Synthesis Unit 2016, Human Migration: The Search For a Better Life
“This year’s Synthesis Unit was a wonderful learning experience… The thing that hit closest to home were the stories of the migrants. Such wide varieties of people traveling to such different locations inspired me to take action and help some of them out. Hearing their stories made me very thankful for what I have. It was a wonderful week!” -9th Grade Student
2015-2016 Synthesis Unit Schedule • Facebook Photos • Video Snapshot: Consul General Neumann’s Presentation • Video Snapshot: Marina Andina’s Presentation • Synthesis Unit 2016 Parent Testimonial • Student Testimonials and Responses
Kicking off second semester in late January, Anacapa School’s annual Synthesis Unit is an intensive learning opportunity for our school’s 7th-12th grade students. A program unique to Anacapa, Synthesis Units are one of the school’s most well-known and respected critical thinking tools that embody the school’s rigorous academics and focus on civic involvement. For our 2016 Synthesis Unit entitled: Human Migration: The Search for a Better Life, Anacapa students ambitiously tackled the very timely issue of human migration.
Synthesis Units offer Anacapa students the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of a number of speakers, all experts in their respective area of study or field, and each with a different perspective on the subject being explored. This year’s Synthesis Unit featured eighteen speakers, listed on our program schedule. Additionally, speakers on migration topics continue to make presentations during Breakfast Club, as our morning convocation is termed, as opportunities arise.
This Unit was the most challenging to organize in our 35-year history, as the key persons working on the currently unfolding worldwide crises are located far from Santa Barbara. To recruit speakers for this year’s Synthesis Unit, Headmaster Gordon Sichi traveled to Washington DC in December 2015 to attend a conference called The Global Migration and Refugee Crisis: Challenges, Lessons and Opportunities held at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and sponsored by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Institute for Contemporary World Affairs (ICWA). “Attending the Washington conference was eye-opening, informative, and helped me meet key people from the international community who were very helpful in putting the Synthesis Unit together… Every year I am amazed by the brain power the school attracts to the Synthesis Unit and by the generosity of busy people willing to spend time at our strategically small school. They are an important part of how this school makes such a big impact on students’ lives.” For the first time, the addition of Skype presentations helped connect students and faculty with key persons who otherwise could not participate.
To “synthesize” the information learned during a Synthesis Unit, Anacapa students research and write papers on the material they absorbed during the course of the Unit. Students also work collaboratively in small groups focused on a specific aspect of the Unit and put together sophisticated oral presentations, which they then deliver to the student body. Students’ individual papers are published collectively in an official publication. This is the first year that Anacapa will be making this publication available as an eBook.
“The Synthesis Units and our Breakfast Club Speakers Program are central to why Anacapa students head out to some of the nation’s, and even the world’s top universities unafraid to ask questions and engage in dialogue with their professors and the people they meet. They learn to both listen and talk… and become good communicators,” according to Gordon Sichi, Anacapa Headmaster. Our guest speakers agree.
After his presentation, German Consul General Hans Jörg Neumann remarked, “It was a great pleasure for me to address an audience of eager, well-informed and self-confident students of Anacapa School. The quality of their questions concerning the migrant and refugee issue was so amazing that I stayed way longer than I had initially planned. I can recommend to my consular colleagues to participate in future events organized by Anacapa School. Congratulations to teachers and students.”
Chris Funk, another Synthesis Unit presenter and the Research Director within the Climate Hazards Group at UCSB had a similar assessment. “”It was wonderful presenting at Anacapa, even though I had pitched the level of my talk really high, the students stretched and asked great questions. We had a wonderful discussion.”
Edward Joseph, Executive Director for the Institute of Current World Affairs and Synthesis Unit speaker also commented on the students’ sharp thinking skills. He remarked, “I was very pleased to speak to the students of Anacapa School. The students immediately impressed me with their attentive listening and quite perceptive questions. Some of these questions were clearly at the college level. A wonderful example of what happens when motivated students come together with skilled teachers and administrators!”
We are ever so grateful to all of our esteemed speakers and participating institutions, including UC Santa Barbara, the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, the United States Department of State; the Institute of Contemporary World Affairs; the International Organization for Migration; the International Catholic Migration Commission; the United States Border Patrol; the German Consul General, and the Italian Consul General. Thank you for your support of Anacapa’s students and educational mission!