The allure of the marketplace: microeconomics simulation

As a final project for Oliver Khamky’s Microeconomics class first semester, students formed companies by pairing up, selecting a name, and designing their own logos. The eight companies competed with each other for thirteen rounds in six different industries: Rubik’s Cubes, Frisbees, Magazines, Paper Airplanes, Inspirational Posters, and Frozen Yogurt.

Using the microeconomic analysis skills they learned, students decided which markets their company should enter. They competed with the seven other student-run companies on the basis of price and output in each round. “Several rounds introduced breaking world news,” Oliver said. “Students were forced, on the fly, to determine which markets would be affected and adjust their output and pricing accordingly. A number of companies attempted to collude on price but found the temptation of undercutting too alluring.”

The brains behind Breamer Partners:  Margot Creamer and Danielle Bibeault.

The brains behind Breamer Partners, LLC: Margot C. and Danielle B.

Margot C. ’14 and Danielle B. ’15 of Breamer Partners, LLC earned the most money. They shared: “Diversification was key in our success. Early on in the simulation, we entered all industries where we could make a profit, and this gave us enormous combined profits. This allowed us to make a substantial amount of money without taking too many risks. We priced conservatively to ensure that our products were all sold, while still pricing high enough that we maximized profit. We also worked alongside other teams to ensure that our prices wouldn’t be undercut, although along the way we accidentally undercut some other teams, as well!”

Nate S. ’15 and Olivia M. ’15 of Team Too were the runners-up. “They relentlessly undercut the others in the Inspirational Posters industry until they had a monopoly,” Oliver said.


An MB Scholarship Story: Rufus Jones

Image          Last spring, our friends at Haverford College in Pennsylvania celebrated the 150th birthday of Rufus Jones, the highly influential American Quaker (1863-1948). Jones hailed from South China, Maine, and came to Moses Brown in 1879. His autobiography, Small Town Boy, written in 1941, includes a passage about his going to “Providence Friends School.” Rufus’ father was a farmer and did not have enough money to pay his son’s tuition, so Rufus applied for a scholarship and got it. He later went on to become a professor at Haverford.
           Rufus taught philosophy at Haverford and helped bring together two divisions of American Quakerism. Often described as a Quaker mystic, he was able to reconcile science and modern, liberal thinking with his Quakerism.
          Rufus was born to an old Quaker family. His uncle and aunt, Eli and Sybil Jones, established Friends Schools in Lebanon (then part of Syria) and Palestine. He went on to obtain an MA from Harvard, then returned to Haverford as a professor of psychology and philosophy.
          From the writings of the early Quakers, Jones crystallized the concept of the ‘inner light,” an idea central to modern liberal Quakerism. Rufus’ beliefs were always strongly coupled with a sense of responsibility towards the world at large.
          In 1917, when the U.S. entered the First World War, Rufus and Henry Cadbury established the American Friends Service Committee, to provide ways for young conscientious objectors to serve without joining the military. They set up courses for COs, training them to work with groups like the Friends Ambulance Unit in Europe. At the end of the war, Rufus steered the AFSC towards relief work and was instrumental in organizing the Quäkerspeisung, the large-scale feeding effort that saved millions in Germany from starvation.
          In 1927, Rufus traveled to Asia where he met Gandhi and visited the birthplace of the Buddha. Shortly after, he addressed the World Missionary Conference in Jerusalem, calling on them to be open to positive influences from other world religions, “gladly recognizing the good they contain.”
          Following the attacks on Jews on Kristallnacht in 1938, he went to Germany with two other Quakers and met with Reinhard Heydrich, later one of the architects of Hitler’s ‘Final Solution,’ to plead for better treatment for the Jews. Rufus believed that it was in part Heydrich’s awareness of their work with the Quäkerspeisung that led to their appeal being heard politely. “The promise made to us was kept,” he wrote after the war, “and the door was opened for the extensive relief which followed our visit, including the emigration of many Jews.”
          In 1947, Rufus represented the AFSC in Stockholm when the Quakers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
          Considering all of Rufus Jones’ accomplishments, we’d say his scholarship was money well spent.
          Thanks to George Chappell, MB ’55, for inspiration for this article. A member of a Friends Meeting in Maine, George read Small Town Boy as part of a recent study group. 

