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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Boston Speaker Series - Zanny Minton Beddoes

Boston Speaker Series
Allison Kornet, US English Teacher and Faculty Advisor to The Vanguard

Maia Pandey, Claire Pingitore, Sophie Collins Arroyo ’19 in attendance on October 21st, 2019. Also my mom came, since a series of students kept claiming and then backing out of the fourth ticket at the last minute! Beddoes is the editor-in-chief of The Economist, and Vanguard editors Maia and Claire were definitely inspired by her. The stated purpose for her talk was to give us a sense of where the world economy is heading.

She talked about how the difference between the two sections of The Economist, the front housing political news and the back housing economic news, highlight a paradox we ought to consider. On the one hand, we see we are in the midst of a populist era with a lack of faith in traditional institutions, widespread anxiety about the future, “strong men” and authoritarian regimes on rise, the Western bloc under tremendous pressure, a mistrust among traditional allies, the benefits of free trade in question, globalism becoming a dirty word, and the U.S. so polarized that it seems like two totally different countries, even with respect to where we get our facts. On the other, we see very positive economic news. The last time the unemployment rate was this low was 1969, the economy has seen slow and steady growth, wages are rising, there’s no sign of inflation, tax cuts and deregulation seem to have given the U.S. a shot of adrenalin, the tariff war with China has not proven calamitous, etc. Beddoes laid out that although in the short term, the picture looks good, there are signs of system stresses further out, and shifts in technology, geopolitics, demographics, and climate tell the story. (Does prosperity belong to businesses more than workers? How do we manage the rapidly aging population, the “yold”? Will the U.S. and China find a way to work together?) She offered some recommendations.

The part of her talk that felt most relevant and interesting to BB&N’s aspiring journalists was when she discussed how The Economist has no bylines and is instead heavily edited for one unified perspective. Beddoes distinguished between having an opinion and having a bias. Yes, it would be hard to be a journalist at The Economist who didn’t believe in free trade; the magazine looks at a set of facts and responds to them with a clear and consistent viewpoint. But there is no bias in the presentation of the facts. All articles are subjected to intense fact checking so that there is real “empirical rigor” in the reporting. Beddoes went on to caution against the “bias of false equivalence,” where two opposing positions are presented as equally well-founded and compelling when, in light of the incontrovertible facts, they are not. She ended her talk by reminding the audience that without “a reasoned, fact-based debate of ideas,” we won’t find solutions to any of the problems identified.

Boston Speaker Series - John Kerry

Boston Speaker Series
Allison Kornet, US English Teacher and Faculty Advisor to The Vanguard

Geoffrey Goose, Elise Donovan, Alfie Rudnik, Josh Kim attended John Kerry's Boston Speaker Series Speech on October 10th, 2019.

Of interest to future Speechwriting and Public Speaking students (Elise and Alfie):
  • He had this personal tick of putting his pointer finger to his nose. And early in the talk, he grabbed the mike and moved out from the lectern, closing the gap between him and the audience and saying, “I want to just talk.” It felt pretty contrived —a typical politician move— but it was also, as intended, engaging.
  • He opened and closed with anecdotes; the first involved president Taft artfully deflecting a fat joke (a humor move to establish rapport) and the final involved Kerry giving CPR to a hamster that had fallen into the sea on the Cape (it came back to life). Needless to say, the kids enjoyed the closing anecdote more.
  • Kerry established ethos throughout by referring to his personal experiences as a Vietnam vet and eventual protestor and as someone who has flown over the Artic Circle and seen the melt caused by climate collapse. He referred to personal experiences as secretary of state, interacting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and negotiating in various situations, e.g. for the Iran nuclear deal and for Israel to be recognized as a Jewish state.
  • Substantively, he drew attention to his themes with sharp sound bites: “This is not a normal time” — “Our democracy is dysfunctional, and everybody knows it” — “How, today, can we be so passive about things that are really dangerous?” —  ‘People argue that things are rigged because they are’ — “Rhetoric is easy. saber rattling is easy. But it can have really bad consequences and can take you where you don’t want to go” — “In order to go to war, it pays to have some friends, and right now we don’t have them.”
  • He also framed some problems with local examples that made our student listeners pay attention, for example naming the Woburn dump alongside the Love Canal and other toxic waste sites that produce cancer; asserting that the Acela train is supposed to be able to go 150mph, but it can only do so for an 18-mile stretch because infrastructure is so lousy, etc.
  • At end, his speech became a call to action…
    • “Politicians respond to you. Show them en masse that this is urgent. Children don’t hate. It’s taught. Tribalism is taught. Think of where we are, how many people were killed in the last century. We’re just journeyers. We get a chance to contribute.”
    • …with informational pieces
      • In our time, extreme poverty has gone from 50% to 10%
      • The first generation of kids in Africa is about to be born aids-free
    • …and an inspirational finale
      • We stopped Ebola. We’re curing diseases we never thought we could. We communicate better. We live longer. Far fewer people are dying on this planet than ever before in history.”
  • And antithesis for closure:
    • “What we’re not doing is coalescing our will to make new progress.”

