This past school year [2018-2019] I had the opportunity to be a part of a dynamic team of middle school educators that made up our Quest teacher mentor team. This team consisted of four middle school educators and our aim was to provide mentorship and guidance to thirty-seven 8th grade students on their Quest journey.
It is no easy task for students and teachers alike. Each students journey is filled with up and downs, and each teacher’s journey, in turn, is filled with opportunities to help students manage those highs and lows. At various times throughout the six-month process, students are riddled with uncertainty – uncertainty that largely stems from the fear of not knowing if they are working towards creating and sharing something that matters to them and beyond them.
A journey of this magnitude does not come without disappointments and successes of all shapes and sizes; failure to meet timelines – but then learning from those mistakes and working smarter to create and meet more manageable timelines. Moments of wanting to divert or change direction completely – but then taking a step back, connecting with a mentor and taking a few deep breathes as they utilize the reflective tools provided to assess how best to move forward (and if it is indeed time to take a new or different direction in the project). Realizations of not being able to complete the (perhaps overly) ambitious iteration of the project they had initially dreamed up – but then realizing they can still create and complete another (somewhat smaller) iteration that still makes an impact.
The 8th-grade Quest project is about much more than the final product they present in June; on a much deeper level the Quest is about each individual student’s personal journey towards achieving something they are proud of, passionate about and connected to. Furthermore, this capstone project creates an opportunity for middle school students to hone their organization time-management and communication skills. Their sense of innovation and creative divergent thinking, and to connect with the community within and beyond the school “walls” (we don’t actually have any walls at Green School!). This project is a culmination of their three years in middle school of learning about the UN Sustainable Development Goals through their thematics classes, three years of improving their writing and speaking skills in literacy classes, and three years of talking about what it means to be a change-maker.
Watching each of the 8th-grade students step on the Quest stage on June 14th this year was one of the proudest moments I have experienced in my twelve years as an educator. Knowing the amount of “blood, sweat, (and actual) tears”, that were shed to get to this moment – their 7-10 moments to shine – made my heart beam with pride and happiness for what they had accomplished. Each of the student’s projects connected beautifully to the themes of sustainability and/or social justice and it was evident that all students took the opportunity to connect to something – an issue – bigger than themselves.
This year the community listened to and watched presentations that encouraged our community to help project Bali Dogs, projects that highlighted the importance of upcycling, minimalist/containter living, going vegan and minimizing personal waste in an effort to promote more sustainable living, an underwater waste clean up effort, a call to action for the Green School administration to make our campus Accessible, and an ambitious project in which one student created her own Non-For Profit Organization called “Rambut untuk Harapan” or “Hair for Hope” to donate hair to create wigs for children with cancer in Bali.
To see all the 2019-2020 8th Grade Quest Capstone Projects click here.