Real World Learning at Mile High Academy takes students from the textbook into engaging and authentic, real-world tasks that ask big questions and require critical thought. Currently, students at MHA are involved in a number of RWL classes from gardening in the lower school to entrepreneurship in the upper school. Every classroom is engaged in one way or another in community based problem solving.
One of the RWL classes from Middle School that has inspired students and parents is the “Refu-Jesus” class led by Mr. Russell Palmer. Comprised of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, this class ask students to investigate, solve issues, and communicate solutions regarding the refugee crisis in the Denver area.
Taking on the role as facilitator, Mr. Palmer asks the students to take on the refugee crisis and explore the crisis for themselves. The students have taken it to heart.
Through research, they have found several refugee centers in the Denver area that host and provide necessities to refugees. They visit these centers, talk with refugees, clean the facilities, donate items, raise funds, and communicate need.
With the help of our Director of Innovation, Mrs. Jamie Frain, the class has had guest speakers come into the class and discuss their own experiences with the students. From community leaders to local authors, the guests share personal experiences with the students engaging them in the topic through storytelling.
One such guest was Ms. Helen Thorpe, author of The Newcomers, who spent a year in the Denver South school helping and investigating the plight of displaced refugee children.
This touched a nerve with our own students who could picture themselves in the same situation, away from home, unable to speak the language, without friends. Our students already knew the statistic, that 50% of refugees are children. However, having Ms. Thorpe speak about her own experience with these children made the subject come to life.
And that’s what RWL is all about. It’s not reading a book or memorizing facts, though our students certainly do that, but it’s experiencing the reality of the facts they read. It’s meeting the people behind those facts.
Or as one student put it, “The need is huge, I just can’t believe it every time we go to the Mango house there are people there needing things. It makes me want to help, keep helping.” And isn’t that what we want for our leaders of tomorrow, empathetic Christ followers who want to help.
Our students will also have the tools needed to keep helping even after the class is through. Mr. Palmer has a guest coming that will provide training for the students to become Refugee Ambassadors. This means our own students will be able to go out into the community with the skills needed to help, communicate, create awareness, for a crisis that so far hasn’t slowed.
This is the long-term effect of RWL, change in our students, change in our community.
If you would like to donate much needed necessities or funds to the refugee crisis in Denver, contact Mr. Russell Palmer at email@example.com.
by Agape Hammond