The Age of Wonder: Two classes present a new model for learning at Randolph

Posted by Rebecca Moore - 21 September, 2011

This photograph by a 7th grader reflects his observation of nature and application of technology to enhance his digital photograph.

“What is history? Who makes history? Is it told from the top up or bottom down?” These are some of the essential questions that senior Andrew Stewart posed at a recent faculty meeting, questions that he and the 13 other seniors in the inaugural Capstone Seminar are grappling with as they consider “The Birth of the Modern.”

The Senior Capstone Seminar is a college-level course designed to foster creative inquiry. Through thematically-unified academic study, students synthesize skills and content knowledge in advanced pursuit of a specialized intellectual or artistic interest. Interdisciplinary and team-taught, incorporating lectures, seminar discussions, labs, and demonstrations, formal classroom study focuses on related developments in philosophy, artistic expression, science, and politics during a defined phase of intellectual history. During the second semester, each student designs, executes, and presents to the school community a major culminating project.

Head of English Lewis Cobbs and seniors Andrew Stewart and Kristyn Wilson presented the new Senior Capstone Seminar at the September faculty meeting.

Conversations continue after class on the Gaggle messageboard, Kristyn said. Gaggle is Randolph’s student email system. These online conversations allow everyone to see how their understandings have grown and developed. “We’re writing for a different audience,” Kristyn noted. “We write differently for each other, each of us striving to be unique.”

Another new instructional approach is taking place in the Middle School. Last year, art teacher Rosie Dumoulin and Brenda Vaughn collaborated to create an interdisciplinary unit in nature journaling for art, technology and science. What started last year with 7th and 8th grades is now expanding to include 5th and 6th graders. This project exposes students to a higher level of instruction in all three areas. Both teachers have been amazed at the level of learning and enthusiasm this project has generated.

These interdisciplinary approaches help our students to make the kinds of connections between their studies and their life experiences that we hope will continue long after they leave Randolph.

Both of these classes reflect the skills and competencies we believe will be important in the 21st century. Harvard professor Tony Wagner goes as far as to say these will be survival skills for the 21st century. For a more in-depth look at these issues as they pertain to Randolph, please visit the Strategic Plan page.

Topics: 12th grade, 5th grade, 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade, After, art, curriculum, Goal 1, interdisciplinary, Middle School, science, strategic plan, technology, Upper School

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