A Day in the Life

*Guide Note: Virtual Discovery heroes are writing in journals this session. This week, they were asked to write a composite “Day in the Life” to describe what virtual school is like. This blog post was entirely written and edited by Discovery Heroes.

Welcome to the Virtual Discovery Studio!

I crawl out of bed trying to stay awake. Then I brush my teeth and get dressed. Next I eat breakfast and then I’m all set.

For core skills, I like to do my hardest subjects first, like math, before I get to the easy stuff like reading or writing. You also get to be with your family and pets, and you can still see your friends just not in person.

Hanging out with pets

When we log on for our 11:05 meeting, we get to play games, my favorite game is probably when we get to do fun exercises. My favorite part of an 11:05 launch is talking to my fellow travellers. My favorite part of an 11:05 launch is probably the exercise videos because they are very fun and challenging. 

After that meeting we always get a delicious lunch, my favorite is probably either a grilled cheese sandwich or graham crackers and peanut butter. My favorite lunch to have is a quesadilla, one time for lunch my family ordered mexican, I got a quesadilla. My favorite lunch during virtual studio is probably apples and grilled cheese. Sometimes I would have peanut butter with my apples too.  one time mommy made me goldfish crackers and cheerios

Each session we get a new quest, this session was a chess quest. Chess is a game that is well known for its concentration. It has helped me learn that losing helps you learn and get better strategies. When chess quest comes, there’s lots of things to do, you learn new things about chess in lessons, or you can play as many games of chess as you want.

One thing that I have learned about chess is that you can’t just think of a move in one second, you need to think of a strategy and think stuff through. Chess quest is really fun.

My favorite thing to do after school is play outside. Usually, I play on my jungle gym, but sometimes I like just run around with my dogs. My favorite thing to do would probably be to read. I think reading is very fun, challenging, and relaxing. Board games and football are my favorite after school activities.  After school my favorite thing to do is go outside and make up new games that we can play. 

This is my virtual studio life.

Celebrating a great week in Virtual Discovery Studio

Will the colonists rebel?

The year is 1776. The Discovery and Adventure studios have been taken over by King George III. Decrees and proclamations travel across the sea from England and enforced by the Governor.  Heroes are Patriots or Loyalists with equal enthusiasm.

Day 1: the colony is already in an uproar. Every time the bell rings, colonists must line up for an announcement and chant, “Hail to the King! Hail to the King! Hail to the King!” or face a penalty tax. By the end of the day, King George has received over 50 letters from angry Patriots or supportive Loyalists.

Day 2: Tensions escalate with new taxes. Frustration boils over into vandalism on King George’s portrait. 

Day 3: More letters to King George and some acts of outright rebellion. The colonists decide to hold a Boston Tea Party in defiance of the King!

Day 4: Freedoms in the colony are severely restricted. Taxes are all-encompassing. Will the colony write a declaration of independence and rebel to free themselves from the tyranny of King George?

The stakes are high. If the colonists lose (and the odds aren’t in their favor), King George will rule over the colony for another week without the option for colonists to rebel. If the colonists win, they will form a new nation. A brave fellow throws the dice- the colonists have won! Cheers and shouts fill the courtyard. 

This week, the work of building a new country commenced. The heroes fought in a simulated Battle of Trenton. They researched the history of the original 13 states and designed a new state flag. They went to the Constitutional Convention and debated the finer points of national government. 

This session, the heroes didn’t just learn about the American Revolution. They experienced its frustration and uncertainty. They were brave and make tough choices. They supported one another and worked together to overthrow the rule of King George.

The Village School in a nutshell: learner-led, experience-driven, and character-based.

Make your choice

“It seemed kind of flat,” critiqued the instructor.  There were immediately cries of protest from my fellow classmates, “That was what the other instructor told us to do!” One individual declared on behalf of the group, “We were just doing what we were told.”

This scene did not happen at The Village School. This class was a group of adults. It seems that no matter how old we are, our first reaction to feedback is defensive.

It is natural. We go about our lives trying our best. We want to get along and do well by others.

This teacher said, “I’m pretty sure the other instructor didn’t tell you to do it badly.” That nipped the excuses in the bud. He continued by saying, “Yes, use direction from other people but make your own choice what to do about it.”

TVS is unique because heroes have immense freedom. They make their own choices. And they often receive feedback on them before deciding on their next step. Either way, they own their decision. This skill is important beyond a learner-driven community.

Imagine life was a game and you could only make moves from someone else’s directions. You might win or lose the game, but either way, you are powerless to change the outcome. 

Alternatively, you play the game as the decision-maker. You choose a strategy and move forward boldly. You might win or lose but you always look forward to the next round.

