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Month: September 2015

Regular Offerings at Mosaic – Aug/Sept 2015

It’s been exciting to see the offerings that have developed in the first five weeks of school! For this blog post, I wanted to write about some the offerings I’ve been a part of at Mosaic so far. I hope to give parents or other facilitators in ALCs a taste of what it’s like inside the Branches campus of Mosaic, as well as providing my own personal documentation for the school. Read on to see summaries of some of the regularly scheduled offerings I’ve seen develop over the first few weeks of school.

Snack Team

Q: How will they learn math skills?

A: They go into the real world and think about numbers in a way that involves problem solving that is relevant to them. Younger children need to be taught that math is logical and makes sense. Memorization or solving a problem “the way the teacher tells you to” does not do this. 



One of the parents at our school wanted to know if there was a possibility for having snack served at school, similar to what happens at our Roots campus. We decided to try out turning this over to the kids at our first Change Up Meeting of the year. The kids were split between asking everyone to pack their own extra snack and going out and shopping for snacks themselves. We decided to try out having a team of kids plan and shop for snacks for two weeks to see how it went. The first week the kids paid for the snack out of their kids finance budget, but then found that too expensive. They tried to spend only $20 to feed about 12 kids a day for 5 days and quickly realized that was impossible. They spent about $38 that first week. Parents then stepped in to donate cash each week to keep snack team going. Parents seemed to support the idea of having the snack, and also seemed excited about some of the real-world learning opportunities for the group of kids in the snack team. The snack team found that they loved to shop and plan for snacks, and many other students at school like having a snack provided, so we have kept this going!

How Snack Team works: On Mondays at Set-the-Week Meeting, kids volunteer to be on the snack team. Some kids want to do it every week, some like to do it occasionally. We also ask who wants snack that week so we know how many people to shop for. Then we schedule when we will shop that day.

We go to Healthy Home Market at our set time. I have been taking 6 kids each time. We meet outside the store and review our shopping boundaries:

  • How much money was donated this week? (It varies!)
  • How many kids signed up for snack? (So we know how many to shop for!)
  • How many days of school are there this week? (So we know how many different snacks to get.)
  • What items are off-limits? (Junk food, gluten, dyes, dairy, almonds, peanuts, meat, gelatin – these are taken given food sensitives and family preferences from the students)
  • What is on our “Do Not Like” list? (There are some foods kids just don’t want snack team to get anymore, so at one Change Up meeting a person regularly at snack team said they would start a list of foods that kids don’t like so snack team doesn’t buy those anymore.)

The kids break up into groups of three. I stay up front and let the groups go around and scope out what is available and the prices. After about 10-15 minutes, they meet me back up front. Each team shares ideas for what to buy. Conversation over prices happen (ex. “We can’t buy 15 cups of dairy-free yogurt at $1.49 a piece because that’s over half our budget!). It’s magical to see so many math concepts covered – lessons the kids will remember without drilling and worksheets!

After the kids narrow down what they want to buy, we choose a person to handle the money and the kids go and shop and buy the food on their own. I just remain at the front, letting them do this without me!

At 2:40pm each day, snack team members help distribute the snack. I also let them figure out on their own how to distribute or portion the snack fairly to the kids.


Spanish Skits

Q: How can you improve a skill without a teacher who is highly knowledgeable in that area?

A: Instead of waiting for someone to teach them, students can practice resourcefulness and use the tools they have to gain new skills and knowledge when they need/want it. This lesson allows them to be self-reliant. In the 21st Century, obtaining knowledge is not hard – you have all facts at your fingertips. Learning how to find what you want to know and then learning what to do with all the information that’s out there is a skill that will really help a person navigate powerfully in this world. Learning how to find people or develop experiences to support an interest is also a lesson in resourcefulness.

A script that is read by a beginning reader – her older friend has broken down the words phonetically so she can read the script. Notice the “bow” for bonita. The 3 circles is a symbol they developed on their own to represent the sound “ah.” So bow-neat-ah makes up the world “bonita” for pretty.
We do a brief review of words and phrases, and when ready, introduce a new concept before breaking out into pairs for scripts. This review was about greetings and colors.

Some of the kids love to do a weekly “Spanish Skits” practice where I have seen some really magical experiences develop – all without having an actual Spanish teacher!

