GFS teacher Sara Primo (left) was recently awarded funding to support Peer Writing Advisors, a program that teaches students to help students improve as writers.

by Michelle Sonsino

Six pilot projects were selected as recipients of the 2019 Maguire Innovation Fund for Progressive Education, a competitive grant program at Germantown Friends School (GFS) created to test new approaches to teaching and learning.

Now in its second year, the fund provides an opportunity for GFS faculty, staff, students and partner organizations to design programs and projects that support academic excellence and educational innovation and that identify best pedagogical practices that can be replicated nationwide.

The Maguire Innovation Fund for Progressive Education is the brainchild of Lisa and Jamie Maguire, who together with the Maguire Foundation, found that this initiative was an important chance to encourage the incubation of ideas and opportunities in education that could also provide learnings for others.

“In just two years, the Maguire Innovation Fund for Progressive Education has become a transformative resource and inspiration for GFS, supporting new, creative ideas and approaches to education,” said Dana Weeks head of school at GFS. “This fund has already positively impacted our program, and I am excited to see what comes next.”

One of the first Maguire-funded projects supported in the 2018-19 academic year will continue as a permanent part of the school’s programming. The Algebra Enrichment Project offers a free course to public and charter middle school students in Germantown and throughout the city who may not have access to this advanced math course. The program aims to open the door for more students to achieve success in STEM, and was developed in response to research that shows that taking Algebra before high school is an important milestone on the pathway to college readiness.

“Teaching and learning are dynamic principles, changing and adapting with the needs of students and the world,” Jamie Maguire said. “Dedicated and talented members of a school community are key to bringing positive change to the field of education, and we are proud to work with GFS to move the needle in exciting ways.”

This year’s awarded projects and leadership include:

Design Lab Working Group: John Henderson, Eli Scearce, Sarah Zwerling, Karen Cherubini, Heather Chu Marvill, Sarah Detwiler, Andrea L’Tainen, JT Waldman and Andrew Wraith.

The Design Lab Working Group will create a safe and inclusive dedicated space for hands-on creative expression through materials and technologies, supporting curricula across many departments, including science, math, art, theater and community partnerships and outreach.

Greenhouse/Outdoor Classroom: Susan Robinson, Karen Cherubini and Tommy Victor.

The creation of a greenhouse and outdoor classroom will support the science curriculum, science clubs (including gardening and aquaponics) and various student Directed Independent Studies, and has the potential to be used in connection with the GFS food service team and to build community partnerships.

International Theatre Collaboration: Jake Miller.

This collaboration will deepen international knowledge-sharing through theatre. The vision for this collaboration includes the formation of a theatre company featuring students from GFS and St. George’s School in Edinburgh, Scotland, one of the GFS Global Studies partners.

Mathematics in Residence: Diana Gomez and Sharon Askew.

Guided by renowned math educator Cathy Fosnot, this program doubles as a teaching lab for local math faculty and an enrichment and remediation opportunity for GFS students and those from neighboring schools.

Peer Writing Advisors: Sarah Primo

Peer Writing Advisors promotes the concept of writing as a process and teaches students how to provide support and feedback respectfully. This accessible program serves as an ongoing resource for grades 6 through 12, with students helping students improve as writers and express their ideas more fully.

Philadelphia Youth Film Festival: Kate Garrity, Director of Library Services; Sarah Detwiler. Computer Science and Digital Media teacher and student Henry Farnham.

The Philadelphia Youth Film Festival is a free event that allows any creative student to share their art without the barrier of a program fee, age restriction, or access to high-quality equipment.

Michelle Sonsino is the Director of Communications and Marketing at GFS.