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Open note to girls: you are beautiful, you are enough.

This post is dedicated to the most beautiful girls that I know: Lexi, Riley, Caroline, Micah, Abbey, Maddie, Kaylee, Meredith, Lexxi, Athena, Taylor, Emma, Hope, Sophie, Lauren, and the young team Anastasis girls that these wonderful ladies set the stage for.   String bean, Toothpick, Twiggy, Slim, Skinny, Bones, Chicken Legs. This is how I was known growing up. More often than not, these “nicknames” were used in place of my actual name. I hated it. When I was in elementary school, the names didn’t bother me so much. I didn’t really associate them with myself so they didn’t hurt my feelings. I really only heard these names once a year during our PE physical. For some reason someone came up with the brilliant idea to have our height and weight measured in PE class each year. We would all line up against the wall and one by one be told our weight and height while a PE assistant scribbled down our weight on a piece of paper that would be sent home. One by one we walked up, either elated or embarrassed by our height (in elementary school, height rules). Then came the weight. I don’t think any of us really knew what the “ideal” weight was. I don’t remember being embarrassed by the number called out. It wasn’t until they pulled me aside and told me that I was “under weight” and SHOULD weigh more, and that they would send a note home to my parents that I was embarrassed. But, it was one day a year that happened along with eye tests and was always soon forgotten. It was the first time I remember feeling different from the other kids. Like maybe there was something wrong with me. Cut to middle school where the name of the game is blending in and looking like everyone else. The names started to hurt. It was this constant reminder that there was something “wrong” with me. That I was different. In middle school different is equated with bad. It was the first time that I really began to feel self-conscious about the way that I looked. I was skinny and on the tallish side for how slender I was, mostly I was trapped in the body of Peter Pan. Couple that with the joys of puberty…disastrous. This is the time that you begin to care what others think of you and unfortunately, it comes at the same time as your body is at it’s most awkward. I started to break out regularly and even though I took care to wash my face twice a day and use products that should have cleared my skin, I always had a break out somewhere on my face. In health class we all got assigned a “disease” to research and report on. As the teacher was calling out assignments, I heard my name, “Kelly, you will do acne.” The boy next to me leaned over laughing, “You know why you got assigned that right? It’s because you always have zits everywhere.” Devastating. When I looked in the mirror, all I saw was my bony shoulders, my skinny chicken legs, and the pimples on my face. I felt ugly. This feeling of not being enough followed me into the high school years. The breakouts started to get under control, but I was still as skinny as ever. At 5’4 I finished high school weighing 90 lbs. This wasn’t for lack of eating. I have an insane sweet tooth and ice cream and milk shakes were part of my regular diet. No matter what or how much I ate, nothing seemed to change my weight. I know, most of you are shaking your head right now sarcastically thinking, “poor Kelly, she could eat ANYTHING and not gain weight…we feel so bad.” I’ve heard that throughout my life too. I never got asked out on a date in high school, never had a boyfriend. My friends seemed to get asked out regularly. Another reminder that something was wrong with me. In college I was pulled aside by multiple professors and RA’s who wanted to talk to me about “my anorexia.” It’s hard to convince someone who thinks they know you that they don’t actually know you. It took a doctor’s note documenting that I was at a healthy weight, for me, to get them to stop hounding me. This didn’t stop random old ladies from approaching me and grabbing my arm while they told me that I needed to eat more and take care of myself. It also didn’t stop the rude comments random guys would call out at me, “good Lord, eat something!” Different felt ugly. It sent the message over and over, “you are not enough.” This post isn’t really about my weight. It’s actually a post about beauty. When I was young, I thought that beauty was something that was unattainable because I didn’t look like the “popular girls.” I had this picture in my mind of what beauty was: being just curvy enough, perfectly made up face, long silky hair, long legs, perfect wardrobe, perfect smile, pouty lips, tan. Imagine my shock when I learned that none of this is what makes you beautiful. It took a long time to learn this truth. My definition began to shift when I was in college and lived in a house full of girls. I had beautiful roommates. Attractive in every sense of the word; yet the longer I lived with them, the more I heard their insecurities about their looks. I was baffled. How could these beautiful girls look in the mirror and believe they were ugly? Perception is an interesting thing. We assume that people see the same things we see, that they perceive us the same way that we do. This is rarely the case. My husband was my first boyfriend. He saw beauty that I couldn’t see. He helped reshape my perception. My wonderful friends and roommates had a big hand in this as well. I began to realize that we really don’t see ourselves the way that others do. Our perceptions are often not accurate representations. Beauty is so much more than what we see in the mirror. It’s sad that we reduce it so much and beat ourselves up about it. I can’t tell you the number of girls I’ve taught that come to me in tears because they don’t feel like they are enough. Not pretty enough, not smart enough, not athletic enough, not funny enough. Not enough. Without exception, every single one of these girls was unequivocally MORE THAN ENOUGH. They are beautiful. They are smart, and funny, and engaging. It breaks my heart to see their tears, to see the insecurity that they carry, to realize that they don’t see themselves the way that the rest of us see them. They look to makeup, revealing clothes, unhealthy relationships, snap chat, ask FM to tell them they are beautiful. So girls, with everything above as a backdrop, this is my message for you: You are beautiful. Yes, you. You are enough. Yes, you. When we look at you, we see beauty. It’s not the makeup you put on. It’s not the tan. It’s not the perfect hair. It’s not the perfect weight or height (as if there is such a thing). You are beautiful because you are brave, you don’t hesitate to leap in and take big risks. You are beautiful because you put passion into the work you do and when you share it, we can’t help but be captivated by the same magic. You are beautiful because of the work you do in the service of joy. You are beautiful because you have a laugh that pulls everyone else into the fun. You are beautiful because of the way your eyes widen with compassion when you see someone hurting, right before you jump in to help. You are beautiful because you have a generous nature that you share freely. You are beautiful because you have a great sense of humor that instantly puts everyone at ease. You are beautiful because you make everyone a friend. You are beautiful because of the way you join in silliness, especially when your peers won’t join in. You are beautiful because your awkwardness is endearing. You are beautiful. We all see it. We want you to see it. You are beautiful. I hope that when you feel like you aren’t enough, you will call and let me change your perception. Sometimes, people will cross your path that don’t deserve you. But that doesn’t matter in the long run, you are beautiful because of the way you keep sharing your gifts with the rest of us who do see the immense beauty. I hope that when you look in the mirror, you see what we see. The beauty that you are.   I’ve become passionate about self-image over the years. Perspective can do that for you. I want every single girl, young woman, and woman to recognize the beauty that they are. To see what the rest of us see. I want them to be secure in who they are and the way that they look (especially without makeup). I want them to know that they are enough. It’s why I love the message of Rodan + Fields. It’s why I’m hosting a virtual party on Thursday. It’s the reason I hope you will join me Thursday and then take a makeup free selfie on Friday with the hashtag #rfnaked. Show the girls in your life that it isn’t the makeup that makes a woman beautiful…the added bonus is that for every #rfnaked makeup free selfie posted, Rodan + Fields will donate $1 to education. If you missed the details about the virtual party, check it out here and make sure to join us!  

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Inquiry, magic, and blended learning: Anastasis Academy

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, collaboration, Create, education reform, Evaluate, inspiration, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 01-03-2014

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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.

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