Welcome to our blog

This is the story of two educators on one journey. Each day we will record our reflections on the process of being involved in an innovative educational environment. The decision on our part to leave the public education system was deliberate due to our growing frustrations over the factory "one size fits all" model of education. This model has dominated the educational landscape and is not designed to meet the needs of the 21st century learner. Step one in our journey was to find a place that would allow us the freedom to break out of the system. We needed a chance to just breath and facilitate learning in the ways that we both know are best for children. That step has led us to Rosemary Beach Florida to work with the students attending the OH Institute. The OH Institute is a unique educational environment that we find humane. The curriculum focus is on the individual learner with an infusion of technology project based learning. Currently, it has 20 students in grades 4-11 all of whom are seeking something different than what the factory system of education has to offer. This is where our adventure begins...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday December 20th

Monday December 20:


Today I had the opportunity to sit in on a call to Suzie Boss. It was really great to hear her thoughts about our work at OH and give us connections to other educators doing similar types of work. Who knew that Mike Muir in Maine was already doing virtual PBL work? It is exciting to see that we are not alone in what we are trying to accomplish.

It was especially neat for me to be in on this call because I just finished reading her book Reinventing Project Based Learning in the Digital Age. The book reinforced many of the things that Randy and I have already put in to place as well as gave me good directions to head with our PBL work.

On a side note it was just really really nice that someone like Suzie Boss would take the time to speak to us. What a great way to start winter break!

We also are going to bring on Kelly Meyers, Tim's sister, to help with the college admissions process for our HS students. This will be a huge weight off my back and a great asset to the school. She has great connections to some college admission counselors and has lived through the process with two of her children recently. I am excited about working with her.

Finally here is my winter break "to do" list:

  • Make parent calls & have two parent meetings week of 12/27
  • Complete transcripts/course progression for all HS students
  • Block out rest of HS LA/History course
  • Figure out space dilemmas for new student arrival 1/3
  • Make a plan for transitioning new students in
  • Work on a start of Telluride student connections plan
  • Plan HS course mini lessons based on standards unit for January
  • Randy MS inquiry lessons based on standards
  • Add global connections to PBL work
  • Randy plan elementary math inquiry for the rest of the year
  • PSAT score reports/SAT scores-learn more about interpretation to share with parents
  • Writing feedback for HS papers (read them and plan mini unit)
  • Dissertation sections one with researcher names attached:
    • PBL/Inquiry
    • 21st century learning/21st century students
    • Multi age
  • Finish rough draft section one of dissertation
  • Plan dissertation section two: PBL research

Thursday December 16th

Thursday December 16th:


We did what I thought was a very nice combo of morning math and writing today. I'm happy with the elementary work today.

MS: Davis finished his sextant and we will learn more of how to use it after the winter break. Our group project is almost together but was surprisingly difficult to piece together. I'm going to have to really focus on a system of what to do when people are gone and how to get work from them. Each day really does become incredibly valuable when it comes to work.

I did a short skype with a 2nd grade faculty today with our friends in Hattiesburg and it will be neat to see how that relationship develops. I hope we can pull off a project together. It would be a great example to use for FETC or ISTE when we do our presentations.


Today I completed my last five week check in which is a great feeling. The process was a lot more efficient this time around and I was able to complete all the meetings within a three week window. I really enjoy these meetings because they give me an opportunity to talk to the parents on a more personal level. I get to hear about the things that are important to the families and their expectations for their children.

I also had the opportunity to attend a webinar with the Net Tech High school network head. It is amazing how in the last day and a half so many possibilities have opened up in terms of our work. The elementary students are skypeing with schools in two different states, we had a proposal accepted for ISTE, we have the possibility of being involved with a major deal with another school district through HMH and we are connecting globally with other schools.

There are just so many exciting things happening and I feel like I finally realize why we were meant to be in this place at this time of our lives.

Wednesday December 15

Wednesday December 15


Wow! OH is growing and moving fast. We have two new elementary students coming in and possibly two new high school boys. We also have schools skypeing in and wanting to partner with us. We have two major presentations coming up one at FETC and one at at ISTE (whu hu ISTE is the big one).

I have been meeting with parents all week long to go over where students are and where they need to be. We have also been looking at ITBS and PSAT scores. Not my favorite thing to look over but a necessity in today's educational system.


Today was a very interesting day. We started off with elementary presentations. The goal here was to get them speaking in front of others and to begin to get assimilated into the PBL process, slowly one step at a time. After that, the elementary students skyped with a school in Hattiesburg Mississippi. They told each other what their favorite movies were and took some time sharing. They are going to try and do a project together after the Christmas break.

Middle school continued on their project work. Alyssa's video looks great and I'm looking forward to getting all of their parts together.

We are planning a fun trip to Wonderworks on Friday and it seems we have many more new students on the way. Busy, but fun day.

Monday December 13th

Monday December 13:


I like Amy's idea of having high flying through some standards first so that students are comfortable with a general overview of the content and create a "content Zone" online. I will spend some time over the break putting this together for middle school so they can have a similar experience. I think it will do the trick of calming parents and others about making sure we cover the content. Middle school projects are moving, but to be honest, students being gone so much hurts a good deal when time is literally so precious. A system that deals with students gone over long distances or absent is something that has always been a part of our mission, so I hope we can figure out a system.


Ditto to Randy's post on trying to figure out the system of students being in and out so much.

December 7th

Tuesday December 7:

Today started with community time and then I had a five week parent check in meeting. It was a nice meeting with the lingering issue of whether or not we pan to stay as the main question. We are trying to figure out our path for next year.

I started to work on organizing a paper with ms but realized that they would need more planning before we could actually write a paper.

Not sure what happened to the rest of this post-oh well!

December 2nd

Thursday December 2:


Today was a super mellow super productive day. We have 8 students out on a family trip and one out sick. The remaining ten students rock and rolled in terms of getting things done.

I also had an epiphany in terms of figuring out the model. There is a need for two full time in class facilitators/20-25 students with one of the two taking the lead as a facilitator/administrator. The one that is the full time facilitator takes the lead on instruction and the one that is the facilitator/admin takes the follow up on most instruction (or with Randy and I we call it the polishing of the process/product role). The admin role entails all parent communication about school events, sitting on parent groups such as the fundraising for trips, facilitating parent nights and new student open house etc, facilitating tours and new student registration/orientation. This role also encompasses college planning and community outreach.

Why this was an epiphany is because I now realize that the documentation of the process piece is really quite impossible to add on to the admin facilitator role in addition to all the things that this role entails. Now that I realize it and I really like the admin/facilitator role that I am in I need to talk to Tim about the documentation piece.

I like days like today where what I am doing makes sense and causes me to really be able to clarify what I am able to contribute to our model.

Wednesday December 1st

Wednesday Dec. 1:


Today was a weird day in terms of work. The students were all in what I call heavy work phases which is great but also leaves the facilitator's role in a strange place. One the one hand you cannot get into any type of other work yourself because you need to be available to the students when they need you. On the other hand if they are working they rarely need you. This is the phase that I like to call the floating around and watching/listening to the work getting done.

Elementary was a lot of fun. We worked on their formal writings today and it was amazing to see the things that they came up with.

Randy :

Ok, my official FLVS rant here - Why. . .does education insist on killing things that are actually really interesting i.e. chemistry. Grrrrrr! I feel like we load them on useless facts that are unnecessarily complex, not connected to the actual world, all in the honorable name of test prep. I'm frustrated with having the job of trying to convince students that it can be interesting. It is absolutely no surprise that our math and science students fall short on technology STEM jobs. Ok, I'm done.

I really like the fact the middle school is doing "Ice Ice Baby". That made my day.

Tuesday November 30

Randy :

Today was a bang up day on all fronts. Elementary put in the best blogs yet and set a great standard on blogging. HS did a neat lesson with Ms. Sylvia on how to write a responsive paper to literature. MS got off to a great start on their individual projects and I can't wait to see what they create. It was good energy today and feelings for students and adults. Very fun.


