Summer fun – junior youth group

It’s been a long time since the last post, longer than I meant, but at any rate, here’s a highlight reel of the spring/summer:

Junior youth group in Vermont:

Once upon a time, way up in a little town in Vermont, there lives an awesome Baha’i family – the Blakesons. They were looking for someone to animate (i.e. facilitate) a group whose focus is on bringing out the capacity of 11-14 year olds to transform society. This curriculum is Baha’i-inspired but is open to all backgrounds and beliefs; it incorporates the arts, service projects, discussion, and really anything else you want to add on to the framework. The Blakesons had already done most of the prep work, so all I had to do was to show up at their doorstep each Saturday and have a great time with about 7 amazing girls! It’s hard to sum up our 6 months together succinctly, but I loved:

  • The girls’ creativity: Example: they decided that each week we should read the story in a different accent. And they had loooots of accents up their sleeves!
  • The way they channeled their energy into projects: One week we picked up trash by a stream and the whole thing was made easy and enjoyable because of their enthusiasm! Also see baking projects, below hehe.
  • Their amazing tree-climbing, rock-hopping, chicken-raising skills: When I arrived for the class, the girls were usually up a tree—literally! Sometimes we had our class IN a treehouse. And the number of animals many of them have cared for is an impressive list.
  • Vermont: I’ve decided it’s the prettiest state I’ve seen. Clear rivers, home gardens bursting with tomatoes, peach trees and flowers; the occasional bear in the backyard; swimming in a cold stream after class… perfection  🙂
  • Their commitment to service: over the course of several months, we tried to piece together a slightly larger-scale service project. Someone suggested the Kony 2012 initiative, and after watching the video and having a great discussion about it, we watched videos from different perspectives and decided we’d do a fundraiser to help an established development organization in Uganda. So for our last class, we had a humungous bake sale at the local food co-op. We raised quite a bit of money in just a few hours (after all, who can resist delicacies like homemade cupcakes, or chocolate-chip-cookies-with-M&Ms-instead-of-chocolate-chips-and-gummy-bears-melted-on-top! True story- and they were good!), and split it between two organizations tackling health and hunger issues.

The curriculum really requires and develops your ability to be a good teacher. The way I’m defining that here is to

1. See students’ capacities and be able to nurture those (while also encouraging them to push themselves and try things they’re not as familiar with), and

2. To take a basic story / set of information / concept and not just “tell” it, but SHOW it and use it as a stepping stone to deeper conversations and actions. Especially after a few close friends have become teachers, I’ve been spinning head-over-heels in my admiration for anyone who can truly “teach”. As much value as I place in this ability, I think it’s something I really want and need to deepen in myself, and this group provided that opportunity. I’ve definitely got a long way to go, but it felt good to be actively trying.

I’m really going to miss the girls and their families, but can’t wait to drive (ski?) up and visit when I’m back in December!

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