7/3/19—Students in the Women’s History elective at St. Paul’s School for Girls (SPSG) spent two months researching, designing, and building an exhibit on the history of SPSG for Alumnae Weekend. Beginning with primary source research in the school’s archives, students brainstormed topics of interest, research questions, and initial ideas. Small groups then worked to further develop, curate, and build all materials needed for the exhibit using the school’s maker space, including wood plaques, 3D models of the school’s buildings using original blueprints, and lithophane light boxes.
Students examined how SPSG has embraced change in many areas of school life over the years, such as in the academic program, student life, and graduation ceremonies, yet has remained rooted in the Episcopal values of inclusivity and respect. As the students outlined in their class proposal, “The main idea of the exhibit is to express how St. Paul’s School for Girls has changed through the years but has also remained grounded in its values and tradition. The alumnae who return to SPSG for Green and White Weekend will leave the exhibit with a sense of pride in seeing what the school has accomplished since they graduated.”
In addition to the exhibit, students conducted oral history interviews with several alumnae during reunion weekend and created podcasts about SPSG’s history and the student experience, which can be found here.
7/2/19—As I reflect on our 2019 NCGS Conference hosted so graciously by Westridge School in Pasadena, CA, I can’t help but be proud of the work our girls’ schools do to nurture leaders today and for tomorrow.
What better message from our conference theme than to encourage girls and young women to dream, to dare, and to do, particularly at a time when change is constant and so many exciting and new opportunities lie ahead. As educators of girls and young women, we know our girls can—and should be—leading this change. Why? Because our girls have the power to be thoughtful problem solvers, creative thinkers, and empathetic change-agents.
With exceptional panels, a breadth of breakout sessions, thought-provoking INSPIRE! and SNAP! gatherings, and hands-on workshops, we hope participants at Dream, Dare, Do: Girls as Makers, Inventors, Engineers, and Entrepreneurs left our conference with new ideas, great connections, and excitement.
To take an idea beyond a dream and risk trying it out requires that our girls have not just the ability, but the confidence, to be resilient and nimble, regardless of the discipline. Our roles as educators is to facilitate the development of these important traits in our girls through encouragement and role-modeling.
As a Coalition, our purpose is to be the leading advocate for girls’ schools, connecting and collaborating globally with individuals, schools, and organizations dedicated to educating and empowering girls. In doing so, we, too, dream, dare, and do—and thus, are role models for what we wish for our girls.
Last month, I completed my term as President of the NCGS Board of Trustees. I have spent a great deal of time over the last week reflecting on the superb work that Megan Murphy, our Executive Director, and her team have accomplished by dreaming, daring, and doing. Just some of this work over the last three years includes enhanced and streamlined communications and a superb new website, remarkable and ongoing diverse professional development opportunities, cutting edge research and an exciting new Global Action Research Collaborative on Girls’ Education, and membership growth nationally and internationally of independent, charter, public, and religiously affiliated schools dedicated to the education of girls.
To all of you working hard to educate girls and young women—thank you! Make no mistake that your work is enabling our girls to dream, to dare, and to do.
6/18/19—Balmoral Hall School student Mia B. ’19 was recently selected to receive an $80,000 Schulich Leader Scholarship for her university studies. Mia plans on studying Computer Science at the University of Manitoba. Only 50 Schulich Leader Scholarships, the largest STEM scholarships in Canada, are awarded annually to “the next generation of technology innovators” who “will make great contributions to society, both on a national and global scale.”
“Mia demonstrates the boundless capabilities of women leading the STEM fields,” said Jennifer McDonald, Balmoral Hall’s University Guidance Advisor. “She has volunteered in Junior School classrooms to assist students as they explore physics and simple machines with confidence. With the middle and senior school robotics clubs, she has applied her knowledge and mentored teams as they develop their skills.”
“Mia empowers the younger girls to defy expectations and to feel as confident as she does in pursuing her passions and interests,” added Dr. Patricia Mitchler, a physics teacher at Balmoral Hall.
6/14/19—Beth Alexander, a STEM teacher at The Linden School, was recently awarded a Lowell Milken Centre (LMC) Fellowship in recognition of her achievements in teaching understanding and respect through project-based learning. The fellowship will allow Alexander to spend a week at The Lowell Milken Centre in Fort Hood, Kansas, where she will network and collaborate with top educators from around the world to enhance student learning experiences and learn new tools to draw out the highest potential from students.
