Providence Day Magazine
SPRING 2017 - On the cover
Lower, Middle and Upper School students work in Charger Gardens, an environmental initiative on campus focused on engaging students, faculty and staff in service through agriculture, innovative design thinking and community outreach.
Read the full edition by clicking here (PDF file), or read selected Highlights below:
Gardens Yield Plentiful Bounty for Campus and Beyond
There are a lot of things blossoming and growing on campus this year — any many of them are healthy and edible.
On any given day, you’ll find students from all three divisions — Lower, Middle and Upper — getting their hands dirty, literally, by planting, tending and harvesting the Charger Gardens.
Situated in the courtyard between Providence and Williams buildings, Charger Gardens is an environmental initiative focused on engaging students, faculty and staff in service through agriculture, innovative design thinking and community outreach.
Begun in the summer of 2016, the space — currently more than 300 square feet with plans to expand — is to be part vegetable garden with produce to donate in the Charlotte community, part pollinator garden and part outdoor learning lab whose collective goal is to utilize natural resources in a sustainable way to positively impact the school and community.
“Anyone can plant a garden and therefore have food to eat,” said Sarah Goodman, Middle School science teacher. “Our students in particular get to learn firsthand not only how to plant, keep and harvest a garden, but also the benefits of donating the proceeds (food) to a greater cause in our community.”
Modeling the connection between environmental stewardship and social responsibility reaches well beyond the classroom, said Olga Mawougbe, Lower School science teacher
“Hands-on involvement in the garden will play a valuable role in helping students understand our necessary connection to and dependence upon the soil,” she said. “Growing to give (vegetables to those in need) also broadens students’ perceptions of themselves as cultivators of relationships.”
The gardens has an advisory board comprised of students and faculty from all three divisions. Mawougbe serves as the Lower School faculty advisor, Goodman as Middle School faculty advisor and Jack Hudson, Upper School English teacher, as Upper School faculty advisor.
The students not only helped in the design and planning of the gardens, but they also assist with labor construction, planting, maintenance and harvesting.
“By far the most difficult, time-consuming task … was shoveling multiple pounds of dirt into garden beds we had made prior,” said senior Adanna Eziri, a gardens advisory board member.
Despite the hard work, the students seem eager to help out. Adanna believes student involvement is important because it makes the project and its success more personal “instead of remaining purely a niche club activity.”
“It’s no surprise that Lower School students are generally eager to get their hands in the soil,” said Mawougbe. “The idea of having a place on campus to actually grow vegetables has been exciting to many.”
Members of the Middle School Go Green club, advised by Goodman, have assisted in the gardens as has PDSustainability, a Students of Service club advised by Hudson, which is partnering with the Upper School advisory board to collect vegetable leftovers from the Dining Hall to create compost to be used in the beds.
There are currently 10 beds that have thus far yielded a single harvest each of tomatoes and radishes, as well as two harvests of green beans and carrots.
“We tried to grow broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. While the seeds germinated and the plants came up, we planted too late in the growing season to get a harvest out of them,” admitted Hudson. “Same with corn — it was a little late and corn earworms devoured what the plants did produce.”
Given that the planting didn't start until mid-June and it all had to begin from scratch, Hudson still considers it a productive first year.
“We had some nice successes, and we've learned things that will ensure even more success going forward,” he said.
Also serving as the gardens project manager, Hudson is responsible for getting the harvested vegetables to Friendship Trays, a Meals on Wheels service that delivers balanced meals to local individuals who are unable to obtain or prepare their own.
The partnership allows students to see how their efforts are helping others out in the community.
“We are a school centered around giving back, but when you are seeing the food you harvest go directly out into the community as a meal, it makes the hard work worth it,” said Goodman.
While the fresh, nutritious produce clearly benefits Friendship Trays’ recipients, they’re not the only ones who gain something.
“This type of initiative allows students to get out into nature while giving them a sense of how to use and reuse our resources to create more growing opportunities that they may not have realized existed,” said Goodman.
“I also think it will help students appreciate and reconsider the food they eat on a daily basis, perhaps encourage them to make healthier food choices,” said Adanna.