Spanish Skits has been going like this:

We meet as a whole group and review some phrases. We have three intermediate Spanish speakers in the group who support beginners. We’ve started with greetings, colors, and a the difference between Soy and Estoy. The kids then break into pairs or a group of three and work together to develop a script. What’s been fascinating for me to see is the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the kids through writing their own scripts. Each script is so unique, some covering words I thought they forgot from last year, but clearly hadn’t (last year a group did a lot of pretend shopping in Spanish, so I’ll see shopping scenes pop back in the scripts). I’ve seen our youngest students ask clearly for the support she needs in order to be able to remember her parts since she’s a beginning reader. You’ll see the picture above of one part of her script that is phonetically broken down.

I also watch one beginning Spanish student use her phone app and google translator to independently write scripts. This to me represents what is possible for 21st Century education. Students can look up almost anything to learn and when they are excited and motivated, they will figure out what they need to figure out. Students can learn that there is nothing stopping them from learning new skills or content. They just need to have the desire and motivation to do so.


Classes At Parks & Rec

Q: How can they learn science? What if they want to learn something that no adult at the school can possibly teach in a hands-on way? The internet can’t teach them everything!

A: Use the city as your classroom. Our city has amazing resources, one being the classes offered through Parks & Recreation. 

Last year, I found some really neat classes for kids through Parks & Rec. The teachers our outdoor enthusiasts and share what they love with the kids without giving them grades. Most classes are outside. Some kids are taking Biology, Cycles of Nature, and Kayak Fishing this fall. Each term I send out a new list to parents to look through for their kids.

For the most part, the kids love the classes. If I have a small group taking a class, I invite other students to still come to the park so we can go hiking around outside while others are taking a class. It’s pretty fun!


Gardening for Community Service

Q: How will they learn the basics? 

A: Let’s expand our definition of what the basics are. Put in a society that requires reading and basic math to function, kids will learn to read and write and do math that is relevant to their needs in life (if they learn how to learn, they can learn advanced math they need for college, or perhaps they don’t need to go to college and learn the math that is relevant to whatever career they choose). What if the basics also included knowledge of plants and growing your own food? What if the basics included knowledge of food deserts and how that impacts the lives of people who live in them? What if the basics included serving your community? Honoring yourself? Identifying your needs and learning to ask for support or help? What if we really included our socio-emotional health as part of our basics?


This summer, I had an intention to look for ways for our students to get out in the city to do a service project that felt like we were giving back to our community. I wasn’t sure where to look for this opportunity, so I decided to release the idea of me searching or forcing a connection to happen to just opening my mind to see how the school year started. I wanted to just be present and open to seeing an opportunity when it came up.

That happened much faster than I thought! I took a yoga class over Labor Day weekend and ended up being the only student who showed up. The instructor was the manager of the Little Sugar Creek Community Garden, and she loves children and needs help maintaining the garden. We are now making weekly trips to help maintain and beautify the garden. Watch the video to meet Nadine, the manager of the garden, and to learn more about her mission:

The kids love the garden and have so much fun there! It’s wonderful to have the land only a mile away, which gives us the opportunity to have more outdoor space for our kids regularly. We are also planning to build a Pop-Up Adventure Playground there for children in the community. Not only do we feel good helping take care of this garden, but we reap the benefits of learning about gardening and having another outdoor area for our kids to experience and feel connected to.


Psychology Crash Course

Q: How can they pursue their interests on their own?

A: For a student that wants to explore a topic like Psychology, Astronomy, Algebra, History, there are online classes, videos, articles, books, and so much more available. They can explore any area and ask for adults or peers in the space or at any ALC to join them in their learning. Blake Boles has written a great book called The Art of Self-Directed Learning that describes to teens how they can take charge of their learning in fun & creative ways. That’s a great one to read if you’re feeling stuck. 

There is a teen in a homeschool ALC four hours away from here that really wanted to explore Psychology this year. She planned to watch all the Psychology Crash Course videos, but wanted to have others to talk about the content with. Her desire sparked the creation of our InterALC Offerings where students from different ALCs can meet via Google Hangout and explore topics together. We have a couple students from Mosaic meet with her and one student from NYC each week to watch and talk about the videos assigned (two a week).

