The Island School Seminar course serves as a capstone experience, where students are guided through projects and reflections that stem from the guiding question, How can we live better in a place? Seminar builds on the discussions and experiences gained throughout all aspects of the program; learnings from all classes serve as the content, while this course provides a medium for students to draw connections among aspects of their journey and space to put these reflections into action. Seminar class comprises of three components: Apprenticeship, in-class synthesis, and Final Projects. During the Apprenticeship program, students gain a deeper understanding of campus’ various systems by working alongside a mentor in one of five apprenticeship opportunities: the Dining Hall, the Boathouse, The Early Learning Center, The Center for Sustainable Development, and the Farm. The second component, the in-class synthesis, supports the first three curricular units: Systems in Nature, Sustainable Interdependence, and Communities and Culture. During this time, students make cross curricular connections between classes and across our programming as a whole. Through reflections, discussions, and storytelling, students look at concepts through multiple lenses and applying learnings to their individual contexts. The culminating assessment of the course and entire semester is the final projects. Through these, students are tasked with building upon understandings and skills practiced earlier in the semester in authentic ways.
This past fall semester, the final projects asked students to demonstrate leadership, collaboration, and project planning by taking on one of the seven final project options. One of these was entitled “Project 110,” and was based in service learning and community outreach. The Island School faculty advisors for the Project 110 endeavor were Leigh Schmitt, Lizzy Reed, and Lila Wright. The project itself was divided into five separate components: engagement in local service learning projects; research, analysis, and study to gain a broader understanding of community organizing; coordination of a campus-wide day of service event; support and event planning for an island-long fundraising run; and a “transference piece,” or the establishment and engagement of a philanthropic organizing event at the student’s home or sending school community. To say the least, this entire Seminar project was authentic, meaningful, and robust. The students, the greater south Eleutheran community, and numerous “home” communities benefitted tremendously from this culminating endeavor within The Island School semester program. Transference activities, which happened this past month, were meaningful and philanthropic, and varied from coordinating leadership conferences and book drives to volunteering precious time with youth and the elderly.
Below are some highlights of and reflections on successful projects!
“My project 110 transference piece was eventually a success, despite many setbacks. Originally, I wanted my project to focus on reducing food waste at my school. I emailed several of Phillips Exeter’s environmental clubs about my idea but never received a response. When I talked with a club head in person, they told me that they had already done projects like it in the past and that it wasn’t a pertinent issue at the school. Although I did join an environmental club at Exeter, at that point I was left without a project. My next idea was to collect plastic around my neighborhood with 10 friends and family members, since my street has a lot of litter, but the multiple snowstorms made it impossible to accomplish that goal either. My third idea was very different from my original project, but it was still something important to me: appreciation to first responders. Since a lot of first responders have to work long hours even on the holidays, I asked my dad what we could do to show our gratitude to the police and firefighters in the towns near us. We decided that making them cookies and thank you cards would be the best thing for us to do, given the time of year and how much they appreciate being recognized for their hard work. I involved ten members of my friends and family and we made and decorated enough cookies for 10 police and firefighting stations in my town and surrounding towns. Although not everyone was able to participate through the entire baking, decorating, and delivery process, all ten of my participants contributed in at least one aspect of the project. My little sister Laura and her friend Gretl decorated the thank you cards, my friend and my sister Catherine helped me roll the dough and make sure the cookies wouldn’t burn, my two younger brothers and their three friends decorated almost all of the cookies, and my dad, my brother Jimmy and I delivered all the cookies and thank you notes in one day. The entire process, from collecting the materials we needed until we delivered the last box of cookies, definitely took at least 110 minutes, if not longer. Despite all the setbacks, everyone, including me, had fun with the project, and all the recipients seemed grateful for our efforts.”
“For my Project 110 transference piece, my original plan was to gather 10 people from my school to go help out at the after-school program in the Madison, New Jersey YMCA. All of that changed for many reasons. One reason was that I didn’t go back to school between December 6 th and winter break. Because of that, it was harder to find 10 people. I asked my friend group what they were doing December 15th (the planned date), but a lot of people had to study for exams. I didn’t think exams were going to be a problem, but they were. Another reason was that the YMCA phone calls would always go straight to voicemail. It was really hard to get in contact with them. Because of all of this, I was very frustrated. I didn’t know what to do. On December 11th , when I went to work with my mom (at Drew University), I was telling her about all of this and she told me that the Acorn Academy (the campus day-care), would love some help. I took this idea, walked to the day-care, introduced myself, gave some background about Project 110, and got right to helping. It was so fun working with all of the little kids. I lost track of time and spent more than 110 minutes there. I’m glad that I was still able keep part of my original idea of working with kids. I can also easily go back to the day-care to help out now that they know me and know the reasoning behind my help. Even though the goal was to gather 10 people to do 110 minutes of service learning, I learned that not everything goes as planned. By going to the day-care, I was still able to help out and interact with kids, which was the core of my idea.”
