EL 101 Bootcamp for New Franklin Faculty Crew!

EL 101 Bootcamp for New Franklin Faculty Crew!

FSI welcomes new faculty crew!

Two weeks before the launch of the 2016-17 school year, new teachers circled up together for the first time on our campus for an intensive introduction to Expeditionary Learning Education at The Franklin School of Innovation.   Anne Vilen, Franklin’s EL Education School Coach and I had the great pleasure of working alongside these spirited and inspiring educators in Franklin’s EL 101 Bootcamp, designed to immerse teachers in experiential learning with these Learning Targets:  

  1. I can describe how we teach and learn at an EL Education school
  2. I can explain how a positive culture supports achievement in EL classrooms
  3. I can describe the purpose of Crew for students, teachers, and classrooms
  4. I can name and commit to consistencies for instruction and assessment at FSI
  5. I can balance self-compassion and growth mindset.

This training required that we all wear both teacher and student hats. As students, we engaged in inquiry, dug deeply into content & methodology, and experienced EL as a learner.  As adult learners/teachers, we grappled with how to transfer and apply the processes, practices, strategies that we were experiencing in our own classrooms and administrative roles at FSI.  We reflected on our learning and set professional goals for the year ahead, realizing that we all must practice FSI’s Habits of Scholarship as teachers!  

I’m very honored to be Director of Curriculum and Coaching at Franklin and to collaborate with our Faculty Crew, new and old, as we strive to fulfill FSI’s Mission and, as an Affiliate, the Mission of EL Education: “To create classrooms where teachers can fulfill their highest aspirations, and students achieve more than they think possible, becoming active contributors to building a better world.”

 New Faculty Crew circled up to create an equilateral triangle, while blindfolded.  Pictured post initiative: Meagan Barnhard, Charlie Talley, Katie Dulaney, Judy Carhart, Matthew Mikulski, Mary Ann Jaben, Kati Robbins, Marsha Davis, Peggy McCay, Jill Padfield, Hannah Allen, and Laura Bubacz  (Also, not pictured here: Stephanie Hellert, Amy Hinsley, Walter Plotkin)


“EL Education’s core work is building the capacity of teachers and schools through professional development, professional resources, and curriculum. When students and teachers are engaged in work that is challenging, adventurous and meaningful, learning and achievement flourish.”  Read more here:  http://eleducation.org/


True North = Compassion

IMG_9090From the pinnacle of Mt. Mitchell, which I recently hiked one crisp sunny November day with family and friends from The Franklin School of Innovation, you can spot Table Rock and Hawksbill on the rim of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area.  Mt. Mitchell has long been a special place for me, both as a favorite family hike when I was a child, and as a teacher, having been the destination for hiking and camping with my students to start and end the year at the highest point east of the Mississippi River.

I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an indefatigable spirit, tenacity in the pursuit, readiness for sensible self-denial, and above all, compassion.” -Kurt Hahn, Founder of Outward Bound

Now that I’ve had the opportunity to experience an Outward Bound Educator Initiative wilderness training, on that very Table Rock you can spy from Mt. Mitchell, I’m even more keen to take students into the wilderness, both literally and figuratively!

The power of experiential learning is simply this:

–challenging students to take risks, collaborate, think and act responsibly, creatively and critically, and as their best selves–

whether in the wilderness (navigating new territory with a compass and out-dated map, climbing, kayaking, tying knots, cooking for your crew…)

…or in the classroom (working in teams to solve problems, collecting and analyzing water quality data, drafting and redrafting historical fiction based upon a slave narrative recorded in the archives of the National Library of Congress…).

The key is for each individual to be “Crew, not Passenger,” to be present and truly engaged, self-reflective, and able to set authentic goals for personal and collective growth.  In the classroom, as on an Outward Bound adventure,“By conquering their own challenges, participants discover their true potential and realize they are capable of more than they ever imagined.”  (See: http://www.ncobs.org/about

Expeditions, planned and carried out this year at each grade level, are vital to this self-discovery and authentic learning.


My Crew 10!


There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.

