Category Archives: Uncategorized

State Champ We the People Team Heads to D.C.

The We the People team on the floor of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston

Williston’s We the People team members for the second year in a row out-maneuvered their competition with their superior knowledge and application of civics concepts, securing the state championship. They will head to the national competition in the Washington, D.C., area this April to face teams from across the country.

The team studied and practiced doggedly this trimester, and the hard work paid off when the group met with success in Boston on January 28. Their advisor, AP US Government teacher Peter Gunn, praised the cohesiveness of the team, likening it to a troupe of actors who bond as they practice for a play, or a sports team. “It’s a formidable challenge, both intellectually and interpersonally,” he said.

Kevin O’Sullivan, Ellie Scott, and Shaela Chaires get ready for questioning.

On the day of the competition, the group is divided into groups of five, and comes prepared to answer four to six questions relating to the Constitution, Bill of Rights, or general government, in a setting resembling a Congressional hearing. Judges then follow up with a question that asks students to apply their knowledge to a new facet of a problem. The Williston team out-scored the second-place team by nine-tenths of a point, the narrowest victory in We the People history.

“In a time when an understanding of government seems vital, the engagement of students in the discussion of the structure, development, and process of government—well, I don’t know what we do that’s more important,” Gunn said. He added that when students feel a sense of competence and that they understand how their government works, they are more likely to participate in the democratic process: to keep up with news, to vote, to contact their elected officials, even to take our papers and run for office. Research shows that a high rate of We the People alumni find their way to elected local, state, and federal elected positions.

WTP grads Alex Foster, Ava McElhone Yates, Tyler Greenwood, and Emma Reynolds flank Mr. Gunn, center.

As they prepared this fall and winter, the We the People team attracted a supportive community. Seniors Alex Foster, Ava McElhone Yates, Tyler Greenwood, and Emma Reynolds, who participated last year, helped coach team members this year. Numerous alumni and parents also helped students on their path to become state champs.

But students were not chained to their desks as they prepared for the competition. Students were out at rallies, attended the Presidential inauguration, and canvassed door to door. They developed their political ideas in a climate that did not take sides, Gunn said, but encouraged critical and independent thinking on issues both from the past that are still relevant today—such as laws that pertain to Native Americans—and current policies and programs, such as the Affordable Care Act. As team members, listed below, move on to the next phase in Washington, we send the them our warmest congratulations!

Fiona Bundy ’18
Josh Calianos ’18
Jesse Cassuto ’17
Shaela Chaires ’18
Vikram Dalmiya ’18
Megan Fydenkevez ’18
Brendan Hansen ’18
Anna Harvey ’18
Shana Hecht
Oliver Lawrence ’18
Kevin O’Sullivan ’18
Sara Renkert ’18
Natalie Romain ’18
Ellie Scott ’18
Triniti Slaughter ’18
Sophie Carellas ’18
Sofia Flores ’18
Madison Fulcher-Melendy ’18
Jerry Gao ’17
Josh Holmberg ’18
Gabriel Moon ’18
Katie Most ’18
Roya Mostafavi ’18
Jack Phelan ’18
Erika Sasaki ’18
A’kayla Williams ’18
Harrison Winrow ’18
Derrick Zhao ’18
Shirley Zhou ’18

AP French Students Explore ‘Charlie Archive’ in Boston

AP French students explore Harvard University’s ‘Charlie Archive’ in Boston.

Susan Michalski’s AP French class took a field trip Friday to the exposition of Harvard University’s “Charlie Archive” at the French Cultural Center in Boston. Students spent the day immersed entirely in French.

The exposition contained 50+ framed artworks inspired by the January 2015 attacks of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper office in Paris. In addition, there was a collection of iPads each filled with thousands of digital images of “Je suis Charlie” tributes of all kind, from social media to poetry to street art from around the world. Historians, French and American, spoke on video of the larger importance of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

Photos courtesy of Ms. Michalski
Photos courtesy of Ms. Michalski

The AP French students, currently studying global issues—or, in French, “Défis Mondiaux”—as part of the AP Curriculum, have been most recently delving into the issues freedom of press and expression. As a culmination of their work, each student will prepare a 5- to 10-minute presentation of the exposition image which is most pertinent to her in today’s world, touching upon the political climates in both the U.S. and France.

Following the exposition, the immersion continued at the restaurant Menton, Boston, where the class enjoyed a learning lunch, kitchen-side, at the restaurant’s “table de chef,” complete with a French speaking host.


Classics Day Immerses Wildcats in Ancient Cultures

Rob Champigny '18 with another great leader, Augustus
Rob Champigny ’18 with another great leader, Augustus

Classics Day brings together students of Latin from around the Pioneer Valley who, for one day, immerse themselves in the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome. The annual event is organized and hosted by the Pioneer Valley Classics Association and held at Mount Holyoke College in nearby South Hadley, Massachusetts.

On January 20, Williston students were among 341 attendees at the event. Classics Day spurred student imaginations and inspired Wildcats to spend hours working on projects that were rewarded with 10 prizes. A remarkable example: One student, Gabe Moon ’18, taught himself metal working so he could create a prize-winning replica of a Roman helmet.

Gabe Moon '18 taught himself metal working to create this prize-winning Roman helmet.
Gabe Moon ’18 taught himself metal working to create this prize-winning Roman helmet.

In addition to competing and attending workshops on Roman games, gladiators, curse tablets and coins, among other topics, students toured the collection of Roman daily life objects in the Mount Holyoke College Museum and had the chance to examine 2000-year-old coins first hand with the curators.

