This is Our Story-The End


I haven’t posted in a very long time, and it’s just been the two busiest weeks of the year for me: performing Shrek the Musical (which went amazingly well!!!!), iFest 2016 (the time where all of the high school showcases their year long project based learning and ID always has some of our work set up to talk about), having interviews for prefect positions (it’s like our student government for the entire school which is a step above our student council), having 4 of the biggest tests of the year, working on college essay drafts, having weird schedules for Prom yesterday, getting ready for performing The Lion King this coming week, trying to get experiments done in ID with middle schoolers, plus on top of everything this weekend 4 of us in ID are participating at “Creative Hack Weekend” with #re-imagine/atl where we worked for 6 hours today and 4 hours tomorrow on problem solving issues in Atlanta.

That was a horrible run on-sentence I know, but it was a loooong two weeks.  I was stressed, I am tired, and yet I still had a lot of fun; that’s the story of my life (“oh ya”#shrekpuns ).

I feel like stories have been kind of the theme of the last 2 weeks even more than normal.

Particularly I’ve been a tad disgruntled about thinking about my college essay because with the amount of stories I’ve told in this week alone about my life, it just feels so hard to only get to write one story for colleges to read. There is so much more to a person than one essay about them and it’s not like you can just summarize everything about you in that essay because then it’s a bad essay because it isn’t specific. However, that means we have the daunting task of narrowing our life story down to just one specific moment which now has to become “the moment” in you life, and yet we are only 17…

In person it typically feels easy for me to semi-subtly bring up various things that I’ve done and ideas I have about my future based on my experiences, but in writing it is much harder to choose what to say because you have so much time just to think and ponder and everything comes to mind. There are just so many stories out there to tell, and as many different ways to tell them; and this is only the end of the beginning because even just this school year isn’t over yet!



ID and the d.School

Happy Pi Day!!!!  12814732_1506744409355007_4470129584779643494_n-1.jpg

It’s been a busy few weeks.  Since I last posted I’ve been working at the Stanford d.School, wondering the city of San Francisco, at a Disney hotel, exploring Universal, sick in bed, discovering new facts at interactive museums, catching up on reading, and in general having fun with family and friends relaxing and trying not to worry about school. I’ve dropped the ball on blogging for various reasons, but that is irrelevant right now because inspiration hit me and I’ve finally reached a point where I simply must write.

While in San Fran (though really I was in Palo Alto most of the time…) I did write some posts, but due to internet issues at the time they never made there way online yet.

Rather than multiple posts I shall put the summaries here of our work on the design challenge “HMW establish friendships and build community at Stanford?”

San Fran Day 1

CcWIqrQWIAAwCux.jpgToday was our first day in San Francisco and I’m so excited to be back here again! The city is so much fun! All the bright colors, interesting street people, and pretty scenery just makes me so happy.

Today was our “chill day “ since we only just got into the city and everyone is still adjusting to the time difference. We did a lot of exploring today. We started out just doing a lot of walking to our hotel and then to the pier to visit the Exploritorium. We came to this same interactive museum last year as well and it’s really cool to get to play with all of the science, math, and psychology interactive exhibits.
CcU_AhQUUAAse33.jpg(Small tangent, this place also has one of the biggest Pi Day celebrations in the country at least, and there is free admission and a bunch of pi activities to do. One year I would love to be in San Fran for Pi Day just to see this supposedly epic event. This year is actually the 28th time they are celebrating apparently.)

One thing at the museum that I didn’t notice last year is that they have a moving sign up front that is constantly changing what it says. At one point in time, it read, “You can’t fail a museum.” I really liked this because it showed how the Exploritorium is really meant to be a place to wander and wonder and simple have fun learning about new things. There is no number or letter attached to anything. TherCcVjr92UUAAmzLY.jpge is no sense of “failure” because no matter what you do at a station, you will either learn what works or 10,000 ways that don’t (just like Thomas Jefferson inventing the lightbulb.)

 I wonder what schools could learn from the design of the Exploritorium. I know we need to have some form of feedback at school, which is not present at the Exploritorium, but what if we had a section of school that was more like a museum with various interactive exhibits set up. A place where you could wander in everyday and learn something new. Learning without the stress of grades is great.

San Fran Day 2

IDEO and d.School all in one day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Today was fantastic so many great ideas in such a short amount of time! CcZkU3SXIAEP3TT.jpg

We talked about everything from a bathroom note board, to a hackathon bike race, to how to build trust between high schoolers and college reps.

