HorizonsDec 20, 2021

updated Jan 18, 2022

Wednesdays Are the New Thursdays

The Horizons program gets a new director and a new day

The return to off-campus, in-person experiences isn’t the only change this year for Horizons; the School’s experiential, service-learning, and professional internship program. Now in its 27th year, Horizons also welcomes a new leader and moves to a new day of the week: Wednesday.

Erica Washburn
Director of Horizons

Erica Washburn succeeds Alison Basdekis, who stepped down in June after a decade leading the iconic program. Erica comes to Miss Hall’s from the Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii, where one of her roles was Coordinator of the school’s Explorations program, which offers students opportunities to explore topics beyond the academic program and in a non-traditional format. In that position, she saw the value of experiential education and learning in action.

“I was intrigued and excited about the Horizons opportunity because of how many different elements there are in the program to prepare young women to be empowered leaders,” says Erica, who was also a DEI Working Group member and Social Studies Teacher at Punahou. “I also like that Horizons has a long track record and is embedded into the fabric of the School. It isn’t a one-off experience, but is four years of really intentional programming.”

That programming this fall saw some adjustments, the biggest of which was a move to Wednesdays. The switch resulted from a re-working of the MHS academic schedule for a return to in-person learning.

“When we had the opportunity to re-envision how we used time for the 2021-22 school year, we took many of the parts of the 2020-21 schedule that worked well and incorporated them into the new schedule,” explains Director of Academic Counseling Sarah Virden.

“Moving Horizons to Wednesday was one of those concepts that worked really well. It is the singular thing that a student is focusing on that morning, and it also allows the other four class days to run with the same timing each day, which was something we also adapted from the 2020–21 schedule.”

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The move makes Wednesdays, with athletics in the afternoon, a true break from the academic week, without reducing teaching time. It also eliminates a late- afternoon “re-starting” of the class day, a changeover that was less than ideal.

The students were also eager to get off campus and get back to making a difference in the community, which is something they really love to do.”

Director of Horizons

Other than the program taking place on a different day, the move is not much of an adjustment, Erica notes, and most Horizons site partners were unconcerned with the change. Sites that are open to students — some still limit outside contact because of the pandemic — were simply glad to see them return.

“They missed having Miss Hall’s students in their organizations,” Erica adds. “Many of them rely on the students’ contributions, and Horizons is an important part of their week, so they were eager to have the students back in their spaces. The students were also eager to get off campus and get back to making a difference in the community, which is something they really love to do.”

Sophomore Horizons — Sense of Place

In October, Horizons sophomores visited three local farms to learn more about local food systems and participate in harvesting and other work. Next, they visited three museums that were hosting special exhibitions related to indigenous history and culture, including the history of the Mohican people who first inhabited the Berkshires.