Advanced Placement English Students Explore the "Hidden and Unknown" at Marist School
This past term, Ms. Gina Parnaby, the chair of the English department and teacher of the three-term Advanced Placement English Language and Composition course, decided to assign a new project for her senior-level class.
Inspired by the 120th anniversary of Marist School's founding, which was celebrated on October 2, 2021, and an online professional development experience over the summer, Ms. Parnaby wanted her students to explore a project on landscapes, with a focus on Marist. As she noted in the project description: “Landscape means many things. It’s the geography; the history of the land; the buildings and spaces; the alumni and friends and teachers and staff who’ve left their marks here. We see this space every day – but do we really see it?”
The purpose of the project was to bring new eyes to familiar landscapes and tell the stories that the Marist School community needs to know. For the “Marist 120” project, students selected one of the “hidden and unknown” stories of the Marist landscape to bring to light in a new way, frequently with the assistance of members of the school community. Faculty and staff across campus helped the students as they worked to find out more about Marist School while developing the soft skills of interviewing and working with adults. As Term 1 wrapped up, students presented their research and discussed their planned projects.
Ms. Parnaby said, “I was honestly surprised by how far the students ran with this project. I left the assignment fairly open-ended so that they had freedom to be creative and show me what they knew and could do, and they came up with some really fun and interesting ideas. I’ve learned a lot from their work as well and am looking forward to them sharing some of the ideas with the Marist community later this year.”
Groups presented on wide-ranging Marist-related topics including the rain cistern on campus, Marist uniforms, women at Marist, the history of Hughes Spalding Stadium, Marist football traditions, and the “world-famous” Marist cookie, among other topics. Daniel Zayas ’22 and his partner Edduin Castro ’22 are working to include more information about former Marist School President Father James Hartnett, S.M. on the Marist website and social media platforms. Daniel said, “We decided to research Fr. Hartnett because we were interested in the names behind the buildings at Marist. We had heard of the Fr. Hartnett Building, but we had no idea who Fr. Hartnett was. Once we began conducting research, we were surprised to learn that he was one of the most important figures in Marist history. He played a key role in the transformation of Marist into a non-military coeducational institution, and he led successful capital campaigns during his tenure as president that raised funds for the construction of buildings across campus. We then decided the goal of our project would be to inform Marist students and faculty about Fr. Hartnett's life and legacy and address the lack of readily accessible information about him. Our research process was interesting because by interviewing priests and faculty, we learned a lot about Fr. Hartnett's strict yet caring personality.”
Reflecting on what he learned through the project, Daniel said, “My main takeaway is that Marist thrives due to the hard work and dedication of its faculty, staff, and administration. I really enjoyed the project because the guidelines were loose and allowed me to take the project in whatever direction I wanted to. I was able to utilize research methods I do not use often, such as browsing the Marist archives and conducting interviews.”
Academic experiences such as this provide students with the opportunity to appreciate what it means to be Marist and to understand how the past informs the school’s present and future, while the mission “to form the whole person in the image of Christ” endures.
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