9th Graders Explore DNA at Biogen

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Ibrahim

On Wednesday, April 26th, the 9th graders traveled to a biotechnology company in Cambridge called Biogen. The company works to find cures for diseases like multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's.

First, they learned about how segments in DNA can be altered. This happens through a technology called CRISPR, which is essentially a gene-editing tool. It takes a part of the DNA out and replaces it with a synthetic copy. They also learned about how DNA can break apart at a specific temperature and come back together at another temperature.

In order to learn more, the students took some of their own cheek cells and put them in a PCR machine, which stands for “polymerase chain reaction.” This heats and cools the DNA automatically. DNA is made up of two helixes, and the PCR machine splits these up. Then, it creates a synthetic copy of the DNA and binds it to the original helix. The machine did this many times. With the students’ cheek cells, it showed how much bitter each student could taste.

The trip was especially interesting because the 9th grade is taking Biology this year. Going to Biogen taught them a lot, particularly about DNA. 9th grader Zac reflected on the experiment, saying, “It was interesting to learn about genetics at a renowned biotechnology company. It was a wonderful experience.”

 

Third Open Mic Night Recap: Improvised Acts, Amazing Performances, and Jon on the Saw!

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Vilmarie

How many students can say that they’ve seen their MST teacher play the saw? Well, on Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017, Meridian Academy hosted its final Open Mic Night of the year, and we were treated to MST teacher Jonathan Cannon playing that particular and unique instrument. Who knew Jon had it in him? But that wasn’t the only surprise of the night.

Twelve performers had originally signed up, but during one of the breaks, Emmanuel cut in and had the audience stomp and clap while they rapped to a short but sweet and humorous poem. Also, at the end of the performances, Jacob and Max played a last-minute Stevie Wonder song with Celine on vocals and Laura and Alex on drums.

On every Open Mic Night, the Meridian community comes together in the Music Room to share and celebrate our talents. Students and teachers sing, dance, recite poetry, and play music as well. The first two Open Mic Nights were held in October and March.

The original idea for Open Mic Night came from our music teacher, Laura. She said that she wanted to create a comfortable and safe space for anyone in the school to share their passions and talents in front of their fellow Meridianites. Spanish teacher Abby, who also helps organize Open Mic Nights, said that “the feeling in the room was very supportive, positive, and happy to be there, and the audience was very supportive of performers.”

Since they have been such a success, Open Mic Nights will continue next year. We look forward to seeing all the new Meridianites showcase their performances. ...And who knows what other talents Jon might have up his sleeve?

Strangers Supporting Strangers: The 2017 Supermarket Drive

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By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Grace

On Saturday, April 15th, from 11am-3pm, a group of students and a teacher congregated in front of the Stop & Shop in Jamaica Plain. Bearing flyers and a purpose, they approached strangers entering the store to inform them about family homelessness and ask for donations or contributions.

When I arrived at the drive, it was a little past 11am. Tables were just set up with signs taped to them. We set out flyers about Our Place and empty jars on the tables. Our Place, a daycare center for homeless children, is run by the Salvation Army and supported by the state and donations. Its purpose is to break the cycle of family homelessness by providing food, supplies and homes for children during the day. We explained to people that we were primarily raising money and asking for contributions of diapers, wipes, art supplies, or baby food. The responses to this varied incredibly; some were happy to give donations the second we explained it to them, while others walked right past. Some of the people who donated explained that they were in shelters growing up, or had lived in shelters with their own children. This experience seemed to make them all the more enthusiastic about giving. Some parents gave money to their children to put in the jars, while others took flyers.

In the beginning, one of the hardest things was talking to people. It seemed incredibly rude to stop random strangers in the middle of their day to talk about something that might hardly concern them. But we took turns standing by the door, and by the end of my shift, I felt completely comfortable talking to people I’d never met. All in all, I felt it was a great experience and a lot more productive than staying home all day. Best of all, our relatively simple asking strategy worked. By the end of the drive, we raised over 6,000 baby supplies and $400 dollars in cash!

Risk and Probability in Division 4 MST

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By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Theo

In the last several weeks, Division 4 MST has been learning about risk and probability in their class with Josh. The aim of the unit is to educate them about the underlying risks in our everyday lives. They learned about methods of calculating and evaluating risks, along with methods of applying that math to the real world. The unit culminated in a paper on a topic discussing the potential risks and benefits of a given activity. The paper was interdisciplinary; they were required to do an ethical examination and an inquiry into the possible (or definite) health or environmental factors at play as well as a “hardnose cost/benefit analysis,” as Josh calls it. The students in class took this idea and ran with it. Although they all had a single prompt, they made wildly different papers, and their topics ranged from the likelihood of a housing bond failing to the effect President Trump’s proposed wall will have on the risk of violence from undocumented immigrants.

The students also learned that risk in everyday life is often overestimated by the media. Josh talked about the example of people being scared that major natural disasters will happen, even though the likelihood of the average person dying in a car accident is significantly larger. People are often frequently told that they should be scared of terrorists, even though, in the United States, you are more likely to die falling down the stairs.    

