Tag Archives: Inly School

The Importance of Creativity and Innovation in Schools

by Donna Milani Luther

8th Grade students tinkering at NuVu

8th Grade students tinkering at NuVu Studio

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build the youth for our future.” This is the imperative for schools in this century.

There is a great deal of buzz in the world of education right now about creativity and innovation and why these skills should be incorporated more into K–8 school curricula to build for the future. We are preparing students of today for the jobs of tomorrow—jobs that don’t exist yet, in fields that will be created to meet the demands of an ever-changing world. And yet many schools are still using what Sir Ken Robinson describes as the “industrial age factory model” for education, which doesn’t meet the growing demand for creativity and innovation.

Interestingly, a number of schools are adopting a more Montessori-inspired classroom model to help meet this demand. The AltSchool in California, for example, founded by a former Google engineer, is described as “Montessori 2.0” with a strong focus on technology. Closer to home, a former MIT graduate, Saeed Arida, created NuVu “The Innovation School,” a full-time magnet innovation school in Cambridge. At NuVu, students learn in a hands-on environment with coaches who help guide the creative process, from inception to completion. NuVu’s pedagogy is based on the architectural studio model and geared around multi-disciplinary, collaborative design projects. Within each multidisciplinary Studio, students explore problems rigorously by focusing on one project for two weeks. A Studio Coach mentors students to develop their project through an iterative process over the course of the Studio. Students confront the small and large contexts within problems as they are exposed to complex, ‘messy’ situations. The NuVu Team continuously evaluates students through deskcrits and final reviews.

I am proud to say that our 8th grade students, for the second year in a row, have spent two weeks at NuVu. This spring, our students were assigned a project called  “Wheelchair Hacks” and asked to come up with creative modifications to wheelchairs. To see their clever creations, you can click here. Final projects included everything from a wheel-cleaning device to a height adjusting chair. It was exciting to see our students come up with clever modifications and explain how their process worked from beginning to end. They all hit road blocks but, like in real-life, figured out ways around them to get to their end goal.

AltSchool and Nuvu are just two examples of how education is coming around to the century old forward-thinking of Dr. Maria Montessori who took what had been in education and imagined what could be. Today at Inly, in the tradition of Montessori, we are imagining what can be in the world of education because we fundamentally believe in the power and potential of children. This is why we want to ensure our school environment fosters their capabilities, creativity, and innate desire to learn and explore.

As many of you already know, Inly is currently planning to build an innovation lab, reimagined library, and six new classroom spaces next year. The innovation lab will be known as the “DaVinci Studio” and will be a central location for our robotics, 3D printing, digital video creation, and tinkering projects. Along with these offerings, the DaVinci Studio will have an idea space, which will have whiteboards on the walls and surfaces for students to imagine, draw, and plan. I believe this space will allow our students to expand and grow in new and exciting ways.

Creativity and innovation should be at the core of a curriculum and instrumental to the way children learn. Paramount to the continued success of schools is ensuring that learning spaces mirror the collaborative work spaces of the real world and enable students to problem-solve, think differently, and challenge the status quo. The authors of The Third Teacher put it succinctly when they said we should “design learning environments and use design thinking to strategize cultural, pedagogical, and organizational change.”

At Inly, our new building project will enable us to accomplish both things that Roosevelt charged educators to do: ‘‘build a future for our youth and build youth for our future.”

Inly Alum Receives Fulbright Scholarship to Spain

HannahKHWe recently caught up with Inly alumnus, Hannah Kaplan-Hartlaub ‘07, who is graduating from Smith College this May. Kaplan-Hartlaub, a Sociology and Spanish double major, has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Spain, where she will spend next year teaching English at a high school in Madrid. While not teaching, she will also help coach the high school’s Model United Nations team and conduct an independent community service project through the network of community gardens in Madrid. “ I’ll be working with the Urban Garden Network of Madrid to do an independent community service project,” Kaplan-Hartlaub said, “which marries my interests in experiential learning, community-building, and playing in the dirt—all things I can I trace back to my time at Inly School.”

