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)
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.
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.
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