Grit: Session 2 Week 4

In each session at The Village School there is a character trait that has been chosen to focus on. In session 2 heroes hear stories of grit and perseverance as they work on developing this on their own. Grit, like all other aspects of character can change, especially when a hero has a growth mindset. For one to build grit they must first have interest. This is the intrinsic desire to learn and grow. Our heroes demonstrate this with excitement for new math inquiry centers, as they discover new colors while mixing watercolor paints or as they observe a particularly large and hairy spider. Being a guide means that sometimes you need to capture the spider so that everyone can have a closer look, but that you also ask the Socratic questions about what a spider’s life would be like in our studio, as opposed to back out in nature.

Grit also requires practice. This looks like setting a goal, focusing on it, getting feedback on your progress, and reflecting as necessary. This week our heroes starting a new practice of setting goals choosing work that is balanced and challenging for them. We talk about the goals and they even have opportunity for feedback from peers.

Reflection is also something that helps build grit and resiliency. This often happens in our launches and closing and I continue to be surprised by the level of high thinking in these reflective moments. While discussing challenges, heroes hear about and how we experience something called the dip, where we can feel like giving up. While examples are given about more academic challenges like spelling a tough word or physical ones like climbing the tree limbs, a poignant story is shared about a struggle between friends. The hero recalled that they were in the dip and feeling so low because they just couldn’t seem to compromise. ” I know I was in the dip because I was forgetting to be kind”. The other heroes heard and saw as one of their fellow travelers took responsibility. The hero shared some ideas that they might try next time a problem like this arises. Others joined in and shared thoughts, because in our community of learners every mistake is an opportunity to grow and do better.

Pride and Produce Session 2 Week 3

Spark studio heroes jumped in and began the week with an art launch continuing with themes of shape and culminating in some still life and figure drawing. I overheard powerful growth mindset phrases like “mistakes are a good thing” as they ensured each other that there is no wrong way to create art. They spent morning work time writing urgent sentences about volcanoes and excitedly finishing B.O.B books. Two heroes worked on a telling time game while another utilized our music corner by listening to and reading about songs from world playground.

Are you a producer or consumer? In the spirit of true experiential learning, heroes got a chance to be both during this week’s project time. They designed and produced a coloring book featuring one page by each of our learners. They were also smart consumers, writing a shopping list for our trip to the farmer’s market. Each hero was in charge of an ingredient and was given a budget to purchase it for the salad recipe. Next the Spark chefs made a list of steps to produce the salad. “Wash hands, wash veggies, peel carrots, chop tomatoes and radishes” It was time to get to work. A sense of pride filled the studio at closing as the heroes crunched on the healthy and colorful dish they created all on their own.

Find more great photos in the Parents Drive: Session 3 and Field Trip folders

Authentic Teamwork: Session 2 Week 2

Miss Plumpert’s prized pot pie has gone missing and now its up to Spark Studio heroes gather clues, rule out suspects and crack the case! They’ll have to work together quickly because the guilty fox is high-tailing it to the exit. Can our young learners halt him or will they be outfoxed? While complex, this board game was an instant hit in our studio. It includes a compelling story and is cooperative. In our first few sessions especially, building a positive culture of teamwork is imperative to successful projects. I have been a part of team building exercises that felt forced, ineffective and often awkward. The best way to gain this kind of group connection in an authentic way is through a common goal that heroes are excited to work towards. Games like this allow our heroes to cheer one another on. Heroes use patience with younger learners who may take longer to add up dice sums. They offer assistance when sounding out the names on the cards and they have shared genuine excitement when they accomplish the common goal and thwart the hungry fox.

When not avoiding being outfoxed, our heroes were very busy this week. They shared stories of halloween happenings and took on the role of scientists, predicting differences in the slime of orange and white pumpkins. They graded the colors of leaves and spent morning work time reading books and making books of their own. They played alphabet games, solidifying phonic knowledge, and also worked on geometry with geo-boards and addition with our bead frame. During quest they explored some data, creating a bar graph about goods and services and they worked together as planners creating “Spark City”. This town features both goods and services that heroes chose and made representations of, before deciding on their placement along the avenues of our paper town. Agreeing on what to include, where it might go and who is in charge of each establishment was certainly a challenge. A project like this becomes manageable when heroes draw on the practice they have in working together effectively, towards a common goal.

