The River of Change

river

Today I’ve seen and felt the most rain fall from the sky that I have experienced in a long time. Walking in the woods with my dog, I am amazed at the sheer volume of water entering the mild-mannered creek we stroll by every day, turning it into a river with new obstacles, waterfalls, and an enormous roar echoing through the trees. I am equally amazed by the drops of water desperately clinging to the fronds of sword ferns and the needles of hemlocks, resisting the urge to join the river despite the pounding deluge from above and the pull of gravity below signaling their eventual path.

As Boomer and I continue down the trail, my thoughts turn to the big idea in my classroom: change is essential to survival. If this statement is true, why do we resist and perhaps fight change? And if we want students to have the skills and confidence to participate in an ever-changing world, what are we doing to help them, and perhaps ourselves, embrace and tell the stories of change in our lives?

Change can come quickly and unexpectedly, like the rising waters of the creek beside me, and the feeling of change can be an overwhelming roar that fills your being, like the deafening waterfalls in my local forest. Change can cause the solid ground we perceive to stand on to shake and perhaps give way, like the banks of the creek giving way to the surge of water, and we often resist change with all our might, despite the inevitable outcome, like the drops of water clinging to the foliage.

Does this mean change will always overtake and overpower us? Should we simply let go and see where the river of change takes us?

I feel a deep connection to water, particularly rivers. I am in awe of their ever-changing dimensions, have spent time navigating and enjoying the company of many rivers, and have a deep respect for the power of water. So I am learning to embrace change as an essential river in my life, not something that will overtake me or lead me astray. The deafening roar of the waterfall of change does not instill fear; it causes me to pause, slow down, and observe the conditions that have created this new feature. The banks of the river may erode and be scarred with remnants of the previous path; however, the path that emerges creates new opportunities that I could not previously see. The new obstacles in the river may signal a bumpy ride with some rapids and rocks in the way; however, I must have the willingness to jump in and enjoy the ride, along with the ability to scout for dangerous drops and navigate my way to eddies in the current that allow time to pause and reevaluate the new route. The lone rain drops resisting the urge to fall serve as a reminder that everyone does not embrace change in the same way. The water drops magnify the world that currently exists and remind me of the need to celebrate the past before letting go and embracing a new future.

Change is, and always has been, the constant that connects us to each other and the world around us.

What makes a river so restful to people is that it doesn’t have any doubt- it is sure to get where it is going, and it doesn’t want to go anywhere else.” Hal Boyle

Written November 19th, 2017

Failure or failing? Does it really make a difference?

IMG_1659“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” —Thomas A. Edison

Failure.

This word is laden with judgment and often brings to the surface feelings of embarrassment or inadequacy; something to be avoided at all costs or to be hidden from the disapproving views of others.

To develop innovation and design thinking in our classrooms, educators are being encouraged to embrace failure with our students, to become more like the world of Google and Pixar where failure is celebrated and showcased as a necessary part of the creative process. Despite understanding this importance, many educators are left with a feeling of unease when celebrating failures. This seems counter intuitive – we want to encourage and help students succeed in their endeavours, not encourage them to fail.

I feel this unease with accepting failure, in both my personal and professional life. I believe, as Michael Cohen shares, that failure can sometimes be deemed an “excuse for poor time management, disorganization, or lack of effort and determination.” Cohen continues to suggest there is a difference between performance failure and growth failure; a failure in completing a task that we are capable of doing vs. failure in attempting something new or expanding our thinking. “That is why embracing failure can be a danger zone and it is up to us as educators and mentors to help our students learn the difference.”

I think this is an incredible challenge – to help students know the difference in the category or type of failure. I also feel that celebrating failure is a celebration of a product rather than a process. As John Spencer and A.J. Juliani explain in their book Empower, failure has a permanency to it and we don’t want students to fail.  “We want them to revise and iterate based on what they learned from failing – all on a path to real success.” This requires support, guidance, and most importantly, the time and space to reflect on their ‘fantastic fails.’ This subtle shift from failure to failing can reduce the unease of judgment or acceptance that may be holding students – and teachers – back.

