What Is Equity In Independent Schools?

While giving a tour of our school last week, I walked into our 8th class during an activity exploring the concept of the cultural iceberg model. Student took turns completing the the statement: “people think I’m _____, but really I’m _____. There were so many powerful elements of the exercise: trust, honesty, self-awareness, other-awareness…Our students have been engaged in the conversation about diversity and inclusivity alongside the faculty this year.

Inclusivity in the Library

You may have heard some discussions about culture and inclusivity at Soundview in the past year. Similar discussions are happening in parts of the kidlit community (including librarians, teachers, authors, illustrators, and others involved in children’s literature). I realized the work of these communities should also be reflected in the Soundview library. The library nurtures students’ reading lives, which are part of the journey to become knowledgeable, compassionate, and ethical citizens and leaders. Data supports this idea; reading literary fiction improves an individual’s ability to empathize. 

An Update From The Soundview Boardroom

(written by Board President Vianne Reay)

One of the things I appreciate most about Chris Watson, our Head of School, is the way he listens.  Whether it is a student who is having a hard time, a staff member who has an idea to share or a parent with a concern, Chris and his staff will take the time to listen, really understand and take action.  As your Board of Trustees, we are listening to our community and taking to heart the values and concerns that you have.  

One of the things we are making a commitment to as a board is being more transparent about what we are doing.  To that end, I will be communicating with you each month after our board meeting to keep you up to date on what is happening at the board level.  

We’ve listened to your values through individual meetings with Chris, surveys, and interviews.  I want to thank you for your ongoing participation in all of these to give us a clear view of what is important to you: facilities, enrollment and the growth of the board.  

To address the facilities issue, we engaged the Harper Haines Group in the fall to conduct a feasibility study.  This Monday at our Board of Trustees meeting we heard a summary of the findings and a set of initial recommendations.  

While our program, curricula and current leadership are wonderful, our facilities don’t match that high level of quality. Despite our administration's steady progress on the facility, we are excited to plan for more significant improvements.  Although no decision has been made in regard to facilities, we are working on options for different scenarios on campus.  

There are still questions about the best course of action in regard to enrollment. To that end, we have begun an enrollment feasibility study in order to have a clearer picture about enrollment, based on trends and demographic information.  This work is being done by Ian Symmonds and Associates, whose team will be on campus April 1.  They will be working with the Harper Haines Group and the results will be shared at the retreat on May 15.  

Finally, I’d like to welcome two new trustees who were elected Monday night. Ben VandenBerghe is a partner in the law firm of Montgomery Purdue Blankinship Austin.  He is interested in diversity, facilities, and finance.   He believes that creative and challenging early education programs like IB and Soundview serve a critical role in our community.  Paul Carduner is a software engineer who built divvyshot.com that was acquired by Facebook.  Recently he founded Carduner Consulting, a company that works with technology companies of all sizes to build software for the modern web.   He is interested in education and how he can make an impact in the community.  Both Ben and Paul have already brought positive energy to the boardroom.  They represent a move forward toward our goal of having the Board of Trustees made up of one third parents, one third alumni parents and one third community members.

We want to keep listening to our community, not just in formal surveys and meetings.  Feel free to stop and talk with any of our trustees.    I look forward to talking with you soon!

Ben VandenBerghe

Ben VandenBerghe

Paul Carduner

Paul Carduner

 

 

    

 

 

 

A Framework For Developing Essential Skills: Analysis & Synthesis

In our last post, we described the transdisciplinary framework in the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program. Teaching and learning within this framework cultivates curiosity into inquiry, develops soft leadership skills (IB Learner Traits), and engages students at both conceptual and practical levels. The rationale for this framework is both developmental appropriateness and preparation to solve complex, unknown problems for the betterment of all people.

The IB Middle Years Program builds on the PYP framework by shifting to an interdisciplinary approach. The same rationale for the framework applies in the middle years. Students are ready to engage with the dominant structures (concepts, skills, essential questions) of the disciplines. They have a broadening sense of social justice and independence. And middle school students have a penchant to get deeply engaged in relevant content for short bursts at a time. 

