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An Academic Program Designed to Keep Pace with Change

Our academic departments are refining their curricula, articulating core competencies, and mapping out new courses that deliver the knowledge and skills students need to address the demands of a complex and rapidly changing world.
The world of education has seen a number of exciting and innovative ideas taking hold in recent years. Today, Thacher has the opportunity to test out some of those new educational practices and to implement them into a forward-thinking curriculum. Thacher’s ongoing Curriculum Initiative, begun in 2017, is a comprehensive collaboration between the faculty and the administration to advance our courses and practices. The goal is a curriculum rooted in Thacher traditions and values that better develops the knowledge and skills students need to address the demands of a complex and rapidly changing world. As part of this work, our academic departments are refining their curricula, articulating core competencies, and mapping out new courses. While we recognize the value of the rigor of the Advanced Placement program, we (along with many other independent schools) have concluded that we can only implement the sorts of enriching academic experiences that we are eager to explore by moving beyond the AP and the demands placed upon the academic calendar by its intensely content-based approach. As we look beyond the APs, we are focused on project- and problem-based learning that places students at the center of their education.

A major theme of these approaches is active learning with real-world applications. Take, for example, Tommy Hattori's sophomore math students using the Glowforge laser cutter to design and build 3D structures in order to learn how to calculate surface area and volume. Think of Seth Boyd’s English II students photocopying, blacking out, and cutting and pasting passages from Frankenstein to create “Frankenpoems” that illustrate themes of the novel. Or picture Peter Sawyer’s freshman physics students launching miniature catapults behind the Humanities Building to help them grasp the principles of projectile motion.

Another theme has been to develop new ways of bringing Thacher to the world and of bringing the world to Thacher. Under the auspices of The Marvin Shagam Program for Ethics and Global Citizenship, Thacher has, in recent years, sponsored immersive educational travel opportunities (to Bolivia, Cambodia, China, Costa Rica, and Senegal) designed to develop leadership habits, intercultural awareness, and a spirit of intensive exploration. In addition to travel, the program brings speakers to campus and supports curricular initiatives.

These are just a few of the ways our faculty is working to keep our curriculum as active, rigorous, and vigorous as it can be.
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