Listening Session Paintings

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2000 Great!

I was musing today about all of the amazing adventures we have had during the past year. It truly was a significant start for Imagine Learning. None of it would have been possible without all of you. From the students at the Academy of Art University who have worked so enthusiastically, to my dearest friends in Seattle who gathered round the table for two days; from all of the Listening Session participants, to many new supporters around the world (especially you Josselyn); from Jean Marie helping shape the entire process and rounding up students all over Marin, to my incessant tweaks, worries and wonderment; and from Stella coming on board and making a huge change for the better to the Listening Session questions and contributing so deeply to the overall conceptual idea, to meeting the most progressive educators in New Zealand, I say thank you!

Thank full, great full to all of you. Have a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Center School in Seattle is set for Jan. 13

We are excited that our newest Listening Session is going to take place at the Center School in Seattle on January 13th. This will be our first domestic session outside of the Bay Area! So many thanks to school principal Lisa Escobar for her support and help in making this happen! Seattle here we come!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Is Jakarta Next?

Oh yeah! I just got off the phone with Aleima Soeparto and she has been lining up at least two Listening Sessions in Jakarta for after the first of the year. Thank you Aleima!!!!

For those of you who have not met her, she is a graduate of the Academy of Art and was one of my students. She works now as an account planner in Jakarta. She is an original, pioneering member of the Imagine Learning team.

So we are going to work together to discuss whether we will go there, or she will lead them herself. Aleima is a veteran of Listening Sessions, so she knows how they work. She also could be the first to test the Field Guide. Wow. Awesome. Wonderful!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Love, life and Spirit

Wow, my first blog!!!
This is a learning experience!
Thought for the day: Love life, live each day well and enjoy the Spirit all about us.
Get inspired for a transformative future. A future filled with hope. Have you ever believed enough that our most inspired and well intentioned thoughts/dreams can manifest by simply believing and living the change? We live in a time where more and more are believing in a better future for all life on earth.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Paintings Come Home!

It was a blast figuring out that shipping them home on the plane was so much cheaper (free vs. a couple of hundred bucks) and faster! We went to a "Home Depot" and had it made on the spot. Perfect!!! Welcome home to our first International Paintings. Congratulations New Zealand.

Christchurch Listening Session is Wonderful!

The day before we left the beautiful waka known in English as the South Island, we had the great privilege of meeting with some amazing people and then leading our third Listening Session.

Our meetings and the magic of our visit in Christchurch was all arranged by this fantastic woman, Jocelyn Papprill (left). Through a recommendation, we had met with Jocelyn when we first arrived in Christchurch in late October. She was passionate, smart, connected, dialed in and in all other ways, fantastic! By the time we returned on the 5th, she had arranged several meetings and the Listening Session.

Our first meeting was with Jillian Heald, a Guardian of the Secondary Futures Project. From our meeting we learned that New Zealand has been studying how to change their secondary education for more than six years. The research they had done was creative, inventive and insightful and geared toward the year 2023. Amazing.

Then we met with Gaike Knottenbelt, the Principal of Seven Oaks Education Centre. They are a brand new school that is launching early next year. The school will work with young people to begin with and they hope to expand into secondary education when they can. The cool thing about Seven Oaks is that its core principal is sustainability! The have an amazing amount of land that had been previously used as a garden/horticultural center and so the young people who attend will be out doors most of the day learning about sustainability through experience! Gaike is a passionate, big-hearted, visionary and the kind of person we would all like to have our kids be learning from. We are sending them wonderful energy and hope that their opening is a huge success. You can check out their effort at . I love that -- Journey to Brilliance.

We also met with Vicki Buck, the founder of a new elementary school called Discovery and a new high school called the Unlimited School. Her vision and the high school's scope were really different from most public schools and it felt like being back in the alternative school I taught in many years ago in Richmond, VA called the Open High School. The next day we visited the school and loved it.

That led us into the Listening Session, where we met six fantastic young people: Pip, Morgan, Max, Cobi, Julia, and Holly. We also had a teacher named Lee, a parent/counselor , Glenyse, and Jocelyn participating. Following the last listening session, while we traveled along the roads, Stella and I had created new questions that were more focused on community, physical environment, the individual, education and spirituality, so this group was our first test of the questions. Their answers were amazing! Then they divided up and created two wonderful paintings and concepts. One was our first circular painting! All photos will be posted as soon as we receive the permission forms in the mail! I will get the painting photos up shortly.

We made many good friends and it made our last day in New Zealand awesome!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Imagining Aotearoa!

