Building Empathy

Week 4.5

Building Empathy

This week we focused hard on learning about the reconciling practice of empathy. Through hero talks, videos, discussion, and skits, we learned what empathy means and looks like. One discussion in particular led to these ideas and conclusions:

How do we practice empathy?

  • show support for others when something good or bad happens
  • listen very carefully to each other
  • try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes
  • pay attention to others

Why do we practice empathy?

  • It can be really helpful in friendships
  • It helps us understand how others are feeling

As we have learned what empathy means, I’ve noticed a HUGE culture shift in our studio as heroes learn how to take good care of each other. Here are a few of my favorite observations this week:

Jaina was eating lunch inside and noticed a hero sitting on the tire swing alone. She ran outside and sat in the tire swing with that hero and asked how the hero was feeling. After a few minute conversation, there was a noticeable positive change in both heroes and they went on with their activities.

Elias witnessed a football collision of two heroes and ran inside to grab the hurt hero’s water bottle and an ice pack.

Lola heard another hero use unkind words and became an advocate for only using kind words toward others.

These are just a few of the many ways their eyes are shifting to understanding each other’s feelings.

We’ve been studying heroes from the Civil Rights Movement this week and as we have been studying, the heroes have been taking notice of how these heroes have played integral roles in racial reconciliation. Here are a few excerpts from two hero notebooks.

Rosa Parks – “She sat in the middle of the bus, then the police told her to ‘get up’ and when she was older she moved to Michigan” An excerpt from Jack’s journal.

Charlie’s notes on Martin Luther King Jr. “He wanted everyone to be friends so he gave big speeches and walked with lots of people to make sure they were being nice to each other.”

Have a great weekend!

Week 3.5 Designing

Week 3.5


This week was a busy one! We started this week by setting big goals during core skills and creating a plan to reach those goals! Each day at the end of core skills, we take some time to do a self check-in. Did we have the tools we needed to reach our goals? Did we choose the right environment for good focus? Did we support other heroes in reaching their goals, or did we distract them from their goals? These are important reflective questions that help us learn about ourselves as learners!


During project time this week, we spent time designing a studio t-shirt! The heroes all created a few different designs, then we held a voting session to pick out our favorite designs! The winner was a combination of Charlie’s tie-dye color scheme and Lola’s “I love Journey ELS” design! We can’t wait to see how these turn out!


We also held our first exhibition this week! The heroes showed how they engage with the Maker Play space, whether rolling in tubes, creating homes for grasshoppers, or building bunk beds, they continued to get creative with the supplies! The heroes also showed parents around the studio, highlighting their own desks, the library, and the silhouette game (did you guess right?!) It was fun and lighthearted. On our exhibition reflection day, the heroes claimed they felt great about their work. One particularly funny reflection was, “my mom saw that I was distracting heroes and that wasn’t so fun” – it’s all a learning process! Once you know it, you can notice it and grow!

Hope you had a lovely weekend!

Celebrating Hard Work – Week 2.5

Week 2.5

Celebrating Hard Work

This week we spent lots of time refining and creating our 2020 – 2021 Hero’s Contract. The heroes all illustrated part of our contract to help us remember our expectations! They did a fantastic job capturing the meaning behind each guideline and putting it on paper! On Friday, we had our annual ceremony to celebrate the commitment each hero makes in signing the contract! We celebrated with lights, grape juice, and oreos!

Our fabulous ELS heroes after celebrating their commitment to following the Hero’s Contract!

Cheers with grape juice to a great tribe and an exciting new year!

Maker Play

This week in maker play the heroes embraced the sandboxes! They started a sand castle building competition using large paper tubes as megaphones and wildflowers as decorations! One particularly beautiful moment was when a few heroes were experiencing some frustration during Maker Play, and they suggested that there be a special “Friendship Bridge” for Maker Play! These heroes continue to take responsibility for their words and actions! We also spent some time writing our “Play Stories” and sharing them with each other after maker play. To see the recordings of these play stories, click here!

