January 30, 2020: Dr. Tripthi Pillai

Dr. Tripthi Pillai was our featured speaker for the 6th annual Georgetown Shakespeare Festival on January 30, after the matinee performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the American Shakespeare Center, which she attended with several of her students from CCU.  She spoke on audience engagement with Shakespeare and involved our students, faculty, and some of the ASC actors in a consideration of how gender, class, and humor work in this play.

“The play doesn’t start with love,” she pointed out.  “The dad wants his daughter dead.” In Shakespeare’s time, women were valued while they could produce offspring and a father could force his daughter into an arranged marriage (Hermia/Demetrious) or women could be captured in war and forced to marry (Hippolyta/Theseus). By the end of this play, though, even some men were “forced” into marriage by magic or witchcraft. 

The play features three “classes”: the noble Athenians, the Faeries, and the Rude Mechanicals.  Dr. Pillai told us that in Shakespeare’s time, fairies were not cute—they were “monstrous and destructive.” Since they could not have children, they stole children from people (the Boy is neither Oberon’s nor Titania’s child). The Mechanicals are lower-class laborers, whom Shakespeare identifies strongly with poets, playwrights, and artists.  Bottom and his band put on a terrible performance of Pyramis and Thisbe, which still somehow emotionally moves Titania and the others. Bottom’s “profound speech” when he wakes up from his “dream” of being a king makes us identify with poets and poor people, with anyone whose dream has been snatched away.  We laugh at Bottom, but at the same time we feel his loss.

“Laughter is not the same as joy,” said Dr. Pillai. “Laughter has a cruel side.” But humor in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is always tempered by audience engagement.  When characters are silenced, whether it be through laughter or violence, Shakespeare always gives their voice to another and we hear it again.  Dr. Pillai got the students to talk about which characters had engaged them emotionally and students came up with a variety of characters and reasons.  Fletcher liked the Duke of Athens. “He makes a bad thing seem chill,” he said.

“It is an honor to see all of you relating to Shakespeare,” Dr. Pillai told us.  She complimented our students on their understanding and mastery of the play and encouraged us to keep working. “You all are vibrant with imagination—you should definitely embrace it.  Make it big!” she concluded.

January 22, 2020: Hannah Grippo

Today we welcomed Hannah Grippo, our 5th and 6th grade teacher, to Open Forum. Miss Grippo shared her experiences teaching English in South Korea from 2015-2017. Miss Grippo has a long-time interest in South Korea. “My family is made up of first generation immigrants from South Korea.” She said. She also minored in Asian Studies at CCU.

Miss Grippo found that life and education are very different than in the US. All of the food was spicy, except for the chips, which were oddly sweet. She would sometimes have to wear goggles and a mask because of pollution from China. She was functionally illiterate because she could not read or write Korean. The education system was perhaps the most different of all.

Miss Grippo’s ESL students ranged in age from 4-14. They attended school year-round with up to 12-hour school days. She was filmed as she taught every day because Korean parents are very included in their children’s education. She taught in English with no Korean translator and had to come up with ways to communicate with the children. For example, some of her students were very interested in dinosaurs, so she brought dinosaur toys to class and used them to engage the students. A lot of the children were looking forward to being parents, so she brought in baby dolls and taught them how to hold babies.

Although she spent a lot of her time teaching the students, Miss Grippo also found other ways to engage in Korean life. She learned how to make Kimchi, a traditional Korean food made from spicy cabbage. She learned all about King Sejong, who invented the language of Korean, and how to honor the living and the dead on Chuseok. On weekends, Miss Grippo volunteered to help teach North Korean refugees. “How do you build trust across cultures?” she asked the students. “I know it sounds mushy, but the answer is love.”

January 8, 2020: Dr. Gary Gates

Our own Dr, Gates spoke at Open Forum this week about the purpose of homework.  “Just between you and me,” he said, “I want you to realize why we teachers assign homework.” 

He began by telling us what homework is not: it is not a punishment, it is not a way to use up time, it is not even ultimately a way of getting permanent knowledge into your head.  “You read and take notes on math concepts you may never use again as an adult,” he said. “But learning specific information is not the final goal of homework.” 

