It is no secret that the year 2020 threw us into a wilderness of time and space. The pandemic – along with the menace of racial injustice and national division – disrupted social life as we knew it. To survive and thrive in this wilderness, we – the faculty and staff of the Forest Ridge community – were challenged to adapt in the face of uncertainty while staying true to our mission to provide a holistic and inclusive educational experience for our students; we were pushed to rethink ways of doing while ensuring that we continued to deliver a rich, intentional, and rigorous program; and more importantly, we charged though the inhospitable landscape of a world in crisis to strengthen our community and nurture relationships with grace and boundless compassion.
These “survival” strategies – adapting, rethinking, and compassionately nurturing relationships – have made us more mindful of what we do effectively as a school as well as take stock of the various spaces we have for growth. The time spent reconfiguring class schedules, lesson plans, standards, and course content, moved us to assess our values and ultimately led us to come together as a learning community to stand for and act on them.
One of the outcomes of this process is the fortified commitment of Forest Ridge to develop and provide a truly global, integrated, and inclusive curriculum pursuant to its mission, and its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) framework. This means that the academic and extra-curricular program offered at Forest Ridge will be cognizant of and steeped in the school’s DEI goals and values. At the basic level, this translates to the contextualization of course materials and the use of a diverse range of resources to present course content, to ensure that the curriculum represents diverse perspectives and immerses students in multiple ways of thinking and doing. More profoundly, this denotes an intentional process of designing, offering, and scaffolding courses across the middle school and high school learning experience that focus on themes of global social justice in an interdisciplinary and integrated manner. It involves crafting a curriculum that extends beyond the borders of traditional academic disciplines into one that embraces the flexibility of time and space, and reimagines authentic yet equitable experiential learning opportunities that promote problem solving and critical thinking for today’s unique challenges.
Over the past couple of years, courses such as The Power of Narrative, U.S. Stories: U.S. History and Literature, Exploring Global Cultures, and Advanced Integrated Studies have laid the foundations for a robust integrated, global, and inclusive curriculum at FR. When the annual course proposal process was launched in December, the success of those courses as incubators for cultivating critical social awareness and a global analytical lens in students inspired faculty to engage in conversations and course development meetings to strengthen and expand integration and inclusivity in the 5-12 curriculum. Currently, there are proposals for integrated courses that straddle two or three subject areas; courses that provide opportunities for intentional collaboration between middle school and high school students; innovative STEM courses; integrated courses that focus on hands-on, experiential learning in subject areas that have been traditionally text-based in content; and courses that provide opportunities for immersion in social justice topics such as Indigenous Peoples, Race and Religion in the United States, Women in Religion, or Food and Colonial History among others.
Navigating our way through the wilderness that was 2020 forced us to adapt, innovate, and create new and clear pathways for growth. The current process of shaping our curriculum by designing courses to more effectively and intentionally respond to calls for social justice, equity, and inclusion with borderless compassion is an exciting outcome of that experience. Seeing some of these courses offered in the coming year will provide extraordinary opportunities for our students to develop intellectual, leadership and social-emotional skills, and the global perspective needed to become effective agents of change. It promises to prepare our students for what the world looks like today and what it can be.