The Institute for Responsible Citizenship
“Twenty-first century independent schools must prepare students to be knowledgeable, compassionate citizens and effective leaders within a rapidly transforming world…" National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)
In March 2014, the Episcopal Collegiate School Board of Trustees unanimously approved plans to build and implement a school-wide program dedicated to engaged citizenship. The Institute for Responsible Citizenship has had, since its inception, two major goals: 1) to strengthen existing educational programs that support students' abilities to master core subject areas, and 2) to provide new enrichment opportunities that promote thoughtful and confident engagement in the broader global community. The Institute will incorporate service learning and experiential travel into the existing curriculum to promote adventurous exploration and individual passions. Ultimately, the School's existing community service program will be integrated into the Institute.
Veteran Middle School History and World Religions Teacher Lara Beard is the Institute's Director, and with the help of faculty, administrators, the Head of School, and a newly-formed Advisory Committee, is responsible for bringing the Institute to life.
"I'm excited about so many aspects of the Institute's initiatives, but two things stand out," said Beard. "First, the Institute will formalize and expand service opportunities and travel for all of our students, while at the same time customizing the approach that matches these opportunities to individual student interests.
"Second, our students will be guided in curating a digital portfolio of their best work, from the classroom as well as from their service and travel commitments. This e-Portfolio, which will help to demonstrate our students' broad range of experiences, becomes a part of their greater educational portfolio upon graduation.
"While other independent schools in the state might support service learning and promote travel, the Institute’s initiatives are designed to offer unique opportunities that do not have an equivalent in the state. I am privileged to be a part of these ground-breaking initiatives and look forward to all that the Institute will have to offer as it grows."
With eight broad areas of engagement, Episcopal Collegiate students will have varied and valuable opportunities to find their niche. Through involvement in Institute initiatives, our graduates will leave this community with a set of competencies that help them navigate the much broader global community. Additionally, our students will possess a much keener sense of their civic responsibilities, and perhaps more importantly, how to act on them.
Launching the Institute
Last fall, the Episcopal Collegiate School Class of 2019 participated in the inaugural year of the Episcopal Collegiate Institute for Responsible Citizenship in the Upper School. Through a series of practicums during the first and second years of high school, every student in the class was exposed to an introductory course of study in each engagement area. Year 1 practicums focused on community, ethics, politics, and the environment.
Students are developing a broad baseline of knowledge as they explore the practicums. Following sophomore year, they will be able to ‘major’ in one of the engagements, a piece that is unique to Episcopal's program. For example, a student can choose to do his/her service hours intensively in one of the engagement areas, linking the service back to the concept of citizenship, whether in an environmental, entrepreneurial, community, Episcopal, political, or wellness-related area. It may or may not turn out to be a lifelong interest, but the most important aspect of the service is that it will teach students to take an interest and run with it--and then be able to tie that broad experience back into their own intellectual and social development. Ultimately, we will be graduating students who are more directed, self-aware citizens – all with the support of the Institute and Episcopal Collegiate School.
The junior and senior years will provide opportunities for hands-on, project-based learning in an engagement of each student’s choice. With the help of teachers, advisors, and Beard, every student will build an e-Portfolio in the new Haiku Learning Management System that includes thoughtfully coordinated and carefully archived demonstrations of learning. These digital portfolios will be curated to reflect a student’s growth and passion for a particular engagement, and leadership in specific areas of the community. These portfolios will be available for others to view on a variety of devices, and are packaged for easy display to colleges or potential employers.
In 2016, it can be difficult for educators and parents alike to conceive of or predict the kind of world our young people will need to navigate in the future. A technological revolution is fundamentally changing the way people live and work, and preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist is a daunting task. Despite these inherent difficulties, it is becoming increasingly clear that a diversity of skill-sets that go beyond traditional academic measures is critical to long-term success outside of the classroom. The Institute for Responsible Citizenship at Episcopal Collegiate School will provide the structure and support our students need to move beyond content mastery, focusing instead on promoting global competencies and a keen awareness of civic responsibilities.