When Rory Gallaher ’17 was in third grade at Ross, her class fostered puppies from two days old to four weeks old as part of their unit on evolution. The project exemplified Ross’s commitment to integrated learning: in the Math domain, students charted the puppies’ growth over time, while in Science and Cultural History, they researched the evolution of the dogs and learned about puppies’ development in their first few weeks of life. The experience left a profound impact on Rory, and is one of her fondest curricular memories from her Lower School experience.
For her Senior Project, Rory Gallaher is drawing on campus resources to recreate the experience for current and future students. Since her time there, the Lower School campus has expanded to include resources like a working farm, and Rory recognized a missed opportunity to more fully integrate these resources into the curriculum. In response, she has designed learning experiences to support Team K’s studies of origin of life stories and grade four’s unit about animal domestication.
Lower School Director of Academics and Professional Development Junellen Tiska serves as Rory’s Senior Project mentor—a role she’s uniquely suited for, since she was also Rory’s third grade teacher and the inspiration behind her work.
“When Rory approached me to be her mentor, she said that her experience in grade three was so memorable that she wanted to create similar opportunities for younger students using the farm animals,” said Junellen. “It’s a privilege to have been asked, and being her mentor has been incredible.”
With Junellen’s guidance, Rory’s lesson development process has closely followed that which is used in crafting the Ross Learning System. “I designed a lot of the Lower School curriculum, so I was able to share with Rory the templates that we use and guide her through the process,” Junellen said. “She knew enough about how we work and the lessons and what we do to see it in a bigger scope and come up with ideas herself.” To further familiarize herself with the Lower School’s farm animals, Rory spent last summer volunteering on the Lower School campus while also working as a camp counselor for Summer Camp @Ross.
This fall, Rory practiced implementing her learning experiences with Team K and grade four students. She led them on a tour of the farm, taught them which animals produce the resources we use, and guided them through interactive activities.
“Teaching can be harder than we think sometimes,” Rory said, stating that the project has taught her greater appreciation for her instructors. “Things hardly ever go as you planned, so you need to be very creative.”
“Rory’s enthusiasm and excitement for all that she is doing is contagious,” Junellen said. “This project leaves a great mark for her, as well as opens the door for us as a school to be able to work with our students and our alumni as active participants in contributing to the curriculum.”