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Hurst Student Seminar challenging, engaging
By Brenda Stockdale, Head of Middle School
The Aspen Institute offered the Hurst Student Seminar on December 2-5. Modeled after the Aspen Institute Executive Seminar that convenes leaders from around the world, the four-day Hurst Student Seminar is dedicated to enhancing leadership, problem solving, and critical thinking skills for students living in the Roaring Fork Valley. Students are nominated by their teachers, based on qualities such as intellectual curiosity, leadership skills, and the potential to inspire others.
This year, Eighth Graders Susannah G., Jaidyn H., and Haver M. represented Aspen Country Day School at the Seminar. Prior to attending, each student read a variety of classic literature, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and excerpts from Plato's Republic.
Haver, Susannah, and Jaidyn (l to r) represented ACDS at the student seminar at the Aspen Institute, joining students nominated by middle schools throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. Said Jaidyn, "It was fun to be with people like us who are lifelong learners."
Recently, I caught up with Susannah, Jaidyn, and Haver to find out about their experience. What stood out the most, they said, were the connections and friendships they developed with students from other schools in the Valley. While the assigned reading was "challenging," Haver said, when he read it a second time, "it made a lot more sense." For Susannah, annotating the text was helpful; also, the fact that "our school is intellectual" facilitated our students' preparedness. Ultimately, they agreed, the moderator made it easier to understand and to connect each selection to the other texts and to the students' lives.
Some of the themes they discussed centered around the question "What are human characteristics?" including "What makes humans happy?" and "What constitutes just and unjust behavior?" They also talked about basic necessities "like freedom, strength, love, beauty, and intelligence," said Jaidyn. Susannah added, "We disagreed about the basic necessities, because we realized that each person has their own specific needs."
One of the best parts of the session was meeting students from other Roaring Fork Valley schools, the ACDS participants said. Left, the moderator helped keep ideas flowing. Right, a performance of Sophocles' Antigone has been part of Institute seminars for many years
The seminar consisted of lively discussions, videos, hands-on activities (such as drawing the "ideal community"), and the culminating performance of Antigone. Our students said that although it was an added commitment to their already-full plates, they are glad they had the opportunity to participate in this unique experience. Jaidyn said, "It was a lot of work, but I was sad when it was over, because it was fun to be with people like us who are lifelong learners."