HorizonsMay 1, 2022

updated Nov 20, 2023

Sophomore Horizons — Springboard to Success

10th-Grade Horizons experience sets the path for future passions

By Samantha Taxter ’22, Horizons Media Team Intern

Much like the foundational academic experience of the 9th and 10th grades prepares students for their paths of study during the junior and senior years, sophomore Horizons prepares them for stepping out on their own and pursuing projects of interest in subsequent years. In groups, students are able to exercise their voice and their vision as they work toward a final goal. Later in the year, they delve into personalized individual and group projects designed to make a positive impact in the local community and the world.

Envisioning the sophomore experience, Director of Horizons Erica Washburn wanted students to celebrate the reward of their own thoughtful planning and teamwork throughout this unique year. “When we were planning the tenth-grade program, I wanted it to be an authentic, project- based experience that the students could co-create,” Ms. Washburn explained in a recent interview. “I think it’s important for students to feel like they are developing skills in a way that is working toward something real.”

Real-life projects are present in all areas of what the sophomores accomplished this year. Trips to local museums and farms — part of planning for the annual Harvest Luncheon while learning about local indigenous cultures — immersed students in the community that surrounds the School. Students also offered their services to organizations that positively impact the Berkshires area. By participating in harvesting and other work, and by planning events for the schoolwide community, sophomores gained an understanding of what it takes to contribute to the common good.

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.


Sophomore year also takes into consideration the individual interests of the students, Ms. Washburn noted. In addition to careful planning by the Horizons team and associated faculty, the program allows students to make decisions and self-select into some activities. In preparation for a whole new world of experiences during junior and senior year, sophomores are given a chance to delve into their own interests and engage in what is most intriguing to them. “In tenth grade, we definitely want to offer more choice so that students are engaged in experiences that feel relevant to them,” Ms. Washburn added.

Planning for the Fall Harvest Luncheon, for example, Ms. Wasburn oversaw the work of groups that organized according to the students’ own passions, such as working on the menu or developing the educational program, but students largely determined direction and details. “We allowed students to self-select into those groups, and we provided guidelines for things that needed to get done, but we allowed students to decide how they got done.” These developing skills of independence and drive encourage sophomores to look ahead toward the academic opportunities and possibilities of Hallmark-level classes.

Members of the class have their own positive input as well. Class President Naomi Hopkins ’24 agreed that the Horizons experience is an opportunity to discover new talents and interests. “Through workshops and collaboration, I’ve learned about who I am as a leader and a teammate,” she shared. Classmates used the experience to get to know each other, but also to learn more about themselves as individuals.

As spring approached, the sophomores shifted their focus toward contributing to the common good. Students worked on independent “Empowered Changemaker” projects using the skills they developed in the first half of the year. Students choose a cause or issue of importance to them, then devise a meaningful action in response. In this way, students are both informed about local and global issues, while also feeling empowered to do something to positively impact them. They also set goals that centered around community service, social entrepreneurship, activism, or any cause important to them and the world that surrounds MHS.

The sophomore Horizons experience is a year that enhances the skills necessary to become a strong-willed contributor to the Miss Hall’s School mission. When students can explore their interests and excel both socially and academically, each Wednesday morning is a step closer to changing the world.