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Educambiando Visit ’17

I was invited to the Agile Learning Facilitation training that Educambiando hosted in December of 2017 in Veracruz, Mexico. After months of tending my language-barrier worries with serious study sessions and my leaving-school-for-over-a-week worries by getting ahead on paperwork while my spawn practiced running things without me, I headed off on my first international trip since 2012. The ALC I landed at looked a little different than my East Harlem homebase…

Ever since falling deep into Godel, Escher, Bach as a teenager, I’ve delighted in moments when it’s clear the world around me is presenting variations on a theme. Across ALCs, there’s rich diversity of people, settings, and languages informing each community’s culture. At the same time, sharing principles and frameworks means some elements feel familiar across all kinds of distances. Even though my Spanish was really basic, I recognized tools, the flow of the training, and the delightful vibrance of the local facilitator team.

The training facilitators offered classic sessions on communication, the science of learning, finite and infinite games, ALC principles, conflict, parent worries, and culture shifting. We played group coherence games, some I recognized and some I was excited to learn.

Then once the kids showed up there were also offerings like Chiquita beadwork, theater, chorus, dance, recycling tricks, shadow work, animal communication, soccer, acro-balance, and jungle walks:
















I facilitated and co-facilitated a few sessions, with a lot of help from bilingual community members. I had to bow out of facilitating Change-Up, because my understanding of Spanish was too limited for me to listen as deeply to the nuances of and feelings under the group’s conversation than I needed to in order to effectively facilitate. There were also moments where the group drew tools illustrating time differently than how I’m used to illustrating it, work-shopped how to overcome a fear of direct communication that they recognized as part of navigating a legacy of colonialism, strategized applying what they were learning to make relief efforts after environmental disasters more effective, and explored how cultural norms and power dynamics impacted their attempts to build ALC communities…moments where I just listened, wondering about how our worlds are so similar and so different at the same time. 

Noticeably different from our ALC-NYC trainings [other than the presence of green space] was how the amount of space available meant adults often ended up congregating separate from the kids unless they intentionally moved to do otherwise I was having a lot of feelings after news of a bomb back in NYC, so I dosed myself with ample baby + toddler time.

Much of the flow of the program, facilitator team planning sessions, and participant styles of participating were similar to what I’ve seen at other trainings, which was cool. Having a different facilitator team meant folks offering different expertise, which I learned a lot and felt a lot of joy from experiencing. The gut sense I’ve had for a while that there’s a lot of value in facilitator exchanges was just affirmed again and again on this trip.

Heading home, I was really grateful for my earlier adventures in travelling and language-learning, which were full of lessons I find helpful now but didn’t even realize at the time I was learning. I felt grateful for the invitation to visit, for the kindness of everyone I’d met, for the beauty of Veracruz, and for being gifted questions I hadn’t sat with before. Moving forward, I am excited about about the possibility in some of the new relationships I nurtured with facilitators and families who were at the training. I also had a blast co-facilitating with Rubén, and I can’t wait to do that again soon.

Psychology Meet-Up 11/17

At the beginning of the school year, @cammysherbert and @failspy started up an inter-ALC offering: weekly psychology meet-ups, using Crash Course videos from YouTube. We meet every Tuesday, discuss a video we’ve independently watched, watch a second video, and have a second discussion session.

In recent weeks, we started discussing theories about our minds and selves. The episodes about Mind were interesting: we discussed cognitive development, how people learn, attachment, motivation, morality, and more. We had lots of conversations about how different theories made more or less sense as tools to understand our lives, as well as ways they do or don’t support what we do at ALC.

We started exploring our Selves with discussions about consciousness, Freud and Jung and Roraschach, where we see the impact of nature and nurture in our lives. We ended last week discussing whether Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development resonate with us, and we appropriately (considering Erikson’s emphasis on the importance of identity formation for adolescents…) spent this week talking about our personalities.


