Summer Learning for FCS Faculty

For many Friends’ Central teachers, summer is not simply a time to get some rest and prepare for the year ahead, it’s also a learning opportunity. Thanks to the Clayton Farraday Mastership, the Fannie Cox Hendrie Fund for Science and Math, and the initiative of the teachers themselves, this summer saw many FCS faculty members immersed in a wide range of independent educational activities that enriched their own intellectual lives and provided invaluable teaching and curricular tools that they bring directly back with them to their classrooms.

The Clayton Farraday Mastership is an endowed fund established in 1978 to honor Clayton Farraday ’32 and his lifelong dedication to Friends’ Central. The stipend program offers Friends’ Central teachers the opportunity to grow as educators and scholars during the summer months. The Fannie Cox Hendrie Fund for Science and Math is to be used across all divisions to enhance the Math and Science programs at Friends’ Central.

Listed below are just a few examples of the learning that took place this summer.

Middle School English teacher Laurel Burkbauer received a Farraday Mastership stipend to further develop the 7th grade curriculum as a whole, which included a thorough review of the literature selections. Laurel sought to explore whether the texts were vertically integrated and if they supported the analytical skills being taught in the literature program. She also looked at the books being taught and considered the balance of literature that would engage seventh graders with diverse taste in books while teaching them the skills they’ll need in 8th grade. Based on all of these factors, Laurel added Ender’s Game and March, to be paired with Brown Girl Dreaming, which she is reintroducing to the 7th grade’s reading list. 

Michele Zuckman directing a musical performance at the assembly celebrating the 2018 International Day of Peace

Middle and Upper School music teacher Michele Zuckman studied World Music Drumming this summer through the Farraday Mastership fund. Drawn from West African and Caribbean drumming traditions, World Music Drumming invites all students, regardless of their musical background, into the creative process. Four summers ago, she studied Circlesinging – a creative and improvisational technique that grows from a single musical idea, with each member listening and adding new elements – with musician Bobby McFerrin. She found World Music Drumming and Circlesinging were each a perfect philosophical and pedagogical fit for Friends’ Central.

Upper School history teacher Frank Fisher teaches “Creating Africa,” which addresses the transatlantic trade networks and the creation of an extensive transatlantic diaspora community. He traveled to England in the summer, visiting London, Liverpool, and Manchester. With a Farraday Mastership stipend, his aim was to add depth to his “current understanding (and teaching) about the sugar trade, the slave trade, industrialization, abolition and the growth of the black population in Britain over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries.” Spending a great deal of time exploring local libraries and other resources, his understanding was enriched even as more questions were generated by his research.  

John Gruber (right)
and Derin Caglar ’16

Upper School science teacher John Gruber spent 10 days in the field on his summer stipend research expedition to the Gila National Forest in New Mexico and the Coronado National Forest in the Huachuca Mountains in southeastern Arizona. Working on unnamed species of day flying moths while also studying plant-insect relationships, he described the experience as “very successful.” For the second half of the trip, he paired up with FCS alum Derin Caglar ’16, who flew out to join him for four days of collecting and studying in the mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona.

Sonia Chin at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, photo courtesy of the Current Exchange Blog of CSHL Meetings & Courses

Upper School science teacher Sonia Chin described her course, Frontiers and Techniques in Plant Science, which took place this summer at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, as “summer camp for scientists.” A PhD-trained scientist with expertise in animal biology, Sonia saw this course as a chance to revisit and explore plant biology with internationally renowned experts. Funded by the Fannie Cox Hendrie Fund, Sonia’s reimmersion into the world of research science was intellectually exciting. It also widened her circle of colleagues, which, by extension, will bring new expertise into FCS classrooms. 

In the summer, led by the Math Department and supported by the Fannie Cox Hendrie fund, a group of nine faculty members in all three divisions participated in a professional development course on teaching coding. The Math Department, in an initiative that began a few years ago, found that one area of need, due to the growing interest in the topic, was coding. The group, which included Bill Darling, Greg Klein, Linda Quinlan, Rebecca Benjamin, Julie Plunkett, Anna Schall, Padraig Barry, Brie Daley, and Sue Borrero, took a course via CodeHS introducing the coding language Python, with the hopes of incorporating coding into the curriculum in various ways within the next few years. One exciting initiative that has already grown out of the coding summer course is “Girls Who Code,” a brand new Upper School Club, connected to the national organization of the same name, which introduces underrepresented genders to STEM fields. Over 30 students have signed up for and are participating in the Club, which hopes to connect with women working in the STEM and coding fields. 

This summer, Upper School teachers Michael Darfler and Anna Schall participated in a cutting-edge summer learning opportunity called REThink. A National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded program that provides research experience for teachers at various universities across the US, the REThink program took place at Drexel University’s College of Computing and Informatics (CCI) and focused on “Machine Learning to Enhance Human-Centered Computing.”

Anna and Michael worked with William Mongan in the Drexel Wireless System’s Lab, looking at using knit Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) antennas in smart garments called Belly Bands to measure respiration in infants, particularly premature infants, and perinatal women. Both Michael and Anna will be incorporating elements of this project into their classes – Michael with his second semester computer science class, and Anna with her physics class.

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