INSPIRE! Sessions

INSPIRE! Sessions are interactive 25-minute “speed innovating” mini-roundtables designed to share ideas and foster small-group discussion

Alumnae Please! Proven and Effective Events to Engage Alumnae

This session will explain how the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur implemented several events to engage alumnae and showcase how our own graduates are the engineers, inventors, and entrepreneurships of today. Three events, STEM Day, Full STEAM Ahead and Sisters in STEM, will be highlighted. Participants will leave this session with the tools to plan and execute school-wide events that will engage alumnae and motivate students to Dream, Dare, and Do.

PRESENTER: Kim Eife, Director of High School | Academy of Notre Dame de Namur


Arts, Academics, and Activism: Shattering the Walls of the Classroom

As teachers, we know the best learning engages the world beyond school and that creative, interdisciplinary thinking cultivates maturity and self-esteem. But how can we infuse all of this into our teaching? In this session, learn methods for combining artistic expression, academic skills, and social activism. We present two methods: using music as a tool for diversity and inclusivity across disciplines, and a campaign for gender inclusion in curricula. Participants will leave with practical strategies to push girls to imagine new realities and dare to make change.

PRESENTERS: Elise Figa, Performing Arts Teacher/MS Co-curricular Program Coordinator, and Georgina Emerson, MS/US History Teacher | Hewitt School


Assistive Robotics: Preparing Girls to Pursue Engineering With A Human-Centered, Mission-Aligned Senior Design Project

Students in Engineering, a senior science elective, designed, prototyped and programmed an assistive robot to aid a neurologically impaired client complete a specific task. Working in a groups of 3, each team was given a profile of a fictional client who is diagnosed with a different neurological disease or disorder (i.e. Cerebral Palsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, spinal-cord injury, ALS). The client profiles were diverse in terms of age, gender, race, ethnicity, and need for robot. Use of the fabrication lab tools (i.e 3-D printer, laser cutter), understanding of circuits, and coding skills were all developed as students prototyped the assistive robots.

PRESENTER: Aruna Chavali, Physics & Engineering Teacher | Marymount School of New York


Bridging the Gap: Technology and Social-Emotional Learning

What began as unintentional integration of social-emotional learning (SEL) and technology has resulted in deliberately incorporating these important skills together in the classroom. We will share hands-on ways that our program integrates technology, curriculum, and the 5 SEL core competencies. We hope to inspire participants to empower their students to develop self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness (CASEL).

PRESENTERS: Karen Roberts, Lower School Technology Integration, and Michelle Goldsmith, Lower School Technology Integration | The Hockaday School


Building a Fun and Exciting Computer Science Curriculum

Five years ago we started a new computer science program at Marlborough School with the first introductory coding class. Since then we have grown the program to include middle school electives, advanced courses, and coding in various math and science classes. We now have students who have been studying computer science for 3 or more years, and are working on projects involving data analysis and interpretation, microcontrollers and sensors, 3D computer graphics, virtual reality, and interactive music visualizations and projections. In this session, I will show how the combination of a vibrant academic culture, strong support from the administration, emphasis on student-directed creative projects, and open source software has led to a fun and exciting computer science curriculum.

PRESENTER: Darren Kessner, STEM+ Program Co-Head / Math and Computer Science Instructor | Marlborough School


Building a Ladder to the Diving Board: Preparing Students to Plunge into Language

As world language teachers, our goal is for students to be able to speak spontaneously and fluidly in a language other than English. What tools do we provide students and what benchmarks do we have in place to let us know they are getting there? This session will present strategies that promote risk-taking and use mistake-making to improve confidence and competence in world language, notably in speaking. We will specifically outline the scaffolding in place in our program from level 1 to AP and share projects and pedagogical tools that support this.

PRESENTERS: Travis Nesbitt, World Language Department Chair, French Teacher, and Talis Geffen, Spanish Teacher | The Archer School for Girls


Changing from a Library to a Learning Commons

Listen to how an all girls 5-12 school transformed their library into a learning commons. Learn strategies to change from a quiet individual study space into an open work space where students can collaborate all day everyday. Gone are the days of the silent library where students are shushed. Students use the learning commons as an academic hub to study with a partner, finish a group project, or just ask questions to anyone around them. We expect our students to utilize every resource available to them. Now they can have a space where they can do that everyday!

PRESENTER: Erin Moyer, Director of Library Media Services | St. Paul’s School for Girls


Classroom as Laboratory: Experimentation to Presentation and the Messy Middle

Hear how our classrooms have become a laboratories where students feel safe to experiment and explore their creative potential. The Social Emotional Learning protocols we use in our dance and speech classes allow students to feel comfortable exploring their creative voice and using it to make art with purpose and intent. They then connect by sharing and responding to each other’s work using clearly defined language inspired by the Project Zero “See, Think, Wonder” protocol. We will engage in conversation around how to bring these protocols into your classrooms and content areas to embrace your classroom as a laboratory.

