Our Learner Driven Community

Our early learners are taking charge of their education. At the end of our session, they have demonstrated their ability to go on a Hero’s Journey with the courage to take on the challenges they face head-on. As our heroes reflect on what they learned from our quests ~ tribe building, entrepreneur, and Art Prize, they exuded wisdom beyond their years. Our heroes drew wisdom from our past launches, with a growth mindset during core skills time, to cheering for others instead of themselves during the business fair. Even their choice of favorite art from Art Prize, such as the Kaphar by Emily Mayo (burnt wood from house arsons of Flint) and Tragedy, Memory, and Honor by Bruno Surdo (a painting in memory of 9/11), emanated genuine compassion as they all resolve to pray for the people in the paintings. Just within the first six weeks of the school year, our early learners embodied the Journey Academy mission: they have become “independent learners who find great joy in learning, in a tight-knit community that upholds the highest standards of excellence.”

We are so glad to have been able to share with you a peek at how our heroes have accomplished so much during our first session during our core skills exhibition. The heroes were so excited to show off all their hard work and share the joy they experience every time they walk through the doors of Journey Academy. They wanted to show so much more to you. They wanted to have storytime so that they could show you how they take turns reading their favorite book to the whole class and they wanted to read to all the parents too. They also wanted to read the story they created on Storybird they entitled “The Candy World” and then create another story with Mom and Dad. They also wanted to show off their skills exploring Google Earth as we travel around the world during Geography, while singing our continents song with friends. Then, they wanted to show their videos on the Reader’s Chair, where they record their own videos of themselves reading a book that they have mastered. But because we did not have time to show Mom and Dad everything they do at school during Core skills exhibition, I promised I would take as many pictures and videos as I can so that Mom and Dad would know all about their learning experiences at Journey Academy.

A busy day of exploring art pieces from Art Prize could not impede our heroes from letting go of their creative side when they got back to school, as they created their first masterpiece for Art Prize quest.

Our heroes were so inspired after creating their Monet artwork that they constructed stories out of their artwork and shared them with the whole class.

After creating artwork inspired by famous artists, per heroes’ request, they were eager to create their own art inspired by their individual interests and passion.

Our heroes decided we should work outside for action painting like Jackson Pollock, where they had the freedom to create what they called “The Journey Academy Masterpiece.”

Many of our heroes’ favorite business at the business fair was slime. So they were very eager to create their own slime for our multi-sensory art activity.

In truth, after a week of surveying art pieces from Art Prize, beholding great masterpieces by famous artists, and creating our own artwork, the real masterpiece is our Journey Academy heroes themselves. Reflecting on God’s work in each of them during our first session is the epiphany of God’s promise in Ephesians 2:10, for each of our heroes, are “God’s masterpiece… created in Christ Jesus…so that they can do the good things He planned for them long ago.”

Art Prize Week

It has been a busy week in the Elementary/Middle Studio! On Monday, our heroes visited Art Prize and took a tour through the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Their docents provided information on the artists and the stories behind them. At the end of the day, the heroes then took a class on “Candy Art” where they created their own sugar masterpieces.

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On Wednesday, our heroes returned to Art Prize to walk around and view more art.  They walked through The DeVos Center and the Amway, and saw a performance from the Air Zoo. They also took a class on cultural art at Kendall College. This was an AMAZING experience!
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After seeing so much art downtown, we thought our heroes might appreciate creating some of their own. In addition to Art Prize then, we took the opportunity to create various kinds of art. We learned about Abstract Art, Pop Art, Cubism, and studied work done by Vincent Van Gogh, Picasso, and Andy Warhol.
As the week ended, our heroes reviewed their progress in Core Skills. We also took the opportunity to reflect as a studio. We discussed ways that we could improve the studio, ways that we could encourage one another, and reviewed our values as a Christian Community of learners. As a challenge, our heroes each took on the role of encouraging a “secret friend” before going on break. Each hero was assigned to a friend (in secret) that they would reach out to before the break started (using The 5 Love Languages). It was so cool to see our heroes leaving each other notes of kindness, looking for the treasure within each other, and reaching outside of themselves. They are inspiring!
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Discussion Topics This Week Included:
  • What makes great art? Is it the feeling it leaves you with? The story behind it? The appearance? The time spent making it? The materials used? The originality of the piece?
  • Is freedom making whatever choice you want in a situation, is it believing in the best choice, or is it making choices that lead to an easier life?
  • Do you treat others with kindness out of fear (what will happen if you don’t) or out of love?
  • Who have you noticed making our studio a better place this week?
  • Do you feel encouraged by character call-outs? Attention? Something else? How can we work to encourage one another more?
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Independent Learners

