Highlights from the TERRAIN Implementation Team: March 18 – 29, 2019
What is the Team Up To?
While most of our students have been away enjoying spring break, the TERRAIN team has been hard at work!
On Tuesday, April 2nd, the Advancement Team will be reaching out to students admitted for fall 2019 to let them know about the TERRAIN testbed and invite them to participate. The team has developed a website that provides students and their families with information about TERRAIN and includes a link for students to sign up if interested. The Advancement Team is also strategizing about how to provide information for accepted students and families during Accepted Students Day on April 20th.
We have continued to plan for rolling out Portfolium in fall 2019. Over the past few weeks, Alecia Sudmeyer has supported this work by providing us with images to use on our institutional page. I have developed a sample pathway for Year 1 students to illustrate for the entire TERRAIN design group how we might use this function to support both academic and co-curricular goals. We spent one FIT meeting brainstorming about potential pathways we might include in TERRAIN (e.g., an early career pathway that would prompt students to meet with a staff member in Career Services, develop a resume, attend a professional networking event, etc.). We anticipate that in the future we will be able to use pathways to support student achievement of many of the outcomes currently addressed during New Student Orientation and/or Unity Experience.
Several members of the TERRAIN team (Latty, Williams, Whittaker, Higgins, DeHart, Cartier) spent Thursday, March 28th at Casco Bay High School, seeing how they use expeditionary learning to frame their academic curriculum. The team toured the school and met with faculty, administrators, and students. We came away from the visit with some great ideas and hopes for continued collaboration and relationship-building. Some specific strategies we heard about include:
- the use of a summer institute to develop and revise curriculum for expeditions;
- the use of “crews” to provide students with (1) consistent advising, (2) opportunities to develop close and supportive relationships with peers, and (3) a context within which to have “courageous conversations” that shape and support cultural diversity and citizenship at CBHS;
- the importance of integrating opportunities for students to have choice in expeditionary projects (in order to pursue personal passions) while also defining the “boundaries” of those projects to enable faculty to support attainment of academic goals; and
- how consistent feedback on explicit habits of work and learning (HOWLs) can help students to adopt a growth mindset and connect academic outcomes to behaviors over which they have control.
Much of what we saw in practice at Casco Bay High School is consistent with planned elements of TERRAIN. When we asked students what they most valued about their education at CBHS, they spoke about crew and about how highly they value the expeditions because they are grounded in relevant and current issues. They also described specific “intensives” (analogous to our proposed “short courses”) that they found valuable. These included outdoor experiences/challenges (e.g., a “survivor-like” program of physical challenges that takes place on an island off the Maine coast) and skill building courses (e.g., bicycle repair). Overall, our conversations with students left us both impressed – these were highly articulate and interesting young people! – and encouraged, as many of the elements of their education that they value are things we are already planning to incorporate into TERRAIN.
The Academic Design Team also completed two substantial benchmarks over the spring break – we proposed a staffing model for the expeditions and we elaborated our Scope & Sequence plan to include more details about which Core Skills & Understandings will be addressed in Year 1 and Year 2 expeditions and theme courses. These drafts have been shared with the TERRAIN team and will be the focus of discussion and critique in the coming week.
Finally, I have continued discussions with experts from different institutions (Tufts, Worchester Polytechnic Institute) regarding professional development opportunities for our faculty and staff. I am working with Erika Latty to finalize plans for May PD and we are exploring options for curriculum development work in June.
How is the Campus Community Engaging in the Work?
I had the opportunity to meet and/or exchange e-mails with a few faculty colleagues over the break and feel that these discussions, where faculty are able to find answers to specific questions, to be productive. I want to encourage everyone – faculty and staff – who has questions to seek someone on the TERRAIN team and share your questions, concerns, and ideas. It is helpful for us to know how you’re thinking and it is helpful for you to continue to develop clarity about the proposed program.
As I mentioned in the TERRAIN update of a few weeks ago, many of us recently met with Phoebe Jekielek, Director of Programs and Research at the Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership. Phoebe encouraged us to participate in Hurricane Island’s Teacher Day on Monday, April 22nd. A couple of the TERRAIN team members are planning to attend and we would welcome other colleagues to join us. If interested, please let me and your dean or supervisor know. We will coordinate travel plans for everyone from Unity College who chooses to attend.
I hope you have enjoyed a restful and/or productive couple of weeks and look forward to seeing everyone back on campus next week.
Jennifer L. Cartier, Ph.D.
Director of Curricular Innovation
Associate Professor of Education
Unity, Maine 04998
Office: Unity House, Room 2
F2Y Office: Constable Hall