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Community

CA celebrates the Year of the Dragon

February 15, 2024

Did you happen to notice the beautiful red lanterns adorning campus at drop-off this morning? Today, our Asian American and Pacific Islander Affinity Group—with a big assist from an incredible group of parent volunteers—helped our campus properly celebrate Lunar New Year. At lunch, our community was treated to a delicious spread of Chinese cuisine and hands-on exploration into the art of Chinese paper cutting and calligraphy. Finally, we officially rang in the Year of the Dragon with, what else, a traditional Dragon Dance. Many thanks to everyone who decorated, served, taught, organized, and danced during today’s phenomenal festivities. Happy Lunar New Year, Chargers!

Written by Jack Swingle, Digital Media Specialist

Community

Student service, affinity groups make news

Alumni News

Creating Simple, Low-Cost Ventilator Solutions in Sydney

Upper School

Putting their game face on

6th

First MS Community Day of the Year

August 30, 2023

On Wednesday, while our Upper Schoolers were away enjoying their class trips, the Middle School charged into their first Community Day of the year. Community Days bring the Middle School together to bond and learn just how to be a CA community member–how to solve problems, set healthy boundaries, embrace difference, and lean into open and authentic dialogues with one another–all while having a lot of fun.

During the first Community Day of 2023, our 6th grade participated in their first Backpack Buddies service event, learning about food insecurity and economics with a hands-on shopping excursion to purchase food items on a budget for families at our partner school. Our 7th grade heard from a panel of local community experts–including some CA parents–who shared their experiences of immigrating to the United States. The 8th grade had their knowledge (and coordination) tested during A(advisory)-Lympics, competing in a wide array of activities and team-building exercises.

Written by Jack Swingle, Digital Content Specialist

CA Curious

Together… at a Distance

Faculty Reflections

Death rays & grains of sand: The sweet science of a physics fight

Paying it Forward: Introducing the Center for Community Engagement Equity Fund

Events

CSA Kickoff

August 25, 2023

Did these delicious items make it home to your fridge yesterday? Led by our 7th-grade students and faculty, CA’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project kicked off yesterday as part of the Migration Collaboration project, an immersive, interdisciplinary, and experiential exploration into human migration. 

In partnership with our Center for Community Engagement and Transplanting Traditions Community Farms, Migration Collaboration aims to foster empathy, ethical leadership skills, and community activism—all while giving our community the (delicious) opportunity to try new foods and support our local refugee opportunity.

Written by Jack Swingle, Digital Content Specialist

CA Curious

Computer Science for Social Justice

CA Curious

Looking ahead to a new ‘typical’

Athletics

Varsity boys’ track and field takes TISAC championship

CA Curious

Building Bridges: How One Conference Creates Community at CA and Beyond

March 16, 2023

“You can make what you’re passionate about become a reality […] You can always have a role!”

These rousing words, uttered by keynote speaker Dr. Ya Liu, could not have been truer to the Building Bridges Across Communities conference story. The first of its kind in Cary Academy history, the conference brought together Asian-identifying students and faculty from across multiple Triangle schools in a day of fellowship, fun, and future-oriented enthusiasm. 

It all began one year ago after Leya Tseng Jones, Isa Oon, and I returned from the Asian Educators Alliance (AsEA)conference in California. Invigorated and inspired by the work of Asian diaspora educators from across the country, we immediately began plans to bring a similar necessary experience to our community through connections at other local schools. As Leya explained,  “Collaborating and building strong working partnerships with our counterparts at Durham Academy and Ravenscroft was so rewarding; witnessing the initiative, organization, and collaboration of our student leaders with their counterparts was truly inspiring. Each group took the lead on one component of our morning and thoughtfully managed every detail. I couldn’t be more impressed with what they accomplished together over just a few Zoom meetings of face-to-face time.” 

