Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls, region’s first all-girls charter school, launches with help from Washington University

Program puts the ‘E’ in STEM education with innovative engineering curriculum

Kimberly Weaver (left corner), engineering educator with the university’s Institute for School Partnership, works with Hawthorn teachers (from left) Kyle Sniegowski, Adrienne Watkins and Jasmine Moorehead. (Credit: Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos)

Launching this month, Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls will offer sixth and seventh-grade girls a rigorous education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). But Hawthorn’s curriculum covers more than formulas and algorithms, said founder Mary Danforth Stillman.

“What makes us unique is not that we teach science and math – who doesn’t?” Stillman said. “It’s our approach. We are committed to developing the vital 21st-century skills of collaborating and problem-solving. We believe in learning that comes from asking questions, working as a team, interpreting data, testing solutions and communicating your results.”

Hawthorn is the region’s first all-girls charter school. Located on N. Kingshighway in St. Louis, the school ultimately will serve 500 girls in grades 6-12. Enrollment is open and tuition is free. The school is affiliated with the successful Young Women’s Leadership Network, which was founded by Washington University alum and Board of Trustees member Ann Rubenstein Tisch.

Washington University in St. Louis is both Hawthorn’s sponsor and its partner. Educators with the university’s Institute for School Partnership have been working closely with Hawthorn leaders for more than
a year to develop the school’s project-based curriculum and real-world
philosophy.

“We have a track record of helping teachers catalyze change in their classrooms,” said Victoria L. May, executive director of the ISP. “In a lot of schools, students are asked to read a textbook and
answer a worksheet. We know that is not how any of us learn. You would never teach someone to be an artist just by giving them an art history book.”

Hawthorn will use the Next Generation Science Standards’ nationally recognized “Crosscutting Concepts” as the foundation for all learning. The concepts — patterns; cause and effect; energy and matter in systems; scale, proportion and quantity; structure and function; systems and models and stability and change of systems — are the big ideas that connect all of the sciences.

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