“I like the idea of getting more students into gardening,” she said. “I think we can normalize gardening into becoming just another sustainable practice of life.”
People aren’t the only ones benefiting. In an effort to resuscitate the declining monarch butterfly population, milkweed was planted in the space five years ago.
The milkweed helps the monarchs to feed and lay eggs that hatch into caterpillars, which are taken inside (by 2nd-grade classes serving as “citizen scientists”) prior to their chrysalis stage to better their odds of emerging as butterflies.
The yearly decrease in the monarch butterfly’s population has been linked to the decline in the milkweed plant — a primary food for monarchs — from herbicide use in the monarch’s reproductive and feeding areas.
The milkweed in the gardens has turned PDS into a “way station” for the monarchs, known for their summer/autumn migration from the United States and southern Canada to Mexico.
The 2nd-grade teachers partnered with a network of educators who use monarch butterflies to teach a variety of concepts and skills (including character traits such as a sense of responsibility gained from caring for animals and the need to be responsible stewards of the environment) as well as the Green Network of Charlotte, which works to advance academics, health and sustainability through school gardens and outdoor learning.
“I will say that this is the most passionate I have ever seen students become about curricular items,” said Katie Carmichael, 2nd-grade teacher. “It is truly an interactive unit and the students love it.”
Spreading of Seeds
Charger Gardens was made possibly in part by a PDS family who wanted to give back and support social responsibility, one of the school’s core values.
“When Charlie and I first started discussing what our potential Charging Forward campaign commitment could be, it didn’t take us long to know we wanted to impact social responsibility,” said Margot Brinley.
“We charged the school with how our philanthropy could impact both service learning and the academic program,” she said.
“When the concept of the gardens was presented to us, we really appreciated the cross-divisional service learning impact, the hands-on approach and the fact that our endowment would support this initiative in perpetuity,” said Charlie.
Through a gift to the campaign, the Brinleys established the Brinley Family Endowment, which supplements and supports the gardens so “students are able to find a compelling sense of purpose by engaging in work that personally resonates with them and has a clearly understood value to the community."
“The Brinleys had a passion for social responsibility, and this endowment is a great illustration of fulfilling that passion and area of interest while still supporting the campaign,” said Jeffrey Appel, Associate Head of School for Institutional Advancement.
But the gardens have only begun to bloom.
Indoor initiatives are in the works, such as a hydroponic tower garden and boxes to grow wheatgrass and other microgreens to be donated. And there are long-term goals of a greenhouse that would allow the growing of leaf crops all year as well as seedlings such as those utilized by the local nonprofit Sow Much Good to help alleviate the problem of food deserts in the Charlotte community.
“We have big dreams,” said Hudson. “Right now we're working on landscaping the (outdoor) space to be more functional and visitor friendly. It’s also important to make the space useable as a classroom.”
The gardens team would like to install a variety of plants, a terrace and seating area, a walking path and other features in the future. The beds also will be increased in size and relocated for better use of space and growing conditions.
The faculty and students want the gardens to take firm root at PDS. They envision the gardens becoming not only an active outdoor space utilized by classes across all grade levels, but also a pleasant sanctuary where the PDS community can go to relax and appreciate nature.
“Ideally, this space would serve as a living resource that continually pours as much into the wider community as it does back into our campus,” said Malwougbe.
“I can't wait to see the way this space transforms over the next few years and see how the students add their unique styles to its design,” said Goodman.
Adanna believes with more student involvement, the gardens can become a “memorable and interactive part of campus,” a place where “perhaps one day students will even be able to walk through and pick their own snacks.”
“I think Providence Day is not only increasing its own standards of maintaining sustainable practices on campus, but also providing an example for other private schools to follow suit,” she said. “I think the gardens have the potential to be something much greater at PD, greater than what we could have imagined.”
Spaces on Campus Foster Hands-on Creativity, Innovation and Success
Specialized skills in science, technology, education and mathematics (STEM) are considered crucial to a nation’s economic health.
