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.
Michelle Elman, GBP Student
GBP is known for its many group projects throughout the year. Nearly all of the assignments we have done this year have involved working in a group and I think that this is my favorite part of GBP.
I signed up for GBP last year primarily for the amount of group work I heard people did in GBP. Being an introvert, as well as shy, I always had trouble working in groups. Sometimes I would be a pushover and do whatever my groupmates told me to do, or I would take over and not let anyone do any work. Overall, I had trouble with group dynamics and appropriately contributing. I believed that by taking GBP, I would be challenging myself, as well as improving my skill in group work.
We started working in groups from the start. I had trouble speaking up in my first major group assignment when I missed some important information. As a result, I was unable to make a significant contribution to the project. During the collaboration conference, I realised that I should have spoken up about this issue, and not rely on my group to tell me what to do. I used this lesson and made sure that I advocated for myself from the next major project and onward. With each project and collaboration project, I picked up more vital skills for collaborating. I learned how to contribute to making decisions. This involved standing up for myself and letting my group mates known when I do not agree with something. I have built up my confidence which has allowed me to do just that. I have also improved my planning skills and I can now make plans that are reasonable and my group agrees with, however I’m still working on following through with those plans more consistently. Finally, I have learned how to communicate with other people in my group to make sure we are all on the same page and that we are working together productively to achieve a common goal.
Something that I like about group work in GBP is how we are assigned groups. I feel that when we are assigned groups and we work with people who we do not know, we end up collaborating better than we would with people we know. This is because everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses when working in a group and when you're constantly with people you know well, you pay more attention to each other than to the task at at hand. Also, I enjoy it because it adds a unique dynamic to each group rather than it being the same. I feel like this is also reflective of real life situations. I know, especially for the career path I am choosing, that I am going to have to work with people, some who I might not get along with well and some who I might not even know. GBP has taught me how in group work, we need to put our personal feelings aside and focus on the common goal.
In conclusion, I feel that GBP this year has really helped me improve my collaboration skills. I am more aware of my place and other’s places in groups and I know how to be a positive group member. I hope that the skills I learned in GBP regarding collaboration will stick with me for the years to come.
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.
Josh Shapiro, GBP Student
As seniors finishing up our first semester, it is on all of our minds. We’re trying to keep grades up through the end of the term and waiting on acceptance letters. While the short term goal of getting into college is the focus of most students in GBP, the teachers know that we need to be prepared to handle college-style classes once we get to college.
Throughout the year we have focused on skills like collaboration, research, writing communication, and more. In one of our recent classes the teachers helped us prepare for college lectures. In high school we have small class sizes and teachers that will stop and let you write down what is on each slide. However, in a large lecture hall, the professors will often talk without slides outlining the key information. Unlike in high school, college professors won’t slow down if you are falling behind in your notes and sometimes they don’t even have slides at all.
Last week, as a class we first brainstormed important things to do before you even start taking notes. It may seem obvious to keep an organized place for notes or to know what the lecture is on, but, to be honest, I usually forget to take out a notebook until five minutes into a lecture in high school. We covered other clever note taking tips, such as using abbreviations (Bos for Boston or ppl for people) and only writing down the important points. It is impossible to record everything the teacher says and it doesn’t help having a dense wall of notes that cover the entire lecture. The teachers drilled into us only to track the core parts of the lecture that are relevant to the larger goals of the class. With all of these new tips to keep track of we started the lecture.
Then, Mr. Brooke took center stage and gave a lecture on Irish immigration to Boston in the antebellum time period. This is a history that many of us knew of, but lacked most of the details of the immigration process. GBP usually takes a more dynamic and interactive approach to teaching, but this was college prep. Gone with the games and activities, we said hello to an endless effort to listen to Mr. Brooke and record all of the important details.
Without even knowing it, I have been trained to find the important pieces of the lecture. Having spent so much time exploring cultural change and identity and perception, two of our main learning goals, it was instinctive for me to keep track of the causes, methods, and results of Irish immigration. I found that the lecture went through these topics in a logical order and I was able to organize my notes because of it.
At the end we analysed our notes and learned what to do with notes after we finish taking them. I went back through my notes and with the power of digital note taking, I moved around my bullet points to fit into different categories that I gave headings to. While this lesson was more stressful than most days in GBP, I was able to walk away with skills to handle my first lectures in the fall.
This course, in addition to teaching the rich history of the Greater Boston area, has been training me for college. Instead of looking at a class as a singular subject, like math or English, that focused on a topic, like statistics or American literature, GBP took a topic and used the different subjects of math, history, and English to reach the learning goals. College is built in the same way. Courses are about an idea and use whichever tools are necessary to cover the material. Seeing the connections between the different subjects in school gives me an advantage as more and more schools trend towards interdisciplinary learning.
