Renewed Focus in Session 3

Spark learners may have told you about some new systems we introduced in Session 3. There are a lot!

Each learner now has a small chart posted next to their picture on the main bulletin board. There is a different row for each day of the week. It looks like this: 

In that first column, learners add stickers for reading (red), writing (yellow) and math (green) as they complete them during morning work. There is also a column for the “Learning Game,” which is explained in more detail below, a notes section, and a place where they can record their guide meeting for the week.

There is a lot packed into this little chart and the goals are many-fold. In the most obvious sense, this is a tactile, visual way for learners to see variety in their work. It gives them a way to track and record their own progress. Crucial here is that they are excited to give themselves those colorful little vinyl dots. They decide what constitutes enough work in each area to warrant a sticker. It’s also a great way for guides to see at a glance which areas the learners are engaging in most and in which areas they may need more support. 

Parents can also help learners reflect at home and at exhibition with questions about the chart. “What is the challenging work you did this week for reading?” You might throw in a few observations. “I notice there are two learning game points on Tuesday and four on Thursday. I wonder why you learned more later in the week.” Or “Wow, you must really like math. I see green dots every day this week!”

Maybe you want to help them see progress. “I see that you started out giving yourself one sticker each day, but now are earning three stickers per day. I wonder what that means?” Or you might help them reflect: “I wonder if you like being in charge of your own learning.” “What do you want to do differently next session?” “How have your feelings change about learning this session?”

As a side note, we talk a lot in all the studios about doing challenging work. Work that is not too easy, not too hard, but just right. We visualize this in Spark with the ‘challenge doughnut’ above. We also tell a story about Goldilocks visiting Spark studio. (I wonder if they can recount this for you at bedtime this weekend?) The goal is to help learners find and stay in their challenge zone, a skill that will help them in the Discovery studio and beyond. 

Now we come to the second column in our chart. The “learning game” is inspired by Becky Kennedy in her book Good Inside. This is pretty straightforward–when you learn something new, you give yourself a point. There’s no competition with other learners, as everyone’s points represent different things to them. The goal here is to get the children to look out for opportunities to try new things that they’ve never done before, to step outside their comfort zone. There’s a notes section where they can be more specific about what the points mean. Did they have a new lesson that day? Did they master a drawer? Did they complete a really hard math work for the first time?

These new systems are in the trial phase. We’ll try different things in the studio, keep what works, and phase out anything that doesn’t. But in just this first week, we’ve seen them generate lots of engaging work. Interestingly, it has bred more variety than usual. They are writing more complex stories, sharing them, asking for new lessons from guides, and teaching each other new, creative things they come up with. We can’t wait to see what they do in weeks 2 and 3! 

Session 3 “Sneak Peek”

Spark Studio

Imagine living in colonial times and the holidays not being so magical. This session, Spark learners will explore the different cultures of the past and take a look at the present through curious detective eyes. Learners will highlight the similarities and differences of the evolving world around them through hands-on activities. Learners will continue their continent of study for this session. Learners will hear more about South America through a guest talk that focuses on Colombia.

Learners will share in the fun with projects that feature snow, trees, and popcorn. Homemade crafts will be made by learners and given as a keepsake to each other. 

Learners will conclude the session by inspiring creativity through poetry and artwork that they will showcase in the studio at our Session 3 Exhibition.

Discovery Studio

“We are not makers of history, we are made by history.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. 

This session Discovery learners will transport themselves through their imaginations to the Ancient Greek city of Athens. Their mission: to complete a series of hands-on challenges and activities that will help them learn as much as they can about life in Ancient Greece. Along the way, they’ll be exploring big questions such as: How important is it to understand how the past has influenced our lives? How does knowing the origin of things impact our understanding of the world? How can understanding the past impact the future? 

Learners will extend their study of Ancient Greece by diving into Greek Mythology. They will explore the role that myths, gods and storytelling had in ancient times and will be challenged to write their own myths during Writing Workshop this session. 

Learners will share what they have learned at our Session 3 exhibition- where guests will be invited to time travel back to an Ancient Greek village!

