SDLC Spring 2015 Newsletter
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Welcome to SelfDesign's Spring 2015 newsletter, with inspiring stories of growth and change to match the season! Read what our learners are up to, hear one of our educator's way of approaching video games, and watch some pretty special videos. 

   In this edition:
  • Rupert's Voting in Action
  • To Game or Not?
  • The Value of Conversation in SelfDesigning Her Life
  • SelfDesign’s Winter Camp
  • Introducing the Granola Bar-Bie 3000!
  • Baking Like a Boss - delicious recipes
  • Inspiring love of the Earth, from Outer Space
  • The Secret Social Life of Plants
Photo Credit: SD mentor Sheila Harrington

Rupert's 'Voting' in Action


Rupert, 10, and his sister Franny, 7, have been part of SelfDesign Learning Community for 3 years, and in this short time, unforeseen and dramatic personal transformation has occurred for both children. Rupert had attended public school, but after a traumatic brain injury and continually feeling shortchanged on learning at school, the family chose to try home learning for Rupert. Franny also started her formal learning experience at public school, but within days it became obvious that she was surviving rather than thriving, and in observing the positive influence home learning was having on her brother, the family made the decision for both kids to learn at home and haven’t looked back. 

This year the kids chose an overarching theme of Canada in which to frame their studies. After taking a home learner class on civics, Rupert grabbed his mom and inquired “Did you know that kids have the least amount of power in our society?” He was completely dismayed and confused because he and his sister had always felt empowered within their family, yet in our democracy where we voice concerns through votes, he was lacking the ability to participate because he isn’t yet old enough to vote.


Motivation struck for Rupert when shortly thereafter he attended the Blue Dot tour hosted by the David Suzuki Foundation. During the presentation, David Suzuki’s grandson Tamo Campos spoke about how some corporations who are damaging the environment are protected by the law while some people and organizations who are trying to protect the environment are not. Blue Dot is trying to rouse people to work with their municipalities to make declarations recognizing the right to a healthy environment. The hope is that one by one communities will come on board until it reaches a tipping point where provinces and territories bring in legislation as a result of their constituencies doing so. Once 7 provinces and territories have legislation in place the David Suzuki Foundation will ask the federal government to add environmental rights to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Rupert learned that unlike 110 countries around the world, Canada has yet to recognize environmental rights.


Rupert decided to write letters to the municipal candidates in his riding in the upcoming election, which he hand-delivered at an all candidates meet and greet.  In his letter Rupert reasoned that while he couldn’t vote,  he could influence people who are able to vote, and he proposed that if candidates would commit to working with him towards making a declaration recognizing the rights to a healthy environment once they were elected, he would work towards getting them elected. Once Council was elected, Rupert followed up with ongoing communication and he used every opportunity to remind them of their commitment. A short time later the new mayor and several councilors decided to champion Rupert’s Blue Dot inspired request, endorsing the Declaration for the Right to a Healthy Environment and committing to support other municipalities across BC who are wanting to enact similar declarations.  This was more than Rupert could have wished for!

Since then Rupert has made presentations to several other municipal councils and has now inspired six municipal councils to make declarations of their own, and is committed to working with other Blue Dot campaigners to continue this trend in other parts of BC. He also wants to use this experience to encourage other kids to get active in this initiative or to use their voice to do something that’s important to them. Rupert said “It’s all about empowering kids and making them know they have a say, because they do.  They have as much say as adults, they just don’t know it!” He has learned that while he’s unable to affect change with a ballot because of his age, he and other children can make a huge impact in our communities in other ways. 


Come meet Rupert, a representative from the David Suzuki Foundation, and others from the SelfDesign community interested in caring for and protecting the Earth at a special webinar; details will be provided to SelfDesign Learning Community members in an upcoming Bulletin.

SelfDesigners, register to participate in this webinar!

To Game or Not?

submitted by Scotti Erickson


Many children and youth today are undeniably attracted to the myriad of video games available to play. Yet not all parents are keen on the idea of their children ‘gaming’, be it because of concerns over too much screen time, the level of violence in some games, or the time it takes away from connecting with others face to face or being outside. In fact, even though SelfDesign is a distributed school with the bulk of our offerings available online, actively questioning the value of video games is very strong amongst some in our community. 


