The Bulletin - Spring 2023 Issue

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Constructive Discoveries


Spring Bulletin 2023

Creative Problem Solver

The Park School taught me how to be creative. This wasn’t just in art and music class—I was encouraged to approach dayto-day assignments creatively, like the fifth-grade presentation that I sang to my class. This innovator’s mindset carried me to five years in management consulting at Accenture, where I specialized in disruptive innovation and design thinking, and later to launching ‘DataDriven Wellness,’ an online platform that shares evidencebased wellness insights.”

Which pillar of the Park Portrait describes you? Learn more at:


The Bulletin is published twice yearly for alumni, families, and friends of The Park School. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Editors Suzy Akin

From the Head of School

“Good Morning, Scientists!”

A Journey of Discovery in Lower Division

Park’s science program begins to inculcate the habits of mind that will support student growth as they come to see themselves as scientists and engineers.

Think Differently

Confidence and Discovery in Park’s Math Department

At Park, students build strength as flexible math thinkers.

Bassil Bacare ’11 and The Healing Project

Breaking Down Barriers to Diversity in Healthcare

A Park alum applies his skill and experience to helping others advance.

Can Do!

Hands-on, Collaborative Learning in Park’s Maker Wing

Learn about the opportunities for hands-on learning offered in our Woodshop and Makerspace.


Remembrances of the 1988 Park School boys’ basketball team. Park

Assistant Lower Division Head Ildulce Brandao-DaSilva writes about her family’s Park School journey.


Cover art by Ethan Chiang, Class of 2027

Spring Bulletin 2023
Photography Flo
John Rich Tony Rinaldo Printing Puritan Capital To contact The Bulletin: Suzy Akin Director of Strategic Marketing & Communications 617.274.6148
Emma Hobart-Sheran Design Robert Beerman, Onward Upward
16 12 2 26 32 40
Belonging at
Community Updates Around Park 4 Farewells 9 Alumni Notes 30 In Memoriam 39 About the cover Fourth graders and their teachers used the Makerspace to
parabolic curve stitching using string and cardstock paper.
learning measurement and
angles in Geometry to
final designs.
make their

Dear Park community,

Spring has finally arrived at Park, and as I write, I’m enjoying the view out my window across a sun-drenched Larz Anderson Park, and trees and flowers are in full bloom. The cyclical nature of school life parallels the turn of the seasons in so many ways. We return to campus, energized, in September along with the coming of bright, crisp days. We buckle down to hard work through the winter (this year, disappointingly, unbroken by a single snow day— no fair!). And when spring comes, it mirrors the joyful learning that students and teachers are celebrating each day as all their growing and hard work comes to fruition. All the sunshine and flowers are like a well-earned reward!

As the cover of this magazine suggests, we are especially proud of the ways in which our students are learning, growing, and, yes, blooming through their engagement with science, math, and all forms of creative, hands-on “making”—the essence of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) education. Far from being just educational jargon, at Park these programs

immerse students in deep thinking and problem solving, challenging them to grow in curiosity and confidence. I couldn’t be more proud of the thoughtful, dedicated educators who bring these programs to life for our students.

Building curiosity and confidence is nothing new at Park—as evidenced by the experience shared by Bassil Bacare ’11. Bassil’s path—both at Park and in all the years beyond—has embodied a journey of discovery, and while that discovery often affirmed what he knew, it also—and more importantly—underscored what he did not know, spurring him to solve unanticipated challenges, and ultimately, inspiring him to help young people who draw from underserved communities solve them as well. In the Park Portrait, we talk about the value of “creative problem solving,” and Bassil’s story epitomizes that.

It is, truly, a wonderful time to be at The Park School. Our students are making great use of our new campus enhancements—especially the new turf field—and our new classrooms are delivering to all our hopes and expectations in the ways they provide support commensurate with the great teaching our faculty already provide, while inspiring us all to accomplish all the more.

Our current families, students, faculty and staff have seen (and, sometimes painfully, lived through!) the last few years of campus development, and now, we can look out at all we have accomplished, enjoying a quiet moment,


and appreciate how far we have come. We are so grateful to everyone who, with partnership and patience, accompanied us on this journey. If you haven’t seen Park lately, come visit! We can’t wait to share it all with you.

The end of each school year always brings joy and celebration, and it’s also a time of bittersweet farewells. As you will read in the pages ahead, this year we bid a fond goodbye to five faculty members whose programmatic impact across their long tenure cannot be understated. I hope you will join me in sharing your grateful appreciation for our departing faculty and staff—and in reminding them to come back and visit—often!




Joe Robbins, Chair

Lesley Ryan Miller, Vice Chair

Rahul Ballal, Secretary

Sara Leventhal Fleiss ’95, Treasurer


Sean Abdur Rahim

Rahul Ballal

Peter Barkan ’86

Kent Bennett

Lise Charlier

Nicole Danforth

Ken Frieze

May Hara

Tiffany Hogan

Lesley Ryan Miller

Ted Noon

Rebecca Nordhaus

Femi Obi

Rich Quincy Young Ju Rhee

Joe Robbins

Anna Sinaiko

Amanda Teo

Susanna Whitaker Waters ’99

Greg Woods


Astrid Levis-Thorne Burns ’98 Alumni Committee Co-chair

Daly Franco ’05 Alumni Committee Co-chair

Ivy Alphonse-Crean ’07

Kathrene Tiffany Bell ’96

Shami Bery ’04

Bob Bray ’53

Aldel Brown ’04

Emily Potts Callejas ’89

Carlos Castillo ’97

Rodger Cohen ’74*

Alexandra Connors Craig ’99

McCall Cruz ’06

Melissa Deland ’95

Margaret Gormley Donahue ’99

Sara Leventhal Fleiss ’95

Daly Franco ’05

David Glynn ’91

Anne Collins Goodyear ’84

Miriam Posner Harris ’03

Greg Kadetsky ’96

Alex Katz ’10

Amy Lampert ’63

Abbott Lawrence ’85

Elizabeth Mitchell ’94

Maddie Mitchell ’06

Jim O’Keefe ’91

Eliza Drachman-Jones Quincy ’98

Colin Redd ’08

Carolina Samudio-Ortega ’96

Kate Gormley Saeli ’02

Neekon Vafa ’12

Susanna Whitaker Waters ’99

Cary Williams ’09

Rebecca Wilsker ’00

*Rodger Cohen passed away on April 30, 2033 following a brave battle with glioblastoma. The Park School faculty and staff join Rodger’s loved ones, classmates, and the alumni community more broadly in mourning this loss.

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Students performed A Wrinkle in Time on November 18, 19 & 20—an otherworldly production unlike anything Park has seen! The large ensemble portrayed different creatures and formed the scenery and props.


We were thrilled to welcome our students’ grandparents and special friends back to campus in November for a morning of classroom visits, exploring Park’s new learning spaces, a Lower Division informance,and sharing Park spirit.



In the fall, our athletes enjoyed practicing and playing games on our newest athletic addition: the Turf Field! The winter season wrapped with the Student vs. Faculty & Coaches games, where the girls’ varsity basketball team had an incredible come-from-behind one-point victory over the Faculty & Coaches. Although the weather for the spring season was challenging, there was tremendous positivity, flexibility, and camaraderie among students, and they were excited for the first-ever season of ultimate frisbee!


The PreK–8 community gathered for a joyous celebration of student performance and festive community singalong! With the opportunity to return to an indoor event this year, we blended familiar traditions with the simplicity, sincerity, and spirit we enjoyed in the previous year’s event.

Spring Bulletin 2023


We showcased our music program in January by introducing winter ensemble concerts. The evenings were an intimate celebration of learning for performers, their families, and peers. We are excited to use music to contribute to a strong culture of teamwork and collaboration at Park!


In February, students in grades 6–8 exhibited artwork made in their electives classes and held music and drama performances. Parents and fellow classmates were invited to see what the group had been working on since September!



In March, Grade 7 students traveled to Washington, a capstone experience for their social studies curriculum. Their itinerary took them from museums to monuments and more. As one wise student observed, the trip was as much a lesson in independence as in American government and history.


On May 5, our PreK–8 community celebrated May Day to start the day. Each grade planted a tree after an inaugural morning of cross-grade partner campus service! Grade 3 performed May Pole and stick dances, and the entire student body joined together in song to welcome spring.


Grade 8 students traveled internationally in May—to France, Italy, and Spain—an important capstone experience culminating their Park language studies.

