Over the course of five days, with more than 35 faculty-sponsored projects across the country, Proctor Period kicks off our spring trimester at Proctor. Why do we allocate 10% of our Spring Trimester to Project Period? Because we believe deeply in the value of immersion learning, and this week provides an opportunity for us to dive into learning experiences that simply do not fit into our regular academic schedule.
Introduced in the mid-1970s, Project Period has evolved, morphed, and even went away for a brief period in the early 1990s, before today’s version of a five day immersion learning experience where faculty create learning experiences around their passions. Hiking in the White Mountains, learning expedition skills, teaching fitness and finance as the foundations for life, dog sledding, taking a hunter safety course, or learning the intricacies of quilt making are just a few of the dozens of projects offered.
Our goal is for students to learn a new skill, be exposed to a different worldview, engage in community service, and find a new passion, but we also want students to break outside of their normal social structure and develop relationships with others who may not run in their usual social pack. Mixed aged groups draw students from varying backgrounds together around a central topic, and the results allow us to watch our students shine in ways we never knew possible during Project Period. The unique talents of a learning population as diverse as Proctor’s are not always apparent in the traditional classroom, but in Project Period, we are reminded of our students’ gifts.
Rarely in our lives are we granted the opportunity to put all else aside and focus on one project. We love the stimulation that comes from our normal academic schedule; always something new, something exciting, jumping from one class to another, one conversation to the next. But never do we allow ourselves this freedom to dive deeply into one area of our lives. It grants us this rare opportunity to take those passions that usually operate at the periphery of our lives and move them to the center. What a gift.
Many thanks to Starr Fair for organizing this year's Project Period and for all the faculty and staff members whose creativity and commitment to Proctor's educational model of hands-on, experiential learning in small group settings make this week as powerful as it always is.