As such its become a popular topic of conversation in our educator circles, with discussions ranging from strategies for lessening overall screen time to using the passion a learner has for games as a springboard into studying computer science or sociology etc. Below, SelfDesign parent and educator Scotti Erickson, explains her approach and thoughts in regards to learners who love game . . . 

"As a parent whose children play a lot of computer and video games freely and without limits and an LC who has many gaming learners, when I wonder what the learning value of the game is or what LOs can be tied to the exploration, I try the game out myself.  I watch walk through's of the game being played on YouTube.  I have even bought the game, played it with my own children, and discovered the learning opportunities that arise from the game.  Then, I can more thoroughly discuss the learning that takes place with the learner/family/or my own children.  Or, I can at least tick off some LOs as minimally meeting.  


"Help your son see all of the positive and wonderful things he is doing and achieving when he plays a game. First, you will need to learn see it." - Karen James


Sometimes the child is not able to express the learning using LO/Numeracy languaging, but the concepts are being explored and learned.  Or perhaps the learner needs time process what is happening and it won't become apparent until it is practically applied at some later time - possible in adulthood.  



Also, I encourage my parents to play the games with their children in order deepen the parent/child connection and to understand what the child loves about the game.  Perhaps there is another avenue/topic/area of interest that can be introduced/discussed as an off shoot of the game.  Or perhaps the game is just plain fun.  And that is ok.


Also, sometimes, the inherent 'learning' value of the game is not necessarily important or recognizable, but respecting the choices the child has made in playing the game and recognizing the choice as being valid is important.


"Gaming takes a lot of effort. A person who doesn't want to put effort into things, wouldn't be at all interested in playing video games. Video games are for people who really enjoy solving challenging problems, putting to use their out-of-the-box thinking and long term focus to help them achieve their goals. People don't seem to appreciate that." - Karen James


I know that many do not agree with my 'free-screening' ways, but hopefully I can help others to see the really cool learning that gaming offers.  I really like the work of James Paul Gee to help show the relevance; Sandra Dodd’s website About Videogames - SERIOUSLY is another source of information that I value too."

The Value of Conversation in SelfDesigning Her Life


Girl smiling, sitting on drift wood at the beach

My name is Maia, I'm 14 and am part of the Gateways program at SelfDesign. I love theatre, reading, writing stories, playing the piano and singing. This year I look forward to growing a vegetable garden that I am able to maintain that provides my family with vegetables.


I also love horses and am currently working on a project about the history of the horse which I designed myself. I'm exploring the horse from the 14th century to the modern day, and what I learn about each century will be shown in a video. One thing that I love about the SelfDesign approach is that my school work can be connected to my unique interests, like my horse project. In this case I’ll learn about history through my passion for horses. I wasn't sure at first how to go about this project and then my learning consultant, Kristina Leidums, helped me find resources and we talked a lot about how to do a research project. She got really excited about the idea and wouldn't let me give up on it during any moments of doubt!


I have made a lot of friends at SelfDesign, especially at youth camps. I like the workshops that are offered at the camps, especially survival and outdoor skill-focused workshops. I like the pod system used there too, where you cook meals with a group. In this setting I learn more about cooking and I really get to know the people in my pod by making a meal with them. When I meet people in SelfDesign I can talk to them right away because I already have something in common – learning at home and in my community. Then we end up discovering a bunch of other things we have in common through conversations. These connections with others in the SelfDesign community have helped me develop my personality through lots of conversations. As I get to know more people I also get to know myself. 


My plans are to stay with SelfDesign through high school, teach more tricks to my dog, write a steampunk fashion play, meet more people in SelfDesign, travel, and maybe become a learning consultant, which looks like a pretty fun job.

Maia's horse project video: 

Horses of the Ages Movie 21 C.

SelfDesign's Winter Camp

written and submitted by SelfDesign alumnus and camps coordinator, Clara Foulds


Thirty-one learners from every corner of the province came together last month for SelfDesign High's Winter Camp at McQueen Lake. Two nights of cabin sleepovers, tasty fireside meals, and a lively spread of activities made for a very full three days. 