I watched the video with @douglasawesome @thewitchqueen908 @serenagermany and @xxxxpgainzxxx. Of course, even while discussing how none of the personality measurement schemas struck us as complete or perfect, they were most interested in figuring out who the tests would say they are. So we started to play:

We looked at the Meyers-Briggs test through a chart and this website where we played with the test.

Eli and Askani were saying how they love to take tests and joked about wanting to take the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory exam when the video mentioned it as the most comprehensive…joked until we learned that it was 500+ questions, that is.

We talked a little about Buzzfeed quizzes, why we want to develop our internal locui of control (as mentioned in the video) but also of identity…how we know that our identities are based more on what we decide than on what others say we are, but can still take quizzes for fun. And then we got into playing with other tools and schema.

For example, we explored the idea of Love Languages:

We explored the concept of gender expression:

And we ended brainstorming ways that these tools–developed for helping us measure and articulate the characteristics of our Selves–can alternatively be super useful when trying to improve communication or figure out how to best work/play with others. We’ll see if that’s where the Crash Course videos choose to direct our attention next 🙂

Whirlwind and Peace


I’m curled up, warm in a sunny window, a little bit amazed at how much organized chaos filled the beginning of the week.

This weekend, I had a guest and a staff working day (in which @ryanshollenberger and @tomis gave the bathroom an amazing make-over!).

We rolled into the week Tuesday morning with the arrival of Cloudhouse at ALC-NYC! We packed that day so full of plans that I barely could fit everything on the weekly schedule board. I finished discussing The Alchemist with @failspy, watched @ryanshollenberger @kingthanos @failspy and @bear eat Ghost Peppers, documented an improv game @abram led called “Yes, Let’s” and a collaborative Blocks-Versus-Zombies minecraft mission and @failspy ‘s product development and @themadhatter DMing Werewolves and a new board game from @douglasawesome and lots of discussion of @timotree ‘s SkyRim game and and and and and…

Wednesday was less scheduled but equally magical (and less Ghost-pepper-sickness filled). I actually left early with the Cloudhouse crew, but during the day there was a discussion which turned into a Rubik’s cube tossing game. Which turned into monkey-in-the-middle. Which at some point turned into an Olympic-style competition. The teenagers’ laughter poured out of the library, where this all was happening, much to my delight.

Thursday I woke up in Chatham! *sigh*bliss*gratitude*smile* I’ve never visited Cloudhouse before, and I was excited to see the whiteboard walls in use. Even before morning meeting, I had committed to playing Go with Lily, playing MM, and taking a trip to No Bottom Pond. Bear’s friend Raine was visiting, too, so there were six of us to have a quick morning meeting and then disperse. Lily and I played Go twice, with Charlotte watching and making Go stone art beside us. Then we headed up to the farmhouse, where @themadhatter DM’ed MM for all of us. It was a pretty exciting game: Raine’s character found a treasury, @hatninja ‘s character had really useful and adaptable weapons, and @bear ‘s character could make trash tornadoes. My character was a huge bear, with shamanic powers 🙂

We left around noon for the pond. Milo and Jesse had commitments at Cloudhouse, so they didn’t come. Lily, Charlotte, Raine, Bear and I climbed into a car for a short ride…during which we spend a lot of time discussing the radio. When we arrived, it was a nice mini-hike through the snowy trees to get to our destination. Even though some of the smaller-legged folks got tired, they persevered, and we made it down to the very very frozen pond. As if sharing the calm, snowy nature with friends wasn’t delightful enough, I then got to watch both Lily and Charlotte overcome their fears of falling through the ice. By the time we had crossed the lake, they were jumping and sliding on their bellies like penguins. By the time we were headed back, they had made art, done spins, slid a lot, raced, made a human train, located underground springs by patterns in the ice, and laughed a lot. We trekked back to the car, then drove back to Cloudhouse just in time for afternoon meeting.

