Field trip

Mass Media of the Past: Division I Prints Letterpress Posters

By 7th grader Ezra

On October 19, Division I traveled to Union Press in Somerville to learn about letterpress printing. The theme of our Humanities class this year is Media & Journalism, and we’ve been exploring those topics from many angles. Throughout the first trimester, we’ve been studying labor in the 1840s, and we’ve looked at how mill girls in Lowell used the media to support their fight for better labor conditions. Letterpresses were a primary tool for mass media in the 1840s, so this felt like a perfect place to go at the end of our unit.

Our main project at the studio at the studio was to make posters for our class debate about the Lowell Mills, which centered on the question: Were the mills ultimately an opportunity or a dead end for the girls who worked there? We were split into teams to gather evidence for one side or the other.

When we first entered the small room, Union Press owner Eli Epstein greeted us. We immediately saw the text our teams had created and the linoleum cuts made from the illustrations that each team’s designer had drawn. We then got a run-down of what we were going to do and jumped into it. We began arranging wood and metal letters, slightly confused by having to position them backwards so the final print would come out forwards. We added spaces and put them into special holders. When we were done, we transferred everything to the printing press and printed the two different posters. Both had errors, which Eli said was just part of the letterpress process – one of us had put an “n” where there was meant to be a “u” – and we each got a print of our team’s poster. In the end, we returned feeling satisfied to have real letterpress prints that we’d designed ourselves.


You Think School is Hard Work?

By 10th grader Eric

On Wednesday, October 10, the Division 3 students went on a field trip to Lowell Mills in Lowell, Massachusetts. As part of the Industrial Revolution unit, students learn about how 19th century factories worked, and what life was like for the workers both before and during the revolution. My experience going to Lowell Mills was very different from what I had expected. I had expected to walk through museum galleries for hours, looking at photographs, documents, and scaled-down models. The experience was much more than just a museum. For the first part of the day, we experienced the “Workers on a Line” program. This program was designed to simulate a 19th century factory. We dressed up in aprons and clocked in. Each of us was assigned a position on an assembly line, making “tea towels.” It was very difficult and stressful work, containing faulty machinery, low pay (we were paid in “Boott Bucks,” named after mill owner Kirk Boott), and a very strict boss! In the end, we formed a union and negotiated better working conditions. I am a strong believer that the best learning comes from experience, and the simulation certainly supplied that.

After having lunch, we walked through a museum for about 15 minutes. The museum was nothing like I was expecting. There were full-scale machines that had been in industrial factories, as well as plenty of hands-on activities, so visitors could try their hand at the type of work that was done in the factories. One of the final parts was what really did it for me. Before we left, we passed through a functional factory floor. The first thing that hit me was the noise. There were about a hundred machines in the room, and there were only about 15 running, but it sounded to me like all 100 were running! I can’t imagine what the sound must have been like when the factory was fully operational. What also fascinated me was the complexity of the machines. Each machine was a huge mass of belts, gears, and metal. Although the machinery was entirely automated, just seeing the machines made me imagine what it would be like working there, with constant noise, cramped workspaces, and dangerous complex machines. Overall, the experience of being at the mills helped me gain insight about workers during the industrial revolution, much more so than learning about the same concepts from a textbook or in a quiet classroom. Lowell is something you have to see – and hear – to believe.  

Secchi Discs and Plankton Tows: Division II Goes to Woods Hole

By 8th grade student Anna

On October 19, students in Division 2 got into a van and drove to Woods Hole in southern Massachusetts. Our teacher Tasha told the class we had to arrive at school at 7:45am in order to get to Woods Hole on time to accomplish everything we wanted. It was an early – and chilly – morning for all of us!

The first thing we did when we got there was go to the Zephyr Education Foundation, which was housed in a little building on the water, near the docks of Vineyard Sound. There, we met the host who would lead us around, and he told us about rules and expectations for our time at Woods Hole.

Then we stepped onto a large fishing boat, where we met the captain and the first mate before heading off. After going at full speed for about 10 minutes, we slowed down and cast off our first experiment. One of the first things that was deployed off the side of the boat was a machine with a camera that would be dragged along the sea bottom. The point of this was to see what the ocean floor looked like in that area and to examine different ecosystems. There was a TV inside the boat where we could see what the camera was seeing. First we saw lots and lots of seaweed, and then all of a sudden the camera went dark. The first mate and our host pulled up the camera, and it was completely covered in seaweed! They pulled it all off, and we went a little further. After going for a little more time, we hit huge waves (3 - 4 feet tall!), we slowed down and put the camera machine back in. We dragged it on the ocean floor a little longer but this time we could see that there were muscles and clams littering the entire floor.  

