Town School builds students’ intercultural understanding and character through academic experiences and global and local partnerships. Beginning with an awareness of multiple perspectives, students develop respect, empathy and kindness through authentic inquiry and engagement. Global education, service learning experiences, and projects that relate to sustainability and innovation help Town boys to develop a more expansive understanding of themselves, members of their communities and the world at large.
Town designs a rich global learning curriculum so students learn about their own identities in a broader context, the importance of belonging and including others, and the value of acting as allies and upstanders as well as engaged global citizens. In the 1st grade Kenya unit, students study about the richness of Kenyan culture, music, and storytelling, and they come to understand what life is like for populations who don’t have a reliable or easily accessible clean water supply. With their 5th grade buddies, they engage in a simulated experience of transporting water in the neighborhood in an effort to understand the challenges of having to carry water over a long distance. In a semester-long 6th grade project, math students learn the finances of a small business as they create “companies” by designing their own business plans, sourcing products and executing on a marketing and sales plan. As a result of their efforts, the boys use any profits to support micro-loans for individuals around the world through Kiva.org. A Global Education Committee comprised of Town faculty members focuses on goals for the global learning program, identifying curricular connections and developing classroom projects. The committee shares its impact through a quarterly newsletter, Our Global Town, to the wider community highlighting recent and upcoming projects.
Service learning is built into a Town School education in numerous ways, connecting the work on empathy and moral courage that takes place throughout the school to students’ lived experience. While we are proud of the work we do, we are on a journey to expand our existing initiatives and make service learning an even more integral part of the Town experience. Each spring, Town students across all grade levels participate in a Week of Service honoring César Chávez that expands boys’ perspectives on what service and leadership mean. Additionally, 7th and 8th graders participate in four half-days of service throughout the school year, each tied to various elements of the curricula. Service is built into the Town curriculum in additional ways, including the required 7th grade class in which students partner with kindergarteners at the nearby Dr. William L. Cobb Elementary School, reading books and playing together during recess. Through the Families Program, in which all students, faculty and staff participate, family groups engage in service learning throughout the year, making lunches for Glide Memorial Church and cleaning up the neighborhood.
A parent-led service learning committee, Helping Our Town, facilitates additional service opportunities for students and their families as well as faculty and staff. Recent Helping Our Town initiatives have included volunteering at the San Francisco Food Bank, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the San Francisco One Walk supporting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and supporting the Children of Shelters with their holiday events.
Town embraces its responsibility to create a culture of environmental stewardship for all members of the community. Recycling and compost bins can be found in every classroom in addition to the lunch room. The 6th grade leads the Town campus recycling program, and each boy empties the recycling of a classroom or office to which he has been assigned twice per seven-day cycle. This initiative teaches boys about their shared responsibility to the community and the significant impact that results when everyone contributes. For grades 5-8, Town’s outdoor education program teaches students about fragile ecosystems and environmental ethics such as “leave no trace” through annual overnight trips to wilderness destinations throughout California, as close to home as the Marin Headlands and as far afield as Yosemite.
Students learn about sustainability and the environment through projects at all grade levels. In STEM, kindergartners learn about creating a garden where plants and insects can thrive, developing an understanding of how compost works. Students in 2nd grade investigate food insecurity and waste reduction, learning about inequity in global food access and connecting this to issues of local hunger. They then determine a specific problem to address in their own community such as food waste, and create public service announcements for the whole school to encourage more thoughtful consumption of food. In 3rd grade, boys use their knowledge of thermal properties to creatively engineer a solar oven, learning about sustainable methods and materials. Students in 6th grade use math concepts including graphing, statistics, geometry and measurement, and pre-algebra to design a compact house that could be used to replace homes lost through natural disasters related to climate change. These projects use real-world ideas to increase students’ understanding of curricular concepts. They also equip students with critical thinking skills, awareness of world issues, and a problem-solving mindset, enabling them to contribute productively and innovatively as future global citizens.