Programs are the threads that make the Wooster tapestry so intricate and strong. When we engaged in our Making Thinking Visible work this year, we began to strengthen our teachers understanding of how students learn, and how best to work with each other. Because of the positive returns on this work in our learning environments, this work will continue into the future.
While we know that all learning starts with thinking, we also know that being able to move through a process of questioning, problem-framing, and problem-solving requires the development of other skills as well. So, teaching students how to observe, take notes, write, compute, discuss, and present should also be intentionally woven into our curriculum K-12. As such, we have strengthened our professional learning program for teachers through the development of collaborative work groups and by sharpening our focus on our core curriculum and its alignment over grades K through 12. This is ongoing work that will improve our programs as a matter of our daily work. On a larger scale, we are introducing several exciting program enhancements in 2014-15 to help develop core skills in more deliberate and effective ways.
Writing has been referred to as “thinking at the point of a pen,” or these days, a keyboard. When looked at in the context of college and work, there are few skills that are more prized or useful than being able to effectively communicate an idea in writing. At Wooster, our goal is to develop writers who can use the writing process to develop, refine, and then communicate their thinking across disciplines. To help us create a more consistent approach to writing across grade levels, our Lower School and Middle School English teachers will be attending the Columbia University Teachers College Writing Program (TCWP) this summer. Adopting the core tenets and practices of the TCWP will help us to align our writing program K-12. In 2014-15, we will also be implementing our 9th Grade Reading and Writing Project, which will be the core humanities class for all 9th graders and will be linked to our 10th Grade Humanities Program. Both programs are designed to develop the thinking and writing skills necessary to produce the kinds of effective, deep thinking and learning that will be necessary for a successful Upper School student. In 2014-15 we also expect to implement a tutorial program in the English and History classes for 11th and 12th graders based upon the Williams College tutorial model.
“Ideation” is a new word invented to reflect one of the most important skills of the modern era – the ability to imagine and design solutions to problems across multiple contexts. Ideation skills are best developed when students can engage in a process that allows them to generate their ideas and then design and MAKE solutions. All too often in schools, we stop short of allowing the creative solutions process to become real, thereby missing the opportunity to activate learning and the brain in more meaningful ways. Starting in 2014-15, Wooster will be launching its school-wide Maker program to get our students into the business of building their ideas. Supported by a generous donation from the Edelman family, the program will be designed to offer students at all grade levels experiences to think, design, and build in our state-of-the-art Maker Space in the Verdery Library. Middle and Upper School students will also have opportunities for after-school experiences and ultimately, a sequence of courses designed for those that want to pursue a passion for design, engineering, and/or making.
Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, Wooster School will be launching a redesigned Guidance Program to help each of our Upper School students explore his/her personal talents and interests with an eye toward the planning of their four years at Wooster and as a precursor to their college search process.
A core improvement to our existing program will be a greater utilization of the Naviance Program for Upper School students. Additional highlights of the enhanced program will include each 9th grade student meeting with our Upper School Guidance Counselor to create a 4-year plan based upon his/her interests and aspirations. Tenth graders and their parents will participate in a program to better understand PSAT and SAT testing, and the importance of framing the college search with personal strengths and interests. We will continue to enhance the effectiveness of our existing program, which currently begins in Eleventh Grade, including incorporating the writing of the personal essay into our core English curriculum for all Twelfth Grade students.
Finally, we will be redesigning our school profile to better reflect the unique experience that Wooster School students have during their time here. With that new profile in hand, our Director of Guidance, Head of Upper School, and Head of School will be visiting and/or making contact with numerous college admissions officers this summer to spread the good word about Wooster.
Beginning in November of 2013, Wooster employed the services of Tucker Hastings, French Teacher and Director of Foreign Travel for the Brunswick School, to work with faculty, students and community members on the redesign of our foreign language program. As of the printing of this plan, the results of his work are being distilled into guidelines and recommendations to help us chart the future course of this valuable discipline.
Starting in 2014-15, the management of athletics will be more tightly tied to our divisional leadership structure, giving us the opportunity to create athletic experiences that are in line with our high expectations for learning throughout the institution. Given the success of our pilot program this year with 7/8 basketball, we will be expanding our middle school athletic offerings and examining the possibility of after-school practices for certain advanced teams in 2014-15. Our advanced Middle School teams will also be participating in the more local Fairchester Athletic League in 2014-15. At the Upper School level, our emphasis will be on building the capacity of our teams and athletes by providing more opportunities for individual skill building (including summer programs), thereby helping us to field teams made up of students at the appropriate grade levels. We will also continue to pursue coaches for our teams who have a deep knowledge of their sports and a talent for building student skills and successful programs. We are excited to be bringing back Boys Lacrosse this year and will be exploring the possibility of our Upper School teams also entering the Fairchester League at the appropriate time in the future.
Diversity and the cultivation of an international perspective are integral parts of Wooster’s past and present, and with the “flattening” of the world, building our students’ understanding of other cultures and peoples will be key to their success in the future. As a part of our efforts to broaden our international perspective, starting in 2014-15, Wooster will be partnering with the Cambridge Institute for International Education (http://www.thecambridgeinstitute.org/highschool.php), on bringing several Chinese students in to our Upper School. Under the auspices of Cambridge’s partner company, Green Planet (http://www.gbhomestay.com) these students will be placed with local families for the duration of their stay at Wooster. More information about this program will be forthcoming.
Under the direction of our new Director of Innovation and Technology, Wooster will be building a comprehensive technology-learning continuum for our students K-12. Using our new Makerspace as one building block and our growing strength as a Google school as another, we will be increasing our capacity to prepare our students to be creators, not just consumers, of technology.