From the beginning, it was clear to this union, known as the Asian American Alliance, that the conference should not only be student-focused, but student-led. Three student leaders and members of the Upper School Asian American Pacific Islander Affinity Group, senior EJ Jo, junior Eric Xie, and junior Angela Zhang, each took a large role in organizing with other student leaders as well as fellow affinity group students. When asked about how close the first vision was to the final result, the answers were positive. 

“Initially, we wanted to invite a keynote and have a few sessions for discussion,” Angela said. “The result was just that; it was very similar to what we originally thought.” Eric added, “Our turnout was great, especially on such short notice, and every participant definitely seemed to want to be there and actively participated in the group activities and asked insightful questions to our keynote speaker, Dr. Liu. Looking back, there’s very little I would change, if anything at all.”

On Wednesday, March 8, Cary Academy students were joined by members of Durham Academy, Ravenscroft, St. Mary’s School, and the Montessori School of Raleigh. First on the agenda was the keynote address by Dr. Ya Liu, highlighting the connection between the personal and the political.

“I didn’t intend to be a leader,” Dr. Liu told the audience after outlining her impressive experience in community organizing. “It’s precisely because of the work I did. You may think, ‘I’m just a middle schooler, I’m just a high schooler, what can I do?’ […] A lot of these experiences will become part of who you are.” Dr. Liu went on to encourage students to seek out resources from beyond their schools and to “find the friends who will support you. Find the teachers who will support you.” 

Following the speaker, all participants were separated into randomized groups to experience a spectrum activity in which members were asked to discuss the intersections of their identity and what effects this had on their relationship with themselves and others. Students then attended one of several student-only workshops while adults exchanged encouragement and visions for the future in a different affinity group. 

“In both discussion sessions, I heard from many students about their experiences with their ethnicity and race,” Angela recalled of the student portion. “Even though I had never met these students before, it seemed that we had experienced the variation of a common struggle: our adolescent urge to be ‘white.’ So it surprised me how isolated everyone felt compared to how everyone was going through the same thing. Therefore, my biggest takeaway is that we were and are never alone.”

On the adult side, Leya observed that “There are so few Asian-identifying faculty/staff in our schools. We – the adults – need to find time to gather, even if virtually, to connect and support each other. Our brief time together was affirming and empowering.” 

When I looked around the Discovery Studio at the fellowship lunch, it was clear that every person present felt fulfilled and connected. In a world where being Asian American can often lead to so much stress and pressure from many sources, the beauty of Asian diasporic joy becomes not only a delight but a necessity. Looking forward, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we all intend to keep building this reality we’re so passionate about.

Written by Lauren Bullock, Language Arts and World Cultures Teacher

Alumni Spotlight

Healthy Curiosity

Alumni Spotlight

Role of a lifetime

CA Curious

Recharging through Summer Learning

CA Curious

Beyond the numbers

February 9, 2023

CA’s website proudly proclaims that we “cultivate bold lifelong learners and world changers.” It is a bold statement, for sure, and one that we aim to deliver through our innovative and relentless commitment to the pursuit of discovery, innovation, excellence, and collaboration.  

But what does that look like in practice?  

Perhaps one of the most impactful venues where students are empowered to pursue their interests—often to impressive, change-making results—is our student-led clubs program. A protected part of the Upper and Middle School weekly schedules, clubs are an essential aspect of the student experience, offering a chance to try new things, take risks, pursue passions, share experiences, try on leadership roles, and even create positive change in our local community.  

Don’t take it from me, though.  

I’m going to turn it over to junior Tanya Sachdev, founder of the Students Together Assisting Refugees (STAR) club, to share her club’s origins, goals, and the ways in which our community can come together to support local refugees in our community (spoiler alert: STAR has an informative, engaging and awareness-generating event ahead). 

From Tanya Sachdev, ’24: 

Numbers. We hear them every time we turn on the news. They define our perception of the word “Refugee”: 89.3 million forcibly displaced people, 28 million total refugees in our world (UNHCR). To some, these may just be statistics, but for others, these numbers are their world. The Global Refugee Crisis has become a humanitarian crisis impacting millions of people in our world. Through war, persecution, and natural disasters, the crisis continually expands. 