At Providence Day, the school embraces an integrated STEM curriculum that provides students with opportunities to create, collaborate and communicate in authentic, open-ended learning situations.
“We want to present students with opportunities to think critically, to find problems and then solve them in creative and innovative ways,” said Derrick Willard, Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs.
“We need spaces that cater to such work, places that allow for more active learning,” he said. “Think of graduates who can complete collaborative, interdisciplinary, project-based and research-driven work.”
In recent years, a number of spaces on campus have been added, repurposed or upgraded to accommodate such learning — spaces where the edges between disciplines are blurred to encourage experimentation, curation, storytelling, team work and celebration.
These spaces include the Transitional Kindergarten Cottage, a classroom intentionally designed for student-driven projects that foster talent and interest development; TK’s outdoor classroom, a cleverly-designed natural environment crafted for experiential learning and design; and the upstairs of the Thompson-Jones Library, which was revitalized as a mixed-use “learning commons” that invites and encourages active use.
More recently, the Makerspace, STEAM Workshop and King Library have been introduced as part of a larger vision to create an academic complex that cultivates behaviors and skills necessary for success in the 21st century and beyond.
Adorned with simple tools such as hammers, pliers and screwdrivers to complex ones such as 3D printers, software and electronics, the Makerspace is a “room dedicated to tinkering, designing, building, prototyping and fabricating,” said Matt Ricket, computer science teacher.
It is a unique space for 6th- to 12th-grade students to create, invent and apply their self-directed learning to real-world problem solving — to design, prototype and then build their own solutions.
“The students’ hands-on nature, coupled with the tools and raw materials that support invention, provide the ultimate workshop for the tinkerer and the perfect educational space for individuals who learn best by doing,” said Ricket.
Students can learn a single skill, such as coding, soldering or woodcarving. They can build using supplies such as cardboard, plastic, metal, gears, wood and batteries. They can create with the assistance of computers, printers and microcontrol kit called Arduinos.
“Interaction among students and faculty fosters a highly-collaborative learning dynamic that is excellent for team efforts and for peer support, advice and assistance,” he said. “It promotes multidisciplinary thinking and learning, enriching the projects built there as well as the value of the space as an educational venue.”
Among the students utilizing the Makerspace is Ricket’s Computer-Assisted Design (CAD) with 3D Printing class, a project-based learning course tasked with discovering solutions to real-world problems.
The fall 2015 class worked to help Reggie Clark ’87, a former linebacker, in the ideation and development of his proposed High Performance Healthcare Center of Charlotte (HPHCC) — a medical center, high-performing training center and family/community center rolled into one. Students rendered a scale model of the HPHCC and style boards showing their design direction, enabling Clark to move his project forward.
The fall of 2016 class worked with Trevor Thomas, a blind professional long-distance hiker, to design a new handle and harness for his guide dog.
“They really took it to the next level and made actual working prototypes that with very little modification will be a final product that I can actually use,” said Thomas. “I couldn’t be more excited with the results.”
The Makerspace began as an idea for an engineering project space for students, said Ricket, and over the last two years has grown into a workplace for students to supplement traditional learning methodologies and be introduced to alternative methods learning such as “Invent to Learn,” the engineering design process made famous by companies such as international design firm IDEO and NASA.
“We are introducing a new way of thinking and are in the junior year of building a maker culture,” said Ricket.
Various pieces and parts go into the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) Workshop to be transformed — built, painted or reassembled — by students into remarkable, handcrafted works of art.
Built over summer 2016, the 430-square-foot addition to the McMahon Fine Arts Center is a “meaningful and much-needed addition to our existing theater,” which “has been and will remain a space to foster creativity and relationships, to build self-esteem and to feed passions,” said Libby Tilson, Performing Arts chair.
The workshop is used primarily for set construction and tool storage under the direction of Jordan Ellis, technical theatre and stagecraft teacher.
“The students and I use the space to fabricate sets for each PDS show. It’s where the majority of our carpentry work happens,” he said.
