Tagged start-up

Visiting Endor Initiative: Self-Directed Learning for Teens & Budding ALC!

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.

Morning circle at Endor
Morning circle at Endor

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.

Endor's Community Mastery Board for Change Up Meeting
Endor’s Community Mastery Board for Change Up Meeting

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!

Stickies of possibilities!
Stickies of possibilities!

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.

 

Endor's Seeds to Bloom board - appropriate for teens!
Endor’s Seeds to Bloom board – appropriate for teens!

 

Mosaic's Seeds to Bloom board - more suited for young children!
Mosaic’s Seeds to Bloom board – more suited for young children!

 

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!

Liam’s new schedule board @ Endor Initiative

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

At Dobra Tea Room for Ethics discussion
At Dobra Tea Room for Ethics discussion

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.

1pm Clay!

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.

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Working with the clay artist @ Endor

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!

 

 

Week 1 after ALF Weekend…the journey continues

It seemed like @Charlotte, @dinospumoni, and @dthomasson and I were fueled by fire after leaving Chatham last week. The magic of the Quaker Intentional Village Community and being with other ALFers is something that stays with me…and I can see it staying with Charlotte, Dean and Dan too.

 

What have we been up to in the week we’ve been back? 

  • Our Book Club is underway! Join us in reading Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn! Check out that forum here.
  • I shared Charlotte’s “Seeds to Bloom” board for helping kids take their ideas to fruition at school. We shared her board at a breakout session during ALF Weekend and I promised to post a picture of it. You can see her board and others in our “Tools and Practices” ALF forum.
  • It looks like we might have an ALC in progress in Puerto Rico. @alex is a good friend of mine that I met at AERO in 2013. We’ve stayed close and Alex has been following along with our growth. He came to this year’s AERO as well and saw our ALC Presentation, and then he and his wife met @Tomis and I to talk more over dinner. That, interspersed with emails, calls & gchats has led to Alex currently translating our website pages into Spanish. Knowing Alex personally, I’m thrilled to have him working with us closely and can’t wait to see what the future brings! Check out & like his Facebook page here.
  • ALC Endor in Asheville, NC is also in progress! Liam came to visit us a few weeks ago, and I’ve arranged a trip to visit him and his teens on Monday October 27th with Alona and Gabe (our two oldest students). We’ll see what they are up to and hopefully use that to fuel a discussion of what our middle and highschool program can look like at Mosaic.
  • We are in the beginning stages of planning for ALF Summer 2015. We’ve got our working group setting up our first meeting to pick dates.
  • I went on an organizing spree this weekend at school and the school space is getting better and better.

 

Cool highlights from my week with the kids: 

  • @animalfreak9 and @libby writing play reviews of 101 Dalmations. I’m glad Charlotte asked them to write their thoughts – it’s their opinion and they are entitled to have it and share their reasons for not liking the play.

    At Children's Theater
    At Children’s Theater
  • Watching Hannibal the Liar at the Carolina Renaissance Festival. @Ayan drafted an email to him requesting he come visit our school!
At the Carolina Renaissance Festival
At the Carolina Renaissance Festival
  • Having a line of kids beg me for homework on Friday during small group time – they seem to think we are “playing” school and that homework is a part of the game! Hearing our youngest student, Jackson, yell out, “Give me math problems because I LOVE math,” made my heart skip a beat 🙂
  • Having @sassygirl26 (Isabella) check my Spanish homework again this week and not having very many mistakes! I’m translating a 5th grade level book to English.
  • Dan’s super awesome geocaching treasure hunt! Inspired by the interest we have in geocaching, Dan created a scavenger hunt around the building this week. He hid 7 keys that the kids had to find (and keys were hidden in places like under a KEYboard and on piano KEYs). Each key corresponded to a letter and the kids had to them unscramble the letters to enter the word that unlocks the cryptex in the picture here. In the codex is the final clue that led the kids to park where the treasure is hidden!!
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Cracking the codex for the last clue

I want to send lots of appreciation to @Tomis for supporting the behind the scenes work at Mosaic so I can spend most of my days working with kids. That is what I want to be doing every day!!! (I can’t stress enough how I don’t like office work…) I’m very, very grateful that I get to spend most of my time with young people, and that includes @Charlotte@dthomasson, and @dinospumoni who are young at heart!

