Denver Flashmob of Good (Student Reflection) #commentsforkids #flashmobofgood #standagain #learningisbigger

Today, Team Fink headed downtown as a flashmob of good. Armed with hotdogs, lemonade, and a smile they served 150 hotdogs in 45 minutes. They asked names, listened to stories. They connected.

Their teacher is still reflecting. While at the park serving hot dogs, a park director stopped to talk to him. He told Fink about the hundreds of heroine needles that were picked up in the park just today. He thanked him for what he and his students were doing, but mentioned that when food comes to the park, some of these homeless never have to leave the park and it can exacerbate the problem. Rather than leave the conversation there, Fink invited this park director to come to Anastasis and share the complexity of the homeless problem Denver faces. He wondered how Anastasis students might be able to help be a part of the solution. He also plans to invite our friends from the Denver Rescue Mission to be part of the conversation.

This moment of spreading good, will extend into inquiry and our students will attempt to connect and learn from a variety of perspectives. They’ll learn about unintended consequences and delve into design thinking.

Today, they reflected on the experience:

Feeling the joy in my heart, I can feel the memory of the outing-burn in the back of my mind. Looking at the once unknown faces turn into friends faces and their gleeful smiles light up the very park we were just in, handing out hot dogs and lemonade. At one part I was picked to travel around the park in search for people who maybe hadn’t heard the word about our hotdogs. Shifting my gaze from the sidewalk to the persons face, I saw grief and sadness. They also had their heads down, cigarette in on hand, slowly disintegrating. Walking up to them, feeling the fear build its way up inside my stomach and up to my throat. Hearing the shuffle of our feet their head slowly rose, looking at their eyes I can see sadness and, surprisingly, hope! Asking if they would like some food, I could see their eyes light up. One in particular was a old man with billions of wrinkles, but when I looked in his eyes, his eyes held me in a trance. Bright, bright sea-foam eyes! When we were going to move on he gave us a toothless smile and a wave. I smile back feeling happiness spread through out my body. In a way, I felt that this field trip changed me in a good way, seeing all of these people, who probably have been through so much, give us school kids smiles and hugs!  Showing me that people who have gone through so much can still be rich at heart and soul. –Grace

 

Love on people, give them food, and learn their story. Loving, eating, and telling stories are universal languages. When you combine them, spectacular things can happen. Like Andrew, he is a wonderful man, he shared about our opportunity we have as kids to be the change and the hope we give him. When flowers, butterflies, kids, and food are around, conversations spark up and smiles spread. When you give you are also the one receiving. When you serve people food you get a frown that turns into a smile, a story to listen to, and a lesson to learn from. I loved today and seeing smiles spread. –Noelle

 

Just a smile can make someone’s day. Taking the time to look someone in the eyes and smile can do a lot. It can show them that they matter when the person doesn’t even know that themselves. It can make them smile at other people and have a domino effect. Giving someone a cup of lemonade and a hot dog brought out smiles in everyone. It showed me the caring person inside of everyone I met today. It didn’t matter what you did or where you came from. It was just a bunch of people smiling and eating hotdogs. –Ella

 

A name is gift given at birth. A name like “Andrew” is the story of that human. If a name seems so precious and so easy to obtain, then why don’t we just ask someone for their name. If you refer to someone by their name then you can learn and grow in joy from the happy conversations. –Will

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Poverty Walk- Student Reflections

Last week, Team Fink went on a poverty walk hosted by Network Coffee House as part of their Power of One inquiry block. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience that built empathy and community. Below are student reflections of the day.

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Angelina B- We are so quick to judge others, but have we ever put our selves in their shoes? When we see someone on the street corner holding a sign for money, what is your first thought? All they want is money for drugs. They just dressed up like that to get money. Society tells us that homeless people are bad, scary, lazy. But have you heard their story’s, why they did what they did. We act as if we haven’t done anything bad in our life. We held up a sign that says, ” Anything helps.” I got dirty looks from people in there car, not one person in their cars looked like they cared. We did get one dollar from someone, but that person wasn’t in a car. It was a homeless man who gave it to us. The person I would not think to give me anything was a man who was homeless. I had only herd things about the homeless that people have told be about them. The bad things they do, stealing, hurting others, braking things.  We only see their 10% and don’t try to look for their 90%. We are so quick to judge others, but have we ever put our selves in their shoes?

