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How can we, as a school community, use our reading of Malala to establish our culture at The Academy at Penguin Hall?

Last week we introduced the girls to project-based learning.

The week began with an entry event – A TED talk given by Shiza Shahid, a resident of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, graduate of Stanford University, and trusted advisor to Malala Yousafazi. The emotional talk was titled: There are No Superheroes: Just Us and centers around Sharzi’s decision to leave a lucrative position with McKinsey Consulting in order to help Malala fight for girls’ education around the world. You could hear a pin drop when the lights came up … Tthe girls were excited to know more.

In the spirit of creating a community of kindness, we then created five houses to divide the school into smaller groups. The houses are mixed grades and serve as a way to both unify and divide us–when each need presents itself. The next step was to present the Driving Question, a key component to Project Based Learning or PBL. How can we, as a school community, use our reading of Malala to establish our culture at The Academy at Penguin Hall?

For the next three days, the “houses” of girls gathered to brainstorm, research, and test ways to build a positive culture–built around the values woven throughout I Am Malala. As teachers, we fielded questions, pushed the girls to discover their own answers, prodded them to practice as a group, encouraged them to consider bigger ideas, and stood back to coach when necessary.

On Thursday afternoon at 1 pm, just three days after our kickoff TED talk entry event, 61 girls gathered in the Excellere Room to watch the magic unfold. As faculty and staff, we were in awe as each house presented their idea as to what it means to be a student at The Academy at Penguin Hall. Words like perseverance, diversity, acceptance, outreach, and kindness kept showing up–again and again. There was a powerpoint, a chorus line, an iMovie, a live newscast, as well as an idea for mentoring middle school girls. Once again, the girls amazed us with their creativity, their collaboration, their sense of play and sense of purpose, and their capacity to dream big.

Student Video


Jennifer Billings

Mrs. Jennifer Billings is a Humanities Teacher at The Academy at Penguin hall. For over 15years Mrs. Billings has had the wonderful opportunity to teach in a coeducational environment.This is her first experience teaching in an all-girls environment. She was excited to share her thoughts after our student orientation.