Cakes, clocks, dollars, and denominators

by Elizabeth Grumbach, fourth gradeGrumbachsmartboard_700

I sometimes wonder what the occasional adult visitor thinks when they walk into one of our lower school math classes. We had two nautical flags on the whiteboard and the class had to figure out what fraction of the two flags was red. Basically, the problem was to solve 1/5 + ½ =?  If you’re a grown-up who was paying attention in math class, seeing this math sentence is probably causing flashbacks like “least common multiple” or “common denominators.” So if you were sitting today with my 4th graders, you might have been surprised to watch the first volunteer go up to the whiteboard and start talking about money.

“Well, I know that 1/5 of a dollar is 20¢. And ½ of a dollar is 50¢. When I add those together that’s 70¢. Another way to say 70¢ is 70/100. So the answer is 70/100  or 7/10.” His classmates following his thinking nod in agreement and the next volunteer gets up to share a second strategy in another section of the whiteboard. She decides that creating a ‘cake’ made up of 1/10th will work. She knows that ½ of the cake would be 5/10ths, so she colors that in on her cake. She says, “I know that two tenths make up 1/5, so I’m going to color in 2/10 on my cake.” She’s left with 7/10 of her cake colored in and tells us that she agrees with Christian, that the answer is 7/10.

If that wasn’t good enough, there are lots more hands going up asking to share yet another strategy. Zoë is called on and she decides that using the model of a 60 minute clock face will work to find the answer. “Well, I know that on a clock, ½ of the clock face is from the 12 to the 6 (she colors that section of her clock face in.)” She looks at her work and you can tell that she’s trying to figure out how to color in 1/5 on the clock. To make a long story short, after some discussion with her classmates, they decide that 1/5 of the clock face is 12 minutes. So Zoë colors in another 12 minutes. She turns to her audience and says, “So the answer to this problem is 42 minutes on the clock face, or 42/60th.”

Fifteen minutes later we have a really messy whiteboard. It’s not like any chalkboard in any of my childhood classrooms. But it’s filled with examples of great problem-solving and critical thinking. Every step of each strategy was one that a student took toward understanding what they were doing and why.

So much for least common multiples.

Take It From Pete Seeger

Moses Brown School was sad to learn of the passing of songwriter and folk music legend Pete Seeger. His music inspired many of us, students and faculty/staff alike. Longtime faculty member Mary Pollart, lower school music, shared an amazing MB memory this morning:

seeger + mbOn Saturday, April 27, 2002, MB’s lower school chorus sang with Pete Seeger at a HEALING AND ACTION AFTER SEPTEMBER 11 – PATHS TO PEACE, JUSTICE AND SECURITY conference at Rhode Island College. Past trustee/parent Debbie Block (wife of Bill, mother of Noah and Dylan) was an organizer for the concert event, a benefit for the newly reopened American Friends Service Committee office. Paul Lindenmaier was the head of lower school at that time.

Seeger wrote a special song for this event, “Take It From Dr. King”, which Moses Brown visualstudents, along with the MLK Elementary School chorus, sang at the conference. Seeger wrote the song as a challenge to people to choose peace over violence. He hoped young people would teach it to grown-ups and that it would be sung on Martin Luther King Day. Later, the song became an anti-Iraq War anthem and was a song Seeger performed leading up to the 2008 presidential election.

Before the event, Seeger met with the two student choruses to talk about the history of his peace journey and especially about his interaction with MLK and other peacemakers and protesters. “This was an exciting and powerful meeting!” Mary recalls. “The children and the other chorus director and I were absolutely mesmerized by his stories.”

letterMary was joined that day by former faculty member John Quinn, her chorus helper at the time. In the years since, they have spoken often about this shared experience. Mary even emailed John today at Cambridge Friends in Boston (where he now teaches kindergarten) to reminisce about their visit with the musical icon. “It was an amazing experience!” says Mary.

Shown here are Seeger’s notes about the song he wrote for the MB and MLK students, along with the music, as well as a letter from Seeger to Debbie Block in his own handwriting.

Thanks to Mary Pollart for saving this incredible piece of history and sharing it with our community today. peace

Unique ingredients make dynamic campus art

by Kristin Street

Last year I was lucky enough to receive Parents’ Association support for a number of projects designed by students to add a bit of art and color to our campus. The Zip Tie project and Wooden Towers projects have just about reached completion.

