Dressed in their Gilman best — button-down and collared shirts, sweaters, ties, and blazers — each third grader took his turn in front of the green screen in the MakerLab on November 16, and the following day in front of Lower School classrooms, next to the portrait he painted of a famous person in history. Students presented confidently and proudly on their subjects' life history, their accomplishments, the obstacles they faced, and how they overcame them. They ended their speeches with a question they would ask the people they studied if given the chance.
The presentations recorded in the MakerLab will be available to parents, who will receive a “ticket” to view the online gallery and complimentary popcorn for their viewing pleasure. (Because of pandemic restrictions, parents weren’t able to gather at School as in the past.)
Many boys memorized the information they researched with nary a note and recorded their whole speech in one take. Other speeches required a few stop-and-starts or retakes. In one instance, an especially resilient speaker was so focused that the motion-sensor lights in the MakerLab went off in the middle of his speech, not once, but twice! When there were setbacks, instructional technology coach Lynn Nichols provided words of encouragement: “No pressure, you’re going to be great!”
When third graders took their show on the road to live audiences — the boys traveled in small groups around the Lower School presenting in different homerooms — they were extremely well-received. Second grade teacher Karen Cooper said, “The young men were well-spoken, confident and created an environment that cultivated heartfelt and thoughtful questions from my boys! To witness the third graders offering words of encouragement to one another was so uplifting!” Fourth grade teacher Michelle Turner said, “The Portrait Gallery is amazing! My boys in 4A are mesmerized, impressed, and fully engaged.”
The subjects of study covered a wide variety of famous people throughout history, including Jane Goodall, famous for studying chimpanzees, Nelson Mandela, who was “fearless, brave, powerful, and peaceful” according to his researcher, and Galileo, whose life obstacles included one time when he got sick and “had to stay in bed for over a week!” as reported by one young historian.
Though the project had many components — selecting a person to study, doing the research, painting the portrait, and composing and delivering the speech — many students shared that their favorite part was the oral element. Some boys even said it wasn’t just their favorite part but the most challenging part, too. Irfan P. said it was hard to keep going “even when you know you messed up.” Luckily he had gotten invaluable public speaking advice: “My mom told me to just keep going because [the audience] doesn’t know your speech.”
A huge thank you to third grade teachers Jennifer Reiter, Becky Stevens, and Amy Bess-Graves; Lower School art teacher Trevlin Alexander; and instructional technology coach Lynn Nichols for all the work involved to make this project a success.