Tagged culture

2017 Story Writing Intention

I believe stories can be the next powerful tool to help normalize self-directed education. I realize that the students at ALC still read books and watch movies where school learning look very different than what we do. They want to play school at ALC, and sometimes, they worry that they aren’t doing what other kids are doing. I imagine that being a student in a small self-directed school is more challenging when you see kids in just about every other media outlet doing something different than you.

Where are the examples of children powerfully navigating their lives in a self-directed education model? Where are examples of children sharing their intentions for their day or week, choosing to learn about whatever they are interested in? If the only examples they get from movies and books are of kids sitting through classes to learn, then the kids are getting the message reinforced that this is what learning looks like. Imagine the confusion of reading and seeing this example, and then going to a school where the adults are telling you that this is not the case, that learning can be different.

So, for 2017, I want to embark on a story writing journey. I want to focus my writing on stories, on sharing some actual stories from Mosaic, but also writing fiction pieces that are just written for entertainment – but all the kids will be in a self-directed education model.

I may not be an incredible writer, and that’s ok. I want to write anyway. Maybe someone reading will be an incredible writer and they will write better stories involving children who self-directing their education.

I have built a page here where I will compile my stories in one place, so readers don’t need to hunt through my blogs for them. Enjoy if you wish!

Change up Change Up

The title is a sentence, not a repetitive title! The following is a story from our last Change-Up meeting, re-told a couple days later so know it’s from my perspective and memory, and there may be parts I fill in from imagination to make the story flow. An example of this is filling in specific words said when there is no recording of the exact phrasing. In these cases, I strive to portray the integrity of what was said or meant, rather than caring to know the exact phrasing of words used. There’s also the possibility that I confuse later conversation into the ones from the moment of the story due to memory mix up. Finally, for those in pictures, I will change the names of the kids for their privacy. 

Knowledge that is helpful to know before reading is that we’ve changed up Change Up a little this year. There are times where it only takes 20 minutes to go through the Community Mastery Board, so we spend the other part of the hour doing some type of Community Connection – a game, an activity, a discussion, a group challenge or a practice that helps us bind as a community. For this Change Up meeting, participating in a group challenge (within smaller groups) was the activity presented.

 


 

“I can’t hear anything, how am I supposed to do this?” Marcy cries out in frustration, after asking a group of boys nearby to be quieter.

“Hm, I see it feels really challenging for you focus on what you’re doing when the room is so loud. The noise level is challenging for me too. I see that the other kids are also trying their best to so speak and hear each other, and there are probably ways this activity could have been set up differently. I’m sorry, Marce.” I respond, genuinely appreciating the enthusiasm of the kids who are being loud while also really empathizing with how the set up is challenging for her to participate in the way she really wants to. The activity is really fun, and most of the kids are pretty excited to do it.

The room is loud and cluttered with the bodies of children, blocks, blankets and boards. I listen.

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“Okay, so take the longest rectangle block and put it sideways on the ground, so it’s right in front of you. Like if you are sitting criss-cross applesauce, the block is sideways just like your leg is.”

“Now take the red block – you’ve got two left, right? Okay, put it so it’s make a cross with the yellow one on top of that castle piece, that one that’s like a cylinder, ok?”

“Put the block so it runs like a path from you to me, along the ground in front of the tower. Make sure it touches the bottom of the arch piece.”

I look back at Marcy, who is trying to so hard to hear Shawn’s instructions on where to place her blocks. Rena, Marcy’s partner, has moved closer to the white board that divides them from Shawn and Jennifer so she can hear better. She’s repeating the instructions given so Marcy can feel included and can participate in recreating the block tower that Shawn and Jennifer made. Their challenge is to build structures with blocks and then explain to another group how to build it verbally. The other group is behind some type of barricade so they cannot see the structure that was made. They just have to listen to the explanation given and recreate it.

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I walk over to Melissa. “Isn’t it fascinating to observe this? I feel like I am seeing their personalities come alive, seeing their differences and how they respond, describe, and engage! Like, how when Andrew and Gabe first described their structure to Luke and Ayan, they said told them to take all of their blocks and build a wall. So the two walls were completely different. But how Caleb jumped in right away to describe every single block in detail and give very clear, step by step instructions. Both sets of kids given the same instructions, and both carried out in completely different ways!”

Melissa chuckles, “I know, it is really interesting. But have you noticed how Gabe and Andrew’s group have become more detailed in their description since?”

I look over and see that Luke and Ayan are now giving instructions and that the towers being built are similar in appearance from other side of the barricade.

“Can you guys PLEASE be quieter?” Marcy interrupts my observation, and I can see in her face she is thoroughly exhausted from the mental exertion it takes for her to hear their instructions in separation from the background noise. The other nearby group is engaged in their challenge and communicating through the noise. It doesn’t seem to bother them to be in a loud room.

“This is really hard for Marcy,” I say to Melissa.

She nods, “Yeah, and do you notice how Evan isn’t even participating? He would have probably been able to engage if it was just him on one side of the barricade and just one other person on the other. Working in a group like this, in this setting, is not easy for him.”

“Totally. I feel like we can learn a lot from this experience.” We both drift away from each other as we continue to listen and observe.

“Nancy, we’re done, can we do it again?” Caleb calls out, this activity seems to be well suited for his strength in articulation and explanation. I noticed this right away, he is really adept at voicing his thoughts and this task is right up his alley.

I walk over to the group to address all four of them, “So how would you like to take all your blocks into the cloud room and try again? I think Marcy might like to experience the block challenge in a different setting.”

“Yes!” she exclaims, “Thank you! That would be so helpful!” The group members gather their materials and run off.

The challenge continues as Melissa walks over to me and says, “Now wouldn’t this be really funny to do with spouses? We should invite parents to come in and try this, it would be a real test of communication!”

“Oh my goodness, that would be funny to see,” I chuckle. I look around and notice that groups are finishing up, “Oh, how about you and Tomis do the challenge together! Then the kids can see how adults fare at this.”

“What, you don’t want to do that with him?” Melissa asks.

“Ha! Let’s try just two grown ups before we jump into the spouse challenge,” I laugh as I respond.

A group of four boys have finished their challenge, and Tomis and Melissa take over their station. Tomis builds a structure and then the descriptions begin. Slowly but surely, a crowd of children form around them.

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“Okay, so you see the small piece that has indents on one side, like a castle?” Tomis asks.

“The castle turret?” Melissa responds.

“Well not the cylinder, but the really small piece that has the indents on one side.”

“Oh I think I have it. I think you mean the piece that looks like a Pacman ghost.” She does have the correct piece in her hand, the rest of us could see this from our view point of both sides.

“Okay, so put it on top of the cube piece with the windows, but put it so the ridges are facing you, you see how one side has ridges? Put it so the ridges are facing you.” Tomis explains.

Melissa looks confused. From where I stand, it seems so clear the confusion, and hilarious! His vocabulary changed, and she’s examining the side for ridges, and the indents are facing down, so the piece literally looks like a Pacman ghost. He wants her to lie the piece so the Pacman ghost is laying on its side, feet facing sideways.

“Do you understand?” Tomis takes Melissa’s silence for confusion, which is totally correct.

“No.”

He continues with another explanation that is not understood, and finally Melissa just says, “Okay, I think I have it, what’s next.”