I learned about the importance of these numbers when I was driving to school in August of 2021. NPR was turned on in the background, sharing about the Afghan Refugee Crisis. As I listened, I was shocked about how little I knew about the word “refugee”. Through researching the Afghan Refugee Crisis, I was perturbed by headlines stating the extent of this crisis. Stories of young children scaling the Hindu Kush mountains or braving the Aegean Sea to escape into freedom headlined my screen. While I was purchasing a new backpack for the school year, thousands of Afghans were packing their backpacks with their most valued possessions for a long journey to find safety; their worlds were changing forever.  

To learn more, I began volunteering at local organizations such as Refugee Hope Partners and CWS Durham. Through tutoring students like “Malia”, a Syrian refugee, or “KK”, a refugee from Botswana, I began to learn their stories and identity beyond the label of “refugee”. I wanted to be able to use my opportunity to give back to the refugee community. As a result, STAR (Students Together Assisting Refugees) Club began in December of 2021. Through Cary Academy’s emphasis on student-led clubs, I was able to create STAR during the middle of the year. With Cary Academy’s support, STAR was able to raise donations, money, and most importantly, awareness. 

After all, STAR began with a sole goal: awareness. Labels such as IDPs, asylum-seekers, and refugees continually pervade news stations with audiences confounded by the differences between the terms. Numbers appear in the form of statistics such as 50% of world refugees are children or nearly 100 million displaced people (UNHCR). The refugee crisis, however, is more than a crisis of numbers and labels. It is a crisis of human suffering. Refugees face unbelievable hardships on their journey to freedom. From being denied basic rights such as education or healthcare to facing violence, abuse, and exploitation, refugees withstand constant adversity. Raising awareness has become a key component to helping local and global refugee organizations.  

One month into the inception of STAR Club at Cary Academy, the Russia-Ukrainian war caused the “fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II” (UNHCR) with nearly 2.9 million refugees fleeing Ukraine. From Syria to Afghanistan to Ukraine, the Global Refugee Crisis remains continuous and unrelenting. As a society, now more than ever, awareness and action have become imperative to support refugees.  

As a result, STAR Club is hosting its first Dinner with a Documentary event on Tuesday, February 28, 2023, from 6 PM-8 PM in the Discovery Studio. The free event will begin by watching “Refugee” by Alexander J Farrell, a true story following a Syrian family separated by the borders of Europe. Their harrowing and emotional journey will be followed by a panel discussion with invited experts. Panelists include representatives from refugee organizations, law students, and even a brief virtual appearance from Congresswoman Ross. The event will be complemented by an authentic Mediterranean dinner spread, complete with desserts and drinks. Be prepared to be moved to tears, to be angry, and for your perception of refugees to be forever changed. 

Please sign up for this unique event as soon as possible- spots are limited. https://www.signupgenius.com/go/8050c4faaa823a75-star#/ 

Written by Mandy Dailey, Director of Communications

Community

CA celebrates the Year of the Dragon

CA Curious

I’ve Been to the Mountains, ISEEN It All

CA Curious

Nurturing the roots of service

CA Curious

I’ve Been to the Mountains, ISEEN It All

January 27, 2022

Cary Academy’s commitment to discovery and innovation keeps us looking for ways to improve, and one of our key avenues for growth is paying attention to what other excellent educators are doing around the world. Back in 2015, I first connected with an awesome group called the Independent School Experiential Education Network (ISEEN), made up of over 100 schools and service providers, primarily in North America.  

ISEEN folks are serious, thoughtful educators, but if you saw them from a distance, you might mistake them for summer camp counselors. As a longtime summer camper, that might be part of the reason I felt so at home in this group from the start—they love to keep learning, and they do their teaching and learning mostly outside of traditional classrooms. ISEEN members often wear several hats in their home schools—focusing on everything from outdoor adventures to global studies to sustainability. They are the folks linking students up with chances to learn on field trips, special co-curricular programs, and internships. These are my people! 