The elementary kids blew me away today with their thinking. They were working on a cell game that Trae found and it was meant for High School. They had no fear jumping on the game and talking up a storm to figure it out. They were using terms like mitochondria etc as they were learning how to play the game. What was really fun to watch was how they organized themselves. Ellee worked on her own but asked questions of her classmates when she got stuck. Hanna sat next to Trae and while she worked on her own game she watched Trae play to get guidance on her game. Trae chose to project his game on the wall and Jack sat in a chair watching the projection of Trae's game. He would ask Trae questions and give him guidance as the game unfolded on the screen. It reminded me a bit of the hole in the wall experiment in India. Literally I did no facilitating nor did they even think to turn to me when they needed help. They totally "got" that their classmates would be able to help them out more than I would. Too cool!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday November 29th


Wow! Today was a big day where a lot of things came together in a really nice way. PBL work came together with reading with technology etc. It was nice to watch the high school students get into the virtual chalk talk discussion. The product or document that the students produced was amazing. I love it when simple technology works to produce something extraordinary.

It was also very nice to get the positive reinforcement of students getting high quality responses from experts.

Today was the kind of day that I felt like we are on the right track with this model.

I also feel like a weight has been lifted off of my back after our meeting with Tim and Paige yesterday. I feel like we were given permission to continue to evolve and that roles should not necessarily be a defined thing. It makes me feel better to know that I have more control over my role and destiny than I was seeing before the Thanksgiving holidays.

All is well.


Today was a good start to the next round of weeks after the break. It was neat to see high school put out such a great product with Amy in just one 90 minute block.

Elementary was actually way more difficult than I expected. The pandemic assignment was pretty advanced and really pushed them hard. I'm going to really think about how to make tomorrow a "guarantee success" day. The morning math was pretty fun also as we learned how to measure a tree using angles and our thumbs. Fun stuff.

Middle school is starting a round of projects that include an individual project and a group project to test out the new PeBLr program that Tim is writing. Tim is taking the lead on the individual projects and I will work on the group projects. I think Tim will see first hand how difficult, yet rewarding, project based learning can be.

Music was fun today as well. I'm tickled that the middle school is going to work on Ice Ice Baby as a song. For some reason, that really makes me smile. High school is also searching out new possible songs and we'll just have to see what they come up with.

Tuesday November 16th

Randy -
I feel that things are actually running quite well in all fronts. The main concern is people falling back on their FLVS work which of course I think should be sort of OK but it is not as far as parents and such are concerned.

So I am starting to again wonder what my role is in the model. It has been great having Tim in the room to give us a different set of eyes on the day. Today he mentioned the possibility of having a third facilitator enter the picture and my only question is what he would see this persons role as and why he sees the need for a third facilitator?

It is a weird position that I am in because I thought my role was documenting the process and producing a document that is transferable to other locations. Having a third person while it would of course be amazing support would not be realistic for transferring the model to another school. We did not have much time to talk it over and we will see where this is going.

As for the day I am really struggling with my role and feel almost like I have a split personality. There is so much writing and research that I need time to do but I am constantly in the room so I feel like anytime I start to write my flow is interrupted. I am going to talk to Randy about what his needs are from me and if he feels okay I am going to start stepping out a bit to start working on taking all the information that I have gathered and organizing it into something that makes sense.

I also feel really strongly that I need to do some research and write a rationale supported by research for what we are doing...

Wednesday November 10th

Today was an interesting day with some new experiences. One neat thing was when Amy had the high schoolers doing an activity where they brainstormed how they will present their hybrid car project. It was neat to see one student up front leading the others and really working together nicely. Another neat experience was a whole school 10 minute project on trying to figure out how to soundproof the music room during music (see yesterday as a reference point). Tim will be using this information for design class tomorrow afternoon.

It was neat doing math with elementary this morning and seeing how they think about how hard and complex an everyday problem is. Today's problem was how to make their goo recipe in a baby pool. They had to also use metric measurement. I'm going to give similar problems to them for a couple of days until they get used to the process.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tuesday November 9th

Randy -

Another surprisingly great day. One highlight was the elementary students making a non-Newtonian fluid of cornstarch and water. They showed how when pressure is applied, it turns solid and goes back to liquid when they are done.

The HS and MS PBL block was strong again today. All projects show a good deal of promise. I need to do a better job of doing check ins however for students as I'm worried about how far behind they will get in the FLVS. I'm finally feeling the excitement for the PBL which is the way it should be.

I will continue with elementary math tomorrow and build upon their non-Newtonian fluid idea. It is a good topic that can be used for math.


PBL time today rocked! It was amazing to have all three levels working on projects at the same time. I videoed because you cannot capture the excitement and learning going on with writing. A- M- A- Z -I- N -G!

The persistent dilemma that arises with parents is why things continue to change and are their children falling behind where they were last year. My response to this is who determines what falling behind really is, the current education system? This is a dilemma that runs 4-11th because the parents profess that they want things to be innovative and different but when you stray from the traditional instructional path they push back with concern.

One ongoing sort of funny conversation between Randy and I is that we are really the crazy ones. Our belief is that the students especially in the elementary division are getting so much more out of their learning than they would in a traditional school. They are writing about authentic things, choosing topics based on interests of their own, incorporating reflections about what they are doing and how to do things better next time. None of these things happen in a traditional classroom. In traditional classrooms/schools every subject is pretty much taught in isolation and there is little to no connection between them. Students are all given the same "hit" of instruction on any given day and expected to progress at the same rate.

What we are learning here is that although to parents individualized pacing and interest based learning sounds great that the parents still push for the traditional box. We hear things like, " We are worried about grammar, we are worried that they do not know math, PBL work is not being assessed so how do we know they are learning, what about products from PBL, we want our child to read the classics and know important historical events..." I am not saying that any of this is wrong it is just the traditional educational box. People say they want innovation and interest based learning but when it does not come in a pretty package that is recognizable as traditional learning they push to get their kids back into the box. Very VERY interesting!

Monday November 8


Today was by far the best PBL day yet. I was really impressed with the thought and creativity in HS and MS. Middle school is doing a realistic diary collection of imagined people in past US History conflicts. They are taking it seriously all the way through making them hand written and bound in traditional styles. I'm excited to see how they choose to approach their writings.

HS is focused on the civil war and there are 3 main ideas going around. One group is using Prezi to discuss Abraham Lincoln's change of policy regarding slaves. Another group is using the same topic and working on a one on one interview with the president. The final group is working on a wiki site focusing on the causes of the civil war. I'm happy with what happened today.

Elementary chose "Ninja's" as their topic. Funny enough, I learned quite a bit from this such as the origin of Ninja's and some of the history around it. I'm looking forward to watching them continue on this topic a bit.

Friday November 5th


The best part about today was definitely the excitement from both middle school and high school over their project ideas. Middle school is combining an entire theme with diaries from different conflicts in American history. They will be handwritten as they are from a time period that was before typing machines. Each diary will have a historically accurate tone and information. The cool thing is the idea that some will be incomplete or from multiple days and should contain a variety of entries. I'm looking forward to this product.

Elementary decided to study the digestive system today and they watched a video based on this. Afterwards, they made diagrams of digestive systems of different animals and wrote a story about what a piece of food would do as it passed through. Sort of gross, but fun at the same time. I'm going to put together more social studies oriented lessons on Monday.


Today started with a parent meeting to talk about fundraising for the Costa Rica trip. The scarecrOH fundraiser was a huge success. We got 21 scarecrOHs and raised nearly $5,000. Whuhu!

After that I had what I call the disconnect meeting. It is such an engaging journey to be on in terms of hearing and seeing the different perspectives from everyone involved. I tried really hard to listen and at the same time explain where I feel we get mixed messages. It was a good meeting in terms of reinforcing the things that we are all seeing differently. It makes me wonder about the journey as a whole with my essential question being where is my heart?

After the meeting I did a book discussions with high school which was fun. It was interesting to watch the dynamics of the two groups as they worked.

I am glad it is Friday!

Tuesday November 2nd


Today we started by refocusing the FLVS block and asking the students to respect everyone by keeping it a quiet block.

I met with Tim and we are moving more and more in the same direction in terms of thinking of doing things designed around student choice. We are looking at how to best structure things to move students away from standards and having to know the same things to being able to do projects based on their interests.

When I got back from my meeting with Tim it was tine to do mini lessons with all divisions. HS and MS were working on a project planning form and I went in to the elementary room to work on reading and responding.

November 1st

Monday November 1st:


Today the theme was manic Monday. We rolled out a lot of information in a relatively short period of time.

High School is off and running on their LA/American history course. Middle school started their first four week cycle of project work.

One thing that I realized that we need to do differently is to use protocols with middle school mini lessons.

In high school we really needed a shared google doc for their essential questions.

Overall, it was a busy but productive day.

October 28


Today we asked the kids to do a blog about community. We had a day of community building activities for the morning and are about to embark on the great scarecrOH build. We sold scarecrOHs to local businesses and now we have to build them to put up for the Halloween weekend festivities. We have 15 scarecrOHs to build.

