What New Forms of Education Are Emerging?
Pass the Mic Podcast Series is an unscripted group discussion born out of AcornOak’s belief in the power of many voices. Each episode begins with one question asked of a small group of 4 to 6 open-minded and passionate individuals who explore complex and difficult concepts with curiosity, uncertain beliefs, and the willingness to objectively listen and learn from the shared insights of others.
In our twenty-third episode, our guests discuss emerging forms of education.
Starting the Conversation
As the podcast host, Virginie Glaenzer paved the way for this conversation to explore essential life lessons and behaviors learned in schools - aside from academic content.
Welcoming Our Guests
We were honored to welcome our panel of special guests eager to discuss their new educational programs.
Heather MacTaggart, Director of unschoolingschool.com
As a social entrepreneur, an educator, and a problem solver, Heather is the Founder and Executive Director of Classroom Connections and an on-site leader of Change It Up, an initiative within Alberta First Nations communities. She is the co-author of Overschooled but Undereducated. A mother of four children, Heather is passionate about making the education system work for everyone.
Kristen Simonson, Founder of the Sage Creek Prairie School
Kristen is a high school teacher and a certified forest school practitioner. In 2021, she founded the Sage Creek Prairie School offering forest school programming and a wide variety of other outdoor experiences including permaculture and bushcraft. The school has demonstrated that child-led learning, paired with risk and beautiful natural spaces, are integral to the development of resilience, independence, and creativity. Ensuring that children have opportunities to visit wild spaces and experience risky and independent play has become her passion, and her overall goal is to mesh these invaluable outdoor experiences into current educational practices for all children as a vital part of their learning.
Max Noble, Founder of TMaxRD
Max is a maker, designer, futurist and evil genius. For the past several years he has been developing a secret weapon. something so diabolical, that the repercussions are going to rip through the education system's old belief system, like a hot knife through butter. By the time the system sees it coming, it will be too late, the wave of kids confident in their abilities and wise in their actions will be unstoppable. This is a checkmate for the education system. Kids love it! Parents love it. Teachers love it. The education system will have no idea what hit it.
Listen to the panel introduction.
Key Shared Insights & Perspectives
What is essential to learn in life?
Heather MacTaggart starts by describing the role of education as an avenue to acquire “the ability to think, collaborate, solve problems and make decisions.” Kristen Simonson adds, “knowing who you are” as another essential learning in a world where we have lost our sense of connection. Finally, Max reminds us that “adaptability” is an essential skill to thrive in a world of profound change and constant disruption.
What behaviors do we traditionally learn at school, aside from academic content?
This question can be answered from two perspectives: students and teachers.
The panelists agreed that our current system is teaching poor behaviors such as conformity while confidence and critical thinking are lacking in most classrooms. As a consequence, the panelists have witnessed that kids who don’t take “no” for an answer are tagged as troublemakers, but later become the most successful in life.
The role of teachers is being challenged and, as a result, it is evolving from the person standing in front of the class to a facilitator. Listen to Kristen Simonson sharing her experience as she embraces her new role as facilitator.
Max challenges us with the idea of “Adult Privilege,'' a self-imposed right to exert our power over others - which is responsible for long-term turbulent relationships with our children and in society as a whole.
Three New Educational Initiatives
When Responsibility Leads to Creation
TMaxRD (Talent Maximization Research and Development)
TMaxRD is a learning method designed to stimulate creativity, problem solving and innovative thinking. As a project-based learning approach, the program is student-centered, so they acquire a deeper knowledge through active exploration of real-world challenges and problems. Located in Canada, the program offers free-range thinking for young minds and gives kids responsibility to see what they can accomplish under real world conditions. The benefits include increased creativity and self confidence. TMaxRD is currently looking for new facility space and donations from communities.
Listen to Max Noble sharing the TMaxRD program’s impact on children.
Reconnecting with Mother Earth
Sage Creek School offers a series of new programs designed to reconnect children with the wild and outdoor spaces. It has four onsite outdoor spaces for ages ranging from 2 to 10 years old; an early years free play zone, a permanent outdoor classroom space and fire circle, a rugged space at our "beyond classroom" coulee site, and a brand new food forest. The school celebrates the past and present connections to the land and what it can teach children and kids about food security, balance, survival, and resilience. Adventures are planned and led by dedicated and experienced nature lovers. Using a mix of biology, environmental science, outdoor education, Forest School Principles, and a whole lot of fun, they make it possible for students to establish lasting connections with the outdoors.
Listen to Kristen Simonson describe the impact the school has had on over one hundred children, since its inception.
Building a Community of Parents & Educators
The Unschooling School is a volunteer group of educators, parents and students fervently supporting public education, but with a core belief that it is time for a radical rearrangement to the structure of 'school.'
The team teaches and provides resources to help schools let go of top-down structures and coercive practices and trust children, who are biologically driven through play, curiosity, and exploration, to educate themselves. The team advocates the support of students to become Free Learners by selecting the classes, tools, resources, and support which work for them, leading schools to operate more like community centres and libraries and less like schools. Unschooling School is looking for open-minded, forward-thinking schools to create authentic demonstration projects and show that a fully self-directed education model can work in the public system.
Listen to Heather MacTaggart reminding us of the true purpose of school.
As we came to the end of the hour, our group concluded the discussion in the same way we started, with a tour de table. Each participant had the opportunity to reflect on what they heard and share their take-aways from the conversation.
Listen to the last 10 minutes of the episode.
Final Thoughts to Consider
The pandemic gave us a chance to reflect on our education system's obsolete processes and methodologies. Based on the Industrial Revolution, our current system focuses on IQ in a one-size-fits-all model to “produce citizens ready to take part in employment processes that are destructive to the environment we live within” - as Nora Bateson pointed out during Pass the Mic Episode #22, “Is Disruption the New Normal For Education?”
As a result, many people feel an urgency to find alternative educational models. A diversity of initiatives is essential to create critical thinking and diverse programs bring momentum, like a snowball effect, that is revolutionizing our education system.
The panel agreed on a few game-changing ideas and practices:
First, recognizing that there are multiple types of intelligence and each helps create a diversity of talents which benefits the world. Max Noble leaves us with a profound truth that we must remember.
“When it comes to problem solving, diversity of thoughts and approach will always trump intelligence and knowledge.”
Second, rethinking our power and adult privilege requires us to trust ourselves and our children.
By letting go of our fears and habits, we’ll get out of the way and let kids learn through play, which is both a natural way of learning and of being.
Third, using language to trigger curiosity. Calling ourselves ‘Evil Genius’ and ‘Super Wizard’ instead of ‘Teacher,’ is a game changer - as it shifts our perception of our roles and responsibilities and others’ expectations.