Increasingly, though, they are not just mine. I’ve been sharing ISEEN with CA colleagues in yearly Winter Institutes around the country (in places as diverse as Hawaii, Cleveland, Vancouver (BC), NYC, & Portland, OR) as well as the Summer Institutes for classroom teachers in Santa Fe. This year’s Winter Institute in Sedona, AZ, was last week, and it was a doozy—gorgeous red rocks and stunning blue skies; educators contemplating belonging in a land where the Indigenous population was dispossessed yet endures; and phenomenal networking with super-talented colleagues able to gather face-to-face (vaxxed and masked!) for the first time in two years.   

The eight-person team from Cary Academy was the largest we’ve ever sponsored. Here are some of their reflections on the Institute: 

“At the ISEEN Institute in Sedona, 100+ educators found time to discuss educational philosophy and practice, finding ways to ground those discussions in place and practice.  Several of us became students again as we biked the red rock trails outside the Valley Verde School. We learned history and physics and that incredible connection involving small changes that make a big difference.  Want to brake more effectively, especially when going down steep trails?  Drop your heels while keeping your pedals level, and you’ll increase your braking power.  For me, ISEEN was about unexpected connections, small changes, learning outside of silos, and the pure joy of action.” 

–Robin Follet, Head of Upper School 

“My experience at ISEEN was something I couldn’t imagine. I was overcome with feelings of belonging as we shared stories about the places we came from and reflected on the path we’re on. The most impactful moment I experienced while at ISEEN happened as I was sitting in the science classroom. As we prepared for our experiment, I became excited to learn which prompted me to think about my students. This must be what they feel when we do experiments in class. What a wonderful feeling to truly be curious! I’m excited to share these valuable lessons I learned at the ISEEN Winter Institute with my team here at CA.” 

–Tamara Friend, MS Science Teacher 

It was amazing to connect with passionate, like-minded educators from all over the nation. Each day we were asked to dig in and do the hard work of designing education programs that were rich with integrity and meaningfulness. I can’t fully articulate in a brief statement how fortunate I feel to have had the opportunity to network with such talented educators of experiential education.” 

–Charlotte Kelly, US Science Teacher 

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“The most impactful part of being at ISEEN for me was seeing how passionate everyone was about creating programs for students that will challenge the way they define learning.”  

–Megan Hirst, Community Engagement Assistant 

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“My ISEEN colleagues have such palpable energy and zeal for crafting fun and relevant learning experiences! One phrase mirrored back to us in the closing session “Voices of ISEEN” — Do and reflect, do and reflect, do and reflect. — really speaks to the good work which unifies the wide variety of disciplines represented. While in Sedona, I spent a whole day with fellow educators and school leaders from across the country studying the waste stream of our host school. We took an eye-opening tour of campus with a student following the flow of table scraps, recyclables, and landfill items; got our hands dirty shoveling compost that had been aged on campus by student “work-job” teams over two years; and then took a field trip to Sedona Recycles to see for ourselves the importance of proper sorting back on campus. Then on the van ride back and in our “homeroom” groups later that night, my peers and I discussed how we might bring seeds of what we learned back home with us to germinate in our own unique contexts.” 

–Palmer Seeley, Entrepreneurship Director 

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“At Cary Academy, we have been fortunate to be a part of a network of educators who believe in and are being innovative with experiential education. For years Cary Academy has done experiential education with Discovery Term, World Language trips ,and the Work Experience program and we are now in a place where we are being recognized as thought leaders in the field.” 

–Danielle Johnson-Webb, Director of Equity & Community Engagement 

“The ISEEN event in Sedona really got me thinking about the role of Ex Ed in the cultivation of mindsets (e.g. empathy, risk-taking, or entrepreneurial thinking) and how reflection activities could be designed to both fuel and track student growth in these areas. When ISEEN 2023 comes to Cary, I look forward to sharing the many ways our students are creators or co-creators of their own Ex Ed opportunities.” 