Spark Studio Session 2: Week 1

May we raise children
who love the unloved
things – the dandelion, the
worms and spiderlings.
Children who sense
the rose needs the thorn

& run into rainswept days
the same way they
turn towards sun…

And when they’re grown &
someone has to speak for those
who have no voice

may they draw upon that
wilder bond, those days of
tending tender things

and be the ones.


It is the first week of session 2 and a very rainy afternoon reminds me of a this poem by Nicolette Sowder. The morning was spent in our warm studio, reading, counting and using puzzle maps to locate the Himalayas. When our timekeeper for the day indicated free time, heroes debated whether or not to go outdoors. As we stood under the awning watching fat rain drops pummel the ground, I quickly thought up some indoor games that we could play instead. Yet as soon as the first hero bounded out the door, the rest gleefully followed. “We haven’t played in the rain together yet!”

We have a tight- knit group of young learners that are each filled with wonder and excited to learn by doing, even if it means some soggy clothing. I get to observe as they care for tender things and run into the rainswept days.


This session heroes will have opportunities to explore sharing their voice through the roles of various community members. Pretend play opportunities lets them step into the shoes of a postal worker,train engineer, farmer or vet. They will put real world skills into action by writing and following recipes, conducting science experiments and even creating a business. Heroes will answer big questions like what are the differences between things I want and need? What resources are natural and which do people provide? Through exploration of both the natural world and the roles of people who help one another, they begin to find a niche in the communities we are all a part of.

Town Hall Meeting

Session 1 Week 5

Town Hall meetings are an important part of self-governance at The Village School. This week Spark heroes learned about this tradition and took it very seriously, as a tool that they will use as they move up into Elementary studios as well as when they are members and citizens of larger communities. Each week moving forward Heroes will participate in a Town Hall Meeting where they are able to bring up important studio issues that need airing. If a hero has something they would like to discuss they write their name on our meeting sign-up and they have a chance to propose alterations to studio systems or any other situation impacting the community. 

This week’s discussion brought up many issues. One hero noticed that often when working with our watercolor paint, the water cup got spilled. To prevent this, she suggested only filling the cup to a certain height. A diagram was drawn on the whiteboard and the hero counted and tallied votes for the height of the water. The next day was the first of the week that the tables remained dry, as everyone held each other accountable for carefully filling the water cup to the measurement that they had agreed upon. Other points of discussion included safety with sticks outside, using both sides of the paper, and pillow set up during quiet time. 

As our afternoon projects have centered around big concepts like peace and kindness, the heroes talk about children around the world and how they play and want to be safe just like us. They picked up trash in the forest as an act of kindness to the earth and made a banner of flags with “peace” written in the language of their choosing.

These big concepts manifest themselves in the details of school routines through out our days. Heroes use their sense of fairness in disputes and empathize when someone is hurt or distraught. Town meetings are a clear avenue of communication within our studio.They give a space and time to talk through these topics that are most important to the heroes. It is a system that empowers them and provides the tools they need to be heard and in charge of their learning. 


Spark Studio Spotlight: Week 4

“Our care of the child should be governed, not by
the desire to make him learn things, but by the
endeavor always to keep burning within him that
light which is called intelligence.”Maria Montesorri

Every child is drawn to what they need. For some children the time is ripe to gain independence, for others the urge is to carefully write letters and for still others the focus is on learning to make friends.

An emergent curriculum means that all of these challenges are presented to these heroes and available for practice at the right moment. In our environment, heroes choose from appropriate materials based on their own interests and readiness. When someone shows interest in writing, they are encouraged to do so using the chalkboard, dry erase markers, the move-able alphabet and waseca writing materials. When a hero shows concern over a torn piece of fabric of a doll, they have a lesson on sewing to repair the hole. Other heroes crave leadership opportunities. They come up with the games on the playground. They enjoy being timekeeper for the day and can be called upon to set examples of our community guardrails.

Sometimes these things don’t come as naturally and require a bit of experimentation. Heroes tests boundaries of what jokes get the most laughs at lunchtime, and navigate sharing materials during work time and tree space at recess. At neutral moments and during launch we reflect on these tests. Heroes decide what topics they don’t like hearing jokes about and how morning work time is where independent focus is valued over sharing. They decide that nature is for everyone and that outdoor spaces should be inclusive. The opportunity to speak up about things they care about abound. Guides continue to observe and provide whatever it may be that our heroes are most drawn to.

