Posts Tagged The Wildwood Outreach Center

“Shark Tank” Wildwood Style

The stakes are very high the day I visit Deb Christenson’s Modern U.S. History class. Seven groups of students will present ideas for a start-up to a panel of Wildwood teachers and administrators—including me. Judging each plan based on a presentation, we’ll decide which student-led start-up has the greatest potential for financial success. We’re also here to make money—risking our own wealth as potential investors in the next billion-dollar business idea.

Sounds like Shark Tank, the trending TV reality show. But, it’s really the culminating event in a project, combining a study of U.S. economic history, entrepreneurship, and design thinking. (So, while our wealth isn’t real, we ‘sharks’ are here to lend authenticity to the proceedings.)

Owen L. and Benji M. make their pitch for Pythagoras Computing

Owen L. and Benji M. make their pitch for Pythagoras Computing

Each student group pitches their idea for a novel product or service. Maddy G. and Abby L. unveil Equilibrus—a start-up that synthesizes the ‘buy one, give one’ model of Tom’s Shoes with an online book store, donating books to a local public school for every title purchased through their service. Sunscreen Sprayers is the brainchild of Georgie M. and Anna R. Their business builds and distributes mobile sunscreen application booths that beachgoers or amusement park visitors use for a small fee, paid for through a smartphone app. Other students promote their visions: an environmentally sustainable restaurant; a mobile phone app to book babysitters; and an urban garden design service, are among the contenders.

At Wildwood and in other U.S. History courses, studying American entrepreneurs is pretty much standard fare. But today at Wildwood, there’s also an emphasis on teaching entrepreneurship—an added value of guiding students in developing their own entrepreneurial skills, to help them learn and lead in our complex, evolving world.

Clementine C. and Thomas E. pitch their start-up, Bird Words

Clementine C. and Thomas E. pitch their start-up, Bird Words

This year, Deb added design thinking to the equation to create the “Shark Tank” project—something new to her own teaching repertoire. Inspired after hearing Stanford Design School professor Tina Selig speak at a conference, Deb became intrigued by the idea of applying Selig’s approach to her Wildwood classroom. Deb read some of Selig’s books, watched her TEDTalks, and synthesized design thinking into a project for her course’s final unit—on the development of the modern U.S. economy.

“I’ve always been interested in designing authentic, performance-based projects for my students,” Deb tells me. “And the “Shark Tank” idea seemed to bring together that interest and design thinking.” So when starting this project, Deb’s students follow the design thinking process—defining a problem that needs solving, considering and creating a variety of solutions, and refining them. To execute their start-up each group spells out some essentials— including a mission statement, along with plans to address marketing, finance, and management.

Some of my fellow 'sharks' listen to pitch presentations

Some of my fellow ‘sharks’ listen to pitch presentations

After the final presentation, my fellow ‘sharks’ and I head to the room next door to deliberate and choose the winning idea.

After a lively debate, we ‘sharks’ agree to award $50K in mock seed money to Benji M. and Owen L. Their start-up idea: Pythagoras Computing. It’s a service that allows scientific researchers to purchase computing power from individuals’ idle laptops and other personal electronic devices—power that would otherwise be wasted. In true Wildwood fashion, Benji and Owen’s classmates congratulate them on hearing the news, with applause and high-fives.

Shark Tank, the TV show, is all about innovation, ideas and investment—the principles of entrepreneurship that Wildwood embraces. What’s more, at Wildwood many student projects pass on the additional value of focusing on social and environmental goals. So welcome to the “Shark Tank” Wildwood-style: Collaboration is competitive.

~ By Steve Barrett, Director of Outreach, Teaching, and Learning

 

 

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Prizing Children’s Voices in Literature, and About Literature: The Wildwood Medal

The Wildwood MedalJanuary is traditionally the big month for children’s literature, as the American Library Association awards the Caldecott and Newbery medals for children’s literature—highlighting the best picture and chapter books for young readers.

At Wildwood,  June is the month to watch; that’s when we reveal the winner of The Wildwood Medal— our own children’s literature award chosen by Wildwood 5th graders.

This year’s nominees are:

Fifth graders interested in serving on the selection committee read each nominated book and take part in book group discussions with fellow students, as well as Wildwood faculty and staff.  Once they complete this process, they’re on the committee and attend weekly meetings during lunch and big yard time in March and April to discuss each book and its merits with a small group of their peers.

This year's nominees

This year’s nominees

The Wildwood medal is growing in recognition and makes it clear both on campus and throughout Southern California that at Wildwood, we value children’s literature and student voice very seriously.

“The committee discussions are really sophisticated,” says librarian Lorin Higashi. “The kids have a set of questions that they need to prepare to answer for each book.”  These include:  How did a character in the story solve a problem? What personality traits and Life Skills do you think allowed the character to reach this resolution? and Would you like to read something else by this author?  Why or why not?

“The students need to support all of their answers with evidence from the text,” fellow librarian, Jennifer DuBois, adds—an effective preparation for the rigors of learning at the middle and upper campus.

Jennifer and Lorin know the history and meaning of the award, now in its 16th year.