– Kurt Hahn, Founder of Outward Bound

which are aligned with our Habits of Scholarship.The traits of FSI scholars:

  • Be Curious and Inquisitive
  • Work Ethically
  • Work Collaboratively
  • Exhibit Leadership
  • Be Persistent
  • Take Action

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Building Community through Service Learning

Dear Franklin Families:

Our 11th Grade Expedition is well underway:  “Creating a New American Dream.” Students are exploring current and historical issues of social justice and poverty, including urban renewal, gentrification and practices of redlining, equity in opportunity, and the current affordable housing crisis in Asheville.  They are taking action, in collaboration with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, to raise funds for and build a home with our partner family.  By the end of this expedition, our students will have raised $13,750 dollars and built a home in the Shiloh Community.  

Expeditions are integral to Franklin’s Mission: preparing the next generation of leaders, capable of solving problems and participating effectively and ethically as local and global citizens.  We are all excited to be on an expedition designed to both figuratively and literally build community through service learning.

Last Thursday, it was my honor to work alongside six Franklin students at the build site, collaborating in high quality work with great purpose.  Not only are we building a home together in this service learning, we are building our own community of compassionate, capable leaders.  This was the last build day for Franklin in 2016, but we invite members of our community to spend a day volunteering with us on one of the Franklin School of Innovation Build Days in 2017.  

Please consider joining us for a rewarding day of being Franklin Crew!  You can sign up for one of the build days directly on the spreadsheet.  

*Please notice that we have one Saturday build day!  When you sign up, please email me:  emcdowell@thefsi.us

We have just six more build days!!!  Sign up soon!

Thank you,


PS Here are some photos of our Franklin Students on Expedition:



Max Chapman says Thank You!


Service-Learning at Franklin School of Innovation = H4H

Service-Learning at Franklin School of Innovation = H4H

On Thursday, 10.20.2016, six eleventh grade Franklin scholars and I spent a blackberry summer day as CREW to hammer the first nails into our Shiloh Community Habitat for Humanity student-built home, alongside Heidi Chambers, our partner family Mom, who will inhabit this house in 2017!

We learned to value: high quality work/craftspersonship,  the importance of chemistry in understanding and assessing the danger/presence of Radon, the significance of square corners, geometry, measurement, physical fitness, collaboration, safety, hydration, and the essential element of teamwork in completing a complex goal.

This link should take you to the wall raising photos from yesterday. our second day of Franklin student building.




FSI 11th Graders On Expedition: Creating a New American Dream

Franklin School of Innovation’s 11th Grade Expedition Kick-off:

The Franklin School of Innovation's photo.
The Franklin School of Innovation's photo.

Habitat for Humanity’s Bill Lineberry, and members of our Student-Build Partner Family, visited the Franklin campus today to help launch our year-long 11th Grade Service-Learning Expedition: Creating a New American Dream.

“Throughout the year, with this guiding topic, students will investigate who has access to the American Dream, as it is currently defined and structured, and strive to create a vision for America’s future that allows for equitable access to resources and opportunities.”
~ Marsha Davis, Social Justice & Chemistry teacher.


This Expedition Kick-off involved real-world simulation in budgeting for various demographic groups, enabling students to gain perspective on the local challenge to find Affordable Housing in Asheville, where the gap between the cost of housing and local wages is extreme. Students learned how our service-learning project, in collaboration with three private high schools, and Habitat for Humanity, will help bridge that gap and create opportunities for community members in need of a safe, affordable home.


Simeon Gibson, who participated in the simulation, had this to say:

“This expedition will help us put ourselves into the shoes of someone who is going through what we will be going through in the future.”


Emma McDowell said:

“I think it’s pretty awesome that we can help build a home for others, even while our school is in its temporary modulars!”

Expeditions are integral to Franklin’s mission : preparing the next generation of leaders, capable of solving problems and participating effectively and ethically as local and global citizens.  We are all excited to be on an expedition designed to both figuratively and literally build greater community through service learning with our 11th graders, Franklin’s faculty crew: Bryan Clendenin, Chris DeFiore, Marsha Davis, Katie Washburn, Jill Padfield, Laura Bubacz, and The Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity!


What does it take to build or buy a home in Asheville’s neighborhoods today?  

