TGIF! Mar 17 2017


It’s a mishmash today – there were some really inspiring stories and examples I’ve run across this week I want to share with you.  First, a shout out to our new subscribers!  (By the way, as soon as we finalize our logo I will be moving our newsletter over to MailChimp. As our subscriber list grows, I need something more robust than Outlook to manage it.)

So, two heartwarming stories below and then in the closing, a list of volunteer opportunities – please think about how you can help us make this school a reality!

OneStone – is it a school, or is it a charitable nonprofit?

Here’s an amazing school design I came across this week, OneStone, a tuition-free private independent school in Boise, ID.  At OneStone, “all learners work on One Stone ventures that provide real-world experience while helping to fund the school and its programs.”  Which is really an amazing idea – why couldn’t a school be organized as a “student-led and directed nonprofit”?  Why couldn’t it be funded by philanthropy not merely interested in creating a school but rather by those charitable organizations who are investing in the work of the organization?  And why can’t that good work – in addition to benefiting the community – be a basis for learning?  It gives me hope that one of Imagine’s signature program elements – to create a four-year class community service project where students use design principles to address a significant community need somewhere in the world – will be economically viable.  And, it just goes to show how many amazing, innovative ideas are starting to percolate around the country (more on that below)

Why now could be the MOST amazing time to be a learner…

Great video from Will Richardson (Will was at SxSW Edu last week) on the surprising truth about learning in [traditional] schools, a look at some alternatives, and why now, if we have the commitment and the courage, can be the most amazing time to be a learner in history.

More Learning Links

From Pioneering magazine, a story by Hannah Bertram on her transition from a traditional high school to Iowa BIG, and how it transformed her previous connotations of education.


In closing….

Have you been wondering how you can help Imagine! West Michigan bring this new high school to fruition next Fall (2018)?  Here are our current volunteer opportunities:

  • Participate in a parent interview
    • if you are the parent of a preteen or teen and we haven’t talked, I would love your input! Just reply to this email and we’ll set up a time.
  • Professional quality photographers
    • we are working on marketing materials – print and web – and professional quality photographs will be needed. Email me if you can help!
  • We also need photography subjects!
    • Looking for a diverse group of teens 14-19, email me if you know someone who would like to participate.
  • Copyeditors
    • If you have a talent for writing, are you willing to help review a section or two of our charter application?  Email me!
  • Promotion
    • This is for everyone… just keep spreading the word!  Forward, like, and share Imagine! West Michigan but more importantly – tell a friend!

Thanks, Imagine! West Michigan community – for your interest, inspiration, and generosity.

🍀 Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 🍀


TGIF! Dec 11 2015


Happy Friday from Denver, Colorado!   It’s actually still Thursday night here J.  I’ll be wrapping up the last day of the conference Friday then flying back home arriving late.  These are the quick hits, the raw and unpolished conference report – more to come, much more, once I get back and digest.

I’ll pick three things to share –

#1:  The Big Picture Learning network is pretty darn amazing.  Do you value respect, curiosity, innovativeness, supportiveness, passion, inclusiveness, love, and authenticity?  I know that is the kind of list I would generate if I were trying to describe the cultural values I would hope to see in a school.   But that’s not where I got that list – those are the traits I’ve seen here, in the educators I’ve met this week.   This is an organization that “gets it” and one that is passionately and vulnerably real.  The recipient of the Ted Sizer award, BPL principal Jeff Palladino, said “it’s not about me, this network is bigger than us”.  Carlos Morenos, co-director of Big Picture said, kind of off the cuff: “unlike other education conferences, you will hear the word love floating around.  Because it’s real, it’s at the core of what we do.” I’ve felt that love over the past three days as we were welcomed with open arms.  I say “we” because I am here for all of us, and everyone I met is excited by our story and our community and wants to see us succeed in opening this high school.  We put Michigan on the map this week – without us, there only would have been 22 states in attendance. I was proud to represent – and proud to discover that I don’t look funny on a horse.  Time to charge.  Time to change.

2015-12-11 1

#2: Like begets like.  It’s no surprise that that kind of culture has an amazing impact on kids.   Wednesday night we heard from a Junior at the University of Denver who graduated from MEC (Mapleton Early College High School) in June.  Re-read that sentence again.  She has a classmate who received a full scholarship to Princeton.  We spent the day at MEC with two young people who were asked, on their way in the doors to school this morning, if they could guide a group of visitors around the school.  An hour in I was having a hard time convincing myself they were only 17 years old.  Three hours in I had completely forgotten, as they became as intimately involved in our advisory debriefs as any of the adults.

2015-12-11 2
Check those laces – brightly colored footwear also seems to be a BPL distinguisher!

#3: Last thought. We are incredibly lucky here in West Michigan.  Not only for the obvious social and economic blessings, but for the innovative schools that already exist for grades K-8 here, and for the comparative flexibility of Michigan’s charter school laws and competency-based graduation requirements.  I heard about so many challenges from colleagues here, that we simply do not have to face.  Not to say everything is perfect or the road will be easy, but we have advantages and we should be grateful for them.

2015-12-11 3

That’s it for now – more to come.


TGIF! Oct 23 2015


Welcome to our new readers!  I am excited to share with you more about our vision for a different kind of high school for the Tri Cities.  If you would like to see previous issues, they are now posted on our website.

Latest News

I had the opportunity to introduce our ongoing efforts at a meeting of the Walden Green Montessori School’s Families & Foundation (parent’s group) on Tuesday evening.  I’m pleased to share that several people attending asked to be added to the newsletter, and I held a small-group “Coffee Hour” just this morning for further discussion and dialogue.   Please consider joining me for a “coffee hour” or “happy hour” over the next couple of weeks.   I would love your input – times and locations are listed here:

Learning Journey

The next key theme of successful learner-centered secondary schools is the importance of Real Work: learning through internships, entrepreneurship, and service.  The most comprehensive example of this is at the Big Picture Learning Schools, which make internship experiences the central element of their schools’ educational design.  Students spend 10-12 hours, two days per week working under the guidance of a mentor to complete authentic projects with deep investigations.  These projects are connected to the student’s interests and meet real needs of the mentor.  This video, from the San Diego MET, shares how they do it.

(Click on image to go to You Tube.)

Changemakers Coaching

Here is a summary of the listening and conversational practices from Otto Scharmer’s Theory U, which I’ve been describing over the past few weeks.  We’ll dive into some new topics starting next week.  For now, just let these ideas sink in, and please continue to practice them mindfully!  We are seeking to make a big change in our community, and what may be exciting to one person could be threatening to another. Good listening goes a long way.

I may start out by…

Downloading: I seek to reconfirm old opinions and judgments; I hear what I want to hear.

When I open my mind, I can then listen…

Factually: I notice differences.  I am open to new data that may disconfirm my old opinions.  I leave the conversation with new information.

When I open my heart, I can then listen…

Empathically: I make an emotional connection. I can see through another person’s eyes.  I leave the conversation with a new perspective.

When I open my will, I can then listen…

Generatively: We are able to collectively create something new – a thought, or idea, or connection – that did not exist before. I leave the conversation a changed person.


Thank you to those I have shared empathic and generative conversations with this past week.