Logan McQuivey, GBP Student
As we begin to approach the end of semester one in GBP, we’ve started to take a look at the Community Action Project (CAP). For those unfamiliar with CAP, the goal is to encourage and enable us (the students of GBP) to effect change in our community, while practicing and reinforcing the learning goals we’ve studied in the class thus far. However, I think a number of students (myself included) were having trouble grasping exactly what this project might look like - so the GBP teachers aptly decided to bring in the big guns.
As we came back from lunch on Wednesday, January 6, we were greeted by Talia Shapiro and Haley Bowse, two students enrolled in last year’s GBP class. They kindly took time out of their day to come and give a presentation - punnily named “reCAP” - about the projects their teams worked on last spring. Talia’s team initially hoped to reduce water bottle waste, but they ended up working towards acquiring a solar-powered compacting trash can for the school. Haley’s group focused their attentions on reinvigorating school spirit, through tailgates and T-Shirts. They explained the processes they went through, as well as what kind of meetings and surveys they found were necessary and how to go about doing those things. Maybe more important, however, was the plethora of advice they shared, both about how to be successful and how to avoid their past mistakes. They both stressed the importance of avoiding monetarily dependent projects, using class and personal time efficiently, and getting meetings done way ahead of time. Although neither of their teams succeeded in making their project a reality, they shared examples from their class of the projects that were a success. Overall, it was great to see project through former students’ eyes, which helped make it more relatable than a rubric is able to.
Afterwards, we had the pleasure of hearing from our Superintendent, Dr. Gutekanst. His presentation was about a CAP-like project that he has been a part of over the past few years here in Needham. This project has to do with the need to rebuild the Hillside school and the struggle of finding a suitable location. This presentation was particularly impactful because it was a “real-world” example… not that the CAP isn’t real world, but the Hillside project is something happening on a much bigger scale and it shows that this type of endeavor is relevant in our adult lives. In fact, Dr. Gutekanst had just been at a meeting presenting the building plans earlier that morning. He explained how this project evolved over time, how new options and obstacles arose, and how he and the school board dealt with those changes. He emphasized the importance of group work, open mindedness, and communicating regardless of whether it was good or bad news. His presentation showed how a project like this is translated onto a much larger scale, and made us feel that, by comparison, a CAP is much more attainable.
I’m definitely glad we had the opportunity to hear from both the GBP alumnae and Dr. Gutekanst. They all were able to share their perspectives and insights about the project, but also into the skills and processes that would be crucial to our CAPs. As we ruminate on our project proposals, I’m sure many of us are thinking back to the presentations we saw, and the advice that was offered. Here’s to hoping our final projects CAPture the very best elements of the examples we saw!
Last Tuesday, as a class, we were able to have our own say on some of the policies and practices at Needham High School. Our proposals were not going to be reviewed by the school board or anything, but this activity was great practice for the class. We were able to experience the process of how formal proposals are actually constructed and brought into consideration by institutions like the high school, as we were tasked to create their own proposals. In groups of two, we were able to choose what policy at the NHS we would like to change or alter. There were a vast range of policies we chose from, like issues in the lunchroom to student attendance.
Once a group decided on the topic for their proposal, we then explained the purpose and reasoning of why there needs to be a change or alteration to the school's policy in a persuasive introduction. Next, we expressed what the desired outcome of the proposal was, such as the beneficial effects of the proposal being set into place. We used outside research to show statistics of how the policy may have already been successful in other schools. We gave a list of options for the ways the new policy could be conducted in sufficient detail. In the proposal options, we detailed components like resources needed for the policy and how the school will enforce the policy if it were to be put in place. Most importantly, we then offered a recommended option that we thought would be the most efficient and effective way to put the policy into place. A plan of action explained how the proposal can be accomplished by providing the audience with instructions on methods of how to make this proposal policy. A conclusion finally summarized our main points and the importance of once again why this policy need to be put into effect and the plan on how this policy can take roots with the school.
Our experience with writing the proposals enabled us to understand the process of how new ideas and policies are brought into consideration to everyday places like companies, schools and even the government. It is important for us to work on our communication skills to better help us pass on our ideas and become persuasive and understandable when we request something. It is also important for us to work in the interest of the group we request aid or approval from in order for us to have the most success with our request.
Zach Kaplan, GBP Student
“Because it's the law.” one student touted. “My parents even said the courtyard was used as the designated smoking area back in the 1980’s.”, a different student remarked as the debate continued on whether or not tobacco should be allowed on school property. It was one of a few contentious issues debated amongst Greater Boston Project students in a recent GBP class. Students were split into three groups, and from then split into four smaller groups. Each group took turns discussing remedies to current school issues including placement of substitute teachers, the tobacco policy at NHS, fitness center hours and school start times. Students had 3 minutes to present their issues to a group, then 5 minutes to take questions from a three-person panel, and finally 2 minutes of feedback from observing onlookers. The standoffs between different students were interesting to see as often times, the temperature rose during times of rebuttal. There was a quick debrief where students and teachers talked about how presenters can improve for the future, in addition to the feedback given by the small groups initially.
