Six upper school students became the stars of the evening during King School’s State of the School on Thursday, September 22, in the Performing Arts Center.
Bringing to life King’s commitment to an inquiry-based approach to education, the panelists spoke about their experience applying inquiry and research to different areas and disciplines, including sciences, humanities, visual and performing arts, and athletics.
“Why do we emphasize inquiry-based learning at King School? It begins with students as agents of their learning experience,” said Maoz as she introduced the panelists.
“When students are exploring, reflecting, questioning, evaluating, making connections — and teachers are creating and welcoming these moments of discovery — students are truly learning.
Deeper engagement leads to deeper learning,” Maoz added.
Gouri Krishnan ’23 represented the sciences. Gouri has spent the last two years in the ASPIRE science program and interning at Yale University with a focus on energy science.
“I have a personal passion for the environment and environmental sciences… and it is not only in science class where I have been able to develop this passion,” she said. “The central themes of research and inquiry are crucial both in and out of the classroom. Whether in the sports fields, clubs, extracurriculars, or classes, we make this a key facet of our learning,” she added.
A National Merit Semi-Finalist, Gouri has won several science awards and recognitions. For Gouri, learning is not just an individual effort but rather a collaborative endeavor at King. “Something that gives me great joy is walking into our after-school meetings and seeing older students teaching younger students. We emphasize collaborative learning through a collective expansion of knowledge which helps both the individual and the team.”
Representing humanities was Grade 9 student Amy Powell. Amy spoke about her passion for historical research and about how developing a research mindset leads to lifelong learning. “Whatever questions you ask and answer will inspire even more questions. No matter how much you research and how many questions you answer, there is always more information to be acquired. There is an infinite amount of things to learn because there is an infinite number of questions we can answer.”
Amy also spoke extensively about a cross-disciplinary research project that she worked on the previous year, where students explored the impact of activism in effecting political or social change. Amy chose to learn about Anna Landre, an internationally-recognized disability justice activist and scholar. “She chose to make a difference in the lives of other people … and to improve the lives of people with disabilities all over the world.”
Sophomore Kioja Duff and senior Maddy Beck focused on visual arts. Kioja spoke about the research she conducted for her OPEN project, an independent project where students build the resources and skills to express their personal vision in original ways. OPEN stands for Original, Personal, Experienced, and Novel.
“My project came from social justice issues that I have faced in the real world. I took women’s rights, racism, and LGBTQ+ rights and put them all into one piece.” To create her piece, Kioja worked in various media, including wax encaustic and acrylic paint. In addition to figuring out how to express her views, she researched album covers from songs that explored her topics of choice. “The canvas represents the light and the dark and the good within the bad. Each issue on this piece represents not just the hardships of life but the beauty that you can find within.”
Last year, Maddy experimented with different media to best represent her ideas about feminist issues through art and appreciates the cross-disciplinary collaboration that takes place at King. Maddy remembered how she prepared for an art project with the support of her science teacher as she studied the durability of paints. Maddy researched the topic by asking lots of questions to industry experts. “We were sitting in class calling Home Depot and Benjamin Moore, asking them about the different chemicals in the paints that we were testing.”
This year, Maddy is focusing on maps represented through art. “It’s going to be an exploration of the human connection through maps,” she said.
Senior Bryce Heaton, a talented trumpet player, spoke about the research he conducts when learning musical compositions and composers. Encouraged by his band teacher Garrett Mendez, also the Chair of the Performing Arts Department, Bryce explained that, “instead of just picking up the instrument right away,” he and his band classmates researched both the composer and the composition.
“Night in Tunisia'' by Dizzy Gillespie was one of the pieces they researched. “He turned out to be the first Jazz ambassador of the United States of America, and we got to learn about the African American history in Jazz in the 1920s,” Bryce explained. “Pairing the song with the research we did behind it made us play it better because we could play the way he wanted us to play.”
Perhaps the most unexpected application of research at King takes place within athletics. Junior Spencer Neckritz is an experienced rower. “Crew is very science and physics-based because of the water involved,” he said as he explained how he and his teammates study how the water slows down the boat and the weight distribution of the rowers inside of the boat.
“Weight-to-strength ratio is a huge part of the sport,” he said. “There is a lot of research that helps us optimize the speed of the boat, and our coaches help us maximize our efficiency. We are always asking questions whether on water or land because the technique is so important.”
Spencer tied his research in Crew to the research he does as a member of the debate team. “Crew and Debate are all about asking questions,” he said. “Debate gives us questions that we have to research contentions for … we have to have a claim better than the other side, and we have to be able to argue for both sides. Both of them have the similarity that they start with a basic question, and I can go into specifics through my research and the questions I ask.”
Bryce closed the presentation by performing “Night in Tunisia.” Leading on trumpet, he was accompanied by Chair of King’s Performing Arts Department Garrett Mendez on trombone, Mathew Detory on piano, Victor Ramirez on bass, and assistant band director Tommy Weeks on tenor sax. The performance was spectacular, a brilliant demonstration of inquiry-based learning.