HorizonsJan 12, 2021

— updated Jan 15, 2021

Adapting Horizons

How our one-of-a-kind Horizons program has been reimagined for this unusual year.

(MHS Garden Design Team)

Quarantine, isolation, and travel restrictions don’t come in handy when running an off-campus, experiential learning program. But, Director of Horizons Alison Basdekis and her team pivoted and reimagined the 2020-21 Horizons program so that it works in on-campus, online, and hybrid settings.

Ninth-graders focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); health and wellness; and leadership practices, much like they do during a typical school year, while sophomores are continuing their place-based learning, with a few adjustments to “place.”

Juniors are tackling remote, student-led projects, and seniors are participating in remote internships, personalized projects, and “IN-ternships” with MHS adults. These projects run the gamut, from assisting with DEI workshops for ninth-graders to curating content for Miss Hall’s Makes, to designing a new contemplative garden space on campus and capturing the goings-on around the campus as part of the MHS Storytelling team.

It just goes to show that contributing boldly and creatively can take many forms!

Going with the flow — sophomore Horizons in action

Sophomore Horizons emphasizes place-based learning, traditionally familiarizing students with the greater Berkshires community. That could mean drawing inspiration from the Shakers who lived just around the corner from the MHS campus, visiting the birthplace of Civil Rights icon W.E.B. Du Bois in nearby Great Barrington, or pitching in to help the Housatonic River Initiative improve the health of the river’s watershed.

So, how to do that during a pandemic? Change the place.

Day students and boarders are exploring the Miss Hall’s campus with Science Teacher Jennifer LaForest (above), while students learning remotely are instead studying a waterway close to where they live. They are exploring the environmental, cultural, and socio-economic aspects of their waterway, doing research and data collection, learning from experts, sharing information with their peers, and participating in a social action project.

Each term has a different theme. This includes centering stories about their water way, water quality science, and how this applies to their story, food and farming, and soil science with land stewardship.

A place to breathe

Garden Design is a personalized, yearlong Horizons project created by three seniors eager to explore landscape architecture, enhance the natural beauty of the MHS campus, and improve community wellbeing.

Working with Greenhouse Manager Marian Rutledge, Sarah Briggs, Nya Mielke, and Brooke Telfer have designed a meditation garden at the intersection of Witherspoon Hall, the Humes Euston Hall Library, Centennial Hall, and the Ara West Grinnell 1901 Greenhouse, the literal and figurative locus for growth at MHS.

The immersive space they envision would be a tranquil place for raking gravel patterns, adjusting rocks, and setting cairns.“A more nature-centric MHS may look like spending more class time outdoors or doing your homework under the sky. We are privileged to live in such a beautiful area of the Berkshires and on such a beautiful campus. As we get dirt under our nails and plants into the ground, we have the opportunity to strengthen school pride and educate our community on the importance of nature in our lives.”

A new chapter

A Horizons intern in the School’s Marketing and Communications Office, Sam Kangethe ’22 is interested in the art of storytelling. Her first project? A podcast that turns the tables on the boarding school admissions process.

To pull it off, she has tackled a new technology (Audacity), tapped the expertise of professionals, and reached out to the admissions officer who impressed her as an applicant to Miss Hall’s School.

Pictured interviewing Ali Haas, Associate Director of Admissions, Sam is the one asking the hard questions: “What are you looking for in prospective students?” “How does self-presentation play a role in your decision- making?” “How have COVID-19 limitations factored into the application process?” “Will anything from ‘the new way’ change how you do your job in the future?”

Horizons Reimagined — MHS Family Zoom

Director of Horizons Alison Basdekis and Associate Director of Horizons Emerald Power recently shared with MHS parents howthe School's one-of-a-kind Horizons program has been reimagined to be even more relevant during this extraordinary year.