Spring Bulletin 2023


On May 5, 2023, the Park community celebrated May Day in a new way! The Grade 3 presentation of their long-practiced May Day dances went on, consistent with Park tradition, but this year, the day began with a community-wide Day of Service.

With rakes and gloves and shovels and bags, Park students dove into a big campus clean up project. Paired in cross-grade partnerships (for example, our Grade 4 students guided PreK students in their work, while Grade 8 students partnered with Grade 3), every student had a hand—or two, in Park-branded work gloves!—in getting campus ready for springtime. They pulled and bagged invasive garlic mustard weeds, they planted flowers, repaired rock gardens, raked wood chips, and collected and piled sticks and branches. Then, each grade gathered to plant a new tree on Park’s campus!

Coming together to watch the May Day dances, everyone joined in a community singalong—accompanied by the student ukulele band, and by Head of School Scott Young on guitar!

Park students will have a lasting, growing impact on campus as this tradition moves forward. Just think of it: by the time Park’s current PreK students complete Grade 8, they will have planted 10 trees! And across those 10 years, Park students will collectively plant 100 trees.





Park science department head Brian Beaver has announced his decision to leave Park at the end of the 2022–23 school year after 28 years of service. While he doesn’t fully consider this “retirement,” he looks forward to discovering new adventures beyond the classroom.

Brian began his career teaching 5–8 science at The Hill School in Virginia, followed by five years teaching Middle School science as well as senior electives at Newark Academy in New Jersey while also completing graduate studies at Teachers College, Columbia University. He joined the Park faculty in 1994, teaching grades 6 and 8 under science department head Prabha Papali-Nambiar. When Prabha stepped down as department head, Brian shared the department head role over time with colleague Karen Manning, who led the department during Brian’s sabbatical and stayed in the role until her own sabbatical, when Brian stepped back in. Reflecting on his time at Park, Brian is grateful for the strong partnerships he has enjoyed with fellow members of the science department who have been essential thought partners—team teaching, bouncing ideas off each other, checking understanding, and investigating new ideas.

Across just under three decades at The Park School, Brian and his colleagues have led a

thoughtful evolution of the science curriculum, working with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to enrich the understanding of what good science teaching is really about. The department deepened its emphasis on hands-on learning and discovery in the traditional core subjects of Earth Science, Physical Science, and Life Science, and introduced elements of engineering and design thinking.

Brian takes pride in having helped build a program that truly encourages students as science learners. He is impressed by the ability of Park’s students to work independently in a lab setting, gaining the resilience to try, fail, and try again, to work in collaboration with others, and build the confidence to rely less on authority and more on observation. As a teacher, Brian loves doing experiments, collecting data, and making observations, and most enjoys helping his students gain the skills to do this work.

With some much needed free time ahead, Brian looks forward to doing a good deal of hiking, and for opportunities to appreciate the outdoors and nature. We are grateful to Brian for his leadership, his dedication to students, and his partnership, and wish him all the best.

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Park Grade 3 teacher Jill Rubinstein leaves Park this spring after 23 years of service. A graduate of Smith College, Jill began her career in Greenfield, Massachusetts, where she taught fifth grade for three years. Through the Smith College alumnae network, however, she learned of an opening at The Park School for a Grade 3 teacher through fellow alumna and Park teacher Lynne Dichter. Jill applied and was chosen, and launched her Park tenure.

Her journey as a Park teacher was soon joined by her journey as a Park parent with the arrival of her two children, who graduated from Park amidst the pandemic in 2020. Her Park relationships and friendships extend across two decades of colleagues and fellow parents. The mother of two of Jill’s students, long time colleague and friend Kate LaPine, credits Jill for keeping humor and perspective both in the classroom and out. “Jill’s ability to delight in her students’ curiosity and silliness provides a healthy guidepost for parents.”

A skilled teacher who has helped shape a generation of Park alumni, her former students include several current faculty members, including Manny Duarte Perlovsky, Class of 2009 and current

Grade 4 Assistant Teacher; Sophie Moss ’09, Upper Division After School Program Director; and Isa Moss ’09, Grade 4 Lead Teacher. During her tenure, Jill has served on a variety of committees, ranging from hiring teams to the Data curricular review committee, and we are grateful for her contributions. Reflecting on her time at Park, Jill notes that what most sustained and connected her to Park has been the wonderful colleagues with whom she has had the pleasure of working—she has loved all the people she has worked with and is grateful for their partnership. Teaching third graders, aged 8 and 9, has been a particular joy for Jill. She says, “They are the best people,” at a developmental stage in which they are, simply, delightful humans who are enthusiastically engaged in a year of discovery, so ready to build on and apply the basics they solidified in the earlier grades.

During this academic year, Jill has had the opportunity to enjoy a long-awaited and well-earned sabbatical, and has used her time to work on a novel for children. As she moves beyond Park, she looks forward to continuing her writing as she considers what new directions she wants to pursue. We wish her all the best in the adventures ahead!


Reflecting back on his 23 years as a member of the Physical Education team at Park, Steve Savage says, “I found my home when I came to Park.” Steve began his career as an educator in 1976, and served as a P.E. teacher and camp director at Beaver Country Day and then Thayer Academy. Through his entrepreneurial spirit, he doubled the Beaver camp in size, and quadrupled the size of the Thayer camp program. Arriving at Park, he immediately appreciated the warmth and diversity of the community. “I felt so welcomed here—it was like being at a wedding or a bar mitzvah!” While he knows there is still work to be done, he says, “I always feel safe here.”

Though he now works with Park’s Upper Division students, his fondest memories include the time he led kindergarteners in a step aerobics class to the theme song of Rocky. “It was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone to dance,” he says, but the kids and their parents loved it. Steve has continued to push himself as an educator, gaining the expertise to support students in building the good training habits that help them grow as athletes while also avoiding injury, with a focus on mobility, stability, and strength. For years after they leave Park, Steve

reports, he hears from athletes who tell him that “my friend got injured and I didn’t,” due to the solid mechanics of training they had learned at Park.

As coach of Park’s cross country and track teams, Steve has helped build Park’s running program, and was instrumental in creating the Larz Anderson Invitational, the first independent school cross country event for middle school students, which now attracts 16 teams and 350 athletes. Steve has been a role model for students as a runner himself, having completed three Boston Marathons. He often trained in the morning before school and students would report seeing him, running, miles from campus.

Steve looks forward to enjoying his Portuguese Water Dog, Cooper, to “cooking better meals for [his] wife,” climbing mountains with his daughter, and more time for cycling and mountain biking. But, he will never cease being a physical educator: Steve looks forward to his work at a personal training studio in Newton, where his passion for guiding health, strength, and cardiovascular fitness will continue to benefit others. We wish Steve all the best in his next phase, and hope he will come back to visit often!

V ICE YEA R S OF 23 23



Debbie Henry, Park’s Director of Academic Support, leaves Park this June after 22 years of service.

A member of the Park community since 1995, Debbie joined Park’s academic support team as a parttime learning specialist, and though she stepped away twice while raising her daughter, she has been at the foundation of building the academic support program ever since.

Debbie began her career at Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, NY as a Grade 5 English and Social Studies teacher and advisor, and as Middle School learning specialist and advisor before serving as Learning Skills Department Head, Grades 5–12 and Grade 9 Curriculum Director. A graduate of Boston University, Debbie completed her M.A. in Reading and Learning Disabilities at NYU, and was awarded a prestigious Klingenstein Fellowship at Teachers College, Columbia University, as one of 12 educators nationwide to receive a grant to study integration of learning skills in selective independent schools.

Due in large part to Debbie’s dedication to members of the academic support team and the children they serve, she built on the foundation established by her predecessor, Peggy Blumenreich, to develop a strong and cohesive team and deepen


Tracy Duliban, Director of Park’s After School Program (ASP), leaves Park this spring after 20 years. Tracy first came to Park as an intern in 2000 and then worked as a Kindergarten assistant and after school teacher at Pierce School in Brookline until 2003, when her Park mentoring teacher, Pam Shepley, reached out to see if Tracy would join her as a member of Park’s after school team. When Pam left Park a few years later, Tracy stepped in to lead the program.

Under Tracy’s leadership, ASP has become a warm and welcoming community at Park, a place where children find friends, connection across grade levels and with adults in the community, where they feel seen and valued, and enjoy a relaxing, play-based end to their day that feeds their social-emotional needs. ASP has also been the channel through which many current faculty have found their way to Park—the list of teachers who started out at ASP is a testament to Tracy’s legacy. The community-within-a-community that ASP creates is what Tracy most appreciates. For families who cannot be present on campus during

the partnership between academic support professionals, Park’s academic leadership and teachers, students and their families. Named Director of Academic Support in 2014, Debbie has developed effective partnerships and systems of communication, teacher and parent meetings, documentation, and review, ensuring that Park students are at the very center of all academic support considerations and discussion, while also recognizing and supporting the strengths of each of the professionals in the department as they seek to benefit each of the children with whom they work.

