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Seminar Series asks students to take a look at the world around them with a critical lens

What exactly is Seminar Series? Killington Mountain School's Seminar Series program is one in which all students participate, and one that runs throughout the academic year. The program serves to engage student-athletes in all "four C's" of 21st century learning: critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration.

Structured by grade level, each group meets every two weeks with their faculty facilitators. Each grade-level has an overarching theme and periodical to use for reference, the idea being that all topics explored throughout the year relate back to that topic and that the groups utilize that publication for content and research, and ultimately, all participants will engage in some sort of presentation element. The groups have all taken their own shape, choosing to structure their meetings in a way that best meets the needs of the age-group and the best explores their assigned overarching theme.

Richard Morse and Steve Tuckerman work with the Middle School students, and are tasked with keeping the focus local, taking a look at Vermont and its landscape from a historical and current lens using Killington-based newspaper, The Mountain Times.

The middle school group has learned about the history of the Long Trail and the history and construction of covered bridges, with field trips taken to explore both in person. They also learned about the history of skiing in New England, and about the geology of the local region, as well as exploring the contributions of Vermonters to ski racing, and the Winter Olympics. The contributions and successes of the Cochrane family, Andrea Mead Lawrence, and our own Chelsea Marshall were discussed.

The middle schoolers most recently partook in a more active project. Under the direction of Richard Morse, and taking advantage of three inches of fresh powder, two emergency snow shelters were constructed. Students learned how it is possible to survive under adverse conditions.

Claudia Revenko-Bowen and Tao Smith work with the ninth grade group, whose theme is The Geography Lottery. This is exploring what it means to be born in a certain area and the broad-reaching impact that has on humans. The ninth graders utilizes The Week as their periodical. Claudia reports, "Throughout our seminar sessions, we have taken time to explore the significance of geography in understanding the ways in which societies connect harmoniously, but also stand in conflict due to socio-cultural, economic and political differences. Our students, as knowledgeable and well-informed global citizens, have unique opportunities to explore the positive and negative impacts of living in a world that is highly interconnected and yet vastly disjoined in terms of governance, power, freedom, human rights, and equality."

Claudia continued, "Using The Week as a base for class discussion of national and global current events, we will examine, in the following weeks, the importance of natural resources in different regions of the world, paying special attention to the roles of raw materials, energy and innovation in maintaining stability or sparking conflicts among underdeveloped, developing, and fully developed nations. The regions covered include China, Russia, Africa, the Middle East, Scandinavia, the Amazon in Brazil, and the United States."

The tenth grade seminar meets with Terri Isidro and Dave Willis, and the group, who uses The Wall Street Journal as a resource, explores the theme of Technology and the Environment.

Terri shared what the tenth grade has been covering, "The tenth graders are exploring the many ways that technology impacts the environment by utilizing internet resources and engaging in discussion. After an initial exploration phase, students separated into groups to explore one specific impact and to prepare a presentation to educate the others in the seminar and potentially, all of KMS. Members of our group are exploring the relationship between technology and endangered species and climate change, as well as exploring the relationship between social media and the environment. Students are learning to work collaboratively and critique each other's ideas and work. By having a quasi-open ended project it allows ideas to formulate and change over time and helps participants keep pushing their peers to make the group project that much better."

Peter Dubois and Ted Schaft work with the juniors using The New York Times and exploring the concept of Disruption and Social Change. Pete shared, "The eleventh grade Seminar has been starting up some great conversations. Early in the year we focused on the election quite a bit, and what better demonstrates disruption and social change than electing Donald Trump as President (regardless of political view)? It was exciting to literally watch the students form an opinion about basic political ideologies in front of our eyes!

We also discussed the protests at the Standing Rock Reservation, looking at both sides of the conversation. Another topic we explored is whether or not it is unconstitutional to subject students to some of the really poorly rated schools in our inner cities, focusing on Detroit. Recently the discussion has turned back to Trump, especially regarding his appointments to government positions. The students have been putting in a nice effort and it has been showing in the discussion as well as in their outlook on the world."

Alex Crivici, Amy Allen, and Karl Haloj have been working with the seniors, using The New Yorker as a resource for delving into the world around them and as a jumping ground to launch the independent study projects each senior will be completing before graduation. Amy explained, "The Seniors are conducting independent projects, using articles from The New Yorker that connect to their theme of choice. The New Yorker articles also frame the weekly discussion. All of the topics connect back to the overarching theme of “Your place in the world” and examine global, national, and local current events. A different senior is responsible for choosing an article in advance of each of the bi-monthly meeting sessions, posting it to the Google Classroom for all to read, and also writing and posting several thoughtful discussion questions for the group to consider before meeting.

During the meetings, we review the article chosen for that day, and the senior in charge leads the group in a discussion, centered around the questions he/she has prepared. Each senior will ultimately complete a presentation for the group and/or entire school, focused on their chosen theme. Students will make use of Google Slides as a presentation vehicle and utilize external sources. Senior and December KMS graduate Gabe Robinson-Leith has already presented his independent study. His presentation, which was awesome, was titled “The Syrian Conflict in the Broader Context of the Cold War” and explored his assertion that the current conflict in Syria is representative of a broader global conflict between Russia and the United States, with historical roots going back to the Cold War. Overall, the seminar discussions have broadened everyone's horizons and have been incredibly valuable."

The Seminar Series has been a powerful and important addition to the school's curriculum, and it will continue to evolve over time. KMS looks forward to the program being a connection point among all alumni and to it being a cornerstone of each graduating student's experience while enrolled at school.




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