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World Math Day 2009

What it is:  World Math Day is March 4, 2009!  If you participated in World Math Day last year with the World Math Day website, you know how motivating and fun it was.  If not, this is your year to join in the fun!  Students play against other students in countries around the world in real time...

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#FutureReady starts with Metanoia: doing life together in the journey to change one’s mind

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Apply, Character Education, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 20-11-2014

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Metanoia: What it really means to be #futureready

Every morning Anastasis Academy students start with a mile walk. Together. We don’t walk by class, or by age. We walk together in community. Sometimes (when the weather is nicer) whole families join us, dogs included. It is a great way to start off the day. Directly following the walk, our students come together for a morning meeting. We call it “Metanoia” which is an ancient Greek word meaning: the journey to change one’s mind. Again, we do this as a community, not separated by age, grade, or class. They all sit together. Sometimes we bring in guest speakers, sometimes we watch a video together, and sometimes different staff members lead Metanoia. We share stories and take time to do life together. We do a lot of awesome things at Anastasis, but the Metanoia time together in the morning is among the most awesome.

The Metanoia tends to be tied up with the current inquiry block. This block, our students have been intentional about being thankful. Having an attitude of gratitude every day as part of our How We Express Ourselves inquiry block. Early in the week, we had @thewesroberts as our guest speaker. He gave each student a quarter and challenged them to multiply it and then give it away. Wes talked to the kids about the power they have to make an impact on each other’s lives and on our community. Incidentally as Wes was talking to our students, one of my friends lost their house and dogs in a fire. Devastating. I mentioned this to some of the Anastasis staff and before I knew it, our students had determined that they were going to multiply the quarters they were given to help my friend. Wow.

Today during Metanoia, @lancefinkbeiner called up students to the front one at a time and then asked the other students to say something that they appreciated about the student at the front. As a community, our kids told each other why they matter. This was a neat exercise, but what made it extra special was the way that kids of all ages gave input. They know each other. It matters not if they are the same age, or if they are in the same class. They know each other well enough that they can speak to what they appreciate about in each other. The love and grace that they offered each other through their comments was outstanding. “I like the way that you are friends with everyone.” “You are so creative!” “You include people.” “You have a great heart.” “You are really funny.” It was seriously so much awesome. Every student got to hear what others appreciated about them. Happiness.

So much of the time when we talk about education we focus on policy, politics, technology integration, curriculum. I’m learning that the most important thing is often the one that no one talks about. Community. Doing life together. Our kids are really good at thinking deeply, they are creative and innovative, they are incredibly articulate, they are confident, they are smart. I’m convinced that none of this would look the way that it does if we hadn’t been so intentional about building up our community. When kids feel supported by others; when they know that kids who are older and younger than they are care about them; when they can be vulnerable together, this is what leads to all of the rest being possible.

Many of my friends have been having discussions about #FutureReady. I think #FutureReady starts with Metanoia, doing life together in the journey to change one’s mind.

 

Want to see first hand what makes Anastasis such an awesome place to learn? Join us for 5 Sigma in February!

Professional development to be excited about

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, education reform, inspiration, professional development | Posted on 12-11-2014

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If you’ve ever read a post on iLearn Technology and thought, “man! That is way cool, I wonder how they do that at Anastasis?” Now is your opportunity to find out! We are hosting our first education conference in February. 5 Sigma Edu Conference

I. Can. Not. Wait!!

We have early bird pricing happening through November, don’t miss out on that opportunity to save yourself (or if your lucky, your school) a little money! This is going to be a truly awesome event, the sessions coming together are fabulous and THE Christian Long is going to be here (can you hear the squeals of excitement that are happening?).

If you still aren’t sure if you should make the time to come, use this handy little decision map:

should I go to 5 Sigma:?

 

Welp, that settles it! Can’t wait to meet you all face to face and geek out over education together!

Everything I Know About Education, I Learned from Big Hero 6

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, education reform, Grade Level, inspiration, professional development, Teacher Resources, video | Posted on 11-11-2014

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Yesterday, Anastasis teachers took some of our students (we auctioned ourselves off to the highest bidder) to see Big Hero 6.

It. Was. Brilliant.

We give it two thumbs up and five stars.

I loved the inventiveness, the curiosity, and sheer ingenuity of the characters. I loved the development of each of the different personalities. I loved that the main character’s catch phrase becomes “just look at it from a new angle.”