The Wooden Towers used recycled scraps from Randy’s middle school shop bowl projects and repurposed the pieces to create these towers. They were painted and assembled by members of last spring and this fall’s Studio Art classes. The maintenance department generously installed them, creating a berm to make grass cutting and upkeep within reason. The five towers grace the far end of the Community Garden, right near the Hope Street entry

Our second project used zip ties…lots and lots of zip ties. The Studio Art class broke into teams and designed several installations, each with a different approach and feel. There are four separate installations or projects.

1st) Blue, white and black “ruff’s” surround the bottom supports of the stone benches between Friends Hall and the rear entrance to Alumni Hall.

2nd) Orange, blue, black and white Zips adorn the railing and three newel posts in the stairway (4th floor landing) of the stair tower by Alumni Hall.

3rd) A hanging sculpture hangs in the front entrance stairwell in the Main Building. It starts and the top of the stairs on the 4th floor and hangs within the stairway.

4th) A series of seven Zip Tie birdhouses were created and will be hung around campus (once the weather improves).

Students had a great time working through the design logistics, figuring out where their pieces would end up and creating the work with such novel materials. Many thanks for all your support for these projects.

Odysseus as war veteran

At MB’s all-school Meeting for Worship in December, students guided us with the query: Odysseus460_1702374cWhat are the gifts within us that we can share with others? What are the non-material gifts we give to each other every day? Several students shared reflections, including this one:

by Alex F. ’14

This fall the AP English classes had the pleasure of receiving two veterans, Victor Nunez Ortiz and Joe Ames, who came to speak about their experiences during the Iraq and Vietnam wars. This presentation served as the culmination of a unit that had primarily focused on portraying the main character of The Odyssey, Odysseus, as a hero and war veteran. Over the course of my English career here at Moses Brown, I have never been a part of a more interesting and engaging unit.

During Joe and Victor’s speeches there were two moments that really stood out to me:

The first: Before settling in to the formal presentation, still enjoying lunch, I overheard the two veterans talking. Their conversation was warm, heart felt, and reminiscing.  Though they did not fight in the same war, their connection was real nonetheless. Their conversation seemed to have the same vibe as a couple of football players talking about a game from the previous night. The eye contact and the sincerity was all there.  This sense of brotherhood that radiated from both Victor and Joe spoke to me, showing how important friendship is, especially when recovering from traumatic experiences. Both of these veterans expressed to us how hard it would be for them to describe their stories without the support and help of each other and the program they belong to.

And the second: During the question and answer period, both veterans were asked this question: Would you do it all over again? Joe, the colorful and witty Vietnam veteran was adamant with his answer: yes. Victor agreed. This readiness to return to the toils of war that had scarred these men was strange to me. Though this resolve to relive the traumas of war is not true with all veterans, I wondered what could have made the difference to these former soldiers. I believe that the friendships Victor and Joe made through their experiences impacted them greatly in this decision. They were only able to endure the horrors they experienced and witnessed through the human relationships they formed and these relationships have defined them ever since.

Simple gifts are the intersections of common interests, shared experiences, or like ideas. Something so simple as human interaction is a gift in itself because it unlocks so many of these commonalities between us and constructs the foundation of what friendship is built on. Joe and Victor did not fight in the same war, in fact they were some 30 years apart, but even so they are still able to connect, become friends and heal each other because of these experiences. War may be a terrible place, but what I have learned is that there is nothing more important than your friends and those who stand with you. For those who served our country overseas, they are all heroes to me. In short, never take for granted what you may have in common with your neighbor, and surely never forget what it means to have friends and people who support you.

High school reality TV

by Brianne D. ’14

In December, Daniel W. ’15 and I went to the Business Innovation Factory for a workshop DruryWardon reality television. With about 15 other students, we helped BIF with their design concepts for a series for high school students, by high school students.

Afterwards, in small groups, we designed and pitched our own shows. The focus was to create a reality show addressing the high school experience and especially the college search. My group’s show, #TheStruggle, follows four students from different backgrounds in the daily struggles of getting through high school and provides valuable advice.

It was amazing to work with other impassioned community members with a mission to make the high school experience a little better for teens across America. After a night of spirited discussion, our ideas are in the hands of the BIF. Stay tuned for the trailer!