Dear BHS Community,
As we wrap up the last of the end-of-year BHS traditions, congratulate the Class of 2021 and look forward to the summer and together-time with friends and family, I just want to take a moment to reflect on this extraordinary year.
This past year—my last as Chair of the Innovation Fund—was both challenging and rewarding. Fund volunteers have been working harder than ever to use the time and space that we were given to think differently about how we engage our donors in a remote environment, and how we expand on the funding that we give to BHS faculty to support teaching and learning at the high school.
Our primary focus this year has been on our COVID-19 Response Grants. Our COVID grant work started last June to prepare faculty for the upcoming school year and continued through the winter to support the shift to hybrid teaching and learning. It will culminate this summer with the COVID-19 Reflection Summit. The best practices and insights gleaned during the three phases of the COVID-19 grant will be carried forward to continue to positively impact students.
Our collaborative work with faculty has yielded stronger relationships and set up scaffolding for school-wide student success moving forward in a post-COVID classroom environment. A cohesive, new standard approach with all faculty using Canvas improved communications with students and made a huge difference in “equalizing” everyone’s experience. This work led to the creation of multiple progress reports for check-in with parents/guardians throughout the year. Intentional instruction on Executive Functioning (EF) helped students develop the skills needed both online and moving forward to in-person learning. And finally, an emphasis on SEL (Social Emotional Learning) and community building online made being back together now very meaningful.
The COVID-19 Response Grants allowed faculty to innovatively rethink teaching, curriculum development, and school culture as they responded to challenging logistical scenarios throughout the year. Interdepartmental collaboration last summer was groundbreaking and culture-shifting for BHS. Now as faculty emerge from remote and hybrid teaching, annual assessment of student content, SEL and EF are much more collaborative across departments and are more efficient and effective. The three phased COVID-19 Grants provided the faculty with the time and space to think and plan which was the impetus to this change. This time also provided an opportunity to reevaluate curriculum and to think about what worked and what didn’t. These are conversations that faculty will continue to have during the upcoming summer COVID-19 Reflection Summit.
As we look forward to the Fall, the investment in teaching and learning will continue. Two new programs were accepted for funding and will launch in the 2021-2022 school year. Briana Brown (Science) and Roger Grande (Social Studies) will lead Climate Science and Social Solutions; and Britt Stevens, Department Chair of Career and Technical Education, will launch Rethinking the Restaurant: Creating Community through Social Impact.
Climate Science and Social Solutions is an interdisciplinary team-taught course with instruction from both the scientific and historical perspectives. The course will enable students to engage in project-based learning by analyzing real world policy options related to climate change, and then research and posit definable and effective solutions. The goal is to have students engage in advocacy campaigns designed to shape perceptions on climate change and encourage personal mitigation strategies.
Rethinking the Restaurant will launch the restaurant program as a lab for interdisciplinary learning with a social impact lens. This is a space where English Language Learners could introduce dishes from their home cultures as a special menu item, where World Language teachers and students could work with the culinary program to design “take-over” menus for cultural observations or holidays, and where students in Social/Food Justice or Environmental Action club team with our culinary program to understand and improve how to sustainably run our business. These are only some of our curricular aspirations.
So, as you can see, the BHS Innovation Fund continues to have a broad and meaningful impact at BHS, despite the challenges of the past year. It is because of the incredible support of donors and volunteers that we were able to meet and exceed our fundraising and programmatic goals. I look forward to handing the leadership of this amazing organization over to Maureen Fallon and Masu Haque-Khan who will continue the work that was started more than 20 years ago. While I will be stepping down as Chair, I will continue to play an advisory role in the growth of the Fund.
I wish you all a wonderful, peaceful and safe Summer and send a hearty congratulations to the Class of 2021!
Ellen Rizika, Chair, BHS Innovation Fund Board of Directors