Tag: Inquiry

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/


On Expedition: 7th Grade Technology and Work


Circle up 7th graders to reflect upon Habits of Scholarship and all the awesome science stuff learned about simple machines during this Expedition!  The Gold Standard of the Science Field Journal has fostered innovative scientific thinking and doing at FSI this year.



IMG_0035IMG_0040IMG_0033IMG_0032If you had visited The Franklin School of Innovation 7th grade this month, you would have definitely seen and heard students leading their own learning, through: inquiry, innovation, and design-thinking, as they practiced the work of scientists, historians, writers, artists, and mathematicians.   I recently visited a class Sarah Gold had dedicated to independent work time.  Here’s what she was facilitating, as students engaged in the work of the day: 

Complete work on each of the following sections of your infographic:

  • Introduction
    • Who is Rube Goldberg? What is a Rube Goldberg machine? Why did we build Rube Goldberg machines in science? How does this relate to the expedition?
  • Sketch & Description 
    • See student folder in g-drive for scanned-in sketch
    • Write a step-by-step account of how your Rube Goldberg machine works, including how each of the simple machines are involved. (See rubric attached for details.)
  • Machines and Mechanical Advantage
    • What is mechanical advantage? How do the simple machines in your Rube Goldberg create mechanical advantage? How does this help you do work on the marble? (See rubric attached for details.)
  • Energy conservation
    • Work and energy are basically the same thing. What types of energy does your Rube Goldberg machine use to work? How is energy transferred throughout your Rube Goldberg? How is potential energy transformed to kinetic energy or vice versa in your RG machine? (See rubric attached for details.)

RG Rubric – Sheet1



Palpable to all present were the purpose and intensity of this 7th grade science classroom circle!  Seventh graders held silent attention to instructions for the moment of truth: demonstration of Rube Goldberg machines that work.  All the Habits of Scholarship and the Academic Standards were magically merged into the practical demonstration of each RG design machine tested in a group of peers.  Feedback was kind, timely, and meaningful.  Design tweaks were made, based upon this supportive feedback, and most were successful. When they weren’t it was GROWTH MINDSET, that kicked in.  Each student was supported and inspired to problem-solve and redesign for success.


This is Expeditionary Learning at its best.


7th graders started their exploration of Simple Machines by creating and assessing the effectiveness of human machines in the Expedition Kickoff:


See Gold Standard RG machines by FSI 7th graders:  https://sites.google.com/a/thefsi.us/the-gold-standard/home/modules/4—work-matters/week07-march06


Read more about Rube Goldberg


Just in case you were curious, these are NC State Standards for Science covered in this Expediton:

7.P.1.1 Explain how the motion of an object can be described by its position, direction of motion, and speed with respect to some other object.

7.P.1.2 Explain the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces acting on an object (including friction, gravity and magnets).

7.P.2.1 Explain how kinetic and potential energy contribute to the mechanical energy of an object.

7.P.2.2 Explain how energy can be transformed from one form to another (specifically potential energy and kinetic energy) using a model or diagram of a moving object (roller coaster, pendulum, or cars on ramps as examples).

7.P.2.3 Recognize that energy can be transferred from one system to another when two objects push or pull on each other over a distance (work)…

7.P.2.4 Explain how simple machines such as inclined planes, pulleys, levers and wheel and axles are used to create mechanical advantage and increase efficiency.

Overarching questions:

  • How do machines work?
  • How did machines change working conditions as countries industrialized?
  • How does technological change shape Asheville’s workplace today?

Long-term learning targets:

I can explain the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces acting on an object.

I can explain how energy is transferred and transformed in mechanical systems.

I can model energy transfer from one system to another when work is done.

I can explain how simple machines increase the efficiency of work.

Lesson Vocabulary:

  • Force
  • Work
  • Efficiency
  • Energy
  • Mechanical advantage
  • Velocity

Daily learning targets:

  • I can design and build a Rube Goldberg machine that does work on a marble.
  • I can demonstrate how energy is transferred and transformed in mechanical systems and how simple machines increase the efficiency of work.
  • I can present my design and analysis using accurate scale drawings, data, calculations, and text in an infographic using Piktochart.

In this lesson, students will apply their knowledge of complex and simple machines to design a Rube Goldberg Machine. Students will calculate the mechanical advantage of 1, 2, 3, or more simple machines in their design. Students should also relate Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion to their machine.
Pre-requisite knowledge: Exposure to Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion. Experience with six simple machines. Practice working mechanical advantage problems and efficiency.



