Celebrating our Learning

In place of a "multiple-guess" final, students in English class at Alzar School are called upon to synthesize their communication and critical thinking skills in a dynamic Demonstration of Learning presentation. In their formal written speech, they must articulate how they have grown and what they have learned in a semester at Alzar School through the lens of one "Habit of Mind." The Alzar School's Habits of Mind use Arthur Costa's framework to enumerate skills or ways of thinking which determine success as a global learner and leader. In their presentation plan, they must consider ways to engage an audience, effective speech delivery techniques, and a meaningful place on campus to deliver their presentation. As I tell my students, it is valuable to know that you've learned, more important to know how you've learned, and most valuable to be able to articulate this growth to others (whether they are your friends, future teachers, or college admissions offices). This semester, students spoke about "Persisting," "Managing Impulsivity," "Learning Humility," and more. Students blew us away with dynamic  presentations that captured their audience's attention through dramatic reenactments, incorporation of video, and group activities. They stood with poise, made eye contact, and spoke with the confidence befitting a strong young leader.

See below and enjoy Fall 2014 semester's documented Demonstrations of Learning. The have so much to be proud of.












¿Dónde está la clase?

Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself. -John Dewey

Maneuvering through diverse learning environments in Chile, Alzar students fully understand that no separation exists between life and education.

Lines blur between vocabulary and shopping lists. Street signs provide more than physical directions. Surf lessons are spanish lessons. Cooking lessons are history lessons. Stories exchanged in the community remind us that humanity is our common language.

Our classroom walls extend ever farther, expanding over nuestros sacos de dormir laid out in our carpas. Across the fine arena of la playa. Over our tablas and up to the cumbre of Iglesia de Piedra. Snaking along electric blue rios, carving paths through snowcapped volcanes. Classrooms become busy markets, swollen rivers, slow-moving ferries, dirt soccer fields, rain drenched caba˜nas...

Students instruct teachers, sharing the key properties of understanding vector valued models for projectile motion while preparing breakfast. Teachers become their peers, learning proper paddle strokes and correct masa kneading techniques. Everyone supports one another from choosing lines through whitewater to choosing effective words to use in confusing conversations.

Senses are overloaded. Connections continue forming.

Connections are most easily built through receiving praise. Confidence soars when a beautiful combat roll is celebrated with excited cheering from peers. When equations balanced on the whiteboard garner high fives and a huge grin from your teacher. When a nervously asked, yet perfectly articulated, Spanish question is answered with excitement and laughter.

Powerful connections are also built painfully by listening to the people sharing their stories of lost love and fear. Realizing that, despite nervousness and uncertainty, stopping to clarify directions is the only option to find the next destination.

¿Dónde está la clase? ¿Dónde estamos? Estamos acá. Right here. Fully living and learning. After all, it is one and the same.


Weekend Warriors: ¡Vamos a Pucón!

Throughout this semester, students have had many opportunities to engage in leadership opportunities. From leading days on the Salmon River and in the Trinity Alps to planning and leading activities on campus in Idaho, the students have been gaining the skills and confidence to grow as leaders. This past weekend was the first "Major Leadership Opportunity" of the semester, where a group of four students fully planned and led a weekend here in Chile. The group of four each had their own responsibility (transportation, food, lodging and big picture) but also worked together to create a plan for the weekend and then take on the leadership role throughout the entire two and a half days. The staff who participated in the weekend activities were solely support, allowing the leadership team to really engage in every aspect of the planning and leading process.

Students work together to scout a rapid on the Trancura River

Students work together to scout a rapid on the Rio Trancura

This past weekend, the students and three staff traveled to Pucón, Chile, which is a major hub for outdoor adventure in the country. The leaders planned an incredible weekend that offered two days of paddling beautiful and challenging rivers and one evening of walking around the town of Pucón. It was a very successful weekend which everyone enjoyed! This upcoming weekend, the next group of four students will plan and lead their leadership opportunity. Last night upon arriving back to Choshuenco, students paired up through their responsibility of their group (transportation, food, lodging and big picture)  to discuss and debrief many aspects of not only the weekend as a whole, but their responsibilities as well. They addressed and answered the following questions:

  • What where the challenges of being the "big picture" role during this weekend? And how where they met and not met in this past weekend?
  • What things did you take away from watching the person perform big picture? What did you take away from this weekend in the hope that you could lead an expedition the future?
  • Describe the leadership growth that you have seen from the beginning of the semester?

This is what the students had to say as they have typed below...

Ben & Isaac on Big Picture

"Isaac, the big picture person for this past weekend, faced many challenges. He was in charge of making sure that the plan for the weekend was explained clearly to the group, and that the plan was executed. He did a great job this weekend making sure that the days went smoothly, even if they didn't go exactly as planned. Especially Sunday he was a great leader, overseeing the changes of many logistics in order to offer an awesome day with a huge inspiring vision."

The whole group checks out Pescador, the biggest rapid of the weekend on the Rio Trancura

The whole group checks out Pescador, the biggest rapid of the weekend on the Rio Trancura

"Ben learned that being "big picture" is a crucial role in the weekend. He noticed that the big picture person really held the entire group together and kept everything from falling apart. He also learned that the big picture person needs to think on his feet in order to keep a day working. Isaac learned that events don't always go according to plan, but the outing can still be a success if the leaders involved have used 360 thinking to come up with backup plans ahead of time and to really examine all the possibilities."

