By Emily Hart
I’ve been working with the Instructors in Training (IITs) on service learning projects of their own design throughout this summer. As future sailing instructors, the IITs need to know more than just environmental facts; it’s also essential for them to practice their skills in facilitation, organization and leadership. We decided at the beginning of the summer that a multi-week project, rooted in environmental education, would encourage the development of these important skills.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to check in with the IITs about the progress of their CANdy project, where they were encouraging students to bring in redeemable cans and bottles for a candy prize (get it??). About 30 minutes into our work on the project, the group energy plummeted. It turns out that none of the IITs really supported the project, even though they developed it as a group and decided collectively to move forward. Project CANdy was subsequently canned.
During our debrief of this project, the students talked about how everyone harbored thoughts at the back of their mind about project feasibility, yet everyone voted in favor of the project. I posed the question: In another situation, perhaps with a child’s safety in your hands, will you speak up even if no one else does? What do you say when your peers are silent? Even in our rather low-stakes environment, we found ourselves addressing real world questions around leadership and limits. I am so proud of the IITs for their insight into their process and our ensuring conversations around leadership, knowing our limitations and the power of our voices.
Because I won’t let them off the hook that easily, we decided to move forward with a new project based in our learning from CANdy. I proposed a project that has been stewing in my brain all summer: a Courageous Sailing coloring book based on local Boston Harbor species. The IITs took the idea and ran (sailed?) with it. We did a storyboard, made a few prototypes and broke the work into manageable chunks for our class next week. I’m also proud of myself for releasing the idea to their creativity and letting go of what I had originally envisioned. What they have planned is so much better than what I had thought of and I can’t wait for you to see it!