Today on our third day of camp, we once again began with a version of Mattie Stepanek’s “I Am” poem, this time a beautiful video collage that intensifies the power of Mattie’s words. The poem and video provided a wonderful lead-in to our right of the day, the right to freedom of expression.
What better way to experience freedom of expression than to spend the day expressing ourselves! And on a rainy day in Americus, there was no better place to be than the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in nearby Plains. The generous staff of the site, which is housed in Plains High School, turned over the auditorium to us for the afternoon. And Laura Bauer, executive director of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation, our partner organization for the week, led the day’s activities.
Using a community-building structure called Story Bridge, Laura paired up campers and asked them to share with each other stories from their own lives about times they had made a difference by helping others. As the process unfolded, groups of campers chose two of these stories to dramatize. They developed their own scripts and staging, assigned roles, rehearsed their skits, and in the process practiced active listening, teamwork, creativity, and lots and lots of self-expression. Watching the campers perform their finished works was delightful, but much more gratifying was witnessing how, over the course of the day, they opened up to each other, stepped out of their comfort zones, and learned how much they have to say!
After a successful performance, complete with standing ovation, we spent some time exploring the historic site’s exhibits. The campers loved checking out the room that is restored to reflect a 1940s classroom. They sat at a replica Oval Office desk, and admired President Carter’s Nobel Peace Prize. In the interactive exhibits, they shared what traits they look for in a leader, and considered what they can do to make a difference in their community. They learned about the leadership of President and Mrs. Carter, and took away new inspiration from these peacemaking heroes.
Recreation time on the historic site’s playground and a wonderful lunch and ice cream donated by the generous folks at Buffalo Café filled out our day in Plains. Back at our home base at Taraji House in Americus, campers were asked to consider another angle to the right to freedom of expression: what do you do when ideas being expressed are hurtful or hateful? In the last story told today, campers learned about the example of Romaine Patterson, who found a creative way to wall off hate and bring beauty to a scene of hostility.
With our week more than half over, we feel like we’re just getting started exploring all the important topics these campers want to tackle! Stay tuned, our next two days will be full of even more learning, creativity, and fun as we explore human rights and peace building!