Academic News

Plan for Boarding and Day Students in 2021

Find important information about our academic and residential life programs, as well as frequently asked questions, in our Milton 2020-2021 plan. Additional details for our boarding students’ return to campus and the continuation of our day students’ hybrid-learning program, including dates and times for COVID-19 testing, will be communicated later this week by the Deans’ Office.

As always, we continue to monitor rising COVID-19 rates in the local area and across Massachusetts. Our program is designed to pivot quickly to fully remote learning if needed for a period of time. As a reminder, we will also continue to offer a fully remote program for any student who wishes to remain off campus.

Poet Richard Blanco Is This Fall’s Bingham Visiting Writer

“A poem isn’t really done until it’s shared and lives in someone else,” said Bingham Visiting Writer Richard Blanco. Sharing his work that centers on ideas of home, identity, and nationality, Blanco read and discussed his poetry with students on a Zoom webinar.

“What is home? This idea grew bigger into what is a country? In my poems, I’m asking these questions for all of us,” said Blanco.

Blanco immigrated to Miami as a child with his Cuban-exile parents and said that when he was growing up he wasn’t sure if he was part of the American story. It wasn’t until he was asked to be the poet for President Obama’s second inauguration that he felt his personal story was part of the American narrative.

Blanco read poems from his most recent collection, How to Love a Country. He also read from Boundaries and showed students the photography by Jabon Bond Hessler that accompanies each poem.

In the poem “Complaint of El Rio Grande” Blaco said, “I wrote it with the voice of the river to speak to the absurdities of borders—they are just inventions and I let the river speak about that.”

Blanco also answered students’ questions about his writing process and the power of art and poetry.

“I don’t think a poem can change the world, but a poem can change a person and that person can change the world,” Blanco said.

Selected by President Obama as the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history, Blanco is the youngest and the first Latino, immigrant, and openly gay person to serve in the role. His other collections include Matters of the Sea/Cosas Del Mara, Looking for the Gulf Motel, and Directions to the Beach of the Dead. He is the winner of the 2006 PEN/American Center Beyond Margins Award and of the 1997 Agnes Lynch Starrett National Poetry Prize. He is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and has received numerous honorary doctorates. Blanco has taught at Georgetown University, American University, and Wesleyan University and currently serves as the first Education Ambassador for the Academy of American Poets.

Established in 1987 by the Bingham family, the Visiting Writer Series brings esteemed writers, historians and journalists to campus, to speak and work with students and faculty. Recent Bingham Visiting Writers include authors Kamila Shamsie, Jamaica Kincaid and Francine Prose; novelists Paul Yoon, Zadie Smith, and Edwidge Danticat; and poets Mark Doty, Tina Chang and Kevin Young.

Exploring Mathematics With Both Numbers and Words

Writing about math is an approach used by Milton math teachers to get students to dive deep into the material and then articulate it—beyond just numbers, formulas, and graphs. Earlier this semester, Honors Calculus students researched, calculated, and wrote about the Gini Index, a measure of income distribution across a population, for a country of their choice.

“We wanted to make the study of calculus relevant, and income distribution and income inequality are topics we read about all the time in the news,” said math faculty member Jackie Bonenfant. “This was a way to allow students to explore an important and pressing topic, while also encouraging them to ask questions about their world. What government policies, practices, and laws might impact income distribution? Are we satisfied with current levels of income distribution and, if not, what could we do to change things?”

Students chose countries like the U.S., Italy, Australia, Vietnam, Greece, Brazil, Mexico, and India. Zoe Malouf  ’21 researched the 2017 Gini Index for Switzerland.

“In general, a small percentage of the population holds a lot of the wealth, while a bigger percentage holds less wealth, and to calculate the Gini index you determine the difference between this income distribution and an ideal situation, which would look more like a linear line,” said Malouf. “I thought Switzerland would be interesting to look at because it’s known as a wealthy country and everything from the outside looks very put together, but there is some income inequality there.”

After crunching the data and plotting out the results, Malouf said writing the paper “was easier than I expected because I could compare my results to stuff in the real world and put it to use in real ways.”

Bonenfant said that mathematics is a language with its own symbols and syntax, so writing the paper in English is “sort of like translating the symbols into words. Being able to explain your reasoning and your approach, or justify your conclusions, is important in any discipline, mathematics included. There are many scientific journals in which scientists and mathematicians explain their work, so writing the paper on the Gini index was like a scaled-down version of the journal paper.”

Documentary Filmmaker Byron Hurt Speaks To Milton Athletes

Many boys in our society are conditioned from a young age to be tough, to hide their emotions, and to avoid any appearance of behaving “like a girl,” documentary filmmaker and anti-sexist activist Byron Hurt told student-athletes recently. 

This mindset favors aggression, prevents boys from connecting with their emotions, and undervalues girls and women, sometimes leading to toxic masculinity and violence, said Hurt, who visited Milton athletes virtually as part of a series of speakers this fall who promote mental fitness.

