Signature Threads: Leadership, E-STEAM, and Global Citizenship

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Part three in a five-part series of blog posts from Academic Dean Rebecca Redlon discussing the New Academic Vision at The Maine Girls’ Academy.

Mercy Matters: Incorporating Leadership, E-STEAM, and Global Citizenship

Once we had the framework of the Mercy Matters Program in place, we began looking at other educational facets important to our mission, including leadership, problem-solving, and global citizenship.  To a certain degree, these elements were already embedded in several of our course offerings, but we could see that we needed to do two things to better streamline the delivery for students: one, we needed to shift the order of some classes to better align with the capstone experience; two, we needed to add some key courses.

In the past, seniors were required to take a World Religion class; given the current global climate, we determined that the content of this course was still important, but we wanted students to have an even broader and more in-depth understanding of not just religions but also of cultures and human geography.  In addition, we wanted students to have that foundational knowledge earlier in their high school experience.  For these reasons, we developed and added a required class in World Cultures for all first year students. To reinforce a stronger sense of global awareness throughout the curriculum, we also added a required World History class and made culture a stronger component of the world language classes.  Currently, our reading lists for English courses are under review to provide a more inclusive representation of writers from around the world and within the United States.  Beyond the standard curriculum, we are working on a world travel component, including a trip to UNE’s Morocco campus for interested students.  In addition, our International Club and Civil Rights Team strive to educate our school community about local and global issues.

Because we are an institution devoted to girls, leadership is necessarily a part of our school culture; every leadership position at MGA is filled by a girl.  When student-led change occurs, a girl is in charge; when a new club is formed, it is because a girl took initiative.  Now, not every student at MGA is going to be the president of this club or the captain of that team, but every single student has the capacity to advocate for herself, to voice her opinion, and to listen to others.  These skills are built into the Mercy Matters Program and are embedded in several classes. Students develop over time through the theme ascribed to each year.  In the first year, students focus on Understanding the Self, learning about habits of mind and mindsets, thinking about them in relation to their own approaches.  In subsequent years, students continue to add layers of personal understandings and developments. Lately, we recognize self-care and an awareness of brain function as important elements of developing leadership, and we are investing in faculty training through Girls Leadership.

More and more, we see students arriving at high school with limited problem-solving skills; at the same time, universities and industries tell us that these are the very skills they are looking for in high school graduates.  A STEM approach, which relies on the concept of engineering design, is one way for high school classrooms to help students practice and hone their abilities to problem-solve.  Next year, we are launching an Engineering class in the sophomore year, which will serve as an introduction to the engineering design approach.  In addition, each sophomore will take a class in Ethics and Morality, which will give them the tools they need to think about and analyze tricky ethical dilemmas that often accompany projects designed to solve problems.  Once students have had practice solving problems and thinking through ethical implications, they will put their skills into practice in their junior year Social Justice class, identifying problems on both local and global levels and developing hypothetical solutions.

In my next post, I will address the “A” in E-STEAM, devoting the whole post to arts integration and its singular importance to the development of the whole MGA student. 

by Rebecca Redlon, Academic Dean

Past posts in this series:

Upcoming posts:

Learn more and experience Mercy Matters for yourself by visiting the school or scheduling a shadow day. Contact us today.