We are excited to announce upcoming investments in teaching and learning at BHS: two brand new courses will launch, four courses will continue through their final year of funding, and faculty will have the opportunity to reflect on pedagogy in the pandemic year at an upcoming summer summit. We are grateful to our generous donors whose support enables us to work with BHS leadership and faculty to fund these important programs.
Rethinking the Restaurant: Creating Community through Social Impact (NEW COURSE) $66,000 Year One Investment
Rethinking the BHS restaurant will integrate the program more cohesively into curricular and co-curricular experiences for the entire BHS community, with students taking the lead in running its business operations in meaningful and creative ways. Faculty are excited by the multifaceted opportunities for innovation where the restaurant has potential as a lab for interdisciplinary learning with a social impact lens. For example, the restaurant could be a place where English Language Learners could introduce dishes from their home cultures as a special menu item; World Language teachers and students could work with the culinary program to design “take-over” menus for cultural observations or holidays; and students in Social/Food Justice or Environmental Action clubs could team with our culinary program to understand and improve how to sustainably run our business. Rethinking the Restaurant opens up outstanding experiential learning opportunities for students not only in the restaurant itself, but also for a diverse range of students in clubs, courses, and throughout the campus. Faculty lead: Britt Stevens, Chair, Department of Career and Technical Education
Climate Science and Social Solutions (NEW COURSE) $43,000 Year One Investment
Climate Science and Social Solutions is an interdisciplinary team-taught elective with instruction from both the scientific and historical perspectives. The course will enable students to engage in project-based learning by analyzing real world policy options related to climate change, and then research and posit definable and effective solutions. The goal is to have seniors engage in advocacy campaigns designed to shape perceptions on climate change and encourage personal mitigation strategies. Faculty leads: Briana Brown (Science) and Roger Grande (Social Studies)
Faculty COVID-19 Reflection Summit $10,000 for BHS faculty to convene this summer to reflect on lessons learned through the pandemic and how their important work funded by our COVID-19 Teaching and Learning Response Grants this year can inform pedagogy for 2021-22.
Continued Funding for Ongoing Courses $186,000 for continued funding for four pilot programs through their final year in 2021-22: Experiential Physics for Ninth Grade; Brookline Lens; Hub; and Coding @BHS. Learn more about these programs here.
As we wrap up the last of the end-of-year BHS traditions, congratulate the Class of 2021 and look forward to the summer and together-time with friends and family, I just want to take a moment to reflect on this extraordinary year.
This past year—my last as Chair of the Innovation Fund—was both challenging and rewarding. Fund volunteers have been working harder than ever to use the time and space that we were given to think differently about how we engage our donors in a remote environment, and how we expand on the funding that we give to BHS faculty to support teaching and learning at the high school.
Our primary focus this year has been on our COVID-19 Response Grants. Our COVID grant work started last June to prepare faculty for the upcoming school year and continued through the winter to support the shift to hybrid teaching and learning. It will culminate this summer with the COVID-19 Reflection Summit. The best practices and insights gleaned during the three phases of the COVID-19 grant will be carried forward to continue to positively impact students.
Our collaborative work with faculty has yielded stronger relationships and set up scaffolding for school-wide student success moving forward in a post-COVID classroom environment. A cohesive, new standard approach with all faculty using Canvas improved communications with students and made a huge difference in “equalizing” everyone’s experience. This work led to the creation of multiple progress reports for check-in with parents/guardians throughout the year. Intentional instruction on Executive Functioning (EF) helped students develop the skills needed both online and moving forward to in-person learning. And finally, an emphasis on SEL (Social Emotional Learning) and community building online made being back together now very meaningful.
The COVID-19 Response Grants allowed faculty to innovatively rethink teaching, curriculum development, and school culture as they responded to challenging logistical scenarios throughout the year. Interdepartmental collaboration last summer was groundbreaking and culture-shifting for BHS. Now as faculty emerge from remote and hybrid teaching, annual assessment of student content, SEL and EF are much more collaborative across departments and are more efficient and effective. The three phased COVID-19 Grants provided the faculty with the time and space to think and plan which was the impetus to this change. This time also provided an opportunity to reevaluate curriculum and to think about what worked and what didn’t. These are conversations that faculty will continue to have during the upcoming summer COVID-19 Reflection Summit.
As we look forward to the Fall, the investment in teaching and learning will continue. Two new programs were accepted for funding and will launch in the 2021-2022 school year. Briana Brown (Science) and Roger Grande (Social Studies) will lead Climate Science and Social Solutions; and Britt Stevens, Department Chair of Career and Technical Education, will launch Rethinking the Restaurant: Creating Community through Social Impact.
