Do you have recess?
Yes, we have a daily recess block, but we call it "Park." Long-View learners spend an hour each day at a beautiful 84 acre park near the school, eating lunch and playing outdoors. We rarely find that weather prevents us from going to Park (our mantra is “it’s not bad weather, it’s the wrong clothes”) and we hardly ever tote balls, jump ropes, or other typical "recess accessories" to our shady spot under the heritage oaks at Pease Park. We find our students love to be "free-range kids" and find their own fun through games they create, forts they build, animals they find hiding in the creek, or just moving their bodies at full speed. You can find us making up games around Stickworks, fishing for minnows in Shoal Creek, playing chess at a picnic table, or engaging in a lively soccer game in Custer’s Meadow. Read a blog on Park Time here.
How are grade levels organized?
Long-View learners operate in mixed-age learning groups, which we call “bands.” Each band typically has a spread of 2-4 grade levels. Try not to think of this philosophy of mixed-age groups within the old-fashioned practice of "the older kids help support the younger kids" or "the ones who understand a topic teach the ones who are struggling." Neither of these represent the philosophy of Long-View. Mixed-age bands allow us to let go of assumptions related to ages and grade levels and ensure all children are stretching toward the highest expectations. We don’t want kids’ learning put in the box, following the thinking “you will only learn 2nd grade math because you are a 2nd grader.” We typically teach towards the high end of the band (and “high end” doesn’t equate with “eldest” every time). Our four bands are created in the beginning of the year and typically have color names (ex. “Indigo Band”). The band operates as a learning community across all subject areas. Bands don’t always stay intact across the year. Sometimes individual kids are moved and sometimes whole bands are moved around during the year. We are all about flexibility and we make changes as needed.
What is "Campfire"?
Campfire is how we start our day. We gather in a communal circle around a log that symbolically marks our center, and a child begins campfire by ringing the "singing bowl," a handmade metal bowl (ours happens to be from India) and we all take a deep breath as the sound reverberates through the room. Ringing the signing bowl both initiates our Campfire and provides a moment for "mindfulness," as we let go of the stress from our morning routines and ready ourselves for the learning the day will bring. We have a few rituals that periodically occur within Campfire, including our birthday run and "touching the log," which is how we recognize kids for exceptional work and special contributions that reflect our values and cultural norms. Most often, though, Campfire is a place that we have informal discussions about interesting topics. Who doesn’t want to start the day with friends and colleagues, engaging in a discussion about a fascinating science discovery or a thorny current event, or debating an issue or talking to an expert via Skype? Read a blog about Campfire here.
What are "Build Weeks"?
Build Weeks are a part of the rhythm of the yearly schedule at Long-View. Build Weeks periodically bridge academic blocks and open our schedule up to allow us to dive into special activities and challenges. Build Weeks help us grow intellectually, help us make connections between disciplines, provide opportunity for collaboration across the community, and give us an opportunity to try new things. We typically have 3 Build Weeks across the year, and all bands are mixed into new groupings for Build Weeks. Build Weeks are planned collaboratively by our teaching team. We aim to create a week that is incredibly different and interesting, pushes us all (adults included) outside of our comfort zones, and contains challenge so rich that as adults we don’t already have a clear end in sight. That’s the way we ensure that we don’t offer a “canned, school-ish” project…we aim for something we don’t know how to do ourselves. Every Build Week has been different. Read about our Improv Fest at Build Week 8 here. Our week of writing a constitution from scratch is described here, and our insanely complicated computer science Clandestine Operation is explained here. Or read about Build Week 4, our Cardboard Boat Challenge, when we challenged the kids to work in teams to build a boat with just cardboard and duct tape that could carry one child to the middle of Town Lake and back.
How does morning arrival work?
A handful of our families bike ride or walk to Long-View Others drive as far as an hour. Arrival time is from 8:15 - 9:00. Once inside, the children make choices about how to use their time prior to our 9:00 Campfires, with reading, working on a coding project, gathering for a meeting about a collaborative project, conferring with a teacher, trying out new math challenges, or constructing something in the maker space activities as typical activities. Our community norm is that kids are spending the time being productive in the way they desire, and that everyone is independently managing their own behavior so that we can all be as productive as possible before the start of the day.