I look at the faces of the kids, they are whispering to each other and trying not to laugh. I turn around so they don’t see me trying to hold back laughter as well, I don’t want to give Tomis a clue that Melissa needs more explanation.


We gather in a circle after everyone wraps up to discuss the activity.


I look around at the kids and ask, “So I’d love to hear from you, what did you think of doing this activity? Was it fun? Was it challenging? What was easy? What was hard? For the sake of being able to hear all voices, let’s practice hand-raising for this sharing.”

I sit comfortably in the silence, giving anyone who wants to share time to do so.

A couple hands then go up and I call on them to share.

“It was really fun.”

“It was hard to hear.”

“Can we do it again?”

“I thought it was interesting to see what people would make from our description. I also didn’t realize how hard it would be to follow the instructions given.”

“I am glad I was allowed to ask questions. If I couldn’t ask questions, I don’t think I would be able to do it.”

I call on myself to share my own observation, “I found it interesting that some people describe using more imagery and others are more about describing the shape, like Melissa’s Pacman ghost. If Tomis described the shape as a ghost, she would’ve understood how to place it.” I pause, and then pose another question, “Why do you think Melissa and I proposed this activity for today’s Community Connection time during Change Up?”

“To help us with communication skills.”

“So we can practice working together.”

“To have fun.”

Rena’s hand goes up and I call on her. “I think it’s an empathy practice. It was really fascinating to me to describe something, to say all the words that I know mean putting the block the way I have it, but then seeing that someone else interpreted those words differently. I can see how someone else understands those words, and how it’s completely different than what I meant.”

I am floored at her insight. “Rena, I didn’t even think about this being an empathy practice, wow. I’m so grateful for you sharing this perspective! Your description of this reminds me of many times in my life when I have said something to another and then later realize how it was received was completely different than what I intended.”

I see some nods around the room. Marcy raises her hand and adds, “It’s really interesting to see how you can describe how to put a block, and your description is right, but that when someone puts it down, how they put it is right too based on the description. But it’s different than how you put it!”

“You all have added so greatly to the value of doing an activity like this! I was thinking it was a neat brain activity, one that challenges you to use your articulation skills and your listening skills and you all have shown me it helps us practice even more than that. I like that it’s also hands-on so you get to feel kinetically, and of course you are using your eyes as well. You’re coordinating so many different skills that your brain has to really work. Our brains contain so many different neural pathways, and it’s a healthy practice to challenge it to do fire neurons in many different ways. That’s how we work out our brain. It needs work outs just like our muscles do. That’s why I think it’s healthy to try new things when I can, so my brain can work out.” I get up and do some brain gym movements that we’ve done at school before and continue, “And these movements also help our brains work out differently because you need coordination skills to do them.”

Then Liberty raises her hand to speak, and I call on her. “How come we aren’t doing regular change up?”

I look at the clock. It’s five minutes to three, whoops. I intended to only do this activity for the first 20 to 30 minutes as our Community Connection, but then to have Change Up meeting as normal afterwards. We never went through any of the items on the Change Up board.

“I lost track of time, Lib, I’m sorry. I did mean to go through the board but I was having too much fun with the activity and the discussion. I guess I didn’t want to stop it and it seemed like most of the group was happy to keep doing the activity too.” I pause and hear some “yeah’s” and nods, especially from the kids that I know do not like Change Up meeting. I make gesture toward the Change Up board and say, “This board is really useful for some things. It is helpful to make community agreements and see how we are doing. But I think it’s important to do more than talk about the culture we are doing, but to actually come together and create the culture we want by doing something together. It challenges us to interact as a community, to see each other, to learn how to communicate with one another, and so I think that spending this hour with a mixture of a game, activity, challenge and then sometimes reviewing the board is a healthy compromise.”

Tomis raises his hand, and he adds, “I agree, and also, the culture here has grown to a point that we probably don’t need to have regular change up meeting every week. Perhaps we do something like this every other week for the whole hour and only go over the board every other week, we can talk about that at the next Change Up meeting.” The kids really perk up at this. This statement is a huge compliment and accomplishment. We’ve worked hard as a group to grow to a point where conflicts don’t take up most of our time, but the pursuit of our interests, passions, hobbies, and play do.

 

The Visionary and the Implementer

I’ve been having a ton of fun at school! I am really enjoying doing many types of activities with the kids each day. I love getting messy, making things, and facilitating activities for kids to try out.

 

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From top, then left-right: Paint pendulum activity, baking cookies, making playdough, open art studio, Spanish restaurant, Mystery Science lessons (bridges and slides), more art studio – making magnets and painting peg people for our castle blocks. 

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Fire station tour and bike ride to Uptown (last week and this week).

In a class with Kristen Oliver this week, we revisited concepts around divine feminine/divine masculine traits. I loved the idea of re-naming the feminine and masculine to “Visionary” and “Implementer!” We all have these traits within us, so it feels nice to have different words to explain them that are not gender-related.

I posted a bit about this in a previous blog post, and I’ll re-share the traits but this time use Visionary/Implementer rather than feminine/masculine:


Words to describe the Implementer:

positive attributes: active, intelligent, logical, rational, linear, determined, reliable, strong, stable, protective, sensible, heroic, focused, single-minded, practical, goal-oriented, consistent, predictable, capable, smart, rugged, ordered, disciplined.

negative attributes: rigid, stubborn, aggressive, tough, ruthless, violent, non-communicative, self-centered, authoritative, dominating, dogmatic, closed-minded, autocratic, rule-bound, heartless.

Words to describe the Visionary:

positive attributes: soft, warm, sweet, kind, loving, nurturing, gentle, creative, receptive, flexible, adaptable, yielding, forgiving, understanding, caring, care-giving, serving, passive, peaceful, open-minded, beautiful, mysterious, spontaneous, ever-changing, inspirational.

negative attributes: weak, dramatic*, irrational, illogical, unpredictable, bitchy, stupid, powerless, manipulative, controlling, indecisive, fickle.

* This word list is from energyenlighten.com “emotional” is the word they use. I would rather see the world “dramatic” here. Emotional implies that having emotions are negative, which I disagree. Dramatic, I think, is a better fit because it describes one being emotional for the sake of gaining attention from others, “woe is me!!” “look at me!” “feel sorry for me!” 


I think this is super important to think about as an educator. Am I creating a space that only serves to express Implementers? Or am I supporting the expression of Visionaries too? Most of the world does not support the expression of mature feminine – so you have a lot of negative words to describe the artists of the world – indecisive, fickle, unpredictable. They can’t “commit” or be depended on. Well now I don’t see it like that – I think about the environment that one is in and try to consider what can be changed to support that one in expressing their powerful Visionary traits. They can be considered as spontaneous rather than fickle, they are inspirational, ever-changing! 

I think it’s important for Agile Learning Facilitators to remember that we are creating environments that are inclusive to all ways of being, all people. Our tools and practices, like Set the Week, Kanbans, Spawn Points, Change-Up are really great ways for us to help structure the community so we can all stay connected, informed, plan group activities and make decisions about what we want to do as a community.

However, if adults in the space aren’t careful, they can easily fall into the trap of only celebrating the traits the conventional schools celebrate – typically those on the Implementer list, like: intelligent, logical, rational, determined, reliable, sensible, focused, practical, goal-oriented, predictable, disciplined.