Climate Science and Social Solutions is an interdisciplinary team-taught course with instruction from both the scientific and historical perspectives. The course will enable students to engage in project-based learning by analyzing real world policy options related to climate change, and then research and posit definable and effective solutions. The goal is to have students engage in advocacy campaigns designed to shape perceptions on climate change and encourage personal mitigation strategies.
Rethinking the Restaurant will launch the restaurant program as a lab for interdisciplinary learning with a social impact lens. This is a space where English Language Learners could introduce dishes from their home cultures as a special menu item, where World Language teachers and students could work with the culinary program to design “take-over” menus for cultural observations or holidays, and where students in Social/Food Justice or Environmental Action club team with our culinary program to understand and improve how to sustainably run our business. These are only some of our curricular aspirations.
So, as you can see, the BHS Innovation Fund continues to have a broad and meaningful impact at BHS, despite the challenges of the past year. It is because of the incredible support of donors and volunteers that we were able to meet and exceed our fundraising and programmatic goals. I look forward to handing the leadership of this amazing organization over to Maureen Fallon and Masu Haque-Khan who will continue the work that was started more than 20 years ago. While I will be stepping down as Chair, I will continue to play an advisory role in the growth of the Fund.
I wish you all a wonderful, peaceful and safe Summer and send a hearty congratulations to the Class of 2021!
Warm Regards, Ellen Rizika, Chair, BHS Innovation Fund Board of Directors
Last summer, the BHS Innovation Fund provided a grant to enable coding to become integrated into the 9th grade math and science curriculum. Josh Paris (JP) is the Math Department Chair who, along with Ed Wiser, Chair of the Science Department, and Britt Stevens, Chair of Career and Technology, supervised the initiative. Mr. Paris discusses what excites him about the Coding initiative and its impact on students:
Q: How did the Innovation Fund enable you to integrate Coding into the 9th grade curriculum?
JP: We have had two coding elective courses called Python and SNAP at BHS for several years but this is the first time it is being integrated into the 9th grade curriculum. The grant began last summer (2020) and it was a collaboration between the math, science, career and tech education departments. Teachers usually teach four courses but the grant gave course releases to Adam Fried and Christine Shen (both from the math department) and Tyler Brown (from the science department) to instead teach three classes. This – and the hiring of another teacher – enabled them to spend time collaborating and modifying the curriculum so that they could implement coding into the 9th grade math and science curriculum.
Q: Are you intending to integrate coding into the curriculum of the upper grades at some point?
JP: Yes, we started with 9th grade and then will move to the older grades in the following years, one year at a time.
Q: Why is it important to have coding as part of the curriculum?
JP: It is very important to have coding be accessible to everyone for so many reasons; not only is it the way of the future and opens a lot of career doors but it also helps enhance math deduction and reasoning skills. For instance, the same logic is applied in both coding and formal proof in geometry. Furthermore, giving all students access to coding is important for equity reasons since it has historically been a profession dominated by white males. By having equal access to coding beginning in 9th grade we are hoping that will change.
Q: Since coding is integrated into the math and science curriculum does it mean you need to be strong in those subjects to be good at coding?
JP: Motivation and hard work – like many things in life – are the keys to success with coding. Coding is something that draws upon and enhances many life skills and cuts through many disciplines, for that reason, students often find something about coding that “speaks” and appeals to them!
Kate Leslie, who teaches Social Justice, updated the BHS Innovation Fund recently about the course. First launched over fifteen years ago with a grant from the Fund, the Social Justice elective explores issues of equality and discrimination with regard to race and sexuality, and prepares students to become social justice activists. Social Justice is open to students in 10th-12th grades. Read more about this on our Programs page and in the BHS Course Catalog.
Video by BHS student Sasha B. for the Brookline Lens class. Brookline Lens is a student-run business that provides photo and video production services to BHS and the community. Lens is currently in its second year of grant funding from the BHS Innovation Fund.
Q: What excites you most about the course?
KL: There are special issues affecting the world right now that are constantly changing. Every year they are different so there is always something new to discuss which grabs students’ attention, issues they really care about. Often students find their passion and in turn their careers.
Q: Do students learn certain skills and information that they can apply to the real world?
KL: Students in the course hold many different beliefs and perspectives and care deeply about different issues. The course teaches students how to have difficult conversations in a constructive way and respect different ideologies which are crucial life skills.
Q: Do students need to meet certain requirements in order to take the course?
