Archive for October, 2010

Cheating in Science, Part II: School is a Breeding Ground for Cheaters

One of the tragedies of our system of schooling is that it deflects students from discovering what they truly love and find worth doing for its own sake. Instead, it teaches them that life is a series of hoops that one must get through, by one means or another, and that success lies in others' judgments rather than in real, self-satisfying accomplishments.

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In Tribute

We learned last Monday about the tragic accidental death of David Hepner, one of our 2009 graduates. He was riding in a truck with two other graduates, passing the home of yet another graduate. The news and suddenness has shocked and rocked our community, but the unique fabric of a Sudbury school has already begun to show.

We had an informal discussion in front of the impromptu memorial in the Chesapeake Room Tuesday, with many staff and student remembrances of David. Several community members with grief counseling experience and training have been volunteering to offer support to both current School Meeting members and alumni. Like in other communities, people are volunteering to pitch in as these multiple families cope with crisis and loss.

What’s been unmistakable is how helpful our structure is for adjusting to life’s vicissitudes; thank goodness we do not have to compartmentalize grief and sadness, that we can just talk about it when we want and where we want.

As we continue, we are buoyed by David’s ebullient spirit, and by our fond memories of him: his gusto on the soccer field; his kind, loving relationship with the younger students; his remarkable capacity for spontaneous joy (even in his last act, according to witnesses); his profound love for his friends; his quick smile. Although there is no explanation for the tragedy of a nineteen-year-old dying, we offer our appreciation for knowing him and for this caring, human community in which we mourn his loss.

Mark McCaig

October, 2010

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Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson gives a witty yet profound talk about schools and education, pointing out the possibilities for a new paradigm in education.  The accompanying animation from RSAanimate makes the talk come alive in a very cool way.  Check it out!

“We are getting our children through education by anesthetizing them….I think we should be doing the exact opposite.  We should be waking them up to what they have inside of themselves.”

You can also watch the whole talk, without animation, here.


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Student Quote

Quotes from one student’s first week

“This place is like a miracle”

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Sir Ken Robinson on the whiteboard

A great video from the animating geniuses at RSA Animation of a lecture by Sir Ken Robinson on the history of education in the Western world, what's amiss with it & why, and where he thinks it ought to go.

The animation is not quite 12 minutes long.
You can get a bigger view here.

If you want, you can also watch the whole lecture (about 55 minutes).

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Clearwater Hand Rhyming

Jacy and Maddy, nine (almost 10) and eleven years old respectively, spend some of their time at Clearwater perfecting their skills with clapping games. They have a large repertoire which continues to grow as they add new rhymes, including some of their own compositions. They plan to perform a long routine at Whistlepig, and at the winter concert of the Clearwater Singers.

I love watching them practice. Some might classify their activity as play with little value beyond having fun, and you may rest assured that both girls are having a lot of it. Playing and having fun is dismissed far too often in our culture as charming, but ultimately frivolous and unimportant in the grand scheme. Upon closer observation, however, it becomes obvious that there's a lot going on in addition to having fun. To achieve their goal of perfecting these routines, the two girls must be focused, disciplined, persistent, creative and collaborative. In fact, fun cannot exist without these elements. Play is satisfying and mind-expanding only because it is complex, challenging and engages the whole person.

To create and work out all the details of each rhyme, the girls collaborate, try different things and practice over and over and over until they are happy with the result. When they make a mistake, they stop and instantly go back a line or two in the rhyme and do that part over a few times. They hold a dizzying array of patterns in their heads without confusing one with another.

The fun they have working and playing together is infectious. Here's a sample of what they're working on. Their concert version will have some original pieces, as well as being smoother, longer and probably faster.

End of post.

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CURRICULUM: Discussion Evening hosted by Reach

Curriculum What is it?   —————– Do we need it?  ———— Who decides?  ————- What kind?  —————– Does it matter?  ———— To whom?  —————— Why? ————————- Join us in a lively discussion of the role of CURRICULUM in alternative education, whether homeschooling, unschooling, online schooling, Waldorf, Montessori, Sudbury education and more. Thursday, October 28/10     7 – 8:30 p.m. Frankland Community Centre 816 Logan Ave., just [...]

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Building a community at Reach

Thirteen people interested specifically in Reach Sudbury School met to discuss the current status of the school and to ask questions about school policies. We talked about the kinds of students we thought would be appropriate for the school, attendance policies, School Meeting, Judicial Committee, what we’re looking for in a site. I [...]

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Sugata Mitra’s classic Hole-In-The-Wall experiments are fascinating proof that children can and do teach themselves.