These are great traits to have, and also, if only these traits are encouraged and celebrated, then we’ll see an imbalance. We’ll notice that we’re getting a lot of the negative Visionary traits expressed rather than the positive. It’s important that we are a space where a person can express themselves as a Visionary, because the Visionaries keep the Implementers (others and within themselves) from  being cogs in a machine. If you carefully examine those Implementer traits – they are traits of really good, complicit students and employees. The ones who can do and be depended on – great traits, but in the wrong environment, they are also the ones who are more susceptible to blindly follow (ever hear of the Migram experiment? Controversial, but interesting to learn about).

If we only produce Implementers, than we aren’t doing a service to the world. We need to create environments that allow for the expression of Implementer and Visionary to express within individuals, knowing that we all have at least some of both. Some may have balance within themselves, while others may learn how to pair themselves with those who complement their own expression. There are even times when I can see in a relationship with one person that I am more of an Implementor, but in others, I am the Visionary.

Due to this awareness, I am careful to observe the students at school and think about how I can encourage positive Visionary expression. I think this deserves a lot of attention because the world already tells us all the message that intelligent, dependable people are good. I want to, in addition to the positive Implementer traits, send the message that being spontaneous, ever-changing, flexible, and driven by inspiration are also positive traits. This means that when I see students who cannot plan or commit to activities in advance, or students who are wanting to observe before doing because they need to be inspired into action, aren’t condemned as lazy, fickle, or those other negative Visionary traits. I instead use this as an opportunity to say, “Oh! How can I enrich our environment to support these Visionary students?”

One way to do this is to be constantly engaged in the environment and to provide opportunities for spontaneous action and activities in addition to planned ones. The examples above are my attempt at doing this. The pendulum art project was simply inspired action – seeing a video and just doing it at school and those who joined, joined. Mystery science I always do in the big room and anyone inspired to join is welcomed! I don’t care if they planned to be there or not. After lunch each day, I’m setting out materials on the lunch table for kids to engage if they feel moved to. This is fun, and it creates opportunities for those kids who aren’t sure what they want to plan/commit to at the beginning of the week.

It’s a fun practice to think about different people and how they think/behave/act. It’s why I’m attracted to this profession. When I consider the quote that is most commonly attributed to Einstein, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid,” I recognize that when I am frustrated with what I see in another, it’s because I am seeing them through my perception of what I believe is genius. Then it’s up to me step back and consider another perspective and to do my work to open my mind to see other ways of genius.

Malcom Gladwell examines creativity and genius in this easy to listen to podcast, titled “Hallelujah,” a part of his Revisionist History podcast. I won’t summarize it here, but I will post the link if you are interested in exploring his examples of how genius can be expressed differently. I enjoyed listening to this as I thought about myself and the kids I work with, and how to recognize the different ways genius can be expressed. I think about how the Implementer and Visionaries may show this to us differently, and how to recognize and celebrate the different ways it shows up in our children so they grow up appreciating their gifts. A child who is a Visionary genius may be told by the world they are fickle and irrational, and then grow up to be this, never finding their way to express beauty to the world. When I hear about teenage suicide or a parent telling their artist child that they need to get a real job, I think about this. I work with children different than me, and it’s not my job to make them like me, my role is to open my mind and my perspectives to see the beauty and genius in them.

Back to School, Year 4!

We started our 4th year of Mosaic on Wednesday, and it feels SO GOOD to be back to school! Actually, it really doesn’t feel like back to school because I’ve seen so many of the kids over the summer.

We ended the school year June 17. I took a week to see my sister in Colorado, and then I facilitated two week-long summer camps with lots of ALC students after I returned. After that, ALF Summer (3 weeks) began, a week with adults, a week with the kids, and another week with adults and @libby. Directly following ALF Summer, @Jesslm and I took 7 students on a 8 night, 9 day roadtrip adventure, which I absolutely loved doing! We got back on August 9 and school started August 24, so I had about two weeks of “downtime” as I waited for the school year to start back up. I feel really great about how I spent my summer. It feels easy starting school again because I honestly didn’t take much of a break from my regular routine of waking up and being with kids. I also genuinely like being around the kids, many of whom I’ve known for years now.

There has also been a big surprise that happened about a week before we re-opened, adding to the ease of starting the year: Melissa, who has been volunteering for the past year, let us know that she wanted to ALF full-time. She acknowledged our situation of not having the finances to pay a full time staff member, especially with the exciting one campus news, by saying that she wants more responsibility at no cost to us. Her intention is to dive back into education (which was her prior career path before being disillusioned by it – something I totally get) and to work with kids again in a school that she is inspired to help make more awesome.

Jess and I were prepared to start the year with 9 or 10 kids in a spawn point, and just making that work. However, with Melissa around full time, excited to facilitate a third spawn point, we’ve been able to start with just 6 or 7 kids in a group instead. On Friday after school, I got to listen to a couple students excitedly share how they feel spawn points are so much easier and more fun to be in with fewer kids. They have time to share intentions and reflections and to play games together, or just hang out and talk. I’ve felt this way too, happy and excited to go to spawn. This is really energizing for me.

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I moved my spawn point room from the Food/Art Room to the Quiet Room. I wanted a more cozy environment, like Jess’s Cloud Room Spawn. I really think the addition of wall hangings, a lamp, and twinkle lights make a big difference!
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In just one day, Melissa was able to make a cozy nook that the kids love in the big room for her spawn! Added bonus: her spawn point has the weekly schedule board in the room 🙂

 

Highlights From The Week

There is also a lot of ease in starting our 4th year, and 3rd year in this particular building, with a large group of students who have been in together for at least two years. We can more quickly dive into creating what we want because we don’t need a lot of time spent on figuring out what agreements we need in the space.

In the short span of three days, the kids jumped right in to reinstate the offerings they liked from last year. They met to plan what books they wanted to read for the Book & Movie Club, met with Jess to talk about what kind of hikes they want to do this year, a student led a Writer’s Workshop meeting where she facilitated a conversation about what kind workshop they would start out with, and Tomis met twice with our oldest students as he starts piloting the “Wings” (working title) program here at Mosaic.

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This week, we also had a lot of conversation about the trees getting cut down at the church. In particular, a huge tree that we played around and enjoyed the shade from, led to feelings of sadness and frustration. As the kids played on the trunk, using it as their own personal jungle gym, they talked of protesting and asked a lot of questions. While I listened to some conversations, I felt really grateful that the kids could see this happening and then take the time to talk about it and to go out and interact with the tree, rather than left to watch it happening from indoors and being told to think about some other subject.

My favorite conversation from the tree went as follows:

Child 1: When I die, I want to come back and live as a tree.
Me: Can you say more about that?
Child 1: Because trees live so long and I want to know what it’s like to live as long as they do and experience what they experience.
Child 2: I would want to come back as an animal because I want to move around. Being a tree might get boring.
Child 3: But what if the tree doesn’t know that its life is boring? What if they would think walking and talking was boring? Because the tree is just seeing life through its own perspective.

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The time and space the kids have to discuss how a tree may perceive the world is something really valuable to me. I want to see more gentle discussions in the world where we are wondering how an experience might be for someone else. From personal experience, I know that rushing through life and trying to “prove” my worth (mostly by being a good girl who got good grades) led me to grow into a more self-centered person than I’d like to admit. Most of my 20’s involved understanding how I became what I became, learning to not beat myself up for how I became that way and then rebuilding. I can see that we are building a group of kids who have the time to think about more than just themselves, and this feels really good.