I think what I enjoyed most about today was giving feedback to grad students on their prototypes for trying to figure out how to relieve stress from students trying to go to college.

It’s cool to see ideas that other people have about education transformation and I was making sure to take notes on ideas that connect to ours.

I’ve noticed that most ID members have gotten a lot more comfortable with giving feedback which was very evident today. Everyone was “in the zone” so to say; we seemed comfortable and confident with what we were talking about and how we were explaining our thoughts.

It seems like we gave valuable feedback, but I wish we could have gotten to hear their team’s meeting about what they thought after our feedback. I would like to know if our feedback was actually valuable to them rather than just basing it off of our own observations.

CclIt1oWwAEADMZ.jpgWe also did some quick interviews with people today around campus. That was particularly interesting because we don’t often get to experience what it’s like to go out into the “real world” and just ask strangers questions to try to empathize better with our users. Usually it’s someone we know that we’ve been emailing with for a while and then finally get one 30 minute conversation with. There was no real planning on our part with these interviews though (the facilitators at the d.School had talked with the dorm leaders who had talked to the student, but we personally had not connected with any of the students before). We talked less and did more and it was fun, informative, and got us moving further faster I think.

Overall day 2 was fantastic!

San Fran Day 3

Wow today was a full day.

We were talking with college students, doing fun team building dances, unpacking interviews and working a lot on trying to find insights.

We saw David Kelley!

It was tiring.

While there is a lot I could talk about tonight, what I’d like to dive in on is how I realized how important it is to have breaks in our day.

When we’re always working non-stop, then it can be hard to really process everything, and your energy level slowly dies down. We’ve had some long days this week so far, and while I’ve appreciated the amount of time we’ve had to work, I wonder if we will have more moments this week where we break out from working. Times to just do weird fun stuff as a team.

We did a dance exercise today, which I can only describe as a leadership exercise that forced us to be goofy and follow each other anyway. We were working with our teams and changing up who was the leader to lead our team in dance moves. This was so much fun and I think we got to know our mini teams better, but I hope we get to have similar experiences with all of the ID family. I think every group can always grow with their understanding and comfort level with each other.

Now I didn’t keep up with blogging after day 3, so I’ll just do a quick recap of my overall thoughts.

To be completely honest (as I like to be), I had many points of frustration. I think this is natural, I’d be lying to say that everything was good and dandy 100% of the time with anything I do. I think the hardest part was being in a place where not everyone sees the same potential in a group of high schoolers as our facilitators and teachers at MVPS do. We are given so much respect at MVPS that it’s hard to leave that environment and remember that not all of the rest of the world thinks of high schoolers as active and involved members of a community. This struggle personally came up for me a few times along with the normal working on a team struggles.

Paper plate awards for everyone! (I got the “mathlete” award cus I was memorizing pi all week, but also playing some intense ultimate frisbee; which I learned at nerd camp!) 

However, these were all minor things compared to the over all experience and everything we gained from it.

The theme of the week was “fail forward” which reminded me of a MVPS phrase we like to say, “fail up”; they essentially mean the same thing, which is a reminder that you have to learn from failures, in order to achieve success. So don’t shut down when you fail, instead lean in and like a clown at a circus, even when you fall you get up and say “ta-da!” I thought it was really neat to hear someone else talk about a mindset that we also have as a norm when doing work.

Some other big take aways were how we learned a lot of new helpful tools and coaching prompts for going through the design process. Another big success was that a lot of ID members seemed to take on new roles while we were at Stanford, and really come out of their comfort zones in positive ways; several people also had “aha” moments where they maybe understood a part of the design process better than they once did. I also think a huge take away was just the number of great ideas generated while we were there. I hope some of these ideas will maybe be adapted a little and implemented at MVPS.

I could tell that all of these take aways helped bring our ID family closer together, and I

We got official d.School pins as well as our own awesome mustaches as inspired by David Kelley. 

hope to see some of these take aways help inspire our work as we continue this year and beyond.

What’s really blowing my mind still is that we had this opportunity. Ya we are a bunch of high schoolers, but we are a bunch of high schoolers that just spent a week with Stanford students thinking up big ideas to problems that are affecting real people. Too bad this wasn’t school all of the time.

Make Your Mark Event

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Don’t you just love it when something you’ve been working really hard on for a long time goes well?!

