I don’t give out free hugs. It isn’t as if I charge for them, far from it. But in advertising for free hugs, I would have to put myself out there to hug anyone. And I am selective with my hugs. I withhold them for my family and very close friends.
This is not the case at The Denver Green School. They offer free hugs in everything they do.
With their classroom door eternally open, you feel a hug as you walk through each one. With their students asking and answering questions held in mutual respect for learning, you feel the hug being shared through speech. With their penchant for systems thinking and their DIY attitude for learning environments, you feel like they are giving away free hugs with every new idea and every new approach.
As I am trying to describe this X factor of a school, there were some very real things that I saw which are worth pointing out. The centers based approach I observed in many classrooms seemed to be working well for the students as many of them were able to differentiate according to their needs within a given center. The call and response I observed in one classroom was as much about creating a baseline for authentic dialogue as it was about knowing your math facts. And the pace and rigor of the language spoke volumes to how the space was both safe and academic.
I had the pleasure of speaking with and getting to know Jeff Buck, who not only works at The Denver Green School but also has a daughter enrolled there. It was clear that this school was a labor of love for him, and he was interested in not only talking about the last three years of experimentation and success but also about what the future holds.
He believes that we should soften the boundaries of what is “school” and what is “not school.” We should be expanding the learning environments to include a sustainable farming plot, a chicken coop, or to online learning. These spaces, while radically different, are not any less conducive to learning, and they work best when they can work together. In that way, the inclusion of Google Apps fits in perfectly with their emphasis on Engagement and Shared Leadership. They are teaching students to be stewards of their passions, and teaching each other how to manage a data and conversation network of support.
They see themselves as a part of something larger, a DPS that creates schools students want to attend because they create unique and powerful experiences every day. They want to leverage their work and be in community with other teachers and schools. And, I don’t think that is too much to ask. We should be able to give them the same hugs that they have given us. We should be able to offer the same level of support that they offer to their learners.