Mr. Keller’s Legendary Mapping FSI on a Coordinate Plane Project

Mr. Keller’s Legendary Mapping FSI on a Coordinate Plane Project


I recently had the opportunity to tag along with Franklin’s 6th grade mathematicians and their teacher, Mr. Charlie Keller, on a mission to map our school campus.  Mapping FSI on a Coordinate Plane Project has become a “legendary” annual event in Mr. Keller’s class, as students apply what they’ve learned about rational numbers and ordered pairs in a real world context.  This complex math project engages students as Cartographers in practicing multiple skills:

  • plotting coordinates & using spatial reasoning and estimation;
  • calculating coordinates based upon these observations
  • documenting this data with precision on a coordinate plane to create an accurate and detailed map of our campus.  


Mr. Keller shared a collection of past mapping projects to give students examples of high quality work.  Maps from the two previous years document the growing complexity of this task, as our campus buildings are added!  Even Mr. Keller expressed some astonishment, from the “bird’s eye” perspective, atop Mt. Franklin, at the expansion of buildings to be plotted on this year’s map.  As our school grows, and our campus map changes, these maps will become archives of our origin points!

Learning Targets for the project help students check for understanding and mastery of math concepts.  

I can explain the concept of rational numbers.

I can explain the relationship between the location of a number (on a number line or coordinate plane) and its sign.

I can locate and plot rational numbers on a number line (horizontal and vertical) and a coordinate plane.

I can explain the order and absolute value of rational numbers in real-world contexts.

I can graph points in all four quadrants of a coordinate plane.

I can find distances between points using my knowledge of coordinates and absolute value.

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Habitat for Humanity Student-Build Phone-a-thon

Habitat for Humanity Student-Build Phone-a-thon

Franklin’s First Phone-a-thon was a fun evening of community-building! Students made calls to raise funding for the 3rd Student-built home with Asheville’s Habitat for Humanity. The Franklin School of Innovation is the first local public school to participate in a student-build. Our students are taking action to raise awareness of the affordable housing crisis through research and service-learning in our Expedition: “Creating a New American Dream.” Thanks, all who took calls and pledged donations to this project.img_0282-1img_0267-1img_0278-1

See Franklin Blog Post: Franklin’s First Habitat for Humanity Student-Built Home


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:


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:

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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8th Grade Expedition 2017: “Water Is Life!”

8th Grade Expedition 2017: “Water Is Life!”

Water plays a crucial role in the development of communities throughout history. It is a source of conflict, cooperation, and competition between stakeholders in a community. Understanding the history and science of water–biologically and chemically–is key to maintaining water quality and explaining how a water source can serve multiple needs and uses.  On this 8th grade expedition, students will investigate the meaning of the phrase “Water is Life” from historical, literary, and scientific perspectives. Specifically, students will explore The Story of Hominy Creek, through:

Water Quality data collection in science (

Data analysis in math/

Stream cleans by CREWS in various locations along the creek/


culminating in a TED-styled talk in ELA where students create a presentation about a solution to the problem of water quality through the lens of remediation or a policy based solution to the long term problem of water quality in the Hominy creek.


Guiding Questions & Big Ideas
Students are seeking answers to four questions with regards to water quality of Hominy Creek & French Broad River Valley:

What is the problem? Why does water quality matter?  Where does the problem start? What is currently being done? What can we do?  

In order to pose research-based solutions (both through proposing policies and taking steps to remediate water quality and sustainability practices) students will deepen inquiry with these questions:

How can we balance the needs of people and the environment?
How does human activity influence the availability of our water resources?
How should humans manage water resources in a way that is sustainable?

How should humans manage Hominy Creek in a way that is sustainable?

Big Ideas:

  • Human activity can affect the availability of usable, fresh water.
  • Humans use water for many things and manage water in a variety of ways.
  • Sustainable water management is important in order to ensure that the needs of people and the environment will continue to be met.
  • Making an evidence-based decision relies on research and an analysis of consequences and stakeholders.




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Having kicked off our WATER IS LIFE! Expedition, integrating multiple perspectives from various French Broad Rivershed stakeholders, including : Mountain True, Greenworks ,Riverlink, French Broad Outfitters, Buncombe County Soil and Water, NC Department of Environment & Natural Resources, Environmental Quality Institute  EQI… Franklin 8th Graders are gaining practice in  Citizen Science and problem-solving, collecting water quality data on Hominy Creek.  This data includes: turbidity, flow, temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, and conductivity… even on the chilliest of March days!  Students are learning to make predictions and test their theories about correlations between such variables as conductivity and temperature/precipitation.  This data will be analyzed to inform student-generated policy proposals for water quality and management of our French Broad Rivershed.  Stay tuned for updates!


Water IS Life!





