I gained a week of life after school on Friday! The entire day I thought it was the Friday before Halloween. I carved pumpkins with the kids, thinking this was the last opportunity to do so. I also gave out these fun Roll-A-Story activities, some being Halloween themed and others not (because not everyone likes or celebrates Halloween), during our Friday reflection time. Then after school I realized it was Oct. 21, not Oct. 28. Silly me!
Still, I thought the Roll-A-Story was super cute and the kids seemed to enjoy it. Some kids wrote their stories on paper, some wrote them in blog posts, and some told stories out loud. Here’s the Halloween Roll-A-Story I used:
Roll One – Main Character
Roll two – Setting, Time
Roll three – Setting Place
Roll four –
An unusual discover is made
A Mystery Needs to be solved
A dangerous journey takes place
Someone is afraid of something
Something or someone is missing
During a rainstorm
Someone needs to be rescued
You use a die and roll 4 times. Each roll dictates an element to your story. I rolled 6, 6, 5, 4. So I wrote a story involving a Mummy during a rainstorm, in a laboratory and in this story someone is afraid of something. Enjoy!
The sound of pounding rain on the metal roof was deafening. Dr. Morkle winced as she carefully unwrapped the outermost layer of the mummy’s bandages. It felt like an impossible task to have the mummy ready for the museum display next month. There were many tests to conduct on the remains, so much careful and deliberate care needing to be given so they didn’t destroy this archaeological wonder.
I bet this mummy is from over 9,000 years ago, Dr. Morkle thought. Her fingers continued to quiver as she cut back another bandage layer around the mummy’s face. She was afraid she’d damage the remains and lose her job.
“We are trusting this job to you,” her boss told her. “Are you up for it? This is going to make or break your career here.”
Thinking back to his words, Dr. Morkle shuddered. Her boss was really intimidating and she wished that he wouldn’t use fear as a way to motivate the scientists to do their best. Dr. Morkle needed to see if there was any remaining tissue left in the mummy to do a DNA analysis. She was also going to conduct mass spectrometry, an analysis technique that sorts the different kinds of molecules in compounds. From this, she could find out if the mummy remains contained caffeine, plant steroids, arsenic, lead, and even opiate drugs. This would tell everyone a lot about how this person lived.
She peeled back another layer bandage, and finally could see the actual remains. She sucked in a deep breath, this was Dr. Morkle’s favorite part of her job. She was about to see firsthand the actual tissue of someone who walked this earth so many years ago. As she reached the tip of her forceps to push the bandage to the side, there was a loud bang.
She looked up and saw a huge dent in the metal ceiling. The torrential rain still sounded like a symphony of hammers banging on metal trashcans. Was this hail, she wondered?
Just then the lights flickered twice, and then the entire laboratory went black. No, no, no, this is not good for my deadline, Dr. Morkle thought desperately. Boss wants the tissues samples first thing in the morning!
Using her hands, she felt her way through the maze of tables to find her desk. Just as she slid her hands over the handle of the desk drawer to retrieve her flashlight, the sound of the rain stopped completely and the lights came on. The sudden quiet almost sounded as loud as the pounding rain and felt like a heavy drape over the entire lab.
Happy to get back to work, Dr. Morkle went back over to the sarcophagus. She grabbed her forceps again, but as she leaned over, dropped it on the floor with a loud gasp. It was empty.
Tomis taught the kids a super fun strategy game called Tictactics. It’s tic-tac-toe to the extreme. What was really interesting is the he presented the game the morning after I read an article called, “How Guessing Games Help Kids Solve Math Problems.” While the article focus on numerical guessing games, I see the link to strategy guessing games also providing a strong mathematical foundations. Both girls and boys got into the game during our Math Club hour and I loved seeing that!
