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.
The "NHS Freshman Support" CAP Group of (from left)
Alex Dorion, Jeremy Stern, Colby McMahon, and Josh Rosenbaum (Photo by Ms.Tincher)
Josh Rosenbaum, GBP Student
With the end of the school year fastly approaching, the CAP groups are furiously working to have their proposal implemented. It is a stressful time for all of the CAP groups in GBP, but it is a good stress that will force us to create work that we will certainly be proud of when we leave the high school. Part of what makes us work so hard to implement our solutions is that we know that all of the hard, and long work that we have done since January will be able to positively impact the community. We will be able to leave something in the Greater Boston Area that can effect change, which is an integral part of the Greater Boston Project class.
As Friday is the start of presentations, all CAP groups are starting to hone in on what they would like to talk about in their 25-30 minutes that they will be allotted during their presentation day. Being given all of this time for a presentation is not something that we as students are use to. However, we know that a presentation of this long manner is the ultimate culmination of our GBP experience that focused intensely on presenting, and advocating change in the community. Our presentations will focus on the extent, and scope of our projects. They are truly a report of almost everything that happened during the course of the project, from the time in which just an idea of what to focus on was born, to the where we are now when we are trying to implement a solution. To help guide as in this long presentation, the GBP teachers having given as a few questions to focus on. These questions range from why we chose the issue that we eventually did, to what we learned about ourselves in terms of self-direction, and working in groups. The presentation will be followed by 10-15 minutes of a question, and answer session which is also something that we have previously done in order to prepare us for this momentous presentation.
The Community Action Projects come from a wide range of topics like enhancing sexual education education in schools to increasing bee populations. With such an assortment of topics, it is clear that GBP students are making a difference in many different fields in the Greater Boston Area. For my group’s CAP Project, we are focusing on the freshman transitions programs in the high school. We wanted to create something that could supplement the current “Senior Mentor” program. Through our surveys, and other forms of research with community members, we decided to create the “Mentoring Club” in which upperclassmen will be paired with incoming freshman for the whole year. The incoming freshman will be able to receive individualized attention, and mentoring through the year, which is something that is not available in the current “Senior Mentor” program. To advocate for our club, our group has done a presentation with each cluster at Pollard to talk about the transition into high school, as well as selling the idea of our club to interested incoming freshman. Once we figure out how many incoming freshman want to be a part of the club to be mentored, we will be able to pair them with a upperclassmen mentor who they can create a very positive relationship with.
As our deadline for CAP approaches at a furious pace, we as a class are continuing to work very hard to have our proposal either implemented, or handed off to someone else who will be able to implement it in their field. The preparation for the presentation has begun, and proposals are being fine tuned so that our projects can have the best impact on the community as they can. With such little time left at the high school, and in the greater Boston community, it is awesome to know that your legacy can live on in the community even when you aren’t here.
Part of the Ridge Hill Reservation trail in Needham. (Photo by Peter Oehlkers)
Will Barber, GBP Student
We have now reached the sixth, and final stage of the CAP project: Final presentation and written proposal. By this stage, most groups have come up with what their final plan of action will be. It is the most important stage, as here we see the output of everyone's hard work, and the impact that we are making on the community. It is very interesting to see how every ones work translates into a change in real life within our community.
The most eye opening part of this project for me has been in the final stages. Our group has been working on exercise, and recreation opportunities within the community, and how we can implement new ways to get people more active. Through our process, we worked our way from meetings with the NHS wellness staff, to Needham’s Parks and Recreation department, and eventually all the way up to the Needham Department of Conservation. Our current goal is to implement a new “cross fit trail” as a replacement for the fitness trail at Ridge Hill Reservation. This crossfit trail would be re-branded with a different name, along with new and improved exercises and equipment. It would be a place where gyms could come outside of their own facilities, as well as where general civilians could be exposed to the new cross-fit trend in exercise.
We have a scheduled presentation to the Committee of Conservation at their next official meeting where we will present our idea in support of a refurbishment of the current fitness trail. All these meetings out in the community have very eye opening to me, as I am now given a dosage of how business was done outside of the classroom. This experience forced me to use negotiating and communication skills that I have not previously used, and along with it I have been receiving the reward of actually accomplishing something with hard work. Each meeting I have been a part of has given me a sense of confidence in my work, as people appreciate it, and have supported us all the way to a very professional level. I look forward to finally pitching our proposal to the committee, and telling the class about our experience and the impact that we will be making on Ridge Hill. As hard as the work is sometimes, I have learned to appreciate it for the impact that you are making, and the fun that you can have through negotiation with official people in a professional setting, it gives a very good taste of how business functions outside of the classroom.
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.
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.
Alicia Calcagni, GBP Student
Survey says: Greater Boston Project: 100 points.
This week we got the opportunity to recreate Family Feud in our classroom. Our “families” were our CAP project groups, and playing this game was a great way for us to bond and get to know each other. As many of you know, an important aspect of The Greater Boston Project is collaboration, and this class always makes sure we are learning how to collaborate in a fun and exciting way.
