Welcome to Innovation Lab!

Greenwich High School’s Innovation Lab is a project-based learning program dedicated to fostering creativity, collaboration, and curiosity in a rigorous academic setting that meets all of the core course requirements. This application-based, personalized community emphasizes the importance of partnerships between students and teachers. Social Studies and English are combined into Humanities, while Math and Science are combined into STEM. The interdisciplinary curriculum functions separately from Advanced Placement courses as InLab’s philosophy concentrates more on the benefits of deep learning. However, with proper planning, enrollment in AP courses remains an option for qualified students. 

Project-based learning encourages students to use what they learn in the classroom to inspire large-scale research projects that tackle real-world issues. Much of the research conducted is presented to a wider audience or exhibited at public organizations and museums. For example, classes are invited to curate an exhibition at Greenwich’s Bruce Museum, as well as enter their projects into competitions at the national level. Innovation Lab embeds the GHS Vision of the Graduate capacities throughout the program with a focus on developing research skills and collaboration skills both inside and outside of the classroom and incorporates the principles of the Stanford d.school’s design thinking and innovation. 

More Information

https://www.open.edu/openlearn/education-development/multidisciplinary-study-the-value-and-benefits/content-section-0?active-tab=description-tab

NEWS: Applications for Spring 2023 Humanities 9 & 10 Are Open

Students who will be enrolled at Greenwich High School in Spring 2023 as a freshman or sophomore in good standing are eligible to apply. Applications for grades 9-12 for 2023-2024 school year will open January 1.

We are offering Humanities (interdisciplinary English and social studies) in grades 9, 10, and 11. STEM is available in 10th and 11th grade (an interdisciplinary double-block Environmental Chemistry or Physics). Grade 12 is either Science Research or Social Science Research. All grade levels also take a Design Studio elective that meets the requirements for labs/SemSkills and project support.

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Genius Hour Wraps Up Semester 1 in Design Studio 9!

Putting work on display on a public platform is one of the highlights of our Innovation Lab program. Over the past month in Design Studio, our 9th Grade InLab students have been hard at work exploring, researching, and polishing their Genius Hour Passion Projects. We always love seeing the variety of interests and curiosities our students dive into. Presenting to the class can also be a daunting task, but our students take risks with grace under pressure. Please enjoy this year’s installment of Genius Hour!

For more information about what inspires our best practices and philosophy about student-centered teaching, check out this article from Mind/Shift: Four Qualities at the Heart of Student-Centered Teaching.

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GHS InLab Winter Exhibition

https://www.smore.com/z47he
Above: GHS Innovation Lab students hard at work preparing for the December 14th exhibition.
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Celebrating Our Year

Click here to read our End of the Year Newsletter!

Click here to view our Farewell InLab “Class of 2021” Video!

GHS Innovation Lab Students Celebrate the School Year (June 15, 2021)
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What Innovation Lab Means to Me

Reflections from a 2020 Graduate

By Gracie McCooe

I was extremely fortunate to be able to find my home in Innovation Lab. The program emphasizes learning the skills needed to succeed in a rapidly evolving global and technological economy. It revolutionizes learning by using cross-disciplinary learning, growth mindset, and collaboration, to develop proficiency in critical thinking, asking questions, research, and design thinking.  Learning is achieved through projects that engage with the community or solve a problem. Within the projects, I could tap into diverse passions.  

As a student, I was able to be a research scientist, an activist, a historian, a paralegal, and a documentarian.  My passion is environmental action.  I stayed at school until 7pm for weeks to measure plant height for research on eutrophication in STEM class, while creating a documentary about water conservation inspired by rhetorical tactics used by 1920s Muckrakers. The documentary led to a public action campaign on water usage with a local Girl Scout troop and culminated in me engineering a solution, an Arduino-based water sensor, which measured water soil levels and could activate a sprinkler system I used in my backyard. For the first time, I felt like the work I was doing in school mattered.

