PEN: The Quarterly Journal of The Progressive Education Network Summer 2018

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The Quarterly Journal of The Progressive Education Network

Summer 2018

EDUCATION MUST... amplify students’ voice, agency, conscience, and intellect to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world.

EDUCATION MUST... encourage the active


participation of students in their

Greetings from PEN


learning, in their communities,

Book Review “School Transformation”


Manhattan Country School Farm


7-8’s Fall 2017 Blog Excerpt


8-9’s Fall 2017 Blog Excerpt


Curiosity Fuels Student Engagement


NIPEN 5.0 “Progressive Ed Is…

10 14

honor and nurture students’

PEN T-Shirts 2019 PEN National Conference

natural curiosity and innate

Support PEN!


Submissions for Future Issues of PEN


and in the world.

EDUCATION MUST... respond to the developmental needs of students, and focus on their social, emotional, intellectual, cognitive, cultural, and physical development.


desire to learn, fostering internal motivation and the discovery of


passion and purpose.

EDUCATION MUST... emerge from the interests, experiences, goals, and needs of diverse constituents, fostering empathy, communication and collaboration across difference. EDUCATION MUST... foster respectfully collaborative and critical relationships

ON OUR COVER: Images from the Institute for Imaginative Inquiry, held this year at PS 061 in Manhattan. Led by four dynamic progressive educators, this lively institute brings educators together from across North America to “design and implement lessons that activate student engagement by presenting contexts that allow students to experience critical issues of a time and/or place, consider multiple points of view, and step in as expert problem solvers.” Learn more about the Institute for Imaginative Inquiry here: .

between students, educators, parents/guardians, and the community.


Newsletter Design by Julie Winsberg

PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2018

Education must amplify students’ voice, agency, conscience, and intellect to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world

GREETINGS FROM THE PROGRESSIVE EDUCATION NETWORK! Last year, The Washington Post ran an opinion article with a provocative title, “We’re Teaching Our Students Not to Care about Democracy”. The writer, Colbert I. King, quotes a report by scholars Richard D. Kahlenberg and Clifford Janey: “schools are failing at what the nation’s founders saw as education’s most basic purpose: preparing young people to be reflective citizens who would value liberty and democracy and resist the appeals of demagogues.” This caught my eye, because as a Middle School Director, we work extremely hard (in every aspect of a child’s life at school) to be sure that our students grow up having a deep sense of the importance of the democratic values of freedom, justice, equity, and inclusion. As a progressive school, we share John Dewey’s belief that a full democracy is formed and protected not just by extending voting rights, but also by making sure that there is a fully informed electorate of critical thinkers who are responsible and engaged citizens. I agree with Janey and Kahlenberg—and John Dewey—that civic education is both central and urgent. I also believe that civic education can and should begin even with our youngest students in preschool. How should we do this as educators? We do it in the way we respect individual voices, in the way we organize and run our classrooms, in the kinds of inclusive decision-making processes children experience, and in our experiential approach to all subjects and disciplines. We give students opportunities to share their thoughts and make choices, participate in group decision making, and learn strategies for solving problems and resolving conflicts. We need to intentionally help children to develop both cultural competency and an engaged and questioning approach to the events in their lives today. The democratic process and the ideals of freedom, justice, equity, and inclusion should permeate in a student’s everyday experience at school. We should do what we can to ensure that as many students as we can serve will have a strong foundation for being active, informed, and responsible citizens who uphold democratic ideals. It’s amazing to comprehend, that my middle school students will be voting in the next 4-6 years. In 8-10 years they will be in the workforce and members of a global community. When we think about the issues and problems of our country, or what’s going on in our world– it is critically important to see that it as our obligation to “amplify students’ voice, agency, conscience, and intellect to create more equitable, just, and sustainable world (PEN Principle #1)”. In this month’s journal, you will experience first-hand how teachers have intentionally designed their classroom experience to stimulate and develop curiosity to form essential problem solving and advocacy skills. You will read how progressive educators articulate the work for themselves and their students so that their classroom communities are reflective of all of the progressive principles. You will see how these progressive learning environments will create not only democratic citizens, but our leaders for tomorrow.