During the movie, one of our students looked at me and excitedly whispered, “Mrs. Tenkely, this movie is SO perfect for us! That is exactly what we do at Anastasis! Aren’t you glad we get to see THIS movie?!”

She could not be more right, this is what we do at Anastasis. We look at problems from lots of different angles and recognize that learning is ongoing and there is often more than one way to solve a problem. I’m so excited that our students can verbalize this!

Disney is a fantastic story teller, Big Hero 6 is no exception. As I reflected on the movie, I kept making connections between the movie and the way that we teach. Like everything else I encounter, I watched with an educator world view. As such, I thought I would follow in the footsteps of my friend @thenerdyteacher and write an “Everything I know about education, I learned from a movie” post.

**Fair warning and spoiler alert, if you haven’t seen this movie yet, you might want to wait on this post.** :)

Without further ado, here is Everything I Know About Education, I Learned from Big Hero 6:

  • The main character, Hero, thinks that he knows his own path in life (illegal robotics fighting) until his brother, Tadashi, shows him a new way. Tadashi doesn’t try to convince Hero with words, instead he quietly leads and exposes him to a new way of seeing his options.
    • Lesson: Some kids need to be shown/exposed to new ideas and perspectives. A lot of kids aren’t motivated by tests and grades, so they choose apathy (in whatever form that takes). As an educator, it is up to me to help kids see their options. It is my job to help them realize that they are more than a test or grade score. We can’t take for granted that kids will see that on their own.
  • Tadashi takes Hero to the “Nerd School” lab where he works and introduces Hero to his friends. It is Hero’s curiosity and desire to tinker with new ideas that leads him to the decision to use his talents.
    • Lesson: We need to capitalize on the natural curiosity that kids have. We need to give them lots of opportunities to tinker with new ideas. We need to support them and help them to see what their talents are.
  • Big Hero 6 has two lead characters that are strong, smart females. They are brilliant! One is a little edgy and the other is a totally girly fashonista. Both are brilliant inventors.
    • Lesson: Duh, girls are scientists and inventors, too! Never underestimate what any of your students can do. Every single one of them is unique and has gifts that should be cultivated!
  • Nerd School is cool. Like, really cool.
    • Lesson: Own your geek and help your students own their geek. Help your kids see the beauty in whatever they are passionate about. Help them own it. Teach them not to apologize or feel bad for the gifts they have (regardless of what others may say). Nerd school is way cool.
  • When the friends of Tadashi come together to support Hero, they all become heroes.
    • Lesson: Together our ideas are better. Help kids understand that we can appreciate ideas that are different from ours and that each new insight adds to a bigger whole.
  • Hero needs friends after Tadashi dies.
    • Lesson: We need each other for moral support. We don’t always know what is happening in our student’s lives. Those that push us away the most, may also be the very kids who need us the most. Help students connect, help them see each other’s genius. At Anastasis Academy, one of our teachers does an activity (throughout the year) called “speed friending.” Each student is connected with another student where they have an intentional 2 minute conversation where they have to go deeper than surface level. I have never seen whole classes of students gel and support each other the way that @lancefinkbeiner‘s kids do. And these are Jr. High students. There is something to connection.
  • Human connection trumps technology (I’ll avoid the spoiler here, but you will know it when you see it).
    • Lesson: Technology is cool and can be the catalyst for amazing learning, but it is not the main thing. The main thing is human connection. As teachers, we deal in humanity. Make sure that is always the focus in your classroom.
  • “There is someone in there, I have to go in.” Twice in the movie a character makes a decision to face danger on behalf of another.
    • Lesson: No child left behind. Really! We have to have this attitude in our classrooms (failed political strategies aside). It is up to us not to leave kids behind. Our job is to do the dangerous thing and go in after them. They all matter.
  • Baymax is the greatest robot ever. The connection he makes with other characters (even with the limitations of his programming) is really fabulous.
    • Lesson: Technology can be used as a connector. I’ve seen this over and over again. See: Blogger Alliance, and even today I got an email from the production company that created the How We Got To Now series. They read my blog post and sent it on to Steven Johnson (the author and host of How We Got to Now). Excitement and joy ensued. Technology connects your students to the wider world and can enhance human connection.
  • In the movie, every character has an attitude of possible. Of, “we can figure it out.”
    • Lesson: We can foster grit. We can help students develop an attitude of possible. They can figure it out. They can find solutions, they are genius.