First a short backstory:

Last year after mine and Kat’s first semester AP Lang showcase, we got a good amount of feedback from others as well as each other about trying to brainstorm more ways that we could have larger conversations with people. Rather than just the digital conversations we have, we have been trying to find ways to have discussions face-to-face because it often brings another layer to the dialogue.

Then over winter break Kat and I read The Great Gatsby which sent us on a path of curiosity about the ideology behind the “American Dream” and dreams, success, and achievement in general. After analyzing a number of videos, articles, poems, pictures, short stories, and even a few songs, Kat and I managed to pick 6 that we wanted to write dialectical journal entries on. (You can see more about the assignment here.) By the end of that week we had a big discussion with each other about things that became clearer, patterns we’ve observed, and questions that came up from our research.

What we realized is that the American Dream is such a controversial topic with a lot of interesting perspectives and other elements that can come up.

This leads me to today where we had our very first (of many I suspect) “Make Your Mark Event”. (The name is in prototype mode still so that may change, but for now it’s sticking with me.)

We started with an email and a question: “Dreams: What do you want your mark to be?” We sent this email out to the entire high school (faculty included), with a sign up genius attached. On it was room for 10 students and 6 faculty members to select themselves to join this non required event; you have no idea how happy we were when all 16 spots were full. (And we had close to that many end up coming in the end- though not all were originally signed up.)

Now on the one hand we obviously wanted to just be able to have a discussion with more people, but being the ambitious people that we are, we had a few other goals in mind as well. We purposefully  invited both students and teachers to this event because we wanted to challenge the norm that kids are always the students and adults are always the teachers. We brought students and faculty members into the same room because we wanted to hear perspectives from multiple different people, but either way, we the “students” were going to be leading this conversation.

Another goal of ours was to challenge the norms on what a discussion can look like. We wanted to get people up on their feet, talking in small and large groups, brainstorming their own questions so they would take ownership of the conversation, and we wanted their to be some physical take away.

So this is a snap shot of our flow: We started with the pizza and some light conversation;t hen played a John Green video to get people thinking; then broke into groups to brainstorm questions; rotated groups to chose some of our favorite questions; had about a 15 minute discussion; then we even added a bit of a makers challenge at the end where we made our own stamps that represented what we want “our mark” to be.

And I think everything went rather well. Everyone seemed engaged and enjoying themselves. I know we got a good bit of feedback specifically about how people really liked the stamp activity as a take away; they said there was a clear connection to the topic, though the transition could have been smoother, and it was something they weren’t expecting but had fun with!

However, I do think for the future we could improve it by spending more time in the discussion portion. A lot of people liked the conversation, and they wished we would have more time so that we could go even deeper into some of the questions.

 One of my big take aways in terms of the conversation itself is this idea of how the American Dream has changed over time and while it seems that “The American Dream” has typically been more based on a capitalistic market where the goal is to have a lot of money. However, the dream is changing and now people are less concerned with trying to attain this one dream and instead want to focus more on their individual uniqueness and achieve recognition in their field of interest despite having or not having money. Money does not mean success or happiness necessarily. Then the question becomes how does society help people achieve success now that the dream has changed? The overall consensus seemed to be that society as a whole, and education as a whole, does not yet provide this support; however, even some students mentioned things about MVPS, like iProject and ID that do seem to really support the new dream for students to have freedom to explore their personal dreams which are often not the same as their neighbors.

What made me most happy about today though, was that several people asked about doing it again! Someone even said, “What if every Friday we just had deep conversations about life while eating pizza?!” I’m so excited that people enjoyed today, and I think Kat and I have both agreed that we want to do another so I’m excited to see how we tweak things to make the next one even better!

A World Demanding Creativity


“A society’s competitive advantage will come not from how well its schools teach the multiplication and periodic tables, but from how well they stimulate imagination and creativity.” Albert Einstein said these great words over 60 years ago, and yet in todays’ 21st century, America has still been in what is commonly known as “The Creativity Crisis” as described in Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman’s article published in Newsweek in 2010. Their findings, based on the widely taken Torrance Test which tests for someone’s “Creativity Quotient” (CQ), show that the American public has had a significant decrease in it’s CQ scores since 1990. However, at the same time that this Creativity Crisis is taking place, leading businesses are craving creative and innovative people, as shown from an IBM poll taken in 2010 of 1,500 CEOs. This disconnect between what America wants in the workforce and what America’s CQ scores are leads to the question of, “How might we raise America’s CQ scores?”  That is, how might we have more Americans that are proficient at going through a process of the exploration and creation of something new? A start would be to examine our education programs to assure that we as a country are setting the conditions for people to be successful. Schools are meant to prepare students with the knowledge and skills to be successful in the world. With our world craving creative people with innovative ideas, it is imperative for schools to allot time in their school day for students to explore creative outlets and passions.