Which would you prefer for your child? Which do you prefer for yourself?

Halloween Fun

Session 2: Week 2

Learning is hard work. TVS heroes spend an average of 1.5 hours on math and reading daily. They spend another hour writing or researching. And they spend an additional 1.5 hours combining all those academic skills during Quest.

In Adventure Studio, we keep it simple: balancing hard work and fun.

That’s why you could find MS heroes carving pumpkins on Monday. Playing baseball on Tuesday. Spinning around in circles on the grass on Wednesday. Escaping a virtual escape room on Thursday. These moments of fun balance the hard work.

According to psychologists, there are 5 components of happiness: optimism, flow, community, meaning, and achievement. The hard work of learning has many of these components: optimism setting goals, finding flow in learning, creating meaningful work, and achieving milestones. But fun is crucial to community, and perhaps, opens the door to everything else.

Catalyst of Growth

Session 1: Week 6

Session 1- done. Heroes tested their strength and came out strong. Now we celebrate their learning with Exhibitions. We take a peek into the daily life of a studio where hard work, creativity, and problem-solving thrive.

Adventure Heroes hard at work
First hero talk of the year

In Middle School, Adventure heroes presented thorough family histories. They explored their past, present, and future selves with honesty and compassion in their Hero’s Essays. They showed off a new studio design, and proposed a PE plan for baseball (which they will lead for ES next session). 

Presenting at The School Share

In the midst of congratulations and socially distant air high-5s, it is easy to forget. What happened prior to this success? 

Enter The Final Abyss.

We don’t often talk about this step of the Hero’s Journey. It sounds awful and dark. The situation looks bleak. The hero loses hope and resolve. Overcoming this final test seems impossible. A hero cannot possibly continue the journey.

You don’t want to linger on this step. You want to breeze through this part to the treasure. You don’t want to embrace and sit with this prickly obstacle in front of you. To stand and face your greatest test.

It is easy to conceptualize The Final Abyss as the bottom of the Hero’s Journey circle. But when you actually hit bottom, you are the one who has to climb out. 

And yet, is The Final Abyss the last step before growth or is it the step of growing?

We can reframe this greatest challenge. What if we entered The Final Abyss as heroes who know that everything is supposed to look bleak at this stage? That, although we feel hopeless, we are secretly excited because we are on the verge of a great treasure? What if we welcomed the greatest test of The Final Abyss with open arms? 

At the end of a journey, it is easy to celebrate the treasures. The successful accomplishments of the session. Today, let’s also celebrate the great courage it takes to face and overcome The Final Abyss. 

New Year, New Adventure

Adventure Studio

Session 1: Week 3

On September 2nd, The Village School launched Middle School Adventure Studio.

It is a new adventure. Even without COVID-19, it was likely to be a year unlike any other. The Adventure Heroes are shaping a community for themselves and all the future Middle School Heroes.

Find a calling. Change the world. In Adventure Studio, heroes continue to broaden and deepen their passions, and they connect them to real needs in the world. They explore the larger community beyond the school. What needs to be changed? How can I be the one to change it?

A great journey requires a sturdy compass. The 4 cardinal directions of this year are Real, Ideal, Hard Work, and Fun. The studio goal is finding a balance. Heroes are exploring each direction in this session’s Quest by designing the studio contracts and learning space (ideal), learning new life skills (real), putting together a 1000 piece puzzle (hard work), and producing a film (fun!) 

On the road, heroes have already demonstrated their curiosity and problem-solving skills. They investigate and are open to new perspectives. They search for more than one answer. One recent question, “How can we fit the microwave and fridge together to make our studio more functional?” Brainstormed answers: microwave on top of the fridge, finding a new fridge, and putting the microwave into the fridge! 

As these heroes build their future, they look to past experience. They decide to hold onto tradition or forge a new path. It provides a tangible example for the overarching question,  “Does the past determine the future?”

Slowing Down

ES Session 7: Week 5

We spent 2 hours wandering in the park.

It was outdoor play on Wednesday and we were venturing off campus.

It was cool in the shade. We spied minnows in the pond and giant tadpoles in the stream. A turtle was hiding in its shell near the skeleton of a rusty truck. We plucked blue, purple, white, and yellow flowers. One hero explained iron pyrite that cast a rusty tinge in the water.

Part of The Village School experience is moving slowly. We aren’t driven by test prep (though our test scores are pretty good). We don’t need to rush through community discussions to get back to the curriculum. Being in the moment is built in time.


Even during School From Home, we seek to create those slower moments for heroes. One such moment this week was our annual Heroes Celebration. Our whole community gathered to hear stories of perseverance and courage, enthusiasm and grit. A time to slow down and celebrate not the successes but the journey.