Big Hero 6 might be top 10 Disney movies. It really is pretty brilliant. It encourages creativity, science, math, invention, and innovation. All things that I want to foster at Anastasis.

 

If you are an administrator, Big Hero 6 might be the perfect movie to take your staff to as a professional development outing. Just saying.

We are hosing an education conference in February! Join us for a weekend of inspiration, conversation, and implementation. Early Bird Registration through the end of November!

Anastasis Academy hosting the education conference you don’t want to miss!

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, collaboration, education reform, Grade Level, inspiration, professional development, Subject, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 20-10-2014

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5 Sigma Edu Con- a truly innovative education conference!

At Anastasis Academy, we are continually considering the assumptions made in education. We regularly seek to step away from those assumptions about how education must look, and dream together. Many of you have seen this dreaming (we do it pretty publicly), and have asked LOTS of questions about how we do what we do.

As a staff, we’ve asked questions about how assessment must look. We’ve asked questions about what a report card looks like and about what their purpose is. We’ve asked questions about how learning space must look. We’ve reconsidered the timing of the school day. We’ve questioned standards and testing. We’ve questioned the purpose of school. We’ve looked at the part that community plays in a school setting. Most of what we do at Anastasis every day looks very different from what most schools look like, and yet, what we do is not so revolutionary that it can’t be implemented in classrooms everywhere. In fact, our larger goal is to help educators everywhere do what we do.

Dreaming is nice, but in order to really transform education (and classrooms) we must go beyond dreaming . We have to learn, iterate and find a way to launch. It is only when all three of these happen that we can truly transform education and learning.

This February, Anastasis Academy is hosting a 3-day conference to facilitate this transformation in education. We chose 5-Sigma Edu Con as the name for our conference. Why 5-Sigma? 5-Sigma is a declaration of discovery. In science, it is used as a measure of confidence in a result. At Anastasis Academy, we are in a continual process of discovery. We call our conference the 5-Sigma Edu Con because that is what we hope for, declarations of discovery. Our goal is to transform education to be the very best that it can be for kids everywhere. We want to offer a conference experience where educators can come together to learn with world-changing thinkers and innovators. This conference will go beyond the typical how-to sessions; we will be hosting conversations where educators can come together to learn, iterate, and launch. There is something for everyone! This conference is for educators (of any level), administrators, and anyone involved in education.

I can boldly tell you this is like NO education conference you have ever been to. Some special features you can look forward to:

  • Tour Anastasis Academy- if you’ve wanted to see Anastasis Academy in action, this is your opportunity! Get a first hand view of the innovative learning that takes place at Anastasis Academy. Our students will offer an inside look at learning, free from assumptions. Tour our space, ask questions, meet our team, and see education re-imagined.
  • Learning Excursions- At Anastasis Academy, we seek to help our students understand that learning happens everywhere, not just within the four walls of our school building. We have reserved February 22 for adult learning excursions. These are opportunities to experience Colorado, think outside the box, and consider different ways of approaching learning. We cannot WAIT to let you experience learning the way that our students do.
  • No last names or titles rule- We all have an inherently unique perspective about the world, teaching, and learning. Yet, when we interact in our society (or education circles) these can get lost as we operate from the perspective that some people’s ideas are more important. We tend to give more weight to people on a stage, those who have been published, and people who hold titles of authority. The truth is, we all have something that only we can contribute to the discussion. We want to create a level playing field where ideas can be shared freely and everyone is comfortable to network. The labels shouldn’t own us. Before our final keynote, there will be a “grand reveal” where we will share our last names and titles.
  • AWESOME keynotes, sessions, and panel discussions: Christian Long will be the opening Keynote and will kick us off for a fantastic weekend of learning, panel discussions will include Team Anastasis and Anastasis alumni, and sessions are being led by incredible educators and thinkers from around the country.

Registration for 5 Sigma Edu Con is now open. Also open, calls for session proposals. You have something to contribute, please consider presenting! Registration and proposal for a session can be found on the 5 Sigma Edu Con website.

To learn more about the 5-Sigma Edu Conference, visit http://5sigmaeducon.com!

