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The Gathering in Minnesota – a Place and Time to Connect, Re-connect, and Refresh

Contributed by Julie Rogers Bascom, Service-Learning Coordinator, Edina Public Schools, Edina MN

If you are from Minnesota, you would be used to the colloquial phrase “Is it cold enough for ya?” as familiar way to greet a friend.  You see, weather has a great impact on those of us who experienced last year’s snowfalls and wind chills in the way below zero range.

But this November not only brought record high temperatures (and only a dusting of snow), it brought a group of service-learning leaders together at The Blake School in Minneapolis to gather – by definition – to “bring somebody close” and to ‘lift somebody up.” 

For two days, 50 participants from over 20 Minnesota and national schools listened to thought leaders and service-learning experts that guided learning and discussion.  Drs. Jim and Pam Toole talked about design thinking, brain research and the implications to service-learning.  A panel of representatives from local, state and international hunger related organizations shared how those of us working with children can support their work.  Kelita Bak, CEO of the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC) drew us together with her conversation of the support and resources NYLC can offer to those of us in this field that has such high impact on youth development, service and leadership.

The Blake School and the Edina Public Schools have been offering “The Gathering” as an opportunity to bring other local service and service-learning leaders together once or twice a year for the past 10 years.  Says Nan Peterson, Director of Service Learning at The Blake School and the Senior Shinnyo Fellow of Shinnyo-en Foundation, “We learn so much from each other, by sharing stories, hearing from new and experienced practitioners and by valuing each other in this work.”

One participant reflected, “I must continue to stay connected to this service-learning community in order to be able to sustain and feed the service-learning practitioner I hope to become.”

The Gathering is a way that teachers participate in collaboration and then model with their students.  The collective energy afforded by The Gathering supports the individual efforts of service-learning practitioners.