Izzy-    Today we went on a poverty walk at The Network. It truly was an amazing experience. Even bad experiences can be used for good. Fear can transform into lessons. I especially liked holding the sign, because it showed me how we are. How we just go on with our lives and not pay attention to who and what is around us. Even the people who have nothing are willing to give. The walk put us in a vulnerable position, but it is good to out yourself into other people’s shoes. Stereotypes disappear when you become part of it. It doesn’t seem so strange anymore, just different.

Angelina H- The poverty walk opened my squinting eyes to the world of poverty surrounding me. The most impactful thing was holding the sign up. People just looked at me, and kept going. I was really put into the shoes of someone who is forced to do that. Watching other people, and praying, and learning, was all a new and amazing experience. Being upper middle class, and still looking around to make sure I was safe, I couldn’t imagine what being homeless would feel like in that situation.

Macie- This experience opened a new lens of humility and empathy into my life. The assumptions that we have for the homeless are not all true. I met some giving homeless people who don’t have as much as we do. We were only out there observing for about an hour, but it happens everyday around us. We have so many opportunities to help, but we are too lazy. Like the video we watched this morning showing that one person can make a change can make a difference. Just one drop of love can overflow the sea. It only takes one person to recognize that not all homeless people match up to who we think they are. One man showed his kindness through asking us how our day was and took the time to talk to us. Today I held a sign on the side of the road and a woman who drove by started cursing and yelling in her car toward me. Why do we have such a stern, hardened heart towards people who need a little love? If we were thrown out in the streets after being in our warm, comforting homes, I bet we would never walk past a homeless person again and feel disgust and assumption in our hearts. We are in our own personal bubble filled with possession and money etc. The homeless popped that bubble and have been through experiences that we would never dream of while we are wrapped in our cozy blanket sitting next to a fire. We are all interconnected so why not help one another.

The Power of Yet

|Kelly Tenkely|

I used to think that there would be an age where I would suddenly have it all figured out.  A certain age that I would turn and suddenly be “adult” and know exactly how to make investments, and do my job, pay taxes, change a tire, negotiate a deal, what to wear to a “business casual” event, what to say to someone who is hurting. I often observe others and find myself wondering, how do they have it all figured out? You know these people (maybe you are one), those who seem to know what to do and how to fit into any situation. The older that I get, the more I recognize that none of us really has it ALL figured out.

We are all in process.

There is freedom that comes with that realization and I find myself wondering how different the future would be for kids if they understood the power of yet.

We don’t know it…yet.
We haven’t mastered it…yet.

Yet is a powerful word. It allows for failure and mistakes, but it is a mistake with a promise. We will get better. It will become easier.

If kids recognize this as part of the learning process, failure doesn’t feel like an endpoint. It becomes part of the “yet” process.

Yet is a wonderful place to be. It is where possibility exists. It is where we find flow. It is the place learning happens. We shouldn’t be afraid of yet, but instead look at the hopeful optimism driven by yet.

So, when a child struggles, it isn’t because they can’t, but because they haven’t mastered it…yet.

At Anastasis we’re are declaring the last semester of school the “semester of yet.” We will challenge kids to think about what they will do to move their “yet” forward. How will they keep their “yet” from laying dormant or becoming stagnant?

Over the spring break, I’ve read two incredible books (both very much recommended): A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger and the smartest kids in the world by Amanda Ripley
Both books emphasize the importance of this idea of yet. Both books note the power of questioning to move that yet forward. Anastasis is a school powered by questions. The more I engage in the art of questioning, the more I recognize the importance of being a questioner. Questioning isn’t taught at most schools, nor is it rewarded (only the memorized answers are). There is an enormous amount of research that shows just how important the ability to question [well] is. “Questions are the engines of intellect-cerebral machines that convert curiosity into controlled inquiry.” – David Hackett Fischer
Paul Harris, a child psychologist at Harvard, notes that children ask on average 40,000 questions between the ages of 2 to 5. These questions lead to a quadrillion connections (synapses) in the brain. This is more than 3 times the number of connections in the adult brain. Harris speculates that this decline is related to the decline of asking questions. Of recognizing the power of yet. Too often we begin to think of ourselves as experts. When you are an expert you stop thinking because you already know. Those who believe in yet know that there are always more questions, new angles and lenses to think about.

