Through bao making, students learn a unique part of Chinese culture

Upper school Mandarin students took a field trip to Tom’s BaoBao in downtown Providence to learn about the history of bao, a delicious Chinese street food, and to try their hand at making it.

This unique Chinese street food holds a special place in the heart of many who have called China home, or who have visited China for travel. Authentic Chinese cuisine is a vital element of Chinese culture. Having Tom’s BaoBao in Providence is a small way of experiencing China within the United States and reminds us how often worlds collide these days.

More information about Tom’s BaoBao:

Tom’s BaoBao is dedicated to serving authentic, fresh bao with local ingredients. Each and every employee undergoes rigorous training until they have mastered the art of steaming and folding the delicate bread and preparing the filling. The company emphasizes its work with local organizations to source employees. They believe that learning a new craft and working with a diverse team is rewarding. In Rhode Island, DORCAS has proved to be an invaluable partner in this mission. The company’s employees are carpenters, musicians, students, engineers, and home-makers. Tom’s BaoBao works hard to engage with and be an integral part of the communities where they operate. Using furnishings designed and made locally, displaying hand-painted murals by a local artist, serving specialty beverages crafted in RI and MA, and making donations to local organizations. 

Bao (also called baozi, baobao, or steamed buns) is a delicious street food that first appeared over 1,200 years ago in China. This leavened dough can be filled with anything from pork to curry beef to spicy lotus root. Tom’s BaoBao prepares each and every bao by hand, in front of customers and serving them fresh out of the bamboo steamers.



Ethical Leadership: Providence Friends Spring Break Service Retreat


By Gara B. Field, PhD
Director of Global Education

We arrived at the Meeting House on the afternoon of March 22, 2017 for the 4-day Providence Friends Spring Break Service Retreat with a commitment to learning about and enhancing our community in authentic ways, being vulnerable to transform ourselves as individuals, and create a collective sense of social awareness in hopes of heightening our responsibility to one another and those around us. At Moses Brown, ethical leadership is described as living our core values of SPICES: simplicity; peace; integrity; community; equality; and stewardship. This immersive spring break service learning experience is a manifestation of our responsibility to learn and serve. It connects us with local non-profits, Providence Public Schools, and grounds our intentions to understand important issues of food insecurity in our city, and around the world.

IMG_2172We set up camp with blankets, sleeping bags, and aerobeds that filled every square inch of the Meeting House. Fourteen students and two faculty members began the retreat with a ride on RIPTA to a local supermarket in East Providence. Two groups of 7 students each divided into breakfast and dinner crews to budget, plan, and purchase food for the retreat. Senior Alasia Destine-DeFreece ‘17 remarked in our first night’s meeting for sharing, “It struck me that every single one of us had iPhones, yet one woman on the bus had no phone and was late to work because she missed her connecting bus. She asked us to help her figure out what bus she could catch next, and what time it was scheduled to arrive at her destination. I take for granted most days the fact that I have access to information 24/7 simply by accessing the internet on my phone. I was glad we were able to help her, but the realization of how many challenges working class and poor people face hit me in that moment.”

IMG_2226We were joined for a mac and cheese/chicken finger dinner by three Moses Brown parents who all work and serve in various capacities in Rhode Island, including Navyn Salem (Founder/CEO of Edesia; Cecily Zeigler (Immigration lawyer at Dorcas International –; and Teddy Bah (Co-founder of the Refugee Dream Center with her husband Omar Bah – Each of these passionate and committed women discussed their varied yet connected experiences working with local refugees and those requiring support across the globe.

IMG_2205The next day, we went to visit and serve at Edesia and the Refugee Dream Center. It was an empowering and simultaneously humbling experience. We learned about four devastating famines that the world has not seen the likes of since World War II, and the work Edesia is doing to end them and save the lives of children in Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, and South Sudan. We spent time with Omar and his team at the Refugee Dream Center (RDC), helping them to organize and set up tables for a free yard sale where many refugees came for clothes, toys, and household items. Learning about Omar and his willingness to share his refugee experience as a journalist who fled The Gambia for investigating human rights violations was shocking. Perhaps as important, was coming to see and understand his unyielding dedication to the refugee community in Rhode Island. Ife Olubowale ‘19, Luke Dow ’19, Georgia Griffin ’19, and Collin McCormack ’18 listened intently as Omar described so much of what he had been through, and why he founded the RDC. That evening, Brooke Nyman ‘19, Lucy Tang ‘19, Andrew Dorman ‘18, Kayla Ure ’17, and Jacob Crisafulli ’17 led the charge to put together care packages with Mylar blankets, toiletries, and hygiene products for people in need who we would connect with the next night. Little did we know, one of the people who gratefully accepted a care package would teach us so much in a brief, but unforgettable interaction.

