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?”
Our middle school trips are designed to do just that…to focus the attention of young adolescents on world problems that need their help. This year, we took the students to Nature’s Classroom Institute in Wisconsin to think like scientists, to challenge themselves mentally and physically, and to immerse themselves in the wonders of nature.
We began our trip by studying this quotation by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heshel: “The world is full of wonders, special radiance and marvelous secrets…but all it takes is a small hand held over the eye to hide it all.” We spent the week pushing that figurative small hand from our eyes. We climbed trees, waded in streams and lakes, caught frogs and bonded as a middle school community.
There, surrounded by the wonders of the world, we learned about the earth’s scarce natural resources and the human impact on our environment. We discussed what Judaism tells us about protecting the earth.
It’s part of our effort to expose our students to thinking about important things. “We visited some uncomfortable places—physically and mentally—this week,” explained Micah, 8th grade. “Dealing with the challenges our earth faces takes willingness. We have to put our minds to it.”
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. Most significantly, they are inspired to be better caretakers of the earth.
It’s not coincidental that while we were inspiring our students to take social responsibility, the students we left behind in St. Louis were doing exactly that. We are so proud of Dahlia and all of the students who emptied their tzedakah boxes to support victims of Hurricane Harvey. I arrived a couple of hours ago from the trip to enthusiastic third graders, ready to continue the tzedakah energy by collecting books for a Jewish day school like ours in Houston!
Our hearts go out to those in Texas whose homes were in the path of the storm, and to the first responders who brought them to safety.
Kol hakavod to our teachers who inspire our students to affect change. Your children are the inspired leaders we need for a better tomorrow.