I Got You (I Feel Good)

Social distancing hasn’t stopped the GCS Jazz Ensemble from (digitally) jamming together. In an effort to get everyone’s week off to a bright start, the high school troupe put together a spirited cover of James Brown’s iconic song, “I Got You (I Feel Good)”, which Mr. Kadajski, High School Instrumental Music Teacher, sent to all students, faculty and staff.

Mr. Kadajski described for us the students’ experience of creating this piece, as well as his process for putting it all together:

We’ve been having zoom classes in a way that is similar to how we have in-person classes during school.  We start by tuning, followed by a warm-up on a scale and rhythm. Usually I play my sax while the students play along with me, but they are muted. I then put on the backing track to a piece we’re working on and we play through that together, again while they’re muted. We go into breakout rooms in zoom, and I ask each section to work on a particular set of measures with section leaders leading the sectional. I hop into each breakout room and help each group.

In terms of the video, I had students send me an audio take of them playing their part along to a backing track using headphones. I then imported and mixed their audio files together using Logic Pro X. I then had them send me a video take of them playing along to the backing track. I used Final Cut Pro to compile all the videos and added the mixed audio from Logic into the compilation. That was the process in a nutshell.

A Silver Anniversary’s Silver Lining

This month marks the 25th annual National Poetry Month, first introduced in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to celebrate poetry in the United States. Normally, budding and seasoned poets alike mark the occasion in New York with percussion-punctuated readings, festivals and workshops. 

This year’s event looks just a little different, but Woody Loverude, Writing Center Director, and Christina Olivares, Director of College Counseling and Poetry Liaison to the Writing Center, are honoring the silver anniversary in a special way. Each day during the month of April, they email a poem to Grace faculty, staff and High School students, accompanied by a recording of themselves reading the selection and an explanation of why they chose it.

The idea of coming upon the unexpected

as something carefully arranged

by a prior hand that linked

all its forms aesthetically

to explain a disordered garden

at the height of its disorder,

a gesture not yet carried out, gently stirring

with no way of knowing what will become of it.

From Cecilia Vecuña’s Chance Encounter 
And one of Ms. Olivares’s selected poems

With each poem they share, Mr. Loverude and Ms. Olivares are creating a sense of community during this time of extreme isolation. And the responses have been overwhelming, suggesting that the poems are perhaps resonating with people in a way that they might not have were we not in such an unusual time. This outcome has been one of the highlights for them. 

Mr. Loverude noted, “While I don’t think emailing the poems out has reached more people, it does seem that because of these emails and because of the virus, more people are emailing us back to share their appreciation of the poems in general or a specific poem in particular. And my favorite emails to get are ones from unexpected corners, those people who I didn’t expect to be actually reading/listening to our daily poems. It’s been a gift and a joy to hear from all corners of our community.”

The Adaptability of Scientific Collaboration in times of Crisis

By Kim Chaloner, Dean of Community Life & Science Teacher

Neuroscientists and Education Researchers Join our Environmental Science Elective to Develop a Scientific Study of COVID-19

Before our distance learning adventure began this month, members of NYU’s Neuroscience team, including members of their Teaching and Learning research group, teamed up with our Environmental Science class to explore and develop the team’s new student-scientist collaboration platform, MINDHIVE. As they describe, “MINDHIVE is a web-based citizen science platform that supports real-world brain and behavior research. It is “designed for students & teachers who seek authentic STEM research experience, and for neuroscientists & cognitive/social psychologists who seek to address their research questions outside of the lab.” MINDHIVE  will eventually develop a large platform to pair students with neuroscientists who will develop research study proposals together. An earlier collaboration with my class and the same team, carried out in 2016 and 2017, was featured in a New York Times piece. We’ve continued the collaboration since then, and for this year, our original idea was to study young people and climate anxiety, developing a research project that looks at how students respond to information about the global crisis of climate disruption.   

The closing of both schools, as well as the unprecedented circumstances of responding to a global pandemic, may have thrown off many learning experiences, but this collaboration was custom built for this particular brand of scientific work. Students at Grace focus on collaboration, real-world learning, and cross-curricular exploration. In these circumstances, our program was ready to keep moving forward.  

Students began their online collaboration this week, studying how scientists balance the need for fast results with the need for solid and reliable data. Like in the climate crisis, the public is weighing the value of acting early and relying on scientific consensus with what seems like more immediate concerns like keeping the economy on track or waiting for completely unanimous conclusions. Our students, with depth and subtly, talked about the most recent studies neuroscientists and social scientists have published and carried out regarding responding to this pandemic, one fantastic example can be found here. They proposed their own study topics of study and discussed them with our team including Suzanne Dikker (pictured in our Zoom chat below). Students asked excellent behavioral research questions like, “If you have family members living overseas, do you worry if their countries aren’t doing enough to prevent the spread of coronavirus and do you see the risk differently?” and “If you are an introvert and normally don’t see people, has the fact that you are now prohibited from seeing anyone strengthened your desire to see people?”  Students talked about how teenagers are reacting to information and how they evaluate what to trust in the media.

As we continue to develop our research project with MINDHIVE, including the input of scientists working on the ground to understand the social nature of the crisis, we are grateful to have this collaboration in place, ready to enter the online learning world.

