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Exploring the Future of Friends

Thursday, November 29, 2018

When Lower School Head Jennifer Arnest saw a piece on 60 Minutes about MIT’s Media Lab earlier this year, she was immediately inspired to see this so-called “Future Factory” for herself. Convinced that the lab, a model of collaboration and breaking down traditional discipline barriers, could inform the exciting strategic initiatives that are taking form at SFFS, Jennifer enlisted Academic Dean Tracie Mastronicola and longtime SFFS Art Teacher Jennifer Stuart—who recently led students in an interdisciplinary project on light with Science Teacher Sara Melman—to join her in making the trek East.
 
“What we’re trying to do is consider how an integrated approach to teaching and learning affords students a better understanding of the work they’ll likely be engaged in as they enter adulthood. [Answering these questions will help us] build a program with a thoughtful curriculum and applied learning lab work that is robust and takes into consideration who we are at Friends,” says Jennifer.
 
Founded in 1985, the MIT Media Lab houses numerous research groups that blend disciplines including technology, media, science, and design. Researchers at the lab aim to “anticipate and create technologies to make our lives safer, cleaner, healthier, fairer, and more productive.”
Among the most well-known of these groups is renowned educator Mitchel Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten Lab, which “develops new technologies and activities that… engage people in creative learning experiences. Our ultimate goal is to foster a world full of playfully creative people, who are constantly inventing new possibilities for themselves and their communities.”
 
After securing an invite from the lab, our SFFS Friends flew out to MIT, eager to learn more about how people from such varied career and education backgrounds come together at the Media Lab to develop creative, strategic solutions to specific challenges. They came away inspired by what they saw. Jennifer Arnest notes that the philosophy imbued in the work of Lifelong Kindergarten can be applied to numerous facets of our strategic work, including the new schedule, which aims to create more space for SFFS faculty and staff to collaborate across departments, creating innovative opportunities for our students to problem-solve through hands-on learning. It also emphasizes learning and creating as part of a team, which Jennifer Stuart notes gives us the opportunity to give and receive feedback, to ask and answer questions, etc. in an engaged, organic way.
 
“When you’re at the Lab, you can get drawn in by all the different components… but underneath the cool projects, there is a purpose: how this technology can solve problems we’re facing,” says Jennifer Stuart. “At Friends, we already have great integrative work going on at all grade levels—and now we have new ideas to build on the strengths we already have.”
 
To learn more about our work to develop a new schedule for the 2019–20 school year which will provide more opportunity for integrative, thoughtful, ­project-based learning, please click here. And please continue to check the strategic direction section of our website, which will continuously be updated throughout the coming months as we implement new strategies for learning and growth at SFFS.