Sunday, July 22, 2018

Day 7 - Bye-bye. Keep in touch!

Although some of us stayed up throughout last night and this early morning,  most of us got at least a couple hours of sleep after we chose activities such as dancing, watching movies, hanging out with each other talking, singing around the campfire, playing beach volleyball, soccer, frisbee, billiards, or card games; and connecting with each other via social media accounts so we can stay in touch in the future. We are certain many of us have developed long-term friendships.   

After breakfast, the students presented the kitchen staff with a large and creatively designed poster to thank them for the superb meals they have made for us. The chefs changed their routine so we could have food-saving buffet lunches that reflect our value of not wasting resources and for those among us with special dietary needs due to religion, diets, or allergies. The students also made a thank you poster to the  hosts of Dvarčėnų dvaras.

Then, the students presented the tutors with another very creative poster thanking them. Each letter written on the poster contained the names of the tutors. 

Next, continuing with the theme of gratitude, the students wrote letters to Ambassador Hall describing what they learned at the camp and thanking the Embassy for supporting the camp.  

We expressed more gratitude to each other when we revealed the identities of our secret friends through a guessing game and gave them a small gift.
Finally, before lunch and loading our luggage onto the bus, we taped a piece of paper on each person’s back and walked around writing compliments, kind messages, and farewell greetings on each other's backs. These will be lasting mementos of the friendships we’ve forged, memories we’ve made, and lessons we’ve learned this week. We offer a HUGE and sincere thank you to all of the tutors, LAKMA, and especially to everyone at the US Embassy who participated in, organized, and supported this life-changing investment in our futures and our desires to live in countries where democratic values and human rights thrive.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Day 6 - Our society: the future is in our hands

Our focus today was our society. The first activity introduced students to international organizations such as UNESCO, UNICEF,  INTERPOL etc.  Students matched the names of international organizations with their logos and missions. Then, they watched six short videos, one about each organization, and completed worksheets to reinforce the facts about each organization. A discussion followed in which the students expressed their opinions about which organization they would most like to volunteer for and why.  

The students learned about the power they have gained by attending camp. Through their education, multi-lingualism, growing cultural literacy, expanding knowledge of history, human rights, responsibilities and values, they are very powerful, and by exercising and expressing these, they are a danger to non-democratic leaders and governments who would want to suppress their rights and an asset to their democracy. The camp has empowered the students to be upstanders (or intentional bystanders, in some dangerous situations) to help victims, and to stop perpetrators' intent on violating human rights. The students were encouraged to learn about the Eight Stages of Genocide that start with restrictions of human rights and efforts to create an “us and the other” mentality so they will exclude certain people from their Circle of Obligation. The students also were encouraged to question the status quo and work to understand systems and how they, as students, can affect positive change in their communities.

Continuing their learning about the power of teamwork, the students worked together to construct towers from magazine pages, cello tape, a piece of string, glue and scissors. They strategized about how to engineer the structure, came to compromises regarding the ideas they generated, assigned tasks to each person, and worked together to build the tallest structure they could. The group that built the tallest and most stable structure received chocolate-filled gold medals.

After another buffet lunch, we welcomed Ted Janis, Political/Human Rights Officer, from the US Embassy who spoke with us about The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and its history and significance throughout the world.  His presentation, including the Q&A session, reinforced the learning students have gained throughout our week at camp and emphasized that teens have important power that can shape the future of their countries and the world. 

Mr. Janis then presented, on behalf of Ambassador Hall, certificates to each of the camp attendees and posed for official photographs taken by the Embassy’s photographer.      

We moved outdoors for the large group photograph, with each of us waving a flag printed with both the American and Lithuanian flags, gifts from the US Embassy.

For an hour before dinner, we headed to the lake for swimming, jumping from the dock, and boating.

Today, we were excited to celebrate a 15th birthday Lithuanian style with two šakotis (tree branch) cakes and the birthday girl, Natalia from Poland, hoisted into the air on a chair 15 times. We sang boisterous happy birthday songs to her  in three languages.   

After dinner, in school groups, the students created “Give Me Five” posters to illustrate the changes they want to make in the world. 

