Emily Marshall, GBP Student
As senior year is quickly coming to a close for the Class of 2016, the reality of going to college is really starting to set in. As we are sending in our final housing and meal plan papers to our new homes for the next four years, we can only hope that Needham High School has prepared us for all of the new classes, interactions, and experiences that we are about to have.
Unlike many of the more traditional classes that are offered at Needham High School, Greater Boston Project has offered students more than just academic lessons; it has offered real world experiences that can be utilized in college and in the professional world after that. Looking back and reflecting on the this past year in the Greater Boston Project, I can now truly see how beneficial of a class it truly was. Not only am I leaving the class with far more knowledge about the history of Boston, starting from the day John Winthrop sailed over in 1628, but more importantly, the constant group work and creative assignments has forced me to manifest and master skills that I had rarely tapped into before this year.
I have learned how to collaborate with people who I would never have chosen to work with on my own. It can be very difficult to work with someone that you don’t necessarily work well with, for whatever reason that may be, but after being put into different groups on a daily basis in GBP, you learn to work out any problems that arise in a difficult group and move forward. After each group project that we do, we have collaboration conferences with the teachers where they give us their opinion on how well we worked together, based on each group member’s individual feedback. The teacher guides us through having a conversation with our group mates about improving our collaboration techniques, which has helped us to learn how to give appropriate feedback and constructive criticism to group members.
Additionally, GBP has really encouraged all of its students to communicate more effectively, whether it be written, visually, or orally. Each of the projects that we do have at least one, if not all, of these components worked into it. We regularly were producing work such as slideshows or infographics where we were forced to improve upon our visual and written communication. Because in a stand-alone slide show, where peers needed to be able to flip through the slideshow and learn everything they needed to, if we didn’t have good visual and written communication, it wouldn’t be clear enough on its own. We also have had numerous occasions where we needed to orally present a project, from little things like Current Event Discussions, to larger ones like our recent Community Action Project presentations. In other classes, at most, there will be around 4 projects throughout the whole year that force you to use these skills and improve upon them. In the Greater Boston Project, however, we completed projects like this so often that we not only used and improved upon these skills, but we became comfortable and confident in them.
All of these skills were used in our CAP projects, which have just recently been finished, where we were placed into a group, given an issue to focus on, and given about 5 months to propose and try various solutions. Being in that group for as long as we were, groups were able to utilize the collaboration skills that we have been practicing all year, and really establish a good relationship with their group members. We also repeatedly needed to communicate well, with the teachers as well as with the different community contacts that we needed to form professional relationships with and convey our ideas in a convincing way so that they would want to support it. The Community Action Project challenged us to utilize all of the skills that we have been working on improving throughout this year, and prepared us to be able to use them and be successful in college and beyond.
GBP Periods 5-6 in front of the Boston Public Library in September (Photo by Ms. Tincher).
GBP Students in the Freshman Mentoring group prepare to present their work to the class and community members. (Photo by Ms. Tincher)
Ally White, GBP Student
This past week in class, groups have been presenting their Community Action Projects to their classmates, teachers, and community members who have chosen to attend. We have been working on this major assignment since January, and are finally ready to share what we have accomplished. The Community Action Project (CAP) has allowed us to actively make a change to an issue that exists in Needham or a surrounding community. Each group began the project with a specific issue that they had selected to focus on. Then, after initial research, the group decided potential options they have to enact a change and combat the issue. After contacting and meeting with members of the community, groups could then choose the option that would be most effective. From there groups worked to implement that final plan whether it be a club, a program, a class, or something else. Though projects took many different turns, the final product for each group included a written proposal and a 30-45 minute presentation. After listening to seven presentations, it is clear that many groups were actually successful in implementing their final plan.
