Winter 2014 Newsletter
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Chess in the Cariboo: Kai's Story

SelfDesign learner, Kai, has been playing chess for five years and excelling at the game.  We - his parents Scott and Aki - have been trying to keep up but it involves a lot of travel, which equals time and money. We're subsistence farmers/artisans living in the bush and it's hard to find time or money.  Kai and two other chess players in Williams Lake started a chess club at the library four years ago. In that time, they have shown up faithfully every week, but only one new member has joined in four years. We knew that there had to be more chess players here in the Cariboo/Chilcotin region of BC. 

Kai played on a team for Canada at the 2013 World Youth Chess Championships (UAE) in the under 10 category. He has played in three Canadian Chess Opens (2012 in Victoria, 2013 in Ottawa, 2014 in Montreal) and a number of BC tournaments. Because of this tournament experience we thought we could organize a local tournament in Williams Lake. We knew we could do it, but did not know how many people would actually show up.
We thought that hosting a local tournament with great prizes would be a way of getting some chess happening in our community. We decided to ask SelfDesign for five deluxe House of Staunton tournament chess sets as prizes. We knew that these sets would attract youth players and give these players access to clubs and tournaments (most require players to bring their own boards). Without hesitation SelfDesign Learning Community Principal, Kathleen Forsythe, said that would be great.

The SelfDesign-sponsored chess set prizes for the youth were a major draw and the tournament was a success, attracting players from 100 Mile House and Quesnel as well as Williams Lake. This one-day event was held in the program room at the local library which we filled to near capacity. Ten experienced players were in the Open section, 11 youth and three adults played in the Casual section and four parents played in their own mini tournament.

Together with local sponsors providing books, bike tune-ups, food, and other outdoor gear, we put together prize packages for all the youth who attended. Kai took top prize in the Open section (experienced players and mostly adults except for Kai), and the top five youth (Casual section) received tournament chess sets among other prizes. 

SelfDesign has been really supportive of Kai's interest in chess. Through the equipment loan program, they supplied him with 10 Scholastic chess sets to be used to help set up tournaments, give chess demonstrations, and teach chess. Kai is now helping to start a chess club at a local elementary school, lending the sets while he's there, and giving group lessons and chess demonstrations. You can read more about the tournament on the 
Williams Lake Chess website.

Fair Trade for Peace Holiday Market Story

On Sunday December 7, Nelson-area learners, mentors, and parents from SelfDesign hosted the 6th annual Fair Trade for Peace Holiday Market. Different than in previous years, the market operated on a single day and was hosted at a local co-operative bakery right downtown. Nelson residents have come to count on the market as an opportunity to shop for ethically-sourced gifts and some people completed their holiday shopping there purchasing popular items such as hand-carved kitchen utensils, tree ornaments, jewelry, scarves, toys, and musical instruments. 

The market included good from three unique, certified fair trade companies and provided information about the individual artisans. The ingenuity of some of the products, for example those made from what is often considered waste materials in Canada, was a source of inspiration and provocation for the learners and shoppers alike.

It’s hard not to ask ourselves questions and rethink our approach to ‘garbage’ when we’re holding beautiful, useful items like picture frames and jewelry made out of old circuit boards and broken bike chains! 

This year, as is our tradition, we collected a good assortment of gifts for the local women’s centre and have dedicated a portion of the funds from the market to a youth and young women's camp that will happen this summer. More information on these camps will come in the spring.

Thanks to the learners, alumni, and contractors who helped make this market a fun and festive success and much gratitude to our families and community who continue to support this valuable learning opportunity.

Yellow and the Magic Pearl

Written by SelfDesign learner Zada Szocs
Once upon a time in a small town called Orangeville lived a boy named Yellow. Yellow was yellow all over his body, Yellow had yellow teeth, Yellow had yellow toe nails, Yellow had yellow fingernails. One Day Yellow went to the Yellow candy store and purchased a suspicious and magical bag with suspicious and magical candy in it. Yellow went to his yellow house and ate all of the magical and suspicious looking candy in one gulp. Yellow started to tremble, he looked in the mirror and yelled, “Aaagh, I'm Blue!” His mother came flying upstairs into his room screamed and fainted at the sight of her son. Yellow raced out of the house not knowing where he was going to go. He quickly came up with a plan to go to the Enchanted Lake. As he approached the shore line he slammed into a boat, causing him to flip over and land on his butt, criss-cross in front of an old man named "Human". Yellow thought if he told the old man about his problem, Human would be able to tell him what to do about it. So Yellow told Human. 

Human said, “If you take one of these pearls you will be cured.” So Yellow swallowed one of the pearls and he started to shudder and threw up all over Human. Human was smiling because he had seen this happen before. Yellow asked Human, "Why are you smiling?" and Human said, "Because you are yellow again!" Yellow said, "I know, my name is Yellow." Human said, "No you are the colour yellow. Yellow you are cured, I fixed you!” The boy jumped up and down saying, "I am never going to eat suspicious and magical candy ever ever again!”

