The value of PBL

In a world where knowledge is growing at a rapid pace, tomorrow’s leaders need to be experts at using available information rather than merely memorizing facts. The Expert Thinking Model teaches children to integrate skills, apply knowledge, and work in teams to solve real-world problems.


Dan Ohl, middle school math

“It drives the kids crazy,” says middle school teacher Dan Ohl with a wicked grin, when speaking of project-based learning (PBL). This longtime faculty member, who recently completed the Friends Council on Education’s two-year leadership development program, embraces PBL in his classroom. “PBL asks students to use classroom skills to solve real-world questions,” he explains. Students don’t receive an assignment; they design it. “At first, they want me to tell them what to do,” he laughs, “but before they know it, they find they like building the process, and they’re even prouder of the result.”

When it was time to introduce the Pythagorean Theorem, Dan withheld the well-known formula (a2+b2=c2), instead challenging students to discover it on their own.  They could use any resource, with one exception: a teacher could not ‘teach’ them.  Students raced to the Three Oaks Woodshop; others searched online woodworking forums. One phoned an uncle who worked construction and before long was explaining the time-tested carpenter’s ‘3-4-5’ rule to her peers. Using their new knowledge, students were soon creating right angles on the floor with lengths of wood.  The resulting discussion of Pythagorean primitive triples held deeper and more lasting understanding for each individual.

“With PBL, students stretch outside their comfort zone and wrestle with difficult questions with no clear answers,” Dan says. “I’m inspired by the skills and confidence they gain.”


The Sailing & Marine Education Center will provide a waterfront classroom for marine and maritime education, a home for the school’s championship sailing team, and consistent support for the MB TRIPs initiative.

With anchorage for Friendship (a 36’ Union Cutter sailboat donated to the school by Dean Woodman ’46) and a classroom suitable for biology, environmental science, and maritime history, art, and literature, this satellite facility will expand opportunities for transformational travel and exploration on Narragansett Bay.

Reflection by Henry Todesco-Perkins ’15


Henry Todesco-Perkins ’15, first mate on the Friendship, four-year sailing team member

“For two years I participated in the summer camp program on the S/V Friendship, Moses Brown’s 36’ Union Cutter. With Captain Casey Charkowick, I spent many hours maintaining the ship and helping to run the program. It was a great experience for me, and I think MB should have a long-term program – even expand its fleet.

This experience is unique and contributes to all students’ knowledge of the Bay. Kids from MB and other schools who sailed on the Friendship appreciated being able to learn about the Bay up close. It was a unique experience – one you could only find at MB.

As a marine biology student, I support any marine education program. It’s critical to understand the Bay, both historically and in its present condition, and to understand the ocean and ecology that makes up so much of our state. Narragansett Bay is a very important part of Rhode Island and has so much to do with the founding and history of MB itself. Students need to understand what the Bay provides.

MB’s sailing team helped me appreciate the Bay, and taking MB’s Marine Biology elective and working on the Friendship taught me so much, beyond science and sailing to life lessons about how to lead and when to follow. All of that put me on a path to Maine Maritime Academy and a life on the water.”

RI food industry “more than just a meal”

ChezInnovation-FarmFresh - 20.jpgBy Francess K., camper

My initial thoughts about the food industry were narrow in the sense that I only imagined selling food in a store or restaurant. Chez Innovation not only changed my idea, but gave me a greater sense of appreciation for the business. We first visited Hope and Main, in Warren Rhode Island, where we met small business owners and learned about the economies of scale of farmer’s markets. Even with the glamorous kitchens, catchy slogans, and superb products, what intrigued me the most was the story behind each company. I found that it was more valuable to hear the stories of the people who had initiated change because they identified an issue that was dear to them. For example, a woman whose son needed to lose weight decided to make very healthy cookies and still managed to make them taste delicious. As I walked from booth to booth, I found myself leaving each and every one of them with a sense of understanding and connection.

On day two of the camp we were fortunate enough to visit Baffoni’s Chicken Farm. I had expected a simple farm model. However, we were presented with a complex business model that depended heavily on the thorough maintenance of the products and the facilities being used.  Even though bringing the product to market isn’t automated, relying on the work of pluckers and butchers, Baffoni follows strict protocols for food safety. At Daniele we were able to see first hand the technology that produces the meat products. In contrast to the small operation at Baffoni, Daniele was a huge, automated plant run by people but also robots made by Ferrari.  It was an example of how American ingenuity continues to inspire confidence in the economy. Our next stop of the day was at Farm Fresh Rhode Island, where we were given a tour of the multifaceted non-profit organization that delivers fresh produce to citizens and gives small businesses an opportunity to showcase their products. Their business model is in fact quite similar to my group’s original pitch. With refinement we were able to use knowledge that we acquired in various business class sessions to develop an idea for an event planning service that promotes small businesses and makes cultural connections across Rhode Island. Chez Innovation has inspired me to think of the industry as “more than just a meal,” as Amos House articulates in their mission.

