A Q&A with Sara Patterson and Eileen Mooney, 9th and 10th Grade InterMission Coordinators

Whether it is engaging in a collaborative, service-learning project or exploring their relationship with the natural world, our 9th and 10th graders have deep and meaningful learning experiences during InterMission. Learn more from faculty members Sara Patterson and Eileen Mooney, the InterMission coordinators for these grades.
9th and 10th grade InterMission programs.

Sara: Our 9th grade themes are “Compassionate” and “Informed.” As parents, we all like to believe that we have raised our children to be both compassionate and informed by the time they begin high school, but what we are asking the students to do during InterMission is to bring those qualities to the local community. We would like to help them explore and experience the power that each individual's time, talent, and treasure can yield. This starts in the classroom, where the spaces used by each class are a hub of activity between student and teacher, generating ideas and conversation surrounding their service project and their expectations. I believe that learning occurs most effectively when all are working towards a common goal and are motivated to assist one another.

: The 10th grade themes are “Bold” and “Resourceful.” To that end, we ask our students to be brave and challenge themselves through a variety of activities. They go to the Berkshires and engage in winter sports and team-building activities that require them to reach far outside their comfort zone. In these experiences, they learn something new about the depth of their resiliency and self-reliance, but they also deepen their empathy and connectedness to both the environment and to each other. Upon return from the trip, students bring this connectedness and new-found resiliency back to our classes and continue course projects with a new sense of confidence in themselves, trust in each other, and determination to succeed. Students demonstrate substantial resourcefulness as they gain knowledge about their subject and new skills for completing their projects. By the end of InterMission, all of our students have created something new after a deep dive to explore a problem or respond to a directive.

What do you think Porter’s students gain from the 9th and 10th grade InterMission curriculums?

Sara: I hope that they develop an appreciation of the power of the individual. The question that I ask of my class, “I am only one person, what can I do?”, is one that they will never feel defeated by, as we have opened up experiences for them, whereby they know they are capable of actively making a change in the world. I also hope they have an appreciation of the many people in our community who work passionately for a cause. It is often not glamorous or financially rewarding work, but it is meaningful and collaborative.

Eileen: I believe they gain knowledge about the environment around them and open their eyes to the growing concern of climate change. They consider ways to make a positive contribution to the preservation of our planet and they, at minimum, gain a respect for the impact that their own actions make on climate change. In every aspect of every class, however, I believe that they strengthen their ability to collaborate with their peers. They need to grow their knowledge and contribute to the project they are working on, but they also need to be observant and to listen, and to that end, they need to think about how they can best use their minds and talents toward making sure that everyone has a fantastic experience and that they create a successful final project.

What is your favorite aspect of being the 9th and 10th grade InterMission coordinators?

Sara: At the beginning of each academic year, I am excited when I sit down for our first InterMission meeting with my 9th grade colleagues. Although there is some familiarity and continuity within the curriculum, there are always new ideas for courses and for the symposium. It is this process of thinking, forming, expressing and exchanging ideas through dialogue that transforms the InterMission experience every year. I am fortunate to work with a fantastic group of teachers, who continually challenge, inspire and energise each other. When I greet the students on the first day of InterMission, I am very proud of the work we have achieved and am excited to see the direction the students gravitate towards during the three weeks.

Eileen: There are two reasons why I love this part of my job. One of them is that I get to collaborate with faculty to help them create interdisciplinary, project-oriented courses and to help trouble-shoot any issues that might come up. Running this program is certainly a collaborative effort, and I really enjoy listening to my colleagues and collating/synthesizing their ideas, in order to create the best possible InterMission experience for our students that we possibly can. The other reason is that I love witnessing students come up with new plans and asking their classmates and teachers for suggestions on how to make their ideas come to life. At its very best, 10th grade InterMission is a creative movement that is focused on learning something new — specifically about the environment. Having students participate in that effort and witnessing that spark of inspiration is motivation to ensure the success of InterMission!

Do you have any student anecdotes or highlights that illustrate the impact of the program?

Sara: As a class teacher, the highlight for me is seeing my students step out of their comfort zone. This could be anything from engaging more fully with speakers or guests, collaborating actively with their peers on a project or even touching a snake when they have a huge fear of them! My highlight as a coordinator is having conversations with students and hearing them realise and appreciate the effort nonprofits have made to accommodate Miss Porter’s during the month of January. The feel-good factor of volunteering becomes far more profound when they know the work that goes into making that happen.

Eileen: The Berkshires trip is absolutely a highlight each year. Last year, one student came up to me toward the end of our trip and said, “You know, a bunch of us were really unsure about this trip and how it was going to go, but it has really been amazing. I really did not know a bunch of people in our class, and we have gotten so much closer as a group and I just totally did not expect to have this much fun and learn so much!” We had similar comments this year, as well. Regarding course work, our classes have been incredibly engaged. In Reel Life, students have naturally found their place in the film production process by assessing their own skills and putting themselves where they can serve the project best. We have been incredibly impressed!