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Santa Fe Public Schools

SANTA FE, NM – Geoffrey Moon is a Gifted Education Specialist within the Services for Advanced and Gifted Education Department for the Santa Fe Public Schools. He first heard Josh Waitzkin speak at the National Association for Gifted Children conference in 2009, and has maintained an interest in bringing The Art of Learning principles to New Mexico public school students since that time.
“Josh’s story is a fantastic platform for allowing kids to look at what being pushed does to them and what making their own push and following their own bliss does for their motivation and their talent development,” Moon explains. “I think the book is pretty authentic… in the way it speaks from the first person, unlike a lot of the materials we use that come from a “you ought to” approach. It also breaks down some of his lessons learned in a way that allows students to explore each one and say ‘Do I need to internalize this? Does this affect me, or is it about somebody else and how am I different?’”
The Santa Fe public school system is in the process of expanding their gifted education programs to include greater numbers of minority students, English language learners, and economically disadvantaged students than have historically participated. As part of this push, Moon is developing a seminar course for 8th and 9th grade students who have been identified as gifted or potentially gifted. He emphasizes the importance of helping these students develop breadth, observational skills, and critical thinking skills in order to understand themselves as learners and embrace challenge, rather than allowing them to develop a learning path exclusively in response to the skills they believe they already possess.
Throughout this course, students will read The Art of Learning, explore and discuss concepts from the book that are applicable and identifiable to all the students, and then begin to explore how they will each challenge themselves moving forward. As a culmination to the seminar, each student will create a self-development plan to carry with them beyond high school. It will serve as a dossier with current strengths, weaknesses, experiences, and interests, as well as plans for next steps after leaving high school and being on their own. Moon’s hope is that this plan will support these students as they transition into college and beyond, and encourage them to continue to stretch and grow as learners, independent of the high school support system.

Colaiste Dhulaigh

DUBLIN, IRELAND – Colaiste Dhulaigh is a community college in Dublin, Ireland, dedicated to providing the students within the community with the skills and confidence they need to further their education and enter the workforce. Dave Curran, the Head of Journalism and a Student Services team member in the Media department at the college, has found The Art of Learning to be an invaluable resource on his own path to learning and growth and has shared the book with many friends and colleagues. Curran explains that one of the aspects of the book that appeals to him is that, “Josh’s principles of learning take the mystique out of talent and progress. He makes excellence feel attainable.”

Curran plans to teach a seminar to journalism and media production students in which he hopes to provide the students with the tools to “approach tasks differently, aware that a result different to the one they hoped to achieve will be treated as learning rather than failure.”

The seminar will use learning principles such as Listening First and Loving the Game to help students discover their passions, The Power of Presence to provide the tools to improve focus in all aspects of learning, and Value Process Before Results and Investment in Loss to emphasize the learning opportunities present in mistakes.

“I want students to think creatively about how they approach their learning by viewing bad results or a lack of focus as something other than failure. Rather, they should treat these as steps toward being better students by reflecting on the causes.”

Loving the Game of Making Music

By NIKOLA TOŠIC

There is a powerful memory, which always resurfaces when I am helping people make music. It is of my brother, my sister and myself, ages 7, 6 and 5, digging through a crate of Legos, working on whatever it is our minds were determined to build. In that serene setting we found ourselves making something a little less touchable.. It would be a wonderful, completely spontaneous and improvised song, comprised of tongue clicks, whoops, tiki-tikis, nhya-nhye-nhyes and a whole array of sounds from our imaginary languages. It was a sort of trance-like ritual of our little tribe and I can never tell how long this composition lasted. It was so enchanting that we had a hard time bringing it to an end. We laughed so hard as each tried to put a silly punctuation to it.

I’ve seen this exhilarating creativity many times, not only in children, but in grown-ups as well. And I mean solemn grown-ups, dealing with adversities, all of which seem to crumble away while making music, as if they stepped through a portal to their childhood curiosity and excitement. As a musician and a workshop facilitator, the principle Loving the Game resonates with me in a powerful way.

In my experiences with music education, I’ve had difficulty reconciling with the dryness of the learning process. Through all of it, I’ve come to believe that learners relate best to the great composers and their work if they themselves are encouraged to be artists.

