Erasing the Line between Art and Life

Creative Services Manager Emily Wilson writes about an Art History/English field trip to The Warehouse.

The Nasher Sculpture Center, one of the most well-known museums of downtown Dallas—and one of my favorite Saturday destinations—is currently showing a collection entitled Return to Earth, where, among many works shown, Picasso explores the theme of erasing the line between art and life. In one demonstration, he ate a fish down to the bone, then moments later, used that bone pattern for mark-making and line articulation in his ceramics.

Little did I know that I would see this very phenomenon thrive among Greenhill students two days later, and be introduced to a secret, almost hidden gallery two times the size of the Nasher.

Enter The Warehouse. A nondescript gray industrial building scant blocks away from Greenhill, housing some of the most extraordinary postwar Modern and contemporary art of our time. A private venture of collectors Howard Rachofsky and Vernon Faulconer, it is only open to four types of visitors: curators, critics, scholars, and students.

On November 5 and 6, Art History teacher Becky Daniels and English teacher Joel Garza brought their classes to this vast gallery space to take in the power of art in a profoundly theoretical and physical way.

Focusing on Japanese art from the 50s, 60s and 70s, students had previously studied the Gutai movement, which involved postwar reactionary thinking of decay or destruction revealing inner life, beauty and transformation. With this came a freedom of movement and action in art. Shozo Shimamoto, a prolific artist of the time who just died this year wrote, “I believe that the first thing we should do is to set paint free from the paintbrush… It is only once the paintbrush has been discarded that the paint can be revived.”

First, students took time to move throughout the space and pick a work that spoke to them. Then, they spent introspective time with their piece and wrote a “re-vision”, as Mr. Garza describes, a written reaction to art without the need for description, boundaries or structure. (Scroll down to read junior Rachel Davis’ inspiring re-vision.)


In a final exercise, students became physically involved. Mimicking Shimamoto’s technique of throwing glass bottles of paint against rocks, they threw egg shells filled with paint against a rock-filled canvas.

Our Upper School students, who moments before were cerebrally involved in quiet, contemplative gallery space were now taking aim, throwing intently, laughing, moving their entire bodies in the pitch—experiencing catharsis. The contrast was definitive and gratifying.

WH_IMG_8945_web WH_IMG_8963_web

In the footsteps of greats like Picasso and Shimamoto, Greenhill students erased that line—moving, breathing, creating and living within art.

Thank you to Thomas Feulmer and Francisco Moreno for their insight and guidance in organizing this event for us!

Learn more about The Warehouse here:


Untitled—Whirlpools, Shimamoto








The Three Eyes of Polyphemus

By Rachel Davis

Polyphemus saw us first as children, as a king might

see his subjects. We were barbarians, sheep

were we, and with a passing interest

he spied us

and paid us no mind.

Then he bent to our level and saw us again

and this time we were friends, perhaps,

or else amusing to see,

and we gave him sweet wine

and left him, wide-eyed and merry

too drunk to stand

and then Polyphemus fell


he had no eye to see by

but he saw us all the same

saw the truth of us through the haze

of wine and blood,

and what that truth was we do not know

because, the deed done, the fight won, we fled his cave

and nobody turned to ask him

what he had seen.

Science and Sustainability Class Gardens for a Cause

Communications Associate Emily Wilson accompanied the Science and Sustainability Class on a field trip to We Over Me Farm on Monday, April 29. She shares her experience below:

On a sunny April morning, a Greenhill bus turns off the highway, well south of downtown Dallas. Science teacher Michelle Smith addresses the seniors of her third trimester Science and Sustainability elective. “We’re now entering an urban food desert,” she says.

A food desert is a district with little or no access to large grocery stores that offer fresh produce and affordable healthy food. The people who live in the Highland Hills neighborhood of south Dallas have lots of churches, fast food options, an occasional convenience store at a gas station—but no grocery store.

Paul Quinn College, the Greenhill bus’ destination, is also located in this neighborhood, and has turned this problem into an opportunity. In 2007, the college closed its winless, money-draining football program and started thinking about ways to better serve the community. A PepsiCo grant in 2010 made this happen. The football field was converted into We Over Me Farm, a 300,000 sq-ft plot of plantable space, which now, under the oversight of farm manager Andrea Bithell, successfully grows organic fruit and vegetables, houses chickens and bees, and features an aquaponic growing lab.

This field trip to We Over Me Farm fits perfectly into the Science and Sustainability curriculum that Mrs. Smith has designed, working with Director of Service Learning Sally Rosenberg, who also chaperoned the trip. Mrs. Smith, who has been teaching the class now for three years, explains the objective. “The class intends to examine how we use our natural resources and how we define sustainable living, while providing students with an active service learning opportunity.” Every year, the students vote on the theme of the class. Weighing options that range from recycling to LEED Building certification, this year they have chosen to focus on food. Throughout this trimester, the class has worked in the Greenhill community garden, making significant strides like building a rain collection device, fundraising for the effort, harvesting two beds of produce and donating the food to North Dallas Shared Ministries.

