Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks!

Every year, we surprise the Harmony Team kids with a Thanksgiving breakfast feast.  Some of the things that we try to teach over the course of the year are service, appreciation for what we have, and a sense of community.  As the year goes on, we see evidence that our kids are picking up on these values. During the holiday season, it is important to take some time to reflect on who we are and what we have.  Both Melissa and I appreciate the kids that we teach and the environment in which we teach.

The feast is a big surprise for the kids.  We plot and plan, collect donations from parents, and buy whatever is not donated.  On the morning of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving each year, we set up our breakfast buffet in the school cafeteria.  When the kids come to their first core class with us, they are greeted by angry principals (they are acting, of course).  Students are told that we will march down to the cafeteria and practice how to clean and pick up after ourselves.  Needless to say, when the cafeteria doors are opened, the kids see many of their parents and a huge buffet of food waiting for them.  This year, we were able to trick them and keep the secret until the doors were opened.  The most fun part for us is seeing the looks on the kids' faces when they finally realize what is happening.  Score! - Don

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


A couple of weeks ago, I had classes take part in a Socratic Symposium on "Failure" in preparation for the launch of Harmonized Learning.  During this discussion, students made several great points about the role of failure in one's learning.  They noticed a discontinuity between what failure sometimes can do for them and how we perceive failure in schools.  Indeed, some of the most successful people in history would have been judged as huge failures had they not persisted.  The kids shared that when they try something new, they know it will take a while to get the hang of it but they usually don't consider these first attempts as failures but rather as attempts along the way to mastery.  The kids have a very healthy outlook on learning new things. - Don

What is Harmonized Learning?

Team Harmony is a group of middle school students at Hixson Middle School in Webster Groves, MO.  During the course of the year, we discovered 20% Time, a tool that Google uses that allows employees to pursue individual work goals not assigned to them in the course of their regular workday.  Employees spend 20% of their work week on these individual projects.

We are attempting to apply the tenants of 20% Time to our students' classroom learning experiences.  One-fifth of the time that students spend in their Science or English classes will be devoted to 20% Time.  During this time, students will pursue individual research and projects in order to fulfill a personal learning goal.  This blog represents a way for students to describe their projects, their processes and their accomplishments.

We are about to begin a wonderful learning experience and we hope that others will come along for the ride. - Don