Last year's trip to Costa Rica showed us that education can, and should, be a life-altering experience. This year, a largely new group of students, have decided to learn about and travel to Puerto Rico. With this new topic and destination in mind, we have developed a year-long interdisciplinary class that is based on the same three core principles:

1) Travel to expand students' horizons
2) An explicit connection between the classroom and real world
3) The use of sweat equity for students to see that their efforts can make a difference

During the early fall, the curriculum was largely focused on developing the 21st Century Skills of problem solving, critical thinking, decision-making, and collaboration. This was initially done using group challenges in the classroom, but then became vitally important once we started raking lawns. In addition to being our major fundraiser, this hard work put students in positions that required group problem solving, as well as perseverance and responsibility – traits that we all know are central to changing the trajectory of their lives.

During the winter and spring, each student will be developing an independent research project on a chosen aspect of Puerto Rico.
We hope that you will keep checking back as we share our learning, growth and adventures.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hannah's Reflection

The time that we, the Sustainable Education class, spent raking this past November has undoubtedly been one of the most difficult tasks we’ve ever encountered. I, myself, frequently struggled with the physical aspects of raking. As someone who could not even successfully complete a full-body pushup when we started, I had a very tough time in the beginning when it came to pulling my weight and completing my share of the manual labor. The first few jobs we did, I felt like I was going to pass out after only fifteen minutes of raking. As we raked more and more lawns, I could feel myself getting stronger as the work gradually became a little less difficult. What surprised me, though, was not the physical strength that I gained from all of this, but my own personal strength and self-discipline. Although I was not interested in joining last year’s Costa Rica class, I was one of the first people to sign up for this year’s (at the time the destination was undecided) class. What changed my mind? I’ve said this to my teacher, Bryan, from the start: I don’t care where we go. I didn’t join this class just so that I could go on some awesome trip (okay…that was part of the reason), but mostly I joined this class because I knew it would be an experience like no other. I’m not talking about travel; I’m talking about personal growth. Knowing upfront how hard it was going to be, I was really counting on this year to be my last chance before I graduate (I’m a senior) where I could really fine-tune and develop the life skills necessary for when I enter adulthood. I was incredibly proud of myself at how hard I worked while we were out raking; especially the way I was able to push myself farther than I ever have or even knew I could. Overall, this has been a most rewarding experience for me in both personal growth and self-dedication, and we’re not even halfway through the year, yet. I feel like I, personally, as well as our whole class have come so far and accomplished so much in these last couple of months. I cannot wait to see what type of people we will have become when we go to Puerto Rico.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nakita's Reflection

What I got out of the Lister Leaf Busters is …..

When I first started with leaf busters I was excited, but only because we were going to Puerto Rico. I did not really understand how much hard work we would be doing. In the beginning I was like “eh this is no big deal, whatever I can do this no problem.” As time went on I started thinking to myself “what have I gotten myself into?..” There was so much raking, no matter what the weather was, and I started to not care anymore. I always kept saying that I didn’t want to do it anymore and/or I can’t do this.
What I have learned is that giving up is no option. I made a commitment and I had to fulfill it. Everyone in this class is my family - at first they were just my peers, but as time went on we have bonded and have come so close. I have learned that I can push myself to do anything that I set my mind to. This is pretty much an outline of life. I tell myself that it is just preparing me for the real world. I get support when I need it from pretty much everyone.
I am ready to go the distance and more, and I cannot wait to go to Puerto Rico.

Mariahs Reflection

I have never felt like such a big piece of a class or anything for that matter. Other students say they look up to me as a leader or a role model. I have never had anyone look up to me like students in this class say they do. I try to be positive and show them that I am a great positive leader and I will also point them in the correct direction. In a class like Sustainable Education, you will learn a lot about yourself as well as each student and teacher as individuals and not just another person.

I learned that no matter what is going on outside of the class shouldn't matter. I needed to focus on what was going on, not what happened, and it took a long time to learn that. No one can learn from any mistakes accept for their own. I have learned from my mistakes which makes me feel more grateful now than ever.