Scientists and Education Researchers Present on Our Call:

Dr. Suzanne Dikker (Amsterdam)

Veena Vasudevan 

Sushmita Sadhukha 

Rebecca Martin 

Kim Burgas 

Engin Bumbacher 

Ido Davidesco (in spirit!)

A Renaissance Day for a New Age

When Grace moved to distance learning, Grade 5 teacher Margaret Meyer was faced with a decision: interrupt the more-than-20-year tradition of Renaissance Day, or proceed with a virtual event that even Leanardo da Vinci himself could not have imagined. For Ms. Meyer, the choice was an obvious one. 

“It never entered my mind not to proceed with Renaissance Day. I knew my students would make it work on the small screen just as well as if we were all sitting in our classroom together. This has proven to be the case. It’s not every day 11-year olds produce research papers on international topics. Our fabulous fifth graders came to value the experience of having written their research papers by virtue of having worked long and hard to make them happen. My confidence that the Renaissance Day experience would be even better via distance learning this year was richly rewarded,” Ms. Meyer stated proudly. 

She also knew that conducting the presentations online offered an unexpected advantage: family members and friends who might have been unable to attend a live event could now partake in the fun of watching the student presentations, which began on Tuesday and will continue for several weeks. 

Preparations for Renaissance Day began months ago, before the new normal, as Grade 5 students started the process of writing their first serious research paper and creating accompanying projects. First came the prompt from Ms. Meyer, who asked students to consider the time between 1200 C.E. and 1600 C.E. and identify two events that occurred in regions throughout the world, including Asia, Africa and the Middle East, in addition to Europe. Students then shared their findings with one another, engaging in lively discussions, following which they narrowed in on their topic of choice. Everything from Chinese architecture circa 1500 C.E. to the advent of the printing press in Europe to the contributions from the Muslim world to the fields of science, math and literature. 

It is crucial to Ms. Meyer that she avoid the Euro-centric narrative of the Renaissance. Instead, she teaches students to view the world through an international lense, helping them to understand the vast contributions made by all peoples. Equally important to her is to instill in students a desire to think critically, even if that sometimes (occasionally) means that she’s proven wrong. In fact, she delights in receiving emails from students who, after fact-checking on their own, are eager to contradict something she said in class. “It’s all part of teaching them to be independent thinkers,” she says. “I’m pretty much right. But I’m not pretty much perfect.”

When asked what it was like to write their first research paper, responses from students were, well, mixed. Many students echoed the sentiment of Hudson A. ’27, who said, “It’s a fun process because you made the paper, it’s your creation and you get to share it with everyone who reads it.” 

Still most agreed that the task was not without its challenges. No surprise as Ms. Meyer evaluates her students’ work as both their history and English teacher; that means papers must not only be rich in content but also well-constructed and, of course, properly cited. This includes an official acknowledgement form thanking the family members or friends who provided assistance throughout the process. After all, writing a research paper, like so much else in life, is a collaborative effort. 

Ellie R. ’27 presents her project about Nicolaus Copernicus

Third Grade Art Students Inspired by Harlem Renaissance

As a part of their discussion of the Harlem Renaissance, Mr. Robinson’s Third Grade art students were tasked with researching two art forms that were created and popularized during the intellectual, social, and artistic boom. Their research culminated in the creation of two separate original pieces of art inspired by their research. Mr. Robinson and the students have been holding critiques during Zoom Art classes.

In celebration of World Art Day, and of the students’ creativity, we thought we’d share a few of the students’ projects here. You can enjoy images of their projects below:

Mandarin Students Learn in New Environment: The Kitchen

Before Spring break, students in Ms. Chien’s Mandarin V class were busy discussing their favorite fast and comfort foods as a way of practicing the culinary-centric vocabulary they had been studying. Once Grace’s Distance Learning plan commenced on March 30, the conversations they were having, and the way Ms. Chien was teaching, suddenly shifted.

So far, distance teaching, in Ms. Chien’s case, has provided its own set of challenges; Ms. Chien noted that she often finds herself “hopping around the breakout rooms.” More importantly, teaching via Zoom has provided her with plenty of new teaching opportunities, such as introducing a new setting to her students: her kitchen.

In this new environment, Ms. Chien is not only able to teach them new vocabulary, but is able to use it in actual conversation, talking them through the preparation of some of her favorite noodle dishes. Of teaching from home, Ms. Chien said, “It’s actually a luxury to have all the props within a step. I can show them everything easily. They get to see the authentic materials. I think it’s a benefit of online learning.”

Using her cooking demonstrations as inspiration, students have been tasked to make cooking shows of their own. Each student will have to film a segment of them cooking the very comfort foods they discussed before Distance Learning began. And they will have to narrate it entirely in Mandarin. “I look forward to having them put their various language skills in one project: writing/ typing while writing their plots and scripts, speaking, reading, and listening while we did a rehearsal on Zoom.” Ms. Chien said.

She also noted that, while the project would center around the practice of a foreign language, it will, overall, be a holistic learning experience. “Students will integrate their skills in theater such as staging, public speaking, acting, and looking at camera, and in technology by editing the movie and making sure the subtitles match what they are saying.” Ms. Chien added, “The language component does not have to be 100% perfect, as long as it conveys the meaning and shows their passion of the language and the dishes they make.”