 

Adventure Studio

What does velcro, your pillow, and wind turbines all have in common? They were all inspired by nature! 

This session Adventure learners will take a deep dive into the field of Biomimicry to prepare for the Biomimicry Youth Challenge in Session 4. Biomimicry is the study and use of nature as inspiration to design sustainable solutions. Learners will spend time exploring the history of the field, understand how biomimicry presents itself in their everyday lives, and consider the role biomimicry might play in solutions to some of our world’s biggest sustainability challenges. Learners will take on the role of biologists by spending time in nature observing for close looking, determining new curiosities about our local ecosystems, and meeting with scientists in a Biomimicry Lab.   

Learners will also take on the role of Historian and Researcher through the Session 3 DIY Civilization Communications Challenge. Learners will have the opportunity to take a deep dive into one of the exciting topics that have been explored throughout Civilizations this year. Learners will share their research and Big Questions at the Session 3 Exhibition – come ready to be curious about big histories! 

Health and Wellness

One day or day one. It’s your decision.” – unknown

What does it mean to make healthy choices for yourself? What areas of health are going well for you? What would you like to improve?

This session, learners will be exploring what we have learned so far about mental, social, emotional, and physical health. The learners will identify an area of focus, one that they would like to dive deeper into reflecting on, and create a goal for our winter session break. 

Learners will also have an opportunity to create a product of their choice that illustrates or demonstrates the healthy choices they are proud of. 

A Habit of Reflection

Reflection is a key part of our learning design at The Village School. We like to think of it as a habit, embedded into the daily, weekly, and session-long arcs of the school year, rather than an event- something that happens just once or twice a year at student-led conferences or at end-of-year passage presentations.

Daily, our learners have the experience of making choices about their learning. which includes setting their own goals from a menu of options and managing their time. At the end of the day, learners are asked to reflect on their day in the closing discussion. What went well? What didn’t go well? What might you do differently tomorrow?

Weekly, learners check in with guides for formal and informal guide meetings. In these meetings, guides will ask learners a range of questions. How are things going? How are you feeling about your learning? Are you on track to meet your goals? What are some ways you could get unstuck? What could you try instead? What areas (academic, social, etc.) do you need support?

Then at the end of a session, learners complete a written reflection on the experiences and challenges they’ve engaged in over the past 4-6 weeks. As they do this individually, they can draw from all of the practice they’ve had reflecting- as a whole group, in their weekly small groups or “Headrush Huddles” as we call them in Discovery Studio, one-on-one with a guide, and hopefully, through at-home conversations with a parent/guardian.

Through this habit of reflection, we are helping young people process their learning, make connections, and set next steps in a safe, low-stakes way. More importantly, it increases one’s confidence in the ability to achieve a goal (i.e., self-efficacy), which in turn translates into higher rates of learning.

As educational reformer, John Dewey famously said, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on that experience.”

Go! Pause! Stop!

Healthy relationships have been our focus during Session 2 across studios. We have been exploring what it means to be in a healthy relationship, how a healthy relationship feels, and what it means to have healthy conflicts with the people we care about.

We started with a reflection on the relationships that are meaningful to us and how we know that these relationships are important. Across studios there were many debates about who to pick as their healthiest relationship to reflect on. Many learners were torn between Mom and Dad. Character traits such as honestly, trust, kindness, dependability, and humor were important to all learners. Questions we reflected on included: What makes you feel loved? What characteristics make you feel good? What is important to you in a relationship? How do you like to be treated? How do you treat others? How do you define a “healthy relationship”?

Healthy relationships are unique to each individual, family unit, and setting. Healthy relationships depend on your culture, religion, age, and so much more. So, how do you know when a relationship is healthy? There are three key factors that affect whether we are in a healthy relationship. These are safety, health, and happiness. We should feel safe, physically and emotionally. We should feel accepted, have freedom of choice, express positive communication, have healthy conflict management, and trust. Relationships should be filled with joy. You know you are experiencing a healthy relationship when you treasure your time together.