As I walked through the woods on this beautiful autumn morning, I am reminded to learn from my surroundings. There is no failure in nature. When the nights lengthen, deciduous trees reduce the chlorophyll in their leaves, producing a colourful display before dropping the leaves to the ground. Life is failing in these leaves; however, the tree is not a failure. In the same way, when a tree dies, it is not a failure. The process of decomposition continues to breathe life into a new iteration on the forest floor. When a Douglas Fir tree fails to send nutrients to the smaller, ‘baby’ fir trees, it does not end the life of fir trees in that particular ecosystem. The tree co-develops a sharing process with the fungal network whereby nutrients can be exchanged and a symbiotic relationship emerges.

As we celebrate the beauty of nature’s failing at this time of year, let’s encourage the same celebration of failing, not failure, in our classrooms. To be reminded to have the humility to recognize when an idea is failing and to seek feedback. To have the openness to look for and to accept other influences to reach the next iteration. Failure is permanent, but failing is a beautiful process that allows new growth to emerge and flourish.

I’m eager to write, to explore, and to share ideas about failing, creativity, and the design process in our classrooms and communities. Stay tuned!

Some great reads in this area are:

  • Empower: What happens when students own their learning – John Spencer and A.J. Juliani
  • LAUNCH – Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring out the Maker in Every Student – John Spencer and A.J. Juliani
  • Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom – Amy Burvall
  • The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery – Sarah Lewis
  • Hacking Leadership: 10 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Learning that Teachers, Students, and Parents Love – Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis

Let’s Make Every Day Like Sports Day

When the rain stops, the skies clear, and the rainbow of colours appear on your school yard amid the cheers of joy and encouragement, Sports Day seems like the pinnacle of every child’s school year. But can we or should we make every day like Sports Day? I don’t mean the outrageous costumes and Disney dance tunes blaring in the background. I mean embracing the spirit of play in our daily lives, both as students and as staff.

I’ve been thinking a lot about play lately, perhaps as summer draws closer, but also due to some conversations, readings, and observations in the week leading up to and including our school’s Sports Day. In a conversation with a parent and fellow educator, Ben Tamblyn, regarding sustainability education, Ben shared this quote: “If war is the least sustainable thing on our planet, play is the direct opposite. Play is the most sustainable thing on our planet.”

Ben was referring to unstructured play, as do many proponents of play-based learning: learning that comes from free exploration of one’s choosing. So I’m extending Ben’s ideas, and those of others, to include play in a structured, more traditional school realm as the ability to be:

(be) Present

        Laugh

        Accept

        Yearn

Sports Day is about play in a structured environment. All students throughout our school, including our upper intermediate leaders, exhibited a bubbling excitement that reached a crescendo on the big day – an excitement that is not necessarily found during unstructured recess time. And on Sports Day, students and staff showed up with enthusiasm and commitment – they were fully Present and committed to doing their part to ensure the success of their teammates and colleagues. The ability to Laugh with others and at oneself is so evident on Sports Day: crawling under chairs, carrying a soggy sponge over skipping ropes, or dressing up in silly costumes and singing “Under the Sea” reminds us to not take ourselves too seriously and to enjoy the relationships we have been given the privilege to be a part of. Students and teachers Accept their roles and embrace the responsibilities that come their way: the yellow team members learn their cheer, the Grade 6 and 7 leaders exhibit a confidence and clarity necessary to guide younger students, and teachers work together to do whatever is needed to make the day a success from moving tables to losing with grace during the tug of war competition. And every student Yearns for Sports Day – they aspire to have the feeling of community, teamwork, and celebration that exists throughout the day. Most of my friends can remember the exact activities and feelings associated with their own Sports Days three decades later; a testimony to the power of PLAY in our past and perhaps a reflection on the loss of PLAY in our daily lives.

Being playful and engaging in play with others often leads to increased engagement and increased happiness. In a recent Forbes article, The Science Of Happiness And The Creative Brain, increased gratitude and happiness at work leads to increased creativity and innovation. When we are happier in our schools and workplaces, reducing our negativity bias and decreasing the power of the amygdala, we give our brains the space to think, to make a greater number of neural connections, and to be more creative and innovative.

On my own leadership journey, I recognize when I am frustrated or feeling overwhelmed, I am forgetting to play – forgetting to take time to connect with my colleagues, to build and strengthen our relationships and trust through the sharing of stories and celebrations, to laugh and enjoy the uncertainties that life and work can bring, and to accept and embrace my role in helping others and in receiving help from those around me to create more engaging and innovative learning experiences for our students.