Community is the one thing that we have going on at OH. Because it is a small atmosphere the kids know each other really well and most of the time this is a good thing. They really support each other in their efforts and also get along really well.

It was a nice day of getting to work together to continue to be a strong community.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday October 27


Today I again saw what I call the unquantifiable component of what Randy does working with kids. He has this sense of motivational magic that cannot really be documented or captured. Because of this he is often misunderstood from the outside adult perspective but the kids totally get him and are with him.

What I am talking about is how he approaches his interactions with kids. We had some issues happening in middle school and my first reaction was basically okay we need to squelched this and get on them. Randy and I decided to call a middle school meeting and I let him take the lead. What he did in terms of getting the point across without making it a stressful or a feeling of them being in trouble was just amazing to watch. He started with a whip asking the kids to describe family. They started with all the nice things like" family supports each other etc." Eventually though they went down the road of families sometimes fight, get under each other's skin etc. After the whip he helped them connect the middle school to a family when they are together. He helped them see that currently the things that they are doing are making each other feel bad and that they need to care for each other.

He worked his magic again after lunch with the entire 4-11th grade community. We had a problem with the elevator in terms of our students pressing the emergency button for the third time this year. My immediate reaction was to be very straight forward and have a "serious" talk to the group. Again though I allowed Randy to take the lead and he magically made them understand it was not okay but that they were not in trouble. He tied it in to the responsibility of being a part of the community. I cannot even describe how he did it or what they conversation was but it worked. It just felt right and it was what I call the "magic."

By talking to kids, allowing them to feel valued (especially what they bring with them to school-cultural values etc), and respecting them in general Randy gets them to a point where they are willing to work hard. They are with him. They are on board. It is something that sounds simple but if it were there would be schools full of children working harder, learning more and most importantly feeling valued and invested in what they do.

Randy -
We are continuing our path into morphing into a traditional school. Is this bad or good? Does the questions matter? Is this a reality of trying to be innovative AND exist in a traditional system? How far can we get from the traditional model with the student and parent population?

One thing that comes to mind is the fear from parents and those who started the school about a less than desirable experience last year. Failure has clearly, in the eyes of the adults from last year, pushed the school quickly back to the industrial model. By this I mean that the two driving factors of student learning that we were presented with to work here, student choice and pace flexibility, are now completely reversed. Pace is governed by the teachers, parents and administrators and student choice has been squeezed tightly to get rid of student interest. I don't think projects can be taken to the next level without student interest which is very different than the notion of student choice. When you think about it, student choice could mean "They choose to listen to the adults and do what their told." This is very different than students having interest and using that interest to drive their learning.

However, I have come around and now have a more clearer understanding of our roles here and that makes it much easier for me to work. The best thing is, Amy is great and is the only person on this planet that I think really understands me (well. . .we ARE married) . .. as an educator and as a person. She is the best.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday October 25

Monday October 25


Today Amy and I met to really talk about how to make middle school more cohesive so that the students have a sense of direction with
PBL. I'm excited about the possibility of having common themes and I think this is best for these students and families. I have great appreciation for Amy in making all of this come together for these kids. I could not do this alone, at least not very effectively.

Elementary went off on a fun tangent today when they questioned about the mysterious worms in the Axolotl tank. They are really the only group of students who have the capacity to drop everything and use their curiosity to drive them into learning. I think there are two reasons. One reason is that they do not have the same strict guidelines of learning with
FLVS and standards expectations as the secondary students. The other is that they have not turned off their curiosity when it comes to school learning. I think this happens only after repeated standard courses that teach students "this is the correct pace" and "this is your grade" and "don't do anything until an adult (or computer) says it is time to do this."

I see from personal observation that the older students get, the less they expect or demand learning to be fun. A first grader will likely not accept checking the boxes to prove they are learning. They will expect fun, curiosity and wonder. A high
schooler (personal observation not research) likely will not be able to even explain what curiosity or personal self learning is. In all honesty, there is not time for this as there are enough check boxes for each day until summer and they prefer to do this than think about what . . .well. . they prefer to do.

This change of mind seems like an almost unbreakable dilemma and I wonder if it is even possible to overcome. Today in this reflection, I think not. I will do my best to keep them happy, build community and contribute to their sense of achievement.


Today was a day that I had to be brought back around to remembering the environment that we are working in and what parent and administrative expectations are. There were two main themes for me today. One was back to acceptance that we are not doing anything new and innovative. The fresh part of OH is the multi-age environment and the working environment itself is really nice.

The other theme was that a chunk of my work is now planning and implementing a high school course in language arts and American History. This was the course that we were suppose to be doing with
Telluride Mountain School and when the deal did not work out the course became ours to design. I would prefer to do it as a student run course but unfortunately with everything on the students' plates it would probably push them over the edge rather than having them buy in to creating it. However, on the other hand what I am seeing from the middle school and high school students is much the same thing that I saw at PKY. They do not have a curiosity for learning anymore and they simply demand to know what to do rather than have an appreciation for the learning itself. Because of this I do not feel badly about designing a rigorous and somewhat fun course for them.

Along these same lines my work has morphed in to making a structured way to do
PBL that makes sense to all of the stakeholders. Structure, structure, structure...this is not what I expected here at all. However, it does make things a lot simpler because designing all of these things is what I have done for years. Although it can be a bit time consuming and tedious it is work that I feel comfortable doing. Again it is just not the work I expected to be doing here.

Other than re-framing my thinking I got a lot of good things done. I checked in with a few students, collected google calendars for the week, went back through the high school piece, created a middle school
PBL frame, continued the task of grading the ITBS and met with Randy after school to plan.

It was a good day to have Randy to talk to as well. He helped a lot in terms of making me feel okay about the way that things are here. The way he described it is once you realize that you are still working at PK (i.e. in a structured environment driven by state standards and parent expectations) you can move forward and work. This is not a bad thing at all it is just not what I thought we would be doing.

It was a nice day but I still have a bit of a sad tug about the disconnect between what we thought we would be doing this year and the reality of the expectations being so traditional. Overall I am happy about the work we are doing I just needed to wrap my head around that we are still in the box.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday October 22

Friday October 22


Today was a new day of learning about OH and my continually evolving role. It started with a parent fundraising meeting at Amavidas which rolled into my talking to Tim about a trip he took to Alabama. He thinks that he has identified a district to partner with us to form a 5-8 pod and a 9-12 pod for next year. What hit me after speaking to Tim about his trip was why I was not asked to go along on the trip. If the purpose was to build a partnership and my role is the person putting things together including trainings etc. it would have been helpful to be in the meetings to hear what was discussed. I think this is another area for Tim and I to really work on in terms of roles. My perception is that he has the vision but is not mired in the day to day as much as Randy and I. When the rubber hits the road in terms of training etc the daily things are going to be the dilemmas.

Knowing how schools, teachers and districts approach their work is something that I am extremely familiar with and comfortable with. I feel like I know a lot about how to help a teacher make the jump from thinking about things in one way to seeing the same educational landscape in another way. Anyhow, I am comfortable enough with talking to Tim that I will talk to him about it next time we have some time to sit a talk.

Basically the questions in my mind are: Was the purpose/focus of your trip to meet and start to build a potential partnership? If the answer is yes then did you ever think to include me? If you did not think to include me I would like to talk through why. From where I am sitting I feel that it is essential for both of us to be at meetings like these and talk about what our roles would look like. If I was there I would see my role as more of a listener, a note taker and then the person for Tim to process with after the meeting. Things that are critical to process after meetings like these are things like capturing what he heard them say, what the district's/school's needs are and what our next steps need to be.

Anyhow, I am glad that I feel like the communication with Tim is open at this point because these will be good areas for us to address as we continue working together this year.

Yay! It is Friday and I am heading home!

Randy -

Today was a normal Friday, if there is such a thing. One neat thing was that one of the virtual school teachers was actually in Rosemary Beach and got to meet some of her students. The kids were of course very excited about seeing her. Also, a parent provided pizza for all of the kids today for lunch and they had a great time. There is a certain level of bonding that happens over food and it is fun to see them sit, eat and talk together.

MS definitely prefers FLVS over projects as the planning is more straightforward, they have a definite pace and get the "feel" that they are learning about something, even if it is the sort of stuff they will just forget. I think a more traditional plan like the high school may be the right fit for them and the expectations of their parents. This is something we will have to work out for next week.

