A Curriculum That Includes More

The faculty has been busy updating courses to better advance the Thacher mission.
Thacher’s move away from the AP has opened up new opportunities for creating a curriculum that is more aligned with our mission. These days, that evolution is more evident than ever thanks to work done over the summer by our faculty and a visiting scholar on campus this fall.

Over the summer, faculty members worked collaboratively to develop new examples of units, frameworks, and pedagogical approaches to classroom teaching through an equity and justice lens. Members of the history department revised key units in the U.S. history curriculum to include more voices, primary documents, and perspectives on key events in U.S. history. Science and math faculty developed units and frameworks to help bring more relevant and topical ways for students to apply math and science skills to socio-economic issues. Our humanities teachers also looked at additional texts and information that could provide a broader and more diverse roster of sources offered in their classrooms. These curricular changes are just one element of the ongoing work to ensure that academics at Thacher live up to our mission by moving us toward our own greatest good and the greatest good of our fellow citizens. 

Just a few examples: 
  • Ms. Honorato and Ms. Snyder are bringing their math classes into conversation with social issues shaping our world—studying the numbers behind topics including wage disparity, food insecurity, and racial profiling—guiding students toward using math as a way of making sense of their lives and the world around them. 
  • Drs. Spinney and Greene are enriching their 11th-grade Honors U.S. History class with new or expanded units on American identity, Revolution, Abolition, Reconstruction, and the Civil Rights Era. Organized around questions of oppression and resistance that are central to our national story, these units also make increased use of primary sources to give fuller voice to previously marginalized perspectives. 
  • Mr. Coyle, Ms. Grant, Mr. Hattori, and Dr. Qalandar are designing projects that integrate scientific principles and the history of science with diversity, equity, and inclusion work, including units on the Flint water crisis, genetic diseases, and environmental justice.
  • In order to help build the skills it takes to navigate complex and sometimes contested topics, Mr. Schuhl, another science teacher, has developed a unit that can be applied across the academic program to prepare and empower students to engage in courageous conversations in a classroom setting. 
  • In addition to diligently guiding the development of Thacher’s strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion, DEI director and English teacher Matt Balano also revised his popular senior English IV Honors elective, which focuses on the origin, function, and power of race and racism in the U.S. through literature. He added both timely and timeless texts and developed units in an effort to support students in situating this contemporary, divisive cultural moment in our country within a historical context. In focusing on the notion that literature often serves as both window and mirror, students grapple with the ways the class texts speak to our School values and our mission of developing leaders in service of the greatest good.
  • On a co-curricular front, Thacher has been working since August in collaboration with a team of restorative justice practitioners to guide our community in developing and honing practices for dialogue across difference, critical self-reflection, empathy, reconciliation, and restoration. A group of seniors recently utilized the skills learned in the restorative sessions to lead a powerful all-class panel discussion on inclusion, othering, and belonging.  
  • And the whole School is benefitting from this year’s visiting Anacapa Scholar, Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson. On sabbatical from UCLA (Department of African American Studies and Department of Chicana/o Studies), Dr. Johnson is leading Thacher’s faculty in building academic experiences that better serve Thacher’s mission and also working with the history department to develop enhanced culturally responsive pedagogy for all students. 
Of course, this work is ongoing and we look forward to sharing future updates as it progresses.

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