We are building a ninth-grade culture around a variety of ideas that we think are really important. The goal is to prepare students not for a particular next course, but to intentionally deliver a set of skills and an understanding of themselves that will be valuable in their future courses and will better prepare them for the curricular challenges that lay ahead as they advance from grade level to grade level.
Nathan Molteni, Dean of Academics
Every ninth-grader at Blair takes a yearlong seminar designed to build connections and baseline skills that will help them succeed throughout their Blair careers. The seminar is specially crafted for first-year students and includes two half-year modules: health and wellness and design-and-maker-space training.
Among the skills taught are how to take care of yourself so you can be an effective student; how to identify and access adults at Blair and at home who can support your physical and emotional health; and how to design and prototype. The curriculum encourages students to use what they learn across their coursework and classes and in every aspect of their Blair experience.
Promoting Health & Wellness
This module develops some of the skills ninth graders need to be healthy at Blair and beyond. Its social-emotional learning foundation gives students opportunities to practice essential skills like conflict resolution, delivering and accepting apologies, and decoding hidden media messages. It also fosters opportunities to think critically about societal issues, including race, gender roles and biases, that affect health behaviors and outcomes. The discussion-based class also delves into topics such as sleep, stress, mental and sexual health, and substance use.
The Intersection of Fine Arts & Technology
Overseen by the fine arts and computer science departments, the design-and-maker-space-training module teaches students to understand the process of digital design and fabrication and encourages them to apply that knowledge across the entirety of their Blair careers. Students utilize the Chiang-Elghanayan Center maker space, where they learn how to use its tools and equipment to bring their designs to life. The module culminates in a “BUCwood Derby” in which teams of students design and fabricate model cars to enter into a grade-wide competition.
Neuroteach Global Program
All Blair students have access to research-backed techniques to help them become more effective learners. From St. Andrew’s Episcopal School’s Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning, the Neuroteach Global program is a self-paced, online course that all Blair ninth graders take that helps them develop better strategies for studying. By exposing our young learners to methods that incorporate research-based principles of learning, their retention of material improves, making them more effective at studying and reducing anxiety about the learning process.
Habits of Mind
Blair students work on five habits of mind in the ninth grade year which form the necessary foundation for successful learning at Blair: Time Management, Learning Efficacy, Motivation, Agency and Resourcefulness. Through reflective conversation and writing, students identify areas of strength and set goals for improvement on these specific skills, each of which has multiple related standards, such as "I effectively retain what I read" or "I am able to respond to feedback that I receive". By considering not just what they learn but also how they learn, students position themselves to make the most out of their Blair academics.