I spent a good deal of time helping some students with chemistry which was tough as I'm not used to that material as it has been a long time. Also, the science has changed since my HS days of chemistry so I have to study before meeting them. The whole idea of having a teacher with virtual school doesn't work so well for them as they don't want to call them if they can get help from a "right now" person. I admit I feel the same sense as a "right now" person would have been very helpful. There are right now paid sites that are available, and it might be a good idea for HS students to join these.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday October 21

Thursday October 21:


Today was an amazing day of flow for the students. I spent most of my time and energy coordinating our selling efforts of our fundraiser for Halloween ScarecrOH lane. I started the day with a meeting with the sales team to get us ready to hit the stores today.

After the meeting I had some time to work on composing my thoughts and revisiting the structures for the HS language arts and social studies course.

At 10:00am we were off to sell. The students were so excited about their selling that they ended up staying selling until tennis started. We lost about an hour of academic work but I could not stop them in their enthusiasm because it would have been just too wrong. And they did end up selling $870 worth of scarecrOHs.

Elementary was very excited about their new program called Comic Life. They spent most of the morning and some of the afternoon working on making comics. I have never seen a group of students that were creating, writing and having so much fun while working so hard.

Randy and I had time to talk over lunch and we are both very much on the same page in terms of feeling like this is a good experience and it is pretty much the same teaching expectation as PK. There is no innovation, we are creating a course based on the sunshine state standards, having students work at the same pace to get the work done. They have choice in their learning in terms of picking an angle of exploring a larger concept which is exactly what the students in 3rd-12th grade are doing at PK Yonge. Again, I am not saying that there is anything wrong with this type of teaching and learning it is just exactly like PK.

Randy -

Today had many great moment of "flow." One moment was when most of the hs and ms went around to businesses to solicit money for our fundraiser that Amy was organizing on the scarecrow project. It was great to see their excitement and feeling of making a difference. Another example was Ellie and Jack working in elementary using my newly purchased comic book maker for school. They shared their projects with great vigor and our other students were a great audience. I don't know what is more entertaining, the comic strip or Ellee and Jack presenting and laughing at their own work. . .definitely the kids. I got to spend some more time today with Olivia as well as she prepares for her project. The ms boys also commented on the possibility of making a comic book that informs people of the Red Panda.

Sylvia came today and helped the hs students with their writing again. What a treasure she is to our students and the students agree every time. They always comment on how helpful it is to have her here to help with their writing. A valuable resource indeed.

Wednesday October 20th

Wednesday October 20:

Although I like the structure that we are designing for the students I am wondering about where we are being innovative. My two main questions about the HS social studies/literature piece are:

  • How is what we are doing any different than really good teaching/best practice in a traditional school? And what is the emphasis of the product (i.e. I thought it was a published network PBL piece but now am getting feedback that it needs to be more traditional in terms of looking like a normal project -i.e. sculptures, dioramas, reenactments...)?
These are all things that we have seen done over and over again in a traditional school. My disconnect is coming from thinking that the emphasis of OH was a student centric (i.e. learning driven by their own passion not state standards) technology focused school with an incredible environment.

There is definitely nothing wrong with the direction things have taken in fact it is quite easy to facilitate the model in this direction because it is what we were doing at PK. However, it makes me still wonder about the possibility of a true student centric model of education where student interest drives the learning not a model where adults dictate what they must learn.

Now that I have identified the disconnect in terms of what I was thinking the model was and what it is expected to be I do feel like I can finally work and make progress. I will make sure that the learning is done in a way that makes sense for the students even when it is not their choice about what they are studying.

This of course leads me back to my own thinking on what education should be/could be and what the reality of education is even in a place that professes to be innovative. I think that education should be driven by student choice whenever and wherever possible. I think depth of learning comes from letting a student's passion drive what they are learning. I think that education should be harnessing the tools that are our student's reality (social networking, gaming and other technology tools.) I think that education should happen in a humane environment.

What I have found on my journey here is that we have one of those three things in place. We have a humane environment for students to do traditional PBL and FLVS work. Their PBL is driven by the state standards as well as outside pressures for products that show depth of understanding of the standards. I know that to most people that sounds great and it is not a terrible thing. We are preparing them in the way that they are expected to be prepared. But for me it signals a need to continue to reflect on the idea of what education should be for the 21st century and how we keep preparing students in ways that mean nothing in terms of their future endeavors.

Tuesday October 19th

Tuesday October 19th:

I liked the response from the high school students today about the new structure. Amy really did a great job with this in terms of creating something that is good for kids. That is always the #1 concern. I got to work a good bit with Connor in chemistry today and I actually really enjoyed the subject and experience. I could really get into that stuff if I had more time. I also spent some time with Mason in algebra today and I hope I was able to clarify some of his questions regarding making equations simple. After today I think I could enjoy teaching chemistry and math I suppose. One neat thing was having a visit from Olivia's dog who just sticks to her like glue. They obviously have a really strong bond. Elementary worked on writing today and sometimes I get frustrated at how slow they can get to the products. I hope I can think of ways to get them to turn out a bit more work, but not too much, more efficiently.


We rolled out the new structure for the HS American History/ Language Art course today. Actually the structure is not new we just added a timeline and a list of tasks to make it more transparent for the students to see what tasks they are working on and when they are working on them. I am going to go home tonight and work on a graphic organizer to help them picture it a little easier. They all seemed really relieved to see the structure to the tasks and the feedback was that it was not as overwhelming as before. I will be curious to see how it rolls out for them and if they are able to produce high quality work while maintaining the timeline. I may tweak the project portion a bit because three weeks is a bit short.

Monday October 18th

Monday October 18-


Today was a whirlwind day. It started with a group of visitors coming in to look at our elementary curriculum in math. One thing that came out as they were visiting was that the online curriculum that they have developed is one that is intended as a supplement to the regular curriculum. They called it a tier two piece which means that it is layered on top of the core curriculum. Essentially it is suppose to be another hit if content delivered in a different way.

After our visitors I spent the rest of the morning on check ins. Students are starting to consistently fall behind on their FLVS work. I still feel like this is due to a lack of commitment on their part to do homework. To do FLVS and PBL work they have got to do 2-3 hours of work a night at home. I am fairly certain that the majority of our students are not doing this.

I spent the afternoon block working on documenting systems and structures as well as refining the HS PBL course.

After school we dealt with our first dilemma with a social issue in the elementary room. Randy and I liken it to the kids being more like siblings because the environment is so small. I think we have a good solution and plan for solving the dilemma.

Finally the day ended with a dinner with our morning visitors. I enjoyed listening to Mike Lue talk about China and the education system.

Morning - Today we had visitors from edu2000. They explained how learning math is like learning Chinese letters. You have to have the foundation to be able to move forward. Also, Ms. Sylvia was here to help the hs students with their writing. What a valuable resources. Elementary began work on their civilizations and Jack and Trae are working together.

Thursday October 14th

Thursday October 14


Morning - I helped with the fundraising meeting this morning and facilitated their efforts to improve on our mission statement for Costa Rica. I also spent some time helping Nathan prep for his formal presentation. His presentation was just fine for a first go at it and we took some time debriefing his experience. He still feels insecure and a bit nervous about public presentations which is a typical feeling for a 9th grader.

Block One - A great inquiry day in elementary. They took some cotton samples that were brought in by Hanna and made a company called the "Choo Choo Cotton Factory". They practiced making thread, deseeding the cotton and cleaning the product. Tomorrow we will look at how cotton gins changed American and World history and how textile factories work.

Block Two - Worked PBL with middle school mostly with a focus on helping Olivia get moving on her second project. Her topic is broad about Jamestown, but we were able to get a directions and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Red Panda group has a script now for their PBL and Alyssa and Hannah were able to get moving on their Costa Rica projects. We may have to contact symbaloo tomorrow to get some extra help.

After Tennis, I spent some quality time with HS on PBL and we were able to identify a couple of road blocks and who needs to do what with their project. Connor, Kylie and Hunter have shared me on a google document that will be done over the weekend on their civil war project. Mackenzie is still about perplexed on an essential question around the roaring 20s. Alex is looking at how to match her standards to her trip to Seatle. Nathan is taking an ambitions attempt at looking at the history of bombs.

You can see that there is much going on here as it should be.

Wednesday October 13

Wednesday October 13


Morning - Most HS students were at the PSAT so middle school and some elementary did a formal writing using the game pocket tanks as the basis. They worked on informative scientific writing "lab style". Elementary also did some of this to a less formal degree.

