Monthly Archives: February 2015

School for “Free-Range Kids”? Sudbury Valley School

You’ve heard about the “Free-Range Kids” movement and are wondering to yourself if there are any schools which embrace this idea?
Sudbury Valley School (since 1968) or any of the other Sudbury Schools around the US and around the world… that’s what you’re looking for.

Lenore Skenazy mentions SVS herself in a blog post here

Lenore Skenazy interviews Dan Greenberg from Sudbury Valley School (MP3 download here)

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“Schools should be on the edge of chaos”

“We are inspired by the way kindergarten students learn through a spiraling process in which they imagine what they want to do, create a project based on their ideas, play with their creations, share their ideas and creations with others, and reflect on their experiences – all of which leads them to imagine new ideas and new projects.”

From: A case for life-long kindergarten, Mitch Resnick

Sounds like Sudbury Valley School, except that it *is* that way for all ages.

Every day is show-and-tell day at SVS (or not)

“Schools should be on the edge of chaos”
from SchoolsForTomorrow: Session 3 – The Students

Learning Spiral:

From article:
All I Really Need to Know (About Creative Thinking) I Learned (By Studying How Children Learn) in Kindergarten
Mitch Resnick

Click to access CC2007-handout.pdf

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Filed under contrarian, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

How to grow a forest really really fast

View at

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Filed under erik-green

What my gas bill tells me

Actually, NStar (now Eversource) tells me some interesting things on my gas bill.

It tells me:
– avg therms per day
– avg temp over the billing period.

So for the most recent bill it was 5.1 therms/day and 19F avg
Last bill: 4.0 therms/day and 29F avg.

Does it make sense? Yes! If we make the assumptions that:

1) 99% of our gas use is for heating and not
– hot water heater
– stove and oven
– clothes dryer (gas)

2) An average inside temp over the course of day and night is roughly 65F

DeltaT= 65F-19F=46F with 5.1 therms per day
DeltaT= 65F-29F=36F with 4.0 therms per day

46/36 = 1.28
5.1/4.0 = 1.28

Or another way:

46/5.1 == 36/4.0 => 9.0 dT for each 1 therm

The ratios are the same! This is a little too good to be true. Probably some luck in my assumptions and guess of 65F. But in any case, that’s roughly what you would expect.

So IOW, if you want to keep your gas bill constant when it gets much colder outside, just keep it colder inside by an equal amount (to keep your deltaT constant) and you should do ok!

The only problem with this (besides not being able to wear more sweaters and hats at some point) is that you should be careful (if your house is like mine and colder in some spots) that you don’t cause some pipes to freeze in that already cold bathroom. Unlikely for most houses, but possible.

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Common Core Critique from Diane Ravitch

“[T]he U.S. government, including the U.S. Department of Education, is prohibited by law from taking any action that would direct, control, or supervise curriculum or instruction. … but it would be hard to find a teacher who would agree that neither Common Core nor the federally funded online tests has any effect on curriculum and instruction. Common Core and the related testing has had a dramatic effect on both. And, so, at risk of being called a name by Alexander, I would say (having worked for two years in the U.S. Department of Education) that the federal encouragement of Common Core and the federal funding of the Common Core tests directly conflicts with federal law.”

“In 2010, I was invited to the White House to meet with Melody Barnes, the director of domestic policy; Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff; and Ricardo Rodriguez, the President’s education advisor, and they asked me what I thought of Common Core. I urged them to field test it. I suggested that they invite 3-5 states to give it a trial of three to five years. See how it works. See if it narrows the achievement gap or widens the achievement gap. They quickly dismissed the idea. They were in a hurry. They wanted Common Core to be rolled out as quickly as possible, without checking out how it works in real classrooms with real teachers and real children.”

“We are #1 among the rich nations of the world in child poverty; nearly one-quarter of our children live in poverty. Our kids who live in affluent communities do very well indeed on the international tests. If we reduced the proportion of children living in poverty, our international test scores would go up.”

“…Stroup came to believe that the biggest portion of the test scores that hardly changed—that 72 percent—simply measured test-taking ability. For almost $100 million a year, Texas taxpayers were sold these tests as a gauge of whether schools are doing a good job.”

