Archive for February, 2011

Alternative Learning on Canada AM

Dr. Carlo Ricci, Reach’s education consultant, who is a professor of education at Nipissing University and an advocate of learner-centred democratic education, was featured on the Canada AM series “What To Do When Kids Are Failing”. Watch the full series here. See Carlo speak about educational alternatives and particularly about Reach as well as other [...]

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Creek Village Rises Again

Fat alder buds (Alnus rubra)

As early tree and shrub buds were swelling and opening last week, signs of human habitation suddenly appeared on the west side of North Creek.

Indian plum (Oemleria cerasiformis)--one of the earliest blooming native shrubs

I spotted this mysterious structure on the far side of the foot bridge and crossed over to look more closely.

After I crossed the bridge it became obvious there was more to the lonely structure than what I could see from the other side of the creek.

Soon I spotted another structure with a little pile of firewood in front. (Fire is not allowed on campus, but firewood is essential for authenticity.)

One group constructed a long house of sorts and were inside refining the structure and enjoying each other's company.

This hamlet is the latest incarnation of Creek Village, which for the past four years has arisen and flourished for about a month, in early or late spring.

During the first year, four Clearwater students created homes within the natural structure of shrubs, trees and underbrush across the creek. Matt, the only staff member in the village, acted as lodge keeper. Creek Village residents paid him in salmonberries for the opportunity to sleep at the lodge, located at Second Beach. (There are three accessible beaches along Clearwater School's stretch of North Creek. Starting with the most northern beach, they are consecutively named First, Second and Third Beach.) Every day residents trooped to their village. Someone yelled "Breakfast!"; five minutes later, "Lunch!"; after five more minutes, "Dinner!"; then "Night time!"; and finally, "Morning!". They shared food from their lunches and ate salmonberries at meal time.

A year later the four original village founders were joined by two more people. In addition to the daily schedule, they added picnics at Third Beach and hikes to First Beach, where they foraged and explored. The third year of Creek Village was much the same, with the addition of four more residents.

By most accounts, Creek Village this year is a lot more fun than the previous three years combined. For one thing, around 16 people are involved so far, although they're not always all in residence at the same time. No staff members are regular residents of this year's village. The group abandoned the tree and shrub dwellings from previous years (which they call "Abandoned Creek Village"), although some continue to poke around the old digs in the same manner as anyone who is fascinated by abandoned townsites.

More after the jump...
This year residents scavenged sturdy downed tree branches to shape conical and oblong skeletons, and then covered them with blankets and tarps. Inside the structures residents placed sleeping pads, blankets and lunches. At the end of each day, they leave the building skeletons standing and pack out all the tarps, blankets and pads.

This year villagers divide the day into four segments: breakfast, dinner, night and morning. A day is 30 minutes long. Residents who have cell phones keep track of the time and announce when each segment begins. Residents have created currency to pay for stick weapons and food. Currency is mined in the sandbar at Third Beach, although some people also bring trinkets from home to serve as currency. There is also a lot of item trading.

With the influx of new residents this year, conflict was inevitable. One group of people wanted everyone to have imaginary pets that followed people around, but another group was firmly opposed. One resident described the conflict as a civil war that involved the destruction of some homes and different factions yelling "Pets" or "No pets". Everyone agreed to put the matter to a vote. A majority voted against a requirement that everyone have pets, while allowing people who wanted pets to have them.

Soon after this issue was resolved and homes were restored, residents decided to practice stick fighting for fun and everything was peaceful.

Peace continued even as Outcast Village was created by three students nearby as an alternate place to hang out and to have fun good-naturedly bugging Creek village residents.

A new person joined Creek Village and decided to start his own town near First Beach, which he called Riverside Village. He recruited so many Creek Village residents for his town that half the population left. The remaining Creek Village inhabitants felt abandoned and declared war on Riverside Village. Stick fighting ensued; no one was hurt and no one destroyed people's homes.

By this time, each village had a mayor--Lily for Creek Village and Stephen for Riverside Village. The two mayors met and decided the fighting was pointless. They convinced the residents of each of their villages to stop fighting and everyone agreed to be residents of Creek Village. The town retains the two locations as distinct and cooperative neighborhoods. The two mayors agreed to be co-mayors of greater Creek Village.

The residents of Creek Village last week included Lily, Justin (aka Boombox), Arlo, Nikos, Tommie, Jackie, Vera, Mara, Jesse, Chiara, Zoe, J.R., Jackie, Stephen (aka Crazy Uncle Steve), Tarka and Caden.