My teachers respected students as partners in learning and assigned work that reflected a genuine belief in the students’ potential to do more than consume or regurgitate knowledge. We showcased our art in museums, we solved real-world problems in our community, we were not just passive high schoolers but citizens of the world prepared to go on and achieve great things. We were constantly presenting our work to the InLab and greater Greenwich community, so I learned how to present and articulate my ideas better. Frequent group work gave me the opportunity to cultivate leadership. I quickly learned that as a leader, I could maximize the effectiveness of each individual by putting them in a position optimally aligned with their strengths. Eventually, I realized that was what InLab was doing for me. The projects allowed me to develop my skills through personalized learning and my confidence, and my achievement soared.  In InLab, I am part of a family and community, and I continuously challenge myself to set and achieve goals that would “make InLab proud.”

This program inspired me to be a leader and create change in my community, write for the local paper, lead a club on an issue I was passionate about, do original research, speak to the freshman class in an assembly, work for a tech start-up and make an advertisement with 1 million views (and counting), compete nationally in a history competition, and win national writing awards. 

Oh, and by the way. I did take those AP classes. This year I took AP Lit, AP Psych, and AP environmental science and did exceptionally well in all of them. Some people feared that I wouldn’t be able to compete with the other students at “college-level courses” because other students had been preparing all this time. But it turns out that InLab’s rigor – through intensive research, original creation, and project-based learning is fantastic preparation for just about anything you need. When I took these classes, I realized how much we are missing out on by pushing bright students into a “race to the test,” when we could be pushing them to use their learning and abilities to build a positive impact in their communities and world. 

I wish I could tell my past self not to worry so much about the people that tell you about what you “need to do” to get into college. No one really knows what goes on behind those closed doors. When I showed a college counselor my list, she basically told me I would get into none of them. Well, I got into almost every single school I wanted to attend and the school I will be attending in the fall, Wellesley College. I don’t blame the college counselor, though, she underestimated the silver bullet of my application. I was a diverse, interesting, and well-developed person from my experiences in Innovation Lab, and I had something to offer to colleges who were raving about how innovative and cutting-edge their education was in marketing materials. I wish for every student that they worry less about their future and that they have a chance to see what their amazing potential could be now, in an environment where their skills are celebrated, their weaknesses are supported, and they are prepared to join the real world by learning from the real world. 

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being given a space to try anything and everything with your learning, it instills in you a sense of place and control in the greater world. It is one thing to understand how the world works; it is an entirely different thing to feel you have the power to shape it. I think, above all, that is what InLab did for me. 

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CLOSING THE YEAR REMOTELY – JUNE 2020

CELEBRATING OUR YEAR IN GHS INLAB

Writer's Guide to Summer Reading from the University of Rhode Island

Dear GHS Innovation Lab Students, Parents, and GHS Community Partners:

We did it! Here we are in June, thinking back to this spring when we made the daunting, overnight transition to Distance Learning in our GHS Innovation Lab (InLab) program.

Who knew how Project-Based Learning (PBL) would work remotely in a virtual environment?

So much uncertainty, so many challenges. How would students finish their projects for competitions like the NPR Student Podcast Challenge or exhibitions of learning for National History Day?

No, it has not been easy. But you know what? Our students kept going, kept pushing themselves and stayed engaged, connected, and grew as cooperative learners, thinkers, and communicators beyond our wildest dreams.

The result of learning and implementing PBL in a Virtual space? Grace under pressure.

In this newsletter, we highlight the roller-coaster ride of Distance Learning and the amazing work of our InLab students. We also say a final farewell and best of luck to our Senior Class.

Lastly, we would like to extend a huge THANK YOU and CONGRATS to everyone for making it through this DL journey together.

Wishing you peace and good health as we head into summer!

The InLab Squad

Ben, Brian, Courtney, Jessica, Joe, Kathy, Lauren, and Mike

Bruce Museum Exhibition (February 2020) Photo Cred: Graham Ornstein

InLab 10 & 11: Exhibition at the Bruce Museum

Back Row (L-R): Ben, Martina, Parker, Devin, Izzy, Angie, Delilah, Ryan, Ralph, Ana, Katherine Graham, Jack, Jennie, Francesco, Chris.