Kavan Yee, (on behalf of the PEN Board Director of Middle School, Lowell School, Washington DC Summer 2018 The Journal of the Progressive Education Network PEN 3

BOOK REVIEW: “School Transformation” by Wayne Jennings School Transformation, a new book by member Dr. Wayne Jennings, about the K-12 education scene describes the severe problems of traditional schooling. For example, several studies show high levels of student disengagement. Numerous attempts to reform schooling (for example $100,000,000 in a part of Miami and same amount in a section of Philadelphia and the same amount in Newark contributed by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame, 500,000 by Walter Annenberg, several billion by the Gates Foundation and large sums by the federal government) have come to naught. Many of the amounts ballooned through a required match. Jennings documents both the shortcomings in learning and the financial fiascos. Jennings then reviews how children learn (for most, experientially, with feedback and under secure supportive conditions). He follows by describing the new era and the different times of today’s society. He doesn’t blame teachers and principals for school faults. They didn’t invent the system. They work diligently for its success. Many would change the system if authorized. The book’s great value lies in what to do about schooling. Instead of “reform,” transform schooling using modern democratic decision-making by all stakeholders and progressive learning methods. Teachers become facilitators of learning. The paradigm becomes learning, instead of teaching. Rather than passing courses and scoring above average on tests, the purpose becomes helping students become responsible, active citizens, have productive satisfying careers, continue as lifelong learners and fulfill deep needs and passions. Jennings devotes much space to providing ideas, practices, conditions, facilities and other factors leading to exciting personal learning and growth. He wants schools as places of dignity, respect and community. He provides many stories, examples and priceless material from earlier decades to astonish readers. This easy to read book contains no educational jargon. It’s aimed for educators, parents, students and policy makers who can make schooling exploratory, vibrant and engaging. The book has 500 footnotes to back assertions and it contains a comprehensive bibliography. It’s getting great reviews (see Amazon comments). About the contributor: Wayne Jennings during his 60 years with schooling has been a teacher, principal in both conventional and innovative schools at all grade levels. He has started seven schools including the St. Paul Open School (now Open World Learning Community 40 (years ago). School Transformation will inform and educate like few other books on schooling.


PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2018

Manhattan Country School Farm Editors’ note: In the following submissions, John McDaniel of Manhattan Country School invites us into the Farm Program at MCS, a core component to the curriculum. His first piece, “Terroir,” explores important questions about the impact of this unique outdoor learning experience for the students and their teachers. The blog excerpts describe activities of different age groups; the photos reveal the transformation of the students into farmers, which happens as soon as the students leave the buses and their technology behind. As one student put it, “we don’t need electronics at the Farm, there are just so many things to do.”

TERROIR Terroir is the French word that literally translates to “terrain” in English. Terroir has also come to mean how foods or wine express the climate, soil, traditions, and culture of a region. This “taste of place,” shows the sum of the effects a local environment has on the manufacture of a product. However, what if the “product” is not food or drink, but a childhood? What if the traditions, climate, soils, and cultures are those experienced in the Catskill Mountains through each season during a child’s formative years? How might a person express, share, or replay these deep personal feelings derived from their roots? Manhattan Country School students are children of the Catskills. Of course they live most of their lives in an urban setting, but have been given the opportunity to also grow up in the terroir that is Roxbury, NY. Our kids absorb what the soil provides and are immersed in an ever-changing climate. They have been “knee deep” in the



customs, and cultures, both wild and tame that helped shape their beliefs and ethics. As Roxbury’s own famed naturalist John Burroughs wrote, “The soil is in my blood.” How will current and future MCS children of the Catskills convey to others what is familiar to them? Will human values, principles, and even morals continue to be shaped by this physical place? I believe MCS children of the Catskills will persist in helping others negotiate this world, read the lay of the land, and investigate and interpret the terroir. more on page 6 Summer 2018 The Journal of the Progressive Education Network PEN 5

7-8’s Fall 2017 Blog Excerpt This week, the MCS 7-8’s experienced their very first Farm trip. Each child and adult took the opportunity to talk about some of the things that were memorable. The comments usually began with, “I liked, I loved or my favorite thing was.” These introductions were finished with: •

My Textiles class

Jumping in the hay, with my eyes closed.

