The Seminar Program at Walker’s allows students to explore a wide array of topics over the course of their four years in the Upper School.
Digital citizenship and public speaking are among the cornerstones of the program as are the development of awareness of the world around us and the empowerment of girls to effect change through the understanding of social justice. In this program, students develop financial literacy, communication, and leadership skills along with heightened level of confidence as they gain new skills and acquire information. Juniors meet regularly with the college counseling office during these class blocks and in the spring semester, seniors are enrolled in a course to learn about what life will be like in college.
We examine the ways that information and communication technologies impact our lives as learners, family members, friends, workers, and global citizens. The class will explore some key pillars of digital citizenship, including digital literacy, digital communication, digital law, rights and responsibilities, and digital health and wellness. Students will 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, 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, to share what they’ve learned, and always credit others’ work when used.
Speaking persuasively to an audience has never been more important. Public speaking teaches ninth graders to stand and deliver. It also teaches them the valuable skill of listening and assessing. Students learn to weave the three classic modes of argument (logos, ethos, and pathos) with fact, value, and policy into a persuasive argument. Critical to the process, in addition to practice and revision, is learning how to give constructive feedback on the content and performance of her peers’ speeches as well as to solicit and absorb it for her own. Voice volume and quality, pacing, eye contact, and physical presence are assessed and practiced.
This course teaches students how to integrate media and slides into their presentations by building on the public speaking component of the curriculum. High standards for the design and use of Powerpoint and Keynote teach students that an effective slide presentation does not sit alone; it requires the manipulation of those slides by a skilled presenter. Students learn how to interpret and design graphs and charts using the basic math language of Microsoft Excel.
Students are evaluated on their preparation for class and their participation in and response to feedback. The emphasis on speaking in front of an audience is reinforced throughout the curriculum. Ultimately, students must deliver speeches for formal assessment.
In the Social Justice course, students are asked to 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 community. The term concludes with students addressing the ways that they can each take action within their own spheres of influence to create positive social change.
The Wellness course is based on concepts from positive psychology and social and emotional intelligence to help students develop a strong sense of well being. 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 activities include identifying signature strengths using UPenn’s Authentic Happiness Site and practicing mindful meditation. Additional topics include healthy sleep habits, stress management, and learning and memory. Grades are based on in-class activities as well as independent journaling. A significant part of the grade is based on class citizenship, including participation in class discussions and consistent demonstration of active listening skills and respect for others.
Women, Health & Culture is a semester-long seminar course 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 in this course. A broad spectrum of topics is explored. Knowledge of health concerns of particular importance to women are shared to aid in maintaining wellness, as well as assisting in the identification and early treatment of specific physical illnesses. All students will be instructed in American Red Cross Child and Adult CPR as well as use of an automatic external defibrillator (AED). Women, Health & Culture is designed to aid students in becoming critical thinkers about health and wellness issues facing young people today. It is expected that they will be knowledgeable about current events that affect young women. After class discussions on a specific topic, a short in-class opinion essay may be required. Class participation is an important part of this course.
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. In this course, students will study a variety of topics including make/spend/save/give, earned and unearned income, loans and credit cards, interest, personal income taxes, and investing. Students will study for an IRS exam that will allow them to complete personal income taxes through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
Junior Project is designed to provide an opportunity for each student to pursue an in-depth study of an area of interest outside of the traditional classroom. Typically, the projects include a two-week internship and require students to keep a journal detailing their experience. Recent projects have included community service in Costa Rica, shadowing a cardiologist at a local hospital including observation of surgical procedures, developing and tracking an online marketing and sales strategy, working for a gubernatorial campaign during the fall election season, interning with a sea turtle conservation group, and coaching a youth sports program.
Students are expected to organize and plan their project, and write and submit a proposal for approval. Students research an area of interest and write a brief paper prior to their project experience and keep a daily journal during the project. The off-campus supervisor of each student evaluates her work and submits a reference letter. Students create a poster to display during the Junior Project Poster Symposium. Students prepare, rehearse, and revise a presentation about their project to be assessed by faculty members. Students have the option to give their presentation before the School community.
Junior Project grades are issued in the traditional A-F scheme and appear on the report card and transcript independent of Seminar grades. As with Seminar grades, Junior Project grades are not included in the GPA calculation.
Throughout the semester, the college counseling class focused on learning skills and producing materials relevant to the college search and application process. Students are introduced to Scoir 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. Students attend a college fair in April. Students will be evaluated based on completion of the following: Scoir worksheets, short college presentation, junior questionnaire, preliminary college search, first draft of college essay, extracurricular activities resume, and securing teacher recommendations.
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 a common application suitable for submission, turning in the deadlines and application requirements worksheet, and meeting with at least three college admissions counselors in the fall on Walker’s campus.
Workshops, speakers, and panel discussions cover topics such as managing your finances, personal health and safety, decision making, developing and maintaining healthy relationships, 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.