What I do is guide groups to make their own music. The groups vary in age and musical experiences. My task is to guide them out of their sphere of knowledge, into an open place where it’s safe to “not know”. Here there is room for abstract thought, for silliness, for darkness, for music they are not required to analyze, label or explain.

A crucial aspect of the process is the absence of written music. The workshop is an aural experience, which creates a powerful connection to the artwork and to the other artists.

One approach is by starting off the process with abstract content that is within their grasp, like rhythms using assigned numbers per some visual parameters, introducing color coded groups of notes, discussing topics from other areas etc.

After the introduction of the abstract, the participants split up into smaller groups and are left with a somewhat open task. Their minds can now tinker with the material they’ve been introduced to. They are then discovering other building blocks of music and seeing how they work alone or together, then inverted, reversed, stretched out, squeezed, mangled etc.

While they are working on their pieces, my role is to ask questions, offer different points of view and carefully nudge them if needed. This is often the time to encourage them to follow through with some ‘crazy’ impulse, if they were having second thoughts. As they swing between the open, explorative realm and everyday social habits and fears, validation can give them a much needed boost to take their composition further than they might have thought possible.

It’s important to emphasize the uniqueness of each artist and help them understand there aren’t any bad ideas, though some work better with others. Much like my, siblings each of us contributing a layer to the chant, it can be magical when these unique voices/ideas find their way to fit together.

As the music makers enter this open space, a natural process has been activated. Now there is a sense of camaraderie among the group, people are supporting each other, teaching each other little bits of music, combining, trying out, changing and improving. Honestly, sometimes it’s mind-blowing how fast things can move in the open space.

It’s easy (and valuable) to get lost for a while in the endless ocean of musical possibilities. There might be a moment a group needs someone to “translate” their open ideas into clear tasks. I find short time constraints to be a wonderful challenge, especially now that the group is working together against the clock.
One of the most beautiful results of the creative process is the focus on quality and intention. Most of the time, it comes completely naturally, as the artists assume ‘ownership’ of their compositions. It’s a powerful thing to observe and the intensity of a performance is hard to describe. It can even be too intense, as I’ve gotten into serious trouble with some fourth graders when my phone went off during a recording of their piece.

There is a tremendous source of energy to be found in Loving the Game. I believe this to be a sustainable energy, which can keep the creative mind returning to the timeless realm, where presence and selflessness bring beautiful art into existence. Moreover, when the music making is a shared experience, it opens up a whole world of connections between the artists.

Redmond Proficiency Academy

Redmond, OR – Redmond Proficiency Academy is a charter school serving students in the 6th through 12th grades. Their mission is to provide students with a proficiency-based education in a personalized learning environment through the creation of learning opportunities that are aligned to state, national, and industry standards.  They value the individuality of their students and strive to create an inclusive school environment in which all students aspire to high levels of academic achievement and personal growth.

Sandy Cloud, the school’s Community Liaison, organized a group of faculty who read and discussed The Art of Learning.  The result was a podcast on the school’s “Three Minds, One Book” series, hosted by Executive Director John Bullock, and including Science instructor Amy Mitchell and Spanish instructor Troy Longstroth.  Over the course of their conversation they touched on ideas such as the importance of Investment in Loss in science and language learning, Using Adversity, Building Your Trigger, and Loving the Game. They shared ideas about how to include a depth over breadth approach to teaching in an educational system in which there must be a breadth of study, and how to encourage students to discover and follow their passions, even when it is difficult to do so.

RPA is using their Yoga classes, Band classes, and Freshman Seminar classes to teach the Power of Presence through various forms – gratitude, silence, meditation, slowing down – in order to create space for students to hear their inner voice and allow time to slow.  These practices will give students a chance to see more clearly, know the choices available to them, and handle stress in healthier ways.

Agoura High School IB Program

AGOURA HILLS, CA. Andrew Staiano is using The Art of Learning as a teaching tool in his Theory of Knowledge class and sharing it with the Agoura High School soccer team. Andrew says: “I would like to use these books with my soccer players in order to help explain the art of the endgame, the concepts of numbers to leave numbers, and entering the soft zone to help them not only become better players but also to make that ‘journey back to childhood’ where the love of the game is first and foremost.”