Political chat: MB students host Providence mayoral candidates in conversation about education

DSC_0189Moses Brown School and Hope High School co-hosted a conversation about education on October 8, with all three candidates for Providence’s mayoral seat. The event attracted a large crowd to the Waughtel-­Howe Field House. Moses Brown is appreciative of the time shared by candidates Vincent Cianci (Independent), Jorge Elorza (Democrat) and Daniel Harrop (Republican).

DSC_0368“A Conversation About Education” was free and open to the public, with priority access for Hope and MB students. Some even spoke to the media afterward.

The two-­hour student-­facilitated discussion differed from the traditional debate format. Students solicited and selected questions from their peers and the community, with guidance from their Government, Politics and Civics teachers. Students then posed questions to the candidates, who had the opportunity to speak DSC_0103about their values and DSC_0296policy goals. The goal for this was to generate civil dialogue; candidates could reply thoughtfully but observed time limits and were asked to refrain from personal attacks.

“Our city and state face challenges that will require long-­term solutions,” said Matt Glendinning, Head of Moses Brown School, prior to the event. “The people who will guide those efforts are today’s elementary and secondary students. The education they receive today will prepare them to lead Rhode Island. How will our political candidates prepare our children for this role? How can we educate the next generation of Rhode Islanders to be a force for positive change in our communities?”

The neighboring schools – one public, one independent – sponsor a popular annual student exchange program. This was their first civic partnership. “This is a rare opportunity for our students to engDSC_0108age firsthand in the political process,” said Beth Lantz, who teaches Civics in Action at Moses Brown. “It’s exhilarating for them to bring our curriculum to life.”

Senior Cameron C. (shown below) felt the candidates did a nice job in answering the questions brought forth from students: “They made sure to keep their responses as specific to the question as possible,” he said, “while allowing the people in attendance to hear more of each candidate’s platform. The fact that this event was happening at a school and that the questions came from students definitely influenced their attitudes – in most cases for the better – as they were more respectful of each other than they have appeared in the past.”

Cam noted that all of the candidates felt strongly about the topic of finance. He commented, “The golden question of sorts is always, how do you plan to pay for all of the changes you hope to make? This caused very different responses from each of the candidates that added some friction. Our questions mostly generated similar responses or slight variations; however, this one provoked the true feeling of a debate.”

Cam saIMG_7606652959093ys he found the forum to be helpful: “I think the fact that we can have a forum in which platforms or opinions on a specific topic are explained by each of the candidates running for office speaks to the democratic process and our country’s success as a republic,” he said. “I also think that many people in our nation don’t take it upon themselves to become informed thoroughly on the person or party they vote for and in this the benefits of democracy can be lost in dilution of media and hype. I think that education is an issue that the city of Providence needs to address and needs to address with force. Containing some of the lowest-ranking schools in the state, the city needs to continue the conversation we began at the forum.”

His classmate Josabet Z. ’15 (photo above) thought that the candidates gave more of a response on the night’s earlier questions. “We gave them a chance to really get personal about their education,” Josy said, “and talk about their experiences and how what they went through will correlate with what they plan to do in Providence. They had ideas that they wanted to share and you could really tell that they wanted to make a change and the questions that kind of made them think about their own experiences really gave a more sincere answer. Usually, I have very little interest in what candidates have to say because they usually don’t keep the promises they make. Watching them answer these questions and share their vision for Providence really allowed me to think how much pressure these candidates are under. Although I don’t agree with everything they have to say, I better understand the struggle of these politicians and that deep down they want to get Providence back on track.”

All three candidates shared about their own school experiences. Mr. Elorza graduated from Providence’s Classical High School; Mr. Cianci is an alumnus of Moses Brown; and Mr. Harrop is a graduate of Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick.

DSC_0259Moses Brown School was founded in 1784 and enrolls 775 boys and girls in grades nursery through 12. Hope High School was founded in 1898 and serves 1,449 students in grades 9-­12.

MB alumna and Providence Journalist reporter Alisha Pina Thounsavath ’96 moderated the event.



Dressing up for success: Moses Brown’s theater costume sale keeps neighbors warm

CostumeSaleAfter last spring’s musical, Moses Brown costume designer Lisa Batt-Parente and her students had to face facts: their stock of costumes was taking up too much space. They imagined a farewell role for them: an October costume sale to fuel MB’s popular Halloween pageant, and serve the community, too.

