Monday, November 23, 2015
FLOW Reception, Bath City Hall, November 20th 2015
Last Friday at 4:30, more than a hundred people gathered in the auditorium at Bath City Hall to celebrate year two of FLOW. The warmth and energy in the room was a nice contrast to the early darkness of this cold, November night. The crowd was a combination of students, Chewonki staff, teachers, families, school board members, donors, college professors, administrators, business owners and community members. While a FLOW slideshow was projected on the wall, people mingled and chatted, enjoying the delicious food provided by Mae's Café. Students carried bingo cards, trying to fill in cells with prompts such as "teach someone a game you learned on FLOW," "share your writing with someone," and "tell someone about something you are proud of from FLOW." A canoe paddle was placed on a table at the front of the room for students to sign -- a physical reminder for everyone of FLOW 2015, and all it represents.
RSU 1 Superintendent, Patrick Manuel, recognized FLOW as a successful departure from traditional educational experiences, using the unique geography of midcoast Maine as both a classroom and an inspiration for learning. He also thanked students' families for being willing to let RSU 1 try something so out of the ordinary with their children. Willard Morgan, the president of The Chewonki Foundation, echoed those sentiments and pointed out that FLOW is a perfect example of learning happening everywhere -- not just in the traditional construct of a classroom in a school. But the rest of the night belonged to the students.
Five students took turns standing at the front of that crowded room to read pieces of writing inspired in some way by their experiences on FLOW. The stately room, with its soaring ceilings and fine woodwork, lent an air of reverence to the event. Three students read pieces of narrative fiction, and two others read poems. The audience was rapt, nodding much of the time, and laughing when the author shared some humorous tidbit. I can't overemphasize the courage it took for these 8th graders to stand up and read their work to the people in that room. It's a memory that will stay with them, and all of us who were there, for a long time to come.
The event ended officially at 5:50, but people lingered, lost in conversation, for nearly an hour more. I finally called the city at 7:00 to come and lock the room up. I wondered, why did people feel compelled to stay and chat idly on a Friday night? Didn't they have other places to be? I think what I was witnessing was the transformation of FLOW from a rough idea into a tangible, powerful program that might even be considered a rite of passage for the students of our community. From the outset, I hoped that FLOW would eventually stand on its own, but I didn't think it would happen so quickly. After all, this is just the end of year two of the program. But when so many people from different organizations and orbits come together to craft a multidisciplinary program like FLOW, and students reflect on the trip as positive and even transformative, it produces an energy that both defines and sustains it as its own entity.
To quote Superintendent Manuel, we are all committed to continually improving FLOW, and look forward to even better experiences in year three, year five, year ten and beyond.