 

5 Sigma Edu Con- a truly innovative education conference!

 

We choose the moon: assessment without labels

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, Classroom Management, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 10-07-2014

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“With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once; the impossible takes a bit longer.”- unknown

Yesterday, @Kevreadenn shared the quote above with me on Twitter. It had me thinking about assessment and John F. Kennedy’s, “we choose the moon” (embedded above – you should watch it again). The declaration that we WOULD send a man to the moon, that we would do the impossible, seemed like an unworkable task given the technology of 1969. It is astounding to me that the technology I hold in my pocket is significantly more capable than the technology that sent a man to the moon. Kennedy inspired a nation to dream together, to achieve the impossible using the resources that were available. How can we inspire kids in this way as they quest for learning? How can we help those students who look at the goal of reaching the moon and think, “this is impossible, I only have 1969 technology,” to be inspired, to look at their resources in new ways and believe that they can do the impossible?

Everyone wants to know that they are “winning” and contributing to something meaningful. The declaration that a man would go to the moon was a lofty goal. It seemed incredibly  important, as a nation, that we achieve this goal together.

It strikes me as strange that the majority of assessment that we focus on in education only shows lag data. The lag data reveals to us where a student landed in a given moment, but doesn’t offer any opportunity for course correction. It also doesn’t take into account outside influences (not enough sleep, home struggles, lack of nutrition, friendship stresses, etc.). If our goals are lofty, and we want learning to be better, we will stop focusing on the lag data as the most important, and instead focus on the lead data. Lead data shows us what leads up to the learning, it gives us insight in the journey and process so that we can adjust as we go.

The majority of grading systems fail to compel action from students because they show historical data only. Students are left believing, “I’ve failed, and now I have to move on knowing I already fall short. Now I have to continue forward from a deficit.” Or they may be left believing, “I aced this, I already know it all, I don’t have anything more to learn.” Traditional grades tend to end learning. Traditional grades also measure students against everyone else with the goal being a perfect score. (Notice that I did NOT say that the goal was learning.) This comparison can be demoralizing for students who know they will fall short of the perfect score. They begin to label themselves as “stupid” and often arrive at the apathetic stance of, “it’s not even worth trying.” The other scenario is the student that believes the goal of the perfect score signals that they learned everything they need to know. For these students, apathy comes in already having hit the mark. “I know everything I need to about x.” This line of thinking closes down creativity and the drive to learn more. Apathy is the killer of learning. It matters not if you are a straight A student, or a D student, traditional grade systems breed apathy and don’t encourage kids to go for the lofty goals. There will be no choosing the moon.

Grading systems need to be upgraded so that they engage students in the process of reaching lofty goals. When students are able to help set their own goals and the assessment happens as a part of learning, students are continually pulled forward in their learning. Each small win adds learning momentum that begins to snowball into something bigger. For those who struggle, the small victories reveal that they can win and they are making forward progress. This gives the confidence that all learning is possible and worth engaging (even when the end goal feels impossible). The students who find that learning comes easily aren’t halted by artificial ceilings. They aren’t left believing that the learning has ended and are encouraged to keep moving forward.

In starting Anastasis Academy, we quickly found that no traditional grading system could adequately assess students as they were learning. We ditched formal A-F grading and instead used standards based grading. The idea was that if we assessed students based on standards (which we used as some of our learning goals), stakeholders would be able to better map progress as they went. We use standards differently, at Anastasis the standards aren’t organized by grade levels, they are simply a continuum of foundational skills. It didn’t take long before the standards based grading was also falling short. There is SO much more to learning than simply meeting the standard. We were interested in helping students understand how their attitudes toward learning impacted academic progress. We wanted to help them understand how character spills into everything else that they do. We wanted them to see that more important than a “Math” grade, was the ability to think like a mathematician. We wanted students to be able to “choose to go to the moon” and contribute to something meaningful. We needed something more holistic that helped students see the intricacies of how learning works. We wanted them to be able to make correlations between their attitudes toward learning and the outcomes that they could see.

Anastasis Report Card

This is the “report card” that I created. It is our attempt to help kids better understand what contributes to learning. It is a helpful way to show students that they aren’t “stupid in math,” but instead help them realize that they aren’t risk takers in math. The aversion to risk taking in math is what really holds them back.

