Katy Larkin, GBP Student
In the Greater Boston Project we explore Boston through many different activities with a heavy focus on group work. Everyday we work on class activities in groups which helps us learn how to work together to create the best final product. We have learned how to give constructive criticism and the importance of contributing all we can for our group. We then use these collaboration skills we have learned to work on long term projects with a group. This has many similar elements to our in-class group work, but it also has added complications. For example, on long term assignments people must take the initiative to complete their work in a timely manner to give their group time to give feedback.
We just finished working on a project about propaganda during the time of heightened unrest between Great Britain and the Massachusetts colony. Groups are focusing on the controversial acts passed by Great Britain and the outcomes of these legislations. This project is different from other projects we have done because we are given much more creative license on a large scale. While we have done creative work before, like in the in-class activity on “Puritan at Play” which had to do with arts and leisure in the Puritan times where we made videos in which we wrote our own script. However, for this propaganda project our skits were much longer and more in depth in regard to historical information, as well as performed in front of the entire class. Every group presented their skit to teach our peers about the event or legislation we researched. To assist us in our skit-making, the teachers even created their own skit with the same guidelines that we were given, focusing instead on a modern-day issue: the relocation of the Hillside school in Needham. Their skit was engaging and informative, showing us what we should all strive to create.
In addition to our own pre-revolutionary skits, we created two pieces of propaganda to incorporate in our skits. One of the pieces had to be from the viewpoint of Great Britain or those whom supported the “mother country” and the other was created from the viewpoint of the colonial settlers who were against the legislation. The purpose of this was to help us show and understand both sides of the story in the events leading up to the American Revolution. We were able to get ideas for our propaganda when we went into Boston a few weeks ago, as other blog posts have discussed. At the Massachusetts Historical Society we looked at authentic propaganda from the time period we are researching. These propaganda artifacts were really helpful in showing us the language and persuasion tactics used during this time. From songs to drawings, this trip to the Massachusetts Historical Society sparked many great ideas for propaganda in our class.
I liked this project because creating our own skits and propaganda was fun and different from other projects we’ve done. I also thought it was great for educational purposes because in order to create these things we really had to understand our topic.
Ally Hickey, GBP Student
Since the first week of school, GBP students have been given group members to work with on specific long term projects. An average student has done many individual and/or partnered class projects in their high school career, but I would say that the amount of long term tasks we have in GBP take the lead. Through the repeated planning needed to accomplish the projects, GBP students have become very accustomed and good at executing them.
Our group projects all start off with everyone searching for their name on the board, eager to see who they are partnered with. Group members then find a space in the room to discuss how to start the project or, if necessary, make sure to introduce themselves. Most of the time, there’s a leader, or at least someone who believes they should be. This person usually initiates a discussion about what tasks need to be done and what one would have to do to accomplish them. Next, each partner is paired with a task. These tasks usually include specific time periods or areas of research. Of course, there’s usually someone who decides that they “do better work at home,” but some other member inevitably brings them back to the reality of needing doing at least something productive in class. I believe that we have all learned at least one valuable lesson by working on group projects and that is to make good use of the time provided for our projects. Why would you waste your own time to work on something you could have done in school? Time management is key in any group project.
After all research is done, some kind of product must be made, such as a visual media artifact or even a skit like in this week’s Propaganda Project. This week’s group members must create a skit on one major issue of controversy from the pre-revolutionary era of Greater Boston. This is where the creative students comes out and help to make the research enjoyable and engaging for other classmates to learn about. In every group, there are creative and less creative people but each are encouraged to review each other's work so everyone is involved in each par and ready to share it with the class.
Although GBP is only ¼ of the way done, I think many of my peers would agree that with the number of group research projects we do in this class, we’re all on our way to being professionals.
GBP Students collaborate on group projects in class. (Photo by Ms. Tincher)
Eyal Schwartz, GBP Student
The great excitement of field trips rolled in once again a few weeks ago when the GBP classes took on our second adventure into the city of Boston. As everyone already knows, there is no way to study the city of Boston better than, well, spending time there. This time around it was all about business, no more introductions. We had the responsibility of getting on and off the train by ourselves and once everyone arrived in Boston, groups split up to get to work for the day. One group started off at the Boston Public Library, while the other group walked over to The Mass Historical Society; then, after a nice lunch, the groups switched locations. The main focus at both of the locations was to work on the upcoming project about pre-revolutionary propaganda.