What a fantastic time we had with Stella and Charlie during their visit with us in Aotearoa-New Zealand. I first met C & S when they arrived in Christchurch late October, and immediately found myself excited and charmed by their passion for learning change.
I offered to try to put together a workshop for young people here in Christchurch for when they returned to our part of the South Island on 5th November .... and it all worked out!

Six young people - all wonderful - came together with 3 adults, and Charlie & Stella, at Tamariki School on Wednesday evening to share ideas, eat pizza and paint their vision of a learning environment that would nurture them. Two lovely paintings came from that evening and lots of aroha (love, connectivity) was woven. We were also able to share the excitment of Obama's victory in the Presidential elections - what wonderful hope for a future that we all can create together ...."YES, WE CAN!!"

All in all I found Wed & Thur to be two days of fire & passion for the mahi (work) of transforming our world toward a better future - one that is peaceful, sustainable and uplifting for all.
Kia kaha, kia manawanui e hoa ma. Be strong, persevere my friends. Return to our shores again soon

Monday, November 10, 2008

2nd Invercargill Listening Session Tests Us to the Limits

This blog is a chronicle of our efforts to create an educational experience for young people that enables them to thrive in a world of possibility. On Friday, October 31st, we met in our second Listening Session with young people in an educational program sponsored by the Invercargill YMCA, called Alternative Education. For one reason or another all of these young people had been asked to leave school. Their days now consist of free time to do what they want, working and attending the Alternative Education program run by a former troubled student who figured things out named Jay.

The first few questions in the Listening Session are relatively easy we think. They are questions like "List three positive words that describe you", "I am passionate about," I am challenged by", etc. In every Listening Session we have had to date, these questions have proven simple for the participants. But not for this group. The very first question about three positive words had them stumped. They were so shut down and closed off that they were unable to answer the questions without Stella and I walking around the room and prompting them with statements like, "Are you nice?" As they went on through the questions, it became apparent that we had hit a wall we were not going to get over.

It was a moment of revelation. Our process did not include everyone. So for more than an hour we helped them with the first eight questions. When time came to share there were many who said pass as we got to a certain question they had no idea how to answer. It was an excruciating time for me as I led it. They did not feel invited in by the process and they did not feel good about what was occurring. I tried to be as upbeat as possible and help them through it, but it was rough. One of the students journal sheets had a few answers on it and then all the way across the bottom was written a very telling LaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLa.

At the end of the first eight questions, we took a break and reconnoitered. It was clear they would not be able to paint for their conceptual abilities were not there. It was clear also that to put them through any more questions would be even more frustrating for them. So we decided to divide them into groups and ask them to share about their educational experience and what they would do differently to help themselves or a younger brother or sister if they were in school.

This produced a little bit better results as some of the responses were things like: make school more relaxed, pick your own time to go, work in smaller groups or give the option to work by yourself, younger teachers (aka cool), lots of hands-on activities, special camps off site that you go to on certain subjects for a few days at a time, an exchange program to other interesting programs.

I never even took a photo until the end because getting signed permission slips would be impossible to acquire. So after it was over and I hung out with the kids, I took photos as a reminder that the circle has to be able to hold everyone and that these are who the educational process and their communities have struggled with the most. I left even more resolved that we are on the right track, but need to be able to have a listening session that is flexible enough to get all young people involved.

This led to lots of discussion as we headed for Aoraki (Mount Cook) and Mount Sefton the next few days.

Invercargill Listening Session is Awesome!

On Thursday, October 30th, we led our first International Listening Session in Invercargill, NZ. It was also Stella's first LS as well. For those of you who have not yet met Stella (pictured on the right in the photo with Carrie [left] who helped us get art supplies in Christchurch), she is working to help create the curriculum for the new educational process. She lives in Australia and will be moving back to the US later this year. Stella brings tremendous heart and depth of experience to the project. She has an amazing background and she is passionate about Imagine Learning.

So we met with Jason, Stephanie, Nicole, Ben, Alyssa, Samantha and Karen. All were courageous, enthusiastic and insightful. We loved their answers and how willing they were to participate. At the end of the session, their responses about how much they had enjoyed the process were wonderful to hear. We filmed, photographed and recorded all of the information.

I will publish the photos of their effort soon. We are waiting on two Consent Forms. Suffice it to say, they made us feel welcome and very thankful we traveled to Invercargill for our first session.

