Saturday, October 11, 2014

School WithOut Walls (SWOW)

Beautiful live guitar music while the other 11 sophomore girls and I sit around the cabin living room working on the day’s Bible study in leadership lessons (and only one of the girls had even known before that the musician played guitar!). The one student who is quietly the first in the kitchen to start cooking and the last in the kitchen cleaning up. A tiny kitchen bursting at the seams with everyone trying to pitch in. Impromptu song and dance performances from the cup song to High School Musical numbers to every Silly Song with Larry ever produced. Sides of my students I dont see in class! Im sure that I learn as much as the10th graders do during our annual School WithOut Walls (SWOW) week in October. (See here for what I learned on last years SWOW.)

The planned curriculum involves hands-on learning about teamwork and servant leadership, as well as about different parts of God’s world, for each of the 4 high school years. The faculty has worked to design the 4 separate SWOW experiences so that a scope and sequence of learnings will result in graduates who know when and how to effectively lead and follow with a heart of loving service for God and for people. 

Sometimes the good results we’re seeing from this leadership curriculum point to ways our design works that we hadn’t even realized. In my final debriefing at lunch Friday, I asked the girls from my cabin to think about what they learned in 9th grade SWOW and what they learned this year, and how they’ve grown in teamwork and leadership skills since last year.

I learned something from their answers. A recurring theme was that having 2 different groups this year—a cabin group of all girls and a color group of a class cross-section—helped them grow as leaders. (The cabin group cooked, cleaned up, had devotions, built a fire, and negotiated 12 girls and one shower together. The color groups hiked, biked, did teamwork games, enacted a simulation, and went to an aquarium.) One said that last year she just thought about herself as a leader; this year she had to think about the group she was leading, knowing the individuals and figuring out how to help them. Several others said that last year they’d just stood in the background and done what others told them to, but this year the safety of the high functioning cabin group of girls had given them confidence to speak up more in the mixed groups. 

I’d never heard it expressed that way before. I asked them whether something could be changed in 9th grade SWOW to help this happen earlier, or whether it was just the necessary progression and developmentfrom one group to twoalong with natural maturing, and they all thought it was the latter.

I wonder how that bit of knowledge can help me be even more intentional in designing not only SWOW groups and experiences, but the groups back in English class?

I told you back at the beginning that I think I learn as much as the kids from these experiences!

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