Oli senior Eli Levin shares her experience developing a discussion-based elective course that explores the history and impact of feminism.
Each year, seniors at the Oliverian school have the opportunity to design and implement a senior project. These projects allow students to pursue a particular passion or interest and turn it into a meaningful culmination of their educational experience at Oli.
These projects take a variety of forms, including art exhibitions, musical performances, volunteer service initiatives, and so much more. Some students, like current senior Eli Levin, use the opportunity to share their knowledge with their peers by leading a one-week elective course.
For her project, Eli developed a lesson plan on the topic of feminism and advocacy. Her course focused on the history and evolution of feminism, and covered key moments that have helped advance and define the movement. But her primary goal wasn’t simply to bring her classmates up to speed on the rich history of a major social movement. Eli’s more ambitious aim was to create a space on campus where students could discuss difficult topics like gender, feminism, and advocacy and learn to communicate productively with people who might disagree with them.
Building a Space for Discussion
As Eli developed her project, she reached out to faculty and teachers for guidance. They shared their own experiences in creating lesson plans and offered insights into the importance of collaborative learning. “I had a lot of great interactions I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” says Eli, “and I also learned a lot about how teaching works at the school, so I was really grateful for that.”
Eli’s elective course delved into the relationship between the feminist movement and the media. “I highlighted a few of what I think are monumental moments in the feminist movement and looked at different resources that show those progressions, like old ads that show birth control or a movie that shows how after World War II women had a new place in American society,” says Eli. These resources, she notes, are really meant to encourage discussion among her peers who may have differing opinions about them.
According to Eli, candid discussion is a key component in bringing people together and creating understanding. She explains, “More than learning the history of or key facts about feminism, the important thing to me is for people to have a space where they can find a way to talk about things that are important to them, whether that’s how to advocate, or how to talk to people who might disagree with you — something we’re often scared to do now.”
A Far-Reaching Impact
By teaching her classmates about the different aspects of the feminist movement, Eli hopes to inspire them to pursue advocacy work, whether through senior projects or post-graduation pursuits. “I wanted this project to have an element of community service,” she says. “If a student wants to do something in the future that’s similar, or a teacher wants to take something from what I’ve done, I hope to make that possible because I learned so much stuff that I didn’t know.” Eli believes that her peers can use feminist leaders as an example of what to do — and in certain cases, what not to do — when fighting for an important cause.
When asked how she hopes her project will resonate with students in the future, Eli says that she wants her classmates to walk away from the elective course with the desire to listen and understand as well as effectively communicate their viewpoints. She says, “I think that having an awareness of those things is really important, and I think that as a country we’re very divided on these things right now, very polarized, so it’s really important for me to learn how to have those conversations.”
Oliverian empowers students like Eli to pursue their passions and share them with others. Through creative personal projects, unique electives, and a comprehensive core curriculum, Olis are given the freedom to explore and the support they need to succeed.