Fall/Winter Newsletter 2015/2016
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In This Issue


Upcoming Dates

  • Feb 1 - High School Winter Session Begins
  • Feb 3 - Virtual High School Info Session
  • Mar 1- 4 - Winter Camp for learners 14+
  • Mar 15 - Re-enrollment Opens for SD Families
  • May 1 - Enrollment Opens to the Public

Welcome to the SelfDesign Fall/Winter Newsletter for 2016!

We're so happy to have you here, and we have many special things to share with you today. There are stories from our learners (past and present!), webinars and events for you to get involved with, and even a couple videos!

Finding Purpose & Community Through His Learning

James is a 21-year-old, friendly SelfDesigner from Kelowna with a great sense of humour. As he has not yet formally graduated, James is welcome to participate in the SupportEd Program as he wishes. Paradoxically, despite his diagnosis on the extreme end of the autistic spectrum and being considered non-verbal, James is also a very social guy and he has a great way of connecting with people. Thanks to the flexibility of personalized learning with SelfDesign, James, his family, and his team of caregivers have found a way to combine continued learning with meaningful employment to continue to propel James forward on a joyful path of development and purpose.

As a young man, James keeps a full schedule of activities. Because of specific needs due to his autism, James requires the support of others at all times but he’s grown a bit bored of spending most of his time with his Mom and Dad. Being the attentive family they are, James’ parents noticed his readiness for greater independence, individualization, and interactions with others and began looking for ways to meet his needs. According to James’ mom, Sylvie, “James really enjoys purposeful activity, so when we were creating his learning plan/IEP (Individual Education Plan) this year we identified employment as a valuable social role in which he could participate, while simultaneously contributing to our community’s understanding of autism.”

Clearly a well-loved guy, James’ family and his team of caregivers all started brainstorming his ideal job. Knowing that James’ needs meant he’d require a customized opportunity rather than standard employment, his team began recalling those activities that reliably brought a smile to his face, which led to James finding his niche - a delivery service with a difference! Testing the reception of their idea, his family asked places that James goes to in their community, like
Okanagan Gymnastics, 
and got positive feedback on their plan. As a result, this fall James and his parents created a business plan to accompany his learning plan, and Java James (a delivery service) was born!

James and his family are thrilled by how his business has already blossomed. His sibling created a logo incorporating the autism awareness puzzle pieces, and in the past couple months both his team and his customers have been scooping up the hats and vests with the Java James logo his parents had made. In a heart-warming reflection, Sylvie notes “We want to establish relationships and build community and understanding through this business. James’ customers need to give a little by placing orders with a couple days notice, and in return they’ll get the satisfaction of supporting someone and super friendly service - high fives and jumps of joy guaranteed!” By seeing beyond his needs and focusing on his abilities, James, with the help of his family and caregivers, has a lot to offer his community, and his community is providing a richer life for James.

If you’re in Kelowna and ready for a special delivery, visit Java James’ website and place your order!

SelfDesigning Your Own Learning, Life, And Acting Career!


Victoria began at SelfDesign for the freedom it allowed her to pursue acting and, as she states, “I am glad that I chose SelfDesign so I could dedicate myself to my artform. The philosophy of following your passion and dreams really inspired me.” Graduating at 18 years of age, Victoria selfdesigns her high school in balance with her dynamic acting career that is composed of plays, intensive acting classes, auditions, and “staying on top with what's current.”

Based out of Vancouver, Victoria just won an award for Most Outstanding Female Actress at the BC Provincial Drama Festival. Victoria has been studying acting since she was 14, initially as a way to transform her shyness as she found that acting helped her overcome social anxiety and become a confident person. She practices her craft through classes, reading books and observing other successful actors. She and her mother attend numerous plays including Theatre Under the Stars, which has turned into a family tradition of summer fun.

Victoria selfdesigns her academic and artistic life through her self-determination to continue, through her dedication and creativity, and by NOT procrastinating, an important piece to being successful in her experience. She adds, “it’s nice to have SelfDesign as an educational option . . . I’m grateful for my choices. People in the past didn’t have as many choices as I do."

