In the Richmond School's Friday Focus, science teachers Ginger Wallis and Rich Schluntz describe a new seventh-grade program:
There is great value in making connections across disciplines, and the Civil War unit is one example of that in seventh grade. We also created a new immersion experience called The Power of Me: How can I make a difference? In science, students saw videos about IDEO, an organization that stresses creativity and the engineering design process and creates numerous new products a year. As part of an effort to address high infant mortality rates in areas of Africa, another video conveyed the story of an organization that invented an infant incubator that was made from Toyota Forerunner parts, so the local mechanics could fix them and would always have spare parts. Students solved a number of rapid design challenges and then worked in small groups to solve a deep dive challenge. Independently they designed, built, and tested mini hot water heaters, mini solar ovens, mini solar powered cars, mini dye-based solar cells, and biochar stoves.
As this was happening, the 7th grade had six assemblies in which guests who had made a difference in the world came and presented. Most of the presenters were kids from 9 to 21. Billy Bender, an eighth grader told them about Mount Ascutney Pediatric Fund, a non profit organization that he founded. Three high school groups presented ways that high school students are making a difference in this country and abroad. Two Dartmouth undergraduate students told about their work as Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineers. Tiltfactor representatives presented about designing games for social change. A student group from the Marion Cross Elementary school set up a booth in the lobby to present ways they are working to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Students then worked in small groups for The Only Thing That Ever Has Challenge. Over the course of four days, they came up with their own ideas and a plan to make a difference in the world. Research and presentations followed, with the top presentation in each classroom presenting to the whole seventh grade. There were games, innovations, apps, new organizations, fund raising events for existing organizations, and other ideas. We thank our guests from Kendal and Eileen O’Toole for listening, advising, and helping to choose the finalists.