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Curriculum Overhaul Approaches
sungmin hong 13 editor-in-chief garam noh 15 staff writer
February 2, 2012

The College Board, in collaboration with Cambridge University in England, has invited Deerfield, among other schools, to join the Cambridge Capstone Program, a pilot interdisciplinary elective course addressing global issues and culminating in a capstone project.

Judith Hegedus ’92, who currently works for the College Board, asked Academic Dean Peter Warsaw in October to consider the program.

The Curriculum Committee has asked the faculty to submit proposals for new courses and new global studies courses for seniors that would be consistent with the objectives of the Imagine Deerfield strategic plan.

“One of the reasons we are considering the pilot is that we will gain access to a vast network of experts, university professors as well as teachers who are knowledgeable in this area,” said Head of School Margarita Curtis.

However, the program would require a two-year commitment while Deerfield would prefer to launch the program as an (encouraged) option for senior year only.

The program’s course topics include artificial intelligence, endangered cultures, and the religious-secular divide, all of which are global topics that require students to synthesize knowledge, think creatively, and collaborate in a seminar format.

Initially, Mr. Warsaw was hesitant about working with an external organization.

“But when I studied the materials, I realized that their aims aligned beautifully with many of the aims of the strategic plan,” he said.

Some of the goals of Imagine Deerfield are to increase opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching and learning. An interdisciplinary course draws upon multiple disciplines and skills to understand a topic better. There are many different models, such as the double-period, team-taught approach used in American Studies, a junior course that examines the intersection of American literature and history.

“We know that the world you’re going to inherit will require great flexibility and creativity in order to make connections between disparate worlds,” said Mr. Warsaw.

The strategic plan also hopes to integrate capstone courses into the curriculum, which will require students to create an original piece of work by synthesizing their experiences and drawing upon knowledge from multiple disciplines studied over their time at Deerfield.

Potential projects may be a twenty-page research paper or a collection of poems. “Capstones would have implications for the entire curriculum,” said Mr. Warsaw. “Every course would have to be aware of the student outcomes we seek.”

In addition, both the strategic plan and the Cambridge Capstone project hope to develop global literacy skills in students.

“We know that you are going to need to do this in college and in later life, so don’t we at Deerfield have an obligation to give you some practice?” asked Mr. Warsaw.