The Essence of the MICDS Academic Experience

At a recent admission event focused on “Living the Mission through Community and Curriculum,” James Bilderback ’20 spoke to prospective families about his academic experience at MICDS. Here are his remarks.

Good evening. MICDS is a wonderful school, and I personally am overjoyed to see so many faces in the crowd tonight. My name is James Bilderback. I am a member of the MICDS Class of 2020, and I began my career at MICDS in the seventh grade. 

My seventh grade science class was a very exciting way for me to be introduced to the MICDS community. It was led by my then advisor Mr. Nolan Clarke, and it focused on teaching students the fundamentals of the scientific method as well as giving us a basic understanding of scientific principles that we would use throughout the remainder of our MICDS career. Of the labs and experiments we conducted in that class, the one that sticks out to me to this day was a student-led lab where we had to develop and test our own hypothesis using our own materials. For this experiment, a friend and I decided to test the effects of caffeine on heart rate. As scientific as that may sound, the reality of the experiment was that for a single class period we drank soda and ran laps in the pursuit of “science.”

At this point, you may be wondering what the point of this story is. Well, I believe that this one example shows the essence of academics at MICDS. This essence, in my opinion, is in cultivating a genuine enjoyment in the pursuit of education and in founding a tight-knit community environment. At MICDS, students are encouraged to make personal connections to classroom material and to explore new concepts and new ideas. If that connection comes in the form of a few cans of Mountain Dew, then that is okay, because at the end of the day, the experience of developing my own experiment, running my own tests and writing my own report in the seventh grade is still useful to me today in my advanced science classes. 

In the same way, the essay format that every student here is taught in Middle School is still used in every English class of Upper School, and the most basic elements of algebra and trigonometry are fundamental to the calculus classes that lie at the end of the curriculum. Every course and every lesson builds off of the last here and connects in a way that draws out the best in both the material and the student body. As a result, while the course load at MICDS is rigorous, it is hardly ever overwhelming. This is thanks in no small part to the wonderful teaching staff here at MICDS, whose passion for the material and dedication to the students is admirable. The teachers are always open to questions and more than happy to spend their time inside and outside of class helping students to better understand and connect with the material. Even more than this, you would be hard-pressed to find a teacher here who has not taken the time to get to know their students on a personal level and to actively engage them in conversations about their interests, hobbies and aspirations. 

And now I would like to bring attention back to a point I made earlier: the essence of academics at MICDS. There is a focus here, I think, on the student experience. The school and the faculty work hard to develop a community environment where students are free to explore their interests and to express themselves without prejudice. In this environment, the class structure is designed so that the emphasis is placed less on learning and more on preparing students for their next step. 

And that there is, in my opinion, the key to academics at MICDS: preparation. We as students pass through the MICDS curriculum fully prepared, not just for college, but to be better thinkers, better problem solvers, better contributors and better members of our community. MICDS is about changing lives, those of the students, to prepare us to continue to learn and grow so that one day those students may become the leaders that will change the world. Thank you very much and have a wonderful evening.