The videos are super fast as they cover A LOT of content. At first I thought I would be overwhelmed, but by video 8 I’m seeing how some content is carried over and really enjoying them.  One of the early video sparked an interest in our group to conduct an experiment on people. It was really fun to talk about different things we thought we could do in school – and some that we knew we couldn’t. In one of the videos we saw how caffeine affected lab rodents in mazes and one of the kids wanted to caffeinate students at school to see if it helps them improve on doing mazes. We thought that might not go well with parents, so then one student thought about giving them Melatonin each afternoon to see if it helped kids be calmer for afternoon Spawn Point. That felt less harmful then caffeine, but I ultimately pushed us to think of something we could do that didn’t involve having anyone ingest a substance at school to alter their behavior.

We decided to take a short-term memory test from Harvard and exercise for 30 minutes a day for a week to see if it improved our memories. We read an article from Harvard that said exercise would improve memory so we decided to see if it helped us. We did this for a week and didn’t really get conclusive results – but we learned about how different variables really affect an experiment, and learned that our experiment would need to be conducted with more rigidity or for a longer period of time to really demonstrate if it had an affect on our memories. We did learn that we liked jogging at school and getting outside together!

One thing I let go of when we first set up the experiment was using my “adult” mind to dominate how the experiment would go. I could see how certain aspects weren’t perfect in our approach or documentation, but I released all that and just went with it. After we finished our week of work outs, it was easier to use the experience we had to discuss what could be better. For example, we learned more about what a variable was. The participants could see how taking the memory test in the beginning in a quiet space and then taking the after test in a loud space made it hard to see if our experiment told us anything. So we had fun and we learned through doing!


Other Regular Offerings

The above offerings are ones that I have been a part of, but there are other offerings happening weekly that I am not a part of! One thing that both facilitators and students need to learn here is how to prioritize their time and decide how many offerings feels good for them to be a part of. The adults also need to have an awareness of spreading out and not having all the adults together in an offering. There are many offerings I have wished to be a part of, but I must release because I have too much going already! Two offerings I wish I could do, but have not been able to join are:

Weekly Hikes

@jesslm has been offering hikes every Thursday, and rotating between “everyone can come” hikes and “strenuous & challenging hikes.” It was pretty neat to hear kids coming back from last Thursday’s hike feeling really proud of themselves for going almost 6 miles!

Bike Repair & Maintenance

@charlotte takes a student every Friday to the Re-Cyclery to learn about bike repair and maintenance. Charlotte volunteers there every week and this is a way for kids to get a unique inside look at bicycles and how to care for them.

We’ve also started Children’s Theater with Amy Steinberg, continued a love for Ping Pong, Minecraft, sewing, soccer, and more.

Again, this post is mostly about what I’ve been a part of with kids and loving, so that’s what I can speak to! I hope you have enjoyed getting a sample of some of the offerings happening at Mosaic and invite you to comment below.



Tone-Setting Camping Trip

One huge benefit of adding @jesslm to our ALF team here at Mosaic is all of her camping experience she brings from leading boyscout groups. Once she made the decision to quit her job and focus on developing a career with us, one of the things she jumped right into planning was camping trips. We did a mini-trip last spring and then decided we wanted to offer a bigger camping trip at the beginning of the school year to build connection and deeper bonds between us right away.

We took 11 of our students (about half of the school) to Morrow Mountain State Park, about an hour away, from Wednesday – Friday last week. It was a pretty amazing trip, and we can’t wait to do another!

Before the Trip

We set guidelines for attending the camping trip that we made clear with the kids. In order to attend, you needed to agree to:

  • Play one group game each day
  • Participate in a team building exercise each day
  • Sign up for a duty on the duty roster
  • Participate in a community meeting about developing the tone for our school year
  • No electronics, except for cameras on phones (put on airplane mode – but this ended up not being an issue as we got no cell service there!)

The kids interested in attending met during the first week of school and those wanting to camp and able to agree to those terms were put on the list to go!

The Tuesday before we left, we had another meeting where the kids decided on tent assignments, picked out duties for the duty roster, and helped us plan the meals. Jess took a few kids out to shop as well that day for the food we needed to bring.


During the Trip

We were all so excited to go! We met Wednesday morning at school and piled into cars. We got to Morrow Mountain for lunch and then set up camp. After setting up camp, we had a first group activity – playing “Yes, Let’s!”

