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 resources of the Pioneer Valley and the Five Colleges made available to our students through Williston+ are rich. They include not only opportunities for academic collaboration but a variety of cultural events as well. Two series of experiences to which our students were exposed this year were classical chamber music and Chinese New Year festivals.
Williston archivist and assistant librarian Richard Teller ’77 took a group of students to a chamber music series at Smith College. The renowned Chiara String Quartet played Beethoven’s String Quartets as part of a six-concert series, and the Paris Piano Trio played music for violin, cello, and piano by Haydn, Beethoven, and Schumann.
The Williston community experienced a different type of music—along with dance and talent performances—during the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration, or Spring Festival, organized by Chinese teacher Dr. Huihong Bao and the students in her Chinese IV class. The show featured 25 different performances by Williston students, parents, and faculty, along with teachers and students from surrounding communities.
Dr. Bao also brought a group of students to UMass Amherst in order to watch the Spring Festival put on by the Chinese Scholar and Student Association there. Having received her MEd and EdD from UMass, she was a past organizer of the festival at UMass and used her experiences to inform the ambitious and successful evening she put on at Williston.
On a rainy day in March, every member of the junior class boarded a bus and headed off to one of the Five Colleges—Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts—for campus tours and information sessions with admissions officers. The purpose of this trip, according to Director of College Counseling Tim Cheney, was “to provide students with early exposure to the variety of options available to them at different schools and colleges.”
The day, Tim says, provided “a primer for students, to heighten their awareness and refine their thinking in advance of going out on their first actual tours with parents.” Many times juniors will take some time during spring break to visit a few colleges that they might be interested in. By visiting college campuses with Williston college counselors, and then meeting admissions officers at those campuses, Williston’s students will better prepared to get the most out of tours they do on their own.
Each junior got to choose which campus he or she would visit on this trip, which was organized by the College Counseling Office, with assistance from Kim Evelti, curriculum specialist for Five College resources. The feedback on the outing has been positive, and plans are underway to make it an annual event.
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