Head of School’s Letter
Head of School’s Letter
E. E. Ford is generally regarded as the foremost foundation in the independent school world, and they have been good to Harley over the years: I believe this is the sixth grant we have received, the most recent was support for the Commons.
Dear Harley friends,
A year ago at this time, I wrote to you in these pages on the topic, “Education for a Sustainable World.” Normally, I wouldn’t want to repeat myself, but so much has happened this year that, well, I’m going to!
Specifically, I want to make sure you know about the work our faculty is doing to write a curriculum to address the climate crisis. Incredibly, few comprehensive programs like ours exist in the United States (or the world, for that matter). A year ago we applied and were approved for a grant from the Edward E. Ford Foundation to help rectify that situation.
What does it mean to write a curriculum addressing climate change? For us, it is not a single course or set of classes: rather, we are stitching lessons about the climate crisis into most of the disciplines in the Upper School.
This year, Upper School Math & Science teacher Betsy Vinton, Ph.D. spent half of her time working with colleagues to re-engineer certain units in the Upper School that would accomplish both their original goals and be part of a through line in the Upper School about climate change. Meanwhile, Commons Director Seth O’Bryan, P ’32, ’34 was working on other aspects of the grant, including a Sustainability Plan for Harley, beginning to upgrade some of the equipment that will help us do this work, and planning professional development for the faculty and staff.
One interesting note is that this won’t feel like a big overhaul to the students. Having a unit or two in a course re-worked is something that happens roughly every summer in every class at Harley. That said, part of the curriculum will be the Freshman Experience—days spread through the school year—in which all Grade 9 students will discuss various aspects of climate change, including eco-anxiety, colonialism, proposed solutions, and reflections on what they have learned in other classes related to climate.
Harley is an unusual and wonderful school in lots of different ways, and one of them is this: for a school that’s more than a century old and loves its traditions, we nonetheless continually innovate, re-examine, and seek to get better. I couldn’t be prouder of this important work.
Larry Frye, P ’12, ’15, ’15
Head of School