Jill Padfield’s Math III students will be calculating the cost of buying/making a house, including the materials, workforce, property and taxes. Then, students will participate in a second simulation which has them take out a loan for the house and watch as it accrues interest over time. According a randomly assigned demographic, groups of students will be able to make different percentages of the payment and be able to compare the overall cost of buying a home over time in relationship to other buyers by how much interest accrued due to their ability to pay.

What are the best materials to use in building homes in the Asheville area?  

Students will also be investigating the logarithmic decay of materials and calculating the depreciation of the house due to the decay of the materials.  They will synthesize their conclusions and collaboratively design a final product in order to share what they’ve learned with the larger Franklin community.

LEARN.  ACT.  LEAD.  On Expedition.

Franklin’s Exemplary Expeditions with a service learning component:





Franklin HS Cross Country Runners Demonstrate Persistence!


Franklin HS Cross Country Runners Demonstrate Persistence!

Cheers to our HS XC runners: Harbin, Riley, and Shane. All three finished strong and set personal records in Swannanoa at the ACA Ramble by the River  http://nc.milesplit.com/meets/241920/info#.V-bjtU0rLnC
I was super proud of the personal goal-setting and progress our HS runners have shown, just adding in the practice of Tuesday/Friday “pacing/endurance” runs (in spite of the 2016 unseasonably high temperatures at 3:30 pm!  Learning how to push and pace oneself in various conditions is key!  Directly transferring this experience and learning to academic and lifelong lessons is just one example of what Franklin facilitates at all grade levels, through sports, projects, and Expeditions.
Finally, a shout out to Lisa Browning, for heading up the Franklin XC program.  She recently shared this historic FSI XC data:

Below is a list of top 10 all time performances for Franklin.  It shows the 10 fastest students, their times, and when it was run.  This could be good motivation for your students to try to get on the board.  However, running is a fantastic individual sport in which a runner’s first concern should be enjoyment and personal improvement.  All of our runners are showing growth as runners and seem to be having a good time.

Middle School Cross Country Top Performers Boys’ 2 Mile

1. Aiden Browning   11:38    Waynesville Invit.  9/2015

2. Declan Mattee 11:50.30 WCU Invit 9/2016

3. Will Fehan  12:06  10/2014  Veitas Invit

4. Jaks Ashley  12:40.9  9/2014 ACA Invit

5.  Grayson Scott  12:44.9  Waynesville Invit.  9/2016

6.  Evan Camissa  12:52.7  2016

7.  Ben Reed  13:06 2016

8.  Bhaerava Sculthorp 13:34  2016

9.  Cameron Camissa  13:54  2016

10. Cole Chenevert 14:02  Waynesville Invit 9/2016

Middle School Cross Country Top Performers Girls’ 2 Mile


1.  Morgan Metzger  14:44  10/2015  Veritas Invit.

2.  Lana Lammel 15:12  9/2016 Flat Rock

3.  Brook Barrett 16:30  Waynesville Invit.

4.  Lily Moffitt  16:35 9/2016  Waynesville Invit

5.  Hannah Hailey  17:45  9/2014  ACA Invit.

6.  Jade Moonbourne  17:47 9/2015  ACA Invit.

7.  Karmyn  18:08  9/2015  ACA Invit

8.  Fiona Crowder-Marshall  18:12  10/2014 Veritas Invit.

9.  Sadie Bolding  18:19 Waynesville Invit. 9/2016

10.  Tira Ellis  18:42



Franklin Scientists Practice Inquiry in the First Weeks of School

Franklin Scientists Practice Inquiry in the First Weeks of School

September, 2016

In the first weeks of school, Franklin students are introduced to the process and purpose of scientific inquiry.  In my visits to science classes in grades 6-11, I saw and heard teachers and students doing the work of real scientists as they:

  • used data sets to build background knowledge;

  • set up scientific field journals for organizing information, making observations, documenting key concepts, and asking wonderful questions to guide further inquiry and experimentation;

  • practiced classification skills, as they begin an all taxa species count of life on FSI’s campus;

  • mastered using microscopes and safe science;

  • grew cultures from Hominy Creek water samples collected on our campus;

  • fostered monarch caterpillars to release in our waystation post metamorphosis.

Stay tuned as these early introductions to science establish essential understandings and practices that enable Franklin scientists in all grades to go deeper into the wonderful world of scientific inquiry.  Our campus is a laboratory of learning.