A special thanks goes out to Saskia Nieuwlands (left) for all of her amazing help. She is wonderfully talented and brilliant with young people. She brought together a great group for us. Also thanks to Sasha For participating and helping as well!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Invercargill Listening Session is set for October 30th.

The YMCA Invercargill will be the site of our first international Listening Session! We will be leading it from four to seven pm on October 30th their time. Don't ask me what time that is here because it would require math. Suffice it to say they are about 17 hours ahead of us, so you do the Math.

We are excited to meet this special group and thank them for making it possible. We also want to thank Saskia Nieuwlands, the YMCA Youth Development Manager for being so open and for playing with us! Not long now.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Check Out Secondary Futures in New Zealand

Today, Richard Whatman of New Zealand forwarded the link to Secondary Futures. I loved it. It appears the country of New Zealand is doing its own full-scale research program to determine what secondary (high school) education should be in the 2023! Awesome. They are way ahead of anyone else I have heard of at this point. I have emailed the Chief Executive to see if they might meet or speak with us while we are there. The link to their site is posted down on the right under Great Links.

Time to Test the Field Guide

For the past six months or so we have been writing a Field Guide to Conducting Listening Sessions (thanks to the Core Team for their input on this). This is an essential part of the program as it enables us to involve others in the conducting the research and means we will not have to be everywhere in the world to lead the Listening Sessions as well.

So we are going to begin testing it in other areas of the country. The first champion to step to the plate is Chelsea Kouns. Yeah, Chelsea! She lives in Ashville, NC and has been an ardent supporter for a long time. She has volunteered to try this as if she were a new member of the team. During the next two weeks, she is going to put her three person team together, hold a meeting and begin the process of lining up the young people for the Listening Session.

As I discussed this tonight, I already see we are going to need to send people a kit of information to have when they go and talk to other organizations about sponsoring the Listening Session. I use a few photos and talk people through it. We also sometimes show the video. No matter how it is done, people are going to need something to look at! So that is the next effort (probably on the plane to New Zealand).

You can check Chelsea out at her blog which is listed in the Great Links section. Aleima Soeparto is our next potenital candidate for testing the Field Guide in another country (Jakarta, Indonesia) and La Leatha Ryan (Detroit, MI) has said she would be willing to try it as well. Once the test is done, we will know a) whether we can do it this way and b) what needs to be changed to make it work together. Onward!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Youth Radio to Host a Listening Session in Oakland

Today, I had the great privilege of visiting Youth Radio in Oakland. WoW! Amazing. If you ever get the chance to visit and get a tour you will be blown away by the energy, the sophistication and the level of available technology. Thanks to Stephanie Martija for putting this together.

Located at 17th and Broadway in downtown Oakland, Youth Radio was founded in 1990 on the deeply held belief that underserved youth, ages 14-24 years old, have the creativity, technical skills and entrepreneurial spirit to become leaders in the multi-media industry. The heart of its pioneering efforts is to train young people from under-resourced public schools, community-based organizations, group homes and juvenile detention centers in broadcast journalism, media production and cutting-edge technology.

Youth Radio currently trains 1,300 youth each year to develop core competencies in audio, video, web and print and to produce the highest quality original media for the widest range of mainstream outlets. Its reporters are heard worldwide through radio, video and the Internet and through print media.

So check them out at Massive!

I met with the founder Ellen O'Leary and Julius Toledo, their Education and Career Manager. We will be doing at least one listening session with them in November or early December.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Center School in Seattle is Considering a Listening Session

While I was in Seattle this week, I happened to be in the Seattle Center looking for Compassion in Action, a day long event that spun out of the Dalai Lama's Seeds of Compassion visit earlier this year. It is so cool to see a community beginning to discuss how to bring compassion into the issues that their city faces.

The Seattle Center describes itself as "the nation's best gathering place. Supported by the people of Seattle, we are home to the finest cultural and educational organizations, sports teams, festivals, community programs and entertainment facilities. We exist to delight and inspire the human spirit in each person and bring us together as a rich and varied community". Sounds great, eh?

Well, they also decided to attach a public school to the site and call it the Center School. It's located just above the Food Court (great idea!). The Center School (TCS or Center) is a small public high school with a focus on the arts and community engagement. It has 300 students. Imagine having a school in the center of the city's art and cultural engagements. Talk about experiential learning!

Well, I was wandering around looking for the Compassion in Action event and I bumped into the entrance of the school. As usual, my curiosity got the better of me and before I knew it, I was sitting in the principal's office. Her name is Lisa Escobar and she was the type of principal every school needs. She is ON FIRE about the students, the school and its possibilities. She liked Imagine Learning and is now considering doing a Listening Session in November! Perfect. Kids from all over Seattle go there and while they focus on arts, the school is strictly first come, first serve.

