Creating Differentiated Learning Environments

 Project Adventure Leads Their First Women’s Specific Advanced Skills and Standards Workshop BEVERLY, Mass., March 19, 2018 Each year, the trainers at Project Adventure sit down and discuss the topics of workshops to offer and what content is relevant in our industry. It was last year that the idea of having a women’s specific technical training landed on the table. Some staff got on board believing that a women’s specific option would enhance our appeal. However, there was some speculation that if we offered it, we would be going against our inclusive model of learning. After much discussion, the result was a resounding, YES! This opportunity was not created to limit learning but instead, offer a differentiated learning environment while delivering the same content as our current Advanced Skills and Standards. Laura MacDonald and Camille Oosterman, two of our incredible trainers, recently reflected on their time spent in these environments. From Laura:At various times over the last 20 years, I have found myself by accident or design in single-sex learning environments. The one that stands out the most was 12 of us women for a two-day training. Trust in the group was built quickly and before long, we shared feelings of motivation, vulnerability, and apprehension. The empathy and support offered were immediate and overwhelming. Soon participants were doing things like yelling loudly before climbing the ladder, and everyone was gathering around to watch and encourage. There were laughter and tears, frustration and triumph. I noticed I was more able to push my limits in the community that we built. I botched many of the new skills I tried, but that was less important than sharing what I was learning with my peers. When I returned to my course, I had a new confidence and proficiency. It has been 16 years since that workshop, and we are all still connected. It is an experience I won’t ever forget. From Camille:It wasn’t until I started my internship at Project Adventure that I recognized the different energies and styles of the women I was working with. Some of them were, and still are, charismatic and extroverted, but far more of them brought a different sort of presence to their groups that resonated with me more than the other groups I had experienced. I have had the privilege to work with many incredible women in this industry, but I have always had to seek them out. So much of our industry has been dominated by the male voice—in our publications, in our role-models, in our history—that it has been challenging, but not impossible, to find female role-models. I have now been involved in several technical trainings lead by women, and it has helped me to be more confident in my own technical abilities. Sure, being proficient in any field is possible with enough diligence and confidence, regardless of who you are, but it is so much more inspiring to be able to recognize yourself in your leaders. Please join us April 30 - May 3 for our women’s specific Advanced Skills and Standards workshop. 

Building Positive Learning CulturesThrough Adventure

Project Adventure Partners with Lawrence Family Education Development Fund to Create Strong Community at SISU Education Center LAWRENCE, Mass., January 30, 2018 Since 1971, Project Adventure (PA) has been providing quality curriculum and professional development that yields tremendous results for student and faculty learning. We do this by embedding the core competencies of social and emotional learning into each of our activities. As we move forward, we are afforded more opportunities to share that learning with school-wide programs, like the work we continue to do with Lawrence Family Development, Inc. The Lawrence Family Education Development Fund (LFDEF) offers a variety of alternative youth programs for Lawrence area young people ages 16-24 all housed under their new SISU Education Center. At SISU, they are offered a positive youth development approach creating a welcoming and supportive environment for young people most of whom struggle with a mentality of feeling and being told they are “not good enough.” The programs are developed and delivered in collaboration with YouthBuild, the City of Lawrence, and area funding organizations.  Two years ago, the LFDEF staff believed that their teachers and counselors could be equipped with more effective group facilitation pedagogy and skills that would more deeply engage and motivate their audiences in learning. They also wanted to build a strong culture and shared mission and understanding, so they engaged in a partnership with PA. Some of their goals were to introduce all staff to PA methods with a primary emphasis on community building, to advance their mindsets from being just a teacher to having a role in advancing the broader alternative youth program vision, and to build community and agree upon norms. The work done by Larry Childs and Laura MacDonald was guided by these goals and questions like, “How do our current norms merge to create a truly safe place where all youth can feel safe, inspired, and know they belong?” With their goals in mind, the staff celebrated ways of working together through adventure activities, and as all teams do, they came up against some behaviors that created obstacles to their vision of SISU.  Experiencing these obstacles made their learning tangible and allowed them the space to work through the areas where they struggled. They used everyday objects to represent their work such as safety glasses to symbolize the value of having a vision as an organization and as individuals. The SISU staff continues to practice using adventure methodology, guiding reflective learning and exploring ways to develop social and emotional skills like self-management, responsible decision-making, conflict resolution, and positive risk-taking in the context of Challenge by Choice.  Adventure levels the playing field for everyone and creates a necessary space to evaluate the way things were, the way things are, and the way things could be. Contact us to see how implementing school-wide programs can transform the culture of your learning community.

