Middle School students embarked on an ACS rite of passage a few months early this year, participating in “Week Without Walls” (WWW) February 20-24, 2017. The one-week trip, typically held in May, consists of community service projects, adventure activities, cultural exposure and arts experiences in domestic and international locations. The week was scheduled for late February this year to leverage its positive effects for the rest of the year. “We find out that students come back different in some way,” says MS Principal Phil Wendel. “Often, they are more appreciative of their surroundings and have better relationships that enhance their learning throughout the rest of the year.”
This year’s local option was a week-long excursion in Lebanon that included a visit to the UNIFIL ship, two snow days in the mountains, and a day performing community service with the school’s NGO partner, Unite Lebanon Youth Project - ULYP. Local gemologist Jean Jureidini also taught students about gemstones and Maya Alamaddine gave a photography workshop.
WWW international destinations included a grade 6 trip to the island of Crete, Greece, Dibb Island, Oman for grade 7, and Sri Lanka for grade 8.
Grade 6 students who traveled to Crete participated in a number of cultural activities such as Greek cooking (prepared in a traditional farmhouse), exploring the Palace of Knossos, touring the Crete Aquarium, visiting a local elementary school and participating in dancing and sporting activities with local students.
Grade 7 students who traveled to Dibb Island, Oman shared in a week of science, community service, team building and culture. Activities included trekking, a low ropes course, kayaking, snorkeling, rock climbing and a night sleeping outside on the beach. Absolute Adventure Camp facilitated the activities, and students stayed on-site at the camp, which is also a functioning date farm.
Grade 8 students travelling to Sri Lanka spent 5 days staying in the Sri Lankan jungles at the Borderlands base camp near Kitulgala. From there, they branched out each day for various adventure activities such as abseiling, hiking, and canoeing, as well as a visit to an elephant orphanage. Students also spent a day with a local school interacting with its students through cricket, volleyball and other activities. ACS grade 8 students raised $3,800 during the MS Halloween Fest last fall to pay for the building of toilets at this local school.
“The WWW program is significant because it provides students with an experience that they cannot get in a regular classroom,” says Wendel. “This only adds to the dimensions of learning in a positive way. It changes the dynamics of learning by changing students’ learning environment.” Students come back to ACS “with stronger, more respectful relationships between each other and their teachers; more self-confidence; improved trust and cooperation within the community by facing challenges and experiences together; and promoting tolerance and acceptance of new cultures,” observes Wendel.