Curricular Innovation

Accelerate Experiential Learning

When you support curricular innovation at SYA, your gift helps launch a ground-breaking chapter in our history. Never before have we imagined such intellectual possibilities for our students in so many areas of growth and exploration. In this moment, the most treasured values of SYA will be made newly relevant to our time and even more effective for adolescent learning. Your gift sparks ingenuity today in the problem-solvers and change agents of tomorrow.

The Fund for Curricular Innovation

Educational research shows that the most effective learning occurs when students live the experience of learning as much as they can. It is hard to imagine a school more perfectly positioned than SYA to develop such experiential methods and lead the way in place-based education.

SYA Italy has been our primary early adopter of experiential learning, pointing the way toward what is possible for all our campuses. In the past, the traditional SYA classroom experience has been virtually identical to the classroom experience back home. Today in Viterbo, hands-on student fieldwork now plays a central role in learning. Students spend every Wednesday engaged in fieldwork exercises throughout the city or in neighboring cities. In addition, each fall, the entire school now moves to Rome for an extended period of hands-on learning. Here students have access to all of southern Italy by high-speed rail. In the spring, the school makes a similar move to a different location.

Until recently, however, SYA did not possess the financial resilience to explore or easily implement broad-based change across all schools. In 2018, early leadership gifts provided the funds for a core team of SYA faculty to research and plan our full-scale curriculum redesign. We are now beginning to launch this effort across all four campuses.

Now we see all the vital threads of the SYA experience reinforcing one another and becoming even more powerful: experiential learning, cultural immersion, language acquisition and independent travel. Over the course of the redesign, we will do even more. Ultimately, SYA will offer a wider array of learning options, some interdisciplinary, others focused deeply on one subject. We will adopt new methods of assessing each student’s mastery of core skills. Student-driven pursuit of discovery will become our ultimate aim, with learning options designed to increase each student’s capacity for independent work throughout the year. In the spring, students will undertake a capstone research project to demonstrate skills gained through their SYA experience.

To sustain this level of curricular creativity, SYA must establish permanent financial resources that support ongoing research, course design, outcome testing and similar activities. The Fund for Curricular Innovation will provide our first secure foundation in this area, making it possible to sustain our current progress and begin to take SYA innovation even further.

The Student Life Fund

As we work to make SYA more experiential within the academic context, we also want to make a parallel investment in student growth at a personal and individual level. The relationship between student and faculty advisor, for example, becomes central within our new curriculum. We must provide extensive professional development to teachers who serve in these advisor roles, particularly in the area of intercultural mentoring. In addition, we are expanding our curriculum and programs to include the transition to and from SYA. We will involve students in more reflection and group work in advance of departure, and we will deepen the return experience, providing students with structure for applying and advancing the skills they have gained.

We also want to ensure that all students have equal access to the necessary resources and experiences that comprise a full SYA education. For example, since introducing elective capstone projects in 2016, we have seen tremendous creativity and intellectual capacity emerge from the student body. However, while some students have the financial means to fund research trips or purchase equipment on their own, others do not. This fund will endow an appropriate annual budget and enable all students to formulate meaningful, ambitious projects.

The Rocket Fund for Program

Because it will take time to raise endowment, this campaign will establish a bridging strategy to execute our curricular transformation as quickly and efficiently as possible. These funds will propel our vision forward, allowing SYA to demonstrate immediate progress and build greater momentum toward campaign endowment goals.