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.
GBP Students listen and take notes on a lecture given by National Parks consultant and BU professor Jim O'Connell. (Photo by Ms. Tincher)
Sydney Banker, GBP Student
As GBP students, we have been fortunate to experience many great lectures and presentations given from outside sources. On Tuesday, both GBP sections gathered together to listen to Jim O’Connell’s lecture on the development of the Greater Boston Area. The discussion covered a wide variety of topics such as; climate change, transportation, parks/recreation, shopping and housing. What made the lecture so engaging and interesting was its heavy focus on the development and influence that Needham had towards the advancement of Boston. Our knowledge about the filling in of the Back Bay was furthered through pictures and statistics regarding the actual transportation of the dirt from Needham to Boston. Another large theme Mr.O’Connell focused in on were the shifts that took place within the Greater Boston Community that ultimately altered the way Boston’s society came to be as it is today.
Paradigm shifts are a heavy focus of the GBP class curriculum. Paradigm shifts refer to a revolution or transformation driven by a change within society. Over the course of the year, we have learned about and studied several paradigm shifts that have taken place over the course of Boston’s history. Today, one of the shifts that we learned about was the Boston community’s response to their needs/desires that allowed for them to bring about change within the city and surrounding neighborhoods. For example, with an increase in modes of transportation, primarily trains, a large spike in the development of suburbs took place. This is a great example of a paradigm shift because a direct cause and effect situation is taking place that eventually sparks a change within society.
After taking detailed and thorough notes on the presentation, we were asked to log into Google Classroom to respond to the question; “What do you see as a main takeaway from the lecture you heard today on the development of metropolitan Boston?” A variety of great responses poured in ranging from focus on economic impact, to development of suburbs, to the influence of transportation. Reading my classmates responses helped me to broaden my ideas and understandings of the lecture.
Once our speaker had concluded with his final thoughts we were given time to look over and organize our notes. This is a crucial skill that we have been able to practice and develop through GBP class lectures that will be extremely helpful going forward in larger college lectures. Although our GBP class number is most likely smaller than many of the lectures halls some of us will attend next year, today was a great preview of what is next to come.
Jeremy Stern, GBP Student
Group work: arguably one of the most important aspects of The Greater Boston Project, if not the most important. Collaboration in groups allows for each member to contribute new and unique ideas while working toward a common goal, usually a final product or presentation. With each member contributing and holding up his/her end of the bargain, the idea is that everyone does something, and therefore, each member can utilize his/her strengths in a specific aspect. As previously mentioned, the overarching goals while collaborating in groups is, more often than not, a final project, whether it being a report, presentation, etc.
Nevertheless, collaboration is not solely about achieving a concrete final goal or product. It can be more abstract than that. Group work and collaboration is often aimed at less attainable reasoning such as just an assignment. Perhaps we all feel the need to belong to a group; something larger, something meaningful. It is often underestimated the warm and secure feeling that comes with belonging and associating with a group, regardless of the reason for getting involved with one. So, when people are put in groups for a project, the sense of belonging can cause students to be less worried and more productive. In GBP, group work is included in essentially every assignment or project, minus the essays. However, seen in field trips such as the Greater Boston Food Bank, we are able to utilize their experience of working with a group in a different context. The Food Bank was a great example of something that wasn’t necessarily academically oriented, but it brought out the collaborative best in all of us, and everyone had a blast volunteering there.
Four awesome GBP students (including this post's author) work together to unload boxes at the Greater Boston Food Bank (Photo by Ms. T).
Whether in CAP or CED groups, or as a whole class in general, group work gives those of us involved: a) a sense of belonging to something, b) a shot at contributing our own unique ideas and skills to the group, and c) an excuse to procrastinate with other people in addition to ourselves. (Usually, it’s okay if you’re in a group, because you will all get eventually get penalized for not stepping up). Thus, groupmates push each other to hold up their end, as one person slacking can lead to a poor outcome overall.
In conclusion, collaboration is an amazing thing, especially when working on a project in school. When working in a group, it gives students a new way to be creative, and also gives them an opportunity to make the intended outcome better than it would be individually. Also, pretty much any modern day profession requires strong collaboration skills in the workplace. You will need to talk to and work with coworkers, clients, and bosses in order to get a task done. It is key in most jobs, so the collaboration aspect of GBP is preparing us extremely well for what’s to come later on. In my opinion, collaboration is easy, useful, and important, so getting down the skills of how to do so can only help someone succeed.
Michelle Elman, GBP Student
GBP is known for its many group projects throughout the year. Nearly all of the assignments we have done this year have involved working in a group and I think that this is my favorite part of GBP.
I signed up for GBP last year primarily for the amount of group work I heard people did in GBP. Being an introvert, as well as shy, I always had trouble working in groups. Sometimes I would be a pushover and do whatever my groupmates told me to do, or I would take over and not let anyone do any work. Overall, I had trouble with group dynamics and appropriately contributing. I believed that by taking GBP, I would be challenging myself, as well as improving my skill in group work.
We started working in groups from the start. I had trouble speaking up in my first major group assignment when I missed some important information. As a result, I was unable to make a significant contribution to the project. During the collaboration conference, I realised that I should have spoken up about this issue, and not rely on my group to tell me what to do. I used this lesson and made sure that I advocated for myself from the next major project and onward. With each project and collaboration project, I picked up more vital skills for collaborating. I learned how to contribute to making decisions. This involved standing up for myself and letting my group mates known when I do not agree with something. I have built up my confidence which has allowed me to do just that. I have also improved my planning skills and I can now make plans that are reasonable and my group agrees with, however I’m still working on following through with those plans more consistently. Finally, I have learned how to communicate with other people in my group to make sure we are all on the same page and that we are working together productively to achieve a common goal.
Something that I like about group work in GBP is how we are assigned groups. I feel that when we are assigned groups and we work with people who we do not know, we end up collaborating better than we would with people we know. This is because everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses when working in a group and when you're constantly with people you know well, you pay more attention to each other than to the task at at hand. Also, I enjoy it because it adds a unique dynamic to each group rather than it being the same. I feel like this is also reflective of real life situations. I know, especially for the career path I am choosing, that I am going to have to work with people, some who I might not get along with well and some who I might not even know. GBP has taught me how in group work, we need to put our personal feelings aside and focus on the common goal.
In conclusion, I feel that GBP this year has really helped me improve my collaboration skills. I am more aware of my place and other’s places in groups and I know how to be a positive group member. I hope that the skills I learned in GBP regarding collaboration will stick with me for the years to come.
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