When we break down the classroom walls through an immersion program, our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders explore new passions, interests, and connections in the real world. Steep Week at Brookwood is the dynamic intersection of experiencing, learning, and connecting. Every spring, Upper School students visit destinations near and far and reflect deeply as they dive into experiential and interdisciplinary learning of all types.
This year, courses ranged from “Leading Ladies” to “Biotech Awesomeness,” and students ventured on astounding hikes, toured Supreme Courts, manufactured boxcars, visited mushroom farms, learned about the intricacies of set design, studied the evolution of fly fishing techniques, wowed Boston Children’s Museum guests… and much, much more! Steep Week is an opportunity for teachers and students to share their passions, explore an area of established or potential interest, connect with each other in new ways, and pilot initiatives that could be incorporated into future curriculum. Read more about 2018 Steep Week courses below.
The Architect of Fun
Tabletop games (such as board and card games) have changed a lot since the days of Monopoly and Sorry, and now you can design your own. Students in this course played games and learned about the elements of good game design. Then, students designed their own games using cardboard, paper, 3D printed pieces, and Brookwood’s laser cutter. As students received feedback on their games, they made improvements, ultimately sending digital files to have the game manufactured by a print-on-demand publisher. Highlights included: hearing from a guest teacher who shared her experience running Boston’s Festival of Indie Games; and spending an evening at The Castle gaming cafe where they shared their prototypes and received feedback from the larger community.
Biotechnology — or “biotech” — basically means changing living organisms to help solve a problem. Have you ever taken antibiotics? If so, you’ve benefited from biotech. This Steep Week course explored other ways in which biotechnology appears in our lives, and students experienced some serious science. Students met with leaders in the biotech world, visited their labs, and completed lab work.Students also thought about the tough question: how much should scientists change nature in order to help human beings? Highlights included learning about: the science behind DNA, genes, and protein synthesis in cells and how these create different traits in living things; the technology and lab techniques behind protein synthesis and genetic modifications; how scientists are trying to feed the world through biotechnology; and amazing advances in medical care to treat and cure infectious and genetic disorders.
Brookwood @ The Boston Children’s Museum
Thanks to Brookwood’s reputation for authentic design and problem-solving work, one of the world’s most renowned Children’s Museums (right here in Boston!) asked us to create and lead a week-long “solution designing” exhibition at the museum. In “BWD @ BCM,” students spent a week working at The Boston Children’s Museum, improving their design and problem solving skills, sharing their solutions, and helping museum visitors solve their problems. Highlights included: collaborating with Boston Children’s Museum staff and Brookwood teachers to create a Brookwood exhibit in the museum; working with museum visitors (children and adults), sharing what we do at Brookwood, and helping others use Design Thinking to solve a problem; creating actual, authentic solutions to real life problems shared by museum visitors; becoming one of the creators of an innovative, collaborative Board Game Replacement Piece Project.
Embracing a Creative Life
What makes us really happy and gives us a sense of joy? This course was designed for creative spirits and wanderers with an interest in exploration, discovery, play, and self-reflection. To fuel the creative spirit, students walkws in the woods and on the beach, traveled to the city, visited galleries and shops, made a meal together and learned from experienced artists, chefs, and makers. Students experimented, explored, and worked on those things which they are truly interested in pursuing but never seem to have the time for! Highlights included: spending time with others who are curious, open-minded, and positive; learning and hearing stories from people who are living creative lives; breaking bread together, gathering and collecting items of interest — raning from images and sounds to found objects and scraps of fabric; reflecting and recording the week in a way that makes sense to each student; and creating an individual project/piece that reflects their interests.
Fishing on The Fly
This course introduced the basics of Fly Fishing. Students learned a number of individual skills including assembling an outfit, tying knots, casting, choosing flies, finding fish, and proper handling of a catch. Students also experienced the North Shore through the lens of fly fishing, learning about the variety of waterbodies that hold fish and the species they can catch. This course was specially designed for students who love the water and being outdoors in all kinds of weather, like fishing but have never fly fished, are interested in understanding more about how a sport like fly fishing ties into our local ecology and the necessity of preserving our natural spaces, and value learning patience and calm doing an activity that requires absolute focus.