Hannah’s love of the Spanish language prompted her to study abroad last year at the University of Cordoba and also inspired her to pursue the Fulbright program in Spain after graduation. Fulbright grantees are selected through an open and merit-based competition. This ensures that the most qualified applicants are fairly chosen in a way that contributes to the main goals of the program: to provide overseas experience to individuals not previously afforded such an opportunity and to promote mutual understanding and benefit through contributions to both host and home communities.

From its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has fostered bilateral relationships in which citizens and governments of other countries work with the U.S. to set joint priorities and shape the program to meet shared needs. The English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Programs place Fulbrighters in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to the local English teachers. ETA’s help teach English language while serving as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. The age and academic level of the students varies by country, ranging from kindergarten to university level.

When asked about her goals for the program, Kaplan-Hartlaub said,

“Primarily, I aim to teach English for student use with cross-cultural engagement and perspective—in other words, to afford my students the opportunity to explore the world with the facility that English makes possible. I’m also eager to explore the country further and contribute through community service. I hope my volunteering in urban gardens will foster tighter neighborhood community and local connection to the earth, and to begin a dialogue around urban agricultural practices and food culture. This would further my goal of having a true exchange of knowledge and culture with the Madrileña community.”

The Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) program is sponsored and managed by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State. Fulbright ETAs are placed in classrooms abroad to assist in strengthening English language instruction, while providing insights on American culture. At the same time, U.S. participants experience intensive cross-cultural interaction in an international educational setting.

Kaplan-Hartlaub reflected that her Inly roots in education “drew out the spirit of exploration” within her:

“While my years at Commonwealth School and then Smith contributed greatly [to this spirit] as well,” she observed, “I always consider Inly to have planted the seed of curiosity. From a young age we worked with teachers and with each other to cultivate our passions, and though the sowing was challenging, the harvest was fruitful and will fortify me during the coming adventures….I hope the Fellowship will allow me to connect further with students and teachers in a new academic setting, and would provide a cross-cultural comparison to inform my interpretations of educational policies in the States upon my return.”

Inly’s Technology Philosophy

By Julie Kelly-Detwiler and Kelley Huxtable

B07A8074Our Parent Insight Event on Technology was missed due to snow days, but we wanted to share some of our thoughts on technology at Inly, as well as some often requested guidelines and resources for parents.

Technology at Inly at a Glance

At Inly, we use Montessori’s work to guide our introduction of technology into the classroom.  Montessori observed—and current brain study confirms—that three-dimensional, hands-on materials are the most effective tools to learning for young children. And so, from Toddler House to grade 2, we intentionally minimize the use of screen-based technologies. There is a great deal of current evidence showing that the process of physically crossing the midline of the body builds a child’s brain pathways and that much is lost in this development when children move too quickly to keyboarding, or work on tablets or smart phones. Our focus is to instill habits of mind that will encourage children’s natural capacity to problem solve. We focus on how children behave when they don’t know an answer.  Montessori works allow children the space and time to build this mental toolkit, which is the set of skills they need to attack and solve future problems. In addition, we emphasize computational thinking by exposing them to coding with cups, building circuits to create art, and incorporating STEM activities into their reading comprehension.

In third grade, our students take a year-long course on library and technology where they are formally introduced to skills in two key areas of technology: digital citizenship and digital literacy.  There is a great deal of direct instruction in research skills, accessing and assessing sources, and digital safety.  During third grade, each Inly student is given an Inly e-mail address and access to Google Apps, which they begin to use in preparation for their transition to UE.  We recommend that this be the first time students experience a level of independence with technology and, in this closed system, we are able to monitor every interaction so that we can use our students’ successes and missteps as learning opportunities within a protected domain.