Our Language Club visited Pura Vida in NoDa to practice our Spanish skills and see the Day of the Dead Altar. Dia de los Muertos is celebrated on Nov 1 of each year in Latin America. I’ve been taking kids to Pura Vida to see the Altar for 5 years years now! The owner and all the employees are very friendly and kind to the kids. The let the kids pretend to buy items in the store using the Spanish they knew. @Sassygirl26 could speak fluently of course and also taught us what she knew about Latin American traditions! She saw egg shells filled with confetti and told us that they are used to crack over the heads of others we want to wish good luck on. We bought 12 eggs for $1.25 and used them to wish each other luck the next day! It was a mess, but lots of fun 🙂
Our Fall Festival! Oh man, what a fun day. We had face painting, bobbing for apples, fashion shows/clothing displays, a costume contest, and an International Display where we tasted food from various parts of the world. @Sassygirl26 and @Tessa were really excited to plan this day and met many times over the weeks leading up for it to prepare a runway, make decorations, and plan activities and a schedule.
We certainly ended October with a bang, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings!
After a whirlwind weekend making it to two weddings in Virginia and Maryland, I arrived back to my home in Charlotte 9pm Sunday night to meet @Alonalearning. She was spending the night because we were waking up at 6:45am to head to Endor Initiative with @Gabe.
Liam Nilson is running this self-directed learning initiative for young people ages 14-22 out of a dance studio in Asheville, NC. Last year they met in various places around the city, but this year they have a set place to be together for 3 days a week. Liam came to visit Mosaic a few weeks ago and has begun using some Agile tools and practices at Endor. I’m so excited for this new collaboration with educators in North Carolina!
Our plan was to see what a self-directed learning program for teens looked like so we could brainstorm ideas for what a teen program could be here at ALC Mosaic. Alona and Gabe are our two oldest students, both 11, and our only middle schoolers. I left Monday morning with Alona and Gabe feeling immensely grateful for the opportunity to see Liam’s program.
OUR DAY AT ENDOR
We arrived just a few minutes late, but made it to the morning intention setting. This was a big group, and we had new faces to also get to know! With so many other versions of “school” out there, it felt so safe and comfortable to go to Endor and to easily understand and know how to start the day. Alona, Gabe and I are used to the practice of setting intentions for the day, even if our intentions are to just watch and observe – or to have no intentions.
Next up was their Monday morning Change Up meeting, something else our Mosaic group knows about and is comfortable with. I had the pleasure of being asked to lead the Change Up meeting, which I did happily!
I wish I was writing this blog post the day of my visit instead of two days later – I can’t remember every detail, but I remember Alona chiming in at one point and that’s when I realized what a benefit it is to have similar tools and practices present in our network of schools. Every ALC is different, but we can move easily to and from each ALC with students and know that some fundamentals are the same. It’s not that every ALC needs a Change Up meeting, but knowing that each community makes agreements together and works on evolving those together helps newcomers understand where the community is and how they can engage in it to be supportive rather than disruptive.
We also saw all the different activities that have happened or could happen at Endor – this board looks similar to the walls of stickies we have up in Mosaic’s big room!
When I spied @Charlotte’s “Seeds to Bloom” board at Endor, my heart skipped a beat! Here is a concrete example of how educators united across a network can support each other – we can visit a different ALC and try out different tools that are used to support the community and try them out at our own ALC.
Charlotte noticed the kids at Mosaic constantly coming up with ideas for trips, projects, or activities they wanted at school, but then not knowing how to move those ideas to fruition. She created our Seeds to Bloom board to support them. When they come up with an idea, they plant it as a seed by placing the sticky in the Seed section. They plant the seed by setting up a meeting time with other people that want to make the idea happen. The seed is growing after this first meeting if steps and an action plan has been created. Then when the idea comes to fruition, the whole school celebrates that the seed is finally in bloom!
We love empowering self-directed learners to take their ideas and make them into reality.
One of Liam’s intentions for the day was to make the schedule board clearer, something that came out of the Change-up meeting. The Mosaic kids opted to keep up Language Club as we normally do from 10-11am each morning, and then to have some open time after, then go to the tea house for Ethics, followed by the clay workshop at 1pm. It was a full day!
10am: Language Club
Alona and Gabe practiced on Duolingo and I finished translating a chapter of my Spanish reader for @Sassygirl26 to check.
Rochelle, who is working with Liam at Endor (and will hopefully be more present at Mosaic this year!), also speaks German and she and Alona compared silly Duolingo phrases that they’ve encountered. Rochelle had never seen Duolingo on a computer (she always uses the phone app), so Alona showed her how the computer offers more options – like timed practice.
