Six Moses Brown students join the Global Enterprise Challenge

Assignment:  Design an innovative exhibit to inform communities, government, and the media about the benefit of family farming.

Ready? Go!

The Global Enterprise Challenge (GEC) is an annual international competition for high school students. The challenge is announced on the competition day. Teams have just 12 hours to create and submit an idea, a prototype, a business plan, a video presentation and an optional Power Point/web presentation. A panel of international judges chooses the winning combination of teamwork skills, innovative approach and outstanding standard of product, prototype, plan and presentation. Five Moses Brown students took part in the GEC on June 14: Ghazi A. ’17, Riley G. ’16, Michael R. ’16, Joshua S. ’16 and Devin W. ’16.


The exhibit could be a trade display and/or a website and could include working models, smart phone apps, social media, print and other material. The three-minute video should clearly showcase and explain your idea, including how much funding you require to develop the exhibit and to cover the cost of maintaining and operating the exhibit for 12 months. Finally, submit a two-page business plan explaining how the exhibit will operate, how many people it will employ and in what capacity. Include a detailed financial plan and marketing strategy and explain how you will raise the funds necessary to cover costs.

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The MB group’s idea: a website called Farmspring, matching new farmers with owners of available uncultivated land, using location, size of the land, use of the land, term of the lease, and available future purchase options. Let them tell you about it — watch their video!


About the GEC

Governments around the world recognize the necessity of developing an enterprising culture in their young people. The GEC provides young people with the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to assist them in the transition from school to work, including the ability to create and manage personal, community, business and work opportunities. Students can develop innovative, creative, and feasible solutions to global problems, while developing career-focused skills in areas including team work, communication, leadership, enterprise and creativity, innovation and time management, in an engaging and relevant global competition. Participants often discover a new way of learning; gain an insight into business operations, including marketing, operations and the management of a broad range of business resources, including human resources; and hone problem-solving skills using science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and financial capability.


Arrivederci, Sandy Richter

Sandy Richter bid farewell to Moses Brown this spring after 19 years teaching history and art history. Outside the classroom, she coached JV field hockey; worked on costumes and make-up for school musicals; served as community service advisor, including The Hope Exchange which connected MB students with students from Burundi; mentored new teachers; developed humanities curricula; tutored in the learning center; was an academic advisor; created art history lectures for faculty; and was honored with the Bilodeau Faculty Award. She shares some parting thoughts here.

SandyRWhy art history?

I began as an artist. Drawing, painting, making jewelry: you name it, I did it! When my high school studio art teacher pulled together a small group of us seniors to prepare for the Art History AP exam, I was “hooked”. Unexpectedly, art history gave me a new and exciting entry into history — a primary source that (as a visual learner) I could comprehend. I felt like I had broken a secret code: when seen through a visual lens, history suddenly became clear, understood.

Why Moses Brown?

Happy accident. My husband was accepted to the graduate program at RISD for furniture design. We were living in New York and I was teaching at Horace Mann School. I came to interview at MB for a history position and everything changed for me. Sure, I miss the whirling noise of city life, but I found that Providence holds me – how can I put this? – a bit more gently. At Moses Brown, I grew as an educator. I was given time to go deeper, to tend to the craft of teaching. I was encouraged to team-teach a course with English teacher Lenke Wood, to use imagery and architecture in my history courses and eventually to develop an art history elective. At Moses Brown, my own students became my son’s favorite babysitters, and yes, his role models. While they did not wear capes and have superpowers, my students became his heroes. I could not have asked for more.

Here I have met my most honest critics, colleagues, friends and mentors, students who have humbled me with their talent and their deep desire to know. My art history classes always include hands-on building and/or drawing. These raw experiences can be “messy” with a lot of trial and error. This never fazes my students who always delve right in. I like that they have the direct experience of creating, collaborating and touching. In a sense, I am taking them through my own journey from studio art to art history, reminding them, as my teachers did, that there is a difference between looking and seeing, that sight is one of our greatest gifts, that we are all creators.

What does the future hold?

This summer, I will teach art history at a high school in Rome. This is a dream come true. I am bringing my husband and son along for the ride and as it turns out, a few MB students will be joining me on this adventure, too! In the fall, I plan to work for a non-profit downtown that provides college counseling for under-served students in Providence. Leaving is not easy. I am forever grateful to the students and community here. From the bottom of my heart: grazie, Moses Brown.

