Lausanne students spent the final two days before Fall Break learning about themselves and each other through discussions and team-building as the BRIDGES organization visited with students in classrooms.
BRIDGES, a local Memphis organization that "provides students an opportunity to find their voice through unique experiential learning activities that are adventurous, relational and transformative," was invited to campus by the head of Middle School David Nelson after the pandemic forced the cancellation of Middle School class trips. The curricula, "Reaching Beyond," focused on guiding students through cross-cultural experiences that teach them to understand and appreciate diversity, demonstrate respect for different opinions, perspectives and identities, practice vulnerability and openness and recognize the power in joining forces with people from different backgrounds to bring about positive change.
"Students need opportunities to explore different perspectives and practice vulnerability," Mr. Nelson said. "This two-day program provided a wonderful growth experience. It is planting the seed for future conversations and life experiences."
Nelson said he witnessed students learning from their classmates during the small group activities, stretching their comfort level and articulating their values and beliefs.
"It was powerful," Nelson said. "We had several teachers brought to tears while watching the students sharing their thoughts and supporting their peers."
One of those teachers, Language and Literature teacher Maria Pirani, said that the experience was transformative for her and her students.
"They have done an incredible job at being open-minded, sharing opinions and ideas and working together," Pirani said. "Through the past two days, I have heard several great group discussions. The conversations have been challenging, but I am so impressed with the amount of respect the students showed for one another."
Inside each classroom, students were empowered to reach across racial and socio-economical divides throughout the day as they interacted through activities and discussions with members of their class.
"As far as learning leadership qualities, understanding other's cultures and struggles, BRIDGES was able to help our students reach a depth of knowledge that is tough to replicate," 6th Grade Individuals and Societies Teacher Kyle Lawrence said. "I've seen tremendous growth in the two days that the reps have been on-campus. For sixth grade students, it really hits home the things we talk about in Social Studies and beyond."
Between discussions, Middle School students participated in team-building activities. In one activity, students moved their names up a ladder based on life experiences they had encountered and different things that might have held them back. After the exercise, students discussed their observations about why some might have found themselves a little further back on the ladder.
In another exercise, a blindfolded student sat in the middle of a circle attempting a task. The other members of the class were given the task of using one word from a list of words to aid the student in completing the task. The exercise helped highlight the dependence on those around us in simple and everyday tasks.
As the students ended the two days of sessions, they built upon their strengths, explored how their identity impacts the community and created real solutions to strengthen their community.
"It has been a learning experience. We learned a lot of things that adults don't really talk about like racism," student Syncere Jackson '28 said. "Through time with my classmates, we learned we are all different and have different opinions. However, we also know we can learn from each other. As a class, we are much closer than we were to start the week."
"We are in the process of building a stronger relationship with Lausanne and we are so excited to be here," BRIDGES Director of Program Development Meridith Rucker said. "We hope these students walk away with a deeper understanding of their peers and their power as young leaders. When youth work to make the classrooms a more inclusive and positive environment, they can then take the lessons they learned and impact Memphis and beyond."
Bridge Builders at Lausanne from Lausanne Collegiate School on Vimeo.
To see the full album of photos from BRIDGES time in our Middle School classrooms, click here.