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at Voyagers’ Community School, in Farmingdale, New Jersey, in one of the IHE 10-week online classes—Most Good, Least Harm—in April 2012. “Initially, students were intimidated and underestimated their ability to express their thoughts and concerns or debate issues with the adult participants. That challenge faded quickly,” remarks Karen Giuffre, founder and director of the progressive day school. Posing provocative questions like,


“What brings you joy?” and engaging in conversations in subjects like climate change, racism, recycling, green en- ergy, genocide and war challenged the students to step up to become respected equals. “This demanded a lot from these young people, because the experience wasn’t only about absorbing complex issues and developing an awareness of the material, political, economic and cultural world around them. It was also about how they probed their minds and emotions to determine where they stood on issues and what they could do to change their lifestyle, or that of their family and community, to make it more sustainable,” says Giuffre. The students went on to help orga- nize a peace conference that entailed 20-plus workshops to inspire an indi- vidual mindful awareness of peace that motivates and empowers the peace- maker within. It was intended to incite collective action across generations, explains Giuffre, and was followed by community service to people impacted by Hurricane Sandy.


Answering the Call Children or adults that participate in activities such as those created by IHE or the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Challenge 20/20 are de- veloping what Peggy Holman describes as “change literacy”, the capacity to be effectively present amid a changing set of circumstances. Holman, an ad- junct professional lecturer at American University’s School of Public Affairs, in Washington, D.C., is co-founder of the Open Space Institute-US, which fosters whole-system engagement, and author of Engaging Emergence. “Conversational literacy—the capacity to talk and interact in creative ways with others that are very different


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from us—is our birthright. However, change literacy, a necessary skill for future leaders, is learned via curiosity,” advises Holman. “In my experience, children grasp it more quickly than adults, because authentic expression and curiosity come naturally to them. Children don’t have a long history, and so are naturally more present when en- gaged in exploring things that matter.” Global problems of deforestation,


peacekeeping, conflict prevention, ter- rorism, water pollution and shortages, natural disasters and mitigation, global warming, education for all, biodiversity,


ecosystem losses and global infec- tious diseases aren’t yet subjects found in a normal curriculum for grades five through nine. However, the Internet- based Challenge 20/20 program now has youth in nearly 120 independent and traditional schools throughout the United States working on solutions that can be implemented both locally and globally. “Challenge 20/20 partners Ameri-


can schools at any grade level [K-12] with counterpart schools in other countries, free of cost,” explains NAIS Director Patrick Bassett. “Together, teams tackle real global problems while


natural awakenings April 2013 33


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