By allotting this time in the day, students can be more prepared to get jobs in the companies that they are interested in working for. One of the “big dogs” of American companies is Google, with about 1 in every 4 young professionals wanting to work there. When trying to get a job at Google, it is helpful to know that interviewers are looking for applicants that go through a creative thinking process. For example an applicant may be asked, “How many piano tuners are there in Chicago?” The interviewer is not looking for the answer to this question, because there is no exact answer, instead the interviewer is looking to see how the applicant thinks through the problem and hoping to see the applicant go through a creative, yet logical, process to arrive at an answer. If schools hope for their students to be competitive in the workforce at places like Google, then schools must prepare students to be creative thinkers while problem solving– even if the problem seems impossible to solve.

In school, students are tasked to learn and mast content which lays out the foundation for the logical side to any process, but there is  another side to this process: the creative side. To answer seemingly impossible problems like those that arise in the “real world”, you must have a basic understanding of facts along with the creative confidence to quickly discern what things you think you need to know in order to arrive at an answer.

This creative confidence isn’t something that some people are born with and others are not; it is developed over time through experience and guidance. Students need mentors to help them develop their creative confidence, and school provides an opportune time for students to receive this mentorship, and not just from teachers. Just like how chemistry classes do lab work in order to better understand how chemical equations work, what if all students were given the opportunity to enroll in a“real world” lab? Imagine if in this “real world” lab students were working alongside business leaders, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits to tackle work that matters. Work that might not be in a textbook. Through these “real world” labs, students could develop relationships with these game-changers that may lead to long lasting mentorship. Schools need to begin developing relationships with members in the local community because this real world experience will build confidence in students, so they can be empowered to be agents of change in today’s world. School currently communicates that students have to wait to make a difference. They have to wait to be told what to do. They have to wait to get their graded test back. What if we didn’t want to wait?

Some schools already have programs set in place to allow students school time to work on creative pursuits and passions, and their students are working on some mind blowing things. Some notable examples are High Tech High in California, The Independence Project at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Massachusetts, and Mount Vernon Presbyterian School’s Innovation Diploma in Atlanta, Georgia. Students from these schools have done things like making their school more environmentally sustainable, cooking a meal for over 80 people, designing a picture of a historical character using math and technology, writing a novel, partnering with organizations like the Center for Disease Control on “real world” problems, and consulting with industry leaders to tackle complex challenges.

These schools exemplify that it is possible for schools to give students time to focus on creativity and passion finding during school time. Not only is it possible, but the students that are given this time in school have been advantageous in a world craving creative people. Imagine if all American schools had this time for creativity and passion finding. Imagine how much the American creative quotient scores could raise. Imagine how many more creative solutions America could be generating to solve big problems in our world today. The world demands creative people, so to solve the Creativity Crisis the world should also demand that schools, with their mentors and resources, provide the time for students to explore creative endeavors and personal passions in order to develop their creative confidence before it’s too late.

Jumping Hurdles!


Amongst all of the chaos of today with quizzes, meetings, and lines, something absolutely fantastic happened: OUR AP LANG SYLLABUS WAS APPROVED BY THE COLLEGE BOARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All of our hard work over the summer payed off, and now we are officially an AP class!!!!!! I found out during the end of a Latin quiz actually, and I almost jumped out of my chair I was so happy! (Instead I just wailed my arms and bounced in my chair a little with a huge grin on my face!)

I must say, I was a little shocked for some reason. I knew we had covered all of the standards and had a bunch of people look it over, but part of me still thought the syllabus would to have to be edited more to get credit just because it’s so different from most AP class structures to my knowledge. Plus, since we’ve never done this before, I didn’t know what to expect.

It’s a pretty awesome feeling to know that even the College Board is behind our ideas, and this is a huge hurdle that we’ve just made it over! It’s also just super encouraging to think that a couple of students were actually able to pull something like this off! I mean think about all of the possibilities of what students can do with the right mindset and help from great mentors!!!

Also in AP Lang today, we had an interview Q&A session with some faculty members which went really well! The big things we talked about were what we are  doing, why we are doing, and how we think it will impact our future, and I think it went over nicely. We also recorded it, because the hope is that we will use parts of this footage for a video we will be making soon about our Collab Course, so that we have another medium to share our story with!