So this is my reminder to everyone to PLAY more often. Not just in June, but every day in the myriad of roles we have as students, colleagues, teachers, administrators, friends, and parents:

  • Be fully Present, whatever the task
  • Don’t take life too seriously; find joy and Laugh whenever you can
  • Lose yourself in the moment to experience the joy, but also lose your selfAccept that you are part of something bigger and there is incredible joy to be found in recognizing your purpose is to connect with others; and
  • Yearn for the feeling to continue –aspire to keep these connections, to be fully present, to experience joy with and from others, and to extend this happiness and increased creativity to all aspects of your life.

Everything I needed to know about learning…

Everything I needed to know about learning, I learned at an amusement park.

wooden-rollercoaster

Wooden roller coaster at Playland

Well, maybe not everything, but my recent experience with my students at a local amusement park reminded me of a few important things that these spaces can teach us about learning:

Engaging environment:

The flashing lights, the constant music, the smells from the concession stand. Amusement parks know how to engage their audience in a myriad of ways. But the engagement is not just about ways to spend your money. The park offers freedom and flexibility, yet still has defined boundaries. Park goers are given freedom to explore on their own or in small groups and a flexible schedule for this exploration. Initially, some riders race from attraction to attraction like a checklist of accomplishments, while others are more reserved and watch a ride or two before hopping on. But all participants stay within the park, come back to a central meeting place and share their experiences, often encouraging others to join them or try the rides on their own.

Do our classrooms offer this same freedom and flexibility? Learners are exploring ideas on their own, and sharing their findings with others – do we offer them the chance to inspire others to join in their learning and revisit the ‘park’ again with a new understanding or new participants? Are we showing learners how to engage with the environment and learn from the spaces around them?

Inclusion:

An amusement park offers a range of experiences, from the spinning ferris wheel and swings to the steep drops and breakneck turns of a roller coaster. Yet everyone has access to a ride that offers a feeling of safety and familiarity, and everyone can equally find a ride that makes them feel unsettled and anxious. At the park, these feelings are considered natural and even celebrated by peers – peers who are challenging themselves individually to ‘conquer’ a ride, yet are also excited to share in the accomplishments of others who have achieved something they could not yet do.

Do students and teachers recognize and celebrate the same range of feelings that exist in classroom learning experiences? Do all learners have access to experiences that are familiar and needed to ground us, yet also have experiences that individually challenge and engage us in a new, perhaps unsettling way?

Stretching comfort zones:

Fear. We all have it and amusement parks bring our fear to the forefront and normalize or even celebrate this emotion. Everyone has their nemesis attraction: for me, it is the spinning ride that seems to go nowhere; for others, it’s the ride that twists and lurches them upside down. And at the park, we openly talk about our fears and encourage others to overcome theirs. We stretch our own and others’ comfort zones and celebrate our accomplishments. Yet, the park also allows us to realize that fear changes: sometimes we are afraid of something we’ve never tried before (riding the coaster) and sometimes we are afraid of doing something we’ve already done but will be doing it in a slightly different way (putting our hands up or sitting in the front car).

How often do our classrooms include conversations about what we are most fearful of? Do we provide encouragement for everyone to identify their comfort zone and challenge themselves to push a little beyond? Are learners reminded that comfort zones are always changing with new situations and new perspectives? Do we recognize and celebrate when we need to be in our comfort zone? Solid ground feels good for a reason – we all need to take a break from the ‘rides’ and appreciate our safe spaces.

Mindfulness and self-regulation:

Live in the moment. I’m sure that’s the motto of many amusement parks because that’s all you can do when you are on a ride. There’s no turning back when you’re strapped in at the top of the hill. Just hold on and truly experience the moment. Yet our body also cannot live in an eternal state of heightened anxiety or overstimulation. Our body prefers the middle – homeostasis – and we react to the amusement park triggers. We start to breathe more deeply, we walk around the park to take a break, or we sit at a quiet table to find a time out away from some of the noise. Park designers recognize these needs and provide shelters, picnic tables, indoor attractions, and green spaces to allow park goers to regulate their experiences while still remaining inside the gates.

How often do our students ‘lose’ themselves in our classrooms and truly experience the moment? Do our students recognize the triggers in their own learning spaces and seek ways to regulate themselves? Are adequate spaces and strategies designed, provided, and accepted to keep all participants engaged?