Alexander has taught at Linden for 15 years, where she currentlyserves as Curriculum Leader and runs the CERES Lab for coding, engineering, robotics, electronics, and science. She is known for her high-energy lessons and for her ability to encourage students who have had difficulty with STEM classes in the past. She organizes an annual conference, “Teaching for Justice,” which is a gathering place for educators wanting to move beyond the curriculum and make the world a more equitable place. She has also developed community programs for at-risk youth and volunteered on a crisis line.
LMC Executive Director Norm Conard said, “By helping young girls to see their own potential, [Alexander] encourages them to realize their dreams and make a difference in the world around them. Her energy, passion, and enthusiasm are the very traits that make her an outstanding fellow.”
6/12/19—Arda Thomson, a Kindergarten teacher at Balmoral Hall School, recently won the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in STEM Certificate of Achievement.
The Canadian Innovation, Science and Economic Development department, which awards one certificate per territory, announced, “Bringing up the next generation of scientists and engineers, (Mrs. Thomson) introduces the scientific method and design process, focusing class work around tinkering and building; very young girls build structures and learn to use tools.”
Thomson shared, “This is for all the people I work with. We constantly collaborate.”
6/11/19—The Ethel Walker School recently received a prestigious $250,000 Edward E. Ford Foundation Educational Leadership Grant to support the school’s new Capabilities Approach program. This grant requires a 1:1 match from the school community, and only six schools nationally were selected for this honor.
Capabilities Approach arms students with the skills needed to become lasting leaders and social justice advocates. The program focuses on the acquisition of a constellation of skills that allow for challenge and failure, with the end goal being a comprehensive understanding of each skill. The ten capabilities are divided into four categories—fluencies, discoveries, agencies, and a self-selected capability—and range from self-defense to financial fluency to sustenance and sustainability and more. The program is intended to promote collaboration and teamwork, and it embraces a “bolstering” model of learning that rewards both individual resiliency and supportiveness towards other students.
“At Walker’s, we are reimagining girls’ education in a way that seeks to disrupt gendered mindsets. This program will help us create an environment where girls will bolster each other to achieve functional mastery of a variety of capabilities,” said Walker’s Head of School Dr. Meera Viswanathan. “I was drawn to the thinking of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and his work on justice and the capabilities approach. He suggests that justice is measured by the ability of a person to engage in an array of actions or ‘do-ings’ that help one realize one’s full potential according to one’s own system of values. Walker’s Capabilities Approach is inspired by Sen’s research and will focus more specifically on the iterative process of success and failure as necessary stages of girls’ learning.”
6/7/19—Madeira School junior Tarina A. ’20 recently spoke at the 2019 Madeleine Albright Luncheon, an annual event celebrating advancements in women’s political empowerment. Other speakers included members of the U.S. Congress, prominent activists and journalists, and foreign dignitaries.
Tarina, the only student speaker, gave a speech reflecting the luncheon’s theme of “Celebrating Risk-Takers for Women’s Empowerment.” She shared, “My speech was about what it means to be a young person taking risks and how the risks of other women have paved the way for my generation. Secretary Albright and Representative [Abigail] Spanberger, for instance, have taken risks to allow my generation to follow in their footsteps. They are the ones that have passed the baton and we are grateful for it.”
Susannah Wellford, President of Running Start, a nonprofit organization devoted to preparing young women to run for public office, explained why Tarina was selected to be the student speaker, “Tarina was a standout student at Running Start’s high school program this past summer. I immediately thought of her when the National Democratic Institute reached out to us about having a Running Start young woman speak at the luncheon. Tarina exemplifies what Running Start stands for: she is confident, passionate about creating change, and is already a powerful voice for her generation.”
“Our world is yearning for new voices,” proclaimed Tarina. “Voices of women who are fearless, change-oriented, have an ideal outlook of what the world could be. I and women in general belong in politics and our voices matter.”
Tarina’s speech can be viewed here:
6/5/19—The Elmwood School Board of Governors recently announced the appointment of James Whitehouse as the new Head of School, beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.
Whitehouse has been Elmwood’s Deputy Head of the Middle and Senior Schools since 2012 and has had a profoundly influential tenure. Previously, he was an Assistant Head at Seven Kings High School in London, one of the top twelve state schools in the U.K.
Whitehouse remarked, “Since the day I joined Elmwood, I have been extremely grateful to work in such an innovative and collaborative school community surrounded by a family of learners… I am excited to work alongside our board, staff, students, and parents to fulfill our commitment to our strategic pillars focusing on academics, the whole girl, our community, faculty, and sustainability. It is, however, our students who are the most important to me as I take on this exciting role. The girls make Elmwood the unique and special place it is today, and my commitment is to them and the future that we will create together.”
