Bears Teach Bears: PRO VITA 2020

Harrison Chapin ’20

Every spring, Berkshire Bears take a week off from the regular school schedule to partake in Pro Vita, a signature program where students and faculty teach and take classes about anything they are interested in. The possibilities are endless: build a model of Berkshire’s campus using only lego bricks, learn to play the sport of curling, and get to know faculty pets by becoming a trained dog walker. As our motto suggests, we learn “not just for school, but for life.” The Pro Vita curriculum this year will also include seven off-campus trips around the world (contact [email protected] if interested) and the Allen Theatre activity series. Here is an early look at some of the classes your classmates and teachers will be offering. 


Instructor: Patrick Donovan

Title: We Are On Native Land… Stolen Land

Two years ago, guest speaker Gyasi Ross, a Blackfeet author, attorney, rapper, speaker, and storyteller asked Berkshire School to consider what our “moral debt” is to Native, Indigenous, and Indian people who lived on this land for thousands of years before settler colonization. The Mohican people who did live on this land are still thriving today on sovereign lands in Wisconsin. Onondaga, Schaghticoke, and other first nations also steward lands within a 45-minute drive of Berkshire School.  This class will work to deepen understandings of the ongoing impacts of settler-colonization, introduce reflective practices that might aid in deeper understandings of our relationships to this land and its history, and ultimately build relationships with native, indigenous, and First Nations communities local to the Sheffield area.


Instructor: Clay Splawn

Title: Video Games: History, Ethics, Possibilities

In video games, the simplicity of Pong has given way to realistic, open-world environments where players — through their characters on-screen and online — can engage in very human behaviors. These behaviors range from kind and generous to murderous and savage. How did we get here? And what does it all mean for the humans on the business end of the controller? This course will engage students around the history of video games (we’ll play some of the all-time greats), the ethical implications of video games (both for players and manufacturers), and consider where they will go. 


Instructors: Wakaba Aihara ’22 and Kate Taccone

Title: Introduction to Digital Animation: Get Imaginations Out of Your Head

Using the new Timeline function in Adobe Photoshop CC, we will create hand-drawn animation. Students will learn how to make their own gifs and short animations from original drawings. Know the principles of animation and make your one and only short animation in the world!! 


Instructors: Michelle Wang ’20, Aimi Sekiguchi ’20, and Mr. Meade

Title: Rice to Meet You America!–CelebrAsian of Eastern Cuisine

Traditional Chinese and Japanese cuisine strongly reflects cultural beliefs, values, and attitudes towards food. Interestingly, with its increasing popularity in the United States, original adaptations were added, diverging into unique dishes. By visiting an Asian market, cooking traditional and modified recipes, and interviewing local Asian restaurants, this course will compare modern Chinese and Japanese foods in their original country and in the United States. Interested in Boba tea, sushi rolls, stir-fried pork, or Chinese and Japanese snacks? Taste and learn!


Instructor: Susie Norris ’79


Ever wonder where bread comes from in the Berkshires? In this course, we’ll discover local wheat and bakeries; we’ll learn to knead, bake, and taste thoughtfully; we’ll question why bread became a corporate commodity and talk about where we go from here. We will explore some food history, discuss the corporate food system vs. sustainable agriculture, visit an award-winning bakery (and/or a sustainable farm), catch a scary documentary about factory farms, and read/discuss food policy. Our finale will be the official Berkshire Cookie Bake-Off.

Editor’s Note: The above classes are still going through the vetting process, and have yet to be officially approved for Pro Vita 2020.