End of post.

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A Recent Visitor’s Blog

For the month of January, Fairhaven School hosted Monika Wernz, a visitor from a startup Sudbury school group in Munich. From the beginning, we have welcomed visitors from all over the world to our campus. On the one hand, we want to support growth and awareness of the Sudbury approach to education. On the other hand, visitors who understand the model are a gift to our community, enriching all of our lives.  As usual, Fairhaven  School families generously hosted Monika for the month.

For several months, Monika has visited numerous schools Sudbury and democratic schools across the globe, and she has been posting photos and text via her blog. Although the text is in German, her photos are stunning, and I encourage you to check them out!

(Scrolling down to the bottom of the page will reveal a few Fairhaven School posts, with links to more at the bottom of the page.)

Monika plans to compile her photos and writings in a book as a promotional tool not only for her nascent school, but also as a boon to all of the Sudbury schools. To that end, Fairhaven School’s PR Committee voted to approve the use of Fairhaven School photos in her project. We look forward to seeing the book in the near future.

Many thanks for visiting, Monika, and good luck with your school!

Mark McCaig

February, 2011

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A Live Animal Show: How Fairhaven School Sometimes Works

Showing students a snake.

Two months ago, C., a twelve-year-old student, obtained permission from School Meeting to volunteer every Thursday at the nearby Clearwater Nature Center in pursuit of his Junior Naturalist certification. Two weeks ago, as a component of his training, he co-hosted a live animal demonstration in the Chesapeake Room with his supervisor.

He and the school are thrilled that we have the flexibility to allow him to pursue this passion as part of his education. We also appreciate C. and the Nature Center for sharing their animals and expertise with the school. Our students sat in rapt attention for nearly two hours as C. and his supervisor showed us a screech owl, a red-shouldered hawk, a black snake, a milk snake, a toad, a lizard, and a hissing cockroach.  Their patience with our questions was exemplary. Afterward, our guest commented on the quality of the questions our students asked.

...and a lizard.

Sometimes, the unique quality of Fairhaven School can be difficult to convey, and has to be seen and heard to be believed. Just like live animals…

Our naturalist guest and C. compare snakes.

Mark McCaig

February, 2011

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Lesson in Bones

At one student’s request, Dr. Danny Wescott, Professor of Anthropology at Florida International University, hauled his bone collection over to our school to share with students.

bones2 bones3 bones4 bones5 bones6 bones7 bones8 bones9 bones10

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Amy Chua Is a Circus Trainer, Not a Tiger Mother

Amy Chua may not have written her "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" as satire, but in fact it is satire. It shows the absurdity of our current, mainstream approach to education if we take it to its logical conclusion.

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February Announcements

Renovation of 4202 -  We have been working hard.  We have emptied out our extra space at 4202.  A big thank you to the garage sale team.   Here are some items we could use:  Sofas, beanbag chairs, bookshelves, musical instruments, Wii, Xbox, Area Rug, Paint, Etc.  It would be ideal if anyone has or knows somebody that has the listed items.  However,  you could  also help by keeping an eye on Freecycle, local yard sales and the free section of Craigslist.

Garage Sale and Craigslist -  We had a blowout yard sale last week.  Our volunteer parent extraordinaire, Deborah Cunningham, was here from dawn til dusk.  Not to mention the weeks before the yard sale Deborah posted and sold many items on craigslist.

Orange Blossom Festival- Come out and visit our booth at the annual Orange Blossom Festival.

Festival Times:
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Sat.)
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Sun.)
Town Hall, 6591Orange Drive
$5.00 on the festival grounds

The festival will feature over 250 displays and will take place down Orange Drive from Davie Rd. west to SW 66th Terrace.  This portion of Orange Drive will be closed off during the festival.  Free activities for both days includes an arts & crafts show, fine arts show, western town, musical entertainment, Native American display, animal farm, western carriage display, commerce corner, information displays green product displays and plant give-away.  There will be a concert on Saturday, featuring The Ramblers and also Sunday, featuring Shane Duncan!There will also be a free kids’ corner that includes a bounce house, giant slide, and climbing wall.  Admission to the festival is FREE.

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Volunteer Happenings

A volunteer is working on applying for WholeFoods 5% day.  They accept non-profit applications 4 times a year and the next quarter is coming up.  We have to submit our application by Friday February 18th.

On Sunday March 27th we are hoping to have a special open house to kick off Summer Camp registration.  A volunteer is checking with major grocery store chains and the giant bulk superstores for food donations for a possible summer style cook out.