Though groups explored many different topics, one common part of each presentation included life skills that we learned throughout the process. These skills were perhaps the most important part of the project, whether you were successful or not. One main skill learned is how to be professional. Every group was forced to write emails to and meet with community members on professional terms. This proved to be more difficult than I thought as addressing these community members turned out to be way different than talking to teachers and adults that I know. Though I always want to be respectful when emailing and talking to adults and teachers, these emails to community members was the only way to make a good first impression, and to make them want to meet with us. In emails I learned that one of the most important things to do is pay attention to the tone in which you are writing your message so that you do not sound rude or demanding. Another aspect of professionalism includes being respectful and knowledgeable at meetings, and to arrive on time and prepared. Another huge skill I learned is time management. My group along with many others struggled to stay on task a lot during in class time. Starting the project in January, it seemed that the due date in May was so far into the future that we did not have to worry about it. However, the months from January to April went by faster than we thought, and we ended up having a lot of work to do at the end with not as much time. Also, my group procrastinated a lot with actually taking action with our plan, which if we had started sooner may have been more successful. Now I know that I should have been smarter about managing my time during long term projects, and this will be a useful skill for me going into college next year. Another big skill we were forced to work on is collaboration. There would have been no way to complete this project without successfully collaborating. Knowing how to be respectful and listen to others’ ideas and opinions goes a long way. I also learned how to divide tasks and let individuals use their strengths to the group’s advantage. Everyone has things that they are good at, and things that they are not so good at. Oftentimes, what one person lacks in someone else is strong at. To me, this has become apparent through the CAP project, and will be a smart tool to use during future collaborative projects. Furthermore, we got practice in writing proposals, which I know will be extremely useful later on in life. In pretty much every career path that you will take you will have to create some sort of proposal. This project was the first real proposal I have had to make, (besides other smaller ones for GBP), and has given a good outline for any future proposals I will have to pitch. Though we have given many other oral presentations this year, I found that the CAP project has really tested my oral communication skills the most. Unlike other presentations that we did this year, the CAP presentation involved talking about what my group and I had personally done to help combat the issue that we chose. We also had to be extremely knowledgeable about our topic in order to field questions in the end. This was a more personal presentation, and I see myself giving similar types of presentations at some point in my life in the future.
Overall, the CAP project was hands down the most interactive, useful project I have done throughout high school, and has taught me not just curriculum for a class but skills I can take throughout life.
The "Water Conservation" CAP group after their presentation last week. (Photo by Ms. Tincher)
Nick Davis, GBP Student
Walking into class Monday morning, just making it in time before the 8am bell rang, I saw some unfamiliar faces. Sitting among my classmates were parents, teachers, and other NHS faculty. And standing at the front of the room were some familiar faces, but in unfamiliar clothing. These GBP students dressed in classy suits and fancy dresses meant that today was the first big day of our CAP final presentations; the culmination of this six month long project. This was the time for us to “show off” all the work we have done for our Community Action Projects to our peers and other members of the community.
All of the different presentations we have done throughout the year, in front of our classmates, have prepared us for this one. A year’s worth of work on presentation skills has led to this week. We are all ready. We started off the year awkward and timid during presentations, but our GBP teachers have shaped and strengthened our oral communication skills. They taught us how to organize our content, speak clearly and confidently, maintain eye contact, and actively participate as an audience member. But what I have learned the most, is how to execute a successful group presentation. Presenting in a group is very different from presenting alone, and in GBP this year, we have had the opportunity to experiment with this. In a group, you have to work both collaboratively and individually in order to produce a natural and cohesive group presentation.
I have always enjoyed public speaking, an opinion I doubt many other people share, but my skills have still improved so much this year. Public speaking is just like any other skill, the more you do it, the better you get. GBP has allowed for us all to develop this skill in a comfortable learning environment. I have watched each and every student progress so much in the public speaking aspect of this class. This skill, which is such an important one and is not focused on enough in school, will definitely give me a leg up next year in college. The average high school student has not had as much experience with presentations as we have had in GBP.
This next two-week period is the time for us to showcase the skills and work we have done both outside of the classroom, with our community action projects, and inside the classroom with our teachers and peers. We can finally share the amazing things that have been happening in the GBP classroom to the world.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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!