Guest blog post by Science Educator Dana Colihan
Earlier this fall, Watershed School came to Hurricane Island for their orientation trip. Watershed is a small alternative high school that centers innovative teaching and project based learning. While at Hurricane Island, Watershed focused on growing their community and team building exercises. As an entire high school, students went rock climbing, rowing, built rafts, as well as participated in intentional debriefing time together. During these activities, Watershed faculty and students explored one of Hurricane Island’s core values, “challenge by choice.”
Our Lead Science Educator, Robin Chernow, has a favorite quote, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” Just outside your comfort zone is your growth zone, but if you don’t leave your comfort zone, you will never be challenged to grow. We believe that we should lean into our discomfort. Being uncomfortable is usually a sign that learning is occurring! However, just beyond your growth zone is your danger zone. At Hurricane Island, we will not put students into their danger zones. We will never make a student do something they don’t want to do, but will encourage them to challenge themselves. What’s really important to realize about this is that we all have different comfort, growth, and danger zones. Some students can climb all the way up to the top of the rockwall unphased, but for others stepping on a boat and staying on an island is difficult.
On their last night at Hurricane Island, Watershed faculty led a reflection at a campfire about these concepts. Students and staff shared something that had been challenging for them on the trip, a way that they could push themselves tomorrow, and how they would bring these strategies back to Watershed. A few students shared that physically being on an island and certain activities really put them outside of their comfort zones. A couple other students said that some of the activities weren’t challenging for them, but being at a new school or trying to make new friends pushed them a lot. It was powerful to see so many students openly share about things that were difficult for them. I was impressed at the level to which these students could openly talk about their feelings. It is an important skill that not everyone has and not all schools teach.
The next day, students who hadn’t felt particularly challenged yet pushed themselves out of their comfort zones in different ways. Some decided to take the polar plunge, while others sat with new people at breakfast. Throughout this program, I enjoyed seeing how Watershed engaged with this concept so intentionally. As individuals challenged themselves personally with the support of their peers, the school grew together as a community.