Reflection and celebration:

Amusement parks. Their purpose is to amuse, to provide joy and excitement regardless of age, and to provide rides that continually challenge our boundaries and allow us to feel a sense of accomplishment. Adults visit amusement parks of their youth with their own children, to re-live and to share their experiences in a way that often astounds younger riders. I remember my teacher going on a roller coaster with me in Grade 8 and being amazed, and I saw the same amazement on the faces of my students when they saw me sharing in their joy, fear, excitement and accomplishment as we experienced the rides together.

So my day at the park was a great reminder to ensure that my students always see me as a ride-goer – someone who is truly a participant with them, always willing to learn with and from them, to openly share my worries and fears, to push myself and them to go beyond our perceived boundaries, and to celebrate in our individual and shared accomplishments.

And, most importantly, to hold on and enjoy our moments together!

A Learner and Leadership Profile

With the introduction of the Core Competencies in BC’s new curriculum, all members of the education community are exploring ways to make the competencies more explicit in their teaching and learning. I recently had the opportunity to work with our Learning Support Teacher, Matt Pugliese, to design a Learner Profile for the Core Competencies. Our original focus was to support the identified students in my class who have difficulty seeing and reflecting on their strengths or who may feel overwhelmed with the number of competency facets. However, we recognized that all of our learners would also benefit from a consistent approach from grade to grade, and even from elementary to secondary school, to increase their confidence in reflecting and celebrating their growth. Therefore, we extended our focus to the creation of a digital learner profile that would work across grades and schools and provide specific strategies for each competency in the form of hyperlinked documents that students can reference whenever they feel stuck or unsure. We are very proud of our work and look forward to feedback as we utilize it with our students.

lp

The purpose of this blog post, though, is to extend this learner profile to a leadership profile. I had the opportunity to attend some workshops and keynote speaker sessions at the recent Learning Forward Conference in Vancouver, many that focussed on improving instructional leadership and professional learning in our schools. Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves spoke of the need to have both professional learning (i.e. new ways of doing things) and professional development (i.e. growth in areas such as collaboration and ethical decision-making; change and maturity in practice). This aligns nicely with the focus on Core Competencies for our students: students learn new concepts and strategies that assist in the long-term development of their communication, thinking, and personal and social competencies.

In the tables below, I’ve provided a picture of the Learner Profile strategies we developed for each competency and elaborated on the ways I think this profile can be extended and used for school leaders.

ps

ps-2

communication

thinking

I look forward to using this Leadership Profile to guide my professional learning and development as a school leader. I’m interested to hear from other leaders! Please send me your feedback – What should be omitted or clarified in these charts? What should be added?

How to be successfully ambitious

Ambition Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Sky and Clouds.

Successfully ambitious – can someone be unsuccessfully ambitious? Doesn’t the word ambition itself mean a desire and determination to achieve success?

By definition, it does. However, ambition–in excess or pursued without humility–is also a word that is linked to selfishness, greed, and the quest for power and fame. In these circumstances, ambition can be quite unsuccessful to the development of an inclusive community of learners.

Ambition is not about being the best – it’s about being your best.

Ambition means identifying your passions or goals, starting a daily process through which to achieve these goals, making regular reflections about your progress, celebrating accomplishments, and making changes to the process when necessary.

Identify passions

Steven Pressfield, an American author writes:

“Ambition, I have come to believe, is the most primal and sacred fundamental of our being. To feel ambition and to act upon it is to embrace the unique calling of our souls.”

But when do students know the ‘unique calling of their souls’? There is no doubt that some individuals can identify their life’s purpose and desire from an early age; however, most elementary school students do not yet have a ‘calling,’ nor do we want them to feel that pressure to decide.

Instead teachers can help students identify and explore their passions and provide opportunities to extend the curriculum beyond the classroom walls. The new BC curriculum promotes student-centred learning and allows greater flexibility for teachers to connect student interests with the Big Ideas in each curricular area.

Teachers can model life-long learning by sharing their own passions and connecting students with real-world mentors in their local and online communities. For more ideas, please see, 25 ways to promote passion-based learning in your classroom.

