I often ask myself, “What would happen if children spent their time thinking about world issues that needed their help? What if children recognized the power that they have to make a positive difference?”
Each year the entire middle school goes on a significant trip that brings to light a theme of social justice. This year, the theme was the environment. We took the students to The Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont in Tennessee to think like scientists, to challenge ourselves mentally and physically, and to immerse ourselves in the wonder of nature.
Our days in the Smokies introduced us to stream life and salamander monitoring research. They challenged us to traverse 8 miles of rugged terrain, including a 1.5-mile solo hike. We started our days witht’fillot (services) around a campfire each morning, and ended them gazing at nocturnal creatures and millions of stars in the night sky.
The effects of the trip are palpable. The students are bonded now in a way that will connect them with one another and their teachers for the rest of the year. They are empowered by having achieved the seemingly impossible. Their moods are lighter and their minds are opened. They are beginning to show the kind of passion for the environment that was the theme for the trip. They are launching a year of authentic leadership in the school. They are ready to live a life truly framed by Jewish values.
They are one community and will inspire the rest of us to be better caretakers of the earth throughout the year.
Kol hakavod to the teachers who worked to exhaustion, hiked with the students and made the experience both serious and fun for them. Each one of them left their own young children at home to fill the middle school students’ year with meaning.
The 2015 middle school trip will focus on hunger and poverty, and the 2016 trip will focus on civil rights. I am delighted to say, with confidence and enthusiasm, that Mirowitz middle school has become the most incredible place that I can imagine spending adolescent years.
Morah Cheryl Maayan