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Guess Who’s Zooming In

Danny Stock

Forget having a llama or a goat join your Zoom meeting, GDS students, faculty, and staff across the school were joined last week by the likes of Amelia Earheart, Wayne Gretzky, Malcolm X, Walt Disney, and Queen Latifa.

Each year, GDS 5th graders research a notable individual and ultimately present a monologue in character—without mentioning their name. Audience members guess their identity from the detailed biographies and spot-on costumes. This year, 5th grade humanities teachers Judy Brown and Reed Thompson guided students through the project as part of their distance learning curriculum. Members of the community then signed up to host three to four visitors during a virtual class meeting, advisory, or department meeting.

“It was such a joy to have JK Rowling, Frida Khalo, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower in class this morning!” said Middle School History teacher Julia Blount ’08. “The 8th graders were absolutely thrilled when I told them that traveling biographies would be popping in today. Thank you for working with the kids and spreading joy to the rest of us this way. I have no doubt that this project was extra-difficult from afar, but the kids did a great job.” Later that week, Julia checked in once again to announce, “Simone Biles, Malcolm X, and Harry Houdini were all very energetic!”

“I just had 3 visitors, and they were fantastic,” said PKK teacher Barbara, who welcomed the 5th graders into her PK class. “The Zoom setup did not deter them at all from doing a fabulous job. My PKers were especially interested in Walt Disney (Mason). Audrey Hepburn (Abby) used a red carpet and Oscar statues background and Wayne Gretzky (Maddy) wore full hockey gear. Each looked directly into the camera and earned highest marks in all of the categories you listed. I'm already looking forward to the next visit on Friday. Your students did a great job and all of you fifth grade teachers are to be congratulated!”

Admissions Associate and 9th grade advisor Michelle McKeever said, “I loved having Willa, Ahren, and Kieran visit my 9th grade advisory today! For (9th graders) William Edwards and Mia Chevere, it brought back many fond memories. It was a fun coincidence that Mia was Amelia Earheart for her project in 5th grade, so she loved seeing Kieran's performance.”

Every Friday morning, 200+ GDS faculty and staff gather for a bit of community and an update from Head of School Russell Shaw. Last week during the call, when teachers returned from “breakout room” conversations, they were Zoom bombed by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (Mae) and Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman (Maya). Each performed for the full GDS faculty and staff, who correctly guessed the visitors in the chat feature. You can watch their performances here.

“I just want to thank you for your monumental efforts to make sure that the traveling biography project went forward,” wrote 5th grade parent Amy Dixon to the 5th grade team. “And that you’ve done so in this brave new virtual academic world that you’ve all managed to masterfully create under incredible circumstances, is inspirational. For the first time since our quarantine began, Vivian went to bed last night saying that she was excited about tomorrow...Part of her excitement was getting to first perform for Denise, who lovingly taught her in PKK, so it felt like a perfect full circle at the end of [her time in the Lower School]. So, with tears in my eyes, I thank each of you for your work and care for the kids, and want you to know how much we appreciate it.”

Though we are disappointed to miss the traditional (and final) “Living Museum” in the Blackbox on the MacArthur campus, parents will be invited in groups to meet these virtual luminaries for themselves in a culminating event during the last week of school.

Curious who else these students are researching? Spoiler alert: Click here for the full list.

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