Dr. Gates explained that the work teachers assign is intended to help students learn how to learn and learn how to pay attention for longer periods of time.  “These are the skills that will help you later in life,” he said.  Dr. Gates has analyzed his students’ scores on standardized testing over the past 20 years and the data shows an extremely strong correlation between students who do their work and those who improve their scores the most on standardized testing.  Moral of the story?  Doing your homework is good for you—now and for the rest of your life.

12/11 Dr. Till J. J. Hanebuth

Dr Till J. J. Hanebuth works in the Geosystems Research Lab at Coastal Carolina University. He came to speak with our school about his research into coastal management. “We want to control our coastline,” he told the students. “What we build is stationary, while the coastlines change.” In an attempt to preserve our coastlines, there have been several beach nourishment projects. These involve scooping sand from the bottom of the ocean and transporting it to the beach to replace sand that has been washed away. However, this is not always the best solution. Apart from being very expensive, it can be very damaging to the ocean environment, and it is getting harder and harder to find areas with the right kind of sand. Beach nourishment is also not permanent, so it must be repeated again and again.

Dr Hanebuth’s most recent project revolves around Georgetown Harbor. In 1950, developers decided to create a “shortcut” into the harbor, cutting through the land to create what is now Goat Island. This made the harbor more accessible to boats, which was a great boost for the local economy. However, this shortcut changed the water currents in the bay, and over time the bottom of the harbor filled up with silt. It became so shallow that many ships could no longer enter the harbor. To fix this, the city has been forced to dredge the harbor repeatedly to allow ships to enter. Dredging is incredibly expensive and does not work as a long-term solution. Dr. Hanebuth’s job is to research the currents in the harbor and come up with a way to counteract this problem.

Dr. Hanebuth created a computer program that would simulate the tides and the currents in the harbor so that he could test potential solutions. The obvious solution would be to close off the shortcut, but Dr. Hanebuth’s research shows that this could have disastrous effects. With nowhere else for the water to go, it would flow through the harbor too quickly and wash away boats and docks, as well as potentially causing flooding. Another idea was to place two giant underwater “hairdryers” at the entrance to the harbor to direct water flow and wash away the silt. Right now, the most promising solution appears to be blocking off part of the shortcut, creating an increased flow in the harbor without the full force that would come from completely closing it.

“I am used to working with scientists,” Dr. Hanebuth told us. “But now I am working with city managers.” It remains to be seen how Georgetown will resolve the problem of its lost harbor, but Dr. Hanebuth’s research and computer models provide much-needed information to help Georgetown make a sensible plan of action.

12/04 Dr. Andrea Bergstrom

Dr Andrea Bergstrom, a professor at Coastal Carolina University, came to speak to our school about social media.  She got her PhD in communications at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2011.  Since then, she has been a researcher at CCU studying media and its effect on human behavior.  In the world of the internet, she warned students, there are three key points to remember: safety, privacy, and thinking critically.

Internet safety is more than just not meeting with strangers.  You should never give anyone your username or password, even if they’re your friend, because you never know what they could do with it.  “If somebody sends a mean message from your account, you can get in trouble for it.”  She warned students, sharing with them the story of a college student who was expelled after a friend used his account for nefarious purposes.  She also said that giving away any information about yourself- whether it’s your full name, your address, or even just a blurry picture- can lead to people tracking you down.  Even if you think you’re being careful, small clues can add up until someone knows exactly who you are and where you live.

Once you post something online, it never goes away.  “You don’t control your information anymore.” Dr Bergstrom explained.  “Even if you delete it, you never know who’s taken a screenshot.”  She warned students that their future depends on what they post online; from college admissions boards to potential employers, everyone has the power to do a background check.  As a general rule, she advised that “if you wouldn’t want your parents to see it, you shouldn’t post it.”

“Have you ever looked something up or liked a post, and then the next day you see an ad for that exact same thing?”  She asked the students, and almost everyone nodded.  “You’re like, ‘whoah, it’s magic!’  Nope, it’s capitalism.”  She explained how websites, such as Facebook and Instagram, can share your search history with potential advertisers.  If you buy something that’s been advertised to you, such as from a sponsored post, you never know who is benefiting from your money.  Despite her warnings, Dr Bergstrom acknowledged that the internet can be a very useful tool- so long as you’re careful.

By Ryleigh

11/20: Dr. Stephanie Southworh

“Good and positive always outweigh the bad,” said Dr. Stephanie Southworth to our students on November 20th. Dr. Southworth, a Coastal Carolina University sociology professor, came to speak to us on her new program to help the homeless in Myrtle Beach get transportation to jobs and affordable housing.