In our class it feels like such a great family, we don't always get along but that's the price you pay when you spend a lot of time together. I can’t really describe how much this class and the people in mean to me, but I can say it’s amazing! I absolutely wouldn't give this school or this class up for anything in the world. It’s so much more than that. Like I said were a family! Thank you, everyone, for believing in me and having such high expectations because if it wasn't for all of the pushing and pulling I wouldn't have been able to be as successful.

Andi's Raking reflection!

I came into this class because I wanted to do something meaningful with my senior year. I was wary at first because I am not the best traveler, but eventually our teacher Bryan convinced me by informing me that there is a rain forest national park that we will be able to visit. Unlike most of my peers I have been privileged to be able to travel fairly often. I have also been fortunate enough to not have to work for many things in my life, and I wanted to prove to myself that I have the ability to. Raking isn’t so bad...Right?

Wrong. I am used to barn work, but at least doing stalls and such chores don’t have you using the same muscles over and over. I would get dirty and gross and sweaty every day, and on the days that we did not rake after school, I was napping until 5pm leaving only a small fraction of my day to the things I like to do. As horrible and grueling this all was I would not trade this experience for the world. It helped me prove to myself that I really can push myself when motivation gets hard for me.

Another wonderful experience is social aspect of this class. I see us more of a team than a class though. We go through everything together and I can’t say enough how rewarding this is. We get into squabbles some but everybody really comes together on a job. I learned so much about the others in this class, many of them people whom I may have not naturally gravitated to. This class is helping me to grow in so many ways. I feel so lucky that I am able to participate in this class!

Robert reflection

I am a freshmen. When I first started at this school, I never asked for help. I didn’t want people to think I couldn't do the work so this is why I didn’t ask for help. I was trying to find a way to fit in. When I didn't ask for help I would feel mad and I would start to become fidgety. This annoyed people and made it hard for me too. The raking was hard, real tough, but it was good because it gave me a chance to do good. I like being outside. I don’t get how raking and team building go together, but Bryan said if we all worked together while raking it would not be as hard. He wasn’t lying when he said this. I was part of the raking team because I participated, a lot. It was easier for me because I helped and people were not annoyed. I got a real good grade this quarter. Better than last time.

Damien's reflection

When I first heard about this class I thought it would be simple and a good way to show the people who have doubted me that I can in fact do something life changing, and prove that work will not be a obstacle I can’t get around. To my surprise it is a very simple thought to rake lawns but to put that thought into action is very difficult and exhausting. I have learned a lot about the other students, the teachers in the class and myself. I learned that everyone is capable of doing these things but you have to push to get through them. In my family I am known for doing things for others most of the time. There are very few times that I have worked for myself, and now I am doing both for me and my peers. Also this is the first time I worked for what I want and what I can benefit greatly from. It wasn’t just physically draining but emotionally as well. When I got past my emotional issues with talking and presenting I was able to help the group with some very important situations. This class is one of the biggest things I’ve done and personally the biggest measure in my personal growth.

Joshua's Reflection

Hi, my name is Josh. I was part of last year’s trip to Costa Rica, and now this year’s trip to Puerto Rico. Some of the things that I learned last year was how to work as a team, how to problem solve better, my strengths and weaknesses, and how to work as a unit. This year I worked on enhancing those skill. This year some skills that I learned were Leadership, taking feedback and applying it to needed areas, and the biggest skills of all, respect, understanding of others’ personal issues, and how to support my team better with their struggles. Some of the things that I learned about myself is more of my strengths and my struggles, how well I can perform when under extreme pressure, and how I help keep my peers working through rough times. During the duration of the raking, I learned more about my classmates and their strengths and weaknesses, and how well we work as a team. I am glad to be able to be in a class like this again and hope to enhance my skills, learn new skills along the way, and have the chance to go on another life changing experience.