“We don’t have a history of sharing,” said Bart Griffith, Westminster’s English department chairman. “The thought was that with two of the country’s greatest independent schools a half mile down the road, why don’t we work on things together and grow in collaboration with one another.”
He said the course was initially the “brainchild” of the schools’ two headmasters, Westminster’s William Clarkston and Lovett’s Billy Peebles.
Griffith, along with Mark May-Beaver, Lovett’s English and American studies teacher, were asked to develop the nuts and bolts of the curriculum, and to teach Atlanta 2.0, which is based on theme of public space and community.
The course allows students to engage with civic leaders, tour a broad spectrum of Atlanta neighborhoods and examine current literature about contemporary urban life. The group of 13 will work to identify the problems in our city, research potential solutions to propose them to a panel of Atlanta’s leaders in government, business, education, law, medicine and the arts.
Griffith said organizations participating include The Friends of English Avenue, Eastlake Foundation, Greenstreet Properties, the Atlanta Zoo and the Bolton Riverside Neighborhood Association.
“I think what we want them to appreciate and get excited about is all the work that goes into making city work for all of its citizens,” he said. “We want them to embrace the idea that cities are at their best when they are created by everybody, from the local street artist to the biggest commercial developer on the block.”
Griffith said he wants the students, who had a relatively sheltered suburban upbringing, like him, to understand the challenges Atlanta faces.
“We want them to get a range of perspective of how some organizations and individuals have gone about designing solutions to solve problems,” he said.
Each student receives a half credit for taking the course, and free tuition, at least for the first year, Griffith said. They were chosen through an essay application process in the early spring.
Laura Deisley, Lovett’s director of 21st-century learning, said the idea to collaborate evolved from both schools’ commitment to philanthropy and students understanding their role as civic participants.
“Both schools have done great deal of work and always looking for opportunities to further connect students to city in which they live,” she said. “We want to engage students in an authentic experience. … It’s not something fabricated in a classroom.”
Atlanta 2.0 will run for three full weeks, Deisley said, and there is a possibility of extending the course to public school students in the future.