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Lion's Eye Favorite: The Harkness Method as Seen by Exonians

July 8, 2013

The Phelps Academy Center Agora is full of students, some passing through quickly, others lounging between classes. One girl stops at a table, looks down and gushes, "I like this one!"

She's responding to a sticky note – 1 among hundreds stuck onto a Harkness tabletop – that contains a message about the impact of Harkness.

The tabletop is the brainchild of the Exeter Social Service Organization (ESSO) Pass It Forward Club, who wanted to gather input from Exonians on the importance of Harkness.

"The point of the project was to represent materially what happens at a Harkness discussion," explains Christina '14, club co-head.

A poster next to the table invites students to engage and collaborate: "This Harkness table display unifies the diverse ideas in our Exeter community. Participate and leave your mark." Students were asked to respond to 1 of 3 questions:

What is one thing that defines you at Exeter?
What matters most to you?
What is the best advice you can give a fellow Exonian?

Interaction with the table gained momentum over the 2 days it was positioned in the Agora. As the tabletop became thick with responses, small conversations started to take place between the notes – just like an in-class Harkness discussion.

"It's a symbol of community," says Sahil '14, club co-head, of the tabletop and notes.

"It's a work of art," adds Christina.

Pass It Forward is 1 of the more than 70 Exeter clubs sponsored by ESSO. The club's mission is to bring goodwill and compassion to fellow human beings.

ESSO is a student-led service learning organization that focuses on direct service to the local community and global outreach initiatives. ESSO's popularity – 700 students are actively involved – has engendered the term "ESSOnians."

Lion's note: this article first appeared on January 3, 2013.

— Nicole Pellaton