An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Elaine Christensen, Middle School director

What is this a picture of?

It's a Wall of GSL Research done in the Life Skills' seminar unit by 8th graders in preparation for their Global Service Learning trips. This week, the students are living and working in Pacific Northwest communities very different from ours. Visiting towns, farms, and Native American reservations, they are learning about the fishing industry, the logging industry, large-scale farming, small-scale organic farming, and the Makah, Quinault, and Klallam tribes.

For this seminar project, the students researched the communities they were slated to visit, and explored topics such as economics, education, health, spirituality/faith, and environment. Their task was to come up with three to five relevant, interesting, and useful facts about each location that they could post on the whiteboard.

Eighty-four 8th graders spent three class days building the wall, working together to find useful internet sites, following leads, asking questions, and synthesizing information into bullet-point form. They were driven by an authentic curiosity about the sites they were to visit. What are the schools like and how many people go to college? What do people do for fun? What kind of community events take place? What kind of access to health care exists, and how long would it take to drive to the closest clinic? What kind of jobs are most common? What is the average price of a house? What's the total population? How are the key environmental issues affecting each site?

The real impact, though, came when they stood back and looked at the whole wall together. There is so much to know about a place, a community, a culture; students were proud of the volume of information they had put together. But that information will only come to life when the students visit the sites and meet the people. That's where the real learning will take place and that's what they are off doing this week.