Among Debbie’s contributions to the Park community has been her consistent advocacy for funding to make educational testing accessible to families whose children would benefit from the information that can be learned from this testing, but for whom its cost was out of reach. Her expertise in understanding how best to support students with varied learning styles and academic support needs, and in building clear partnerships between home, learning support, and each child’s classroom development year to year has guided Park in building the academic support program that has so deeply benefitted Park’s students. Debbie looks forward to having the opportunity to travel and to enjoy time with friends and family. We are grateful for her tireless efforts.

the day, ASP is their main entry point to community engagement at Park, where they get to connect with other families and with teachers. The team sees the children and their families in the ASP community grow from PreK and Kindergarten onward, helps celebrate big moments in children’s lives, and ASP becomes an important point of connection given the wide geography from which Park families draw.

ASP continues to grow and evolve, and Tracy feels fortunate to have been a part of an amazing program. While enrollment was necessarily sharply limited during the pandemic, enrollment now continues to grow beyond pre-pandemic levels, perhaps because families who might previously have signed their kids up for activities outside of Park know they can count on Park to provide a stable, healthy, and stimulating environment where their children are known and appreciated.

As she moves on beyond Park, she looks forward to giving up her long commute from south of Providence, and to all she will be able to do with her reclaimed time: baking and trying new recipes, and traveling. We appreciate her long and loyal dedication, and wish her all the best.

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“Good Morning, Scientists!”



ImagIne you walk into your third grade class and Melinda Huffman says “This week, we are making catapults.” We get to make what?! Or, that Will Lyons greets your PreK class with “Good Morning, Scientists!” as you begin creating a shadow museum. First graders are determining which paper towel brand is the most absorbent with their teacher, Beth Hawkins. Is it Bounty or Brawny? Not only are you excited about projects in your classroom, but you get to look forward to making musical instruments in Grade 4 and to all that’s to come in the Upper Division.

All of this excitement arises from a deeply thoughtful, well-planned curriculum that the Lower Division science team has scaffolded to ensure every student grows as a scientific thinker. “We want the kids to refer to themselves as scientists inside and outside the classroom,” says Will Lyons, PreK Science Specialist. Park’s inquiry-based, experiential program lets our youngest students’ interests shine as it exposes them to science and begins to inculcate the habits of mind that will support their growth as they come to see themselves as scientists and engineers.

The Lower Division science team comprises Beth, Melinda, and Will, and each brings a love of science and a unique background to their classrooms. From a student’s earliest days in PreK through their transition to Upper Division, they explore many topics through

their curriculum–from animals in different habitats to space exploration, programming robots to move in a predetermined pattern, and more–and expand their fascination with the world while also acquiring the scientific skills and concepts they will need in school and in life.

The team constantly considers how they can help students understand these essential concepts through an experience such as a lab, making a model, or a hands-on activity. Beth remembers her own secondgrade science teacher. “I remember planting things with her and constantly touching everything. It was a time of wonder.” One of Beth’s passions is outdoor education, and she loves taking students outside to take advantage of our sprawling campus. Whether they embark on an annual trek around campus the first day back from Spring Break or explore the

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“hidden creek” as they talk about water, Beth hopes to give her students the same experience she remembers fondly.

Building a solid foundation in the sciences is a student’s first step towards science proficiency. Students gather essential skills to make observations, ask questions, collect and analyze data, communicate results, collaborate, and think critically. Melinda observes, “We need to see ourselves as stewards of our planet so that students can make the world better and have a solid background and understanding of how the natural world works.”

Melinda loves engineering and design in addition to robotics and coding projects in which students learn about essential science concepts while being able to express themselves and be creative. Grade 4 builds on what they learned the previous year and uses a Makey Makey kit to explore physical computing. They split into groups based on interest and make a usable instrument, game, interactive poster, or other tool that demonstrates their understanding. The options are endless, which is so exciting for the science department.

While the Next Generation Science Standards are the backbone of the curriculum, each teacher adds their flare in units where they shine as individuals. As

Beth notes, “We teach everything intentionally, but how we teach a subject is flexible. Will may teach PreK students about reptiles differently than I might teach them in K–2 when we cover desert animals. I can take the subject deeper by exploring reptiles indigenous to the desert habitat. Very little is random in our curriculum.”

Melinda, Beth, and Will meet regularly to discuss curriculum plans and get ideas from each other. They look at what was covered and where there might be holes in the studies. An essential part of the science curriculum builds on themes that recur throughout a student’s journey from Lower Division to Upper Division. In PreK, students investigate why leaves change colors and learn about chlorophyll, resulting in color change. In Kindergarten, students plant radish seeds and observe the plant’s life cycle. While all students learn about botany in second, third, and fifth grade, they build on the knowledge acquired the year before as they consider different aspects of the plant–its ecosystem, consumers, needs to grow, and how the plant thrives–for the most comprehensive learning experience.

Students are natural scientists and Park strives to give them time to figure things out independently while teaching them to be curious, lifelong learners. The


science team is constantly looking at their lesson plans to see how to strengthen prior knowledge, vocabulary, ideas, and basic concepts as they approach new topics. According to Beth, “We want students to consider thinking and observing as a first step, not jumping to a conclusion immediately, which helps them develop a curiosity for what is next.” She observes that this opportunity is so essential because “having the skill to be creative thinkers will serve them well throughout life.”

Smaller science lessons also occur in the students’ primary classroom. Science teachers consult with classroom teachers on leveled reading resources to determine which students would benefit from a more robust resource or an audio version to find the “just right level” for everyone. While observing caterpillars, chicks, and eggs begins in science rooms, these natural wonders are eventually transferred to kindergarten classrooms so that students can see changes in real-time. “The baby chick will not plan to come out of its shell at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday during their science class!” Beth laughs. The partnership with classroom teachers ensures students remain curious about the world around them in their studies.

Science, as a body of knowledge, is constantly changing. When a question comes up that Beth, Melinda, or Will don’t know, they never want to make up an answer. Beth shares, “I go back to them with the lesson that scientists are researchers. I say, ‘Let’s research and figure it out together.’ Students can always tell if their teacher is engaged in the topic. If I am more excited about the subject, that carries over.” Melinda impresses on students that science is a cycle, not a step-by-step process with a right and wrong answer. “We do not always get the expected response,” she says, “and that’s okay. It’s the nature of science!” The most important thing for students in the Lower Division is learning skills such as problem-solving, resilience, and empathy. All three are essential to address all scientific problems, and they will take this knowledge with them when they enter the Upper Division.

Now in his second year as Science Specialist for PreK, Will appreciates that he can look back on what didn’t go as planned last year, and rebuild the curriculum in better ways moving forward. “The program is consistently evolving. I am learning alongside the students, which shows them that we should never stop learning, even when we become adults!”

Diving into Physical Science

How are the concepts of force and motion woven through Park’s Lower Division?

PreK students use trucks to explain how vehicles can push, pull, and lift heavy and large objects. Students are given the opportunity to examine and discuss how push and pull actions of vehicles like trucks are used to produce and control motion. They also saw a real-life example, courtesy of the Facilities team, who brought over a front loader for show-and-tell!

Kindergarten explores physical science through the theme of change when challenged to make just one change to achieve their goal of having a Hot Wheels car make a loop while remaining on the bright orange track. Students explore engineering at an elementary level by highlighting the impact of changing only one variable.

Grade 3 students designed, built, and tested gravity race cars to learn about the difference between potential and kinetic energy in simple machinery. In this experiment, students analyze the data to determine how the slope of a ramp affects the distance a car travels. Through these investigations, students experience and internalize Newton’s Three Laws of Motion which are key concepts in physics. Once students understand the physics at play, they can see how they can manipulate these forces to stay safe, make work more manageable, and help them understand how forces work in the world around them.

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Confidence and Discovery in Park’s Math Department

The story goes that back in 1911, years before he founded the company that became IBM, Thomas J. Watson was frustrated by the lackluster contributions of his colleagues at a meeting. Calling them out for not using their heads, he wrote the word THINK on an easel. The slogan traveled with him through the years and became a familiar brand statement for IBM. Watson refused to get any more specific than this single word, saying “By THINK I mean take everything into consideration.”1 Nearly 90 years later, Apple put out its own slogan, seemingly a response to IBM’s THINK. Apple said, THINK DIFFERENT.

