Archive for May, 2015

The Clearwater School 2015-05-27 11:25:00

{Author's note; I wrote this for some people I know. I believe in them, and though I’m not very good at saying it, this is one of my attempts to do so. I hope they know who they are, and that they are totally rad. WARNING - POSSIBLE SQUICKS OR TRIGGERS WITHIN: Death mention, dysphoria mention, blood, brutality, hate crimes, murder.} Sepulchral Desire By Meghan Conken Mist swirled

Comments off

The Clearwater School 2015-05-27 11:25:00

{Author's note; I wrote this for some people I know. I believe in them, and though I’m not very good at saying it, this is one of my attempts to do so. I hope they know who they are, and that they are totally rad. WARNING - POSSIBLE SQUICKS OR TRIGGERS WITHIN: Death mention, dysphoria mention, blood, brutality, hate crimes, murder.} Sepulchral Desire By Meghan Conken Mist swirled

Comments off

Free Minds in Action: Alumnus Peter Carlson

Peter's latest "Fairhaven".

Peter’s latest “Fairhaven”.

Recently, current staff member Richard Morris interviewed his Fairhaven School classmate, Peter Carlson (class of 2007.) As we prepare to celebrate the class of 2015, we hope you enjoy their conversation!

RM: What are you up to now?

PC: It has been a long eight years, and what a journey it has been. 

In 2011 I graduated from the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL with a BFA in illustration. Since then I have taught Figure Drawing and Figure Painting at the Longboat Key Center for the Arts (FL), and I was hired as a Graphic Designer for a large business publication, The Observer Group (FL). After that, I moved to New York City and have had two incredible creative internships; one was at Frederator Inc. (the studio which produced the popular cartoon shows Adventure Time, Fairly Oddparents etc.), while the other was at Dark Igloo, an advertising and design studio in Brooklyn whose clients have included Converse Shoes, General Electric, and many others. I am currently applying to other animation and VFX studios in the city and thoroughly enjoying life! 

If you would like to see my work and what I have been up to recently you can check out my website:

www.peter-draws.com

RM: Fairhaven School gave you the freedom to explore your individual interests. What did you explore during your time at Fairhaven, and how has that helped you with what you’re doing now in life?

PC: At Fairhaven I explored my own identity. I had the freedom to dress how I liked, act how I liked, and surround myself with people and activities that I liked. This is what chiseled me into the person I am today. It has helped me become an individual and a responsible, independent member of society. 

This was only the start. With a couple friends I taught myself Adobe Creative Suite ( Flash, Photoshop, Dreamweaver etc.) FLstudio,and CoolEdit Pro, how to build and host a website with HTML coding to display our art, music, and animations. Why? Because I was curious and interested. Nobody told me I should, It was just another outlet for creativity and looked fun. I just decided with my friend and fellow alumnus Jimmy Jackson that we wanted to make our drawings animated and that we wanted to take our ideas to the next level. We requested to School Meeting that they purchase and install these programs for the school’s computers, and we began making a class out of it with no prior knowledge of these programs at all.

This was not the kind of class that you attend for a couple hours, sit and listen, and try to retain that information. This kind of class was more like a club. It involved reading tutorials online and troubleshooting and even having sleepovers and staying up all night just creating and learning new features of the programs. It did not feel like an exclusive club; it was a welcoming club that would be happy to certify you and train you in the technology. Part of learning was through teaching and repetition.

 It was so fun and rewarding to learn a new feature or tool and then teach somebody else how to use it. We would run into problems while trying to learn Flash and coding, but this taught us how to do our own research and solve them. It never felt like an assignment or a chore. This is only one example of the many things I had the opportunity to explore. The skills I learned and focused on during my four years at Fairhaven directly correlate with what I am doing now in my career. As an Illustrator/ Animator/ Designer, I primarily use Adobe CS. I cannot imagine how long it would have taken to learn if I had started any later. I may have lost interest or pushed away from this hobby/obsession if it had been “taught” in a structured class environment. 

Peter Carlson's "Fairhaven" on the back of the solar panels on campus.

Peter Carlson’s “Fairhaven” on the back of the solar panels on campus.

 RM: At Fairhaven School, you’re responsible for what you do with your time. How did you use your time at Fairhaven, and what were some things you gained by being at the school for four years (2003-2007)?

