Making Myths: A Lesson in Active Learning
“Why do we tell stories, and what is the purpose of storytelling in human experience?”
Ten sophomores arrived to class with wide eyes and eager appetite for an early lunch, but it’s only 9:10 a.m. on Monday, and we’re talking about myth, creation stories, and poesis: coming into being. Each of these students is in a phase of coming into being and telling himself a story that is deep, rich, and resonant; it is the story that brought him to Avon Old Farms, the private CT high school for boys.
The assignment in class was to go out and find the thing, object, or location on campus that best symbolizes what it means to be part of this community. At Avon Old Farms, we are passionate about educating boys and know that boys learn differently, so we turned to active learning to get the juices flowing. By exploring the physical campus and seeing objects in person rather than sitting inside the walls of a classroom and reflecting on our environment, life was breathed into the task at hand.
Then the challenge: students had to write their own Avon myth. The results were moving and sweet, powerful and purposeful. Returning to this place and these people after such a long absence—especially when many of our students are still engaged in distance learning—has been an experience for our boys characterized by adjustment, flexibility, resilience, and persistence.
The Myth of Ryan Field, written by Ben Wong ’22
Avon Old Farms is a historical place … even the fields that the boys play on. Mrs. Riddle wanted a place where the boys could enjoy their athletics. She created something called Ryan Field. She started by gathering grass from a nearby forest. She asked a couple of the young men to help her by taking the grass and laying down. After all the grass was laid down she said to herself, “This field looks plain.”
So she decided to put a big ‘A’ right in the middle of the field. She chose to isolate the field from the rest of campus so it could be a sacred place. A place where boys could shift their focus from school to sports.
Ben’s accompanying essay explains how the sacred place of Ryan Field became a myth in his mind:
Young men that find themselves climbing aboard the Avon Old Farms ships won't be disappointed in the journey they take and the final destinations they find themselves in. The excursion may start in rough waters, but like anything you just need to keep pushing forwards to see the sun shine again. All boys at Avon Old Farms have a very good understanding of that. The school motto is aspirando et perseverando which in Latin means aspire and persevere. When Theodate Pope Riddle created Avon Old Farms, she wanted a place where boys would be taught well and could be themselves to their fullest extent. If you take a walk around campus and through the dorms, you will find yourself thinking that Mrs. Riddle did a pretty good job accomplishing her goals.
During my time at Avon, I have felt myself grow into a pretty outgoing character and learn more and more about myself everyday. One specific part of Avons beautiful campus that I have always enjoyed and love is Ryan Field. From the hill going down to the field, to the bleachers right next to it … every aspect of Ryan Field is beautiful. The enormous trees make a beautiful background to an already gorgeous field.
I get a certain feeling every time I put my feet on the turf. A drive and passion fills my body from head to toe when I am geared up and ready to go. I also feel lucky when I am on Ryan Field ... lucky to be at such a historical place like Avon Old Farms. A place where boys are sculpted and taught how to perform and act like men. It is almost like Mrs. Riddle herself is watching us boys play and see the joy and passion we bring to Avon Old Farms. Also, in knowing the great players, coaches, and men who have stepped on the field before me, part of me knows I have to honor those alumni by respecting all opponents but fearing none. Another part of me knows that I must keep the rich tradition of success alive on the field. That 100 percent effort is the standard when I step on the field.
The boys use Ryan Field as a stage to showcase their talents, starting from walking down the hill to stepping on the field with the maroon and navy ‘A’ shining bright. The feeling you get—from the second you step on the field and take a deep breath to the time you find yourself walking back up the hill—you will always have a certain feeling of passion, pride, and happiness that is unparalleled to anything else in the world.
Ryan Field has special powers. Powers that make people perform their best and have a good time while doing it. Ryan Field represents aspirando et perseverando, Avon Old farms core values.
Together, we’re re-learning how to be accountable to one another and a community spread far and wide. We’re adapting and adjusting to uncertainty, and taking courage, humility, and self-knowledge—the revelations that myth provides—and transferring those stories to our own experience. Today, we’re sharing our stories; the experiences that build history and community for today and for the future. Today we are gods: aspirando and perseverando.
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