From designing and proposing the ultimate Minimester Course to reimagining makerspaces to exploring new ways to get Middle Schoolers engaged in sustainability and recycling, this week 7th Grade students brainstormed ideas about new opportunities at GFS and designed a range of solutions to some of the school’s challenges through Project Innovate, a Garrison Forest Middle School signature project. 

Each year for Project Innovate, 7th Graders choose their topics of interest and work in small groups as they spend the week free from the regular class schedule doing market research, meeting with faculty, staff and alumnae subject matter experts, preparing proposed budgets and developing new initiatives and innovative solutions to present to a panel of judges in a Shark Tank-style culmination to the project. This year's judges included teachers, staff, administrators and Head of School Chris Hughes, who heard each team's proposals, had the opportunity to ask follow-up questions and, ultimately, chose the team whose idea seemed the most original and practical.

"I was so proud of our 7th graders, who embraced this Signature Project and came up with fantastic ideas to improve our Middle School program! This is our seventh year doing Project Innovate, and I continue to be impressed by the problem solving skills that our students develop and showcase through this project, conducting research, outlining a budget, sharing their presentations and answering questions from various leaders in our community." -- Head of Middle School Shannon Schmidt

Project Innovate is a key component of the immersive and dynamic Middle School signature projects. These are projects in each grade that are in-depth investigations by nature, with an interdisciplinary approach that gives way to cross-curricular connections such as the 6th Grade Teen Activism Project, 7th Grade Project Innovate and 8th Grade Shakespeare Study. These projects target specific 21st-century skills, create more fluidity within the curriculum and build a stronger foundation of authentic interdisciplinary learning. 

This year's Project Innovate proposals included: 

  • Reimagining GFS spirit-related traditions
  • Creating the ultimate Minimester course 
  • Increasing use of the makerspaces and encouraging students to gather together and create
  • Developing ways to incorporate the Core Values into daily life in the Middle School
  • Brainstorming opportunities to enhance Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives in the Middle School
  • Devising creative and sustainable solutions for recycling and repurposing materials
  • Utilizing GFS outdoor spaces to increase students' real-world understanding of classroom subject matter 
  • Reimagining a spirited, multi-day competition centered around artistic, academic and athletic events

"I was so impressed at how well each of the groups answered some tough questions from the judges. They had clearly done extensive research on their topics and thought through potential questions to be prepared. All the groups did an amazing job, and I am so proud of them!" -- Director of Educational Technologies and Libraries Lindsay Kelland