"Our faculty continue to be recognized for their abilities to bring creative strategies to our classrooms and experiences overseas to help students and fellow educators better understand the interconnections between peoples and systems that fuel modern globalization."
Walter Swanson, Dean of Faculty
John Lombard Learns iTree in Toronto
Teacher and Community Service Coach John Lombard traveled north of the border to Toronto, where he investigated how the protection of a tree canopy in that city created a better quality of life and brought down significant costs. Mr. Lombard learned how to have students take tree measurements using the iTree software, and he collaborated with Toronto city officials and later University of Vermont professors.
These skills are used both for the statistics section in the existing math curriculum as well as service opportunities for the WMA Community Service Team.
Additionally, Mr. Lombard’s work will inform the WMA community about the economic and quality of life benefits of its tree canopy on campus.
Opportunities for faculty to develop new areas of interest as well as bring personal passions to their classrooms allow the Academy’s global mission to continually grow and evolve, creating a richer experience for WMA students.
WMA helps Northampton with urban forest canopy
Not only did Coach John Lombard and four of his Community Service Team members generously donate their time off campus, but they worked side by side with and learned from people regarded as experts in their respective field.
For seven hours, the Service Team members collaborated with an arborist, forester and professor in Northampton regarding the city’s current and future tree situation.
“Trees might be our simplest low-hanging fruit for cooling off urban centers that have urban hot zones - that means people are using less electricity, using less fossil fuels, and that will have a direct way in how to slow down our, what seems like an inescapable, path we’re on,” Coach Lombard said. “We’ll pass two degrees warming fairly soon, and if we pass six degrees, it’s incompatible of human life as we know it.
“Trees are critical background for our future survival.”
WMA aligns with Harvard in Spanish videoconference program
Students in Melody Rivera's Honors Spanish III class won't be studying abroad, but twice a week it sure will feel that way.
Following the recent lead of Harvard University, Wilbraham & Monson Academy has added a professional videoconference conversation program to Ms. Rivera's class.
"A company named Platica started a pilot program with Harvard in 2011," Ms. Rivera said. "We're the third high school in the country using a conversation format in a real world situation."
Twice a week, Ms. Rivera's students will have conversations with native Spanish speaking professionals from Platica, which bases the casual discussions off the specific class curriculum.
"This would be like going to a café in a different country and meeting someone new and having an impromptu conversation that isn't planned whatsoever," Ms. Rivera said. "It's the closest to an abroad experience we can provide in the classroom."
After the talks, which last 30-45 minutes, Ms. Rivera will receive printed feedback on each student, including errors and progress, which she will share with the student.
During her various school trips to Spanish speaking countries, Ms. Rivera has noticed a significant difference in how the students speak. For many, it takes time for a their confidence to grow in order to speak freely in a second language in a foreign country.
"When you're acquiring a different language, it's the confidence level that is of the utmost importance," she said. "You can have studied the language, grammar and syntax, but if you're nervous and don't have the confidence to verbalize you're not going to have the confidence and it will impede your language skills.
"The whole frequency is very important in acquiring a language. We want to gear more toward language acquisition vs. the language learning that's been going on in the past. For you to acquire a language you need to practice and to create experiences which will then transfer to the long-term memory section of the brain. That's when true learning occurs."
WMA hopes to offer a trip to multiple countries in South America in March so the students can apply the language skills they have learned in the classroom in a real Spanish-speaking country situation.
"Language acquisition - that's all part of the plan," Ms. Rivera said.
Making Connections in France
Marvina Lowry-Brook traveled to Paris and Milan in 2013 to investigate the fashion and design industry. While there, she made significant university and design house contacts and brought back the experience for her new Fine and Performing Arts electives focusing on fashion and design. These popular courses allow students to begin to create pieces and later learn the economics and business behind this billion dollar global industry.
TEDx Springfield, MassMutual
Dean of Faculty (former Director of CEGS) Walter Swanson took the local TEDx stage to discuss innovation through diversity and inclusion.
Global Educators Conference, Miami
CEGS teacher Michael Dziura, who has an extensive traveling and media studies background, gave a stirring presentation to a national audience at the Global Educators Conference. Mr. Dziura's "Obama, ISIS and the 'Globalist Ebola Conspiracy': Helping Students Navigate News Media Biases When Investigating Contentious Global Issues" researched how global education programs challenge students by tasking them with research and analysis of divisive current issues and events. Read more.
GLOBAL STUDENT LEADERS SUMMIT, SHANGHAI
Dean of Faculty (former Director of CEGS) Walter Swanson and Board of Trustee member and former Korean Ambassador to the United Nations Hyun Chong Kim ’77 were among five panelists who addressed how schools are changing in order to adapt to 21st century marketplace skills. Read more.
2015 NAIS Annual Conference
The theme of the conference was “Design the Revolution: Blending Learning, Leading and Innovation.” Dean of Faculty (former Director of CEGS) Walter Swanson, an experienced academic public speaker, was asked to participate as a panelist for “Design Thinking for Change: Creating Global Student Leaders.” Read more.
Sue Dziura, Majestic Theater, Springfield, Mass.
FPA and English Dept. faculty member Sue Dziura is performs regularly at the Majestic Theater in West Springfield, Mass. During their annual performance of "Home for the Holidays," her group prepares a family variety show, featuring skits and music from yesteryear. Above is a preview from ABC40 featuring Mrs. Dziura.
Thad Wheeler, Brooklyn Academy of Music
Music teacher Thad Wheeler (far left) played percussion with Steve Reich and Musicians at the 50th Anniversary of Nonesuch Records in the opera house at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Mr. Wheeler previously played with Reich, the group’s composer, for 19 years. He didn’t hesitate to reconnect with the group for the anniversary shows, which were all sold out.
Paul Bloomfield, Burnett Gallery, Amherst, Mass.
Fine & Performing Arts Director Paul Bloomfield showcased his body of work, titled "Trees" at a local artwork event in the historic Burnett Gallery at the Jones Library.
Wendy Decker, Monson Arts Council
FPA faculty member Wendy Decker’s colored pencil drawing was chosen to be displayed at the 2015 Spring Art Exhibition & Sale in April at the Monson House of Art in Monson, Mass.
Ms. Decker created this 12-inch by 9-inch drawing titled "Aquarelle" based on the work of Chuck Close, a partially paralyzed artist who specializes in grid portraits.
Steven Gray '70W, WMA Campus Center
From the collection called “Impressions…at the Speed of Light,” these two photos provide a glimpse into one man’s view from the seat of his motorcycle. Through digital enhancement, Computing faculty member Steve Gray ’70W shares with the viewer what “my eye catches in a fraction of a second, as I fly by.”
Mr. Gray uses Photoshop techniques to reveal his vision. The enhanced parts are the quick impressions that first drew his attention. At his art exhibit, held at WMA, he chose computer stations to “frame” his digital imagery.
Some things change...some things stay the same
Location: on the back roads in Connecticut on a fall afternoon, 2013.
I'm still here!!
Location: Holmbrook House, a major dorm of Monson Academy under reconstruction after surviving a Tornado. Monson, Mass., 2014