Every day after school – while designing, sewing and fitting costumes for the 30 students in the two plays in rehearsal for November – Lisa and the crew sorted gowns, suits, cloaks, hats, shoes, wings and tails for the sale. They set aside Nick Bottom’s donkey head from A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “we couldn’t possibly sell that!” Some items were a mystery: “which show had this gorilla suit with pink bikini top and tutu?” Senior Ananya, sophomore Lex and juniors Gift, Meghan and Emma researched local clothing-based social service organizations, and decided that the money raised would image purchase coats and boots for the Salvation Army’s “Coats for Kids” program. Unsold everyday apparel would go to the Little Sisters of the Poor’s Jeanne Jugan Residence, and work-appropriate clothes to Dorcas International Institute’s “Clothing Collaborative,” which provides clothing to low-income adults completing job training and seeking employment.

Neither everyday nor professional, many costumes were destined for Halloween: from Midsummer Night’s Dream, fairies’ wings and Thisbe’s outrageous “female” funnels-top and wig; from Peter Pan, mermaid tails, Nana’s dog costume, the Lost Boys’ knit animal hats; from The Sound of Music, 18 nuns’ habits; from Urinetown, lavatory-themed chorus girls’ hats made of plungers, fans made of toilet brushes. (“No one at the Dollar Store could believe I was buying so many,” Lisa recalled.)

The sale took place on October 23 and 24 in the Atrium of Alumni Hall, a busy crossroads of middle and upper school. Lisa and her crew steered browsing faculty, staff and students image2to the right rack (“I need a costume for Bellatrix Lestrange!”).

Alumni came back to grab costumes they’d worn onstage, her Pink Lady jacket (Grease) and his stone Wall (A Midsummer Night’s Dream). Two girls helped their friend try on a nun’s habit. He was a very good sport. As the three mugged for the camera, a voice drifted across the Atrium: “That’s extremely uncomfortable, speaking from experience… that one was mine.” The head of the lower school claimed Urinetown’s “Don’t be the Bunny” suit. The mysterious gorilla suit went home with a teacher, along with two big bagfuls of finds: “My kids are going to be so happy.”

The sale raised $300. “That’s going to buy a lot of coats!” says Lisa. “Our theater program gives voice to so many issues and ideals, much more than what’s on stage or backstage. Everyone benefits: our neighbors who receive the coats and clothing; our students who put their service learning into action with this initiative; and of course, our Halloween pageant.”

Alcohol and the brain and body: simulation gives students a first- hand understanding

MSWellness_playbutton“This project is the culmination of our unit on alcohol where we learn how alcohol is absorbed by the body, the progressive effects of alcohol on the brain, and how and why drinking effects people differently. This activity demonstrates how a person will be able to handle basic physical activity (like walk quickly in a straight line) based on their blood alcohol concentration. We compare the walking activity to driving a car when impaired. While the activity is fun and funny, the students hopefully understand the how the level of impairment affects ability and the possible consequences of drunk driving.”

– Betsy Sherry, health services coordinator

Poetry for Ebola

SowLast week, middle school faculty member Karim Sow’s homeroom took charge of the middle school Meeting for Worship. They decided to make queries about the Ebola epidemic. Karim read a poem that he had written about the disease. Karim is originally from West Africa so this calamity is close to home for him. People around the middle school asked him to share his poem with the rest of the MB community:


Lingering into the river, years after years

Will never turn the tree log into a crocodile

Words of wisdom handed to me from the Ebola nations

I was made inside the warm womb of the Ebola nations

I was raised around the sight striking swamplands of the Ebola nations

I live to be a seed of survival from the Ebola nations

Gueckedou in Guinea was my cozy crib,

Monrovia in Liberia was my spacious room

And Pamlap in Sierra Leone my lovely house

I still belong there as much as I will always belong here

The Emigrant is a bet of hope in the game of destinies

Walking the steps of tomorrow, he carries in his soul the weight of yesterday


Here I am, one of us enjoying the beautiful fall

Leaves changing their fine-looking colors remind me

The fluctuating shades of my sick nephew’s declining body

Here the greenish turns yellowish and later reddish

Sweeping away the dawdles of a very clement summer

As if nature was playing its serenade on the landscape keyboard

Over there, my nephew’s skin declined from yellowish fever to bloody buttons

Mercilessly, the Ebola larva is chewing up its body from inside out

Darkening his dreams, slashing his hopes under the pergola of fear

As if his poor life wasn’t already miserable enough


One day, it was cliques of mercantile vessels shredding the Atlantic

Opening the dark doors of Goree and closing the full belly of the slave ship

To drain away to the Americas millions of my relatives.