IMG_2270We spent the final day of the retreat in Providence at Pleasant View Elementary School (where I was a principal for 5 years from 2011 – 2016). We engaged in the morning advisory with students and teachers, and then we worked for several hours cleaning up and putting together new equipment for the PV playground. Retreat co-leader and school psychologist Jess Stewart led a small group of persistent students, including Brian Greene ‘17, Andi Stallman ’18, and Halle Salem ’19 in building a new see-saw for PreK students. Seniors Kile Grinai ’17 and Jacob Crisafulli ’17 built a storage bench while Alasia Destine-DeFreece ‘17 and Kayla Ure ’17 swept sand back into its rightful place, and edged the playground. Kile Grinai ’17 was particularly moved by one kindergartener who made a lasting impression upon him. He watched her struggle with each step that she took in her Physical Therapy session. At our meeting for sharing that night, Kile reflected, “I had a moment today, and it stayed with me. It stayed with me at lacrosse practice when we were doing wind sprints.  It will probably stay with me for a long time. I’ve never really thought about something as simple as walking being challenging for a child. I will never forget that little girl who worked so hard – just to walk. She was inspiring.”


On the evening of March 24, we distributed care packages that we put together for homeless and food insecure individuals at Cathedral Square with House of Hope (HoH) Case Manager Megan Smith, and her friends/colleagues from HoH and Brown University. There was a gentleman, affectionately referred to as Sarg, who stood out among the crowd. It became clear that Sarg is a valued and beloved member of his community, and he spent time talking to a few of us. We learned that Sarg is a Vietnam veteran who did two tours of duty and served our country with distinction. We talked about the state of our nation, the horrors of war, the complexities of life on the street, and the lifeline that the HoH and Cathedral Square communities have become to him. We talked about his childhood, his family, his favorite books, and his passion for cooking. He invited us back on a night that he cooks up a “mean stew.” Just as he departed, he got on his bike and said, “What you kids are doing out here means a lot to people. Thank you. I hope to see you again someday. Come back … even if it’s just to say hi, and share a bowl of soup.”

IMG_2292Each night, we had a meeting for sharing where we reflected on the most meaningful parts of the day for us individually and collectively. At times, we laughed, and at times, we cried. We reflected on what we saw, learned, and experienced in terms of poverty, physical challenges, immigration, worldwide famines, and food insecurity in the U.S. We reflected on life chance, privilege, social entrepreneurism, stewardship, and the arc of social justice in a complex world. Sophomore Lucy Tang ’19 noted, “To me, even though we are visiting local sites, we are seeing how our community can have a global impact.”

As stated by author and educator Dwight L. Wilson, “Personal perspectives on justice have been known to change with one’s degree of comfort. In response to this phenomenon, the 18th century Quaker, John Woolman offered guidance when he said, “Oppression in the extreme appears terrible, but oppression in more refined appearances remains oppression, and where the smallest degree of it is cherished it grows stronger and more extensive.”  “Without social justice, there is no peace.”  Andrew Dorman ’18 summed up his thoughts about the retreat in an honest and reflective way, “When I first got to the Meeting House, I found myself eager to get the whole thing over with, not really expecting anything to come out of the trip. Yet, each hour of the day spent bonding with kids I don’t usually talk to, and interacting with people at each of the places we went, really stuck with me, especially after the whole thing was over. The trip was so fun and thought-provoking. It was about people and compassion. Honestly, it felt good to talk to people who were struggling, and hear their stories. It made me ask myself who I want to be as a person, and how I can benefit someone else’s life, along with my surrounding community. I recommend the trip to every student at MB, even though there are a limited number of spots.” The next Friends Spring Break Service Retreat will run from March 14 – 17, 2018.

