Nearly three years ago, Austin Fanburg, along with all of his classmates, was in Ninth Grade Seminar. Ninth Grade Seminar begins during Outdoor Experience Week, when students are grouped with their future Seminar mates to hike, paddle, camp, orienteer, and play together. In the evenings, students also gather by groups in a yurt for a program on the value of self-awareness led by Dean of Student Affairs Lydia Maier.
Once classes begin, the Outdoor Experience groups meet once a week throughout the year for Seminar, where they discuss topics ranging from adjusting to Upper School life, to preparing for exams, to understanding the consequences of risk-taking behaviors, to digital citizenship, to learning how to support each other. Led by Lydia or Dean of Upper School Students Cathie Connors, each seminar group develops unique bonds that become especially meaningful for the students, despite the fact that the groups were formed randomly.
In addition, Seminar helps students to figure out what matters to them. Austin in an example of someone whose passions were ignited directly through the Seminar experience itself. About midway through the year, students were assigned the task of researching a topic of interest as part of the risky behavior unit. Austin chose sexually transmitted diseases as his topic, HPV in particular. The Seminar presentation turned out to be only the beginning for Austin. Preparing for it ignited an interest that eventually led to a published article on the HPV vaccines in Parent and Family Magazine (September/October Issue, pg. 17). Following is the story, in Austin’s words, of how the article came to be as well as a link to the article itself.
“I wrote this article a year after freshman seminar where I researched and presented HPV to the group. We were assigned to share a risky behavior with the class and its real world repercussions, so I chose the infamous STI. I asked what my classmates knew about it, how important they thought it was, and their opinions on the surprisingly common infection. Their responses about how little they knew about it and the importance of getting vaccinated as a preventative measure came as quite a great shock. Later that night I decided to ask my dad for more information on it in order to have a clear understanding of the harm it can cause and to attain a knowledge of the real world statistics and problems that went along with HPV. After a long discussion with him on the STI, I learned a little more about the ethics of the vaccination process, which applies to most vaccinations but to this one especially. What I found out was that many parents cannot afford the medicine or do not believe in preventative measures in the form of vaccines and so weren’t having their children vaccinated. This struck me and I felt very passionately about my stance on the issue. Later, my father, remembering my interest and my animated view on the subject, offered me an opportunity to write on the subject in the Parent and Family magazine, which I accepted immediately.
Click here to read Austin’s article.