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“Technology, for Better or Worse?”  7th Grade Franklin School of Innovation Expedition Archives 2017, Updated Weekly!

“Technology, for Better or Worse?” 7th Grade Franklin School of Innovation Expedition Archives 2017, Updated Weekly!

Franklin’s 7th Grade Kicks off 2017 Learning Expedition!

February 6, 2017

7th Graders  kicked off their expedition: “Technology, for Better or Worse?” on the Franklin campus in early February. Practicing Habits of Scholarship, they navigated  through a sequence of multi-sensory stations each purposefully designed to spark curiosity, inquiry, and the need to know more.  These stations included:

  • experts from the field of local textile history and museum design,

  • experimentation in mathematical scale drawing,

  • a simple machines scavenger hunt,  (We happen to have some simple and complex machines on campus!)

  • and the design/creation of their expedition field journal.

Over the next few weeks these interdisciplinary field journals will be filled with notes, observations, ideas, and plans as students learn about simple machines, the textile industry, and how technology has impacted our world.

Thank you to our 7th grade teaching team, Peggy McKay, Ethan Burns, Katie Lapinski, and Judy Carhart for designing and leading this expedition!  We are also grateful for our local expert on the history of Biltmore Homespun and the Grovewood Homespun museum, Mr. Tom Anders for visiting Franklin with a multitude of artifacts and knowledge to inspire inquiry for further learning.

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Guiding Questions

How does technology change our culture and community?

Who gets left behind as technology advances?

Here’s a summary Expedition overview from the 7th grade team:

The forces created by machines propel us in many ways; literally, when when we ride in cars and airplanes, and figuratively, as technology changes our way of life.  Throughout this expedition, students explore these figurative and physical forces. While studying the force of gravity in science, they will simultaneously study the gravitas of workers’ rights through a unit on industrialization in social studies and a book study of Lyddie, by Katherine Paterson, in ELA. As they learn how machines work in science, they will learn how the work of machines has changed the labor and lives of people. In math students will combine art and precise measurements and calculations to create accurate scaled drawings of machines, employing skills of real engineers. Across the curriculum, students will unpack the impact of technology. They will trouble the notion that technology is good by looking at examples of how it has changed the lives of people for better and for worse, asking questions such as “Who gets left behind as technology advances?” They will conclude their expedition by creating a museum exhibit that highlights applications of simple machines that have changed the world. They will present their exhibits at the local Asheville Museum of Science to an audience of museum goers in a shared celebration of learning on March 22. (Stay tuned for more details about this adventure in learning!)

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Background knowledge:  Prior to the expedition kick-off, Ms. Lapinski’s Social Studies class explored The Industrial Revolution.  Beginning with a simulation of cottage-industry to post industrial assembly line manufacturing, students learned about specific machines invented by innovators as a means of increasing the efficiency of work.  7th graders traced the history of simple machines, noting how new technology changed the face of industry, and in time, changed the face of social structures on a local and global level.  Throughout this BBK research project, students offered one another kind, specific feedback to support high quality work and deeper thinking.  This research gave students historical context for the novel, Lyddie, by Katherine Paterson, which students read in ELA class with Mr. Burns.

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The first field work adventure involved a visit to Asheville’s new Museum of Science, AMOS.   Students toured the Colburn Gem Exhibit, taking notes and practicing inquiry to find out about how curators and museum designers consider purpose, audience, lighting, collections, materials, preservation and education when creating an exhibit.  They also visited Pack Library to view scale models documenting the history of downtown Asheville, and to borrow books for their research on simple machines from the library collection.

Back at school, they began the work of designing their own machines for the exhibit at AMOS in late March.  Mr. Burns and Ms. McKay collaborated in the design and testing of a prototype catapult.


Practicing effective communication skills, students wrote phone scripts and practiced proper phone etiquette. Each 7th grader phoned five friends to invite a public audience for the grand celebration of learning at AMOS.

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Mark your calendars and help spread the word for  March 22 at AMOS, when Franklin’s 7th Grade will share their Technology and Work Exhibition with the outside world in a celebration of learning.  Please stay tuned for further updates on the 7th Grade Expedition!

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7th Grade innovators are industriously putting the final touches on their simple machines, scale drawings, and reports to share the history, scientific mechanical advantage, working components, and energy usage for their grand “Technology: For Better or Worse” exhibition at the Asheville Museum of Science on March 22. This exhibition is open to the public, so mark your calendars!
Time: 10:00 a.m to noon, 3-22-17. Place: AMOS



Franklin Faculty Grade Level Crews Collaborate to Design Expeditions with Authentic Audience & Purpose

Franklin Faculty Grade Level Crews Collaborate to Design Expeditions with Authentic Audience & Purpose


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.

These adventures in learning are not only integral to our purpose of preparing students to “Learn. Act. Lead.” Expeditions build community and offer service learning in the larger world.