A Letter to a Local Mosque, A Local Man of Peace, and a Beautiful Video

By Rob Pike, fourth grade teacher

The first social studies unit in fourth grade at Moses Brown is about world religions. As part of this unit, students learn about religious intolerance and also visit local religious institutions including a church, a synagogue, a mosque, and a Buddhist temple. When recent news reports detailed examples of hate letters being sent to mosques in Rhode Island and around the country we thought it appropriate that the students should be informed of these current examples of religious intolerance. The result was a class decision to write a letter of support to the mosque that had welcomed us with such kindness and allowed us to observe their afternoon prayer. We wrote a group letter on chart paper and then the student’s decorated edges with designs and missives of their own. img_1824

The chance to visit the North Smithfield mosque was profound for teachers and students alike. Imam Ikram, who heads the mosque, does amazing work welcoming school groups of all kinds. Watching him explain Islam to our students with patience, openness, and humor made me realize how hard the vast majority of the Muslim community has been working and continues to work, to make themselves known to the rest of us as safe, moderate, and reasonable people. It cannot have been easy for that community to allow a whole class full of strangers come in and watch them as they do something as intimate as praying, but by doing that they gave us an experience that allowed us to understand them in a way that made them no longer the “other.” We could see how ordinary they were. We could see that they were shy. We could see that, although they prayed in a different way to many of us, in so very many ways they were so very like us.

Shortly before the winter break, Laura Gladding shared with the fourth grade a link to a short video that is intensely hopeful for religious tolerance and peace in our country. The video details Christian and Muslim religious communities coming to terms with each other. Watching this video may make you cry and is likely to make you believe in humanity more than you did before.

Support Universal Promise

Lydia B. ’17 is raising funds to renovate a medical clinic and school in Nomanthamsanqa, Addo, South Africa, through Universal Promise (UP). Lydia traveled with UP to South Africa last summer, supported by a Class of ’48 Award.


“This summer I had the rewarding opportunity to work with an organization called Universal Promise (“UP”) in its mission of improving the lives of children and families in the township of Nomanthamsanqa in Addo, South Africa. UP works with local schools to improve the quality of education of local children by renovating and improving classrooms, creating computer labs, setting up scholarships for young students, sponsoring school sports teams, and  providing clean and healthy drinking water systems – all things that it are easy for us to take for granted but that were previously absent in this community, which was ravaged by decades of the effects of apartheid. UP also sponsors a women’s empowerment initiative that provides health care counseling and encourages financial literacy and independence. 

 I worked with the wonderful children in the schools and also had the richly rewarding experience of interviewing the residents of a Town called Moli for a video that I am making about the story of its people, who were “temporarily” displaced from their homes almost twenty years ago to make space for citrus farms and relocated to what had been a garbage dump skirting a cemetery. Unfortunately, they never received the permanent housing promised to them by the government. These people are wonderful, warm and grateful, and they need your help.

 I would be deeply grateful if you would consider making a contribution, in any amount, to this important cause. Your donation will go directly to help these people and can make a great difference in the lives of the children and families of Nomanthamsanqua. We have a fundraising goal of $15,000. Thank you very much for your help.” -Lydia

Real-world Learning

TRIPs – Travel, Research, and Immersion Programs – foster a rising generation of civic-minded, multilingual, and ethical global citizens. New courses and a broad array of travel opportunities help students explore cultures, life experiences, and worldviews different from their own, while a marine education program allows students to investigate the ecology and resources of Narragansett Bay.


Kieran Harrington ’16, President, upper school senate

“Going to Kenya was incredible. It was my first time out of the country. It definitely opened my eyes to being in a different culture and what can happen there, how people interact differently.


The people were so happy to see us. I remember our bus pulling over in front of a school – it seemed like a thousand kids came out to see our bus and say hello with the biggest smiles on their faces. We just kept repeating “rafiki” (friend).

We tried to do meaningful work while there – painting walls and windows and fixing the school’s cement floors.

Going on trips like this has made me think about what I want to study in college. I’m now looking at schools with international relations programs.

Even on MB’s smaller trips, you meet so many different people and do things that have impact, right here at home.

Kids in college go abroad. To experience that in high school is awesome. It gets you out of your comfort zone. Having lived in little Rhode Island my whole life, traveling to Kenya was amazing. You learn to be open to new people and situations and you learn the context for the larger situation wherever you are.

You can also be amazed. I’m big into music – when I saw those kids put on dances and performances, create incredible sounds and rhythms using water-carrying drums, it was inspiring.”

Second Grade Japan Celebration

In conjunction with a three-month-long cultural study of Japan, the second grade trekked up to the Boston Children’s Museum on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Once there, students had an opportunity to explore a traditional Japanese home called a machiya — a 100-year-old wooden house brought over from Kyoto, Japan. They also received a lesson on Japanese calligraphy. Their calligraphy was on display this Monday at the Second Grade Japan Celebration held for family and friends.