Winsor Visits Belmont Hill

Natalie’s Perspective

I had the pleasure of shadowing Arec “RC” Keomurjian, a universally-liked senior at Belmont Hill. To start off the day, Jessica, Angelina, and I visited the senior homeroom. The environment was very open and relaxing. During the morning meeting, I liked how each senior wrote a thank-you note to a female faculty or staff member. It felt very fitting that us Winsor students were there to witness this celebration of Women’s History Month. 

Next, I found RC’s first and second period classes very interesting because I am also currently taking BC Calc and Physics. I noticed many parallels between our curriculums, and it is clear that both Winsor and Belmont Hill encourage their students to ask lots of questions. Due to this encouragement, class discussions felt more like conversations than lectures. Another impressive aspect was that each classroom was outfitted with a Promethean board. 

Easily the most enjoyable part of my day was attending the senior panel carving class. Many seniors were kind enough to share the very personal stories behind their individualized panel with me. For example, RC is carving the first character of his Armenian name in the shape of two birds as an homage to his two cultures. Another student is working on a self-portrait of himself running since he is an avid cross-country athlete. Each panel is beautiful on its own but infinitely more powerful when displayed with others of its year; in fact, the panels from previous years were the very first thing I noticed when I entered the school. 

After panel carving and Greek, RC had to attend an interview, but in the true brotherly spirit of Belmont Hill, his peer escorted me to the library on his behalf. There, I was reunited with Jessica and Angelina for The Panel’s meeting. It is great that the students get a special X-block for the sole purpose of attending club meetings so that they have more time to engage with their extracurriculars. We used the time to finalize a plan for the joint March layout which was very helpful, and their advisor Mr. Hegarty generously let me explore his collection of Irish candy and snacks. 

RC’s last class of the day was Advanced Science Research (ASR), which is an elective for students doing independent research in STEM. Every student displayed obvious passion and deep knowledge in their project, so I really enjoyed learning about their work through their short presentations. I was proud when Jessica shared her work from the Winsor science internship with the group as well. 

After ASR, RC had a free block. I will admit that at this point, I was starving because Belmont Hill students eat lunch at 1:40 pm–almost an hour after Winsor students do! To distract my “hangry” stomach, RC suggested that we go sledding, which turned out to be super fun. Their campus conveniently includes a steep, snowy hill with communal sleds that can fly fast. While I chose a conservative sitting position on my way down, I enjoyed cheering on other students that snowboarded or slid down on their stomachs. 

Finally, lunch arrived! The scrumptious combination of chicken marsala and linguini pasta did not disappoint. Belmont Hill’s strong sense of community was very apparent as students sat at tables with faculty members and ate from dishes family style. Overall, I really enjoyed my Switch Day experience, and I am grateful to RC and all of the other students, faculty, and staff for making me feel welcome at Belmont Hill. 

Jessica’s perspective

Natalie, Angelina, and I started the day with a conversation with the Head of School, Mr. Schneider, in the senior homeroom. Mr. Schneider explained that BH is currently engaged in cross-classes with Johns Hopkins, University of Pennsylvania, and Dana Hall to enrich students with a diverse range of people and academics. He also shared that BH is focused on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) conversations: instead of a day dedicated to DEI like in previous years, BH now engages in weekly DEI conversations in advisory groups. Finally, pointing at the walls covered in panels, Mr. Schneider explained that the Panels are a long-lasting tradition at BH, and is what the student newspaper is named after! BH is currently working to show more context in the students’ panels, especially in historical ones.

I shadowed Howard Huang ’22. Since it was a Tuesday, students had all of their classes, each being 40 minutes. I liked the 40-minute class schedule. I felt engaged during classes and appreciated physically moving around campus more often. Winsor’s 75-minute classes allow for more class time per session, but there are certainly benefits to the 40-minute schedule.

