Thursday, July 23, 2015

"Saxifrage is my flower that splits rocks" (William Carlos William)
by Pia Houseal-Allport 
Seven Generations Charter School
Emmaus, PA
TTEC 2015 Cohort

I've repeated this line from William Carlos William in my head in the two months since we returned from our May outing for TTEC in Virginia. As we were hiking, our hike leader (trailer!) pointed out the saxifrage and mentioned the above line from the William Carlos William poem. I immediately thought of some of our toughest students breaking through their own personal rocks.

In my role as a school social worker, I work with students who see the rocks and only the rocks every day- the barriers, the I "can'ts" , the “its her fault”, the “he shouldn't have done that”... all of the things that stand in the way of their success in school. (This doesn't even begin to address the issues within families, with siblings, of poverty, homelessness, or lack of food, fractured families that may also be barriers for our students.) Yet, day after day, these students can learn that there are flowers that break through- giving them  showing them how to persevere through hard work and effort, and it is that learned resilience that helps them when an issue feels overwhelming.
The rocks of PA
The curriculum that I'll be working on in the coming week will focus on the links between students social emotional learning and nature. I've been excited from initially hearing about the TTEC program, to learning that 3 of my colleagues more about our local resources, specifically the Appalachian Trail in the Delaware Water Gap area in Pennsylvania. My personal focus at Seven Generations has been using our natural world as a venue for personal and emotional growth (much in the way that our curricular framework uses the environment as a context for academic growth). Linking that work with students to the local Appalachian Trail is a great fit and one that I’m excited about.
Beautiful PA Trail section- what’s not to love?

Since our return from the May TTEC weekend, our Seven Gen group has gotten out on the PA AT for two hikes. It's clear from talking with friends who hike locally, a thru-hiker met near the Allentown shelter, and reading the shelter logs that Pennsylvania is known (read disliked greatly) for our rocks. We are even affectionately called Rocksylvania. While we don't have saxifrage (at least none that I've seen), we have enough rocks to work through, step over and walk around together. I continue to think about the saxifrage on the trails of Virginia and know that by using our link to the Appalachian Trail in PA that bringing students outside and connecting with nature and hiking, students personal growth can break through those seemingly tough impermeable objects and emerge stronger students academically and stronger children/adolescents socially and emotionally.
Three of the four Seven Gen staff on the AT in PA

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