PRESENTER: Sarah Roney, Director of Dance, Wellness Coordinator | Holton-Arms School


Counting Grains of Sand: Inspiring Students to do the Impossible

Would you give fourth-grade students a pinch of sand and ask them to count the grains? What would you do if second-grade girls asked to build fidget-spinners? Are you prepared for what might go wrong? Are they? How can learning opportunities be not only failures, but also successes? Simple: encourage girls to reach beyond their comfort zones. By teaching them the fundamental skills that frame research and inquiry, you will build the box for your students to think outside of. Then you can set your students free to dare, dream, and do so they surpass their own, and your, expectations.

PRESENTERS: Chandra Wiegand, Teacher, and Allison Holmes, Teacher | Elmwood School


Create, Collaborate, Innovate: How and Why Maker Education Works!

At The Hockaday School we’ve been teaching our fourth-grade maker education course for five years. Developing this course itself through an iterative design process, we have learned so much about what works well and not so well for us in maker education. Attendees at this session can expect to: gain a deeper understanding of maker ed, discuss maker ed with other like-minded educators, and walk away with a list of maker ed resources. Whether you want to get started with maker ed or you’re excited to network with other educators about the lessons you’ve learned, this session is for YOU!

PRESENTER: Amy Banks, Lower School Science Coordinator | The Hockaday School


Effective Visual Storytelling with Girls in Education

Girls and identifying people are not always portrayed in school marketing and admission material as the strong, confident, and excellent selves they are. This session will identify effective photography and visual storytelling examples that best represent girls and people in a school environment. A review of how to make effective photography and stories from a feminist perspective will be addressed.

PRESENTER: Scott Nichols, Director of Digital Communications | The Webb Schools


Empowering Girls Voices through Student Media

Research shows that girls are censored more often than boys in student media programs. What happens when girls’ schools relinquish control of student media and allow student editors to make all decisions about content? I will share my personal experiences at my own school and my research at another girls’ school with a student-run journalism program to show how student-controlled media programs empower girls.

PRESENTER: Kristin Taylor, English & Journalism Teacher | The Archer School for Girls


Engineering and Humanity: A Lens for High School Engineering Curricula

The proposed session will explore the development and testing of three engineering courses that are designed to explore engineering in a liberal arts context and attend to the mission and culture of the Kent Place School, an all-girls, non-sectarian school. The three courses offer a suite of curricular options for students to explore, create, engineer, and collaborate. The project-based, critical reading curriculum of each course aims to enhance students’ engineering content knowledge and affect. Engineering content knowledge includes scientific, mathematical, technical, critical thinking, systems thinking, problem solving, interpersonal, and communication skills. Engineering affect includes students’ motivation, attitudes, beliefs, and self-efficacy.

PRESENTER: Evelyn Laffey, Math Faculty & STEM Coordinator | Kent Place School


Expectations of Brilliance: How field-specific assumptions result in female under-representation

This session will present the latest research on gender representation in various fields, highlighting Cimpian’s (2015) Field-Specific Ability Hypothesis: that women are less likely to pursue careers fields that are assumed to require “brilliance” or “genius” (such as physics, mathematics, economics, philosophy, and music composition). Application of these findings to the way we portray these fields to female students, the language we use, and the models we present, will be discussed. I will tie these ideas into my action research project, accepted for publication in the Canadian Journal of Action Research.

PRESENTER: Anne Bonnycastle, Music Coordinator | Crofton House School


FutureMakers: An interdisciplinary research program for 8th grade girls

FutureMakers is an innovative 4-month program in which each student researches a topic of her choice, makes predictions about the future based on past data, and presents her findings in a student-run conference. Guest experts are invited to the forum to provide authentic feedback, not grades. Our girls dress professionally, run the registration table, escort guests to classrooms, present research, and lead follow-up Q&A discussions. In this session, you’ll use the Desmos online graphing calculator to predict the future for your chosen topic, and you’ll experience the process by which teachers provide student choice and motivation throughout this interdisciplinary program.

PRESENTER: K. Brett Degnan, Mathematics Teacher | St. Catherine’s School


Gigantic Technological Thinking in the Early Years

Our youngest learners have enormous ideas and deserve access to real tools and real vocabulary as they explore technology. This session is intended to share strategies and activities we explored in our JK-2 CERES (coding, engineering, robotics, electronics, and science) classes, including Tessellating Turtles and Plastic-Waste Jellyfish. What worked? Setting the technological bar really high. What didn’t? Many things, and we’re happy to share! We’ve learned a lot about materials management, task sequencing, and how to manage projects within a diverse group of learners.