1 Belden, Thomas; Belden, Marva (1962). The Lengthening Shadow: The Life of Thomas J. Watson. Little, Brown and Company. pp. 157–8.

THIS QUESTION OF HOW, and how deeply, we think, and of how much confidence and creativity we bring to that thinking process, is at the very heart of academic excellence, and it’s what we prize most in Park’s math program. As Watson said, we are meant to use our heads—to THINK, using the tools and insights we have accumulated to approach new problems and solve them, even if we’ve not seen them before. To think, and be willing to think differently, as we see our way through and around obstacles.

Over the course of the 2022–23 academic year, Park’s Math Review Committee, a cross-divisional team led by Eliza Botsford and Jay Duhaime, has been considering the kind of thinking Park math students are encouraged to embrace. Along with the other review teams, this group discussed best practices and current research, they conferred with other independent schools, surveyed families, and then made recommendations based on that work. Yes, acquisition of math facts is important—they are part of the toolkit students need. Practice is also important, as students build the confidence to try, collaborate, fail, try again, and succeed. However, the true goal is to provide a deep understanding of math concepts and math literacy that will support the flexible, creative

thinking that will take them farthest as math learners and scholars.

As anyone who has struggled in math learning knows, there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve hit a brick wall and you can’t find the solution. Often, the frustration that comes along with that builds up into a kind of learned helplessness. How often have we heard someone say “I’m not a math person.” Or, “I’m no good at math.” The middle school years are an essential time of identity formation—a time when a child decides what they are good at, and where they will (or will not) persist and continue to try. As Upper Division math teacher and department head Christy Keblusek says, “At Park, we believe everyone has the ability to succeed in math class. Everyone can be a ‘math person’ when they find how math connects to their world.”

With that in mind, Park’s math program encourages students to think like detectives, challenging them to solve problems put in front of them using what they know to investigate something else. The goal is for students to develop a deep

“We want kids to think about HOW their brains think. We need to teach them the tools that will help them use their brain to solve problems. Our job is not to tell them what to think—it’s to teach them how to think so they can find their own understanding.”
—Christy Keblusek Upper Division math teacher and department head
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understanding of math concepts that support acquisition of flexible and creative thinking skills, which they can confidently apply across a wide range of challenges—and have fun doing it!

In contrast, some math programs emphasize only the acquisition of rote, memorized pathways. While this kind of learning may yield short term success on certain aspects of formal testing, it often comes at the exclusion of deeper understanding. Christy notes, “We sometimes see kids who have been trained in a memorized process yet lack the flexibility to extrapolate their understanding—‘If I see this, I do that. If I see that, I do this.’ But this fails them when they encounter a type of problem they haven’t seen before.”

Upper Division Head Ken Rogers observes, “Often, families believe their child is ‘strong in math’ because they excel almost exclusively in computation. Yet computation is just the foundation of the real skill we want students to acquire, which is the ability to solve problems. They need to take the computational tools and apply them to different problem solving situations.”

At Park, as we teach kids to engage confidently in solving different kinds of problems, we want them to grow to enjoy the challenge of figuring it out as opposed to simply repeating a right answer. We want them to build momentum from their successes and

see intersections between their own interests and math learning. For example, Grade 8 has been using mathematical graphing formulas to draw images of things that are meaningful to them. Each student was encouraged to pick something about which they care deeply and find a way to create that, visually, using math. This year, for example, a student who loves music chose to create an image of a guitar; his connection to his creation was so deep that he found true joy in spending time to improve and perfect a beautiful image, created out of only mathematical functions. That kind of engagement is exciting—and it makes the “why” behind math tools vivid and personally valuable.

In Grade 6, students learn to perform different operations with decimals by using data collection. Each student chose a survey topic they are personally interested in, designed the survey, and collected data. The class as a whole talked about how to read survey data and understand survey bias, and students worked mathematically with the collected data to assess what the numbers might indicate. By definition, they needed to work with mathematical operations and negotiate decimals, but their focus was solidly on the process and what the information said about the project they chose. Seeing the math in things they care about makes math meaningful—and Park’s teachers try to show students that there are so many ways they can use these skills.

The current math review process centers on affirming best practices to support differentiated instruction. Students learn and develop at different rates and in different ways, and a math classroom needs to meet students where they are, and help them strengthen their skills and ability to tackle challenges. Ken Rogers observes, “These kids develop so

Students who excel in the “standard” level can easily step into the “advanced” level the following year, without missing any essential content, and students who need more support can leave the advanced section and not find themselves repeating material. The goal is to ensure that every student finds that proper balance between support, encouragement, and challenge.

dynamically as they move through the Middle School years. They are still working to discover themselves as thinkers.”

Park’s practice of placing students in “standard” and “advanced” math levels in the upper grades makes room for that ongoing discovery and for each student’s developmental timeline. The more advanced level challenges students to dig for more depth in each unit, while the standard section will spend more time supporting the fundamentals, with the same or similar challenge available to students as extensions as needed. In a well-differentiated classroom, however, the experience in both sections can be very much the same—each student having the opportunity to go for as much depth, or as much support, as they need. As a result, neither level is a defining “track.” Students who excel in the “standard” level can easily step into the

“advanced” level the following year, without missing any essential content, and students who need more support can leave the advanced section and not find themselves repeating material. The goal is to ensure that every student finds that proper balance between support, encouragement, and challenge.

What’s important is the notion of “proximal development.” That’s the zone slightly beyond what’s comfortable, where the most growth happens. When students are pushed enough to land just one step ahead of where they are comfortable—but not so far that they get frustrated or discouraged—they can embrace the idea of challenge. Embracing challenge is just as important for students for whom math comes more easily, who might otherwise “coast” in boredom. “We focus more on growth than on achievement,” Christy says. “We look for how much a student has

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Ideally, every student will say “I love math,” knowing that even if it’s a little hard, they can figure it out. But, even if they don’t say “I love math,” we want them to be proud of themselves because they tried something hard, and grew as a person. They grew as learners.

grown in their ability to figure things out and deepen their understanding.” Success equals growth—and it looks different for every student. Park teachers know their students well, and know what growth looks like for each of them.

And it helps to do this with a peer! Often, the best learning comes as students collaborate to solve problems, learning as much from each other as from the teacher as they work together, sharing perspectives. Ken says, “We talk about that kind of collaboration in English and Social Studies, but it’s just as relevant in math. Each of our brains thinks differently, and if we can share different ways of thinking about a problem, we help each other see things differently as well—and help each other see our own thinking—known as metacognition—and dive deeper.” Instead of hitting brick walls, our peers help us find a window, a door, or a ladder. We get to the other side.

As educators, talking about math concepts is exciting, Christy says. “We want kids to think about HOW their brains think. We need to teach them the tools that will help them use their brain to solve problems. Our job is not to tell them what to think—it’s to teach them how to think so they can find their own understanding.”

Ideally, every student will say “I love math,” knowing that even if it’s a little hard, they can figure it out. But, even if they don’t say “I love math,” we want them to be proud of themselves because they tried something hard, and grew as a person. They grew as learners.


With the addition of Ellinor Wareham’s role as Math Specialist in Grades 3 and 4, each student rising from Park’s Lower Division to Upper Division brings a deeper and stronger foundation to their learning. Ellinor’s role also creates more opportunities for the cross-divisional conversations that best support student growth.

Originally published in Park Perspectives by Ellinor Wareham, Math Specialist, Winter 2022–23

ave you ever wondered what a Grade 4 math unit looks like? Are you curious about how we intertwine the critical concepts in the Investigations workbook with project-based learning so that students build and master measurable skills? The Grade 4 math curriculum covers many lessons, including factors and multiples, generating and representing data, Geometry, decimals, and fractions. Every unit includes at least one project, which allows students to demonstrate mastery of the content in a non-traditional way.

MATH IS TAUGHT differently today than how many of the adults in our community may remember. There is less focus during class time on drilling and practicing new skills, and students are encouraged to be flexible in their mathematical thinking. Although the ways in which parents and students arrive at an answer can differ as we teach new ways of problem solving, the core principals are the same. Park students’ mathematical thinking is stretched in math class under the guidance of their experienced teachers. Teachers intentionally assign homework that students can complete independently and that they know will provide additional practice on essential skills and math facts.

