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.
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.
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.
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:
@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.