All CAPS today because I am excitedly yelling about this school! I feel like a caller for a newspaper (I’m pretty sure that’s what the people who yelled, “Extra! Extra!…” were called. I Googled it, but was unable to find anything definitive. I’m going off memory here, so please correct me if I’m wrong)!

I arrived at Heartwood excited and nervous. School hours are 9:00-2:45. It was 8:45 and no students had shown up yet. I was worried I had the wrong time, date or even location as I stared at the sign that clearly said Heartwood ALC. I had confirmed the visit, so I knew I was in the right place, at the right time, but it felt eerily empty.

Within a few minutes students began to arrive, and Anthony, Lead Facilitator and Co-Director came outside. I recognized him from his picture on the website and introduced myself. He welcomed me and invited me in. Within 30 seconds of entering the building students and visitors began to arrive.

The atmosphere changed immediately to a palpable energy that was positive and swirling everywhere!

Students came in and hung up their personal items, took off their shoes and socialized. It was very similar to a public school class coming in except these kids were all different ages 5-14, and they were not being directed by staff through their morning routine.

Without any direct instruction, the children moved through their morning habits and joined together in HQ (the school community has organically named all of the rooms in the building except for the kitchen and bathrooms) for the morning meeting.

While waiting for their morning meeting, a stand up meeting designed for brevity and productivity, children were talking and moving around, a few were jumping or climbing on furniture.  It is in some children’s nature to jump and climb and Heartwood nurtures those needs in children.

I have read and studied several radical educational approaches, so I wasn’t alarmed by this behavior, it is natural for children to explore their world and test their limits. I smiled and observed, listening and talking to the adult visitors and staff about ourselves, the school and the display boards and programs or “offerings.”

When everyone was assembled, bell chimes rang through the air and the room quieted down, focus turned to the process at hand.

First the homeless box, Anthony held up items asking, “Who’s jacket is this?” Who’s Socks are these?” He said it was brought up that he didn’t show the socks, and against his preference, he began to show each pair of socks. Children responded to every item saying who they thought it belonged to, or that it was their own. This took all of maybe 90 seconds and children reunited with their belongings were happy.

He then went down the daily schedule board reviewing the plan for the day for students and visitors.  The children listened and chimed in. Everyone was asked if there was anything to add, I don’t remember if anyone had anything to say, but I was excited about seeing this model in action.

I don’t know how long the stand up meeting was, but it wasn’t long and none of the children wandered off or got side tracked, they were moving a bit, but they were paying attention and engaged.

I will share the day with you throughout the week. Join me tomorrow for what happens next…


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