After we discussed the difference between two ecosystems, we decided to put a new device in the water: a net that would collect sea creatures. Some of the sea creatures we caught were huge sea stars and sea urchins. After being able to touch and look at the creatures, we threw them back into the water.

A little while later, we put in another device called a Secchi Disc. It looks like a black and white cookie, but split into 4 triangles, 2 black and 2 white. Connected to this was a long rope. The object of this is to figure out how far we could see into the ocean. We would uncoil the rope and drop the Secchi Disc into the ocean, slowly letting it fall until we couldn’t see it anymore. On the rope there were markings with numbers, and the numbers measured how far you could see down. My group’s Secchi Disc went all the way down until the tape showed the number 8 ft. This meant that light from the sun reaches 16 ft down into the water.

The last thing we deployed off the side of the boat was called a Plankton Tow. It was a long net, and at the bottom there was a tall cup. The plankton would go through the net into the cup and were caught there. We caught zooplankton, phytoplankton, and even some Comb Jellies!

After examining the plankton, we put them back into the ocean and made our way back to the dock. After leaving the boat, we went to a building with a lot of ocean touch tanks that held lots of different types of animals, including sea urchins, lobsters, horseshoe crabs, sea stars and moon snails. Then we went to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Exhibit Center where we got to see several exhibits, including one about the Titanic and how the scientists from Woods Hole were the ones to find it.

When we were done at the museum, we made our way back to the Zephyr Education Foundation building to have lunch. The Foundation had 3D augmented reality sandboxes. We got to experiment with the sand boxes for a little while and make all sorts of shapes and land features.

When we were done with that, it was time to go. We said goodbye and thank you to our host, got back into the van, and drove back to Meridian. All in all, even on a chilly day, this field trip was fun and adventurous!

Division I Humanities: Weaving together layers of New England labor history

By 6th grader Ezra K.

In late September, during their field trips to Sturbridge Village and the Lowell Mills, Division I Humanities students asked questions and learned about labor in the 1840’s. To start off our unit, we read a historical fiction book called Lyddie, by Katherine Paterson. The story follows a young woman on her journey from the Vermont farm where she grew up to the Lowell Mills where she finds both challenges and opportunities. After we finished the book, we each choose a character we’d like to “interview” about their lives. We were divided into pairs and developed a series of questions for our characters, all the while anticipating our visits to Sturbridge Village and Lowell.

Our visit to Sturbridge Village began with a hands-on workshop on printmaking. Where we learned how to write with a quill and ink, and had the opportunity to create marbled paper. In addition, we each printed a picture at the printing press. After this, we started to explore Sturbridge Village. The students split into two groups depending on what kinds of information they hoped to find. My group was creating an interview with Diana Goss, a fictional worker activist in the mills. In our conversations with people at Sturbridge Village, we learned about why girls would leave the farms to work in the mills and their limited rights during this time period. It was instructive to roam from building to building, meeting the actors representing different people from the time period. Some of the more memorable buildings were the tavern, the law office, the print shop, the tin shop, the Quaker Meeting House, and the farm. I really enjoyed visiting Sturbridge Village and learning so much about the 1800’s in a fun and interactive way!

The following week, we visited the Lowell Mills to continue learning about labor in this time period. First, our guide brought us to an interactive mill room, where we experienced a range of jobs, along with worker responsibilities and mill conditions. We discussed the consequences of pay cuts and lack of representation, and finally the workers organized a strike. Next, we learned about child labor all around the world. It was shocking and disappointing to learn that child labor persists today. Next, we went to the weaving room where we heard and saw real powered looms in action. Then, we visited a boarding house where mill girls would have stayed at, and we answered a few more question there. Finally, we went downstairs in the boarding house and met two awesome park rangers who gave us time to ask any remaining questions. I had a fascinating time at Lowell, I learned many things about child labor, mill life, and strikes.

Overall, these two field trips where a productive start to our year and helped us learn how to report on people, ask good questions, and find out about daily life in the 1840’s. These intriguing field trips to Sturbridge Village and Lowell National Park have left their mark. History can be transmitted in many ways, and these field trips were exceptional experiences!

