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.
The Needham Historical Society, including the old schoolhouse in red on the left.
(Photo from the North American Reciprocal Museum Society)
Sam Cruickshank, GBP Student
On a frigid morning in January, the GBP class headed over to the Needham Historical Society. Located directly next to the Newman Elementary School on Central Ave., the Needham Historical Society is often overlooked or mistaken for a regular house. Founded in 1915, the information that the society has in the form of many historical maps and documents is immense for such a small venue and non-profit organization. On this specific visit, our second one this year, our class focused on several documents and maps from the Antebellum Period, which is the period in U.S. history that goes from the early 1800s all the way up until the Civil War. As we entered the Historical Society, half of our forty four student class crammed into the old one room schoolhouse that the Historical Society uses as an educational space for students, shedding jackets and coats as soon as we felt the warmth.
Right away, we started looking at documents, which were set up into various stations around the room. I found two of the stations’ documents particularly interesting on this visit. The first was a selection of four maps of the town of Needham. These maps were from the years 1771, 1836, 1856, and 1854. I paid special attention to the maps from 1836 and 1856, because there were two interesting changes between those maps. The first was that the town of Wellesley, which borders Needham, was a part of the map in 1836, but not in 1856. My group joked about this, referencing the recent Thanksgiving Day Football Game played at Fenway Park, noting how we “didn’t want them anyway” and that “they were better off as West Needham in the first place.” All jokes aside, this was a major development in the suburbs of Boston, as it allowed for two different communities to develop, and eased the space clenches on a growing population. Additionally, the addition of a railroad to the town of Needham was very significant on the map from 1856. My group noticed that there were many streets and roads located around the railroad stops, and it was clear that the railroad led to population growth in Needham. The railroad and the train is still an integral part of the town of Needham today, as many people (including the Greater Boston Project classes, on occasion) take the MBTA Commuter Rail into Boston every day to get to work.
The second document that piqued my interest was a document that talked about an anti-slavery meeting that was held in the Unitarian Meeting House in Needham. We recently finished reading the book Ten Hills Farm by C.S. Manegold, which talks about how slavery existed in the North, basically to the same degree that it existed in the South. I found the book somewhat disturbing, and I was confused as to why I had not learned this history before. I found the document from the Unitarian Meeting House reassuring. It showed me that the community of Needham did realize the injustices of slavery,and they were going to try and do something about it.
Although we mainly focus on the history of the city of Boston, it was nice to slow things down and take a look at our local history right here in Needham. We took the time to look at and analyze specific documents, a hallmark of the GBP experience.
The 54th Regiment Memorial, The African American Meeting House, and a Beacon Hill street light marking the trail's path.
(Photos from: Virtual Tourist, Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, Boston.com)
Tom Beacham, GBP Student
One of the main points focused on in The Greater Boston Project is interacting with the community that is Boston. One of the best ways this is done, and our favorite as students, is leaving room 728 of NHS and going out into the community. These are opportunities to see these types of things with our own eyes. The trip to The Black Heritage Trail in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston was a great example of this, as we got to go into Boston and see the buildings where the events we read and talk about take place.
Over the course of the day we all walked the beautiful area of Beacon Hill all while looking at historical places that all played a major role for the black community in Boston. One of these places that we visited was the 54th Regiment Memorial Statue in front of the Massachusetts State House, where we talked about how this regiment was the first all African-American fighting unit in United States history; and, despite being thought of as bad and cowardly soldiers at the time, they took on one of the toughest jobs of the war. On July 18, 1863, the regiment became famous for leading an assault on Fort Wagner, deemed a “suicide mission” that regiment General Shaw volunteered for to prove the soldiers were not cowards. This was part of the move to capture the Confederate city of Charleston, South Carolina. In the hard-fought battle Shaw and many members of the regiment were killed. This is just one example of the many different places that we went to on the Black Histroy Trail.
One thing in common at all the different sites is that at each of the places we stopped at, the teachers told us stories of how African-Americans lived in Boston at the time. THe stories were often about these residents having the courage to stand up for what they thought was right, as well as defining what they were up against and overcoming it. Some examples of this were at the Phillips School, which was also known as the dividing line between white and black areas of town in the antebellum period as it was the best of the white schools in the city. Another stop on the tour was the Lewis & Harriet Hayden House, where slaves would reportedly hide in the North as part of the Underground Railroad. The house showed support for African Americans because when slave catchers showed up, the Haydens would threaten to blow up the house with a single match, having stored gun powder in the basement. A third place we went was the African American Meeting House. The meeting house became the host to giants in the Abolitionist Movement who were responsible for monumental historical events. These are just some of the many places we went to on the tour.
All of the buildings showed a different side of historic Boston which we explored on the trip. Specifically looking at the black heritage in Boston, it was interesting to see how African Americans interacted with the community and how the community interacted with them. As a whole, this trip was a good representation of the GBP course as a whole. We went into the community and learned about the history of the city, thinking about the things we learned in class in a real-world setting. We were able to enjoy time out of the classroom while taking in the interesting city history of Boston with our own eyes and experiences.