Cooking with Donna

Feeding Chippy his bottle of milk

The food

Making mint tea

The cool breeze on the porch

Swinging on the swing

The bonfire

Meal time together

All of the food we planted in the garden

Playing in the creek

Our walks in nature

Spending time with my friends


PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2018

8-9’s Fall 2017 Blog Excerpt There is no better way to learn the routines of the Manhattan Country School Farm than through the eyes of a child. The 8-9’s, on only their second trip to the Farm, had the rare opportunity to orient their teacher, Cosi. Taking a page out of MCS progressive pedagogy, the kids taught by doing. Upon arrival, the students showed how they carry any luggage and not wait for theirs. They explained that if everyone pitches in, all bags will make it to the front porch. During the move-in meeting, they demonstrated how they turn in electronics, reasoning that, “we don’t need electronics at the Farm, there are just so many things to do.” Leftover food from lunch is added to the pig pail to be fed during barn chores. After receiving their room assignments, the kids showed how they safely carry their bags, one at a time up the stairs to their bedrooms. Once all roommates were present, the kids engaged in a group discussion to decide sleeping arrangements. “We need to listen to each other’s thoughts and concerns about top bunk or bottom bunk. Sometimes we switch bunks during the week, so everyone has a turn on the bunk they want.” A tour of the Farm is vital in helping teachers begin to understand things they’ve only heard or read about. The first stop on the student-led tour was the stable area of the barn. Taking the opportunity to connect with the animals, which provide food for the Farm community, is invaluable. The tour guides explained, matter of fact, that the steers are named after meat dishes or cuts of meat to make clear the reason we raise them. Beef Stroganoff and Carpaccio are not cruel jokes, but a reminder that the MCS Farm believes, if we’re going to serve animal protein, we want to know everything about those animals. Where and how it was raised and what it put in its body before we put the products they provide in our bodies. The dairy cattle are appropriately named after dairy products. Yogurt, Chobani and Milky Way are just a few of the cows that have or will provide us with milk. One dairy cow provides enough liquid milk for drinking or for recipes, one gallon of yogurt, a little whipped cream and maybe a bit for cheese or butter.

Summer 2018 The Journal of the Progressive Education Network PEN 7

Curiosity Fuels Student Engagement in School-Wide Study —by Kate McElvaney What do birds, rockets, Amelia Earhart, and Newton’s third law of motion have in common? They are topics pre-K – eighth grade students chose to study as part of High Meadows School’s recent school-wide unit on Flight. Once a year, all students explore a topic at the same time in an experience called “Emphasis,” which is unique to the school. “It’s amazing to see what students studied,” said Jay Underwood, Head of School. “I learned about the Bernoulli principle from a fifth grader and how fuel is stored and activated in a rocket from a kindergartner. It was the perfect demonstration of how beautiful and elegant learning can be.” The Emphasis topic is selected each year by teachers from each grade who look at how it can be studied in different grade levels. It is a closely-guarded secret until the three-week unit begins. Each classroom interprets the topic based on students’ skills, inquiries, and interests. Studies culminate in Emphasis Night when students, parents, and community members see how classes approached the topic. Different grades approached the topic in ways that were developmentally appropriate for them. Younger students made drawings or models of planes and rockets, while older students experimented with flight paths and studied forces of flight. DEVELOPING STUDENTS’ VOICES Providing students with regular opportunities to develop their voice and intellect helps build students’ abilities to make a difference in their worlds. Curiosity is innate in all of us. When schools capitalize on student interests and increase student agency, particularly to drive their learning, students discover what they are capable of achieving for themselves. This recognition soon moves to the world, where students’ curiosity and agency will support them as they apply their skills and knowledge to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world. UNPACKING THE TOPIC TOGETHER Once the Emphasis topic is announced, teachers plan with students and follow their thinking to see where inquiries go. In younger grades, classes learn together. “We had hot air balloons on the ceiling,” said Hannah, a pre-K student. “We learned about birds and how to draw them.” Early female pilots were popular in Early Years. “I really liked learning about Amelia Earhart because she was a strong person and didn’t give up!” said first-grader Kennedy. Kevin, another first-grade student agreed.