What about lunchtime?
We all tote our lunches to Park and eat at communal tables near the creek and under the oak trees that fill Pease Park. Long-View kids tend to bring PlanetBox-type stainless lunch kits, and we appreciate this earth-friendly choice that keeps trash at the park to a minimum and encourages a well-balanced mid-day meal. We also have a healthy meal option available daily from Beeline Market that is also packaged in a stainless steel bento box; Beeline drops off those pre-purchased lunches right before we leave for the park.
Is there a morning snack?
Both our morning and afternoon learning blocks are punctuated by a brief Brain Break outside. This is a time for kids to eat a small healthy snack, visit with friends, run around, or just be outside.
Do Long-View kids have homework?
No, we do not assign homework at Long-View. Outside of expecting our learners to read daily, we do not send home worksheets, assign workbook pages, or give out the typical "homework." There are a handful of reasons for this: namely, there is good deal of research to support the idea that homework is not beneficial to learning. On top of that, we have witnessed during our many years of work in schools that revere the routine of homework how very rote this work actually is, and how quickly it creates a passive "I-just-want-to-get-it-done-and-I-don't-really-care-if-I-do-it-well" attitude. We care about quality learning, and we emphasize deep and critical thinking. Additionally, our kids do not waste any time when at school, and they spend the academic minutes thinking critically and working hard. We want them to go home after school and play, take classes that they explore their passions, and have family time. Most of all we want them to spend time reading, and reading ambitiously. Our community norm is that we read 2 hours a day, at least five days a week. On top of that, we encourage Long-View kids to choose to extend their own learning based on their experiences at Long-View. The way we talk about this is to discuss “How are your driving your own learning?” Thus, you'll see our kids choose to iterate a coding challenge they completed at school or add to a story they are writing. Both are easy to do, as everything we do on computers is cloud-based, and thus they can access it at home. We also have curated on-line courses that give kids further options for driving their own learning, such as Long-View’s Big History Project, and daily talk about fascinating ideas in Campfire that deserve further research.
Do you have report cards?
Yes. We regularly assess the kids (formally and informally), and provide parents with a lengthy narrative report twice a year, as well as a twice yearly face-to-face conference that provides for meaningful dialogue between parents and teachers. Long-View, however, is letter and number grade-free. This is key to our mission of focusing on the "long view" and making the business of learning, not "schooling," central to our educational experience. We eschew grades in favor of on-going dialogue and teacher reports. The narrative report card that is given to parents twice a year is a highly personalized qualitative report culled from the collective analysis of the entire Long-View teaching team. It captures students’ talents, strengths, challenges, and opportunities. We describe each child across our academic domains (computer science, math, reading, writing, and science), as well as describe each child's growth in the four areas we deeply emphasize: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. Artifacts of student work - in the form of photos, videos, and screenshots - are positioned across the narrative report and offer evidence of growth across disciplines and the 4 C domains.
How are Long-View and the number lab related?
We are interested in two areas: innovation and teacher education. Our work specific to innovation in education is focused on developing Long-View Micro School's model and ensuring our students receive an era-responsive education. We also do quite a bit of work supporting schools and teachers across the country working towards innovation or initiating instruction within their classrooms that focuses on deep learning experiences that are rooted in authentic work within the discipline. All of our work related to educating math teachers, administrators, and leaders is generated through our venture called the number lab. Teachers from all over the world attend our summer Educators' Collaboratory at The AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center at The University of Texas, and we also travel to schools to coach and support their change initiatives. Additionally, teachers spend time observing and studying at Long-View in “Field Study Days.” We love the atmosphere of learning created by having these visitors taking notes and intensely analyzing the thinking of our young mathematicians. We also love what this communicates to our children: Teachers find your thinking fascinating and are eager to learn from you!
How do families make good use of the open day on Friday?
Great question! A 4-day week is certainly non-traditional, but it is the opportunity to balance your child's education out in a very meaningful way. Click here to see an infographic explaining more about how to thoughtful plan for Fridays.