Summer 2016 Seminars

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Opening to Possibility and Not Knowing: An Experienced-Based Approach for Helping Students Better Understand Body-Mind Connection and Experience

Jane Beckwith

Holland Hall School

Tulsa, OK

David Dunbar

CITYterm at the Masters School

Dobbs Ferry, NY

When introducing students to experience-based learning, especially in the traditional school environment, do you ever notice resistance? How might we include curricular pieces that help students to open to possibility and embrace “not knowing?” Over the past few years, Jane and David have been in conversation about their observations concerning increased anxiety in students and how this impacts their willingness to engage fully in their own learning process as well as the quality of their final products.  Jane and David are developing courses and experience-based techniques to help students relate to themselves and course material in different ways.

Jane's course is infused with her background in mindful movement and invites students to explore the concepts of willpower, presence, and mindset. In addition to understanding how these concepts operate in their daily lives, students also learn how to observe their own patterns of body-mind behavior.  David has been experimenting with reading techniques in literature and history that are primarily based on intuition, empathy and embodied cognition.

This session will ask participants to engage in different movement exercises and practice those reading techniques described above.


Understanding PFOA: How Bennington College is Using Experiential Learning to Confront Local Water Contamination

David Bond

Bennington College

Bennington, VT

In 2014, the chemical Perfluorooctanoic acid (C8 or PFOA) was discovered in the drinking water in Hoosick Falls, NY. As the EPA summarizes: "the toxicity, mobility, and bioaccumulation" of PFOA poses urgent questions for safeguarding human heath in areas where PFOA has been released into the environment.

This past semester Bennington College began a course that rethinks what science education and informed citizenship might consist of in times like these. This session reflects on what we've learned thus far, including: 1) the disjuncture between messy experiences of exposure and the tidy definition sometimes offered in science and policy; 2) the deep investments in maintaining uncertainty; and 3) how student-driven inquiry can be a surprisingly effective vehicle for producing independent data and compelling change. We will also interact with some of the course material we've developed, discuss some of our early findings and the puzzles we've encountered in the data, and talk about how experiential learning might confront other environmental problems (and what resources might be available to do so).

This workshop describes how Bennington College is implementing hands-on student learning around a difficult problem -- the recent discovery of a toxin in the drinking water of nearby communities -- and why such an education matters.


Introducing the Creative Process

Kate Howard

Avenues: The World School

New York, NY

Carrie Pollack

Avenues: The World School

New York, NY

How do you ensure that your students make meaningful project work? Introduction to the Creative Process is a class designed for incoming freshman that allows them to become reflective and meaningful makers. Through the cultivation of the skills necessary to work collaboratively and as individuals, students recognize that a rigorous approach to the process from start to finish is equally as important as the final product. In this workshop, our recipe for practicing creativity will be shared including the following stages: strategies for recognizing meaningful essential questions, identifying key words to focus research, sketchbooking and prototyping, iterating and presenting. We will also look at best practices of documentation and reflection.


Fostering Deep Learning Through Classroom Simulations

Dorothy Moulthrop

Ohio State University & Education partnerships Institute

Columbus, OH

Erica Chapman

CITYterm at The Masters School

Dobbs Ferry, NY

Eder J. Williams McKnight

Holland Hall

Tulsa, OK

How do you engage all students and get them to deepen their understandings of the world and their place in it? Classroom simulations are one way to foster deep learning. In this workshop, attendees will participate in a simulation that is designed to enhance and complicate students' understanding of inequality. Attendees will enter into a conversation about how this type of activity encourages transformational learning and how it has been used in a variety of settings including college classrooms, peer leadership programs, and Hawken School's three-week Intensive humanities program.


Designing Curriculum for Authorship Seminars

Christopher Arbor

Asheville School

Asheville, NC

You don't have to take field trips outside the classroom to be able to use professional authors—writers, poets, theater directors, actors, photographers, urban planners, doctors, etc.—as an integral part of your curriculum. But you do have to design curriculum and pedagogy that makes them feel interested. You don't ask them to do presentations; you make them feel needed for the student's learning. If you do that, they will come and for not much, if any, money. This workshop will focus on the power of having an author engage face to face with their audience and explore ways to get them into your classroom.


Harkness and the Ensemble Rehearsal: Socratic Inquiry Dismantles the Conductor-as-God Theory

Jennifer Carnavale

The Masters School

Dobbs Ferry, NY

Classical music and classical music training are often viewed as the last staid bastion of a traditional education model. The ultimate lecture form, classical music education has long employed the "conductor-as-god" approach. The conductor provides all information: mistakes noted, articulation and dynamics determined, interpretation of context or text. Despite the fact that music-making involves the physical input of multiple parties, it has been taught in the classical school as if those varied persons are vessels awaiting conductor input; as though the conductor is ultimately the only artist in the room who utilizes an orchestra or choir as his or her instrument. Traditional music ensemble rehearsals are closely related to traditional lecture classes. The Conductor/ Teacher is "in charge" and dispenses/ interprets information for absorption by the group.