Week 5 Newsletter: September 18-22, 2017
Our heroes are developing into strong independent learners as they seek out various ways to learn and explore. They are self-motivated as they set their goals in their badge books each morning, driven not by grades or rewards, but by their own personal achievement. Their badge books also help them examine their work, evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, and strive for measurable progress. They are learning to be accountable for their own education through the work that they do during core skills, writer’s workshop, and project time. Our discussions encourage our heroes to think critically, examining many possibilities and multiple solutions based on real-world observations. Most importantly, our heroes discover the value of persistence, learning from mistakes, and never giving up.

Our field trip to the Grand Rapids Downtown Market provided the real-world experience our heroes needed to learn more about being an entrepreneur. Hearing real-life business owners share their stories about how they started their businesses and their passion for the work they do truly inspired and encouraged our heroes. Many heroes admired how passionate the business owners were as they expressed their love for what they do, especially the joy they bring to people through their businesses, such as making someone’s favorite ice cream flavor, making juice from fruits and vegetables for someone who has not eaten any fruits or vegetable since he was a kid or delivering flowers to a wedding.  They also learned the importance of the price of each product in making a sale, which they experienced first-hand as a consumer during the field trip. One young hero shared that she learned that entrepreneurs “do not only talk to one person, but to many people  so that more people would buy their products.” 

Special thanks to our Elementary and Middle school buddies for helping our early learners explore the downtown market, helping them keep track of their spending and keeping them safe during the field trip. Experiencing the freedom to visit the stores and businesses on their own gave our heroes the confidence to interact with the businesses, inquiring of the products sold, making choices, taking the risks of purchasing products they choose using their own resources, thus learning from their own choices.

Working on our table displays really got the heroes even more excited for the business fair. Our heroes had lots of fun adding more details to our posters like our banners, slogans, logos, and the prices of our products. They also gave each other ideas on costumes or what to wear on the day of the business fair to really attract the attention of potential customers. They practiced their pitches and added some suggestions they learned from our hero talks like introducing themselves to customers personally to build rapport, then followed by an invitation to try their products or services. The lessons our heroes learned during the entrepreneur quest are invaluable and endless as they continue their awareness of the world around them and how they could truly make a positive impact on others according to their calling.


Week 5: The Final Showdown!

As the Children’s Business Fair is drawing near (tomorrow already!), our heroes have been eagerly preparing themselves. On Tuesday, they took a trip to the Downtown Market to get more ideas for their businesses.
At the Downtown Market, our heroes were given a behind the scenes tour of Fields and Fire Bakery, heard 2 Hero Talks (delivered by the owners of Malamiah Juice Bar and Love’s Icecream), and did a little bit of shopping. The lessons they learned were invaluable!
From learning the importance of personal connections,  to understanding the power of using cool displays, bright colors, or unique objects to draw people’s attention, our heroes gained numerous ideas they can apply to their own businesses!