Through this lens, the learners debated different scenarios identifying which behaviors were healthy, “green light” behaviors, which behaviors should give you pause, “yellow light” behaviors, and which behaviors are unhealthy, “red light” behaviors. Questions we explored together included: Is this relationship request/behavior reasonable? Is it healthy? What are the real issues in this relationship? What are the possible compromises for this situation? How would you manage and resolve this conflict?

One of the most important relationships we have is the one we have with ourselves. Each studio spent time exploring the characteristics that make their relationship with themselves a healthy one. Spark identified what makes them each unique and special. Discovery and Adventure learners reflected on their inner dialogue. What green light, yellow light and red behaviors do you express internally? What do you say to yourself that is positive? What do you say to yourself that you think you need to pause and reflect on? What negative things do you say to yourself? How can you rephrase them? 

Healthy relationships can make such a difference if our overall wellness and longevity. Take a moment to reflect on the healthiest relationship you have in your life. What makes you feel safe? What makes you feel happy? How do you know that this relationship is healthy?

If you are looking for a way to reflect, check out these healthy relationship worksheets for adults.

Dear Math

Dear Math, 

I’m sorry about the way I’ve treated you for the majority of my life. I can still remember the moment I turned on you, the moment I decided I wasn’t a “you-person”. It was in second grade when I didn’t pass the test on how to make change. Instead of attending my remedial math lesson, I hid in the classroom coat closet reading Ramona the Pest, swearing you off forever. I avoided you for the rest of my school experience. I even managed to get away with no math courses on my college transcript. It didn’t help that I spent ten years of my adult life as an English teacher, which sealed my fate as a “not a math person”. I called you names like boring and pointless for practically all of my childhood and most of my adulthood. It wasn’t until I took a statistics course just a few years ago when I realized that maybe…just maybe…I didn’t loathe you like I thought. 

I’ll never claim to be a non-math person again – and now I realize how foolish I was to accept the dichotomy of math and English. Two things can be true: I can be good at math and love to read and write. I can struggle to learn math, and I can enjoy the process. So, I’m sorry that it took me so long to come to this realization.Thanks for your patience, math. Please accept my apology.

Sincerely, 

Me

One of the first math challenges of the year in Adventure studio was to write a letter to math. The above is an excerpt from my own letter. What if you were tasked with the challenge – what would you write, what story would your letter tell? Would your letter sound similar to mine? If you had to graph your relationship with math over the course of your life, how would it look? Has your relationship with math changed since you were in school? Do you consider yourself a “math person” or not?  

Our goal at The Village School is to cultivate a culture of learning around math that focuses on curiosity, appreciation, and deep understanding. We design our curriculum in hopes that our learner’s letters to math sound much different from mine.

Research suggests that learning math is most meaningful when mistakes are valued as much as a correct answer, and when focused on authentic tasks rather than rote memorization. We can confirm these ideas through our experience as educators in many school settings, and especially through our observations of our own learners over the past four years. We keep this research at the forefront of our curriculum design as we strive to support our learners in developing mathematical mindsets. 

Khan Academy supports our learners in developing their own understanding through mastery-based online courses. The adaptive online programing allows learners to move through the curriculum at their own pace, focusing on mastery of specific math skills. Mistakes made in Khan are met with more learning opportunities instead of the traditional punitive consequences. Completing a course in Khan Academy requires a learner to fully engage with the learning process – they are the active participants determining the content and the pace of their learning. 

Great Problems are an opportunity for learners to collaborate on open-ended mathematical tasks. Learners engage in these In Discovery studio great problems take the shape of collaborative morning warm-up challenges. Adventure learners complete at least three great problems each session, spending sometimes up to one hour working on the solution to a single problem. 

Quests are a chance for our learners to engage with real-world, authentic math tasks. Science curriculum in Discovery and Adventure studio is delivered primarily through project-based learning Quests and often requires learners to engage in specific math skills that are in addition to their set curriculum on Khan Academy. Recent quests in Adventure studio include: The Physics quest, which required velocity and motion calculations using advanced math formulas, and the Money & Me quest required monthly budget, annual percentage rate, loan, and tax calculations. Recent quests in Discovery include: The Game Design quest where learners developed understanding around probability and statistics, and the Community Meal quest where learners are working on calculations that go into preparing a meal as well as the logistics of an event.

