Jen Lazar ’04 is a co-founder, program consultant, and facilitator of the Field Academy, an educational program that seeks “to connect, engage, empower, and educate young people from across the United States in order to inspire enduring learning and create a just and healthy world.” Lazar along with Annie Moore ’04, Interim Executive Director, spoke about the how the Field Academy came to be and the importance of place-based education.
It is no coincidence that staff members of the Field Academy are all 2004 Williams alumni. Lazar and Heather Forran ’04, co-founder, program consultant, and facilitator, first conceived the idea of the Field Academy while they were undergraduates. They envisioned domestic study abroad experience that could engage young people in issues through place-based learning and direct interaction with people and environment. Years after they graduated, Lazar and Forran decided to follow through with the idea they conceived as undergraduates and began by reaching out to anyone they knew for help. To their happy surprise, they received support and help in a variety of aspects. While earning her M.B.A in Nonprofit Management from the Heller School at Brandeis University, Moore received an email from Lazar about the Field Academy and soon after joined the staff.
The Field Academy currently runs a summer program that explores a critical issue in a specific region. Most recently a diverse group of high school students traveled to New Mexico and Southern California with the Field Academy to study water scarcity. The Field Academy runs its programs based on two fundamental criteria: a region and a critical issues. Once those two things are selected, the facilitators and educators work to think of framing questions that will guide the young adults in learning about U.S. History, English, Natural Science, Citizenship and Leadership within the context of the region and issue they are studying. Lazar and Moore discussed how they hope that the impact of the Field Academy is sustained within their students. However, the Field Academy is not just for high school students. This summer, the Field Academy is holding Educator Retreats for those they want to learn more about the Field Academy model of education. Both spoke about how they envision the Field Academy to grow beyond just a summer program for 15 to 20 high school students so that more students are exposed to the Field Academy’s unique approach to learning.
By Helen Song ’14