Springside Chestnut Hill Academy adds leadership training to its curriculum

As the first school year of officially merged boys and girls 11th and 12th grades draws to an end, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH) plans not only to complete merging its high school grades, but to build two centers to better suit the school’s new take on learning.

Priscilla Sands, president of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, said that although some alum of both Springside School and Chestnut Hill Academy were resistant to the merger, current high school students have been very receptive. Some have even thanked her.


What has changed

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The dynamics, as they are now, aren’t all that different from the school’s old structure. Eleventh and 12th graders have been studying in a coeducational atmosphere for the past 40 years.

The difference, Sands says, is that now both schools are condensed into one school with one curriculum and—most of important—one culture.

Before, she said, there were two different departments for every subject, yet students from each separate school could be put in either one. Now they’re all on one campus and share one department.

Prior to the switch, a girl taking classes at Springside School would have to travel to a different campus. The merge, she said, have contributed to a better learning atmosphere for all students.

“That wasn’t easy on the kids. There wasn’t one school culture,” she said. “Having them together [now] has normalized their school life.”

Sands said next year 9th and 10th grades will merge, but middle and lower schools will remain gender separate.

“What we believe is boys and girls do learn differently and need time to celebrate the way they learn,” she said.

But by high school, Sands says it benefits the students more to learn in a coeducational atmosphere.


More ambitious programs

Part of the reason the schools were merged, Sands said, was to create better learning opportunities.

“We are able to do things now as one school that we have never been able to do separately,” she said. “We now have a school robotics team (which formerly only existed at Chestnut Hill Academy) and (on) January 18 we launched our Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL).”

Urban Outfitters founder and CEO, as well as co-president of SCH board gifted $5 million for the CEL. It will offer several new courses teaching students to have forward thinking.

Sands said the CEL is important in teaching more innovative thinking and will offer seminars like media arts, new media, design thinking, forensics and several international opportunities.

“What we’re doing is we wanted to look at our students and think about as adults entering the workforce,” she said. “We need to prepare them not just for a skill set but for a mindset.”

In addition to the CEL, Sands said SCH will also be getting a Lego Lab—stemming from the success of the school’s robotics team.

Sands said the Lego Lab is meant to help students excel in engineering by capturing their interest. Students will be taught at a young age how to build robots with Legos.

“What research has found is students will work really hard if they have joy in it,” she said.

In addition to the CEL, Sands said the Lego Lab would probably be built over the summer.

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