Jill Montesano, GBP Student
It is no doubt that surveys help others learn more about a specific group of people, whether marketers are trying to find the hottest trends, schools are trying to learn more about students’ drug use habits, or researchers are trying to understand if people's sleeping habits have any correlation with their late night device use. Surveys can be interesting, informational, and helpful for researchers and the people reading about the studies done.
What people often overlook about surveys is creating and analyzing one requires a thoughtful process. Surveys are created not only to be helpful and fun but also to find a trend or correlation of two factors. It is important when a survey is complete to take the time to compare answers which usually means creating graphs and drawing a conclusions from them. Surveys also have to be clear and direct with the audience, and have to be created based around who is going to be surveyed. There are many factors that go into making surveys and with our class activity we got some practice with creating successful surveys.
Brainstorming about all these tragedies got me thinking about how many tragedies could be happening all over the world that no one knows about or pays attention to. There is now so much more news coverage on media that we have more exposure to news stories, but we don’t always pay attention because it might not be concerning to us. All of these news stories could even be considered desensitizing to us because there is always something drastic on the news, it just depends what we pay attention to, or care to watch or read. It made me realize that we also can’t always trust what we read. Some textbooks may have mentioned some events as minor details, but that doesn't mean that all the facts were present or that there isn’t a whole other side to the story. Many textbooks seem to brush off real events like they were nothing, just a couple million people dead or a few thousand went missing, like the Armenian Genocide or the Haitian Revolution.
While we were finishing up the activity, Mr. Brooke brought up a good point about what we think will be forgotten years from now. With all the technology present today it is difficult to have anything go unnoticed. But, as I explained, news can be desensitizing because every extreme that has happened is reported out. Throughout the journey of reading Ten Hills Farm, we are forced to question whether or not we really see every event in history for what it is. This lesson helped us think about how that happens now with our own media.
A modern day photo from Ten Hills Farm in Medford, MA. (Photo from the Tufts University Magazine.)
Rachel Kingston, GBP Student
Sitting in a classroom for three hours can be extremely challenging for any high school student. At Needham High on A days the students of The Greater Boston Project, Periods 1-2 get to be together from 8am-11:20am-- that’s a long time for a group of 17 and 18 year olds to be in one place! Besides our 20 minute homeroom break, we stay within the room except for occasional bathroom breaks. But the teachers in GBP are realistic about our ability to do almost 3 hours of work, and realize to capture our attention for those two periods they sometimes need to throw in something fun and different, not connected to our class curriculum.
A few weeks ago, the teachers set up a fun game to break up the long class. The class was split in half into 2 teams and both teams sat in a line facing each other. Students at the beginning of the line would wait for Ms.Tincher to flip cards from a deck and once they saw a red card they would pass the squeeze down the line waiting for the last member in line to press the button and beat the other team. All other teammates were required to hold each other’s hands and given simple rules: no talking, no looking- just squeeze the person’s hand next to you when you felt a squeeze on your other hand, like a chain reaction. The idea behind this game was to have everyone pay attention and be one part of a bigger chain; everyone had a role and each person had to perform the task as fast as possible so the team would be successful. As with any collaboration task, you had to rely on others to succeed.
These kinds of activities allow us to step away from the traditional classroom, and learn collaboration in a different way. The games allow us to relax and enjoy each other during those long blocks, and give the opportunity to bond as a class form new friendships, too. It really does achieve another form of collaboration by exploring different ways people can be creative. We can learn things about each other that usually we wouldn’t know going through the basic school schedule.
GBP students debate the issue of slavery as it was contested in the 1700s, looking at four of the prevailing perspectives on the issue at the time. (Photo by Ms. Tincher)
Abby Kahn, GBP Student
There is nothing like engaging in a good natured class debate. These sort of thrilling debates take place in almost every classroom in our school, except for maybe science or math classes, where I’ve come to learn over the years that teachers in said subjects do not enjoy debating the validity of math laws! But other that than, I think it is safe to assume that every student at Needham high school will graduate with at least one formal in class debate under their belt. In GBP alone, we have conducted a few debates thus far. We debated current issues such as the impending legality of Fireworks and changes to taxes on cigarettes, as well as historical ones like whether or not Puritans intended to push Native Americans out of New England.
Last Friday, we debated the institution of slavery in the 1700’s. Each student was been assigned a certain perspective on the issue, a perspective that would have been commonly encountered and debated amongst citizens in the 1700’s. This distinction that students were assigned commonly encountered perspectives in the 1700’s is crucial. If we were advocating for our beliefs in the present day, it would be a very one sided debate, as the paradigms of race have drastically shifted. So in this historical context, the assigned perspectives included advocates for the continuation of slavery as it was, advocates for the gradual emancipation of all slaves, advocates for the return of all slaves to Africa, and advocates for the immediate manumission of all slaves.
