On Thursday, October 13, Middle School students took part in an interdisciplinary, collaborative field trip designed by teachers Jane Lucia (science) and Natania Hume (art). The trip took advantage of the wonderful resources at nearby Smith College in order to touch on the disciplines of art, science, English, and geography.
The trip began with a guided tour of the Lyman Plant House, which is a series of greenhouses containing plants from many regions and climates all over the world. In the plant house, students were given time to observe a plant of interest to them, making notes and using as many descriptive adjectives as possible. They later exchanged papers and made drawings according to each other’s descriptions.
All good teachers have a bag of tricks, a sometimes endless supply of resources and techniques to keep students engaged in class. Williston teachers have the added benefit of connections with professors and students at colleges in our area, and when these scholars visit the classroom they provide new perspectives on the topic at hand.
Students in Janice Hanley’s Latin American literature class got the chance to speak with Ilan Stavans, the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College and the author and editor of many volumes including The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature and The Poetry of Pablo Neruda. In an open question-and-answer session, students asked the scholar about everything from his intellectual path to the cultural differences between “Latin” Americans and “North” Americans.
Before Stavans’ visit, the class read Pablo Neruda’s poetry and wrote their own poems in his style. Some students of Spanish took issue with their textbook’s translation of Neruda’s Spanish, and they asked the professor about the word choices translators must make. He earned laughter from the class by saying, “Translations are like lovers. Some are beautiful but not faithful. Some are faithful but not beautiful.” Translating a poem means creating a new poem in the target language, Stavans said, and encouraged them to try making their own translations.
The playwriting class, taught this year by Elizabeth Bull, also benefited from a visiting writer. Lisa Meyers, a senior at Smith College and an award-winning playwright, came to the class one Saturday in February. She told the students about her experiences and where she gets her inspiration, then led them in a writing exercise. According to Ms. Bull, Meyers was energetic, cheerful, and gave the class good ideas for their own work. Students in the playwriting class read 10 plays throughout the semester and write their own scenes. They conclude the year by writing and presenting their own one-act plays.
In the History Department, the class taught by Glenn Swanson (“Swanee”) on Hitler and Nazi Germany was visited by Catherine Epstein P’16, associate professor of history at Amherst College and author of the recent book Model Nazi: Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland. Epstein is the first Western historian to have written a biography of this major war criminal. The parent of a Williston seventh grader, she met Swanson at a campus reception. When they realized that, according to Swanee, they taught “basically the same class”—she at Amherst and he at Williston—he invited her to present her research to his students. It’s connections like this that make collaborative education at Williston so rich and unique.
The 2011 Classics Day at Mount Holyoke College drew more than 300 Latin students from area high schools for a day of workshops and competition. Williston students regularly participate in this event, which is held annually at one of the Five Colleges. Classics Day celebrates the study of Latin and classical culture.
The following students won honors at Classics Day:
1st place – Latin I certamen (trivia)
Ben Greeman ’15
Lena Gandevia ’15
Hannah Lewis ’13
Kelly O’Donnell ’13
1st place – poster contest
Elyssa Katz ’15
1st place – model contest
Laura Bowman ’13
2nd place – model contest
Josh Simpson ’15 and Chase Tanguay ’15
2nd place – novice level oration contest
Lucas Ferrer ’16
At its core, the Williston+ Program is about the power of collaboration; great things can happen with a fine independent school collaborates with its outstanding higher education neighbors. By working closely with the Five Colleges, Williston finds the right resources to give students multiple perspectives on the subjects that interest them the most. And with Williston’s close relationships with the Five Colleges, the topics for our students to explore are limitless.
In other words, collaborative learning works, collaborative learning is fun, and collaborative learning at Williston provides students with awesome opportunities to work with some of the most creative minds in the country. It also gives our faculty some cool opportunities as well.
In advance of a visit to campus by world-famous author and humanitarian Greg Mortenson, students taking World Civilizations and Advanced Placement Comparative Government traveled to UMass to see a performance of the stage version of Mortenson’s book, Three Cups of Tea. Later that week, these students had the opportunity to meet the actors when they came to Williston and led dicsussion groups.
Becca McDonald ’11 spent the last semester studying Arabic at Hampshire College. Cross-registration for classes at the Five Colleges is available to Williston seniors through the Williston+Program.
Music Teacher Ben Demerath visited Ghana over the summer as part of the UMass/This World Music program. His trip was sponsored in part by the Williston Plus Program. You can read about Mr. Demerath’s adventures on his blog.