One Campus Fundraising

During the first ALF Summer, Sara S. (an aunt of two of our students who is getting a master’s degree in creativity), came and presented a workshop on The Creative Problem Solving (CPS) Process. It was really fun and since then, she’s come in a couple times to facilitate this process.

Coming back to school, the kids were all really excited about our new home and want to feel like they can help in some way. I also had several parents reaching out to me with ideas for ways the kids could get involved. Whatever happened, I really wanted the kids to be involved because they were inspired to action rather than adults suggesting they do something we thought was a good idea. So I thought it was a good time to get the kids and staff who were interested in more discussion to experience Sara’s CPS process and see what happened from there.

I took key elements of what I learned from Sara and tried to deliver a simplified version of what I felt capable of doing:

First I told the kids we would warm-up our brains to think big and think creatively, just like our bodies need a warm-up before a work out, our brains need work outs too. I led them through a silly exercise (copied from Sara) where everyone had to help me think of solutions to a made up problem: a hippo was stuck in my bathroom, what should I do? 

As the participants came up with potential solutions, I asked them to practice 4 key elements to help encourage people to think as creatively as possible:

  • build on ideas: write down any solution we think of, even if someone else put down something similar beforehand
  • seek wild ideas: try to think outside the box and write anything that comes to mind down!
  • defer judgement: make no good/bad judgments of any idea – your own or another persons.
  • come up with lots of ideas: push ourselves to write and write and write ideas!

We had fun doing that awhile – with sweet solutions like “make friends with the hippo,” dark solutions like “eat the hippo,” and practical solutions like “move” presented to the group.

Next, we practiced those same principles to come up with as many ideas as possible to try to help the school raise 45K in 45 days, our current fundraiser to help us renovate our building while still keeping tuition affordable.

The ideas were hilarious. When I reminded them to seek wild ideas, we got things like “pick pocket” and “have all the parents take all their money to Vegas and bet on red.” It was hard not to laugh at those! I appreciated how much fun we got to have while problem solving 🙂

I explained that we were going through a divergent process – where we are just generating tons of ideas, but that we would have to go through a convergent process of narrowing focus if we were actually going to be able to take action forward.

So after we had maybe 75 options down, I gave the participants stickers – telling them to only use 3-5 stickers to place on the ideas that they would like to have more discussion about. We then removed the ideas (which were on post-its) without stickers, posting them on a different board. I stated that they weren’t bad or good ideas, just ideas that we weren’t going to focus on now.

With the ideas left, we clustered them into groups if we saw similar themes. We labeled four groups: Community Events / Music Events / Social Media & Personal Appeal / Selling Things

Then, I drew a line under each grouping to make two columns where we could identify the pluses (+) and opportunities (o) for each grouping of ideas. Rather than saying that something is a bad idea, we can frame that wording in a “How Might” statement that allows for more a more positive conversation. Rather than “well that idea is too hard because…” or “that idea isn’t good because…” we can say “How might we pull this off in time and find it energizing, rather than exhausting.” It’s just a little word-smithing that leads to more open conversation rather than a culture around shutting down an idea that someone thinks isn’t “good.” You can see our pluses and opportunities in this doc.

At the end of our time together, we decided we had a great start to show the rest of the community. Not all the kids in the school were a part of this brainstorming, so we decided to read over our thoughts to all the kids in the three separate spawn points the next morning, and then have part of our change up meeting dedicated to next steps.

After being read the ideas in spawn point, one student built on what they heard and was excited to propose at change up The Spicy Pepper Challenge! This student and their friends have been bringing spicy foods to school for a year now, and they really enjoy seeing how spicy of food they can handle. One of these students has a goal this year of seeing if meditation will help them handle spicier food! After discussion at Change Up, the kids felt like launching the social media challenge was something they could do without adults helping, while arranging a community event is something that is more adult involved. So they set a time the next day to figure out what they wanted to say and how to move forward. A couple kids went with me to the community garden to pick jalapenos too 🙂

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Filming their video!

Here is their video, and we’ve already been received some donations from it!! Please share and add the link if you feel inspired. You can do the challenge yourself and challenge others to participate! The basic rule is to do the challenge and donate $10 or skip the challenge and donate $100.

 

Making Wishes to Create Culture

Relationships and trust take time to build, and it’s from these two foundations that you can grow a healthy culture. One of the most amazing experiences I’ve had as an educator since I’ve been working with children (over 17 years) has been here at ALC Mosaic where I’ve had the time to focus on building relationships with children and then creating the culture we want together at school. Some of the children here have been together with me for over three years now. We get to experience each other growing up, maturing, changing. Our relationships are an investment in the future, we aren’t just putting up with each other for one year before moving on. It’s worth it to actually know one another.

We have just completed our third year of Mosaic as an official school. Two and a half of those years we have been open as an ALC. Each year keeps getting easier and better. A huge part of this success is because we have a strong foundation built in trust, which has the chance to blossom because we have had more time to get to know each other. We feel like a big family at school.

I’m seeing this ease flow into our conversations at our weekly Change-Up meeting. When we first began using our Community Mastery Board during Change-Up, it was clunky and challenging to engage student participation in the creation of community agreements. However, over time, the kids see more how to use this tool as a means to creating community agreements and norms that serve the whole group and actually make a culture that is positive and fun to be in.

One specific example started with the making of “wishes.” At the beginning of the last school year, all the kids and the staff wrote down a wish that they had for the school. We put all those wishes in a bag and then over the course of the entire fall, we would pull one wish out to “grant” as a part of our Change-Up meeting. This was a really fun and engaging way for the students to participate in Change-Up, the kids would get excited to read the wish and then try to figure out a way to make it come true.

Over the course of the next two months, we found that more than one student wished for “boys and girls to play together.” The kids noticed a cultural norm of girls playing with girls mostly and boys playing with boys mostly. The process of granting this wish allowed us to talk about that openly and decide what we wanted OUR cultural norm around this to be. Through the discussion, it was decided that it would be great if we could try out playing one big group game each week to encourage everyone to play with one another in a fun way. The game could be anything – capture the flag, freeze tag, wizards and gelfings, hide and seek, etc. There were a few kids who were unsure if they wanted to play a big group game every week, but they were okay with trying it out for one week and then reporting back the following week if it was okay to do.

Playing a group game together every week did end up becoming something we continued practicing for several months. Each week at Change Up we would briefly check in, “Do we want to keep doing this?” and it kept getting a thumbs up. Then, in the spring, we did a more thorough check-in, going back to the awareness that brought this community practice into place. We reminded the kids that the idea of all school participation in community games came from wanting to encourage boys and girls to interact with one another more. We asked ourselves, is this actually happening?

The kids were emphatic that it had, citing several examples of how they have played with others of the opposite gender and they felt that this wish had come true for the school. They decided it was no longer important for us have the agreement that we all played a group each week, but acknowledged that there would probably be a large group game offered weekly because it’s something many people like to do. It’s simply become a cultural norm to do a big group activity regularly.

