A Short Overview of SIL

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by Mark Silver, Head of Hillbrook School

What happens when you ask a group of 8th graders to build upon the experience they have gained through several years of reach beyond programming by enrolling them in a yearlong, core academic course that requires them to dive deeply into something that matters to them and explore what they can do about it? How will the students respond to this new challenge? What can they accomplish?

Those are the questions we asked last summer when we took a risk and decided to create a brand new core academic course for our 8th graders – Social Impact & Leadership. The course, which met at the same frequency as other core classes like English, science, and history, was designed and taught by Associate Director of the Scott Center for Social Entrepreneurship Matt Callahan and Secondary School Counselor Eden Maisel. Matt and Eden integrated key components of the Scott Center social entrepreneurship program, including the use of the United Nations Sustainable Development goals and analytical models like the entrepreneurial S-curve, while also borrowing pieces from the framework we had utilized with the 8th grade capstone project over the past five or six years.

The results have been impressive, with students creating a wide array of projects that will be showcased at the Social Impact Summit on Thursday, May 27. Attendees will see the broad range of projects that students pursued, from short films that offer insight into critical issues to clothing designed and created using sustainable materials. While the final products are worth seeing, even more important is gaining a glimpse into the process that students undertook to get there. Students were required to integrate a broad range of core academic skills, including analytical and creative writing, research and data analysis, and critical thinking, while also utilizing important project management skills that went well beyond the typical skills that most 8th graders have to pursue in more traditional projects. 

We are so proud of the Class of 2021 for the enthusiasm with which they embraced this challenge, and the many things they accomplished over the course of the year. Looking ahead, we are excited to build upon this promising foundation and, in true Hillbrook fashion, ask how we can make it even better.