Learning the slow art of making ham

By Eboni S., camper

Until our visit to Daniele Inc., I never thought about how ham is made. I was surprised by how much salt was used and by the fact that they didn’t cook it in an oven. These raw pork hams came down a conveyor belt and butchers trimmed some of the fat off them. Then the hams went onto trays, where they sat for a few hours until they were salted. Robots moved the trays around the factory. The hams hung from racks and the salt leached water out of them. In the drying rooms, the temperature changes the way it would in nature as the climate changes with the seasons. (The factory does what cavemen would have done in pre-historic times.) The raw red color changed over the course of the year of drying. Some sort of fat was put on in the process to soften the muscle. There was no scent in the cooler rooms, but as the hams dried, you could smell the salty meat. Inspectors look at and feel the hams; if they are soft, they are not ready. Hams that are ready have no bacteria in them and are safe for eating because they have no water in them.

Chez Innovation is an overnight business-school-boot-camp focused on the food industry.

Chez Innovation campers learn about running a successful poultry farm

By Chase H., camper

The Innovators and I went to Baffoni’s Poultry Farm, where we received an insightful tour from Mr. Baffoni himself, who was very exemplary of the hard work and preparation that goes into owning and maintaining a successful business. For instance, as we explored what it is like to work with living animals in the food industry first hand (we were allowed to see and hold some of the young turkeys!), we began to realize that every little nuance affects the well-being of both the living animals and the final clean, fresh, healthy product that is sold to local people and companies. We learned that with such strict government regulations, it is essential for the Poultry Farm to adjust their system all the time and to be open to new ideas and improvements in order to continue to put out the best product possible, and maintain a certain level of success. Additionally, we learned that entrepreneurship can often be both stressful and rewarding—as a business person you have to put a lot of money in before you can even see your results, and get a hold of that net profit that your business might seek to obtain over time. From what Mr. Baffoni told us, you might go through ups and downs, but it is crucial to be determined, to stick with it, to focus on improvement, and to embrace new ideas and new means of making your business more successful.

Chez Innovation is an overnight business-school-boot-camp focused on the food industry.

A New Space for Young Learners

The Young Learners Center is a 13,000-square-foot expansion to MB’s lower school designed to support the way children learn in the 21st century. By clustering together the more ‘hands-on’ disciplines – science, art, music, library, and a children’s Innovation Lab (i-Lab) – the new wing will promote experiential learning, integrative thinking, and group collaboration.

With a totally reimagined entryway, the Young Learners Center will provide much-needed social connection space for families. And a new community gathering space will comfortably host lower school events, performances, and seasonal celebrations.


Jeff d’Entremont, Head of Lower School, teacher in the LS since 1997

“My dream for the lower school is that we create a place where children feel at home and love to be. We want to create a physical space that encourages our students to ask questions, be curious, and make discoveries.

I am excited about the possibility of open and interconnected areas for children to explore as they play to learn and learn to play.

When I think about expert thinking in the lower school, I love what we’re already doing, but to move forward it’s essential to bring science, art, and library back into the lower school building. Having our special-subject teachers in the same building as our classroom teams creates many more opportunities for collaboration and puts our experts on-site.

Some of the most meaningful times in lower school are when our community gathers together for special events such as holiday sings or classroom celebrations. A space that could accommodate everyone would enhance the feeling of community that we so value in the lower school.

The 21st-century thinking that MB is bringing into elementary education is helping to guide us as we ask ‘How can our physical space further our commitment to hands-on, collaborative, and interdisciplinary learning?’”

Setting the Stage

Located at the center of our 33-acre campus, this 34,000-square-foot multifunctional facility is designed to be the physical heart of Moses Brown. Sitting at the crossroads of all three divisions, it connects to a fully-renovated Walter Jones Library and will become the new social, artistic, intellectual, and spiritual hub of campus.

The Woodman Center can be quickly reconfigured for performances, meeting for worship, art and cultural exhibitions, and social functions – and with a lobby café, new classrooms, costume and scene shops, and professional-grade sound and lighting, it is poised to transform life at Moses Brown.

Chloe Johnston 2

Chloe Johnston ’95, performer, professor, writer, director

“Like a lot of little girls, I wanted to be an actress. I was in A Christmas Carol at Trinity Rep for years! At MB, I loved theater classes with Barry Marshall. But playwriting class changed things for me – suddenly we weren’t just interpreting a story, but creating the story. After MB, I headed to the University of Chicago – it seemed like a place for weird people, so it might be good for me. Young artists can take chances there. I started a company with my friends, and suddenly we were in American Theatre magazine. We had a good script, and people paid attention.

For me, it goes back to those early days in the Chicago ensemble scene, creating and performing tons of work every week. We didn’t choose between writing, performing, and directing. We did it all. Now that I teach acting, I sneak in a little devised work, encouraging students to make their own text, not to see themselves as ‘just’ actors. That mindset started in Barry’s classes at MB.

I also learned a lot from Tom Andrew. Jamie German made a huge impression on me: her honesty, her rigor, the way she lives her life…such an inspiration. In Jamie’s Seminar on Scientific Thought, we read texts that were so beautiful, they’re still with me now. Moses Brown also taught me that part of being a good teacher is simply listening to your students.”