To me, this story is a beautiful example of how a community of mostly children can powerfully create the kind of environment they want to live in, deciding what practices they want have as a community while remaining connected to why they want it. Without the Community Mastery Board tool and Change Up meeting process, the kids wouldn’t have revisited the awareness of why they started having large group games weekly. New students who joined the school would simply think it’s something they had to do each week without connection to why. The kids were able to adjust and change their agreement about having a group game be mandatory for everyone each week because they understood that the actual point of the agreement had been served and that brought them joy to find out! So many times in this world we continue doing something because, “that’s they way we’ve always done it” without doing a meta-analysis (you can read my blog post here for a little video about how this happens). Here at ALC, the students are building those executive functioning skills to analyze their culture and practices, something I hope to see in the world more! I know that this is possible because we have had the time to build our relationships over time – years for some – which create a foundation of trust and desire to meet each other’s needs.

The Art of Facilitation & The Facilitation of Art

Intro & Context

ALF Summer, year three is in session! It’s been the most fun and collaborative ALF Summer yet. Last year, @artbrock spent many, many hours working on our Starter Kit with the ALFs and launched the Beta Starter Kit at the end of the summer. Since then, we’ve had around 500 downloads from around the world and have more than doubled our number of start-up ALCs. So many of our ALF Summer participants have already been in collaboration with someone from our network before coming, as well as already working within their own communities to create an ALC of some kind.

Week one of ALF Summer consisted of two days of planned offerings to support people new to ALC, as well as planned offerings for those who have already been to an ALF Summer (returning ALFs). And, of course, we simply acknowledge that everyone is an adult and has the free choice to attend whichever session feels best to them to be in. We simply recommend that new ALFs have some foundational content given to help them understand what an ALC is before diving into the rest of the fun.

The next 3 days of the first week was the creation of an ALC, where offerings were made and planned in a more open-space format. I decided to offer a session called “The Art of Facilitation & The Facilitation of Art” which is what this blog post is specifically about from here on out!

The Art of Facilitation & The Facilitation of Art

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Why?

I feel like I am bursting with stories I want to share about facilitating with children and how I have evolved through the past three years as I have been on this journey with Mosaic. However, as I experience ALF Summer for the third year, I am striving to create a place where more sharing can happen more naturally, in a way that might appeal to a more traditionally feminine way of sharing traditions and culture.

I imagine woman sitting in a circle sewing, canning, weaving, and talking. I had this thought recently about how societies have developed over time to appeal to the masculine. From my perspective, the dominant culture is male created and driven. I was thinking about how for many centuries before written language, most of history and learning was passed down through oral communication and story telling. I recognize that after the written word was created mostly men have been writing and passing down history, and this could be a contributing factor to how societies have become driven by masculine energy over time.

I believe in a powerful union of masculine and feminine energy. What I am holding for is a balance of this expression of energy so that our ALC Network becomes one that holds both men and woman sacred, equally. While the world predominately wants facts, figures, proof, there is another type of communication that can happen through vibration, togetherness, and nurture.

All people have both masculine and feminine energies in their bodies, their fields and their psyches. Feminine energies tend to be felt on the left side of the body and masculine energies on the right. We all have inner relationships made up of our inner masculines and inner feminines. It is very worthwhile to spend time getting to know these inner agents and to heal them using the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine.

Words to describe masculine energies, archetypes and cultural projections:

positive attributes: active, intelligent, logical, rational, linear, determined, reliable, strong, stable, protective, sensible, heroic, focused, single-minded, practical, goal-oriented, consistent, predictable, capable, smart, rugged, ordered, disciplined.

negative attributes: rigid, stubborn, aggressive, tough, ruthless, violent, non-communicative, self-centered, authoritative, dominating, dogmatic, closed-minded, autocratic, rule-bound, heartless.

Words to describe feminine energies, archetypes and cultural projections:

positive attributes: soft, warm, sweet, kind, loving, nurturing, gentle, creative, receptive, flexible, adaptable, yielding, forgiving, understanding, caring, care-giving, serving, passive, peaceful, open-minded, beautiful, mysterious, spontaneous, ever-changing, inspirational.

negative attributes: weak, emotional, irrational, illogical, unpredictable, bitchy, stupid, powerless, manipulative, controlling, indecisive, fickle.

-An excerpt from energyenlighten.com

When I hear myself and other woman lament about how “emotional” they are, I recognize the experience of immature feminine is present. When the world values goal setting, logical explanation, linear thinking (masculine expressions) over spontaneity, working from a place of inspiration, and constant change (feminine expressions), this leads to feminine energies within us feeling crazy, emotional, or that we don’t fit in or belong.

So when I see offerings of a Set the Week board where we are scheduling times and places for certain conversations to happen, with particular outcomes desired, I see that this meets the needs for the masculine energy and desire for logical and predicable way to have outcomes we want.

Then around (or during) those scheduled offerings, there is the time for the spontaneous feminine energy to shine, where you don’t know what will occur, but inspiration might strike and the outcome can lead to something beyond our imagination!

This week I felt a little out of place at times. Over the past three years I have slowly become more balanced internally with my own masculine and feminine energy. I have recognized where I have become conditioned by my schooling and American culture to value mostly the masculine energy within myself and to express that more than the feminine. This has led to me expressing those negative characteristics of both the masculine and feminine in the list above many times! I am in the process of de-conditioning myself and allowing myself to be more spontaneous, more nuturing, more understanding, more of all the positive aspects of my divine feminine nature.

Whereas three years ago at ALF Summer I was all about planning every minute of my day to maximize efficiency and productivity, this year I found myself wandering the halls and longing for a moment of inspiration to strike me into a flow that felt wondrous. I have been trained in my life that I need to force every minute to count productively rather than allow every minute to be lived in wonder.

I wanted to connect with other people, so I offered what felt to me like a setting that would encourage the feminine energies within us to connect: A room full of art supplies and seating in a circle-ish form where a group of people could be creating and talking and talking and creating.

Not only was I hoping to appeal to the feminine energy, but I was wanting to provide a living example of how much of “education” has happened for most of human evolution: orally. Most of the time at ALC, I see children learning when they are in communication with others just talking about their thoughts and observations of the world. This is hard to quantify and relay to the masculine, data-driven world, that most of the education and culture creation happens through organic and spontaneous conversation that cannot be planned for. And this is a rich, deep and dynamic education that is beautiful and honors those feminine energies within.

My Personal Reflections of This Offering

My highlight of this offering was seeing the amazing creations of those who came to the table. I loved hearing how grateful people were to have art supplies available, that this was something they were craving. I loved nurturing the participants and felt so much joy in telling them, “don’t worry, you go ahead, I’ll clean up,” when they needed to leave. This was me giving in a way that was replenishing; as I gave, I received. (Unlike doing something for others with resentment…I’ve never done that before 😉 HA!)

I felt like the sharing part was hard for me at first. Where I imagined a group of people working and talking and having the conversation flow naturally, in reality, I felt this anxiety about if I the people who came would walk away thinking it was time well spent. It didn’t feel natural or organic to just start telling them things about me facilitating. Nari, our participant from Cairo, looked up with me with this warm smile, and a twinkle in her eye and asked me to share about how I came to create Mosaic, and that provided the start to a Q & A format. I still felt nervous at times because I felt like I was talking too much and it wasn’t matching this ideal picture in my head. I also recognized that I was internally struggling with how to fit in this offering with the rest. I noticed that few men came and there was a part of me that thought this offering was perceived as a silly thing to do, like something “cute” that I was doing but not as valuable as a marketing session or a session on organizational structures of a school.

