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, 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.