Outline your system or process

Identifying a passion or setting a goal is just the beginning. If achieving the goal is the only important element, students will be left with merely a yes or no answer. As James Clear writes:

Consider someone training for a half-marathon. Many people will work hard for months, but as soon as they finish the race, they stop training. Their goal was to finish the half-marathon and now that they have completed it, that goal is no longer there to motivate them. When all of your hard work is focused on a particular goal, what is left to push you forward after you achieve it?

Focusing instead on the process allows students to develop skills that will transcend the goal, be applicable to a variety of situations and support long-term, sustainable growth. The smaller steps – the process or system – become a habit and can provide confidence to try new things. See Try Something New for 30 days for more inspiration.

The Core Competencies in the BC curriculum reinforce the importance of process in becoming a lifelong learner. The Competencies represent facets of thinking, communication, and personal and social skills that will be developed over time – throughout a student’s schooling career and beyond. They are not meant to be checked-off and never revisited, but rather represent a continuum of skills that learners will improve and confidently apply with greater practice, maturity, and reflection.

Schedule reflection time

I’ve previously written about the importance of reflection in building learner self-confidence and self-efficacy. However, reflection in a school setting for some high-achieving students can also become a comparison of skill sets that can undermine this confidence. As learners gain more ambition, they may also feel, as suggested by Andrew Dumont, unsatisfied. Dumont writes:

“no matter how much you accomplish or how hard you work, you haven’t done enough. There’s always more to do. There’s always others doing more… This feeling doesn’t stem from a place of failure, it stems from a fear of not living up to your potential.” 

Dumont counters this feeling by scheduling quarterly ‘board’ meetings with himself to focus on and to determine the progress he’s made to date. When students become more comfortable reflecting on the Core Competencies and teachers become more comfortable providing these regular check-ins, students will also be able to focus more on the process – not to focus on whether or not the skills have been achieved but rather how frequently and confidently the skills have been utilized in a variety of learning situations.

Celebrate accomplishments… and frustrations

Frustrations are a natural part of the learning process that seem to slow down the perceived linear path to success; however frustrations often lead to increased questions, wonderings, and further exploration of key ideas and concepts. They should be celebrated in the same way that accomplishments should be celebrated – as learning opportunities that provided inspiration for new ways of thinking. New ways of communicating student learning to parents include specific areas for student voice where these frustrations and accomplishments can be identified by students, recognized for their importance to the student’s learning, and celebrated as natural steps in becoming a reflective learner.

Modify the process or begin anew

Ambition is having the desire to improve in order to achieve personal success. But this is not a single goal with a clear ending. It is a growth mindset that affects all aspects of learning. Ambition leads to more ambition – a persistent desire to become more competent in any task and a willingness to change the process depending upon the task.

According to a 2012 study by T.Judge and J. Kammeyer, when fostered and celebrated, ambition:

“does not make one miserable nor does it create feelings of unquenchable desires for outcomes beyond stretch goals.  Instead, ambition, an habitual level of striving for or desiring accomplishment in life situations…correlates with educational attainment and educational prestige.  These in turn related to higher wages, more prestigious work, and greater satisfaction with life…ambition operates as an important predictor of positive life outcomes.”

We need to encourage students to be ambitious and to share their ambitions – in a variety of areas such as reading and writing, but also in music, sports, robotics, and beyond. And we need to remind one another that ambitions keep us humble, recognizing that there is always room for personal growth, regardless of the status, grade level or title we currently hold.

We can all be successfully ambitious.

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

I recently renewed my Wilderness First Responder certification – something that I do every three years and something that inspires and challenges me so much that I always leave energized and wanting more. This excitement and engagement comes despite long days filled with unknown, stressful scenarios and tests conducted with complete strangers, all while knowing that a ‘pass’ (80%) is needed to maintain my certification… and my position.

So why, under this intense setting, is my learning so powerful? No, it’s not the pressure of the test – believe it or not, I actually forget about the practical and written tests during the course. I have written here before about my love of learning so that’s definitely a factor –I’m fascinated with new ideas and challenges—however, it’s more than just intrinsic motivation.

I believe it is the purposefulness of this learning that makes it so rich. What can be more purposeful than learning how to save a life or prevent further injury? More importantly, though, is the use of systems thinking to understand and apply this knowledge that promotes my engagement, retention and enthusiasm for content that I have revisited many times throughout my life.

