Innovation Lab Winter Newsletter

February 2021 - Deeper Learning in and for the real world.

Celebrating the End of Semester 1

Greetings, Friends of Greenwich High School Innovation Lab!

In this Winter Newsletter, we showcase student projects from Quarter 2 and and congratulate all of our students on completing their first semester in this hybrid learning adventure.

We continue to be amazed by the unwavering commitment of our students to follow their passions with perseverance and tenacity. We hope you enjoy seeing samples of their hard work!

Many thanks for your support,

The GHS InLab Teaching Squad

Ben, Brian, Courtney, Joe, Jessica, Kathy, Mike, and Rick

Check out our latest InLab Padlets, which include student testimonials curated from FlipGrid ("What InLab Means to Me") and information about our upcoming

virtual Open House on February 24th (7-8pm).

Do you know a student who would be interested in joining InLab this Fall?

Scroll down for information about our Project-based program and

the application process for Fall admission. For more information, please visit our website or email us at

Did you know Innovation Lab (InLab) has openings for all grade levels?

Any student who will be enrolled at Greenwich High School in Fall 2021 as a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior is eligible to apply for our Project-Based Learning (PBL) program in STEM and Humanities. New for 2021, seniors interested in a single STEM research or Social Science research class are invited to apply!

What is Innovation Lab? Greenwich High School's Innovation Lab offers a project-based, interdisciplinary option for English and social studies (as Humanities 9, 10, 11) and/or STEM (science and math 11). Honors and College Prep levels offered. Check out the InLab course offerings in the Course of Study Guide!

When are InLab Applications Due? Applications will be accepted through March 5, 2021. Please visit the website for the Google Form application.

Want to learn more?

Join us at the Innovation Lab Virtual Open House on Wednesday, February 24, 7-8 pm. **

Watch the Live Stream Here and use this link to share questions/comments with the presenters.

Taking a Stand for Human Rights

In this Quarter 2 project, our 9th grade scholars became researchers, experts, and advocates for causes, ideas, and actions by investigating human rights issues in contemporary African countries. After listening to famous speeches as models to better understand the techniques of applying rhetorical appeals (ethos, pathos, and logos) students wrote original speeches where they demonstrated their ability to TAKE A STAND. They applied research-based evidence to create a call to action with sustainable solutions and shared their speeches in FlipGrid.

These speeches not only bring to light the importance of perspective, compassion, and empathy, but they demonstrate a mastery of content in order to be well-informed and open-minded global citizens. For many of these students, this was the first time they had ever written a speech for a class assignment, and we couldn't be more proud of what they were able to accomplish. We hope you enjoy watching these young change-makers in action! Speeches on Padlet.

What is Genius Hour?

Dear future ninth-graders,

In Design Studio 9, Genius Hour is used as a way to highlight our creative abilities in a manner not common in a standard classroom. It allows us to focus on anything that piques our interest, and then devise a plan to share what we’ve learned. For example, in my project, I was interested in the Uighur genocide in China. To showcase my knowledge, I created a website that displayed information about the genocide and an art piece that showed the labour camps in a different light.

For me, this project required a lot of adaptations. The original plan was to just make an art piece and a video. But, my plan changed, and now it’s easier to understand the Uighur genocide overall, and the art piece provides a visually appealing addition, which is a victory in my book.

When you do your Genius Hour project next year, there are a few things you can do to make it a success.

  • For starters, choose something that wouldn’t feel like work, but actually something you’d have fun doing. You’ll be less excited about your project when you have to create the entire thing in a rush the night before, which leads me to my next tip...

  • This may go without saying, but try not to procrastinate. Create a plan for your project. Write down which days you’ll do what, and stick to it. This will make what is required of you rather clear-cut and reduces the risk of forgetting something.

  • Lastly, take lots of pictures and document your process: even if you think it looks bad, even if you don’t want people to see this, take as many photographs of the process as possible, and make sure they’re not blurry, because that was all too common while I was working.

Hope this helps!

Lara Olmsted (Current InLab 9th Grader)

Link to all DS 9 Genius Hour Projects or click below!

