Blended learning at Sudbury Valley School

So… there is this thing apparently… called Blended Learning. And I am sorry, but this is just another case where I can’t help but say… yes, but students at Sudbury Valley School have been doing this for 45+ years. What’s the big deal?

Wikipedia ( ) says blended learning is when “…a student learns at least in part through delivery of content and instruction via digital and online media with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace.”

1) partially digital/online content — CHECK
2) student control over time, place, path or pace — CHECK

That’s because:
1) There is no curriculum at Sudbury Schools
2) And there is free access to the internet and all forms of media.

So yeah, blended learning, flip the classroom, mentoring, etc. Knock yourself out. Whatever works for you. That’s the important thing.


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Filed under mentoring / apprenticeship, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

amused condescension

It’s hard to resist amused condescension, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s powerful to treat kids as equals.

Performing Monkeys

“The speech [from a youngster] was serious, yet there was an almost constant hum of chuckles and laughter throughout. At the end, she received a standing ovation. As I watched the video, I couldn’t stop thinking, “Those adults would never have responded to another adult the way they responded to Sydney.””

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How Solar Got Cheap

GOLDSTEIN: John is not rich and he is not getting solar panels to save the world.

Does the environmental part of it – is that meaningful to you? Does that matter?

O’HAGAN: Not really. (Laughter).

GOLDSTEIN: If you were an environmentalist or if you just like solar power, John O’Hagan is your dream come true. John O’Hagan is the revolution you’ve been waiting for. He’s – he is not getting solar power for a moral or philosophical reason. He’s not doing it ’cause he’s worried about climate change. John O’Hagan is getting solar power because it’s cheap.

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Filed under erik-green, green, solar

You have your whole life to refine your mind…

You have your entire life to refine your mind. But if you don’t refine your body when you are a kid, you might struggle your entire life! And who likes being overweight? No one, last I checked!

Does school teach the following? Do parents know?

1. Childhood obesity has been found to be the greatest risk factor for premature death due to chronic disease.
2. Many adult cancers are linked to poor childhood nutrition.
3. May 2008 in the journal Nature — “…people who got fat during childhood may find it more difficult to shift the weight later in life”

Yesterday one of my kids came home from school and informed me that he was outside and running around for “6 hours” that day — fort-building, ultimate frisbee games, a 3-way tag/capture-the-flag game that someone had invented, etc, etc. He only went inside to sign-in and out, use the bathroom, and grab his lunch (which he ate outside).

More at:

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Filed under play, sports and outdoors, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Vygotsky is nice but not necessary

“A 2007 study published in Science looked at how 4- and 5-year-olds who were enrolled in a school that used the play-based, Vygotsky-inspired Tools of the Mind curriculum measured up to children in a more typical preschool. The students in the play-based school scored better on cognitive flexibility, self-control, and working memory—attributes of “executive function,” which has been consistently linked to academic achievement. The results were so convincing that the experiment was halted earlier than planned so that children in the typical preschool could be switched to the Tools of the Mind curriculum.”

February 20, 2011
The Case for Play
How a handful of researchers are trying to save childhood


My comment is that it is great that there is some science behind play. But honestly, even if it can be shown that kids who don’t get to play much are somehow found to be “better” than kids who grow up in an environment of extensive freedom like Sudbury Valley School (by some measurement someone comes up with…) it’s not worth it. It’s a human rights issue and we know that people (and animals) have been playing and not going to school forever and are just fine. (read Peter Gray’s blog or book: Free to Learn) Kids should be free to do what they want as much as any adult. Well, or more really, since they have no financial obligations and no kids of their own to be responsible for.

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Filed under kids are complete people, person: Peter Gray, play, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Standardized testing is so 1.0

Standardized testing is so 1.0 “On a recent morning at Riverside Elementary School, Alyssa Walter, 7, opened her first-grade “data binder,” in which she recorded progress on reading and math tasks throughout the year.”

Comments include:
“Preparing students for their cubicle lives in an Orwellian future is probably the fairest thing we can do, I guess…”
“There is plenty of research data that says physical activities improve learning, attention and scores. But no one is pushing physical activities as requirement in any school.”
“Well, can’t say this trend isn’t preparing kids for life in the real world, where, as adults, most will be poked, prodded and bullied by number by bosses and HR managers all their lives.”

I really do think traditional schools will eventually move in the direction of “continuous testing” aka data collection. So there is no need for a test… you’ve been collecting the (standardized) data all along. “Big Data”.

At our kids’ Sudbury school the “data” collected I suppose includes:
1. The number of times they add money to their discretionary account (tracking the amount of clay they bought and/or the number of fundraiser lunches they’ve partaken of?)
2. Sign-in and -out times. Since there is no fixed start and stop times, kids write down the time when they arrive and leave. But I don’t think this makes it into a database actually. Just for the attendance clerk to note people who are not attending. It also helps people at school know who is there. For instance, if it is 10:15am (or 4:15pm) and you can’t find Ansel, you might first check to see if he has signed-in (or out) for the day or not.
3. J.C. violations. Not much to learn there…
4. If you look at the list on the side of the microwave you can see the “data” of who is certified to use it. But no dates. Darn! Still that’s something I suppose!


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Filed under big data / personal data collection, contrarian, kids -- freedom and responsibility, kids are complete people, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School


“One of the most basic underpinnings of the craft
of the playworker is to understand that the play of
children within the boundaries of a play setting must
remain unadulterated by external agendas. This
means that playworkers do not try to educate, train,
tame, or therapeutically treat children in their time and space for play.
They do not coach sports or teach art, drama, or dance, or even circus
skills. They do not do “activities.”

A good playworker will have resources as readily available as a first
aid kit so that if and when children come and ask for face painting or a
deck of cards these materials or their approximations can be furnished
to them. What a playworker does not do is schedule events and say,
“This afternoon we will be face painting and playing canasta. Then
you will do 30 minutes of ‘keep-fit’ and then have a healthy snack.”
This contaminates the play frame and corrupts the freely chosen,
personally directed, and intrinsically motivated playing that children
must experience.”

The Playwork Primer


A playworker is apparently what they call a staffer of an “adventure playground”.

This is somewhat similar to the role of staff at a Sudbury School (of course minus a LARGE role Sudbury staff have in running the school) but a bit too “ready”. I would never expect a Sudbury staffer to have items available as quick “as a first-aid kit”. Really? That feels way way too artificial, personally.

And I guess when I read thru items in the Primer some of it feels condescending ultimately because if you imagine interacting in this way with a teenager or adult rather than a younger kid, it becomes obviously condescending. So guess what… it probably is for the younger kids too.

See also:
The Art of Doing Nothing
Activities (at blog)
What it means to be staff at a Sudbury School

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Filed under playgrounds, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School