Middle Row (L-R): Remy, Junior, Julien, Stephen, Ali, Jamie, Gillian, Veronica, Matthew, Madison.

Front Row (L-R): Chelsea, Jack, Andre, Jefferson, Quentin, Carolina, Alex, Demi, Richa.

WATCH OUR END OF YEAR SALUTE!

Thanks to all of our InLab students for a year we will never forget. Click the gray link above to watch a special send-off video to of our scholars!

Innovation Lab End of Year Send-Off June 2020.mp4drive.google.com

LET’S TAKE A TRIP AROUND THE WORLD

What’s spring without a field trip? Click the link above, which will take you on a virtual field trip around the world! Choose points on the Padlet map to find out more about the deep dive projects from our 9th and 11th Grade Humanities scholars. INNOVATION LAB 10 AT HOME

During DL, the GHS Innovation Lab’s Humanities 10 students put their collaboration, creativity, and initiative to work in spite of the challenges. Click the red heading above to view this amazing curated work on the Humanities 10 website. Enjoy!

EXPLORE INLAB STUDENT BLOGS

We’re all in it together. Click above to get a glimpse of life at home during Distance Learning. Featured Blogs from Olivia Leppla (“Blue Skies Lie Ahead”) and Veronica Paez-Deggellar (“On Exhibition and Growth: One Student’s Perspective”).

READ THE NEWS ABOUT NHD! CT & NATIONAL HISTORY DAY WINNERS!

GHS InLab Students were among ten GHS students to win awards at the Connecticut History Day competition in April. Congrats and Good Luck to InLab Sophomores Carolina Ferrer and Richa Vaid, who will be competing at the National Competition June 14-20.

How did Juniors end their year in Design Studio?

In Design Studio 11, students spent time this spring working on on college essay writing prompts, SAT practice, writing and presenting their junior Presentations of Learning (PoLs) and maintaining their blogs. Students presented their PoLs to their teachers and counselor via Google Meets in fifteen-minute windows, reflecting on personalized goals toward the Vision of the Graduate Capacities, as well as their continued growth and perseverance during Distance Learning.

Living Portraits

Living Portraits

What helped you get through Quarantine?

The things I couldn’t live without were, my book on Nomadic living (I look at this at least once a day), my computer, my calculator, COFFEE, my Ipad/phone, exercising (a group of friends and I do a social distanced workout group every morning at 8:30), books (I have read at least one book a week), My airpods, makeup (I have been playing with fun colors and extreme makeup techniques), and my blankets (being cozy has been a must for me). – Jennie Olmsted

This Living Portrait photo challenge was inspired by photographer Gregg Segal’s project “Daily Bread” about nutrition and eating habits of children around the world. Students were asked to gather ten items that held great meaning for them during DL and take a photo with themselves in the center of the photo.

Katherine Reflects on the Year:

I feel like InLab has made me the person I’ve always wanted to be, but I was always scared and didn’t know how to get there. I remember from the first day of school, immediately when I got home I told my parents that it was the best first day of school ever because from the minute I walked in the Innovation Lab environment, I felt seen not just as a student, not just as a letter grade that would be entered into Aspen, but as a collaborator and person with valued opinions. I will never forget my time in InLab as it has truly changed my life. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. – Katherine Feldmeth

CONGRATULATIONS, FRANKIE PUGLIESE (INLAB 9) FOR WINNING HONORABLE MENTION IN THE NPR STUDENT PODCAST CHALLENGE!

NPR Student Podcast Challenge Contest

Frankie’s podcast “The Importance of Family Dinners” was chosen as an honorable mention winner in the national NPR Podcast Challenge competition! It is a wonderful accolade for Frankie and we congratulate all of our students who conducted research & interviews, and recorded, produced, and edited their Podcasts from home during Distance Learning. Check out Frankie’s Podcast Sound-cloud as well as other from our Design Studio 9 class!