Our intrepid teachers work hard to design and implement these adventures, taking into consideration the EL Education Design Principles.  These principles help ensure that students focus on high quality real-world work that is authentic and has purpose for positive change in our world.


  • Authentic work demonstrates the original, creative thinking of students—authentic personal voice and ideas—rather than simply showing that students can follow directions or fill in the blanks.
  • Authentic work often uses formats and standards from the professional world, rather than artificial school formats (e.g., students create a book review for a local newspaper instead of a book report for the teacher).
  • Authentic work often connects academic standards with real-world issues, controversies, and local people and places.
  • Authenticity gives purpose to work; the work matters to students and ideally contributes to a larger community as well. When possible, it is created for and shared with an audience beyond the classroom.

(Read more from EL Education  here.


Franklin students and teachers embarked on our year-long  11th Grade Expedition: “Creating a New American Dream” early in the school year.  We are all excited to be on an expedition designed to both figuratively and literally build community through service learning!  Read more about that Expedition Here!  &  Here! & Here! & Here!

In the next weeks, our other grade level expedition launch.  We’ll report weekly on these adventures in learning, including kick-offs, field work journeys, experts perspectives from the field, service learning, and celebrations of learning.  Please join our authentic audience!  Practice Inquiry.  Participate.  Learn.  Act. Lead.  We welcome multiple perspectives on all our journeys.



11th Grade Expedition Integrates Math in Affordable Housing Project

11th Grade Expedition Integrates Math in Affordable Housing Project

Having explored the complex causes, consequences, and a variety of possible solutions to Asheville’s current housing crisis, Franklin students in Jill Padfield’s Math III classes had the opportunity to apply math skills in a real world Affordable Housing Project.  

Students were tasked with the challenge of selecting two homes currently for sale in the greater Asheville area: one above $200,000 dollars and one below that price.  Subsequently, they computed down payments, mortgage costs, and interest rates, based on current statistics.  They estimated, based on these numbers, what minimum salary they’d need to earn to afford monthly payments on these homes over a 30 year mortgage.  Advanced students also calculated appreciation and depreciation over time, in order to anticipate cost benefits of selling these homes, not to mention the responsibility of on-going home-maintenance as home owners. They graphed their conclusions as part of their project presentations.  Here are links to a couple of examples from students who presented this week:

Nikki Forbes’ Housing Project

Will Feehan’s Housing Project

Students shared their projects by presenting to 10th grade math students at The Franklin School of Innovation, who will soon be launching their own Expedition “The Times, They Are A’Changing.” The 9th graders will investigate issues related to sustainability in Asheville, from housing economics and gentrification to cost of living wage gaps to environmental issues of air quality and transportation; thus, the 11th grade project helps frame the purpose of the 9th grade Expedition.

Will Feehan, whose project was identified as an exemplar for this blogpost, had this to say after his presentation:  “I really liked this project because it was meaningful and interesting.  It was real and it made me think about how Asheville is changing.  I think it made our whole class take look at how math can be used in the real world to make decisions about buying and selling homes, and it made us realize how much we’ll have to earn, down the road, in order to be a home owner.”





Note: 11th Graders continue to raise funds (and walls) as we build a Habitat for Humanity home in the Shiloh Community.  Please stay tuned for future opportunities to participate in this student build collaboration with Asheville’s Habitat for Humanity and our partner family, Heidi Chapman and her two children, Max and Niko.  We have 4 more Franklin School of Innovation student build days available for volunteer support, starting again in January, and significant fund-raising to do in support of Franklin’s contributions to this build. We are grateful to all who have contributed time, energy, and expertise on this 11th grade Expedition: Creating a New American Dream.  Keep it real and join in the efforts to make a positive difference for equitable housing in Asheville.


Building Community through Service Learning


Our last Franklin School of Innovation student build day was Thursday, February 9, 2017. We would like to thank everyone who has attended a build day, donated, and/or helped with our Habitat for Humanity fundraisers. We’ve passed the halfway mark, but we still have a long way to go to meet our goal of $13,750. To help reach this goal, our four 11th grade crews are competing in a fundraising challenge with the task of raising $1,000 each by the end of February.

We welcome all support!

There are three easy ways to donate to our campaign:

  1. To donate online, click on this link to our Go Fund Me Page! This is the easiest way to donate, but it is not tax-deductible!


  1. For a tax-deductible receipt, click on this link to the Habitat for Humanity page. In the “Area of Support” section, select “Shiloh: Let’s Build” and in the special comments sections, please write “FSI Youthbuild”.  Without this in the comment section, your donation will not be credited to our school!

    3. You can send your donation directly to Franklin School of Innovation by mail.  Make     sure on the memo line to write H4H Student Build.

Thank you for helping us Create a New American Dream 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:

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!