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 "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.
Jacob Freeman, GBP Student
The most important lesson learned from not only the Greater Boston Project, but from all history classes in general is to be taught from the choices and mistakes of history, to not make the same mistake twice when history repeats itself. At first I found it strange that the curriculum focused almost exclusively on the story and history of Boston chronologically, but makes students pay attention to the current situation of the city and it’s current events. But now that the year has all but come to a close, it has become obvious that this was all extremely intentional, to walk us through the epic of the new world and to understand the trials and tribulations of the times, and how they were so pivotal and crucial to the hearts and minds of the time, to learn them any other way would be to look at their situations only as a viewer, and understand and truly comprehend only a fraction of forces at play.
This focus on the current state of affairs in the big city and, more importantly, how it seems to have gotten that way is a huge contributing factor to how all of us perceive modern day current events. A raging problem throughout the course of America’s history, and a defining issue of the country is that of immigration. Even though the issue has persisted constantly, we perceive the issue much in the same way compared to decades upon decades ago. Travelers and pilgrims from other regions, especially ones of slightly different ethnic or cultural backgrounds, are seen as undesirable and immediately restrictions are placed on them and their influx into the country, as fear of the others taking over this great country from the inside is as harrowing as any terrorist action to some. But now with historical hindsight, we can dismiss these fears as unsubstantiated, nowadays there is nothing seen as more American than an Irish or European immigrant fleeing to the land of opportunity and beginning their life anew. But even with these learning opportunities and centuries of historical lessons and examples more than comparable to today, individuals continue to hold onto these purely emotional beliefs and shun immigrants and the right side of history.
One of the most remarkable traits of humans and what truly separates us from any other real form of sentient life is our ability to learn from our mistakes as individuals and a species, it is regretfully said that hindsight is 20/20, but this can only help in the future. In the past year with the raging civil war in Syria and the advance of an Islamic state in the Middle East, the issue of immigration to the first world has only multiplied. With most of the entire country being built and inhabited by immigrants and the generations of historical record of migrational benefit to America and the entire populace, one would think that new souls and cultures would be welcomed with open arms upon arrival, but history is never that clear headed. Immediately the public and media exploded with arguments and counters to acceptance of these refugees and fear of the country's goals and morals being undermined by these subversive terrorists. As it stands America has only accepted a few hundred Syrian refugees and plans to yield more have mostly been shut down by the fearful minority.
Events like this are precisely why this class focuses so heavily not only on Boston’s past and present, but how they play into each other. The ability to look at past events and see their connection to the modern day is a skill rarely exhibited in this day and age, which is why the Greater Boston Project makes sure to hammer in this analysis and connection skills so humanity doesn't get caught making the same mistakes.
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.
Jocie Spitz, GBP Student
Boston is a big, complex city. As a main hub for the east coast, where our local politics and sports are noted throughout the entire country, our city is experiencing challenges that are important locally and nationally. From the opioid epidemic to the Green Line expansion, there are many crucial issues happening daily in our backyard. In our Greater Boston Project class, we learned how to create Current Event Discussions (CED) that allowed us to look into the events happening in Massachusetts, give a short synopsis, and ask question about how the audience felt. We also gave a Current Event Presentation (CEP), which provided us with the opportunity to choose a major event within Massachusetts, pick a side of the issue to argue for, and present in front of a small group. With these types of assignments, our class learned and practiced how to research, write, and present to a group of people what we had learned.
Presenting current events allowed for detailed discussions, and learning how turn that information into a paper was important as it gave us the knowledge to take what we have learned in this paper and use it for essays in the future; that is where the Current Event Essay (CEE) we just finished comes in. The CEE takes what we have learned in the CED and the CEP, including how to research and find sources, and put them together into a presentation, as well as learning new things, such as adding statistics into a narrative structure for a new type of essay. This project also gave us an opportunity to learn about another topic more in detail, as the topics used had to be different then the topic picked for the CEP. Each student in the class was allowed to choose almost any topic for their essay, which gave meaning to what was written. If we weren’t interested in a specific topic, trying to find information and write an essay would have been difficult. I can relate to this as I look back on some of the essays I've written about books and historical topics that were not my favorite. This essay will not only help us now, but also in college and beyond in our future endeavors. Although we have written many essays throughout our high school careers, most of us have not written essays with statistics added in or with an event going on that hasn’t ended yet.
Although there are many events going on in Massachusetts, for me, choosing a topic to write about was a difficult choice. With a list of superficial events that the class is not allowed to write about, such as sports, weather, and the presidential election, picking a topic with the goal to explore more involved themes was a little easier, but not much. With many people writing about General Electric moving its headquarters and its likely effect on Boston, or about marijuana joining the ballot to become legalized, I wanted to use a topic that wasn’t on the minds of everyone in the class; so, I chose to write about the MBTA’s Green Line expansion, which is still a major issue in boston today. I began my research by reading many different articles and trying to understand how people who used the T for work and their social lives feel about it and why this change might be necessary. From my research, I learned that, like all issues, there are two distinct sides to the issue with valid arguments and agendas. With that, I had to pick a side of the debate, as this is a persuasive essay. I chose to argue that the Green Line expansion should continue. The opposing side of this debate is, although the extension had already started, that the extension should be stopped as there are many considerations and setbacks, such as cost. With this, I can’t wait to show what I have learned about the green line expansion and completing this essay.