For example, a recent unit in the curriculum covers data. Through carefully chosen problems, Grade 4 students investigate different types of graphs, and are pushed to analyze them with questions that include straightforward challenges (e.g. graph the data, and find the range and mode) and problems that encourage a deeper understanding of the content. In one such problem, for example, students were asked to analyze a line plot to determine what a typical number of houses on a street is, if there is an outlier in the data, and what that could mean. One Grade 4 student hypothesized that the one


street with an outlier of only six houses, “…might have bigger and more expensive houses than the other streets.” Students’ mathematical thinking and reasoning skills are deepened and stretched as they complete problems from their workbooks.

The Investigations curriculum teaches students how to create a meaningful data question, which needs to be measurable and clearly understood. This leads them to consider how to collect data: what variables may affect the outcome? How can the extraneous variables be reduced? This fall, students had the opportunity to partner with another grade level to collect data. One class measured how far both Grade 4 and PreK students were able to jump, and analyzed who jumped further and by how much. The students then graphed their data and answered questions about what they learned, and whether the results were surprising.

The data unit is supplemented with two enrichment projects and both are designed to show real-life applications of data. In the first project, students were asked to think like the owner of a WNBA team. They analyzed scoring data from two WNBA superstars for a season and created line plots by looking at minimums, maximums, clusters, ranges, and outliers. The students then provided mathematical reasons for why they would pick one player over another. Here is a sample of what students wrote:

Student 1: “I think you should pick A’ja Wilson because she more consistently gets points above 20. Her lowest [scoring game] is 11 while Lloyd’s is 3! And even though her highest [number of points in one game] is lower than Lloyd’s, her cluster is 19 to 24 while Lloyd’s is 9 to 14. That’s 10 less! That is why I think you should pick A’ja Wilson.”

Student 2: “I think you should pick Lloyd because if you add [the points for the season] all up, Jewell Lloyd gets 340 points and A’ja Wilson got 320 and the average for Jewell Lloyd is 15.454545. A’ja Wilson’s average is 15.23895, so Jewell Lloyd is better when totaled up.”

The second STEAM enrichment project was completed using the Makerspace. Students dropped weighted stuffed animals using bungees of different lengths to see how far the stuffed animal fell. They used slow-motion cameras on their iPads to determine precisely how low it dropped. The data was graphed and analyzed to see if the information collected matched the students’ initial hypotheses. Rich discussions ensued around what variables may have contributed to the large range of the data that was collected.

By the end of the data unit, the Grade 4 students felt confident collecting data,

making the data as accurate as possible by minimizing variables, representing the data using a variety of different graphs, drawing conclusions from the data, and identifying how and why graphs may be misleading. All of these skills are essential for developing critical thinkers. The ability to be able to analyze a graph with a mindful lens of how data can be presented to highlight one point of view is a complex yet vital skill. For students, a growth mindset paired with confidence in their own ability to struggle through hard topics are essential for future success with mathematics. Park students leave Grade 4 with a deep understanding of the complexities of data. As they finish their final year in the Lower Division, students are ready to enter the Upper Division with a solid foundation in all Common Core standards and an extensive problem solving toolbox.

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mother in her final years. She died on as quietly and

Images from the Class of 2011 yearbook

Bassil Bacare ’11 and The Healing Project


It’s no surprise that

Bassil Bacare set a Roxbury Latin record in the 110 high hurdles, an event in which he went on to compete at the collegiate level. It’s an event that requires speed, agility, and intensity of focus, and Bassil isn’t a guy who takes the easy way through. He gravitates to intensity, productivity, and challenge in everything he does. A 2018 graduate of Trinity College, he’s currently working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, studying for MCATs, setting up to apply to medical school…all while launching and running his own nonprofit dedicated to helping young people from underserved communities, like him, manage the hurdles involved in getting into the medical field.

Going back to his days as a Steppingstone* scholar in Grade 5, he remembers working hard

through hot summer days, and the intensity of the academic work throughout the school year, followed by more long, challenging, hot summer days as he prepared to apply to independent school. He recalls, “My Mom had been trying for Park for some time,” and he was thrilled when he was accepted into Grade 7. Reflecting on all that intensity, he says “It pays dividends later.”

Bassil remembers his time at Park fondly, and particularly appreciates the support he received from teachers, including Allan Rivera, Bob Little, and Peter Amershadian. Mr. Amershadian was “hugely influential,” he says, with teaching that was “so fluid and easy to understand. Spanish was my favorite class.” He internalized the “little wins” his teachers championed, and gained academic strength and confidence along the way. Bassil stayed at Park through Grade 9 and he and his classmates bonded into a tight knit group. “That year, the Spain trip in particular was an opportunity where I solidified friendships,” he recalls. “It was bittersweet too, because we would all be departing from Park.”

He loved his experience at Roxbury Latin as well. “It was very nurturing,” he says, “and they cared about me as an individual, both academically and athletically.” A successful student, he also excelled in track, consistently finishing in the top 10 at New Englands. While he went on to Trinity knowing that he wanted to pursue studies in the sciences, what really solidified his commitment was a seven week immersion program at Harvard Medical School, designed for students looking to explore careers in medicine. “The program really opened my eyes to the complexities of science.” The program got him into labs and into contact with patients, hands-on experience that challenged him with opportunities to actually help real patients.

Bassil majored in Neuroscience and minored in Psychology at Trinity and competed in Track & Field. He also served on the college’s Honors Council, working with the Dean of Students to uphold college integrity. As a member of the council, he helped evaluate and make sound decisions on questions ranging from social issues to academic integrity. “The work was very collaborative,” he recalls, and gave him the opportunity to articulate and share his opinions. He says, “I felt the gravity of this work,” and it left its mark.

At the same time, he actively expanded his experience in science and medicine. Earning the opportunity to participate in a Harvard research program at Boston Children’s Hospital’s neurobiology center, he investigated the role of Neuropeptide Substance P in allergic reactions in the context of airway inflammation, and then participated in presenting and showcasing the findings. He followed this first experience with hands-on research in healthcare with a summer

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*Steppingstone is a Bostonbased non-profit that prepares students from historically marginalized communities to access, navigate, and graduate from college.

research opportunity his junior year summer at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital in the surgical ICU. Donning scrubs and a white coat, and working 12 hour days, 7 a.m to 7 p.m, he says, “they really made me feel like part of the family.” His work that summer centered around finding other cases around the country similar to a medical abnormality the hospital was treating, and resulted in a published abstract in The Society of Critical Care Medicine for which he shared credit.

All the intensity driving Bassil forward came to a screeching halt when COVID hit. The MCAT was

interviews. He observes, “I was completely unaware of the resources available as well as the time, energy, and devotion needed.” How might he leverage his experiences and the connections he had made to help as many people as possible?

He wanted to help students gain the confidence needed to pursue a meaningful path to medicine. He notes, “I am sure there are other students out there who are overwhelmed like I was and unsure where to begin.” And so he created The Healing Project.

Over the past two years, this initiative has grown from initial conception to an active resource for

pushed back, and suddenly, Bassil had time. Free time. Unscheduled time. He took the opportunity to look at himself holistically and consider his path forward.

He completed a Post Baccalaureate year at Northeastern, intended as a refresher for his courses, and was lucky to secure work as a medical assistant in a small pain management practice. He worked closely with the physician, assisting with epidural procedures, gaining hands-on experience while helping ensure that the practice ran smoothly. This practical exposure encouraged him to learn more about health issues on a grander scale, beyond the clinical setting. He volunteered as a counselor with SPARK Boston, working on how to solve Boston’s overall health problems, from food insecurity to vaccine distribution, and sought to learn more about health care legislation while becoming increasingly aware of how rigid, constricted and difficult our healthcare system can be—especially for people of color.

The challenges encountered by people of color with the healthcare system provoked another series of questions. How might young people of color advance in the medical field? He says, “it’s one thing to hear ‘get good grades,’ and ‘build connections,’ but what does a quality research experience really look like? What does an ideal recommendation look like?”

He struggled with how best to plan his academic schedule, where to turn for internship guidance and MCAT study tips, and how to prepare for

students who feel themselves underrepresented in healthcare, and is currently helping approximately 15 students, with mentors drawing from Boston, New York, Connecticut, and Washington, DC who bring diverse backgrounds and experiences. Bassil says, “My team consists of doctors and passionate medical school students who have the desire to help. They bring their high level of understanding to better equip underserved students with the necessary resources to excel. And, he notes, it’s not a “one size fits all” approach—the mentoring is tailored to where each individual is on their journey.

