Ironwood Maine Web Update

If you ask 40 students what they did this past week, you’ll get 40 different answers. It’s a unique practice I have the opportunity to observe consistently and offers much more to me than details I need for this weekly update.

Sometimes I learn that students have found a new passion. In speaking with a resident who had just filled an entire picnic basket with produce from our garden, she shared an abundant amount of information on our recent cucurbit pest infestation that has been taking advantage of our fruits. Another student shared his newfound understanding of climbing peas, the need for a trellis and the fact that he had spent most of his free time this week building one!

Other times I will hear contradicting feelings. We’ve recently changed the expectation that there will be an assigned Chef each night and the role will be rotated through each student. With the pleasant weather, Frye has increased its opportunities for cooking over the fire. This ancient practice creates a need to be resourceful, utilize pre-planning agendas, and critically think about what they’ve learned cooking similar meals in the kitchen.  The excitement is shared by many, yet others offer a hint of resistance.

This week also offered a chance for appreciation and melancholy. After several years of service and loyalty to the program and each of our students over the years, one of our most respected team members has gracefully decided to seek a new career path. In an effort to show gratitude, the students contributed in a day of appreciation to this staff member that concluded with a “favorite meal” of choice cooked by the residents. It was obvious that there were mixed emotions on campus, but everyone could agree to excitement for the new adventure and the welcoming of a new staff member.

The most rewarding of conversations came from a resident who shared her experience leading a group experiential. As you may guess, this initiative was based on perception. The student led a complex lesson with a variety of approaches. Similar to the classic, “Do you see an old lady or a man playing the saxophone” visual perception cards were handed out and challenged. Next, a video was played that led through a basic plot of distraction. Afterwards, it was questioned as to whether or not any student had picked up on the information being presented outside of the main story. “Did you see the juggling bear” Last, and most impactful, a series of words were read aloud. After each word, students created a quick sketch of what visual that word meant to them. It was incredible to see the vast differences of initial perceptions. What would you draw, if you only heard the word “Mall?” A shopping center, a lion eating, an axe, or a person speaking Spanish and wagging their finger?

This quick and fun representation of how contradicting each of our own perspectives is to the exact same thing was eye opening to us all. It became apparent to each student how equally important it is to try and understand our peer’s perspective as well as our own. I think this is a great lesson for us all as we try to navigate the complex world of relationships and communication. Its ok to feel anxious or excited about the fact that our initial perceptions are always skewed compared to the people around us. What is important, is that we take the time to ask what they see.

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