In Upper Elementary, direct instruction in technology is continuous and ongoing, and is integrated into other areas of study. At this level, technology becomes a tool to create and share knowledge. Students have access to various devices for research, writing, and presentations. They create and share work using Google Apps, begin using interactive white-board technology in their teaching and learning, and engage in some curricular skills work online. Sixth year students complete a year-long capstone project that culminates in a presentation in which they use multiple technologies to demonstrate their learning.

By Middle School, students are quite comfortable using technology for academic and creative exploration and presentation. They have access to laptops in the classroom,  complete their Spanish work in an online audio/video language lab, and explore a variety of technology applications in committee work to create and problem-solve.   At this age, students are often exploring or using social media, and the social emotional lessons around digital citizenship, empathy, and social boundaries are real and frequent.

In addition to class work, students are searching out other ways to explore and learn with  technology on campus—from designing in 3D to running DIY robotics programs using micro-controllers and breadboards to learning to program with Lego EV3 Mindstorms.   The push toward innovation and creation is no doubt exciting and having students take the lead is an awesome experience that is not new to Inly. We are looking forward to continuing our journey into this new world of making and innovating with all our students, parents, and alums.

INLYNEXT: Building Innovation for the future of our school

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By Donna Milani Luther, Head of School

At Inly, we reflect every day about the forward-thinking of Maria Montessori. Dr. Maria Montessori took what had been in education and imagined what could be. Today at Inly, we are imagining what can be in the world of education because we fundamentally believe in the power of children. We believe that children are capable of so much more than most give them credit for. This is why we want to create a space that fosters their capabilities, creativity, and innate desire to learn and explore. We plan to do so through updating and upgrading some of our classrooms and creating a new centerpiece for our school.

RenderingExteriorAs many of you already know, Inly School is currently in the midst of a fundraising campaign we’re calling “INLY NEXT: Building Innovation. Through this campaign, we are hoping to raise the funds to build 6 new classroom spaces and a new centerpiece for the school.

Twelve years ago, Inly embarked on a similar campaign to build the Meehan Family Artsbarn. Our Middle School Director, Tschol Slade, reflected recently at a Town Hall Meeting, “When we built the Artsbarn, our school plays and other performances were brought to a whole new level. It opened a new world of possibility for our students.” I believe spaces like the Artsbarn offer structure that leads to freedom, and opportunity that leads to possibility. Since the very first day we opened its doors, the Artsbarn has transformed from moment to moment to meet the diverse needs of our students—it has been a gathering space for Morning Shares, a dance and movement space, a coffee house for our middle school students, an athletic space for basketball games and physical education classes, a learning space for student assemblies, a lecture space for our speaker series, and a performance space for our school plays. The Artsbarn not only meets the needs of our children today but it also allows them to imagine what they can and will be in their future.

The centerpiece that we will be adding to our main school building is very much an architectural nod to the Artsbarn—only this “barn” will be round. The centerpiece will have two stories—one for a brand new library and the other for a Da Vinci Studio. I am extremely proud of our efforts around creating the Da Vinci Studio because I know that no other elementary school will have a space quite like this. It will be named “Da Vinci Studio” in honor of the first true Renaissance man who dreamed of things that weren’t and made them happen. Because we know that we are currently educating children for jobs and careers that don’t exist yet, this space is intended to help our students channel their inner Da Vinci and learn how to create something from nothing—to turn their ideas into reality. The Da Vinci Studio will include space for robotics, 3-D printing, digital video creation, and tinkering. Along with these offerings, the Da Vinci Studio will also have an idea studio, which will have whiteboards on the walls and surfaces for students to imagine, draw, and plan.

At Inly, innovation and creativity are at the core of our curriculum and instrumental to the way children learn. Paramount to our continued success will be learning spaces that mirror the collaborative work spaces of the real world and support our inspired curriculum, with flexibly designed classrooms and expanded resources for both students and faculty. In short, Inly is going places, and I hope you will join me in supporting this campaign and supporting our school’s bright future.

