Gabe Beck is a senior who is majoring in chemistry and secondary education.
This week marked the beginning of Summer Math Camp at the Peace Academic Center, and our group had the wonderful opportunity of getting to plan and run the activities. As an education major (and bit of a science nerd) I naturally was drawn toward helping with the Science/Math activities. The kids that came to camp were quite energetic, and for the most part channeled that youthful energy toward the activities at hand. My group decided to make our lesson – a term which I use rather loosely here – about surface area and displacement, so we had the students pair up, create boats out of tin foil, and then compete to see which group’s boat could support the highest amount of weight. Because of the age range of the students, we paired up the oldest students with the youngest, and it was awesome to see how well they worked together. After the first round, the students discussed what characteristics they notice about the boats that did well. Our group had planned for our segment of the day to take about a half hour, but the students seemed to really enjoy what we were doing, so we had each group make a new boat keeping in mind what had worked well for people in the first round. In the end, we took almost an hour and fifteen minutes; the students had a blast and one even remarked “I like this school better than the learning school.”
Helping with summer camp has been a unique opportunity to interact with children of many different ability levels and life experiences, and this service aspect of our trip was something that I had been eagerly looking forward to. However, in waiting for this segment of our trip, I took some time to reflect on my own expectations of what intercultural service and experience should look like. I must admit that in my mind I often think about service being working on some big project or working to help achieve some large or important goal. However, I have seen time and again on this trip how meaningful small interactions can be; from just sitting to listen to stories, or helping cook a meal, to just being present in a moment with someone else. I have been fortunate enough to develop relationships with people that I have met, and I have actually been able to keep in contact with my host brother from my home stay via text since we left the Navajo Nation. All of this is to say that while going and doing big things, like running a summer camp, can be amazing opportunities to foster new relationships and make connections, I have also become aware of the seemingly smaller instances and situations that can have just as powerful effects. I think that perhaps it is in these moments that tend to fly under the radar, such as sharing a laugh, or talking about music, or sitting with someone new at dinner, that a great deal of learning and understanding starts to happen.