They are here and they are terrific! Our Summer 2017 students began their five-week tenure in DC with icebreaking laughter, intense discussions, and an SEGL tradition called “The Infamous Skittles Scenario.”
Our five-week Summer Institute focuses intensively on our core Ethics and Leadership program, while also allowing participants to enjoy the best summer offerings of our nation’s capital.
Our adventure began on Sunday afternoon, when our 24 students moved into their new neighborhood under beautiful sunny skies.
After our first-night ice-breaking activities, an empanadas-and-salad dinner, an opening orientation, and our first dorm meeting, the students settled in for their first night. (This is our first summer residing in our academic year home!) The next morning, many students explored their neighborhood with an optional morning run, while others helped cook a tasty brunch (served outdoors in the shadows of the Supreme Court and U.S. Capitol). and then Metro-ed to our Dupont Circle Academic building.
Once there, they took on some of SEGL’s classic low ropes course-style activities: trust falls (fully supervised, of course!), the Minefield, the Dream Reach, and the infamous Spiderweb. In addition to accelerating our positive group dynamic, these activities are designed to help each student reflect on her/his leadership and collaboration skills: to provide a base line from which to grow.
Prior to the session, we discussed the four keys to success at the Summer Institute. (These all deserve more explanation but we will let you speak with a current student to hear more!)
- Being smart doesn’t make you smart. Practice makes you smart.
- The best learning happens in an atmosphere of shared vulnerability. If you are afraid of sounding dumb, you won’t learn.
- Narrow your gap.
- It is no use trying to be clever. We are all clever here. Just try to be kind; a little kind.
Later than evening, we started our first academic session. Like many things in our first few days together, our first academic session is an SEGL rite-of-passage. Together we watched live CNN coverage of the September 11, 2001 attacks–a difficult thing even for these students, many of whom were too young for preschool at the time–and then we reflected on the aftermath and meaning of those attacks.
The conversation that followed was intense yet collegial: this is an empathetic, poised group of young people who are ready to carry the SEGL torch forward. Given the weighty world events that are the backdrop to our summer, there is no better time for them to start their journey.
On Tuesday morning, the students braved another Metro commute (the DC transportation system is its own case study!) to launch our first case study, an Introduction to Ethical Decisionmaking that will focus on journalistic ethics, media bias, and media literacy.
The Infamous Skittles Scenario, which begins our first case study, is another SEGL tradition. A hands-on state-of-nature simulation that has students scurrying after plastic bags of candy and cackling with delight or dismay at 3×5 “Chance” cards, the simulation is an engaging introduction to ethical decision making. (What would you do, after all, if there were no rules and limited resources? Would you use that gun you found? Help out a suddenly-blind friend? Lie? Join a makeshift band of mauraders?) The conversation that followed was part hilarious and part reflective.
We then gave the students an introduction to classic Western ethical theory–Aristotle, Kant, and John Stuart Mill–a 15 minute lecture that stretched into lunch because of all the good questions that students interjected. Later that day, we discussed “The Singer Solution to World Poverty” by Peter Singer, and “Lifeboat Ethics: the Case against Helping the Poor” by Garrett Hardin. These articles are among the most important and controversial that the students will read this summer, and the conversation was so intellectually heated that our two hour session was over before we knew it.
Tomorrow the students learn the latest education-related brain science and then prepare for our first guest speakers!