After three years, I finally published my math trails book on Amazon Kindle. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06WGTC6KB Many thanks to Andrea Jacobs for the beautiful book cover design!
Looks like I will need a new project! Maybe getting the erosion control plan up and running is the ticket since my classroom flooded again early this morning. As my future son-in-law said to me just yesterday afternoon, "Water always wins."
For greater understanding of our model of Educating for Human Greatness and for a peek at what the Inside Outside thing might really be, please read the following article. Lynn Stoddard is the author of Educating for Human Greatness. EFHG is one important cornerstone of our very unique school. I met Lynn after reading his book 7 years ago. I felt profoundly commissioned to find a way to materialize this vision of education. We are in our 6th year of Educating for Human Greatness. My next blog will share some of the ways we put this into practice.
Educators Should Be Making Snowflakes, Not Ice Cubes
Lynn Stoddard and Jim Strickland
Are American students treated like ice cubes or snowflakes? In discussing the kinds of crystals created from the simple process of water freezing, James Gleick in his book, “Chaos: Making a New Science,” compares the formation of ice cubes with that of snowflakes: "When solidification proceeds from outside to inside, as in an ice tray, the boundary generally remains stable and smooth... But when a crystal solidifies outward from an initial seed -- as a snowflake does, grabbing water molecules while it falls through the moisture-laden air -- the process becomes unstable... new branches form, and then sub branches... The final flake records the history of all the changing weather conditions it has experienced, and the combinations may as well be infinite." The process of freezing from the "outside in" compared to crystallizing from the "inside out" produces dramatically different results.
A snowflake is a good example of individuality and intricate beauty that naturally develops in an atmosphere of freedom. You cannot “mold” a snowflake, but only create the conditions where it can grow. “You can teach only by creating an urge to know.” (Victor Weisskopf )
What we often find happening in schools is that educators love to talk the talk of snowflakes – every child a unique and precious individual – while continuing to walk the walk of ice cubes – every child molded to fit a uniform pattern. The emergent nature of a more student-centered approach to education requires that we relinquish our obsession with controlling the end results and support the unique pattern of each individual child to develop. This demands trust in growth, respect for the child, and faith in the process. Do we have the moral and political will to develop atmospheres that truly nurture positive human differences?
All over America there are outstanding teachers who swim against the current of an imposed curriculum in order to help students develop like snowflakes. David was a student who had a lifelong dream of becoming a fire fighter. Since none of his required courses seemed to fit into what he needed, he became disenchanted with school and began missing classes. A caring and perceptive teacher saw what was happening and arranged with the local fire chief and school administration for David to spend time learning from the fire fighters at the nearby station. To make a long story short, David got the education he needed without graduating from high school and went on to become a highly qualified fire fighter and fire safety specialist.
The sad part of this story is that the teacher who saved David and some others from falling through the cracks lost favor with rigid policy makers and curriculum specialists. He found the pressure to produce “ice cubes” too great, and so decided to resign and do other things. It was a tragic loss to the profession. How many students have suffered over the years because of the loss of creative teachers like this? How many adults have talents lying dormant inside of them because they attended a school system that was obsessed with having uniform graduation requirements?
We have a decision to make in American education. Are we going to continue trying to force young people into a standardized, uniform mold, or are we going to create the conditions for individual greatness to flourish? In other words, do we want ice cubes or snowflakes? Our answer makes all the difference.
Lynn Stoddard, a retired, long-time educator, argues for making curriculum fit a great variety of students. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Strickland is a teacher and advocate of Student Centered Education in Marysville, WA. He can be reached at email@example.com.
793 South 200 East
Farmington, UT 84025
Our IOS community is so amazing. We've had incredible things going on. In mid September we had four goat kids born. Sadly we lost one of our does, Pumpkin, after her delivery. Maybelline stood guard over the Pumpkin's little ones when it became clear that Pumpkin wasn't doing well and couldn't care for them. She is a great nanny.
We had our first work day of the school year and under the direction of one of our talented parents, Willie, our shop was transformed into an art workshop.
Parents and students weeded, moved a mountain of mulch, painted, trimmed, hauled and hoed. It is impressive to see what we can do when we work together.
And finally, our families enjoyed a blissful two days at the lake, camping, canoeing, kayaking and cooking last weekend.
One of the amazing things about IOS is that right from the beginning in kindergarten, students have a voice and a vote. In this clip two kindergarten students discuss an agenda item about how in group tag games they get tagged right away as soon as they are unfrozen. They are very passionate about this. It turns out that a previous ruling from a HIVE meeting has been forgotten that gave them a 5 second spacer to get away. No one was abiding by this ruling. It was a good reminder.
