Heidi Leeds ’22

Rise Scholars and Hamilton School, Novato, CA

SummerHawks is an academic program at the Hamilton School in Novato, California, designed to help prepare underprivileged students succeed in school. Many SummerHawks students are behind academically and the program aims to help them catch up to grade level in essential skills like reading, writing, and math. In addition, another central goal for the program is to inspire curiosity, foster a love for discovery, and help students become excited and capable learners.

Previously, the SummerHawks curriculum has been very flexible and teachers have been given the freedom to choose what and how they would like to teach. This summer, since the program was unable to run as planned due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the directors, Michele Huff and Jay Ferguson, decided it would be beneficial to dive into the project of developing a more unified curriculum. Past SummerHawks teachers and rising Williams juniors Grace Dailey and Lizzie Ferguson led the charge and Ben Telicki ’22 and I also joined the project.Heidi Leeds '22 writing in a notebook

We spent the first few weeks researching best practices and educational philosophies and interviewing educators and academic summer program directors across the country. From there, we began building the curriculum, keeping in mind our goals: to have students leave with a stronger grasp on central concepts and basic skills, and also with a renewed excitement for school and learning. We allowed for open-ended problem solving and emphasized reading and 
writing as lifelong tools for self-discovery and self-care. As much as possible, we tried to give students choices in both how and what they learned.

In addition to the academic content planning, we developed a new weekly and daily schedule and added mentoring 
groups, outside speakers, and field trips to the program. We also rearranged the timing for sports and extracurriculars, and changed to mixed-age groups so that students had the opportunity to mentor one another.

This project was an incredible opportunity to experience first-hand the steps and processes of building a curriculum. 
I also came away with documents full of teaching tips, activities, and ways to interact with and engage with students. 
I have a better understanding of how to be an intentional teacher, the specific projects I’d love to teach, and how I’d like to structure the school day. Above all, I’ve realized that I like the creative aspect of planning for learning as much as I enjoy actually teaching. Having the freedom to implement unconventional approaches is exciting, and this internship opened my eyes to other areas of education that I might like to pursue a career in. I’m very thankful to the ’68 Center for Career Exploration and to Ms. Anne O. Burleigh who helped make this opportunity possible.