STUDENT REFLECTIONS: WHAT IS YOUR HOPE FOR HUMANITY? Click here to see what Francesco Violanti (InLab 11) had to say about his role as a global citizen in this sample student reflection (Recorded with FlipGrid). Like many of our selfless students at GHS, Francesco volunteered his time during the pandemic delivering meals to families through an initiative with Neighbor to Neighbor. Way to go, Francesco!

DON’T FORGET ABOUT SUMMER READING!

Click the link above for details about Innovation Lab’s Summer Reading Assignment.Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson | Bestselling Book and Adapted Filmjustmercy.eji.org”Just Mercy” is a bestselling book by Bryan Stevenson that has been adapted into a feature film.

NPR Book List: The Book Concierge Is Back With 350+ Great Reads

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR SENIORS!

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Class of 2020
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Through the years

JADEN MCKEAN, GRACIE MCCOE, WILL TAKI, LIAM BRINTON, AND MANNY MARTINEZ

AN EXTRA SHOUT OUT TO ALL OF OUR PARENTS WHO MADE DISTANCE LEARNING POSSIBLE!

We could not have done this without you!

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

MEET THE INLAB TEACHING TEAM

Our Greenwich High School Innovation Lab teachers are passionate about their content and implement cutting-edge learning strategies. Organized into two areas, Humanities and STEM, co-teaching is common and both areas are linked closely to a year-long thematic arc. Teachers also share responsibility for the Design Studio elective. Greenwich High School’s Innovation Lab offers a project-based, interdisciplinary option for English and social studies (as Humanities) and/or STEM (science and math). Ninth, tenth and eleventh graders are eligible.

Click here to find out more about our program’s philosophy and approach.

HUMANITIES 9-12

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Joe Baske, Humanities 12 (email)

Michael Belanger, Humanities 10 (email)

Courtney Hawes, Humanities 9 and 11 (email)

Kathy Mendez, Humanities 9 and 11 (@edtechmamaemail)

Jessica von Brachel, Humanities 10 (email)

STEM 10 & 11

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Brian Walach (@mrwalachemail)

Lauren Moskovitz (email)

Ben Gawle (email)

Welcome, Mr. Baxley!

Welcome, Mr. Baxley!

Welcome our newest colleague, Rick Baxley, who will be teaching the Senior Science Research course next year. Rick has loved teaching at GHS for 10 years and has taught several levels of many science courses (practical bio, honors bio, practical chem, regular chem, honors environmental science, APES, astronomy, honors astronomy, and forensics) and he says he’s always looking to learn more about our world. He’ll be teaching honors environmental science, APES, and InLab senior science research in the fall.

PROGRAM ADMINISTRATORS

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Program Administrator: Christina Shaw, Cantor Housemaster (email)

Program Associate: Courtney Hawes (email)

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Thanks to the Greenwich Alliance for Education for your continued support! A Reaching Out Grant from the Greenwich Alliance for Education supports materials, projects, and the continued professional development of best practices.

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Questions? Comments?

Questions? Comments?

@GHSInLab Interested in learning more about GHS Innovation Lab and our PBL approach? Reach out to any of our InLab team members or students.

10 Hillside Road, Greenwich, CT, USA

GHSinnovationlab@greenwich.k12.ct.us

(203)863-8867

ghsinnovationlab.com/


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On Exhibition and Growth: One Student’s Perspective by Veronica Paez-Deggeller

VeroBrucePicAfter the Bruce Museum exhibition last year, I looked forward to the second time around and what new knowledge, creativity, and struggles my classmates and I would receive. However, I had no idea just how taxing the process would end up being, and additionally, how much the stress was worth for our final product. 

The Humanities Bruce Museum project for sophomores versus juniors has a stark contrast. While the tenth graders are asked to do an individual art piece, the juniors are put into groups to research the United States’ government response to various crises. My group decided to research the Japanese-American internment camps that took place during World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the deciding factor for Japanese-Americans to be sent to “relocation centers,” as they were called, simply because of the fear perpetuated as a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Although there was no evidence to prove that Japanese-Americans were a threat to American society, FDR signed Executive Order 9066 which stated that all Japanese-Americans, citizen or non-citizen, where to be sent to the internment camps to keep these “enemy aliens” as they were called under the supervision and away from others. Even after the financial reparations offered almost 40 years later by the Civil Liberties Act, a law created by the legislative branch, the internment camps left scars on the people that were forced inside.

