December 14, 2015 at 1:24 pm #7192Traci PannulloParticipant
When we opened our doors in 2004 as Ridge and Valley Charter School, inspired by the work of Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme and Genesis Farm, we offered a program that was in the forefront of sustainable, holistic education. Now, 11 years later, we are thrilled to see that many of the things we have been doing all along are becoming more mainstream – alternative and renewable energy, integrated experiences rooted in one’s local bioregion, awareness of inherent universal interconnectedness, a more intimate relationship with our food, trusting and empowering students to lead, immersion in the natural world, learning and understanding within the context of the story of the universe, and so on. As we move through our 12th year we are looking to intentionally and consciously evolve to the next level of an educational experience that will cultivate earth steward entrepreneurs – creative problem-solvers and system-thinkers steeped in a deep understanding of all the interconnectedness within our evolving universe.
We particularly have a desire to understand and somehow capture the unfolding development of the young humans in our care. At our school we are always trying to find ways to not only allow space for each child to emerge into their own selves, but also for the adults who are guiding them to find holistic ways to communicate that blossoming to their parents, the state department of education (because we’re a public charter school), and the larger world. Having found the standardized, quantitative data greatly lacking, yet living in a time of greater desire for “show me” data, we are searching for new ways to represent our students’ growth and transformation that can be understood, and will be accepted by, people firmly rooted in the traditional educational paradigm.
One of the challenges for our school is that we are working with young children, ages 4-15, who are immersed in our context during their very formative years and don’t have a different experience to compare it to. We are struggling with how to glean demonstrable evidence with such a group, who often are like the fish who don’t even know what water is (and that is the way we want it!). I believe that much of the research on transformational learning is being done with adults, for whom programs/experiences such as BHP are intended to create a change from their previous perspective, however we are thinking about what that might look like or mean for children who grow up in our program and may not know much about a different story, particularly children below the age of 9 or 10. I’m searching for ways to see, understand and record their experience and then, mostly for the purpose of garnering financial support for our school, represent it to the wider world.
Some of the questions we are asking ourselves, and others who are contemplating this new story/paradigm, include –
~What might education or ‘school’ look like if its purpose is to:
*help a person to be most fully alive?
*sustain curiosity, joy, wonder and awe throughout our lives?
*honor and build upon our natural drive to learn, understand and create?
*cultivate earth/universe literate humans?
~How can we know we are fulfilling these purposes?
~What measures might we use?
~How can we document the child’s experience?
~How can we help others see the impact, value, and importance, of a Deep Time education?
We are very eager to hear what others are thinking and doing in these areas! Please share your thoughts and strategies!
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