GSB Students Build Lifelong Memories in 2022 Spring Unit Program

As the school year winded down, the energy across Gill St. Bernard’s was palpable with the annual Spring Unit Program back in action. 
In this hallmark GSB tradition, upper school students utilize the last two weeks of the school year to participate in a collection of Unit courses, ranging from immersive travel opportunities, service learning projects, experiential learning, student internships, and much more. With hands-on leadership from faculty members, the singular program allows students to explore new subjects and connect with classmates outside of the traditional academic setting. More than anything, it is a fundamental element of the GSB experience. The Spring Unit program is under the direction of History teacher and Assistant Dean of Student Life Mike Wendell, Performing Arts Teacher, 9th Grade Seminar, and 9th Grade Dean, Margery Schiesswohl, and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Student Internship Coordinator Tracey Goodson Barrett. 
Wendell expressed his admiration for this program. “Our school year is reborn during the Unit. While many schools start to wind down, we ramp back up and offer a program that is substantive, and for some, transformational.” 
Schiesswohl spoke highly about the Spring Unit Travel Programs. “This is the first year since 2019 that we have taken students on overnight excursions. Our faculty chaperones and student travelers all handled the increased level of restrictions, guidelines, and requirements beautifully and came away all having had amazing and life-changing experiences. From dealing with sudden weather issues to flight cancelations to unexpected obstacles like seeing a moose on a hike, our people rose to and met every challenge with grace, patience, and poise and I am honored to say that they are GSB people. They completely and thoroughly embodied the spirit of our school's motto; the world is our classroom.”   
The following sections are a brief snapshot into the memories our students and faculty are building in this year’s Spring Unit Program.  

Through The Lens: Yellowstone National Park 

Thanks to the return of overnight travel, eager students traveled to Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana to explore both photography and land conservation. After learning photography basics like aperture, shutter speed, and the rule of thirds, students were charged with keeping a photo journal of the landscape and wildlife in the area. Students also gained knowledge of endangered species, and the importance of nature sustainability.  
Murals and Street Art 
During the Murals and Street Art Spring Unit, eleven GSB artists worked with four artistic styles and mediums using multiple scaled pieces, ranging from small and individual to large and collaborative. Students had the opportunity to meet and work with artist-in-residence “Lady Pink”, a famous NYC artist who paved the way for female street artists.  

As a group, the students conceived the mural’s theme, and under Lady Pink’s guidance, projected, sketched, and painted a large-scale mural in the Art Department in Founders Hall. Other projects included a personal collage based on “What inspires you?”, a graffiti statement piece, and custom hand-painted Nike Air Force 1 sneakers.  

It's New Jersey! You Got A Problem with That? 

New Jersey holds some real gems across science, history, culture, and the arts. This Unit explored the culture and history of The Garden State, as well as its contributions to our country and the world. Students traveled across the state visiting landmarks of the American revolution, conservation sites, and museums to discover the treasures of their home state. 

Inward Bound Mindfulness Retreat

Unit participants were given the unique opportunity to take a step back from their busy lives and get back in touch with what really matters. Students embarked on a four-day mindfulness meditation retreat led by instructors from the Inward Bound Mindfulness Education Organization. They explored meditation practices and learned to be comfortable with periods of silence. During the second week of the Unit, students participated in a nature hike, helped restore the tranquility garden, participated in a Japanese tea ceremony, created terrariums, and even participated in goat yoga.  

Maine Islands, Writers, and Artists 

Students in this Unit were encouraged to explore their creative sides as they journeyed to Monhegan Island, Maine. The island, with its dramatic cliffs, pine-scented forests, and quaint village comprised an ideal environment for nurturing artistic expression. Each day, students engaged in a writing component to produce poetry, fiction, or nonfiction prose and chose a visual art in addition—photography, painting, or drawing.

The Receiving in the Giving 

This Unit challenged students to plan and execute their own service project, schedule and contact organizations and ultimately implement their project with the help of their peers. This experience deepened students’ understanding and appreciation for the altruistic, compassionate, and selfless work that so many do for those in need.

Acer to Quercus: For The Love of The Trees

The Acer to Quercus Spring Unit aimed to help students explore the science, history, economics, symbolism, and lore of the trees in our area. Using the GSB campus as a home base, students cataloged many of the trees on the school’s acreage and explored the heritage of our campus in connection with the past inhabitants and their varied uses of the trees in the region. Students in this Unit created this page to share what they have discovered.

Launching a Startup Business 

Using the food truck industry as a model, students in this unit learned how to start and design their own business. This group observed how food trucks operated —(and tasted a variety of cuisines, of course!)  Students also spent time with visiting entrepreneurs to learn about their successes and failures.  

As a capstone to the Unit, the students developed a proposal for their own unique food truck business or pop-up restaurant, including creating a business name, designing a logo, creating a menu, sourcing ingredients, building a budget, and drafting a business plan presented in a “Shark Tank” style pitch.

Student Internship Program 

The Student Internship Program returned this year after a 2-year hiatus because of COVID-19. Sixteen juniors and seniors were selected to shadow professionals in a variety of fields during the Spring Unit program. Internships centered around entrepreneurship, veterinarian practice, medical interests, environmentalism, sports management, legal judicial proceedings, cybersecurity, music therapy, art business, and marketing. Many of our alumni, parents, and friends of GSB volunteer their time to provide our students with a glimpse into professions that are not typical of a high school student experience. Through the duration of the program, the students are required to maintain a daily journal, write a reflective essay about their experience, and give a final presentation to a select panel of faculty and staff.  

"We are so very proud of our students who, instead of participating in a spring unit course, immersed themselves in a real-world experience that provided them with a deeper understanding of professions that they are considering pursuing as they enter college," stated Goodson Barrett. 

Middle School Spring Unit 

The Spring Unit experience is not limited to the Upper School. The fifth and sixth grade Unit was themed "We All Play a Part". Students created skits based on GSB's Core Values and rotated through many new activities like screen printing, tie-dye, lanyard making, making dog treats, and making ice cream. 

Seventh and eighth grade students also participated in a shortened version of the program. The seventh graders participated in units about stop-motion animation, advertising and commercials, the criminal justice system, survival skills, and physical and mental challenges. The eighth grade units involved cooking, mini golf, survival skills, ancient civilizations, and finding art in nature. All students hiked the campus as well as worked in groups to be creative, solve problems, and make art.  

More GSB News

Learn more about what's happening at Gill St. Bernard's School, both in and outside of the classroom!

Read more


GSB welcomes applications from students who demonstrate academic potential and who are deemed likely to benefit from and contribute to the GSB community.

Learn more

Our Curriculum

Our community of learners value the contributions, perspectives, and talents that each student and faculty member bring to campus.

Learn more