Veroprofile

After officially choosing our topic for the Bruce Museum, we were asked to create a rough prototype made out of paper of what we wanted our future project to look like. When we presented our idea to the class, we were met with many critiques that ended up improving our final product. Our original vision was too focused on meeting the literal requirements of the assignment rather than being an original art piece. We had to get creative, and through further discussion with the group, we mapped out a new idea. We would build a model of a camp inspired by our research and the infamous Manzanar Internment Camp which kept the most Japanese-American internees. We would build a model barrack using foam board and acrylic, put sand at the bottom of the box the barrack would be placed in to represent the rural locations of the camps, and build a fence out of chicken wire standing on a wooden sandbox. Within the barrack, we would include a timeline of significant events that took place during this crisis. Outside of the barrack, we would add faceless figures to represent the 1942 Lordsburg shootings, where a guard shot two Japanese-Americans because he believed that they were attempting to escape.

 

After weeks of extensive research, we gathered all of our materials with the help of our teachers and were eager to build. The group five split up, with two of the members tackling the barrack, and the other three figuring out the fence and sandbox.

As with any project, we faced many challenges along the way. The most prominent regarded the sandbox. We initially planned to pour a substantial amount of sand inside of the sandbox for a more realistic touch. However, we did not know how we would get this in and out of the museum without making a mess. Therefore, we came up with the solution to super glue the bottom of the box, pour a minimal amount of sand inside, and dump out any excess in the STEM courtyard. This was an amazing compromise and looked magnificent under the museum lights.

InternmentBruce

We also struggled with time management. While the building process felt like it lasted for months, it actually started about a week and a half before the exhibition. Nobody was spared from the persistent feeling of stress that made its way into every InLab classroom. It was imperative that we used our time wisely if we were to present a final product to the public. The aspects of our projects that affected our time management the most were the creation of the notecards and painting details on the barracks. Since class time was mostly focused on building, the note cards had to become homework for each individual member to complete. We found ourselves constantly changing the format and wording so that it could be ideal for the audience to read through quickly and effectively. When it came to painting, though acrylic paint does not take long to dry, the process requires a lot of patience. If we rushed through any detail, it would show. We attempted to organize our time by setting goals for ourselves at the beginning and end of Humanities classes. We would meet and go over what was expected of us by the end of that workday and anything that was for homework. 

 Though the process of this project was lengthy and strenuous, everything managed to come together in the end. There are so many things that would not have been completed without each group member’s help. We all contributed to this project in some way, shape, or form for the art piece to be the best it could be.

As for our Bruce STEM project, we were assigned to create a piece reflecting on the history of space travel related to orbital mechanics. I researched the Voyager Probes, two research space-crafts launched in August and September 1977, designed to take advantage of a rare alignment of the planets in our Solar System that takes place every 176 years. The probes flew by various planets using not just fuel but the gravity of each planet they passed, taking thousands of photos and collecting information regarding the chemical composition of their surfaces. Inspired by the story behind the probes, I decided to create a standing model out of the hardboard of their path through the solar system and highlighted ten key events related to their journey. 

Unlike our Humanities projects, the STEM project was individual. If any setbacks were to occur, the only person I could blame was myself. I knew I had to manage my time wisely, so before anything else, I did extensive research on the probes and organized the information into the text that would end up going on the model. This ended up coming to my advantage so that once midterms had ended, I could completely focus on building the model. About a week and a half before the Bruce Museum, on the same day my Humanities group began to build, I started the physical aspect of my project.

While organization was my strong suit for the STEM project, I struggled with making the model visually pleasing and more of an art piece. I initially just planned to paint the board black and add a couple of starts to create a space-like background. However, I soon realized that it looked bland. To compensate for this, I drilled holes into the board that would later act as stars once I put lights behind it. I also added a galaxy design using white, purple, and blue paint. This helped attract more people to my project and added some personal flair.

