Capabilities Approach Seminar

Challenging assumptions about gendered mindsets.

The Capabilities Approach Seminar augments Walker’s rigorous academic program by allowing students to transcend boundaries and horizons.

The learning that takes place in Seminars challenges their assumptions about gendered mindsets about what girls can do and be, and reminds them that their potentialities are not fixed but always a moving horizon as they learn. The skills learned and the process of acquiring those skills help students take responsibility for their own learning, develop a growth mindset, and increase their confidence, self-esteem, and ability to collaborate. 

Over the course of their Upper School experience, students will engage in four areas of capabilities that influence their learning, growth, and transformation:

  • Their physical relationship to the world (Agencies); 
  • Their engagement and negotiation with the world (Fluencies); 
  • Their experiential relationship to the world (Discoveries); and 
  • A self-selected capability in their senior year. 

Seminar courses are required for graduation and complement Walker’s rigorous academic program without impinging on other study time. They are held to the same standards as all course work, done with respect, love of learning, confidence, courage, conviction, and integrity. Seminar courses appear on student transcripts with grades of Meets Expectations/Does Not Meet Expectations.

Grade 9

The 9th Grade Seminar provides students with an academic, social, and emotional grounding to thrive at Walker’s. In this coursework, they will examine and shape their online communication skills, develop relationships in a diverse and multicultural context, and acquire tools to understand and monitor their social-emotional responses within a variety of settings. In each class, students are taught how to develop constructive feedback and deliver it to their peers, strengthening their empathic skills by recognizing and learning about the needs of others.

In this seminar, students examine the ways that information and communication technologies impact their lives as learners, family members, friends, workers, and global citizens. The class will explore key pillars of digital citizenship, including digital literacy, digital communication, digital law, rights and responsibilities, citation, and digital health and wellness. Students examine a variety of social media platforms and apps, analyze the positive and negative effects of different online behaviors, and learn strategies for becoming more responsible, efficient, and effective users of the Web and digital media. Students are expected to respect themselves, their peers, their teachers, and the learning environment, to engage actively in class discussions and activities, to drive their own learning, to strengthen their initiative and collaboration skills by working both independently and as a part of a team, and share what they’ve learned.

In the Social Justice seminar, students explore their own identities and think about the ways identity impacts their perspective and interactions with others. Students examine social systems and concepts that provide advantages to some social identity groups and restrict access and opportunity to others. Specifically, students look at the ways that stereotypes, discrimination, prejudice and socialization affect individuals in the pursuit of justice and communities of belonging. The term concludes with students addressing the ways that they can individually take action within their own spheres of influence to create positive social change.

This seminar shares the resources of positive psychology, academic support, and social and emotional intelligence to help students develop a strong sense of wellness. Activities are designed to strengthen self-awareness, emotional resilience, and self-esteem. Using tools such as the Johari Window, students learn relationship-building skills and develop social awareness. Other subjects explored include identifying signature strengths using UPenn’s Authentic Happiness Site, practicing mindful meditation, developing healthy sleep habits, stress management, and learning and memory.

Grade 10

The 10th Grade Seminar introduces students to skills necessary for their own well being and the well being of the world around them. The Seminar coursework includes Women, Health & Culture with a focus on understanding the issues related to women’s emotional and physical health; Sustainability and Sustenance with a lens to their relationship to both the external physical world and the inner spiritual world; and Coding as a means by which students can be part of fast-growing and important technologies that are currently underrepresented by women. The skills they develop in these courses help our students to make informed choices about their own well being and the well being of the world around them.

In partnership with the Connecticut Science Center, Walker’s is providing students with a hands-on introduction to the world of computer science. Using project-based learning, students will focus on problem solving, collaboration, and basic coding proficiencies. Skill acquisition includes proficiencies in coding languages, artificial intelligence, digital ethics, and technology across a variety of platforms, culminating in a final project presentation and establishment of a digital portfolio.

