Sixth-Grade Global Cultures and Science Kick Off Year of Interdisciplinary Learning

Our newest-to-GPS girls interview GPS alumnae to learn more about their new school.
Through a multidisciplinary approach to learning, with differentiated and student-centered instruction, GPS Middle School students strengthen these valuable skills: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and confidence.

Last week our sixth-grade global cultures and science classes began their first of many interdisciplinary projects of the school year. To become more acquainted with the history, culture, norms, and traditions of GPS, our newest-to-GPS girls interviewed GPS alumnae—including current faculty and staff, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, and friends of sixth-graders. In addition to the interviews, the girls will research and explore other GPS materials such as Kaleidoscopes from previous years, the website, the Blue Book, and more to fully immerse themselves and find their place in their new school.

Trish King, sixth-grade global cultures teacher, says, “This project is a perfect introduction to the research process for the girls. By partnering with Mrs. Tugman (sixth-grade science teacher), we are able to work together in helping our students develop an understanding of the meaning of culture and the ways in which a place, like the science lab or the GPS campus, has a culture of its own.”

This exercise allows girls to practice research skills—including writing questions, close reading, interviewing, note-taking, and paraphrasing—which also complements their studies in science.

First they develop their own questions, thinking deeply about the knowledge they wish to connect with and the ideas they still see impacting our campus today. Then, in groups, circled around one of our alumnae guests, they work collaboratively as a team, building on each others’ questions and responses through careful listening and thoughtful linking of ideas and perceptions.

“The Alum Project helps our youngest girls build their skills in interpersonal situations,” adds Dr. Gregg Lightfoot, History Department Chair and teacher. “They have to be thoughtful in their question development, self-aware in how they’re asking those questions, and respectful in their representation of GPS to those who came before them.”

“There is something truly wonderful about watching our sixth-grade girls—just beginning their journey at GPS—communicate their own brief experiences at school with confidence and wide-eyed excitement,” Lightfoot says. “Their enthusiasm for sharing experiences, both their own and those of our alumnae, moves the conversations far beyond just nostalgia, helping to keep the GPS experience one that lives on, year after year.”

Sixth-grader Maggie Lanphier said she loved the project because she found out things she would never have known otherwise. Her classmate Lucy Faler enjoyed hearing all of the hilarious stories the alumnae shared. And, Macy Poole mentioned that she liked, “hearing and learning the stories of the people who went through what I am going through right now.”

Not only does this project strengthen the bonds that unite GPS girls together across generations, but it also serves as one way to reinvigorate the connections our alumnae have with GPS, through the best ambassadors we have—our current students.

Following the interviews, Marilyn Sherman Center ’58, grandmother of sixth-grader Olivia Center, shared with Ms. King, “I loved the interviews. The girls are superb … poised, friendly, smart, and fun! I enjoyed participating.”

A classmate of Center’s, Janice Haley Fortune ’58, was also interviewed. In addition to being impressed with Ms. King and the sixth-graders, she mentioned how fun and interesting it was to spend time with the students and to have them ask her questions about GPS and her years as a student. “I certainly got something out of the sessions, and I hope they did, too!” Fortune says.

Big thanks to the many alumnae—ranging from the Classes of 1958 to 2017!—for participating in this project and helping their younger GPS sisters learn and grow in their skills and in their belonging at GPS.

Participating Alumnae:
Layla Alipour ’17 | Family friend to Pink Brouillard ’26
Sarah Burns Bernard ’96 | Mom of Caroline Bernard ’26
Meg Persinger Brock ’79, Fine Arts Department Chair
Leah Stein Brumley ’97 | Mom of Alex Brumley ’26
Courtney Poole Brunetz ’92 | Mom of Mia Brunetz ’26
Avery Jones Calhoun ’01 | Friend of Genevieve Gossett ’26
Marilyn Sherman Center ’58 | Grandmother of Olivia Center ’26
Tracie Marlin Durham ’80, Science Teacher, Interim STEM Coordinator
Janice Haley Fortune ’58 | Great Aunt of Bennet Brown ’26
Alice Smith Harris ’03, Associate Director of Admission
Lauren Hayes ’02, Director of Alumnae and Community Engagement
Jordan McCarter ’96, History Teacher, Eighth-Grade Dean
Ann Hodge Morgan ’81, The Bow Manager
Kim Maddox Pratt ’89 | Mom to Emma Pratt ’26
Casey Caldwell Santos ’08, Middle School Counselor
Courtney Tallant ’08, Math Teacher
Kipton Lankford Tugman ’92, Science Teacher, Sixth-Grade Dean
Laurel Moore Zahrobsky ’90, Dance Educator, Seventh-Grade Dean