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Future-Ready Foundations

To best serve our students we provide a health & wellness curriculum that supports the development of a variety of fundamental non-cognitive skills such as emotional intelligence, self-regulation, and empathy.  This curriculum is informally cultivated through all aspects of the Whitfield experience, delivered to our students through our Advisory program, and expanded upon in 9th Grade Foundations.

In 9th Grade Foundations, Whitfield freshmen dig into topics and trends that are immediately relevant and critical for growth within and beyond Whitfield classrooms. Emphasis is placed on practically applying our Habits of Mind & Heart to these topics and trends—some of which are identified by our students as the most significant in their lives today. 

The course is divided into three sections:

  • Neuroscience & Self focuses on developing the abilities necessary for recognizing and regulating one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Units may emphasize brain structure and function, growth mindset, mindfulness practices, stress, and anxiety.
  • Computer Science & Society focuses on the role today’s culture plays in building tomorrow’s tools and communities. Units may emphasize social identities, dialogue, coding, privacy, data structures, and implicit bias.
  • Physiological Awareness focuses on topics and trends related to physical development and well-being. Units may emphasize human anatomy and physiology, nutrition, addiction, and life-saving techniques.

All ninth graders rotate through the three sections taking one each trimester.

One of the most unique elements of the 9th Grade Foundations course is the integrated teaching team that designs and delivers the class. Staff members from Whitfield’s academic administration, teaching and learning, wellness, physical education, equity and inclusion, and technology departments collaborate to provide students with a variety of perspectives, intelligences and voices.

The 2019-2020 instructors include: Neuroscience & Self: Director of Health & Wellness Ginny Fendell, Director of Teaching & Learning Mead Ploszay, and Upper School Director Sara Ringe. Computer Science & Society: Director of Equity & Inclusion Dr. Anna Warbelow and Computer Science Integration Specialist Andrew Asikainen. Physiological Awareness: Physical Education department faculty Maggie Young, Matt Politte and Director of Technology Matt DiGiulio.

“What makes this approach innovative is the intersection of traditionally disparate topics, the unique collaboration of the teaching team, and the emphasis on future readiness,” said Director of Technology Matt DiGiulio. “The thread taught by Anna [Warbelow] and Andrew [Asikainen] is a perfect example. Combining computer science and equity/inclusion studies in a single, required course speaks directly to needs being identified in (and beyond) the tech industry now and in the future.”

During the Computer Science & Society trimester, students work on skills needed to thrive in—and design—an increasingly diverse and tech-centered world.  At the conclusion of the trimester, students conduct a social media audit in which they examine their personal online presence (what they post, who they follow, how they comment) and consider whether or not that content and activity reflects their values and the ways in which their online persona reflects their personal story.

“It might seem a bit unusual to have the director of equity & inclusion paired with the computer science specialist,” said Dr. Warbelow, Director of Equity & Inclusion. “But, students need to understand how to use technology, to understand privacy settings, and the role of data in their lives. They also need to understand who they are. They need to have a certain level of the basic cultural competence, understanding of and respect for others, to be able to work, collaborate, and engage across differences. Listen carefully to industry experts across a variety of fields and you will hear a similar message.”