Double bunk beds for story telling!

“I’m a doll in a dollhouse!”

Sand castle team number one!

Sand castle team number 2!

The sand castle judges!

The great organizer in the ELS! He spent his maker play time organizing all the materials!

Enjoy your weekend!

We Journey Together Week 1.5

We Journey Together

Week 1.5 Unifying

This past week in the ELS we spent time learning about The Hero’s Journey, and learning how to show grace for each other as we journey together this school year. As we spend more time growing as a team, we are crafting our hero contract to hold each other accountable. And, all the while, spending more time learning how to communicate, think critically, problem solve, and get creative!

Here are a few nuggets of gold from our week! (Pictures here!)

  • We are in full swing of practicing our new procedures and man, do these heroes catch on quick! By Tuesday, the heroes were nestled in to their desired learning areas for core skills and focused for the entire time!
  • This week in town hall meeting, Carter mentioned a desire to transition our space from tables to desks. He proposed that this would help keep the heroes organized, the cubbies clean, and help the heroes take better care of each other as they do not share work spaces throughout the day. The rest of the heroes obliged and now, the studio looks quite different, but still very Journey!
  • The wind proved to be quite the obstacle during maker play! The heroes grew frustrated with materials blowing away or falling over, but persevered and found creative ways to overcome the wind obstacle!
  • We began creating “play stories” after maker play to reflect about the time spent outside. These stories were so fun to hear as the heroes gave us access to their imaginations!
  • Because we are a few sessions into maker play, the heroes hit a point of boredom. This boredom didn’t last long as the heroes were given time to get creative with their time! Soon, there was a discovery of new materials in the shed that were not noticed before and more creativity in the sand boxes!
  • The Hero’s Journey poster looks a little different this year! The heroes who were at school on Friday spent time thinking critically about how they would illustrate and describe the different parts of the journey. This led to creative illustrations and short videos with QR codes in our room to help guide us in understanding what this hero’s journey is all about!


Hope you had a wonderful long weekend!


Welcoming: Week .5 in the ELS Studio!

Week .5: Welcoming

Tribe-building Quest

Welcome back to the ELS studio for a brand new year! The energy and excitement in the studio is buzzing all day long and it feels just right.

We kicked off our new year with a tribe building quest, focusing on how to take good care of each other! We are learning and practicing hand-washing procedures as well as distancing practices. This is a new normal but the heroes are proving to be quite flexible and catching on quickly! (I mean, are we surprised?)

Dr. T is leading our Kingdom Time in the morning. On the first day of school we focused on Psalm 46:10 which says, “Be still and know that I am God.” We used this verse as a base for our breath prayer practice.

We had our first experience in the new Maker Play space on Thursday and WOW this was fascinating to watch! The heroes were given no instruction other than, “play!” and boy, they sure did play! And communicate! And problem solve! And think critically! A few of my favorite quotes from the afternoon include:

“How is the process going?”

“How can we make this funner?”

“This doesn’t look safe, let’s make it safer.”

“You can do it! It’s really fun and you’ll be happy you tried!”

“I bet if we were all on the same team, we could make this really fun!”

“Thanks for the help!”

This is just the beginning of Maker Play! I can’t wait to see how their thinking evolves and transforms as we spend more time in the space!

We also spent time bringing back old traditions of painting rocks and decorating the Journey Academy 2020 – 2021 banner that will hang in the vestibule for the year! It’s always so fun to see how these fun traditions unite us with past heroes.

To see pictures from the week click here!

See you next week!


First Three Days in EL Studio

   The heroes have started their adventure in the first three days at EL studio. Thank you for the kindness that has showered over us as guides.  We count it a great privilege to be entrusted with your hero.  During the first days, the heroes have been experimenting with Montessori materials and beginning their core skills.

