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A walk in another’s footsteps: Salisbury Academy students address world problems

By Lizzy Roy

Salisbury Academy

SALISBURY — Making a difference in the world is more than a hot topic at Salisbury Academy — it’s an all-in passion for positive change. Over the past three weeks, middle school students have pondered, identified and formed plans to solve world problems in their weekly Discovery Labs.

The question being asked: How do we springboard from our school’s local community outreach to make an impact on larger global struggles?

Issues chosen by students range from environmental issues to hunger to medical needs and have brought about innovative and highly practical solutions. Yet these discussions are made so much more powerful when students are given the opportunity to walk in another’s shoes, to see the world through another perspective.

“When students can look at a problem or need from the perspective of another, then they can begin to generate ideas and creatively solve problems from a totally different viewpoint,” said Heather Coulter, curriculum coordinator for Salisbury Academy.

To gain this perspective, students visited the Compassion Experience this week. There, students journeyed through one of two children’s stories of overcoming extreme poverty and lack of opportunity to become successful, healthy individuals.

“The experience inspired me,” said Salisbury Academy eighth-grader Ronni Lilly. “It made me want to support someone and be that difference.”

For seventh-grader Gavin McDaniel, the Compassion tour stirred up the feelings of deep satisfaction he gained on a mission trip to the poor coal towns of West Virginia.

“Witnessing the situations people are in makes you realize that our problems are so little,” said McDaniel. “I’d like to go on a trip like that again.”

In addition to providing relevance for the students, the Compassion Experience sparked a deep awareness in the students of why solving global problems is so important, Coulter said.

Armed with deep empathy and a heightened awareness of global needs, middle-schoolers present this week on their solutions to world problems. Students have been encouraged to use “design thinking,” a concept designed by Neil Stevenson of I.D.E.O. Chicago. In this model, students start with a foundation of empathy, and from there focus on problem solving, resource identification and use, adaptability, field experience and cooperation.

For seventh-grader Jordan Cline, the ideas from design thinking for global outreach just keep coming.

“If we can expand on what our school is doing for people locally, we could help people all over the nation and world,” said Cline, who is perfecting her plans for a watch with stroke-detecting capabilities that could be distributed in communities with little access to medical care.

Other student solutions address contaminated water, child and animal abuse, and education needs.

And for Cline and her classmates, these productive weeks of tackling world issues are just the beginning of their global journey.

“Our mission inspires us to groom lifelong learners with deep connections to their communities and faiths who are compassionate stewards of the environment,” said Coulter.

“It’s beautiful to see students connect, problem-solve and find solutions to issues around the world.”

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