This seminar provides students with direct engagement and negotiation with the natural world. Sustainability refers to the human relationship to the natural world and our stewardship, care, and nurture of the planet we call home. Sustenance refers to the ways in which we internalize these relationships through mindfulness, connections, and spirituality. Together, these capabilities allow students to engage both physically and spiritually with the world around them and develop skills that have been credited as defining the American experience.

Women, Health & Culture is taught by Walker’s Director of Health Services. Using a medical model, comprehensive analysis of issues related to the health status and health care of women is presented. Knowledge of health concerns of particular importance to women are shared to aid in maintaining wellness, as well as the identification and early treatment of common physical illnesses. All students will be instructed in American Red Cross Child and Adult CPR as well as the use of an automatic external defibrillator (AED). [Note: A nominal fee will be charged to students’ accounts for these certifications.] Women, Health & Culture is designed to aid students in becoming critical thinkers about health and wellness issues facing young people and It is expected that they will be knowledgeable about current events that affect young women.

Grade 11

The 11th Grade Seminar introduces students to the important capabilities of Financial Literacy, College Counseling, and Self Defense. Each of these topics has students looking toward the future, both short-term and long-term, as their skills and agency evolve.

Historically, women have had less opportunity to manage money or invest. As students graduate from high school and move out into the world, it’s imperative that they possess an understanding of personal finance in order to make informed decisions that will affect their financial futures. The Personal Finance seminar offers students an opportunity to be introduced to the concepts of managing personal finances including earning, spending, saving, investing and philanthropy. Students conduct hands-on activities including budget development and the creation of an investment portfolio. Students in the Personal Finance seminar will also take and pass the IRS certification to become a personal income tax preparer in the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program. Training for the VITA program is conducted as part of the coursework.

In the second semester, the College Counseling Seminar focuses on learning skills and producing materials relevant to the college search and application process. Students are  introduced to SCOIR, our online college preparation tool, and learn how to explore their interests, majors, and colleges. Other topics include standardized testing, the college essay, interviewing, resumes, scholarship and financial aid, and college visits. All juniors attend a college fair in April as part of this course. Students exhibit mastery in the following areas: SCOIR worksheets, short presentations, questionnaires, a preliminary college search, a first draft of a college essay, an extracurricular activities resume, and securing teacher recommendations.

Grade 12

The 12th Grade Seminar brings a Walker’s student’s learning to its apex. Each of the seminars builds upon the learning acquired during the previous years, deliberately utilizing that learning in new contexts.

Senior year college counseling is a continuation of the work begun in junior year. This seminar focuses on completing and submitting applications, organizing application deadlines and requirements, connecting with admissions representatives, reviewing types of financial aid, and managing post-application requirements. In addition to actively participating in class, students are evaluated based on completion of the following: creating a final list of colleges, filling out the common application suitable for submission, turning in the deadlines and application requirements worksheet, and meeting with college admissions counselors on Walker’s campus.

Learning a self-selected capability is the capstone experience of the Walker’s Capabilities Approach Program. This seminar highlights students’ ability to show how they have mastered their own learning by choosing something they want to learn, developing a learning plan, learning it, and then teaching it to others, all in a structured context. Once they have mastered their capability, they will then teach it to other students in the Lacuna program in February. This experience will provide students with a clear understanding of both their newfound capability and the complex cognitive processes they engaged in to learn it, positioning them well to continue their lifelong quest for learning.

Seniors have the privilege of addressing the entire school on a subject of their choice to exhibit their mastery of public speaking and reflect on their development and learning while at Walker’s. They will use Seminar time to draft, rewrite, and rehearse their Senior Speech, which will be offered at a Morning Meeting or Assembly during the school year.

Workshops, speakers, and panel discussions cover topics such as personal health and safety, decision making, developing and maintaining healthy relationships, and adjusting to newfound independence, as well as an understanding of the resources that are available to students at the college level. Students will reflect on how social media and mobile devices have changed since they began high school and explore ways that these technologies can impact their lives in college. This course is designed to prepare students for the transition from Walker’s into a college or university setting where much more independence is expected.