PC: I am so thankful I had the support, freedom, and time to figure out who I am, what I like, and what I’m good at.  Once I was free to make my own schedule and create my own activities or curriculum, the trance I was in from being processed like cattle and force fed information at public school was beginning to thaw and fade away. My transformation did not happen overnight; it required time.

It required time, boredom, independence, and sometimes silence. I had room to breathe, room to think, room to explore. No longer did my schedule obey the chime of a bell. So what now?  Now that I had all this time to myself I could actually think. What do I want to do today? turned into What do I want to do tomorrow? which eventually turned into What do I want to do After school? Opportunities and activities invented themselves. They were spontaneous, unsupervised, and continuously changing. Every day was a completely different and unpredictable experience. The best part was no single authority figure could dictate right or wrong. You had to figure that out on your own, and there was no sense of normality.

Some of the lessons and virtues learned at Fairhaven that have stuck with me the most are patience, appreciation, determination, celebrating differences, and most importantly, being yourself- all things that I could not have gone through college, jobs and relationships without.

RM: I believe Fairhaven tries to foster an environment where everyone can feel like they belong in some way. Do you feel that is true? If so, what did having a community you felt a part of give you that helped you later on in life?

PC: The sense of belonging is something that I felt right away at Fairhaven. I was welcomed into activities and made friends instantly. From the second I stepped on the grounds at Fairhaven, everything that I had known about fitting in and cliques from public middle school had been instantly shattered. Everybody was just coexisting with their own unique personalities and interests. Students of all ages and backgrounds where interacting in activities, meetings and conversations. I felt like an incredible weight was lifted off me, and I could finally just be myself!

That is how I met Jimmy (who is a few years younger). I can’t imagine that would have happened anywhere else where ages are segregated. I felt like everybody had my back, even if they didn’t share the same view or where testifying against me in school meeting or J.C. They were family— I knew I would still be interacting with them no matter what, and that was a really warm and comforting feeling that I have felt nowhere else. To this day, I still feel and celebrate the brotherhood I have with my Fairhaven family, and everybody around us can see it. It makes me proud. Without that kind of support and sense of community, I would not feel as strong or encouraged to do what I believe in.

 RM: Are there any other thoughts you have as you reflect on your time at Fairhaven and what it has meant for you since you left?

PC: I think about Fairhaven a lot. I often ask myself what would have happened if I hadn’t found Fairhaven? How do others find their way in life without this freedom? I just can’t imagine it any other way. I am forever thankful to be a part of such an incredible and special learning experience, and I just wish everybody else could experience it or have a similar experience too. 

Thank You Fairhaven, for all the freedom, encouragement, and love.

Peter Carlson, Fairhaven School class of 2007

Comments off

Free Minds in Action: Alumnus Peter Carlson

Peter's latest "Fairhaven".

Peter’s latest “Fairhaven”.

Recently, current staff member Richard Morris interviewed his Fairhaven School classmate, Peter Carlson (class of 2007.) As we prepare to celebrate the class of 2015, we hope you enjoy their conversation!

RM: What are you up to now?

PC: It has been a long eight years, and what a journey it has been. 

In 2011 I graduated from the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL with a BFA in illustration. Since then I have taught Figure Drawing and Figure Painting at the Longboat Key Center for the Arts (FL), and I was hired as a Graphic Designer for a large business publication, The Observer Group (FL). After that, I moved to New York City and have had two incredible creative internships; one was at Frederator Inc. (the studio which produced the popular cartoon shows Adventure Time, Fairly Oddparents etc.), while the other was at Dark Igloo, an advertising and design studio in Brooklyn whose clients have included Converse Shoes, General Electric, and many others. I am currently applying to other animation and VFX studios in the city and thoroughly enjoying life! 

If you would like to see my work and what I have been up to recently you can check out my website:

www.peter-draws.com

RM: Fairhaven School gave you the freedom to explore your individual interests. What did you explore during your time at Fairhaven, and how has that helped you with what you’re doing now in life?

PC: At Fairhaven I explored my own identity. I had the freedom to dress how I liked, act how I liked, and surround myself with people and activities that I liked. This is what chiseled me into the person I am today. It has helped me become an individual and a responsible, independent member of society. 

This was only the start. With a couple friends I taught myself Adobe Creative Suite ( Flash, Photoshop, Dreamweaver etc.) FLstudio,and CoolEdit Pro, how to build and host a website with HTML coding to display our art, music, and animations. Why? Because I was curious and interested. Nobody told me I should, It was just another outlet for creativity and looked fun. I just decided with my friend and fellow alumnus Jimmy Jackson that we wanted to make our drawings animated and that we wanted to take our ideas to the next level. We requested to School Meeting that they purchase and install these programs for the school’s computers, and we began making a class out of it with no prior knowledge of these programs at all.

