Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results. -- John Dewey (educator, philosopher and generally-great Vermonter)
I had a realization recently. The project of learning 52 New Things in a single year has cast me into the position of being a student again, and more times than not, with my own students and former students as teachers. My new realization is that I'm also doing the learning in the same way that I favor facilitating when I'm on the teaching side -- experientially. Without even thinking about it, I've spent the last three months learning by doing, and this last weekend I got to go back to the role of facilitating that for others. I also got to do some things that were new for me this weekend -- like visiting the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorials at night, which is a totally different experience than joining the throngs of daytime tourists. As you can see in the photo above, we all took the opportunity to see the monument from a different angle -- upside-down. I also got to see an old friend, Henry, for the first time in almost two decades, and meet his wife and four great kids (who completely annihilated me in running games on the Mall, because they take after their parents and are already fabulously fast).
Of course, the original purpose of the trip was our visit to Capitol Hill. The Saint Michael's Chapter of the Student Global AIDS Campaign (SGAC) have made an annual trip to Washington DC for the last five years, but this year the twelve students who came to Washington represented the first collective trip of the Social Justice League, and the students participated from SGAC, SLAM (our labor advocacy organization), Green-up and MOVE (Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts). We left mid-day on Thursday and did the eleven hour drive to arrive in Bethesda, Maryland a little before 1 am. Then we needed to sleep very fast so we could get dressed up (and we cleaned up pretty well, I must say. Check out Ryan and Pat looking particularly smart in front of the Capitol Building) and head to the hill for a day of office visits on Friday. We did five visits -- to the whole Vermont delegation (Senators Leahy and Sanders and Representative Welch), and to New York and Rhode Island Representatives Lowey and Kennedy. Since a couple of the meetings were at the same time, we had two teams (both pictured above): one with five members (Karri, Madison, Lauren, Josh B. and Ryan) and one with eight (Sarah, Anne Marie, Greg, Josh W., Alyssa, Heidi, me and Patrick).
We spoke to the Members of Congress about four issues: US attention (or the lack thereof) to the crisis of rape, violence and theft of resources in the Congo; the idea of a currency transaction tax to help finance the health-related Millennium Development Goals and efforts to combat global warming; the DREAM Act that has been proposed to help undocumented young people go to college and become full citizens; and funding for the Global Fund to Combat AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. Although about a third of the group had done this kind of visit before, it was a new experience for the rest. One of the highlights for me came at Senator Bernie Sander's office, where one of the staffers we met with was Tim Warren (there's a picture above) who graduated as a political science major from our department less than a year ago.
In addition to the experience of learning to prepare for, and advocate on issues, the group really embraced the opportunity to do new things, and we did a lot of them. On Saturday morning we went to the street fair that was part of the annual Cherry Blossom festival -- something new for all of us, (and as you can see from the pic above, we managed to get deliciously bad-for-us Asian fast food served up in environmentally unfriendly Styrofoam). Friday night we went to an Ethiopian restaurant, which most of the group had never done. For one of the students, going to Washington was a new experience, and many picked places to go on our Saturday touring day that they had never visited. And I'm particularly grateful to Lauren, who decided in the spirit of embracing new challenges to drive the entire eleven hour ride home, thereby sparing her professor, who despises driving, especially school vans, from having to drive any of the return trip.
Next year, I'm hoping to do two student trips to Washington, DC -- one in the fall in connection with a new course I'm teaching on the Millennium Development Goals, and one like this is in the spring as a combined advocacy effort of the Social Justice League. It's a wonderful opportunity to learn by doing, and to put principles to action. And if Saint Mike's keeps producing students with such open attitudes to exploring new places and experiences, I'm pretty confident that there will always be something about the trip that's a new thing for me as well.
52 Ways to Say I Love You
In Irish, with many thanks to one of my favorite colleagues and biologists, Declan.
Hello Dia dhuit
Good by Slán
I love you Tá mé i ngrá leat
May I have two beers, please? or literally, "please give me two pints"
Tabhair dhá piontí dom le do thoil
A whole bunch of stuff is coming up, but I don't have specific dates for some of it yet, so if you're interested in participating, write a post or shoot me an email and I'll let you know as soon as I nail down the date and time.
Vermonster Eating. Wednesday, April 21 at 6:30, the Saint Michael's Dominican Republic service trip group will be meeting up at Ben and Jerrie's to down a massive mound of ice cream. Still waiting to see if the India and/or Guyana service groups will decide to join us.
Bird watching. Ran into my friend and colleague Kimberly, who told me that now is a fine time for bird watching (before the leaves on the trees are fully grown). I need to find a time and date that works for both of us in the next week or two.
Camel's Hump hike in all four seasons (Spring). At Pi Sigma Alpha, our political science honor society dinner last night Luke, Nigel, Josh H., my colleague Mike and I hatched a fabulous plan to combine two new things in the coming weeks. As soon as it's hike-able, a bunch of us are going to do the Camel's Hump spring hike and then head to Hardwick, Vermont to my favorite restaurant, Claire's, (and of which my colleague Mike is a part-owner) where I will do something I've been saying I'd do for over a year -- eat a dessert for dinner and a dessert for dessert. Fun times.
Auto maintenance. Nigel has offered to teach me to change a car tire and learn some basic auto mechanics this weekend if we can find a good time. I know some others are interested in learning this, too, so if you still want to, let me know so I can let you know which day we pick.