In addition to visiting the Downtown Market, on Thursday, our heroes heard a Hero Talk from Elizabeth Schenk, the owner of Posh Petals boutique in Grand Rapids. Elizabeth told them about her journey as an entrepreneur, how she loves what she does, some of the challenges she faces daily, and some of the financial decisions she makes as a business owner. We were all highly impressed with the questions that our heroes came up with! They were very curious!
We cannot wait to share what our heroes have been working on at The Children’s Business Fair tomorrow! See you then!
Discussion Questions This Week Included:
  • Would you rather work for someone else, or have your own business? Would you still want to work for someone if it meant sacrificing what you love to do? Would you still want to own your own business if it meant working a lot harder? Would it make a difference if you had a family to support?
  • If you were working for someone and they asked you to report false numbers, would you? What if you knew that you would lose your job if you didn’t?
  • What businesses stood out to you most at the Downtown Market? What techniques did they use to draw you in?
  • What do you most need to prepare for the Business Fair?


Training our Brains

Our heroes have been training their brains all week long. They have been talking about how their behavior follows their words and their words follow their thoughts. So during discussions, they have been talking about thinking before they speak and act. They have also been encouraging each other to never give up when they try something a little hard for them, to listen carefully before answering, to tell others about Jesus with our words and actions, and to think about what God says in the Bible before we make our choices.

During one discussion, all the heroes were unanimous and agreed that it is okay to be scared sometimes. Each one shared a time they were scared to do something, but they still did it and succeeded. They have been encouraging each other by saying, “You have a growth mindset! You can do it!” Each one recognized the difference between fixed mindset and growth mindset statements. They all agreed that the growth mindset statements were much better and promised that instead of… they will try thinking or saying…

What a busy week it has been for our Entrepreneur quest, as we count down the days before our business fair! As heroes bring in their product samples, the anticipation grows even more! Each hero genuinely lifted up one another as they supported each one’s business efforts. They complimented every product brought in and made promises to each other to buy their products at the business fair.

We are very grateful for our heroes who have brought products samples and shared with all the heroes. The samples made it so much fun to film their commercials. Some commercials transformed into tutorials as heroes actually demonstrated how to make their products.

The heroes showcased their ingenuity as they created their logos on the whiteboard. They put a lot of thought into their logos, as they viewed famous logos, and decided on the best colors and images they wanted to use to represent their businesses. They used these logos on their invitations and were eager to pass them out to their family and friends.

Our heroes have also begun their work on creating posters for the business fair. They helped each other add details and suggested ways to improve their posters to catch the attention of potential customers, such as making letters biggers and adding borders and images to their posters.

In addition to our preparations for the business fair, the heroes have been practicing to count money and make change. They set up tables all around the studio to pretend that they were at the business fair selling their products. They had many “customers” visit their tables from the elementary/ middle school studio. So they were able to practice their sales pitches, selling dialogues, and give change to their customers.

Our writer’s workshop has also been exciting for our heroes taking turns to sit on the “author’s chair,” where they choose to create either a fictional or nonfictional story for their book. The words from their stories are typed into a document and they add illustrations for each page. They also made a cover for their books. They often choose to read their own books during DEAR time and are very proud to share their books with friends.

For music this week, our heroes enjoyed listening to famous composers like Tchaikovsky, Offenbach, Chopin, Joplin, and Beethoven. They agreed with Chopin as they listened to the Cat’s Waltz and thought the music sounded like a cat walking on the piano. They also liked dancing to beat of “Can Can,” by Offenbach and “Maple Leaf Rag,” by Scott Joplin. And they were really amazed at how Beethoven composed his Ninth Symphony while he was deaf. But their personal favorite was Tchaikovsky since they recognized the song from The Nutcracker and imagined the toys dancing. Most of our heroes took on a role of the toys in the ballet and performed their own version of The Nutcracker! At the end of our music explorations, one hero requested to listen to Michael Jackson, for he was convinced that Michael Jackson was the most famous composer of all time!