Inly Alum Has Olympic Ambitions

Victoria Krivitsky

Victoria Krivitsky ’13

Victoria Krivitsky (‘13) has a goal. A big goal. The Summer Olympics.

“I’d at least like to make the Olympic trials,” she explained, “in 2016 or 2020.”

Krivitsky, a sophomore at Norwell High School, is a member of the South Shore YMCA Strypers Swim Team as well as the Norwell High School Clippers Swim Team. Last year, she placed 4th with a 1:07 time  in the age group 13 to 14 year olds in New England for the 100 yard breaststroke (for you non-swimmers out there, that means she swam four laps of a 25 yard pool in just 1 minute and 7 seconds)! She has also gone to YMCA Nationals for the past 3 years and has broken several team records.

“I compete in the other strokes but breaststroke is by far my favorite and best stroke,” she said. “I’m strongest in the short course yards so this season, I’ve been working on making my breaststroke more fast and powerful for the long course season, which is geared toward Olympic distances.”

Victoria has been swimming for almost as long as she has been in Montessori. “I started swimming competitively when I was 6 years old,” she says. When asked how Montessori and Inly School have influenced where she is now and her swimming ambitions, Victoria said, “My Montessori education has taught me to challenge myself and push myself to achieve my goals, even if they’re big. It’s also taught me how to be a leader…In high school, leadership is often tied to age—so juniors and seniors are looked to as leaders—but l’ve learned from Montessori that you can be a leader at any age. That makes me feel comfortable around upperclassmen and comfortable being a leader…We’re all family here.”

Victoria competing in a recent meet.

Victoria competing in a recent meet.

Victoria competed in YMCA Nationals last year for both short and long courses. The YMCA National Short course was held in North Carolina and the YMCA Long Course was held in Indianapolis. This year, she is competing in Sectionals, which will be held in Ithaca, New York.

“Our coach is making big plans for us,” she says, “I’m working up to a certain level of yardage and then I taper down before my meets. It’s a process.”

When asked how she finds time for school with all her swimming, Victoria laughed and said, “There have definitely been times where I’ve done my homework in my car while my Mom is driving me to and from practice, but it’s ok. I’m used to it by now and I don’t mind juggling everything.”

Stay tuned for future updates as Victoria pursues her swimming dreams!

How We Prepare Our Students for Life Beyond Inly

Donna Milani LutherBy Donna Milani Luther, Head of School

In my forty years of teaching, I have taught in a variety of schools and what I appreciate most about Inly (and why I landed so happily here 18 years ago) is that it is a thoughtful, intentional blend of what is developmentally appropriate for children and what prepares children for their future—regardless of what their futures hold.

We know that we are preparing our students for life beyond Inly—for high school and college where they will still encounter traditional measures of academic success, like tests and quizzes. We also know that trends in secondary and higher education are rapidly moving toward flipped classrooms, experiential learning, and more Inly methods of demonstration of mastery, like collaborative projects and presentations. As educators in an ever-changing world, we know that we are preparing our students for jobs that don’t yet exist. That’s why we talk so much about grit—we know our students must be flexible, resilient, and know how to problem solve if they want to stand a chance in their dynamic future.

Montessori “Plus”

As I mentioned in a previous R&N article, Evolving the Montessori Pyramid, at Inly we combine tried and true Montessori methods with other harmonious practices—particularly at the upper elementary level and beyond. I like to call this approach Montessori “plus.”

While Inly’s curriculum is rigorous and benchmarked with the Common Core the “plus” is that we also teach next century skills including communication, creativity, ingenuity, and critical thinking. Through all of these teachings, we try to build each student’s self confidence and love of learning.

Fostering Lifelong Responsibility

Another “plus” at Inly plays out in how we teach our students responsibility. Our students are expected to be on time, manage their schedules, finish homework assignments, take tests and quizzes, and complete research projects. They routinely set goals, keep and refine work plans, and critically reflect on their own progress.  Throughout all of these experiences, children ultimately learn how they best learn, and how to be responsible for their own learning, which is incredibly empowering and something we know they take with them in life.