Reexamining Criminal Justice Reform: A Visit from Adam Foss

Conversations about the American criminal justice system are not new to many Meridian students. In the Division 3 American Historiography class, students read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, and students across courses regularly read authors such as Ta-Nehisi Coates and Angela Davis. These authors explore the racial disparities in the justice system, including the relatively recent skyrocketing of America’s prison population from about 150 per 100,000 in 1970 to 700 per 100,000 today, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.

While we often discuss the roles that activists, judges, police, and public defenders have in combatting these disparities, it was not until a recent visit from former Boston prosecutor Adam Foss that many students perceived the potent role that prosecutors can play as well. As Foss explains in his TED Talk, “prosecutors are the most powerful actors in the criminal justice system. Our power is virtually boundless. In most cases, not the judge, not the police, not the legislature, not the mayor, not the governor, not the President can tell us how to prosecute our cases.” In fact, as Foss explained during the morning he spent with us, criminal justice reform is not about reform at all, but rather about enforcing the laws already on the books and disincentivizing the competition between lawyers that is so commonplace in the courtroom. Currently, the courtroom places the defense attorney and the prosecutor at odds with each other (and shows such as Law & Order enculturate this idea in the public’s mind), but this is not inevitable. As Foss argues, if courtrooms radically alter the lives of the people who pass through them, why are lawyers encouraged to compete over the fates of others? Why can the process not be one based in reason, dignity, justice, and rehabilitation?

After challenging our community to think about these various issues, Foss spent another hour with the Division 4 Humanities. Currently, this class is studying systemic inequalities including education, criminal justice, labor and housing markets, and media representation.

During this conversation, Foss turned his focus toward local issues, emphasizing the ways in which students can make a difference in their own community. He asked “Do any of you know who Boston’s current D.A. is or what his policies are?” The room was silent. In his usual style, Foss saw an opportunity. “Well, he’s up for reelection in two years, when all of you will be able to vote. Learn his issues. Vote for what you believe in.”

In Division 4, Discovering Different Types of Teaching

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Isabel

Last month, the Division 4 Humanities classes visited several schools around Boston to examine different forms of learning. They observed a variety of classes to see choices that teachers make -- like what kinds of students they called on -- and they particularly focused on choices that seemed based on gender. The class has been learning about education this trimester, and the school visits were an opportunity to observe learning as an outsider, rather than an active student.

I interviewed Naomi, a Division 4 junior, about her experience. She visited the School Within a School at Brookline High, and observed classes including “African Literature” and “Writers of Color.” She noticed that students in these classes often called on each other, rather than relying on the teacher, and she also noticed a lot of conversations between the students. She also observed that in African Literature the boys were more comfortable talking than the girls; Naomi thinks this might have been because there was a male teacher. In Writers of Color, however, it was the opposite -- the girls were more comfortable talking.

Now, the students are creating projects in which they write marginalia around the notes they took during their school visits. This will show their thinking about the visit, along with the connections they made between their observations and authors they’ve read -- like bell hooks, Paolo Freire, and John Dewey -- throughout the class.

Naomi said the opportunity to do a school visit was amazing. Reflecting on the trip, she said, “Being able to observe different teaching styles gave me a chance to understand my own education in the context of others.”

Division 1 trip to the Boston Globe: A Unique Perspective into the Lives of Journalists

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Ibrahim

After studying journalism since the beginning of the school year, Division 1 took a trip to the biggest newspaper in the state of Massachusetts. Our chaperones were Catherine, Kenny, and Hilary. We left the school at 8:40am and walked to Stony Brook station. Then, we took two trains directly to The Boston Globe headquarters. The building looked huge from the outside. As we entered the building, I was immediately mesmerized by the marble structures and the newspapers that were hanging on the walls. They even had a copy of the Boston Globe’s first ever edition!

Soon after we arrived, we met our tour guide, Jasmine. She is a student at Northeastern studying journalism. After getting to know each other, we went to the main part of the Globe, the newsroom. There were computers, people, printers, and televisions everywhere. Everyone seemed to be writing, trying to meet a deadline. Then, Jasmine took us to the 10:00 am editorial meeting. The meeting took place in a small room with a U-shaped desk. There were chairs around the desk, and on the walls were shelves that had really old television sets on them. We all took seats around the desk and waited for the editors to arrive.

At about 10:00am, editors came pouring into the small office. They all sat around the table. There was a huge projector screen in the room. The meeting started when Chris Chinlund, the managing editor in charge of news, came into the room. First, Jason Tuohey, the Deputy Management Editor of Audience Management, showed BostonGlobe.com on the projector screen. He showed statistics like how many people were on the Globe site at that moment, which was about 8,000, and how long they stayed on each story.  

Then, the editors spoke. At the The Boston Globe, there are different sections that reporters are assigned to, including the Metro section, Business, and Living Arts. Chris called on each editor in charge of each beat and they give a quick summary of the stories that their journalists were working on.

Stories included topics like the oldest Catholic church in the city and new evidence in the Aaron Hernandez trial. After the stories were presented, Chris and the other editors debated about what story to publish the next day. After the while, the group broke up and went their separate ways. The thing that really struck me about the meeting was how different it seemed that I had originally thought. I thought that the editorial meeting would be a place where loud arguments would take place and people would compete to get their story on the front page.

