We began on Monday preparing thank you notes and gifts for the many people who have graced our lives to share with us. Visiting the Abbey of Regina Laudis, having Carlos Eire meet with students, and working with native Spanish speakers from Mexico were just a few.
Tuesday was our final outdoor education day for the year. Working with Lucy from Everyone Outside, we hiked the Timberland Trails in Guilford, re-visiting the same caves that we’d discovered in the fall. Full circle, new seasons.
Wednesday morning we worked on our writing and then moved on to Casa Otoñal in New Haven for a community service project, creating gardens at this senior housing residence. After planting flowers and sowing vegetable seeds, we were able to listen to and play traditional Latin music with elders on guitar and drums. What a fabulous experience. Students presented their gift of a paper quilt collage, which illustrated in words and images, the information students had gathered about the elders from their oral history interviews done a month prior. Multi-generational people-to-people connections!
Placing our orders and speaking in Spanish, we enjoyed quesadillas and tacos at Mezcal restaurant in New Haven. Following this fine meal, we set up camp for the night. CELC camped out, yes amidst some thunderstorms, at Trap Rock Ridge Camp, where we’ve spent much time throughout the year tending gardens and working the land. The next day’s heat did not stop the CELCers from hilling potatoes, stacking wood, having a grammar class, or cooking clam chowder and corn fritters on the camp stove. And then came Friday, our final day to finish any loose ends, such as our final spelling test, preparing our writing pieces for the honoring ceremony, and of course, a bit of ice cream.
With an incredibly full year of learning to celebrate and honor, we gathered at Parker Memorial Park at Branford Point with families and friends while students recognized their accomplishments of the year. Symbolizing their journey along this continuum of growth and study, students walked a path, reading words they’d written to describe their experience. From looking forward to seeing friends, to feeling tired yet happy to be pushed to work hard, students were proud, confident, and ready. Parents were proud and tearful and filled with joy. The path began and ended at the same point, yet, by making their way back to the beginning, anew, they faced in a different direction on the bench, symbolic of the new perspective that is now incorporated into our next moments and days. We acknowledged all we’ve done and allowed for new beginnings.
We ask for students to bring their best selves forward each day, and we ask that of ourselves too. Learning that takes place at CELC may be quantified, yet there is also much that involves real inner growth – not as concrete, just as essential and long lasting, nonetheless.