My evening continued by the fire with cooking, drawing, Bear singing, some acrobatics, and lots of tea. It ended with a decision to stay an extra day, which is why I’m writing from where I am now rather than a bus or a train 🙂

Today has been very quiet and reflective. It’s been the perfect contrast to the beginning of the week, and I’m enjoying it just as much. So far I’ve read and written and watched @hatninja begin a series of ten ranked battles in League of Legends. I just finished a game of Go with Lily and am watching her make art with the Go stones. Feeling grateful and grounded and at peace.


Chuck comes to school!

Today I had the delight of bringing two wonderful friends to school, not-so-secretly hoping that they would fall in love and want to awaken their potential ALFs. Vincent and Chuck both live in Rhode Island now, working to build and run summer programs on a tall ship, but I met them first in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. It seemed pretty clear to me that they’d love the school and that the kids would enjoy them, and I wasn’t disappointed. Before the day even officially began, my guests were caught up and whirled away from me. I watched, amused, as different students toured, taught, and questioned them throughout the day, and then at the end I sat down with Chuck to ask some questions.

He said the first thing he noticed walking in was the stairs. We laughed and I groaned, but then he explained that the school building has a Frank Lloyd Wright type entrance: the dark, close space of the basement, which makes the light and openness of our school really pop in contrast when you finally arrive there.

Once in the space, he noticed that it had lots of rooms, but that all the the open doors made it feel inviting and connected. @failspy had arrived at school early and agreed to take my friends on a tour of the space. I noticed them linger in the maker-space longer than in other rooms, so I peeked in and heard Javair explaining arduinos.

Later, Chuck and Vincent both remarked that the hanging map of the school that @thewitchqueen908 made was also very helpful in helping them stay oriented, and much more intuitive than the daily schedule board, which Chuck said he understood immediately as an organizer but wasn’t sure of its purpose until scrum.

I asked Chuck what he thought about scrum. He reflected that scrum felt very hectic and/but that he liked the idea of a time for the large group to check in about group projects and events. He agreed with some things @shadowjack brought up about having the right to not attend scrum if your day is already full of personal projects and also being able to disengage the space once you’re personally done scrumming rather than waiting for the group to get clear. He really liked that everyone can put their offerings on the daily schedule board, even visitors. He saw immediately how this enabled offering-makers inspire others to check out things they wouldn’t think of on their own.

We gather in our spawn points after scrum to update our kanban boards and share our intentions. Chuck liked the feeling of spawn point, and saw the value in having a small group brainstorm about the day. He summarized the facilitator’s role in this meeting as reminding kids of their intentionality and left-over, uncompleted goals they may want to revsit. He also shared that he appreciated kanbans as a really cool way to visualize a thought process. He described them as “simple and seemingly effective.” Without my mentioning that Ryan and I have been discussing attendance recently, Chuck brought up that spawn point gets bogged down when people don’t arrive on time. Kids trickling in late bring their outside energy, which sets them back in planning their day and also disrupts the focus of the kids who did arrive on time. He noticed that starting the day with a repeatedly interrupted spawn point meeting has the potential to upset the rhythm of the entire day, and I agreed.

Because it is Friday, we went to change-up meeting after spawn point. Chuck said he found it cool that there is a set time for group discussion to create new policies and review agreements that the community is trying or practicing. He liked that the gameshifting board made explicit the organization of the conversation, and he noticed that simply pointing out the gameshifting board was an effective redirection.

After change-up, Chuck went Grocery shopping with Javair. They talked about pizza- making. Chuck observed that Javair was super independent and knew exactly what he needed. When Chuck asked Javair how he found the school, he was amazed to hear Javair explain how he had watched a video about ALC online and just followed up to make it a reality for himself.

Peter was teaching Go when they returned, so Chuck got to learn and play one game. It struck him that the simplicity of the game was what made it so complex. When the game ended, a class on the philosophy of economics was starting, so he went straight there and stayed for the next two hours. He said he enjoyed hearing Javair’s research and thoughts. He also enjoyed the discussion format of the class, and he appreciated that Javair was able to lead the conversation without lecturing.

Then the day was over! Chuck made a book (and talked to me!) during the blogging time, read through lots of other folks’ blog posts, and has already asked about coming back to visit again soon.