All the while we are also currently working on papers about the Creativity Crisis and our first draft of those will be due Monday, and our goal is that, after some editing, we will submit these papers to online publications, and hopefully our work will actually get to a bigger audience than just school.

Today was just a super day for AP Lang, and I can’t wait to see what hurdle we jump next!!!

Starting a Cycle


Being at Nerd Camp really reminds me how different Mount Vernon is compared to lot’s of schools around the nation. It also reminds me how lucky I am to go there!

I’ll talk to other Tipsters about school pretty often (because we know everyone here has at least one thing in common: we like learning and are good at school), and when I start talking about Innovation Diploma and opportunities I’ve had like #fuse15 and the work we are doing on our AP Lang course and even stuff about our environment like all of the white board desks (plus others, but these are examples) people look at me with open eyes and say, “I wish my school was like that!”

I mean Mount Vernon really is doing some pretty awesome stuff and I’m just glad to be a part of it!

I’ve probably talked about design thinking to at least 15 different people in the past 3 days. To me this is everyday talk, but so far everyone I’ve talked to hasn’t heard of design thinking which is crazy to me, but it reminds me how important it is to just share your story and in this case the DT story.

I mean imagine what could happen if even one of the people I’ve talked to happens to go back to their school and mention design thinking and some of the cool real world stuff we do at Mount Vernon to a teacher at their school. Then maybe that teacher goes and does some research and discovers #dtk12chat which connects them to a myriad of other educators interested in design thinking. Then those connects could help that teacher start talking to teachers at his/her school. Then maybe that school could start implementing parts of DT into their class. Before you know it, students at this school are helping people in their community through design thinking and then sharing what they do with more students at different schools so the cycle repeats! Maybe even one of these students may end up at Mount Vernon for #fuse16 (I may have been putting ideas in peoples heads).

How cool would that be?!?!?!?!?!

Hearing students respond so positively when I tell them about my MoVe talk and #fuse15, or my involvement in #dtk12chat, or my work with Innovation Diploma really has been making me wonder about students role in design thinking. Students seem to get pretty excited about the idea of doing meaningful, real world work to help people, so how might we network straight to students to get them involved in design thinking? What if a positive reaction from students first helped get teachers hooked too?



Wow this has been one awesome week!!!!! As the #dtk12chat often says #BOOMSHAKALAKA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve had an amazing time at fuse15 getting to meet educators around the country and help coach them through the design challenge. Getting to see the ideas really come to life in today’s pitches was amazing! It was also really meaningful to get to work with these non-profit organizations, and you could tell how much our ideas meant to them.

I also really enjoyed my first experience with an un-conference. I wish I could have gone to even more of the conversations because they all sounded so interesting.

The first one I went to was lead by our MVPS college counselors and one of my teammates on Green Echo was actually the only non student in the room which was kind of cool. They shared with us their early prototype of infusing the DEEP process into the college process in order to help students discover what type of school they would like best rather than just knowing the names of a couple of big schools maybe from family or sports. The process was such a neat concept and all of the students in the room seemed to have a general agreement that it would be a super helpful process to go through so that we could really go to a college that’s just right for us.

The next session I went to was about the physical space needed for DT. However, the person that suggested this session had suggested it because she wanted to ask questions herself rather than lead the discussion, so instead some of us MVPS students ended up taking over as leaders for the session (seems like a common theme for me this week #hacktheworld). This session kind of bounced all over the place with people asking about our high school schedule, rest spaces (which lead us to talking about the ideas of a MV Cafe which seems to almost always come up with ID members), and even lower school DT.

There were a few really cool moments in this sessions for me. One moment was when we were asked about our ideal classroom (I think that was the question but I was actually having a side conversation with a few others when it was initially asked). The student that took the lead on this question started talking about his love of really nice textures like wood floors, and then he mentioned lots of window and all of the students jumped in to agree. We all LOVE WINDOWS!!!!!! Not only do they let in natural light, but also they can be used as a whiteboard surface!!!!!!!! It was actually a really funny moment because some of the people in the room kind of jumped because we all go so excited so quickly when someone mentioned windows!

Another cool moment was when we were asked about lower school design thinking and how the process could be used with younger kids. This moment was cool for me because it was a “we know more than we think we do” moment. All of the students in the room were at least rising sophomores and more of us were upper classmen, but we all were able to share a little about stories we’ve heard about DT happening on our lower school. We were also able to share tips about embracing the fun in the process and how kids that age can definitely brainstorm, tinker, and ideate but they may need more guidance so we believe the trick is to make sure they really understand the “any idea’s a good idea” and “fail-up” mindsets.

