Once a year, The Willows departs from the day-to-day school curriculum to offer a week-long, in-depth, multi-age, cross-disciplinary study of one theme. Intersession offers a different approach to project-based, experiential learning and an opportunity to fully integrate our disciplines in a fresh, illuminating academic experience. As historian, educator, and author Ken Bain explains, “Deep learners…grapple with ideas, concepts, and the implications and applications of those ideas and concepts.”
Intersession fosters deep learning and offers:
- Collaboration between students of different ages
- Departure from regularly scheduled units of study to focus intensely on one multi-age group project
- Deep thinking and exploration, problem solving, planning, organizing, executing (critical executive function skills)
- Uninterrupted blocks of time to engage deeply
- Opportunity to investigate a theme, problem, subject, challenge, or activity from new perspectives
- A vibrant academic experience shared between students and teachers
- Teachers a time to further integrate subjects and gain ideas for new ways to approach material
Tony Wagner, formerly of the Harvard Innovation Lab, and currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute, lays out seven “survival skills” that he sees as critical to success in the classroom and life. The survival skills – critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurship, effective oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, curiosity and imagination – are all practiced during Intersession, where students engage deeply in joyful and meaning learning.
Design Thinking for an intended audience, planning & sequencing, interpretation of different possible outcomes, evaluating and prioritizing, sequencing, interpretation of different possible outcomes, physics and math skills, evaluating and prioritizing are just some of the many skills being developed during Intersession.
When we return to campus in January after Winter Break, the entire school will participate in Intersession. Then, intersession projects are shared with our community at Family Ed Night on January 15, 2020.
A few of our offerings include:
1st and 2nd grade will be designing and building a city. Using the Design Thinking process, students will begin the week by learning how to use the tools and materials to create a structure for a specific Client.” Through use of an empathy map, students will develop an understanding of their client’s needs; they will define or combine their research to see where problems exist for their client; they will ideate or generate their ideas; prototype their structure; and test their buildings by discussing their creations with other students. As the week unfolds, the students will be using the design thinking process to create a city (using cardboard and other recycled materials) to meet the client’s needs and desires. The 1st and 2nd graders will work together to transform our DK-@ Lower School building into a sprawling Willows City. The reDiscover Center, an organization devoted to developing children’s creativity through hands-on making with sustainable materials, will work alongside teachers to help students create a large-scale version of a component of their city, a massive structure that students can occupy.
In this 3rd – 5th grade class, students will explore different bridge designs, including suspension bridges, rope bridges, and arch bridges! Then, they will be challenged to use materials such as spaghetti, rope, and playing cards to create different bridge designs. Teams will put their bridges to the test in competitions, and everyone will collaborate to create a rope bridge that can hold human weight.
Catapults: The Tie That Binds Science, Latin, and Math
Weaving together Latin, math, and science, Middle School students will design and fabricate a working catapult. Each group will decide on a type (standard, weighted, or ballista), then build it from the base up. Next, they will study the physics of projectile motion and test to see which catapult design launches the farthest. The most successful catapult will be entered in a competition at the state Latin convention.