What I realize I desire is to see our ALC community fully value the both the feminine and masculine aspects of what makes an ALC magical. The children need both. You can logically plan an ALC for years and spend lots of resources and time marketing it, but in the end, you need to have place that feels nurturing, that inspires, that can flexibly respond to the needs of the children. There is no class or workshop that can train a person to ALF with children, it’s an experience that grows and evolves within you over time. It’s the experience of being WITH others that helps you understand that connection is more than words and rational thinking, that ALFs and kids can intuitively connect and communicate without words (or even using Language that Moves Things), we can look at each other and understand how to give and receive compassion.

It is crucial to me that others starting an ALC know that planning, logistics, marketing, and knowing in your head what to do isn’t enough. Feeling, BEing, and operating from intuition and your heart is how you truly connect with others and create change in a world that is desperately in need of balance of masculine and feminine energy.

The Content

I honestly can’t remember all of what was shared because I didn’t take any notes. Some things I remember speaking to that might be of value to other facilitators were about (1) how to create an inclusive culture (avoiding cliques) and (2) how our Change Up Meetings have evolved to better serve the children.

(1) Inclusive Culture: I stressed the importance of connection. Jess and I have reflected in the power of the spawn points and creating intentional space for the children to connect with each other in a smaller group. The kids spend time playing games, talking about a problem they have, doing feeling check-ins, or answering questions about themselves. You can force children to include each other, but then they are including others from place of “this is what I’m supposed to do.” I prefer seeing people really in connection with one another, hearing about how others think differently from them and being able to ask the group for what they need, i.e. “When I’m really upset, I like to be left alone” or “I don’t know how to join anyone during the day, could someone invite me to play today because I’m not sure what I want to do.” Reaching out to others from a place of genuine compassion and care comes more readily and easily when you feel like you know the person, so Spawn Points are a great opportunity to facilitate conversations (or games) that lead to deeper understanding of one another.

I also stressed that it just takes time for this to develop. People need time to get to know each other and see each other. During our first year of school there were lots of conflicts, including many physical ones between the kids. This past year (our third year), has been so much more peaceful and easy. The kids know each other and trust each other more. I know them and trust them more, and vice versa.

We also make an effort to really talk about what we value and check in on those values as a community with each other. You can read my blog post about our end-of-year rituals (please click within that blog post for the school report card link which dives even deeper) that have developed to get more context about that.

(2) Change Up Meeting: Many kids struggle with large meetings and do not want to talk about better and more efficient ways to clean up the school or keep the school quieter. It’s important to remember that ALCs honor “People Over Process,” so if your Change Up meeting is a horrible experience for the kids, everyone is empowered to remember what the purpose of the Change Up Meeting is (take make our community flow with more ease with one another, for example) and decide how to go from there.

One item to note is that the items in the “Awareness” column of the Change Up board do not have to stem from things you notice need to be better. At the beginning of this school year, we had students, staff, and some parents come together to write a wish they had for the community. At our Change Up meetings, each week we would pull a wish from a bag and read it aloud and decide if there were ways we could implement any practice to make the wish come true. Children are much more excited to “grant a wish” than to feel like they have to discuss some awareness that an adult brings up.

One example of this is when we pulled a student wish that “Everyone felt really connected.” To grant this wish, the kids decided that they wanted to try out playing one big group game every week and that we try doing this as a whole school. We did this for weeks, and eventually we made this optional for people to join, but now it’s in our cultural DNA to play group games together so we can be connected to one another.

I also shared about some of the ways Jess and I evolved Change Up over the year to better serve the kids. Jess would sing silly songs sometimes to start, because the kids really wanted to move their bodies and be silly together. We also started limiting the number of topics to discuss to 4. We would quickly go over what was in Mastery and Implementation, and if something felt like it needed more discussion, we would pull it aside. We would pull up to three topics for discussion aside, and then also pull a wish (as described above) to grant. Then the kids would self select which topic they wanted to dive deeper into to work on a solution and have 10 minutes to talk together about. We never really had issues getting people in each group, if one topic was empty, we’d just point that out and people would shift.

This is a wonderful practice in trust! When the group comes back together as a whole, each team would present what they think we could implement in regards to the topic. Unless it was totally off-base, which it typically would not be, we would try it out for a week and see how it goes. This practice really helps get all the students engaged, because some of them really just won’t speak up in a big group, but will much more readily speak up in a small group.

I know we discussed other things, and if anyone who attend this offering remembers anything else, please share in the comments or in the documentation folder we created for ALF Summer 2016!

 

 

Creating Culture, Year After Year

Yesterday, @tomis, @charlotte and I were in the school cleaning up after summer camps in preparation for this year’s ALF Summer program. All of our white boards will be repurposed for the use of the adults coming to dive into an intensive ALC experience, meaning that our Community Mastery Board (CMB) needed to go.

As I was cleaning in the Art/Food Room, Tomis calls out to me, “Well, what should I do with our CMB stickies? And the wishes the kids made from the fall? Want me to save them? Throw them away?”

With little hesitation, I responded that he could get rid of it all. There is this part of me that wants to save everything, but my gut told me this really wasn’t necessary. Last year we had the same conversation and I remember saying, “Well if it is something worth implementing next year, we’ll remember it and add it at the beginning of the school year.”

At the beginning of the year, it’s simple enough to ask the community, “Are there any community agreements you remember from last year that are worth implementing right away?” The usual, like, “no hitting,” “stop rule,” “eat only in the food room,” will come up and you’re off to a start. Then you’re again co-creating and figuring out with the community what other agreements need to be made to help the school function and flow.

While this may seem harder than just copying the rules from the year before, I believe this is a really important part of teaching children to create culture and to actually understand WHY community agreements are made rather than just blindly follow them. Knowing how to live, learn, and play in community is the most important part of what we do here at ALC.

Today, I saw a video shared online that re-affirmed to me why it’s healthy to start each year with a fresh and blank CMB. It’s a video I’ve seen before and I found it extremely interesting that I saw it shared the day after tossing the agreements from last year’s CMB.

 

So here’s a great answer to the question that pesky question I am always answering: “What do they learn all day?”

We learn how to co-create culture, we learn why agreements are needed between community members, we learn how to change agreements that do not serve us and make new ones. Imagine if every community acted from this place, rather than just doing what was done before because, “That’s the way it is done.” There will be agreements that do serve us time and time again year after year, and those agreements will be easily recalled and remembered as starting points.

Happy Summer Everyone!

 

End of Year Rituals

Today was the last day of our third year at Mosaic. Over the summer I’ll still almost all of the kids at some point, so it doesn’t really feel like goodbye! I love this. The students at the school are people I enjoy being with and we have authentic relationships that extend past school hours or days.

I am excited to document our Branches end of year rituals for future reflection and sharing with other facilitators at ALCs (or similar environments). In the comments below, please share links or a sentence or two about any end of year rituals you have! I really want to see what other communities do so I can get new ideas and insights.

This year’s end of year rituals included:

  • School Report Card Creation
  • Self-Assessments
  • ALF reflections to students
  • Community Gratitude Circle

I share more details below about each component. Enjoy!

 

School Report Card

For the second year in a row, we used one of our last Change Up Meetings to evaluate our school using metrics that were important to the students and facilitators here. Last year, the kids were so engaged in this process that we excitedly did it again.