Eyal Schwartz, GBP Student
The great excitement of field trips rolled in once again a few weeks ago when the GBP classes took on our second adventure into the city of Boston. As everyone already knows, there is no way to study the city of Boston better than, well, spending time there. This time around it was all about business, no more introductions. We had the responsibility of getting on and off the train by ourselves and once everyone arrived in Boston, groups split up to get to work for the day. One group started off at the Boston Public Library, while the other group walked over to The Mass Historical Society; then, after a nice lunch, the groups switched locations. The main focus at both of the locations was to work on the upcoming project about pre-revolutionary propaganda.
The historical society this time around was a completely new experience as it was hands on; for a warm up, each project group was given a historical propaganda document and asked to analyze it and present to the class. There were different types of propaganda techniques showcased in these artifacts; some examples were: glittering generalities, name calling, and bandwagoning. These different types of propaganda styles each have their own purpose, which helped the us get an idea for what type of propaganda we may wish to use for our projects.
A couple days prior to the field study, we had made up a list of sources that we wanted to examine while at the historical society. So after the warm up activity, the helpful historians there compiled as many of those resources as possible and put them on display for our groups to gather information from. Our groups were given time to read through the documents and examine all of the information. I believe that this time really pushed us in the right direction to get a solid idea for how we want to display our projects. Not only was this helpful for the project, but it was also really one of the first times that many groups worked with primary documents that dated back to many many years ago. Learning to use these skills will become increasingly helpful for us as we move on a continue more independent work. It will be very helpful because we need to learn how to analyze text, especially in college when we don’t get as much teacher aid.
GBP students examine historical propaganda at the Massachusetts Historical Society in preparation for work on their projects.
(Photo by Ms. Tincher)
If the students weren’t examining primary documents at the historical society they were searching for secondary sources at the public library. There isn’t really a better place to find information about Boston than the library. Honestly, that place has everything, from books about anything to computers with information, and even a teen center with TVs and video games. It’s almost impossible to not find what it is you’re looking for. GBP is all about learning through experience and being in the library does just that. There were no rules about what to do in the library or where to go, there was just an hour and a half to do what was needed to research and work on our projects. As we become more and more independent these library trips are going to become more and more helpful.
Field visits are always a huge excitement because they can make a long week feel quicker, and, more importantly, can benefit your learning experience. Boston is one of the most cultured cities in the world, famous for hundreds of things. It is great that we get time to explore resources in the city while also getting to see the true side of Boston, with people walking around on their lunch hour at 12:30pm. I think this sparks our interest to want to spend more time in Boston and in cities all over. One person can never spend too much time walking around cities especially with all that there is to learn.
Bates Hall at the Boston Public Library (Photo from Wikipedia.)
A group of GBP students walk from the Massachussets Historical Society to the Boston Public Library on Bolyston Street (Left).
Students in GBP Periods 1-2 gather together in front of the Boston Public Library at the end of their day in the city (Right).
(Photos by Ms. Tincher)
Brendan Lombardi, GBP Student
Obviously it was exciting to wake up and be going into the Boston for a day rather than being stuck in a classroom, but how much different could it be than a regular class? In the past, field trips have always been just a day to skip class. Whether it was going to the aquarium or the State House, there was just never really anything on these trips that directly affected my experience in a class. The trips we take in The Greater Boston Project, however, have a more significant meaning.
The whole point of GBP is to, obviously, learn all about the Greater Boston area, whether it be from what was going on 400 years ago to what may happen 5 years down the road. To do this we do things ranging from reading articles from the Boston Globe to examining documents written by John Winthrop. We bounce from analyzing or reviewing statistical data of the settlers coming over to the New World to talking about the damages of technology in our world today. Sometimes, however, it’s hard for us as students to sort through all the clutter that these different topics and topic shifts cause us. A city so rich in history cannot be simply conveyed through documents or lectures; the sights, smells, sounds of the city are not something that can be taught in the classroom. Instead, we walk through the Boston Public Library and take in its amazing architecture, working on our Colonial Context Projects amidst the massive stacks in Bates Hall. Or we trek through the winding streets of Boston to the Massachusetts Historical Society, where we get to actually see the real documents we read in class. Even the experience of taking the train in and seeing how close we really are to such a breathtaking city helps make all the experiences and artifacts we see on a screen in class finally up close and tangible.
Our class is mostly classroom time at Needham High and accessing information through technology, but it is also so closely intertwined with a city just a few miles away. We need to see this relationship between what we read on our iPads or laptops in class to the city of Boston itself. Teaching a class about a city only miles away without actually visiting it would be senseless; Mr. Brooke, Mr.Odierna, and Ms. Tincher understand this and have carefully crafted a balance of class time and out of class time that will allow us to get the most out of the class as we possibly can. As we continue to move forward in class learning more and more information everyday, I look forward to our field trips this year that allow us as students to really immerse ourselves in the city of Boston.