The McQueen Lake Environmental Centre nestled in the thawing forest north of Kamloops, offered a home base for the learners, whose ages spanned from 13-19. Seeing the group jell virtually in an instant was a treat - from the urbanites to backwoods folk, there was an overall feeling of support and good will for everyone present. Helpers always willing to do dishes, cut potatoes, carry someone's heavy bags, and being trusted and welcomed by this group made offering the activities fun and easy.
The WildEarth group came prepared to teach us a thing or two about being safe in the wilderness, which immediately came in handy when we were working on shelter building in the middle of an afternoon wind storm. Jonathan Taylor and Barbarah Nicoll brought pieces of storytelling and mindfulness activities and gave us a few tools to carry in our pockets for the next time we need to clear the clutter of our minds. (And of course, no camp would be complete without a good Werewolf game or two.)

In the end, it felt both abundantly long and all too short. Saying goodbye to new and old friends is never easy, but lots of 'see-you-soon!’ helped everyone get back on the road to home. Thank you to everyone who helped us get there and back, thought of us while we were together, and listened to our stories when we returned. And of course, thanks to each learner for trusting us with your weekend! I look forward to see you again, somewhere, soon!

The next SelfDesign gathering is ENCOUNTERS youth summit: May 11th to 15th, open to all learners in Grades 8 through 12 enrolled with SelfDesign. Contact Clara Foulds for more information and to register.


Practical Need + Freedom to Explore = the Granola Bar-Bie 3000!


On a recent morning in Lumby, BC, SelfDesign learner Samson and his family began a discussion about pulleys, combinations of pulleys and loads.  

Samson, who classifies himself as an artist/tinkerer/inventor, made a contraption which was a vertical basket elevator - moving objects up and down without travel in any direction. He and his brother Maddox and sister Holly had a great time experimenting with different loads and speeds, etc.  

Then, inspired by his sister’s desire for snacks and dolls while she played on the trampoline, Samson created another contraption. With a little help from mom (suggestion of a tether) along with patience from his hungry, bored sister, the Granola Bar-Bie 3000 was born!

Samson’s mom Amanda shares,

“(Samson's sister) Holly was happy to have the snacks and be a part of the experience. She continued to play on the trampoline, requesting water as well!  After sharing the video clip with cousins and friends, the basket and pulley were used many more times, and is still currently attached to the railing of the deck. We are enjoying SelfDesign immensely, as it gives us a freedom to explore and learn at a pace that suits us, as a family and as individual learners.”

Be sure to watch this short video of Samson's great invention in action - The Granola Bar-Bie 3000.

Samson demonstrates the Granola Bar-Bie 3000!

Baking Like a Boss

SDH learner Sierra shares her learning artifact that started out as a way for her to explore her love of baking. Sierra shares 10+ recipes for yummy eats such as White Chocolate, Coconut Toffee Cookies, Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Dreams, Pot Pie, Chocolate Souffle and more!
Click on the image to access all of the recipes.
Want to share your learning in a future newsletter? Contact the SD Communications Team.

Inspiring Love of the Earth, from Outer Space

written by Paula Sobie


When I was working towards a degree in environmental education and communication, somebody said to me ‘you can’t ask someone to save something that they don’t already love’. The idea behind this was that although some of us look at the ravaged state of our planet’s health and feel an urgent need to provide care, before we can expect others to feel the same tug on their hearts, they first need to experience falling in love with the Earth.

The environmental movement as we know it today is not very old, and I wonder if, ironically, our sense of needing to protect the planet came from humankind’s exploration of outer space. I say this after first seeing the short film Overview Effect (linked below) a few years ago. The film not only includes cool footage of space travel, but what captured me (and my three-year-old nephew) most were the awe-inspiring and spectacular images of Earth from space. Indeed, seeing the Earth as a amazingly beautiful, life-filled, unique and fragile planet protected from the harsh cosmic environment by only a thin layer of atmosphere was what some of the first astronauts asserted to be the most valuable aspect of humankind’s journey to space. From this vantage point political boundaries disappear and ideological difference are less significant, and the need to care for and protect the ‘blue dot’ of planet Earth is our focus.

During this month when we celebrate Earth Day, we encourage you to nurture your love of our planet. As we continue to witness climate uncertainty and changes to our natural environment, the more we understand Earth, the better we will know how to care for our one and only home.

The Secret Social Life of Plants


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