Curtain call: Barry Marshall

Barry Marshall retired this spring after teaching theater and performing arts at Moses Brown since 1985. Barry played a key role in the growth of our performing arts program, and shares these departing thoughts.


Why teach drama? What led you to Moses Brown?

In the summer of 1982, my wife Carole and I left New York City to live and practice at the Providence Zen Center. While there I worked on a play, learned about Zen and began to practice meditation. One of the members of the community had children who were attending Moses Brown and I learned that there was a job opening for a drama teacher there. I applied and was hired by headmaster David Burnham. The thing that really connected me to MB was its Quaker identity. Coming from a place like the Zen Center that valued silence and meditation, I was drawn to those same qualities in Meeting for Worship. That connection between spirituality and silence took root in me right away. Also, the opportunity to make a theater that served a whole community of learners felt like a wonderful challenge. I found a home at MB.

When I got here, the theater program was understaffed and under-appreciated. There was no set designer or tech director; the whole job fell on the shoulders of one person. Dave Burnham gave us the support we needed and over the years we’ve staffed the program with skilled professionals who give our students a full theater production experience. I also worked to give the drama program a more respected place in the community. In my first few years directing plays, I would often have to wait until the sports teams had their tryouts and then take the “leftover” students to be in the plays. It took time, but we built our resources, created learning opportunities by adding academic classes, and developed a theater model that prospered.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the job was working with children of all ages. I loved exploring theater’s developmental impact on children pre-primary through 12th grade and the ways that theater works differently with different age groups. I’m proud of the cross-divisional work we’ve done, bringing disciplines and divisions together to collaborate. For example, upper schoolers not only write their own one-act plays, but they also mentor second and third grade playwrights; those plays are then produced by upper and middle school learners.

In my time at MB, middle school drama has also flourished. Every seventh and eighth grader takes a semester of drama. Theater is an excellent vehicle for allowing middle school students to safely explore the social challenges and developmental issues. A more vibrant middle school drama program has also helped to energize our upper school program. One of my favorite interdisciplinary projects happens in middle school. Sixth graders make hand puppets in art class; eighth graders create stories and perform puppet plays using those sixth graders’ puppets. The whole community becomes a laboratory for collaborative theater projects.

What are the secrets to your upper school plays’ success?

In building the theater program, we’ve tried to embrace Quaker principles and community values. We never turn anyone away, and we minimize competition. Another hallmark has been to provide opportunities for students to work and learn from professional artists. Our larger community offers so many wonderful artist-collaborators: Dan Butterworth and his puppetry for Peter Pan; original music by Keith Munslow for As You Like it; Chris Turner and Rachel Maloney created a score with students for Antigone; and so many others. When we did Shaw’s Major Barbara, Trinity Rep was doing Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession at the same time. Our two casts spent hours together, sharing scenes, discussing Shaw and exchanging acting tips.

I’m especially proud of our playwriting program. Often playwriting sparks something transformative and puts students on a new path. Several years ago our students put on a playwriting festival of student and alumni work. The students curated the whole thing, and invited the alumni back to see their plays performed. It was a fantastic event for the community and very meaningful for me.

Is there a special experience that stands out in your memory?

Eight or nine years ago, my son got me involved in a national 48-hour film festival. Entries would form a production company, receive a genre assignment on a Friday night, and deliver a finished short film just 48 hours later. I put together a mostly-MB company, with students and alums interested in film and theater: Nate Silver, Bill Domineau, Jeff Church, Elana Chernick-Kritz, Nuala Cabral, Alex Casagrande, Johnny Shaw. It was such a blast! The young ones stayed up all night working on our film. I put my hand in here and there, corralling it, helping with artistic choices. Out of 40 entries, our film won! I’d never touched film before, but this project inspired me to consider possibilities for film and video projects in the future.

Speaking of the future, what projects do you look forward to, in your next act?