Math Coaching is an additional support we offer for our learners. Our Math Lab is open for learners for set times each week during both studio’s morning work sessions where they have access to a math educator to support them in their work on Khan Academy, Great Problems, and even Quest related math tasks. The dedicated time and space for math has been helpful in providing learners with the right level of structure and support in a self-directed learning environment.  

The learning opportunities focused on math go far beyond mastery on Khan Academy, and place learners in situations where mathematical reasoning and understanding is authentically relevant. The four elements of our math curriculum: Khan, Great Problems, Quests, and Math Coaching, are intentionally designed to instill an understanding, appreciation, and curiosity around math that hopefully results in a letter that sounds something like this…

Dear Math, 

Wow! Everywhere I look I see you. I see you in the design of the natural world, and in the architecture of the city where I live. You play such an important role in my life and in the world around me. Thank you for being patient with me, especially when I’m learning something new. Sometimes you can be really tricky, but I know if I’m patient with myself, I will figure you out. I’m so glad I’m a “you person!” 

Beyond Good

Since becoming a parent, the number of times I’ve uttered the words “Good job!”, “Great try”, or something similar has increased exponentially. I don’t even think about it, the words just roll off my tongue. I’ve said “good job” so many times the phrase falls into the same meaningless category as “hurry up” and “be careful”. If the words were so automatic, and I didn’t even have to think to say them, how much meaning could they hold for whoever was on the receiving end? The same holds true for the type of feedback that passes between learners and guides in our studios; our learning design relies on quality feedback. Instead of lots of “good jobs”, our goal is that feedback in our studios is meaningful, motivating, and kind. 

According to research, feedback in the form of cliches like “good job” are actually not feedback at all, and certainly don’t align with our definition of feedback at TVS. Carol Dweck, well known for her research on growth mindset, reminds us that the praise we get, especially from parents, educators, and coaches can shape the way we see ourselves, our abilities, and our intelligence. Instead Dweck suggests using phrases that are focused on effort and detail. Our Spark Guides give ongoing growth mindset praise and feedback, and their ideas about what to say instead of good job are a continued source of inspiration. 

Spark Studio’s Helpful Reminders during Session 1 Exhibition

Beyond praise, feedback is an integral part of the learning design at TVS. We rely on learners to provide meaningful feedback to each other and we prioritize feedback as a way for learners and their families to see growth. We like to think of feedback as an ongoing conversation that follows our learners in their studios with each other, with guides, and at home with their families. 

Guides spent time this summer thinking about how to strengthen the feedback systems to support learners as they step into their role as receiver and provider. In our planning, we used criteria identified by research across educational and workplace settings that point to three conditions that result in meaningful feedback. 

Feedback should be face to face: There are many systems within the studio that position learners beside one another to provide feedback. 

  • Community Meeting is something that happens almost every day, providing a venue for learners to present their work and ideas for group feedback dialogue. 
  • Guide meetings position guides and learners side by side for a feedback conversation. These conversations are documented by both learners and guides, allowing for transparency and accountability.  
  • Community Partners are often invited to provide feedback to learners both at the midway point and end of learning experiences like Quest, Writer’s Workshop, and Communications. 

Feedback should compare performance to a standard: Ron Berger is well known in the education community for his work surrounding experiential learning and what he calls, the “ethic of excellence.” His research shows how powerful models of excellence can be when inspiring young people to reconsider, rework, and revise. Berger’s work has informed our use of learner-created rubrics to help define excellent work. In session 1 learners in Discovery and Adventure created their own rubrics for their writing challenges based on close examination of model work from the real world. These rubrics were a helpful jumping off point for feedback conversations. 

Our new learning platform, Headrush, also highlights the learning goals and competencies that Discovery and Adventure learners are working towards in each of their badges. The competencies are all tied to the TVS Portrait of a Graduate, which informs our learning design. These competencies are a helpful frame for both feedback and documentation of each learner’s journey towards mastery. 