Entering the Real World

Each step of the Inly journey builds upon itself, and each level brings exponential growth in our students. In our lower levels, students are mastering foundational academic skills, while they are encouraged to wonder and see themselves as part of a family, classroom, and school community. In Upper Elementary, our students expand and apply their academic skills in more challenging projects and explorations, which culminates in a sixth year intensive capstone project, and they begin to engage with their broader South Shore community through their weekly Service Learning curriculum. Once Inly students begin Middle School, the “plus” expands to include additional learning experiences that they are, by this time in their academic career, developmentally ready for. In Middle School, we give our students opportunities to go out into the real world through the Internship Program and our Montessori Model United Nations program. As a capstone experience for our 8th grade students this year, they will also participate in a two week immersion program through NuVu Studio, where they will solve real world problems using applied technology and design. Since Middle School aged children are fascinated with their roles in the larger society, all of these programs are important parts of their exploration of the world. Each of these programs offer authentic work experiences that lead our students to a greater sense of self and respect for others.

Life Beyond Inly

The most common observation I hear parents make of their children after they have graduated from Inly is that are passionate learners. They love the process of learning and take on new learning experiences with an enthusiasm that is unique from their peers. While those who graduate from Inly walk away with the more tangible academic measurements of success, this love of learning is actually the aspect of a student’s experience that is perhaps the most valuable. This sort of passion can be applied to any field of study and any career. It is invaluable. As Maria Montessori once said, “we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.” Our gift to our students as educators is not how many facts we have crammed into our student’s brains but rather how much passion for learning we were able to help them cultivate within themselves.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
– Albert Einstein

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
– Benjamin Franklin

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”
– Jiddu Krishnamurti

Peter Pan Comes to Inly!

PeterPanPosterAn Interview with director Martha Sawyer about this year’s production

By Amy Martell, Inly parent

Peter Pan is coming to Inly! Set to open on February 28, this year’s Inly Players performance promises magic, joy, and a consciousness that brings to life the heart of the Neverland tale.

Amy Martell, mother of Inly Students Lilja (’19) and Theo (’22) and cast member in the play sat down with the director, Martha Sawyer, to discuss this year’s production.

Amy: So, given all of the other wonderful possible musicals out there, why Peter Pan? What made you want to put on this production at Inly?

Martha: Well, at Inly, one of the things we have to consider is [choosing] a show that will showcase not only the great student aspects but also the aspects of the adults that we can bring into a cast. The show also has to have an appeal…we specifically look for a show that will have a lot of imagination in it, something that will appeal to a young demographic—not just from a performance standpoint, but [also] from an attendance standpoint, and we want to have themes that we feel the students will learn and grow from. Inly did Peter Pan as the premier show for the Artsbarn and we had considered it again for last year’s play. However, we wanted to make sure that all of the students who had done it before had already gone through the school so that it would be a new experience for the students and no one was going to do the same show within their tenure as an Inly Player. I’ve never done the show—so I’m very excited! I love doing a show for the first time!

It’s amazing that in your whole career you haven’t done the show! 

The technical aspects of the show are so challenging—a lot of places won’t touch it. That’s one of the other reasons that I love doing shows here at Inly—they will tackle any technical aspect, and say, “we’ll find a solution!”

What are some of the technical challenges of the show?

Well, number one, you’ve got flying. It’s interesting, they’ve just come out with a junior version of this show from one of the houses where they have suggestions for doing a show where you don’t have to fly, which would work beautifully, but there’s nothing quite like Peter’s first entrance…it’s magical. It’s one of those moments in theater that just…happens. That’s one of the great technical aspects.

The other thing is that, because of the setup of the barn, everything is done sort of in the round, so I’m constantly trying to make sure that the vision, and the way we tell the story appeals to all sides of the audience so they will get an equal experience. So you have to really work with your actors to make sure that they’re not getting stuck in a proscenium, downstage presentation. We have to really work on staging and using every side and crevice of the barn and the space. So that’s fun, but it can be challenging too.

