This year during Outdoor Education Week, the 8th graders at Buckley were not propelling down mountains, learning to build fires without matches, or sleeping in tents, but they too were learning critical life lessons that are best taught and internalized outside of the classroom.
Over the course of the week, the 8th grade students spent their time serving the community and were able to help those less fortunate in a wide variety of ways. From making lunches for and feeding 250 homeless at the Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission to working with economically disadvantaged preschoolers enrolled in the Head Start program, they experienced, first-hand, what it feels like to go out into the community and help others in need. In addition, they wrote letters of gratitude to soldiers through the program Operation Gratitude, worked on Buckley’s Nature Trail through which they learned about native and invasive plants, and created food packages for those in need in the US and abroad with Children’s Hunger Fund.
Each student also participated in an experiential learning simulation showing them the realities of food distribution throughout the world. Their luncheon was a metaphor for how the world eats—some people have ample nutrient rich diets while other go hungry—and students came away from the experience with both gratitude for their own situation and a heightened awareness of the plight of so many people in the world. “After the experiential luncheon, I really understood the situation of world hunger today because I saw it played out in our grade. It really opened my eyes,” said one 8th grader which seemed to be the consensus of the group.
“The 8th graders displayed a definite ability to be compassionate and insightful as they moved through the week,” said Ms. Braunschweiger, community service director. “I watched their perspectives shift and their gratitude for what they have been given grow.”
The students participate in a powerful exercise where they shared their feelings and opinions about the homeless both before and after visiting Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission. “Their before and after views on the homeless changed dramatically as a result of talks with the Executive Director, Ken Craft and meeting and serving the homeless through the Mission,” said Braunschweiger. “Today was a life changing day and I enjoyed and appreciated every moment of it,” said Abigail Haas. “It felt so good so see how appreciative the people who we were helping were. Just the way they said ‘thank you’ really moved me and it made me appreciate how lucky I am.”
“Throughout their experiences this week, students were exposed to numerous social issues and varied communities. They focused on ways that they can create positive change in the world, both as a group and on an individual level,” said Braunschweiger. She was truly impressed by the insight and compassion the class possessed as a group, “I strongly feel that the class of 2016 has the potential to be incredible leaders in the area of service throughout their time at Buckley and beyond.”