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The Bay School of San Francisco

Good Stewards of Time

By Andy Shaw, Dean of Curriculum and Innovation

“We are good stewards of time,” was one of Father Malcolm Manson’s most oft-used sentences in those early days of The Bay School. Our founding head of school used this sentence to mean that we are intentional about how we use time – the most valuable currency in schools, and arguably, in this fast-paced age in which we live. While we don’t use Father Malcolm’s wording as publicly as we used to, the principle of being good stewards of time continues to sit at the core of our philosophies about education.

To Father Malcolm, and to those of us at school, being good stewards of time is partly about showing respect for students and families by being intentional and restrained in how we ask students to use their time outside of school. It’s the reason we have a homework policy our teachers abide by, one which calls for quality over quantity in homework and for meaningful tasks rather than busywork, and which specifies what amount of time is appropriate for an assignment at a given grade level. This policy allows us to assign valuable application and skill practice work at home, while also making sure our students have time for socializing, dinner with family, and exploration of their own hobbies and passions. This notion of respect through stewardship of time also drives our commitment to the flex/free block — all students have a period in the schedule where they can do homework and relax — as well as the scheduling of our exceptional College Counseling and Test Prep courses for juniors, which occur during the school day, rather than before school, after school, or on weekends.  We believe that life for adolescents does not, and should not revolve completely around school; we have built our school to live up to that belief.

Regardless of what is written on a website or a viewbook, one can see what a school really values by looking at the way the institution allocates minutes. This is stewardship of time, writ large. Bay’s dedication of time to Morning Meeting and Tutorial, for example, speaks volumes about our commitment to strong community and individualized work between students and teachers, respectively. Our long-block classes and four-classes-per-term configuration demonstrate our certainty that students learn well when they can focus on fewer subjects, encountering topics in engaging, hands-on ways. And our allocation of a full week every year to Intersession provides evidence of our school’s belief that intensive, immersion-based learning, be it through exploration in the field or through pouring oneself into a project for days at a time in the lab, is a powerful way to learn and grow. Our values are written in our calendar and our schedule.

As readers may know, the staffulty at Bay is in the process of reworking our school’s schedule. While this process has not concluded and while implementation would still be years away, excitement among staffulty is high because the designs we are now refining are, to quote the students, “so Bay.”  We’re staying true to our principles and to the values that make this school special, and aligning our days, minutes, and hours in new ways to be better stewards of time, to continue putting our students and our values at the forefront of everything we do.

Using Precepts to Guide Decision Making

This week at Morning Meeting, one of Bay’s founding staffulty members, Mr. Broudy (Humanities and Electronic Music), discusses his consideration of two precepts…
  • We value the importance of boundaries; we take only what is given
  • We value the earth our home; we don’t pollute, we recycle, and we are careful conscious consumers.
…as he makes a big decision while on his Australian honeymoon vacation this summer.
Watch his morning meeting video here!

Experiential Learning at Bay

By Andy Shaw, Dean of Curriculum and Innovation

It’s one of the oldest practices in the world: learning by experience. Setting out to master a skill or concept by experiencing it or doing it “in the wild” was the dominant learning paradigm for thousands of years. In these early years of the 21st century – the century of innovation – however, educators are reconnecting with the notion that the skill of learning by getting one’s hands dirty, by trying something scary or new, by interacting with the world around us, is a critical one. Experiential learning is a necessary component in the education of entrepreneurs and world-changers.

At Bay, we continue to ask ourselves how, while building students’ wealth of knowledge, we can immerse them in experiences that are rich, complex, and supportive of risk-taking and iterative learning. This question has become a driver of faculty conversation at Bay as we look to maximize and ever-increase the degree to which our students learn in dynamic, experience-based ways. A key element of this work comes in the form of thoughtful field trips. Last year’s Spanish 4 class took what is often a common field trip for a language class: visiting a Mexican restaurant. But rather than just ordering their food in Spanish, students literally rolled up their sleeves and immersed themselves (or at least their hands) in the learning: they worked alongside restaurant staff, getting instructions in Spanish on the preparation of traditional dishes, preparing the food, and then getting to eat what they had made. A key part of the Humanities 2 curriculum is a place of worship field project: students spend time in class learning about respectful observation and cultural research and are then tasked with visiting worship services at a mosque, temple, or church with whose practices they are less familiar.  More dynamic than any lecture, this assignment puts students into contact with real people in the practice of their most sacred traditions.  In the Neighborhood Dynamics class students read seminal texts about gentrification but also spend significant time in San Francisco’s Western Addition.  By talking with residents and community organizers and documenting the changes in the neighborhood, students are able to assess for themselves the impacts of seismic shifts in San Francisco’s economy and demographics.

While getting out of the building isn’t always manageable, students at Bay are increasingly involved in learning through experience here on campus. The Biology 1 course, newly re-oriented around the question of “Can we grow enough lettuce to supply the school salad bar for a day?”, puts students in the role of scientific farmers. They tinker with soil chemistry, composition, and hydration levels, research the processes by which plants grow and thrive, and work through experimental design after experimental design in order to maximize production.  Books and lectures are involved, of course, but so was exploration, innovation, and ingenuity.  In our Artist as Activist class, students learn about a host of media and approaches before undertaking a significant art project intended to foster social change around an issue of their choice. The process is all about continual improvement and refinement, with critique by classmates, teachers, and visiting artists, all focused on questions of, “Does your project have the impact you are looking for?” The students learn about making change, by making change. Of course, project work at Bay culminates in the Senior Project course, a graduation requirement where every student learns to be a project manager, an executive, a planner, and a researcher by doing those things “in the wild,” with an adult mentor and an authentic, original project idea. Inevitably there are setbacks, reboots, and course corrections, through which the student learns, by doing, how professionals must operate in the world beyond the walls of the school.


In numerous smaller conversations, in faculty meetings, and in the recent and ongoing efforts to reconsider and redesign Bay’s academic schedule, the notion of experiential learning comes up again and again. While different teachers have different frameworks and approaches, our school continues to find resonance in the idea of making learning by lived experience a central component of Bay’s current and future programs.

Touring Europe in a Rock Band

Now that summer is here, many of our staffulty members take a break from teaching to explore their other passions for a couple of months. Often times it’s these other passions and experiences that make our staffulty so talented and excited about what they teach!

Colin Williams, a humanities teacher and Bay’s music teacher, is off to Europe to tour the continent in a rock band. Awesome, right?! Here’s what he says:

“I’m touring Europe with a rock band this summer. We’re going to play Purple Haze and Proud Mary on a cello backed by guitar, drums, and yours truly on bass. If you’re in Germany, Italy or Spain this summer, check us out at dirtycello.com. We’ll follow up the tour with concerts in Ventura, California, and Brookings, Oregon.”

You heard the man! If you are abroad this summer, check out their tour dates and take some time to jam to some seriously good music.

dirtycello1

Intersession: Jump into a Cinematic Production!

In this intersession course, students are learning the art of filmmaking through live action and animation. They get to develop the story and choose which style of film they wish to create.

Yesterday, they shot the scenes from the script they created on location in Bolinas. During the shoot, actors got firsthand experience with acting and being on a set, while crew members learned what it’s like to be on a film team.

Today, students will  edit and animate the footage into a cohesive film back at the Bay Mac lab. This Friday, they will hold a screening of the final product at the Disney Family Museum Theater.

 

Check out this year’s thriller: Cereal Killer!! 

 

 

The Bay School of San Francisco 

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