The Latin root of Assessment is assidere, which means “to sit beside.” At Anastasis, we believe that assessment is more than just a measurement, it is an opportunity for apprenticeship, a time for us “to sit beside” and guide. We’ve used various tools for assessment in our short history, our search was for the assessment tool that would offer a more holistic picture of learning. We’ve used Mastery Connect and Jump Rope, but they fell short in giving us that holistic picture because they were tied to Common Core Standards alone (and limited by grade levels). What our students do at Anastasis every day is SO much bigger and deeper than these standards, and yet we didn’t have a good way to demonstrate that. Beginning in January, we rolled out our own grading system. We call it UpGrade because that is what it felt like, an upgrade!

Our goal for feedback on the UpGrade report is twofold:

1. To give students feedback that causes them to think, engage, and reflect on their own learning process as they learn.

2. To give families a detailed account of the student’s learning journey and forward progress.

The UpGrade reports are designed to explain what students know and are able to do, rather than determining grades based on point averages. This kind of grading allows teachers to more effectively tailor instruction to students based on what they actually know and can do, no floors and no ceilings.

The UpGrade report contains the proficiency marks 1-5 (explained below). These numbers are intended to demonstrate the process of learning, students move through the levels of proficiency as learning progresses. A “1” indicates that a child is new to the learning or requires a lot of guidance. A “5” indicates that the student is able to apply the learning to new situations and make connections to other learning.

1- Novice Concept and/or skill is brand new, student is just getting started in the learning. Student requires much teacher guidance and prompting.
2- Apprentice Some prompting or guidance is needed for the new concept and/or skill.
3- Practitioner Concept and/or skill can be done consistently and independently. Student may require occasional prompting or guidance.
4- Scholar Student can apply concept and/or skill to new and/or different situations with little guidance. Student is ready to build on the learning (next level of standard). 
5- Change Maker Concept and/or skill come second nature and can be used to make connections with other learning. Students understand concept/skill and can apply, evaluate, analyze, and create using the skill/concept. Student can use skill/concept for in-depth inferences and applications.

Of course when you create a report card that looks like this, you also have to craft a grading system to populate the report card. Dang it.

This is where I had to get creative and use my limited resources to make something (that seems impossible) work. I used Apple’s Numbers as the method for creating the grading system. It is tedious work, the user interface is messy, but it allows lofty goals and the impossible.

On the back end, teachers can fill in rubrics, or learning evidence pages. These compile and end up as the final 1-5 on the image that you see above. Why did I use Numbers? It is the only spreadsheet program robust enough to incorporate the graphic above. The evidences of learning (assignments) and scores are the easy part. Getting the rubrics to work the way I wanted them to, not so much! I sent out a call for help the other night on Twitter and had some AMAZING spreadsheet ninjas step in to help me find solutions. I promised to share what I figured out…for those not interested in the technical bits, feel free to skip ahead. :)

Anastasis self-grading Writing Rubric in Numbers

This is the rubric that I was working on. I wanted it to “self grade” and then for the score to transfer as a learning evidence. It seemed like it should be simple, but this honestly stumped me for days. Thankfully my PLN stepped in to point me in the right direction!

I started out by creating a highlighting rule. This is simple in Numbers, just click on the cell(s) that you want the rule on and in the “cell formatting” pane, choose “Conditional Highlighting.” In each cell where teachers could leave a score, I wanted the cell to highlight when the score was added. I chose to add the rule “Text contains” and then the number that corresponded to the row of the rubric. Then I chose a color to highlight.

Next came the tricky part. In the cells full of text, I wanted the last cell to recognize when a teacher had typed in a number, and to add up all the numbers of the row so that we could get a total that would populate on the Learning Evidence sheet. I could find all kinds of ways to accomplish this in a Google Spreadsheet or in Excel, but none of the solutions seemed to work in Numbers. I kept getting a syntax error. I finally solved it by using the following format: =COUNTIF(B2:H2,”=*1″) In each row, I changed the number to reflect the score that it would count. This got me most of the way to what I needed, but it was only giving me a count of how many of the number were in the row, not giving me the sum (=SUMIF didn’t work). SO, I added another column to find the product of the “Countif” with the row number. Success! I’ll hide these two columns for the final grade system and just have the total at the bottom show up. This total is easy to then transfer to the Learning Evidence sheet.

THANK YOU @mathlioness @katieregan88 @mrmatera @alicekeeler @royanlee @jasonschmidt123 @benlouey @malynmawby @thomascmurray, you all are truly wonderful for spending time to help me solve this. I am seriously elated that there was a solution! Anastasis teachers will be thrilled as well! :) YOU ARE NINJAS!!

