An overnight outing with a hundred middle schoolers, and not a selfie in sight — impossible, you say? Not if you make the whole experience tech-free.
This October, sixth and seventh graders visited the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, an organic farm two hours north of New York. The three-day trip aimed to build knowledge around environmental stewardship and sustainability, themes that go hand-in-hand with the school’s science curriculum and ethical mission.
In order to help students focus, cell phones and other screen-based devices were prohibited. As Middle School principal Chia-Chee Chiu has explained, teaching students to use technology in healthy ways is a priority at ECFS. Minimizing technological distractions allowed students to better engage with one another, building connections with faculty and with other advising groups.
In workshops like woodcraft and mountain hiking, our middle schoolers got to work with their hands, work with nature, and work with each other. Those iPhones weren’t missed at all.