I’m certainly not going to stop doing theater. I’m working on a play-with-music about the Brown family, Moses Brown and the Slave Ship Sally, and hope to produce a concert performance next summer with Ocean State Pops Orchestra. I want to be involved in socially active theater in the community. Already this year I’ve enjoyed taking part in the Tenderloin Opera Project, working with the homeless population to create theater at Mathewson Street Church in downtown Providence. I also have some ideas for children’s video and film that I’d like to develop.

Lee Clasper-Torch: seeker

“At Moses Brown, we’re sitting on a goldmine—the practice and pedagogy of silence.”

leeLee Clasper-Torch departed at the end of this year, his 25th at Moses Brown. Lee arrived in 1989 to teach in what was then the department of religion and human values, which he later served as department head. Lee’s interest in developing students’ spiritual awareness and encouraging them to look inward as well as outward, led to courses such as Existential Literature and Religion and Society. His interest in acting on one’s beliefs led to his helping students to found the Student Peace Action Movement. As a wrestling coach, Lee urged his athletes to embrace the grace of the sport. His regular messages in Meeting for Worship have helped shape the thinking of students and colleagues as he reminds us all of the importance of mindfulness and joy. He shared these reflections in June.

What led you to the teaching profession?

Moses Brown has been my first and only teaching position. I did my undergraduate degree in comparative religious studies and my graduate work at seminary exploring theology and philosophy. Before teaching, I was an ordained minister in a congregation for three years. I found congregational ministry to be deep and meaningful work, but soon realized that teaching was the aspect of pastoral work that was most stimulating and rich for me. I gradually recognized the vocational call to teaching. Both my mother and father were long-time teachers and I suppose, too, that some of their spirit and influence was in my blood and consciousness!

What led you to Moses Brown?

I went looking for opportunities to teach material I felt passionate about, and had studied in school in comparative religion and philosophy. I immediately turned to the Friends Council on Education to aid my search because—while not a Quaker myself—I had had a long connection with Quakers and in particular the work of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). I considered myself then—and still do—a “friend of Friends.” I’ve been a card-carrying member of the Wider Quaker Fellowship for many years. I found the job opening in Moses Brown’s religion and human values department fairly directly, interviewed with Dave Burnham, and gratefully and joyfully accepted the offer to teach in the department—this was in the spring of 1989.

MB offered a wonderful opportunity to connect with Friends education and spiritual values, and to teach the material that I loved and studied with an open and dynamic curriculum for the time. It was an exciting prospect to be able to teach at an independent school that was informed by a Quaker heritage and ethos.

What has been the most gratifying to you in your time here?

Without doubt, working with the students. It‘s been a gift to have the opportunity to create a space where the students and I can be learners and seekers together. Quakers have historically identified themselves as seekers. I like to think that I was fashioning a classroom space—both physically and metaphorically—where genuine seeking could go on. Our motto, “For the Honor of Truth,” becomes the center of the classroom. If your classroom contains that genuine search for truth, meaning and purpose, often that center can be stumbled upon. What has been most gratifying has been the opportunity to learn along with bright minds and open hearts, where deep learning happens.

I recall a number of times when in the course of discussion—as we unfolded a topic or probed a certain text or idea—there was a moment of individual epiphany and simultaneously, an almost palpable class epiphany. There have been a variety of these instances, too numerous to mention—always unique but recognizable. “Aha!” moments, you might say!

What’s it been like to guide students through these times and historical events?

In a way, it hasn’t been easy. We are living in critical times; socially, economically, culturally, and politically. It is as if the world is convulsing in perpetual crisis. At Moses Brown, we’re sitting on a goldmine—the practice and pedagogy of silence. When crises occurred through the years we could gather as a community in this deep silence which then provided a cocoon of sorts, a place to process thoughts and feelings so that genuine understanding and positive action could emerge. Because of that foundation, and because of the subject that I was teaching, it always felt natural to offer moments to pause, to listen, to ask “What are we all feeling?” The Quaker heritage allows for that at its best—if we understand it and nurture it.

Along with this, another dimension of my service here that has been most meaningful to me has been being able to act as an advisor of The Student Peace Action Group. I’ve been most impressed and heartened by the spirit and concern of a regular stream of students who felt the genuine desire to care for issues of peace, justice and human rights—and to seek ways to move others toward action against injustice, war and strife, for peace and equality, far beyond simple charity. Many of these students have been beacons of hope for me.