Kaylee Jacob, GBP Student
Group dynamics is definitely something that takes some getting used to. But The Greater Boston Project course is known for group collaboration and we are, in fact, put in new group every day doing different activities; we learn more and more about each other and how each individual will contribute to the group. I feel that's the great aspect of being apart of a class like GBP. We are all involved in a course that strives in group dynamics. Even though we are all still getting comfortable with working with new individuals, we are all “on the same boat.”
For example, our first GBP field trip involved a trip to the Boston Public Library. Meeting with Colonial Context groups and collaborating about our projects in a completely new setting really put our class out of our usual element. While being with our Colonial Context groups, we were collaborating about ideas for our project, as well as enjoying the scenery in the BPL courtyard, which really set the foundation for developing a strong bond throughout my group. Being in different environments can definitely change your perception of things. Traveling into the city as a class provided a sense of togetherness and bonding. Even though I felt we were out of our usual comfort zone, a sense of community and group involvement still remained.
Courtyard at the Boston Public Library. Photo by Ms. Tincher
I truly have never been apart of a class quite like GBP, so for me this is all very new to me, but that's the fun of it. I know it's very cliche to say we are “all in this together,” but in this case we are. All of us are new to this, and that definitely makes being apart of GBP that much easier. I can definitely say in confidence that GBP is one of the largest classes I've ever been in, but so far it's been great being involved in such a large class with students having such different opinions and perceptions of certain things. At the end of the day it all comes down to how we work together and the dynamics of each group as a whole. Here's to having a great year full of collaboration and creating new memories, in groups, new places, and more.
Ken Brooke, GBP Instructor
Strolling around town looking for clues and exploring local businesses instead of being stuck in the classroom analyzing texts or doing math problems: what could be better? Well, the weather could have been a bit cooler today: the third straight 90 degree day in September did make our 3rd annual GBP Scavenger Hunt a bit sweatier than usual, but the students dressed for the occasion, especially the girls on the volleyball team who were head-to-toe in red, white, and blue for a big game tonight! But the weather was no match for our determined students, who geared up and grabbed some water (and iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts) and went on their way. The teachers, on the other hand, posted up in front of Fresco’s with lemonade in hand; it was a tough job, but someone had to do it. Mr. O had his phone, aka the “Clue Hotline” ready to go, Ms. Tincher s cell was snapping pictures as students raced past, and I set to document our adventure for our second GBP blog post of the year.
The GBP Needham Scavenger Hunt asks groups of students to locate different businesses throughout town by deciphering clues about various places. Using an iPad, the groups have to take a group photo or a selfie at each stop to prove they went there and; to avoid working with other groups, students have to go to each stop in a specific order. The fastest and most accurate group win both the pride and bragging rights for the year, as well as some candy. Our stops included a wide range of local landmarks, from institutions like the First Church of Christ Scientist to government buildings like the Needham Public Library and from nationwide chains like CVS to locally owned stores like Polliwogs.
On the way our student learn interesting facts about their local economy and get some background information on places they often walk or drive by without a second thought. The activity serves two major goals for our practice:
First, we want students to get to know and think about their own town today before embarking on how we got here in history. It seems appropriate to begin the year with this kind of active exploration of the students’ community as we get ready to visit the Needham Historical Society on several occasions to see what Needham society was like in the past. After all, it’s important to know where you are before you know where you’re going.
Second, we wanted to see how the groups, randomly chosen, would work together. Our debrief session at the beginning of our next class will reflect on how groups assigned roles, worked out problems and generally functioned. In GBP, as in life, we must work together and find ways to collaborate effectively, no matter the circumstance. Similar to our collaborative Tinker Toy activity using K’Nex pieces, activities like this continue to help us introduce an important part of our course. Having problems with the Scavenger Hunt is a low stakes way of delving into issues with group dynamics which will become more and more of a factor as the year goes on; collaborative skills will first be put to the test in an academic setting as we begin our Colonial Context project in the next weeks.
Meanwhile, the other section of our class will head out to do their scavenger hunt tomorrow, though perhaps in a more rainy climate, if the forecast holds true. Either way, we’re confident they’ll have just as much fun running around Needham. So, if you see groups of lost students around town, no need to tell them where the high school is, but you can help them with clues!
Interested in trying out your own Needham knowledge? Try these clues for size! (Answers at bottom):
a) This locally owned business opened when 5 women bought it from the previous owners. The current owners met from their involvement with the charity Graceful Stitches. The name of the story is what you might call the outcast of a family.
b) Many may not realize that this business is actually a chain that provides a “fast and direct” route to “understanding.” In 1987 the Needham store was the second one to open but now there are over 130 nationwide. You might find Melissa and Doug here, or even some creative children.
c) This business started in 2000 and was originally an electronic guidebook. There is arguably no business in Needham that has done better in the last 15 years as it now employs nearly 3000 people across the world. They just built a brand new headquarters to move back into Needham from Newton. Their original location is hard to find, although many students eat "Pizza and Seafood" in at the cash only establishment that is in the same building.
d) This company has 24 locations, 16 of which are in Massachusetts. It originated in 1994 in Dartmouth when the owner of a clothing store in New Bedford decided to dabble in the food business. Three years later he closed the 97 year old clothing business and facilitated the boom of this new business that he still owns today.
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!