As soon as positions were assigned, it was clear that some students were uncomfortable with arguing the historical position they were assigned, specifically those who had to argue that slavery should continue. Many students would now have to advocate for something that they know is totally wrong present day! However, as the preparation for the debate continued, the value of the lesson has become clearer. It is extremely easy to look back on our history of slavery and just say that it was an atrocity and should have ended sooner. However, as this fact is very clear for us today, it is more important for us as learners to understand that it was not so clear-cut back in the past. This debate encouraged students to understand all sides of the argument, and forced us to place ourselves in a position where we must fully understand and convey our assigned perspective, whether or not we believe in it now.
Furthermore, the skill and other prowesses utilized in this debate have useful implications in the work force. Constructing a sophisticated argument, researching opposing viewpoints and being able to understand alternative perspectives are just some examples of skills that might be useful to us down the road. After this debate, I think we will have enhanced our persuasive argumentation skills as well as better understand why the issue of slavery was so disputed, and why it didn’t come to an end sooner.
Last Tuesday, as a class, we were able to have our own say on some of the policies and practices at Needham High School. Our proposals were not going to be reviewed by the school board or anything, but this activity was great practice for the class. We were able to experience the process of how formal proposals are actually constructed and brought into consideration by institutions like the high school, as we were tasked to create their own proposals. In groups of two, we were able to choose what policy at the NHS we would like to change or alter. There were a vast range of policies we chose from, like issues in the lunchroom to student attendance.
Once a group decided on the topic for their proposal, we then explained the purpose and reasoning of why there needs to be a change or alteration to the school's policy in a persuasive introduction. Next, we expressed what the desired outcome of the proposal was, such as the beneficial effects of the proposal being set into place. We used outside research to show statistics of how the policy may have already been successful in other schools. We gave a list of options for the ways the new policy could be conducted in sufficient detail. In the proposal options, we detailed components like resources needed for the policy and how the school will enforce the policy if it were to be put in place. Most importantly, we then offered a recommended option that we thought would be the most efficient and effective way to put the policy into place. A plan of action explained how the proposal can be accomplished by providing the audience with instructions on methods of how to make this proposal policy. A conclusion finally summarized our main points and the importance of once again why this policy need to be put into effect and the plan on how this policy can take roots with the school.
Our experience with writing the proposals enabled us to understand the process of how new ideas and policies are brought into consideration to everyday places like companies, schools and even the government. It is important for us to work on our communication skills to better help us pass on our ideas and become persuasive and understandable when we request something. It is also important for us to work in the interest of the group we request aid or approval from in order for us to have the most success with our request.
Zach Kaplan, GBP Student
“Because it's the law.” one student touted. “My parents even said the courtyard was used as the designated smoking area back in the 1980’s.”, a different student remarked as the debate continued on whether or not tobacco should be allowed on school property. It was one of a few contentious issues debated amongst Greater Boston Project students in a recent GBP class. Students were split into three groups, and from then split into four smaller groups. Each group took turns discussing remedies to current school issues including placement of substitute teachers, the tobacco policy at NHS, fitness center hours and school start times. Students had 3 minutes to present their issues to a group, then 5 minutes to take questions from a three-person panel, and finally 2 minutes of feedback from observing onlookers. The standoffs between different students were interesting to see as often times, the temperature rose during times of rebuttal. There was a quick debrief where students and teachers talked about how presenters can improve for the future, in addition to the feedback given by the small groups initially.
This activity was comprised in preparation for not only the upcoming Community Action Project (CAP), but to help improve life skills as students will need to know how to prepare and present proposals in the not-so-distant future. Students were able to get valuable experience in terms of framing questions about issues, as well as presenting their sides on why their proposals would work.These experiences are important as they help students prepare for some of life’s important tasks, a main takeaway so far from many students in the Greater Boston Project.
Crucial scenarios such as making a proposal to a group and answering questions without being flustered are important skills to know, especially for the numerous GBPers who will likely enter the business world or other professions in which this is a regular practice. They will need mastery of the traits needed to be successful making proposals. I know I will need to make proposals for myself or speak for groups when it comes to making changes. Being able to verbally disarm concerns and field questions about an idea or implementation without getting flustered is important in any career path, and certainly something I will use in my life.
GBP Students present proposals and field questions as part of a practice activity. (Photo by Ms. Tincher)
Illustration of the Boston Tea Party (History.com) & A modern view of the Boston Harbor (The Pioneer Institute)
Trevor Ress, GBP Student
A common question in American history is, what essentially started the Revolutionary war? A question like this is what the Greater Boston Project loves to answer, especially through a cultural perspective.