Things I Learned From My Wife

My wife is a 10th-grade school teacher in a small NH town. Last night, she told me a story about ‘Billy,’ a student who is not academically outstanding and often creates behavioral problems in class. Well, that morning, like many mornings, he came in late to class, and instead of issuing a stern warning, she smiled and asked if he would wait a moment after class. Once class ended, she decided to take a new approach to Billy and ask, “How are you today?” Instead of shrugging her off, he opened up and told her he had a bad night because of some poor decisions he made. His family was upset with him and he only slept about an hour all night which is why he missed the bus and arrived late. Billy then thanked her for not yelling at him and said that most of his teachers never take the time to ask. My wife quickly realized that he needed help beyond her and had his guidance counselor follow up with him. How often are we given the opportunity to reach out and be compassionate? More importantly, how often do we allow ourselves to do so? All that could be seen in the beginning was that Billy walked into class late. What my wife found out was that he needed significantly more help than that, and would continue to need support throughout that day and possibly much longer. The reality of the situation was that Billy was already suffering consequences far beyond being late to school. So much so that he couldn’t find a release at home. It is so easy to judge and dismiss behavior as willful disregard, but compassion leaves judgment behind. Compassion opens the door to healing while recognizing the behavior for what it is: simply another opportunity to grow. A mentor of mine once told me, and I’m paraphrasing because it was a long time ago “All kids come to us with baggage. We don’t know what it might be, but it shows up in their mood, their behavior, their interactions with adults, and it shows up without them knowing how or why. If you’re good, you may be able to guess a little about their baggage, and if you’re lucky, they may tell you about it. The one thing one thing we as educators cannot afford to do is to judge them because of how they present the baggage.”   Post created by Mike Sallade

The Importance of Being a Mentor

Among the many roles Camille Oosterman takes on at Project Adventure, one of them is a mentor. Even though she may not always feel like she has an impact on the lives of students she only spends six hours a day with, she does. As a co-worker, it's hard not to have her energy, enthusiasm, and kindness rub off on you.  Here's her story. In my mind, there’s a big difference between being a mentor and being a role-model, but both are equally important for students who are still figuring out their role in society. Being a role-model takes some, but minimal, effort. It involves being present and a force for good that others can easily see. Being a mentor is significantly more challenging. There’s a delicate balance between offering support versus influencing choice. Two years ago, I worked with a school from Salem, MA for a single six-hour day. I had no idea that I would make a deeper connection with one of those students. Her name is Anna, and she is amazing. When Anna first joined the Leaders In Training (LIT) program, a summer program at Project Adventure for high school students who then become role models to younger campers, she was very quiet and seemingly introspective. I quickly came to discover that a lot of this was attributed to shyness, and as she assessed her surroundings and the group she was a part of, she began to open up and reveal this insightful and funny young woman. It was wonderful to get to know her during this time and understand the sort of information she needed to explore future leadership roles. Anna evolved into the person I now know during the week with the campers. She has an instinct for facilitation that simply cannot be taught, so when she asked me about the YCP internship, I gave her as much information as possible. I knew what a valuable experience the internship had been for me, and I wanted to provide Anna with that opportunity and more. It is difficult for me to try to take any credit for Anna’s success. I truly believe that her own drive and nature allowed her to choose these experiences and grow as an empathetic individual. However, I have been there through every step of her process. When she asked for my opinion, I have given it willingly and as a mentor, I aimed to offer as much information as possible without swaying her in any particular direction. I know that Anna will make whatever choice is best for her and that she knows I am always ready to offer guidance and support. Choose to be that person who does the right thing, who says the kind word, who changes the course of one person's day. If you put forth the effort once, you'll make a bigger difference in the world around you than you thought you would.  