Short term plans include attending a six month acting intensive and traveling to other cities for auditions and plays. As for the long term, Victoria shares, “I am dedicating my life to acting.”

For anyone who is searching for their right path in life, Victoria advises, “If you wonder, what should I do with my life? What do my parents want me to do? What do I want to do? What do others want me to do? Do what you want to do because you will get more fulfillment from what you love to do. Follow your passion and your heart no matter what, it's what you love that counts . . . and don't procrastinate!”


Lilah Fitzgerald has known that she wanted to act since she was three years old during her performance at Silverstar Idol in Vernon. The whole time she was dancing and singing on stage, she was saying to herself, “I want to do this.”

Now 12 years old, she recently won the LEO award for the best actress for a television movie for her performance as Polka Dot in Polka Dot and Luey!

How did your acting career get started?

We lived on a ski hill in the Okanagan, near Vernon. And I wanted to act ever since I found out there were real people on the screen and so I kept asking my mom and finally she said, okay fine, but you have to do a year of musical theatre first. I was five at the time and you had to be six to get into musical theatre so I had to wait. So after I did that, I said, mom, can I be a real actor now? And she said, well, first you have to get an agent. So I said, mom, will you help me get an agent? And she said, okay. I was so lucky that she didn't know what we were getting into! You have to drive, because you can't do acting in Vernon. So we had to drive to Vancouver, which is a six hour drive over the Coquihalla mountain pass and that was in the winter too. I would just be in the back practising my lines while she had to drive on that highway in the snow. After one year, we said, okay, either we have to quit this, or we have to move. So we sat down as a family and we decided that we would move. I'm so glad we did because otherwise I wouldn't be doing this.

On winning the Leo Award

It was really cool. I didn't expect to win as I was up against an adult, so I didn't expect to be the one receiving the award. So when they said, and the award goes to Lilah Fitzgerald for Polkadot and Luey, I said, what? Everyone at my table was cheering for me, and mom said I got a standing ovation for my speech and all I could see was the lights and microphone stand. After they did portraits of all of the award winners and you are supposed to look all regal, and of course I'm grinning away. They said, can you tone it down a little, we want you to look more regal and more like a queen and I said, I'm not sure if I can but I will try! It was such an amazing experience, just to be there and be nominated.

I was proud of the work, I knew that I had done a good job and knew that I had deserved to be nominated, but I didn't think I'd win. I worked on the film for 12 days which is kind of surprising since I can only work 8 hours since I'm a kid and I played the lead. And the people in the film industry say, never work with kids or dogs. It was fun to work with everyone, everyone was so nice on the set and the dog was really cute.

To learn more about why learners and families join SelfDesign, click here.

Small Increments: How Stop Motion Animation Creates New Opportunities for Learning with SelfDesigners Cody and Keirah

“I like watching them [the finished animations] at the end - seeing what I have made. It is kinda fun to make them - I do it for fun a lot.”

Meet Cody - a 12 year old SelfDesigner. He recently told us about the stop motion animation videos he creates with his sibling Keirah (nine).

Stop motion is an animation technique that physically manipulates an object that appears to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence.

Cody and Keirah started their stop motion journey learning from their mom. She is a textile artist, and while the family was in Costa Rica for three months, she taught Cody and Keira how to make tiny puppets.

With a little help from Dad, a film and video editor, they began making stop motion videos with these puppets. Over time, they learned how to turn their stories into a polished final movie complete with set design, lighting, sound, editing, and more.

The latest project features a character created by Cody, named Zozimos. Cody describes Zozimos as “a guy with a very big nose, he lived in medieval times and he wears a farmer outfit, he has a pet donkey named Phillip. Zozimos goes on an adventure because it has stopped raining and he needs rain to water his plants - he goes out trying to figure out how the rain stops and he meets some mysterious man on the way.”