Je me souviens...notre séjour à Québec

By 10th grade student Ally and class of 2017 alumnus Twyla

Ally:

When I woke up the morning of the Québec trip, I had very little time for anything except a snack and saying goodbye to my dog. I was half-asleep until I got to Meridian, which is when I saw some other students outside, piling stuff into the surprisingly small trunk of the eight person van I would spend far too much time in. Of course, Leisa, one of the teachers coming with us on the trip, gets the passenger seat next to Sonja, our French teacher, leaving the back seat and the “basically it’s the trunk” seats to the students. After a relatively short and tired debate, Theo and I are seated in the far back, with Luke and Clary in front of us.

The trip was long, but enjoyable. Starting off with discussions about what will happen in Québec, dumb coloring games on my phone, and a word game called “Contact,” we left the area and made our way to our first stop: a coffee shop. Sonja, as we all realized on this trip, cannot survive more than three hours without it.

Things were smooth until we get to border patrol, where a man horribly mispronounces as many names as he can while eyeing the six half-asleep students in the back of the van. Unlike other trips, though, we got through without any trouble.

This led us to our next stop, a Tim Hortons, where we would speak the first French to fluent French speakers of the trip. It was simple -- order food -- but apparently everyone forgot we were in Canada, and no one got their Canadian money from their bag. A good start.

Now, other than the GPS telling us to drive into a couple of rivers, we made it to the Airbnb we would call home. It was much smaller than advertised, and does not comfortably fit the amount of people it claimed. In fact, there were six beds, and seven people. We made the best out of the situation by creating a pillow bed in a small hallway, which I ended up staying in.

Once we’d recuperated from the eight-hour journey, we drove to Old Québec and enjoyed an amazing meal at a crêpe place that I now crave every day. After, we stopped by a supermarket to grab things for our breakfast. This, of course, did not go so well, considering the recipe required ingredients we’ve never heard of in English, let alone French (thanks, Clary).

In the morning we attempted to cook quiche with the ingredients from the night before, but the severe lack of ventilation was a bit of a setback. In the end it turned out well, and we left the house with full stomachs.

Sonja was very insistent we check out the train station, as it apparently had beautiful architecture and history, so we went along with it. Arriving there ready to see the beauty it held, we were surprised by something -- someone -- else. Twyla, alumnus, class 0f 2017, and a previous French student, was waiting for us to get there.

Twyla:

Surprising the group of Meridianites was amazing! It had been incredibly fortunate that the Quebec trip had coincided with my reading week, because it allowed me to share in some really great experiences with the group. After a lunch of pastries and coffee, we got to visit one of my favorite museums of all time: La musée de la civilisation (Museum of Civilization)! No two trips there have been the same for me, as the museum rotates their exhibits impressively frequently, and what was a gallery of mythology-themed ancient Egyptian artifacts two years ago was now a crazy, funky collection of bizarre objects representing humanity’s progress through time -- or at least, that was my takeaway. The exhibit on brains and cerebral function and development was also quite engaging; the whole group spent a lot of time on an interactive piece that showed how touching a plate of alternating warm and cool bars could trick your brain into thinking it was being burned.

Later that afternoon, we visited the classic sightseeing stop: the Funicular! The rides on the old, cable supported elevator overlooking the river (fleuve!) were breathtaking for some and scary for others. The next classic we visited was the Chateau Frontenac, which was as stunning as always. Every time I see it, it refreshes my goal of staying in a room there one day. And that evening: the Remparts game! I’m generally not one for watching sports games, but live hockey is always a blast. Especially in Canada. Between the front row seats, the Timbits half-time game (in which numerous very small children held a very exciting demo match of their own), and the fantastic last names (one player’s jersey boasted the French term for ‘the raspberry’), it was an awesome night.

The next day, we packed everything up, got breakfast, and then visited the oldest market in North America, Épicerie J.A. Moisan. There, we bought cool gifts and souvenirs for people back home (and snacks for ourselves, of course). And at that point, I had to leave to catch a flight home, so I said my goodbyes, entrusted a jar of jam I had just purchased to Sonja to drive across the border, and got into my Uber.

Ally:

After Twyla left, the next stop was a restaurant that students are taken to every Québec trip: Frites Alors. This small restaurant was packed full of the most amazing fries I’ve ever had. Along with this, they made burgers, grilled cheese, and sandwiches, but the main events were the fries and their homemade dipping sauces. These sauces came in many different flavors, and all of us loved them. By the end, Luke and I were basically asleep because of the food, and, according to him, he will never feel full again unless he eats at Frites Alors.

