On June 26, 2013, Online School for Girls (OSG) and the National Coalition of Girls' Schools (NCGS) held a wildly successful first launch of the OSG – NCGS Connect – Collaborate – Innovate: Advanced Professional Certificate in Girls' Education. The program’s first in-person workshop took place at the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, MA and was held in conjunction with the NCGS Conference, "Launching Future Leaders." Mathematics teacher Dave Lowell, English teacher Rebecca Sherouse, and Director of Academic Technology Jen Gaspar-Santos attended on behalf of Castilleja with the support of an Innovation Investment Fund grant.
In a time when education is changing rapidly, OSG and NCGS offer this program to help schools and educators continue to enhance teaching and learning approaches so that they reflect the ways that girls learn best. Participants learn about current research and gain experience with leading-edge tools and methods. The blended course combines two program cohorts in the fields of STEM and Social Sciences/Humanities, two in-person conferences and workshops, and participation in three of OSG's asynchronous Professional Development classes.
Last month in Boston, teachers from around the country met in a high-energy environment eager to engage and learn from one another. The conference was framed by some of the messages in Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean in: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. In response to the question "What would you do if you were not afraid?" participants kicked off the conference by exploring healthy risk-taking and learning how they could help their own students do the same.
One of the highlights of the day was the "Spaghetti Tower" competition, where groups of four teachers had eighteen minutes to build a free-standing tower using dried pasta, tape, string, scissors, and a marshmallow. The results ranged from a hilariously droopy giraffe-like structure, to an imitation of the design of the Eiffel Tower. The reflection period at the end of the activity challenged everyone to look at what worked and what did not work at the micro level, but also asked the bigger questions of how this activity applied to how we function as a group and how similar activities could be applied to the classroom to build community.
The session ended with brainstorming about each teacher's capstone project to be presented at the next face-to-face meeting. The day was a huge success with a high level of enthusiasm and energy from both the mentors and participants alike. Christopher Wilson commented on how he and Carrie Steakley, the two mentors of the program, see their role:
In the role of mentor of this group my aim is to provide us with productive topics for exploration, discussion, and application. Through collaboration online and during our face-to-face meetings, we should leverage the inventive thinking of the members of this cohort – both individually and collectively – to develop ideas and try new things. Let’s see this experience as a journey that we’re on together; we can bounce ideas around, learn from each other, celebrate our successes as we experiment, and laugh together at (and learn from!) our missteps. Let’s keep it fun.
The program’s first launch was only one of the first exciting successes of the overall course and we cannot wait to see what the next few months of the program will bring!