Explaining the game “Yes, Let’s!”

This is a game/team building exercise where someone suggests we do something (like jump on one leg) and then everyone yells “Yes! Let’s!” and does it. I was reading @drew’s blog about facilitating at the Communities Conference and how he played this game with participants, and I thought it was a great activity to do with kids too. I told the kids that as a community, sometimes we can just dive in and try out something new or different and just join in with joy! We did things like act like a bear, hop on one foot while rubbing our belly & patting our heads, pick up litter, give high fives…and then someone suggested “bite Jess” and that led to a fun game of chasing Jess around! (Don’t worry, no one actually wanted to bite her, it was just for fun).

We reminded the kids of the agreements and then we all walked down to a really neat shore area that ended up being a really special spot for the kids the entire trip. On the way there we found a hawk feather. We left it where we found it because we know it’s illegal to take and possess them. The kids built a fairy village there that first day, skipped rocks, and made mudballs. We visited the spot again every day to check on our village & add to it, and to build our skipping rocks skills and even try out fishing!

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We came back for dinner, smores & a story time. It was a beautiful and fun first day!!! Then…nighttime hit…


That first night was a huge test for all of us! We had POURING rain and lightening & thunder. Kids I have taken out on trips before became so homesick – but were able to communicate that the massive thunderstorm was what was really pushing them over the edge. I could totally understand! There was a lot of compassionate listening happening – by me and from the other kids. I was amazing to see the boys crying together and talking about their families and just lovingly supporting each other through the homesickness/thunderstorm scariness.

The girls had a whole other issue. Their tent started leaking so they tried to sleep in the van. The van fogged up so bad they thought they were going to suffocate. They all wanted to go home! Finally Jess and I rigged a tarp above their tent to stop the rain from coming in and the girls found towels to dry out the inside. They were able to sleep in it and stayed dry the rest of the night.

The amazing thing for me to see was how happy and positive the kids were in the morning! When I got out of my tent, I saw the kids in a circle outside the bathroom comparing their night horror-stories, but laughing about them. It was a pretty neat bonding experience for all of us to go through. The kids who were wanting to go home the first night now just wanted to have a great day. I just thought to myself, “What incredibly supportive & resilient children!”

After breakfast that morning, the kids organized a game of Capture The Flag – using two other campsites as their field. We were the only group there so the kids had free reign. They loved it and were able to play 4 games.

That afternoon we decided to go on a hike to see the Kron House, what I considered to be our team-building activity as a group. It was hot & humid and a rigorous outing! We walked & sweated until we finally reached the house. You can read about the Kron House here. A bunch of the kids are interested in how people lived in the past, so it was neat to see the old house, doctor’s office, well, and greenhouse. There were even some edible grapes growing on a vine!

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That evening, we planned on having our community meeting and doing s’mores after dinner. However our plans got interrupted by yet another thunderstorm! We were able to eat dinner and play a few games of human knot (which we successfully completed a couple times!), but then it was raining so much everyone was in their tents by 8:30 for bed-time. We decided to have s’mores for breakfast dessert since we couldn’t make a fire that night! The kids (and adults!) were pretty tired from little sleep the previous night, so bed-time was smoother. Smoother meaning, easier than last night, but still not great!

In the morning, the kids were yet again happy and wanting to have a great morning before we went home. We had breakfast together and broke down camp. Jess taught us about how to leave a fire pit safely at a campsite and a few other Leave No Trace principles. Some of those we learned while hiking – like to always travel and camp on durable surfaces. Some kids didn’t know that when you go off the trail you are actually impacting the land. You never want to crush new growth in nature, so it’s important for humans to stay on the trails so we lessen our impact on the land. We also always practiced “leaving nature a little better than we found it” by bringing trash bags with us everywhere we went and picking up litter.


Then we headed out to the top of Morrow Mountain to eat lunch and have our community meeting.

