Independent projects

Schools for Humans

A problem:

There are some fundamental problems built into our typical conception of “school”.

  1. In most schools, students are afforded little freedom to choose to do what they want to do.
  2. In most schools, students aren’t even allowed to do very much — the “learning” that they’re supposed to do is imagined to be purely cognitive, and doesn’t involve affecting the world around them.
  3. In most schools, students are cut off from the community. Schools become a barrier to encountering the people in your neighborhood.
  4. In most schools, there are too few big projects: too much learning is done in small pieces. Holistic learning, however, should have a blend of projects of all sizes, from the micro to the epic.

Our basic plan:

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Promises to My Learners as a Maker Educator

A contract with learners…

User Generated Education

I used to teach a graduate course in professional ethics for the educator. One of the assignments I did is have these inservice educators develop a list of promises to their students. I asked them to make it poster size so they can post these promises in their classrooms. Here is an example of from 10 Amazing Teacher Promises for the Beginning of School


For the past couple of weeks, I have been preparing to teach a summer school/camp on maker education (see As part of my preparation, I decided compose a list of promises to my learners as a maker educator.

  1. I promise to make the making environment positive, joyful and physically and emotionally safe so you feel safe enough to take risks, ask questions, make mistakes, and test things out.
  2. I promise you to provide you with resources and materials to help you create, make, innovate.

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Economists show the perils and potential of the coming robot revolution

Why is it a trait of uneducated persons to focus on small changes coming while ignoring the larger ones?

Fabius Maximus website

Summary: History shows that we oddly focus on small changes coming while ignoring the larger one, because they are truly revolutionary and hence difficult to see and understand. So it is with the third industrial revolution, the oddest so far — and likely to be the biggest. This post shows that some of our top economists have begun to describe what’s coming. As usual with power, it’s great news if we manage it well and potentially horrific if we don’t.  We time to get ready. {1st of 2 posts today.}

Julie Hagerty & Leslie Neilsen in "Airplane!" (Paramount Pictures) The reality will not be funny. Julie Hagerty & Leslie Neilsen in “Airplane!” (Paramount Pictures)

Robots Are Us: Some Economics of Human Replacement

By Jeffrey D. Sachs (Prof Economics, Columbia), Laurence J. Kotlikoff (Prof Economic, Boston U), Seth G. Benzell, and Guillermo LaGarda.
29  March 2015.


Will smart machines replace humans like the internal combustion engine replaced…

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Touring the frontiers of climate science, the exciting parts of science

If you change your teaching style do one thing – ASK MORE QUESTIONS!

Fabius Maximus website

Summary: Every field of science has frontiers. Journalists and activists prefer to show us answers (sometimes guesses), and hide the questions which drive science (and produce much of its excitement). Some are generated by the reigning paradigm, which focuses scientists’ work on key issues. Scientists challenging the paradigm ask different questions, ones often considered irrelevant, unimportant, or unsolvable by the mainstream defenders of the paradigm. In today’s post an eminent climate scientist, a challenger of the paradigm, describes the frontiers as she sees them.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

“The science behind climate change is settled, and human activity is responsible for global warming. That conclusion is not a partisan one.”
— EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, February 2010 (New York Times). The IPCC says she’s exaggerating, a lot.

Frontiers of science

What are the most controversial points in climate science?
How might these controversies…

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The New World Disorder: better, or worse?

Religion is the operating system for culture… and thereby values and perspectives

Fabius Maximus website

Summary:  In today’s post Martin van Creveld, among our time’s top historians and military theorists, looks at the geopolitical state of the world. Are the doomsters right, and it is falling down? Or have we begun a new era of peace with the triumph of western culture around the world?  (1st of 2 posts today.}

The clash of civilizations

The New World Disorder

By Martin van Creveld
From his website, 19 March 2015
Posted here with his generous permission.

“A new world order” is in the making, said U.S President George Bush Sr. as the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union, its limbs broken, was lying prostrate. “The end of history” has come, proclaimed famed political scientist Francis Fukuyama. At the core of World War II, Fukuyama explained, stood a titanic struggle between three ideologies: liberal democracy, fascism, and communism. By 1945 fascism had been destroyed. Fifty-something years later, communism too…

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Learning: It’s All About the Connections

Connection is more than wires or wireless…

User Generated Education

I’ve written about connections before in It’s All About Connection.

Today, though, I was thinking about all of the connections important for learning. Connection has a lot of meanings and connotations:


Here are some of the connections I thought of that can/should be part of both formal and informal education:

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Being a Growth Mindset Facilitator

User Generated Education

I was asked recently why I have a strong interest and innate understanding of the growth mindset. I believe it comes from a background of being an adventure educator, and even though it was not labeled as such, the adventure educator embraces a growth mindset when working with participants. The underlying tenet of adventure education is “You are capable of so much more than you can even imagine. I believe in you and your capabilities; and I will set up the conditions for you to develop and amplify that same belief in yourself.” quoteThis attitude or mindset was important given that the populations we worked with were especially at-risk: adjudicated youth youth; recovering substance abuse users; victims of domestic violence. Many had lost belief in themselves and developed a failure mindset. Our major goal was to shift that so that participants internalized a growth mindset; one that they would carry…

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A School for Big, Spiraling History (part 4 of 5)

Schools for Humans

In my last post, I limned out (“limned” is a delightful word that means “hastily sketched,” originally from the word “illuminated”) the big picture of our K-12 social studies curriculum: a Big History scope and sequence in which first graders engage ancient history, second graders medieval history, third graders modern history, and fourth graders recent history (and the future).

After this grand tour of all human (and universal) history, fifth graders then start back at the beginning, and take another four-year trip. And then, after two such tours, our high school freshmen will journey out a third and final time.

But I was remiss: I didn’t mention the actual things they might be studying. I’ll jump into that tomorrow.

To lay the foundation — and clear up some possible misunderstandings — it might be helpful to lay out the specific scope of each year. To toss around phrases like “medieval history”…

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The Classroom Environment

A classroom full of curiosity and wonder...

We place enormous value on the role of the environment as a motivating and animating force in creating spaces for relations, options, and emotional and cognitive situations that produce a sense of well-being and security.

Loris Malaguzzi, Reggio Emilia Italy

The classroom environment is considered to be the child’s third teacher.  We carefully designed our classroom space to be a warm and inviting place for both children and adults. We have a beautiful room with large windows and natural light.  The children are invited to draw, sketch and paint in a very natural setting.  There are many plants and “homey” touches in the space to support a close home-school connection.  We placed mirrors in many places around the classroom so the children can look at themselves and experiment with reflection.  The materials are displayed in baskets around the room which invites the children to come and play with them.  There is a…

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