Students of all backgrounds benefit from a diverse curriculum because it better prepares them to be citizens and leaders in a multicultural society. Across Derryfield’s academic programs, from the humanities to the STEM disciplines, our teaching increasingly includes perspectives and discussions of gender, race, and other aspects of equity and belonging. “I think that if we can help kids have these opportunities where they actually get to see life from a perspective that they have no access to, it will allow them to start to be able to ask the questions that need to be asked and to engage in dialogue,” said upper school English teacher Dr. Diane Hotten-Somers.
In the humanities, those discussions often start with students being able to see themselves in what they read and study. And with a diversity of perspectives presented in literature, they also learn to see things through the eyes of others, which is key to developing understanding and empathy. Diverse authors offer students different lenses through which to view these topics and a shared experience through which they can discuss and examine them.
English faculty choose from a diverse library of texts to help students explore themes of race, ethnicity, identity, justice, gender norms, and belonging. World cultures courses help students explore nations and people beyond our shores, while others delve into what it means to be an American through the very different experiences of all who call this country home.
In history, students build a foundation for civic responsibility by understanding the complexities of the past. World Justice topics range from Jim Crow America to the Holocaust. Upper School students explore the history of Asia and Europe, social upheaval, and global issues like environmental sustainability. While studying the past, students also learn how historic injustices continue to inform the world in which we live today. Service projects with new Americans living in Manchester, for example, enable our sixth and eighth graders to experience this firsthand.
Gender parity is an ongoing priority in the School’s STEM departments where the faculty, including leadership positions, is nearly evenly divided between men and women. Teachers have also been implementing initiatives aimed at attracting more girls to STEM fields where they have been traditionally underrepresented.
The Science Department has hosted the TechWomen Ambassadors program which invites women working in technology to Derryfield to discuss different paths to careers in STEM. Science Department Chair Mary Ann Watt has conducted a monthly “Open Circuit” forum designed to bring together girls from all grades interested in STEM. And to help inspire our students about possibilities in real-world STEM careers, a group of girls shadowed professionals at a Manchester software company for a day.
Preparing our students to be future leaders means teaching them to be anti-discriminatory and receptive to a diverse range of experiences and ideas. In every area of the curriculum, the faculty is addressing these issues to ensure that Derryfield graduates truly represent the Schools’ philosophy that “academic achievement without compassion and concern for others is meaningless.”