Howard’s first class was Panel Carving, which meets twice a week and fulfills the seniors’ graduation requirements. The teacher, Mr. Kaplan, graduated from BH and returned to teach art for over 20 years. His daughter’s artwork on horses and dogs is featured in the hallways. It was nice to see how engaged BH alumni are, even years after graduating. As music played in the background, a small group of students worked on their wooden panels. The panels featured a wide range of things, including yodas, turtles, video game characters, and childhood homes. Howard’s panel features his hobbies- from sports to the Panel newspaper displayed on a computer. The class reminded me of the Winsor seniors’ Hemenway speeches- although in different art forms, both the panels and speeches allow seniors to reflect on what matters to them and share it with the community before graduating. I do wish Winsor had an arts-related tradition for students, in addition to the banner, as well. 

Next, we had Physics. The teacher, Mr. Schneider, greeted the class with an ungraded quiz. The class discussion focused on simple harmonic motion and built off of an experiment with dampening string. The class was quite large, and I was surprised by the student initiative. Unlike a lecture, the content was largely guided by student discussion and inquiry. I’m taking biology, but the class made me miss physics!

Next, we had snack: milk and cookies. The cookies deserve all the hype and more; they were the perfect balance of crunchy and sweet. Truly sublime. I wish I ate more. I miss them.

Afterward, we went to Music Composition. In a class of about 5 students, we talked about Charles Mingus, an American jazz pianist. We explored his piece “Self-Portrait in 3 Colors.” Afterward, we learned about consonance and dissonance; contrary motion vs parallel motion vs oblique motion; and tri-tones. The students are creating their own compositions in MuseScore. In class, the teacher emphasized how although musical rules are important to understand, students’ creativity in composition should always be prioritized. I was especially interested in this class because I have been playing piano for several years. I was inspired by both the students’ and the teacher’s musical knowledge.

After tagging along to Greek with RC and Natalie (Howard and I both do not know Greek so this class was very… interesting), we headed to a Panel meeting. It was really rejuvenating having a dedicated time for clubs block- the staff was focused on discussing joint articles and pod updates without the distraction of lunch or crunched time. 

Next was Advanced Science Research (ASR). Just like in Panel Carving, the ASR teacher was a Belmont Hill alum. The six ASR students shared their internship experiences and talked about articles that they had researched. It’s really interesting how both BH and Winsor offer research opportunities for students, but theirs is in a two-year class form, while ours is in a summer program setting. Moreover, Winsor’s location in the Longwood medical area offers many in-person scientific research opportunities as well.

The last class of the day was Linear Algebra. Do not be fooled by the name like I was- linear “algebra” was not algebra. Despite not knowing the mathematical content (matrices, orthogonal, nonzero diagonals, etc.), I found the class entertaining. Students made jeopardy questions from their past several units and hosted games. The games became very competitive, and the first round ended in a tie. The teacher even canceled homework because of how pleased he was with the class- how wholesome is that?

We ended the day with lunch. Lunch emphasized community- students were assigned to tables and shared food from a communal bowl. Lunch also emphasized responsibility, because there were assigned student waiters who brought food and cleaned tables. I ate quite a bit- but only because I was sampling foods to review for this very article, of course. I ate chicken marsala, a panini (with mayo) made by the panini press, pasta, vegetable noodles, a banana, salad, and oatmeal raisin biscuits. I love meat, and I know good meat when I see it. This chicken was not just good meat- it was great meat. Tender and well-seasoned. A panini press – convenient, healthy, and efficient- is arguably the best investment for any institution. Winsor should take notes. The biscuit was unexpectedly good as well. Can we do another switch day so I can eat more of these foods? 

Thank you to everyone at Belmont Hill for a fruitful switch day experience!

Angelina’s perspective

To start off the day, we visited the Belmont Hill Seniors’ common room, which was an open, lounging area located in the center of an academic building. After a couple of announcements from Senior Class President Luke Carroll ’22, students were assigned to write letters to female faculty members at Belmont Hill, in honor of Women’s History Month. Off to shadow Luke Hogan ’22 for the day!

