing and persuading people. With oral communication it is necessary to maintain a clear voice, good eye contact, and appropriate body posture. From CED’s to the more formal CAP, our oral communication is constantly being tested and strengthened. Throughout the year GBP has focused on improving our oral communication to, in the end, help us after high school. Recently, our skills were tested with the Shaping the Era presentations.
Before the presentations began we were broken up into small groups. In these groups we conducted in-depth research on one major issue of contention in Greater Boston from the antebellum era. With this issue we created a written proposal, explaining a solution to the problem. The proposal also outlined the issues that existed, the causes of the issues, possible solutions, and effects of the solutions. To be able to write this proposal, extensive research was necessary. We needed to be able to support our possible solutions with evidence. Writing a formal proposal was a very rewarding and interesting process and our group learned a lot.
After the proposal was written, we then created an eight to ten minute presentation. In this presentation we highlighted the main aspects of the proposal: the issue, possible solutions, a proposed solutions, and the benefits and drawbacks of the proposed solution. The formal presentation was where oral communication came into play. This learning goal was different in this project in that we were aiming to persuade, not just present. We were trying to convince the government during the antebellum time period to put our proposal into action. This meant that we had to give strong evidence and an even stronger argument to succeed.
Following the presentation there was a five minute question and answer period. This was another place where our oral communication skills were tested. It was necessary to field and answer the questions correctly, respectfully, and intelligently. After all questions were answered, each group presented what ended up actually occurring with their issue; the real, final solution. Additionally, when not presenting, every audience member was expected to develop questions to debate and improve the plans and solutions. Oral communication also applied to those asking the questions.
I liked this project because doing group presentations and proposing ideas with a question and answer period was fun and different from what we have done in class before. I also thought it was a great educational project because we learned how to research and find data to back our argument and to practice those important oral communication skills. (Source: Shaping the Era Project Document)
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