When people ask about Anastasis, they are usually curious to know how we’ve broken past the barrier of labels. We have students who are dyslexic, twice exceptional, have struggled in school, are gifted, know how to play the game of school, etc. Everyone of these kids chooses the moon. They choose to do the impossible and keep moving forward. They aren’t stifled by the learning labels. They know they are more than an “A” or “F.” They start to understand that learning is not the same as a grade. They begin to understand where their hangups actually are and can work on adjusting those instead of believing they are failures.  It is amazing what happens when you take away the labels and help kids understand that no matter where they start from, there is something to be learned, forward progress to be made. They choose lofty goals. They do the impossible.

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.

photo 1-1

 

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!

photo 2-6

 

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.

Acting on hindsight #edchat

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Classroom Management, professional development | Posted on 13-01-2014

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I hate that we have to do trainings like this.  I really do. It breaks my heart that within 15 minutes of Anastasis 3 major school shootings have taken place.  I hate that I know what it is like to wait on the outside. That I know intimately how it breaks families when their child is the one.  That I also know what it is like to worry about kids I’ve known since they were 5. It doesn’t get easier.

I also hate that we have to do fire drills. The reality of why we have to do those drills makes me sad. That a fire drill exists because there were some who died in a fire is equally sad. Yet we do them regularly.  I can’t remember a time when I actually heard of a child dying in a school fire, but I’m sure it has happened.  So we run drills. 6 times every year.  We practice getting out of the building safe so that, heaven forbid, if a fire ever happened, evacuating would feel second nature.  We would all know what to do.

No matter how many times we train, when tragedy strikes it feels different. Time slows down and, at the same time, goes impossibly fast. Decisions matter. This is when we fall back on all of the training and hope that our muscles remember what their job is. We work hard to be calm for kids.  We know implicitly that we will do anything to keep our kids safe.

I was in a neighboring high school during the Columbine school shooting. This was the first time that I remember ever being in “Lock down.”  My algebra 2 teacher quickly locked the classroom door.  We turned out the lights.  We stayed out of site from the door and were asked to be totally silent.  Later we would turn on the TV (cable in the classroom was new), and watch as friends poured out of the high school down the street.  We would keep lists of those we saw so that we could tell each other who we knew was accounted for.  Afterward I would hear stories from those inside about how it went. Some hid in closets. Some under tables. All waited. In some cases that waiting led to friends dying under the neighboring table. Hindsight is always 20/20.  Now we know how quickly it was all over inside the school. Now we look at the number of law enforcement on the outside of the school with all of their armor and weapons and wonder why they sat and waited SO long on the outside. Now we wonder why those who could evacuate stayed where they were and waited…even knowing that there was a gunman in the building. Hindsight is hard. There is so much to do differently.

But we don’t really.  15 years later and little has changed about how we respond to danger. A shooter in the building and we tell teachers and students to stay put and wait.

Now I have my own school.  Anastasis Academy.  It is incumbent on me to use that hindsight to prepare differently.  I know how this goes. I still hate that it is necessary. It still gives me that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that somehow by preparing, we would be inviting trouble. I guess this is the same reason people don’t like writing wills.  That superstition that if they don’t do it- nothing can happen because they won’t be ready.  The real world doesn’t wait for us to be ready.

Social Media has done a lot of great things for me professionally.  It pushed me to start a school.  Most recently, a connection I first made online, led to a friendship.  @laurascheer isn’t an educator.  We started talking on Twitter because she has kids of her own. She is interested in education as a parent. Then we realized we live within 5 minutes of each other and met.  Laura introduced me to a client of hers, @taconeconsulting.  I had no idea a company like Tac One existed.

Being in charge of a school is hard. It is hard to balance what you know about kids, with what you know about the world, and what you know about liability.  But I’ve seen school shootings up close. I know how they go.  I had a hard time doing lock down the way that every other school does lock down. I guess I was waiting for permission to trust my instincts.  After the Arapahoe shooting, Laura messaged me and asked if we would be interested in having Tac One Consulting come out and train us.
I immediately accepted (despite the irrational “jinx” alarm in my mind).  On Saturday all Anastasis staff went through Tac One’s Beyond Lockdown Training. I’m so glad that we did!  Joe helped us see that this is no different from preparing for a fire. The hope is always that all the training will go without a test. But, in the instance that you need it, you have it.