Meanwhile, in Mr. Clendenin’s 7th Grade Social Studies Classes: students have created Illustrated Mind Maps to share what they’ve learned on expedition about Technology and Work and social, ethical, environmental consequences:

Here are a few of the Social Science Learning Targets students have been tracking their mastery of in this expedition:

I can describe the changes in farming methods that  created the “Agricultural Revolution.”
I can explain how the Agricultural Revolution created an increase in industrialization.
I can identify and explain specific inventions that sparked the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
I can explain how new inventions lead to the creation of the factory system in England.
I can describe how  the factory system changed the face of labor in England.
I can explain how  the Industrial Revolution sparked the rise of capitalism and the main characteristics of that economic system.
I can explain how the economic conflict created by the rise of capitalism affected society.I can describe  the environmental consequences of urbanization and industrialization.
I can explain how society responded to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution.
I can explain how industrialization changed political ideas in society.


(There are many more, but this list gives blog readers a “gist” of the deep thinking required for students and teachers on this expedition!)

Want to test your knowledge of simple machines and work?


In ELA:  https://sites.google.com/a/thefsi.us/fsi-7th-grade-15-16/home/english-language-arts/weekof3-14-16

Living Portraits and interviews with members of our FSI community about technology in the workplace…

Thank you all who have participated in this invaluable opportunity for FSI students to apply knowledge in practicing authentic inquiry, leadership, research, and writing!  We are looking forward to the final celebration of learning for the 7th grade expedition!


FSI/ISB Service Learning: Building Trails

FSI Adventure Education students visited Industries for the Blind for sensitivity training prior to our trail-building project.  Jay Hardwig introduced different models of canes and students had the experience of using a cane to navigate while being blindfolded.  IFB folks shared their personal stories, including their individual preferences for either using guide dogs or canes.  
We also had the opportunity to tour Industries for the Blind’s plant floor, and the Mission Hospital Low Vision Center.


Read more about Industries for the Blind here:





The Adventure Education classes have not only been learning to navigate trails using maps and magnetic compasses; they’ve been learning to design and construct walking trails!  Our FSI campus trail now connects to the Hominy Creekside Classroom, and extends in an additional loop through the woods and back to the main trail.  Adventure Ed students built an ecologically sustainable trail designed to maintain the integrity of the landscape.  They learned how to eradicate invasive plants along the way, and will continue to monitor erosion along the banks of the creek in an on-going service learning project for our school community. Most classes and crews have made use of the outdoor classroom already!  The 8th grade Water Is Life Expedition, set to launch this spring, will definitely benefit from having easy access to Hominy Creek and a shady spot for stream ecology data collection, analysis, and field journal notes.

After visiting Industries for the Blind, and hearing about the real need for the blind and low-vision population of Asheville’s citizens to have safe places for walking and enjoying the natural world, FSI and IFB decided to collaborate in a trail-building project.  This learning experience involves innovative research, inquiry, design, and craftsmanship.

It’s great that we are neighbors just across Sardis Road!  We are able to do field work and on-site planning regularly.  After visiting IFB and learning through multi-sensory experiences, our students have a greater understanding of blindness.  We have several stages of this project scheduled, with visits back and forth between IFB and FSI.  For example:  FSI students will explore the IFB property to get a lay of the land and scope out possible trails to map.  IFB folks will come to walk our trail to give feedback and help us make improvements.  More to come as the trail-building gets underway!


See also:  Blind Side Program  https://fsinnovations.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/blind-side-program/













The Innovation Times

The Innovation Times

The Innovation Times

FSI NEWS of the Week:  Our Journalism Class publishes the first edition of THE INNOVATION TIMES!


In just a few short weeks, our Journalism students have investigated many types of journalism, including podcasts, digital photography, film, print, and radio.  They’ve focused on AUDIENCE and PURPOSE, and how these important factors determine the format and medium for sharing news. Tasked with designing and implementing a student-managed system of sharing FSI news, students decided to create a printed newspaper with the purpose of showcasing the exciting learning experiences taking place every day here ath The Franklin School of Innovation.

According to Katie Washburn, FSI’s awesome 9th-10th grade ELA and Journalism teacher,

“they noticed that there were lots of awesome things happening across campus, and no central place to get all of that information. They decided that they wanted the school newspaper to be that place. Therefore, the features are centered around what’s happening inside and around the FSI community – sports updates, student government, shout-out’s to awesome students, community features, and opinion/ advice columns on subjects that matter to FSI students. They also want the paper to be educational, with each edition illuminating important ideas or events outside of the FSI community. This edition will be released on September 11th, so our cover page will feature a memorial to 9/11.”



