Students Take a Fresh Look at “Martina & Chrissie”

Upper School History teacher Dan Greenstone recently led his Sociology of Sports students in a project based on the picture book Martina & Chrissie, a beautiful children’s book that tells the story of the friendship of female tennis stars Martina Navratilova and Chrissie Evert.
In reviewing the text, Greenstone pointed out what he felt was missing from the book was one of the most interesting and historically significant aspects of Martina and Chrissie’s friendship and rivalry—the fact that Martina Navratilova was—and is— a remarkable civil rights leader and gay rights activist. And Chris Evert was, right from the start, despite their intense rivalry, one of Martina’s stoutest defenders, allies and friends. With this omission in mind, he asked his students to work in small groups on an assignment to update the book by developing these “missing pages” of the text using developmentally appropriate language and a similar visual style.
As part of their preparation for this assignment, students read other picture books that featured LGBTQ characters and themes, books about allies and upstanders and research on best practices for how to talk in age-appropriate ways with elementary school students. Additionally, students spent time conducting interviews with teachers Diane Berin and Miriam Pickus and Library and Information Services Specialist Mary Catherine Coleman to get a better understanding of how Parker teachers discuss and approach these issues in the classrooms.
Students collaborated with peers in Upper School teacher Travis Chandler’s Photoshop class to illustrate the new pages and ensure the new additions maintained the illustration style of the rest of the book. They then determined the best way to insert their new pages into a few copies of the book (to be used on classroom visits) so that the new expanded book appeared seamless and professional. Students also updated and revised the teacher’s guide that Candlewick Press produced to go with the book to include the new themes.
With their updated version of Martina & Chrissie in hand, these students visited Lower School classrooms where they read the book and led discussions about the themes reflected in the text. Younger and older students alike left this experience with a better sense of what it means to have courage in yourself, to stand up for what is right even when a majority of people don’t agree and maintain a friendship with one’s rivals and competitors. 

Enjoy this student-created video depicting each step of this project!
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.