How our students build on academic excellence to make a difference

Group of students standing on stage with winning certificates
Feb 09 2024

How our students build on academic excellence to make a difference

“An education which does not teach us to discriminate between good and bad, to assimilate the one and eschew the other, is a misnomer.”

Group of students standing on stage with winning certificatesWhen Keystone students presented their projects at the recent Speak Up Speak Out (SUSO) Regional Competition, they showed many of the best qualities of our school. Under the supervision of their sponsor, Ms. Sadosky, the middle and high school students had extensively researched their chosen topics and presented their findings articulately and with poise beyond their years. The judges in the classroom were deeply impressed with these young Cobras and provided complimentary feedback.

This type of student work brings together Keystone’s pillars-academic excellence, ethical growth, community involvement, and responsible leadership. Whether students were speaking on the need for school supplies in underserved communities, student-led advisories, classmate connections, proper skin protection, or the need for girls and young women to read more books, they demonstrated their ability to do deep learning on a given issue and devise a solution. Yes, their academic work excelled; but just as impressive was their wish to make a difference, strengthen their communities, and improve the lives of others. Their presentations proved to be both stirring and inspiring.

Sure enough, Keystone students swept the Middle School division, winning 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place. In addition, our high school team came in first. Congratulations to the students and Ms. Sadosky, and good luck as they head to the State Competition in Austin on March 1.

“Speak Up Speak Out is the perfect civics program to encourage students to not be a bystander in their community but make a difference,” Ms. Sadosky said. “Teaching Social Studies is not only about history. Our Keystone students will be the leaders of tomorrow. They have an immense amount of potential. Building empathy and activism for positive change in our students will help them become the best versions of themselves. It also teaches them life lessons about working on a team and the opportunities for growth and lessons.”

Keystone students do this type of work often in Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools. Another example comes in 11th grade when juniors participate in the Stonecatcher Project in Advanced Placement English. The project takes its name from a passage in “Just Mercy” by Brian Stephenson that flips the biblical image of casting stones and turns it into catching stones. This assignment asks students to identify a societal issue they are concerned about. Like their middle school schoolmates, they study the subject thoroughly. However, the juniors also write a research paper, and present their findings with explanatory boards in a science fair format in the gymnasium. Topics have ranged from the inequities in higher education to the destruction of coral reefs around the world to pediatric cancer to sexism in the workplace, and many other issues. Watching the students passionately share their findings and proposed solutions gives hope for the future.

Dr. Lawrence explained the purpose of the assignment. “The Stonecatcher project accomplishes a few goals I have for the juniors. First, it allows them to apply their developing research and argument skills in a real-world context. When they are learning about a problem that negatively affects the lives of real human beings and the work that is being done by people to try to alleviate the problem, then their work develops meaning that many of them have never experienced in that way before. As they develop their own arguments about what should happen next to work toward solutions—and actually join the work in some way—they are able to use their voices and their bodies to live out the curriculum. As they get closer to the issue through interviews and real-life work, they experience proximity to suffering and to passion for alleviating that suffering. Bryan Stevenson, the author of “Just Mercy”, argues that proximity is necessary for effectively combating injustice, that throughout history, people who created lasting change had to be close to the problems and not detached from them. Facilitating the Stonecatcher project means giving students the opportunity to get close to issues facing our world today and then providing guidance as they become a part of the ongoing conversation about the most effective ways to address the issues to make the world a more humane, just place for everyone.”

Our Cobra Code lists five key values:-integrity, curiosity, creativity, empathy, and service. Projects like SUSO and Stonecatcher allow our students to pursue their passions, delve deeply into a topic while practicing academic integrity, empathize with others, and creatively discover ways to resolve problems. In the process, Keystone students serve their communities and help to change the world.

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