I travelled again to Iceland this past week with a group of 21 kids. Without a doubt it was the best trip I’ve yet had. Though I’m sure the fantastic weather and Northern Lights had a lot to do with the kids’ great attitudes, I couldn’t be prouder of their determination, focus, passion, and compassion. They smiled through all the hard work and asked for more of it as they widened and improved trails, shovelled and moved gravel and rocks, built a willow garden and turf wall, dug out ditches to improve drainage, trimmed willow bushes in campsites and turned those trimmed branches into erosion control fences, removed invasive lupine, built a water tap and bench, made trail markers and installed them along trails, moved a tree and more. We even got in a couple of long hikes.
We talk a lot about integrating technology into the curriculum, SAMR, virtual connections, et al. This trip is decidedly non-tech. We go into the Icelandic forest, work with our hands, get dirty and sometimes wet. We communicate one-on-one or in small groups, while working to accomplish a task. We go on long hikes and enjoy the scenery and each other’s company. Evenings are spent playing games and enjoying meals together.
I learnt a lot more about appreciating as well as noticing small things in nature and especially in hiking trails.
It’s not about the math, or the humanities, or the science, the exams or the stress. It’s about helping kids to find their passions and making those a reality. It’s about forming relationships and collaborating with others. It’s about giving back to the world and finding joy in the giving. If, as the Amish say “Many hands make light work”, we were floating on air.
I’ve always thought that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Iceland taught me that asking for help is actually a sign of strength.
To be sure, there was tech involved in this trip. The experience would not be complete without photographic evidence, the student-run blog, the post-trip Kahoot! we played, or the funny videos about elves and trolls the kids made with their phones. Yes, they even had internet access at night. We aren’t deliverers of torture, after all. But the tech was not the focus–we didn’t SAMR anything.
I think this trip has told me the value of experiences and getting the most out of what you are given even if it means pushing your body to the limit.
Every one of these kids is a different person for having spent this week together. Every one of them questioning what they want out of their lives.
Words don’t do this trip justice. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves (with short descriptions of the work for the curious among you). Just take a look and see what meaningful work with a cool group of people can do for the soul.
Thank you to Chanine E, Sarah H., and Chris E. for the incredible photos.