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!

This session, TVS heroes have been writing science-based stories. While you may feel like we are living a science-fiction novel right now, you might enjoy losing yourself in this alternate reality written by a hero.

April 28, 2058, this was the day “The Incident” happened. Oh, you haven’t heard about that yet? Well, are you sure you want to know? Ok, ok, fine I’ll tell you, although it is not a tale I tell often. Why is my name The Narrator? I have no clue why they named me that, but you wanted to hear a story so I suppose I’ll tell it to you.

April 28, 2058, 3:42 PM 

[Yes I know you already know]

This was the day they finally got a monkey into a computer file. In the state of the art DNA R&D faculty (they had a sign in the lobby saying things like “If you put all the DNA molecules in your body end to end, the DNA would reach from the Earth to the Sun and back over 600 times” or “Every human being shares 99.9% of their DNA with every other human”) It was a monkey because humans share 98.7% of your DNA in common with them. It still took a while because the human genome contains 3 billion base pairs of DNA (the other option was mice, humans share 85% of their DNA with a mouse). They were celebrating and they also wanted to get a creature into it, they edited the genetic code to be able to transfer it over. It was done using the B-84 prototype, which can change the properties of nucleic acid, which makes up DNA. Using this device, they transferred a monkey to their computer file. Everything was fine until they waited to see how long it could stay as a file. At 9:36 PM they got a ransomware virus (If you don’t know what that is, its a virus the encrypts your files and has you pay a fee to get them back), the scientists were scared for the experiment so they paid the fee (use virus protection to prevent this in real life) but a couple of files didn’t decrypt, including the monkey, they tried to see if the monkey was ok not knowing at the time that the monkey’s DNA was messed up and that the code running the decrypting process was also bugged.

The de-computerization process messed up and the computer got the location wrong

The Monkey landed on his side in a park next to the DNA R&D facility after Instantaneously appearing in it. Only this monkey was much smarter than before, he hid and snuck behind a skyscraper, unbeknown to him, he had been injected with a small tracker, back at the DNA R&D facility they were in a state of sheer panic,

“NO, NOT JACK!” one of the scientists yelled

 “We can find him trough the genetic tracking device by matching his DNA sequence”

“That doesn’t work remember, genes make up only about 3 percent of human and monkey DNA”

 they called the FBI to come and capture the monkey, which had turned an odd shade of green and at this point was knocking over trash cans. The FBI thought the team at DNA R&D facility was mentally insane.

The monkey was in an alleyway when he saw a way to get to the main street, after walking there he saw the window of a bakery, his brain having been altered, he really wanted a doughnut so he smashed the window with a rock and grabbed it. It was made of plastic of course so the monkey didn’t like it. The people inside the bakery screamed and ran from the monkey on first sight. The noise made the monkey even crazier, he started running around and eventually climbing on balconies.

Meanwhile, the scientists were panicking trying to convince the FBI they are not insane and they just need help. Eventually, they decided to go do it themselves and they got in a car and drove around the city desperately trying to find the monkey. They put up lots of posters and they put up posters all around the city. 

Monkey that is green for some reason

If found, please call 1-555-DNA-LAB

Reward $1000

The people living there also thought they were mentally insane and some of them tried to kick the scientists out. This went on for half an hour until they came across the monkey. All the citizens screamed and ran away. The monkey cased them, then the FBI inspectors came. They were shocked. They called a military team immediately and within 5 min they came and tried to find the monkey.

There was a sewer cover that was left open that happened to be the secret entrance to the Anarchists’ secret hideout. Anarchists were a group of people who didn’t like the laws and the government. No laws or anything. The monkey fell in, and there was a room.

“Aw shucks. You didn’t close the sewer cover all the way, Joe.”

“Don’t worry, John, it’s just a monkey, it’s not a person. Don’t worry about it. It seems the zoo’s not treating him too well. We will just give him some bananas to keep him quiet. He clearly doesn’t like the people either.”

The room had concrete walls and a couple of mismatched posters of random tv shows. One poster was of the monkey.

“Wait a minute joe, that monkey is wanted”

“Great then we can be friends, monkey”

The people down there had heard about the monkey and agreed to help him. So the group of outlaws and the monkey went into the main city and charged the investigators, the FBI had not arrived yet so they tried to stop the investigators. The investigators were in a coffee shop and were enjoying themselves. Then the Anarchists and the monkey barged in and started attacking people and they demanded that the investigators put their hands up and call off the FBI. The investigators said no and that they had taken FBI hand-to-hand combat training for emergencies.

Both sides fought with their hands and feet. Punch. Kick. Jab. Bang. The investigators won due to the fancy training they had. The Anarchists ran away with the monkey as fast as they could. The investigators were trailing not too far behind. The monkey tripped on a rock. Everyone else ran off. At the last moment, a black SUV with tinted windows, full of FBI agents, pulled up. The doors opened, the FBI agents dragged the monkey to the car, locked him in a cage, and drove away.

