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Wildwood Students Respond to War in Ukraine

As the crisis in Ukraine escalates, Wildwood students K-12 have called upon the Life Skills and Habits of Mind and Heart to guide their understanding of the situation, process their response, and take action.

At elementary, 4th grade students Lucas A-G. '30 and Leo M. '30 first learned about the war as many of us did through images and stories shared on the news. It would’ve been easy for the boys to take in the distressing stories and move on with their lives, but they decided they wanted to do more.

“I was watching the news about the crisis in Ukraine and how horrible the pictures were…I told my mom that it was really bothering me and she said, you can either let it bother you or you can do something about it. So we came up with the idea of the fundraiser,” said Leo.

He shared his idea for an art fundraiser with his classmate Lucas, who immediately wanted to help.

“There’s been a lot of destruction,” Lucas said. “It was a decision from the heart.”

Together, the classmates organized an art sale for the elementary Spring Carnival and reached out to their Wildwood classmates to donate pieces. The response was overwhelming, with nearly 100 works of art donated for the cause.

Throughout the day, Wildwood elementary students manned the booth, keeping track of sales. By the end of the carnival, they had sold dozens of works and raised nearly $1,800.

After researching different organizations, the duo decided to donate the funds to Mercy Corps, a global non-governmental, humanitarian aid organization actively working with families in Ukraine.

“We’re so grateful to the artists who donated their work to make this happen,” said Leo and Lucas.  “They’re the ones that made the art, and we’re so thankful they supported us.”

At the middle and upper school, students recently organized and held a town hall to discuss their perspectives on news coverage of the war, xenophobia, and the obligations they have to each other and their communities.

“With all the places to access information these days, students still wanted to navigate this issue within school, with one another, and their teachers,” said upper school humanities teacher Taylor Stern, who moderated the town hall. “For me, it was an affirming indicator that the environment of Wildwood is a reliable and comfortable homebase, both literally and metaphorically, for students to confront the issues and challenges presented by the outside world.”

To frame the conversation, the students used the “fishbowl” technique, a discussion strategy in which a small group of participants sit in a circle and share insights, while a larger group of participants sits in a ring outside that smaller group to listen and observe. Participants can take turns in the two roles.

“The fishbowl method is particularly effective because it centers student conversation and responses while creating space for different types of involvement,” Taylor said. “Additionally, while students are given prompts, fishbowls also allow the space for the discussion to organically go in new directions that reflect what is most centrally on the minds and hearts of the students.”

Throughout the discussion, many students noted the impact of 24-hour news coverage, and its ability to both inform and desensitize. They also noted the fundamental importance of understanding history and geography as it pertains to the conflict, and how it allows for a deeper dive into the more abstract issues presented by the war, such as watching it unfold online, media representation, and how events are framed. The town hall concluded with students sharing their strategies for coping with disturbing news, and steps they can take as global citizens to make an impact.

“Upper school students came into the discussion with a surprising wealth of knowledge, and were ready to share,” Taylor said. “The biggest response I heard from students was a desire for more time like this, both specifically in terms of wanting to discuss the ongoing war, and in terms of using the townhall setting as a place to come together around topics both internal and external to Wildwood. Coming off of a year spent mostly separate, it felt really good to be in community, all together, sharing both intellectually and emotionally.”

  • Spring 2022