The Classroom Revisited: Teaching & Learning for Nightingale’s Second Century

Alumnae, current parents, parents of alumnae, and grandparents were welcomed back to the schoolhouse on January 11 for one of this year’s signature Centennial Events: Classroom Revisited Day. The day offered a unique opportunity to attend forty-minute class sessions hosted by fourteen prominent faculty members: Ms. Mary Beth Alexander, Ms. Julia Anderson, Mr. Allan Bikk, Head of School Mr. Paul A. Burke, Ms. Jeanne Finnegan-John, Todd Mr. Flomberg, Ms. Hannah Hens-Piazza, Mr. Sam Howell, Ms. Robyn Jaffe, Mr. Bryan Rosen, Ms. Christine Schutt, Ms. Johara Sealy, Ms. Nicole Seibert, and Mr. Brad Whitehurst.

Mr. Howell took attendees on a walking tour through Paris (“Une ville de flâneurs”) exploring where to dine, where to go for a stroll, and where to play. Ms. Anderson’s “French Cinema in a Nutshell” allowed guests to discover and learn about the French lifestyle, tradition and cultures via movies.

Ms. John taught her signature Cardio Jam class––a unique total body experience that combines Zumba and Pound techniques with the goal of infusing “happiness” with working out. Using research-based framework, Mr. Burke’s leadership seminar, a staple in the Class X curriculum, instructed attendees on how to transform abstractions of leadership into practical behaviors, how to learn to identify their own leadership characteristics, and how to leverage their strengths––both individually and collectively––toward a positive impact.

Christina Bott Murphy ’09 recounts, “I was able to have some really meaningful discussions with teachers that had a big impact on my life and studies. I loved getting to be in Mr. Whitehurst's class again.” Mr. Whitehurst’s class, “Reading Against the Text: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird”, dove into the ways in which the novel critiques racism and addressed the perspective that the novel is inherently racist in how it tells its story. This session also examined specific episodes in Lee’s novel as a window into how one can read—and teach—against the text. Ms. Schutt’s “How Does a Story Mean” took a look at a single sentence––the sentence that gives way to the well-made short story. The course analyzed stories by modern American masters such as Flannery O’Connor, Stanley Elkin, and John Updike, among others.

Ms. Seibert quantified the Solar System and taught students about the eight planets orbiting the sun. “It was so much fun to be back in classes with my old teachers,” said Alison Tilson ’14. “I had a great time and felt just like I was a student again.” Just down the hall on the fifth floor Mr. Flomberg took a deeper dive into Physics and lead students in an exploration of the physics of simple and not-so-simple linear motion using technology and calculus concepts.

Mr. Bikk’s “NYC in History: Gentrification Now” explored the contentious issues of gentrification facing our city in the past decade: its causes, the basic optics, and how is it one of the most misunderstood developments in the city’s recent history. Students in Mr. Rosen’s “Centennial Creative Coding” created their own Centennial-themed program and an interactive animation using Nightingale logos and sounds that interacted with the physical world. In Ms. Alexander’s “Pathways to Composition in Lower School Music” students used their bodies, voices and classroom percussion instruments to create an original composition based on a poem by Langston Hugues. They were encouraged to take risks, have fun and learn just how easy it can be to improvise and compose original musical ideas within a carefully constructed framework.

“I really enjoyed C3 with Ms. Sealy and Ms. Hens-Piazza and love that lower schoolers have a class on community,” said Sophie Sawyers ’12. The class, “C3: Comfort, Connections, Courage,” encouraged engagement in important conversations related to identity, diversity, and equity with the goal of making a more inclusive and more equitable community for all—both within and beyond the Blue Doors.

Sophie also noted that “I might even use Ms. Jaffe’s pizza activity with my own Lower School students.” She was referring to Ms. Jaffe’s class, “Pizza and Fries: AKA Healthy Communication in Relationships.,” where attendees were introduced to strategies for engaging in honest and ongoing conversation with dating partners about sex, decision-making, and personal values.

At the conclusion of the three class sessions, Associate Head of School and Head of Middle School Claire du Nouy delivered the keynote address, “Teaching and Learning for Nightingale's Second Century.”

“The greatest gift we can give our students is an education that remains just as relevant throughout their lives as it is right now,” Ms. du Nouy said. For the next century, the goal of a Nightingale education is no longer to learn and then apply later. “The learning must be about creation, not simply about consumption.” In the next century, Ms. du Nouy explained, a Nightingale student will stand out not only because of her ability to answer questions, but also in her desire to create the questions worth answering.

Click here for more photos from Classroom Revisited Day. Watch Ms. du Nouy’s keynote speech below.