This moment showcased how clearly MVPS cross campus communication is at least decent since we were able to talk about the water challenge, mini library challenge, and makers club at the lower school. It also showcased how students can be “experts” about more than just high school stuff, because everyone has other connections and experiences that contribute to their knowledge on topics.

The last session was one I was leading about Innovation Diploma. Of all things the one question that I’m still racking my head on is, “How would you explain in 2 minutes design thinking to a 2nd grader? What key words would you use knowing they wouldn’t understand all of the DT language words?” There are definitely a lot of terms we use when talking about DT that not everyone understands, and it has been an empathy struggle for me personally sometimes because it is hard to gauge what people will or will not understand when it comes to word choice.

When we were asked this question non of us could give the actual 2 minute description, but we were able to pick out at least a few key words and phrases: human centered problem solving (the big one!), process, relationship building, lot’s of models (trying to not use “prototyping” and “iteration”), working past failed ideas, telling stories, and a few more I can’t quite recall. Anyway, for me this helped lead to one of my big take aways today which was that I can always be working to have a clearer way to quickly describe DT; it’s seems I’ve been in the situation more and more often where I’ve needed this quick, non-DT vocab heavy, explanation.

When the conference finally came to a close the energy and excitement in the room was fantastic! I loved how happy everyone was to have completed their first (for many) DT challenge and I was glad they all enjoyed MVPS so much. The wonder I have (and also said at the end of the day) is if next year we could successfully get students from other schools to come. This year we had those tickets available but no one took the bait, but maybe now people have a better idea of what design thinking is, they will bring students too! There were definitely a lot of “ooohs” when I said my wonder, so that’s always promising.

I also was so touched to have so many people that talked to me about wanting to communicate more with me about design thinking, and some even asked if I could talk to their students. When someone says “you were inspiring,” that’s more meaningful than any A or any number could ever be, and that’s what motivates me to keep learning and sharing my story every day. So thanks to everyone that helped make fuse15 possible: the d. team, coaches, and recruits, you were all what made the experience #BOOMSHAKALAKA !

DT Leader


Well today was AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First off FUSE15 launched finally!!!!!! It was awesome to see all of our recruits for the first time and to hear some awesome MoVe Talks!!!!! I was honored to get to speak in front of everyone and share my story; it was a pretty awesome experience and I am so thankful for all of the great responses I’ve gotten from it! I can’t wait for the next 2 days where we will work with our non profit organizations as we go through the design thinking process.

Then to top it off, there was a #dtk12chat tonight as well. The chat started with like 4 people and everyone was confused with where everyone was. One person suggested that there was an unofficial hiatus due to so many people being at FUSE15, but I just responded with how there are way more educators then just those at FUSE15 so there is no reason to stop the chat.

Around then I texted my best friend Marz to get on the chat with me since for some reason no one else was leading it: “I seriously want to just take over the chat but I have nothing planed I’M LIMITED HELP TOGETHER WE’RE UNLIMITED LET’S DO THIS”. So we did. We just started asking questions and slowly more people joined the chat and it was pretty awesome!

Some great conversations started up around summer learning, student motivation, badging, communication skills, social media, and even standardized testing. We have no idea who was suppose to lead the chat tonight, or if there even was a specific person. But there was a need for a leader and when opportunity calls sometimes you have to just seize the moment and go for it. I’m also pretty sure this was the first #dtk12chat ever lead by students, so now that’s also out there as something that is totally a possibility!

All in one night I gave my first MoVe Talk (well to a large audience that is), and I co-modded the #dtk12chat and it felt spectacular! I’ve been sitting in my bed smiling and laughing all night!

Today I wasn’t just a student. I was a DT leader and proud of it!

Taking Control of My Learning

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Well I was very ready to finally get out of the house a little more today. Of all places, I ended up at school again. Even though it is summer, I’ve been at school quite a bit. I will be there again tomorrow and all of next week, so at this point teachers that see me there have moved past asking “What are you doing here when you don’t have to be?” and now they just say “Hi Anya, nice to see you again.” I just find it funny how it’s officially not new news anymore for me to be at school a bunch.

I was really happy all day today for some reason. Getting that scene change out of the house I think was just really nice because I showed up at school happy and ready to work.