Please click here to read about this year’s report card (2015-16 school year), and click here for last year’s report card (2014-15).

 

Student Self-Assessment

In December of 2014 the students completed a self-assessment in the middle of the school year. We shared these with parents at a mid-year check-in. The assessment aimed to help the students see how they engaged with the tools and practices of the community. The hope I had in making it was for the students to understand that our ALC has tools and practices to support them in doing and learning the things they want to at school, and that they can use those structures (or help us make new ones) to support them in doing so.

As we were nearing the end of this year, I brought up the self-assessment idea to Jess during one of our staff meetings. Jess was a parent of student here for the 2014-15 school year and now is a facilitator at the school for the 2015-16 school year. Jess said that she loved the assessment tool and energetically supported it coming back. I appreciated hearing the feedback from the parent perspective, so I revamped the assessment a little and added some sections in about Self-Directed Education.

Please check out the updated 2015-16 Self-Assessment here!

Our last Change Up Meeting of the year was dedicated to filling these out. Just about all of the students were excited to do so. We told them earlier in the week that these were coming back and that we’d use our time in Change Up to do it, and they were prepared and ready for this. I handed it out and the kids went off to different parts of the room to fill it out.

I was tickled at how happy and engaged the kids were in this process. I think people enjoy having metrics to gauge how they are doing. The kids liked that they were making their own report cards for themselves. It’s important to me that if they are measuring themselves, that it’s about things that really matter to them and our community.

Another new item I added to the self-assessment was a write-in section. The kids could write-in metrics they felt were important to them. Some of the write-in’s included:

  • Happiness
  • Believing in themselves
  • Making more friends
  • Excitement
  • Funniness
  • Commitment (follow-through)
  • Trying new things
  • Listening, being polite, and helping
  • Talking to people
  • Being grateful
  • Being kind
  • Taking responsibility for myself
  • Talking in front of people

I got emotional seeing what the kids came up with as values that were important to them. They didn’t just put things that they would give themselves high marks on, many thought of things they were actually working on getting better at. It does take effort to be kind to others, because sometimes you are wrapped up in your own world and mood and you just aren’t naturally going to be kind to someone else. It takes effort to notice that and still try to be kind. It takes effort to try new things, practice gratitude, listen to others, and all of the above on this list. The students at ALC are learning how to do all of these things all the time, and I believe that this is the backbone needed for them to grow up knowing how to be in community and relationship with others. They can much more easily learn facts and algorithms than how to be reflective human beings that care about themselves and other people. 

 

ALF Reflection for Students

We sent the kids home this year with a manila envelope that had their self-assessment and a note from their Spawn Point ALF (either myself or Jess). They loved taking home what felt like a “report card.” Sometimes we “play school” here and pretend we are a school and do school-y things for fun. Every child here has exposure to a friend, book, movie, etc. that exposes them to the fact that most children in United States go to a traditional school. We can’t escape the reality that there are kids here who romanticize aspects of going to school and getting grades and going to formal classes. It’s natural for them to play out what they learn about what school is like here at ALC.

I agree with the principle of Sudbury Schools that the adults at the school should not be a child’s evaluators or judges. However, I recognize the power that relationships have, and I own my responsibility of being an older human being in the lives of the kids here. Some of them I’ve known for over three years at this point. I want the kids here to find their own value from within, not from outside of themselves and I do my best to model doing that myself. However, to think that what I say (or don’t say) doesn’t matter to them is irresponsible. I understand that who we are is always being determined in part by who we are in relationship with. We are social beings and we want to feel cared about and connected to the people in our community. Every human being has people in their lives that they respect and appreciate having attention from.

All that said, I know that most of the students here would appreciate hearing feedback from us (me and Jess) because this is just one way to show them that we respect, value and appreciate them. It’s not about us judging their worth, but taking the time to acknowledge their individual awesomeness and share how we see that light in them.

I created a sheet where Jess and I could write notes directly to each child. We added these to the self-assessments and that is what made up or “End of Year Report” for each student.

I do want to say clearly here that I would NOT recommend that the student self-assessment also be completed by an ALF for comparison. I think this would lead the student to compare their answers on this to the ALF’s answers, classifying one as right and one as wrong. This is why I made our sheet just general notes and reflections.

 

Gratitude Circle

Today we invited parents to stay a little after pick up to join us in an all-school Gratitude Circle, accompanied by delicious popsicles! Over the happy sound of slurping, we shared for the last time this school year what we were grateful for. It was wonderful to have parents join us for this, and I was working hard not to cry during some of those. This was a new ritual we decided to do this year, and one I really enjoyed!

 

I’d love to hear about what your ALC/Self-Directed Learning Community does at the end of a school year too! Please share!

Adult Day Of Play

Background

During a staff day we held in January, Branches staff & parent volunteers gathered for a facilitated workshop on Creative Problem Solving (CPS) led by Sara Smith, a former ALF Summer participant and aunt of two of our students. Sara is currently getting her Masters in Creativity and we enjoy getting to be her guinea pigs through her project work. Through the CPS process, we developed our vision and creatively worked to think of solutions/opportunities for challenges that we experience. I won’t dive into details about what the CPS process includes, but you can read an older write-up I made from ALF Summer 2015 if you want to learn more.

One challenge statement we worked on was “What might be all the ways to assist people coming from a variety of educational situations best assimilate into the unfamiliar structure of ALC.” We had a lot of juicy things come from this, but the one idea that we turned into an action plan was to host an Adult Day of Play.

Some intentions that are connected to the Adult Day of Play are:

– Connection for community members
– Opportunity for adults to experience an ALC for themselves to gain better understanding
– Opportunity for kids to lead adults through “how to create your experience & make choices.”
– To have fun and not take life so seriously 🙂

Parents (and any other special invited guests, friends, other family, etc) were invited to come and experience an ALC school day where they were able to attend offerings by others, make their own offerings, and practice being present in the moment & making their own decisions about how to spend their time 🙂

Some details/ideas for the Day of Play include:

– Hold it on a Saturday
– Get kids and adult involved in making offerings
– Start with a “Set the Day” meeting, facilitated by students
– Let students hold smaller spawn points where people state their intentions for the day
– Have fun
– End with gratitude circle or reflection of some sort in spawn points

Execution!

On Saturday, June 11, we had over 30 community members gather for our first ever Adult Day of Play!

We started our day 10am with a “Set the Day” Meeting, facilitated by two student volunteers. They were clear & efficient, and general announcements about the day and scheduling happened in less than 10 minutes!

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Set the Day meeting, facilitated by students for parents!

Next, we had excited student volunteers who wanted to lead the parents in Spawn Points! The Spawn Point I attended included a connection activity where we picked questions cards to answer about ourselves too. Connection activities help break the ice so we all feel more comfortable with one another.

 

One of our three Spawn Point groups.
One of our three Spawn Point groups.

We spent 10:30-2pm to participate in offerings made by community members! Offerings included: Hands-on Equations, Yoga, Basketball, Apples to Apples, Poker, Digital Writers Workshop, Pandemic, Stencil Bag Art, Corn-Hole, Drum/Percussion Circle, Next Generation Education Conference Videos, Native American Raven Trickster Tale

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Our schedule board for the day.