–Martina Greene, Dean of Faculty 

This brings me to the primary reason for this blog post; Drum roll, please… 

Cary Academy is honored to announce that it will host next year’s ISEEN Winter Institute! We will be finalizing plans during the spring, but we have identified an Institute theme that captures part of what makes Cary Academy special: Empowered ExEd: Student Leadership & Sustained Partnerships

The theme highlights our school’s long commitment to empowering our students with chances to grow as leaders and community members. Almost nothing at C.A. functions without student involvement and co-creation. Think about our clubs, affinity groups, Discovery Term, athletics, and a host of interscholastic competitive programs (debate, HOSA, robotics, SciOly, USAYPT, startup challenge, etc.)—all of them feature students leading, guiding, and mentoring their successors. 

The theme also points to myriad sustained partnerships that our students and employees leverage to enhance learning here. Our Service Learning program alone connects our campus to dozens of excellent organizations that serve people in need in our community, state, country, and planet. Collaborators like District C & Essential Partners build our capacity as both students and educators to work effectively in teams, and those lessons carry over to work in the classroom and throughout the campus. In the last six years, over 150 different local businesses, nonprofits, artists, and government agencies at every level have hosted Chargers as part of our Work Experience Program.  The list of partnerships is long, and we keep growing it. 

So, we have a lot to share with our ISEEN colleagues next year, just as we always have more to learn. 

Watch for more about the ISEEN Winter Institute, Jan 17-20, 2023, hosted by Cary Academy. We will need a lot of help to pull this off, and we have no doubt that the students and employees in this dynamic and innovative learning community will shine. 

Written by Dr. Michael McElreath, Experiential Learning Director

Art

Meet the Company of ‘The Theory of Relativity’

Athletics

Senior Nights: Varsity Softball

Upper School

Student entrepreneurs win Power Pitch Award from the Conrad Challenge

The Hub

CA Curious

Introducing: The Hub

October 21, 2021

Announcing the winners of the café naming contest—Callie Chang (CA ’25) and Arnav Ahuja (CA ’21)—and the grand opening of The Hub. 

Hub: a center around which other things revolve or from which they radiate. 

Community has been central to the Cary Academy experience since its founding, underscored by our campus’s very design. Our open Quad, glass-walled multipurpose meeting spaces, and innovative collabolounges invite us to connect, to see each other, to look out for one another. 

As a crossroads for the entire Cary Academy community, The Hub is another such gathering place—one with a buzz in the air. 

Offering coffee, tea, smoothies, frappes, snacks, school merchandise, and student-made products, hundreds of students and staff visit this vibrant little corner of the Administration building daily. Striking up conversations while their order is made, customers meet fellow Chargers and connect with friends and colleagues at The Hub. 

Beyond a meeting place, however, The Hub serves another important function on campus—offering unique opportunities for students to come together to learn about how to start and operate a small business. As alum Arnav Ahuja ’21 wrote in his naming entry, The Hub will be “a place to form some good connections.” 

CAFÉ 

Over thirty-five students across grade levels learn together on shift. Middle Schoolers and Upper Schoolers hang out together in the Library, sipping their favorite drink and soaking in the value that we are #oneschool. Employees from departments across campus volunteer for shifts right alongside students. Charger fans mingle amid racks of blue and gold and share a laugh about how CA’s football team is still undefeated. 

“My friends and I have been so excited that CA would have another great gathering space like the café!” – Callie Chang (CA ’25) 

The new café side of the business has also catalyzed relationships that extend beyond our campus to local community partners. The Hub serves Bolt, a signature blend of coffee curated by a team of Cary Academy students and employees and roasted by Port City Java in Wilmington, NC. And our cold brew is roasted and brewed by adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities employed by 321 Coffee in Raleigh, NC, co-owned and operated by Lindsay Wrege ’17.  

