The Rollout of R.E.D. Block

The Rollout of R.E.D. Block
How is leadership learned? At Roland Park Country School, our teachers and administrators strive to show our students what leadership looks like and the paths they can take to get there through integrity, courage and character. But we also recognize the worth of real world experiences.
To help empower students in grades 9-11 to find their voices, lead for the greater good and put their learnings into practice, Roland Park Country School recently rolled out a new program called R.E.D. (Reflect. Explore. Do.) Block. R.E.D. Block is the central strand of the RPCS Leadership and Entrepreneurship Institute, which equips our Upper School students with robust offerings designed to embolden them to create positive change in the world and help them consider, with their numerous strengths, what kind of difference they intend to make, and how they might begin to make their ideas into realities.
In R.E.D. Block, every student is involved in activities that require deep-thinking, exploration and creative problem solving to foster resilience, promote healthy risk-taking, nourish passions and curiosity, and promote purposefulness.
“We are always looking for intentional and meaningful ways to encourage our next generation of women leaders,” said Caroline Blatti, Head of School. “R.E.D. Block shows our students what is possible and how their actions can truly change the world.”
Think Globally, Act Locally:  Ninth Grade R.E.D. Block
The ninth grade R.E.D. Block builds foundational understandings of what it means to be an engaged member of society and helps students identify and leverage tools, resources, models and responsibilities to make an impact on the community. First, students are introduced to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, a collection of 17 global objectives set by the United Nations General Assembly to achieve a better and more sustainable future for the next generations. The goals address international challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, and peace and justice. “The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals are the guiding spirit behind much of the work we do and will steer our vision as this program evolves,” said Peter Metsopoulos, Director of Leadership and Entrepreneurship.
Then, students rotate through four Foundational Skills modules: 10 Questions for Young Change Makers, Ethics, Power Structures and Constructive Collaboration. In the spring, there will be a culminating action project where students will use their new knowledge and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals to impact a specific community issue in Baltimore City.
Creating Leaders and Entrepreneurs: 10th and 11th Grade R.E.D. Block
In the 10th and 11th grades, students chose from a wide range of elective-style offerings that incorporate the tenets of leadership and entrepreneurship. The theme of the 10th grade seminars is “The Entrepreneurial Mindset,” with seven courses offered to research and implement solutions to social problems, including sustainable consumption and food systems, global diplomacy, conflict resolution and citizenship and debate (see below for full list of courses). In the 11th grade, five R.E.D. Block courses are offered under the theme “Innovating for the Greater Good,” where students work in small groups to research and refine solutions to respond to a specific need they have identified in the world. These seminars include Social Justice and Installation Art, Creating Sustainable Food Systems in Baltimore and Design Thinking and Innovating in Global Health.
There are two R.E.D. Block classes in each 10 day cycle and each class runs for an hour and a half in the afternoon. While expectations are high, students are alleviated of the stress of homework and the traditional high-stakes grading system, which allows for authentic and deep learning and engagement. The courses also often include field trips, guest speakers and deep reflections on the topics the students are learning. For example, Baltimore artist and teacher Oletha DeVane, whose work is currently on exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art, came to a recent R.E.D. Block class on Social Justice and Installation Art class to talk to students about their work and provide constructive feedback.
Student and Faculty Feedback
R.E.D. Block encourages students to be the drivers of their own passions and find a sense of purpose. By acknowledging the individuality of each learner, students can lean towards options that interest them to take a deeper dive into applied academics.
“So far, I have really enjoyed every component of this class,” said Isabel McFarland, a 10th grader who is taking a seminar on Sustainable Consumption at RPCS, which collaborates with the second graders – the only cross-divisional course offered this semester. In this class, the students are working in small task forces to create new signage and education about waste management to the RPCS community to encourage responsible consumption. “I also love how we write a blog reflecting on our class after each seminar. It allows me to really think about the impact of our work.”
Through R.E.D. Block, teachers are also taking on new challenges. Promoting a collaborative spirit through project-based learning and letting the students guide their explorations to learn more authentically involves a degree of risk-taking and cultivates new skill sets in teaching.
“As educators, we’ve struggled with how we can create time a teenager’s life to explore something in-depth,” said Carla Spawn-van Berkum, Assistant Head of School for Academics and teacher of the Constructive Collaboration course. “This new curriculum is a mindset shift  for all of us and the program is still evolving to weave in both the student and faculty voices and choices. There are so many ways for this to grow and that is truly exciting.”
As part of this evolution, students and faculty members have been surveyed to anonymously share their thoughts about the new program, including the format, length and overall change in the school schedule, and constructive suggestions for the program moving forward.
“I hope that at the end of this first year, both students and faculty will walk away surprised at what they’ve come to understand,” said Peter. “And I also hope that the school community will be exposed to the particular worlds that our students have explored.”
Full List of R.E.D. Block Seminars
Grade 9
  • 10 Questions for Young Change Makers
  • Ethics
  • Power Structures
  • Constructive Collaboration
Grade 10
  • Sustainable Consumption at RPCS
  • How Journalism is a Force for Change in Our World
  • Find Your Voice in Debate
  • Model UN: The Art of Diplomacy, Conflict Resolution and Global Citizenship
  • Girls With Impact: Entrepreneurship and Leadership
  • Creating Sustainable Food Systems in Baltimore
  • The Power of Optionality: How Financial Decision Making Empowers You to Follow Your Dreams
Grade 11
  • Social Justice and Installation Art
  • Film-Making and Change-Making
  • Design Thinking and Innovating in Global Health
  • Exploring the Possibilities of Personalized Medicine – Case Study: Type 1 Diabetes
  • Creating Sustainable Food Systems in Baltimore