KL: Students have to apply to the course and write two paragraphs; one describing an issue they care about and one describing something they followed through on. I am looking for students who are reliable, would be good ambassadors, feel passionate about certain issues and want to learn. I also want a well rounded group with varying interests and who bring different viewpoints to the table.
Q: What do you think former students would say is the most important thing they learned from your course?
KL: I think former students would say that social justice can be applied through various passions, such as through business, art, theatre, science, etc. Carrying the social justice work on can mean different things, it doesn’t just mean holding a placard at a protest. Also, social justice takes time to achieve change; it requires patience and often the process takes longer than expected. This is an important lesson for students to learn, especially in a society where we are used to and often expect instant gratification.
In Spring 2020, the BHS Innovation Fund awarded a special COVID-19 Teaching and Learning Response Grant to Brookline High School educators, led by the Curriculum Coordinators, to support their work in preparing for the current school year with the goal of rethinking educational approaches to teaching and learning during the ongoing pandemic. This past Summer, more than 30 Brookline High School teachers, administrators, program leaders and specialists met remotely over the course of three weeks as part of this first-ever multi-departmental collaborative curriculum programming initiative. Representing the Departments of English, Math, Science, Social Studies and World Language, as well as Special Education and Career and Technology Education, participating educators conducted an important assessment of their experiences teaching remotely this past Spring in order to prepare for the school year. Acknowledging the many challenges that the pivot to remote teaching had required due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they used an inquiry model to explore these questions:
How do we engage students in their learning and help students develop understanding?
How should we blend synchronous and asynchronous lessons?
How will we build relationships with students when not able to work with them face to face?
How should we adjust assessments and diagnostics in a remote learning environment?
Throughout the project, educators used these guiding questions to research and develop best practices and a collaborative, holistic approach to teaching that will:
More effectively engage students in the remote and hybrid learning process by focusing on strategies to develop executive functioning skills to teach students how to learn remotely as well as approaches to introduce experiential learning work; and
Support social-emotional learning by incorporating community building activities into each and every lesson to establish student-to-student and student-to-teacher connections in classes.
“I am grateful to the Brookline High School Innovation Fund for making this critical work a positive and productive reality and to BHS teachers and staff for working together to identify the gaps and opportunities to strengthen the remote teaching and learning experience as we continue to navigate the changing academic environment.”
~ Anthony Meyer, Head of School, Brookline High School
Grant Work Yielded New Opportunities & Inspiring Outcomes
BHS faculty members who participated in the project presented and shared their research with colleagues in early Fall in multiple professional development day demonstrations and workshops using the BHS Remote Learning Toolbox, a best-practices online resource designed to help staff teach students effectively while remote. While the Toolbox was not outlined as a deliverable in the grant proposal, teachers quickly realized that the best, most innovative way to share these important recommendations would be to build an online toolkit and make it accessible to all faculty at the high school. It is already proving to be an invaluable resource to many educators.
Topics in the Toolbox include:
Building a Digital Classroom: Strategies and tools to set up a hybrid classroom
During Planning: Strategies and tools for taking the analog to a digital environment
Tech Tools: Tech Tool support from PSB and colleagues, and tech support for students
Research and Synthesis: A deep dive into the research and synthesis completed by subgroups
Curriculum Coordinators share that working collaboratively across departments yielded several inspiring outcomes. As teachers began to envision the initial back-to-school period, they were excited by opportunities that remote learning presented. With a more flexible block schedule this year, teachers can engage students in assignments and activities that give real-world meaning to school, and increase connection and rigor. Then, moving into the year, teachers anticipate identifying new, experiential work that can involve students in their community. Rethinking teaching in this way will have benefits beyond the pandemic response. Remote strategies can be used when presenting digital material even when BHS returns to in-school learning. If students are unable to be present, teachers will have a menu of activities that students can still follow at home. Because the grant funded inter-departmental work on a large scale for the very first time at BHS, and contributed greatly to creating connections across curriculum, students will benefit by experiencing a more coordinated approach and manner of communication with all their teachers.
Founded in 1998, the BHS Innovation Fund is a community-supported 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is unique for a public high school because it offers grant funding to faculty and administrators for initiatives that aren’t covered in the current curriculum and budget.
“The BHS Innovation Fund has supported teacher-driven curricular initiatives that are innovative, interdisciplinary and forward-thinking for over twenty years. As an organization, we are constantly evolving and responding to the academic needs identified by BHS teachers across departments. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we were thrilled to be able to partner with educators and provide the necessary funding to support this important work during this challenging time at BHS.”
~ Ellen Rizika, Chair, BHS Innovation Fund Board of Directors