Project Week Projections

Johnny Gross With project week coming up next month, the hallways of Latin seem to be brimming with excitement. It’s that time of year when project week students and teachers begin to meet during flex block and emails go out to the parents about packing lists for out-of-town projects, and scheduling details for in-town projects. It is also a time where various faculty heads of projects begin to prepare their students for their upcoming educational experience. But is that what students are really excited about? Is project week really considered an educational experience by the Latin student body or is it just an extra week of Spring break? Project week falls on the second week of March, which, to many students, conveniently bleeds in to a generous two-week long spring break. Latin students often gloat to jealous friends at other schools, saying that Latin has a three-week long spring break—longer than any other school. Thus sparks the question of project week’s significance to Latin students. When scrolling through the project week options that find students learning photography on the streets of Barcelona, or hiking the deep forests of Bolivia, we often submit to our eager impulse before thoroughly considering each option. Our eyes quickly scan the description and then jump to find out the location of the project and the teacher sponsors. The next step is often coordinating with friends, to make sure that all of our friends rank the same project first, to increase the likelihood of an enjoyable project week. What we often fail to realize is the tremendous cost and planning that goes in to each and every project; it is more than just a trip to Barcelona or an introduction to the Chefs of Chicago, it is an immersion into a real-life culture and experience. Mr. McArthur, an upper school math teacher, is one of the faculty heads of a project week called “Giving Kids To the World” along with swimming coach Ms. Carlson. Mr. McArthur and Ms. Carlson will be leading a project in Florida that will be largely spent in a “charity village that hosts children with life threatening illnesses while they visit Disney World through the Make-a-Wish Foundation.” “Because we are getting involved with five different volunteer organizations in Orlando,” said McArthur, “planning has been almost non-stop for the last few months. Throw in renting a house, renting vans, buying flights, and estimating a budget for the trip, planning P-Week feels like the equivalent of teaching a fifth class!” But all of this planning is certainly not going to waste because this Project Week is bound to be an incredible experience for all involved. To Mr. McArthur project week serves a specific purpose. To him, it is not a rigidly educational trip and is certainly not an extra week of spring break; it is a week that delivers emphasis on aspects of life beyond grades and homework. “I think that project week is a wonderful vehicle to encourage exploration of new experience for Latin students. The world is a really big one, and many Latin students seem caught up in a bubble of homework and worries about grades. I think it is really healthy to find passions outside of schoolwork, passions that you can carry with you for years or a lifetime.” Mr. McArthur’s approach seems to be exactly right. On Project Week, students and faculty have the opportunity to learn what is impossible to learn in the classroom. And I know it sounds cliché, but it is really true. If we spend all of our high school careers focused on getting good grades and getting into college—or the contrary, not really focusing on schoolwork—we might miss out on discovering our passions. The concept of Project Week, that Latin tries to encourage, is what sets it apart from other top-tier schools around the nation; it stresses to the students the importance of appreciating what is beyond school and grades and even social interactions. Project week is not a week off of school nor is it a week of “education outside of the classroom.” It is Latin’s attempt to show students what really matters; to guide them to their passions.  ]]>