Jun 16, 2012 School’s Out for Summer! Celebrating Successes and New Beginnings:
The last few weeks have been full of trainings, group building programs, and workshops. We have focused on helping school and community programs make a strong finish to the academic year and summer programs start off on the right foot. I have especially enjoyed this past week working with students and teachers right here in my own community in Vermont.
On Monday I facilitated the second in a series of leadership skills trainings with a thoughtful and committed group of students from Leland and Gray High School who are taking on the role of counselors in the L.A.F.T.E.R 21st Century Afterschool Program Summer Camp. What a great group of student leaders and a wonderful program for our community. It has been an honor to take part in supporting the many successful 21st Century afterschool programs here in Vermont this past year.
During the training our discussions centered around the challenges and opportunities group facilitators are faced with including: the importance of sequencing, building a sense of ownership, choice, and control with participants, and choosing the right activity at the right time to fit the needs of the group. Here is a recent article on the subject: The Right Ingredients at the Right Time: Sequencing Group Learning Experiences.
During these last two weeks of my ongoing “Experiential Learning in the Classroom” programs at Twin Valley Middle School I helped teachers wrap up the school year and celebrate the many successes and lessons learned using “Graffiti Wall”. Graffiti Wall has become one of my favorite reflective activities since Kasey Errico suggested it in a workshop last year. At the beginning of the year students used this activity to reflect on our unusual start to the year with Tropical Storm Irene. We used this activity again at the end of the school year to reflect on the successes, lessons learned, and hopes for the future.
On Wednesday we sent 8th graders off to high school with the “Postcard to the Future” activity that was so successful as a closing activity last year. This is an activity I have been using in professional development workshops with adults see June 2011 post: Transitions: Celebrating the End of the School Year and New Beginnings for Students
During the 8th grader’s last day we pulled out my Pick-a-Postcard kit and invited students to find the card they had chosen earlier in the school year during a previous activity on personal strengths. We asked them to think about a lesson they learned during this past school year that will be important to remind themselves of in September when they reach high school. We asked students to write a note addressed to themselves on their “strengths” postcard that included this lesson and a commitment for the future. Their teachers and I met with students individually to talk about their lessons learned, strengths and personal commitment to their future selves as an “exit interview” for the year. We promised to send the cards in early September as they start their 9th grade.
Though I truly enjoy my time providing professional development programs for adult learners, I feel very fortunate to have these opportunities to spend regular time with students in the classroom. I learn something new from the youth I work with every day. It is great to be in a position to work directly with educators and students from all kinds of educational settings and experiment and share experiential approaches to help youth develop social-emotional skills, and take responsibility and ownership for their learning.
Have a great summer!