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Community conversations

Gordon's extended family of parents, faculty and alumni includes experts in a huge range of fields.

The school draws on this expertise every year for conversations that are open to everyone who can attend. The conversations themselves are inspiring and engaging, and the process of convening draws the school community even closer together.

Below are some highlights from the 2020-2021 school year.


Noni Thomas López on antiracist pedagogy
The 2020-2021 school year began with a conversation with Head of School Dr. Thomas López on antiracist pedagogy.


Author and historian Ted Widmer '76 on the presidency, in the 1860s and today
In October 2020, Gordon hosted a conversation between author and historian Ted Widmer '76 and Gordon's eighth grade humanities teacher Luke Anderson about the presidency, race in America, and the parallels between today's America and the divided country of the 1860s, driven by Ted's latest book, Lincoln on the Verge.


Fran Loosen and Rodney Eric López on philanthropy
In November 2020, alumni parent Fran Loosen and Admission Associate Rodney Eric López came together to talk about philanthropy - how to engage others, and how to talk about it with children.



Neuroscientist David Badre
As part of the 2020 Book Fair, Gordon presented David Badre, a Gordon parent,  Brown University neuroscientist and author of the new book On Task: How Our Brain Gets Things Done. In a conversation moderated by Middle School Director Gabe Burnstein, he talked about executive function and its development in childhood, with plenty of time for questions and answers.


Sheri Griffin and Lisa Newman Paratore on shopping local
On December 11th, Sheri Griffin, Co-Executive Director of Farm Fresh Rhode Island, and Lisa Newman Paratore, Founder and Owner of HOMESTYLE, gathered to discuss the impact of shopping local, responsibly sourcing ingredients and goods, and building a resilient local economy. 


Honorable John James McConnell Jr. Chief Judge, U.S. District Court for Rhode Island

In January 2021, the Honorable John James McConnell Jr., Chief Judge, U.S. District Court for Rhode Island joined Head of School Dr. Noni Thomas López to discuss leadership, the national and local justice system and the current moment in history.

Chief Judge McConnell was nominated to his current position by Barack Obama in 2011, after nearly thirty years in private practice that included work seeking justice for victims of lead paint poisoning and other cases that have had historic impacts on the people of Rhode Island.

The parent of three Gordon alumni, Chief Judge McConnell continues to volunteer with the seventh grade team, working with students during their study of the judiciary branch of the US government.

The conversation was free and open to the public, with opportunities for a lively question-and-answer exchange with the audience.


Sarah Blythe and David Allyn on artists and museums

Sarah Blythe, interim director of the RISD Museum and parent of two Gordon graduates, and David Allyn, Gordon's twenty-third Britt Nelson Visiting Artist, met for a conversation about the relationship between artists, museums, and the communities that sustain them.

Gordon's librarian created an annotated bibliography of books from Gordon's collection that build on the topics Dave and Sarah explored. Gordon families can borrow these books using the links at

This video gives a glimpse into the work Dave Allyn did with Gordon sixth graders this spring when he was on campus. For videos Dave made for use last spring, when Gordon's campus was closed and he was working with Gordon students remotely, see

Sarah joined the RISD Museum in 2009 as director of education, coming to Rhode Island from New York and positions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. At RISD, she collaborated with artists, students and scholars to realize exhibitions, programs and publications, while also critically investigating the complicated histories of museums, art pedagogy and interpretation practices in her own work. Her work included a number of collaborations with Gordon teachers and students, including a sixth grade lesson that produced work that was exhibited at the US Department of Education in Washington, DC.

David Allyn is a visual and performing artist whose work has rich connections to the Providence arts community. While earning an MFA in ceramics at RISD, he discovered Providence's lively, interdisciplinary arts community. He founded the ceramics studio at the Steel Yard, a nonprofit serving the sculpture and industrial arts community, and his ceramics draw on Providence's rich architectural history. An excellent short documentary on David and his work is at

He had been working with Gordon students since spring 2020 as the twenty-third Britt Nelson Visiting Artist, which was established in 1998 to support Gordon's commitment to hands-on art education by bringing professional artists to campus to work directly with students on extended lessons and projects.