While I wasn’t close to my project for most of the night, I did have some people come up to me interested in the background of my model and the process I went through creating it. It was incredibly rewarding to have my model in the Bruce Museum along with my Humanities. 

It’s sad to know that I won’t be a part of another Bruce Museum exhibition next year. However, the exciting process, the appetite for learning, and the bursting creativity of my classmates will always stay with me.

Now, on to National History Day…

 

 

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Learn More about Innovation Lab: A Night at the Bruce Museum and our 2020 Information Session

Read more about the Upcoming Exhibition at the Bruce Museum on February 5th at 6:30-8:30pm and our only Open House for Interested Parents/Students January 29th, 6-7pm.

Read it in our InLab Newsletter 2020

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Show your Work!

Exhibition

One of the most exciting parts of Innovation Lab – and the most stressful – is the exhibition. The first exhibition is often a revelation for students because they realize what it means to have a real, live audience for their work. We are so fortunate to have this opportunity built into our program. Last year was my first year with InLab, and I experienced the firsts alongside my students. This year, I found I had the same sense of urgency and anticipation as the kids, even though I knew what to expect.

Our December exhibition, originally slated to be a documentary film screening for tenth grade only, evolved into a major Humanities Showcase incorporating all four cohorts, two of which (ninth and tenth grade) are new to Innovation Lab and had never been a part of an exhibition before. Here’s the rundown:

Freshmen: Berlin Memorial Park & Passion Projects

InLab ninth graders became historians, artists, and urban planners to create a memorial park in Berlin. In teams, they researched, curated, designed, and presented monuments to explain what Germany’s journey from Unification to World War to Partition to Reunification. Beautiful, moving designs provoked thoughtful questions from guests throughout the evening.

Passion projects included a homemade guitar, repurposed fashion, scientific examination of the chocolate chip cookie, game designs, and much more.  Students were impressed by the work of their peers and inspired to go right back into the “lab” and get to work on another project.

Sophomores: The Teen Agenda,  A Documentary Film

The sophomore humanities class collaborated on a single-issue documentary film. Students studied history and the methods of persuasion that make a compelling argument. They then identified a common local concern and spent the first quarter researching and developing their argument. The result is The Teen Agenda, a film that explores students’ need for teen spaces in Greenwich.  The film was received with great enthusiasm by guests, several of whom are bringing it to their own community organizations as they work to meet the needs of local teens. Guests included interviewees who have already begun to incorporate the tenth graders’ ideas and questions into their planning. 

Juniors:  In the Pursuit of Change: PSA

Media messages are fleeting, so 11th graders explored how short public service announcements can inspire action to improve a 21st-century problem. Students researched their selected topic, investigated the current role of government in ameliorating the issue, and used rhetorical devices, ethos, pathos, and logos, to persuade the viewer in a call to action. Tough topics demand clear, strong voices to address them, and that’s what we got!

Seniors: Social Science Research Works in Progress

Even half-way through their projects, seniors impressed with their enthusiasm and presentation skills. It was a treat to see the continuum of learning from ninth to twelfth grade. Seniors displayed projects in-process through their first-semester social science research projects with a focus on bias and uncovering the truth.

Exhausting and Exhilarating

On the way to completing their first projects, our ninth and tenth graders did just what we expected: they stumbled, they ran into walls, they got bored, and they got frustrated. Then, they recalibrated and developed stamina, they reflected and asked to start again, they made honest assessments of the project results but, more important, of their own learning.  In a future post, we’ll highlight some of the reflection comments from our students, but for now…here are a few images from behind the scenes and at the big event.

 

And a link to the coverage by the Greenwich Time.

 

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Welcome Back Innovation Lab!

Innovation Lab welcomes another year as a program that offers rigor, choice, and real world connections to our students.

As many of you already know, Christina Shaw, former Humanities teacher and program associate of Innovation Lab, will now serve GHS as the interim Cantor House administrator.  She will still be involved in our program as the administrator representing InLab at the high school.

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Assuming the role of program associate is Courtney Hawes.  She will continue teaching English as part of our Humanities faculty.  

