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.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Zipping Our Time Away!

Tuesday May 22, 2012

What a GREAT day!  It’s not just the fact that we got to go zip lining in the rain forest tree canopy at La Marquesa Forest Park in Guaynabo Puerto Rico – it’s everything that surrounds us.

Let’s start with the zip lining.   
Again, there was an even split for those of us who have been zip lining before and those that haven’t.  If you aren’t familiar with what a zip line is this is where there are platforms high in the tree canopy and the trees are connected by stretches of cable.  Once you are fully geared up in a harness, helmet, caribeaners, pulleys and gloves, you are set to go… well, of course only after listening to the safety instructions!  
Once in gear, we hiked up the the first platform which was a steep ascent, especially in the heat and weighed down by the gear, but we didn’t let that get us down.  After waiting for our turn, one-by-one we went down the first line. For me, it was absolutely exhilarating! 

There were so many mixed emotions swirling around us.  Excitement.  Fear.  Euphoria. Nervousness. Composure.  Stress.  Relief.  Pride.  Gratification.  Happiness.  It was wonderful to see the level of confidence (and fun factor) increase as the new-to-this-folks became more comfortable with each run down a line.  Also it was very impressive witnessing those who pushed through the fear and discomfort to prove to themselves that they COULD face down their fear.  Especially heartwarming was watching the students support each other with kind and encouraging words – the level of compassion they showed each other had a profound effect.  This class and all its lessons and experiences have brought the students so much closer and they share a bond that is unique to the seven of them. This bond was seen throughout the evening as we went out to the ocean, ate dinner together and then all went for a night swim in the pool.  Amidst all the horsing around and playing, you could see the kids watching out for each other.  

It was a great day and it is a wonderful journey we are taking together.  It’s hard to believe how quickly the week is passing.  In the next couple of days we have lined up cave tubing, visiting Old San Juan (this is to explore all the old forts and go to the Butterfly People Cafe) and kayaking in Bioluminescence Bay.  I suspect that time is going to continue to fly by... =o) 

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