PCJ and 321 also partner with The Hub to provide entrepreneurial education to Chargers. These relationships offer a model—one we hope to replicate many times over–of how we can serve as a hub (see what I did there) for other local small businesses to meet the CA community and for Chargers to learn the lessons they are excited to share centered on entrepreneurship, community, equity, and sustainability. 

LAB 

Operated by Upper School students before, during, and after school hours under the supervision of experienced professionals, The Hub is a classroom—a true learning lab–disguised as a café.  

Café crew students have not only learned to make delicious lattes and frappes or to explain the difference between cold brew and iced coffee or a cortado and an espresso macchiato, but know industry-standard food safety protocols and the rationales and reasons behind them.  

As a fully functioning business, The Hub infuses current, relevant lessons into the Entrepreneurship course curriculum and provides similar opportunities to spark X Day workshops—whether that is photography for marketing, writing copy for merchandise, the science of cold brew, seasonal drink development contest, or a global supply chain deep dive. The learning lab aspect of The Hub’s business model empowers students with entry-level technical and human skills while simultaneously lifting the curtain about what happens in the back office and how management makes decisions. 

Already, the students in the year-long Entrepreneurship elective course began their experience in The Hub with barista training and an introduction to the financial principles of operating a coffee shop presented by Port City Java’s CFO and accountant. From there, the students progressed to developing potential specials and undertaking the process of pricing each item on the menu. In each step—from operations and inventory management and accounting to merchandise design and marketing—The Hub Supervisors and I have been excited by the vision our students have demonstrated in every facet of the The Hub’s operation.  

STORE 

No school would be complete without a campus store where fans can find swag for the big game. Just as the original Charger Corner did for the school’s first twenty-four years, so too does the The Hub have all your blue and gold needs covered. 

Whether you swing by for a snack or smoothie or stop in to try on a shirt, make sure you peruse our Chargerpreneur section, where our very own Chargers-turned-vendors (and future business moguls) have their original designs and creations available for purchase. No longer simply the school’s store, The Hub at Cary Academy is a marketplace for student discovery, innovation, and collaboration. 


The Hub is open school days 8:30am to 4:30pm to the entire CA community. Or shop online for pickup in store or shipping outside the Triangle. 

Curious about volunteering shifts at The Hub or participating in the Chargerpreneur Program? Email Palmer Seeley for details.  

Written by Palmer Seeley, Entrepreneurship Director, Center for Community Engagement

Athletics

Super Charging Athletics

CA Curious

Uncomfortable Magic

CA Curious

Let talk lunch….

Sandra Gutierrez speaks to the class of 2021 prior to commencement

Community

Smithsonian honors founding Board Member

September 23, 2021

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), curators at the Smithsonian Institution have highlighted the cultural contributions of Cary Academy founding Board Member Sandra Gutierrez as one of seven “Latinas who shaped American culture.”

A celebrated food journalist and cookbook author, Gutierrez’s work highlighted the culinary connective tissue and parallel palates that links Southern and Hispanic food culture. She “helped create the Southern-Latino Culinary Movement,” according to the Smithsonian, which houses a collection of Gutirrez’s cooking tools, including biscuit cutters.

During Commencement in May, Gutierrez’s keynote address inspired the Class of 2021 to go forth, find new connections, and strive to try new things — drawing on her own story of using food to form connections in an unfamiliar community and the transformative impact it had on her life.

¡Felicidades, Sandra!

Written by Dan Smith, Digital Content Producer and Social Media Manager

CA Curious

Technology and Neurodiversity

Middle School

Parents explore the student experience during Community Flex Day

Alumni Spotlight

Selling a brighter future

CA Curious

Lightbulb moments

September 9, 2021

A puzzled voice from the back: “Can we just leave our kid home alone?”  

Said with a sigh from another seat: “Maybe we don’t need health insurance; it is too expensive.”  

A third chimed in, frustration evident: “No, our kid can’t have ice cream. We can’t afford it.”  