Hot air balloons were hot topic of study


“I didn’t know that Amelia Earhart or Bessie Coleman existed,” said Kevin, a first grader. “They did something that a lot of people didn’t think they could do.”

PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2018

Students and teachers in Elementary Years classes share ideas, brainstorm what they know about the topic, and discuss what they want to learn. Teachers listen to areas kids gravitate to and work together to plan activities. “We had a classroom challenge to present information without computers,” said Sadie, a fourth grader. “We used fishing line, poked a hole in a Dixie cup, and used a straw in the hole. We blew up a balloon, kept the string tight, and moved the rocket.” Gavri, a fourth grader, made a rocket and studied its flight. “We found the average of three throws. It’s cool to do hands-on experiments.”

Students made and tested how many objects could fly

Middle Years students suggest what they want to study and plan activities. One group researched military planes, while others studied birds or mythical creatures. STUDENTS SHOWCASE THEIR LEARNING For Emphasis Night, students put together a project to highlight their learning. They gain valuable experience tailoring information to and answering questions from students of all ages, parents, and teachers. Practicing using an authentic voice with real audiences helps prepare them for the future in and out of school. “Emphasis is a great time of the year,” said Jack, a fourth grader. “You’re supposed to think out of the box, be open-minded, and try new things. You do your own research, take that in, and create a project. You are not sitting in a room with a textbook.”

Many students learned about rockets

About the contributor: Kate McElvaney is the director of the High Meadows Center for Progressive Learning. Visit: High Meadows School is a private, non-profit, nonsectarian school in Roswell, GA with an emphasis on learning through inquiry and experience, making meaningful connections, embracing diversity, and stewarding the natural environment. A nationally recognized and award-winning leader in progressive education, High Meadows School is an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) World School offering its renowned Primary Years Programme. Visit: Pre-K students made models of hot air balloons

Summer 2018 The Journal of the Progressive Education Network PEN 9

NIPEN 5.0 “Progressive Ed Is… The culmination of NIPEN consists of time spent gathering and synthesizing six days of learning together. One of the core goals of our workshop is that our colleagues find their own articulation of what progressive practice is, in an individual sense as well as in a way that embraces the practices that exist in any progressive classroom/school. In other words, our personal sense of what progressive education is should also connect to the historical roots of the work, and we should be able to articulate it with pride, clarity, and confidence. Each year, cohort members craft a message that we used to call an “elevator speech”; something concise and crisp to share with anyone who asks the question, “so what IS progressive education?” Cohort 5.0 did that and more, creating (among other things), an original song, artwork, and narratives. What was clear to us is the powerful internalization of the history and philosophy as well as the contemporary, community based application of the principles of progressive practice. Also clear was the strong connections that these 24 teachers made with each other over the course of our time together. We share some of the work with you here, and hope it will serve as you consider how you would fill in the blank, “Progressive Education Is…” ­—Theresa Collins & Chris Collaros, co- directors, the National Institute of PEN (NIPEN) SARAH BARLOW Sarah’s piece focused on the founder of her school, LREI (Little Red Schoolhouse/Elizabeth Irwin). In her talk in which she quoted Elisabeth Irwin, Sarah called our attention to the need to acknowledge the contributions of the women educators who were at the forefront of the early progressive education movement who are often left out of the pantheon of founders’ stories. The work reads “A Progressive School is a place where ideas can grow, where heresy will be looked upon as possible truth, and where prejudice will dwindle from lack of room to grow. We hope it will be a place where freedom will lead to judgement-- where ideals, year after year, are outgrown like last season’s coat for larger ones to take their places.”


PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2018

Jumi brought us to our feet with her narrative exploration of the meanings and power of progressive education. We’ll leave the rest right here for you to experience. Progressive education is rooted in present




connections to real life. It is the practice of freedom in each and every facet of learning, the cultivation of a democratic community in which students are empowered through guidance and their own observations and reflections to impact their community. Progressive education is validating each student regardless of how he or she arrives. It is educational practices that support the whole child - the cognitive, social and emotional development. It is educators in their plan of engagement constantly observing and thinking, “Who is this child and what does he or she need?“ In the words of Alisa Algava, it is “meeting children and youth where they are, honoring what they bring, and empowering them to change, strengthen, and sustain our culture, schools, and communities.” With these, progressive education is that approach to learning that meets the highest human needs which Maslow describes as self actualization. It is helping learners find their voice, and encouraging them to be their own activist. Preparing for final reflections.

Progressive education is seated on the premises of strong teacher-student relationship. This relationship enables the teacher to provide learners opportunities to explore ideas,

subjects, people, cultures and values within and beyond their immediate environment with the intention of discovering the interdependencies and connectivities of life and understanding that they are a significant part of the global community with the crucial role of supporting the success of human existence. It is the data informed approach to education that leaves each and every student with the “I am important, and I can make a difference feeling” each and every day. Progressive education is a safeguard from tyranny in the society. By focusing not only on cognitive strengths but also socio-emotional development of the learner, this approach to learning empowers students to appreciate the perspectives of others and to develop strong character. The teacher and students in their daily interactions prepare for life through thoughtful reflections about their own actions and the actions of those around them, evaluating, drawing conclusions, taking actions and repeating processes as necessary. In John Dewey’s words, “A society with too few independent thinkers is vulnerable to control by disturbed and opportunistic leaders.” In progressive education, assessment is not limited to a single exhibit. Contrarily, mastery is ongoing and continuously displayed through a variety of skills including students’ collaboration, presentations, projects, and other differentiated techniques of evaluation. more on page 12 Summer 2018 The Journal of the Progressive Education Network PEN 11

As such, progressive education is not limited to books or packaged resources, even when those may be essential for starters. The true curriculum is derived from present experiences that enable learners to cope with present and future problems. The learning community is not limited to what knowledge they’ll collaboratively pursue. It is with this in mind that John Dewey wrote, “How can the child learn to be a free and responsible citizen when the teacher is bound.” Because life is not compartmentalized into reading, science, math or writing, progressive education in its truest form provides learners opportunities to connect multiple subjects that allow movement in and out of the classroom as students pursue their interest and through a process of joyous learning construct own path for knowledge acquisition and application. The teacher as a guide or facilitator of learning observes students’ Andrew Stephens, Melissa Casorio and Sarah Barlow get ready for final presentations.

interest, notes their natural flair and helps them develop problem solving skills through activities and experiences powerful enough to benefit all students. As a midwife, he/she is not responsible for giving birth, rather for providing the support that empowers

students to self deliver. Because learners do not arrive in school all alone, progressive educators embrace the individuals with whom students are connected, seek familiarity with the root of each learner and strategically incorporate their values into instruction. Through this democratic ideal, an equal voice is extended to all stakeholders in the learning experience. Who am I? Who are we, where are we, where can we be? With whom will we journey and how will we get there? These are some of the voices of progressive education. Progressive education is not to be confused with good teaching until that in itself is found to be teaching for life, fostering independence, empowering positive changes and not merely teaching for skill mastery. ­—JUMI NATHAN (New Beginnings Family Academy)

NIPEN 5.0 members catch up on their Call to Action projects.


PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2018

Tracy’s talk tapped into the spirit of one of the principles of progressive education, which is that progressive ed must amplify students’ voice, agency, conscience, and intellect to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world.” Her words remind us that, in addition to student identity, teacher identity matters and has an impact on the classroom experience far beyond any one school year. Additionally, Tracy emphasizes the notion of school as community with far reaching impact, framed by Colonel Parker’s words, the participation of families, as well as exposure to and engagement with the world. “The needs of the society determine the work of the school.” Ann Carroll and Tracy Aiden take advantage of a small bit of downtime in Francis W. Parker’s library nooks.

