Inside the Hall: Upper School
Connecting with the immigrant journey to Nashville
Nashville is a hub of people from all over the world. During the spring semester in 10th grade English, Harpeth Hall students explored that fusion of ethnicities and experiences, collecting the oral histories of individuals who moved to Nashville from outside the United States as immigrants, migrants, or refugees. “In English, one of our ongoing currents is ‘the danger of the single story,’ ” upper school English teacher Denise Croker said, “the notion that we cannot look at a single person or a single issue through one story.” Through the oral history project, students heard stories from Nashvillians who chose to come to the United States for work or love, due to war or conflict, or for family. No two stories were the same. For the final project presentation, students shared the oral histories of their interview subjects and wrote a creative narrative of the heard story — dipping their toes into the world of literary journalism and creative nonfiction in a meaningful way to better understand the broad perspectives and experiences that make up the Nashville community. “We need a multitude of stories,” upper school English teacher Ellen Sevits said, “to get a bigger picture.”
Will it float? Building boats in engineering class
Amid cheers and splashes, the Intro to Engineering class hosted its highly anticipated annual regatta this spring. Under the guidance of Matthew Groves, upper school science teacher, Harpeth Hall students spent weeks designing and constructing full-size, one-person boats using only cardboard and duct tape. The challenge was to create a boat that could stay afloat while carrying its fearless captain across a swimming pool during a spirited race. Girls lined the edges of a neighboring pool to cheer on their nautical creations. While some boats sank and others sailed, the success of each team came from the process of designing and building the boats. Students not only put their technical skills to the test, but also gained confidence in creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking — skills essential to future engineers.
Students show support for Ukrainian students through language connections
When junior Emma Silva first heard during an upper school meeting about a new volunteer opportunity working with Ukrainian students, she knew she was being called to get involved. Over the last year, Emma found herself deeply affected by the conflict in Ukraine, especially seeing how the lives of children and teenagers were being torn apart. She was looking for ways to help. ENGin — a non-profit organization that pairs Ukrainian students with English speaking peers to help improve their English — was her answer. “Having four immigrant grandparents, I know first-hand how difficult success can be because of a language barrier,” Emma said. “Therefore, I wanted to get involved with ENGin to hopefully give even one teenager the chance to achieve the success she deserves and is capable of.” Emma was one of the dozen of Harpeth Hall students who were matched with a Ukrainian student through ENGin. For the last year, Emma has “Zoomed” once a week with her student to work on English. In addition, the pair utilized the internet to help Emma’s partner focus on pronunciation. “She is incredibly proficient in the language but wants to sound more like a local and have accurate pronunciation. So, we usually will spend some time working on tongue twisters or current event articles,” Emma said. “I'll also occasionally help her with her Spanish, as I am Cuban-American, by sending her articles, videos, and even movie recommendations in Spanish.” The program students’ determination to improve their communication and relationships — building skills despite difficult circumstances — also inspired the Harpeth Hall students. The opportunity to connect one-on-one with a student from across the world opened doors to new understanding of cultures and ideologies.
She and I love looking at different fashion, food, and everyday life in different places; this provides us the opportunity to share a little bit about the places we are familiar with. Exchanging these languages, foods, and clothing ideas has allowed us to better understand each other and the people and places that have formed us. I think this connection brings about a sense of unity, which, I believe, is crucial for a genuine and connected society.