“It allows our art students a safe place to learn the technical skills required to produce amazing works of performance art,” said Willard. “When you show up to see a play or musical, few people may appreciate the science, engineering, technology and math that has gone into the production to make it a success.”
Before the addition of the workshop, sets were built in the confined backstage area or on the stage itself.
“We would have to move tools around, find a place to plug them in and work around rehearsals,” recalled Ellis. “Having the shop addition has given the students a place to call their own.”
The crafty students helped with the workshop’s layout and design, built their own worktables and currently assist with everyday maintenance.
In addition to set making, students have utilized the workshop to build corn hole boards for a Middle School tournament at Fall Fest and birdhouses to be donated as an Earth Day initiative.
Ellis noted that educational research proves the importance of incorporating innovative, hands-on experiences for students.
In technical theatre classes, students cumulate skills to demonstrate the creative, critical thinking, collaboration and problem-solving abilities integral in helping theatre come to life, he said.
“In my classes as well as after-school crew calls, students actively participate in the area of scenic construction, scenic design, lighting for the stage, lighting design, sound for the stage, sound design, prop construction, prop design, costume construction and costume design,” said Ellis.
“Throughout the school year, they are exposed to and discover universal connections, especially in the areas of art, mathematics, the humanities and engineering,” he said.
The Thompson-Jones Library’s King Library room, once an ordinary meeting room primarily utilized by faculty and staff, has been transformed into a significant instructional space boasting advanced technological capabilities.
“This space supports the brainstorming, strategic planning and solution development essential for students and faculty to innovate, as well as creates a unique, one-of-a-kind learning environment,” said Matt Scully, Digital Integration and Innovation director.
Renovations and upgrades made over summer 2016 include the unique combination of a state-of-the-art videoconferencing system, a SMALLab Learning system and a Nureva Span ideation system.
“We don’t know of any other places where the two technologies — SMALLab Learning and Nureva Span — have been paired,” noted Willard.
The changes have created a “space that can be used to enhance student learning by integrating technology to the classroom curriculum,” said Pam Heacock, Lower School innovative technology specialist.
“The new interactive tools allow teachers to plan lessons that provide movement, collaboration and critical thinking,” she said. “The space allows students to make observations or practice concepts in interactive ways that helps students grasp or remember the concepts.”
SMALLab Learning is an embodied learning environment that blends the learning sciences and human-computer interaction. Motion-capture technology tracks students’ 3D movements on a platform as they learn in an immersive, interactive space.
“It provides opportunities for collaboration to solve a problem or practice a concept,” said Heacock. “Students who learn better by moving and/or collaborating have the ideal learning environment.”
Almost every grade level has had the opportunity to use the SMALLab Learning in some capacity. Examples include Lower Schoolers working with numbers, Middle School theatre students creating character profiles for a play and Upper School biology students wanting to better study plant, animal and prokaryotic cell structures.
Nureva Span ideation system transforms the room’s wall into a 20-foot, interactive workspace — a digital canvas that is projected onto the surface yet lives in the cloud. Students can draw, type and add other types of content onto the wall by touching it or via iPad or laptop.
The system has been utilized by Middle School Advanced Art students, who partnered with 3rd-graders to create collaborative drawings inspired by the art of Jacob Lawrence. Upper Schoolers also hosted an election night party to monitor side-by-side in real time the U.S. presidential election results via multiple news outlets as well as websites and social media.
The room’s videoconferencing setup includes two microphone arrays to provide full coverage of the space as well as remote-controlled cameras.
Beginning with a Board of Alumni retreat in August 2016, the King Room was utilized approximately 100 times during the fall semester, with about 90 percent of the events utilizing at least one of the new technologies and more than 40 percent of the events being instructional use for students.
Plans are in the works to add a virtual reality setup, said Scully, that would “allow student groups to explore the world and simulations in an immersive environment.”
Watch a video about the CAD with 3D Printing class’s “Guiding Freedom” project.
Bruns Academy Partnership Foster Connections and Collaboration
One school day morning in January, 40 8th-graders stepped off a Charger bus outside the McColl Center for Art and Innovation where they met a group of 8th-graders from Bruns Academy, a public school in West Charlotte.