Now at the farm, students are met by volunteer coordinator Vina Lervisit who takes them on a tour of the facility. They learn about the four C’s of the farm’s mission: to give back to the college’s cafeteria, provide discounted produce to the neighborhood community, sell to chefs, restauranteurs, and farmers markets, and give 10% to charities. They meet the chickens, who have been recently joined by two Greenhill peacocks. They walk through the rows of plants, still oriented and identified by the football yard lines, home and visitors side. They visit the compost pile, reciting optimal breakdown methods they’ve learned from class: half dry, half wet; half brown, half green. And finally they witness the farm’s aquaponics lab, where raising fish aids the fertilization and watering process of plants.

The volunteer’s assignment of the day was to weed two rows and plant jalapeno peppers and tomatoes, which the group did efficiently, taking care to plant them at appropriate depth and distance from each other. When the job was done, everyone boarded the bus and turned out of the college. This time Mrs. Rosenberg went a different way. She took the students on a tour of the neighborhood to view the urban desert firsthand. The bus, which had been full of chatter and laughing, grew silent. Students noted observations such as bars on windows, dilapidated buildings, and people waiting at uncovered bus stops. Not a grocery store in sight after more than five miles.

It is Mrs. Smith’s hope that her students will take world views of sustainability that they have discussed in class and apply them to the everyday habits that they form throughout their lives. In fact, our future depends on it.

Photo Apr 29, 9 17 14 AM Photo Apr 29, 10 17 35 AM Photo Apr 29, 10 57 40 AM

Made for Children by Children

Head of Early Childhood Kim Barnes write about a community service project pairing third graders, kindergarteners, and pre-kindergarteners to make blankets together.

“They are so cute” were the words from the third grade student as he worked with a group of four pre-kindergartners and three other third graders. They, like the other 76 third graders, 24 pre-kindergarteners and 64 kindergarteners, had gathered together to do important work and this particular third grader seemed to be delighted to work with younger students.

Their work was to make fleece blankets to give to the children at The Vogel Alcove. The third graders had been prepped with the directions, but even after several reassurances, the third graders still worried the younger students were going to cut their fingers as they cut the fleece edges into strands. Patience was, indeed, the term for the activity.

The requirements of this activity were fully integrated. Each group worked on verbal cooperation to come to agreement on a one-strand or two-strand knot. They used a standard measure square guideline of three-inches for the length of each cut and a non-standard unit of measure of a third grader’s finger for the width of each strand.

The physical aspect of this activity required the third graders to learn and teach how to tie the chosen knot. This was not easy for many and took several practice attempts before some had mastered the skill.  Of course, the scissors weren’t always the sharpest; hence, problem solving and sharing ensued as both the third graders and pre-k’ers and kindergartners came up with a system to use the scissors, which had proved most successful to cut the fabric. There were a few tears shed, but perseverance won out at the end of each of these collaborations.

The children began with the same size and the same prepped piece of fabric. When finished, like the students who were creating these bits of warmth, the pieces were no longer the same.  Some of the knots were a little tight and the strands, a bit uneven. And on a couple of blankets, a bit of length had been removed; there were also differences within each blanket as each pair of third grader and preschooler worked on their side. The final product, however, was the same in that each blanket was endearing and could be imagined wrapped around a tiny body.

Children were dedicated to their work of purpose to fruition. As the third graders returned to class, the words “they are so cute” were heard once again, but this time, the reference had a bit of pride as they paraded past their work.

blanket3  blanket1


Where Math Meets Art

Communications Associate Emily Wilson writes about a visit to Cathy Falk’s BC Calculus classroom where students engaged in tangible spacial visualization.

What do you think of  when you think of AP Calculus BC? I, being out of a math classroom for quite some time, have memories of abstract concepts that made my brain strain and my eyes glaze over. I instead, gravitated toward the arts, and later went on to get my degree in Fine Art. So you can imagine my surprise and interest when I walked into Cathy Falk’s Calculus BC classroom and found students building sculptures.

Students were cutting out shapes from brightly colored poster board, standing them up in varying patterns and positioning them in elaborate configurations. Math concepts were informing the creation of models, or in a word, artistic sculptures—a fascinating cross-disciplinary exercise.

Mrs. Falk explains, “Building these models help the AP Calculus BC students visualize and make unusual shapes formed by building known cross sections on top of a platform. The platform is a region bounded by certain graphs.” Students, working in groups of 4, were then assigned to “show the setup of the integral used to find that volume.  The process is basically summing up the areas of the known cross sections bounded by the given region.”