It is very interesting on Fridays when the age groups are completely mixed all day for Peace Circle, electives, nature literacy, community stewardship, snack, lunch, and HIVE. The children learn so much from each other in collaboration, reinforcing each other's ideas, and adding to them. At HIVE, often amazing solutions arise to address chronic issues. For example, almost every week someone puts "toilets" on the agenda. The problem being that sometimes people don't flush. The many creative invented spellings of toilet is a study in itself. This week after acknowledging that this is still a problem, discussion ensued. One student suggested keeping a tally of how many times an unflushed toilet is encountered on the chalkboard outside and then collecting data on whether this is improving, with a goal of zero tally marks. We were all excited by the idea. At the very least, it is something beyond just mentioning the problem every week without any action to attempt. Here are a few pictures from recent Friday electives.
It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry. Thomas Paine, one of the founding fathers of our country.
At the Inside Outside School, we feature one of the seven "Dimensions of Human Greatness," each week. This week we worked with INQUIRY. It is a perfect time in the semester to be asking additional questions, focusing on what is of foremost importance to us in our study of the forces of nature as we are moving forward toward our EXPO where we will present our independent and small group studies to peers, parents and grandparents.
We have a very special school meeting called "Peace Circle," every Friday morning to begin our elective day. This morning we heard the story of John James Audubon. At the age of 18 he was living in Pennsylvania where his father had sent him during the Napoleonic Wars. The young naturalist was curious about the Pewee Flycatchers that had built a nest in a limestone cave near their farmhouse. He moved his unschooling classroom into the cave, becoming a familiar feature to the pewees. John's inquiry: Where do these birds disappear to in winter? Will the same ones come back to this cave in the spring?
Some great thinkers, like Aristotle, had claimed that small birds disappearing in winter, hibernated under water until spring. Some scientists of his day believed that the birds flew to the moon for winter. John was skeptical! John decided to put little bands around the feet of the offspring of the pewees. He was the first person (a teenager) to band birds in North America. From the seeds of John's passionate curiosity, eventually the Audubon Society grew with its mission "to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity."
John James drew birds all the time, but he would burn his drawings every year on his birthday, hoping to improve his drawing over the course of the next year...human greatness in the making.
The story of John James Audubon was such a perfect way for us to illustrate inquiry. After the story, we opened the doors to our theater. Meditating, we became so quiet we could hear bird songs from outside. Guess what? We heard "fee bee," the call of the Pewee Flycathcher's cousin, the Eastern Phoebe. This is one of the ways in which our woodland campus mysteriously synchronizes the beauty and magic of nature with our learning. Perhaps it was the call of the phoebe early this morning that reminded me about this book in our school library.
I have come to the study of ornithology a bit later in my life, but our ornithology elective teacher this semester is a 12 year old boy, Sebastian Casarez. Sebastian is a member of both the Travis and Williamson County Audubon Societies. He began his inquiry at a very young age and has become a local bird expert. He will be honored next week by the Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center at the 8th annual Celebration of Children in Nature of Austin Collaborative's award dinner, (along with Inside Outside School's most excellent environmental educator, Rachel Brice.)
Perhaps some of our students have stumbled upon something that will become a lifelong study for them already. One thing we know is that there will be new horizons in science, art, music, and mathematics for them to approach. Only false pride would cause us to think there are not additional errors in our understanding of the vast mysteries to clear up. Our important job as educators is to keep the love of learning alive. It is all too easy to close down an open mind.
Our yearlong theme is "May the Forces Be With You." Weather is one of the first investigations that several classes are beginning with. We are noticing the lack of rain, but since we are putting a new roof on the building, we are okay if the rain holds off another week. It is still hot and dry, but always a few degrees cooler in the woods where we gather in the afternoon for Nature Literacy.
We are also offering Multiple Intelligence classes, (art, natural science, library and music) in addition to our Friday electives. This semester we have survival, helping hands, shop, theater, sewing, cooking, upcycling art, ornithology, mythology, science fair, apothecary and Lego robotics. All of that is happening as well as the important core classwork and the ongoing integration of the Seven Dimensions of Human Greatness. This week our dimension is interaction, so it is a perfect time for me to reach out to update you, our beautiful blog readers. Enjoy!
On Friday afternoons at 1:00, you will find the students at the Inside Outside School gathering in the library for the Hive. Over the course of the week, students add things to the agenda that they wish to introduce to the community.
Looking over the Hive notes for this semester I made a list of things that have been discussed, debated, and/or decided:
How did the survival skill class's shelter get destroyed?
Where do we put boots and shoes?
People are walking into the kitchen after the inside spaces clan just mopped.
Can we have a pet day? Can we have book character day? Can we have opposite day/pj day/Pokémon card day?
Talking vs. Gossip
The trials and tribulations of Capture the Flag: people use decoy flags, people pretend they don't know where the jail is and wander around really looking for the flag. People give away the hiding spot by looking where it was hidden.
Which side of the compost is the active side and which is not?
Do we have a disaster plan?
People don't flush/clean off the seat if you sprinkle.
"Stop" means "Stop"
Lola (the parakeet) got popcorn.
Trash is being left on the porch after snack and lunch.