Debby Neely: building community through trust

“What greater gift to give ourselves and then the children we teach than being able to wisely and thoughtfully manage the hectic, almost frenetic nature of their lives? In an age of testing and logical thought as a measure of worth, it is imperative that our children comprehend the beauty and grace of true community, thoughtful self-reflection and the deep connections gleaned in a trusting, caring environment.”

debbywindowDebby Neely retired this spring, after her 28th year as a middle school English teacher at Moses Brown. Born in Paris, raised in Cameroon and educated in Egypt, she imparted her appreciation of other cultures to her students, cultivating their engagement in multiple perspectives and appreciation of multicultural literature. Jared Schott, head of the middle school, sums up the many reasons Debby is held in such high esteem: “Debby consistently set the standard for cross-divisional collaboration and curriculum development. She has modeled creativity, self-reflection, and the importance of meaningful connections with students, while demanding excellence, and hard, critical work from her students and herself. Her impact on thousands of students during her career is truly remarkable. As a friend, colleague, and teacher, she has been instrumental in framing our program and imparting her wisdom, creativity, and joy of learning and teaching.” The Rhode Island Council of Teachers of English named her their Teacher of the Year in 2004.

Recently Debby considered how Moses Brown has grown during her 28 years here, as well as areas she believes can grow even stronger. “In my old age, I’m eager to have things change for the better,” she said. Three years ago, she attended a Quaker-inspired spiritual retreat using silence, reflection, journaling, questioning, poetry, music and small group discussion designed to foster reconnection with your authentic self. “Everything I learned there pertains to what we seek for Moses Brown: community building, intentional listening and support, protocols for bringing issues to the fore.” In bidding farewell to Moses Brown, she shares her learning from the workshop to build an even stronger and more genuine community.

The conference was entitled Reconnecting Who You Are With What You Do, and based on A Hidden Wholeness by Parker Palmer, a Quaker educator and philosopher. The workshop culminated in a “Circles of Trust” exercise: a member shared a personal dilemma and through honest, open discussion was helped to come to a resolution. From the outset we were encouraged to “hold a space to listen to the authentic self, listening to the heart and not the head.”

I was drawn to the word “trust” since that is a key for meaningful human relationships and a crucial building block for a supportive learning community. After a long teaching career, I feel the intangibles of love, trust and genuine connection are the most vital components of teaching. I wanted to see how to develop more trust and effective communication among community members. I loved the idea of connecting “soul to role,” reconnecting with my deepest convictions in order to offer more depth and authenticity to my role as teacher.

We began the conference with some clear boundary markers for fostering effective communication and creating a safe space: “Be present as fully as possible…”  “Listen with compassion and non-judgment…” and surprises, like “When the going gets tough, turn to wonder.” Listening was a key component to the workshop, listening to ourselves through silence and reflection, as well as listening to others with thoughtful, respectful silence.

The Circle of Trust originated with the Quaker community as “a clearness committee.” When a decision needed to be made, four or five trusted “friends” were called together to hold a safe space and ask open, honest questions with the aim of clarifying the thinking of the person making the decision. A Circle of Trust can result in a greater self-awareness for every participant. In our experience, a circle of trust was a highly structured, confidential exercise used to help a group member achieve clarity around a dilemma or decision. We practiced deep listening and sitting in silence with each other so as not to jump into “fixing” problems. We practiced asking reflective, helpful questions intended to add clarity for the presenter of the dilemma rather than satisfy our sense of curiosity.

The workshop reawakened in me the sense that trust, love and communication propel us to our best, most authentic life. Trust, reflection and deep listening are so often skipped over in our lives as we strive to do, accomplish and achieve. We are left aching for genuine connection and community. What greater gift to give ourselves and then the children we teach than being able to wisely and thoughtfully manage the hectic, almost frenetic nature of their lives? In an age of testing and logical thought as a measure of worth, it is imperative that our children comprehend the beauty and grace of true community, thoughtful self-reflection and the deep connections gleaned in a trusting, caring environment.



Salsa, Thayer Street and ancient art: language immersion day for eighth grade

Eighth grade Latin, Spanish and French classes devoted a day-long field trip to immersion in the culture they study — tricky in the case of Ancient Rome, but not impossible!

