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Rites of passage

Rochelle McClung acts as the debutante.

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When Americans think “coming of age,” we tend to consider events like graduation or sweet sixteens. Some students at Orcutt Academy, such as Leyton Blackwell, view voting as a significant rite of passage. However, in Mr. Shaw’s psychology class, the view of “rites of passage” for many students was greatly broadened.

In sixth period psychology, students grouped together to research and present information about different cultural rites of passage. After slideshows packed with information, each group performed a simulation of their ritual. Oven mitts represented the woven leaves and bullet ants of the Amazonian Sateré-Mawé tribe. Three desks pushed together became a steer for the Ethiopian cow jumping ceremony.

In several particularly interesting demonstrations, Mr. Shaw’s class took a trip outdoors. Simulating the Australian Aboriginal Walkabout ceremony, the students walked around the blacktop, looping back to room nine. Several sixth period PE students were caught off guard by the silent procession of upperclassmen stoically following volunteer leader Nevin Hamilton. Later, the psych class went to multi-use room to watch Rochelle McClung be a debutante, dressed in a full gown.

A favorite among the students was the Mentawai teeth sharpening ritual. For one of the few rites of passage for women, the demonstration of this ceremony was the carving of a watermelon. A face was drawn on the melon and teeth were carved in using a hammer and screwdriver, emulating the chisel used to sharpen real teeth.

Immersing students in other cultures is important to build understanding, tolerance, and compassion for others. These presentations were an excellent and entertaining way to learn more about how other people celebrate adulthood. Many students in the psychology class enjoyed the opportunity to learn from peers in this unconventional way. Senior Chloe Sheley stated her appreciation for the psychology presentations saying, “It’s a really fun and engaging way to learn about the traditions and values of different cultures.” In the future, it would be positive to see more interactive student presentations like these on our campus.

Nevin Hamilton led the psychology class on the Aboriginal Walkabout.
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1 Comment

One Response to “Rites of passage”

  1. Alee Lamica on February 21st, 2018 9:28 PM

    Great article Michi! I appreciate that you highlighted such an interesting learning experience at Orcutt Academy. It’s encouraging to see teachers taking learning outside the classroom, and it’s definitely a joy to read about.

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Rites of passage