Keep Calm and Climb On
“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.” ― Barry Finlay. What’s your personal mountain top? This course brought students to rock walls and boulders indoors and out. Students learned the literal ropes, tested their balance and bravery, and experienced the joy of being totally in tune with their selves and the world around them. Course participants spent time at local climbing gyms and hot outdoor spots close by and far away. To deepen the experience, students also practiced yoga and meditation. There was pain AND gain AND… picnics. This course provided students with an opportunity to face their challenges (both physical and mental) and gave them an incredible feeling of accomplishment, whether they made it to the top or not. Crucial life skills of power, perseverance, and problem-solving were tackled head-on.
Law and Order
During this Steep Week course, students explored law, order, and justice in America. Students were afforded a first-hand look at many different aspects of the legal system; from the investigation of a crime, to its prosecution and defense, to its final destination in the highest appellate court in the Commonwealth. Students explored the legal system in current events, and also connected it to the world of detective fiction with a look at Sherlock Holmes and the works of American crime authors Raymond Chandler and Erle Stanley Gardner. As a concluding exercise, students used their experiences to write a credible detective story of their own. Highlights included: visiting local law enforcement agencies; observing a trial court and learning the nuts and bolts of a criminal case; and traveling into Boston to see the Supreme Judicial Court (the highest court in Massachusetts) and an appellate judge.
Leading Ladies – Guide, Inspire, Respect, Lead, Strong
Students spent a week with their fellow ladies, delving into who they are and who they want to be… while learning how to become it. This course was designed for students identifying as girls who see themselves as strong, as leaders, as adventurers, as empowered – or would like to be! Leading Ladies students practiced yoga and meditation to strengthen mental focus and generate spiritual powers, explored team challenges to develop leadership as well as team skills, spent time reading and discussing a novel about a courageous and resilient young girl, watched films and heard from inspiring women who are changing the world (or already have!), and finished the week with a 2-day overnight trip in the wilderness to further develop leadership skills, confidence, and team building while also learning important outdoor skills.
Mountain Hiking and Blogging
Students hiked up Mount Monadnock, Pack Monadnock Mountain, and Mount Chocorua in Southern New Hampshire over the course of three days, and then created an online blog detailing their experience, along with photos and information about the plants and animals found in these magnificent mountains. Students were inspired to face the rigorous physical and mental challenges of strenuous hiking and experienced the great rewards that come with conquering a mountain. Highlights included: experiencing the calm and peace that comes while being immersed in a New England forest and mountain; learning the essentials of proper planning and needs for mountain day hikes; and studying the plants and animals of New England mountains, such as red squirrels, fungi, clubmosses and lichen.
Soap Box Racers
The Soap Box Derby is a youth car racing program that features motorless vehicles powered by gravity and raced downhill by a single driver. Originally, gravity race cars were built from wooden soap crates and roller skate wheels. They have grown more complex over time, but the constant has been the challenge to kids across the country to design and build their own cars. Throughout this Steep Week course, small groups worked on “team building” a vehicle as a visual show-piece and a road-ready racer, with students as drivers! Students learned about the steps needed to build a basic gravity racer based on their original ideas, as well as the scientific principles that make cars go faster and the design principles that make cars more beautiful. Through their hands-on work, they also learned about the safe and effective use of power tools and the importance of collaboration, communication, and revision on the road to a successful build.
The Theater Scene
There is a lot more that goes into a play or musical than just learning the lines, choreography, and blocking (where to go on stage). There’s hiring actors and lighting/sound technicians; designing and creating sets and costumes; selling tickets; and financing, marketing, and publicizing the production. In this Steep Week course, students went behind the scenes and learned about various aspects of theater production. Students chose an area of focus and helped produce a video program that tied together everything they learned during the week. Highlights included: meeting with producers and artistic directors at The Greater Boston Stage Company, The Boston Center for the Arts, The Shubert Theater, and The Boston Opera House; learning about the business of music production at Berklee College of Music; and seeing a production of The WIZ at The Lyric Stage.
You Are What You Eat
The relationships that human beings have with one another define our cultures and sustain us through times of joy and sadness. But what about the relationships human beings have with other living things? Throughout human history, people have developed unique relationships with various plants, through agriculture, to secure a steady and reliable food supply. In turn, those plants (and even some animals) ensure their own survival by providing necessary food, thus completing this mutually beneficial relationship. In this course, students investigated the intersection between food, farming, history, and science to better understand the depth of the relationships people enjoy with the plants that we grow and eat. Highlights included field trips to dairy, corn, and mushroom farms and cooking classes, demonstrations/lessons, and many tastings. Each student created a presentation about a plant of interest that focused on how humans and that plant interact, and how they have benefited each other over time.