“We have made a commitment to embrace the possibilities of what two distinct campuses can do to enhance the curriculum, pedagogy, and quality of the Lower School experience,” says Nancy Rogers, Director of Lower School. “It builds community and creates a stronger, more cohesive Lower School. Teachers collaborate on units of study which allows for a greater exchange of ideas and for the opportunity to tap into faculty passions and areas of expertise.”
From Science Day, in which City Campus students join peers on the North Hills Campus for environmental studies, to the Pittsburgh Unit whisking students to Point State Park, the Heinz History Center, and points in between, to an art collaboration at the City Campus giving all students direct access to artist Ron Donoughe and his paintings on view in the Main Building’s Gallery, the Dual Experience has infused each grade with a plethora of projects and activities—and palpable enthusiasm.
“Cross-campus collaborations have virtually exploded, from eight during the 2012-2013 school year to 61 last year,” reports Laurie Vennes, North Hills Campus Director. “North teachers are tapping into City as Our Campus℠ opportunities and partnerships, and City teachers are finding ways to incorporate the outdoor classrooms into their collaborations.”
In addition to an increased frequency of collaborations, curricular alignment between campuses has been fortified, and even transformed, note Rogers and Vennes, pointing to the Pittsburgh Unit, a third-grade cornerstone, as an example. Teachers Theresa Fox, Connie Martin, and Amy Skelly worked last summer to revamp and expand the unit to a year-long program.
Collaborations like this have not only boosted camaraderie among faculty; they are resulting in blossoming friendships among students, facilitating a natural transition to Middle School.
“Pulling the grades together gives students more options for academic lessons and discussions, and for friends,” notes Vennes. “They are now seeing themselves more as WT students instead of North versus City students, and they are joining in activities together outside of school.”
“Each year the experiences have increased in depth and breadth,” adds Rogers. “By embracing the Dual Experience, we’ve opened up tremendous possibilities for both learning and friendship.”