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At our community meeting, each of us shared a wish we had for the school and an action step we could take to make it happen. I’ll share what I can remember:

  • “I wish to see many amazing fieldtrips happen this year at school. I can make that happen by helping plan them.”
  • “I wish to see more boys and girls playing together rather than separately. I can make that happen by inviting girls to play with me.” This was seconded by another student.
  • “I wish to see children feeling confident in themselves and their decisions. I can support that happening by being confident in myself and my decisions to model that for children.” (This was my wish)
  • “I wish to see everyone in the school being really connected to one another. I can make that happen by being connected to everyone myself.” (This was a student wish, btw!, and seconded by another student)


I can’t remember all the wishes right now, but we will check back in on our wishes with the whole school when we are back together. Our wishes can become part of our “What Kind of School Are We?” statement list that we use to support our Change Up Meetings. If we are the kind of school that has boys and girls playing together, than this is something we can check in on at our meetings to see if we are actually doing this or not. You can refer to this blog post for the inspiration behind that activity.


Final Notes

I am so happy that this trip happened and I can’t wait to go camping with the kids again! I loved being out in nature with them and just BEING. I felt so happy, light, and peaceful the whole time – even during the thunderstorms! The kids seemed to love it too. The kids are able to voice what they want to experience and then have support in creating that. The message they get every day is that they are empowered to create amazing lives for themselves, and that if they are having a challenging moment, there are people around to listen and support you. There are also so many other great pictures to share, and I hope you’ll check those out here!

However, there was one member of the trip that seemed to be pretty unhappy the entire time…Daisy. At almost 14 years old, she was not amused that I took her camping with the school and waited by the car for most of the trip. I could hear her thinking, “Hey mom, I know this car brought me here, and can take me away. I’m ready to go whenever you are. I’ll be right here…waiting to leave.”




What’s Behind Our Dreams & Goals?

We’ve wrapped up our second week of school! This week we had my dear friend Mariusz & and his wife Maya come visit from Poland. Mariusz started his own preschool in Poland, Zielona Wieza, currently serving between 50-60 children ages 2-6. He is now planning to open a school for the graduates of Zielona Wieza and has been doing quite a bit of research over the past few years to get ready. He’s visited many democratic schools, including one of the oldest – Summerhill. It was really great to have Mariusz attend our week one ALF summer program and then come back to see our Agile Learning Center in action. The kids loved having them visit and @libby tried to learn some Polish words and phrases from Mariusz as well. I love having the kids exposed to many different cultures and types of people!

This week we had many exciting things happen: we got our school pet, Buns the bunny; the band Fish Out of Water came to lead us in a drum circle, perform, and then try out their instruments; some went on an Uptown adventure to Romare Bearden Park to meet Roots, ping pong continued to be a huge hit; our Minecraft/Terraria gaming culture blossomed with teamwork, collaboration, and joyful play; we started our InterALC Psychology Crash Course with @cammysherbert in Wilmington; and so much more. Please visit our September album on Facebook to see pictures!

Review: Why Do We Spawn?

The focus of this blog post, like last week, is to dive into and record what we’ve been up to in our Spawn Point. Our Spawn Point at the beginning and the end of the day are our times to coach, mentor, and connect with the students. It’s also a really important time for the kids to connect with each other and hear the interests, goals, and intentions that other students have. I believe that carving out this time together is crucial to create positive culture in school. While we do our best honor the individual needs and differences of each person, the fact that remains is that if you are choosing to come to our ALC, you are choosing to “live” with a community of other people for a portion of the day. This means that time spent to know each other has to happen so we can learn how to navigate the day in harmony despite our many differences. Learning about each other will help us act more compassionately toward one another and allow us to see situations from perspectives outside of our own. So the buy-in to attend ALC Mosaic is that we take time each day to connect as a group.

Meeting whole school each morning would be counter productive, however. We have too many students to do this. Trying to hear each other with respect and honor with 25+ people in one room would lead to frustration and probably have more of a negative impact on our culture than positive. So at our ALC, we split into two Spawn Points to start and end each day. Each group was chosen by the Lead Facilitators at the school to create balance groups that have mixed gender and age groups. We spend the first 30 minutes of our day in our respective Spawn Points. At 3pm the kids clean up and then go to an end of the day Spawn Point which ends up being about 10-20 minutes depending on when we finish our clean up jobs.