Once we arrived back at the van, we made our way home, saying goodbye to Québec. The trip was less energized but still amusing. I spent the whole ride playing Plants vs Zombies and occasionally chiming in to conversations. We arrived home around eleven, thus ending the journey.

Experiencing the East at the Peabody Essex

By 11th grader Izzy

The students of Division 4 were shocked earlier this month when they sat down at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem to watch a video of what seemed to be a lovely wedding: a joining together of two wonderful families, a time of joy and laughter. The video quickly turned into something very unfamiliar. This present-day Chinese wedding, a decision made solely by the groom’s father, was a day mourning for the bride’s family; full of sadness and loss.  

The wedding video was certainly not the only powerful, thought-provoking exhibit we had the privilege of seeing. Earlier in the day, students spent some time in a typical, 1840’s American house, commenting on the architectural elements that made it stand out as one of wealth. Students were then immersed in Chinese home life, an experience that fell just short of actually visiting the country, by touring the Yin Yu Tang house brought over and reconstructed at the museum. There were many obvious differences between the two houses; the lack of flashy wallpaper and decorations in the Chinese house stood out. The students debriefed their visit the next day, talking about the differences and similarities between the two houses and what each conveyed about that culture. What did the small rooms and large common areas of the Yin Yu Tang house tell us about Chinese values as compared with the larger individual rooms in the colonial home? After spending an entire trimester learning about differences in worldview between the East and the West, Confuician filial piety, and major historical events in China, the museum visit served as a way to experience these topics in a more hands-on way.

After a morning full of discussion on architecture and culture, students visited additional Chinese art exhibits, full of incredibly detailed pieces. These pieces ranged from a fragile, ornately detailed, carved ivory fan, to paintings done by Chinese artists imitating early 19th century American painting styles, to vibrantly colorful and, again, incredibly detailed porcelain vases.

Afterwards, the day took a slight detour and Jon, Division 4’s calculus and physics teacher, got to feel right at home in an interactive exhibit on dimensions. Aside from a slight headache, the exhibit gave students a very fun, interactive introduction to the daunting world of physics.

Sharks, Seals, and M&Ms: Division II MST Explores Woods Hole

By MST teacher Tasha Greenwood

On Friday Oct 20th, students from Division 2 Math, Science, and Technology class took a field trip to Woods Hole on Cape Cod. This tiny town in Falmouth is most famous for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), one of the premiere marine research organizations in the world. We spent the day with an organization called Zephyr Marine Education, which focuses on bringing the experience of marine research and exploration to students from around the state.

We began the day with a two-hour “research cruise” with Zephyr staff, deploying instruments and collecting data in the same fashion as a professional marine science expedition. We deployed a mooring with a data logger to look at depth versus temperature and pressure. The mooring was eventually recovered via an acoustic signal, much like the types of sonar we have been studying in class. We towed a camera to check out the eel grass and sargassum habitats, and a dredge to collect creatures. The highlights from the dredge included a horseshoe crab, sea stars, hermit crabs, spider crabs,  and multitudes of purple urchins. We also towed a plankton net, and examined light attenuation through the water column with a fun experiment featuring M&Ms! Perhaps the most exciting wildlife encounter, though, was the group of seals hanging out on the rocks at low tide.

We ate lunch in the town of Woods Hole, and then made our way back to Zephyr to play with augmented reality sandboxes, upon which is a projection of topography that shifts based on your movement of the sand. You can add rainwater to fill lakes and oceans and create waves.

Our day ended with a tour of the WHOI Exhibit Center. One of the most exciting parts of the museum is an AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle), which was designated to record video of sharks in their natural habitat. However, the sharks ended up biting the AUV and there is footage of the entire encounter! Visitors can touch the actual AUV which is on display. There was also a replica of the deep-sea submersible research unit Alvin. We tried to fit all of Div 2 into Alvin but – even though we’re a small group – there wasn’t quite enough space in the tiny unit.

Back in the classroom, we analyzed data from various deployments and connected this information to what we have been studying in oceanography. As our learning progresses, these applications of marine research will be put to use in other projects, and culminate in the building of Sea Perches at the end of the year.

Using History to Define Us

By Humanities teacher Nathan Sokol-Margolis

In 1707, Reverend John Williams, the minister of Deerfield, MA published his narrative The Redeemed Captive. This text, which relates the story of Williams’s and his family’s capture by Mohawks and the French during the Deerfield Raid of 1704, became a classic of early American literature and was key in perpetuating a two-dimensional perception of the conflict between Indian and English, between “savage” and “civilized.” For our Division II Humanities class, Constitution Nation, this moment in history is a case study for how individuals use stories to help them organize and coalesce into groups.

