IVA students and director Ryan Schramel, right, get ready for Global Village — a project-based learning event that takes place once every four years at Indian Valley Academy. Photo by Meg Upton

IVA gives students a global experience

The note of what to bring and what not to bring gave hints as to what the three-day project-based learning experience known as “Global Village” is about.

Students were instructed to bring a warm sleeping bag, toothbrush, flashlight, water bottle, sturdy shoes and a cup with their name on it. And then this chilling sentence: “You will only be able to bring what you can wear on your body at once. Wear lots of layers so you will be warm at night.” Hmm …

Then came the teen soul-crushing list of what not to bring on the three-day field trip. No cell phones (or electronics of any kind). Also on the list of “no” is makeup, hairbrushes, pillows, toothpaste, skirts, open-toed shoes or food. Wait. No toothpaste?

Welcome to Global Village. Every four years or so, Indian Valley Academy forgoes an end-of-the-year, out-of-the area field trip and instead delves into an “opportunity to experience what life is like in developing countries” at a private camping area in Indian Valley.

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According to the school’s informational material on the camp, they “hope to achieve outcomes such as gratitude and awareness for the world.”

The seventh- through 10th-grade classes at IVA will be participating as citizens of various developing countries. Think Haiti. Think civil war-torn Syria. Think North Korea. Think Palestine. The juniors will be citizens of developed countries — the last time the project took place they were all in seventh grade. They remember vividly how hard living was as a citizen of a developing country for three days.

The students are placed into country teams at random. They work and earn not based on how much work they do or the quality of their work, but how much someone in that country would earn — if anything — given the geopolitical climate of that country. They eat the number of calories one would typically get to eat in that country per day.

Students need to learn how to navigate and negotiate a world where nothing is guaranteed for them.

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Things can happen. If you slow a team down or do something that causes the team to lose points or honor you can be shunned or cast out of the group — replicating what happens in real life situations.

Veterans of the project-based learning program four years ago recall being in the Palestinian group and being stopped for hours on end before they could cross over to get to their jobs. One recalled a team member of a developing country spending the team’s earnings on a candy bar — which of course didn’t last very long at all. Rice is the friend of everyone, everywhere.

As the students met in front of the school May 29, there was both excitement and dread. They could only bring with them what they could carry and marched single file to the camping area a mile away. There were rumors that this year they’d have to kill their own dinner. Director Ryan Schramel confirmed this wasn’t true, but that they would be present when dinner was “prepared.”

By the late afternoon it had started to rain. The kids could be seen huddled under makeshift tents made of tarps and cardboard and whatever they could find — if that was appropriate for the country they were representing.

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“The purpose of Global Village is to make students realize what they have and to not take things for granted,” said Sue Weber. She’s been the coordinator for past Global Village events. This time she’s a border crossing guard. The first day she won’t make it there till noon. “But that’s how it happens in the real world. You show up to do things the way they want you to and you wind up waiting for hours,” Weber said.

This year, IVA director and Marine veteran Ryan Schramel is coordinating the event. He’s already known for taking the kids on long hikes and pushing them to strive to do better in all aspects of their lives. The students waiting for Global Village circulated rumors that Schramel would indeed be pushing them beyond their boundaries.

The first world IVA junior year student had hamburgers that first night, followed by the ability to use the much-coveted toothpaste. Just one more thing exemplifying the haves and the have-nots.