******

That’s all we know so far. So now, Chris, you’re going to get the monkey. You’re going to do this because you’re the best. And because I feel like making you doing it.

“Wha- w- wh- Why me?” says Chris.

Because I feel like making you do it. I mean, Umm, You’re going to be a hero. You’re going to accomplish great things. I think.

“Bu- b- but I don’t want to,” says Chris.

Just go do it!

*** The story of Chris ***

So I’m supposed to get a monkey and people will praise me? I don’t think it’ll be too hard. All this walking is really tiring. I’m getting close to the address The Narrator gave me. Here it is, the FBI building. What if I just ask the guards politely if I can go in?

“Ex- E- Excuse me. C- c- can you let me in?”

“Get out of here, kid!” said the guy at the barbed wire gate.

“Okay.”

I go behind a tree and fall into a random hole. At the bottom of it is an air shaft. I crawl around in it like in the movies. But of course, this isn’t the movie so they have security cameras. Alarms start blaring, and some guards crawl toward me.

“Ah, it’s just a little boy. What can he do?”

“He looks about 13. What do you mean little?”

“Oh shush, Jerry.”

Just then an Anarchist stabs him. Then the Anarchist says, “Go kid!” So I crawl as fast as I can, looking through every hole in the vent to see if the monkey is in the room. Eventually, I come to the scientist’s room and there he is. In the room, there are a few scientists in lab coats. One is a computer. The monkey is in a glass cage with scanners and monitors around him. There are also a couple of science things lying around on tables as well as some more monitors and random wires. The scientists are overheard saying, “We ran a DNA test on him. He is apparently more Irish now. Don’t bananas share 50% of our DNA?”  “No, that’s 50% of our genes, only 1% of our DNA.”

A fly comes over the guard’s head and he looks up and sees me. He shouts “There’s a guy watching us!” And he shoots at the vent cover. And vent cover comes off. “Oh shoot! That’s my last bullet.”

“Ok, I have permission to fire now. Thanks, Greg! I get to do something fun now!”

“*Sighs* Ok, fine you can shoot, but don-”

I jump down from the vent on top of the guard with bullets and knock him over. The scientists are so scared they don’t do anything. I grab the gun with bullets and shoot the other guard with it. One of the scientists tries to hit me with a test tube and he misses. The liquid inside the test tube splashes on the alarm. I duck out of the way, and the test tube hits the cage, breaking it. The monkey comes out of the cage and jumps on the scientists and knocks them out. I see a tranquilizer on the wall, with the label “Tranquilizer”. I take it and jab it into the monkey, and the monkey falls to the ground. The Anarchist comes into the room. I give the address of the narrator to the Anarchist to take the monkey. I’m about to run away when I hear some guards talking outside the door. I scramble up the air shaft as fast as I can. But the guards heard me. I crawl as fast as I can. I hear them coming down the shaft. Then, everything went black.

I wake up being dragged down a hall by some guards. 

“Aw shoot Jim he woke up,” says a guard.

“Darn it! Knock him out bill”

I free myself and start running, they shoot at me, but they miss. I frantically try to get away. I look for an exit for what seems like forever. Then I realize I can jump out a window. I smash the window with a potted plant I picked up from the hall and jump out. I land in a bush and run. I don’t think anyone saw me, but then I hear the guards. To throw them off I go back into the building, I don’t think it’s a good idea when I hear guards behind me. I dash into a room but I think the guards saw me, I look around frantically and realize its the room the monkey was in. I realize I can upload myself to the internet and live forever but I’ll be lonely. Or, I can fight the guards and risk going to jail. I have to make up my mind quickly. I hear the gauds saying they see me. I panic and start trying to figure out how to put myself on the internet. The guards rush in and I jump at the sound of the guards. I fall on the computer and get sucked in.

***

You live in a nice peaceful neighborhood a couple of houses away from the narrator, but you never forget what happened that day.

The 10 Science Facts in this Story:

  1. DNA is made of nucleic acid
  2. You share 98.7% of your DNA in common with chimpanzees and bonobos
  3. Every human being shares 99.9% of their DNA with every other human
  4. You share 85% of your DNA with a mouse
  5. The human genome contains 3 billion base pairs of DNA
  6. Genes make up only about 3 percent of your DNA
  7. Your DNA could link you to places you’d never imagine
  8. A DNA test can reveal you’re more Irish than your siblings
  9. If you put all the DNA molecules in your body end to end, the DNA would reach from the Earth to the Sun and back over 600 times
  10. You share 50 percent of your DNA with each of your parents. But with bananas, we share about 50 percent of our genes, which turns out to be only about 1 percent of our DNA