The historical society this time around was a completely new experience as it was hands on; for a warm up, each project group was given a historical propaganda document and asked to analyze it and present to the class. There were different types of propaganda techniques showcased in these artifacts; some examples were: glittering generalities, name calling, and bandwagoning. These different types of propaganda styles each have their own purpose, which helped the us get an idea for what type of propaganda we may wish to use for our projects.
A couple days prior to the field study, we had made up a list of sources that we wanted to examine while at the historical society. So after the warm up activity, the helpful historians there compiled as many of those resources as possible and put them on display for our groups to gather information from. Our groups were given time to read through the documents and examine all of the information. I believe that this time really pushed us in the right direction to get a solid idea for how we want to display our projects. Not only was this helpful for the project, but it was also really one of the first times that many groups worked with primary documents that dated back to many many years ago. Learning to use these skills will become increasingly helpful for us as we move on a continue more independent work. It will be very helpful because we need to learn how to analyze text, especially in college when we don’t get as much teacher aid.
GBP students examine historical propaganda at the Massachusetts Historical Society in preparation for work on their projects.
(Photo by Ms. Tincher)
If the students weren’t examining primary documents at the historical society they were searching for secondary sources at the public library. There isn’t really a better place to find information about Boston than the library. Honestly, that place has everything, from books about anything to computers with information, and even a teen center with TVs and video games. It’s almost impossible to not find what it is you’re looking for. GBP is all about learning through experience and being in the library does just that. There were no rules about what to do in the library or where to go, there was just an hour and a half to do what was needed to research and work on our projects. As we become more and more independent these library trips are going to become more and more helpful.
Field visits are always a huge excitement because they can make a long week feel quicker, and, more importantly, can benefit your learning experience. Boston is one of the most cultured cities in the world, famous for hundreds of things. It is great that we get time to explore resources in the city while also getting to see the true side of Boston, with people walking around on their lunch hour at 12:30pm. I think this sparks our interest to want to spend more time in Boston and in cities all over. One person can never spend too much time walking around cities especially with all that there is to learn.
Bates Hall at the Boston Public Library (Photo from Wikipedia.)
Tyler Stratford, GBP Student
In the Greater Boston Project, one of the goals is to be able to receive and give feedback. Being able to accept criticism is an important part in being a good group member and individual worker. The most recent project we received feedback on was our Term 1 Portfolios. To do this, we did a few rounds of a “Portfolio Fair” using an inner circle and outer circle. The inner circle put their portfolios out on display while the students in the outer circle moved around from project to project to see the work of their fellow classmates. The goal was to observe what other people had done to help give ideas for the next term portfolio. Each of us received some feedback on our portfolio from students and teachers.
Another goal for GBP is for us as students to improve our visual communication skills. By allowing us to view the work of our classmates, we were able to see other options for how to organize or present information; sharing ideas with our classmates helps to get everyone’s creativity flowing. It also allowed us to see a variety of different technology options there are to help with presentations. We were able to check in with each other to learn how to use the different presentation programs. For people who aren’t as talented with other sites such as Prezi, they were able to see and ask questions on how to correctly work Prezi or any other sites, like Piktochart or Weebly, used to create their portfolio. After viewing every student’s portfolio, the class was exposed to variety of options that they may not have been aware of before the portfolio viewing.
Finally, this activity also helps with the GBP goal of collaboration. Collaboration is a major aspect of this class; being able to receive help from your teachers is one thing, but knowing that your classmates can also be as helpful as your teachers is important. This activity was a great way to learn from our fellow classmates and learn from their expertise. Now that we have idea’s on what to do for our next portfolio, we can now reach out to a fellow classmate and try something new in Term 2.
GBP Students review their classmates' Term 1 Portfolios. (Photos by Ms. Tincher)
GBP students work in groups, hands tied together, trying to put together puzzles. (Photos by Ms. Tincher)
Tom DeSouza, GBP Student
In the Greater Boston Project, one of the goals of the class is being able to work well with new people. However, in order to work well with someone new, you have to know how they work.
