Vermont Commons School
Peter Gilmore, Head of School
Challenge 20/20 speaks directly to our mission of educating young minds with a global perspective. From our very beginning, Vermont Commons has valued the larger perspective, the world view, and this program helps our students experience exactly that. The topic of infectious disease, the connection with the Burlington refugee community, and the use of modern technology to share information are timely and exciting. By connecting students from differing cultures, we open the doors to exchanges of ideas, blossoming friendships, and an opportunity to truly face the challenges of our planet.
Mark Cline Lucey, Participating Teacher
Every day, we in the teaching profession hear more and more about 21st Century Skills. I cannot imagine a program that nurtures these important skills of the future more than Challenge 20/20 does. Students work together to address real-world problems. They engage in service-learning in their communities and collaborate with peers around the world. It is project-based, place-based, student-centered, globally immersed, and just about everything else that 21st Century education needs to be! Thank you NAIS for creating Challenge 20/20 and helping to create a new educational model and paradigm.
I knew before we started this Challenge 20/20 work that anyone could make change in the world, but I had fallen into the rut of “Oh, someone else is already established there, I can’t do more than they are, I’m only one person.” It has surprised me how much of an effect simply putting yourself out there can have!
This is by far the most engaging class I have ever been in. I have learned so much this semester in terms of working with others and presenting information. Through Challenge 20/20 I was given the chance to understand the hardships others face every day and truly see the bigger picture about 3rd World countries and all of the simple things I take for granted. I helped spread awareness for the Sudan Development Foundation, an organization that has drastically helped a small portion of a much larger problem. And although the differences they are making may seem small, the lives changed are not small. Healthcare is now being offered to the people of South Sudan and that is worth something.
One thing that I am especially proud of is our trip to the Sustainability Academy (elementary school) in Burlington, and talking to younger students about what they’re doing to make their community better, and telling them how we are accomplishing the same ideas for a different cause.
This sort of project-based course is awesome. We set out to do something, and did so in a way that was mutually beneficial to everyone involved. This should absolutely be attempted again! I strongly encourage this type of class to anyone who would like to help themselves learn how to help others.
Working with the Sudan Development Foundation through our Challenge 20/20 project was exactly what I expected service-learning to be – identifying a need in the community and seeing what you could do to fix it. What I didn’t expect was how connected and invested I would get. Hearing Peter Keny’s story and seeing Julie Elmore’s will to help was inspirational. Peter had horrible things happen to him, but instead of holding a grudge, he holds on to hope, kindness and compassion. He didn’t leave his home never to look back – instead he keeps on trying to help. I always had this idea of what courage looked like, and I now use Peter to help me define those words.
The Challenge 20/20 program, and service-learning through collaborating with the Sudan Development Foundation, taught me more about current events and history than any history book, article or video ever could have. People say you have to experience things for yourself to really understand them – well, that’s service-learning in a nutshell.
This Challenge 20/20 work has made me realize that I might want to go into some sort of publicity work for a good cause; maybe an internship or something. My interest in service has definitely been affirmed, but also specialized in 3rd World service. Although it was already one of my goals, I want to (even more now) actually be on the ground in Sudan or anywhere.
I have enjoyed this project, and I know many others have, and I hope we can keep up this 50% classroom / 50% out-of-the-classroom learning. I also hope that other classes and teachers adopt this style because I think it is the essence of our motto, “out of the classroom and into the world.”
Through the service-learning of this Challenge 20/20 project I feel that I’ve gotten to know Peter Keny (of the Sudan Development Foundation) and have a greater understanding of Kalthok and Africa in general. I realized that how we helped SUDEF and how they helped Kalthok is really the right way to do service: by asking and understanding what they need and discussing how you can best help, instead of coming in as an outsider and telling them what they need.
I really enjoyed this hands-on, service-based Social Studies curriculum and hope it can be continued in other classes since this was such an eye-opening experience for me.