So that brings me to my next question. Many people have seen other productions of Peter Pan, including the Mary Martin version, the Cathy Rigby version, the Disney version, and even the Inly version in 2007. Can you share with us a little bit of your vision for this production?

Well, because this is the first time that I have done it, I read the script and I thought it was charming, I really did—I jumped right back into the lovely Victorian storytelling. But most of all I was struck by the definition of Neverland. When Peter sings the song, “Neverland,” he describes this place where “time is never planned,” and I think my brain just sort of latched onto that and said, “Ok, there’s my theme.” For me, it’s so childlike. It so captures the essence of who Peter is, and why he holds on to that mystery of Neverland through so much. When I worked with actors the other day, we talked a little bit about, ‘what would a place where time is never planned be like?’ and one of them said, “It would be chaotic!” And you know, I said, “that’s because we come from a world where, for instance, the first thing I did at rehearsal is give out a schedule. We are planning every second.” And I said, “You’re right! It might be chaos. But it could be good chaos—it could be bad chaos. It would be different.” So that’s probably the main theme that I asked all the designers and the creative team to keep in mind as we make the journey through the rehearsals. I want the wonder of Neverland—this place where the joy and the freedom of youth to sort of just take a day and let it happen—can be captured. So that’s what we are trying to envision.

You gave me goosebumps in rehearsal the other day when you described it! It really sounds magical.

So, another important question—J.M. Barrie wrote “Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up” in the early 1900s, and the first production of that play was produced in 1904. The story takes place in Victorian England and is clearly rooted in a Victorian mindset, such as in the characterization of the so-called “Indian” characters. How are you working with these aspects of the play?

So, there are sensibilities. You encounter this with any piece—each piece is written in its own timeframe and with its own sensibilities of how life was at the time and how perceptions were at the time. This piece is based on a story written in the early 1900s, this stage play was done in the mid-1950s, so those sensibilities are part of the play. How people are imagined—whether Indians or Pirates, even the Lost Boys who are orphans who are basically described as children who have fallen out of prams—you know, these ideas are drawn from the time when the play was written and produced. Now, in 2014, our awareness is different, and we are aware of the importance of rejecting stereotypes about places and people. So what we have specifically tried to do is say, again, going back to that lyric in Neverland, we want to create a world where, yes, there are groups that may seem different to each other [initially], but they, in fact, build a bond through learning and through knowledge and through discovering—through the story of the play. We are going to make this a very strong theme (and I’ve already started in rehearsals with the students)—how the different characters start off being afraid of each other, and by the end of the show they are no longer afraid, they’ve learned to work together, and even to overcome some of the obstacles they face together, because they have learned about each other.

We did an exercise this afternoon at the rehearsal where I asked students ‘what are the types of things that make you afraid?’ They talked about being in dark, they talked about sounds they weren’t sure of, and they talked about trying something new—those were all things that might be fearful. And then I asked, how do you deal with things that you are afraid or things that seem different to you? And they all gave me different solutions. Some said ‘oooh, I might run away.’ Some said ‘I might try to stay closer to it so that I learn more about it.’ Others had other solutions. What I’m trying to do when working with students in this way is to find the feelings of how you might have an unease about something that is different, but then through opening up and making the journey and learning about that person or that place or that thing you can learn to fit it into part of your story. So that’s what we’re working on.

In addition, one thing we have also decided is that during production of the play we will continually refer to the ‘Neverland Lost Boys,’ the ‘Neverland Pirates,’ and the ‘Neverland Indians’ when talking about the different groups of characters. This is to emphasize to the children that these groups of people exist only in Neverland—they are imaginary, not based on any real people in our world.

[Editor’s Note: During the production of the play some of the students will be engaged in learning modules about Native Americans and other native communities. Those classes will be learning about the concepts of stereotypes and archetypes (in developmentally appropriate ways), and students will be taught how to appreciate the differences between how literature and entertainment often present native communities and how they actually live.]

