Creative thinking is an essential skill for success in life. When students are given the opportunity to explore subjects and demonstrate mastery in new and imaginative ways, the material takes on greater relevance to who they are now and who they will one day become. At Wellington, a math or science class can transform into a visionary space for students to connect a passion for art or design; a social studies lesson can be brought to life through dramatization; a traditional classroom can become a college seminar for students to engage with field experts.
For a first trimester final project in upper school geometry, teacher Michelle Neely asked students to be creative with the vocabulary they had learned. An otherwise routine assessment became an inventive leaping off point for students to think outside of the geometric box. Students like Zack Sagone ’23 composed clever poetry, excerpted below:
Parallel lines, are friends, side by side,
Sitting next to each other, but they never touch,
They have the same slope, so they move as one,
And marked with 2 slashes, so we know what kind.
Skew lines are simple, it lives like a nomad,
Never intersecting, far outside of the plane,
It just kind of sits, very far away,
It doesn’t want contact; it just wants to stay.
Emerson Thompson ’24 illustrated an entire booklet of fanciful Pokemon-inspired characters:
When 3rd graders learned about Colonial America in social studies, historical re-enactments by faculty and role-playing by students provided a memorable multimodal learning experience in which students gained a deeper understanding of the content. Katie Nowak, learning guide and also professional re-enactor, shared with students many of the props she uses to play a colonial character. The class also tried their hand at writing with a quill pen. King George III, portrayed with great aplomb by learning guide Brian Pacifico, engaged in an exciting exchange with students who took on the roles of colonists, tax collectors, and members of parliament, as they discussed the many factors that led to the American Revolution.
“It was a lot of fun and helped us understand why the colonists wanted to fight for their independence,” teacher Emily Szabo said.
After studying cells in science, 6th graders were able to meet two top researchers in related fields of biology. Wellington parent and The Ohio State University professor, Dr. Anthony Brown P ’21, shared with students a fascinating look at his research and a new perspective on the building blocks of life. Cells are like cities, he explained, and need to have movement in order to function properly. Brown showed a video of a fish that changed colors due to a rush of adrenaline, walking students through each moment of the cellular reaction. “To be a scientist is to ask the question how do things work,” he said. “Every answer leads to another question. That’s thinking like a scientist.”
Matt Pastore, pediatric genetic counselor at The Regional Genetics Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital, also spoke to 6th graders about the genetic counseling process. He shared a bit about his background and what his profession entails, including what qualities would make someone a good genetic counselor. Pastore talked about how genetic testing is conducted and highlighted a few examples of how the slightest variance in genetic code can lead to congenital disorders.
Perhaps no guest speaker could be more relevant than Atefeh Alizadehbirjandi, a chemical engineer at AstraZeneca who has worked on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. She spoke with upper school students about her education background and professional journey, beginning in cancer research, that led to a career in addressing the challenges of large scale treatments. Alizadehbirjandi explained the fundamental differences between the coronavirus vaccines, DNA versus mRNA-based, along with the pros and cons of each. She also shared that researchers working on the different vaccines were supportive of each other because no one company alone would be able to manufacture enough for the world population.
Alizadehbirjandi encouraged students to explore the field of chemical engineering because its diverse skill set can be used in countless professions. Mostly though, she stressed the importance of being passionate about your work. “If you want to do it,” she said, “there is always a way.”