We are building a freshman-class 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 to succeed throughout their Blair careers. With a broad emphasis on design across disciplines, the freshman seminar has three rotating modules: health and wellness; character and personal development; and design-and-maker-space training.
Among the skills taught across the intersecting modules are how to take care of yourself so you can be an effective student, what you value and believe in, and how to design and prototype. With the Center for Innovation and Collaboration serving as the seminar’s home, the curriculum encourages students to use what they learn not just in the seminar itself, but across other coursework and classes. The seminar will conclude with a capstone project incorporating at least two of the seminar's modules.
Promoting Health & Wellness
The freshman seminar builds on programmatic elements that Blair has long prioritized: health and personal development, which have always been a part of the School’s traditional CHAT program. As the revamped program gets underway in 2017-2018, students will have more time and opportunities to learn skills that don’t necessarily originate in other parts of Blair’s curriculum, but on which Blair teachers rely—such as effective coping tools, greater executive functioning, and self reflection and analysis. Students will learn to pose questions and answer them through project-based work, much of it taking place in the Center for Innovation and Collaboration.
What Do You Stand For?
The character-and-personal-development module asks this central question, and encourages students to engage in values exploration and character-focused exercises that leave them with a better understanding of their beliefs, convictions and morals. Coordinated by Blair’s Dean of Campus Life and Director of Leadership Programs Carolyn Conforti-Browse ’79, this part of Blair’s freshman seminar has become a tradition on campus, and one that connects the seminar to other leadership-development programs such as The Blair Leadership Stories Project, Blair LEADS, and real-world leadership opportunities available across campus.
The Intersection of Fine Arts & Technology
Overseen by the fine arts and technology departments, the design-and-maker-space-training module teaches students to understand the process of design and encourages them to engage in it not only in the maker space, but across the entirety of their Blair careers. Every ninth-grader spends at least one class block a week in the Center for Innovation and Collaboration, whether in the Forum meeting with their whole cohort or working in smaller teams in glass-walled conference rooms or the media production suite. Learning about the design process and prototyping as freshmen allows students to later apply that knowledge across the curriculum.