The team teaches what I’ve always suspected should be the case: if your students are able to get out of the building (where all the law enforcement is…or will soon be…hanging out) do it. Evacuation is the best case scenario, NOT sitting and waiting the way many of us have been told to do for 15 years. Tac One even taught us how to evacuate so that we do so in a safe, smart way.

If for some reason we can’t get out of the building, we were taught how to secure our classrooms.  Joe walked us through each room and helped us think through what could be used to do this. Visualizing what is available puts your mind at ease. You have a plan, you aren’t left sitting in the dark. We also learned about various guns. What they look like, how they work, what the bullets and magazines look like. If you come upon a hallway with discarded magazines, you now have a better idea of what you are dealing with. Knowledge is power. We were taught how to disarm a shooter in a “safe” manner (not sure this is ever safe).  We took turns practicing this on Tac One’s bad guy, John.  We learned how to more safely navigate halls, how to fight back if it all goes poorly, etc.

I’ll say it again, I pray that I will NEVER need any of this knowledge. But I also hope I will never need fire drill knowledge. I also hope I will never have to put our tornado drill to the test.  I will continue to run our staff through ALL of these drills and trainings because I haven’t figured out how to predict the future or how to prevent bad things from happening.

I am beyond thankful for Tac One’s training not only from a tactical standpoint, but also for the reminder of the truly incredible people I’ve surrounded myself with. This was a great reminder of the trust that I have in my staff. If I ever need someone to have my back, I’m glad that they are around!

capitalizing on hindsight

School administrators- I encourage you to take a good look at your lock down procedures. Are you doing the same things that have been done for the past 15 years? Even with all we know about how this goes?

Teachers- You are the first line of defense. Protecting kids falls on your shoulders. If your school has a tired lock down policy, encourage them to look at a training like Tac One offers.

Parents- Know what your child’s school does to keep your kids safe. If there is room to grow, push. This is important. Pray that it never happens, but don’t make assumptions that it won’t ever happen to your child’s school.

It is up to us to protect that which is most precious. I want to know that I’ve taken every possible measure to do that.  Before Laura pointed me to Joe at Tac One, I didn’t know such a training was available to schools. It is.  Check it out.

Thank you Joe at @taconeconsulting and @laurascheer very much appreciated!

24 of Our Favorite Apps at Anastasis Academy!

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, For Teachers, inspiration, iPod, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary | Posted on 12-09-2013

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24 of our favorite apps at Anastasis Academy

 

Recently, Kelly Hodgkins from The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) interviewed me for a back to school piece on apps that teachers use in the classroom.  I not only shared our favorite apps, I also shared some iPad accessories that keep us happy.

Click here for 24 of our favorite apps at Anastasis Academy.   What are your favorite apps?

Chalkstar to Rockstar: Revolutionary Ideas in Learning

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, education reform, Grade Level, inspiration, Podcasts, professional development, Teacher Resources | Posted on 05-09-2013

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Holy. Cow.  School has started in full force!  I absolutely love having kids back in the building. It feels alive again, kids bring an energy that can’t be matched.   If you are a teacher, you know that there is an enormous amount of work that goes into starting a year.  It’s a good thing that the kids bring energy, because mine is depleted!  I blame it on the constant stream of school related dreams that happen at the beginning of the school year.  It’s like I never leave that place!  I hope that those of you who are beginning a new year are off to a great start.

Chalkstar to rockstar Anastasis Academy Podcast

I get a lot of questions about Anastasis Academy.  People usually start off with jaws dropped and some disbelief in their eyes, “wait a minute, YOU started a school?”  After some convincing that this AMAZINGNESS really does exist, the litany of questions begin.  How did you do it?  Where did the money come from?  What is different about your school?  In less than 6 months you started the school, seriously?  Recently @michellek107 and I shared the story of Anastasis Academy with @bennettscience on a brand new show called Chalkstar to Rockstar.  Check out this great new show here!

Evernote as an ePortfolio: Postach.io, Voice2Note, StudyBlue

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Classroom Management, Create, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 11-06-2013

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You know what no one tells you about starting a school?  That ending a school year is WAY more work than starting a school year.  Also, no one warned me that I would be licking cheap envelopes while everyone else was enjoying the freedom of summer.  We have just wrapped up our second year of Anastasis Academy.    I’m not sure what it is about heading into year 3, but it feels substantial and important.  Odd numbers are like that I guess.  This feels like the year that all of those nagging things that we wish we had time to tweak are going to happen.  Like we have a great groove to work from and now anything is possible. (This could also be the optimism that comes with every summer when schedules are a little looser and there is more time to dream).