Recently, I demonstrated my ability of understanding cultural change by analyzing how economic factors affected the rising tensions of the American Revolution with some of my classmates. To begin this process, we were divided into small groups to read and examine an excerpt called, People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. Basically, Zinn argues that the main source of anti-British sentiment occurred because there was, “the mobilization of lower-class energy by upper-class politicians, for their own purposes”. In other words, Zinn was claiming that higher class citizens of the colonies were utilizing their politics to keep a wealth barrier between them and the lower class citizens through taxes and such.
After reviewing the first article, we were then asked to view two other excerpts from Colonial Economy and A Short History of American Capitalism by Alice Hanson Jones and Meyer Weinberg. Both articles had conflicting views on whether the lower class citizens needed more compensation or not. After evaluation of the three articles, all groups came together for a class discussion, either supporting or disproving the claims made by Howard Zinn on the rise of the American Revolution. Each group made their statement based off evidence they found in the other two articles given.
The purpose of this activity is to practice a content-based skill of how and why change occurs throughout history. While in our Pre-Revolution unit, we examine causes of change, how change occurred, effects of change, and trends and patterns that led up to the Revolutionary war. This learning goal of cultural change is always expressed in the Greater Boston Project’s topics: Population, Government, Economy, Education, and Arts and Leisure. In this case, this activity consisted of Economy and Government.
Personally, sometimes I find this learning goal hard to grasp, but when understood in a situation it is really cool to see the roots of how an entire society changed. Putting myself in a colonist’s shoes, I can imagine my indignation for being unnecessarily taxed and ultimately wanting to rebel against my mother country even though it may be absurd. Whether I continue to grow up in the Greater Boston area or not, somewhere, I might unconsciously be apart of a cultural change for better or worse. If I lived in Boston when I’m older, I could just fall into the flow of a new paradigm shift like more environment oriented housing or the rise in technology efficiency. I will just be a small piece of the gradual process in these paradigm shifts so to me it will seem as if the norm has not changed.
Bony Ganugapanta, GBP Student
Last block GBP at the end of the day can be either a good thing or a bad thing. Sometimes there is lots of work to be done at the end of the day and people are so tired, they’re already zoned out. Other times, an activity is posted on Google Classroom, people are excited, and everything is fun. On a lazy Thursday afternoon a few weeks ago, as I walked into GBP, I wondered whether GBP that day would be a good thing or bad thing. I didn’t have to think long about the bad because standing alone in the middle of the room, was the celebrity himself: Mr. Starr! Three teachers for 44 kids works pretty well most of the time. Two teachers? Maybe with a little luck. One teacher? Hmm... But this wasn’t just any teacher. This was Mr. Starr, the legend himself. He always something or the other up his sleeve and on that day, it was two documents about Pope’s day.
Now some of you may be thinking, “Huh? Pope’s day?? Must be some sort of special day to celebrate the pope…?” Wrong. Those two documents shed some light on one fateful day over the span of two years. The first document (both taken out of a newspaper and accounted for by a man named Rev. James Freedman) focused on the civil war between the colonists while the second focused on a origins of a revolution between the colonists and England. On November 5, 1764, fires blazed across the town of Boston in the wake of yet another burning of a scarecrow looking like the pope of England. People were not happy with the way things were going in England. The requirement of payment in Boston to consent for the Seven Years War was not taken well by the citizens. The Colonists absolutely despised England, and the Pope being the figurehead, was burned in the streets of Boston, to encase their hatred toward the King. An excerpt from the poem shows the strength of the hatred:
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
A penn'orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.
Oh yeah, these people were real friendly. After the two sides were done burning the pope, they came upon agreement to fight each other, splitting themselves up as the North End and the South End. The reason for this brutality? The intense sectionalism present between the North End and South End of Boston. Both sides were very vehement toward each other on the topic of sports, business, fashion, etc. In those fights, many people were bruised, and accumulated broken hands, legs, and heads. These people just came out in the evening and… fought. Weird? Yeah. But it's alright, because that's about as weird as it gets.
The two groups don't fight each other long. By November 5, 1765, the two groups became allies as they turned to a common enemy: England. England had recently passed the Stamp Act in further compensation for the cost of Seven Years War. Their “mother country” had taken away their freedoms and abused them, and the colonists were not going to stand for that. Even now, in the modern day, people in England will come out and burn the scarecrow of the pope, proclaiming the well known phrase around the year of 1765, "Remember, remember the fifth of November!"
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!