TLS Members e-Newsletter

Members eNewsletter
At least four times a year, TLS members are rewarded at their inboxes with a copy of the Labyrinth Society e-newsletter. It serves as a means of direct communication with the membership and provides an historical record of the Society.

The Giving Labyrinth: Mentoring Students on the Labyrinth Journey

Those of us who had the pleasure of meeting TLS Research Chair Dr. Diane Rudebock's delightful students, Shelby and Jeni, at last year's Gathering in Parksville BC know what a great teacher she is. Everyone else: prepare to be inspired by this report on student mentoring.

Dr. Rudebock's introduction:

The labyrinth provides many opportunities for those of us who have responded to the call to "journey the path" and a unique opportunity exists to mentor students who have an interest in working with labyrinths.  My own experiences with the labyrinth began 14 years ago, and through the years, I have had the pleasure of introducing the labyrinth to community groups and students, faculty and staff at the University of Central Oklahoma where I teach.  I was delighted when I was asked to be a faculty mentor for Jane Boyce, a high school student from North Carolina who wanted to create a labyrinth as her senior project. Exploring the myriad of ways that she could use the labyrinth was delightful, beginning with the first: creating time to walk the local labyrinths in her community. She sent me her written reflections of her labyrinth experiences, and she became aware of the symbolism and metaphors in her labyrinth journey.  We corresponded regularly through email as her ideas for the labyrinth project evolved, and she mailed me her beautiful binders with pictures and documentation of her finished labyrinth project.  I was inspired by her enthusiasm and insights as well as her dedication to give back to her community through the “Giving Labyrinth” she created. I was asked to provide feedback about her progress on documentation logs that she sent. I was her mentor, and she became a mentor to others as she introduced them to the path of the labyrinth. Our connection has continued even though her project was completed and her story is as follows:

As a senior in a North Carolina High School, one of the requirements for graduation is the completion of a senior project. One selects a topic in which they have little knowledge.  My interest in labyrinths was elicited by an adult friend after I experienced a sports injury that left me with residual joint pain. I was simply in search of how to help myself deal with my chronic pain outside of the four walls of Western medicine.

After completing my research paper on, “Labyrinths and Their Effects on Health, Wellness and Spirituality,” I began my search for a mentor and contacted Dr. Diane Rudebock, Chair of the Research Committee for the international Labyrinth Society, who agreed to a long distance mentorship. Through email dialogues and sharing of personal logs from visits to labyrinths, Dr. Rudebock, helped me in my decision to create a food labyrinth for my final senior project. This relieved me of my initial concern that creating a permanent labyrinth in my community would also make me responsible for the potential upkeep.

I partnered with my neighborhood, my high school, and a nearby public separate school in a collaborative food drive.  For several weeks, each school collected canned foods as I collected within my neighborhood.  The Principal at Haynes-Inman Education Center, Kevin Carr, and the Adapted Physical Education Teacher, Vicki Simmons, welcomed the opportunity to work together and offered me a beautiful space to make the food labyrinth come to life.

Haynes-Inman Education Center is a public separate school for students ages 3 to 22 with severe and profound special needs. I worked closely with Dr. Rudebock and P.E. teacher, Vicki Simmons, to implement a labyrinth that would meet the physical and cognitive needs of the student population. This included designing wider pathways for wheelchair accessibility, lighted pathways with white rope lights to aide visually impaired students, and a simple spiral design that would be easy to enter and exit. Additionally, it was important to create multi-leveled surfaces around the labyrinth that students in wheelchairs could access to make a food contribution.

The process was challenging but rewarding. It began by measuring off 420 feet of a spiral design in the school gymnasium.  I then turned on and connected all of the rope lights. The warmth from the lights made them more pliable when creating the circular design. Using a scooter board made the process of taping the lights to the floor more efficient. Once completed, a focal point at the center of the labyrinth was created with a lit wreath on a stand and a basket with heart-shaped “thank you” notes that were easily accessible to participants. Two padded therapy tables, wheelchair height, were positioned on the outside of the labyrinth to provide a surface for food donations as an alternative to bending down to place food. Lastly, 840 collected food items were then placed along the lighted pathway that provided enough space for two wheelchairs to pass safely. Seasonal sounds of running water and birds singing were an added dimension to the experience.

The P.E. teacher used the labyrinth as her adapted activity that week, and with an excused absence from my own classes, I was able to assist many students through the labyrinth. Prior to each class, I provided a simply yet meaningful explanation of a “Giving Labyrinth,” stating that “it is a special quiet time to walk and think about what you are thankful for and how you may share that feeling with others”. The students’ reactions were wonderful. Many students appeared to be calmed by the lights and music as they visually engaged with the lit pathway. Many smiled as they slowly walked or rolled through the spiral design. In addition, some students skipped to the center and stayed by the lit wreath for some time. The teachers and therapists came back several times with their students throughout the week to enjoy the opportunity. Over 200 people walked the “Giving Labyrinth” within the five days that it was available!

Dismantling the labyrinth was not difficult. Fifty students from a nearby middle school came and picked up all of the cans and packed them into boxes that could be distributed easily to a nearby ministry. The rope lights were donated to Haynes-Inman and are now a permanent fixture to the perimeter of the gymnasium to promote a calming and peaceful effect.

On a personal measure, this project was challenging and humbling.  I sought to create a food labyrinth for those in need during a season when food banks are often low. However, when the design and efforts took a turn to meet the needs of individuals who may never have had such an opportunity, the title, “A Giving Labyrinth,” took on a new meaning in my heart. I am starting to realize that it is only the giving that makes us who we are.

Jane Boyce, Senior Ragsdale High School

Jamestown, North Carolina