A map of the proposed Green Line extension. (Image from StreetsBlog USA)
Promotional collage for "Big Little Town" by the Needham Historical Society.
Georgia Meyer, GBP Student
Every day on my drive to school I pass the Town Hall, historically distinguished houses, Hershey train station, and all kinds of old churches. I also pass a Dunkin’ Donuts, a Japanese steak house, and a unnecessarily high number of Closet Exchanges. I never really give any of these sites any extra thought. Maybe the occasional, “I really want a coffee”, or, “maybe I’ll take the train into the city this weekend”, but nothing to appreciate the vast history of Needham. I never think about the difference between Needham Bank and Citizen’s Bank— just two places to cash a check or get some money, when in reality only Needham Bank has a fascinating history, complete with a robbery. After watching Big Little Town, my ride to school has become a little less boring. Sitting in traffic at the intersection of Great Plain and Webster means looking at house with a plaque stating it was built in the 1800’s and wondering what it has seen.
Big Little Town is a film created by Kathryn Dietz and Marc Mandel to honor Needham’s 300 years of history for its year-long tricentennial celebration. The film examines different aspects of Needham’s creation; from its original split from Dedham and Wellesley to its ethnically divided neighborhoods in the 20th century. The film looks at images drawn more than 300 years ago and interviews Needham residents today. The effect is an intriguing and relatable story which pulls together all the pieces of Needham we see today.
I was particularly interested in the story of William Baker. I remember hearing brief snippets of the story throughout the years but nothing that stuck with me for too long. But when I heard the details of Baker’s eccentric personality and saw the pictures of the attractions he commissioned in Big Little Town I was amazed! A friend of mine, and fellow GBP student, lives on a piece of what’s left of the estate, so I have had the chance to see how beautiful it is. I can just imagine what it would have looked like with the gardens, the rides, and the hotel it had back in its glory days.
When I walked into class and found out we were watching a movie right before April Break, I was just glad to have a class I could relax in for a little like every other student. But, by the time the movie was over, I was filled with excitement; I was ready to share what I had learned with my friends and family and maybe find out more about my town on my own.
GBP Students listen and take notes on a lecture given by National Parks consultant and BU professor Jim O'Connell. (Photo by Ms. Tincher)
Sydney Banker, GBP Student
As GBP students, we have been fortunate to experience many great lectures and presentations given from outside sources. On Tuesday, both GBP sections gathered together to listen to Jim O’Connell’s lecture on the development of the Greater Boston Area. The discussion covered a wide variety of topics such as; climate change, transportation, parks/recreation, shopping and housing. What made the lecture so engaging and interesting was its heavy focus on the development and influence that Needham had towards the advancement of Boston. Our knowledge about the filling in of the Back Bay was furthered through pictures and statistics regarding the actual transportation of the dirt from Needham to Boston. Another large theme Mr.O’Connell focused in on were the shifts that took place within the Greater Boston Community that ultimately altered the way Boston’s society came to be as it is today.
Paradigm shifts are a heavy focus of the GBP class curriculum. Paradigm shifts refer to a revolution or transformation driven by a change within society. Over the course of the year, we have learned about and studied several paradigm shifts that have taken place over the course of Boston’s history. Today, one of the shifts that we learned about was the Boston community’s response to their needs/desires that allowed for them to bring about change within the city and surrounding neighborhoods. For example, with an increase in modes of transportation, primarily trains, a large spike in the development of suburbs took place. This is a great example of a paradigm shift because a direct cause and effect situation is taking place that eventually sparks a change within society.
After taking detailed and thorough notes on the presentation, we were asked to log into Google Classroom to respond to the question; “What do you see as a main takeaway from the lecture you heard today on the development of metropolitan Boston?” A variety of great responses poured in ranging from focus on economic impact, to development of suburbs, to the influence of transportation. Reading my classmates responses helped me to broaden my ideas and understandings of the lecture.
Once our speaker had concluded with his final thoughts we were given time to look over and organize our notes. This is a crucial skill that we have been able to practice and develop through GBP class lectures that will be extremely helpful going forward in larger college lectures. Although our GBP class number is most likely smaller than many of the lectures halls some of us will attend next year, today was a great preview of what is next to come.
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.
Rory Kelly, GBP Student
For a recent activity about women in the antebellum era, we were randomly put into small groups of three, thanks to Mr. O’s handy-dandy sorting cards. For this task, we were given four sources to read, analyze and summarize into a brochure. Those sources were “Advice To Young Ladies” by Timothy Shay Arthur, “Ain’t I a Woman” by Sojourner Truth, “Women In The Nineteenth Century” by Margaret Fuller and, the group’s favorite, Maria W. Stewart’s speech to the “African American Female Intelligence Society”. All the sources provided a different point of view about the perceptions of equality, or lack thereof, of the sexes in this time period.