PRESENTER: Beth Alexander, Curriculum Leader, STEM | The Linden School


Girls and Coding: Celebrating Success!

According to the National Girls’ Collaborative Project, women received only 18.2% of the bachelor’s degrees in computer science in 2011. Yet, as more girls pursue computer science courses in K-12, the members of CODE at the Marymount School of New York sought to recognize the success of their peers by creating the National Computer Science Honor Society. Come hear from the student coordinators as they discuss how they developed and built the organization, built sponsorships, and promoted the NCSHS to all-girls schools. Learn how your school can start a NCSHS chapter today! (Website: cshonorsociety.org)

PRESENTER: Eric Walters, Director of STEM Education | Marymount School of New York


HERSTORY: Disrupting and Diversifying Curriculum to Empower the Female Voice

Changing the narrative means changing how we use language to educate girls. This session will highlight how to develop curriculum that empowers diverse female voices, gives girls the autonomy to discover and develop their own voices, and disrupts language that perpetuates patriarchal ideals. Attendees will leave with a process they can implement in their own schools and specific examples of how to transform traditional curriculum into empowering learning experiences.

PRESENTER: Angela Gascho, English Department Chairperson | Academy of Our Lady of Peace


I Can… I Am: Empowering Students with Disabilities to Own Their Pathways

Girls’ schools provide young women the opportunity to chart their own pathways as they navigate through the Upper School experience into the collegiate setting. For students qualifying for accommodations under ADA, this journey incorporates a need to understand and manage additional knowledge, information, and experiences. Through mentoring and partnerships with Upper School Learning Support, College Counseling, and faculty, students become responsible for understanding their own needs, ensure they can access curriculum and learning, and use their initiative to drive their own unique journeys.

PRESENTER: Shelley Cave, Director of Learning Support | The Hockaday School


Imagine and Create: Engaging Students with Technology

Students thrive when given unique and captivating experiences. During this session, we will look at the use of 3D scanning and printing, virtual reality, a variety of code-controlled devices, and other means of engaging students. We will focus on projects that excite and inspire students to create imaginatively. Most important, we will look at the ways in which students build confidence by tackling the challenges presented through learning and using unfamiliar technology.

PRESENTER: Will Glass, Director of Library Services and Makerspace | Girls Preparatory School


Innovation Across the Curriculum: The Dream of a “Maker” Culture

After designing and creating an Innovation Lab last year, a team of Foxcroft School students and faculty turned to promoting its use in daring and creative ways. This session details the team’s efforts to broaden the implementation of the Innovation Lab tools beyond STEM classes, creating a school culture where Humanities teachers also feel confident using these resources, and in some cases, even lead the charge to do so. This work involves fundamentally changing how teachers approach designing class projects and increasing their comfort level in taking risks alongside their students. Presenters also address the day-to-day realities of running an Innovation Lab and the opportunities and challenges it presents.

PRESENTERS: Kristine Varney, Director of STEM Education, and Alex Northrup, Director of Educational Technology | Foxcroft School


Innovative Solutions to Disorders and Disease: A Senior Biology Exploration

How can a Senior Biology class promote students’ imagination, innovation, and collaboration to address current health problems? How can teachers instil empathy and appreciation for those suffering with disease? In this session, attendees will: 1) learn about the Design Thinking process and how it can be translated in a Senior Biology course; 2) learn how to assess student knowledge and thinking by promoting innovation and collaboration; and 3) be provided with resources and templates for use in their own classroom.

PRESENTERS: Genny Lee, Head of Science, and Heidi Miller, Senior Biology Teacher | The Bishop Strachan School


Makers and Movers: Creating entrepreneurs in a top London girls’ school

Many schools in the UK continue to offer the same curriculum as forty years ago and the same top-down teaching methods as the nineteenth century, yet we are now in what is called the fourth education revolution. Technology and AI, economic instability, and political unrest demand a new, creative approach. One school in London is leading the way in teaching enterprise and developing innovative thinking. With entrepreneurs-in-residence and every senior student learning to set up her own business, this school is enjoying exceptional success in both academic and pastoral spheres.

PRESENTER: Lucy Elphinstone, Headmistress | Francis Holland School


Que Hora Es? Applying STEM to Spanish Class

We will include an in-depth description of a STEM-centric Foreign Language lesson plan we have executed in a partnership between our STEM Lab and Spanish 1 class. Students digitally draft clock-faces in Inkscape, and then lasercut and assemble them. These custom clocks are then used as tools in time telling in different ways. This adds a global perspective allowing students inroads to discussing time and scheduling preferences for different countries. The final product of the lesson is a student presentation covering how to tell time using their clock and illustrating different activities over the course of a day.