Congratulations to all of our heroes in this special moment of reflection!

Passion

ES Session 7: Week 3

Last year, TVS heroes were passionate about nature.

It only took 1 trip to the pond. After an hour of exploration, the heroes noticed the trash. It was everywhere: the sidewalk, the edge of the pond, scattered in the weeds.  A rescue mission ensued: it was an all-out team effort, and even involved getting into the pond at times. They joyfully dropped the trash into a huge pile on the sidewalk.

The heroes were even more prepared on the second trip. They dug out large black trash bags and tied smaller grocery bags around their feet. They brought out plastic gloves and a pair of “reacher grabbers”. They walked away pretty dirty but the park itself was pristine.

For a whole year, the heroes continued this fascination with nature: forming a team, creating a website, designing posters, and holding a bake sale. All hero-directed without any guide prompting or intervention.

And then that was it. No picking up trash at the pond or saving wildlife. 

That is okay. Forgive the pun- it is natural! Children like to intensely focus on one thing. They examine it over and over, turning it one way and then another. They have their fill and satiate their curiosity. 

Think of yourself as an adult, when was the last time that you focused intently on a hobby but after several months that focus dissipated?  

It doesn’t mean that these heroes won’t ever think about nature again. In time, they will because they will reach a new developmental plateau. They will understand the pond with a new layer of complexity and maturity. 

Find a passion. Change the world. Our heroes already have.

The heroes of 2019-2020 are music producers. Check out their beats on SoundCloud or ask them to play a piano tune for you. They are pretty passionate about making the world a better place through song.

Help! My hero is overwhelmed.

ES Session 7: Week 2

“All I have left is math!”

Spring 2019, one hero had been diligently working on her badge plan all year. However, she did not like math and had chosen to first finish all of her other badges. As a result, she spent much of June working on math (her least favorite subject). 

Was she uncomfortable? Yes. 

Did she wish that she had made a different choice? Yes.

The end of the year is the closing of a circle. Choices made in September/October have real consequences in June. Some make heroes happy while others make heroes feel sad, overwhelmed, or frustrated.

All emotions are welcomed. Emotions tell us about our actions in our environment. This feedback helps us make different decisions in the future.

As a parent, you play a vital role in closing the circle. By validating your child’s emotion, you can help him/her reflect and then move forward.

If your hero comes to you and says, “I am overwhelmed!” Acknowledge that emotion. Feeling overwhelmed is uncomfortable. Many people don’t like that feeling. Then get curious. “Why doing you think you are feeling overwhelmed?” Perhaps, the hero admits that she didn’t work as hard as she could have in the beginning of the year. That’s okay. Move forward with 2 simple questions: what do you want to do about it right now? What can you do differently to change things in the future?

Successfully completing all goals by the end of the year is not important. What is important? Each hero learns from these experiences and becomes better equipped in the future. 

By the end of Session 7 in 2019, the math hero gave this lesson learned to future heroes, “Do a little bit every day. Don’t leave it all until the end!” And this year, she completed her math badge 2 months early.

Start of ES Session 7

Session 7: Week 1

Recently, I have been re-reading one of my favorite series: Harry Potter. I love all the books but there is a part in the 5th book that I particularly love. It is magical (even more magical than the rest of the series).

Harry enters his 5th year at Hogwarts (the wizarding school) and discovers that in one of his classes, the students aren’t allowed to do magic. They simply read chapter after chapter about the theory of the spells. 

With the threat of dark magic outside of Hogwarts, this format simply won’t do. Harry and his friends form a rebel group. They set up secret meetings, electing a leader (Harry, of course), and practicing spells on their own. In essence, they become a community of self-sufficient learners with a common goal of mastery. 

I get excited every time I read this part. Even in a magical wizarding world, JK Rowling endorsed authentic, self-directed learning! Well, perhaps that wasn’t exactly her motivation, but she does highlight its benefits. Neville Longbottom, a notoriously poor student in a traditional classroom, improves “beyond all recognition”.

This session, the heroes are focusing on creativity through Writer’s Workshop and the Art Quest. As they paint, write, and draw, they will explore this big question, “How do I use my voice creatively in the world?”

Artistic forms (like creative writing) are less focused on fact and more on imagination. But I do think that art can reflect and inform us about our current state. I like to think that here at The Village School, we have our own brand of rebels. Proving every day that they are capable self-directed learning and mastering real-world skills. And it does seem like magic!

The first 2 levels of the Writer’s Workshop Game: Escape the Woods!
Playing a new socially-distant game that the heroes invented. I’d call that creativity!