MYP students take eight core classes: 

  1. Design Thinking: In this course, students apply practical and creative thinking skills to solve design problems. They explore the role of design in both historical and contemporary contexts. And they consider their responsibilities when making design decisions and taking action.
  2. Sciences: As they investigate real examples of science application, students discover the tensions and dependencies between science and morality, ethics, culture, economics, politics, and the environment.
  3. Mathematics: The MYP Mathematics framework encompasses number, algebra, geometry and trigonometry, statistics and probability. Students learn how to represent information, to explore and model situations, and to find solutions to familiar and unfamiliar problems. 
  4. Individuals and Societies: This course integrates multiple subject areas: history, geography, economics, global politics and international relations, civics, philosophy, sociology, business management, anthropology. The subjects build understanding and skills to inquire into all factors that affect individuals and societies in local and global contexts.
  5. Language and Literature: Language is central to the development of critical thinking. This course aims to provide individual and collaborative exploration and practice in six key areas: listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing, presenting. 
  6. Language Acquisition: The study of additional languages provides students with the opportunity to develop insights into the features, processes and crafts of language and the concept of culture, and to realize that there are diverse ways of living, viewing and behaving in the world. 
  7. The Arts: The arts stimulate young imaginations, challenge perceptions and develop creative and analytical skills. Involvement in the arts encourages students to understand the arts in context and the cultural histories of artworks, supporting the development of an inquiring and empathetic world view. Arts challenge and enrich personal identity and build awareness of the aesthetic in a real-world context. 
  8. Physical and Health Education: PHE focuses on both learning about and learning through physical activity. Both dimensions help students to develop Approaches To Learning (for another post) skills across the curriculum. 

Each of these eight courses are connected through the practice of the IB Learner Profile Traits, Global Contexts, Key Concepts, and Essential Debatable Questions. 

The Global Contexts ground units of study in real issues and applications. These are lens through which students see the content: 

  • Identities and Relationships
  • Personal and Cultural Identity
  • Orientations in Space and Time
  • Scientific and Technical Innovation
  • Fairness and Development
  • Globalization and Sustainability

Through the subject area, topic, and global context, we determine the "key concepts" for a unit. They can be one to three of the following: aesthetics, change, communication, communities, connections, creativity, culture, development, form, global interactions, identity, logic, perspective, relationships, time, place, and space, and systems.

A unit culminates as students consider the subject area (and connections to others), global context, key concepts, subject specific concepts and skills and grapple with an essential and debatable question or attempt to solve a complex problem. 

Here are examples of MYP units happening at Soundview today: 

Current units in science and design.

Current units in science and design.

Current units in mathematics.

Current units in mathematics.

When students complete the MYP grade 8 at Soundview, they engage in The Community Project, a student-directed, service-learning experience. Students participate in a sustained inquiry within a global context. One goal is to generate new insights and deepen understanding through in-depth investigation. Students are responsible for community-oriented action as a demonstration of their knowledge, skills, and attitudes. This is leadership.

The Soundview MYP experience is a deep-dive into the core disciplines, explored through relevant global contexts, with opportunities to apply skills and knowledge to real issues and problems in our communities. As a result of the PYP and MYP, students are intellectually curious, able to ask critical questions, apply lenses of the academic disciplines, and connect and apply their learning to finding innovative solutions - great preparation for high school and life!

Educational Framework For The Future

Several months ago, we described International Baccalaureate education. Over the last week or so, I've been in several discussions about the skill-sets we need to teach, in order to properly equip our students to solve the complex problems of the future. And I realized there are many more ways to describe the philosophy and impact of an IB education.  

Last week, Deborah Squires from Snohomish STEM Network talked with our parents about the importance of "soft skills" in the STEAM-disciplines: critical-thinking, creative problem-solving, design-thinking, communication, and working in teams. She talked about the need from students to practice making connections across a multitude of disciplines. 

The International Baccalaureate Learner Profile puts these skills and habits of mind at the foundation of an IB school experience: 

  1. Inquiry: We nurture our curiosity, developing skills for inquiry and research. We know how to learn independently and with others. We learn with enthusiasm and sustain our love of learning throughout life.
  2. Knowledge: We develop and use conceptual understanding, exploring knowledge across a range of disciplines. We engage with issues and ideas that have local and global significance. 
  3. Thinking: We use critical and creative thinking skills to analyse and take responsible action on complex problems. We exercise initiative in making reasoned, ethical decisions.
  4. Communication: We express ourselves confidently and creatively in more than one language and in many ways. We collaborate effectively, listening carefully to the perspectives of other individuals and groups.
  5. Principles: We act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness and justice, and with respect for the dignity and rights of people everywhere. We take responsibility for our actions and their consequences.
  6. Open-mindedness: We critically appreciate our own cultures and personal histories, as well as the values and traditions of others. We seek and evaluate a range of points of view, and we are willing to grow from the experience.
  7. Care: We show empathy, compassion and respect. We have a commitment to service, and we act to make a positive difference in the lives of others and in the world around us.
  8. Risk-taking: We approach uncertainty with forethought and determination; we work independently and cooperatively to explore new ideas and innovative strategies. We are resourceful and resilient in the face of challenges and change.
  9. Balance: We understand the importance of balancing different aspects of our lives—intellectual, physical, and emotional—to achieve well-being for ourselves and others. We recognize our interdependence with other people and with the world in which we live.
  10. Reflection: We thoughtfully consider the world and our own ideas and experience. We work to understand our strengths and weaknesses in order to support our learning and personal development.

