Colchester Middle School’s Rainbow and I.D.E.A. (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Action) Clubs met at Champlain College on Friday, May 31st for their final retreat of the year. The gathering was an opportunity for the team to reflect on all of their terrific work over the past nine months, to vision for the future, and to share appreciations for each other. Two Colchester High School youth co-facilitated the retreat, and it included games such as 21, “Elephant, Rabbit, Palm Tree”, and Salad Bowl. This team takes any chance they can to have fun together, and this last retreat was no different. 

One of the key accomplishments that the team celebrated this year was their “Reading for Equity” project, where members of the two clubs selected inclusive children’s books to read to 4th and 5th graders at Malletts Bay Elementary School. The youth also designed creative lesson plans related to the books’ themes to deliver to the students. At the retreat, they shared about what a fun experience the project was, and how they feel like they are making a difference in their community. In March, five members of the team also delivered a workshop about this activity at the Vermont Association for Middle Level Education (VAMLE) Conference, which provided a great opportunity for them to share their project with other middle school youth and educators from across the state. 

The team also reflected on the full-school survey about experiences of racism and homophobia that they created and distributed to the student body this year. The youth shared many takeaways about how to improve their roll-out of future surveys, as well as the best ways to present the data they collect. They then participated in a visioning activity called “The Thing from the Future,” where they imagined a classroom, lunch room, event/festival, or machine that would inspire a sense of fulfillment and belonging at Colchester Middle School. Their ideas were diverse and inspiring, ranging from classrooms with spaces and materials that accommodate all learners, an annual arts and theater festival at CMS, to a machine that would provide any meal for lunch that someone wanted. 

As a closing activity, each member of the team wrote their name on a white t-shirt. They then walked around and contributed adjectives to each others’ shirts, offering affirmations and compliments. As with everything the team has done together this year, the activity was inclusive and supportive, and demonstrated the care each member takes with one another. We are thrilled to have gotten to work with this passionate and fun-loving team, and can’t wait to see what next year holds for them.