Head of School Catherine S. McGehee Sunday announced a new STEM education and advocacy partnership between Foxcroft School and the Kashmir World Foundation, declaring with a smile, "As this partnership takes flight, the sky's limit!" McGehee prefaced that conclusion with an aside about being corny, but there's nothing trite about this new endeavor. The girls' school and the international foundation -- unlikely partners at first glance -- have, in fact, similar missions, parallel approaches to STEM education and complementary assets. Already, the KWF, headed by CEO Aliyah Pandolfi, has given two teams of Foxcroft girls opportunities to build and learn robotics in a fun, purposeful contect, while Foxcroft has opened its spacious, 500-acre campus for flight testing and led an effort to take their lessons and message to national educational conferences. Foxcroft and the KwF already also have a clear set of objectives, ranging from from the concrete (provide role models) to the grandiose (improve the lives of humans and animals everywhere).
To use research and best practices inherent in the DaVinci Challenge model to engage high school girls everywhere in robotics
To provide role models and mentors for younger girls to develop interest in and begin skills development earlier in their education
To connect Foxcroft’s teams with other girls schools around the world to promote global awareness and understanding in order to solve some of the world’s most pressing needs
To provide professional development for teachers of girls in the public and private sector
To be advocates in the national and global educational arena
Ultimately, to improve the lives of people and animals around the world.
McGehee noted some specific joint initiatives already undertaken, such as a presentation proposal for a national educational organization and conversation with several middle schools about forming an 8th grade team that Foxcroft's veteran Da Vinci students would mentor through a future workshop.She also laid out in detail the myriad factors that led to the formation and support the purpose and importance of the partnership, including extensive research about girls' STEM education and careers, and how they learn best the way and why."The more I learned about the DaVinci Drone Challenge and about Kashmir World Foundation initiatives," said McGehee, "the more I realized their model was the perfect means to engaging girls in learning robotics. Add to the drone, KwF’s emphasis on the arts and design, and you have a way to move the STEM model to STEAM, thus expanding the appeal for girls to engage in technology development. "The mission of KwF resonated with me. As a girls’ school, Foxcroft’s mission is to prepare our students for success, not only in college but in life. STEM education is essential to that mission."
The Da Vinci Challenge is organized by the Kashmir World Foundation’s Kashmir-Robotics division as part of a global initiative to use unattended aerial devices (UAVs) to help save endangered species from poachers. During a four-week workshop, school and family teams build drones from advanced carbon fiber components, learning the fundamental components and electronics of remotely-operated aerial vehicles along the way.
After Foxcroft’s first team participated, McGehee and Pandolfi, CEO of the Kashmir World Foundation, saw that their two organizations had some of the same goals. Both want to get students more excited and involved in STEM pursuits. Both use techniques that draw and engage girls -- a hands-on, collaborative process inspired by a practical purpose related to something girls care about. Without knowing it, the KWF hadcreated a model program for how girls learn best with the its Da Vinci Challenge.
Along with Foxcroft Science Department Chair Maria Eagen who had initiated the School's involvement in the Da Vinci Challenge, McGehee and Pandolfi began discussing possibilities. Soon they had agreed to form a long-term partnership with exciting goals and initiatives, which they will introduce on Sunday.