The Healing Project has created a research hub that pulls essential information about scholarships, internship programs, leadership experiences, and more into one easily accessible drive. His mentors now number eleven—all current or recent medical school students—along with five leading physicians who have been instrumental in supporting these students’ journeys, providing that extra layer of expertise and support.

Looking back over his own journey, Bassil thinks about all he had to learn. “I had to build the plane while flying it,” he reflects, which led to some mistakes, such as signing up to take Physics and Organic Chemistry in the same semester. “I wish I had someone to tell me, don’t do that!” He hopes to make this process as seamless as possible for other young people.

Already, Bassil is seeing results: two Helping Project mentees have been accepted into medical

“Bassil is totally amazing! I was most impressed with his enthusiasm, energy and effort. In particular, how he took an idea from inception to becoming CEO and Founder of a 501(c)(3) while working full time demonstrated a commitment that was truly inspiring.”
— dr . vincent chiang

THE HEALING PROJECT is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that partners with those interested in healthcare to bridge the gap for underrepresented students. We provide interdisciplinary and longitudinal mentorship for students who have the passion and zeal to pursue a career in healthcare. Our fundamental goal is to cater to each student’s needs like essay preparation, editing personal statements, internship guidance, and study tips to enhance our students’ chances in achieving their goals and dreams. We work closely with our students to provide them with the necessary resources and guidance. We aim to help students achieve their dreams and break down institutionalized barriers.


vision, noting “Bassil is totally amazing! I was most impressed with his enthusiasm, energy, and effort. In particular, how he took an idea from inception to becoming CEO and Founder of a 501(c)(3) while working full time demonstrated a commitment that was truly inspiring.” And so it is full speed ahead for Bassil, once again. Building The Healing Project has challenged him to become an entrepreneur. He had to learn how to run a business, learn marketing, build a website, recruit his team, become an effective fundraiser—everything, from scratch. “No one tells you how much work there is behind the scenes,” he reflects.

Meanwhile, he is doing clinical research in endocrinology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in a study he brought from the ground up on underdiagnosed cases of high blood pressure, work that involves recruiting participants, screening them, setting them up in the study and guiding them on referrals for treatment. He oversees a team of four, and comments that he has found “the brightest people I’ve ever been around at Brigham and Women’s.” He appreciates all the partnership and mentoring colleagues have provided him.

And, he is back at studying for the MCAT and planning med school applications—with the hope of matriculating in Fall 2024.

school, and others are getting interviews and acceptances from top schools. Bassil says, “I’m really glad to see it happening,” and notes that it couldn’t have happened without his team, who provide the resources and expertise that might otherwise come from a costly medical consultant. Bassil observes, “We are trying to bring down institutional barriers, among them financial. I can confidently say we are increasing the diversity in healthcare…one student at a time!”

Among the physicians on his team is Dr. Vincent Chiang, Chief Medical Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital as well as former Park board chair and parent of three Park alumni (Molly ’15, Grace ’16, and Aidan ’19). Dr. Chiang is excited about Bassil’s

Looking back over the years to his experience at Park, he recalls that “At Park, they say ‘no question is dumb.’ They really want you to understand where you need to get to.” He valued that supportive environment, observing “You can be super talented and smart, but if you don’t have supportive teachers and advisors who are rooting for you, it’s a waste of time. ‘Learned helplessness’ comes from doing the work and not seeing results.” At Park, he learned to be a self-advocate, and carried that ability into college and beyond.

And now, he’s paying that gift forward, working to ensure that underserved students are prepared to navigate their journey into the medical field as seamlessly as possible.

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“At Park, they say ‘no question is dumb.’ They really want you to understand where you need to get to.”


Hands-on, Collaborative Learning in Park’s Maker Wing


The Park Portrait

underscores the importance of a number of essential competencies: we create opportunities for our students to grow as joyful learners, mindful leaders, skillful communicators, compassionate collaborators, creative problem solvers, and practiced advocates. While some of these skills and areas of confidence and competence show up quite regularly, some are a bit harder to capture, at least in terms of traditional academic assessments. That’s part of why we love the learning that takes place on Park’s Maker Wing so much—the opportunities for hands-on learning offered in our Woodshop and Makerspace challenge students to apply different sets of tools—literally and metaphorically— that help develop and strengthen exciting aspects of experiential learning.

For instructor Dean Laabs, one of the great benefits the Woodshop provides is the opportunity to experience the essential truth that “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” In the Woodshop, he says, he always challenges students to embrace higher standards. “By the end of the term,” he says, “their idea of what constitutes ‘excellence’ has been reset.” For example, sanding wood provides an opportunity for students to elevate their sense of what constitutes “good.” They recognize that if you spend a bit more time, apply a bit more attention, you bring out the beauty of the wood. They see the transformation. Dean notes, “I can point out why the sanding job they’d done before was ‘rough around the edges,’ and they come to understand how they can make it special.” Knowing they have the capacity to reach for excellence…that’s exciting.

This excellence is revealed in a tangible, visible form. Dean observes, “Often, the projects we do are durable. Years later, the project—a box, a cabinet, a

bench—they created is still part of their life. “It’s a lasting testament to what they were able to accomplish at a young age. Hopefully, they hold onto the sense of pride of what they made. The project is still there years later, showing them what they can accomplish.”

This year, the Woodshop has settled into its new home next door to the Makerspace, and the new Maker Wing buzzes with the energy of experimentation and discovery. “Kids know it’s their Makerspace day,” reports Makerspace educator Elaine Hamilton, “and they are clamoring to get in here. They’re on fire about it.” Their Makerspace projects build on the knowledge they have acquired in their classes and electives, and they are incredibly energized and self-motivated to make use of it. Elaine observes, “Often, students need to use complex measurements, for example, to accomplish their project. It’s an authentic way to apply math skills, and they’re not even thinking about it as ‘math’—they just

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see it as essential knowledge that helps them make this project.” It’s symbiotic—their academic work strengthens their project work, and their projects strengthen and affirm their academic skill set.

On a recent afternoon, for example, Grade 7 students were in the Makerspace working to build earthquake-resistant towers as an extension of their science class. “One of the students already had an arsenal of skills gained in an elective class related to what it takes to build a strong and durable platform,” Elaine says. “The student kept iterating and iterating, applying the knowledge she had to experiment for best results. Not only was she able to create the most stable tower, but she was able to guide other students with her knowledge. She was so proud of herself and how much she knew!”

Projects like this give students a new understanding of why knowledge matters. It’s not just about getting through a test. Knowledge has a purpose, a reason, and it’s transferable to real life challenges, it’s no longer just a selection of (possibly forgettable) facts. Elaine points out, also, that this work provides opportunities to make learning more equitable, particularly for students who learn best by doing. Further, she observes, in today’s world, aptitude in digesting and regurgitating facts is less important than it was previously. “It’s more important to know what you can do with information, how you can use it. We hope the understanding they gain

challenges them to think, ‘What else is possible?’”

Particularly with the availability of information online, and with the rise of tools like ChatGPT, this kind of learning provides educators an important opportunity to see what students are thinking and what they understand—and to see them driven to bring to life a vision that is their own idea, using the skills they’ve gained and in collaboration with others. “They are very determined, very focused,” Elaine observes. Further, as Dean explains, “Online, everything is slick, tidy. Here in our classrooms, there are real, physical constraints that students need to negotiate.” Sometimes, that depends on using the most basic of tools, and on doing what you can with what you have and where you are. “The lesson here is ‘How can we make this refined piece of furniture, given our basic tools and relative inexperience,’” Dean says, “digging into the problem solving and

28 THE PARK SCHOOL the Makerspace, we have a structure for building habits of receiving feedback and continuing to iterate.”
Makerspace educator Elaine Hamilton

collaborating with others, with just the tools at hand?”

Dean particularly appreciates the opportunities this reveals for independent thinking and empowerment. He describes a recent project in which students built sculptures that explore the intersection of mechanical movement and art. He provided the students with videos and slides to support what they were building—independently. “Often, in the classroom, students will say ‘Mr. Laabs! What do I do next??’ But if I tell them what to do next, the only skill they build is the ability to ‘Go ask Mr. Laabs.’” By guiding students to return to the materials provided, he encouraged them to build their own capacity for resourcefulness. “And then the kids are lucky,” he laughs. “In the classroom, everyone’s working on the same steps. Someone here probably has the answer!”

Elaine most appreciates how this kind of learning expands the way students can show what they know. With the Grade 4 maze project, for example, students sought to retell The Odyssey chapter by chapter, working with a partner. Touring the classroom to see the other projects underway, students had the chance to consider “How can my awesome idea improve the work of others, and how can their work inspire me?” They want to do their best work, and they want to learn from all those around them. No two projects ever look the same—the results are based on how each student sees the world, and what challenges they set for themselves.

