SHANGHAI, CHINA – Bloom Education brings together children and teenagers from diverse cultural groups with an aim to provide a holistic educational experience, especially in subjects not typically taught at school. They strive to connect people from different backgrounds and to inspire a love of learning in all of their students.
Strategy Advisor and Youth Mentor, Osmond Wang, approached The Art of Learning Project while preparing for a two-week summer camp program based in Xicang, Sichuan Province, which would focus on exploring TAOL principles while providing students with opportunities to truly enjoy the learning process. An important component of the program was to support the students in developing empathy and discovering the connections between the three participating cultural groups – the Han ethnic majority, non-Han minority, and Americans or Canadians with Chinese heritage.
The entire student population participated in daily martial arts practice as well as a variety of academic, arts and crafts, and other activities, including small group city-building games and debates themed around selected topics. The facilitators led the groups in 1-hour reflection sessions at the end of each day, during which the students contemplated and discussed their learning. Through these reflections, students were able to Value Process Before Results by noting progress and growth, and practice Investment in Loss as they made plans for how to approach a situation or problem differently in the future. Finally, at the end of the 2-week session, the student who demonstrated the most commitment to the process of learning was voted “most dedicated learner” by the other participants in the camp.
“In the beginning (and for many days…), the mandatory daily 7am martial arts practice was not an activity that the students enjoyed, due to the early morning time slot it was scheduled for” shared Wang. “But by the end of the camp, it was the most popular activity and the martial arts teacher was voted best teacher among all the instructors, which was a testament to the quality of his teaching and also an indication of the students beginning to grasp (emotionally and behaviorally) the principles of learning. Martial arts offered a medium through which students could clearly see their own progress – of being able to do something they weren’t able to before.
“I think it shows that learning activities can be structured in ways that allow students to enjoy learning even when the initial learning experience requires elements of discomfort. I love that – when discomfort is enjoyed, even desired, in service of learning.”
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA – Ace Academics is a math and science focused tutoring organization serving students from grades 2 through 12. Founder, Sal Enslin, is dedicated to helping her students develop self-confidence, curiosity, and a sense of personal agency in their learning processes.
“Many students experience maths and science as a necessary evil. They think of these subjects as abstract and boring, and they often just want to get those over and done. Many students are convinced that they have no talent for this; that they are not smart and are often completely disengaged from the learning process, “ Enslin explains. “If I could show them that their brain is capable of way more than the school system has led them to believe, and give them the tools to find out what that might be… that would be incredible. If we could discover how each student learns, how that would play out in his or her environment, and how he or she could apply what we do to anything else they want to learn, it would enrich their lives a lot.”
Each tutoring session is unique, depending on the needs of the participating students. Additionally, the learning principles Enslin incorporates into these sessions, and the methods used to explore them, vary depending on the group. Many of her older students have been reading and discussing sections of The Art of Learning Student Guide in order to provide a general introduction to TAOL principles and open a conversation about their relationships to those concepts. Enslin is beginning to incorporate peer feedback in several of her tutoring sessions as a means to practice Investment in Loss. She is practicing Stress and Recovery with her students by taking breaks during difficult tasks to explore student passions and interests, and regularly incorporates Listening First into her work with each student in order to understand what drives them, how they learn, and any underlying needs that may affect their learning processes.
LAFAYETTE, CA – LMYA is a non-profit organization providing year-round athletic programming for school age children. In addition to the traditional athletic experience, the girls’ volleyball program offers a unique combination of sports, staff management skill training, and technology training to their high school aged participants. The full program consists of over 500 athletes playing club recreational volleyball, 80 volunteer parent coaches, 60 fourteen to eighteen year old volleyball club girls who partner with the coaches as paid trainers, and 10 girls who are paid to run the business portion of the organization. The goal of this unique program is to provide teenage girls with an opportunity to learn to be assertive in the workforce, and to develop real life management and technology experience in order to be better prepared for fields in which women are often underrepresented.
Eric Standring, the LMYA volleyball Commissioner, believes that programs such as this one take steps toward addressing the gender inequities so prevalent in the technology industry, as well as provide the participants with an opportunity to make a return on their monetary investment in club volleyball, and deepen the family connections between trainers, players, and their parents who volunteer with the program.
In the early phase of the program, Standring is focusing on building resilience in the young trainers and office staff, as well as in the volunteer parent coaches. As a first step, they will practice Valuing Process Before Results through collaborative goal setting and the development of benchmarks on the path to those goals. Both trainers and coaches will work on cultivating a Soft Zone approach to meeting their goals with an understanding that they may need to change their focus as they progress.
“I’m blessed to have two things come together in my life right now: TAOL and Strata Data Conference Chairman, Roger Magoulas. The chance to hear how ideas on learning resonate between these two camps, is inspiring. Particular to TAOL, having the foundational learning principle off which to dialog provides stability but at the same time, direction.” Standring says.
Ultimately, Standring hopes that incorporating the learning principles into the work of the Trainers and Coaches will deepen their relationships, encourage greater engagement for all participants, and improve the overall experience of everyone involved.