One interesting observation Mariusz shared with our staff after attending our older campus for three days was that the kids here seemed really connected and able to work out their needs and problems with each other through communication. He felt that there was less conflict here than in the other democratic schools he’s attended and that perhaps that was because the kids had such a strong bond to each other. I agree with him that our students are really connected. What’s interesting is, that at times, their deep connection can actually lead to conflict at school when they act as if they were all brothers and sisters (think about how siblings bicker)! However, the kids ultimately seem to really love and support each other and we can work out most conflicts through communication. This year there has been a lot of intentionality on the part of the Lead Facilitators to cultivate peaceful and connective Spawn Points to start and end our days, which I do see reflecting in the general flow & feel of the rest of the day from 10-3.

This Week’s Spawn Point Focus: What’s Behind Our Goals & Dreams?

Last week my blog post contained a detailed breakdown of what happened in my Spawn Point each day. At the beginning of this week, I thought that we might dive deeper into our goals, perhaps even breaking those goals down into SMART goals with more specific, measurable, and time-constrained steps. However, as we got into the week, I felt that this wasn’t the place to go. I did have a breakout goal setting work session with two students, but I didn’t feel that Spawn was the place for this right now. Instead, I felt it important that we dissect what was behind our dreams.

The most important thing I believe an adult in an ALC can do is to model knowing oneself truly. This means connecting to who we truly are and using our inner guidance and intuition to guide our actions with intention. This is how we can support the kids to do the same. One of the reasons I felt guided to not dive into deeper goal setting this week is because I realized that doing so was missing the most important piece: Who are we and why do we have the the dreams we have? To just jump into goal-setting setting is just an outcome based approached, an approach that is typically found in schools to make adults feel better: Oh look at those kids doing so much! Isn’t that just wonderful! They are busy and look at the outcome of all they have produced! But the work of the kids learning to listen to their inner guidance and intuition has been overlooked and disregarded – instead, they are just busy doing things that make us feel better. We don’t do that here!

Inspiration from Marie Kondo


I am reading a book this week that has become pretty popular lately: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. This book was a part of my inspiration to try to support the kids in Spawn Point this week to focus on who they are rather than what they want to produce. Kondo’s approach is different than any other tidying method I’ve come across: rather than focus on rules, like “If you haven’t worn it in a year, donate it,” Kondo focuses on first examining why you want to tidy up your home and asks you dig into that question. She suggests asking yourself “Why?” at least three times so you can get a specific answer to how you want to feel in and experience your home. Her process is mostly focused on teaching you to know yourself and listen to your intuition of whether or not an item sparks joy in your heart. All things that don’t, you get rid of.

According to Kondo, “Follow your intuition and all will be well.” Her point is that if you follow someone else’s guidance for how to tidy up your home, you’ll rebound because the criteria set most likely will not match what you need to have in your life to experience joy. She writes, “only you can know what kind of environment makes you feel happy…To avoid rebound, you need to create your own tidying method with your own standards” (page 126).

Reading her book, I felt alive with joy at how she applied something I believe to be the most important skill a human can learn to tidying up: How to listen to our intuition (or inner guidance as I sometimes refer to it). To Kondo, when you hone this skill you can create magic in your home. I believe honing this skill will lead to joy and magic to your life as a whole. Teaching kids to create their own standards for what they need in their life is the starting point for them to create and build their own lives. Telling them our standards to live by is not the same as supporting them to discover their own.

Practical Application of This Concept to Our Spawn Point This Week

At the end of the day, I asked the kids to partner up with a buddy with the Goals & Dreams folders they made last week (see last week’s blog post about that). I showed them the book I was reading and told them a little bit about Kondo’s “Why?” questioning she does with clients before they even begin the tidying process. I asked the kids to do the same with their buddies: they were asked to switch folders and then interview the other person, picking a goal or a dream listed in the folder and then asking them “Why?” they have that dream at least three times. I reviewed my example of the goal, “I want to practice Spanish.” When I asked myself “Why?” the first time, I answered, “So I can speak fluently.” Asking “Why?” again, I answered, “Well, I think it would be really neat to live in a Spanish speaking country for a year at some point.” But why do I want to do this? “Oh…learning about different cultures and how other people in the world live is absolutely fascinating to me!”

