House heads and faculty are engaging their dorm communities in both synchronous and asynchronous ways as boarding students learn remotely during this phase of hybrid learning. In Robbins House, dorm faculty hold weekly drop-in sessions at various times to accommodate time zones. They are also hosting events such as Zoom Jeopardy! games or Netflix watch parties.
In September, each new student was paired with a returning student in their grade or the grade above. Then these pairs meet others over Zoom to increase their network of support in the dorm community.
“It has gone so well in Robbins that almost all of the mentors and mentees have made it a weekly occurrence to have a get-together and hang out virtually over the weekend,” said house head Nicole Hall.
Milton students in several humanities classes will join those from six other Massachusetts schools in studying climate change and climate justice through the humanities during this year’s Humanities Workshop.
Teachers from the participating schools decided to focus on climate issues because they permeate many different aspects of life, including economic and racial inequality, human migration, and public health.
“There is a sense that climate change is just a science problem, which of course is not the case—it’s a human problem,” said Milton faculty member Alisa Braithwaite. “If our climate dies, so do we. We wanted to bring the concepts of humanities disciplines together to create a narrative that helps people to see that climate change is an urgent, human problem, one that we should be learning about and fighting for from every corner of our world.”
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 since the print collection was unavailable. They also extended outreach to the community via quizzes and social media postings.
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.
Milton athletes are working hard this fall season, practicing both remotely and on campus, despite the absence of regular team competition. As all fall teams began the season remotely, coaches had to think of creative ways to keep athletes moving and connected to each other.
Boys’ cross country coach Scott Bosworth said the team “approached this strange season with the same commitment and determination as in past seasons. We had active and engaging Zoom meetings where we talked about the challenges we face with the pandemic, motivational tools to get us through, and the need to stay together and be supportive of each other. We watched videos about Wilma Rudolph and Billy Mills, two athletes who overcame huge obstacles—physical, economic, racial, and substance abuse—to become Olympic gold medalists, and we had lively discussions afterward.”
“The soccer season has been great thus far in spite of the different forms it has been taking,” said Boys’ soccer coach Chris Kane. “We have a large and passionate group of soccer players and we used the remote learning period to build connections across students across the various levels of our program.”
Milton’s performing arts faculty and students found creative solutions to bridge distances and time zones to offer a full slate of performances this fall, including the plays Macbeth, The Illustrated Bradbury, and this weekend’s Class IV play, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
Performing Arts Department faculty member Eleza Kort, who directed the Class IV play, said about one-third of the 15 cast members are international students, so meetings and rehearsals were scheduled to accommodate different time zones. Each student received a green screen and filmed themselves performing in front of it. Faculty member Shane Fuller edited the scenes together to look as if the actors were in the same place
Maintaining a sense of dorm community is a focus of house heads and faculty as boarding students learn remotely during this phase of hybrid learning. In Wolcott House, Joshua Emmott, house head and history faculty member, runs a weekly scavenger hunt for the students, who are competing by advisory group for the “grand prize” in December. The advisory that has 100 percent participation wins custom dorm gear.
Each week, Emmott posts in CampusGroups a place or item that the student needs to find and photograph. One week was a photo in front of their local post office and another was a local coffee shop. Students post their photos, from places like Beijing, New York, Michigan, and Massachusetts.
Last weekend, the Emmott family hosted a cooking Zoom, featuring “the best cupcakes in the world.” Students received the same recipe so they could cook along with their Wolcott family.
Comfort food is having a moment and science faculty member Heather Zimmer is showing students how to make it at home on a weekly cooking show. It’s part of the new Opt-In Program, where faculty host casual and fun Zoom sessions such as trivia nights and current event discussions.
The Opt-In Program started earlier in the semester after a few faculty members and student head monitors Eliza Dunn ’21 and Garvin McLaughlin ’21 thought about ways to keep the strong sense of community at Milton while in a remote/hybrid environment.
Zimmer said she and her husband, the head chef at 2nd Street Café in Cambridge, loved cooking with students when they lived in Norris House and this is a fun way to replicate that experience. On their first episode, they taught students to make mac and cheese from scratch.
Award-winning writer and investigative journalist Patrick Radden Keefe ’94 spoke with students and alumni about his work, particularly his New York Times bestseller Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland. His talk was part of the Milton in the World webinar series.
Radden Keefe said he knew when he was a Milton student that he wanted to be a writer, but it took many years of rejection letters before he began writing professionally. Today, he is a staff writer at The New Yorker, writing long-form pieces that dive deep into a range of subjects, “from the hunt for the drug lord Chapo Guzman to the tragic personal history of the mass shooter Amy Bishop and the role that the Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma played in sparking the opioid crisis.”
He said he looks for topics that have a “strong narrative spine. I want it to be a story about people, often people in conflict. It’s through that lens that I approach the bigger issues.”
Ten Milton students participated in the Harvard WECode virtual conference last weekend. Caroline Wilson ’21 and Dina-Sara Custo ’22 served as Milton’s student ambassadors, and were two of the 21 (out of 80) student ambassadors who received WECode Leadership Awards. Prior to the event, they connected virtually with the Harvard WECode board, as well as other ambassadors from around the world to spread information and help organize.
At the conference, “We had the opportunity to listen to discussions surrounding STEM majors, internships, college admissions, college life, and other opportunities for women in technology,” said Wilson. “Even after the conference, we continued to connect with women in tech from the conference via channels on the platform Slack.”
Other Milton students attending included Samantha Buonato ’24, Sofia Reid ‘’23, Audrey Howley ’23, Ella Walsmith ’23, Emma Petherick ‘’23, Sara Kalra ’23, Karol Querido ’22, and Isabelle Fitzgibbon ’23.