“Project 110 focused on community organizing and service learning through events that we planned on Eleuthera and events that we planned for our home schools. The initiative that we planned for our schools at home is called our “transference piece” and the event that I planned is called the Young Scholars Leadership Conference (YSLC). I planned a mini-conference for faculty children of the ages 6-10 that live on the Tabor Academy campus. This conference consisted of 6 volunteer-led workshops that included leadership games and discussions for the children to take part in. Through this leadership conference, I hoped to bring the overarching idea of leadership from The Island School to my local community and also incorporate my passion for giving young people the leadership opportunities that I was given. The YSLC took place on January 14, 2018.”
“Since the shoe drive with the Ugly Sweater Run fell through, I started to think of where else I could organize a shoe drive. I still wanted to run a quarter of a mile for every pair of shoes I received. I decided that I could contact the head of my soccer club, Coach Hamel, and ask him if he would allow me to do this at the complex where our whole club practices on Tuesdays. He gladly said yes, and then sent out three emails that week to the whole club to let them know and remind them about the event. The day of the shoe drive I went to the indoor complex at five o’clock at night, and dropped off a box with a sign indicating where people could put their shoes. I left, and came back at 7 for my practice and it was already overflowing. Then two hours later when I left, I had a box and a trash bag full of shoes. The following days, I received some shoes from friends and family who heard about the event. I finished with 67 pairs of shoes, that I would be able donate to One World Running. I will soon be driving to North Conway, New Hampshire to drop off the shoes at one of their locations. As for the running aspect, I will have to run 16.75 miles. Within the next month I will work my way up to accomplish this.”
“Mission: My Project 110 transference piece was called Share a Story. My aim was to coordinate a book drive at my boarding school, Westminster School, with a goal of collecting 110 storybooks for local children. Since Westminster is a community of over 400 people, my hope was that at least a fourth of the community could find the time to look for old books for elementary school children that they no longer needed at home. As children grow older, they tend to grow out of a lot of things, including books, so instead of letting these books lay around useless, I considered it a good idea to pass these books down to a generation of young readers.”
“Community organizing takes a lot of time and effort, not to forget endless organization that I found to be a skill that I could improve upon. Nevertheless, the project turned out to be a success with over 200 donated books, exceeding my expectations. Throughout the gathering of books, I had no idea how the experience would positively influence my mood. After having sorted out all the story books and being left with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia from looking at all the book titles, I felt excited for the kids the books were being sent to. Ever since I was little, I’ve truly found a passion for reading and books in general and now I’m happy that I will be able to share this passion with a new generation of elementary school children.”
49 Infant Books
125 Chapter Books
1 Graphic Novel
Total: 202 books donated
“For my transference piece, my aim was to volunteer at senior citizens home during the holidays and spend time with the seniors. I was not able to get in contact with the home I had planned on going to but I was able to go to another place that was similar to my idea. On December 28, I volunteered at Golden Era Social Adult Day Care in Uptown Manhattan. Although I did not have exactly ten people, seven of my family members and myself were there. That Friday the members of the center were having a holiday dinner. I arrived early to help set up. The adults had dinner with a variety of dished to choose from. After everyone ate, plenty of games were laid out for people to play and enjoy. Everyone loved playing bingo because the winner received a prize. The way people lighted up with their prize, even though it was not the best prize made me smile. The employees began to play music for the members of the center. Almost everyone was on their feet and dancing. One person that had made my heart melt was an elderly woman that would not stop dancing. Her energy and enthusiasm were ravishing. Throughout the night, my family and I spent the rest of the evening conversing with the members. Towards the end, I helped clean up and put everything back where it was before. It was an amazing time. I continued to go a few times again. I went with my sister and we helped around the with the members, as well as helping the director of the center file paperwork and answer phone calls. Volunteering is incredible, I have fun while learning at the same time. After spending time at the center I think I will be volunteering there more often and hopefully bring friends along.”