Week 10 in Review: The forest, not the trees


Today in our Middle School Studio we held our first badge ceremony with Elementary heroes in attendance.

This event takes place during school hours with heroes and Guides only. The purpose of the badge ceremony is to award Forest School heroes with badges indicating that s/he has mastered a set of skills and/or knowledge. The ceremony itself serves to cultivate:

  • Clarity—Badges measure excellent work. They indicate when a hero has mastered a topic or goal. To earn a Badge, heroes present evidence of their “excellent” work to peers or Guides for approval.

  • Commitment—Heroes are showing a commitment to their goals, Studio mates, running partners, Guides, and the contract they signed by completing badges.

  • Celebration—Heroes celebrate with one another and with Guides about their accomplishments from Session 1.

  • Fellowship—By Studio, heroes and Guides enjoy time together with a “greater sense” of excellent work, accountability, and transparency.

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Today the following badges were awarded: Civilization, Storytelling, and Quest. Not all heroes were awarded badges, and that reality will inspire some to focus even more on their badge work moving forward. Middle School badge ceremonies occur after each session; the first Elementary badge ceremony will occur in 2019. Badges are placed in a hero's journey "passport" and stored for safe keeping. As a school, we maintain digital records of badge completion for the sake of transcripts.

Now, here’s an update from each Studio:

Middle School Update:

The Forest, Not the Trees

This week, Heroes have been exploring language. What is it, exactly? Are language and communication the same thing? How does language shape the way we think and act? What happens when communication breaks down—when what we meant by our words is misheard, misinterpreted, or misunderstood? Is language unique to people, or does it exist elsewhere in nature?

For instance, does the forest speak?

Through all of this exploration, we've seen how language is a tie that binds us, similar to the connections that exist between trees. You see, a forest isn't so much a collection of trees as it is an intimate community, not so different than a Middle School Studio. And here, in this Studio, we constantly grapple with the messages we are sending/receiving each other and the impact of that language on the community. It's impossible to live in isolation. We're the forest, not the trees.

Elementary Update: 

Benjamin Franklin said “You have your freedom, if you can keep it.”  Many heroes have earned extensive freedoms, with relative ease, since the Freedom Levels were launched in September. Elementary Guides were surprised to learn that some heroes who were enjoying the broad guardrails of Freedom Levels 3 and 4 (Flying and Soaring) were behind in terms of their badge progress pace. As a result, amendments were made to provide brighter lights on the unexplored, foreign path to completion. 

First, Guides will meet weekly with all learners for the remainder of Session 2. These meetings will serve to hold up a mirror to the heroes of: current progress compared to where they should be in terms of completion pace; how they spent their time on each learning platform compared to time spent on virtual distractions; reviewing points tracked in Journey Tracker for accuracy; and guiding next week’s SMART goals. 

Second, the heroes were informed that moving forward they could set goals in Journey Tracker for any platform they choose, but they would only be able to count points that are in alignment for their badge plan. For example, a Level 3 hero who should be working in Khan Academy according to his badge plan will not earn points for work done in Dreambox. We believe these amendments will encourage greater focus and intentionality during Core Skills time.

Finally, it was determined that any hero who is considered “behind” on their badge progress pace will not advance to Freedom Levels 3 or 4, regardless of the amount of points earned in Journey Tracker. Like a dam with several weak places leaking water, we feel that these adjustments are placed in just the right position to redirect the efforts of heroes over time. Now that they've had a taste of "freedom"—let’s see how hungry they will be to keep it.

Stay warm this weekend!

banner image via

Tyler Thigpen