Zozimos is based on an epic story created by Cody while he was working with a tutor on his writing. His mom Patti promised that when he finished his story, they would bring Zozimos to life with stop motion.

As Cody has learned through his explorations of stop motion and puppetry, he advises new animators: “Start with making paper puppets that are easy to stand up and a paper background or lego.” Apparently, puppets are much easier to animate than three dimensional characters like Zozimos.
You can see Cody and Keirah’s stop motion videos, including the upcoming release of Zozimos adventures, here!

(Video) For The Love Of Learning | The Many Facets of SelfDesign

There are many effective ways of learning and gaining knowledge that go far beyond the traditional teaching model used in today’s classrooms. River Meyer, Clarissa Tufts, David Marshak and Monica Cochran discuss the “Many Facets of SelfDesign” in an episode of For The Love Of Learning, an online show dedicated to sharing the many voices of alternative education. Watch the video here.

SelfDesigners Finding Ways To Support Syrian Refugees

SelfDesigners all over the province have been discussing how they can help Syrian refugees. Some have connected with people in their neighbourhoods to support living arrangements for refugees coming to their local communities, others have been donating to an established and reputable charity called Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia (ISS BC). Anyone can contribute to ISS BC’s Refugee Support Fund through ‘Chimp’, so check it out!

What Did You Enjoy Most At SelfDesign? | SelfDesign High School Graduate, Emily Bronsan

Emily began her educational journey as a homeschooler, but she felt restricted by her original homeschooling program and did not feel supported. Her Mom's research into other options led to SelfDesign, whose philosophy was a fit for Emily. As a recent high school graduate of SelfDesign, Emily feels like this is a significant time in her life and elaborates, “For me it is the end of one part of my life, the only part I have known so far, and the beginning of a new one. I feel like it is another step in growing up.” Emily travelled from Falkland to Nelson, BC for the SelfDesign High Graduation Celebration, honouring grads from across the province, and noted “Learning at home, I didn't think I would even get a graduation, so when I found out that there would be a grad ceremony for the people graduating this year, I was so excited, so of course I had to go!"

In her SelfDesign program, Emily especially enjoyed all of her English courses. She elaborates on her experiences: “SelfDesign helped me to let go all of the preconceived notions I had about high school. It encouraged me to create my own experiences with schooling and gave me a good work ethic and a sense of independence when it comes to my education. The independence I have developed in creating my own education and motivating myself to finish it on my own will be something that will be invaluable to me for the rest of my life.”


"Trust yourself, because no matter what anyone says only you know what is best for yourself and your education.” 

Emily’s Advice For Youth Considering SelfDesign

Her advice to youth considering SelfDesign as a highschool option? “I would say do it, but be prepared to put in the effort to get it done. This was a hard lesson for me to learn, but it helped me to be more efficient and gave me a good work ethic. And also approach your learning with an open mind, you have no idea what little lessons are waiting for you along the way so enjoy every moment. Trust yourself; because no matter what anyone says only you know what is best for yourself and your education.”

Learn more about SelfDesign’s high school offerings here.

Free Winter Webinar Series | SelfDesign Graduate Institute

We are excited to announce our SelfDesign Graduate Institute Winter Webinar Series. These free, one hour webinars that include engaging information from visionaries in the fields of education, conscious business, integral theory and more! Join from your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android device.

Upcoming webinars:
  • Jan 24How an Understanding of the Evolution of Consciousness Helps Us Make Sense of Our “Crazy” World, with David Marshak
  • Jan 31Integrated Learning and Leadership, with Peter Berg
  • Feb 7 Dancing with Ambiguity, with Pille Bunnell
  • Feb 14 Language as A Field of Energy and Pedagogy, with Anna Soter
  • Feb 21Introduction to SelfDesign Praxis: Tools and Practices for an Integral Learning Experience, with Clarissa Tufts
  • Feb 28 Learn Your Way - 'Personal Ecolography' with Michael Maser
  • March 6Evolutionary Aesthetics: Education, Imagination and Social Transformation, with Mali Burgess

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