Courtney Hawes: English, Humanities 9; Humanities 11; Design Studio 11

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Courtney Hawes is a twenty-three year veteran of teaching, both in the United States and Europe. After twelve years teaching in Connecticut, she embarked on the adventure of teaching and administration abroad, first in Switzerland and then in England. Six years later, she returned and became a founding teacher for Innovation Lab at Greenwich High School.

Courtney earned her B.S. in Secondary English Education and her M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Connecticut. She was the Greenwich Teacher of the Year in 2003, a former board member of the CCTE, a State of Connecticut Mentor, Coach, and Assessor for the BEST program, a National Writing Project Fellow and CFG Trainer and Coach. While she has taught every grade level from 6-12, she cites her work with Innovation Lab as the most exciting endeavor of her professional career. With Innovation Lab, she has presented at High Tech High Deeper Learning conferences and for NEASC.

 

We are thrilled to introduce Kathy Mendez as our newest faculty member.  She is a distinguished veteran teacher of the Social Studies department and will now work with Courtney Hawes as part of the Humanities team.

 

Kathy Mendez: Social Studies, Humanities 9

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I am honored to be joining the Innovation Lab team this fall as the social studies cohort for the inaugural 9th grade Humanities class with the amazing Ms. Hawes as my English partner.  Intellectually curious from an early age, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. As a Michigan native and lifelong Cubs fan, I could often be found playing “school” with my little brother; we would do science experiments after watching Mr. Wizard’s World and act out scenes from my favorites films, musicals, and books like Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, and The Princess Bride. I also loved to listen to stories from my grandfather, who was a D-Day veteran at Omaha Beach. This is what shaped my love of the arts, history, philosophy, and fascination with human behavior, storytelling, and ingenuity.  A few years after meeting my soulmate in the University of Michigan Marching Band (Go Blue!) and graduating with a B.A. in History and minor in Psychology, my husband and I moved to Connecticut, where I was fortunate enough to find this dream job working at Greenwich High School.  Over the past eleven years, I have had the privilege to teach Global Studies, Civics, and Advanced Placement Psychology. Honest to goodness, I feel like I’ve won the lottery by getting to work and learn alongside such talented, intelligent, and creative women and men each day. I’m excited to see our students flourish in InLab as they investigate, innovate, collaborate, and change the world!

 

Below you will find short statements about the rest of our current Innovation Lab faculty.

 

Brian Walach: Math, STEM 11 and Design Studio 12

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Brian Walach is mathematics and STEM teacher at Greenwich High School. He has taught a variety of math classes for the past seven years and is a founding member of GHS’ Innovation Lab, launched in 2014. Since then, Brian has co-taught and co-planned interdisciplinary STEM courses with science teachers, including Environmental Chemistry/Algebra 2 and Precalculus/Physics. His favorite project was building t-shirt cannons with students to study vectors, parametric equations, quadratics, and the physics of projectile motion.

Brian earned undergraduate degrees in Mathematics and History and a Master of Arts and Teaching at Quinnipiac University (‘10, ‘11). He holds a dual-certification in math and history and is pursuing his Sixth-Year certificate with a cohort of Greenwich teachers through Mercy College. Brian’s most valuable professional development includes conferences at High Tech High School in San Diego, CA and two visits to NCTM yearly meetings. An avid international traveler, he has long-term goals of visiting at least one new country per year and earning a private pilot license.

 

Michael Belanger: Social Studies, Humanities 10; Design Studio 9 and 12

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Michael Belanger has taught social studies at Greenwich High School for eight years. He was one of five teachers chosen to plan the pilot year of Innovation Lab and continues to teach Humanities in the program. He has visited innovative schools all around the country, including High Tech High in San Diego and the iSchool in New York City. As part of Innovation Lab, he has participated in the design of multiple projects that focus on building choice and purpose into a traditional American history curriculum, including muckraker documentaries to teach the changes of Progressive Era, modernist art to illustrate the conflicts of 1920s, and children’s books as a vehicle to explore the seismic shifts of the 1960s.