Tears, sweat and blood diluting in the raging waves of the ocean

My people overcame the hemorrhage of its sons and daughters


Another day, it was the European wind spreading its veil of alienation

From the Nile Valley to the peak of the Kilimanjaro

Over the eternal sands of the Sahara and the Kalahari

Slashing near death the millenarian culture of my ancestors

My people overcame the colonial foolishness of fading empires


Today, it’s the Ebola worm sucking the soul of my people

Equal opportunity killer, it hits with no discrimination

Men, women, children of all ages and occupations

I scream my rage but I keep my hope

My people will overcome this wide-spreading curse


Karim Sow teaches French and Spanish in MB’s middle school. He has taught at Moses Brown School since 1994. He also coaches soccer here, serves as the middle school co-diversity coordinator, and leads a number of other efforts after school hours, from helping other political refugees obtain refugee status to operating a nonprofit in Guinea which battles dropout rates by trading school supplies for soccer gear. 

Keep it simple

Several years ago I sat in wonderment at the National Athletic Administrators conference. Greg Dale Ph.D., a sports psychologist from Duke University, addressed the pressures on youth athletes. He offered a simple way to alleviate them: Let them play.

I invited Greg to visit with us at Moses Brown last month. His session with the students started the momentum for the afternoon, and involved the children as active participants. He advised them that pressure comes from within, and theIMG_0050 release of that pressure also comes from within. One technique Greg introduced to help students move on from making mistakes and avoid dwelling on them is to “flush” them away. Many of the teams have already reported that they are beginning to use this method.

Greg’s message in the coaches’ session was to be open-minded, and to keep lines of communication open. He pushed us to think about the culture that we create for our student-athletes. In one particularly interesting activity, Greg asked coaches to move to opposite sides of the room if we agreed or disagreed with a statement. Given the statement “openly gay students are fully accepted by their team,” many moved to the agreement side. However, when one coach suggested that “fully” is certainly not the norm, healthy dialogue convinced some that perhaps we need to think more carefully about this particular situation.

The parents’ session was by far the most lively and provocative of Greg’s presentations. With more than 70 parents in attendance, his message to them was simple: Get a life. He showed a slide titled: “You know you need to get a life when…” The first response was “You attend practices.” Greg asked which parents attend practices, and why. Raising his IMG_0030hand, one parent answered: “Because it’s fun.” Greg responded, “For you or your son?” He advised that parent to go home and ask his child if his father’s attendance at practice was fun for him. Another parent suggested that she attended practices to provide her daughter with comfort and to make sure she was safe. Greg suggested that this mother had “trust issues”. While Greg delivered some tough messages to the parents, his presentation was light, fun, and filled with energetic interaction.

In the days following, I received many emails and phone calls praising Greg’s presentations. Several parents attended because they’d been told to do so by their children. My most veteran coach (with over 300 wins) told me that Greg’s presentation was the best professional development activity she had ever attended.

As a community, we need to remember the messages Greg Dale delivered: Let them play, communicate, and get a life. Keep youth sports in perspective. Kids play sports to have fun. If we contribute to their experience in a negative way, then we need to re-think our involvement.

– Jeff Maidment

MaidmentJeff Maidment is director of athletics at Moses Brown School and first heard renowned Duke sports psychologist Greg Dale speak at a National Athletic Administrators conference. Jeff invited Dale to share his important message with MB students, coaches and parents at the start of this school year. Dale spoke to parents about helping their children excel at athletics while keeping things in perspective for long-term well-being and healthy development. He consults with collegiate and professional teams and organizations around the world, including The World Bank, Habitat for Humanity International, Airports Council International, and Pfizer. Dale has written four books on leadership and performance, including The Fulfilling Ride: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Athletes Have a Successful Sports Experience, and has offered expert advice in a series of videos for coaches, athletes and parents. Featured on Good Morning America, MSNBC and numerous national radio programs, Dale also is a member of the sports psychology staff for USA Track and Field.