"Over the semester, Isaac has seen himself become a much more effective communicator with the group. Also, he believes his resiliency and resourcefulness really grows as it was all able to shine this past weekend. Events did not always go according to plan, but the group had an amazing paddle on the Trancura and Liucura rivers on Saturday and Sunday, and the weekend was a success. Ben has noticed that Isaac has become much more efficient with his talks with the group. He no longer gets side tracked in different conversations but is able to effectively communicate every detail in the plan. Also he is much more observant to the group as a whole. He was asking the group questions to help him gauge how the group felt and how we where doing."

Ruttledge & Kaylee on Transportation

"The challenge of transportation over the weekend for the team was finding their final destinations, and arriving there on time. Also they had to deal with unknown roads conditions, and a lack of road signs. Molly stated, "I didn't know what towns we were going through, I think maybe if the transportation crew for next weekend could communicate with whoever was driving the lead car...would make the drive much smoother." Also asking for directions is more challenging in Chile because the leaders have to ask in a second language. Rutledge met these challenges head on. The team arrived at their campsite a little bit late the first night but other than that they were on time. One example where Rutledge conquered a challenge was when the team had to find out where the takeout was on the river and they were not sure where it was. To deal with this dilemma Rutledge asked the camp site owner if he knew where the takeout was. The man ended up taking the team to the takeout, making a much less stressful situation."

Playing cards while waiting for shuttle to be set

Playing cards while waiting for shuttle to be set

"Kaylee learned that traveling in a foreign country is very difficult from observing Rutledge. She watched Rutledge navigate the team around Chile and discovered that if you plan ahead and aren't afraid to ask for directions, the traveling will be much less stressful. For leading a weekend at home, Rutledge will plan ahead. He will know where he wants to go and about how long it takes to get there. Rutledge will also plan in extra time for traveling, because plans can always change. As Ian said, "when you are thinking about doing really big days, make sure you are giving yourself a little bit more time [as buffers]." "

"Rutledge has seen growth in his own leadership from the first time that he led the team in his communication skills. He is able to communicate the plan faster and more effectively for the group to understand. Also his 360 degree thinking has improved; he thinks about more of the small details that go into planning.  Kaylee has seen Rutledge grow in his confidence and his overall ability to effectively lead a group. Rutledge has become more articulate with his directions and is able to clearly outline and carry out the plan for a day or a weekend. Rutledge has also improved his accurate awareness and was constantly encouraging the beginner kayakers to push their skills and was very understanding and helpful when they swam. Jessica agrees that "#I felt very encouraged by Rutledge when kayaking.""

Enjoying a sunny day on the Lincura River

Enjoying a sunny day on the Rio Liucura

Kate & Jessica on Food

"Throughout the weekend, Kate struggled with finding food that satisfied the needs' of the entire group. For Saturday's dinner, the students ate out, and finding a restaurant that everyone agreed on was a struggle for Kate to overcome. In the end, though, everyone was happy with the restaurant selection."

"During the weekend's debrief Jessica comments how "Kate had [the meals] planned out before arriving at the grocery store and that made shopping run smoothly". She decided on shopping groups, gave each group a list of products to buy, and told everyone what time she wanted them to be done. Pulling all of this off required a significant amount of forethought and set a good example for Jessica's task of planning meals for next weekend. From this task of planning food, Kate took away the element of three hundred sixty degree thinking. From this weekend, she learned that planning ahead and, for example, planning the meals beforehand is essential to successful meals."

"From Kate's first day of leadership on the Salmon, Kate has developed her leadership in many different ways. Seeing her willingly take on the challenge of paddling through a class III+ rapid, Pescador, this weekend, is a prime example of her continual learning and improvement. Her communication skills have also developed marvelously. Where she once was slightly quiet, she now excels in expressing what needs to be done while also putting in the effort to use her community membership skills to set a good example for the rest of the group."

Elena & Estée on Lodging

"One of the biggest challenges that Elena faced was the uncertainty of a camping ground. Looking through guide books for Pucón and websites, the majority of campgrounds were well-known and above our budget. Because of this, Elena had to do extensive research through looking through kayak blogs and review sites on smaller, less advertised campsites. The campground that Elena wanted to camp at was on a kayaking website, but it only provided directions and a good review. She had a few others campgrounds as possibilities in case that one didn't work out. The campsite turned out to be below our budget, and fabulous!

Elena checks out an old mill

Elena checks out an old mill

"From watching Elena over the course of the weekend, Estée learned the importance of thoroughly planning ahead. She saw that all of the research that Elena put in to finding the right lodging, and campsite showed that the research payed off. Being well-prepared is essential. Even if there is uncertainty, by having back-up plans, one can feel confident in everything running smoothly. Elena also learned the importance of awareness to surroundings, by remembering directions and names of the people one interacts with."

"Elena's inspiring vision and accurate aware has improved greatly. She has thought about all the factors more cohesively and has been prepared ahead of time. Her willingness to put herself out there through kayaking shows an improvement in technical proficiency and character. Elena has contributed her 360 thinking to being resilient and resourceful as well as flexible. Through this, she has learned when it is appropriate to voice her thoughts and when she needs to step back and listen to others."

It is amazing how much these students have learned and grown as leaders so far in this semester. We are all excited to not only see what lays ahead for the next weekend, but how the students will continue to grow beyond their time at Alzar School as maturing and confident leaders.