I didn’t get to participate in every offering, but tried to capture as many pictures as I could:

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I really enjoyed sharing Hands-On Equations! Several students at school have moved through the curriculum to practice foundational algebra skills.
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Kristine shared a really beautiful art project making decorative bags using paint and stencils.
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Making bags and vases using the stencils.
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Corn Hole
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Dean had lots of instruments and objects for an organic percussion jam to occur. People could stop in and jam for however long they wished!
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Percussion jam
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Apples to Apples
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Poker! A very fun way to practice counting by 5, focusing, and making decisions. We never play for real money, just for fun.

At 2pm we stopped for all school clean up, which was fast and efficient! Following clean up, we held our afternoon reflective Spawn Point. We kept it short and simple and shared what we did that day.

We ended the day with Gratitude Circle, a regular practice in our school where we share what we are grateful for, acknowledge others in the community, and share any personal achievements we have made.

Dean also had a unique extra offering after the Adult Day of Play: a piano recital! He has been teaching private piano lessons to a child outside of school for a year now, and wanted to create a space to showcase his work. Dean, his student, myself, and our visiting week student all played pieces for a small group. This was really fun!

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Reflection

I left this day walking on a cloud. The work I put into planning the event was to market it to the community and do some cleaning and organizing the day to before to get the space ready for more adults. Other than that, I just showed up because the kids facilitated and the event pretty much ran itself. I loved playing, joining in on offerings, sharing math, and just getting time to connect and have conversations with parents. At the end of the day, I had several kids and families reflect to me that we should do this event regularly. I plan to schedule a fall Day of Play and another spring one next year!

I personally think it’s highly valuable for our community to have regular events so we can feel connected to one another. This school is a constant creation and evolution in partnership with every community member. Knowing each other and spending time in a shared space helps us to see each other truly so we can continue embarking on sustaining and evolving our school of our dreams!

We also had two families new to ALC attend. One family is a friend of one of our students, and the other was a visiting week student and her mom. Experiencing the culture ALC for a day was a beautiful way to help them understand who we are and what we do. I feel like this experience is another beautiful way to share what we do in addition to the content we have available online and what we present in parent interest nights.

As I introduced in the beginning of this post, the “challenge” we were trying to problem solve was, “What might be all the ways to assist people coming from a variety of educational situations best assimilate into the unfamiliar structure of ALC.” I am so thankful that we dived in as a staff/parent team to think of creative ways to implement an action that met the need this challenge statement addressed. I feel that we have now incorporated a new regular practice to our school community that will meet this need!

 

 

 

ALC Mosaic Report Card 2016-17

Last year the students and facilitators at Branches evaluated our school culture with our first ever “report card.” We had fun making it! I wrote a blog post about that last year where you can read more about how the activity was introduced and facilitated.

We continued this practice this year, which felt really great as an end of year ritual for Branches students.

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Review of Year 2

We started our evaluation with a review of last year’s report card. The yellow stickies in the picture above are items from last year’s report. I placed them on the continuum of “Needs Work—-> Doing Ok —-> We Rock at This!” where we decided they belonged at the end of last year.

We discussed our continuum as levels 1-10. A level 1 means we really need to work on this, level 5 is doing okay, and level 10 means we rock at this time. The numbers between help us place every item on spectrum from 1-10.

I’ll review the items from last year below: 

  • If someone has a problem, there is time to talk about it: This item moved up from a level 5 to about a level 7. The kids and facilitators agree that we are connecting more in Spawn Points and that this feels like a good place for us to ask for help when we need it. Specific examples were brought up about times a kids was upset or had a problem and was able to share that in Spawn Point and receive care and support in return.
  • Being “re-friendly” (friendly & respectful): This item moved up from a 4/5 to an 8. We discussed how this applies being friendly and respectful to visiting students and each other. We had a couple new students and visiting students this year share that they felt welcomed when they came to school and confirmed that this item should be moved up considerably from last year.
  • Being able to lie down when need to: The kids moved this from a 6 to a 10! This item really speaks to having calm and quiet spaces for kids to go to when they need it. Last year, we had lots of big energy inside and it was much louder in the school. This year, we’ve increased outdoor time and made clear community agreements about loudness inside to help keep the inside calmer than before.
  • Being awesome: The kids moved this from a 7/8 to a 10+. They like having this item be a descriptor for the quality of their school!
  • Cleaning up: This moved from a 7 to a 8.5/9. The end of day clean up process has evolved during the school year. The students now rotate in teams around different areas of the school. One student articulated how much smoother clean up feels now, and also shared how it feels like the clean up teams communicate with each other and get right to work at 3pm. We did discuss that during the day clean up individuals with their crafts still needs work, but that this sticky just applies to the school as a whole for end of day cleaning.
  • Having Choices: The kids moved this from a 9 last year to a 10+. They all felt that this year they’ve had many choices for different types of activities/trips/learning experiences, and understand that this school is about having choices and making choices.
  • Spending Time Outside: This was a 10 last year, and remains so. The kids enjoy many hiking trips in addition to going outside on the campus and to the park. As noted in one of the items above, taking loud and rambunctious energy outdoors more allows for a more calm and quiet space inside 🙂
  • Being Creative: Was a 10, stayed a 10.
  • Going on Field Trips: Was a 10, stayed. We take trips weekly!

New Items for the 2015-16 School Year

Next, I shared some new items that I felt we could add to our evaluation for this year:

  • Self-Directed Learning: How are we doing on self-directing our own learning?
  • Resolving conflict through communication
  • Having quiet spaces for reading/writing/quiet activities available.

As a whole group, and also in small break out groups we came up with other items:

  • Being supportive of others and their dreams
  • Positive attitude
  • Feeling trusted by adults
  • Engagement in meetings to increase efficiency of meetings
  • Authenticity: being genuine & sincere with others
  • Including other people – two different small groups came up with this item, which I loved seeing. Last year, we had more dynamics of “leaving people out” occur, and this year the kids make more of an effort to include others in their play.
  • Paying attention to other people
  • Connecting with others
  • Believing in our ourselves
  • Focusing
  • Empowering space we can navigate confidently (this was a suggestion by an 8 year old!!!)

You may notice that some items are slightly repetitive and could possibly be clustered together. During this activity, it felt more important to honor the suggestions made by the students than to spend more time on clustering. Some kids felt very strongly about how they worded an item and wanted it in the evaluation, and we just let it be. As a facilitator, you have to just sense what is more important in the moment. Allowing the kids to feel connected to and ownership of this process was way more important than sidetracking into a conversation about repetition during the hour we had together (IMO).

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Our 2015-16 Report Card

Items from last year are listed in orange.

Items new to this year are listed in blue.

Please pardon the table formatting, and comment below if you have advice for me on how to re-format more attractively! 

1

 2 3  4 5 7

10

                        Focusing

Engagement in meetings/efficiency

Authenticity being genuine & sincere w/others

Quiet spaces available for reading/writing/quiet activities

Feeling trusted by adults

If someone has a problem, there is time to talk about it.

Being supportive of others & their dreams

Connecting with other people

Resolving conflicts through communication

Being “re-friendly”

 

 8.5 Empowering space we can navigate with confidence

8.5 Cleaning up 

Including other people

Self-Directed Learning

Positive attitude

Paying attention to other people

 

Believing in ourselves

Being Awesome (10+)

Being able to lie down when we need to

Having Choices (10+)

Spending time outside

Being creative

Going on field trips