Your Impact: Curricular Innovation

Thanks to 2,683 people who invested in The Campaign for SYA, over $18 million was raised to support four essential school priorities – the SYA (Annual) Fund, student aid, faculty support and curricular innovation. In this, our first update of the year, we share a few stories of your dollars at work for curricular innovation.

When students first arrive in country, their schoolwork begins with the “Immersion Unit.” This is orientation, innovated. The Immersion Unit was designed with great intentionality to help students explore their local cities through fieldwork activities (examples below), practice their language skills, and create community with their peers, teachers and host families. Importantly, the activities prompt students to answer the question of “What do you want to get out of your time abroad?” and challenge them to take ownership in pursuing those goals.

What makes fieldwork different? There have always been experiences outside of the classroom at SYA. In fact, that is where much of the magic happens. In recent years, we recognized that students were spending a lot of time in lectures at school and not taking advantage of the rich cultural resources available in the surrounding areas. Through our curricular innovation work, we have challenged our teachers to use the cities and regions as an extension of the SYA “campus.” Now, there are fieldwork modules in most classes, with at least one fieldwork activity in each country per week.

SYA France Immersion Unit

At SYA France, students were dropped, phoneless and in small groups,
at a location in Rennes and were required to use their language skills and a paper map
to identify landmarks and find their way back to school.


SYA Italy Immersion Unit

In Viterbo, students were asked to visit a number of piazze around town.
On the way, they were asked to collect words and phrases they observed
and make note of architectural features in the city.


SYA Spain Immersion Unit

Small groups of students visited four of the different museums in Zaragoza and
had to answer questions about the building, the people they encountered,
and pick a favorite work of art and describe it.


Keeping with the intentional nature of fieldwork, there is also a reflection piece in which students process their experience in a safe and engaging way with their peers and teachers. Considering the successes and failures of the exercise, they identify how they felt going through it, and what they might do differently. In addition to enhancing their critical thinking abilities, fieldwork also promotes a student-driven pursuit of discovery, and it develops a supportive school community.

Thank you to everyone who gave to The Campaign for SYA for providing us with the resources to remodel our curriculum. We look forward to sharing more stories and photos throughout the year. You can also like and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn for more content from abroad.

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School Year Abroad

SYA President Tom Hassan and newly appointed Chair of the Board Holland Goss Lynch FR'86 recently sat down to talk about the year ahead.

School Year Abroad

A personal look back from Director of Advancement Erin Ericson

This year, you will likely read many reflections and remembrances from those who lived through the events of September 11, 2001. As you can imagine, SYA’s story is somewhat unique in that September is the beginning of our school year, when students are boarding planes for their adventure abroad.