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The Agile Tree guides our work as an ALC.

the agile tree

The Soil is Trust

Trust is the biggest difference between Agile Learning and traditional school models. Do you trust your child with the power of their own choices? Do you trust your child to know what they need when they need it, and to ask for it without feeling shame or judgment?

Here are some reasons we want to start trusting children:

  • You can’t learn to make good decisions if you’re never allowed to make your own decisions.
  • Children learn better when they’re doing things they’re actually interested in.
  • Forcing kids to do things compromises their trust in you (as well as in themselves) and establishes an adversarial relationship.
  • Committing to trust your children creates powerful mutual respect and mutual trust.
  • Kids still choose, you’ve just narrowed their choices to: “Do what you’re told” or “Get in trouble.” Some discover they have another option: “Agree to to what I’m told, then try to get away with doing something else.” Is that the kind of decision making you want them to spend their childhood practicing?
  • By practicing self-direction, children learn greater responsibility.
  • You don’t learn to drive by being told or reading books about it, you have to actually get in the driver’s seat.
  • Following their authentic interests makes them better attuned to their passions and hones their ability to listen for their deeper purpose.

The Roots Are Our Foundation

In a self-directed environment, we operate on four assumptions.

  • Learning: Learning is natural. It’s happening all the time.
  • Self-Direction: People learn best by making their own decisions. Children are people.
  • Experience: People learn more from their culture and environment than from the content they are taught. The medium is the message.
  • Success: Accomplishment is achieved through cycles of intention, creation, reflection and sharing.

The Branches Are Our Principles

These principles lead directly to how we work with children in the world.

  • Infinite Play: Play infinitely, grow infinitely.. Play is one of the most powerful paths to growth. The concept of infinite play reminds us that games aren’t about winning; changing rules and boundaries is part of playing, letting players constantly expand the game of outrageous personal growth to incorporate new players and new frontiers.
  • Be Agile: Make tools and practices flexible, adaptable, easy to change… or change back again. Too much change all at once can be disorienting — try gentle changes over multiple iterations to see what’s working.
  • Amplify Agency: Ensure tools support personal choice and freedom as well as responsibility for those choices. Everyone should have the opportunity to participate in designing and upgrading the structures which guide them.
  • Culture Creation: Acknowledge and use the water you’re swimming in. We shape culture; culture shapes us. A powerful, positive culture is the strongest, most pervasive support structure a learning community can have. Develop collective mastery rather than restrictive rule-making. Intentional culture building supports intentionality in other domains as well.
  • Visible Feedback: Make choices, patterns, and outcomes visible to participants so they can tune their future behavior accordingly. Make the implicit explicit and expand transparency. These practices empower and build trust among community members.
  • Facilitate: Clarify, simplify, and connect. Don’t introduce unnecessary complexity. Hold coherence for personal growth in an empowered cultural context. Connect kids to the larger social capital of their community as they seek learning resources. Combine many principles and intentions into a single tool or practice, instead of trying to maintain more of them.
  • Support: Provide maximum support with minimal interference. As adults, we often need support reaching our goals and fulfilling our intentions; so do children. We create supportive structures, practices, culture, and environments. However it’s important to remember that support is not direction — it does not mean making their decisions for them or intervening and managing their processes. Support that takes up too much space becomes counterproductive.
  • Respect each other’s time and space. Hold no unnecessary meetings. Keep all meetings tight, productive and participatory. Honor commitments, as well as scheduled start and end times for happenings. Check-in before creating work for someone else. Be thoughtful about taking up shared space.
  • Relationship: Be real. Be accepting. Respect differences. Authentic relationship is the basis of partnership, communication, collaboration, and trust between students and staff. Support self-expression, self-knowledge and self-acceptance, letting the experience of nurturing relationship teach the power of interelatedness and community.
  • Full-spectrum Fluency: Embrace multiple intelligences, modes of expression, and learning styles. Nurture multiple literacies. A functional education for today’s world needs to focus on more than just “book-learning” textual, numerical, analytical, or memorization skills. Social, relational, digital, and a variety of other skill sets are now essential; recognize and develop them as such.
  • Shareable Value: Make value received from learning visible and sharable. Use tracking systems, record measurable progress, generate documentation (blogs, portfolios, images), and teach others.
  • Safe Space-making: Provide an environment of physical, social, and emotional safety. Set and keep critical boundaries. Foster great freedom within an appropriate frame of safety and legality, so that kids’ energy can be freed up to focus on learning instead of protecting themselves.

The Leaves and Fruit Are Our Agile Tools

ALCs incorporate some or all of these tools into their processes.

  • Set-the-Week Meeting: a regular meeting to connect and plan activities for the week.
  • Offerings Board: the visible, flexible record of our intentions for the week.
  • Scrum: the quick meeting-before-the-meeting to help understand needs and prepare requests to the community.
  • Morning Intentions: a daily opportunity to announce our intentions for the day.
  • Closing Meeting: the end of day ritual that allows us to reflect on our work. Awareness and reflection are key to growth.
  • Spawn Points: small groups led by a facilitator to connect students with each other and an adult during the morning and afternoon meetings.
  • Personal Kanban: a visual system of organizing work borrowed from industry. Each child has a board and activities they place in the Backlog, Ready, Doing, and Done columns. Children learn to limit their work in progress and ask for support when needed.
  • Community Rituals: special activities to keep the community connected and grounded.
  • GameShifting: recognizing internal social rules and bringing them up to examination and change.
  • Hand Signals: quick ways to communicate during meetings without disrupting the verbal flow of a conversation.
  • Change Up Meetings: regular meetings to bring problems to awareness level for the community to work on.
  • Community Mastery Board: the visual tracker of the community’s culture. Items move from Awareness to Implementation to Practicing to Mastery based on the sense of the community.
  • Culture Committee: the intentional body of students and facilitators to help resolve conflicts and maintain the culture of the school.
  • Documentation/Blogging: shareable value both for the community and individual students to show their growth. Consider this the report card 2.0.

Questions? Email us!