What makes Anastasis teachers unique among educators, is their understanding of the power of yet. They believe (with good reason) that your children are capable beyond a set of standards. They see genius in the yet.

As we enter into the last semester of the year, may you recognize the power of yet. It is what keeps us going as scientists, inventors, writers, artists, mathematicians, geographers, historians, and change makers. If you notice your kids running out of steam (it’s too hard, the expectation is too much, “I can’t”), remind them of the power of yet!

This year I’ve been reminded again and again by “experts” in education, parents, and visitors to Anastasis just how revolutionary what we do with your kids is. This is the school teachers dream of, reformers wish they could duplicate, and parents stretch to afford. Thank you for being such an enormous part of what makes Anastasis the amazing place that it is. We couldn’t do what we do without your support! As a school, we too continue to live in the power of yet.

Inquiry: How the World Works

It’s hard to describe to people all of the magic that happens at Anastasis on a daily basis. It really does feel like something special, a magical quality of falling down the rabbit hole into another world where school is fun and challenging and wonderful. The learning that happens here is very organic, it lacks a formulaic approach. So when people ask us how they can do what we do, it isn’t a simple answer.

Anastasis learners are in a continual state of growth, discovery, and creativity. We are just wrapping up an Inquiry unit about “How the World Works.” As a school, we are preschool through eighth grade. All of our students engage the same big guided inquiry for a 5 week block. Although the driving inquiry is the same for all students, I break down the unit into some key concept lines of inquiry by age level. We have a primary, intermediate, and jr. high key concepts that provide entry points into learning at a developmental appropriate level. Our primary kids looked at How the World Works from the inquiry prompting that: people have daily habits and use time to help guide their day, week, month, and year. This gave them the opportunity to explore calendars, time, seasons, patterns in growth of crops, school habits, moon phases, sun, etc. Our intermediate students looked at How the World Works from the inquiry prompting that: predictable patterns help us explore objects in the sky and their connection to our life on Earth. This allowed our students to explore movement of the solar system, moon phases, constellations, galaxies, history of humans understanding of patterns in the universe, technologies that help us understand patterns, how the patterns in space impact life on earth, how animals and plants rely on patterns. Our Jr. High students explored How the World Works from the prompting that: Food comes from many places and goes through many changes on its journey to us. They discovered more about where produce comes from, what GMOs are, what the role of the FDA is, what chemical additives food has, farm to table, organic vs. non-organic, responsibilities of humans in food production and consumption, how food production has changed over time, practices for mass production of meat, what happens when our food resources have been exhausted?

The nice thing about having ALL students in the same big guided inquiry during a block, is the incredible overlaps in learning that occur between classes. This provides truly amazing opportunities for our students to learn from and with each other. We take advantage of that overlap as often as possible!

For each inquiry block I give teachers an inquiry guide with the driving inquiry question, the key concept, and the individual lines of inquiry that could be explored. This is a launching spot. I also provide resources for students and teachers on a Pinterest board. This board gets added to throughout the inquiry block as I know which lines of inquiry students are exploring (they often come up with great lines of inquiry that I haven’t considered). This becomes our “curriculum.” It is always evolving and growing based on the needs of students. Teachers send me requests for books, videos, apps, and hands on materials that they need throughout the block (I LOVE Amazon Prime!). The Pinterest boards are shared with students via QR codes that are hanging throughout the school. At any point in time, they can use their iPad to snap a picture and instantly they have access to a library of materials and ideas that they can explore related to the inquiry block. If you are interested in what this look like, you can check out the boards here:

This is the point that the magic I mentioned above starts to happen. Our teaching staff is awesome. They are some of the most creative, innovative, forward-thinking people I know. Even better: they provide the space for kids to be curious and expertly help them navigate that curiosity for new learning. This block offers such a rich picture of what learning looks like at Anastasis that I just have to share it. Notice that EVERY level of Bloom’s Taxonomy is addressed in this process, every subject woven into their learning naturally.