Nathan also practiced some techniques for a good presentation. We took notes and worked on body language, volume, and conveying of ideas.

Music was positive today and all bands showed progression. The HS band still has to work on how to balance teaching individual parts and playing together as a whole band. I do a music reflection now to Mark each session with updates, successes, and ideas so he can keep a running record of the experience of starting the RRA school in a school idea.

The main concern for the students of course if the new kickball teams in the works. Amy and I will review the teams and help put them together. This sort of activity is really fun because it is the true essence of importance for the kids. Good day.

Tuesday October 12

Tuesday October 12

Randy -

Morning -

We discussed our changes in schedule and that Shanna was leaving back home to Gainesville and Thursday will be her last day.

Block one - Elementary took about 30 minutes to work on projects that they had started before. Trae and Hanna continued work on their Native American topic. Jack made a Pokemon slide show to describe how the story goes. Ellie continued work on her very neat Prezi on her family tree. She will do a formal presentation on this. MS and HS worked on FLVS.

Block 2- MS requested a FLVS day so they could get ahead of their lessons and I agreed that this was fine as long as they work on their PBL tomorrow. HS did FLVS as well and we had a conversation about rigor and the importance of working hard at home as well. They have to be aware that high school students will have 2-3 hours of homework each night and that is normal.

Today we had tennis and after that HS went to work on PBL and writing. I collected the papers and they will be peer reviewed by Olivia's grandma who was a college english professor. These will then be sent to be certified.

Monday October 11th


Today was a day where I got to sit and look at the global picture of what is going on on all levels. My work consisted of checking on students to see about pacing and needs and doing elementary math. I was able to sit and observe what students were doing and how Randy was able to work on things. One of the main things that I see is a lot of differentiation which is amazing. However, what comes with this differentiation for 20 students all working on different things at different paces becomes fuzzy in terms of organization. One thing that I really noticed today is that the students have way too many systems that they are suppose to be keeping track of. They have their own spreadsheet pace charts, a google calendar with their daily goals etc. So my big question is how do we make it simple for them?

The other thing that I really noticed today is that this is wearing Randy down. Ironically it is not the motivation and instruction that wears him down but it is the external expectation that all the students are doing things a certain way and the pressure of the accountability. He is so good at making kids feel good about themselves and motivating them to do amazing work. The biggest irony is that here he has way less freedom and flexibility to make professional judgments as to what the kids need. He is expected to keep them all on their FLVS pace, getting A's and B's while also facilitating a high level of PBL work in different areas while being a high school language arts teacher. He is expected to have all the standards covered for MS science and social studies, high school language arts, hs American history and teach elementary through inquiry. He is expected to contact the language arts teacher to make sure the students are covering the expected content. I realize now that this job for him is not an increase in freedom and trust but an increase in the accountability that so many teachers dread. The reason that teachers dread the accountability is not that they feel that they should not be held accountable but the focus of this accountability is skewed and does not treat them as the professionals that they are.

The students love Randy and will do anything that he wants them to do but he is stuck having to make sure they all are doing things that meet administrative expectations and that can be documented. This pushes things away from student choice driven learning and back towards traditional standards based making sure they all know the same things learning.

It is interesting to sit on the outside and watch a brilliant teacher be squelched by a system that is supposedly innovative but really holds many more unrealistic points of accountability than the current public school system.


In the morning we reintroduced the google calendars and explained that we won't have design this week. During block one I worked with elementary on their spore unit and we did some work with native American tribes. Hanna may do this formally as a project. Ellie worked on here family tree and this will be a formal project for her. MS and HS worked on FLVS.

During block 2 MS and EL worked on letters to chef Nelson and many of the letters look great. HS discussed our writings due tomorrow and their plans for next weeks presentation. Nathan will present this Thursday his project on the Great Depression.

Kickball was fun after lunch but it may be time to redo teams as it is getting a bit too competitive.

In music, HS felt unproductive, but some days are like that. On the other hand, Elementary is getting very very close to being able to play their song. Second music block was split between acoustic girls and middle school boys on electric instruments. Both groups are doing well and should have a song or two ready for the show in November.

Friday October 8

Friday October 8 -


Morning - the middle school did a great job on their presentation and their crowd scores were high. The audience was pleased and I was very proud of their efforts. Elementary continued their spore unit doing a combination of story telling and social studies about native American tribes.

PBL second block consisted of meeting with middle school and checking on their new set of projects. They look great and Mitchell even took on an individual project on high pitched sounds and tested it on all of us here at OH. HS was the main focus during this block as we did a writers workshop model to look at our writings, did some reading, and practiced our first reading response. A very busy morning for sure.

In music, we practiced our songs and I think they are beginning to feel that success that comes with practice and diligence with music.

October 7th

Thursday October 7 -
Randy -
Morning - Spent some time with Elementary using spore for guided inquiry within the science content of behavioral vs physical adaptations of living things. We were pleasantly side tracked with a website by jibjab - they made short movies using their own faces and some of their classmates. It was neat to see them feverishly figure out how to use the site even though they have not seen it before. Ms and HS were on FLVS. I was able to check in with Olivia during this time also and help her with a technology issue involving turning in assignments.

Block 2 -
MS - We sat and had further discussion about their presentation tomorrow. We did a run through with me stopping them and also another run through on their own. They are excited and nervous and I think that is a good thing. Also, we got further on our ideas of PBL with Mitchell going to do a scientific paper on high pitched sounds that will be really neat. I sent him the steps to a formal scientific paper and a student example. Mason and Davis spent some time on wix.com to see if it is an easy and viable solution to web site construction. It seemed great but had some issues on saving the site.

HS - We did a check up on our formal writing that is due tomorrow. Also, we did a WHIP activity with our books and talked about them. The HS students decided that they would like some scheduled reading time and work on how to do a literary response. I think this is something we will all do together so I will bring my book.

-We had lunch, tennis, and design today but it ended short enough to allow us to catch up on some work and also put in a good blog response. Most HS students were able to get pictures of their books on their blog. Mira had a great blog where she put up videos and pictures of her trip to get her car. This would be neat to share.

Tomorrow we have presentations first thing in the morning so I need to be there extra early. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

October 5th and 6th

Wednesday October 6-

Morning meeting was fun and we used two questions for the WHIP activity. One was "who is your hero" and it was great to hear their responses.

Block one - Elementary continued their spore unit today with the focus on why are living things shaped differently if they came from the same source? We used the game to continue learning about evolution and this will lead into social studies in later stages.

Block 2 - MS - We watched a video about how to do a strong presentation. They then took some time practicing their presentation in the library first and then in the community room. It is neat to see them take their presentation so seriously and I'm excited to see how they do. HS - We looked at Hunter's writing and discussed our steps in our argumentative writing process. Mira and Nathan are starting their paper today and will check their peers work to see how they started their paper. We set aside 20 minutes to write today and I think that helped everyone get some work done. Our rough drafts are due this Friday.

Music Block - The elementary went with the first block with high school and they are getting very close to being able to play "Bad to the Bone". The high schoolers worked on a new son " I love Rock and Roll". Second block MS, the girls tried out some acoustic music today learning Amazing Grace on guitar, banjo and mandolin. It is difficult at first, but they are getting it. The MS boys have a Green Day song started that is going to work well and they might have a high schooler help on guitar as needed.

This was one of those days when the things on my to do list quickly went out the window as a new challenge presented itself. I met with Tim to talk about a concern about the schedule and he gave me a heads up that some students were falling behind in their virtual school work pretty quickly. I decided to spend the day working on the scope of the concern meaning how many students did we have starting to fall behind. After going through all students FLVS coursework looking at grades and pacing and their google pace spreadsheets I identified four high priority students needing support and two that were ones to watch. Out of our 16 FLVS students that leaves us with ten doing well and six needing support.

After school I met with Randy and we talked about what he was seeing when he was meeting with students. He identified five of my six students and so we knew that we needed a plan of support.

After our planning work I decided to work on some documentation pieces and now I am a bit too tired to go into much detail. I documented: Our "OH" workshop model of instruction, our priorities and our roles within them and continued working on the daily work of the facilitator and administrator.

It was an interesting day all around.

Tuesday October 5:


It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time passes and how little progress gets done when I am doing in depth writing. Today I started working on my ISTE proposal. Not a lot got done because right as I hit my grove it was time to plan with Randy (or maybe I should call it torture Randy).

Anyone that knows Randy knows that he is all about the kids and spending time with them. However, he does not like the minutia of the work in terms of really peeling back the layers of what he is doing. One of my tasks this year is to capture his role as accurately as possible. This is one piece that will allow for the model to be transferable.