Kat and I had a great 3 hour work session too. After speaking with a few teachers on their way out to lunch, we went into the ID room and got busy making our thinking visual which was amazingly helpful!

I haven’t really blogged about the coVenture we’ve been working on because I haven’t known what words to use, but I think I’m getting a better handle on it now and was really excited after working today. Seeing as we’ve been talking about it with various individuals so much more frequently now, I think its time to try to give an overview of how we are going about on our daunting process to design a course.

Next year the English course I’m going to take is AP Language and Composition, which is the course all juniors at MVPS take if they are on the AP level. However, 2 of us that will be juniors in the Innovation Diploma will not be taking the the same AP Lang course as the other AP Lang students. Why? Well because Kat and I are currently working on designing our own AP Lang collab-course which we will be taking next year.

So the reason we call it a collab-course is because it isn’t exactly an independent study because there will be 2 of us and we will be working closely with various teachers and hopefully some mentors outside of MVPS if we can get people on board; however, there will not be one teacher that has created a syllabus that they will then use to help teach us throughout the year like your typical school course. In this collab-course the 2 of us are actually in the process of creating our own syllabus (that’s right student’s are making the syllabus #mindblown right?) that we will then submit to the college board  to get approval for our AP course, and then we will take the AP Lang text at the end of the year.

For me there are a few key reasons I was inspired to work on this venture:

  1. I love testing the water with the possibilities to school learning. Have you ever created the syllabus for a course you will later take? It seems a little paradoxical to create the teaching guide for something you haven’t yet learned, but that is what we are working on doing right now because we really want to lead by example with what “taking control of your learning” could look like. Don’t get me wrong there have definitely had some struggles and confusing moments, but so far we’ve been doing pretty well. I’ve never heard of something like this collab-course, but I wanted to be on that team of people that test it out because every great innovation has to start somewhere so why not now and why not with me? This is an innovation in process and with my passion of education redesign, I needed to be a part of this one. 🙂
  2. The need for truly meaningful work. Overall I really enjoy school, but there are definitely times where I don’t feel like I’m doing the most meaningful work in terms of what I’m passionate about. With this collab-course we are getting to actually say “This is what we want and hope to learn by the end of this course,” and then shape the activities we do based off of those concepts. All of those times we’ve said that we “want to do meaningful work” while in school classes, well now is our chance to try and create those activities that we would consider to be meaningful work. We get to pioneer some of our own teaching method ideas and see if they actually work which is really exciting.
  3. The freedom and choice. We don’t have a singular teacher for this class. We are the deciders for what we want to work on, plus we are a class of 2, so that means we can be flexible to our personal passions with what we learn. For example, an idea that we’ve talked about is not necessarily meeting every day every week. This isn’t set and stone yet, but if we did do this, it would give us flex time in our day to continue ID work, to observe other classes maybe, to personally work on AP Lang work, or in my case perhaps go to more band classes! We can also take time to learn through specific lenses like education and innovation at times because we know we are all passionate about that. We have so much freedom and choice with how we learn that just feels awesome. Now of course with freedom and choice comes responsibility, and I also predict this course will help all of us develop our responsibility skills even further because we are going to be held accountable still with learning certain AP Lang specific skills in order to take the test at the end of the year and also simply to pass 11th grade.

I’ve been getting really excited about this course especially as we further create the syllabus. None of us have ever created a syllabus before, and obviously we are getting some help from mentors of ours, but it has been kind of cool to dive into completely uncharted waters and just mess around to figure out something that works. What we came up with I think is pretty cool.

To start we knew we needed to discover what even an AP Lang course is all about because we’ve never taken the course so we know nothing about it. We interviewed some of the different English teachers at school, researched on the college board, and even talked to some people that took AP Lang in the past to get a better idea of the course and to empathize with some of the people we may future work with.

Then we’ve since moved on into the experimenting phase where we currently are. We’ve been doing a ton of brainstorming. After a while we thought, “well we have a years worth of learning to plan for, why not structure it like telling a story?” We ran with this idea and it lead us to an interesting concept of using the Hero’s Journey as our guide for the syllabus, and we’ve been using design thinking to help us create it.

The Hero’s Journey is basically the stereotypical plot line to a lot of great books. You start in the ordinary and known world, then there is a call to adventure. After the hero refuses the call they meet a mentor and then cross the threshold into the unknown, special world. There is a road of trials where the hero is challenged and tested as they approach the “dragon’s den”. Eventually the hero has some great revelation or ordeal that is life changing. Then after seizing the treasure the hero starts on their road back where eventually there is some great reflection as the hero returns once again to the ordinary world back at home.