But there's more that our students need to be effective problem-solvers and future change agents. A colleague wrote recently about the importance of transdisciplinary thinking. That is, thinking from the perspectives of the disciplines while making conceptual connections across disciplines to solve complex problems. 

The IB Primary Years Program is also called the Program of Inquiry. It is a transdisciplinary program built around six "transdisciplinary themes." The foundations of literacy and numeracy are interwoven into "units of inquiry." And each unit culminates in "student-driven action," an application of the transdisciplinary concepts and corresponding context and skills within any given unit topic. The transdisciplinary themes are: 

Several examples of transdisciplinary units happening now at Soundview.

Several examples of transdisciplinary units happening now at Soundview.

  1. Who We Are: An inquiry into the nature of the self; beliefs and values; personal, physical, mental, social and spiritual health; human relationships including families, friends, communities, and cultures; rights and responsibilities; and what it means to be human.

  2. Where We Are In Place And Time: An inquiry into orientation in place and time; personal histories; homes and journeys; the discoveries, explorations and migrations of humankind; and the relationships between and the interconnectedness of individuals and civilizations, from local and global perspectives.

  3. How We Express Ourselves: An inquiry into the ways in which we discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, beliefs and values; the ways in which we reflect on, extend and enjoy our creativity; our appreciation of the aesthetic.

  4. How The World Works: An inquiry into the natural world and its laws; the interaction between the natural world (physical and biological) and human societies; how humans use their understanding of scientific principles; and the impact of scientific and technological advances on society and on the environment.

  5. How We Organize Ourselves: An inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities; the structure and function of organizations; societal decision-making; economic activities and their impact on humankind and the environment.

  6. Sharing The Planet: An inquiry into rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources with other people and with other living things; communities and the relationships within and between them; access to equal opportunities; peace and conflict resolution.

Students explore these themes through a depth and breadth of related topics, planned collaboratively by the entire teaching team. In each unit, teachers define three or so "lines of inquiry." The rest of the teaching and learning explores students own questions, which they learn to ask using a framework of "key concepts," which include: form, function, causation, connection, change, perspective, responsibility, and reflection. 

Some key concepts and questions on walls in classrooms today. 

Some key concepts and questions on walls in classrooms today. 

Finally, students are asked to apply the concepts and skills acquired and explored in a unit of inquiry. This application should be in service of students' community - however they define that. 

See student work on display this Thursday at Exhibition Night. And look for more at how transdisciplinary learning becomes interdisciplinary in the Middle Years Program.

 

Coaching Communication Across The Curriculum

Communication is a core competency of leadership. To master all aspects of communication is a lifelong process. Great communicators cultivate an international perspective, personal identify, accurate and precise vocabulary, the disciplines of listening and observing, among many other skills and habits. This requires daily practice and coaching.

Soundview spends the entire month of March focused on the IB Learner Profile Trait of communication. We engage the school community in an open and active dialogue about what it means to "express ourselves confidently and creatively in more than one language and in many ways...to collaborate effectively, and listen carefully to the perspectives of other individuals and groups."

Coaching communications is not a curriculum unto itself - it needs multiple contexts for practice. Instead, it is purposefully embedded in all aspects of the school experience at Soundview. Here are some examples: 

Students learn that music communicates emotions and ideas much differently than words.

Students learn that music communicates emotions and ideas much differently than words.

Students learn the language of code and how to communicate in digital environments.

Students learn the language of code and how to communicate in digital environments.

Students learn the complexities of communicating through different media. 

Students learn the complexities of communicating through different media. 

Students learn to communicate with humor, drama, body movements, and timing.

Students learn to communicate with humor, drama, body movements, and timing.

Students learn to communicate through art. 

Students learn to communicate through art. 

To become effective and confident communicators, students should have opportunities to be coached at every grade level, by all teachers, and across all subject areas. That's what we aim to do!