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.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


As our visit to Puerto Rico grows closer and closer, we—the Sustainable Ed. class—have started making preparations for the trip. We are in the discussion phase, which is mostly brainstorming and sharing our thoughts, questions and concerns regarding the trip. Things like: ‘What luggage do we need to bring?’ ‘What specific gear will we need (hiking boots, non-cotton apparel, etc.)?’ and ‘What activities will we partake in while we are there?’ It is both comforting and reassuring to be able to voice whatever worries or concerns one might have and be supported by our peers one hundred percent.

One issue that has become a growing concern for many of us is our physical limitations. It has been nearly four months since the Lister Leaf Busters were in business. The work we did (the yards we raked) and the physical exertion was, for many of us, our primary source of exercise, and, although all the raking helped get us into shape, the completion of the raking season also meant the end of our free work outs. Most of us are not super fit and drawing from past experience (like last year’s trip to Costa Rica) it is important that some of us (like myself) practice getting into physical shape so that we are able to participate to our fullest and not become exhausted after short periods of time. To help with this, our teacher, Bryan, has arranged for several weekly opportunities for us to exercise and build up our strength, both physically and psychologically. During Skill Center (Study Hall) on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the members of our class are going to engage in outdoor activities that will help improve us, physically. The exercise regime has not been determined as of yet, but some of our ideas are: hiking, walking, rock-climbing, and strength-training.

These exercises are intended to benefit those of us who need to improve our physical abilities, but it will also bring us closer as a group. How? Those of us who are lacking in strength and endurance will learn to pick up the pace and push ourselves harder so that our presence is not detrimental to the group; those who are already in good physical shape will practice holding back and reducing their pace slightly so that they are not largely ahead of the rest of us. The overall goal is that when we hike in Puerto Rico, we are able to do so together as a group. This will undoubtedly enhance our trip and our ability to experience all the extraordinary things Puerto Rico has to offer to a hard-working and well-deserving group of students such as us.