Waynflete launches “Can We? In the Classroom”

By John Holdridge
Director, Third Thought Initiatives for Civic Engagement

Produced by Third Thought Initiatives for Civic Engagement, The Can We? Project brings students together to practice the skills of dialogue across political differences. Originally conceived as standalone weekend retreats in 2018 and 2019, the COVID pause enabled educators to reconsider how to deliver the program to the growing number of interested students, teachers, and schools.

The Project officially relaunched at Waynflete on February 3 when 17 Upper School students attended a full-day retreat facilitated by educators from Third Thought and our partners at Narrative 4 and the Maine Policy Institute. The retreat started with an empathy-building exercise using Narrative 4’s Story Exchange model followed by activities that explore identity and dialogue circles on topics such as democracy, liberty, and justice. “I really enjoyed the democracy dialogue circles at the end, and I felt really comfortable working and sharing with everyone,” said one student student participant. Other participants shared that “I learned better ways to practice deep listening” and “I was extremely nervous, but it was actually a very nice atmosphere.”

As we pilot our new annual cycle of Can We? In the Classroom this spring, high school students from Waynflete, Windham, Old Orchard Beach, and Gorham High Schools will all participate in a common retreat experience with their peers at their own school. Later, we will virtually convene groups of students across schools with in-person gatherings on the horizon as the pandemic recedes. Our hope is to connect students from across Maine—and across lived experiences—and enable them to respectfully explore challenging issues and to collaborate on positive action.

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