Off to the side, Michael Magno, Middle School Head, and Barry Sherman, Bruns student advocate, huddled to go over last-minute details for the day. They, along with the help of McColl staff, tasked the combined group of 70 students to work as a collective unit to construct 1,500 “Blessing Boxes” for a community social project.
The collaborative effort to make a positive difference in the lives of others is but one example of a unique partnership, now in its second year, between PDS and Bruns.
Magno and Sherman first met at a 2015 middle school diversity workshop in Charlotte. They found common interest in their desire to bring students together for a dynamic and innovative experience of learning and leadership development.
They were looking for a partnership, not a service project between schools.
Since 2009, PDS engaged middle schoolers with another public school, J.H. Gunn Elementary. They participated in service projects with J.H. Gunn students — such as tutoring, sports clinics, presentations and supply drives as well as a pen pal project.
The ongoing partnership has helped to integrate meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility and strengthen community ties.
About three years ago, the Middle School Student Life team — comprised of grade level deans and advisors for Student Council, National Junior Honor Society and Student Services — started exploring the addition of another type of interaction with a local public school.
“We wanted students to work together so that there would be equal responsibility by the students involved,” said Magno. “We were not sure what to expect, but we knew that just trying to get students from different parts of the city together would be positive.”
Bruns Academy is a pre-kindergarten through 8th-grade school within the Project L.I.F.T (Leadership and Investment For Transformation) zone of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
The partnership’s goal is to break through the isolated learning experiences of each group, something in which Sherman is especially interested.
“I believe being educated in a ‘bubble’ is very problematic, whether it’s a bubble of privilege or a bubble of inequity/marginalization,” said Sherman.
“Specifically, for Bruns scholars, I’m very concerned about the lack of access and exposure they have to learning experiences and opportunities that take them beyond the limitations of their immediate surroundings.”
Magno wants students to be able to work collaboratively with anyone, anywhere, at any time.
To reiterate the equality of the partnership, the group adopted the premise, “The Providence Day students need the Bruns Academy students as much as the Bruns Academy students need the Providence Day students.”
Formulating a Dream
In 2015, PDS’s Middle School Student Life team identified 20 students in leadership positions to participate alongside 20 Bruns 8th-graders in the B-BOLD (Bruns Believers Optimizing Leadership Development) elective class.
When the two groups met for the first time in January 2016, Magno and Sherman were unsure if the project would be successful.
Themed “WEhAVE A DREAM,” the partnership’s first year focused on bringing the students together to work on solving problems. Through a series of six meetings from January to April, the group did critical thinking workshops and art projects, attended a diversity conference and reflected in a celebratory gathering.
In a group design challenge, Dr. Ryan Welsh, PDS Upper School English teacher and design strategist, posed the question: “How might we best support the leaders in the communities where we live and learn?”
The students asked questions to faculty from both schools about their leadership experiences. Afterwards, the students split into groups and were tasked with coming up with a prototype of what supporting a leader looked like.
Final projects ranged from conceptual ideas of a day of leadership training to a physical prototype of a watch that helps school administrators identify students in need.
At the end of the challenge, Welsh asked the students: “How might we best serve as leaders in the communities where we live and learn?” He wanted them to take what they learned and transform their thoughts into actions at their respective schools.
Welsh said working with the Bruns and PDS students was an exciting and fulfilling design project, one that produced some of the most creative ideas he’s seen.
“The great thing about diversity is its ability to collaborate toward innovation and creativity,” said Welsh.
Andrea Downs, PDS Middle and Upper School art teacher, facilitated a group art project where she asked the students to think about their hopes and fears about the future. The students wrote down their thoughts on ribbons and then wove them into a collective piece of art.
“The idea was for them to internalize and physically connect these fears and hopes for the future, with the hope that they may start to consider these as the things that connect us ... rather than the things that divide us,” said Downs.
At the final meeting of the year, Bruns and PDS students worked in pairs to create a collaborative "We Are" poem. They wrote the poems onto cloth that they wove into the same loom — this served as a final reflective piece at the end of the partnership.