“I grew up in a culture where you had to perform a certain kind of manhood and masculinity in order to be accepted by other guys and be seen as a ‘real man’” said Hurt. When boys and men feel like they can’t be vulnerable with their emotions, those emotions can be redirected in unhealthy ways: abuse, depression, violence, failed relationships, and out-of-control actions.

Boys hear words like “soft,” “gay,” and “girly” if they don’t meet the expectations of masculinity—and when those words are used as pejoratives it triggers the idea that women and gay men are weak, Hurt said. It also signals to boys that they must harden themselves to avoid any appearance of weakness.

He urged students to intervene when they witness someone using sexist and homophobic language. “It takes strength and courage to stand up and say, ‘That’s not what we do,’” Hurt said.

“This exaggerated sense of manhood is in the air that we breathe,” he said. “If the culture doesn’t give us permission to cry, to be soft, and to express the full range of our emotions beyond anger, there can be some negative consequences.”

Hurt majored in journalism at Northeastern University, where he played quarterback, and envisioned a career in radio and television broadcasting. During his last year, he was introduced to the work of the groundbreaking documentary filmmaker Marlon Riggs, whose films explored issues of race and sexuality. 

After graduation, Hurt became involved with Northeastern’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society, working with its Mentors in Violence Prevention program. At the core of his mission was to get boys and men to speak up and stop sexism, gender-based violence, and homophobia. At first, he feared what his male friends would think about him working with these subjects; he’d grown up as a “jock” in a “deeply male culture where ‘locker-room talk’ was the norm.”

Hurt received an Emmy nomination for his television show, Reel Works with Byron Hurt. He made the documentaries Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, which explores violence and sexism in hip hop music, and Soul Food Junkies, which received the Best Documentary award at the American Black Film Festival. His forthcoming documentary, Hazing: How Badly Do You Want In, explores the dangerous culture of hazing. 

Cox Library Reimagined

Typically a busy hub for study and research, Cox Library needed a plan to serve the community through this year’s remote and hybrid learning plans. Milton’s librarians went to work finding creative ways to operate.

When Milton first went remote last spring, it “coincided with the start of the history department’s ‘research season,’” said Laura Pearle, director of the library. “We created a portal that included a chat box so students looking for library assistance could talk with a librarian from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Students from all over the U.S., China, and Europe contacted us for help with citations, using the databases, and general help on various topics.”

The library purchased access to a database of more than 200,000 ebooks to help students do their research as the print collection was unavailable. Staff also extended outreach to the community via quizzes and social media postings.

Over the summer, the librarians (Pearle, Beth Reardon, Joanna Novick, and Mitchell Edwards) participated in professional development; attended numerous webinars about books, providing remote services, and tech tools for remote learning; and participated in online discussions with their peers nationwide on providing service with a closed facility. They also started a library newsletter to promote new resources and remind people of existing ones.

This fall, the library added SORA, an ebook service. Most recently, they added curbside pickup for the print collection. Students can reserve books online which are left for pickup on a table in front of the library. For Middle School students, books are delivered to their homeroom.

The librarians are continuing to provide remote chat opportunities, creating more resource guides for classes, working on tutorials for commonly asked questions, and maintaining outreach via Instagram and the newsletter.

Spanish Classes Maximize Tech Tools For Learning

Mastering another language requires careful listening, consistent practice of  conversational speaking, close reading of texts, and writing. While some of these fit seamlessly into remote/hybrid learning, Modern Languages faculty need to think creatively about class time and assignments.

“Where we’ve had the most success is leveraging universal tools like Google Slides, Schoology, and Jamboard,” said Mark Connolly, Spanish teacher and Upper School instructional technologist. “Instead of using, say, a prefab language app, teachers are making their own materials using those tools.”

In Connolly’s Spanish 4: Topics in Hispanic Culture and Literature class, students started the year with five different readings in Spanish from different Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Maya, Mexica, Triqui, and Teotihuacan. For their assignment, students are creating audio tours of their assigned civilizations in Google Slides, combining audio, photography and writing. They looked not only at the historical legacy but also at the ways these cultures combine to define Mexican identity today.

In Spanish 2 Honors, Connolly uses Jamboard in a “live” setting, so all students interact on the document together, whether it’s matching vocabulary words to pictures, sorting foods in different categories, or looking deeper at structures in Spanish. “It can be a frenzy,” said Connolly, but the interactive nature allows both remote and hybrid students to work together while they learn.

Spanish 2 Honors students also used unit vocabulary and structures to create public service announcements about healthy habits.

Centre Connection

Centre Connection, Milton's online newsletter for parents, is published five times each year through the efforts of the Milton Academy Communication Office and Parents' Association volunteers.

Communication Office


Jennifer Anderson
Greg White
Liz Matson
Marisa Donelan
Esten Perez
Sarah Abrams