I’m also incredibly grateful for the flow the staff team is currently in – as I said at the beginning of this post – it seems like our ALF weekend really lit a fire in each of us. I think about where I was over a year ago, not sure of how this “starting a school” thing would go…and now we’ve grown into a network of supportive educators that inspire one another. I’m seeing what’s possible and it’s exciting!

Musings From Week 4 of School

I can’t believe we just finished our 4th full week of school! It’s incredible how much things have shifted for us in just a month. We had a just a short summer break – 2 weeks long, with 2 weeks of summer camp for most of our kids thrown in there. I thought that the transition back to the school year would be smoother, but it’s taken some time for us to find our flow!

The biggest shift we have seen in our school is the general school culture. I’ve been writing about our Change Up Meetings and our Culture Committee in a forum in our ALC Website called Culture @ ALC Mosaic.

The other thing I’m slowly noticing is how there are kids that are now creating their own routines in the day. We do our scrum every morning where kids and staff can plan our days, but patterns are emerging. The kids who want some consistency in their day are creating that for themselves.

Some consistent activities I’m seeing:

  • Language practice for the first hour of every day
  • Science with Dan in the morning
  • Choreography practice from 11-12 most days

After a pretty rocky first week and a half of school, the dust has settled and we have ourselves a school where self-directed learners can come to pursue their passions and interests – while in a community of other individuals.  I thought with such a short summer break and 2 weeks of summer camp that the transition would be smoother, but we definitely needed time to get used to the space and how to be together in it. I’m happy to now see the kids self-organizing around things they are excited about and the ALFs around to support them as well as create opportunities for new offerings.

Some celebrations from the week I’d love to share: 

  • Gabe passionately pursuing his blog – the kid picked up wordpress so fast and helped Charlotte with hers too. We hope he can help us get the other kids create shareable value on their blogs.
  • New entrepreneurial ventures, Charlotte is supporting kids who want to start a dog-walking business. They’ve made business cards and a website.
  • A fundraising jar! Many of our kids here are natural entrepreneurs. They love to sell things – and have now started a fundraising jar where they can collect money they make for school field trips.
  • Caleb leading our end of day group sharing, with more buy-in and participation from the group than when it was led by adults!
  • The beginning of movie script writing for a “In the Wild” Warrior Cat movie. I showed kids my video editing software on my old computer and now we have producers in the midst.
  • The girls supporting our youngest student in learning how to participate productively with a group! It’s hard being the only 5 year old at the school, and it’s heart warming to see the girls include him in their movie cast 🙂
  • Ayan calling forth a Solar Pyrographist. Who knew this existed? The ALFs are convinced Ayan called his passion into being.
  • We actually did build on the measuring the hallway activity with our feet, leaps, jumps, etc. It was pretty fun (read previous math blog for more there).

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Oh…and there’s so much more. My hope is for Charlotte, Luc, Dan, Felicia and Dean to create their own blogs so they can share what they see happening in their experiences. I stay inside a lot, sticking to art/language/writing/reading/computer activities, and I miss what’s going with the outside adventures!

This week I’m only here Monday and Tuesday before I take off to the Business Innovation Factory’s 10th Annual Conference in Providence, RI. I’ll be there Wed & Thurs, and then I’ll head to NYC to see the ALC NYC on Friday. I’ll get to see how they implement their Friday group reflection time (You can see our weekly sprint schedule and compare it to the weekly sprint schedule in NYC), I’ll be blogging from NYC with them and will share about what I learn on my travels!