Young children in the experiments figured out how to use a PC without any supervision or formal instruction.  Dr. Mitra, a computer scentist in India, installed an internet-enabled PC  in a wall between his office and an area that he characterizes as “an urban slum.”  Then he waited to see what would happen.

Within minutes of leaving the computer unsupervised, children in the neighborhood began exploring the new gadget.  Dr Mitra was astounded to find that within a very short amount of time, the children taught themselves to use the computer and navigate the internet. What’s more, the children who figured it out instantly became teachers, spreading new skills through their community within hours.   In Dr. Mitra’s second hole-in-the-wall installation, a 13-year-old child who had never before seen a computer had taught himself to browse the internet in 8 minutes.  Not long after, he had gathered the neighborhood children and a new skill began spreading virally among kids of all ages.

Does this seem unusual and amazing?  In fact, at Sudbury schools, students do this all day long.  Daniel Greenberg, founder of the Sudbury Valley School, commented recently:

The work of Sugata Mitra in India has often been referenced by me as an example of what occurs in Sudbury model schools all the time.  Now, a talk that he delivered has been posted on the website of TED, with the following url: Sugata Mitra TED talk

Unfortunately, even for Dr. Mitra, it is hard to go the whole way, and understand the full significance of what he has done.  He ends a wonderful talk by introducing facilitators, who are actually irrelevant to the main points he had been making.  Nevertheless, the talk, and the experiments it documents, is a treasure.

Watch the TED talk here.  It demonstrates without a doubt that we humans can self-0rganize for learning regardless of our age and socioeconomic condition.   We learn efficiently and well by teaching ourselves and each other as our curiosity arises.  As Hole-In-The-Wall children and their counterparts at Sudbury schools show, there’s no need for supervision or formal instruction when kids are free to exercise their natural, hard-wired ability to learn.
(posted by Abbe)

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Tuesday Cooking Class

Each Tuesday at Clearwater staff member Mat Riggle and Robert, an advanced student chef, work with Clearwater students of all ages to prepare a meal that the group has chosen. When the food is finished cooking, they all sit down and literally enjoy the fruits of their labors. After eating, everyone works to clean the kitchen, from dishes to pots to counters and tables to the floor.

Recently, they decided to make yakisoba or Japanese fried noodles.

Setting up

Separating yakisoba noodles

Cutting chicken

Several students chopped vegetables.

These two peeled carrots.

Robert (below right) noticed that Jaime was peeling the carrot by moving the peeler blade toward his carrot-holding hand rather than away from it. He quickly came over to explain and demonstrate to Jaime the safe way to peel a carrot.

Mat brought a propane wok to school to stir fry the yakisoba. Propane cooks at higher heat than non-commercial stoves. High-heat stir-frying maintains the color and crispness of vegetables better than steaming, which is what lower-heat residential stoves do.

More story, photos and recipes after the jump...

Several students tried their hand at rapidly circulating the meat, veggies and noodles in the wok.

Mat explained that since meat takes longer to cook, it is fried first. He also mentioned that frying with peanut oil adds a distinctive flavor to yakisoba.

Students discovered that keeping the food moving in the wok kept it from sticking or burning. Stirring food up the sides helped the liquid evaporate more quickly and prevented vegetables from steam cooking and becoming mushy.

Various seasonings were added throughout the stir frying to enhance flavors.


Pork Yakisoba
12 oz. yakisoba (rinsed with water and drained)
3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
2 oz. pork (cut into small pieces and marinated with some soy sauce)
2 oz. cabbage (roughly chopped into pieces)
2 oz. carrot (cut into thin strips)
Some scallions (cut into thin threads)
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sake
1/2 tsp mirin
3 dashes white pepper powder
1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp sesame oil
Salt to taste

Heat up wok with oil. Add garlic and stir fry unti llight brown in color. Add pork and do a few quick stirs before adding cabbage and carrot. Stir a few times and add noodles and all the seasonings. Continue to stir-fry until the vegetables and noodles are cooked, for 1-2 minutes. Transfer out and serve immediately with some benishoga (Japanese pickled ginger).

Chicken Yakisoba
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp chile paste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch cubes.
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 onion, sliced lengthwise into eighths
1/2 medium head cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
8 oz. soba noodles, cooked and drained

In a large skillet combine sesame oil, canola oil and chile paste. Stir fry 30 seconds. Add garlic and stir fry an additional 30 seconds. Add chicken and 1/4 cup of soy sauce and stir fry until chicken is no longer pink. Remove mixture from pan, set aside and keep warm.

In the emptied pan, combine onion, cabbage and carrots. Stir fry until cabbage begins to wilt. Stir in the remaining soy sauce, cooked noodles and the chicken mixture to pan and mix to blend. Serve and enjoy!

End of post.

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