I hold an adamant belief that travel can be an invaluable, life-altering experience. Families that have the means to travel often see it as a luxury, and take for granted the incredible learning that they and their children gain. I work in an alternative high school – most of my students are from families that do not have anywhere near those kinds of means. Their experiences have been, in large part, a struggle and the larger world is mostly an abstraction – including the potential wonder and hope that it can hold. Monteverde, Costa Rica epitomizes that kind of wonder and hope – blending the culture of indigenous inhabitants with that of the American Quaker settlers that arrived in the 1950’s, and balancing a model of conservation with becoming an international eco-tourism destination. The book, Walking With Wolf, tells this story in a remarkable way.
We are now in the midst of a year-long interdisciplinary class that will include Walking With Wolf, student blogs (which I hope you'll check out on the right), individual research projects, and a 10-day trip to Monteverde this Spring. The students are working hard and must fundraise their entire way there - they need your help. If you are willing to support their efforts,
checks can be made out to “Lister Academy – Costa Rica Class”, and mailed to: Robert J. Lister Academy, Attn: Bryan Mascio, 35 Sherburne Road, Portsmouth, NH 03801.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Let The Healing Begin

Kay Chornook, the author of Walking With Wolf, mentions several times how her experiences in Monteverde, Costa Rica acted as a hospice for her. This happens, first, as she recovers from a difficult divorce, and then again after she has been treated for Hodgkin's Disease. Part of my drive to create this class and bring my students to Monteverde is because I believe that it can have a similar healing effect for them - and it has already begun.

I am seeing commitment and perseverance in the classroom that I have rarely seen before. These students, unaccustomed to completing homework or having adults expect them to do so, are keeping up with the reading and taking copious notes. They're asking questions and pursuing answers, at times when they may otherwise have stayed silent. They are spending hours researching information that is related to the text and connects it to their interests. They are taking feedback and making changes to pieces of writing that they have labored over - both hard pills to swallow for students that have histories of just wanting to be done.

These changes extend to the non-academic as well. We just had a fundraiser this past Thursday night - selling raffle tickets at the Harlem Wizards game at Portsmouth High School - and I can't speak highly enough of how well the students stepped up. While other members of our school had a dinner out before the game, my students didn't complain when they had to miss out and come to set-up early. They stretched their comfort zones as they sold tickets at our table and even ventured out into the crowd to sell more. When I saw two, otherwise self-conscious, students stand at half-court with Senator Martha Fuller Clark to draw the winning tickets, I knew that this was only the beginning of a powerful change for them all.

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