SelfDesign Makers Show Off 3D Printing Skills at TEDxKidsBC

John Krotez, Chris Newton and a band of SelfDesign makers have been playing with some pretty exciting tech-stuff over the last year and early this month they got a chance to show off their 3D printing skills at the TEDxKids conference in Burnaby.

You might be wondering what ‘making’ is or who a ‘maker’ is. Wikipedia describes it like this:

The maker culture is a[n] … extension of DIY culture. Typical interests enjoyed by ‘makers’ include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of CNC tools, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and traditional arts and crafts. Making emphasizes new and unique applications of technologies, and encourages invention and prototyping. There is a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them creatively.

Turning Minecraft ideas into 3D objects
The SelfDesign maker group has been exploring 3D printing - a way of building an object from a 3D model by laying down (or printing) lots and lots of layers of a given material.

They are also really interested in Minecraft, so in an effort to combine these two interests, they began 3D printing their Minecraft creations! This collision of virtual Minecraft objects and real world items led to some interesting results and caught the attention of one of the organizers of a local TEDx for kids, a series of talks given by fascinating and engaging speakers on a range of topics.

"We were asked to host a booth showcasing Minecraft and 3D printing. We set up a Minecraft workstation and people were encouraged to build something in Minecraft that we then printed out in 3D - totally like Star Trek, just not as fast. The booth was REALLY popular! We had a line of kids waiting to build something in Minecraft and then waiting until after the conference had ended to get their 3D-printed items. We were pretty tired by the end of the day, but it was so rewarding to see so much interest!" - SelfDesign Maker

Makers Group Inspires a New Course - SelfDesign: Robotics & Prototyping

Starting in January SelfDesign will be offering SelfDesign: Robotics & Prototyping, an online course for learners in grades 10 - 12.  Learners will use a robot building kit to design, create and program robots. Learners in North Vancouver area can also access facilities and equipment to produce custom components for their robots at the Zen Maker Lab. Those outside of the Lower Mainland will also be invited to these lab sessions via interactive audio/video. This 4-credit course satisfies the Applied Skills/Fine Arts requirement for BC high school graduation. 

Details will be shared soon. For more information and to express your interest in this course, please email

Dr. Carol Matusicky (1941-2014) 

MATUSICKY, Dr. Carol Ann, PhD. (nee Storrow)
Carol Ann Matusicky born April 7, 1941 in Vancouver, British Columbia, passed away peacefully on December 5, 2014 at her home in Burnaby in the loving care and comfort of family and friends. She is survived by her husband, Leo, children Catherine and Joey, and grandchildren Molly and Jack; brother Marvin, sister Mary and their families. After a lengthy battle with ALS, Carol left everyone she touched with a legacy of courage, compassion and beauty. 
Her tireless commitment and drive in her career with BC Council for Families, along with numerous boards, social agencies and foundations - including service on the SelfDesign Learning Foundation Board from 2011 to 2013 - is a testament to her genuine passion for life and the good will of the human spirit. Her selfless and unconditional devotion to her family, work and friends alike will always be remembered and cherished. Carol was truly a woman of distinction who inspired and brought joy to everyone around her. She will be deeply missed and forever admired. 

The Possibilities are Endless: Graduate Programs at SelfDesign Graduate Institute

SelfDesign Graduate Institute (SDGI) learners have the option of directing their own inquiry with the support of a faculty mentor of their choice; we call this a Directed Study. There are a variety of exciting directed studies currently underway this semester, including an exploration of the Reggio Emilia education model, Integral Leadership for Sustainable Business, A Heuristic Approach to Learning German, Creating Community and Culture for Online Learning and many more! 

Watch the video below to explore what you can do with a Masters degree from SDGI and visit the SDGI website to learn more about how SDGI can support your lifelong learning journey.

SelfDesigners Gather for GameCon Fun on Vancouver Island

If you’ve seen previous editions of our newsletter, you will already know that there are a lot of SelfDesigners who love the learning and fun they experience with the online game Minecraft. We’ve got learners from K-12 who regularly create there and a dedicated group who facilitate conversations and community development with this active group of learners. 

Michael and Lori Bender, a SelfDesign parent duo, are well known in the SelfDesign Minecraft community. They’ve been dedicated to enabling learning through the fun and fellowship of games and are the hosts of SelfDesign ‘GameCon’ events on Vancouver Island. GameCon provides a venue for learners and families to gather face-to-face and explore new ways of learning through crafts and games.

A group gathered at GameCon on Saturday, December 6 and played Minecraft, made ornaments with Perler beads, shared art, played Foosball and games on WiiU.  Parents and kids alike enjoyed chatting, and showing each other recent creations and tips and tricks for using SelfDesign’s online platforms.

Given the positive feedback and great uptake of the GameCon events this fall, Michael and Lori are motivated to host events on a bi-monthly basis in the new year. They’re also willing to share their approach to hosting GameCon with families and educators that are interested in hosting similar regional meet ups for SelfDesigners in their areas.