"Cross The Line"

Here are six effective teaching strategies that can be applied all while energizing and exploring content within your health or SEL curriculum:Get up and move!Play with a purposeFoster creativity and individual agencyUse metaphoric structuresEmbed reflectionRelieve stress Activity: ‘Cross the Line’ – There is a lot to like about this classroom friendly, low prop, and progressively challenging group activity. The structure can be adapted to a wide variety of content themes while consistently addressing important social and emotional learning skills such as appreciation for differences, self-expression, creativity, collaboration, and reflection. It also serves as a problem-solver and de-inhibitizer.  Learning Objective: Recognize various learning styles and modes of expression; Apply strategies for appreciating differences and maintaining positive interpersonal relationships in and beyond the classroom; Initiate exploration of any content theme (health, SEL - even academic or sports) Metaphoric structure: This activity involves crossing, a structure by which the group starts at one point and crosses over to another as their destination. Along the way, they have an experience or mini-expedition. One that is transformative such that upon arrival they are no longer the same as when they started. In this activity, there are multiple crossings. Time: 20 minutesProps: 2 15-20 foot ropes or 4 cones/spot markersSet Up:Clear an open space in your classroom. Place one section of rope on the floor in a straight line leaving enough space for the entire class to cluster behind it.Place a second rope 10-30 feet away depending on available space – and again with sufficient room for students to gather behind. Cones, tape, or chalk can also be used. The basic shape is a rectangle.Framing: “Each of us has a preferred learning style or way we like to learn. It is important that we understand not only how we as individuals like to learn, but how our classmates like to learn so we can better support and encourage one another” (alternate are provided below under the ‘Variations’ heading) Procedures:Ask students to stand behind one of the lines.Ask students to identify some ways that people like to learn. If necessary prompt them with examples. Say, “For example by reading, by touching, by talking with others, by taking time to reflect.” Be sure to dramatize the types of learning mentioned as you describe them. A dramatization of reading might be looking at a pretend book held in one hand while flipping pages with the other.The space between the lines represents the classroom on any given day and everyone will have the opportunity to move through this space in a variety of ways.The first crossing represents how students learn. Ask them to cross over the open space (from one line to the other) individually when ready. Cross in a way that represents how you like to learn. More than one person may cross at a time as long as people are individually expressing how they learn best.Remind them to attend to your own movement but also notice what others are doing. For example, you might think, “OK we have readers, wanderers, people going backward...”Once all are across the line, ask what styles they observed.Next, ask students to find a partner or form a trio and to cross in a way that represents how they might help each other learn. They should agree on one manner and synchronize within the pair/trio as they cross. Again first ask for ideas from the group if they need promoting. Some examples are pretending to have a discussion or take notes to share with others. If they move quickly to partner and begin to brainstorm prompting them with ideas may not be needed.After this crossing ask a few pairs/trios to explain (perhaps while demonstrating their movement) how they supported each other.For the third crossing have students organize into 1- 3 (depends on class size) equal larger groups. Ask each group to demonstrate how they like to have fun in class and discuss. Reminder about classroom appropriate fun may be needed.Finally, ask that the whole class synchronize their crossing in a manner that represents their healthy learning community. After crossing ask students to form small groups, discuss what will be required for the class to live the healthy values expressed then report out (Familiarity with the Project Adventure Full Value Contract process will support deeper facilitation around this theme). Reflection:Debriefing occurs after each crossing so this is an ‘embedded’ and on-going approach to reflection on the lesson. That said here are some questions one may ask after the final round as a means to explore the broader experience and ‘Cross the Line’ structure:What did you notice about peoples’ readiness to act out the different assignments while crossing? What supported or stood in the way of uninhibited expression?How do you think the structure of moving from solo to small then larger groupings impacted engagement and learning?How were ideas for acting themes and movement while crossing generated, accepted or rejected?How are some of these influences on decisions about themes and acting similar to, or different from day-to-day peer influences around health-related activity?I witnessed a lot of imagination, creativity, and laughter. What value or role do these qualities have within a learning community? Variations: Develop crossing themes around other topics. Note that it is always important to assess your group to discern maturity and stage of group development since some classes may not be ready for exploring more mature topics in this manner. Given that disclaimer here are a few! Health professions (imagine the crossing of psychologists or brain surgeons); use of various substances; bullying and bully prevention scenarios; dating and sexuality (yikes!); healthy or unhealthy eating habits; sports or fitness training; outdoor sports; positive or negative peer pressure. Source: Adapted by Larry Childs from the Project Adventure health curriculum, Creating Healthy Habits by Katie Kilty, a former PA trainer and current Sports Science professor at Endicott College ‚Äč

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