We want our AP Lang collab-course to be a great story when we are done, so we figured we should write the syllabus (#thescript) like the Hero’s journey because it makes for great stories.

The units themselves have even been created based on the Hero’s Journey. (Keep in mind this is still a work in progress and we’re currently workshopping some of the names, but because I like thinking in terms of the process I think it is important to share and gain feedback early so we fail fast rather than right before we try to produce. #thinkinglikeadesigner )

Unit 1 covers up until the “call to adventure” and it’s titled “The Power of Words.” Then Unit 2: “The Art of Innovation” is up until “crossing the threshold”. Unit 3: “Exploring new Frontiers” takes us up to the “ordeal” which also leads us to the end of semester 1. Over Winter Break starts Unit 4: “Kick-Starting” which get’s us to “seizing the treasure”. Unit 5: “Taking a Stand” leads us on our “journey home” and through our big “resurrection”. Until finally we get Unit 6: “Bringing it All Together” where we return home with the treasure of our new found knowledge from the year.

This big metaphor has been really helpful so far. Once again because of our design work we thought, “let’s make it visual.” So we made a big hero’s journey circle with pictures, labels, sticky notes, and color coded string and push pins. (It looks absolutely fantastic!) We’ve been dividing up the circle and using it almost like a circular calendar to figure out how long each unit should be, where breaks should fall, what kinds of essential questions we want to be learning about (#startwithquestions), and what types of activities we should be doing in the different units. This is all based on the amount of time we have in a school year and approximately how long we think each section should take based on how much space the corresponding Hero’s Journey sections take up on the circle.

It hasn’t only been helpful, but it’s been fun! (Thus I was still happy all day after working on a syllabus for 3 hours!)

And that’s just a snippet of what we’ve come up with, but it’s been pretty exciting so far and I’m loving the concept of a course being like a big story for learning. I’ve also been amazed with how design thinking has been so easily incorporated and so immensely helpful with trying to figure out how to navigate through uncharted waters. Plus these uncharted waters is something that may seem tedious like designing a syllabus; I mean I know they aren’t typically fun to read, so I feel like I shouldn’t be having so much fun making one.

Now I’m pumped to keep working tomorrow!


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Mount Vernon had its first ever Hackathon today and it was so much fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There wasn’t a person there that had actually done a Hackathon before (maybe JamCam), yet we all came down ready to hack away at something!

We had two teams, and then our awesome leaders who planned the Hackathon filled in for the third team just for fun. I think that we will get more people to come in the future after we talk about how fun this time was!!!!

Each team got one old desk from the middle school and the challenge was to take it apart and make it into something new.

My team, Robin Sparkles and the Shine, consisted of two of my best friends, my Latin teacher, and myself. After discovering quickly that it would be very hard to take the chair off of the medal part, we decided to make a swing!

I was actually really impressed with what we came up with especially since it supported our body weight with just a small tree and some string we braided together. (We had some intense braiding going on in the last 10 minutes after we got through the design challenge of figuring out what branch would be most sturdy.)

The process to building this swing included: using a power drill to take the desk off, cutting a bunch of string into long strips, hanging on tree branches to test their structure, pulling a car up next to the tree to stand on it to tie knots (lots of boating and Boy Scout skills were used to make some good knots), and then we had to make a design change decision in the last 3 seconds to cut off the foot rest to keep the chair more straight.

We had such a fun time hacking with some teachers and students. Every now and then someone would say “only at Mount Vernon would we do this,” and boy does this make me happy to be at Mount Vernon!!! I saw such great work with all of the mindsets today and it made me so happy!

Every team won a mindset award and my team got the collaborator award because the joke was that the picture for collaborator was exactly what our team looked like trying to figure out how to get the swing on the tree.

If we were to continue working on the swing we would have needed to fix the length of the string connecting the branch to the seat because we forgot to account for it being stretch so it touched the ground after some weight. (But we were just proud it supported any weight at all since we had to make last minute decisions to not triple braid it and get rid of the foot stool, plus the connection from the string to the chair was a little weak thought it was working some.)

Just to hint at the diversity though, the other groups made a grass slide and a marionette puppet with their chair and some prototyping materials. The other thing I would do differently from this time is try to plan more ahead of time so we could bring extra materials that we might need like wheels or something to break medal in this case.

Over all it was a great afternoon and I can’t wait for our next Hackathon next year!!!!