~Francis W. Parker I believe that progressive education is

and should be a right for all children. As a Black teacher, I know and have seen that this is not what education looks like for so many children of color. All children should have access to an education that values their identities and spirits in a way that highlights their learning styles, interests and gifts they bring to the classroom community. Progressive education isn’t just about academic achievement and knowledge of “stuff”. It’s about exposing children to relevant opportunities that will allow them to think about the world outside of their classroom. Family, community and the world outside of school should be part of this education experience that engages children in meaningful learning that will expose them and give them tools to become active members in society, engaged citizens, allies and upstanders. Teaching as a progressive educator gives me hope... I believe that children privileged enough to experience and be taught in a progressive education setting will one day be the world heroes that we look up to and be proud to have taught. ­ —TRACY AIDEN (Baker Demonstration School/University of Chicago Lab School)

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Ways to Support PEN! • Donate today to support our work, which includes: • Planning and executing our next national conference • Creating and publishing this journal & other digital communications • Keeping our dynamic website up and running • Supporting our professional development workshop (NIPEN) & Independent Workshop Series (Institute for Imaginative Inquiry) Amazon shoppers! Add us on Amazon Smile at When you check out, a portion of your purchase helps PEN!

+ Support PEN with Summer-Into-Fall Swag! Show everyone what a progressive educator looks like with swag featuring our cool new logo! All purchases go toward the 2019 Fund for Access, helping more educators attend our National Conference and NIPEN. Visit and purchase one or two or five!

Thank You! 14

PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2018

2019 PEN National Conference Join us in the Twin Cities for our next national conference, “Educating for Democracy: Navigating the Current and Channeling the Future of Progressive Education.” Our local planning committee is hard at work preparing for this event, which will take place in and around the University of Minnesota Campus. With thanks to our volunteers from the following organizations, we look forward to seeing you all in October 2019! Schools Friends School of Minnesota Open World Learning Community Gordon Parks High School St. Paul Academy Prairie Creek Community School The Blake School Washburn High School

The University of Minnesota Departmental Sponsors

Community Organizations Juxta Arts

College of Education & Human Development

RIGS (Race, Indegeneity, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department) African and African American Studies Office of the Associate Dean of Undergraduate, Diversity & Equity


Minneapolis/ St. Paul

October 3-5 2019

Appreciation from the PEN Board of Directors The PEN National Board held summer meetings in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago and at the Francis W. Parker School; we are grateful to Parker for the use of space, to Parker’s own Robert Farmer for the photo credit, and to our photo editor Sunny Pai for the filter effect! Wishing you a blissful end to summer and an energizing start to your school year, From right to left, heading up the stairs: first row: Dan Schwartz, Theresa Collins, Heather Schilling second row: Sven Carlsson, Ayla Gavins, Kavan Yee third row: Chris Collaros, Sunny Pai, & Chris Thinnes

Summer 2018 The Journal of the Progressive Education Network PEN 15

Education must amplify students’ voice, agency, conscience, and intellect to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world

SUBMISSIONS FOR FUTURE ISSUES OF PEN: The Journal of the Progressive Education Network We are particularly interested in curating pieces that explore, illustrate, or critically interrogate the mission, vision, and/or educational principles of The Progressive Education Network that inspire our collective work. In the Fall 2018 issue, we will foreground the fifth of our Educational Principles: emerge from the interests, experiences, goals, and needs of diverse constituents, fostering empathy, communication and collaboration across difference. Beginning in the Fall of 2018, we intend to include a regular series of features in the journal including: “PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE” Featured articles engaging our featured Educational Principle above “REFRAMING THE PROGRESSIVE PANTHEON” Archival material and/or critical essays foregrounding the contributions of progressive educators and theorists of color to progressive education “CONTEMPORARY CONTRIBUTIONS” Featured pieces that foreground the contributions of an influential, contemporary progressive educator and explore her/his contemporary practice “WHAT PROGRESSIVE EDUCATION MEANS TO ME.” Short essays from students and from classroom-based educators articulating personal commitments and/or experiences (~500 words) “PRINCIPLES IN ACTION” High-resolution photos from your work in schools, accompanied by extended captions (~100 words). The deadline for submissions for the Fall issue is Monday, September 10th. Please provide written submissions as word.doc files. Please upload high-resolution images to Google Drive, Dropbox, or Box, and share a link with us. Please direct all submissions to 16

PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2018

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