I digress… this post is about Evernote and some neat new add-on apps I’ve been playing with.  At Anastasis, we use Evernote as our digital portfolio.  For the most part, this works brilliantly!  Students can record text, images, and audio directly into Evernote.  Notes can be shared and emailed to teachers and parents alike.  Evernote makes it easy to capture learning that isn’t natively digital in their eportfolio.  Snap a picture or create a short audio recording directly in Evernote and the learning is captured, searchable and sharable.  All of the incredible projects that our students create during inquiry can be reflected in Evernote portfolios.   Another HUGE benefit to the Evernote/iPad combo: it goes with them everywhere.  Recording learning on a field trip? Check. Recording learning at home? Check. Recording learning on the fly? Check. Teachers often send students a PDF instructions for an assignment or a picture to the student’s Evernote account. Parents can login to their child’s Evernote account from any computer or iDevice to see what they are working on.  Not only is learning captured on the device, but it is stored in the cloud.  This means that if a student iPad gets lost, damaged, etc. their work isn’t gone.

Postach.io

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 4.11.10 PM

Postach.io is quickly becoming my new BFF.  You see, we had this truly convoluted way of getting student work from Evernote portfolios to an edublog or an edu 2.0 blog.  It worked smoothly about 1% of the time.  BUT, we want kids to be able to “publish” their work for the larger community (Anastasis community and the wider education community).  Postach.io is the answer to our frustrations!!  Here is how it works: Create a pistachio account, click “create site”, authenticate your Evernote account, choose an Evernote notebook subdomain… finished!  Postach.io creates blog posts and pages from student notes in Evernote. All the student needs to do is create a note in a Notebook they’ve specified when creating a site. Postach.io then converts those notes to published posts and pages.  Add “published” or “page” to the tags in Evernote to publish it to the Postach.io blog.  So, now our students can quickly edit their notes to be post worthy, add a little tag, and voila! they have a blog post.  Currently Postach.io uses Disqus to add threaded comments.  (This is a secondary account for your students to create.)

Voice2Note

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Voice2Note is a fantastic way for students to turn their Evernote voice notes into text.  Students record their voice (just like they normally do in Evernote), Voice2Note takes that note and converts it into text.  Students can even tag their notes by saying “Tag with” at the end of their note!  Now students can search even their voice notes!  To use Voice2Note, students need to login to the Voice2Note website to register and connect their Evernote account.  Then, students just record their voice note as they normally would.  The rest gets taken care of by Voice2Note.  This is another app that is going to make some of our students HAPPY!! Many students have fantastic ideas but struggle with getting their ideas out in writing. Voice2Note means that they can say their ideas, have them transcribed into text directly in Evernote, and edit from there.  Not only is this ideal for struggling writers, it is also helpful for emerging writers who may have a large spoken vocabulary, but their writing is limited by what they know how to spell.  Voice2Note could also be really helpful as a pre-writing brainstorming activity, during the design thinking process, or during group discussions.  Previously our students were copying/pasting from Dragon Dictation…not a huge problem, but those extra minutes count!

StudyBlue

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A connection with a StudyBlue account means that students can turn their Evernote notes into digital flashcards they can study from. Study Blue makes it simple for students to turn their Evernote notes into study guides, digital flashcards, and quizzes.  Students can even set up study reminders. When students create an account with StudyBlue, they have the option to Sync with their Evernote account.  The integration will create a new notebook in Evernote called “Study Blue.” If students wish to, they can upgrade their account to StudyBlue+ which will allow them to share their study guides and flashcards, merge with other teachers and students.  StudyBlue gives students more efficiency in their school lives.  They can easily maximize their time by taking notes in Evernote (or recording voice notes and using Voice2Note to make them text) and seamlessly creating study materials with StudyBlue. Students can download the StudyBlue app to their device or log on via web browser.

***Please note that while we use iPads for our Evernote eportfolios, it isn’t necessary!  Any device that has a web browser will work (even that dusty old desktop in the corner of your classroom) and all of the add-on’s mentioned above will work with or without an iPad.

We use lots of other apps that enhance our Evernote portfolio experience because of their integration with Evernote.  Click here for a guide I made last year with some of our favorites!