I sat quietly, watching the wheels turn as our 6th graders maneuvered through the process of SPENT, an online simulator that walks users through a month of spending on a limited budget, of balancing necessary expenses like rent, health insurance and medical care, groceries, utilities, childcare, and more. 

Of course, the students knew they should never leave a sick child home alone, but they also knew that their fictional job did not offer the flexibility to take a day off and their childcare funds were . . .  well, there were no childcare funds. They understood that they would never want to go to school with dirty clothes, but they also recognized that a laundry mat costs money they did not have. 

Our students struggled with these difficult challenges plucked from the real world; impossible choices that must be made. Do you pay high health insurance premiums or risk devastatingly costly emergency medical bills? Do you take a new job with a higher salary but longer hours that increases costly childcare needs?  These are, of course, the difficult and nuanced decisions–the realities–faced by many in our own community on a daily basis.  

Later, students embarked on field trips to local stores, including Dollar Tree and Walgreens, to see just how far they could stretch their limited grocery budget dollars. New realizations, new questions emerged: where was the fresh produce? How do you eat healthy if you live in an urban food desert? How do you meet your grocery needs if you can only shop at stores where stock is limited and overpriced? Why are there food deserts? Why aren’t grocery stores available to everyone? 

Across these activities you could see the thoughts forming, lightbulbs clicking on all over the room.  Nebulous concepts were rendered into stark and uncomfortable realizations: not everyone in our community can afford the basics necessary to survive. Many are engaging in impossibly complicated balancing acts simply trying to keep food on the table. Just a half mile down the road, students our ages don’t have adequate access to food.  

I watched as students sat in these uncomfortable realities, thinking deeply, realizing that not everyone has their privilege; many children go hungry at night. Importantly, in their newfound empathy and awareness, I saw the initial sparks of resolve, of wanting to be part of a solution. 

For me, this is the power of experiential learning: those “lightbulb” moments—transformative epiphanies when students move beyond learning simple facts to understanding complex concepts and systems. And nowhere are these more important than in service learning.  

Our service-learning focus in 6th grade is Backpack Buddies, which helps address food insecurity in our community by sharing food with local elementary schoolers. Backpack Buddies is a wonderful and important program, and one supported by many local area schools, often with canned food donation drives.  

These drives, organized and led by our Middle School students, are crucially important to our local Backpack Buddies chapter. But, at CA, they are only one piece of the service-learning puzzle; our incredible Service Learning Director, Maggie Grant, is using this program as a springboard to help our students understand that our responsibility to addressing local food insecurity doesn’t begin and end with the donation of a few canned goods.  

Instead, we want our students to understand food insecurity—the sad truth that 1 in 5 American children deal with hunger—on a systemic level. We want them to think critically and complexly about the conditions—social, economic, geographic, political, and more—that are creating and exacerbating food insecurity. We want them to develop empathy for those whose experiences are vastly different from their own. And we want to prepare them to use that knowledge thoughtfully, ethically, and in partnership with our community to help create new, better systems that allow everyone to have equitable access to healthy food.  

If that seems like a heavy lift for 6th graders, sixth-grade language arts teacher Katie Taylor would like to assure you that it isn’t! Consider these reflections that her students shared with her: 

“I learned today that no matter what, people should get enough food; there are invisible challenges for people dealing with low incomes or poverty . . .  we can come together to help many hungry people out there.”  

“At the store, we realized that a lot of the items we found were not quite as nutritious as we hoped they’d be. Most of the items we found were not friendly to those allergic to nuts!”  

A third student wisely reflected that “Having food on the table is harder than it sounds. You can’t just snap…. There are a lot of things that you need to think about.”  

As Ms. Taylor says, “these students have all found a lightbulb moment; we’ll work together this year to help them keep the lights on” as we encourage them to look outside themselves, to solve community problems, and to think deeply with empathy.  

Written by Danielle Johnson-Webb, Director of Equity & Community Engagement

CA Curious

Trying it on for size

Upper School

Putting their game face on

CA Curious

Meet the New Faces of CA