I told the kids that if we examine the “Why?” behind our goals and dreams, than it can help us stick with challenges or obstacles that come up if following their dream or completing their goal gets tough. If you aren’t connected to your personal motivation for completing a goal, it’s easy to just stop and not complete it. This is why it is so important to not just give kids busy work and then chastise them when they are “lazy” or don’t complete it. The lesson for the child in that situation is that they are lazy. But if person hasn’t had the opportunity or coaching to understand who they are and what inspires them, then they might not have the opportunity to learn that they are actually a motivated and driven person.

The kids seemed to have fun with this buddy activity and I hope to repeat it for the next couple Mondays. I also think it helps build connection and support – with the buddy learning more about the other person as you learn about yourself.

A New Experiment

I built on this concept by then asking the kids to do a little experiment with me for a week. I was reading some goal setting literature I was given over our ALF Summer Program by @drew’s mom, Lorna. Part of the process was to identify your core values in order to get to a place where you’re ready to set goals. This felt really aligned with the “Why” activity – know yourself before jumping into setting goals.

As I looked over the list on the adult handout, I had an idea. I would write some values down on slips of paper and ask the kids to identify their top 5 core values. As I looked at the values on the sheet, I realized that not all of those listed would make sense to younger children (the ages in my Spawn range from 7-12), so I added some simpler categories that might just cover types of activities kids enjoy, like math and science. I also left slips blank so kids could write in their own values or categories for how to spend their time.

The slips had words like Peace, Making Things, Service to Others, Understanding People, Community Building, Science, Math, Physical Activity, Solving Problems and a few more.

I told the kids: “Now I’m going to ask you to do something really, really tough. If you’re up for it, I want you to look through the stack of words I handed you and ONLY choose 5 words that feel really, really important to you. These 5 words should represent who you think you are and ways you feel are really important for you to spend your time at school. If you don’t see any that move you, please use the blank slips to write in something of your own choice. But remember, no more than 5 can be chosen!”

Some of the kids seemed to like the challenge of only picking 5 – saying “this is hard!” aloud but with smiles on their faces as they sorted through the words. Each student had their own stack to sort through. Below I have pictures of the pages they made, which we hung up in our Spawn Point room:

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Note: Again, as I wrote last week, I don’t force the kids to do this. A couple didn’t want to do it, and that’s totally okay. Some people really want to see how something goes before they try it themselves. Some simply learn by watching and absorbing. Some kids really, really like activities such as these and find it exciting and fun, while others go along with it just because. The most interesting cases are those that always refuse in the beginning and then ask to do the activity a different day. This happened with one of the students who said no the first day, but then asked me if they could chose their words the next. 

The next day, I prepared envelopes for each of the kids with the values/ways to spend their time they selected with boxes. They color coded the boxes and the experiment we are currently embarking on is one where they color code the ways they actually spend their time to see how it aligns with the selections they said are important to them. At the end of the day, they take their intention sticky notes from the morning and color on them to match the category it fits in, if it fits in one at all.


I asked the kids to do this for a week and then we’ll check-in and see if this type of reflection gives them information that is useful for how they make decisions and if it helps them better articulate how they spend their time:

1) Making decisions: Are you making decisions that are aligned with values or interests that are important to you?

2) Articulation: I find that kids in our schools are told by kids in traditional schools that they aren’t learning anything. I think it is important for a school setting such as ours (with pedagogical ties to free schools/unschooling) to help kids build their vocabulary for how they describe what they learn at school. Can we support them to say to the neighborhood kids, “Oh, at my school I learn how to make decisions that reflect my values, passions, and interests. I value peace so I help others solve conflicts or problems. I also really think physical activity is important to me so I organize an active game with my friends every day.” My heart hurts some when I hear stories of neighborhood kids telling kids at our school that they just play all day and don’t learn anything (which is impossible – we are always learning!). Play is how we learn, and through play we can explore our values. The trick is to support our kids to articulate that so they can feel confident and great about what they experience and create for themselves each day at an Agile Learning Center.

I enjoy hearing at the end of the day how the kids sort their activities. One child said when they play ping-pong it brings a feeling of peace to them as they hear the “ping-pong” of the ball back and forth. Another child said when they play ping-pong it helps them understand people because she has to think about what the other person is going to do when she plays opposite them. I am seeing that this just adds a deeper layer to the end of the day reflection and I’m getting to know the kids more. I am also doing this with the kids each day too and am personally enjoying that experience as well!