Michael has a BA in History from Fordham University, an MS in Secondary Education from University of Bridgeport, and an MA in American Studies from Fairfield University. Because he loves school so much, he is currently finishing up his MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University. His debut novel, The History of Jane Doe, is being published in June 2018 by Dial Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Jessica von Brachel: English 10 Humanities; Design Studio 9 and 10

jess

Before I found my way into the best job I’ve ever held, I worked in a variety of fields in which the power of language and storytelling drove my work. What I lacked was a sense of community. Recognizing what I enjoyed doing and what I wanted to add to it led me, finally, to teaching high school English. Here at GHS I’ve had the opportunity to teach ninth grade English, Short Fiction, Film as Literature, and AP Language and Composition. It has been the most challenging and fulfilling work of my life. I am thrilled to be a member of Innovation Lab as a partner of Mr. Belanger in Humanities, and a Design Studio instructor for both the ninth and tenth grades.  I enjoy sharing my love of language, storytelling, and community with our learners and hearing what it is that drives and excites them. I look forward to finding meaning in our learning and to sharing our discoveries with the world outside of the classroom.

Lauren Moskovitz: Math, 10 STEM and Design Studio 10

lauren

I am super excited to be a part of the Innovation Lab this year. I have been teaching mathematics at GHS for 15 years.  Over these years I have been a part of several houses, working with a diverse and talented team of teachers. I have always strongly believed, from the very beginning days of my teaching career, that math and science shouldn’t be taught in isolation.  Without math how would we communicate the wonders of science? Without science how would we continue to push the limits of mathematics? STEM education connects our students worlds to their learning, which ultimately fosters deeper understandings. This strong connection breeds ingenuity.  I am inspired to have this tremendous opportunity to collaborate with the Innovation Lab Team to bring science and math alive to my students.

 

Ben Gawle: Physics STEM 11; STEM 10; Design Studio 11

ben

When I graduated from Greenwich High School in 2005 I would not have believed I’d be returning to teach physics within the next decade (and neither would my physics teachers). I graduated from UConn with a degree in civil engineering, and after earning my certification, I went on to work at a small structural and forensic engineering firm in the city. Though climbing skyscrapers was fun, my real passion has always been for teaching and learning about science! I come from a family of mostly Connecticut teachers, so I guess you could say it’s in my blood.

While working at schools in New Canaan, I earned a masters in physics education, and eventually returned home to Greenwich High School in 2016. It has been (and will continue to be) a great pleasure working with the team of professionals in the GHS Science Department, but I am also tremendously glad for this opportunity to branch out to the Innovation Lab! I look forward to exploring new ideas and inventing new ways to communicate my passion for science to InLab students this year and hopefully for many years to come.

Joseph Baske: Social Studies, Social Science Research 12; Humanities 11

joe

I’m so excited to have the opportunity to help guide the InLab seniors in their social science research class this coming year. In my 20+ years at GHS, I’ve taught everything from AP Euro and US history to Economics to ESL freshmen, but always with an emphasis on project-based learning. I believe if my students leave with more questions than answers, I’ve done the my job.

Outside the classroom, I passionately play and follow basketball, read history, and love to learn with my wonderful family who are all in the Greenwich schools.

My Favorites:

– movies: Usual Suspects, Lego Movie

– songs:  Dance Off, and Stop the World & Melt with You

– books: Infinite Jest, Cultural Amnesia, Thinking Fast Thinking Slow, and From Dawn to Decadence

– basketball moves: The Dirk and the Up & Under

– food: steak and anything free or eaten with good friends tends to be delicious

I look forward to teaching and learning with InLab for many years to come.

Ric Felten: Physics/Chemistry, Science Research 12

ric

I have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from SUNY at Buffalo and a master’s degree in chemistry from Saint Joseph College.  I worked as a senior methods development chemist for ten years. After a career as industrial chemist, I founded a laboratory specializing in scanning electron microscopy as well as x-ray and infrared spectroscopy.  I have taught chemistry and physics for the past ten years, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to apply my past experiences to the senior research being performed in the Innovation Lab.

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