This was not the kind of class that you attend for a couple hours, sit and listen, and try to retain that information. This kind of class was more like a club. It involved reading tutorials online and troubleshooting and even having sleepovers and staying up all night just creating and learning new features of the programs. It did not feel like an exclusive club; it was a welcoming club that would be happy to certify you and train you in the technology. Part of learning was through teaching and repetition.

 It was so fun and rewarding to learn a new feature or tool and then teach somebody else how to use it. We would run into problems while trying to learn Flash and coding, but this taught us how to do our own research and solve them. It never felt like an assignment or a chore. This is only one example of the many things I had the opportunity to explore. The skills I learned and focused on during my four years at Fairhaven directly correlate with what I am doing now in my career. As an Illustrator/ Animator/ Designer, I primarily use Adobe CS. I cannot imagine how long it would have taken to learn if I had started any later. I may have lost interest or pushed away from this hobby/obsession if it had been “taught” in a structured class environment. 

Peter Carlson's "Fairhaven" on the back of the solar panels on campus.

Peter Carlson’s “Fairhaven” on the back of the solar panels on campus.

 RM: At Fairhaven School, you’re responsible for what you do with your time. How did you use your time at Fairhaven, and what were some things you gained by being at the school for four years (2003-2007)?

PC: I am so thankful I had the support, freedom, and time to figure out who I am, what I like, and what I’m good at.  Once I was free to make my own schedule and create my own activities or curriculum, the trance I was in from being processed like cattle and force fed information at public school was beginning to thaw and fade away. My transformation did not happen overnight; it required time.

It required time, boredom, independence, and sometimes silence. I had room to breathe, room to think, room to explore. No longer did my schedule obey the chime of a bell. So what now?  Now that I had all this time to myself I could actually think. What do I want to do today? turned into What do I want to do tomorrow? which eventually turned into What do I want to do After school? Opportunities and activities invented themselves. They were spontaneous, unsupervised, and continuously changing. Every day was a completely different and unpredictable experience. The best part was no single authority figure could dictate right or wrong. You had to figure that out on your own, and there was no sense of normality.

Some of the lessons and virtues learned at Fairhaven that have stuck with me the most are patience, appreciation, determination, celebrating differences, and most importantly, being yourself- all things that I could not have gone through college, jobs and relationships without.

RM: I believe Fairhaven tries to foster an environment where everyone can feel like they belong in some way. Do you feel that is true? If so, what did having a community you felt a part of give you that helped you later on in life?

PC: The sense of belonging is something that I felt right away at Fairhaven. I was welcomed into activities and made friends instantly. From the second I stepped on the grounds at Fairhaven, everything that I had known about fitting in and cliques from public middle school had been instantly shattered. Everybody was just coexisting with their own unique personalities and interests. Students of all ages and backgrounds where interacting in activities, meetings and conversations. I felt like an incredible weight was lifted off me, and I could finally just be myself!

That is how I met Jimmy (who is a few years younger). I can’t imagine that would have happened anywhere else where ages are segregated. I felt like everybody had my back, even if they didn’t share the same view or where testifying against me in school meeting or J.C. They were family— I knew I would still be interacting with them no matter what, and that was a really warm and comforting feeling that I have felt nowhere else. To this day, I still feel and celebrate the brotherhood I have with my Fairhaven family, and everybody around us can see it. It makes me proud. Without that kind of support and sense of community, I would not feel as strong or encouraged to do what I believe in.

 RM: Are there any other thoughts you have as you reflect on your time at Fairhaven and what it has meant for you since you left?

PC: I think about Fairhaven a lot. I often ask myself what would have happened if I hadn’t found Fairhaven? How do others find their way in life without this freedom? I just can’t imagine it any other way. I am forever thankful to be a part of such an incredible and special learning experience, and I just wish everybody else could experience it or have a similar experience too. 

Thank You Fairhaven, for all the freedom, encouragement, and love.