Afterward, the students shared what they liked and what they wanted to change for the next year. Many of them indicated they wanted more time to simply hang out with their new friends, play games and get to know each other.
Based on the feedback and successes, both Magno and Sherman agreed the program should continue.
“We greatly expanded the project to reach more students,” said Sherman. “And we have focused more this year on making sure the students have a lot of opportunity to directly interact with each other.”
The new plan included six meetings spread out over the entire school year, as well as involving more students from each school. Seventy PDS students — over half of the 8th grade class — applied for the 40 spots.
PDS 8th-grade student Molly Kerrigan applied because she wanted to get out of her comfort zone and meet people she would not normally get to interact with.
“I think this partnership is important because many people are isolated to their school communities and don't think about how there are kids just like them in other schools,” said Molly.
“I feel it's really important to socially expose yourself to as many situations as possible because it helps you develop your communication and social skills,” she said.
PDS 8th-grader John O’Neil agreed. “I think this partnership is crucial for us so that we can bridge the gap between our two schools,” he said.
To kick off the 2016-17 school year, the new group of PDS and Bruns students discussed empathy, a theme that would connect all of their interactions for the year.
During a break, Magno noticed all the students huddled in a corner where they, unprompted, played a game similar to the ones that they were tasked to do in the design challenge.
“Those are the improvised moments that we as adults need to step back and simply observer,” said Magno.
During a February gathering, Downs facilitated an art project involving pairs of students, one from each school, drawing each other’s eyes. Before they started, each student reflected on a time when they felt empathy for someone else.
“When you look into someone's eyes, you are beginning to be interested in and consider their perspective and their experience,” said Downs.
The students split their drawings between two panels, one to hang at Bruns and one to hang at PDS. Words from the students’ reflections on empathy connect the drawings.
While largely successful, the partnership still faced challenges along the way. One has been transportation for the Bruns students to and from off-campus sessions.
While en route to a diversity conference with the PDS students, Magno received a call from Sherman that Bruns’ scheduled transportation fell through. Magno redirected the PDS bus to Bruns Academy to pick up their students, so they all arrived late together.
Recently, Sherman received grant funding to assist with the transportation.
Dr. Nadia Johnson, PDS Diversity and Multicultural Education executive director, said overcoming such challenges only strengthens the partnership.
“These are … the times when we learn what it means to be a collective community,” she said. “We are committed to supporting Bruns in every way possible and remaining flexible.”
While together, leaders from PDS and Bruns said that they noticed positive behavioral changes with their respective group of students.
“While the students are doing a good job of coming together, at times, it is apparent that [PDS] students are a bit uncertain when it comes to stepping out of their comfort zones,” said Johnson. “The Bruns students help make our students feel comfortable and more open even when we are on the PDS campus.”
“I was surprised how much in common we had with each other despite the different backgrounds,” said PDS 8th-grade student Avery Nelson.
Molly agreed. “I think that a lot of the PDS students got the impression that the Bruns kids wouldn't be anything like us, but we were in for a big surprise,” she added.
On the other hand, Sherman was delighted by how this partnership immediately allowed and stimulated Bruns scholars to expand their thinking and behavior.
“When with the PD students, the Bruns scholars think and behave and speak in ways they rarely do with each other when at Bruns,” he said.
Both Sherman and Magno express pride in the success of the first two years of the partnership and hope to continue for many years.
Along with Welsh, they presented about the partnership in a session titled “Leadership Design and Improvisation” at the Private Schools With a Public Purpose national conference in Washington, D.C. in March.
And Magno indicated the partnership solidified his belief that all Middle School students yearn to make connections with people their age.
“My great hope is that we can keep working collaboratively and creatively to deepen and expand this effort in ways that still maintain the uniqueness, intimacy and profundity of connection between the kids,” said Sherman.
“I look forward to making this program an inspiration for other schools around the country,” Magno added.
Watch a video recap of the PDS and Bruns partnership's first year.