6/3/19—Stoneleigh-Burnham School (SBS) student Jacqueline “Jax” M. ’19 recently brought home two trophies from the World Individual Debate and Public Speaking Championship hosted at fellow girls’ school Branksome Hall in Toronto, Canada. She earned third overall in both Interpretive Reading and in After Dinner Speaking.
Jax represented SBS on the U.S. team joining 160 competitors from around the world, which competed in three rounds a day over four days in four different events, including one round partnering with another student.
SBS Debate Coach Karen Suchenski reported that Jax was graceful under pressure, showed stamina over the competition, and congratulated other competitors, displaying the girls’ school characteristics of “grit, grace, humility, and teamwork.”
The Debate and Public Speaking Society is one of SBS’s signature programs, and Jax joins an elite group of former competitors. She is the 18th debater in the school’s history to qualify for the world competition and the 7th to do so in the past five years.
5/31/19—The Ethel Walker School’s a cappella group, the Grapes, participated in the largest scholastic a cappella competition in New England, the Wyvern Invitational a Cappella Festival held at Kingswood-Oxford School.
For the second time in their history, the Grapes were awarded the Gold Citation – Best in Show for their performances. The group also received the Best Student Directors award, and senior Liz H. ’19 was the first female the competition’s history to advance to the beatboxing finals.
The performances, arranged by Music Department Chair Laurie MacAlpine and directed by Grapes Co-Heads Mari D. ’19, Katherine D. ’19, and Bella M. ’19, featured complex harmonies, choreography, vocal percussion, and strong solos.
5/29/19—The Linden School’s co-founders, Diane Goudie and Eleanor Moore, recently received the 2019 Women of Distinction Award by YWCA Toronto. The award denotes success in five areas: commitment and advocacy in improving the lives of girls and women; being role models and door openers to help women achieve greater independence and success in traditional and non-traditional careers; breaking new ground and old barriers; being agents for change; and commitment to equity across barriers including gender, race, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation.
Goudie and Moore are trailblazers in all-girls education having introduced feminist pedagogy to Toronto and creating tangible, structural change in how girls socialize, learn, and engage with their studies to overcome gender-based bias. Reflecting on their accomplishment, the co-founders said, “When we founded Linden, girls told us that they had felt silenced in their schools. Therefore, enabling our students to have a voice is an essential tenet at Linden, as it is in all quests for equity, liberation and change. In our curriculum and structures, we teach our students to ask: Who speaks? Who is heard? Who is missing? And who decides who has the voice at any given time and in any place?”
Emma Warnken Johnson ’04, a Linden alumna and member of the school’s Board of Trustees, noted, “Teaching young women to think critically about the world around them—and then go out and improve the world for other women and girls—has never been more important. It was Diane and Eleanor’s fierce determination that created a community in Toronto where girls learn to do just that.”
5/24/19—Hockaday’s middle school robotics team, Saturn V Girls, were in Houston last month to compete at the World Festival, a celebration of champions who competed and won in the 2019 FIRST LEGO League season.
Among a field of 469 teams, they took the first place Champions Award at the North Texas FIRST LEGO League Regional Championship Robotics Tournament in February. “Our team is all girls, and it’s important to have girls in STEM. And we’ve been inspired by astronauts in space,” said team member Jana D.
Team member Anika K. explained, “Every year there’s a theme that has to do with a real-world problem, and this [year] it’s Into Orbit and helping astronauts on either a physical or mental problem they face in the real world on long distance spacecraft. People are wanting to get to Mars, so this is how we can help, and it’s kids’ ideas.”
Starting in August, Saturn V Girls researched and studied contemporary problems in space and designed innovative solutions using the STEM skills they learned in the Hockaday classroom. The girls identified an issue that could be solved with an unconventional approach: scratch-n-sniff stickers.
“In space, there’s no gravity so the body fluids of an astronaut rise up and it feels like you have a head cold all the time. Since taste is 80% smell, the astronauts can’t taste,” Anika K. explained. “So this would allow them to taste what food actually tastes like.”
“These skills they’re learning through the core values, the gracious professionalism, the treating others with respect, collaboration as team will pay off as they move forward in college and careers,” said Terera Lenlig, VP of School and Community Engagement at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, which hosts the competition.