Peter Carlson, Fairhaven School class of 2007

Comments off

Repost: Stop Trying to Make Everything Educational

We don’t often repost from external blogs, but this recent entry from Happiness is Here is exceptionally straightforward and insightful. An Australian homeschooler, Sara’s post speaks directly to what we at Alpine Valley School believe about natural learning environments. Many thanks to Sara for allowing us to share the following excerpt. Everywhere I look there’s themed … Continue reading Repost: Stop Trying to Make Everything Educational

Comments off

This Week At AVS

DSCN3884 DSCN3888 DSCN3901 DSCN3905 DSCN3907 copy DSCN3926 copy copy DSCN3833

Comments off

Over Exposure

It’s one of the most frequent of frequently asked questions: I lost track long ago of how many times we’ve fielded concerns about exposure over the years.

In general, there are two different types of exposure, positive and negative. Many people ask how kids can learn all that they need, or even discover what they like, unless adults carefully manage the process. Others are concerned that kids will be exposed to the wrong things unless adults are sheltering them from what they’re not ready for.

What geniuses we must be to know for any given child, at any given moment, what things must be brought to their attention and which must be kept from them! The truth is, at Alpine Valley School exposure naturally helps young people practice exactly the skills needed for successful lives in the larger world.

When it comes to “positive” exposure—introducing children to subjects they need and might enjoy—the intensely rich randomness of Sudbury schools is not to be underestimated. Conventional schools group students by age and walk them through the same limited set of subjects at the same plodding pace. In that setting, students are shown not how to confront life, but only allowed to encounter what the experts deem appropriate.

In contrast, Sudbury students are free to experience life in all its messiness. Indeed, given access to technology and a full spectrum of ages, personalities, and interests, the sky’s the limit for what Sudbury students can encounter. Yet while the range of subjects is virtually limitless, time is obviously finite, and so one of the most critical lessons our students learn is how to sift through a flood of information, think critically, and decide what’s accurate and useful.

So the good news is, AVS students will in fact encounter a much broader range of things on their own in this vibrant school community than they would if adults imposed on them their own ideas of what’s important.

And yes, this can include things some would say they should not be exposed to. Whether the objectionable material is scary, “mature,” or violent, many people believe it’s essential to pick some age and categorically prevent access to everyone below that cutoff. However, this doesn’t merely protect kids from accidental exposure: they’re denied the choice and practice of deciding for themselves what they’re ready for, what they can handle, and what to do when they don’t want something in their environment.

In day-to-day Sudbury life these questions receive all the nuance and thoughtfulness they deserve. What sorts of language and media are permitted, in what parts of the campus and at what times of day, frequently become the subject of conversation and debate—even judicial complaints. Sudbury students and staff learn to be sensitive not only to the ages of the people around them, but also their varying standards of what’s acceptable. As communities, we decide how to handle unintended and unwanted exposure, as well as how to balance an individual’s right to choose his or her activities with everyone’s responsibility for the general welfare of the school.

As with so much of the Sudbury model, the issue of exposure comes down to basic principles of trust and responsibility, a vision of how best to support young people in growing to effective adulthood. We believe young people deserve to learn for themselves how to find what they need, how to sift through information, and how to prioritize their time in trusting, supportive communities. This way, they learn what they’re good at and enjoy, what they want to get better at, and what they don’t want to be exposed to (and how to deal with that).

Not only do young people deserve these opportunities, this is how they learn best. Here, the question of what to expose them to and what to protect them from is not taken out of students’ hands, but rather becomes part of the process by which they develop their amazing potential.

Comments off

Over Exposure

It’s one of the most frequent of frequently asked questions: I lost track long ago of how many times we’ve fielded concerns about exposure over the years.

In general, there are two different types of exposure, positive and negative. Many people ask how kids can learn all that they need, or even discover what they like, unless adults carefully manage the process. Others are concerned that kids will be exposed to the wrong things unless adults are sheltering them from what they’re not ready for.

What geniuses we must be to know for any given child, at any given moment, what things must be brought to their attention and which must be kept from them! The truth is, at Alpine Valley School exposure naturally helps young people practice exactly the skills needed for successful lives in the larger world.

When it comes to “positive” exposure—introducing children to subjects they need and might enjoy—the intensely rich randomness of Sudbury schools is not to be underestimated. Conventional schools group students by age and walk them through the same limited set of subjects at the same plodding pace. In that setting, students are shown not how to confront life, but only allowed to encounter what the experts deem appropriate.

In contrast, Sudbury students are free to experience life in all its messiness. Indeed, given access to technology and a full spectrum of ages, personalities, and interests, the sky’s the limit for what Sudbury students can encounter. Yet while the range of subjects is virtually limitless, time is obviously finite, and so one of the most critical lessons our students learn is how to sift through a flood of information, think critically, and decide what’s accurate and useful.