Educationally, we know there are multiple concerns with regard to lecture-style instruction including meaning-making, retention, transfer, and synthesis. Musically, we know that it is independent, fluid musicians who work regularly and find fulfillment in that work.

Turning the traditional approach in classical music ensembles (and in lecture-style classrooms) on its ear means taking a page from the practice of contemporary musicians -- involving the individual and collective improvisation of musicians and a great deal of collaboration. So what does that look like? And how does that jive with omnipresent performance deadlines?

This workshop will focus on the challenges and opportunities encountered by both conductors and teachers as they work to embrace methods such as Socratic Inquiry to motivate their classes/ ensembles and create space for transformational learning.


Starting from the Bottom: Building an Experiential K-12 Independent School from the Bottom Up

Chris Cook

Riverfield Country Day School

Planning and Leadership Academy of Tulsa

Tulsa, OK

Riverfield Country Day School began as a school for infants and pre-school aged children. Almost from the beginning, Riverfield was firmly rooted in the Reggio method, but it could have been almost any method because educators of young children seem to have an instinct for what works best: mostly staying out the children's way while they learn! As we've grown and added a middle and high school, the challenge became: How do we translate Reggio, or a childcentered pedagogy upward? At Riverfield, unlike many other schools, the power lies in the pre-school, and the community has come to expect a certain method from the education we offer. Moreover, the commitment to Reggio is now so engrained, that the adherence to its principles is almost religious. And finally, the students, who start their learning in an atmosphere infused with opportunities to discover without fear of failure, seem to want these opportunities to grow as they grow.

This session will focus on the challenges, opportunities, and excitement of trying to retain the methods we know work best for children as they learn about the world around them, even as those students move through the middle and upper school. What would a school committed to experiential learning from 6 weeks old to grade 12 look like? Is such a school even possible? I'll show you the good, the "could be good-but not yet quite good", and the ugly (but with so much potential!) in this session.


Bringing Design Thinking Mindsets into your Classroom

Laura Pickel


Stanford, CA

Once you've been through the design process a time or two you may have the natural question, "So, what do I do with this?" In this workshop, we'll focus on design thinking mindsets - focus on human values, radical collaboration, bias towards action - and brainstorm ways to bring these mindsets into a classroom.

In order to get the most out of this workshop, please come with a specific project or open question about an area of your teaching in mind. While we'll have a generic challenge that you can apply these exercises to, coming with a challenge in mind is recommended.

In case you haven't heard of design thinking, a little background: design thinking is a methodology used to ensure human needs remain at the core of a project. Because the process is content-agnostic, it can be adapted to fit your and your students needs. It's a process driven mindset that empowers people to uncover inspirational insights and generate creative solutions.

Please feel free to join our workshop, even if you've never heard of design thinking!

Design as Assessment: A New Kind of "Final Exam"

Nathan Stogdill & Cotter Donnell

Polytechnic School

Pasadena, CA

This workshop will explore ways to use design as a primary method of assessment in and out of the classroom. We will discuss ideas for replacing traditional assessment models with projects that emphasize divergent thinking, collaboration, and design, including examples from City of Angels, our interdisciplinary course on Los Angeles. To structure the dialogue, we will share the collaborative historical fiction project we offered in place of a traditional final exam in the course, which provided students the opportunity to demonstrate both their understanding of core course content and their mastery of essential research and analysis skills to explore the lived experiences of Angelenos living throughout the city's history. We hope that workshop participants will come away from the session with ideas for how to make similar adjustments to their curriculum and pedagogy, regardless of discipline or grade level.


CITYterm: What Have We learned about Experience-based Learning in the Last 20 years?

Erica Chapman & David Dunbar

CITYterm at the Masters School

Dobbs Ferry, NY

Twenty years ago, in 1996, CITYterm was founded as a lab program to explore the why some learning rises to the level of being “experiential.” This workshop will explore what CITYterm has learned during those twenty years about how, why and when this kind of learning happens.

The focus will be on particular cognitive and behavioral skills and dispositions that seem to be crucial to facilitating learning that has the potential to be transformational. We will then explore together different combinations of those skills and how they can be used as the basis for how teachers design experience-based expeditions, projects and classes. Examples of how the program has developed over twenty years as a learning institution for both faculty and students will also be addressed.