As Michael notes, “These kids spend hours at home challenging themselves and pushing the limits of their learning. It’s gratifying and great learning for them to gather with their peers and demonstrate their discoveries to one another, and we’re so happy to help make that happen.”

Reflections on Hosting An American Doll Conference

Written by Shonna Morgan, in collaboration with her daughters, Aliana and Viola

Our family has been with SelfDesign for nearly a decade now and many of us have participated in the Chautauqua conversations that have been offered over the years; Chautauquas reflect their earlier 20th century predecessors as places of resource and skill sharing and development. In the 2014 Fall Chautauqua hosted for K-9 learners and their families in SelfDesign’s ‘Village of Conversations,’ Aliana and Viola expressed interest in hosting  an ‘American Girl Doll’ conference. During the 2 week event, the girls shared their love of the 18" dolls and were really pleased to have another learner and several parents get involved in the conversations which centred around sewing doll clothes, watching doll videos from American Girl Doll aficionados, making your own doll videos, and sharing photographs.

The twins' interest in these dolls has led to so many learning opportunities. They have become self-taught photographers and videographers, taking their dolls regularly on shoots.They have become clothing designers and tailors, exploring different fabrics, materials, and sewing techniques. 

They have become knowledgeable of social media, learning how to use different platforms to share their interest and learn from others. They have also learned how to draw a mock-up design proposal for building a floor to ceiling doll house on a wall in our basement, in an effort to convince us that this would be a wonderful addition to our home. 

They have explored each of these areas on their own time and with innate interest; it's fascinating to watch where their passions have led them!

I asked the girls some questions about their experience with the Chautauqua, and here are a few of their responses: 
Q. What made you decide to host the American Girl Dolls conference?
Aliana: Okay, well I sort of wanted to know more people around us,  and just in general, who likes American Girl Dolls, or just dolls in general.
Viola: Um, I think it was cool to find other people with the same interest and we could relate to each other about everything. Also, I just love American Girl Dolls.

Q. What did you enjoy most about hosting it?
Aliana: Even though there was only one girl there, I still liked getting to know her and sharing our photos of dolls, and our stories about dolls. 
Viola: Making new friends and sharing all the projects that Aliana and I have done.

Q. Would you do it again? 
Aliana: YES! To meet even more people, I liked talking to others about dolls.
Viola: Yes, definitely! It was a lot of fun!

Q. Why are American Girl Dolls important or special for you?
Aliana: I think they are just like . . . well a lot of dolls are really fun. Barbies are fun, too, but I like American Girl Dolls, or that size and look of dolls, because it sort of feels like it's a little you! And they can also be different ages. They could be 4 or a teenager, so they are fun to play around with ages and looks.
Viola:  They are like little perfect figures trapped in time and they can be whatever you want them to be! Also I feel like that could inspire yourself to be whatever you want yourself to be.

View Aliana and Viola’s Instagram pages for more fun and learning with their dolls.

Virtual Parent Learning Circles - A Reflection from Down Under 

My name is Penny Cullen and I live with my family (myself, my husband, my two daughters ages 6 and 3 along with 8 chickens) on a plot of lush, beautiful land in New Zealand. We are a home learning family and we love being out in nature. The girls participate in full-day nature programs in our community, which include botany, crafts, music and cooking, and we spend lots of time learning together as a family outdoors. 

I began exploring homeschooling options while I was pregnant with my youngest and I came across the SelfDesign book in my local library. I resonated with the SelfDesign philosophy of nurturing genius through natural learning and thought to myself, “I want this for my kids, I want them to grow up authentic and true to themselves.”

I contacted SelfDesign Global, the SelfDesign program offered to families anywhere in the world, and after a few conversations with Monica Cochran, a SelfDesign consultant, I decided to initiate an online parent learning circle in my community. I gathered a group of parents together, which eventually evolved to 14 participants, and we began our weekly virtual conversations with Monica’s support. These weekly meetings were a safe space where we could have rich and open conversation, give and receive support and create deep, lasting relationships. I learned so much about myself and my own potential as a mother and an educator through the connection with other families and the support that Monica provided. Monica brought knowledge and connection to the SelfDesign framework and observing for learning and suggested a multitude of resources based on our children’s unique interests.

Once I began my weekly participation in this learning community, my husband immediately recognized a change in me. I have slowed down and now I understand the observing for learning process and it’s importance. I have learned to leave my stuff behind and just BE with my children and that is so powerful for them to feel that pure connection and know that I am enough. I have also noticed that my daughters are now willing to share their inner worlds with me and we are so much closer.

Taranaki Learners 
Over time, Penny's involvement in SelfDesign's parent learning circle has evolved into a face-to-face learning group in Taranaki, New Zealand. Explore their learning adventures at the Taranaki Blog

SelfDesign Global Learning Circles
For a nominal monthly fee, SelfDesign Global offers supportive virtual learning circles for parents across the globe who want to educate and parent in a holistic and conscious way. Parents meet weekly through a video conferencing platform and share ideas and resources, receive support from each other and a SelfDesign consultant, and gain connection with other home learning families. To learn more please visit the SelfDesign Global website. 
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