So the good news is, AVS students will in fact encounter a much broader range of things on their own in this vibrant school community than they would if adults imposed on them their own ideas of what’s important.

And yes, this can include things some would say they should not be exposed to. Whether the objectionable material is scary, “mature,” or violent, many people believe it’s essential to pick some age and categorically prevent access to everyone below that cutoff. However, this doesn’t merely protect kids from accidental exposure: they’re denied the choice and practice of deciding for themselves what they’re ready for, what they can handle, and what to do when they don’t want something in their environment.

In day-to-day Sudbury life these questions receive all the nuance and thoughtfulness they deserve. What sorts of language and media are permitted, in what parts of the campus and at what times of day, frequently become the subject of conversation and debate—even judicial complaints. Sudbury students and staff learn to be sensitive not only to the ages of the people around them, but also their varying standards of what’s acceptable. As communities, we decide how to handle unintended and unwanted exposure, as well as how to balance an individual’s right to choose his or her activities with everyone’s responsibility for the general welfare of the school.

As with so much of the Sudbury model, the issue of exposure comes down to basic principles of trust and responsibility, a vision of how best to support young people in growing to effective adulthood. We believe young people deserve to learn for themselves how to find what they need, how to sift through information, and how to prioritize their time in trusting, supportive communities. This way, they learn what they’re good at and enjoy, what they want to get better at, and what they don’t want to be exposed to (and how to deal with that).

Not only do young people deserve these opportunities, this is how they learn best. Here, the question of what to expose them to and what to protect them from is not taken out of students’ hands, but rather becomes part of the process by which they develop their amazing potential.

Comments off

This Week At AVS

 

DSCN3678 DSCN3680 DSCN3682 DSCN3710 DSCN3725 DSCN3734 DSCN3735

Comments off

Give Me Liberty

Twenty-one years ago, I went to the Colorado Libertarian convention to promote the then-nascent Alpine Valley School. Libertarians, I figured, would greatly appreciate the freedom of our school, and so I proudly displayed my cleverly titled flier, Democracy in Your Bones. Of the 50 fliers I made, however, exactly none was taken. Eventually, I began to understand why.

Democracy is confused with various things—freedom, cooperation, collaboration, influence, sunshine, and all things good. This happens, I think, when people feeling disenfranchised by our representational republic seek more influence over it. If they really knew what democracy was, they might stop focusing on democracy and start focusing on freedom instead. Democracy in and of itself is neither pro- or anti-freedom. (Consider Kim Jong Un’s Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, for example.)

While freedom is the right of the individual to live unfettered by arbitrary authority, democracy simply means that power rests with the governed—and without checks and balances, this is an invitation to the tyranny of the majority. Consider the definition of democracy as two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner. Early in our country’s history, many opposed the new constitution because there were no specific limits on governmental power: this is the context for the opening words of the First Amendment, that “Congress shall make no law.” The Bill of Rights is not an explicit listing of rights so much as an explicit limitation on the power of the majority.

At our school the smallest minority is one, and proposed School Meeting laws are debated with this in mind. We strive to restrict the arbitrary authority of School Meeting and school officials by circumscribing their powers. The students and staff, the daily residents of the school, are the sovereign power: they must balance the general welfare of the school against the personal freedom so central to its existence. For us, democratic processes are a means to an end—the end of self-governance.

One of our sister schools (The Circle School in Harrisburg, PA) describes succinctly the role of self-governance in an educational context (notice that nowhere in this eloquent statement does the word democracy appear):

The daily school program is self-governing, with authority and responsibility shared among the governed, students and staff alike.

  • Voice. All members of the daily school program—students and staff—enjoy equal rights of voice and vote in matters of governance and the common good.
  • Rule of law. All members of the daily school program are subject to the authority of school government according to duly adopted laws that are publicly disclosed in writing.
  • Responsibility. All members of the daily school program share responsibility for the common welfare.
  • Protection: All members of the daily school program enjoy equal protection and due process under school law.

In schools like ours, democracy is simply the principle that sovereignty over a day-to-day society rests with those who participate on a day-to-day basis. And this philosophical principle has crucial, practical implications. If our children are to develop into self-directed, responsible adults—if they are to realize their innate, unique potential—what they need isn’t so much democracy as freedom.

Democracy-is-two-wolves-and-a-sheep-voting-on-whats-for-dinner

Comments off