So she is into it and we just need to get the students and the date! Road trip anyone? We could do Portland at the same time!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Listening Sessions in New Zealand!

I am headed to New Zealand October 23rd and looking forward to conducting 3 Listening Sessions while I am there. The details are still being worked out, but it is our hope to do two with a diverse group of New Zealand students and one with the Maori young people. I am so excited to be going as I have wanted to go for almost half of my life!!!

It's going to be fun to see how the format of the Listening Session works in another part of the world with English speaking young people. Special thanks to Te Rawhitirowa Bosch and Glen Lauder for working so closely and enthusiastically with us to try and get these arranged.

Watch for my blogs from there beginning very soon!!!

A Listening Session in Ecuador?

Let's wish MacKenzie Amara a beautiful trip as she has headed to Ecuador for three months to work in the Jungle with children. MacKenzie participated in a Listening Session at Tam High School and is now in Ecuador trying to figure out if she can do one there. It's a bit dicey she says because of the difficult conditions, but she is going to give it a try. Let us all wish her well and safe journeying!! MAC send us a picture so we can see you there in your new home.

It's Official! We are Going Global!!!

Well everyone, the moment we have discussed is at hand. I am officially committing Imagine Learning to conducting Listening Sessions in 47 countries around the world. It's an IMAGINATIVE endeavor to say the least!!! But I think it will be a wonderful endeavor to hear the voices of young people around the globe tell us their visions for an ultimate learning experience. I have thought and sought into my heart about this and continuing our work around the world is the next step.

If you know of anyone in the following countries who might be interested in helping us, please let me know!!!! Think about connections to connections!

Here is the initial list of the countries followed by the number of Listening Sessions to be done in the country:)

United States - 10 Mexico - 1 Guatemala - 1 Columbia - 1
Ecuador - 1 Peru - 1 Brazil - 1 Egypt - 1
Benin - 1 Nigeria - 1 Ethiopia - 1 Kenya - 1
Tanzania - 1 Zimbabwe - 1 South Africa - 2 Ireland - 1
United Kingdom - 1 Italy - 1 Sweden - 1 Finland - 1
Poland - 1 Czech Rep. - 1 Romania - 1 Russia - 3
Iran - 1 UA Emirates - 1 Qatar - 1 Jordan - 1
Israel - 1 Pakistan - 1 India - 5 Nepal - 1
Burma - 1 Thailand - 1 Vietnam - 1 Indonesia - 2
Malaysia - 1 Phillipines - 1 China - 4 Australia - 3
New Zealand - 1 Jamaica - 1 Dominican Rep - 1 Bahamas - 1

A total of 47 countries and 75 Listening Sessions (if I did my math right!).

I did this by spreading a world map on the floor and asking which countries it would be optimal to do. I listened and wrote and when I was done, this was the list.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

HOLLYHOCK Invitational

This past week I spent time with some of the most amazing people I have ever met. I was invited to attend the Hollyhock Invitational on Cortes Island, British Columbia. A little over 100 people came. From the co-founder of Greenpeace to the founders of companies to the creators of new technologies it was packed with wonderful, caring, loving people who are helping to change the planet. And guess what? They loved what we are doing!

Every day there were presentations by folks who are really working their hearts out. It was very gratifying to hear how positive their responses were to our work.

I received many offers to help create Listening Sessions in other parts of the country and the world. We may be featured in an upcoming book and I met a man on the school board for the State of Washington who loved the idea of possibly incorporating our work into the school system in the state of Washington.

It was a marvelous venture and I am honored to have been asked to be there. Not only were we successful, but I made many new friends who I can pick up the phone tomorrow and call and get help from if we need it. How awesome is that?!

Friday, July 18, 2008

new film on Imagine Learning!

Many thanks to Julia Lee for her work on this! Please excuse the typo at the end. We are fixing it. Please shoot us feedback and share ideas. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Synchronicity is So Beautiful

This week, I have had the wonderful pleasure of having Doug Cohen stay for a couple of days during one of his many sojourns around the planet. Doug is one of the true warriors for change and especially when it comes to affecting the life of young people. He is a tireless believer in the ability of young people to change the world. As a result, he works with them in many different capacities, but primarily in the area of leadership and sustainability. I have personally never met a more passionate connector - who must have hundreds of circles of people he knows and who has the mental capacity to keep them all straight!