KAUAI, HI – C.E.O and Martial Arts Director Bear Bubnis contacted The Art of Learning Project with an interest in developing a Thematic Program that would weave The Art of Learning principles into all aspects of this free surfing, martial arts, visual arts, and gardening focused afterschool center. Currently serving 50 local children between the ages of 6 and 14, Bubnis and his staff of unpaid volunteer instructors are dedicated to providing learning experiences that will have a positive and lasting impact on their students’ lives. “We hope to gain a better understanding of how to connect with our students and how to help them fall in love with the learning process,” Bubnis explained.
Each of the afterschool teachers spent several months reading The Art of Learning, listening to Josh’s interviews with Tim Ferriss, and exploring their personal relationships to the learning concepts before bringing them to their students. At the same time, they carefully observed their students and began to discuss the strengths and struggles they saw in their approaches to learning. After identifying common themes such as creativity, humor, collaboration, lack of focus, low self-confidence, and limited perseverance, the teaching team decided to focus their program on the Resilience principles.
Within the first few months of their program, each instructor has seen noticeable growth in both their students’ approach to learning and their own teaching practice. “We have been using the Resilience principles and seen a drastic increase in the children’s interest in certain breathing and mindfulness techniques,” shared Bubnis. “We have also seen a collective appreciation for a silence that was previously taken with discomfort and unease.”
Art Director Paige Guglielmana explained, “With the JW Foundation, we have been able to move forward with inspiring creativity and self-reliance in our program by giving children the space and tools to do so. We encourage trial and error with their own creations in an inspiring group setting with a product of confidence, empowerment, and also increased mindfulness in their own practices and projects while bonding with each other as a collective group.”
“I have learned so much from the JW Foundation,” shared Surf Director Masaijah Lani. “Working with them has completely restructured the way I coach and help children to reach set goals. The JW Foundation helped to redefine the way I approach mindsets and the feedback that is given while in practice.”
As participants in our semester long Thematic Program project, the staff receive regular support from the JWF team over the course of their program. This support includes
• Monthly emails that lay out a plan for each phase of the program such as staff exploration of concepts, building personal daily habits, analyzing student needs, planning curricular tie-ins, working with students, and reflections on the program
• Scaffolded support of each participating staff member’s daily journaling on slack to analyze daily practice, note struggles, and plan for improvements
If your school would like to participate in one of our Thematic Programs, please fill out this brief application.
GREENSBOROUGH, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA – Leon Harvey coaches the 7-9 year old “Tackers” group in this Australian junior football league. As a coach, he is not only interested in teaching his athletes how to improve their football skills, but to use their love for the game as a platform to teach skills that will improve their lives overall. “I want the kids to get the most out of this possible,” Harvey explains. “I see football as a ‘gateway drug’ to learning and self-development. With Josh’s material I have taken advantage of the learning opportunities in sport that can apply to all parts of their lives”
For many of the children on Harvey’s team, football is much more than an extra-curricular activity. “For some, their hopes and dreams are based on their ability to perform and win, potentially creating unrealistic self-expectations,” he explains. “Some kids are quiet and reserved and suffer low self-esteem. Some are kinesthetic learners or challenged by learning difficulties, where traditional classroom teaching doesn’t work, and some are going through a rough time at home. Football is their passion and outlet, and so being a coach presents a huge opportunity to do so much more than just teach sporting skills. I use The Art of Learning as a framework that supports me to tackle these issues to build resiliency in our kids.”
“Competitive sports, like football, are a great platform for coaches to translate Josh’s material. I go back to the resources regularly to help me see the learning opportunities that present themselves on the field. There are many ways to turn experiences in the field into positive lifelong lessons using Josh’s themes: I use game defeats to teach about Investment in Loss, bad referee decisions to describe The Downward Spiral, quarter time break to practice Listening First, and the simple act of kicking a ball to teach The Power of Presence.”
In addition to exploring the learning principles with his athletes, Harvey believes it’s important to share the concepts with their parents in order to reinforce the learning at home. He sends an email to each child’s parents after every game in order to re-frame the events of the game within the context of The Art of Learning principles and highlight the learning opportunities they presented to the kids.
“I wish I had access to The Art of Learning when I was competing as a kid. I want the kids to see even when the stakes are high and the pressure is on that it’s okay to lose. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s all part of the journey of learning, trying, failing, and succeeding. I hope that my team can learn more about footy and themselves by the end of the season. Game after game the patterns will start to emerge. Even if they don’t ultimately go on to enjoy a football career, the lessons can apply in all parts of their lives.”
SEATTLE, WA – Theodore Eftimiades is the CEO of Student Circle, a private tutoring organization with the dual goal of educating students as well as their instructors. By providing their tutors with thought provoking and engaging professional development opportunities through monthly discussion seminars and lectures, they believe that the tutors’ excitement for learning will provide a motivating example for their tutees. In addition, they aim to teach their educators life-skills and learning skills which can be used both in their personal lives and passed down to their student population.
Eftimiades applied to The Art of Learning Project’s book donation program while planning an Art of Learning discussion group focused on incorporating the book’s lessons into the lives of both the tutors and the tutees. “This book,” he explained “speaks to the experience of the modern student/academic. The ideas regarding Buddhism, calmness, the zone, high performance – these are all very high interest subjects and for good reason! These are ideas I want my tutors to confront, think about, and hopefully pass on, either in their original form or with their own thoughts mixed in.”