A Field Trip Designed by Discovery

On Tuesday, Discovery learners left school at 9:00 and walked towards the East Falls Church Metro station. Despite the rain, the energy was high and you could feel the excitement about the day ahead. We got on the train together and arrived at the Museum of Natural History just a few minutes before it opened at 10:00. 

Discovery in front of the Museum of Natural History

We split into three groups and explored the museum until meeting back up for lunch at 11:30. After lunch we hopped back on the metro to go to the AMC Courthouse movie theater where we spent the afternoon watching Strange World. After the movie, we hurried back to the metro to make it back to TVS in time (just barely!) for pick up. 

This field trip was the final product of Session 2’s Pitch a Field Trip Writer’s Workshop. At the beginning of Session 2, Discovery learners were introduced to their Writer’s Workshop for the session. Their task would be to research and plan a field trip that they would like to go on and then write a persuasive pitch. They would share their pitch with the studio in hopes of convincing their studio mates to vote for their field trip. The field trip with the most votes would be the field trip for Session 3. 

There were a few constraints: It couldn’t be more than an hour away and couldn’t cost more than $20 per learner. 

Discovery learners jumped right in, googling museums and attractions nearby, navigating websites to figure out how much it would cost, figuring out if we needed a reservation. Was there a student discount? Would it even be open on the day we wanted to go? How would we get there?

Learners learned to use google maps, mapping out routes via metro and bus to the destination of their choice. 

They were then tasked with coming up with a schedule. What time would we need to leave TVS? When would we eat lunch? What time would we have to get on the metro to be back in time for pick up? 

Now it was time to start drafting their pitches. They thought about what would draw the listener in. What information had to be communicated? What were the unique parts of their trip that would convince people to vote for their trip?

They received feedback from Adventure learners and eventually it was time to share their final pitches. They each shared their pitch and then voted for their top 3 choices. 

Discovery learners shared their pitches with each other

On the last day of the session it was revealed that two pitches had won and we would combine them into one field trip. In the morning we would go to the Museum of Natural History and in the afternoon we would go to the movies to watch Strange World. 

And on Tuesday this past week we did just that! As a Discovery learner said on Tuesday, “It is so cool that at The Village School you can do things like write a pitch for a field trip and then actually go on that field trip.”

Core Skills and Morning Work

What does a typical morning at The Village School look like? While each studio is different, heroes in Spark, Discovery, and Adventure all begin the morning with a launch and socratic discussion in their studio. Spark heroes then transition into their Morning Work time and Discovery and Adventure studios spend the morning working on Core Skills.

Morning Work in Spark

After the morning circle, Spark heroes spread throughout the Spark Studio and Spark Lab for Morning Work. During this time, learners master early reading, writing, and math skills through both guided and independent activities. Learners can choose to work with the materials or activities they have had already had a lesson on or ask a guide for a lesson on a new material. They are encouraged to find work that is challenging for them and can ask guides to give them one-on-one lessons on new material or as an extension with already familiar materials. Some days most heroes work independently and other days are full of collaboration, but each day Spark heroes can be found working with materials that have either a math, reading, writing, practical life, sensorial, or cultural focus.

At the beginning of Session 2, Spark heroes began using their work plans, a tool that helps them track their work each day, set goals, and work on materials in math, reading/writing, sensorial, practical life, and cultural areas. The other day one of Spark’s youngest learners approached me, enthusiastically holding up her work plan to say that she was “so proud” of herself for working on all five areas that morning. 

An example of a Spark work plan

Core Skills in Discovery

After the morning launch in Discovery, the heroes have time to meet with their squads to check in with each other, ask questions, share, and set individual goals. They then transition into Core Skills time, spreading throughout the Discovery Library and Discovery Lab, where they work independently on building strong foundations in math, reading, and writing. Discovery heroes are learning how to manage their time and prioritize their work. Some learners create daily checklists for themselves, many set SMART goals on Journey Tracker, and others are still working to find a system that works for them. 

The morning schedule on Wednesday

Recently, Discovery heroes were given the opportunity to write their weekly goals on the whiteboard and many showed excitement to do so. Others chose not to. Guides hold guide meetings during Core Skills, where learners can raise concerns or talk about areas they are succeeding and/or struggling, and guides can hold up the mirror, saying things like “I’ve heard you say you want to work on _____, but I’ve seen you _____.” Or “I notice you’ve been setting daily SMART goals in math, but not in reading. What’s stopping you from setting reading goals?” Between squad meetings, guide meetings, setting SMART goals, and sharing weekly goals, Discovery heroes are given the opportunity to problem solve and to find a system that works for them so they are able to continue to challenge themselves during Core Skills time and explore their emerging passions and interests.

Core Skills in Adventure

Core Skills time in Adventure is similar to Core Skills in Discovery. Heroes work on math, reading, writing, Quest, or Civilization. Adventure heroes spend 45 minutes on math and 45 minutes on reading each day so that they are able to complete their Core Skills badges by the end of the year. Every other day they spend 30 minutes researching for Civilization to prepare themselves for their Civilization discussion. Adventure heroes generally use Fridays to catch up or make progress on Character or Skills badges. They are learning how to prioritize their work and are continuing to challenge themselves, explore their interests, and make progress on their long-term goals.

Conflict Resolution in Discovery and Spark

The energy was high as the Discovery heroes flooded through the door on their way back inside from free time on Wednesday. Most heroes made their way into the Discovery Lab to prepare for launch, but one hero walked into the Discovery Lab, picked up the peace tray, and left the room. He brought it into the Discovery Library, where two of his fellow travelers were sitting, both visibly upset. 

The peace tray is a tool used in the Discovery Studio to solve personal conflicts. When there is an argument between heroes, the peace tray can help them work through it. It has different tools for conflict resolution, like suggested talking points that guide the learners through putting words to their feelings. 

So on Wednesday when two heroes hurt each other’s feelings, a fellow traveler decided to step in and help. He grabbed the peace tray and sat down with the emotional learners. 

Seeing how upset both heroes were, I sat there anxiously, unsure of how they were going to respond. That quickly faded as the fellow traveler effortlessly led them through a beautiful conversation about how they were feeling and why they were feeling that way. He was patient and gave each hero the time to explain their feelings. He was calm and reassuring, letting each hero know that he was listening, and he was empathetic, telling the heroes that he understood how they were feeling.

The two heroes gave each other sincere, heartfelt apologies. The fellow traveler then said, “So what do you think we should do differently in the future?” and they brainstormed a solution together. Then, the three of them stood up and walked into the Discovery Lab, where they joined their fellow travelers just in time for the beginning of launch. 

Earlier that morning a similar conversation had taken place in the calmer corner in Spark where there are tools to help the heroes talk about their emotions and brainstorm solutions. Wednesday morning, when a Spark hero walked over to the calming corner, a fellow traveler approached, eager to help the hero work through their feelings.

“Are you feeling sad? Angry? Tired?” the hero asked while flipping through cards labeled with different feelings.

“I’m feeling sad.”

“Okay, what do you want to try to help you feel better? Do you want to try taking a drink of water or closing your eyes?”

“Maybe I’ll drink some water.”

“Okay, try that and then come back to see if you feel better.”

Heroes at The Village School don’t shy away from talking about their feelings and emotions. They have tools to help them work through tough situations and they use them frequently. They step up when needed and help their fellow travelers work through hard feelings, not because they have to, but because they care.