An essential part of this learning, however, is the foundation of trust the teachers work to build. Dean notes, “All the successes in our classrooms are rooted in the relationship we establish. If they feel unsure

about how to do something, they will be more likely to take a risk because they know we are there to back them up.” Missteps are expected and taking risks is encouraged because their teachers are there as a safety net. Students can come into the Woodshop, start a new project on their own initiative, talk about materials, and ask for advice. “That wouldn’t happen if we didn’t already have that trust.”

Elaine observes that sometimes it can be hard for students to hear “You haven’t met the standard YET.” She says, “It’s so great that in the Makerspace, we have a structure for building habits of receiving feedback and continuing to iterate. If you can work on something with the partnership of others, it will get so much better, so much faster. The outcomes for everyone are always better.” In many ways, these classrooms provide the ideal space in which to practice how to treat each other, offer and receive feedback, and advocate for ourselves and for others.

When we think about what we most hope students will take forward from their Park journey, it looks a lot like this: students who are confident in taking initiative, who work across disciplines, work well in partnership, and follow their own curiosity. Students motivated by a strong sense of what they can accomplish, who are excited to challenge themselves to learn new ideas, and who ask themselves, “What can I do to make the world better?” They know that by problem solving, incorporating feedback and iterating, they are strengthening their skills and preparing themselves for any future challenge.

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Remembrances of the 1988 Park boys’ basketball team

In the early spring of 1988, The Park School boys’ basketball team traveled to Concord for the Fenn Tournament and attempted to do what no Park team (to their knowledge) had ever done: run the table for an undefeated season. Park’s athletics at the time were middling: in soccer, an early exit from the Eaglebrook tournament under the legendary Dean Conway was one of their better forays; hockey, lacrosse, and other sports consistently came up short against Fay, Fenn, and other rivals. League championships, much less perfect seasons, were never attained.

But this team was different. Starting as early as 4th grade, every single recess was dedicated to basketball by a group of around ten boys who were obsessed with basketball and its culture. This was the mid-80s, the height of the Celtics original Big Three, the electrifying Michael Jordan and Air Jordans, with Run DMC (Raising Hell ) and the Beastie Boys (Licensed to Ill ) providing the soundtrack. When they weren’t in school, they found games in their home towns of Mattapan, Jamaica Plain, Cambridge, Newton, and Brookline High. Like their girls’ team counterparts, they had winter practices at 7 a.m. and afternoon practices at Hellenic College, where the Boston Celtics and their visitors practiced as well. Celebrity sightings were not uncommon.

The team identified more with a swaggered city attitude with edge than a typical leafy green group of pushovers, and from the first whistle of their ninth grade year, they dominated, averaging wins of more than 20 points. At the Fenn Tournament, the boys jumped out to a 31-5 lead in the first half behind a suffocating full-court press led by point guard Kumasi Allen and shooting guard Jordan Kimball and never looked back. The cherished photo of the grinning title-winning team remains.

On the 35th anniversary of that historic victory, several members of the team exchanged memories of that perfect season.

Allie Powell ’88

Greg Horwitch (Small Forward) reflected on what it was that made the Park ’88 team so good—both compared to rival teams and to other Park teams. “Often,” he recalls, “we had both the best players on the court and the deepest team. That’s hard to beat! And as others have mentioned, we played basketball every recess. But why did we play basketball every recess?” Greg credits Park’s then-Director of Admission, Caroline Hoppin, who in the late 1970s began driving an effort to recruit students from beyond Brookline and Chestnut Hill. The boys in their class, Greg says, drew from urban, multicultural areas like Jamaica Plain, Cambridge, Dorchester, and Mattapan. “Many of us also played basketball on city playgrounds rather than in driveways. On the playground, you play with whoever shows up, and you have to adapt. It’s competitive: winner stays.”

It was also a moment in culture, Greg notes. “Basketball—like hip hop, breakdancing, graffiti and early sneaker styles—was central to 80s urban culture. We were committed to basketball and passionate about it because it was not just an elective sport: it was a way of life for us in our formative years.” Thanks to Mrs. Hoppin’s admissions vision and determination, Greg says, “Park was ahead of the curve for suburban private schools diversifying in a number of ways, which influenced the composition and culture of the team and provided a competitive advantage.“

Pictured: Top, L–R: John Sullivan (coach), Gabe Stadecker, Josh Byrnes, Sam Levy, Jordan Kimball, Shaun (Netter) Amin; Bottom Row, L–R: David Robinson, Kumasi Allen (son of Fern Cunningham-Terry, former art teacher), Dave Anderson, Allie Powell, Josh Kantrowitz, Ramsay Westgate, Greg Horwitch. Taken Spring 1988, Fenn Tournament Champions. Season Record: 14–0.

Allie Powell (Small Forward) recalls the thrill of tying his sneakers next to Ron Harper when the Cavaliers practiced at Hellenic College. “It blows my mind that we had practices at the Celtics practice gym during one of the most iconic Boston sports seasons (1986),” he says. “I remember my mom warming up the car on cold, dark winter mornings before driving me out for our 7:00 a.m. practices.” However, by the time the boys reached 9th grade, their recess games were probably more intense than their games. “We were so good that I think I remember Sam Levy being upset that we ‘lost by two’ one time when we won by 18, because we had essentially set an internal standard that we were favored by 20 each game.” Allie ended up attending a high school that Park’s team had resoundingly defeated when they were in 9th grade, and he remembers thinking, “I can’t believe I’m going to a school with such a crappy basketball team.” His Park buddies kept picking the pocket of their point guard for easy fast break layups to go up 23–0. That point guard became one of Allie’s best friends in high school—and led their team to a league championship. They weren’t a bad team….Park was just that much better.

Dave Anderson (Power Forward) was among the new students who arrived at Park through Caroline Hoppin’s efforts. He recalls feeling like an outsider coming to an established culture when he first arrived in 8th grade— but basketball made the difference. He recalls, “As much as we shined in 9th grade with those ugly uniforms on, our soul was formed and bonded in pick-up games at recess, at Curtis Hall, Brookline High, on that court in France when we had our exchange visit. It was deeper than that season.” Dave went on to become a coach, and credits his Park coach, John Sullivan, for shaping that path.

Josh Byrnes (Center/Forward) appreciates the team’s solidarity, and Coach Sullivan’s leadership as well. Coach Sullivan “was an excellent new basketball coach. I’m still impressed with how he jumped into coaching and did a very good job. Very passionate. He cared.” Josh reflects that as much fun as it was seeing the most talented players dominate, “it was just as much fun to see the players who saw less minutes make shots. I still remember some of those moments.” He also savors the memory of the epic “U.S. vs. France” competition that took place on the central courtyard at the school where their Grade 9 exchange student friends went to school. “I think a lot of the school was watching. One of those special moments. I’m pretty sure we destroyed them.”

Ramsay Westgate (Center/ Forward) was one of the players who saw less playing time, and yet he is no less appreciative. “As a ‘rider on the pine’ [with a nod to Jim Morrison], who watched 99% of the action from the bench,” he says, “I can say that the skills of all of those who played in those games seemed off the charts” to him. Their “complete dominance…was a remarkable sight to behold.” Still, it’s the “epic recess games [that] are embedded” in his mind. When a certain member of their squad took it upon himself to physically persuade a younger student to vacate the court, the “supervising adult came rushing over to check” on the student “and demand what had happened and why, we all feigned ignorance and escaped punishment.” Ramsey admits that while, as a 30-year veteran educator, he “probably would react differently now than then, that moment is still etched in my mind as one of the best moments of my latter years at Park.”

Jordan Kimball (Point Guard) became enamored with basketball at Park in 6th grade. He writes, “I played competitive hoops until 2017, when I stopped playing the game at 45 years of age. Of course, I miss it, but I’m at peace because of all of the beautiful memories that the sport provided me. Many of those sweet memories are from my time at Park.” Jordan loved the game, and discovered his competitive nature on the court, and recalls “gaining much satisfaction on shutting down the opposing player, picking their pocket, blocking their shot, or intercepting their pass.” At the same time, however, he valued the lessons he learned about “being a good sport, accepting defeat and remaining humble in victory,” as well as all he learned about “true friendship on and off the basketball court. Perseverance and pushing through the difficult times and making sure life does not overwhelm you—basketball has helped me to do that. Then there is the pure joy of beautiful team basketball, where playing with Park teammates against much more talented and physically stronger athletes resulted in wins for us because we played as a squad at places like Curtis Hall and Boston Neighborhood Basketball League, the courts at Brookline High, and during summer camps at Dave Cowens and Boston College.” The lessons and insights gained through the experience remain important to Jordan these many years later.

