Reflections on Fall Term Foundations

As the first term of Foundations, the Empathy, Balance, and Inclusion (EBI) program for Juniors, comes to an end, students and teachers are reflecting on the course’s impact. This is the second year that Juniors have taken Foundations, but the first in its current format — with periods every Friday on a cascading schedule. Foundations met a total of seven times this term.

Many Juniors feel that Foundations has been helpful for their first year at Andover.

Zack Peng ’21 said, “I think in general it’s a pretty good course, especially as ninth graders, to take because it really runs through all aspects of our time at Andover and the goods and bads… It’ll help us through any troubles we have.”

“My EBI class has been really helpful in managing my stress and being able to talk about the things I care about with people who offer insightful opinions and views,” said Megan Vaz ’21.

In EBI, students cover a wide range of topics, such as growth mindset, stress, and domains of wellness that Aya Murata, Associate Director in College Counseling and Empathy, Balance, and Inclusion Course Head, determined to be relevant to Juniors transitioning to Andover. Murata was not available for an interview.

Matthew Lisa, Instructor in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science and Foundations Instructor, said, “A lot of the ninth graders are new to this school, so I think a lot of the topics are very timely for students.

We just talked about stress as we’re preparing for the end of the term, that it’s natural for students to experience stress. Right after the midterm we had a unit on growth mindset… I think a lot of thought was put into having the topics be timely as opposed to starting with physical health, then move on to mental health, then moving on to some other topics.”

One recent class focused on stress management. During this class, students wore biodots — stickers placed in the crease between the thumb and pointer finger meant to measure stress levels. They were asked to complete a number search under increasingly stressful circumstances, then asked to talk about how they felt and some stress management techniques.

To help both teachers and students, Upper prefects of Junior dorms assist each session. Serving as the voice of older students, their job is to provide insight to make sure EBI lessons are relevant to the Andover experience.

“I get to provide a student insight as an Andover student’s experience, I get to provide advice or what I think based on the Andover experience because sometimes that’s something a teacher can’t provide,” said Erin Vasquez ’19, a prefect in Double Brick and Foundations assistant.

“It’s going really well with my class. They have a lot of energy so we have good conversations about growth mindset, and it’s just really interesting having these conversations with students because they haven’t really had conversations like these before,” continued Vasquez.

While many students appreciate the course so far, many believe there is still room for improvement. Megan Vaz ’21 said she would like the EBI course to focus on time management and teach stress relief.

“I think we should talk more about stress management, and we should talk more about self-improvement throughout the term and topics we should care about in the community,” said Vaz.

Reimi Kusaka ’21 agreed that EBI should focus more on helping students become productive.

“Maybe a program to help students do better with their time management. [Instead of] a sleep challenge maybe there could be a homework challenge,” said Kusaka.