Our first weekend get-together was a great opportunity to have the space, time and freedom to work together and get to know each other a bit better. One particularly memorable experience from the weekend was having Walt Gustafson from VPIRG talk to us about activism and the ways in which our students' experiences in What's the Story is akin to the work being done professionally at the local, state and national level.
Top three "Ah-Has":
1) When you give kids the freedom to explore a topic of their own choosing, they'll have enough energy to take them through a friday night and a long Saturday of work;
2) Identifying issues and problems is easy; attempting to locate a potential solution, however, is much more difficult;
3) Kids ARE empathetic; kids ARE energized by real-world issues; kids DO want to have a say in how their lives are governed.
Top three "I wonders":
1) I wonder if we can give the students even more freedom?
2) I wonder how we can make this experience more accessible to more students?
3) I wonder what would happen if we asked the students to have more of a say in the agenda? I wonder what they want more of and less of?
The mix between classwork and out-of-class interactions was absolutely instrumental to my amazing Bread Loaf experience. What I mean by this is that I wouldn't have had the same Bread Loaf experience if I hadn't spent so much time talking, listening, improvising, interacting; my experience would not have been as rich, so to say, if I had not have the time, space and freedom just to be surrounded by smart people, not knowing exactly where the conversation was going to head. The experience we are granting the WTS students is very similar to the experience I had at BLSE. In other words, it's all about student-initiated learning with an audience and support system to guide, prod and encourage.
For next time, it might be useful for students to get sorted into their groups for several periods of time just to "be." No direction, no planning, no organizing, no prompts -- just tell them that they need to be together to chat, to improvise, to interact. See where the time and space take them. All in all, however, it was a great weekend.