What is systems thinking? Can this be replicated in our classrooms? How can students maintain their excitement and engagement with content that is revisited?

“Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes rather than parts, for seeing patterns of change rather than static snapshots, and for understanding the subtle interconnectedness that gives living systems their unique character. Peter Senge

systems

When confronted with a situation as a Wilderness First Responder, the task is not to see a static picture – a broken bone or a bleeding hand—and formulate a plan based on this snapshot, but rather to see the bigger picture and look for patterns of compensation that might indicate a less obvious, but more serious condition. But what does this have to do with education, Core Competencies, and student engagement? To answer these questions, I thought I’d use a Wilderness First Responder approach.

Step 1   Scene Size Up: Stabilize the scene by identifying the elements and numbers involved

I don’t think the education ‘scene’ needs to be stabilized but I do like the notion of sizing things up. What are the elements of this system today? There are many incredible actions that can define today’s scene:

  • planning inquiry-focussed lessons with a greater emphasis on student-driven questions;
  • teaching, sharing and implementing self-regulation strategies;
  • uncovering ways to explicitly teach and model critical thinking;
  • encouraging digital access to create, share and celebrate student learning

Who are the key players that are available to help? Students, parents, teachers, administrators, district leadership, and community members are all essential parts of this system that contribute to its overall ‘health.’ Identifying these people, their influences and their level of engagement is a key first step.

Step 2   Primary assessment: Identifying any problems with Critical Systems

In the human body, the critical systems are the circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems. They work together to ensure that health is maintained and they compensate for one another to allow healing to take place… or more likely, to indicate danger if balance isn’t restored.

For this analysis, I equate the Core Competencies to these critical systems; competencies that work together to promote and maintain the health of students. These are the intellectual, personal, and social ‘systems’ that permeate all aspects of the curriculum and represent a continuum of growth from K to 12 and beyond. If these ‘systems’ are nurtured and fostered, students can think more critically, better engage with others and with their learning, and adapt to new situations with ease and flexibility. As we move forward with BC’s new curriculum, all of the key players listed above will become better adept at using the language of the competencies in lesson planning, learning opportunities, and lifelong skills.

Step 3   Secondary assessment: Look for signs and symptoms. Understand the role of past history.

The secondary assessment allows the first responder to return to the bigger picture. Are there any hidden injuries? What are the signs, symptoms or past history that can help me aid the patient in reaching a better outcome?

In education, the secondary assessment reminds us to check-in with students in each curricular area – to find out their ‘symptoms’ or any past history that might be preventing them from reaching their optimal outcome. We can do this through conferencing, journal entries, portfolios, conversations, to name a few. Once we know this information, we have a better understanding of the whole child and their approach to learning.

Step 4   Treatment plan: List any problems, identify anticipated problems, and create a treatment plan

An effective treatment plan in wilderness first aid deals with and treats clearly identified problems but the plan does not stop at a ‘band-aid’ solution. A list of anticipated problems is also generated. These are problems that could occur in the next 24-48 hours and may often be more severe than the original injury. Knowing that these potential problems could occur allows us to determine a clear and thorough treatment/evacuation plan.

In the classroom, knowing potential problems can certainly help a teacher when planning lessons, such as a Friday afternoon Science experiment. What could go wrong? However, this treatment plan can also be used to identify benchmarks and to recognize when targeted support is required for students. Identifying potential problems can also help students see the relevance in learning new skills; skills that build upon one another and are needed to maintain good educational health throughout their lives.

Step 5   Monitor: Watch for signs of compensation or improved health

I think this is an obvious step in education as teachers use formative and summative assessment to help students reach their potential. Students should also be included in monitoring their own ‘health’ by using self-assessment tools and increasing opportunities to document and reflect upon their own learning.

Systems thinking can be used in a variety of ways to help understand the bigger picture—used by teachers, parents, administrators, and community members. But ultimately, through the redesign of BC’s curriculum with the Core Competencies and Big Ideas, students will begin to see the education ‘system’ as interconnected. They can use systems thinking to understand how the big ideas presented in one grade are part of a larger whole that connects this year’s learning with the curricular content and big ideas in previous grades. And they will develop the Core Competencies– the critical intellectual, personal, and social ‘systems’ needed to navigate and enhance their learning from K to 12 and beyond.