Feedback should include suggestions: Guides and learners in Discovery and Adventure studio started the year providing feedback using The Ladder of Feedback, a research based feedback protocol from Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education’s research group. The Ladder provides a framework for a feedback discussion guiding participants through four steps on a ladder: clarifying questions, value statements, concerns, and finally suggestions. Learners have used this protocol with each other and with guides to discuss their writing and project ideas. 

Learners engaged in a feedback conversation using The Ladder of Feedback

Providing and accepting meaningful feedback is a skill that takes practice. The systems we’ve designed are meant to provide learners with many opportunities for just that. We invite you to join us – the next time you are in search of some feedback, as your learner. And, if you’re like me, “good job” will roll off your tongue at least once today (if it hasn’t already) and when it does, maybe you’ll take a minute to think beyond good. 

To Assess or Connect? That is the question!

Almost two months into the school year, many of us wonder–how is my learner doing? In a school with no tests, grades, or homework, assessing progress can seem a bit mystifying. 

Our first instinct might be to ask our children about reading, writing, science, math, etc. “What did you read today? How long did you spend on math? Did you write a story?” As products of a more traditional school system, most of us were expected to progress according to specific norms on a set schedule. We might know logically that kids don’t actually learn that way, and maybe we chose The Village School for exactly that reason. But letting go of all of those benchmarks can still feel disorienting.

Take a quick look at our “Portrait of a Graduate.” It shows how we put the basic academics in a much broader context as a way to guide our learning design. Building character, improving interpersonal interactions, and developing the desire to learn are just as–if not more–important compared to knowing specific subject material. These essential building blocks create the lifelong learners we want our children to be.

That still leaves the question of how to assess their progress. What if, instead of monitoring test grades and poring over report cards, we use questions and conversations to gauge growth? Character-related queries, reflections on the process of learning, discussions about how they connect with their peers and guides, all send the subtle message that these are the things we value most. 

Who were you kind to this week?

What was your greatest failure (that taught you a valuable lesson)?

When did you have the most energy today?

When did you serve as a guide for someone else? Who guided you?

What was your greatest achievement this week?

How did you work through a challenge today?

Tell me about an opportunity you had to help someone this week.

What are you struggling with?

How can I support you?

Just choose two or three at a time–always questions, never answers. The goal here is to listen intentionally and approach with genuine curiosity. Pay attention to their interests. Do their experiences in school spark passions in new areas? Do they turn to books to answer their questions or collaborate with peers? Take stock of their interactions with others, too. Are they kinder, more patient or more empathetic? 

The pictures on Transparent Classroom are great conversation starters. Ask about specific works you see, what they learned from them, and whether that was easy, challenging or hard. 

It’s also helpful to quietly observe them from afar. Guides use this technique as an essential way to understand how learners think, see, feel, and learn. What are their goals? How do those goals change over the course of a year? Observation will help you connect more deeply to their learning journey. There’s no right or wrong way: evening or weekend, once a week or once a month. Capture a few moments and reflect on them later, perhaps at a family meeting. Children love it when they feel noticed, seen, appreciated. 

You can adapt school systems for home, too. Some learners are eager to create a home contract, much like the ones in their studios, in which they list the promises they make to family members. During difficult moments, you can pause and ask “What did we agree about XYZ on our contract?” 

Once a week, you might check in with them, like we do in guide meetings. Maybe you touch base about goals they have and talk about how they felt their work during the week. You might choose a few of the questions suggested above, or think of your own. The challenge is to ask these questions from a genuine place of curiosity, without conveying expectations–met or unmet. Children can sense when we trust them to do it themselves and when we take a real interest in their lives.

Assessment is a tricky thing. For a lot of us, it may cause more than a little angst. When in doubt, resist the urge to compare one child to another. Everyone learns differently, at their own pace. That learning comes easiest when children are ready and motivated to learn!

Session 2 “Sneak Peek”

Spark Studio

Spark learners will continue to learn about the cultures of North America and will delve into South America as well. We will immerse ourselves in the fall season, both indoors and out, with fall-themed lessons on the shelf and at Ms. Jenny’s. We will also start our field trips to the library and nearby Madison Manor Park. 

