The Fourth Iteration
Last week our Middle and HS students watched Ron Berger’s Classic 6 minute video “Austin’s Butterfly”. In this video Ron talks with elementary students about a first grader,
Austin, and his progress toward a scientific drawing of a Swallowtail Butterfly.
The kids in the video grasp the idea of kind feedback, and follow Mr. Berger easily as he describes Austin’s path toward an excellent drawing. Together, they look at and discuss six iterations of the drawing, each time soliciting comments and suggestions from the group.
This has stuck with us since we watched the video together.
We have begun our fourth year as The Birch School this fall, this time with a full cohort of students and teachers, more rooted and solid than ever before. Not quite a finished draft, but an iteration on the way there. For us, it is the fourth iteration.
One of the strongest lessons I have learned in this work is that we are on a path. This path embraces creativity, experimentation, collaboration. I have learned that we can’t help students learn and discover things that we have not discovered ourselves. Our truest teaching comes from experience. So we model what we want students to know, how students might approach the world.
The form of The Birch School has changed in the short time it has existed. In it’s current form it is a full time school for students attending 5 days a week. The school has arrived at this place in response to those who have been attracted to this project. Increasingly families were coming to Birch School seeking a full time replacement for traditional school.
Each year we look at our work, reflect on the parts that seem to be working and discuss the areas that need improvement. We meet together with students in circle and solicit observations, feelings and suggestions. Parents offer feedback and support, and also criticism and challenge. In each case that information is used to form the next iteration. Each round builds on the past one, and reaches for the next.
Our reflection process has been local so far, with our feedback coming from those directly involved with this project. In our fourth iteration it is time to expand beyond. Some basics of our approach have become solidified. We have the experience of a few cycles under our belts. Our roots have grown deeper and stronger at the same time they have spread. And so, it seems time to seek the larger community’s input, criticism, observation and feedback.
So we invite you to consider our work, our successes, our short comings, our challenges and our discoveries. And we seek your comments, your contributions. We want our circles to grow wider, bigger, and include more. More people, more communities, more discussion, more innovation and more vision.