Scaffolding: From Concrete Skills to Creative Independence in the Middle School Art Studio

Claire Kessler-Bradner

Marin Country Day School

Madera, CA

In our 7th and 8th grade Art curriculum, each grade works with an essential core concept throughout the year. Each project related to that concept is broken down into three parts. We build from an introduction to ideas and skills in a structured, specific assignment, to broader application of the same ideas and skills in a second, more open assignment, and end with a completely flexible third iteration in which students are given creative license to apply what they have learned to a project of their choice with very few restrictions. Inspired by last year's TFE Symposium, this change in the structure of our 7th and 8th grade Art curriculum has built layers of technical ability and confidence, deepened student's engagement with their work and connection to our conceptual framework, and brought out genuine personal voice at levels we have never seen before. Applicable to any grade level or subject, this structure can have a profound impact on the depth and quality of student-driven work.

What if You Can't Go Outside?

Eder J. Williams McKnight

Holland Hall School

Tulsa, OK

Well-designed outdoor or out of classroom experiences make for deep exploration, as practitioners of experiential learning know. But what if you can't go outside? Traditional school schedules, conflicts with student activities, and other pressures can make it difficult to regularly design non-classroom based experiences. In this workshop, we will consider skills and practices of deep learning that can facilitate transformational experiences in your own classroom.


We've Experienced Math... so what?

Jim Wysocki

Catlin Gabel School

Portland, OR

"Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you." - Aldous Huxley

What is mathematics? What does it mean to ‘do’ mathematics? How do we know? Mathematics can easily become about facts to be known and skills to be done. Many students enter high school with an idea that mathematics is algorithmic and answer oriented. Creating an atmosphere where they can be curious, ask questions, make conjectures, and really experience mathematics is a necessary step towards changing their attitude from learning mathematics to doing mathematics. Taking our cue from Aldous Huxley, we will look at some experiential approaches to learning mathematics with an eye toward helping students process those experiences. There are many ways to create such experiences for students. From problem-based approaches to Dan Meyer’s Three-Act philosophy, to performance tasks there are many ways to engage students with mathematics beyond the facts and skills. During the workshop we will have an opportunity to experience examples of these types of methods, and focus on how we, as teachers, can facilitate students in processing of the experiences. Participants will be provided with frameworks for doing this in mathematics, share their own practices, and create a dialogue to develop new ideas.


Dream, Design, Do: DoI&T Academy and Lessons in Mission Driven Innovation

Sean Duncan & Jared Magee

The Winchendon School

Winchendon, MA

Four years ago, The Winchendon School founded DoI&T Academy, a micro "school-within-a-school" startup, built to explore and implement creative possibilities in experiential education and beyond classroom learning. Somewhat to our surprise, the program continued to evolve and mature, momentum grew, demand increased, and students enrolled in the incubator went from 20 to 35 to 75 in three short years, compelling our school leadership, Board of Trustees, and faculty to adopt the academic program for 2016-17. Needless to say, it's been a wild ride with many successes and struggles. We've learned a tremendous amount--about progressive education, but also about the culture, approaches, and mindsets necessary to implement disruptive-yet-dynamic work. We look forward to sharing a bit about our program while discussing experiences, lessons, insights, and strategies that can help us successfully dream, design, and drive new programs and initiatives at our schools.


Exploring Leadership: Creative Collaboration and Group Projects

Erik Johnke

CITYterm at the Masters School

Dobbs Ferry, NY

Collaborating to creatively solve problems is an essential skill for the future, but how do you teach collaborative skills? CITYterm was founded, in part, to explore the uses of project-based learning and the skills of creative collaboration in high school settings. In any given semester, CITYterm students will be part of seven or eight groups from as small as three students to as big as sixteen. What are the most essential skills of collaboration? How do you design and assess collaborative projects? Can you quantify the assessment of individual students? How do you encourage investment in the group project while still maintaining individual accountability? This workshop will include a primer on the "7 Habits of Highly Effective Groups" as well as examples of successful collaborative projects from the CITYterm curriculum.

Making Space for Creative Collaboration

Vincent Galgano & Jeff Carnavale

The Masters School

Dobbs Ferry, NY

Based on design principles from Stanford's "Make Space: The Book", we renovated the theatre's Green Room to create a new kind of classroom that focuses on active learning and collaboration. We intentionally designed the space to encourage students to manipulate the furniture and find new combinations for various dynamics as they un- fold. Come for a quick lesson from the work in the Stanford, see a demonstration of our furniture: writable t-walls, rolling cushions and a standing height, modular Harkness table, and a discussion on how to Make Space for creative collaboration back at your school.


Feeding the Elephant in the Room: Using Racial Anxiety to Further Inclusion Efforts

Josina Reaves

Poly Prep Country Day School

Brooklyn, NY

So many of our schools have stalled in their diversity and inclusion efforts because it's just too hard to talk about race and gender diversity and sexuality and socioeconomic status and religion in our schools. And that's before we've even begun to talk about racism and sexism and heterosexism and transphobia and Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and... So this workshop will give us a chance to think about how facing and embracing our anxieties around issues of diversity can become the experiential tool that moves us forward.


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CITYterm at The Masters School

49 Clinton Avenue
Dobbs Ferry, New York 10522


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