We started at 12:45 going over the facilitator's role looking at it division by division in terms of organization, curriculum, community building, technology tools and ended around 4:30 give or take 30 minutes to get the kids organized a the end of the day. There is some really good things coming out of the work. Tomorrow we will continue our work looking at the curriculum plans and time lines. Randy is being a good sport and ultimately when he sees what he is doing in writing I think that he will understand the need for me to continue pucking away at what he is doing every day.

Tomorrow I will get the rough draft ISTE proposal done!

Monday, October 4, 2010

October 4th

Yikes Monday!
Monday October 4,


Today was a good day of clarity as I met with Tim and planned for priorities in the work we are doing. He asked me about my dissertation research which was a nice way to start the conversation. I know that he is thinking of pursuing a doctorate degree as well. I think that the more questions he asks of people the better decision he will make in terms of this being a good path to take.

As for "OH" things he provided me with a good outside voice looking in. With his experiences from last year in his mind he was able to suggest ways to be proactive about communicating with parents about what we are doing with curriculum and why we are rolling things out this way.

We also thought through the Costa Rica trip, writing an ISTE proposal, parent meetings and other things that we are trying to document. It was a long but productive meeting. It gave me clarity and a renewed sense of direction.

After the meeting I went up to school and had lunch. After lunch I really enjoyed my block working with the elementary students. They spent some time on math and some time working on their spore project. This project is highly engaging to them.

After school Randy and I planned and debriefed my meeting with Tim. We set out some goals for our planning time tomorrow which should help clarify all the tasks and roles the facilitator is asked to do daily. There is an amazing amount of things to managed while motivating and keeping track of student work. It can be done with deliberate systems for the facilitator (notice I did not say students) to manage their time. These systems also need to be flexible to allow for all the things that come up during the day. One concern that I have is that people will start gravitating back to the role of the traditional lecture driven teacher. I am hoping that by documenting Randy and I's work that we can make it transparent how not to succumb to these tendencies.

Finally, we met with Mason and his mom. Mason is doing really well this year and is amazingly fun to have around. I set out two things for him to think about: 1. What field experience would he like to do? and 2. Next time one comes up that he is not necessarily interested in I challenged him to go!

It was a good start to the week and I know it was partly due to my trip back to Gainesville over the weekend. I had the time to meet with other professional educators that I admire which fed both my professional soul and my friendship soul. The hardest part of my journey is not having a lot of people to collaborate with in terms of hearing their thoughts on things. This is also the part of the journey that I think is good for me because I am forcing myself to think deeper about things. I also have to have solid evidence for my thinking which requires lots of reading and reflecting about the work I am doing.


The major changes and introductions today included the writing component in high school and the presentation rubric in middle school. Elementary also decided to to a unit on Evolution using the spore game.

High School - We went over the particulars of persuasive writing today and looked up some sites that can help guide us. They picked a due date of this Friday for their rough draft and a final paper due on Tuesday next week. I will do a check in on Wednesday to look at possible introductions to this paper.

Middle School - They received their rubric for public presentations. We discussed the importance of proper dress, voice inflection and other ideas that will make their presentations stronger. Our plan is to present formally this coming Friday including an audience of parents, students, and possibly students from another school in the state using skype.

Elementary School - Began a unit on Evolution using gaming, specifically the game Spore developed by Will Wright (developer of the SIMS). Their formal writings are involved with this as they did with their morning inquiries and will include both science and social studies. I have plans to introduce this game to middle school as well to cover science and social studies.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Thursday September 30-


Today was nice because we are done with the standardize testing. It really brought me back to what I enjoy about being here. I started out with a bunch of students brainstorming ideas for our Costa Rica trip mission statement. The students came up with some good ideas which later in the day morphed into some really powerful mission statements.

First work block I was suppose to work with elementary students on math. However, when I got to their room they were working on projects which they indicated to me that they were suppose to continuing doing so. I did learn a little later that they were suppose to suspend project work when I came in and do math but it all worked out. We started math at the end of the block and finished it before lunch.

During lunch Randy and I had a discussion about the direction of the school and our roles within the process. There seems to be some disconnect between what we are doing with the kids, our backgrounds and the product that the director wants. Randy set up a meeting to discuss the disconnect and better communication.

Planning time was fairly productive. Mira stayed to work on catching up and I worked on looking for literary response prompts and information on how to write a good literary analysis paper. This information will be shared with the high school students next week after they have selected their books.

After the students came back from tennis the fun work began. We all looked over the mission statement brainstorming and worked in pairs, groups or individually to come up with our Costa Rica Trip mission statement. Here is what they came up with:

Kylie:OH Institute is traveling to Costa Rica to learn about other languages, help the lives of others, and learn about other cultures.

Leah and Mira:
"To immerse ourselves in the unique culture and language of a different country while enriching the community, experiencing new adventures, and conserving the environment at home and in Costa Rica."

Hunter and McKenzie:OH Institute is traveling to Costa Rica to immerse ourselves in other cultures, to learn more about the language, and to give back to other communities through conservation and education.

Mitchell:"We are going to Costa Rica to immerse ourselves in different cultures, to help the locals and to work on our Spanish."

Davis: To learn and experience new things.

Elementary sent me some powerpoint slides: http://docs.google.com/a/oh-institute.org/present/edit?id=0AU4Tckp9O_WRZGY3Mjhyc3BfMzFmMnJ3cHpmaA&hl=en

What I really like best about OH is moments like these. When students form groups together based on a common mission and create. They create really good things that capture what we are doing. We are working together to construct our learning with the world as our classroom.

The students enjoyed sharing their mission statements out and I think we came up with a good one that combines all of the ideas:

"OH Institute is traveling to Costa Rica
to immerse ourselves in the unique culture and language of a different country while enriching the community, experiencing new adventures, and learning about environmental conservation at home and in Costa Rica."

All in all a great day of learning at the OH institute.

Daily list 9/30/10:

8:00am student fundraising meeting to work on our mission statement
Elementary project work
Contacted Chef Nelson to confirm our visit tomorrow.
Brain break
Elementary Math
Community time: FLVS letter, Chef Nelson, Mission Statement work
Elementary mission statement
Clean up
Community time-sharing of mission statements
Condensed mission statement with Randy after school
Met with Tim and Russ to go over website after school
Wrote reflection

The morning was productive with hs and ms working on FLVS classes. The elementary did some inquiry early and then switched to some math lessons. During PBL time, second block, we had some strong progress on the new round of middle school projects. Davis, Mitchel and Mason are particularly interested in the Red Panda and they did some work with Mr. Russ on how to get a movie-like slide show that plays for an audience. Alyssa and Hanna are continuing their work on their Costa Rica project and have decided to construct an advanced symbaloo page. We contacted symbaloo to figure out how they got pictures to go across all tiles and we are waiting for reply.

On the HS side, we went through their project up on the board and realized we in fact do have some errors that need correcting. Most were grammatical errors and a couple of broken links. We then sent these projects to experts, which were surprisingly hard to find with hybrid cars. Some chose mechanics, others writers or articles on pollution and others.

After tennis, I was in a meeting with Tim so the students put on channel one and watched that with Amy.

The afternoon was spent on catching up on FLVS as well as writing a mission statement and sending and email to their FLVS teachers to explain what we do here. After cleaning, we got a chance to share our mission statements.



The list is all I can get on my reflection today. I will be better tomorrow!

Community Time
Contacted Olivia’s mom
ITBS testing
Written reflection
Website design
faxed Corchis ITBS to Walton county
elementary math
grade ITBS
clean up
web site brain storm again

Today was our second day of ITBS testing in the morning. It took a bit longer than usual, but we will not have any testing tomorrow which I think is great. During our game break, we played steal the bacon and Kylie was the number caller. It is fun to sit back and watch the students cooperate and encourage each other in these short, but fun game breaks. The second half of the morning was spent on FLVS catch up from the time we missed. The elementary kids were constructing their family trees while Jack wanted to start some research on severe storms and lightning.

Many students stayed in the room during lunch and I figured out this issue is because they have their own food and containers and they don't like to come back up to the school after eating and this gives them more kickball time. Speaking of kickball, it was another exciting game. The butterflies of hope were hoping to clinch a win that would put them even with the Dominators for total wins. It was a defensive game that tied at 4-4 leaving both teams feeling a bit unsatisfied. I suppose this will lead into another epic game this Friday. Maybe we can do something special.

