Getting Right Out There

At the water’s edge, we journaled about our relationship with the lake...

For anyone on the school schedule, Summer feels like it happened years ago, if it happened at all. In a matter of days, creemees, bike rides, and open-ended afternoons all feel like a distant memory. Once the school year is underway, everyone is subsumed by its voracious appetite. So often, the school year eats leisure for breakfast. It eats serendipity for lunch. For teachers and students alike (and perhaps for parents too), it is all-consuming. Blink, and it’s December. 

So how can we make these first weeks different? By getting right out there, and diving into what makes the Burlington City & Lake Semester program unique. On our first day, BCL faculty didn’t even talk about the curriculum, the credits, or the educational catchphrases (e.g., experiential, place-based, inquiry-based, student-centered, applied, etc.). Instead, we talked about our values, about the journey that brought us here, and the reasons we are all so deeply committed to this unique learning environment.

We also described the learning as an adventure. It would be easy to call this cliché, but somehow it rings true. After all, an adventure is an experience in which you’re not sure what’s going to happen – and you embrace that open-ended potential. Burlington is small enough that those who have grown up here can easily convince themselves they already know it – but we have all been reminded that if you lean in, suspend disbelief, and see this vibrant place with new eyes, adventure is there for the asking. 

For all of us – students, teachers, community partners, parents – it requires thinking differently about what it means to do school. From day one, we have peeled back the layers of this place, and connected our learning to the pulse of the city. This feels natural, in part because our student group this Fall is making it easy. They have already shown how much intellectual curiosity and heart they are bringing to this adventure. We can’t wait for the adventures to come.

Exploring the complexities of housing development with local developer, Erik Hoekstra.
Exploring the complexities of housing development with local developer, Erik Hoekstra.
Erik explains just how challenging it is to develop new housing in the city.
Erik explains just how challenging it is to develop new housing in the city.

BCL is a great class and experience for me – and I think “the real world” is maybe the most important subject in school.

  • Joris

I believe that being in a normal high school climate and being in a classroom all year really shelters us and keeps us from getting a perspective of the real world. Sure, we learn about some issues and things going on around us, but I believe that being in BCL and being outside of that traditional classroom setting – being able to be out in the world learning about the city we grew up in and the issues going on around us – it really helps give a greater perspective on how the real world works. It also gets us away from the normal high school issues that we worry about as teens like if others around you will like you or if you will have time for your friends and helps us focuses on real problems.

  • Tyler
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Rita Markley, Director of COTS, helps us understand the dynamics of homelessness in Burlington.
Students play a new kind of “Jenga” - in which each piece represents the life events that can cause a family to lose their home. A fun game about a terrible reality.
Students play a new kind of “Jenga” – in which each piece represents the life events that can cause a family to lose their home. A fun game about a terrible reality.

After completing the first few weeks of BCL, I have begun to recognize the extreme value and potential of alternative learning. Throughout all of my educational career, I have had the idea that there is one way to learn drilled into me but with this outlet for creativity and flexibility to learn in the fall of my senior year, I realize that there is more than one right way. One aspect of BCL that I find particularly interesting and unique is the morning meeting. This, along with the closing meeting, has proven to be an extremely effective way to immediately focus in on our itinerary for the day, as well as reflect upon the learning we have done. The simple concept of starting each day by talking in a circle with your peers is also a great community-building feature, and has quickly created strong bonds within our group.

  • Kofi

IMG_3424

BCL so far has been amazing for me. I love being out of the classroom and into the community on blue days. I feel like as a class we are growing closer to each other every day. As a learner, I feel like I’m learning a lot more about more important things and things that will matter to me in the future. 

  • Gabi
Abenaki artist, activist, and educator, Melody Walker Brook tells us stories of creation and identity, and helps us reimagine our connection to place. 
Abenaki artist, activist, and educator, Melody Walker Brook tells us stories of creation and identity, and helps us reimagine our connection to place.

I have enjoyed my first few weeks of BCL and am so happy to have chosen to be a part of such a unique opportunity. After just a short time of being in the class I have gotten to know my peers so much better and can feel a sense of community in the classroom between both the students and the teachers. This sense of place is what separates BCL from “normal” school, as working with community members to discuss and tackle problems of city systems makes me feel a part of Burlington for the first time. In BCL I feel like my voice is heard and I am more equal with my teachers, making it more of a collaborative learning environment. I am eager to continue to enjoy BCL through the semester and learn more about where I come from, who I am and how I can work to build my community.

  • Galen
UVM Professor, Matt Kolan, asks us to attune to diversity in the natural world, and then consider what lessons there may be for us in human society.
UVM Professor, Matt Kolan, asks us to attune to diversity in the natural world, and then consider what lessons there may be for us in human society.

Something that I noticed by myself is that it sounds difficult to be journaling all the time, but after a while of doing it you start doing it because you yourself want to create a memory from a lesson…or personal experience, which I think is much more effective or at least for myself.

I think it should be a regular thing for everyone to be learning about society as a basic subject, because people normally do not see all that is being done for their life to stay sustainable.

As a new person in this community I feel as this has been one of the best ways I could have started to know the city I am going to be living in and to get to know people and create connections.
The paddle surf experience was incredible as I got to see how some sort of family relation is being created in our group.

  • Juan

 

At the water’s edge, we journaled about our relationship with the lake...
At the water’s edge, we journaled about our relationship with the lake…
Students with paddles near the lake.
…and then we suited up…
Students paddle on the lake.
…to get right out on it!

 

 

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