Luke’s first-period class was AP Calculus BC, which was very interesting for me because I am taking this class as well. I noticed how although both the Winsor and BH classes are following the same curriculum, our teachers made adjustments as needed in order to cover all of the material. It was very interesting to join in on the BH students getting up to write on the board, and working together on practice problems. 

With no passing time, Natalie and I were reunited with Jessica in AP Physics C, during which students were getting ready to take a quiz. For almost the entire class, students were hard at work on a challenging problem related to simple harmonic motion. Mr. Schneider posed the question, “What is the difference between periodic motion and simple harmonic motion?” For me, this class was a wonderful blast from the past, and it was fun to listen in on the conversations students were having as they worked on the problem. 

Snack time! A mass of students rushed to an outdoor area, where they could help themselves to a table of cookies and milk. Unfortunately, due to my strong preference for chewy cookies, I did not taste one. Overall, based on how quickly the food left the tables, it seems like milk and cookies are much appreciated at the school. 

After the quick snack break, I accompanied Luke to AP Computer Science Principles, which was nothing like I expected. This class was about different computer systems and how technology has developed over the past decades. I found it very interesting that students in this class shared a document to which they could all contribute notes; I have never been in a class in which students took collective notes, rather than individual ones. 

Next period, I sat in on a relaxing session of panel carving. Students listened to music while meticulously carving out their personalized designs from a piece of wood. Luke kindly offered me his carving implement, so I took the opportunity to give the wood a few scrapes—much to my dismay, I was confronted head-on with my lack of ability in this art. Nonetheless, it was great to get a chance to just sit down and take a breather in the middle of the day, after many back-to-back class periods. 

During X-block, The Panel held a meeting during which pod (section) editors were asked to give a brief update on how everything was going for the March issue. The meeting was held in a nice, cozy room in the back of the library, a spot that reminded me of Winsor’s small library room on the first floor! The meeting with the entire club (or those that were able to attend) took about 20 minutes, so the executive staff and Mr. Hegarty stayed behind to sort out some logistics for this issue. This room reminded me of the computer lab at Winsor that is right next door to the art labs. 

The journey continues! Since the BH execs all had Advanced Science Research (ASR), a science-based inquiry course next, we walked over together. Right before we arrived, the BH editors led us to a quick pit stop at the robotics building. I was amazed at the intricate design of this space; I found the coolest detail of the room to be the wall that I was told could open up and reveal a robot battling ground. ASR took place inside a hut that was sectioned off from the rest of the buildings at the school. Students were given a short amount of time to put together a slide that represented the gist of an article they had just read. The class was fully engaged and was clearly having fun learning about each other’s passions in STEM. Jessica even shared a little bit about her own research experience! This was the final class I attended. 

Luke and RC both had the last period free, so Natalie and I got to experience the joy and exhilaration of sledding down a steep slope right in the middle of campus. Though my run was lengths away from Olympic-level, I slid down the course in quite an impressively straight line, if I do say so myself. After participating in this key Belmont Hill experience, I was given a tour of the campus! Thanks to Luke, I learned so much about each building and its purpose, though if you asked me how to get to the cafeteria from the parking lot, I would not be of use. Though this period was as long as the other ones, it felt longer simply because I was not used to the late lunchtime. However, the four of us were able to get situated in the cafeteria a bit earlier than the rest of the Upper School, as we meticulously utilized the last few minutes of the free period.

Lunchtime! The hot menu consisted of herb chicken and pasta, with a salad bar, sandwich bar, and panini presses available as alternative options. The kitchen staff was very busy today, so I skipped out on the chicken and tested out the vegetarian options at the salad bar. The spicy tofu was delectable! I was very intrigued by how formal lunch seemed, with assigned tables and  designated “waiters” who were tasked with bringing big batches of food to their respective tables. However, I enjoyed this change of pace and had a great time seeing how pleased my coeditors were with the chicken. 

Overall, I had a very pleasant experience walking the Belmont Hill hallways. A big shoutout to all of the BH faculty and staff who made us feel welcome and included, as well as Luke, Howard, and RC, for letting us tag along for the day.