Way To Go, Midd! Published 2007-05-01 under , ,

Do you remember what you did during the summers while you were in college? Get a job, hangout with friends, travel? But for a some students, this summer will be spent capturing radio narratives of children in Uganda, running a workshop in Jerusalem encouraging people living in the divided city to test their idealism against political and physical realities, hosting religious tolerance workshops for youth in Pakistan. All of these not-so-typical summer activities are being made possible by a group that encourages students to use their summers for life learning opportunities.

The Kathryn Wasserman Davis 100 Projects for Peace is a wonderful program that funds innovative summer projects for college students. "The objective is to encourage and support today’s motivated youth to create and tryout their own ideas for building peace in the 21st century."

The projects mention above are three of five projects submitted to 100 Project for Peace by students from Middlebury College. While these three projects were accepted by the organization for funding, Middlebury decided to fund the other two projects itself. As a result, one group of students will be heading to New Orleans to work with youth in civic peace and another will see a senior head to Thailand to explore the effects of micro-credit loans on the country's economy and environment.

This is about taking advantage of that four-year window and doing something that is a little scary... For many students, it seems as though they have so much to do and they’re so busy. They’re trying to get on to that next thing when they graduate, sometimes graduate school, which means they’re checking the boxes. And they don’t even think about the fact that they have these opportunities.

Middlebury College has setup what they call "The Project on Creativity and Innovation in the Liberal Arts", a new initiative encouraging all Middlebury students to expand their education beyond the classroom. The goal is to direct extra funding and administrative support to aid student projects and to find a way to inspire similar projects in students who aren't as eager to leap "outside the box".

Our educational system fosters a safe place for students. By safe, I am referring to an intellectually safe environment. There are factors that affect our students physical and emotional safety but in general, we try and create an environment that fosters success. Our curriculum is designed to walk students through a subject exposing them to the necessary knowledge and skills for them to succeed.

Contrast this with the risky behaviour of our youth. Kids like to take risks; it is part of growing up. Many of these behaviours (sex, drugs, alcohol, crazy driving) we consider anti-social in that they don't make the world a better place. But what if that propensity toward risk taking were directed toward venturing out to help in a homeless shelter or crafting a program to bring awareness to environmental problems and solutions? What if students got their high by helping rather than consuming?

It is so exciting to see programs like 100 Projects for Peace and institutions like Middlebury College and their Project on Creativity and Innovation" that encourage students to extend their learning to beyond the classroom. Check out this article for more details on this fascinating project. I am always amazed an in awe of students who create outside of the classroom and am convinced that the education they gain from such projects is at least as valuable than that they get in the classroom.

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