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BANNER, May 2016: Steep Week

Brookwood Upper Schoolers travel beyond our campus and classrooms for a week of experiential learning during the five-day Steep Week program each May. From technology design and political analysis to urban hikes and fly fishing adventures, all Steep Week courses are interdisciplinary and experiential in nature, and courses are comprised of students from all three Upper School grade levels. 

The name Steep Week refers to immersion – as tea leaves steep in hot water – and the 12 to 14 classes in a wide variety of subjects aim to ‘take down the walls of the classroom.” “More and more studies point to the benefits of this kind of experiential learning; kids actually learn and retain more when the problems they solve and the focus areas they study are authentic and ‘real life,’” according to Barb Liston, Assistant Head of School.

“The courses are based on the passions of the faculty,” Barb says, and they often feature outside experts in the various fields. “While Brookwood faculty design and teach the courses, experts from a wide range of fields serve as ancillary instructors, be they college disc jockeys, financiers, experienced outdoor educators, respected masons, musicians, editors, or chefs, and so on.”

The 2016 Steep Week offerings are:
Can You Say Fromage? - devoted to learning about and making cheese 
Disaster - a class in disaster preparedness (Think tsunamis, hurricanes, etc.)
Dream Big, Live Small - which explores the Tiny House Movement
D-Zign Girls - a design-build class just for girls that will devote its technology-design work to helping those living in Beverly’s Harborlight House; 
Elephants and Donkeys - a course that will cover all variables involved in mounting a Presidential campaign
Fly Fishing Basics - designed to lay the foundation for a lifelong interest in fly fishing and an understanding of the ecology that underpins it
Get Out! - featuring hiking, biking, canoeing, and paddling around the North Shore
Make It! - a technology design class in which students will make inspired creations
Raise a Paw - a course devoted to service dogs, as well as service to dogs
That’s Entertainment - a peek behind the scenes of the entertainment industry including theater, music, and dance
Urban Hiking - which will explore nearby cities by foot
What’s so Funny? -  students will take a look at comedy, what makes us laugh, and why

Brookwood parents have also been integral to the success of Steep Week over the years. “One of the things that makes Steep Week work is the way we’ve been able to tap into our parent body, their areas of expertise, and their amazing connections.  Parents have gotten our kids into some very special places, and they have had first-hand exposure to places middle school kids don’t usually get to see,” says Evan Diamond, Upper School Coordinator and Grade 6 Social Studies teacher.

Important to the success of Steep Week is the course selection process.  The unveiling of course options and the selection process are done simultaneously, preventing students from discussing selections with their peers.  Students are unaware of course instructors, and they rank selections based on their own interests. The aim is to prevent them them from signing up for classes just to be with friends or certain teachers.  “Steep Week is a chance for sixth, seventh and eighth graders to all work together in one class, and we’ve all been incredibly impressed with how well that works,” reflects Evan. Barb adds, “This mixing of grades has tremendous benefits for building cohesion in the Upper School community, and it dispels some of that “intimidation factor” that can sometimes arise with a two-year age difference.”

“I think one of the greatest benefits of Steep Week,” Barb says, “may be that the courses have the potential to expose students to subjects and activities they may never before have experienced. For some, it may be the beginning of a lifelong interest or the spark that ignites a future career path. For others, it may be simply a wonderful chance to do, to explore, to make new connections, or to enjoy learning beyond the traditional classroom setting.”