There is a special Festival every year in Davie called the Orange Blossom Festival and it will be held Saturday Feb 26 through Sunday Feb 27.  4 volunteers will each take a 4 hour shift with the staff members .  We are planning to have School literature, a computer with our NBC segment playing and a craft for kids to do for a donation.

We also have a volunteer that will be putting up much needed shelving in toy room at school.

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by Carla Rover

My 6 year old pulls a face and insists that 5 more minutes of play won’t make him too sleepy to wake up in the morning. I pretend to grudgingly give in. His “play” is learning about how a laser works. He takes his chalkboard and writes a question. He then flips through his encyclopedia and looks under “L” for info. “Not enough facts”, he says tersely, and goes to his computer to google for more answers. A full 15 minutes later he is drawing a sketch of a laser saber, determining that reflective surfaces, a stable energy source and a method of intensifying and focusing the light would be necessary to “create the Star Wars effect”. “How many reflective surfaces do I need?” I shrug. “What are the shapes and material that I would need mommy? – wait, I will look it up”. He flips through various books in his room, geometry, a pre-school book of shapes, and a physics book. He looks at the illustrations, picks out the words that he can read and writes his findings on his chalkboard, asking for help to spell “intensify”. He then yawns and demands a story.

Is this learning? It depends on who you ask. Blake attends Sunset Sudbury School where his interest in physics, biology and art is not only encouraged, it is indulged. He spends his school day asking questions, exploring a garden and flipping through books. His learning is effortless, organic and spontaneous. Since Blake has started the school, his appetite for knowledge has exploded. Why? I believe it is because he has learned that curiosity is his right and that it is a necessary part of his “job” as a child. His “job” is not to fill out paperwork (worksheets), or sit at a desk and be spoon-fed what he ought to think and believe. His job, as an individual growing into an adult is to attempt to make sense of the world around him, asking questions and exploring the wealth of resource around him. When at home, Blake has become not only more comfortable with learning as it is now, in his mind, free of judgement, but he has become an active recorder of his own acquisition of new knowledge. He has also learned to respect the way his unique learning style. “I do my times tables with pictures”, he tells me. “Some people do, some people don’t. I like it that my school doesn’t say I should know something if I don’t. I just have to learn it right?” It is my joy, and my privilege to send my son to a school that allows his young mind the freedom that it requires to develop a thirst for knowledge and the confidence seek answers to his questions, using his own methods. Is my child learning every day? – yes, but not just 6 hours per day, it is continual. Has his reading improved? Immeasurably, both in confidence and in speed. Why? He learns all day in a judgement-free environment, so his ability to analyze and solve problems is unhindered by negative labeling. He has the emotional strength to tackle a difficult word or life problem without feeling like, as he said “someone will write a big red number that says you’re dumb on your paper and make your mommy sign it.”  Ranging from reading to conceptual math, Blake now picks up books and teaches himself, summoning mommy for limited help and then pushing me away because “I am my own teacher”.  I believe Sunset Sudbury’s model can work for any child – what is required is the courage to raise not accountants, publicists or senators, we must seek to raise human beings first, and careerists second. My son will grow to determine his state of being, his method of learning and eventually his career.  He will see himself as the direct actor in determining what he believes and what path his life will take. This, to me, is the most important part of my child’s lifelong learning experience.

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Parent’s Rights

Understanding Sudbury / Parents’ Rights -  by Dionne Ekendiz

By now, we (parents and students) have all probably realized that this school isn’t as easy as it first seems. Even though our children get to do what they want all day long, they are expected to be responsible for themselves and accountable for their actions. This can sometimes lead to anger about not getting one’s way, anxiousness about having to write up a friend who has been mean, or frustrated about losing a privilege.

As Sudbury staff, part of our job is to let students experience this full range of emotions while holding the boundaries of safety and respect. We thank you for trusting us with this huge responsibility. More importantly, we thank you for trusting that your children, given the freedom to do so, will behave responsibly. And we can assure you that they are!

Some parents have asked what their role in all of this is. One very important role is to support your child through this growth process. Although staff will not debrief you about your child’s day (this is part of respecting the student), you are entitled to see the school’s records anytime. This includes JC Reports, the Law Book, School Meeting Minutes, Board Meeting Minutes and the school budget. Please ask the staff for access to these. You can also schedule a conference with staff at anytime. Please note that the student must be present at all conferences. Again, thank you for being such a big part of the success of our school!

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