Each group was given a different platform and cross section, so each final model turned out differently. Mrs. Falk says, “I have used this modeling project for over 20 years, and every time my students tell me how much they learn from it. Their understanding of volume is exponentially increased.”

Two visuals clarify this exercise.

Model #1 is formed first by a region bounded by the graphs of y = 1n x;  y = 2, y = -1, and x = 0. Students drew this region on their poster board as a base of the object.  Next the students cut out semicircles that are placed perpendicular to the y-axis.  The diameter of each semicircle is bounded by the region on their platform.  The students used play-doh to hold the semicircles in place.Model1

Model #2 is formed by first making a solid by taking the region bounded by the lines x = 1, x = 3, y = 0, and y = x^2 + 1.  This was then rotated about the y-axis, represented by the straw.Model2

For more photos of students working on this project, click here.

The Year in Art

Lesley Rucker, Upper School and AP Studio Art Teacher, takes us into her studio as her Advanced Placement art students prepare their portfolios. 

Nine months, countless weekend and evening hours, copious deadlines, six art reviews, three Saturday work days, over 25 works of art, and done.  I am often asked questions about the AP Studio Art year, the most common one being “There’s an AP exam for art?” While not in the same form as more traditional AP courses, the AP Studio Art year is an exciting and demanding one. There are three components to the AP portfolio: Breadth, Concentration, and Quality – the last section consisting of the five strongest pieces that are sent to the AP Board. Students who choose to take AP art are dedicated, passionate, highly motivated, extremely talented, and understand the incredible amount of work they are undertaking. The Breadth portfolio, twelve final works, highlights their technical and conceptual skills and versatility in style, subject matter and media. It can include paintings, drawings, collage, mixed media and digital art. Subject matter in the Breadth portfolio can range from portraits and still life renderings to fantasy imagery and illustration. The artistic growth that happens throughout the year culminates with their twelve piece series: the Concentration portfolio. This twelve-piece series is an investigation of a particular artistic concern and can be a visual narrative or studies that explore materials and mediums. The students begin work on their series in December. By the time late April rolls around, students have had the opportunity, in twelve works of art, to show their voice as an artist. The end result always takes my breath away.

It is no small feat to get to the AP year. Each student has taken multiple foundation courses in Drawing, Painting and Design, and usually has worked at home or in a pre-college program the summer prior to their AP year. Work created in advanced and pre-college programs usually becomes part of their AP portfolio, but many times their artistic growth throughout the AP year is so strong that earlier work is replaced with new work.

That’s the nuts and bolts of the AP year. But it is so much more than that. There’s the camaraderie that comes from working day in and day out with each other in a small studio. Students are supportive of one another, offer suggestions and advice, and grow together as a team. There is the personal growth each student displays as well as the confidence, the “let me see what happens if” experimentation that allows their work to shine. Finally, there’s the amazing sense of accomplishment that comes from dedicating so much time to something they love. Nine months, countless weekend and evening hours, copious deadlines, six art reviews, three Saturday work days, over 25 works of art, and success.

From the Front Lines of the Civil War

Donna Woody, Head Librarian as well as Middle School Librarian, takes us inside a seventh grade research project on Civil War battles.  Historical research has certainly changed!


Mrs. Woody, I just read a Harper’s Weekly article about the Battle of Bull Run. They make it sound like the NORTH won the battle.”

“Did Lincoln’s assassination end the war, or did the fall of the Confederacy end it?”

“Did the Quakers have to choose between nonviolence and putting an end to slavery?”

“So that is what the Emancipation Proclamation was…”

These are some of the reflections of seventh grade students as they conduct research – a collaborative project between the library and the Middle School history department where information literacy skills are taught within the context of Civil War events. The students’ assignment has two parts. First, students are paired to research significant battles or events that occurred during the Civil War. In preparation for the writing of their newspaper chronicling the incident, each student composes a main article highlighting the sequence of events. Then they determine who will author various newspaper sections (an editorial, an obituary, a protest letter, a political cartoon, a letter from the front line of a battle to a relative, and a diary entry) between the two of them. The students also create a “Top Ten” list of significant facts about their events to share with their classmates. The second component of the assignment requires the students to present a visual aid that demonstrates their knowledge of the event and to teach the information to the remainder of the class.

“Although it was ultimately a loss for the Union, I think this is one of the reasons that the Union forces ended up winning in the end. It was impressive and inspiring reading about the amount of bravery necessary for these men in a stand in which they knew they would lose. This is bravery.”

“Until now, I did not see how gruesome this battle was, and also how technical and detailed it was compared to other battles.”

