Upper School Humanities - Empowering Our Girls to be Critical Thinkers in Today’s World

This year, Ms. Hyland transitioned from her role as the 5th grade teaching fellow to the lead teacher for 7th and 8th grade Humanities, while Ms. Surrette began her second year as the 7th and 8th grade teaching fellow. Both teachers are excited about what the rest of this year has in store. “I’m really enthusiastic about my transition to the Upper School and having the opportunity to focus in on one subject,” says Ms. Hyland.

The team started off the year by focusing both grades on similar topics, but through different lenses. The 7th grade for instance, began the year with a unit on immigration and what it means to be an American. Through prose, poems and essays, they explored stories of early Jewish and Irish immigrants, many of whom began their immigrant journey at Ellis Island. Students then transitioned to exploring stories of current immigrants at the border who come from different Latin American countries. “It’s been interesting to watch the girls form connections between the stories of earlier immigrants and current immigrants and to also form connections in their own life- through the stories of their parents and families,” says Ms. Hyland.  

Similarly the 8th grade is studying the way our nation was created. “We began the year by studying the Constitution, our oldest living document, and spent a lot of time examining why decisions were made and how things have changed since,” says Ms. Hyland. The class has explored the communities that were once left out of the Constitution, such as women and enslaved people. “Our goal for this unit is to really expand critical thought and force our girls to reconcile with why decisions are made, or have been made, that often oppress groups of people.” The Humanities team has enjoyed witnessing the ways in which education is used as a tool of empowerment. “It’s been rewarding to see the reaction and passion surrounding the topics we’re covering. We are moving towards using writing as a tool and a platform to explain your belief. We want our girls to be able to not only think critically but also write and discuss about whatever topic is at hand.” 

It is clear that the Upper School Humanities team has very high standards for our girls and that they believe that fueling passion and empowerment through education can lead to great change in our society. The 8th grade will soon begin reading To Kill a Mockingbird while the 7th grade just started of the book Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

“What we hope for our girls is that the passion they have fuels them to create change in today’s society,” says Ms. Hyland. “We also want them to be able to analyze decisions that they don’t agree with rather than just dismissing those ideas,” adds Ms. Surrette. Our 7th and 8th graders have an amazing year ahead of them! We cannot wait to see them continue to develop into critical thinkers, ready to create change in their communities.