A special thanks to our 9th grade parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends for sharing their oral histories for our recent StoryCorps interview activity. Students practiced using the StoryCorps Great Questions List to get to know their peers better, too! They will be applying these skills in the 3rd Quarter to compete in Podcast Challenge competitions sponsored by National Public Radio (NPR) and the New York Times.

Last Spring, our very own Frankie Pugliese (current InLab 10th grader), won Honorable mention in the NPR national podcast challenge with his podcast "The Importance of Family Dinners". We expect another strong showing this year! Check out the 9th grade blogs below to read more about their Semester 1 projects, goals, Genius Hour presentations, and moments when they "failed beautifully".

GHS Explained Docuseries & Design Thinking

Humanities 10 students collaborated to make GHS Explained, a five-part docuseries. Students put their historical research of the Progressive Era, their rhetoric and argument skills, and their design thinking experience to work as they defined, investigated, and proposed solutions to issues at Greenwich High School. To make GHS Explained, our tenth graders collaborated to interview experts and stakeholders and do research about issues related to health and well-being, teaching and learning practices, racial injustice, and economic disparity. They brainstormed solutions, developed prototypes, and tested their ideas on their peers and stakeholders. Each topic was covered in a separate episode of the series. GHS Explained Trailer

America in Crisis: Lessons from the Past

Junior Humanities students have chosen pivotal events and crises from the last half-century in the United States as the focus of their projects to submit to the Connecticut History Day and National History Day competitions this Spring. All of our InLab students in Humanities 10 and 11 will participate in this year's virtual event on March 20th with projects focused on the theme Communication in History: The Key to Understanding. We anticipate that our students will continue their streak of placing at the state, regional, and national competitions. We wish all of our GHS students good luck!

Humanities 11 students have chosen a wide range of riveting topics this year! Check out their student blogs where they describe their projects and evaluate the U.S. government's response these various turning points in contemporary American history:

  • Still Unsafe at Any Speed? Vehicle Safety in America (Jack)

  • Iron Lungs: Jonas Salk and the Legacy of the Polio Vaccine (Richa)

  • The H1N1 (Swine Flu) “Pandemic Playbook” (Ryan)

  • FEMA’s failure: Hurricane Katrina (Stephen)

  • Hurricane Maria: Diplomacy in Crisis (Carolina)

  • The Legacy of the Waco Siege (Ali)

  • Breaking the Social Contract: The Flint Water Crisis (Lillian)

  • The Crysis: The Auto Industry Bailout (Parker)

  • Injustice in Philly: the MOVE Bombing (Jackson)

  • The Legacy of Race & Housing in America: The Watts Riots of 1965 (Julien)

  • Social Justice Campaigns battle America’s War on Drugs (Junior)

  • Grassroots Activism: The American Indian Movement (AIM) (Chelsea)

  • Three Mile Island: Illuminating Regulations in Nuclear Energy (Remy)

  • Equal Pay for Equal Work: The Gender Pay Gap (Izzy)

  • The impact of the Stonewall Riots on LGBTQ+ rights (Jamie)

  • McCarthyism and the Red Scare (Angie, Jefferson)

After conducting extensive research and examining the response to these various crises, students have begun prototyping their exhibits, documentaries, websites, and performances. A very special thanks to our colleagues and administrators who participated in our Critical Friends feedback session - Mr. Mayo, Ms. Tulotta, Ms. Barry, Ms. Arecco, Ms. Shaw, Ms. Boyd, Mr. Charles, and Ms. Stevens. We look forward to seeing these virtual student projects "on display" at the CT History Day competition at the end of March!

Our Seniors are creating films documenting research on the nature of change as illustrated through personal narratives. Topics include changing experiences, views and policies on Late 20th century immigration and the impact of the AIDS Crisis on LGBT+ acceptance. Students have completed research, story-boarding, and are currently filming scenes in class. The focus is about finding and sharing individual stories and oral histories that bring broader research to life through compelling scenes, imagery, dialogue and story arcs.