So, is there any one thing you are most looking forward to about this production? I know that’s a hard question!

It’s not too hard! What I love about the Inly shows is that, when everything comes together, and the students and the adults—you know, you have professional actors working with students—when I see those two worlds connect—when I walk through the backstage before the shows and Scott [Wahle] will be sitting chatting with a third or fourth grader, and they’ll be speaking right up and giving him their impression of how the show went—those moments are what I thrive on, I love them.

About the Director

Martha Stewart is an award-winning director, actress and designer. She has previously directed OLIVER!, THE WIZARD OF OZ, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, WILLY WONKA and THE MUSIC MAN at Inly School. Over the last three decades Martha has served as artistic director for more than 50 full stage productions in the community, scholastic and regional theatre venues. A graduate of Manhattanville College, Martha has studied directing with Helena Dreyfus of Yale Drama School and David Wheeler of Harvard and A.R.T. She has served as an adjudicator for the Mass. High School Drama Festival and has won awards from EMACT and AACT for outstanding direction, set and costume design for productions on the state and regional levels. She is a member of the Board of Directors for Curtain Call Theatre in Braintree and is on the staff for Theater Plus in Marshfield. Martha extends her sincere thanks to the whole Inly community for their hard work and support in bringing these wonderful productions to the stage.

Inly Middle School Rowing Team Wins Boston Harbor Youth Rowing Championship

Not So Gently Down the Stream: Middle School Rowing Team Takes the Golden Oarlock

by Martha Hicks Leta, Inly parent

In the training session before four stalwart members of the Inly Middle School Rowing Team prepared to race in the Boston Harbor Youth Rowing Championship, Hull Lifesaving Museum Director and coach, Lory Newmyer, gave it to them straight: they would be rowing against teams of high school kids, some of whom had been practicing and racing together for years; the other teams were more physically mature, stronger, tougher and more experienced; and while there was little doubt that Inly would lose, the experience would build character and would be helpful for the upcoming Ice Breaker competition.

“We will be competing against crews that are stronger racers than we,” said Newmyer in an email to the rowers leading up to the event. “But, the whole point of this event is to learn how to line up for races with several other boats, how to handle a crowded race course (and possible collisions!), and, as always, how to have fun, win or lose.”

And so, on the morning of Saturday, November 9 on the docks of Boston’s historic Fort Point Channel, the Inly Team awaited the arrival of the other racers in typical Inly style. They weren’t worked up or nervous. The talk was of upcoming tests and how their high school visits were going, and how they wished the rest of the team could be with them. “I just want to have fun today,” said Charlie McDonald, and the others agreed.

Teams from Cushing House, Green Academy, Charlestown High School, Inly and South Shore Youth Rowing

Teams from Cushing House, Green Academy, Charlestown High School, Inly School, and South Shore Youth Rowing

At the edge of the dock, several Whitehall Fours, rowing gigs that resemble smaller versions of ancient life-saving vessels, bobbed in the pewter waters that lay at the edge of Boston’s financial district. Here, America’s revolutionaries once tossed cases of precious tea in revolt against oppressive British rule. It was a lot to ponder, standing at the edge of the channel that shaped Boston’s watery history. And then rowers from Green Academy, South Shore Youth Rowing, Cushing House and Charlestown High School began filing onto the docks. They were older, bigger, and had that indefinable high school swagger.

As Inly crew members sized up the competition, another rower asked where their team was from. “Inly,” came the reply. And then, “Inly? Is that, like, a name or an acronym or something?” It’s too hard to explain, the kids seemed to decide. “It’s a Montessori school in Scituate.” The response was a dismissive, “Oh.”