Providence Day Sports Network Beams Charger Sports to Larger World
In addition to the players and fans, there’s a new group of students popping up at Charger sporting events.
Members of the Providence Day Sports Network (PDSN), an Upper School club, are becoming an invaluable presence, serving as the Athletics program’s eyes, ears and voice in providing high quality coverage of the teams and other sporting events.
The club allows students with a passion for sports media to “learn and explore some of the basic fundamentals of game management, production and broadcasting,” said Ed Prisco, Athletics assistant and sports information director and club co-advisor.
Colleges are now offering degrees in sports communications, which include television and video production, radio and studio production, broadcasting, sports announcing and commentary, news writing and reporting.
PDSN provides opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience in those skillsets. Club members learn how to record, edit and stream video; conduct interviews; write and edit news stories; and do live commentary and play-by-play announcing.
“It aligns with Providence Day’s mission of developing and inspiring a passion for learning in each of its students,” said Prisco.
12th-grader Will Campbell joined to pursue his passion for sports media and broadcasting. As a play-by-play analyst for the varsity basketball streams, his voice was heard weekly online by hundreds of followers.
“Through the club, I have had numerous opportunities to learn about the sports media world,” he said. “And I have learned the importance of professionalism, especially when live on the Internet.”
Among the skills learned, 11th-grader Berkley Cassell said he gained “the ability to adjust, take in different ideas and work as a team. I have also been able to develop better friendships because of working with different people over the course of a season.”
Development of a formalized sports management and broadcast club seemed a natural progression of the sports-related assistance already provided by students — such as game management (announcing games, working the scoreboard and clock) and, for the last two years, the streaming of varsity girls’ and boys’ basketball games.
Interest in streaming has grown exponentially, said Prisco, not only from coaches and players, but others in the broader PDS community.
“We have heard from grandparents, parents, family members and alumni thanking us for streaming games because they were unable to attend, usually because they were out of town or the country,” said Prisco. “On some events we’ve had more than 2,000 viewers.”
Prisco wanted to expand the service into more of an ESPN-like operation, which he said included getting “more sophisticated” with their game streaming — two announcers instead of one, two cameras instead of one, more special effects, etc. The growth also would include player, coach and fan pre- and post-game interviews as well as 2-to 3-minute promotionals to push via the PDS website and social media channels.
“The expansion of interviews with players and coaches could be extremely popular and increase our digital presence and viewership,” said Prisco.
The progress all lends assistance to the club’s secondary objective —helping maintain PDS’s leadership role over conference and state rivals as it relates to the athletics website experience, game streaming and social media utilization.
“The Providence Day Sports Network definitely keeps the school on the cutting edge when it comes to sports media,” said Will.
“This club allows PDS to stay heads and shoulders above other schools because no other school I can think of has this extensive use of Twitter and the ability to broadcast school sporting events live,” he said.
Supported by the Athletics office, Technology Department and Charger Club, Prisco said PDSN is part of an effort to ensure streaming program will continue to mature and expand. And that “PDS will continue to take a leadership role in this new and exciting field,” he said.
Helping foster that success is Upper School math teacher Lee Taylor, the “Voice of the Chargers” whom students observe announcing during football and basketball games. Also involved is Jonathon Hoppe ’16, whom Prisco credits with being instrumental in the growth of the streaming initiative.
Hoppe started announcing at the basketball games as a freshman and became the main announcer when the fledgling “stream team” formed during his junior year.
“I frequently watch the tape of the state championship games I was able to call last spring,” he said. “It was a great feeling knowing the service we provided allowed fans who couldn't make the trip up to watch the game.”
Now studying to become a professional sports broadcaster at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, Hoppe stays in contact with Prisco and the club, offering suggestions and advice and critiques of their broadcasts.
He also avails himself of PDSN’s online efforts.
“The fact that I am able to watch Charger basketball in New York is crazy,” said Hoppe. “It helps me stay connected with the team and the school.”
A Look at PDSN
The Providence Day Sports Network offers students the opportunity to gain real-life experience and insight into the areas of sports management, sports writing and broadcasting in addition to providing the PDS community with high quality coverage of its sports teams and other events.