After kickball, we went back into another FLVS block deciding to hold off on PBL until tomorrow when testing is done. The elementary did math with Amy and I had a meeting with Tim, Russ, and Dana for about 1hr about the peblr website and OH website. They seem to be really good at thinking of graphics and designs to help make the school have a positive Internet presence.

Tomorrow will be a normal Thursday but we will have music in the afternoon instead of design. I'm hoping to have the students continue to do their reflections and improve on their blogs each day in the afternoon as well.



The morning started before school working with Alex on chemistry. It surprises me (but shouldn't) how linear and anticreative the flvs way is. I think chemistry should lend itself to being creative, but is is very dry. It seems to me, and this is my opinion, that FLVS is something to get done, not learn from. I guess this has it's parallels to our school system as well.

We did ITBS today also, and all seemed well. Not very exciting, but just fine. These scores will help us look at growth during the year. The rest of the day is spent on catching up on the FLVS classes. Same schedule tomorrow as it will be our last day of testing.

Getting in a reflection time is still tricky, but we'll get better. We did a blog entry today and I hope we can encourage the students to really think about strong reflections and how to make those entries something that is very nice.

Today and tomorrow we are giving the ITBS test of basic skills. It was a lot of direction reading and watching the kids test. We also have to hand score 20 tests and convert them to Standard Scores, grade equivalent scores and NPR which can be inefficient and leave room for errors. While they were testing I worked on composing a letter to the High School students talking about book selection fro their language arts course. I gave them things to remember for their selection and a website that is a good resource for them to find books. I also encouraged them to find books on different genres. They will be using their self selected books to write weekly literary reflections as well as a literary analysis.

After the testing was done we moved on to elementary math time. Mr. Tim joined us and we had all students working on EDU2000 math. We found that there were some inconsistencies in the system such as the assessments do not randomize questions nor do they ask new questions each time. A student that takes an assessment has the opportunity to see what they got wrong and then they can retake the same exact assessment. The assessments are only 4 questions long so it was pretty easy to figure our how to cheat the system. The dilemma that I have with anything online for elementary math is really are the students learning? Both Randy and I feel that this is not a developmentally appropriate way for them to learn and should be used as a supplement to another curriculum. We feel like it is not best for kids and that they are not learning. I am going to talk to Mr. Tim about it tomorrow in a meeting but I think that he is pretty set on using an online curriculum with them.

During planning time with Randy we sent the High school email out and worked on the ITBS testing schedule for tomorrow. I also shared the virtual school letter with him. The good news is that we did not get much planning time in and I say this is good news because we had students using this time to get some one on one help with their course work. As I said to Randy the student needs come first, we can find time later for planning.

When we did have time to do some hand scoring of the ITBS it was really interesting to see how the students fell out on the testing. Some did extremely well and others did well in some areas but not others. However, the make up of our student population is still way above average and there are not concerns when looking at standardized test scores. Today we had reading and tomorrow we have math.

The final task of my day was to have a five week check in with Leah and her mom. Leah came in after school had already started so I was curious to see how she was liking things. She is always on task and sweet as can be. Even though my impression was that she was liking it I wanted to be sure. My suspicions were confirmed that she is really happy at OH-yay!

Community time:
elem/ms/hs vocab and reading comprehension
Letter to HS
FLVS letter
Math with Elem
grade ITBS
met with Randy to plan for ITBS tomorrow, share virtual school letter and go over HS language arts.
Met with Leah and her mom for the five week check in

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monday 9/27/10


Today was a long day. It was not long in the sense that any big issues came up but it was long because I worked a good part of the weekend and then worked today until 6:00pm and then still went home and did some things.

I was so happy with the high school students for stepping up to the plate and getting things done with catching up. These kids are amazing and they want to succeed.

It was also nice to hear from Nathan while he was away at his golf tournament. Kickball was funny today because we thought that the Butterflies of Hope were behind when in fact they were destroying the other team.

Ellee did a nice job piloting a new math program for Mr. Tim.

I really liked Mira's dogs even the one "that might bite." All in all a long but good day.

The daily list:

Before school: answered emails from Tim

Community time-met with HS to talk about Language arts and PSAT

Check in with:
Mira-checked on dropping Spanish/called PK to double check her electives
Hunter-did all assignments needed to get done over the weekend and has set realistic goals for catching up this week-yea!
Connor-caught up
Mason-caught up
Talked to Olivia’s mom on the phone because they are having trouble submitting work

organized answer sheets

Met with Olivia and Randy for a check in

Brain break: looked over incol email that Tim sent about start up.

elementary math: looked at ilearn with Tim and then looked at EDU2000


community time-channel one news

quick email check

outline of OH structure/study for year-worked on written portion of this

Community time-attitudes of gratitude

Randy: met with and checked on weekly schedule/ITBS

Parent meetings: Mullins-at school Syed-at their house


Friday 9/24 and Saturday 9/25 and Sunday 9/26

Weekend Update:

  • Five week family check ins-These are so nice to do. I get to hear about things going on with the families that we work with and have a chance to highlight the amazing things the students are doing every day. It is good to work in a community where we have the chance to meet and work towards a common goal. I wonder how can I translate this to future work with communities of greater need?
  • Tim and Paige meeting: We had a two hour meeting with our supervisors to look over their Language Arts standards spread sheet that they developed and to talk about the direction of HS language arts in general.
  • Blog-I updated the parent informational blog. Here is the link if you want to check out our informational blog: http://oh-info.blogspot.com/
  • Brain dump systems and structures in place. I did this on Sunday and it has helped me with my thinking in terms of how to structure things.
Friday September 24:

Today was a great day of finishing projects for high school and middle school. The middle school project on tarantulas has been sent to multiple experts and I'm excited to see what the response from them will be. High school has put together a project on hybrid cars that is a four way, multi directional slide show.

Today started with a meeting with Tim about elem curriculum and HS language arts. I went on to the parent meeting feeling a bit out of sorts from my first meeting with Tim because we had to meet in a hurry. I had a great time with the students the rest of the day. Whenever things look strange or I feel a bit down it is always nice to come in and work with the students. Today I did the high school check ins and many were falling behind so I did some goal setting with all of them for things to accomplish over the weekend. We will see how things look on Monday.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday 9/23/10

No Reflection Yesterday Amy turned 40 and she took the day off!


The day started off with elementary. It has been my goal to continue to work with writing through science content and social studies. Yesterday we focused on the differences between reptiles and amphibians so I was thinking we would do social studies today. However, when Ellee brought in a dead "mystery bug" in an envelope, it was going to be another day with science content. We spent some time arguing on what it was before doing research, sharing and publishing. The general online content time seems to be working like this.
  1. Assess background knowledge - talking, arguing, using the white board, putting down observations
  2. Timed (by watch) research time - quite, individualized
  3. Document findings (google shared doc, spreadsheet etc)
  4. Writing forms that express findings (on blog or document) - 4th grade working on solid paragraph writing, 5th grade working on advanced multi-paragraph writing
After elementary time, I move to middle school and high school project time. Middle school is in in their final steps, finding experts and doing final revisions. They used amazon.com to look for authors about tarantulas and use this information to help find experts. Also, it was recommended that they look for forums on this topic as that was a successful finding during the sea hare project.
High school's project time was spent on the main structure of their project on hybrid cars. Each student has put together their section and is revising and checking each others work. Most interesting is Nathan and Leah who will be bringing their bikes tomorrow to go count cars to get a ratio of hybrid to regular cars and compare that to the national average. They will go to state road 98 about a mile down the road. Great research idea and use of real research strategies. I look forward to their findings.
We will also share their spreadsheets with their parents and have them work on daily reflections today. It will be really great to have these projects finally complete and published. They seem to be happy with their projects and I know they will be proud of their progress.


Today was a low energy day all around. There was nothing bad about it everyone seemed just to be really relaxed and working.

I had a two hour meeting with Tim and Paige.

The student work is phenomenal at this point. Their projects and thinking is just amazing. Listening to elementary students discover what they thought was a spider is actually a bug called a "cow eater" and middle school students produce blogs with arguments over whether or not tarantulas are good is just heaven. Experts are responding to the students which is always exciting. It is nice to have the student work reviewed by an expert on the topic.

Elementary curriculum continues to take the majority of the facilitator's time. I thought that our students were working pretty autonomously until I spoke to Randy and he is guessing that he is spending 80-90% of his day with elementary students. We set up a meeting with Tim about this dilemma and HS language arts.