Shaun (Netter) Amin (Shooting Guard) adds that “Without question the love of basketball we shared created the bond we had and all the recesses from 4th grade on, whether indoors or outdoor on those courts is the reason why we

became the team we were when we were all finally in the 9th grade. We knew each other too well and became a well-oiled machine, highlighted by that tournament win. If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have that picture as a reminder of our prep school excellence. It didn’t hurt that we had three six-footers!” He also recalls the mythic, legendary U.S. vs. France game—“The entire school seemingly came out and surrounded the basketball court to watch this international showdown. That could have been a scene in a movie.”

Other memories are more poignant. When Shaun injured a finger competing with a teammate in the layup line before a game, Coach Sullivan benched him. It was “the ONLY game in my entire life that both my mother and father were present. Sullivan wouldn’t let me play. That’s a wound deeper than some could have understood. What it meant to have the support of my estranged parents and not be able to play in front of them….” Basketball became the source of reconnection, however, with his father, who stepped in to help coach his BNBL team in high school. He recalls, “I hadn’t spoken to him for a long period of time during high school.” Bringing his Park buddies together to play with his other friends was, he says, great fun. “Merging my two worlds, the two lives I lived growing up, was very special indeed.”

Sam Levy (Center) remembers the heady feeling of going into each game with the certainty that “there was zero chance we’d lose. It’s so fun to look back at this time when we were all beyond obsessed with the game. I think I still am, but mostly in the form of watching basketball docs.”

The memories remain strong, 35 years later. As Shaun Amin says, “It’s such a wonderful part of our Park School journey. Our class was indeed a very memorable one. Not to mention an extremely smart and athletic class overall. I hold these memories fondly, as I do the friendships we all had.” Ramsey Westgate writes, “This [conversation] has brought me great joy, as it has both brought me down ‘memory lane’ and reinforced how fortunate I feel to have been a part of something special.”

Spring Bulletin 2023 33
Rocking his Park “32” jersey, Jordan Kimball and his son

On Belonging

My name is Ildulce (Il dool’ see) Brandao-DaSilva. My father chose my name. He named me after the two women he loved; my grandmother (Ilda) and my mother (Dulce). Children at Park call me Ms. B. I am a first generation American, and throughout my entire life. I have sought out the answer to, “Where do I belong?” I am both American and Cape Verdean.

Education has been at the core of my journey. My immigrant parents didn’t have the benefit of education themselves, so ensuring that their own children received a strong education was a top priority. They thought private school was the right answer, and so my siblings and I attended Catholic schools from Kindergarten through Grade 12. My family was part of a strong Cape Verdean community in Roxbury, and my friends and I all went to church together and to school together. I became an educator after graduating from Cambridge College, and when I became a parent myself, living in that same community, I signed my daughter up for the same school I had attended, only to find that the school was closing. I had to look for an alternative.

Roxbury is my home. My neighbors are my people. We didn’t want to have to leave our community in order to get a good education for our children. I knew people who had attended Steppingstone or METCO, who spent hours on buses to attend independent schools out in the affluent suburbs. That education led to great careers, yet I didn’t think this was an option for us at all—I’d seen the price tag!

Then a friend of mine in Roxbury told me that she’d just enrolled her daughter at The Park School. She told me about Park’s financial aid, after school programs, and extracurricular opportunities. I thought, why not give it a try? Park accepted us, and gave us the financial aid we needed.

When families ask me if Park is a place where they would belong, I encourage them to think about what they value most and what the school values. I tell them Park is for people who believe that educational excellence, inclusivity and belonging, and social emotional learning are equally important, no matter who we are or where we come from. My family brings our true authentic selves to Park and shares that with the community, and it has embraced us. My daughter truly loves being a Cape Verdean girl in a community that appreciates her. While we assumed we would be the only Cape Verdeans on campus, we have actually discovered so many others! Until you peel the onion, you just don’t know what you will discover.

My daughter loved Park from the day she arrived in PreK. She loves the community and the campus. She moves between being a city kid and a Brookline kid, and is learning about aspects of the community that are different from our lived experience so far. She’s learning to ask other people about their cultures, for instance, what do they call their grandmother? Or, what food do they cook? She is learning to maneuver situations that I’m only just learning about as an adult. My son came to Park three years later and is thriving. Seeing my children’s opportunities made me realize that I too can choose my own journey as an educator. Working here in a position of leadership, I know that my children and other children of color have the benefit of seeing a woman of color leading the division. They can

imagine, “This could be me someday!” I’m so proud to be able to show them that they too can be a leader in a community as wonderful as this. I take pride in being a role model.

As a person of color, when I say my kids go here, some ask, “How’d you get in?” That question seems to imply, “You don’t belong there.” I disagree. I know my family brings something special to the Park community. Park values diversity, believing it broadens perspectives, enables growth and progress toward inclusivity, and builds a better community. I love that my children are broadening their perspectives and being challenged in what and how they learn. That’s why we picked Park.

Park families need to prioritize investing financially in their children’s education and contributing to Park’s culture. The paperwork that demonstrates financial need takes some time, but completing it ensures that if Park offers your family admission, it comes with the financial package that makes it possible for you to choose Park. Sure, it means making choices with your money. I choose my children’s education.

When I look at all the opportunities my children have at Park, I feel I’ve made a great decision. I’m excited for the journey ahead. I can’t wait to see who they’re going to become with the foundation I have set up for them. My son says he’s going to be the 57th President!

PARK PERSPECTIVES Scan this QR code to read other Park Perspectives stories.

Have You Seen Park Lately?


Park transformed the early childhood education classrooms, creating bright and cheerful spaces for our Kindergarten and Grade 1 students. These classrooms spill out into the Race Around for indoor activities, and out onto the Discovery Playground, full of hands-on learning-throughplay opportunities.


Reclaiming the former Woodshop space and the adjoining science classrooms, and opening up walls, windows, and skylights made way for a sunny new art room with an adjacent kiln space, and for three brand-new, state-ofthe-art, developmentally-appropriate science classrooms. The crisp, bright corridor that takes you there provides ample room to display student art as well as evidence of scientific investigations underway!


SPARK’s Phase I made possible the creation of our phenomenal Makerspace, which quickly became a magnet for student activity—and SPARK’s Phase II completed the vision for the Maker Wing with an extraordinary new space for Park’s Woodshop! The beloved Woodshop program now benefits from natural light, direct access to the outdoors, a safe and convenient space for the heavy saws and other prep tools that can’t live where student hands can reach them, and perhaps most exciting, the endless possibilities for partnership with the Makerspace the new location makes possible.


In another great example of creative re-envisioning of older spaces, Park replaced brick walls with walls of windows and created sunny, spacious classrooms and collaboration

If you haven’t been to campus lately, you would be amazed by the evolution that has taken place in just over five years, made possible by the work of the first two phases of The SPARK Campaign! And much of this transformation happened through thoughtful, creative re-imagining of existing spaces, revealing the extraordinary potential of our 171 Goddard campus as it reached its 50th anniversary.

space for Grade 8 on Park’s lower level, and refreshed and brightened classrooms for Grades 6 and 7, while adding collaboration and gathering spaces for these grades as well. Now, each Upper Division grade has an inviting home.


First, we expanded our physical education program offerings with the addition of climbing walls in each of Park’s gymnasiums—a smaller one for younger students, and a floor-toceiling installation for students ready for more challenge. Phase II brought the exciting new outdoor adventure course with high and low elements, completed in Spring 2023, and the awesome new turf field, now supporting PreK–8 physical education year round, as well as fall and spring team sports. We even refreshed the PreK play area and installed new swings!

Even as Park completed these important projects, The SPARK Campaign has also funded essential support for diversity, equity, and inclusion programming and initiatives, while also expanding the School’s commitment to equity with support for educational testing for students with learning differences whose families would otherwise not be able to afford it.

It’s a whole new era at The Park School. Come check it out!

We are grateful to Peter Barkan ’86, who has served as chair of the Buildings & Grounds Committee of Park's Board of Trustees throughout Phase I & II of The SPARK Campaign. His partnership has been integral to all that Park has accomplished. In addition, our deepest thanks to our architecture and construction partners, Utile Architecture and Planning, and J. Calnan & Associates.

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