Game Operation: Student responsibilities include meeting with officials and coaches prior to game time to review pre-game ceremony, clock and scoreboard management, starting lineups and game time operation. Announcing: Students announce junior varsity and varsity athletic events, which includes welcoming scripts, starting lineups, promotional messages, basic game activity and game summary and closing remarks.
Advanced Announcing and Event Streaming: Students endeavor to replicate an actual television broadcast and include play-by-play announcing, and coach and player interviews that are shared via the PDS website and social media channels.
Video Expansion and Editing: Students record, edit and upload videos of the sporting events to be shared via the PDS website and social media channels.
Event Production: Students are responsible for camera operation, sound systems, mixers, specific software and more relating to sporting and other events.
Max Ballenger Living His Dreams at SpaceX
From an early age, math peaked the interests of Max Ballenger ’05. Growing up, he spent his free time building model rockets, cars and airplanes — and thinking about space.
“I can’t remember a time in my life in which I wasn’t at least a little inspired by space exploration,” said Ballenger. “I always loved to read and ate up many science fiction novels”
Now, Ballenger lives his dream at Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, commonly known as SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and private space transport services company headquartered in Hawthorne, Calif.
Ballenger works as the lead sensors development engineer for the Avionics Department, where he helps design, build and test electronic devices that help fly SpaceX’s reusable rockets and spacecraft.
His team plays a critical role, as SpaceX was founded with the goal of developing reusable space transportation technologies to dramatically reduce the cost of access to space — with the ultimate goal of colonizing Mars.
SpaceX has developed the Falcon family of reusable launch vehicles and Dragon spacecraft, which in February was flown into orbit by the Falcon 9 rocket and delivered cargo to the International Space Station. In March, the Falcon 9 carried a telecommunications satellite into space.
As a child, Ballenger spent a lot of his time working on computers
“I liked putting them together and upgrading them, and I even had the patience to learn a little programming, at least when the purpose was to modify or create a game.”
Ballenger said his 13 years at Providence Day helped develop him into the innovator that he is today — from kindergarten teachers accommodating his high reading level to Middle School teachers encouraging him to take more challenging math courses. Several family trips to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where he was able to interact with space-related items in a more hands-on way, also inspired him.
After PDS, he graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy. Ballenger then accepted a summer internship at Ad Astra Rocket, a rocket propulsion company dedicated to the development of advanced plasma rocket propulsion technology in Webster, Texas — three miles from Johnson Space Center.
He was later hired by Ad Astra where he engineered software and electronics for ground testing of a developmental engine.
“My employment at Ad Astra Rocket Company taught me that the skills I had could indeed be useful to a cutting-edge spaceflight engineering company,” said Ballenger.
Ballenger relocated to McGregor, Texas, to start his first job at the SpaceX rocket development facility. This is where large-scale testing takes place the company’s advanced rockets and spacecraft before they are transported to their launch sites. There, Ballenger supported the company’s efforts to build control and measurement software systems necessary to conduct safe, efficient and comprehensive rocket testing.
In 2015, Ballenger transferred to his current role at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., where he leads a team of engineers who focus on the navigation electronics the company uses to measure the location and orientation of vehicles in flight.
Ballenger’s current focus is on contributing to the flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which will carry humans into orbit for the first time from American soil since the retirement of the NASA space shuttle in 2011.
“It’s inspiring to be part of a company that’s working toward being the world’s most cost-effective and reliable provider of launch services,” said Ballenger.
He hopes his work will help pave the way for humans becoming a multi-planetary species, starting with the colonization of Mars.
In the meantime, Ballenger has been sharing his experiences and insights with PDS junior and fellow science enthusiast Vaibhav Pachella.
“We discussed how to approach the rest of his studies in preparation for a successful career in science or engineering,” said Ballenger.
“I was impressed to see that he was already familiar with technology that hardly existed when I graduated from Providence Day in 2005,” added Ballenger. “Hands-on experience is valued particularly highly by the organizations I've worked in and he will have a big leg up.”