As I sit here all alone in the school at 5:35pm I think about things like how are our students feeling at this point? Are they happy to be here? They are a wonderful bunch of students and this is a great place to be during the day.

My mantra is trust, respect and professionalism.

The daily list:

community time: talked about Chef nelson and did a community builder
checked email and confirmed parent meetings for this weekend
met with Tim and Paige 9-11:00am
11:00-12:00pm worked on planning list with Randy, organized notes and tasks for the day.
12:00pm lunch
12:30-2:45 Planning block with Randy:
  • parent meetings talk through and plan together
  • excel sheet and FLVS/PBL work-student understanding process, where we go from here
  • pace and organizing time at home
  • October 13th PSAT
  • Field Experience
  • December travel window:
    • what are your plans?
    • student need to have these plans set by mid October so the project background info can be done and project plan in place
  • Lingering questions/issues/support that I can provide
  • look at week #5 together
  • look over graffiti from student fundraising meeting
  • music HS see notes
  • LA conversation
  • PBL accountability structure-so it does not get overshadowed by FLVS maybe:
  • p1: group project
  • p2: individual
  • p3: partner
  • How do we keep them moving forward? check ins?
  • Do they have to choose different types throughout the year (individual, group, partner etc.)?
  • How many projects do they do each year?
  • list of things juggling:PBL, working one on one, planning, tutoring, check ins..what else? SAT, ACT, PSAT, planning, music and teaching elementary curriculum
  • (language arts, reading, PBL for Science and Social Studies)
  • reflections
  • Student feedback form: Music, Design, Schedule,PBL process
Community time:
  • talked about field experiences and the way they are set up
Looked over parent meeting notes and follow up list
Looked over iphone list and updated weekly meeting document
Scheduled weekend time for: Dissertation work and PBL work
Emailed/Text Tim about: HS Music class, fundraising meeting, new PBL website, ISTE proposal
Answered parent emails
Updated: Weekly meeting document, parent communication, reflection blog
Looked over and organized tomorrow’s priorities
Wrote reflections


Tuesday September 21

Today was a nice day in terms of feeling like OH is working. The parent meeting was reinforcing of the fact that we have support and that they are on board. i also like that they are having a voice in what happens at OH.

Right now it is 9:23pm and I am tired in a good way. I feel like today was a day where we are having healthy conversations as a community. It is great to hear parent concerns but also hear the same parents offering solutions to their concerns (mainly over the cost of the trip).

Things that worked today:
  • Wow! The middle school duo of Hannah and Alyssa rock. They finished their project complete with contacting an expert in the U.K. ad also presented it in front of all the parents.
  • It was also nice to connect with Sara in South Carolina to hear her successes and frustrations with her group. We share some of the same dilemmas and I feel like we can help her with strategies. Randy is really figuring the balance out at this point. One of the things that takes a lot of time and energy up front is giving students the skills to be autonomous so that in the long run the facilitator has more time free to spend with students and projects as needed.
  • Parent meeting: went well I am excited about working on fundraising for the trip.
Daily List:
Community time: Chef Nelson, Writer’s conference, coming on time, design swap
Checked in with Hunter about what she is working on today (oral at 2:30)
parent concern over costs of trip
ilearn to follow up on getting Sara in the system
sent Sara an email to let her know that she would be set up today
Tim: writer’s conference, netrakker log in
Called and left messages for Todd and Stacey at ilearn to follow up
Talked to Stacey at Ilearn to get Sara set up
tried to log in to netrakker and could not do it
brain break
sorted through ITBS and made sure that we had enough booklets and answer sheets
logged on to netrekkar and looked at HS and MS language arts things
11:30-12:00 talked to Sara Carey about:
language arts
balancing instruction for multi levels
time management
documented the facilitator’s process week #4 PBL
Planned a community builder
updated week #5 to include current plans for community builder
worked on parent meeting:
cleaned up my role in the agenda section
slide show
Planned with Randy after school:
went over agenda and prepped for parent meeting
planned for tomorrow with Randy-since I will be out
updated document: week #5
parent meeting
At home:
Reflective journal
parent email to set up meetings

Big day here at OH today. We had our first complete, beginning to end, project done and will be presented tonight at our parent meeting. We contacted experts from all over the world and did a one on one interview with an expert in England. The project topic was the Sea Hare, a weird creature we came across on our first field experience. The students working on the project come from elementary and middle school. What a great job well done.
Elementary finished their main steps to completing their project on carnivorous plants. They spent some time finding experts and will compose emails tomorrow or even contact experts. I'm looking forward to their completed work. We are also planning a writing prompt this week to see where all of the kids are in their writing process.
High school began to move into step 3 today with some more research involved with hybrid cars. They are putting together a choose your own adventure type of project like the middle school group where the reader can choose which part of the project to view. Neat idea.
Middle school has one half of the project done today. Some members were still finishing the sea hare project and will catch up tomorrow. We will post this project to a popular tarantula online community to see what they think. We will likely encounter many comments and ideas from having so many people view it. We are excited. I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Week #5

We apologize up front for not starting this blog sooner in the year but we figured better to start now than not to start at all.

Daily Reflections: Randy - Monday September 20

It's a Monday for sure. The morning was quiet and subdued as we began to wake up our brains. We changed the project work time to accommodate students so that I could be with them during the entire process. Elementary did their project work first looking up information on carnivorous plants ranging from species, maps and what they actually eat. Trae and Hanna were the only ones here so they worked simultaneously on a shared document both on different slides. It was actually really amazing to see them using their technology at such a high level. I also was very impressed with how meticulous they were when they cited their work. We joked about how the plagiarism SWAT team would come through the roof on tether ropes and arrest us if we didn't cite our sources.

Middle school was next after a very fun, but short, brain break. Their project focuses on tarantulas and what I like best is the argumentative and opinionated structure of their project. The project will have 2 directions like a "choose your own adventure" where the audience can choose between the arguments of "tarantulas are dangerous" or "tarantulas are not dangerous". What a fun way to integrate content and standards. On a side note, we did get to hold the tarantulas and even used the microscope to look at the irticating hairs of one of the species. Really amazing for sure.

During this second block, we were able to also get work done on the high school project. Their essential question is "Are hybrid cars really better for the environment?" I don't think you can get a better question than that. They divided the question in to parts that they will work with a partner on to gather information to put the project together. We are in the process of discussing the best way to put the project together (wiki, slide show, glogster and even the idea of an actual poster board). Walking through the project is really a great way to learn together and I'm enjoying the great insights of the students.

After lunch and kickball, we did music. All bands are doing some great work and it was fun to hang out with "Someday Soon" consisting of the high school girls. They picked a tricky song and it amazes me how fast they can learn when they work together.
All in all, what a great day. We had many accomplishments and I think is was one of our best days of work yet. I can't wait until tomorrow!

Daily Reflections: Amy-9/20/10:

  • My schedule a brain dump: community time, meeting with Tim (Parent mtg), Create Randy planning after school list, trip time line list, work on parent email for parent meeting, worked with Sea Hare group on pictures for presentation, work on rough draft of table of contents for the documentation of the year, set up field experience with Chef Nelson, lunch/kickball, ilearn math with elementary, check in Hunter, updated documents: parent communication log, week #5, dilemma sheet,day by day sheet, created daily reflection shared document, planned/debriefed day with Randy, worked on the following at home: resent attachment to parent group, created blog for reflections, answered and composed email, set up ilearn for Sara...
  • Today things that worked well: PBL time and parent mtg planned and looks good.
  • Persistent dilemmas: still the amount of time ilearn takes for elementary, lack of consistency when it comes to reflective blogs for students, I need to get away to be able to focus more on administrative tasks/documentation, not feeling like I can actually send anything out before it gets approved holds up the process a bit- I will need to get ahead of things more to get things out in a timely manner.
  • Questions/wonderings:
    • Roles: Is it possible for Randy to facilitate all the things during the day and keep students on track academically and is he suppose tutor them as well?
    • Balance: how much time should be spent with students vs me getting tasks done to document process as well as moving towards an independent school model?
    • Did Jordin get his spreadsheet done?
    • What kinds of structures do we still need to put in place for ourselves (facilitators) to keep everything moving ahead
  • I am working on this issue:
    • Several students falling behind. I see some starting to do avoidance behaviors like staying home and coming in late. Need to help them manage their time. All of our students are capable of this type of work but the rigor is starting to become a reality.
  • Overall: Things are moving in a good direction and today was one of the best days in terms of the balance between project work, virtual school, music and students being accountable for their learning-yay!