Humans of Gaynor: Students Explore Togetherness and Community

Posted on Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

Prior to spring break, a group of Green Cluster students explored what it means to be together and form a sense of community with those they might not know well. It has taken on increased relevance after distance learning began on March 12. 

Sara Curwin’s class created “Humans of Gaynor,” a 12-minute video modeled after Brandon Stanton’s “Humans of New York” project. Stanton’s project started as a way to create an exhaustive catalog of the city’s inhabitants, and later led to the telling of people’s stories.

The class first learned about how Stanton started his project by asking strangers if he could take their picture. He then asked them questions and found that people often opened up to him about their personal stories. He combined their picture with a quote to share their story. 

“Our class found that the ‘Humans of New York’ project created a sense of community and compassion among New Yorkers, so we decided to apply it to Gaynor,” Curwin said.

After learning about the background of the project, the students discussed its significance — how hearing other peoples’ stories helps us to not judge a book by its cover.

Curwin said, “We discussed the idea that we have all gone through hardships and none of us are alone, and that despite New York City being so vast, we all have something in common by living here.”

Next, the class developed questions that would encourage people to open up to them. Some of the questions included were: What has been the happiest moment of your life? Have you ever felt alone? What advice can you give future generations? 

After that, the students practiced interviewing skills, such as maintaining eye contact, responding to a person thoughtfully, and trying to find personal connections in the conversation. 

The students interviewed faculty and staff at Gaynor in order to create a video that shows the vulnerable side of others and helps us understand a little bit more about the people we smile at in the hallways each day.

The students planned to watch the video upon returning to the classroom, however, Gaynor’s move to distance learning inspired Curwin to send it to students now in order to reinforce that the Gaynor community extends beyond the school doors.

“During this time of uncertainty and the feeling of loneliness for many, it is my hope that this video is a reminder that while we are all feeling similar confusion and fear, we have each other to confide in, allowing us to feel a sense of togetherness,” she said. 


Featured in the video:

  • Catherine Thomas — Assistant Teacher (Blue Cluster)
  • Andrea Nelson — Art Teacher
  • Brendan Stackhouse — Head Teacher (Blue Cluster)
  • Jay Keenan — Head Teacher (Blue Cluster)
  • Barbara Kider — Reading Specialist 
  • Amanda Shaw — Head Teacher (Blue Cluster)
  • Rachel Zucker — Math Specialist 
  • Ann Edwards — Orton-Gillingham Fellow
  • Mark Gowie — Custodian 
  • Sara Piazza — Reading Specialist 
  • Jensen Pincus — Head Teacher (Yellow Cluster)
  • Sophie Yolowitz — Art Teacher
  • Kristen Benvenuto — Math Specialist 
  • Wendy Peters — Custodian 
  • Mark Illiano — Security Guard
  • Jamie Ravech — Speech and Language Pathologist 
  • Joseph Kaufman — Math Specialist 
  • Tzipora Ungar — Speech and Language Pathologist 
  • Yvette Siegel-Herzog — Co-Founder and Director of Education 
  • Emily Goodman — School Nurse
  • Olivia Robinson — Administrative Assistant