@Gever Tulley brings us Brightworks. A return to the roots of learning.

I had the privilege of sharing lunch with Gever Tulley , the master of fooling around at TedXBloomington.
Many people know Gever for his now famous TED talk about Tinkering School, or for his book ” 50 Dangerous things you should let your children do”. ( associate link). He also did a TED talk around this theme, listing 5 Dangerous things.

He is in the process of starting a new school which will open this fall: Brightworks. His talk at TedXBloomington explained more about the philosophy of the new school.

While listening to his talk, my first reaction was ” I want to teach there”. but moving to San Francisco is not a reality for us, so that quickly shifted to “I want to open the Midwest Branch of Brightworks here”. Part of the reason for this gut reaction is that his theories resonate strongly with much of my education, so I know it works. I was not schooled in some odd charter school, but rather in the public schools of Maryland, back in in the 1970s (shhh) in the Cambrian Era of Education. I grew up in Open Spaced schools, with “unclassrooms”. Then even with the move to High School, we were allowed to test out of the planned curriculum and then design our own research and investigation projects for a month or so at a time. This was in Science, Social Studies/History and English. We did not have the number of outside expert resources coming into our schools, but I grew up between Baltimore and Philadelphia, in an area rich with external resources. When my partner and I wanted to do more research on the Origins of Man for one project, the school system tracked down every Bus already going Down to Washington DC for a field trip, rerouted them to come by and pick us up in the morning, drop us off at the Museum of Natural History and then picked us up to go home at the end of the day. We did this every day for a week, then came back to the school and integrated what we learned with other resources to produce our project. This was not an isolated example, our teachers and the system wanted us to explore and learn and supported it every way they could.
The biggest reason I believe that Brightworks will be a massive success is the student to teacher ratio. At Brightworks the student to teacher ratio will only be 6:1. Our student :teacher ratio was slightly higher than that, but much of the education I got was small group or individual so the interactions with teachers were personal. Starting my Sophmore year, we were designated the first graduating class of a brand new high school. We were the upper classmen, so teachers had far fewer students to track and manage. Regardless of teaching technique, lowering the student:teacher ratio is good for learning. It returns us to our roots of Apprenticeship programs where only small numbers of students learned from Masters. It gives teachers the luxury of time to get to really know and understand how each student learns best and to tailor the experience for them, rather than attempting to mass produce learners from a School Factory.

I believe that what Brightworks is doing is the way that most teachers naturally want to teach, given time and freedom, and more importantly matches how all of us naturally learn. Think hard about how you learn new things, now that you are out of school- I doubt it matches the current modern classroom experience.

They are taking some care to try to balance gender, etc. in the school- so if you are in the San Francisco area and have a girl between the ages of 6-9 check them out they still have about a half a dozen openings. With a policy to have half their students on scholarship, this will not be an experience that is limited to the privileged few.

I am very excited about this experiment and hope the students end up sharing their expositions digitally as well, so we can follow along on their exciting journey of learning.

Big Mystery and the origins of everything- a mystery no more.

I am a storytelling fan. I could listen to live story tellers for days on end.
When my kids were little, we told bedtime stories…. but they were nothing like the genius of Arbutus Cunningham.  I am a newly converted fan  and have been so excited to find her work all over the web. She has stories on MySpace, Grooveshark, and there is an awesome 20 Questions interview with her over on BloomMag.  I am saddened that we do not get the radio station she appears on weekly, but am hoping maybe we can convince them ( or her) to make it into a podcast.  Enjoy.  

All the World’s a Stage: Improv and Autism Spectrum Disorder

This past weekend at TedXBloomington, Steve Volan gave intimate glimpses into his perceptions of the world that were moving, inspiring and resulted in a standing ovation. I have long been a supporter and participant in Children’s Theatre, but never imagined that learning improv techniques would be a key to learning social interaction skills for Autism.
In talking about how interacting with others feels to him, Steve says:

“stage fright is a natural feeling- now imagine that feeling every time you cross someone’s path….”
“every social interaction for me is like being on a stage…”
“people on the autism spectrum has this rolling continuous case of stage fright…”

Once stated that well, it seems obvious that all the skills we use to help kids overcome stage fright and learn stage skills would be helpful to kids with autism. Although there is no known research to show this helps, there are several programs and dramatherapy is a recognized threatment. There is even a summer theatre camp specifically for Asperger’s kids, and a conference coming up in May in Chicago.

Tricks of the trade that work for actors playing a role work for those at the Autism end of the spectrum…. reminding us all that we all play roles in life.

Make sure you grab a tissue and click through on the link to view the video of his talk.

Heading to TED

Looks like blogger is back up and maybe stable just in time for TEDxBloomington.
We are.currently on the road dealing with Westfield construction traffic, but our brains are already in Wisdom of Play mode, as the CNC was running this am.

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