Do you know anyone who has lived in South America and can come in person or virtually to tell us about it? Can you teach us about something that happens in the Fall, perhaps related to farming, festivals, pumpkins, the weather, etc?

Learners will also explore and learn about different types of wildlife and bring their projects to life through collaboration.

Discovery Studio

For this session’s Quest, Discovery learners will step into the shoes of event planners as they plan a community meal for the end of the session. We will explore what makes a gathering meaningful, meet with experts to learn about different aspects of event planning, and work together to research recipes (and allergies!) and identify quantities and costs of ingredients to develop an actionable plan for the meal. 

Discovery learners will work on their persuasive writing skills as they research and write a pitch for a possible field trip next session. After researching and writing a pitch, learners will present their pitches at the end of the session in hopes of convincing their studio mates to vote for their field trip idea. The pitch with the most votes will be our field trip for next session!

Adventure Studio

“Mo’ money, mo’ problems” – Biggie Smalls 

“The money you make will never buy back your soul” – Bob Dillon

“Money changes everything” – Cindy Lauper

“If I had a million dollars, well I’d buy you a house…” Barenaked Ladies

“I don’t need no money, fortune, or fame” The Temptations

Which quote reflects your beliefs about money? Is money the root of all evil, or can money buy happiness? This session learners will uncover what money means to them during the Money & Me Quest. By the end of the sessions learners will understand how to create and manage a monthly personal budget and they will have written a financial philosophy based on what they have learned. 

Learners will have the opportunity to hear from experts in the field of finance through Community Partner Talks and where they will learn about careers in finance and get feedback on their draft budgets, investment choices and personal philosophies. At the end of the session learners will exhibit their final budgets to a panel of personal finance advisors. 

Have money questions? Ask adventure learners for their expertise in a few weeks! 

Health and Wellness

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller

What relationships are the most important in your life? What makes them important? How do these special people make you feel? What are the key components of healthy relationships? How do these relationships affect our health? Our next session together will focus on healthy relationships.

Learners will also be exploring healthy conflict resolution strategies. Conflict resolution is a normal part of healthy relationships. How can we manage conflict? How can we approach conflict as an opportunity to grow in our relationships? 

We will also take time to explore the relationship that learners have with themselves. They will be challenged to reflect upon who they are and the value that each of them brings to our community. Every learner is an important part of their studio. Our learning environment is built upon the strengths that each of them share. Recognizing their strengths and value to our community will support their most important relationship, the one they have with themselves. 

“How are you feeling today?”

By Bridget Yoko

“How are you feeling today?” It’s a question we often ask others. Our societal responses are usually a casual “good”, “fine”, an occasional “ok” followed by the usual follow up “how are you?” with the same ingrained causal responses.

In my first session as the Wellness Specialist at The Village School, the goal of answering that question has been to take a deep dive into our emotions and the feelings that correspond with those emotions. What are emotions? How do they feel? What is your body telling you? How do we handle our emotions when they become uncomfortable? How can we identify those emotions in others?

Each studio is filled with different perspectives, developmental levels, and interpretations about emotions. In Spark Studio, the learners had discussions around anger, sadness, disgust, happiness, surprise, and fear.

Spark learners are working together to match emotions with facial expressions.

Learners were eager to share how they identify these emotions in others by the facial expressions and body language of their friends and family. Experiences that were common amongst the learners were anger and frustration with siblings, sharing toys, or when others do not listen to them when they are talking. They also had strong reactions of disgust when it comes to eating vegetables they do not like. We then explored where in our bodies we feel our emotions. When we are having a strong emotion, what does that feel like?

Learners reflected on times that they experienced emotions and what it felt like in their bodies.

Learners shared sentiments such as “I feel happiness in my chest”, “I know I am happy when I have an overwhelming feeling inside”, “I keep all of my feelings in my brain, my brain tells me how I feel”, and “when I feel angry, I feel it in my arms and legs, I have to do something with it!” Spark learners are eager to act out these emotions and share stories. Next, learners will be exploring what to do when they have an uncomfortable emotion. What should I do when I am angry? Sad? Disgusted? Or fearful? We will be exploring these together soon!

