By Matt Delaney, Director of Academic Design and Integration

DURING A Q&A PANEL AT A PAST OPEN HOUSE, AN Eastside Prep parent commented, “EPS is more than college prep, it’s life prep.” Built on the platform of our mission and vision statements, the student experience is intentionally designed as preparation for college and beyond.

For many years, Dr. Macaluso has reflected that, “Our fifth graders and twelfth graders are on the same schedule, yet their experiences need to be distinct from each other,” and questioned, “Aside from more advanced coursework, what elements should distinguish the eleventh and twelfth grades as the culmination of the EPS experience?” The existing collegiate-oriented seminar and independent study programs that comprise the school’s independent curriculum are a start toward answering that question.

After designing, constructing, and opening two new physical spaces (the TMAC and TALI buildings) in five years, and completing the school’s re-accreditation, last year our focus returned to the eleventh- and twelfth-grade experience. During the 2019-20 school year, members of the school’s leadership team worked with Dr. David Ferrero, an educational consultant who previously directed research and evaluation for education programs at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Ferrero was retained to provide an outsider’s perspective on the EPS experience. He helped us imagine what adjustments might be made to our program to ensure that students’ final two years at EPS are deeply reflective of the school’s mission and vision.

Over the course of the year, Dr. Ferrero conducted a cultural ethnography, interviewing faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the school’s leadership team about what they value and what they thought the school needed. Not surprisingly, his interviews with alumni provided the richest insights on how the EPS program prepared students for life after graduation. Additionally, Dr. Ferrero researched programs and offerings at other high schools and bridge programs offered by some colleges. Finally, he asked questions about how some current EPS offerings might be re-sequenced or clustered within the junior and senior years to create an experience to help students understand themselves and their place in a quickly accelerating modern world.

From hours of research and dialogue in the work groups, four main student needs emerged:

  1. Students need exposure to multiple adult narratives as a representation that life paths are typically non-linear, with turning points and connections that are hard to predict and plan for.
  2. Students need to understand how the ever-accelerating modern world works, and how an individual might construct and adapt a personal stance in that world.
  3. Students need exposure to a myriad of models and ways of thinking used in different disciplines and domains, as they move toward larger-scale enterprises at EPS, in college, and in the professional world that awaits them beyond college.
  4. Students need an introduction to a concept of incremental decision-making and life planning, to be better equipped to make sense of where they are, who they are, and what they want as they encounter new contexts and realities in their lives.

These guiding principles are captured in four prototypes that were launched this year: a speaker series and three new seminars for eleventh- and twelfth-grade students.

The first seminar—Worldviews, Truths and Consequences took place in the first term; the second seminar— Methods, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship was offered in the winter trimester, and the third seminar—Deliberate Design: College, Career, Life is in progress. To date we have hosted three speakers from our faculty and three speakers from the EPS parent community. In the future, two more speakers from outside EPS are slated to present. Descriptions of each of the seminars and speakers to date can be found below.

Term: Fall
Theme: How the World Works and My Place in the World
Seminar: Worldviews, Truths and Consequences
Guiding Questions: What does a well-articulated worldview look like in the 21st century, and how do I start to build my own?
Non-Linear Life Paths
Allison Luhrs, Mas Sudo, Stephanie Hinson
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Kristina Belfiore, Joe Belfiore
Description: “If you feel overwhelmed and confused by the global predicament, you are on the right track. Global processes have become too complicated for any single person to understand. How then can you know the truth about the world, and avoid falling victim to propaganda and misinformation?” A contemporary thinker, and lecturer on world history, Yuval Noah Harari continues to have a significant impact on a myriad of issues facing the world today. Coursework in this seminar examines a number of his 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, including: WORK; TECHNOLOGY; TRUTH (Ignorance, Justice, Post-Truth, Science Fiction); LIBERTY; EQUALITY; COMMUNITY; RESILIENCE (Education, Meaning and Meditation); ECONOMY; and ENVIRONMENT. Each student in this seminar constructs a draft of their current worldview/stance.

Term: Winter
Theme: Methods and Enterprises
Seminar: Methods, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship
Guiding Questions: What problems are worth solving, and what are the best tools to solve them?
The Power of Accumulated Knowledge and Tools
Dr. John Platt
Academic Entrepreneurship
Casey Otley, EPS Director of Finance & Operations
Description: One of the carpenter’s most effective tools is a jig—a method for solving similar problems over and over again. Methodologies like The Design Process, the business plan, ethnographic study and interview, deep academic research, and project planning are the tools of effective individual and group initiatives and projects. Throughout this experience, students will expand their capacity for problem-finding and problem-solving. After exploring the above methodologies, and others, each student selects a model or a combination of models to apply to an individual or team project (real or hypothetical). Coursework in this seminar is complementary to any student entertaining the idea of engaging a Senior Thesis (individual) or Design Project for a Better World (team). At the same time,
these methods and models can be applied by any student, or group of students, to a much wider range of problems worth solving to make worlds, small and large,
better places.

Term: Spring
Theme: An Intentional Life
Seminar: Deliberate Design: College, Career, Life
Guiding Question: How might I design, and continue to redesign, a life experience that reflects what I value?
Framing Your College Experience/ TBD
Designing A Meaningful Life/ TBD
Description: Eighty percent of students change their majors while in college—while many more focus on being dutiful and pursuing the expectations of others. People ask each other, “What is your passion?” or “What do you want to do with your life?” when each of us knows these questions are too big and unwieldy. Figuring what you want out of life and designing your experience in that direction is an iterative process of storytelling, collaboration, framing and reframing of where you are and what you want. Life paths are often presented as linear: choose a major, go to grad school, get a job/career, have a family. Those who expect that progression find that a non-linear life path is more the norm. Using the texts Designing Your Life and Excellent Sheep, coursework and collaboration in this seminar ask students to sketch plans for college, career, and life, thinking about the habit of adaptation as they come to know more about themselves and how the world works. Each student in this seminar is paired with a mentor to initiate a dialogue about how they might keep designing and redesigning a picture of their life as they decide what problems are worth solving.

Final Reflections

While debriefing the Worldviews seminar, student reflections evidenced that our new offerings are on the right track. Some explained that they had never thought about the concept of a worldview before; many indicated that they were not previously aware of the complex worldviews of philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Sartre, and the historian Yuval Noah Harari; and others expressed that they were excited to have the beginnings of their own worldviews, which they plan to adapt and update as they move through their lives. As we progress through this year, we are excited to test, adapt, update, and evolve our newest approaches to preparing EPS students for college and beyond.