Latin Immersion Day: Lucy A. and Peter Z. ’18

What do the Jefferson Memorial, Temple Emanu-El, Brown University, Hope High School, and houses all over the East Side of Providence have in common? For Language Immersion Day on May 23, 8th Grade Latin students explored Providence looking for evidence of Roman and Greek influence in our public community. What they found was simply astounding. Using what they had learned in a brief art history lesson before setting off, students were able to identify hundreds of modern examples of Roman architecture. From arches and columns to domes, urns, and oculi, nearly every house on the East Side contains some form of Greek or Roman architecture.

8gr Latin pic

The Romans invented the modern arch design that can be seen on many houses around the East Side. Many modern architects choose to highlight the keystone of an arch by making it more emphasized. Students enjoyed identifying the different variations of columns, doric, ionic, and corinthian, that lined the front doorsteps of houses. The Temple Emanu-El has structure of columns similar to the Greek Parthenon and a domed top like the Roman Pantheon and the Jefferson Memorial. Hope High School was the most obvious example of these architectural influences, containing arched windows, giant columns, a domed cupola, friezes, and pediments. When they were told that candy would be given to the winner, two teams of 8th graders thought of out-of-the-box connections, such as concrete and sidewalks, in order to find more examples than the other team.

After grabbing a slice of pizza at Antonio’s on Thayer Street, the 8th graders headed off for a quick tour at Brown University, taking pictures in front of a replica statue of Marcus Aurelius and a replica of an ancient column. Just down the hill, students visited the Ancient Greek and Roman art galleries at the RISD museum.

8 gr Latin pic 2

At the museum, the students were asked to select one piece in the Ancient Greek and Roman exhibit to sketch and take notes on. Highlights of the gallery included a sarcophagus depicting events from the Trojan War, multiple amphorae, Greek urns, jewelry, statues, and fountain heads. On a later date, the students will research their piece of artwork, understand how it relates to the lives of the Romans or Greeks, and connect it to how we understand both Greek and Roman architecture.

After their time in the museum was finished, it was time for the 8th graders to head back to the Moses Brown Campus. But with half an hour to spare, the students persuaded their teacher, Lisa Ardente, to take them for Ice Cream at Ben and Jerry’s on Thayer Street. What a perfect modern ending to a day spent exploring ancient minds and ideas.

Spanish Immersion Day: Sophie A. ’18

Every year, the eighth graders go on an “immersion day” to immerse themselves in the language they chose to study and on Friday, all of us taking Spanish had a really fun time “immersing” ourselves in the Spanish-speaking culture. From taking Salsa classes by a professional Salsa teacher to meeting Senator Pichardo at the state house, we had a really packed, somewhat busy, yet enjoyable time. Or at least, I did.

Immersion day began with breakfast brought in by our Spanish teacher, Emilia. We talked with each other for a little bit and since the French students had been watching High School Musical dubbed in French, we borrowed the DVD and switched the language to español. (I doubt that any of us could understand most of what Troy and Gabriella were saying, they were talking so fast!) When it was time for our dance lessons, we stopped the move (thank goodness) and went down to Alumni Hall, where two dance instructors were waiting to teach us.

spanish4Salsa, which originates from New York, but is danced in Cuba and Puerto Rico, was not what I thought it was going to be at all. I had predicted the dance lessons to be boring and I admit, humiliating, but it turned out to be the highlight of our day, in my opinion. Dancing is something that is out of a lot of people’s comfort zones and it was pretty cool to use something like that as a way to immerse in the Latin-American culture. The instructors taught us the basic step all together but when they asked us to choose a partner of the opposite gender, of course, it became sort of awkward and Emilia took the liberty to shout, “It’s not as if you’re going to date this person for the rest of your life!” The partnering was the more challenging part of the dancing, since turns, spins, and other moves were added. We also had to rotate partners every now and then. But even so, I thought it was getting even more fun, despite the fact that some people were better at being dance partners than others *wink. And I might only be speaking for myself when I say this, but afterwards, I thought it was a really great idea to add dancing to the list of Friday’s activities. It was just fun to get out there and dance. There’s something about dance that brings so much joy and exhilaration that I don’t think a lot of people knew about prior to the Salsa lesson. And by taking a Salsa lesson, we were not only exposed to being taught in Spanish, but experienced a completely different part of Latin-American culture.