Discovery Studio has dived a bit deeper into emotions. They have been using an emotions wheel to identify what they look like in others, how they know when someone is feeling a certain way, and what to do when you notice someone is feeling lonely, sad, overwhelmed, angry, happy, excited, or afraid.

Discovery learners discussing emotions, facial expressions, and body language.

Learners have explored what emotions meant to them through illustrations and shared experiences. Themes that have emerged are the joy that they feel with their families and friends, with special desserts, and while playing sports. Uncomfortable emotions such as feeling worthless, invaluable, and angry have been identified as hard to describe. Many learners made connections with each other when describing feelings of fear. They comforted each other through different suggestions and strategies for how to find comfort when you are afraid. What do you tell yourself when you are afraid? What does fear feel like inside of you? What is that feeling of fear telling you?

Adventure Studio has begun the process of journaling. Journaling has been shown to help adolescents process their feelings and emotions in a healthy way (check out this article on teen journaling). We can often be overwhelmed by many emotions at once. Learners discussed how our bodies are giving us signals like feeling hot in our face or beginning to sweat when nervous.

Adventure learners creating collages representing who they are and how they feel.

Discussions around what it means to feel joyful, pressured, overwhelmed, and fragile dominated our conversations. Learners were eager to create collages about emotions they have experienced lately. Some of these included what it means to feel content or overwhelmed with happiness. Pressure was also an emotion that many learners have had experiences with. Which emotions are uncomfortable? Which are comfortable? What do you do when you are having an uncomfortable emotion? Learners will be discussing these emotions, how we identify them within ourselves and others, and strategies for what to do in the future.

These exercises are for more than use in the classroom. They provide learners with tools to name and process how they’re feeling at a deeper level. What is your body telling you today? What do you need? What is uncomfortable for you? What is comfortable? With these tools, your learner can challenge themselves to discover more about who they are, what they are feeling, and why. Have a conversation with your learner today and see what unfolds.

So, how are you feeling today?

Exhibitions of Learning: Take a seat!

What is an Exhibition of Learning? Exhibitions at The Village School are one of our primary modes of assessment – but most importantly they are an opportunity for learners to share and celebrate their learning with their “village”. 

In the education world, an Exhibition of Learning is described as a performance-based summative assessment – another way of describing anything that is not a multiple choice, standardized test. As a student, my culminating assessment experience was almost always such a test, and my guess is that your experience was similar. 

There are decades of research that reveal the inadequacies of standardized, multiple choice tests. Most damaging are the studies that show that success on a standardized test predicts little to nothing about a person’s success in their life. Research and our own experience also reminds us that we can ace a test one week and forget all of the information we once “knew” the next. Education and brain science researchers will remind us that this is because these tests are good at measuring recall and surface level understanding, not deep learning. 

On a larger scale, many colleges and universities have gone test-optional and companies like Google stopped requiring transcripts and test scores years ago. If colleges and companies are moving beyond these tests and the research proves their inadequacies, we should all be wondering why more schools aren’t changing their assessment practices. The fact that this assessment experience remains the status quo for the current generation should be appalling. 

The word assessment is derived from the Latin root assidere, which means “to sit beside”. At the Village School our goal is to design assessments that are true to this definition. We believe in assessments for learning, not of learning. We believe in assessments that require learners to be “active protagonists” in their own experiences, not passive consumers. We believe in assessments that literally require us to “sit beside” each learner. Exhibitions of learning fulfill all of these goals. 

A TVS Exhibition of Learning is an opportunity for our village of guides and families to sit beside learners and understand their experience in order to help them grow and help us design the kind of learning environment and experiences that will continue to help them thrive. 

There are organizations dedicated to spreading the practice of exhibition-like assessments to schools and students all over the country. We are not alone in the effort to redefine assessments in schools – but we are ahead of the curve.

So, it is with great anticipation and excitement that we invite you to take a seat at our first Exhibition of Learning next week. How will you practice “sitting beside” your learner as they share their Session 1 journey with you? What questions will you ask them to help them reflect on their accomplishments and their future goals? What will listening to them share their learning reveal about them and who they are becoming? What will listening to them teach you about yourself?