Is it ok to catch lizards, frogs and dragonflies?
throwing sticky weed
bringing stuff from home that gets broken
If you share your food who throws away the trash?
Here is what is on the board so far for this week...
I hope you enjoyed your glimpse into our Hive. You may have noticed that our Dimension of Human Greatness is posted on the Hive agenda each week. I will end with a quote I wrote down in our Hive notes recently from Molly. The dimension that week was "Identity." "You always have identity even if you are not talking about it."
Once we go into Spring Break, things begin to change so rapidly that the afternoon woods are not the same woods we visited in the morning. When we returned to school yesterday we were greeted by a blast of new spring greens.
Our gardens and grasses are thriving after the rains we've had, and in some sections of the campus, we have deep, deep mud. That makes working on the "Buggy Pond," a real treat. Every day it changes and evolves.
With the birth of baby goats, we now have goat milk. Rachel, our farm manager, faithfully trudges through the mud each morning to milk Pumpkin. It turns out that Miz Mocha isn't going to be a milk goat, although her little billy baby, Latte, gets plenty. Rachel's class is experimenting with goat milk yogurt. They are making their own yogurt culture.
We have plenty of spring projects going, erosion control being one of the top priorities. Through a generous donation of materials from Whittlesey, we will be able to tackle the task. Erosion is one of the things that most schools cannot teach through hands on methodology. Not so at IOS! No text book teaching for us! We have erosion in the creek, uphill, downhill and all around the campus.
Our gardens continue to grow and new things are planted almost daily. The students are learning how to rotate crops from season to season, how to manage pests, and when to harvest the perfect produce. Our yearlong theme, "What's For Dinner," has proven to be very rich ground for growing knowledge.
Rachel Carson said, "If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years." The good fairies that nurture wonder have sent us a gift basket to open after the Equinox.
In a group of very curious children at the Inside Outside School, I've been told mine has won the award for asking the most questions. I am proud of him for that achievement. I have been asked for my comments pertaining to raising a curious child. I am humbled by my King of Questions, but here is some insight into things that might have fanned his flame of curiosity a bit. Down a rabbit hole of what my husband would lovingly call “very derivative” researching, I became curious about curiosity. A very basic tenet in that area of research is that curiosity follows an upside-down U-shaped curve along the axes of knowledge and intensity of curiosity. When examined, that tenet fits very well with what we know intuitively. If you know nothing or very little about something, you are not that curious about it. It is simply unknown or very, very foreign to you. There seems to be no reason why you should pursue more knowledge about it. However, if you know a little bit more, it becomes a bit more familiar, and you start to think, “This is something that I need to know about,” (your curiosity intensity increases). It follows along in this way until you start to think of yourself as a complete expert and then, things get boring. There’s just nothing left to learn about that subject (your curiosity intensity starts along the down-slope, decreasing).
Keeping this model in our head of how curiosity waxes and wanes, here are things that I think are useful for increasing your child’s natural curiosity.
Suggestions for big subjects and skills: cooking, building with wood or electronics, fixing, foraging, creative writing
In fact, you might want to take this a step further by pointing them to other avenues to continue their investigation. In the end, showing your child that you don’t know the answer will give them the confidence to keep looking.
Occasionally, you get tired of the questions. That is ok and natural. Do not let this tempt you into telling your child false answers or non-answers (like “because I said so” or “just because”). Instead, the truth is best. Children understand a need to relax and rest. Give them tools to research on their own as early as you can in their life so that they can continue down their road of learning even when you need a rest.
Do not be afraid to let children research independently at a very early age. Show them Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, etc. These websites even have voice search for children who are too young to read. Do keep an eye on what they are being exposed to, and set filters accordingly. But also do give them boundless fuel for their burning curiosity. Go to the library regularly and explore it all. Let them pull down stacks of cookbooks or computer books from the adult section if they wish.
Here are some examples of filling up these times with creativity and learning.
In a car ride, read to children or play open ended games. One game we love to play is “What am I thinking about?” We tried 20 questions, but that was one game we ended up changing! Instead, we are allowed to ask as many yes/no questions of the thinker as we want.
On a long walk, take a bag or two with you to pick up all sorts of things. Take lots of pictures to identify plants or structures later. Use a data connection if you have it to research on the spot. Learn some foraging skills to add an extra dimension to nature lore.
When waiting at a doctor’s office or in a line, every magazine rack can become a game similar to “Where’s Waldo?” A notebook in your purse can be a canvas for your child. If they are too young to draw much on their own, let them dictate what you draw (it turns silly quick!), or give them a background to turn their scribbles into embellishment (my favorite was a cupcake sketch, then it gets decorated).
We were lucky because we were forced to give him what every child needs.
If you want your child to keep asking questions, make sure you listen to those questions. Make sure you understand. Make sure you explore every facet of what they really mean.
Thank you, Susannah Martin for writing this beautiful recipe for a curious child!