Grade Level Programming: Dive
Sarah O'Neill

Tilton’s Grade Level Programming brings teams of faculty together with students to solve problems, think deeply, and work together to navigate their world with character and vision. Tilton School’s junior class are members of the Dive program, with a learning theme of developing ethical thinking and active citizenship. The essential question proposed during Dive grade level programming is: What is the common good?

Essentially, the Dive program helps students to develop the skills and habits necessary to discover, cultivate and align with their “why”. By providing opportunities that combine practical skill building and individualized experiences with honest self-reflection and personal discovery, students gain greater self-awareness and independence as they discover what matters to them.

Meredith Gadd, Associate Director of College Counseling and Dive Grade Level Leader, says the program helps shape students into their future selves.

“It’s a self discovery process;  learning different social and emotional skills that aren’t part of our daily curriculum. In some ways, (the Dive Program is) learning how to learn,” Gadd says. “At this age, many students don’t grasp how to go about a process or build a project if they aren’t told what to do. Once they get a bit of prompting they are good, but they need a lot of direction. This program is helping them build those executive functioning skills.”

For juniors, finding their “why” consists of some very interactive projects. For the first grade level programming event of the year, the Dive program went to Portsmouth and learned how to ask “Big Talk Questions". This idea is based on throwing aside usual small talk and getting into deep, insightful conversation. Students walked around Portsmouth engaging with people publicly as they explored. For September 11th, they reviewed voice recordings left by those involved in the terrorists attack. They were then prompted to think about who they would contact, and wrote a letter to that person. The letter was put in an envelope and saved. Later in the year, students will return to that piece of writing and, with faculty support, work to add it into their portfolio. This exercise teaches not only deeper thinking of the world at large, but the act of building a portfolio of work that showcases their skill sets outside of the classroom.

“These skills are going to help mold these students into really well-rounded, contributing members of society,” 

“For example, today my prompt was don’t ask people to be the leader just because they’re a popular person or don’t ask a faculty member to supervise your project just because you like them the best. Think about the questions you have and who has those answers. Ultimately, that’s really tied into finding what you want to be known for.”

 Currently, 11th grade students are in the beginning stage of an exploration project. The first step was filling out a survey asking them to choose something they’d like to learn how to create, make, build, or design. After they decide what they want to do, they team up with a faculty member who can help and have three weeks to work on the project. The idea is that they can be as large scale or small scale as they want, they just have to learn how to pull all the pieces together. Faculty have been told not to provide them with answers, but to instead prompt them by asking questions like; “Where are you going to do that?” “How are you going to get there?” “How much money do you need?” This all culminates in a  big exploration day on February 26th. 

“It’s project management - learning how to pull together a project. My hope is that they will realize they can determine their own course of action,” Gadd says. “So much of high school is being geared toward having the right answer. They don’t realize the answer they might generate themselves is the right answer.”

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