Boat assignments were made and the rules for the round-robin style race announced. The Green Academy kids, three men and one woman, scrambled into a boat and shoved off for their warm up, clearly demonstrating their skills at the first dip of the oars. As they stroked through the water, like perfectly synchronized parts of a sleek machine, their strength and skill were evident. In their first heat they dusted off the competition—Cushing and one of the Charlestown teams—easily.

Then it was Inly’s turn. The crew piled into the white and blue trimmed “Mighty Cod” with Caroline Leta in the bow position, followed by John McNeil, Ali Faulkner and Charlie McDonald, with coxswain and Hull Rowing Club instructor, Bill Foley, calling commands. The race would consist of a sprint with three sharp turns around marker buoys and a straightaway sprint to the finish. The Inly team knew from Lory Newmyer’s coaching that they might collide, they might lose rhythm, they might go off course, but the instructions were, no matter what, to keep rowing and finish the race.

As the Inly crew pushed off the docks to warm up, the Firefly and Bowfin gigs loaded up with the Charlestown High women’s team, and South Shore Youth Rowing, respectively. Friends, relatives, officials and coaches stationed across from Boston’s sparkling skyline watched as the three vessels worked their way to the distant starting line where race officials, Maritime Program Director, Ed McCabe, and Home Waters Coordinator, Rafael Vieira, waited in a launch to call the start.

With the three racing gigs finally in position, an air horn blasted, signaling the start of the heat. Oars dug into the water, coxswains shouting orders, the racers were off.  South Shore got off the line first, gaining nearly a full length ahead of Inly as they approached the first buoy with the Charlestown women’s team struggling in third.  Inly held their steady second as they came into the first turn and then, somehow, amid the startled shouts of the spectators, Team Inly gained the inside, edging out the leading boat.

“They just took the lead!” a parent shouted. “That’s them in the white boat! They’re in the lead!”

Inly taking the first heat win

Inly taking the first heat win

Away from the first turn, Inly held steady, pulling toward the second marker with SSYR applying heat for the inside position for the second turn. There was a brief moment of panic and lost rhythm from the Mighty Cod as Ali Faulkner “caught a crab,” missing the water with her oar stroke and losing balance. “Keep rowing, Inly!” Newmyer hollered from the finish line. The Inly crew rallied and dug in, making way toward the third buoy.

Catching the crab

Catching the crab

Backs curved, legs and arms strained, the crew pulled and pulled, edging away, yard by yard, SSYR’s “Bowfin” in hot pursuit as the Charlestown team continued to struggle valiantly in the third place boat, “Firefly.”

“Oh, my God. They’re going to win!” Inly parent, Nancy McDonald, exclaimed as they sprinted for the finish. The parents and friends went nuts as the Inly team continued to gain distance from the second and third vessels. “Go INLY!! GO!!”

And go they did. The team came off the first heat breathing hard, but beaming from ear to ear with the very unexpected victory.  Teamwork felt good, they said. Winning with a team felt even better.

After all was said and done, Team Inly rounded out the day winning their first two heats and coming in at a respectable third in the final straightaway sprint, edged out by heavy-weights, Charlestown 2 and Green. Inly took the Lightweight category and, most unexpectedly, the big win of the day, beating out all the other teams for combined fastest time for all three races, with .33 and .38 leads over the second and third runners up, respectively.

At the end of the day, Inly’s team stood proudly for pictures with their Golden Oarlock medals hanging from their necks.  Charlie McDonald declared, “I can’t believe we actually won! This feels incredible. I never want to forget this.” They all agreed. Not bad at all for a bunch of eighth graders from a school none of the other racers had ever heard of. We think they might remember us now. Well done, Inly Rowing Team. Well done.

Team Inly, John McNeil, Charlie McDonald, Ali Faulkner, Caroline Leta, pose with their metals

Team Inly, John McNeil, Charlie McDonald, Ali Faulkner, Caroline Leta, pose with their metals

More on the Ocean Rowing Program at Inly Middle School:

Scituate’s Inly School to Compete in Icebreaker Rowing Tournament (Boston Globe South, Nov 2011)