We use the word “learning” every day, but what does it mean? Simply put, learning is making new memories. Some memories are short term, like holding someone’s phone number in your mind until you can write it down or dial it. In school, we want much more than shallow retention of information. We want students of all ages to develop mental frameworks that help them learn for the long term.

Researchers tell us that moving information from short-term to long-term memory is best accomplished when we do something with the information. So in a literature class, we don’t simply ask students to read; we ask them to annotate their reading. Just reading something is a weak way to learn new information. If we write margin notes about the information, or summarize it, or make a list of questions, or–when we get to class–are asked to agree or disagree with it, the information and ideas can move from short term to long term memory. This is why St. Luke’s classes focus on using information and engaging with big ideas rather than on passively receiving information.

In my role, I frequently observe classes. What a pleasure to see our students and teachers in action. I sat with students in an American History class as they imagined that they were being asked to make a recommendation to the King of England regarding those troublesome American colonies. Students had their textbooks open and their notes in front of them, dates and names scribbled everywhere, but the key was asking them to use that information to make an argument.

I saw students in a Spanish class who begin every period with a “party” where they chat with partners on a topic designed to get students using new vocabulary. I stood back in awe as an Honors Software Engineering class developed a time-management software that the entire Upper School now uses.

Long after they have graduated from St. Luke’s, our students will be able to retrieve and apply the concepts and skills they learned here on the Hilltop. They will use what they learned at St. Luke’s for the rest of their lives.

Below is St. Luke's very first J-Term launched in 2014. This annual event is reimagined each year but remains a powerful example of “doing something” with information.







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