For us, he is a big believer and champion in Imagine Learning. He has quietly been planting seeds in many places and whenever possible working to connect me to people who might be of benefit to us. I personally am so thankful he is in our lives.

Last night, Doug and Ishanna (another beautiful spirit and champion of IL) and I were meeting here at my house when Doug decided we needed to meet his young friend Te Raw as he called him. Turns out Te Raw is short for Te Rawhitiroa Bosch, a young man in his early 20's who lives and works in New Zealand. It seems Doug had been online Skypeing with him all while chatting with us. As you might imagine from his name, he is of Maori descent, and works as the National Youth Coordinator for the Enviroshools Foundation and has been recognized by the government as one of the young people in New Zealand who is making a significant impact on young people and the country.

As we introduced ourselves and got into the flow of the conversation, Ishanna asked Te Raw what he is working on currently and he replied, "we are putting a big conference on in early August, where we are bringing 250 kids from high schools together". Did he say the magic words "high schools"? We all laughed and I explained to him what Imagine Learning was and how we are getting ready to launch into 50 Listening Sessions around the world. He was really interested and asked to see information on the Listening Sessions and is going to look at the possibility of doing one or more! Can you imagine a Listening Session for 250? I can!

What makes this even more synchronous is that I was planning a trip to New Zealand in August to meet with Stella to work on the Imagine Learning curriculum! Perhaps the timing will work that I will be there when this all occurs. All this because Doug listened to his inner guidance. I love it!

It is nearly time to launch, so let's add significantly to our list of people who could conduct or arrange a Listening Session in the US or elsewhere in the world! And when you meet Doug (for you surely will at some point), be sure and thank him for his efforts.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Listening Session with Marin School and MSA

This past week we conducted another Listening Session with six students from the Marin School and the Marin School of the Arts. The impetus for this came from Shannon Ryan, a rising junior at the Marin School. Jean Marie secured a couple of more participants and away we went.

We held the Listening Session in my house! The best part was creating the paintings out of doors on my deck. The session led to two original ideas and more information from the research. We are so excited about how these are progressing.

Jean Marie has lined up ten teachers and we are preparing to do a Listening Session with teachers in the near future.

I feel we are nearing the point where we can reach out and test these with folks in other parts of the country. The Field Guide (now in its eighth draft!) is nearing completion. If you are out of town and would like to lead one of these let us know. It's exciting to think about Listening Sessions being conducted in other parts of the country and on other continents.

I will post some photos of this Learning Session shortly. Our momentum is building. What do you feel called to do to help us grow?

Meeting With Cafe Gratitude

I had the wonderful experience this week of meeting with Terces Englehart, one of the owners of Cafe Gratitude. The meeting came about because when I first visited one of their restaurants, I felt an alignment that was very powerful. Accompanied by her assistant Aya, we talked for an hour or so about education and especially, the Listening Sessions.

They loved what they heard about the sessions and stated that just three weeks ago, a group of about 15 people had begun weekly meetings to discuss the creation of a Gratitude School.

They were to meet yesterday and discuss whether they wanted me to come and make a presentation to their group.

Since opening there first Cafe Gratitude, they have now expanded to four raw food restaurants in the Bay area, developed a board game on Abundance, and begun leading transformational seminars on abundance.

It was a very good meeting. We both agreed to remain open to the possibilities!!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tamalpais High Listening Session

Yesterday, 7 students participated in a Listening Session. It was the newly revamped format and wow were they great. Their insights, thoughts, comments, and discussion were all wonderful. It was an energetic group as well and the two paintings that came out of the session depict their vibrant humanity.

The new format is better in terms of content, but it ran long. About 30 minutes long, so the paintings at the end were rushed a bit. We had to move to the hall for the final presentations of the Listenings because our sponsoring teacher had to leave. While no one commented on the fact that they sat in desks, I personally did not like the barriers that they set up between us. Sofas and chairs are so much better.

Clean-up took a while as well and in fact we ended up driving home and cleaning some of it at the house because it got so late.

But overall, huge success. The concepts were wonderful. The paintings are beautiful. The students comments afterward about how much they enjoyed being a part of it were great to hear. Very positive.

I invite any of you who participated to chime in with your thoughts and comments. My thanks to Jean Marie, Yvannia and Shannon for their able participation. Shannon filmed the whole thing!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

technology friend or foe?

A short video summarizing some of the most important characteristics of students today - how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime.

Created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.