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John F Kennedy Middle School

REDWOOD CITY, CA – Over the course of the school year, Melissa VanderMolen’s 7th grade English Language Arts class has been exploring the theme of what it takes to be great. In addition to reading books and articles about growth mindset, goal setting, and learning styles, she is hoping that her students will develop an interest in taking charge of their own learning. “I hope to empower students to create their own learning opportunities through enhancing their drive and internal motivation for learning,” VanderMolen explains.
As a final project, students are participating in literature circles in which they read and discuss a book that explores the theme of greatness. The students who have chosen to work with The Art of Learning will complete a project that showcases their learning and take-aways from the book. Some groups are working on slide presentations and others are working on creating a poster/bulletin board. All of the groups will present their projects to the class when they are finished. VanderMolen told the JWF that her goal for this project is “that students become more reflective about their own learning and capabilities. I have already witnessed their critical thinking skills progress to the next level while processing this book.”

Here are some reflections from the students midway through their exploration of The Art of Learning:

“What I have learned about the art of learning is that you have to follow your dreams and to never give up and to fight and if there is an obstacle in front of you try to jump it to become something great. The most important thing I have learned is to believe in yourself.” A.P.

“Try new things, learn from your mistakes, learn to get better.” S.O.

“I learned that every art is related in some way and that if you put your mind to it you can do amazing things.“ G.F.

“Winning doesn’t matter, what matters is what effort you put into it.” T.S.

MP4P – Mental Practice For Performance

RICHMOND, VA – Scott Rohlwing created MP4P to address what he saw as the lack of emotional intelligence and performance psychology instruction for adolescents in both athletic and academic environments. “As a society, we’ve become so busy that tasks supersede just about everything. Many people are growing up not understanding Emotional Intelligence, relationship skills, coping skills, and mental strategies,” Rohlwing told the JWF. “I thoroughly believe that emotions are extremely important and the more we are educated on emotions, the more aware we are, and the more we can manage emotions, the better performers we will become and ultimately, better people. Embrace your emotion, acknowledge it, enhance it.”

Rohlwing is currently teaching a Mental Performance course to adults at the University of Richmond’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies. In this course his students explore the ideas of Emotional Intelligence and Performance Psychology through learning principles such as Investment in Loss, Beginner’s Mind, Using Adversity, Making Smaller Circles, Downward Spiral, Stress and Recovery, and Power of Presence.

He is further developing the MP4P program with a local volleyball club, and plans to expand to a variety of youth programs such as gymnastics, soccer, and football. Ultimately, he hopes to expand to offering elective courses in middle schools and high schools through mobile learning and online micro-lessons.

Bear Valley Middle School

ESCONDIDO, CA – Raymundo Rodriguez teaches the 6th through 8th grade Bear Academy advisory class in this public middle school.  He approached the JW Foundation through our book donation program with an interest in developing a program to motivate and inspire underperforming students who struggle with behavior and academic issues in school.  He plans to begin the school year by having his students read and discuss The Art of Learning in order to “make a connection with the students.”  Rodriguez says he wants to “allow them to read about learning and become owners of their choices and outcomes.  I want to help my students become life long learners.”


FORT WORTH, TX – Trinity Valley School is a K-12 independent and innovative college preparatory school committed to providing their students with a broad liberal education in the arts and sciences.  Luke Jacob, Dean of Learning and Curriculum, is working with teachers in the 2nd, 7th, and 9th grades to develop multi-disciplinary models of The Art of Learning, with an aim to continue to grow each year until the entire school is working with the learning principles.

In each grade, a small team of teachers applies a particular learning principle at the same time, using similar language and lesson structures in their different classrooms.  That way, a given student (and his or her parents) encounters three or four iterations of the learning principle.  Jacob explains, “This allows for both the consistency and flexibility of the curriculum model, and in a way that would help everyone to see just how similarly the processes of learning function across different fields of study”.

A wonderful example of this process is with the second grade team consisting of Leslie Garcia (classroom teacher), Karen Arrington (technology), and Melissa Black (visual arts).  They have developed a unit of study around the principle of Making Smaller Circles.  The students explore the concept within the framework of each discipline and then combine their new-found knowledge to create a class e-book.  For a more detailed description of the second grade unit, please visit Karen Arrington’s blog or watch this video.

You can also see wonderful examples of the teachers’ lessons, unit outlines, assignments and more in the elementary (Leslie Garcia) and middle school (Tina Harper) sections of our Educators and Coaches resource page.


NEW YORK, NY – Principal Padilla, parent coordinator Annery Quezada, and eighth grade English teacher Tim Pearce are implementing a new Parent Program into this federally-funded magnet school on the upper west side of New York City. West Prep Academy has a themed curriculum, “youth voice through youth media,” and Principal Roberto Padilla wants parents to have an innovative and engaged voice at the school. Annery and Tim are initiating a new way of integrating parents into the daily learning process at West Prep Academy through a tailored parent program focusing on Resilience in a parent, child, classroom. and community. The new program is running for a year, with a 6 months parent group, and a 6 month in-class integration process through a parent/teacher collaboration. The goal is for students to learn that toughness in not the same as resilience and that resilience can be practiced together at home and in school.

Sperrang Middle School

ST. LOUIS, MO- The Sperreng Middle School individualizes education and supports highly gifted students through the middle school years.   Educator Kimberly Crank had her incoming 8th grade students read and annotate The Art of Learning over the 2011 summer.  She then taught the book during the first 3-5 weeks in the fall and had her students write a paper on the chapter of their choice incorporating quotations and personal opinions.  She said she is using Josh’s ideas to inspire the students to help them reflect on their own learning styles and to learn to write effectively.