The Real Work of Summer


Typically, the school year calendar allows for an annual exhale, for students and teachers alike. Summer is a time to downshift, unplug, recharge–choose your metaphor. But for the BCL Project Team, it’s fair to say that this summer has been…different.

After nearly two years of conceptual design and organization-building, the past few months have felt like a significant pivot. It’s clear that the time for discussing this program as if it were a mere idea is in the past. We’re about to launch. In less than a month, the first group of learners will begin their Burlington City & Lake Semester experience.

The sheer number of things on our to-do list has been daunting: everything from the macro (e.g., ensuring that BCL’s innovative approach to assessment still meshes with BHS’ Graduate Expectations) to the micro (making sure there’s a bike rack available at our downtown homebase). And yet it has also been empowering. After all, this is the time when “real world learning” gets real.

Despite the countless hours spent readying the program for prime-time, however, summer has also offered its moments of leisure and inspiration. Each of us has had the privilege to step away from our seemingly endless task-lists and revisit the things that feed us. Signe travelled with her family to her home country, and shared with them the stark beauty of Denmark’s West coast. Andy led a service trip to Atlanta, and canoed Maine’s Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Dov travelled with his family to the rainforest of Western Belize. Peter hiked the length of Vermont–all 273 miles of the Long Trail.

Each of these trips were unique, but they all share some common threads. For one, each was deeply place-based, layered with experiences one couldn’t find anywhere else. Each was also immersive. All four of us were able to step away from the mundane, day-to-day treadmill and step into a different world. Finally, each allowed for exploration. So much of our lives play out like a script. Often, liberation comes from going “off-book.” 

Upon reflection, these experiences weren’t just ways to escape the summer’s seemingly endless BCL Work Plan. They were also ways of reconnecting to the Burlington City & Lake Semester itself. After all, the connection to place, to immersive experience, and to exploration is exactly what the Project Team and our myriad partners are striving  to embrace and share. When the stars align on the 30th of August, we are thrilled to welcome an amazing group of students into the kind of extraordinary learning that can only take place here in Burlington.


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