Afterwards, we got on a bus and went to a Colombian restaurant called, La Casona in Central Falls, where we were introduced to different Columbian dishes. That included la churrasco, which was basically a steak with rice and lettuce, camarones al tequila, which was shrimp with tequila sauce, and normal chicken fingers for those who were less willing to try anything new. (Emilia promised extra points on the final exam to those who tried a new food, and deducted points to those who ate chicken fingers). We also tried Colombian orange soda. Lunch was a pretty difficult ordeal, though. We had to order what we wanted en español. ¡Qué dificil! Just kidding. Although, it did take me a couple minutes just to work out what I was going to say to the waitress. It took some people a few tries too.

spanish3Then, we went to the bakery, where I tried this mango juice from Colombia. We all boarded the bus to go to the state house. Some people had bought Colombian desserts and were eating them on the bus. When we got there, we killed time by learning about the architecture of the state house with Tony, one of our chaperones, and exploring the outside. We then went inside and explored too before heading into an office, where we met Senator Pichardo.

spanish1Mr. Pichardo led us from the office into the state senate room, where we sat at the places of different state senators. He talked a little bit about himself; how he was born in the Dominican and joined his mother in the US after being in a separate country from her for nine years; how he had worked at Rhode Island hospital and joined the air force before his job in the senate; how he was the first Latino and Dominican American to be elected to the senate. He also talked to us about the importance of being bilingual, especially in the US, where many languages aside from English, particularly Spanish, are widely spoken. Then it was time for questions, which had to be said in Spanish – another opportunity to immerse in the Spanish language. Meeting Senator Pichardo taught me a lot about what it was like to be an American originally from a different country. I was really interested in what he said about his early life living in the US, having moved at nine years old to be with his mother. It was really different from Salsa dancing, but still, very interesting. Although, I think I personally enjoyed the dancing a little more.

spanish2That was our Immersion Day. I thought it was a success and couldn’t thank our amazing teacher, Tony, parent chaperone, Mrs. Lesica, and most of all, incredible Spanish teacher, Emilia, enough for helping to make Immersion Day so much fun this year. It definitely was a day worth being there for.

French Immersion Day by Paloma D. ’18

We started our day with going to the French American School after we met up in our classroom. My group started in history and no one would talk. I represented the whole group, talking to the teacher and answering his questions. After the bell rang we went out in the hallway and the teacher called us back in and told us to stay or look around other classes. We went to another class, which was Spanish, and ended up doing a skit in Spanish. After Spanish we were all standing in the recess area. One of the students asked us to play cards and so I sat down with them. Soon everybody was playing a big card game.

After this we went straight to the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket. We learned about the factories and the mill girls. We also learned about how life was at that time. Around the end of our visit, Sr. Sow asked me to read a letter from someone who was moving to where the mills were. After the museum, we went to a Fish and Chips place called “Ye Old Fish & Chips”. Sr. Sow ordered a combo and “le combo” stayed alive because he was not able to finish it. After lunch we went to Thayer Street. At Froyo, again Sr. Sow had a combo Froyo and” le combo” beat him again. After this we went back to Moses Brown and that was the end of our French Immersion Day .




Walking in our Kenyan Buddies’ shoes

by Elizabeth Grumbach, fourth grade

This week the fourth grade’s Kenya Buddy Partnership culminated in a “Walk In Your Buddy’s Shoes Day.”

IMG_2246Although it is impossible to get a true sense of what a day is life for their Kenyan buddies, the fourth graders walked more than a mile to school, walked another mile ‘home’ for lunch and then another mile ‘back to school’. They carried water across campus that was their sole water source for the day, including washing their dishes after lunch.

They had rigorous academic lessons using minimal resources, and played in the Grove at recess without any equipment.


Their end of day reflections included:

  • My Kenyan buddy must be stronger physically and mentally than me to make it through her day.
  • We didn’t get snack and some people took all the seconds on rice so I was really hungry most of the day.
  • To live in Kenya you need stamina and I do not have that.
  • I think resilience means that you keep going, even if you fall, and you keep your head held high.
  • When we could not play on the jungle gym we used our imaginations to figure out what to play and it was actually really fun!