Each group started off by reading the speech given by Stewart and the piece written by Truth. Then, as a group, we had to perform multiple tasks to understand the sources, while at the same time pulling out quotes for the brochure. Once this difficult part of the process was completed, we had to choose the strongest reader from the group to read Fuller’s “Women In The Nineteenth Century”. While the strongest reader was chipping away at Fuller’s text, the other group members didn’t get off so easy. They had to read Arthur’s “Advice To Young Ladies”. We then had to come back and discuss what we took from those sources and create a list of possible quotes and information we could use for the brochure. Now you have heard me say the word “brochure” a few times while reading this blog. Yes, we did have to create a brochure about the Women in the Antebellum Era and you know what? It is not as easy as it seems! The brochure was double side allowing for five places to express your ideas about the readings. I felt that this was a very collaborative process as we used many different viewpoints and ideas from the group that went into the decision process creating the brochure. In doing so, we learned a great deal about women in the Antebellum Era.
For me, this lesson was an eye opener, especially Arthur’s account of “Advice To Young Ladies”. One quote from this source that stood out to me was, “Keeping this in view, it may readily be seen, that what makes a man a man, and woman a woman, is not the body, but the mind … mind of man must be different from mind of woman”. This stood out to me because this text reinforced that men and women were basically equal; however, their minds have different approaches on problem solving. Men in this time thought they were smarter than women because their approach to a problem took a different path and men didn’t want to listen to a woman's point of view. While gender is still an important issue today, Arthur’s limited views help show how things have changed today. For example, Hillary Clinton may be the next President of the United States.
Photos from South Boston in the 1970s. (Photos from WBUR)
Grace Connolly, GBP Student
It is obvious through the name of this class, The Greater Boston Project, that we are learning about the evolution of Boston and the surrounding area. Up until recently, the focus of the class has been on colonial, pre-revolutionary and antebellum Boston, and how these historical events have defined the city. We have learned how each one of these time periods have imprinted their legacy on the city of Boston through the people, culture, customs, landscapes, and businesses that thrive here today. Yet, as students in 2016, we often lack the ability to feel a deeper connection with events that took place hundreds of years ago. This all changed recently when we started reading All Souls by Michael Patrick MacDonald.
MacDonald starts his story in the 1960’s and progresses along until the reader reaches his present day life. MacDonald is an exemplary narrator due to his unique perspective. Growing up in the Southie projects allowed him to experience the city during some very influential events. One of these being the Boston Busing riots. MacDonald’s first hand account of the incidents, mainly in chapter four, become very real to the reader due to the descriptiveness of the individual riots. In addition to MacDonald’s account, many parents of the GBP students were in and around Boston during the riots. The combination of the two perspectives gives us students a way to connect with the historic events better.
In fact, the very reason I am in Needham Public Schools is a direct result of busing. My two sisters and I were born in Boston. We lived around the corner from an elementary school where we played on a regular basis with the other children in the neighborhood. However, due to the busing lottery system that was in place at that time, it was most likely that we would not attend our neighborhood school and we had no guarantee of being placed together as sisters. My parents had three choices: face the uncertainty of the lottery system, pay for private education, or move. The decision to move to Needham was difficult given that we left behind a wonderful home, with great neighbors, and close friends. Here in Needham I attended Mitchell Elementary, a short walk up the hill from my home. The proximity to home, made it easy for my parents and I to attend events, meet neighbors, and participate in and strengthen the community.
MacDonald further articulates how Boston busing affected communities from the Southie point of view. Many of the families being bused didn't have the opportunity to move or go to a private school, thus they were forced to watch their neighborhoods and communities deteriorate. There were multiple reasons that caused the communities to fall apart. The fact that many students had to go across town to their schools played a major role in the deterioration. A neighborhood school is a place where parents have the ability to connect with other parents and form a close knit group. When their child’s school is in another area, parents don’t always have the option to travel across Boston to that school and meet other parents. This creates a lack of community and close connection among the adults, that transfers onto their children. Because the communication aspect is missing, many communities slowly fell apart. In addition to the lack of close schools, people became less open to welcoming ‘outsiders’ into their lives. The strong sense of community felt before busing prevented the formation of other communities due to the us-versus-them mentality shared by many. The racial stereotypical views people had prevented many interracial relationships to form, especially in an area like Old Colony. Although the bulk of this issue occurred in the 1970's, the city of Boston is still changing because of it. Many parents with children approaching school-age continue to move out of the city in order to provide the education they wish for their children.
Although the forced busing was with good intention, the unintended consequences of busing have hurt the city. Desegregation of the schools was necessary, but forcing the two poorest schools in Boston, with some of the strongest communities, to immediately accept the changes caused many issues that could have been prevented. Thankfully, the Boston Public Schools have successfully desegregated, but the painful process has left many scars on Boston, as shown by MacDonald and existing issues within the system.
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!