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Filed under curriculum, standardized testing, teaching

Schools for Real Life / Outcomes / Executive-Function

“… a group of kids, ages 7 – 16, who spent most of their time building tiny little societies out of plasticene, and having economies, wars, everything you can imagine acted out. I have chosen this quote because the contents really illustrate several important themes – the freedom to choose activities that are all play and are so much more; the self-discipline; the dogged determination to do as much as you can of what you want; and last but not least how all of this “play” relates to outcomes:

“Plasticene was probably one of the most intense things I’ve ever done. There were days when we’d show up, go right to the art room, work steadily at it until lunch time, eat lunch at the table, and keep on going until we had to leave that night; and we’d never, never leave the room once. The villages would evolve. Sometimes you’d be building a gold mining community. Sometimes it would be a bunch of towns with hotels and saloons. It usually involved a lot of buildings, a lot of vehicles, a lot of people, and you’d make all this stuff. Then you would enact various scenes with it. You would drive your cars around and have certain battles and blow them up on occasion. But for the most part, you were building. You’d be building tanks and airplanes, just one thing after another. I did it at home too; you could bring them in already built.

“We only had so much clay and the fun was in the creating. Afterwards, the only thing you could do with it was to smash it and start over again. It was a constant build and smash. Sometimes we would decide to change modes. For a while everything would be Western. From there, it might go to a battlefield. From there it might go to factories. Western was probably the biggest thing.

“It lasted two or three years, on and off. Probably more. We were not being influenced by any outside source. We were a small group of people bouncing ideas off each other and leading ourselves wherever we took ourselves. We learned from what we could get out of books and from our own interests. We took all kids in, and let all kids be part of this.

And here are the outcomes:

“I think about it every now and then, and I did exactly what I’m doing now, except I’m doing it now in real life. I’m building a factory and making machines and talking to people all day long. Same exact thing. And very intensely. Day in and day out, the same exact thing I was doing in plasticene. Except that when you’re a kid you don’t really have as many of the same complications you have when you’re an adult. If you’re working on a plasticene village, the worst that can happen is you can lose your razor blade or something like that. And maybe you can find another one pretty quickly. There aren’t setbacks like you would have in real life, later on. You won’t run out of bricks for your building, because you’re making the bricks yourself.

“With the plasticene, I was making businesses. I made a lot of factories. I had a cannery at one time. I had a still. I had a bottling plant attached to the still. I could picture it – I had seen films and gone through books that would show you pictures of bottling plants and such things. It had to be realistic.

“It was the fascination of creating. You were creating things that you couldn’t have yourself, maybe, but you could still make them, and by making them, you could have them. And if you were going to do it and have it, you might as well have it as realistic as you could make it.


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schools for self-regulation and executive-function

“…the key to developing self-regulation is play, and lots of it. But not just any play. The necessary ingredient is what Leong and Bodrova call “mature dramatic play”: complex, extended make-believe scenarios, involving multiple children and lasting for hours, even days. If you want to succeed in school and in life, they say, you first need to do what Abigail and Jocelyn and Henry have done every school day for the past two years: spend hour after hour dressing up in firefighter hats and wedding gowns, cooking make-believe hamburgers and pouring nonexistent tea, doing the hard, serious work of playing pretend.”

“Bodrova and Leong drew on research conducted by some of Vygotsky’s followers that showed that children acting out a dramatic scene can control their impulses much better than they can in nonplay situations. In one experiment, 4-year-old children were first asked to stand still for as long as they could. They typically did not make it past a minute. But when the kids played a make-believe game in which they were guards at a factory, they were able to stand at attention for more than four minutes.”

Sounds like Sudbury Valley School
See also: Plasticene Village

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Snow Depth Days

To truly tell which winters have been the worst, I propose widespread adoption of a variation on the HDD (heating degree days… along with cooling degree days, great tools for comparing climates) called “snow depth days”. One could also include some multiplier of air temp (or maybe even adjusted for wind chill).

(Or maybe the temperature should be an inverse of some sort, so good winters would be lots of snow, but also somehow mild temps. Factoring in the amount of sun would be good too!)


Snow Depth Days! An easy way to see what winter was snowy AND cold (because the snow didn’t melt between storms)

For instance, in Massachusetts, 2014-15 was an epic winter because it was insanely snowy and cold so the snow didn’t melt.

So even though 2017-18 had *almost* as much snow, the Snow Depth Days were way less.

2018-19 Pepperell MA 50.9 239
2017-18 Pepperell MA 98.8 494
2016-17 Pepperell MA 93 538
2015-16 Pepperell MA 43.2 172
2014-15 Pepperell MA 113.4 1604
2013-14 Pepperell MA 80.4 1019
2012-13 Pepperell MA 92.9 698

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Filed under erik-green

The next internet is TV

Sounds mostly right….

See also:

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Filed under computers, erik-web, future, television


“As far as I know, the only person ever to put Japanese lyrics to the Beatles song “Yesterday” (and to do so in the distinctive Kansai dialect, no less) was a guy named Kitaru…”

from: Yesterday by HARUKI MURAKAMI (Translated, from the Japanese, by Philip Gabriel.)

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