Getting ready for a new academic year at CT Experiential Learning Center (CELC) is a magical time.   In addition to planning for academic classes, where students will take on challenges in different subject areas, we schedule field experiences, guest artists, and student travel. These set the tone, energy, and nuance that shape the year’s unfolding. Planning in conjunction with our theme “Heritage, Ethnicity, and Quest for Freedom in America” allows for an in-depth look at current issues, both locally and globally.Rock On CELC

Building community is an essential start to any year. We spend focused time learning about one another and in self-discovery, developing agreements and expectations, engaging in cooperative group games and teambuilding.

Establishing a safe and caring learning community definitely plays a role in the success of students’ academic potential. CELC offers all academic subject areas, and students work hard in each. Delving into U.S. History, Math, Science, Grammar, Spelling and Vocabulary, Literature Circle, and even a cooking class, academics incorporate problem solving, skill building, and higher order thinking.

Writing at CELC is paramount, ongoing, and spans all subject areas. In addition to journaling steadily throughout the year in real time to capture experiences in the field, Writers’ Workshop classes continue to give students the opportunity to build and expand writing skills.

September is full with rich experience. We will spend our second day of the year, and first Outdoor Education Thursday, at Trap Rock Ridge Camp where the harvest and preparation for season’s changes await.

Visiting artist Antonio Rocha has a first of several visits in September. Through storytelling, mime, and writing, his work will incorporate our theme, as students consider heritage and ethnicity, building their own family history scrapbooks, discovering and sharing their stories.

In partnership with CT Center for Nonviolence, CELC this year will work with St. Martin de Porres Academy of New Haven to develop a nonviolence club. Together these urban and suburban middle school students will study Kingian Nonviolence Reconciliation and work alongside teaching artists and nonviolence trainers to develop lessons to share with elementary school students in the area.

CANstruction is a focus for this year. CELC students will team with Purdy Architects of Branford to design and construct a structure made entirely of food cans. The theme, label color, dimensionality, and other factors all go into the design plan. The structure will be presented at the annual statewide CANstruction competition, along with middle schools and high schools throughout Connecticut. Ultimately the tens of thousands of total food cans are donated to CT Food Bank. CELC students will hone their writing skills as they seek donations and sponsorships from community organizations and businesses in order to purchase the cans.

Our beginning-of-the-year travel takes us to Heifer International’s Overlook Farm in Massachusetts. While spending three days at the farm, students will learn about global economics as it relates to food and world hunger. By taking part in the Global Gateway program, students experience the daily struggles people in poverty face every day. They are given little – just some simple ingredients – and before they can eat, they build a fire and cook their own meal. They sleep in simple housing, such as a Peruvian clay house. “By living the lessons of poverty first-hand, participants come to understand the complications surrounding hunger and poverty and see their connection in creating change that brings possibility and hope to millions around the world.” (Overlook Farm).

Awakening to the possibilities, we start a new year at CELC! Each is unique, with experiences in the classroom and beyond, touching each other’s lives and transforming our selves as we embrace and embark upon the journey of learning and growth. Hazzah – we are off, … oh, the places we’ll go!

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