Check out Jason and Josie's presentation on "Expeditions and the Hero's Journey" at the 2012 MAAP Conference. Learn about the three levels of expeditions at NWPHS as well as the benefits of these adventures for students.
The Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) was founded in 1989 by Jerry Mintz. AERO is a branch of the School of Living, a non-profit organization founded in 1934 by Ralph Borsodi. AERO's goal is to advance student-driven, learner-centered approaches to education. AERO is considered by many to be the primary hub of communications and support for educational alternatives around the world. Education Alternatives include, but are not limited to, Montessori, Waldorf (Steiner), Public Choice and At-Risk, Democratic, Homeschool, Open, Charter, Free, Sudbury, Holistic, Virtual, Magnet, Early Childhood, Reggio Emilia, Indigo, Krishnamurti, Quaker, Libertarian, Independent, Progressive, Community, Cooperative, and Unschooling. One of AERO's areas of expertise is democratic process and democratic education, but equally important is the networking of all forms of educational alternatives. It is through our work and mission that we hope to create an education revolution.
Reform: To return to a good state. Redesign: A plan for making changes to the structure and functions of a system so as to better serve the purpose of the original design, or to serve purposes different from those set forth in the original design.
I look at the reform movement in education and see a form of insanity that boggles the mind. It is as if the past education structure was good and all we need to do is bring it back to its previous glo … Read More
It seems like only yesterday, that first day of school, and yet here we are halfway through the year already. With more of the year behind us, than in front of us, it might be nice to take some time and recognize some of our school and student achievements from the first three sessions of the 2010-2011 school year.
We began this year by expanding our online presence, opening up the School’s Wiki pages so that they may be accessed from outside the school. We also launched our own school blog, Field Notes: Adventures in Radical Schooling, supplying each expedition with an I-pad so that they may reflect on their experiences while in the field. Postings on this blog have been followed by our staff, students and parents as well as other progressive educators across the country.
Our students have been Sailing, Farming, Caving and Exploring cities and historical sites all across the country. NW Passage students have been heavily involved in service projects both locally and abroad; working for Feed Our Starving Children, working with elementary schools and most recently working in Guatemalan communities, building roads, homes and community buildings.
We would also like to take a moment to recognize five special students who have completed their course of studies as required by NWPHS and the State of Minnesota to Graduate. Congratulations go out to Alexander Wintle, Patrick Tighe, Cassie West, Ashley Pruesser and Tori Blake. We wish the best for our graduates and hope to see them all at our Cap and Gown ceremony on June 2nd.
Recently I heard Brian Sweeny, from Charter School Partners give testimony regarding the current state of charter schools. There were significant parts of his testimony that I had issue with, but perhaps the greatest issue was his assertion that charter schools rarely collaborated with traditional public schools or even with their peers in other charter schools. In essence we were educational silos.
If Mr. Sweeny knew more about NWPHS, he’d find we’re not an educational silo, but an educational collaborator as learning lab, mentor, contributor to the betterment of the community.
In 2004, I assumed the Director position at Northwest Passage High School. As director, I refocused our energies into three areas: Mission, Capacity, and External Support. Mission work consisted of narrowing down and focusing our efforts to define what we were. Capacity work consisted of day-to-day operations to fulfill the mission, i.e. number and types of teachers, program design, and technology. You get the picture.
The last area of focus is external support. This area is everything we do as an organization to help cross the traditional barriers of schooling that typically ended at the schoolhouse door. What are the ways that our school contributes to the larger educational community? How do we collaborate with traditional and charter schoolteachers, administrators, community members and state officials?
NWPHS as Lab School
NWPHS serves as a lab school for schools that want to watch in action a school that is based on experiential, project based learning, mobile technology and advisory run classrooms. Traditional and charter school teaching teams continue to visit our school on a monthly basis. Last Friday, members of Spring Lake Park Area Learning Center spent one of their professional development days at our school learning from staff and students. We have had numerous teams from across the nation; Minnesota and Wisconsin visit our school. In addition, each staff member at our school is required to present a workshop at the Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs yearly conference.
NWPHS also serves as a lab to teacher education students and interns from the University of Bethel, and Northland College.
This year NWPHS is sponsoring the Midwest Project Based Learning Un-conference on July 26-28. The Un-conference is a get together of progressive educators who are interested in learning on how to use Project Based Learning in their classroom
NWPHS as Mentor
We help mentor new charter school directors and give advice and collaborate with seasoned veterans. We have helped teachers from Minneapolis Schools design site based learning schools, traditional schools that supposedly charter schools see as the enemy.
In addition to site visits, NWPHS staff sits and continue to participate in North Central Accreditation visits to other schools. We are founding members of the Minnesota Green Schools Chapter, which is charged with helping all schools in Minnesota go green. Charter school directors in Minnesota sat on the Conference Committee for the National Green School Conference held in Minneapolis this year. In addition, we have sat on a number of review teams for grants being made by Minnesota’s Department of education.
We have volunteered to serve on the Twin City Teaching Collaborative committees, which is charged by the Bush Foundation to redesign teacher education. In addition, we have collaborated with the University of St. Thomas’s Charter Leadership Institute in the development of directors of charter schools.
Staff and students collaborate to spread our ideas through the use of our blog: http://fieldnotes.nwphs.org. In addition, we contribute other educational blogs, here is an example of a recent submission: Fostering Hope
NWPHS as Community Contributor
Finally perhaps the best way that we contribute is through the innovative program design of our school. Our students spend a considerable amount of time engaged with the community, from teaching environmental education to elementary school students, conducting social justice puppet theaters, to teaching literacy with new immigrants, to making presentations to middle school students, to monthly food bank work. Our students have become the “change they want to see.”
We take our mission seriously, especially the phrase “while building community.” The community is any place that puts kids before political, social or financial considerations. We do this because it is the right thing to do. We do most of it free of charge, because by bringing others up we all benefit. There are no silos at NWPHS, Mr. Sweeny.
I sit watching the educational debate unfold in front of my eyes and the current tenor of the debate has focused on prescribing a method that will achieve the end result of high test scores. There are some that believe if we create a uniform set of procedures, scripts and decision making trees; giving them to a teacher, the teacher will produce the perfect kid. Stamped from a uniform set of materials with a unform wrapper and product distribution end point.
But soul craft is not uniform. Each child is unique and as such requires a different set of circumstances in which to flourish. Teaching is a subtle profession of careful nudges, listening, and having the patience to discover what the child needs to be successful.
It is not measured in one years of academic growth, which is a very linear male dominated model. We only need to look to the natural cycles to really understand how kids grow. If you have ever cut a cross section of a tree, you will notice the growth rings that are revealed. Some years the rings are large, some years the rings are small. We never would judge the health of a tree on one isolated tree ring in time. Each ring represents the environmental conditions of that moment in time. When judging the tree we look at the over all growth to determine its health.
So when the educational professionals began looking at growth models I became nervous. They are moving in the right direction, but fall short. Growth model proponents want to see a linear progression, yet just like trees, humans grow in spurts and frenzied learning followed by periods of slow or non-existent progress. And just like no two trees have the same growth rings, despite coming from the same forest; no two children will grow in a similar fashion. Learning is not a clean a predictable endeavor, and I am afraid that if we try to impose this model from above that we will, “not see the forest for the trees,” and as a result we will kill the magic of the forest and of learning for our children.