No longer do students rely solely on books, old green Reader’s Guide to Periodic Literature, microfiche, or microfilm. Instead, students have access to a wealth of information in online library databases – extensive collections of print resources such as books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and images digitized and easily searchable. They also investigate ebooks, web sites, and primary source documents found in newspaper databases or online. Students learn to evaluate resources found using a variety of search engines such as Sweet Search, Boolify, and Blekko as well. Because the use of these resources is taught in context, students remember how to utilize the sources in other research projects.  Students utilize critical thinking to find the best resources and filter through them to find the pertinent information needed to write their articles as well as explain the nuances of the Civil War events. These online resources have been curated by the librarian for the students’ use in a LiveBinder (access code CW7). Of course, print resources are always available as well.

“Over fifty thousand men were lost…at what point is victory a defeat?”

“Lee must have been a brilliant general to be forced not to resign.”

The note taking and citation process has been digitized, too. Using a program called NoodleTools, students create their bibliographies in MLA format through the use of the online citation generator. The sources may also be identified as primary or secondary by the click of a button. Note cards are created by copying a direct quote, providing a paraphrase, and then developing ideas for further research or to reflect upon the information gleaned from a source. The note cards can be tagged, sorted, and placed into an outline. This way of note taking assists the learners in avoiding plagiarism which is an ongoing skill that the students work to master throughout their Middle School years.

“Shoes? The battle of Gettsyburg was fought because of SHOES?!!?”

“I wonder what would have happened if the Confederates had the same number of soldiers?”

“I feel this is actually quite an important battle, but I am wondering how it affects the Civil War as a whole.”

During the research process, students collaborate with each other regarding the contents of their newspapers as well as plan for the opportunity to teach the class the information they have assembled from the resources used. Their presentations begin with the First Battle of Bull Run and chronicle major battles and events ending with Lincoln’s Assassination.  The presentations offer the students the opportunity to discover patterns and draw conclusions. For example, the students see that the North’s lack of military leadership prolonged the war, that Robert E. Lee and the Southern generals were brilliant strategists who could win battles despite incredible odds, and that one of the effects of Lincoln’s assassination was the harsh period of Reconstruction in the South.

“Lincoln was a great man in his beliefs and moral compass. He seemed ahead of his time.”

When students research their own topics and create projects to reflect their new found knowledge, the learning becomes richer and more meaningful. The events of the Civil War are no longer dry dates on a page in a textbook. As students themselves teach the concepts, the “teachers” synthesize the information to create deeper meaning. Using the abundance of library resources and utilizing newly acquired information literacy skills in the historical context of Civil War events, the learning becomes more vivid, more memorable, and more significant.

“He was wrong. The world did ‘long remember what we say here.’ ”

Can a Sixth Grade Scientist Really Make a Difference?

Today’s blog entry is contributed by Boyd Grayson, Middle School Science teacher.

Is it going to rain? Is it going to snow? Will it be a hot or cool summer? Will it be a mild or cold winter? What are the chances of a tornado in the DFW area? Although these are simple questions, the answers are far from simple. In fact, meteorology is not an exact science.  Synoptic meteorology (the science of weather prediction) is still about a 50/50 shot after 48 hours and it drops off dramatically after 72 hours.  So how do we go about making weather prediction a more exact science? We get students from around the world involved!

The Greenhill sixth grade has become a part of this worldwide network of student scientists who will help other scientists from around the world learn more about our weather AND collect data that can be used in the future to help us all protect this fragile planet that we call Earth.

The sixth grade science classes led by Boyd Grayson and Megan Van Wart are participating in Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment program (GLOBE) at Greenhill.  GLOBE is an environmental program aimed at helping young students understand the importance of proper data collection and data analysis.  Students are currently participating in the worldwide network of 1.5 million students at 24,000 schools who collect scientific data such as weather measurements and water quality information.  They collect data and submit it to a worldwide data base to which professional scientists have access. The data is used to help scientists learn more about the environment at a micro level, more detailed than was possible in the past. To quote Nobel laureate Dr. Leon Lederman, “GLOBE is the quintessentially ideal program for involving kids in science.”

Lilli Stone, sixth grade scientist at Greenhill, says,” I have really learned the importance of taking accurate measurements and using the equipment is really cool, too!” Students get a feel for hands-on science with this program. They use instruments such as barometers, anemometers, psychrometers and max. /min. thermometers to collect real data, recording it into a permanent data notebook in which they sign their names. Not only does this teach good science, it also teaches pride and ownership of a job well done.

In the GLOBE program, students measure wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, relative humidity, maximum, minimum and current temperatures, cloud cover and cloud types.  The data will be entered into the GLOBE data bank for use by students and scientists all over the world.  In future years, there is a plan to involve all of the middle school grades in collecting other GLOBE data such as soil, water, and land cover.

GLOBE students contribute scientific data for scientists to use in their research now and in the future.  In addition, GLOBE students can access GLOBE data to use in their own research and projects, and participation in the project increases scientific awareness of their own environment.

Yes! A sixth grade scientist can really make a difference!