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2017 All School Read: Assignment for Students

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Details of the Assignment

Boys In The Boat: ASR LibGuide

Both high school and junior school students will have an assignment that is due TO THEIR ADVISOR the first regular day of school (MONDAY, AUGUST 21, 2017).

Students may choose from three options:

1. A written response, chosen from the topics below (note the directions)

2. An artistic response:  In a drawing, painting, collage, or sculpture, depict a motif or theme in the book that shows you have read the story closely [note: no photographs unless you are crafting a carefully created collage]. Your response cannot be a simple sketch on a sheet of printer or notebook paper.  Your response should show the creative process that led to your artwork. Include a 200-word typed artist's statement which describes the ideas or conflicts that inspired you to generate this work. 

3. A videotaped interview with a relative or friend who has direct experience of war, the Works Progress Administration, or other historical experiences related to Boys In The Boat. Your edited film will be turned in to your Advisor and later collected into a  collaborative project assembled by MBA.

4. For 10th, 11th, and 12th grades: Attend a discussion with students from Harpeth Hall. These discussions will be held on Thursday, August 17, at 4:00 PM. If you are interested in this option, please email Dr. Kinch ( to sign up. The meeting will begin in Pfeffer and then split into smaller discussion groups; the discussions will be moderated by faculty members of MBA and Harpeth Hall. Your vocal participation in these interactive meetings will count as your completion of the assignment.

Written Response Questions

Directions:  Write a two-page, double-spaced, 12-point font, multi-paragraph essay (approximately 600 words) on one of the following topics.  Include a title page.

Note:  Boys in the Boat has helpful appendices in the back: (1) a section of Notes documenting the author’s research; and (2) an Index that can guide students to key parts of the book that are relevant to the following topics. 

1. Examine the Gold Medal race (Ch. 18) in detail, and connect the conflicts faced by the U.S. team, and how they overcame them, with the rest of the story. In what ways does that one race serve as a microcosm for the struggles and triumphs of Boys In The Boat in general?

2. Assess George Yeoman Pocock as a fount of wisdom. Copy one of the Pocock quotations, which Brown uses as epigraphs to most of the book’s chapters, and explain how it pertains to the experiences of Joe Rantz and the rest of the ’36 crew team.

3. Hunger: Joe Rantz spends most of his first two decades hungry, in literal and figurative ways. Discuss hunger as Rantz’s driving motivation and how the drive to satisfy his appetite led him to become an Olympic champion.

4. Swing: What are the elements that make the Washington team so extraordinary? From their early days of training to their national title in 1937, the team that included Joe Rantz, Roger Morris, and Shorty Hunt never lost a race. What individual and collective qualities made them, in the words of the Syracuse coach, “the greatest eight I ever saw” (359)?