Dr. Southworth grew up in a middle-class family in California.  While raising her own family and getting her master’s and PhD in social behaviors, she never knew the true need of homeless people. It was not until Dr. Southworth moved to SC and did an experiment with her students that she truly understood. She had her students ask homeless people what they needed the most.  Most people told them that they really needed transportation and mental health care. This sparked an idea for Dr. Southworth. She started a program at a men’s homeless shelter allowing residents to use bikes for transportation.

Dr. Southworth explained, “These bikes are just like library books. You can rent them out then bring them back for others to enjoy.” This project is in its second year of operation and is doing extremely well, helping the homeless as well as her students volunteers, the faculty, and shelter workers. One student asked her how they can trust the homeless people to bring the bikes back.  Dr. Southworth’s answered, “We can’t! We just have to trust and the more experience that we have with them the more trust is built.” One experience that Dr. Southworth highlighted was a former homeless shelter resident who came up to her and said “Bike 49 saved my life. When I got frustrated or mad, I could use the bike to get away from here.”

We truly thank Dr. Stephanie Southworth for taking the time to educate our students on the importance of helping your community and doing something to benefit others. 

By Margaret

11/13 – Judy Sweitzer

“We all have a gift to give,” said Mrs. Judy Sweitzer, who came to tell us about her recent mission trip to Guatemala.  Mrs. Sweitzer’s gift was spending two weeks helping with medical and dental problems in the small village of Zapato, an annual visit sponsored by her church, Pawleys Island Christian.

Mrs. Sweitzer told us that life in Guatemala is hard.  The country has seen explosive population growth—400% in the past fifty years.  About half of Guatemalans don’t have clean water and 57% live below the poverty line on $2 a day.  One in fifteen children dies before age five; children who survive most likely will not attend school, with the result that 60% of Guatemalans cannot read.

Mrs. Sweitzer and her team spend most of their time dealing with a stream of villagers who do not have access to dental care.  The dentists administered local anesthesia and pulled teeth; Mrs. Sweitzer sterilized instruments, applied fluoride to children’s teeth, and passed out toothbrushes, “Can you imagine if you had an infected tooth and the dentist was only around once in the fall?” she asked us.

The dental team had time to enjoy Guatemala’s rich culture and landscape.  Mrs. Sweitzer explained that Zapato is close to an active volcano called Fuego, which rumbled, sent up smoke, and even gushed some lava while they were there.  “It was pretty amazing,” she said.  Mrs. Sweitzer encouraged us to give of ourselves to help others.  “You will be more enriched by the experience than the people you give to,” she promised.

By Fisher

10/23/19 – Patricia Devine-Harms

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Patricia Devine-Harms, owner and operator of the Purr & Pour Cat Café on Front Street, was our guest speaker on October 23. Patricia moved to Georgetown from New Jersey several years ago with her husband Steve, but did not leave behind the commitment to advocacy which has always been her passion. In N. J., she helped victims of domestic violence, troubled teens, and fought against human trafficking.  Once she got settled in Georgetown, she decided to help St. Frances Animal Shelter by opening the Purr & Pour Cat Café.

Cat cafés redefine the whole cat adoption process and make it a pleasant experience.  Patrons can interact with the kitties in a clean and quiet setting; there are no cages and no pressure.  Patricia did not enter into this business lightly.  She visited many cat cafés, contacted their owners for information, and studied their websites. Inspired, she chose Front Street as the perfect place to open her very own Cat Café.  Kingfishers were interested to learn that the Purr & Pour is not a non-profit.  Patricia did not want to compete in any way with St. Frances—all adoption fees go right back to the charity.  To date, the Purr & Pour has placed 24 cats into loving homes since opening in June.  “We measure success by adoptions,” she said.  “It’s not about making a profit, but making a difference.”  Cat cafés around the U.S. have created opportunities for over 16,000 cat adoptions in the last five years!

Patricia emphasized that cooperation and collaboration are key components in creating a successful business. She is cooperating with Indigo Bakery, and Coffee Break Café to supply sandwiches and coffee to the customers. She is supported by people in the community.  And cat cafés are a beautiful collaboration between people and animals: they not only provide a safe space for people to relax and relieve stress, but they also create a safe haven for cats to live and be introduced to people.

By T. J.