Gabe also shared some silly Spanish phrases taught through Duolingo and worked from his phone app since he didn’t have his computer with him.
11am: Group discussion about self-directed learning
This was a discussion that organically happened and ended up including almost all of Endor along with the visitors – Mosaic & fellow Agile SOLE board member Steve Cooperman along with Robyn who is planning to open a center for young children in Asheville.
Steve, Rochelle & Robyn had questions about how Mosaic started, including financial and structural questions. This flowed into an engaging discussion of how to support all types of kids in a space – those who are self starters along with those who sometimes need a nudge to try things out. Around this time, the Endor kids popped their heads into the room and asked to join us. Hearing from them about what works well for them and what they want for their own education was exciting to me. I listened to a teen girl talk about the struggle of balance. She recognized that sometimes she wants to be pushed to try something new out, but that if she’s pushed too much she will resist. However, that line is not always clear about when the push is needed or when there is too much push. This was a teen who also spoke up in the Change Up Meeting about how she wanted 5 minute check-in’s each week with a facilitator. Her point was that even if things are going well, knowing that there will always be a check in would bring her comfort in case a time came up where things weren’t going well.
For me, this reaffirmed that it’s the relationship between a facilitator and a student in a self-directed learning environment that is the most important thing to establish. A conversation I feel like I am constantly having with other educators and parents are about boundaries and structure and how much to have when large groups of students are together. This is ever changing because the needs of the kids are constantly changing! Facilitators need to first know each child and recognize when a child needs a loving push, a little more structure, or when to back off.
12pm: Ethics Discussion at Dobra Tea Room
What a treat! Literally! @Alonalearning and I were so excited to see that EVERY baked good was gluten free! We split a hummus plate with gluten free pita bread & veggies and then each picked a cookie to have.
Dobra has a quiet and intimate setting, perfect to grab a snack, cup of tea, and to then debate ethical dilemmas. We took off our shoes and then sat with small tables, cozied up in a circle. One of the teens seemed to flow into a natural role as facilitator and we all went around the circle – we could either present an ethical dilemma to discuss or pass. The topics discussed were:
One teen read an article recently about an artist who copied famous works and gave them to museums for free. Is this ethical since they are not selling copied works?
One teen had a grammatical dilemma with a friend that they wanted to talk about with the group. This turned into an interesting topic of whether or not a person who hasn’t learned grammar rules should reproduce.
The last topic was about whether or not a doctor should conduct CPR on a person who has the Ebola virus. Should the doctor put their life in danger? If they contract the virus and spread it, is that causing more harm?
What I most admired was the level of respect the teens gave each other. They listened to each other, were able to jump into the conversation without the need for a strong facilitator and were engaged in each topic of discussion. Being a part of this group made me feel a lot of excitement for what is possible with a teen program.
Alona and Gabe partcipated in the clay workshop with a local artist. During this time I got to dive in more deeply with conversations with Steve, Rochelle & Liam about how we can collaborate more in the future.
2pm: Wrap up and Reflection
Here is another practice our kids are used to – sharing a reflection at the end of the day. We shared a “delta and a plus,” something good and something that could have been better.
Gabe, Alona and I had to share quickly and then jump in the car to head home! On our way home, we talked even more about our day and what we wanted to see for a teen program at Mosaic. Both Alona and Gabe shared that they liked how it seemed like focused conversations could happen with older students. They felt like teens listened more than younger students and they liked that. We discussed the possibility of renting a room on the 3rd floor at our current location if we enrolled more middle schoolers and could afford to do so. Then there could be space for older kids to go if they felt like they needed to be separate from younger kids.
I had an incredible time visiting Endor. I was so appreciative of how easy-going Alona and Gabe were, they never complained about the long car ride and they simply joined into what the older teens were doing at Endor with ease. I loved collaborating with other educators that support self-directed learning, and I loved seeing Agile tools supporting the community to create a space where teens can self-organize and self-direct their learning. I hope to continue nurturing a collaborative relationship with our Asheville friends!