UCG Announcement, 2019-2020

We are pleased to announce the following Urban Connection Grants for academic year 2019-2020. BB&N supports five grants this year, two new connections and three continuing programs. The new grant connections are currently being established and will be implemented throughout the school year. Each grant will connect BB&N students to groups and organizations throughout Cambridge, Boston and the Greater Boston Area.

Boston Speaker Series at Symphony Hall
Allison Kornet, US English Teacher and Faculty Advisor to The Vanguard

Up to 30 Upper School students will have the opportunity to attend part of the 2019-2020 Boston Speaker Series presented by Lesley University at Symphony Hall. This grant will mean seniors in the US Speechwriting and Public Speaking elective and upperclass writers and editors from The Vanguard can listen and learn firsthand from contemporary leaders and thinkers like Bob Woodward, Susan Rice and John Kerry. After presenting during the first hour of each event, speakers will respond to written questions submitted by audience members, so there is even an opportunity for direct engagement by BB&N students. Senior Speechwriting and Public Speaking students will mind how the pros deliver as closely as what they deliver, and the newspaper staff will follow up on the content of the talks with related reporting, investigation, or commentary in The Vanguard. All students participating in this grant will benefit from this unique Boston-based opportunity and experience the speaker series as an extension of their work at the Upper School.

Gem & Mineral Exhibit
Amy Carey, MS Science Teacher
Michael Ewins, MS Science Teacher
Taylor Iberosi, MS Science Teacher
Wendy Svatek, MS Science Teacher and Department Head

The goal of the Gem & Mineral Exhibit grant is to establish a new connection with the Harvard Museum of Natural History to support the 8th grade chemistry curriculum. Since the MS science program has developed to include more real-world applications of chemistry, the museum will provide students with the opportunity to examine the extensive variety of minerals in person. Timed with their curriculum study, students will apply their new understanding of bonding and physical properties while exploring the museum exhibit. With participation from the entire MS science department, every 8th grade student will benefit from this new Cambridge-based connection.

The Latino Network
Dr. Rosario Sánchez Gómez, US Spanish Teacher and Spanish Department Coordinator

The Latino Network will connect BB&N Upper School students of Spanish with bilingual Latino organizations that work directly with Latin American immigrants in the Boston area. This grant aims to provide an opportunity for students to connect with the growing Spanish-speaking population, not only to be able to practice their linguistic and cultural skills but also to participate actively in their community. The Latino Network is currently working to establish partner organizations which will result in the creation of various projects for different Spanish courses as well as service learning opportunities available to all US students. Whether the students interview members of the community for different purposes or work hand in hand with the organization on a specific project, they will engage in a unique connection that aims to expands their course and community service work beyond their classrooms to include the local Latino communities in and around Boston.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Middle School Interfaith Initiative, 2019

Faith Traditions in our Community
Stefanie Haug, MS Counselor
Sasha Bergmann, MS Ceramics Teacher
Beth Brooks, MS Librarian
Youssef Talha, MS French Teacher

Initiative Highlight:

  • Comprehensive grade-wide DEI initiative involving the entire 8th grade in the exploration of an aspect of culture, family, diversity in our BBN community and larger global community
  • Multidisciplinary initiative; faculty organizers represent five departments: Language, Art, English, Library Services, Student Support Services
  • This initiative enacted requests put forth by students in CPPT surveys requesting more exploration of faith traditions (CPPT work completed with guidance by Lewis Bryant).
  • Student feedback was predominantly positive about the entire experience and recommending it continue; feedback for change centered around increasing interactivity and length of time.
To introduce students to the spiritual practices (key tenets, holidays, impact on daily life) of three of the world’s largest religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam, known as the Abrahamic faiths and to explore the interconnectedness of these three religions. A safe space was created for students to learn about religious/faith traditions and spiritual practices similar to and different from their own, to explore key tenets and ceremonies, and how spirituality may intersect with other areas of life and to share their own religious/spiritual practices. Interactive components included Q&A with a panel of faith leaders, questions during field trips and a culminating reflective art piece that was displayed to the larger MS community. The goal was for students to come away with a deeper understanding of religious/spiritual traditions.

Summary of the Initiative:
The 8th grade Interfaith Initiative explored the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. This interfaith experience involved a ‘flipped classroom’ online introductory slide show, a  panel discussion with leaders from the three faiths, field trips to places of worship, and a culminating reflection activity.