Holding hands at dismissal: tribal connections being made

Spark Studio Session:1 Week 3

A pebble is dropped into the water and the nine heroes watch, in quiet reverence as ripples emanate to the outside of the bowl. How is an act of kindness like a pebble? Can its effects spread? Our mornings start with a launch that inspires our learners for the challenges ahead. They navigate social situations with kindness in mind. They take turns giving each other a push down the hill in the truck, they grab forgotten water bottles from the courtyard and they cheer each other on in collaborative games like Stone Soup.

They next morning’s launch features a video clip of a baby at different stages of learning to walk. How did the baby achieve his goal of getting around on his own? What are your goals at school? What work can you choose this morning to help you achieve that goal?Heroes excitedly share what they are most interested in and set off to work creating structures using magnetic tiles, matching flags to our puzzle maps, writing stories about creatures and filling out the hundreds board!

Afternoon projects this week allowed heroes to explore feelings that they and others might encounter. They made acorns, puppets and a wheel of feelings, each leading to discussions of when those emotions effected them. Afternoon reflection included naming moments from the day where heroes felt happiest. The most popular by far was when they independently organized a roll down the hill. See for yourself!

https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/1-y02t3KtUltB8g6VTq-yhjhDXsoerdb2

Sharing Your Voice: Week 2

Spark Studio Spotlight

How does a hero use their voice in a community?

This is the question heroes will answer in our first session. Margaret J. Wheatley said that “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” Spark Heroes are coming together and deciding what is important to them. Discussions honed in on what it means to listen actively, how they want our space to function and perhaps most importantly, what it means to be a friend. They decided that knowing someone’s name is important and played matching games with hero photos. Compromise is necessary in being a good friend so they acted out scenarios of people wanting the swings at once or reaching for the same book to read.

In our community everyone has a voice. In the book “Say Something”, heroes heard that their voices can be used to stand up for someone being treated unfairly, to share an idea or to be there for one another. Of course, using your voice looks differently to everyone. This week I saw heroes find their voice as they beat out a rhythm using the sticks in music class or using expressive marks in a bold art piece. Heroes spotted injustices as they told stories at lunch time claiming, “Hey, she hasn’t had a turn to talk yet.”

Heroes use their voice in each of their interactions where they advocate for themselves. Stating clearly that they can do it on their own or that they prefer things a certain way. They use their voice to help one another with zippers and containers and when they happen to be an expert on just how big a blue whale is. They also feel empowered to ask a fellow traveler for help because they are still learning and, in our community, that is encouraged. They world needs the voice of each of these heroes and they will each have opportunities to say something this year.

A Climbed Tree and a Scraped Knee: Week 1

Spark Studio Spotlight

Our school year has begun in a flurry of excitement and Spark Studio was filled with more heroes than ever before! In a discussion, heroes shared they felt both nervous and excited about what was in store this year. When asked what they are most looking forward to, they answered, making new friends and trying new things. As they agreed upon our studio guardrails one hero noted that that being kind encompasses all our other rules, so it is ultimately most important. In true Village School School fashion, guides got to observe all of these elements in action in one location,the playground tree.

We watched as heroes carefully scaled the tree exhibiting bravery and dexterity. Once someone was on top of a branch, gleefully shouting down to the others it became a common goal. They used teamwork to coach and help one another navigate the tree and even cheered each other on, forming quick friendships with fellow climbers. When a knee was scraped against the bark of the tree, it provided a chance for a returning hero to show leadership and empathy as she rushed to get a band- aid and comforted her new fellow traveler.

A hero who struggled and doubted his abilities one afternoon, returned to the challenge with new determination. He was able to persevere and make it to the top branch, waving proudly from a place he couldn’t quite make it to the day before.

Celebrating Character: Session 7 Week 3

Outdoor exploration
Post celebration dish washing

What matters most in a young learners development? Is it how much information we can stuff into their brains in the first years of life? Or is it, instead, whether they are able to develop a very different set of qualities, a list that includes perseverance, self-control, curiosity, empathy, grit and self-confidence. Some may refer to these as noncognitive skills, psychologists call them personality traits, and the rest of us often think of them as character.

At Thursday’s hero’s celebration our young learners had the chance to reflect on new character traits they had built in themselves. They shared their gratitude with older heroes who aided them in their journey. We heard poignant speeches filled with words of friendship, wisdom and advice. Spark learners showed pride in the challenges they have overcome. As a group they decided that the traits of kindness, curiosity and grit all helped them to achieve their goals. Through giggles and teamwork they put together a snack and refreshing summer drink for all to share and enjoy! The celebration was a moment of pride and reflection that showcased the important life skills the heroes have honed this year.