This past week, after studying 17th century Deerfield (previously know as Pocumtuck), students traveled there and spent the night in the “Old Indian House,” a replica of John Sheldon’s house, which was one of the few homes to survive the raid of 1704.

Starting off at the summit of Wequamps, renamed by the English to Sugarbush, students looked out over the Connecticut River Valley and discussed why the land was contested by so many groups. They listened to the ancient story of the Amiskwôlowôkoiak (the People of the Beaver-tail Hill) and heard of a people that settled the land at least 10,000 years ago. From there, they met with David Brule, a local who helped the Nolumbeka Project gain protection for Wissatinnewag, an Indian village. Wissatinnewag is the Algonquin word for “shining hill.” It is a holy site that had been inhabited for thousands of years, and it is the site where, in the aftermath of King Philip’s War in 1676, hundreds of non-combatants were killed by colonial militia led by William Turned. This event is one of the key moments that led to the Native population raiding Deerfield in 1704.

After speaking with Brule, students went to the “Old Indian House,” changed into colonial garb, and lived a colonial life for 16 hours. Working together, the students did chores such as shelling beans and carding cotton. They cooked dinner in a walk-in fireplace, and they told stories about the raid late into the night. The next morning, students made breakfast together and played traditional colonial games. They also got to experience multiple first-person narratives from the perspective of raid survivors. After breakfast and clean-up, students changed back into their 21st century garb and went to the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Museum, where they saw the original Sheldon Door that the raiders hacked at to get at the English colonists. They examined the language used then to talk about that moment in history (the Deerfield Massacre), versus the language used now (the Deerfield Raid), and discussed the power of perspective in giving meaning to a group of people.

Now that students are back in the classroom, they are doing primary source research on the many groups in New England during the 18th century. Once this research is finished, students will craft narratives to share with others in an effort to explore how we take the past and manipulate it to explain our present. Stay tuned for updates on the project!

Division 2 Amends the Constitution

A guest post by 8th grader Marty.

On Tuesday, November 24, I, along with the rest of Division 2, embarked on a field trip to Boston's South Station. The objective of the trip was to collect information for an essay that we are writing in our Humanities class, where we're learning about the Constitution and trying to interpret its text. After reading the Constitution, we each chose a specific part of the document that we wanted to amend. I chose the second section in the first article of the Constitution, which outlines the requirements to become a State Representative. 

Currently, the minimum age to become a State Representative is 25. To become a Senator, however, one must be 35. I thought this was unfair, and that the age should be the same for both Senators and State Reps. Age shouldn't dictate responsibility! While we were at South Station, we interviewed station patrons about their opinions regarding our proposed amendments and changes. We talked to a variety of people, all of whom had different opinions on our proposed amendments. Although we were occasionally frustrated -- not everyone wanted to talk to us in the middle of their work day -- in the end, most of us talked to six or seven different people. I was lucky enough to talk to eight. 

Because I wanted to examine different age requirements in government, one of the questions I asked was, "Do you trust 35 year olds more than 25 year olds?" All of the patrons I talked to unanimously agreed on their answer, and thought that age didn't truly dictate a person's responsibility level. It was fascinating to talk to different people and learn their thoughts and views. I gained many insights on how people understand and value the Constitution -- or not! 

Español con la comunidad

A guest post by Español teacher Abigail Carle

This year, Meridian’s Spanish classes are working to establish connections with the local Spanish-speaking community. These connections not only provide our students with valuable service opportunities, but also the chance to apply and solidify their language skills with native Spanish speakers. Last Thursday, sixteen middle school Spanish students and their teachers walked from Meridian to the Nate Smith House, a local residence for the elderly. For one hour, students played games and conversed with eight residents, all of whom were born in Spanish-speaking countries in the Caribbean and Central America. Over the course of the school year, students will visit the Nate Smith House twice a month, each time deepening their relationship with the residents and, simultaneously, their language skills. Through structured activities and guided projects, students will interview residents about their country of origin, their families, their traditions, and their life experience. By the end of the school year, students will generate a book of stories, recipes, songs, games, and more to share with both the Nate Smith and Meridian communities. After their first visit last week, students had many positive things to say about the experience. Seventh grader Jack said, “It was really cool to be able to talk to people outside of school in Spanish.” His classmate Isabel agreed, adding, “It’s important that we go in order to learn about other people’s lives and cultures. I learned about food from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Now I want to travel there!”