Third Thought aspires to 1) create, refine, and sustain a unique set of school based initiatives that invite youth to reflect on their own experiences, learn from the perspectives of others, and take action on issues that matter to them and 2) share models for civic engagement that schools across the country may adopt.
Our current initiatives include:
Click the tabs below to learn more about Third Thought initiatives and background:
About Third Thought
Third Thought Initiatives for Civic Engagement was established with the financial support of a $250,000 matching grant from the Edward E. Ford Foundation. Through a variety of youth-centered initiatives, Third Thought channels the energy and capacity of young people and supports their development as agents of change in a nation that suffers from divisions that paralyze our democratic processes.
Our work is based on the belief that:
diversity of thought and experience is a source of wisdom that should be valued rather than feared.
young people have the desire to be civically engaged members of our communities.
young people can be trusted to lead conversations that bridge the divides on the most pressing issues of our day.
young people have the capacity to work creatively and collaboratively across differences.
The New England Youth Identity Summit
The two-day New England Youth Identity Summit brings together close to 400 students from more than 30 schools across the region to immerse themselves in meaningful conversations about identity, diversity, and community.
The "Can We?" Project
An experiment in revitalizing democracy by teaching students from communities across Maine dialogue across difference. Partners include the Maine Heritage Policy Center and a wide range of local high schools.
- Learn about the roots of The Can We? Project
- Watch a video about the first Can We? program
- Watch a video about the 2019 Can We? program
- Listen to a Harvard podcast featuring Waynflete faculty discussing youth, dialogue, and The Can We? Project
Interested in keeping up to date with The Can We? Project? Join our email list.
The Essential Question
While our nation faces many urgent challenges —including promoting economic opportunity, environmental sustainability, and social justice, while avoiding nuclear war—arguably none is as urgent as the need to strengthen our democratic institutions so that as a society we can meet these pressing challenges thoughtfully, effectively, and fairly. At the root of our great American dysfunction are our growing divisions along lines of identity and viewpoint; paralyzing rifts that have raised an essential question on which our future as a society depends:
Can we harness the wisdom and power inherent in the great diversity of the American people to revitalize our democracy, mend the social fabric, and live out the true meaning of the American promise of liberty and justice for all?
Last year, a team of Waynflete faculty, staff, and community members developed a cross-community response to this challenge. Drawing its name from this essential question, The Can We? Project seeks answers. In partnership the Maine Heritage Policy Center, the initial project brought together 29 youth from seven schools across Maine who represented a diverse range of backgrounds, political viewpoints, and life experiences. Over five months, the students worked together with experienced facilitators to learn to talk across deep divides, develop a shared vision of a better Maine, and design an interactive forum with political leadership. Students were asked to question their own ideas, challenge each other, and collaborate. In the process they developed basic democratic skills seemingly lost in this divisive moment: valuing dialogue, mediating differences, holding elected officials accountable, and working collectively for a higher purpose.
The result was powerful. Check out the short video linked here.
The Can We? Project’s unique value is its approach to political dialogue and active civic engagement through the lenses of self-examination, empathy, mediation, and collaboration. We believe that this model can and should be replicated in schools and communities across the country. We have invited seven independent schools from around the country, with a shared commitment to public service and an interest in dialogue across difference, to join us in running the second year of the Project. These schools will become collaborators and thought partners as we refine and improve the project design. This July, Waynflete will host a four-day incubator cohort training for faculty and administrators to introduce the project design, present the curricula, and brainstorm how best to implement the Project in each school community.
The Dialogue Project
The Waynflete Dialogue Project is intended to make dialogue a keystone habit among Upper School students by explicitly teaching them the skills of dialogue and giving students the opportunity to practice. As part of the Dialogue Project, Waynflete invited The Defamation Experience to campus and worked with Narrative 4 to train 27 student facilitators who then led an Upper School-wide story exchange.
American Democracy and Civic Engagement (MSON)
A network of schools across the country that provides motivated, upper-level students with a variety of intensive academically challenging courses beyond what would normally be available to them.
- Learn about Waynflete’s online course, “American Democracy and Civic Engagement.”