“Wildwood students knew about the Caldecott and Newberry Medals—both chosen by adults,” Jennifer says. “But they wanted to know why there wasn’t an award for children’s literature chosen by kids.” The elementary librarians at the time, Jeanne Avery and Bobbie Goeden, helped kids brainstorm and organize a process to evaluate and choose a book that resonated most with Wildwood students—and the Wildwood Medal was born.

Since 1999, choosing the Wildwood Medal has been a rite of passage for the oldest students at our elementary campus— allowing their voices to be heard and for them to leave their mark as they move on to middle school.

Each year five books are nominated. Every 5th grader reads at least one of the titles in a book group with Language Arts teacher Sandi Crozier. Ultimately, over half of the 5th graders opt in every year to serve on the selection committee.  Having deeply read each of the five nominated books, committee members take notes and thoughtfully analyzing each according to four criteria: Connection to the Life Skills, broad appeal, literary merit, and originality.

Wildwood Medal Winners: 1999 - 2013

Wildwood Medal Winners: 1999 – 2013

Ryder M., currently a 7th grader at Wildwood’s middle school reminisces on his experience as a Wildwood Medal committee member two years ago. “I remember first hearing about the Wildwood Medal when I was in 2nd grade,” Ryder says. By the time he got to 4th grade, Wildwood had instilled in him a strong passion for reading. “At that point there was never any doubt,” he says, “that I would be part of the committee that next year.”

The Wildwood Medal winner that year was Because of Mr. Terupt, by Rob Buyea. According to Ryder, the decision wasn’t easy. “The final meeting was intense,” he tells me. “All 35 of us were together and we had to reach consensus on the winner—it wasn’t easy. Because of Mr. Terupt was my top choice and I had to make a strong case to my classmates about why it should win.”

The Wildwood Medal committee chooses the winner in mid-spring and keeps its decision secret until the year’s final All School Meeting in June—no easy task.  “The committee members themselves make the announcement,” Jennifer relates. “They’re extremely proud of their choice and the work, and they want to share them with the entire school.”

Ryder recalls the excitement and pride in his committee’s announcement two years ago:  “I remember being on the stage and thinking—Wow! We did this. Our input really does matter.”

The Wildwood Prize process nurtures a love of reading, and critical analysis that grows with Wildwood students as they move to the middle and upper school campus.

Last year the Wildwood Medal went to Where The Mountain Meets The Moon by Grace Lin, which students cited for its synthesis of wondrous storytelling and Chinese folklore with breathtaking illustrations.

This year’s Wildwood Medal will be awarded on Friday, June 6.

~ By Steve Barrett, Director of Outreach, Teaching, and Learning

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Our Visitors See It: Advisory Is Essential

At Wildwood School we design our programs with our students’ futures in mind—helping them learn the key content, build essential skills, and develop the necessary habits for success in college and life.

Advisory is an essential part of our design.

A recent "chalk talk" discussion in a Division Two  advisory

A recent “chalk talk” discussion in a Division Two advisory

We dedicate much more time to advisory at Wildwood than most other school, public or private (four hours per week in most grades). That’s intentional, and has helped our advisory program gain notoriety—nationally and internationally.

This past week, I had occasion to reflect on how meaningful that commitment to advisory truly is. Every year The Wildwood Outreach Center hosts visiting educators from across the world, curious to see how advisory works at Wildwood, as they consider how their own schools’ advisory programs can develop.

Students in Erin Hansen's Division Two advisory engage in discussion

Students in Erin Hansen’s Division Two advisory engage in discussion

Visits to Wildwood’s middle and upper school advisories in action are a key part of the work.  I believe it is significantly helpful for our visitors to see the consistency of purpose common to all strong advisory programs. Last week at Wildwood, that meant in all four Divisions, one theme—multiculturalism—played out in four different, developmentally appropriate lessons.

Our advisory program’s multicultural theme provides a full scope of work that ensures each student understands and assesses the elements of one’s own multicultural identities (e.g., race, gender, physical ability, etc.) and how they operate in the world around them.

Here are snapshots of what our visitors saw our students working on during one advisory period:

Division One (6th grade) Focus: Choosing ally behavior
Students circulate through four stations, each prompting them to consider the different perspectives of people in conflict: bullies, targets, bystanders, and allies. Using this “four square” model, students discuss, among other topics, the challenges and benefits of choosing ally behavior over being a bystander.

Division Two (7th and 8th grades) Focus: Physical appearance
Through a “four corners” discussion, students grapple with how our society’s obsession with physical appearance can often lead to objectification—treating a person as a thing without considering his or her humanity.

Division Three (9th and 10th grades) Focus: Socio-economic status
Student teams are assigned hypothetical socio-economic profiles (some wealthy, some poor, some in-between) which either help or hinder their abilities to simulate a year in their lives: find housing and transportation, build a budget to meet household needs, etc.

Senior Institute (11th and 12th grades) Focus: Education
Advisory discussions focus on how socio-economic status, race, and gender intersect to create distinct advantages and disadvantages for students taking the SAT and ACT for college entrance.

What our visitors see is that through advisory, we live our school’s mission, daily—providing students the time and space to think, learn, and reflect on the topics relevant to their future success amid the competing priorities of a complex, evolving, and multicultural world.

That’s an advantage Wildwood students will take with them—to college and into life.

~ By Steve Barrett, Director of Outreach, Teaching, and Learning

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