In the ninth grade, all students take three required seminars to build foundational understandings in key areas: Power Systems, Ethics, and Making Change. These seminars, helmed by master teachers, are designed around deep-thinking, exploration, and creative problem solving.
The ninth grade leadership seminars are connected to each other by the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the ways each of us can “think globally and act locally” as engaged citizens driven by a common purpose.
Building off of our 8th grade history course, Human Rights, Social Justice, and You, but still accessible to incoming students, the Power Systems Leadership Seminar is a semester-long course influenced by Learning for Justice standards and curricula. Students will learn about existing systems of power and their role in shaping and disrupting them with a focus on voting and activism. This interdisciplinary seminar is led by Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lisa Norton and Upper School English Teacher Jackie Regales.
The goal of this ninth grade seminar is to promote the process and practice of ethical-decision making within the RPCS community and the larger world. We will explore key ethical issues facing high schoolers, providing tools to articulate values and act ethically even in the face of conflicting messages. Introducing ethical dilemmas in the classroom can open up opportunities not only for debate and critical thinking, but also for personal growth, empathy for other viewpoints, and self-reflection. Students will be challenged to search for and evaluate their assumptions, to excavate the reasons behind those assumptions, to examine without prejudice another’s opinion and to make a thoughtful decision with confidence. This ethical training will foster academic skills like analysis, communication, and critical thinking, while also developing important “soft skills” like respect, empathy and compassion. Developed and taught by Upper School Dean of Students Melissa Carter-Bey and Upper School History teacher Scott Jackson, this class brings pushes the RPCS Honor Code to the forefront of students’ minds while drawing connections to universal issues.
In 2020 Roland Park Country school piloted the Changemakers: Creative Activism and International Women’s Health seminar in partnership with Jhpiego, an international health organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University. This year, all ninth graders will immerse themselves in learning about issues pertaining to the health of women and girls in the low- and middle-income regions of the world where Jhpiego has a presence. Over the course of the year, students will learn to identify the root causes of gender inequity in healthcare and apply that understanding to interventions created to sustainably strengthen health systems and address those root causes of poor health outcomes for women. They will learn about and collaborate with non-governmental organizations directly involved in the work of international women’s health and confronting the challenges for gender equality around the world. Ultimately, students will create projects responding to the course’s central inquiry; How might we design a creative campaign advocating for meaningful change in issues pertaining to health systems and women?
Sample students projects from the 2020-2021 Changemakers cohort:
- Blessing and Makenzie’s project topic was Adolescent Health and they created a presentation of Factors that influence Adolescent Health.
- Ryan, Lanie, & Taite’s project topic was Women’s Empowerment and they created a podcast called Not All Queens Wear Crowns. Episodes are available on Spotify, apple podcasts, and Buzzsprout.
- Lily and Annie created a public service announcement addressing Gender Discrimination in Healthcare: We are not numbers in your system
- Lina and Lila created a public service announcement addressing Disease Prevention: COVID-19 PSA
- Maggie’s project topic was Maternal Health and she created a website titled Serena Williams & Her Unknown Fight.