At the start of class, all of the students filled out a ten question survey containing questions that related to our life in and out of school. These questions were the survey questions for the game. Right off the bat, the game became very intense. Each group was given a piece of paper to write down their answers for each survey question. If you looked around the room after the show host (Mr. O, of course) read the question you would see all of the groups huddled around a piece of paper quietly whispering, so another group would not hear them, ideas of what would answer the question best. In other words, you would see all group members collaborating to determine the right answers.
Creating this competitive environment, made getting to know our group mates a lot easier. The CAP project continues for the rest of the year, and we will need to be able to effectively communicate and make decisions with the same people for the next four months. It is extremely important to be able to problem solve as a group, and challenge or support different people in your group's opinions to make the best project. It may be surprising, but playing Family Feud helped us develop those skills as a group. For example, One question was, “Name different suburbs of Boston, not including Needham.” I was thinking, “Oh no, our options are endless.” The groups were faced with a challenge: picking five suburbs out of a lot that would reward them with the most points. For a while my groupmates and I discussed back and forth what suburbs should be on our list, and after erasing, rewriting, then erasing and rewriting again we finally all agreed on what we thought was the perfect list.
Looking back on the game, the skills we used to answer the questions are the same as the ones we will use to succeed in our CAP Project. This was a great way to kick off our project and get to know our peers in a easy-going environment.
GBP students compete in their CAP groups for Family Feud glory (Photo by Ms. Tincher).
Gwen Marcus, GBP Student
The biggest and most exciting aspect of GBP is the Community Action Project, otherwise known as the “CAP”. After proposing our own topics and voting on those that we were interested in, we finally received our CAP groups just over a week ago. In that week alone, we’ve already made many discoveries about our project.
My CAP group, which is focusing on improving the graduation rates at Chelsea High School, quickly started our research, and were surprised to find demographical data that differed from our preconceived thoughts. For example, we originally thought that the cause of the low graduation rates was the quality of the schools, but our early research has already showed that, depending on race, graduation rates can range between 50 and 84.5%, which completely changes our ideas for solving our issue. Now, we have to take the research we've done and use it to change our plans in order to better achieve our CAP goal; we're focusing on finding more possible reasons for the graduation rates, rather than jumping in based on an original assumption. Based on this experience, I wouldn't be surprised if other groups find out that their problems are also caused by different things than they imagined. To me, this was a clear indication of how quickly we should dive into our CAP -- it hasn’t even been two full weeks, but we already have so much more information to research and consider than many originally considered.
As the research goes on, the more exciting the CAP gets. Each person gets to put their strengths to use by doing different types of research (like math/statistics, social issues, background info, etc), and the result is a very well-compiled and in-depth set of information. In my group, I focus mostly on researching and analyzing statistics (like historic graduation rates, poverty rates, and other demographics about Chelsea), while the other members focus more on contacting people in Chelsea, finding out offerings of the school district, and compiling all the information together in an organized manner. It's also exciting in the sense that we are getting closer to solving a real world problem, rather than just researching for a typical school project. With CAPs, even though we’re not even two weeks in, the research is already interesting and feels purposeful.
GBP students and teachers help out at the Greater Boston Food Bank. (Photos by Ms. Tincher)
Michaella Callahan, GBP Student
A huge aspect of GBP is learning ways to help make the community better. Last week our class took a field trip to the Greater Boston Food Bank. It was a great experience to be able to see what goes on behind the scenes at the food bank and assist in the process of it. Prior to the trip, we did an in class preparation activity looking at statistics of people affected by hunger in Massachusetts. In this activity we found that last year the Food Bank collected enough food to feed approximately 54,000 people. They are able to make that possible with the help of over 25,000 volunteers. The company is working to increase the distribution of food in order to provide at least one meal a day for everyone in need in the eastern Massachusetts area.
When we arrived to the food bank we walked through a huge room with food stacked to the ceiling. It was surprising how much food this company is able to collect for people in need. After a brief introduction to the GBFB, the workers took us into the room where the food is organized and assigned us different roles. The different roles were re-stocking boxes, unloading the food onto the conveyor belt, separating the food into categories, weighing the boxes, and loading the filled boxes onto a forklift. It was really hectic organizing the food because it was consistently passing by on the conveyor belt and we had to be able to separate it into the correct categories. We also had to be sure there were no opened packages and no expired food. However the hard work was worth it because of the reward of helping others. Afterwards we had a quick debrief and learned that we had packaged about 8,000 pounds of food (which, we found out, was more than the students in the Period 5&6 class!). Competition aside, it was shocking to learn that we packed that much food in a short amount of time, and goes to show how much can be accomplished when you have a group working cohesively to solve a problem.
This field trip allowed us as GBP students to immerse ourselves in a situation similar to the CAP that we will be completing over the course of the next few months. The lesson of this field trip relating to our CAP is that one person can make a huge difference. The Greater Boston Food Bank started with one person handing out food from the back of their truck and expanded into a huge company with the help of donations, drives, and financial contributions. The hopes of our CAP project is that we can start something that others will be able to expand upon in the future in order to help the community. It was a rewarding feeling to be able to help those in need and knowing that we were making a change.
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!