The list contains the skills and habits of mind that the Trustees envisioned serving as a reference point for the innovations that would make the intellectual vibrancy of the School's educational program even greater while retaining the School's traditional emphasis on character education.
The existence of the list, which emerged from extensive research by a Strategic Plan Steering Committee, has prompted a commitment at St. Mark's to experiential learning. Given the importance of experiential learning in the St. Mark's educational program, I would like to explain how that commitment came about and how it is being manifested in our School.
Very quickly, upon contemplating the implications of using some or all of the educational outcomes as a reference point, a number of faculty observed that we needed to create conditions so that students could learn differently in certain parts of our program. On the one hand, if we were to ensure that outcomes like critical thinking and analysis continued to be achieved, we needed to retain a traditional classroom setting for much of our work. On the other hand, many of the outcomes, like commitment to serving others and appreciation of personal and cultural differences, could be achieved most effectively if the educational program added features that prompted students to engage with each other in a larger variety of ways and that supported more student learning beyond the boundaries of our campus.
So, the list of educational outcomes has served the School well over the past eight years. Both explicitly and implicitly, the list has guided the development of a variety of new programs and the refinement of a variety of existing programs, all toward the objective of preparing our students to thrive and make a positive difference in the world they will enter. Accountability for fulfilling this list of outcomes has prompted all of us at St. Mark's to think hard and productively about what aspects of our educational program are as relevant as ever to prepare students to lead lives of consequence, and what aspects need to be refined or need to be phased out in favor of new features that are right for the times.
A major innovation spurred by the recognition that we needed to create conditions so that students could learn differently has been a more flexible approach to the use of time: time in the day, in the week, and in the academic year. Our program now features two 80-minute blocks for every Monday-Friday course, stand-alone two-and-a-half-hour Saturday courses that change by term, and a two-and-a-half week Form-based curriculum, Lion Term, that closes the academic year. The primary educational setting for Lion Term is the world beyond our campus. Our current VI Formers have the distinction of being the first class to experience all three of these innovations for their entire St. Mark's career.
This more flexible approach to time, especially St. Mark's Saturdays and Lion Term, creates the opportunities that so many faculty members have identified as necessary in order to achieve all of our educational outcomes: allowing students to engage with each other in a larger variety of ways and providing more extensive learning experiences outside the classroom. In particular, these two programs have allowed St. Mark's to incorporate the important feature of experiential learning much more fully into the education St. Mark's offers.