The eighth grade visited and toured a synagogue, a mosque, and a church over three consecutive Friday afternoons. The trips occurred during the school day with students returning in time for dismissal to sports.
The field trips went to the following places of worship:

1. Temple Beth Shalom (synagogue), Cambridge
  • Groups met with Rabbi Emily Mathis
  • Toured the synagogue, explored Hebrew text and rituals
2. Memorial Church, Harvard University
  • Groups met with Rev. Wes Conn, Rev Laura Tuach and Ms. Morgan McNeill
  • Alternated tour with ‘show-and-tell’ of sacraments, worship structure, clothing
3. The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) Mosque  Roxbury
  • Groups met with Ms. Barbara Sahli, Education Coordinator
  • Observed the Yawm al-Jum’ah service and toured the mosque

Schedule of Events:
N.B. the order of events, such as the panel occurring after the first field trip reflects larger scheduling pieces at the MS that necessitated adjustments
Thursday, January 31st (Advisory time)

  • In their own time, students viewed a narrated online lesson for an introduction to the Interfaith Initiative. You can view the ‘flipped classroom’ lesson here
Friday, February 1st

  • First week of field trips. Eighth grade separated into 3 groups which rotated destinations weekly.
Thursday, February 7th (Advisory time)

  • Entire eighth grade - Panel discussion and Q&A with faith leaders
  1. Rabbi Emily Mathis, Temple Beth Shalom
  2. Ms. Barbara Sahli, Education Coordinator, ISBCC
  3. Dr. Stephanie Paulsell, Affiliate Minister, Memorial Church (BBN alum parent)
Friday, February 8th 

  • Second week of field trips
Thursday, February 14th (Advisory time)
  1. At grade meeting the culminating art reflection activity was introduced using art displays and music from the various faith traditions. You can view the slide presentation here
  2. Student began the culminating reflection activity in homerooms.
Friday, February 15th

  • Third/final week of field trips
Thursday, February 21st (Advisory time)

  1. Homeroom: Complete culminating reflection activity
The following week: Student Art Reflections on display in main foyer of MS.

At the end of the initiative, we survey students for their feedback. The graphics for some of their responses that were ranked can be viewed here

Here are some of the narrative responses students shared:

When you think about your overall experience exploring several faith traditions (background info, panel, field trips) what, if anything, would you suggest CHANGING for next year?
  • I don't really have anything to change, it was set up well and each place had a good amount of time so it wasn't too long and it wasn't too short.
  • I would suggest less time in each place because it was hard to listen to people speak for so long.
  • The only thing i would want to change about next years interfaith topics is to make it longer. So they can really learn and explore each religion.
  • Maybe reframing a little bit the panel- could have more direct questions from the students.
  • The final wrap-up activity seemed unnecessary, and it would be more effective just to discuss what students learned.
  • I think the unit was great and there doesn't need to be anything changed
  • Yes, don't do it.
  • I would strongly suggest that the trips do not take place on a Friday Afternoon. At that time, everyone just wants to leave and go home or to their games, and not go sit there and listen to someone for an hour talking at them. Maybe try it on a Wednesday Blue week and take away E-Block. Then you would have about a two hour window to use for the trips.
When you think about your overall experience exploring several faith traditions (background info, panel, field trips) what, if anything, would you suggest KEEPING for next year?
  • Keep the panel - it was the most informative part, and I enjoyed getting to hear actual people's opinions.
  • The panel was very affective in helping me understand the beliefs of each religion.
  • Everything else. I loved the trips and the art presentation a lot.
  • I think the field trips were a good idea, they just need to be more interesting and interactive so that we as students don't feel like we are going to pass out while sitting there and listening.
  • Definitely the experience of sitting through the prayer session at the mosque.
  • I would suggest keeping the final reflection project.
  • The field trips should definitely stay similar, as they taught many things about the religions that one couldn't understand just from looking at a presentation.
  • Keeping the field trips. They were fun and different and allowed for everyone to experience something new.
  • I would keep the reflection part, specifically the art aspect of it because it was fun to reflect and draw as well in homeroom and talk to my friends as well.
  • I would suggest keeping the schedule because it seemed like the right amount of time for this kind of field trip.
  • The whole idea of exploring religion.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Boston Speaker Series - Ian Bremmer

Boston Speaker Series
Allison Kornet, US English Teacher and Faculty Advisor to The Vanguard

Here is the gang I took to Ian Bremmer, the global politics expert and president of Eurasia Group. Cat Butchaskiy said she felt it was fulfilling to hear him speak with some depth about Ukraine and Brazil, two countries that are home to her, as part of the geopolitical scene. Magnus Aske and Kathryn Goebel referred to the talk at length in econ class and in an econ blog, Ms. DiPasquale reports, and Harry Golen heard relevant connections in our speechwriting class' discussion of anti-Semitism and to his column this week in the Vanguard about the implications of anti-Israel positions. Meanwhile, we were ready to use this picture and his comments on Venezuela if we needed room in our Current Topics spread on the crisis there, but we had plenty to fill the page without him. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Gem & Mineral Exhibit
Amy Carey, MS Science Teacher
Michael Ewins, MS Science Teacher
Wendy Svatek, MS Science Teacher and Department Head
Erik Swanson, MS Science Teacher


During the 8th grade chemistry study, we spent some time looking at crystal lattice structures in ionic compounds, as well as physical properties that come about as a result of different bond types. We have also changed our program to include a lot more real-world applications of chemistry. The entire 8th Grade had the opportunity to explore the gems and minerals the Natural History Museum at Harvard University.


The exhibit at the Natural History Museum is outstanding in its scope and structure. It is the perfect opportunity for students to be able to see an incredible variety of minerals and put their new understanding of bonding and physical properties to use.