INDE presented to the LEAP committee today to request a working group to address Board questions and keep working toward the ultimate goal of opening a charter school. The committee asked for more specifics, which we will present next month. We are looking forward to taking a big next step toward making our dream a reality!
When invited to join INDE at the Wisconsin Leadership Development (“WiLD”) training held at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire I accepted with an open mind. I was curious about the process and ready to learn more about those who work so hard bringing alternative learning to schools in the region. Meeting Bill and Tim, getting to know better Erica, Anna, and Liz over the course of three very intense days of training was a genuine pleasure. Their passion for educational practices that focus on the the interests and wellbeing of children was apparent from the very beginning.
We were encouraged to tell our own stories, illustrating how we came to be working for substantive reform in public schools. Hearing the heart-felt narratives really inspired me to dig deep into my own experiences as a student and realize that my own values are shaped by my personal history. School should not stand in the way of a student’s learning. As a teacher, I really want to lessen the suffering of students by learning their stories and building trust in an authentic way.
Dan Grandone and the WiLD team gave me the tools needed to articulate my values by workshopping coaching techniques alongside the INDE group. By sharing stories we can encourage others to contemplate their own personal histories. We can join together to work for positive change in schools. Another lesson from WiLD: We can accomplish bigger things when we work together. The INDE group is wholly dedicated to the notion that the lives of students can get better. It’s a dream that we can make reality by organizing those of us who care about making schools that consider the interest and wellbeing of all students. Together we can make the dream of child-centered education a reality.
It has been an exciting week at INDE! We had the first meeting with our newly formed Educational Advisory Group (EAG), a team of 24 teachers who have volunteered their time to assist INDE in the educational program development for the Little Red Nature Campus (LRNC).
On Monday evening, EAG met to learn more about INDE, project based learning, and each other. This wonderful group of teachers discussed the impacts, benefits and challenges of a project based, teacher-led, outdoor learning environment. Much of our discussion focused on the “why”: Why alternative learning environments are good for students, teachers, parents, school districts, and the community. Discussed alongside of those benefits were challenges that might come with planning and advocating an educational program like LRNC.
This is the first of a series of meetings we envision for this group. Goals for EAG are to 1) develop and further project-based, teacher-led, and outdoor learning environments in the Eau Claire Area School District (ECASD), 2) determine how to best serve students with educational disadvantages in those environments. We anticipate meeting over the summer to use the momentum started at this meeting. Our future meetings will focus on the “how”: How do we advocate for alternative learning environments in the ECASD? How do we move toward opening the LRNC?
INDE is incredibly grateful to the EAG members, district teachers willing to take time away from their many other demands to serve on this team. I am energized and excited to be working with such a passionate group of educators and look forward to our many conversations about new directions in education for our students!
A good conference leaves you both energized and exhausted, focused and overwhelmed, and generally ready to get to work. Last week, Elizabeth Harder and I had the opportunity to attend Innovative Schools Network’s National Conference on Educational Innovation in the Wisconsin Dells, and it delivered on all counts. The conference brought together hundreds of teachers, administrators, school developers, governance board members, and other experts who are passionate about educating children in non-traditional ways.
For me, the highlight of the conference was the keynote speaker, Dr. Manulani Aluli Meyer, Director of Indigenous Education at the University of Hawaii West Oahu. Dr. Meyer specializes in indigenous epistemology and spoke about native intelligence, love, balance, simultaneity, and much more. It was as delightful and unexpected as it is difficult to explain. Let’s just say that by the end of an hour, she had hundreds of us chanting in Hawaiian and everyone seemed willing. As one organizer said afterward, “You’ll notice that this is not a normal conference.” It wasn’t… in a good way.
Over the two days, I attended sessions on using Google Sites to track personalized learning plans, how to integrate students into project-based learning assessment, best practices in new school development, arts integration and children’s brain development, and a number of other topics. One especially practical session was by Sarah Hackett, who introduced attendees to the Wisconsin Resource Center for Charter Schools, a new office being created using federal grant funding. The office will offer training and other resources to Wisconsin public charter schools on authorizing, operating, governing, and improving charter schools. It was exciting to hear about how Wisconsin is developing this resource center--I expect that having a “hub” for networking and training charter school board and staff will be positive step forward in creating a more healthy and hospitable environment for charter schools in Wisconsin.
It was inspiring to be in the company of so many others who have been through the school development process that we are embarking on and to get their encouragement and support. By conference end, I gathered not just the knowledge shared in the formal presentations but also a pocket full of business cards, with associated offers to come visit schools and to reach out anytime for advice. I look forward to using those new connections to assist INDE as we continue our journey.
-Anna Rybicki, INDE Member
Are you a teacher in the ECASD? Would you like to join the Little Red Nature Campus planning team? Then we want to hear from you this week!
We are seeking ECASD teachers to form an Educational Advisory Group and we’re taking applications until April 13, 2018. This small group of ECASD staff members will assist in educational program development for the proposed LRNC charter middle school. We are looking for passionate and knowledgeable educators who are supportive of alternative education, particularly project-based, outdoor-focused learning. One goal of the group will be to determine how to reach and best serve students with educational disadvantages. All ECASD teachers are invited to apply. Regardless of what level or subject(s) you teach, if you are interested in contributing, we want to hear from you!
This is a temporary, volunteer position--there is no compensation and meetings will take place outside of regular work hours. In order for the committee to work efficiently, the group will be limited in number. Group members will be selected from those who apply. Should LRNC hire teachers in the future, no preference will be given to members of the Educational Advisory Group.
How to Apply: If you are interested in serving on the Educational Advisory Group, please fill out this form by Friday, April 13, 2018.
For more information: email INDE at firstname.lastname@example.org.
During the past two months, INDE members have participated in a variety of training and development opportunities that support the continued development of the Little Red Nature Campus (LRNC) program. On March 8, a small group attended a one-day training session on project-based learning hosted by the Eau Claire Area School District and run by Wisconsin Innovative Schools Network. The very next day, members of INDE, along with staff from the ECASD and Sandy Benton of the Wisconsin Green Schools Network, attended the Every Teacher a Leader (ETaL) Northwest Regional Summit.
The ETaL concept is based on research that shows a correlation between teacher leadership and higher student achievement. The goal of the summit was to give teachers the space and structure to workshop problems within their schools or districts. Our team joined groups of teachers from all across the region and worked collaboratively within our teams and with advisory partners to develop action plans that address some of the challenges we have identified in bringing the LRNC program to life.
A key goal of the LRNC program is to recruit and serve students with educational disadvantages. Research has shown that students with educational disadvantages are often underrepresented in charter school admissions. Our work during these trainings centered on developing a plan to engage community and district partnerships in a strategic effort to build relationships with community service organizations and with our district’s elementary schools, ensuring all children who could benefit from this program have equal access to LRNC. We came away from ETaL with concrete plans to make area families aware of the option, understand the application process, easily complete application materials, and ultimately have equal opportunity to gain access to the school.
We look forward to further developing our program with these students in mind and hope to provide Eau Claire with an alternative educational environment for all children, including those who might struggle in the existing environment.
-Erica Zerr & Beth Martin & Anna Rybicki