A Day in the Life of a Bennett Day Upper School Student

Lena was running late this morning due to construction on the Green line. She knew her project team would be annoyed, because they set an 8:30 time to meet to analyze their interviews and determine their user archetype. Class doesn’t start until 9:00am, but her group had recently turned a corner in their study of food deserts and had been meeting a little early in order to compile their data. She got there just after 8:30 and they were able to map out their plan for the day.

At 9:00, her team headed over to the project room where the two Bennett Day Project Leaders (PLs), Ms. Dewey and Mr. Erickson, convened the whole class for half an hour. Yesterday had been a QuestionStorming day–Lena and her classmates generated as many questions as possible over 30 minutes, and the two leaders took those questions and developed resources and notes for the students. Based on the questions, Ms. Dewey told the class she’d do a short lecture/discussion on how sugar is processed into glucose for consumption into the body. In their study into Food Deserts, Lena and the other students saw just how much damage a lack of healthy food does to physical and mental health, and many of their questions revolved around biological sciences. Since Ms. Dewey used to teach biology at her old school, she helped them understand the details much better.

After Ms. Dewey’s lecture, the team broke out and started working on their research into the history of food deserts. Lena was especially fascinated (and disturbed) by the concept of “red-lining” and its impact on the city in the 1940s through today. Knowing the team had four weeks until demo day (the final assessment for the project in which family, friends, and community members came to see the group publicly display and share the results of their project), Lena wanted to look more deeply into this topic because it would definitely help them explain the background for why food deserts existed. After talking with Mr. Erikson (who was a former history teacher) about where to get more resources, Lena’s team decided that they should head over to the Chicago History museum sometime next week to check out their redlining maps. By 11:30, they had their plan for the next several days.

After grabbing lunch at the Healthy Vending kiosk and relaxing outside with her friends, Lena ran over to her seminar room for her DeepDive class. DeepDives are 10 week seminars that, from what she hears from her friends who aren’t at Bennett Day, are similar to what they do in all their classes: conversations, discussions, and readings focused around a specific topic or topics. This trimester, she’s taking a seminar on Test Prep strategies. It’s not as fun as her seminar last trimester on media culture and internet sociology, but since she’s taking the ACT in the fall, she and her advisor agreed that ten weeks of intensive test prep would be good for her. She’s glad that she doesn’t have to do test prep in every class and her parents are even happier that they don’t have to pay (in time or money) for a test-prep class, but having the skills to knock out a standardized test will help her for this necessary evil.

After seminar around 2 pm, Lena headed over to advisory, where the focus for the year was on systems thinking. The guiding question this trimester is “How do systems shape the world?” Her advisory is the only class that’s grouped by age, so they can focus on topics that are relevant. Last year’s focus was on identity, and she loved talking about how she interacted with her environment–it just made their whole group more aware of their surroundings and how they fit in with them.

Today was a day she had her individual meeting with her advisor–they meet every other week to talk about how she’s doing, what she’s learning, and what she plans to show at the end of the trimester at her portfolio defense. She has to choose two adults and one peer to be on her evaluation team for her defense, and she’s leaning towards her math teacher and a local programmer from 1871 to be the adults on her team, as she’s been focusing a lot on computer science and mathematics over the last four weeks. These portfolio defenses are the scariest part of school: she has one hour to demonstrate the specific skills she learned this year, after which the team evaluates and grants her credit on her competency map. It’s a bit scary to stand in front of professionals and prove yourself, but she’s gotten a lot better at explaining her own thinking and feels that having to do this every year forces her to understand herself a little better.  

After her advisor meeting, Lena had about an hour to work on her online math course she decided to take this trimester. Each trimester, students have to choose 1-2 online courses to take, and with her interest in math, she thought a statistics and probability course would be pretty cool. She partnered with Mr. Zinke, a Bennett Day teacher with an expertise in math, and they meet every week so that he can answer questions and help her with some of the more complicated concepts. As it turns out, it ended up helping her a lot with her Food Desert project and she became the go-to person on her team for statistical analysis.

Lena ended her day by heading out at 4pm to play basketball. In the spring and fall, she liked to do dance and band at local West Loop studios, but the winter trimester was all about basketball. Because health and physiology are part of the competency map whose completion is required for graduation, she is not only playing basketball, but working with a Bennett Day teacher to understand how physical movement and physiology contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Basketball also feeds her interest in statistics–she’s been studying how the NBA uses Player Efficiency Rating (PER) to evaluate players. in In her final portfolio, she’s planning on writing an essay on how her experience as a member of the basketball team in which she creates her own stats for analyzing her play this year.

After basketball, Lena headed home for dinner. She planned to Skype with a couple of team members to work together on their Food Desert project–since Bennett Day doesn’t believe in assigning busywork for homework, she could focus on only the work that is most important to her. After all, whether she graduates Bennett Day and goes to Brown (her current favorite school), takes a Gap Year to work on social change around the world, or decides to stay in Chicago and work for Google (she interned in their software engineering department last trimester), she knows that she’ll always have the skills to succeed anywhere and everywhere she goes. In the meantime, though, she had work to do.