Symmetry painting drew out creativity and experimentation from our heroes. They tried different ways to create images with different color combinations and placement on their paper. Then they folded the paper right in the middle. They rubbed their paper to spread the paint inside. They were very pleased with the surprise awaiting them when they open up their papers again! They couldn’t resist doing this over again several times!Throughout the week, it is such a blessing to hear the heroes reflect Jesus in their words and actions. One of our heroes often

Throughout the week, it is such a blessing to hear the heroes reflect Jesus in their words and actions. One of our heroes often reminds his friends about the golden rule, “Treat others like you want to be treated.” So our heroes have been really abiding by our promises to remember our manners in the way we greet each other in the morning, offering help, interrupting when needed, and saying “excuse me” when someone is in our way. Another hero often says to friends that he wants to do what Jesus said so he lets others line up in front of him and he can be last. What a blessing each day to hear and learn about Jesus from our young heroes!

Week 3 of our Hero’s Journey

“Ms. Brittany, What we really need is Hero Bucks…And rules.”
I never thought I would hear our heroes asking me for rules! However, I was surprised to hear this come up during our closing discussion on Thursday. Our heroes have talked about creating a culture of encouragement at Journey Academy, they have created a “Hero’s Contract” with the values they wish to uphold in the studio, and they have had some great discussions. However, until this morning, our heroes haven’t had “official” rules that govern their studio. That is why we held a special ceremony…
The Signing of The Hero’s Contract is a very special moment where all of our heroes come together and agree that the values they have discussed are ones that they will commit to following with their whole hearts. Everyone raises their right hand, promises to follow each of the values to the best of his/her ability, and then signs The Hero’s Contract.
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Once the Hero’s Contract is in place, our heroes begin to hold each other to the Core Values of our studio. They use Conflict Resolution to help when their friends are not upholding them, and Hero Bucks if the conflict continues. Our heroes also regularly call out each other’s character. If someone is demonstrating that they are showing excellence, they recognize it. This week, there were some exceptional moments in the studio:
One hero filmed his commercial for the business fair 8 times because he wanted to do his best work. Another hero actually told everyone they needed to participate in the reading of The Hero’s Contract, and had us redo the first reading. During P.E., our heroes ran 4 laps around the track. However, 2 heroes ran 7 because they had extra time and wanted to challenge themselves more! Yet another hero reminded the younger heroes that they needed to clean with excellence during studio maintenance, and even demonstrated how to fold the Chrome Book cords in a more orderly way (to prevent it from looking sloppy). Still, another hero went around during project time, helping younger heroes login in to a business game on their Chrome Books.
I am so proud of our young heroes and the fact that they desire to hold each other and their community to a set of high standards. As we continue with The Hero’s Contract and Hero Bucks in place, our heroes will be more empowered to govern themselves. This is a huge step in our Journey, but I am so excited for them!
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Discussion questions this week included:
  • Which businesses at the Farmer’s Market had interesting displays? Which had excellent customer service? Names? Did any of the businesses catch your attention right away?
  • Which is the most effective when pitching an idea to someone? Appealing to their emotions (ethos), using logic (logos), or giving them a good cause (pathos)?
  • What was the most challenging part of completing your business plan?
  • How many of your SMART goals did you reach this week? Were they challenging for you? Are you proud of your work? How did you use your time, and how could you use it even better next week? What was the most distracting to you this week?

Learning to be Leaders

Week 3: September 5-8, 2017

Our young heroes have been taking on many leadership roles in our early learners studio. During one of the discussions, each hero shared how they would like to lead others. They made promises to lead others to be kind, nice, and helpful. They often volunteer to help hand out badge books, papers, and writing tools. What a blessing to see our nation’s future leaders practice servant leadership skills! Some heroes also led discussions and asked other heroes questions. They lead each other to stay on schedule, referring to the daily schedule and the clock, in which they are even becoming more aware of when to start our five-minute timers during transitions. They are all eager to take their turn leading prayers, worship, and super hero promise statements. During core skills time, many older heroes offer help to the younger ones, even without being asked. They also lead others with etiquette and good manners. It is truly evident that each of our young heroes is God’s masterpiece, created to do good things and impact the world!

