College Preparatory School for Girls Grades 3-12

Distance Learning Dispatches: 'Rapping Up' a History Project, Activating AI, Examining Social Justice in the Time of COVID, and More!


Teacher: Kathy Chaney
Assignment: Silent Messengers: Masks from Found Materials
Details: In this project, fifth grade artists went on a scavenger hunt in their homes to find recyclable items such as plastic bottles and containers, hardware, boxes, string, packing filler, fabric, and paint. By looking at these assorted finds with an artist’s eye, they were able to combine these everyday objects in new ways and transform them into a mask-inspired assemblage sculpture with a specific meaning or message.
Takeaways: By bringing imaginative thinking to see the sculptural possibilities in what might otherwise be regarded as “junk,” fifth grade students demonstrated creativity and a lively sense of humor. By finding innovative solving strategies to construction challenges they faced, these young artists wholeheartedly embraced the Holton motto of find a way or make one!

LS Art Found Object Masks 5.20


Teachers: Stephanie Cordo, Lori Herringa, Yolanda Keener, Annette Levitine-Woodside, Maureen Siburt, Julie Treadwell, Gail Whitley, Emily Wilde
Lesson: Examining Social Justice As It Relates to the Covid-19 Pandemic
Details: Students are taking a closer look at social justice through the lens of Covid-19. They broke into small groups to watch and discuss news segments about how various groups are experiencing the pandemic. The videos covered topics such as coronavirus outbreaks in prisons, the recent spike in racism and xenophobia toward Asian Americans, food banks’ struggles to feed the nation’s hungry, and health risks that essential workers are facing as the need for home delivery increases. Each group analyzed who was interviewed in the story and which voices were missing. They identified social injustices highlighted in the clip, examined ways that economic inequality factors into the given issue, and listed potential solutions both mentioned in the story and suggested by the students. The whole class came back together at the end to debrief, consider how the stories and discussions made them feel, and shared lingering questions.
Takeaways: These timely stories helped students see the very concrete ways that the abstract concepts they’re studying can and do manifest in the world around them. The discussions also helped them explore aspects of the pandemic they may not have previously considered and will help them identify additional injustices in the future.

US Seminar COVID Seminar Activity 5.20


Teacher: Janeth Eby
Assignment: The Planet Project
Details: The culmination of our Space Science Unit, the Sixth Grade Planet Project normally entails installing a scale model of the solar system spanning the length of the hallway along Mr. Hannam's and Ms. Novak's rooms. However, when it became apparent that this couldn't happen, the impressive technological skills of our current sixth graders transformed this long-anticipated display into a fun and informative e-museum. Working in groups of three or four, students designed a fact page and a travel guide focused on their assigned planet, moon, or other large space object. The results are creative, fact-filled, and fun to read.  
Takeaways: As students took on the roles of chief researcher, project manager, graphic designer, and chief editor, they learned what it takes to cooperatively construct a website that can both inform and entertain. Learning to build a website, work collaboratively, and document research are 21st-century skills that will prove useful both in and out of school.

Gr. 6 Planet Project 5.20


Teacher: Trevor Fanning
Assignment: Senior Send-Off in Song
Details: Although the Chorus Room has been unusually quiet lately, the singing continues—albeit, virtually. And on April 30, the Class of 2020’s last day of classes, the Chorus celebrated its 12 beloved seniors and shared three virtual recordings that students have been working on. One was a gift from seniors, a recording of Bette Midler’s “The Rose”; one was a from 9th-11th graders as a farewell, “The Blessing”; and the last was the entire Upper School Chorus, which was able to make music together for the first time in several weeks. This last piece was “Part of the Human Heart” from the musical Once On This Island.
Takeaways: “While we as musicians thrive off the magic of making music together, in the same room, we were still able to share in the power of music,” says Fanning. “It can bring our community so much closer than small windows on a computer screen can.” 

LISTEN TO "PART OF THE HUMAN HEART," performed by US Chorus (in distance-learning mode!).


Teachers: Joel Seltzer and Christine Kulke
Assignment: Andrew Jackson Congressional Battle Raps
Details: After students wrapped up a series of activities that put them in the shoes of those who lived through the Industrial Revolution (factory owners, worker-activists, etc.), Gr. 10 history students shifted their focus to early U.S. democracy and some of the power players. After researching the controversial policies of President Andrew Jackson, student teams had to create fierce monologues or spoken-word poems, including raps, either supporting or opposing the figure and his placement on the $20 bill. The role-playing project took inspiration from the “Cabinet Battle” songs from Lin-Manual Miranda’s groundbreaking musical Hamilton. (See a small clip from one group's video below!)
Takeaways: Seltzer explains, “Students had to learn about complex and sometimes even arcane political and economic conflicts from the early 19th century, and show how these conflicts impacted all Americans and inflamed passions of everyone in the U.S., just as much as our current politics inflame passions today. The rap battle format allowed students to work together to assemble an extended argument. The project really captured the imagination the students in a way that 19th century American politics rarely does.”


Teacher: Nic Ryba
Assignment: Can a Machine Do My Homework?
Details: Students have just embarked on machine learning. They started by discussing the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in their own lives, including text message auto completion and translation apps. They are currently investigating how machines are trained and tested in a model pre-trained on ImageNet. Students will program an AI to distinguish fish from trash, then analyze how well their machine sorts the items. Next, they will identify what the AI is using to identify fish and explore the quality of data used for AI training. After looking at various examples of AI in society, students will think about how human bias plays a role in training an AI. The final product of this unit will be a proposal for an AI product that will help solve a problem in their lives or in the community.
Takeaways: Says Ryba, “This project was designed to stimulate thinking about how technology enriches our lives, but also some of the ethical pitfalls and societal impacts of AI use.” With these students potentially becoming future leaders in developing technologies, it’s critical for them to not only learn technological skills but also consider the implications of what they are creating.

Gr. 7 CS AI Project 5.13.20