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BCIL Speaker Series Inspires Lower School Students
by Gina Rocca, 1st Grade Teaching Associate, BCIL Lower School Curriculum Innovator & Collaborator

The Speaker Series program is one way in which the BCIL encourages students to engage with real world challenges and explore solutions. During these events, students have the opportunity to interact directly with experts from a range of industries and backgrounds. They hear firsthand about their story and how they have made a positive impact on the world. Additionally, the topics and speakers seek to inspire students beyond the scope of classroom assignments with tangible examples and ways that students can take creative action towards betterment of themselves or the world around them. After the Speaker Series, guest speakers often pose a Challenge of the Month to further engage students in a timely challenge relevant to the speakers' area of expertise.

In October, the 5th graders heard from Brentwood alumna Lily Richman ’19 on the topic of civic engagement. Students had the chance to advocate for issues they feel passionate about, including protecting marine life and eliminating bias for children who have a disability or differences. Ms. Richman highlighted that when we make decisions about the real world, we want to make sure those decisions align with our values. She then introduced students to the K-5 Challenge of the Month: If you could add one additional core value to our class community, what would it be and why? Students created campaigns to support their ideas and submissions were celebrated as a community at Morning Flag. From Kindergarten to 5th Grade, and with support of the teachers, Lower School students had meaningful contributions. Some of the submissions can be viewed here

For the November Speaker Series, 4th and 5th Grade students recently heard from Brentwood alumna Alexandra Bilder ’20. In collaboration with the BCIL, Ms. Bilder founded B-Well, the Upper School student club focused on student wellness. The students heard about tools Ms. Bilder uses to help create and maintain wellness, especially during this challenging pandemic. Additionally, the students had the opportunity to practice wellness strategies with Upper School B-Well members in breakout rooms centered around topics such as positive affirmations, coloring, mindfulness, and even a dance party. After the experience, Abby Z. ’29 stated, “The tools we learned help calm your mind and brain so you are ready to work and so you aren’t stressed.” In addition, Arianna C. ’29 reflected on learning about positive affirmations, “I am worthy and I am smart and I am a good friend. If you say that, then I just think it will boost your happiness.” The students were left with two Challenges of the Month. The first challenge is to engage in a 7-Day Wellness Practice with a strategy of choice, and the second challenge is to design or create an original product or service to enhance wellness. Students may participate in one or both of the challenges. We are looking forward to seeing upcoming submissions! 

As the BCIL Curriculum Innovator and Collaborator, I often introduce the upcoming Speaker Series and Challenge of the Month to the class participants and reflect with students after the program. I am continually impressed with the level of engagement from our students from the onset of the event, to their participation, to their learning take-aways, and finally in the effort that voluntarily goes into their ideas for the challenge. Maddy W. ’28, who proposed an Ocean Club as a result of participating in the October Speaker Series, commented that she “is grateful for a lot of things, and one of the things is all of the BCIL speakers that come present because I find it really interesting.” The BCIL creates ongoing opportunities for students to participate in activities and projects that cultivate open-ended creativity and innovation, as well as inspire leadership and community building. 

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