Today a reader, tomorrow a leader. I have no doubts about that! Our heroes just love snuggling up in our library with a book, either by themselves or sharing and laughing with friends. They also love taking turns to be the storyteller and pick a story to read to their friends. Every time I see our heroes find joy in reading a book, I am filled with hope, believing that they are building such a strong foundation for their learning with a strong motivation to read. They read for the sheer pleasure of reading!

We enjoyed listening to one of the middle school heroes play the ukulele and we also got to try it out ourselves. Some of our heroes even composed their own songs on the ukulele!

Diagnosis Fun was our play-based learning theme this week, which really opened up our heroes’ imaginations as they tried different roles as doctors, nurses, and emergency medical technicians. Our tables transformed into an ambulance. Pillows were laid out for patients.

And doctors treated their patients by reading them books to help them feel better!

Our heroes got many ideas for their businesses after our field trip to the Ada Farmers Market. Many heroes liked how a stuffed toy chicken on one of the tables was very effective in drawing customers so they decided to take that idea and also use a stuffed toy animal for their business displays. Another hero drew from that idea but instead of a stuffed toy, since his products were sports related, he would display his team’s flag to draw some sports fans to his business. One of our heroes was so excited when one of the tables also sold lemonade with their tortilla so she thought about adding cookies to her lemonade stand. Being able to see different ways tents and tables were set up for each business gave our heroes really good ideas how to set up their displays for the business fair. And thanks to our elementary/middle school buddies, we have completed our business plans and are so much more excited for the children’s business fair!

Getting into the Flow

     After a week of building friendships and getting to know each other, our heroes are now entering into the daily routines of Core Skills and project time. They are now using computer programs for math, reading, and foreign languages, setting goals for themselves, and tracking their progress. Monday through Wednesday was intense as even our veteran heroes were learning new programs. However, as a community, they supported one another. When I asked how challenging Core Skills was on Monday, one hero replied, “It was REALLY challenging, but because we did it together, we were able to accomplish our first challenge.” As our heroes are growing together and challenging themselves, we are encouraging them to continue developing those close friendships and seeking help when needed.
     In addition to starting Core Skills this week, our heroes also began their first quest in Entrepreneurship! From jewelry making to mystery boxes, our heroes have begun developing businesses of all sorts (selling gently used goods, wands and bows/arrows, peanut butter balls, candy, stretchy bands, origami, charcoal drawings, items made from deer antlers, Easter Egg poppers, homemade play dough and chore charts, and mini makers). As our heroes continue developing their businesses, they will complete various challenges to help them improve. You may hear them talking about milestones, which are basically deadlines for various challenges they will partake in. This week, their milestones included coming up with a plan for their business, making a phone call to get money for their entry fee (Thanks again for working with us!), and filling out the application for the Children’s Business Fair. Other milestones will include:
  • Preparing a 15 second commercial (September 7th)
  • Preparing a list of at least 6 people that they will invite to the business fair (September 11th)
  • Pitching their businesses to studio mates (September 20th)
  • Learning 15 business terms (if you are in elementary school) or 20 (if you are in middle school)

     Next week, the focus of our quest as entrepreneurs will be on marketing. Our heroes will improve the logos and slogans they have been coming up with, decide how much to sell their products for, and take a trip to the Farmer’s Market. It has been so much fun journeying with our young entrepreneurs so far. They are full of so much creativity!
Some other discussions this week included:
  • What are SMART goals and how do you set them?
  • How can you resolve conflict peacefully when it occurs? Is conflict a bad thing?
  • What does the Bible say about authority?
  • What makes a strong culture? What makes a weak culture?
  • What is something you have done that is in your challenge zone? Comfort zone? Panic zone? Were you in your challenge, comfort, or panic zone during core skills today?
I hope you have a blessed weekend! We will see you again Tuesday! ?