Traditionally, the last night of summer camps in Lithuania is an “all-nighter,” with everyone participating in planned activities and trying to stay awake until sunrise. Tomorrow, we’ll let you know how we did with that! 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Day 5 - Our planet: ecology matters, and history, too!

As the bagpipe sounded at 8 a.m., we started our day with gymnastics that included stretching, ninja, and for the hearty ones, swimming.

After the introduction to the theme, we moved to the tennis courts, where the students, in groups, competed in a relay race "Refuse-Reduce-Reuse-Recycle" where they had to take an item from a bag and decide quickly what it was made of and how to recycle it. For example, a can of aerosol mousse required removing the plastic cap and putting in the bag titled “Plastics” and recycling the bottle in the “Special Recycling Center” bag. After the relay race, the students evaluated their answers and discussed the different approaches to recycling that our countries take. Thank you to the US Embassy for generously providing notebooks appropriately made from recycled materials as prizes. 

Back in the activity room, students listened to a soundtrack of the short film “Man” and imagined what it depicts. They used their imaginations to draw images on a six-box thumbnail template and then shared their sketches and guesses about the theme the soundtrack depicted. Watching the video itself, they realized the theme of the film is man’s destruction of nature and the planet. 

Transitioning from environmental problems to preservation of important natural and manmade heritage sites, the students engaged in several activities to learn about 25 UNESCO World Heritage sites such as The Great Barrier Reef, Machu Pichu,The Great Wall etc. Among the activities was a Kahoot game where the students identified the location of each heritage site. 

In keeping with the theme, we spent most of the afternoon visiting Merkinė Hill Fort, a place of great historic significance to Lithuanians because it was built in 1377 to protect the country from attacks by the Teutonic Knights. The fort, located 45 minutes from our camp, gave birth to the town of Merkinė, which was, for a period of time, an extremely important, large, and powerful city.  The sudents climbed the observation tower to see the panoramic views and view the Nemumas River and the countryside.  Throughout the afternoon, they took  photographs that contained nature, humor, and themselves so they could enter the photos after the field trip. Their hike through the forest ended in Merkinė where the students, on this very warm and humid day, made a beeline for the local store’s ice cream freezer.

Back at the camp, and after choosing and uploading their favorite photos, the students cast their ballots. One photographer in each group won a logo beverage tumbler, donated by the US Embassy.


The day concluded with all of us gathering at the campfire for songs in Lithuanian, Polish, and English. 


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Day 4 - Our rights and responsibilities

It was another great day!

A new game, “Princess” was introduced during the morning gymnastics and it added an element of humor and fun as students had to pose quickly in groups of various sizes to avoid being eliminated from the game. 

During the morning, the students learned about the origin and content of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, after watching a short video, participated in a quiz to check their understanding of these rights. In small groups, they received a list of human rights and played a timed charade game to help them remember them.  Next, each student assumed the role of a specific person in a community and through a list of questions, they advanced forward or fell behind, according to the privileges conferred on them by their community. Tutors led a reflection about how each person in each role felt, why they advanced or did not, and then the group discussed whether the game accurately reflects situations in life, and determined what human rights are denied or given to people based on their social status, race, religion, and other traits. 

Our guest Auste Valinciute, Communications Faculty at Vilnius University and Fulbright student alumna, spoke to us about vaccinations and whether providing these to individuals should be a personal choice or a social responsibility. After expressing their opinions, students, in groups, designed posters that focused on encouraging the public to get immunized for measles.  This was another opportunity to connect discussions about democracy, values, rights, and responsibility.

Balancing the academic portions of the day, students socialized outside playing volleyball, swimming, boating, playing cards and board games, and tossing a frisbee.

After dinner, we continued pursuing the topic of rights and responsibilities, once again focusing on needs and wants through a cumulative activity that connected concepts from previous days. Students, in “tribal groups,” were stranded on desert islands and had to form a community by making decisions regarding the form of government, values, and other factors to ensure the tribe’s survival.  They spent time both in discussion and reflection before introducing their tribe via a poster that included symbols, names, and a map. Many groups also performed brief skits.  

Inclement weather initially moved our campfire activity inside, but we had a lot of fun learning dances to bagpipe accompaniment and then when the weather cleared, we moved the party outside for more dancing and fun before heading to our cabins for much-needed rest.