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Updates from Mr. Walach & Mr. Gawle

We've been spending the majority of our time in class working through a variety of math and physics problems. Recently, we worked on examples about rotational motion. For example, if a car tire spins 1000 times in a minute, how fast is the car going? This is a common question in both Pre-Calculus and Physics, so we are able to study both the calculations and the concepts involved.

We're moving on to a car crash project next where we study collisions in car crashes. The week before February break, students completed online simulations to maximize safety. For an interesting video, watch for crumple zones - or lack thereof!

We were able to order pinewood derby cars for an "Eggwood Derby" competition and students will receive their kits over the next couple days. Students who are remote will have their kits delivered.

Stay tuned for videos of eggs surviving in a competition where "poaching" ideas is encouraged and it shouldn't be "over too easily"!

Check out what our Seniors have been up to!

Martina's project to remediate the herbicide 2,4-D using white rot fungus is moving along. Her fungus has some great growth (see picture) as does her grass, especially since she had to move her project indoors for the winter, and she is taking samples of 2,4-D contaminated water to check to see if the fungus was able to reduce the concentration in the runoff.

Graham's project to make a rotary subwoofer is mostly done (see video) but he now has a broken piece that needs to either be replaced or remade. He has tried seeking a replacement part, but it looks to be custom, so he is planning to remake it himself at home.

Francesco tried 3-D printing an artificial hand to see how it fits together and get a better sense for his design for a robotic hand. He has also started testing pressure sensors with an arduino and eventually modify the code to have it control an electric motor that will drive the grip of the robotic hand.

Katherine is making great progress with her design for a device to demonstrate polytonic overtones despite many setbacks. She has attempted 3D printing different parts to get a design that works for her and has made revisions to a design that she is hopeful will truly play two notes using one continuous stream of air (not splitting a stream of air).

Matt has collected the instruments needed for taking atmospheric data from a weather balloon and is working on how to get it ready to fly. His original plan was to use hydrogen gas to fill the balloon and has made some significant steps to getting hydrolysis working to produce the hydrogen, but it is not fast, efficient, or safe enough to be feasible, so he is now planning to use helium gas.

Alex's project measuring how sound affects plant growth is moving steadily along. While Alex waits for the plants to grow enough during a trial to get an accurate measurement, she is designing a 3D printed pot that fits the custom Bluetooth speaker she wired herself as a prototype for a product that could be marketed and sold.

Meet Pidgeon!

Jack's project is moving along with a vivarium helping to cycle the waste from his crested gecko, Pidgeon. Some of the pepper and clover plants died over holiday break, but one of the pepper plants is doing well and the tomato has grown a lot since being planted in the vivarium. Jack added a water pump to help increase humidity by cycling some of the water from the bottom of the tank and have it flow down from the top of the fake-rock at the back of the tank
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Our Greenwich High School Innovation Lab teachers are passionate about their content and implement cutting-edge learning strategies. Organized into two areas, Humanities and STEM, co-teaching is common and both areas are linked closely to a year-long thematic arc. Teachers also share responsibility for the Design Studio elective. Greenwich High School's Innovation Lab offers a project-based, interdisciplinary option for English and social studies (as Humanities) and/or STEM (science and math). Ninth, tenth and eleventh graders are eligible.

Click here to find out more about our program's philosophy and approach.

Humanities 9-11 & Humanities Design Studio

Michael Belanger, Humanities 10 & DS 10 (email)

Courtney Hawes, Humanities 9 & 11, and DS 12 (email)

Kathy Mendez, Humanities 9 &11 and DS 9 & DS 11(@edtechmama, email)

Jessica von Brachel, Humanities 10 & DS 10 (email)

STEM 11 and STEM Design Studio

12th Grade Research Courses

Joe Baske - Social Science Research 12 (email)

Rick Baxley - Science Research 12 (email)

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Program Administrator: Christina Shaw, Cantor Housemaster (email)

Program Associate: Courtney Hawes (email)

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Thanks to the Greenwich Alliance for Education for your continued support! A Reaching Out Grant from the Greenwich Alliance for Education supports materials, projects, and the continued professional development of best practices.

Questions? Comments?

Interested in learning more about GHS Innovation Lab and our PBL approach? Reach out to any of our InLab team members or students.