Students won prizes in every category they entered: art (models, military, drawing, sculpture), certamen (Latin “quiz bowl”), and oral recitation (Greek poetry and advanced level prose). Here are the winners:

  • Honors Latin II (Oscar DeFrancis ’20, Julia Farnham ’20, Dylan Fulcher-Melendy ’20, Nat Markey ’20):
    • first place, Latin II certamen
    • third place, myth certamen
  • Julia Farnham, second place drawing
  • Dylan Fulcher-Melendy, third place model
  • Jason Albanese ’20 and Eric Albanese ’20, first place model
  • Lauren Solzak ’20, third place military
  • Gabe Moon, first place military
  • Kevin O’Sullivan ’18, third place advanced oral interpretation (prose)
  • Anabelle Farnham ’18, second place Greek oral interpretation
  • Jimin Lee ’20, third place sculpture
Students inspect 2000-year-old coins.
Students inspect 2000-year-old coins.

“Classics Day is a wonderful opportunity for our students to join a wider community of young Classicists in a grand celebration of Latin and the ancient world,” said Beatrice Cody, Latin teacher and head of the Language Department.

She continued: “Classics Day allows our students to show off the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired during their study of Latin. For example, our Level II certamen team won first-place in their competition with the knowledge they’ve amassed about Latin vocabulary, grammar, history, culture and myth. It also allows our students to explore more deeply an area of interest, and to showcase their wide-ranging talents. Anabelle Farnham, for example, has been studying Greek for the past three years and had the opportunity to demonstrate her

The quiz-bowl team blows off some steam.
The quiz-bowl team blows off some steam.

powerful memory and oratorical skill by reciting a Greek passage. For their three-tiered first prize model, Eric and Jason Albanese were able to revisit and explore the powerful symbolism of some myths they enjoyed studying in Latin class. Gabe Moon taught himself metal-working and created a first-prize Roman helmet from items in his kitchen—a mixing bowl and broom bristles. New students entered the contest for the first time—Jimin Lee and Lauren Solzak—and won prizes with their impressive artistic skill and careful study of ancient artistic iconography and design. It is so rewarding for our Latin students (and their teachers!) to be given this opportunity for creativity and excellence—and we couldn’t be prouder of them all for their heartfelt participation today.”

Williston Wildcat Robotics Team Battles to Victory

Williston Wildcat Robotics Club battle to victory.
Williston Wildcat Robotics battled to victory.

Nine members of the robotics club journeyed to Boston University Academy recently to participate in a VEX Competition Qualifier for the Southern New England Regional Tournament. They returned with a trophy, sharing the win with an allied team.

The tournament is played on a 12-foot by 12-foot field. Two alliances — one red and one blue — composed of two teams each, compete in matches consisting of a 15-second autonomous period followed by one minute and 45 seconds of driver-controlled play. The object of the game is to attain a higher score than the opposing alliance by placing game pieces in your zones and by hanging robots on your hanging bar.

After competing in a series of matches, teams were ranked and given priority to select alliance partners. The top-ranked team, the Mecha Eagles from Saint John’s Preparatory School, selected the Williston Wildcat Robotics to join their alliance. According to the structure of the tournament, the alliance winning two out of three matches goes on from the quarter finals to the semi-finals, and then onto the finals. The Wildcats and the Eagles went all the way to capture the win.

The following students attended: Jack Long ’20, Drew Manory ’19, Keyu Lu ’20, Rider Bishop ’20, Yana Pyryalina ’18, Matthew Nguyen ’18, Alex Marwaha ’20, Mark Wang ’20, Kohmei Kadoya ’19. Other team members did not attend the event: Nhat Ha ’20, Sarah Markey ’22, Destiny Nwafor ’17, Glede Wang ’19, and Shirley Zhou ’18.

Congratulations Wildcats!

Split Decisions in Three Eighth-Grade Mock Trails

Deliberating in the Middle School
Deliberating in the Middle School

Three eighth-grade juries came to different verdicts in mock trials that centered around a case where a customer was burned by coffee served by a fictitious coffee shop, and sued for damages. After hearing from witnesses in the case, the juries had to decide who was at fault, the plaintiff (Lee Cavanaugh, the coffee drinker) or the defendant (Cup of Joe, the business who sold the beverage).

According to Middle School History and Global Studies Teacher Andrew Syfu, jurors were tasked with deciding if the defendant was negligent from a legal perspective, and if the shop was strictly liable for the injuries sustained by Mr. Cavanaugh.

After careful deliberation, juries came to divergent conclusions, Mr. Syfu said. “However, all juries believed both sides were at fault for the coffee spillage.” One jury ruled in favor of the defendant (Cup of Joe), and the other two juries ruled in favor of the plaintiff (Lee Cavanaugh).

A snowball fight that followed was "a very civil fight," according to Mr. Syfu.
A snowball fight that followed was “a very civil fight,” according to Mr. Syfu.

Mr. Syfu explained the academic significance of the mock trial as a way to give students a better understanding of our legal system, while increasing confidence in critical thinking, reasoning, and presentation skills. “The experience also helps students understand the role of government in resolving disputes,” he added. Finally, the students are asked to assess how their team worked together. 

As an amusing aside, after the first day of witness testimony, students left Whitaker-Bement and blew off a little steam by hurling snowballs at one another. As Mr. Syfu noted, “(I)t was a very civil fight!”