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Creating culture and common language

At Triskele Rivers ALC, we talk a lot about common language and it’s importance in culture creation. Here are some examples of what we are doing to facilitate this.


For the majority of the time that children attend the program, they are free to pursue their own interests and intentions. However, at least once a week, we ask that the children participate in a group challenge or an experience as a way to connect and build relationships. Last week we asked the children to participate by watching a short video, Grand Canyon, which documents a journey down the Colorado River by a group of Native American leaders as they reflect on their culture, resources and beliefs. The film offers perspective into the struggles that several Native American tribes face today. (It also taps into a controversial issue concerning water rights that is currently being debated in our community.)The kids were asked a few questions before watching the video and invited to take notes (for no other purpose but for themselves.) When we began the discussion afterwards, one student brought up the fact that many children today don’t care about issues if they don’t pertain to them. We discussed the importance of knowing your community and the world around you. How it is harder to care about something that you don’t understand. And if we don’t care about things, we won’t value and protect them. The topic of ‘Why We Care’ runs so deep and this was an invitation for each of the children to begin to ask themselves that important question.

To continue the reflection into ‘Why We Care’, this week we invited the children to watch a TedTalk, Being Young and Having An Impact, by Natalie Warne. Natalie was deeply inspired by a documentary she watched when she was just 17, called Invisible Children. This documentary ignited something inside of her that drove her to fight hard to make change happen. Natalie leaves her audience with the powerful life message, “Chase after the things you love”. Prior to watching the video, we asked the kids to think about something that they admired in the speaker. During our discussion afterwards, the kids seemed most drawn to her style of speaking. She spoke with such passion and conviction that it was hard not to be drawn in by her. We began to touch on the power of authenticity and passion, and how it connects to our own journey towards self knowledge.

Things really came together at the end of our week when we had the opportunity to visit the studio of a local film maker and friend, Skip Armstrong. The kids have shown an interest in film making and have shot several videos and practiced their editing skills while in the program. We thought it would compliment this perfectly to visit and learn from a professional film maker. SkipNot only did the kids learn some technical skills but Skip also shared his life experience and how he came to be a film maker. He is someone who wholeheartedly believes in pursuing what you love to do. He understands that when you are passionate, people will follow. He spoke with the kids about the importance of relationships, intention and good will. He said the most important life lesson he has learned is to “be nice to people and mean it. To figure out a way to share what you love to do and make other people’s lives/jobs easier.”  He said that we all communicate through stories and how important our stories are. His films each communicate a story.

Once again, I was blown away by how relevant this experience was to the culture that is being co-created at our ALC. Our visit highlighted for me how important our community is in this process. By seeking out interesting and inspirational resources in our community, we are essentially creating our curriculum. Our community IS our curriculum. It is natural and right in front of us. We learn as we live. This is some of the dialogue that took place after our visit:

Jake, age 12 – “Wow, we have really been introduced to some inspiring people this week.”
I like how he used lighting, color, speed, angles and music to tell his story.”

Audrey, age 13- “I liked how he said to focus on an idea before creating, in order to get direction. I can use this with my writing. I like thinking about not having to go in order of beginning, middle and end, as long as you cover them all.”

Luke, age 13 – “I came away thinking about story: beginning, middle and end and how I can use this in making my next biking video.”

Abe, age 13 – “You can tell Skip really loves what he does.”


So as we move forward, we are all creating our own stories. They will look different but they will all have a beginning, middle and end. Our job as facilitators is to help each child connect to their own story. Having time to reflect on our experiences is critical to the learning process. Critical also to this process is the idea of shareable value. Homeschoolers and self directed learners are often very good at pursuing their own interests. nate:abeHowever, it might not always be as easy or clear when it comes to sharing the value. Finding ways to share the value of what you are pursuing completes this learning process. We are careful as we facilitate and understand that every child is at a different point in this growth process. Some kids are starting to take notes to help them remember what they want to say during discussions, others are blogging about it and some are just listening. We always invite the kids to participate in discussions but never force responses. A lot can be learned by simply observing. So this is how we are beginning to co-create our culture. Sharing what is important to us as facilitators , observing and listening to what is important to the kids, engaging with our community and all the time thinking about why it is important to care. If we all connected more to this idea of caring, what would our future world look like?


One of our students, Parker, was recently featured in one of Skip Armstrong’s films. Here’s the link….it is fun to watch….Enjoy!

More of Skip’s work can be found at wazeemotionpictures.com

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