"The beauty of the FACA model is in its balancing an organized structure and an organic planning process, generating new initiatives from one year to the next and enabling us to follow through on key strategic priorities."
Daniel J. Paradis
Head of School
The engineering FACA team pursued an ambitious four-week agenda that included the creation of a “Student Guide to Engineering” for Upper Schoolers enrolled in the engineering elective. The guide supplements the classroom text and provides a framework for solving problems, introduces and reviews important concepts, and supplies a multitude of resources for students. In addition, the ninth grade physics course will benefit from the addition of a series of projects, activities, and lab exercises designed to reinforce understanding of engineering concepts and promote interest in applied technologies.
A team of eighth grade teachers designed an initiative for their students to explore topics related to advocacy, the grade-level theme. “Advoc8” is a multi-faceted process through which students familiarize themselves with a community issue in search of a solution, then develop a proposal, either individually or in small groups, to address the problem. This authentic and research-based approach will include consultation with those directly impacted by the problem, and will lead to greater understanding of the power of the individual as an agent of change.
A group of Lower School teachers representing first through fourth grades immersed themselves in the teaching of word study, a category that includes teaching the skills necessary for reading and writing, i.e., spelling, phonics, vocabulary, and grammar. Building upon the work of previous FACA projects, the group delved into current research into best practices, identified priorities, outlined shared goals to ensure a consistent experience across grade levels, and planned for parent education opportunities, all in the service of a strong language arts experience for our students.
Stories from Home offered an opportunity for a small group of teachers to reflect together for a week on the concept of home, framed by an understanding that “we can’t truly be ourselves and bring ourselves fully to work if we don’t really know where we come from and we don’t have a space to share who we are.” Through writing, sharing stories and artifacts, and reading, this cohort laid the groundwork for future groups of Park faculty to explore ways to make the school, our “second home,” a place that is safe and comfortable for everyone, no matter where we come from.
Park’s Upper School mathematics department wrote an original curriculum for grades 9-11. (To our best knowledge, Park is one of only five schools in the nation undertaking this level of curricular work.) Tony Asdourian cites working on this project as “the most valuable educational experience of my life.”
Laura Amy Schlitz, 2008 Newbery Medal winner for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, started work on this book through an individual FACA writing project. She dedicated another of her books, A Drowned Maiden’s Hair, to the “Faculty Writers” FACA group, whom she describes as “magicians and midwives” to her book.
Eighty faculty, administrators, and staff have participated in “Broadening the Conversation about Race.” Park faculty presented the model at the NAIS People of Color Conference in 2008 and have since offered it as a professional development activity for participants in Baltimore’s public/independent school Middle Grades Partnership program. The FACA Race project has led to an ongoing discussion group for Upper School students and to active diversity committees in all three divisions.
The Middle School faculty consulted NIH researcher Dr. Jay Giedd in their division-wide project on how young adolescents learn (“Brain” FACA). This project has informed divisional work in both guidance and pedagogy ever since. Cathy Schmidt, project chair, says: “The ‘Brain FACA’ of 2003 has had a continuous impact on Middle School. There is not a week that goes by that someone doesn’t refer to the connection between our studies of the neuro-scientific discoveries about adolescents and our goal of moving each student toward higher levels of cognition. We learned the scientific reasons why certain approaches to teaching will work and others will not.”
Middle School Social Studies Chair Cathy Schmidt has done research to add a unit on Africa to eighth grade social studies, and in summer 2007, Upper School History teachers John Kessinger and Daniel Jacoby researched the Ottoman Empire and North Africa, Haiti, and Mexico to enhance required courses and electives in non-Western history.
Projects on “Habitat for Humanity” and “Service and Community” at Park School have supported the development of service activities and establishment of “Park Service,” a volunteer group of faculty and students which meets weekly to coordinate activities.
Pre-work for the 2007 division-wide project on “Differentiated Learning in the Middle School Classroom” included work by three members of the Middle School science faculty, who took an on-line Project Zero course (Harvard Graduate School of Education), and piloted new approaches in their classrooms. Other groups of faculty have attended the Project Zero Institute to support their work on curricular design.