One of our most significant initiatives of the last 12 months was six months of self-study as part of our re-accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Southern Association of Independent Schools. This study resulted in the creation of strategic plans by every academic and administrative department of our school and the visit to Harpeth Hall by a team of educators who studied our strategic plans and met with members of every constituent group of our school—students, faculty, trustees, parents, and alumnae. In their report, this team of educators was effusive in their praise of Harpeth Hall, noting that "Harpeth Hall is a school singularly focused on educating young women to be tomorrow's leaders at the local, national, and global level." They went on to commend Harpeth Hall for our seamless integration of technology throughout the school, our leadership in the Online School for Girls, our Winterim program, our global studies initiatives, our STEM initiatives, and our focus on 21st century skills for our students, among other key observations. Harpeth Hall stands at the forefront of education through innovation. As the accreditation team noted, Harpeth Hall faculty in all disciplines has enhanced the classroom experience with technology.
• English, history, and social science classes use laptops and Web 2.0 tools, including access to online periodicals and databases, to increase the sophistication of the research, writing, and presentation process.
• Science classes use YouTube videos and iPad applications for 3-dimensional medical animations. They use online simulations to experience lab practices at atomic and molecular levels.
• Environmental Studies classes use the Harpeth Hall weather station on top of the Massey Math and Science Center to track and study our local weather.
• In math classes, teachers and students can instantly graph any function, share virtual notes with each other, create videos, use digital photography to visualize projectile motion, collaborate on projects even when not in the same room, and analyze data from anywhere in the world. Students can do homework online while receiving immediate review and comment.
• The world languages department use online practice materials integrated with course textbooks to allow students to practice listening and speaking on their own at home. Students record their responses using a variety of programs that enable teachers to monitor oral progress. Students and teachers are even able to participate in asynchronous online conversations using programs such as Voicethread.
• Through Harpeth Hall's learning management systems, GoogleApps, and other online resources, students can write reflections; engage in online, written discussions; take formative assessments; and share thoughts, opinions, images, videos, music, and many other digital materials unique to the language they study.
Three years ago, Harpeth Hall founded the Online School for Girls with three other premier girls' schools. Today, the Online School for Girls includes 66 schools from across the United States and abroad and is considered the model program for online learning at the high school level. Through the Online School, our students take classes and collaborate with girls from around the world thus helping to foster another important Harpeth Hall initiative, our global focus. We are thoughtful and intentional in encouraging our students to think beyond Harpeth Hall. Our focus is on world history and cultures in addition to European and American history. The literature included in our curriculum allows for an increased global awareness by exposing students to individual thoughts and stories from diverse races and nations.
Through our signature Winterim program, students now travel the globe—Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. In recent years, we have added service learning to the Winterim opportunities to places such as Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda. These international service experiences reinforce our mission to develop responsible citizens who have global perspectives and make meaningful contributions to the world.
13 years ago we began an international exchange program through an exchange with a girls school in South Africa. We have expended our international exchanges to include China, France, Germany, New Zealand, and Spain. This cross-cultural interaction provides our students with awareness, understanding, and appreciation of others and how they live.
As our teachers work across disciplines, we are seeing the convergence of technology and our global focus with our leadership in STEM education—STEM being an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Through our Center for STEM Education for Girls, we will host our fourth STEM Think Tank and Conference in July that will include more than 60 workshops in STEM fields for teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools. We expect more than 200 educators from across the US on our campus for the conference. Additionally, we will host the first Summer STEM Institute for rising 9th and 10th grade girls from charter, public, and private schools. As part of the two-week Institute, students will redesign hand washing stations that are used in the girls' schools with which we are partnering in Lwala, Kenya. Students will use the engineering design process to manage the redesign using appropriate scientific inquiry, statistical analyses, CAD drawings, and prototype building to accomplish this task. This is a perfect example of technology, global focus, and STEM coming together to develop 21st century leaders.
Another area of commendation by our accreditation team is our focus on intentional development of 21st century skills in our students. These skills include collaboration, creativity, global connections, communication—both written and oral, integrity, and balance. Our teachers intentionally integrate these approaches to teaching and learning through the academic and co-curricular programs.
While the curriculum at Harpeth Hall is as rigorous today as it was 30 years ago, we are mindful of the stress of being a teenager in the 21st century. Last year, we launched a Wellness program to encourage a balanced life for our students. While we offer opportunities to participate in multiple activities, we want our students to understand why they are choosing their activities they choose and to learn to pace themselves. Learning to manage what they do is all a part of wellness and a balanced life.
Excellence defines our School, and the outstanding young women coming to Harpeth Hall push us to make this School better each year because our girls deserve the best.