Large-Scale Flashlight Tag

Weekend #1: Done! This has been a whirlwind of a weekend; completely full of activity and planning. Overall, I think that it has been a really productive couple of days for me, and for my group. As for the questions:

This retreat has been both good and bad. On the positive side, I enjoyed the community building we have done, like the Lava River activity that forced us all to work as a team. I’m also glad that I have a good idea about what is going to happen over the next few weeks, because we have a good group plan. I’m also really excited to get to play around with the cameras more, since we got them this weekend! On the flip side, many people have been being quite exclusive. For example, one group of boys are staying in their previously formed social bubble, instead of interacting with everyone else, even when people are being welcoming and inviting. I also had trouble sleeping, which is a pretty easy problem to fix: I need to convince my mother to order us more melatonin supplements. Trickier to solve is the stress that I’m getting; mostly from things like the exclusive group of boys. On a positive note, I am really excited for this year because I get to work on a topic that I wanted to do when I did WtS? two years ago, but I couldn’t find anyone else to work with. Now, I have a groupmate who is just as passionate about the issue as I am, which will be great!

On the matter of what the topic actually is; Grace and I are working on the topic Teaching About Abenaki Culture and History. This will essentially be teaching teachers how to teach, as we are focusing on teachers and school boards as our audience. Both of us, along with our mentor Fallon, have a lot of contacts about this issue, which I think will be very helpful. Grace and I also bring a lot of different skills to the table – I bring editing experience and need organization, while Grace needs editing experience and has organization – which will make this process much easier than when I did it before, as I was doing it with my very similar twin brother. I am really excited to focus on this topic, as I have been fascinated by Abenaki history and the Eugenics movement since I took a summer program after sixth grade with an Abenaki educator and artist, Judy Dow. She walked our group through the horrible history of Eugenics in Burlington, and how it affected the Abenaki peoples of VT. For those who don’t know, the Eugenics movement was a group of people who created “institutions” and put Abenaki, French-Canadians, poor people, people who were deemed “mentally unfit,” and many others into these institutions. Those in the institutions were often forcibly sterilized, in order to “cleanse Vermont” and make Vermont’s people of better stock, in the minds of the Eugenicists. So, our group wants to bring this hidden piece of history to light, along with what our state has done to the Abenaki peoples, along with education about Abenaki culture and what people are doing to preserve it. Overall, our passion for this topic will definitely help us to be a successful group, like how it has helped us to create such a firm game plan.

Lastly, I have many things that I need to do before the November retreat. One of them is to keep in contact; when Miles and I were working together, we had trouble keeping each other in the loop despite our physical proximity. Grace and I have a plan to meet every Sunday evening, which I think will be good to have because of the routine that it tries to create. Another to-do is research. Despite our knowledge about this issue, we still have a lot more to learn about this issue, and the only way we can do that is to research. Finally, I want to learn more about the people who Fallon knows that are related to this issue, because she has a completely different realm of interaction as a Social Studies teacher as compared to two sophomores.

All in all, I have had a ton of fun. In my opinion, this weekend could be summed up by comparing it to a large-scale game of flashlight tag. Some of us know our way around this area blindly, while others brought flashlights and others come up with the solution of using our phones. Some of us are excited for the game to begin, others are afraid of the dark, and some people are just plain lost!

Theo Ellis Novotny

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