One of the recent ways we revealed our work style in GBP was with a collaboration activity that involved string and puzzles. Each group was given pieces of string to tie to each other's wrists and a puzzle to complete. The groups were competing with one another to complete the puzzle the fastest; however, talking wasn’t allowed, arguably the most important factor in order to collaborate easily with group mates.
So, how were the groups able to complete or even start the puzzle without talking? Some groups started with laying the pieces out and finding and separating the pieces that had edges, while other groups would work together silently to find where pieces fit. The hardest challenge was trying not to talk when the teachers were roaming around the classroom. Some people communicated by sign language, or trying to get the attention of a group mate by snapping fingers or pulling on the the string.
Another major complication was the string. We couldn’t pick up pieces without feeling the tug of the string as another student went in the opposite direction. People had to work together by coming up with a strategy. One group used the strategy of each person only using their right hand to pick up the pieces, while another group never took this approach and simply struggled.
But through all the pain of group members pulling each other's strings and having to deal with back pains from bending and looking down at the puzzle, what was the take away from the activity? The purpose of this collaboration activity was to demonstrate how important communicating with group members is in order to create a great project. In my group, the process of completing the puzzle was very slow but once we were allowed to talk after a certain period of time in silence, we were able to complete the puzzle much quicker. In order to work effectively with one or more group members, communication is key.
Hannah Levy, GBP Student
Did the Puritans intend to push the Native Americans from New England?
This essential question was posed to GBP students last week, who were asked to draw upon prior class discussions and assignments to form a response and argue our assigned stance in an in-class debate, our first of many to come this year. Here’s how we did it:
Step 1: Individual Brainstorming
First, we had to think about the assigned position– yes, the Puritans intended to push the Native Americans from New England, or no, it was not their intention. Regardless of whether or not we agreed with our assigned side, we found evidence to support the claim. We looked back through previous class assignments about Puritans and Native Americans to document evidence, such as the novel Ten Hills Farm, an excerpt from a book on settler and Native American relations, a primary source in the form of a letter from a Puritan, and an article on Native American technology.
Synthesizing past work to contribute to the debate allowed us to fully understand the material and interpret it with a potentially new perspective. We also practiced skills necessary for our upcoming Puritan Perspective Essay, such as drawing upon multiple sources to support a claim.
Step 2: Small Group Planning
Next, we got together with others who were on the same side of the argument and shared ideas. We collaborated on a shared document to frame the debate, including opening statements, evidence cited from previous classwork, homework, or sources provided in Google Classroom, and closing remarks. This work was split evenly among the group and we discussed aloud so everyone was on the same page.
In doing this, we practiced our ability to analyze texts and communicate in a group simultaneously, two major skill sets that we focus on regularly in GBP. Leadership roles emerged in the small groups, which is a natural part of collaboration; however, while some students lead the discussion while some took charge of note-taking, all members utilized their strengths to be active contributors.
Step 3: Debate!
New, smaller groups of three were then created to consist of only one member of each role: for, against, and the debate moderator. The moderator listened to each side’s opening statements, where students addressed their respective claims. After considering each argument, the moderator posed questions to each side, challenging their points of view. This allowed the opposing sides to learn as much as they can about each perspective. Debaters then had a chance to articulate rebuttals. During the following open argument, which concluded the debate, opponents had a final chance to convince the moderator of their assigned standpoint so that a final decision could be made.
While being interrogated by the moderator, each debater was put in a difficult position. Debaters were forced to think on their feet to respond to questions in a manner that was not self-incriminating to their position, yet still answered the question. We had to be creative and convincing and often addressed a counterargument. Decision-makers then determined which opponent won the debate based on who presented a stronger case. After the final class vote with all of the moderators, they were asked to explain why one side was more persuasive, citing evidence from the debate.
GBP Students engage in the debate on whether or not the Puritans intended to push the Native Americans out of New England.
(Photos by Ms. Tincher)
In this activity, we were introduced to the debate just moments before delving into it. Each day, The Greater Boston Project challenges students to think from multiple perspectives and learn in real-world scenarios such as this debate . Thinking “outside of the box” by interpreting traditional historical material in a variety of innovative ways is just one of the engaging aspects of GBP that set it apart from a traditional high school course.
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!