Seniors in English Department Chair Lynn Mittler’s class culminated their English careers at MICDS with the Global Action Project (GAP), and although this year’s “symposium” was a bit different due to distance learning, the projects presented were as remarkable and inspiring as ever! Students were tasked with creating a social enterprise that would address an unjust equilibrium and find a leverage point to shift that system. Students worked in groups of three or four to tackle a variety of issues ranging from food deserts to mobile health. They read and studied nonfiction books and collaborated to explore problems and find creative solutions. Each team worked together—in person for most of the project, and then virtually during distance learning—to research issues before building a business plan to address the issue at hand. Rather than an in-person presentation, they collaborated using Loom which recorded their speaking presentation as their slides were displayed. The presentations were delivered virtually to a panel that included Mittler, Assistant Head of School Brian Thomas, Charles Mullenger ’06, Amanda Brennan ’96 and Sarah Thompson ’96.
Mullenger was especially impressed given this year’s unusual circumstances. He said, “It is abundantly clear they took the time to do the research and put together a compelling case for solving some incredibly important problems. Furthermore, this exercise is a great experience to learn how to present over video. This will become the norm, and it is part of business as we continue our spiking rates of globalization. In my role, I give presentations and discuss business weekly with partners all over the world, and it is a super important skill set to have. It can be uncomfortable, but they did a very nice job considering the challenges they currently face during COVID-19. Job well done!”
“I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out,” Mittler remarked. “When we went to distance learning, I told the GAP seniors that we were particularly well-positioned to work on this project in this environment. While things went more slowly, they were clearly engaged in their projects and eager to keep working. I really could not be more impressed with these students. Despite disappointment after disappointment about the spring of their senior year, we had nearly perfect attendance after spring break and they stayed committed to their projects and their teams. I continue to be grateful that our school supports this experience for our students and will never forget this group who so courageously rose to the occasion.”
This class had a significant impact on the students too. A few students graciously shared reflections for this story.
Filip Aleksic `20
The most important thing that I learned is to switch perspectives and identify bias when trying to solve a problem. This is very important because we cannot assume that our subjects have the same values or thinking as us. I believe that this is crucial when coming up with effective and efficient solutions. My favorite part of this project was working on a business plan. I enjoyed working on details for our social enterprise, while at the same time brushing up on some skills that will prove necessary to possess in the near future.
Jessica Brooks ’20
Through GAP, I learned a lot about myself and what I truly believed in. I redefined my values and used these values to fuel the way my group wanted to change the world. We brainstormed a lot and used the design thinking process to manage all of the ideas we had. My favorite part of the project was the interview we conducted with Sopgmai Hashmi who grew up in Afghanistan and was a correspondent at the International Institute here in St. Louis. Although it was conducted over Zoom, it was super cool to get a real perspective on life as she grew up. I think having this interview added a lot of ethos to our presentation. The final project presentations via Loom were a bit difficult as far as technology went, but my group was excited to present all of the hard work we did. We got to add personal touches and design our own logo, motto and slogan. In conclusion, I loved this class and the project. It was a nice mix between learning and developing myself as a student and writer and collaborating with others for the creative component. I’m so thankful I had this opportunity with Ms. Mittler to close out my MICDS English career.
Cecilia Cohen ’20
Throughout my time at MICDS I had heard of the design thinking process, but I’ve never really worked with it until GAP. At the start of the course, we began to familiarize ourselves with the process, and during the final project, we went through the process step-by-step to create our social enterprise. I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to take this class and immerse myself in the design thinking process because I feel as though I have learned how I can leave an impact on the world. My favorite part of this project was being able to choose a real-world issue, research it in-depth, and work through the design thinking process to come up with a solution. Working on this project felt really empowering, and I feel as though I’m one step closer to changing the world for the better. It is through projects like this, classes like GAP, and teachers like Ms. Mittler that I know that MICDS truly is changing lives and changing the world.
Boyu Liu ’20
GAP is all about real-world applications. We spent two trimesters not only discussing current issues in the world (slums in India, prison injustice in the U.S., etc.), but also identifying issues ourselves and creating solutions to solve them. One main skill I gained from GAP is to think critically and holistically about one issue, to fully understand different aspects of it, to empathize with people affected and to think in their shoes. This is something I didn’t expect to learn from an English course. My group worked incredibly well together. We have people with different strengths, but all three of us are equally responsible and care equally about this project. I am personally most proud of brainstorming and coming up with the final business idea. I created the whole business in my head, but I was never the most adept at writing. My teammates helped a lot in actually writing the plan, creating the presentation, and developing the one-pager.
Are you interested in learning more? Explore a few of the 10-minute presentations below.
Don’t be surprised if you learn something new (or a lot of things new) and are inspired to make the world a better place!