    They discussed the Hero’s Journey, how there is a call to action, accepting the challenge, facing their fears, and finding a treasure at the end.  The heroes drew a picture of that journey and these will be used to make a poster about the journey.  

   Wednesday they helped create the Journey Academy poster with their handprints,  and Thursday they painted a rock to add to Journey’s collection.  Look for both of these in the entrance and lobby.

    Friday the heroes took a stroll of discovery along the path around the Academy.  They spotted bones, fuzzy leaves, milkweed, and cactus. After the stroll, the heroes created a story about the things they saw and then drew pictures that matched the story. (These are the photos that were shared on Instagram)

  The heroes also played some games, including running to the side that matched their favorite things.  They also had a buddy day with the ES studio where they worshiped together and worked together during core skills.

   Next week on Monday the heroes will begin their discussion about the Hero’s Contract for the studio, and on Wednesday there will be a special ceremony to sign the contract,  it would be great for the heroes to be dressed up for that special day. 

Ms Denice


Architects of their Destinies

The heroes started their Architecture Quest with passion and confidence that they will become excellent architects in this quest. Every morning they have been considering what it takes to become excellent. They pondered the possibilities of a hero being born excellent or becoming excellent through hard work. Many heroes pointed out the need to work hard to do excellent work and become excellent at what they do. But one hero convinced some heroes that “we are all born excellent because God made all of us excellent and we would not even be able to do excellent work if God did not create us but He did!”

Their quest for excellence in Architecture has begun as the heroes research, design, and construct amazing buildings and structures. They discussed the importance of each step in the process and what would happen if they skip some steps. They imagined various scenarios and thought about what would happen if an architect decided to construct a building without researching and designing. Similarly, they described what would happen if an architect only researches and design but never constructs anything. They all agreed that they would need to do research, designing, and then construct to become excellent architects.

As architects, the heroes will be creating their own miniature cities throughout their Architecture quest. They have been inspired by the work of famous architects this week, but their favorite fictional architect is Iggy Peck because of the various materials he uses like pancakes, fruits, and even diapers! The heroes are starting to visualize their city made of materials they see around the house. They would like to ask their families to save cardboard tubes, cereal boxes, cans, and any plastic containers or cardboard containers that they may transform into buildings for their cities.

ELS Architecture Quest

Weekly Challenges

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Week 1


Geometric shapes

Architecture shape collage


Which shape is more stable, a triangle or a square?

Shapes lab
Week 2


Skyscraper Challenge Columns

Can a toilet-paper tube support your weight?

Milk carton houses/

box water

Newspaper tower Design a skyscraper
Week 3


Bridge Challenge Paper bridge Mondrian-inspired abstract art Suspension bridge Design a bridge
Week 4


Dome Challenge Geodesic dome Ancient Greek architecture Design a museum Structures
Week 5


Tunnel Challenge Meeting in the middle City block painting Build a toothpick structure Build a cardboard house
Week 6

Box city

Dam Challenge Under pressure Colorful row houses Make a sandcastle Forces lab
Week 7


Sensory aspects of your studio Building types Recipe for a city –

pt 1

Recipe for a city –

pt 2

Recipe for a city –

pt 3

Week 1: April 10-12, 2019

Wednesday Thursday Friday

Sibling day

Launch Do you think it’s more important for a hero to have persistence (focus on the goal), or resilience (getting back up after being knocked down)? Is excellence something you do, or something you are? Character Call outs for siblings
Relaunch Many architects feel that architecture is the perfect blend of creativity and technicality. Which do you think plays the biggest role in deciding if an architect will be successful? Which will be most challenging for you to master? Is it more important for a building to be functional and efficient or to be beautiful and visually appealing? Do buildings affect how you feel? How does our JA academy building make you feel? How does your home make you feel? Can you remember a time when a building made you feel sad or uncomfortable?
Close Character callouts for Claire Siblings day planning How would you make the Architecture quest excellent?