Lizzie Ferguson ’22

Rise Scholars and Hamilton School, Novato, CA

This summer, I was fortunate enough to be able to work closely with the leaders of RISE Scholars to reimagine the six-week academic enrichment program SummerHawks. RISE Scholars work with the Hamilton School, a historically 
underserved, underachieving, and low-income K-8 school located in Novato, California. At Hamilton, RISE has developed athletic offerings, a strong chess program, one-to-one mentoring, and SummerHawks. I taught at SummerHawks in 2019 and found the experience incredibly rewarding and was excited to do the same this summer. 
However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we could not run the program. While we were devastated that we would not be in the classroom, RISE Scholars and my fellow teachers saw this summer as an opportunity to redevelop SummerHawks with the ultimate goal of creating the best program we could to counteract the ‘summer slide’ and instill in students a love of learning and a growth mindset.

Over the course of eight weeks, three other Williams students and I engaged in various forms of research, curriculum 
development, and lesson planning. We began by reaching out to programs similar to SummerHawks across the country. By Selfie of Lizzie Ferguson '22 on laptoptalking to experienced educators, we were able to compile what we considered to be ‘best practices’ of summer educational programs. Next, we conducted a deep dive into the previous version of SummerHawks, asking questions such as: What worked? What did not work? What do we wish we had time for? What about the program instilled a love of learning? What educational or enrichment aspects is the program missing? By 
combining answers to these questions with the research conducted prior, we were able to get a grasp on what we wanted SummerHawks 2020 to look like. This new program included grade-by-grade math plans, a more structured 
humanities curriculum, book groups, cross-grade ‘Explore’ periods, and a completely new hands-on science program. I specifically worked to develop the latter, creating lesson plans for experiential projects in the areas of chemistry, physics, engineering, and biology. Highlights of this curriculum include the camp wide ‘Rocket Week’ as well as each grade’s individualized capstone project, which aims to let students use what they have learned about the scientific method to complete an engineering challenge.

Prior to this internship, I only had educational experience in the classroom, either as a teacher managing students or as an actual student myself. This project helped me gain a deeper understanding of the curricular aspect of education and taught me that I honestly could enjoy a career in teaching. Regardless of my career path, the skills I learned talking with educators, developing lessons, and working with RISE Scholars and my fellow interns are going to be invaluable as I move forward. I am so grateful to RISE Scholars, the ’68 Center for Career Exploration, and the friends and family of Liz Gray Erickson for providing me with this opportunity to truly make a difference in the lives of students at the Hamilton School.