Danny Stock

GDS students explore ability and bust stereotypes.

When Schuyler Bailar ’14 dove into a pool to compete on the NCAA Division I men’s team, no one had ever done that before. When activist, inventor, and author Jordan Reeves designed herself a purple prosthetic arm to shoot glitter, she claimed her own identity proudly. And, when GDS 4th grader Nate designed a mobile ring to manage daily medication, he hoped to remove obstacles for people who take medications multiple times a day. A barrier-breaking athlete, a glitter-shooting prosthetic, a medication management tool—these are some of the vehicles through which GDS students are learning joyfully and learning to change the world.

Students in 4th grade and 2nd grade have explored the social identifier “ability” in recent weeks by considering personal abilities and the contributions of people already changing the world. Then, they have set about to celebrate their abilities and expand their impact.

GDS alum Schuyler Bailar ’14 joined the entire 2nd grade virtually to talk about his journey from GDS Lower School student to world-renowned transgender athlete and advocate. You can read Schuyler’s GDS story on page 38 of the most recent winter magazine or here. Second graders asked thoughtful questions about gender, advocacy, and swimming. Of course, they also asked typical 2nd grade questions like, “Do you know my teacher/sibling/mom?” The conversation, which took place during Free to Be Me Week at the Lower School, emphasized positive self-esteem, courage to break negative stereotypes, and the importance of integrity, the character quality students had studied just the week before. The conversation with Schuyler then helped guide continued discussion around other physical, intellectual, emotional, and social abilities in the ongoing, yearlong 2nd grade Identity Project curriculum.

In 4th grade, students learned about Jordan Reeves, who was born with an arm that ended just past the elbow. Her unicorn-shaped prosthetic allows her to express her identity proudly and even give her something of a “super power.” In humanities with teachers Payal Sangani and Liz Spratley, students discussed Reeves’s Born Just Right advocacy and wrote more than 200 interview questions they would like to ask her—but their learning didn’t stop there. In science, they were asked to extend their learning into a design project. “I want you to think about something that you can design and create on [3D design software] Tinkercad that can positively impact and improve people’s lives,” science teacher Jay Tucker wrote. “Just like the designers who teamed up with Jordan to design a prosthetic arm that shoots glitter!” 

Using the software students had learned together in the classroom, students designed an object that met an important need they identified in the world. Nate’s design has a removable strap, an alarm, and a compartment for pills. Now he just needs an investor…

While we wish we were able to walk the halls to be part of joyful learning in person, “the place where students love to learn and learn to change the world” seems to be staying true to itself even with the distance between us.


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