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An OLEEP Update

by Dan Sonshine

At this point in the academic year, OLEEP (Outdoor Leadership Environmental Education Project) is having a bit of an identity crisis.  The coordinators of the program, myself and Rebecca deSa (’09), have watched OLEEP evolve over the last three years.  Each year the emphasized themes and goals of the program have shifted due to a confluence of factors that ultimately establishes OLEEP as a unique “project” each year.

This project is based on a partnership between the Met school and Brown University that was formed ten years ago by BOLT participants as a way to apply the principles and ideals learned in BOLT.  The Met is a charter alternative high school with six campuses in Providence and one new campus in Newport, RI.  The school strives for experiential learning and student accountability, and OLEEP serves as an after school program for fifteen Met students meant to satisfy these aspects of the school.  Brown students, called mentors, are each assigned one Met student with whom they cultivate a personal relationship.  In addition, the mentors design weekly science or environmental education workshops that span topics from natural disasters to leadership styles.  As part of these workshops, OLEEP takes the Met students on field trips and occasional weekend camping trips.

One of the most difficult tasks, as a coordinator of the program, is negotiating the Met school needs for OLEEP with the needs of our Brown students.  In the last few years the Met increased the onus on Brown mentors to supply an increasing level of science education to the Met students.  Three years ago, Brown students welcomed this responsibility, but the inevitable change in mentors and the greater expectations for workshops, over time, has made this responsibility more of a burden to the mentors.

A mid-year meeting with our Met school liaison, who was also the founder of OLEEP ten years ago, shed light on where OLEEP presently stands in the eyes of the Met school.  Now, the science education component of the program should be secondary to challenging the Met students and giving them outdoor experience.  This mid-year change in philosophy requires a reexamination of the primarily science education-based curriculum.  Although Rebecca and I are excited about this shift, we hope that we will be able to guide the program in a way that still upholds the ideals we hold close: strong relationships, learning for all students, and an appreciation for all of our environments.  





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// Providence, RI // Last updated: 04/12/05