PRESENTERS: Claire Luikart, Director Andrea Clesi McMakin ’74 STEM Lab, and Ghedy Matus, Spanish I Instructor | St. Joseph’s Academy


Take & Make: Inspiring DIY Learning

Take & Make Kits @ Baldwin Libraries encourage creativity and self-directed learning. These popular take-home kits range from basic crafts like knitting to technology-focused activities like Snap Circuits and Osmo. They integrate learning from a variety of areas including music, science, art, maker education, and more! Maker kits offer a way to extend the impact and visibility of your maker program or to introduce a maker program on a small scale. Educators will hear what we learned from our successes and failures and will leave with an outline of steps to get started with an exciting maker kit program tailored to their own school initiatives.

PRESENTER: Emily Woodward, Lower School Library Media Specialist | The Baldwin School


Teach Her to Memorize or Teach Her to Change the World?

As educators, we are tasked with erasing generational stigmas which continue to impact women today. Follow the nation’s first all-girls STEM-certified school as they use a performance-based curriculum to shift this perception through strategies such as 20Time, design thinking, action research, and service learning. Participants will explore how to develop essential questions, create meaningful assessments, and design effective rubrics which challenge students to be innovative thinkers. Measurable results will be shared to demonstrate the impact of this unique curriculum. Ultimately, this session will answer the question: how can we teach students to be confident, take risks, and change the world?

PRESENTER: Sarah Peace, Principal | Mercy Academy


Tear Down the Walls!

How can girls’ schools and other woman-focused institutions initiate, maintain, and deepen connections with one another to advance women’s careers in the public sphere? How can existing women’s and progressive institutions work together to facilitate dialogue and cooperation and eliminate silos? How can we collaborate to advance women’s careers, voices, campaigns, and authority in the public sphere? How can we form the infrastructure to fund and promote our students’ ideas? How can we support our alumnae across institutions in creating woman-friendly workplaces? How can we leverage our connections to support women in public life beyond the secondary and tertiary level?

PRESENTER: Carlynn Houghton, Upper School English Teacher | The Chapin


Think, Make, Share: Creating Creators

Carondelet High School initiated a grade 9 yearlong course entitled Think, Make, Share. The objectives of this new course are: celebrating risk-taking, emphasizing problem-solving and creativity, and developing the skills required to be part of a team. Taught by a team of four teachers, we use the disciplines of art, music, computer science, and information literacy to reach our goals. This workshop includes an overview of the course, logistics behind the course including scheduling and grading, discussion of what worked and did not this first year, and the opportunity for participants to engage in mini-lessons and challenges from course itself.

PRESENTERS: Joan Tracy, Director of Academic Technology, and Amy Way, Visual and Performing Arts Department Chair | Carondelet High School


Using The Handmaid’s Tale to Bridge the Gender Gap in Computer Science

This session looks at how studying Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale supported a collaboration between two classes at Lincoln School: Language and Power, and Advanced Computer Science Seminar. By examining a narrative about patriarchy, power, and prejudice in which computer technology is synonymous with control, this cooperative effort introduced participants to the topics of Big Data, Surveillance, and Internet Privacy. Infusing Computer Science in interesting and accessible ways during seemingly unrelated classes, educators can lower the high stakes entry point to get more girls and young women involved, sparking an interest they will take with them into the future.

PRESENTERS: Heather Swift, Computer Science/Robotics Teacher; Martha Douglas-Osmundson, English Department Faculty, Shakespeare in the City Coordinator; and Emma Stenberg, English Teacher | Lincoln School


With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: A student-run graphic novel unit

Participants of this session will learn how to structure a student-led unit that lets girls unleash their creativity with a unique sense of purpose. To study graphic novels in English 9, students in small groups plan all aspects of the unit, including the schedule and all assessments. The girls also work in groups to produce their own graphic novels. The unit culminates with a Graphic Novel Showcase at which the girls sell their comic books to classmates and teachers. Student evaluations of the unit will be shared. Participants will leave with tools and ideas for creating their own student-led unit.

PRESENTER: Patricia Harpring, English Faculty/Learning Enhancement Coordinator | Laurel School 


Without Bounds: Unconventional Curriculum Discussion

If we are preparing students for a future we do not know, how do we give them the most meaningful education experience? Come together to brainstorm and pitch curriculum ideas (e.g. programs, projects, or assignments) that blur lines between disciplines and challenge the conventional. There will be a thought-provoking activity to help generate discussion.

PRESENTER: Adrian Skrentny, Director of Design Engineering and Academic Data | Marymount High School