After the meeting, Chris stayed back to take our questions. Chris has been at the Globe for 35 years, so she had a lot of perspective to share. She was asked about what qualities (like timeliness, importance, interest, and uniqueness) she especially valued when picking front page stories. She replied, “I like stores that surprise me and tell me something about myself or the world that I didn’t know.” She answered other questions that we had like, “How do you fact-check a breaking news story when you need to get it out to the public?” (she said it’s very difficult to fact check a story on a breaking news deadline) and “Does The Boston Globe use social media to communicate stories?” (Yes, they do).

After 45 minutes talking with Chris, we all returned to the newsroom. Jasmine told us about the Spotlight team, an investigative group of journalists who several years ago uncovered a huge scandal at a the Catholic Church in the city. As we were talking, Jasmine led us into the other side of the Boston Globe, and we were standing in what seemed like a balcony. Below us was a huge blue rug that spanned the entire room. Hanging from the walls were Pulitzer Prizes that had been awarded to the Globe or its reporters. There were, in total, 26 Pulitzer Prizes! They ranged from investigative, to public service, to photography.

After that, Jasmine took us to go see the printing presses, which are located in the basement of the building. Since the Globe has to print a lot of newspapers, the printing press is huge and spans three levels. The papers come in blocks that weigh 1,800 pounds, which is almost one ton! The Boston Globe also prints some papers for The New York TimesThe Boston Herald, and other newspapers. Sometimes these papers are small enough that they don’t have their own press, and sometimes they’re large, but want to use a press located closer to parts of their readership.

Throughout this trip, we learned a lot about The Boston Globe, how it works, and what it feels like to work for a major newspaper. When asked what impact this trip had on his understanding of journalism, 7th grader Rhys replied, “It was very eye opening, seeing journalists and editors working so hard and caring about what they put out into the world. This changed stereotypes that I had about being a journalist.”    

Adages with Animals: Division 3 Performs African Folktales

"Zomo the Rabbit" adapted and performed by Division 3 students

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Esme

Recently, the Division 3 Humanities class performed a selection of African folktales for the entire Meridian Community, along with visitors from Neighborhood School up the road. The students used a variety of masks and props to tell the stories. In many of the stories, the main characters were animals, as you can tell from the titles: “Frog and His Two Wives,” “The Wise Man and the Fool,” “The Cat’s Many Husbands,” “Zomo the Rabbit,” “The Man Who Could Transform Himself,” and “How the Stories Came to Earth.” Some of the stories had a moral, or would explain how something came to be. One of the morals was from “Zomo the Rabbit,” that you should know how to be brave, clever, and cautious. Another story that had a moral was “The Wise Man and the Fool,” which taught that even if people seem foolish, you do not know what they are capable of, and you should not treat them with less respect.


The students had about two weeks to prepare the performances. They had to write their own original scripts based on the folktales, and they also had to make all of the masks and props. Nadia, one of the students who performed as the title character in “Zomo the Rabbit,” said, “At first I was really nervous, but in the end it turned out to be really fun.”  

Despite Blizzard, Second Exhibitions Shines Following Delay

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Luca

If you ask our head of school, Josh, about the preparation for this Exhibitions, he will probably chuckle at the memory. Everyone was scurrying around and wondering: what will happen to this Exhibitions because of the blizzard? But it arrived last! After the delay due to snow, the long-anticipated Trimester II Exhibitions evening was a success.

The night opened with an equally hilarious and educational presentation of African folk tales by  Division 3. Then, guests moved into the school building to observe projects in each classroom.

For seniors, this was their final Exhibitions, and the 20th Exhibitions for some. In Humanities, they displayed outstanding projects about education, gender, and how they intersect on college campuses -- including issues like masculinity, sexual assault, and transgender rights.

Other students are just beginning their time at Meridian, and Exhibitions remains a new experience. When I asked Division I student Jesse Eliot how her second Exhibitions went, she said, it “was easier, and it wasn’t as stressful as the first Exhibitions.” As the new students get the hang of Exhibitions, their projects keep getting stronger. I’m sure we’ll see much more beautiful, strong work at final Exhibitions in the spring.

Spanish Novice: Mapping the School

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Phoebe

For the second trimester, Division 1 students in Spanish Novice have been going around the school and mapping out the classrooms.  They have been also learning Spanish vocabulary about the school, like la fuente de agua, which means water fountain.  The Spanish teacher for novice, Cristiana, has been helping and always asking questions to improve her students' vocabulary.  The goal behind this project is to create a map for people who do not know where to go in the school. This way, they'll have a guide and can navigate on their own. For this reason, students need to label everything on the map to make it easy for users.

The structure of the map has three different parts: the first floor (or the basement), the second floor, and the third floor.  The students then made the map by drawing, using a computer program, or using a picture of an object or room.  They then put this all together and took each other on a tour of the school for practice. Students Lila and Zayna say, "It was a fun and creative project, and it really helped us learn school vocabulary at the same time."