This activity was comprised in preparation for not only the upcoming Community Action Project (CAP), but to help improve life skills as students will need to know how to prepare and present proposals in the not-so-distant future. Students were able to get valuable experience in terms of framing questions about issues, as well as presenting their sides on why their proposals would work.These experiences are important as they help students prepare for some of life’s important tasks, a main takeaway so far from many students in the Greater Boston Project.
Crucial scenarios such as making a proposal to a group and answering questions without being flustered are important skills to know, especially for the numerous GBPers who will likely enter the business world or other professions in which this is a regular practice. They will need mastery of the traits needed to be successful making proposals. I know I will need to make proposals for myself or speak for groups when it comes to making changes. Being able to verbally disarm concerns and field questions about an idea or implementation without getting flustered is important in any career path, and certainly something I will use in my life.
GBP Students present proposals and field questions as part of a practice activity. (Photo by Ms. Tincher)
Tyler Stratford, GBP Student
In the Greater Boston Project, one of the goals is to be able to receive and give feedback. Being able to accept criticism is an important part in being a good group member and individual worker. The most recent project we received feedback on was our Term 1 Portfolios. To do this, we did a few rounds of a “Portfolio Fair” using an inner circle and outer circle. The inner circle put their portfolios out on display while the students in the outer circle moved around from project to project to see the work of their fellow classmates. The goal was to observe what other people had done to help give ideas for the next term portfolio. Each of us received some feedback on our portfolio from students and teachers.
Another goal for GBP is for us as students to improve our visual communication skills. By allowing us to view the work of our classmates, we were able to see other options for how to organize or present information; sharing ideas with our classmates helps to get everyone’s creativity flowing. It also allowed us to see a variety of different technology options there are to help with presentations. We were able to check in with each other to learn how to use the different presentation programs. For people who aren’t as talented with other sites such as Prezi, they were able to see and ask questions on how to correctly work Prezi or any other sites, like Piktochart or Weebly, used to create their portfolio. After viewing every student’s portfolio, the class was exposed to variety of options that they may not have been aware of before the portfolio viewing.
Finally, this activity also helps with the GBP goal of collaboration. Collaboration is a major aspect of this class; being able to receive help from your teachers is one thing, but knowing that your classmates can also be as helpful as your teachers is important. This activity was a great way to learn from our fellow classmates and learn from their expertise. Now that we have idea’s on what to do for our next portfolio, we can now reach out to a fellow classmate and try something new in Term 2.
GBP Students review their classmates' Term 1 Portfolios. (Photos by Ms. Tincher)
GBP students collaborate on group projects in class. (Photo by Ms. Tincher)
Mark Walker, GBP Student
Most school projects are left in the hands of the students to figure out the problems at hand and get to a final product. But even when the project is finished, the presentation is done, or the answer is right, it is always good to look back on how the pair or group worked together. Were there any apparent strengths or weaknesses, pros or cons?
In The Greater Boston Project, after we do a major project students are asked to reflect on the collaborative work of themselves and peers in the group to assess the functioning of themselves and the group as a whole. We reflect on questions about our peers along the lines of, “How vocal was this person?” and “Did they complete their portion of work?” When reflecting on the group as a whole we are asked questions like, “How was the work spit up?” and “Was criticism given and, if so, how was it taken?” The reflections on these questions are then passed along to the GBP teachers for them to review and compare with others in the groups and their own reflections on the students.
Later, group by group, we are called to meet with one of the three teachers to go over the reflections. These meetings are are majorly a group discussion and teacher instruction on what was good and bad about both the project and, more specifically, the collaborative work that led to it. Helping the us realise our strengths and weaknesses allows us as students to improve ourselves in our group work for future projects. The hope is that these future projects will run smoother, be more efficient, and result in greater overall successful after each meeting.
Personally, through this process I think I have learned more about what really goes into a group presentation. Before, I felt that all it took was the information on the subject at hand and for the group to put it in a slide show. However, by participating in these group meetings and having to reflect back on how everything went, I have learned that there is a lot more to the process. Communication is a huge part of collaboration, not just in making sure people know their portion of work, but also in communicating along the way about how a group wants the presentation to flow and what should be put in or taken out. I have learned that time has to be taken to sit down and thoroughly go through every aspect of a presentation as a team. Without these reflections I would think something like, “The presentation was a bit bumpy but we got it done” and leave it at that. Looking back and analyzing each piece of the project through collaborative reflection and discussion allows us to improve instead of just moving on from it without learning.
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