The students in Team Weissman began this block with a field trip to a local observatory. This was a really neat trip that I had the privilege of attending with them. Our students got a private tour of the observatory, complete with a history lesson of Colorado’s landscape when the observatory was built, the changes it’s gone through, the building history, and the science. The kids LOVED exploring each part of the building and learning about all of the little “secrets” around the observatory and why it was built the way that it was. They got to go into the basement to see how the base of the telescope is actually free-standing and not attached to the building. They got to open the ceiling. They got to explore each separate part of the telescope and ask questions and learn from an expert. The observatory expert’s passion was contagious. The spark for inquiry was lit in those moments. When the students were back at school, they each chose a line of inquiry that they wanted to know more about. They chose to learn about moon phases, galaxies, planets, constellations, Fibonacci, fractals, waves, plant life, etc. Each student snapped a picture of the QR code for this block to begin digging through resources. This was a great spring-board for discovery. As students dug into discovery, they chose different projects and ideas of how they could share their learning with others. This led to the building of a planetarium that the whole school could tour through to learn more about the universe, green house design, art work to teach about the relationship of plants/fractals/Fibonacci, a telescope, a black hole demonstration, a planetary model, a genius art demonstration of moon phases for the planetarium, and a model of different types of waves.

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Prototype Lab-Anastasis Academy

Anastasis Academy- Planetarium

Planetarium tours: Anastasis Academy

Pattern study: Anastasis Academy

Student Created Greenhouse: Anastasis Academy

Prototype Lab: Anastasis Academy

There was a lot of research that happened in this unit. One student showed me how she was using multiple devices to compare sources as she did her research…brilliant!

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Throughout the 5 weeks I heard exclamations of excitement, pride in what students had created, excitement as they saw what other students in the class were doing. Completely fantastic, magical moments of learning! This week, the students invited every other class in the school to be a part of their learning. They gave each class a tour of the universe in the planetarium and each presented their findings over the last 5 weeks. They also walked them through how patterns in the universe are mimicked here on earth in their greenhouse (made with pvc and shower curtains!).

Inside the planetarium: Planets

Inside the planetarium: Black Holes

Anastasis is a 1:1 BYOD school. Each of our students has an iPad (the only supply on their supply list) in addition, sometimes they bring a phone or iPod as well. You know what? As awesome as the technology is, it fades into the background. It really is just another tool for learning that we use at Anastasis. It helps tremendously with research, connecting with experts all over the world, typing out and recording ideas. What I love about this last unit is that none of the students chose to show their learning through technology. Each of them chose something tangible to demonstrate learning. The use of technology was brilliant. Truly hybrid learning! The students who worked on the planetarium used an app called Sky Guide to figure out exactly where in the sky each constellation and galaxy was so that their planetarium would be a true picture of what it would be like to look up into the night sky. After building the planetarium, the kids decided which way they would align it in the classroom. Then, using the Sky Guide app, they would get in, find out where the constellation was in relation to where they were standing. They poked holes in the plastic in the shape of the constellation and labeled it with a piece of tape. A brilliant coming together of technology and creativity!

I wish I could bottle up the excitement that the whole school had as they watched the planetarium being built. The amazing anticipation of getting to see the finished product. The sneak peeks they tried to take. This was a school community learning and exploring together.

As Team Weissman worked on this, students in Team Baldwin each chose a pattern that they wanted to learn something more about. They connected to experts, researched, and came up with really incredible questions. The outcome of this was also student created projects to show others what they had learned. These kids also held an expo day to let others in the school see their learning. They got to be the expert. Students explored everything from patterns in the circulatory system, to service animals, to electricity, to dub step, to patterns in baking, the moon, coding, and plant growth. When I asked the kids what they liked best about their projects, the common answer was: getting to talk to my expert. Connecting students with an adult expert (usually using technology) was so meaningful and lasting. They were proud to share with others what they were now an expert in.

Patterns in baking: Anastasis Academy

Electricity study: Anastasis Academy

The Jr. High was so impacted by what they learned about where our food comes from, that they created a conference for Anastasis students and parents. They had sessions, round table discussion, asked parent experts to come in and share, and invited a keynote speaker. They also invited other classes in on their learning by asking them to share learning they’ve done throughout the year at their expo. The round table discussion among the students was hands down my favorite part of the day. Hearing these kids challenge each other’s opinions about GMO’s, Monsanto, being a localvore, food production, health, etc. was incredible. They were well researched, thoughtful and considerate of different opinions. They referred back to field trips they had to Growhaus and a local meat market. They started out in the community with experiential learning, used technology to learn more, and finished by inviting community to learn with them.

Hydroponics: Anastasis Academy

Primary students shared their greenhouse:

Anastasis Jr. High Round Table discussion

This is what learning looks like. It is hard work, there is challenge. There is also beauty and excitement and pride.