For the third year running, Northwest is designating the two-weeks following trimester two to Summits – a series of cross-graded interdisciplinary courses that explore our school’s core-values, history, and mission. Already students are beginning to research and register for their spring summit program. Following the introductory community meeting announcement in early November, many students have expressed a range of emotions towards the courses offered this year and the overall development of the program.
The 2020 Summit Program includes a total of 26 “in-Haus” classes and an additional four that take place off-campus. This year will introduce several new summits including “Hogwarts in the House” – with Tamara B. and Kathryn W. – and “Queer Theory” – with Maryanne H. and Elvin J. These new courses are also accompanied by successful ones from previous years including “Radically Me” – lead by humanities teacher, Harumi L., – and “Tiny Haus” – with Victoria D. and Herb B.
Of the courses offered, “A Sense of Place: An Olympic Coast Expedition” is one that seems to be garnering a fair amount of attention from the student population; with the promise of being in the constant presence of the PNW and the dynamic duo – Sophie D. and Jeremy D. It’s no wonder this summit is such a hit.
Senior, Sasha B. who hopes to take part in this outdoor trip reflected on her experience with summits over the past two years: “In tenth grade, I was able to go to Ethiopia and that was obviously a life-changing trip. Last year, I did the “Getting Schooled by Dogs” summit which was definitely a different experience, as I was mostly in a classroom for the two-week period. It was a really fun course, but in comparison to my traveling summit the year before, I felt like I did not retain as much information, and it was not as impactful.”
In regard to the courses offered this year, Sasha reflected, “Some of the summits target younger audiences – potentially the middle schoolers – and so I have found it harder to find courses that align with my interests. I feel like a lot of my classmates feel similarly in that there is often a select few courses that are really popular among the upper school students, leaving many people to end up being placed in summits they have little interest in.” Sasha also noted the difficulty with international trips, as the financial costs can act as a barrier for students applying: “I feel like it can be unfair because students who are able to afford the traveling summits generally seem to have a better and more rewarding two-week experience than those who stay on-campus.”
While Sasha reports having a mixed experience with summits at school, Jarod P. ‘20 recalls how he has enjoyed attending courses on-campus: “If you choose the right summit that resonates with your interests it can be a great experience even if you are staying on campus.” This past year, Jarod participated in the “Radically Me” summit with Harumi, which focuses on learning self-care and the ways in which mainstream media disrupts this process. “I chose this summit because I was looking for a class that would feel like a break from the high-stress environment of the normal school year. “I also really like Harumi,” Jarod reflected. “She’s super enthusiastic about the coursework and is genuinely interested in each of her students.” While “Radically Me” primarily takes place in the classroom, Jarod’s favorite memory of the summit was a field trip they took: “On one day, we got pastries from a local bakery and then walked to the UW campus to see the cherry blossoms, which were in full bloom at the time. It was a really memorable experience, where I was able to bond with my new classmates and enjoy nature.”
Another summit that anticipates a lot of interest from upper school students is the “March Goes On” summit which takes students on a personal and historical journey through the South. The group will travel to key locations of the civil rights movement – including Memphis, Selma, and Montgomery – and connect their histories to contemporary social movements.
Vivian S. ‘20 who participated in this summit in 2018 reflected on her experience traveling to the South: “Simply being able to visit these historic locations was what made ‘March Goes On’ so impactful. The trip definitely changed me and made me want to have more conversations around race and identity.” Coming from Seattle, Vivian noted how visiting southern states can often be a culture shock: “Going out to eat was always an interesting and exciting experience. I ate a lot of unfamiliar foods like grits, collard greens, and biscuits.” Amalia H. ‘20 who also went on the 2018 “March Goes On” summit, reflected on her biggest takeaways: “The trip really changed the community that I had at Northwest, and overall made me feel more comfortable at school. It was the first time that I was challenged to grapple with our nation’s history in a tight-knit community.”
As we approach the spring, consider the advice of your pears, and enter the 2020 summits with an open, engaged and eager attitude. Assess what you will need at that time to make it a constructive and successful experience. If you take the necessary time to reflect, then you can ensure your two-week experience will be a positive one!