Mrs. Washburn


Meghan Vance

Section Editors

Etienne Philips – News/ Opinion

Sophie Lemire – Entertainment

William Feehan – Sports

Kimberly Garcia-Aguilar – Free-for-all

Layout Editor

Sydney Freeman

Layout Staff

Tyra Syverson

Sophie Lemire

Hannah Odom

Circulation manager

Delaney Nelson


Columnists &

Editorial writers

Mitchel D’Alleva

William Feehan

Sydney Freeman

Kimberly Garcia-Aguilar

Kevin Hill

Sophie Lemire

Sydney Lemire

Benjamin Lynch

Delaney Nelson

Ian Nolan-Kilby

Hannah Odom

Etienne Philips

Alexander Reiss

Aiden Simic

Tyra Syverson

Meghan Vance


& Artists

Sophie Lemire

Delaney Nelson

Alexander Reiss

Business &

Production Managers

Etienne Philips

Ian Nolan-Kilby

Mitchel D’Alleva


FSI Pollinator Pathway and Monarch Waystation Project

FSI Pollinator Pathway and Monarch Waystation Project

The FSI Pollinator Pathway and Monarch Waystation Project site the day before our work began:
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After consulting with Monarch Rescue Mission Expert, Nina Veteto, Bennett David, Eagle Scout (and lifelong advocate for monarchs), Jonathan Marchal of the NC Arboretum, FSI students in grades 6-9 spent the last 2 days of school planting a monarch waystation to support the butterflies on their long migration from Canada to Mexico and back.  Students will collect and analyze migration data to support the Annenberg Learner citizen-science Monarch Migration project: “Journey North”


Our Pollinator Project: “Bomb the Bank,” was also  launched on these last days of school, as students learned about seed classification, dispersal, germination, pollinators, and our ecosystem pollinators of the southern Appalachian Cove Forest.  FSI scholars had fun constructing seed bombs and bombing the meadow hillside acreage that adjoins the Monarch Waystation bordering our campus.  We will continue to plant and tend this pathway in support of pollinators, both for our campus fruit trees and the health of our planet.

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” Dear Ms. McDowell,
These are photos (and other emails to follow) just taken on a cell phone. …
The plan is for me to lead scouts in July
to make many more seed bombs

​for FSI.​  When I get the roster of students and faculty from FSI we can calculate the manpower hours from the school and also provide credit to the scouts at FSI.
​I would like to be there with you for the Waystation sign installation.  Please let me know about other events and keep me posted on the curriculum events with the waystation and meadow.  I would really appreciate being included and being sent photos when I can’t be there.
I am very grateful to have been a small part of making your amazing vision a reality.  I have enjoyed meeting  and working with you, your faculty and students.
With Sincere Thanks,
(Seed Bombs)
6-9-15 FSI Seed Bomb the Bank (1)6-9-15 FSI Seed Bomb the Bank (2)6-9-15 FSI Students 1

Spring Break Reflections & Looking Ahead to SLCs

Spring Break Reflections & Looking Ahead to SLCs

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Spring Break Reflections & Looking Ahead to SLCs

I’m taking a morning to upload just a few of the hundreds of photos documenting recent projects and lessons in grades 6-9.  The weeks leading up to Spring Break, 2015 were buzzing with energy, inquiry, and anticipation at FSI!  We’ve hosted many tours for visitors, from prospective students to prospective teachers just beginning their professional training. Showing folks around makes me stop and reflect upon how far we’ve come, especially when visitors comment on how engaged FSI students are, what good questions they are asking, and how earnest they are to show and share what they are learning. This is why I love being the Director of Curriculum and Coaching at an Expeditionary Learning School!  Every day involves some level of adventure, with new challenges to thinking, problem-solving, innovation, and discovery. When I visit classrooms, I don’t just observe!  I get to assist in keying out index fossils, take a stab at a proton -vs- electron jeopardy question, participate in writer’s workshop, moderate the stump speeches for FSI Student Council Officers, or puzzle out a geometry grapple presented by a Math I student working on his textbook project.

I’m also excited about our up-coming Student Led Conferences. This premier annual event will afford FSI scholars the opportunity to reflect upon their own learning, assess their growth, set smart and measurable goals, and celebrate their accomplishments in both Habits of Scholarship and academic achievement.  In the coming weeks, students will be assessing their own data in preparation for these conferences.  They will be working in Crew to prepare for SLCs by: reviewing work samples and projects, revisiting their Personal Learning Plans, and practicing presentation skills with the support of their crew leader and crewmates.  According to Ron Berger, in Leaders of their own Learning

“When students themselves identify, analyze, and use data from their learning, they become active agents in their own growth. They set personal goals informed by data they understand, and they own those goals. The framework of student-engaged assessment provides a range of opportunities to involve students in using data to improve their learning. …Using data with students has the potential to build reflective and confident learners with key dispositions of college and career readiness.”

Here is a very informative article that I encourage all FSI community members to read, for better understanding of the Student Led Conferences and Portfolio Assessment:

Making Students Partners in Data-Driven Approaches to Learning

As we return from Spring Break, remember ask your FSI scholar about Student Led Conferences! (We’ll share the logistics for the big event ASAP.)

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Today’s blog post is a photo documentary from just a couple of days at FSI.  Visit our school visually, and see what makes Franklin Scholars wonder and ask great questions!

Hint:  Art of Science & Science of Art class is investigating the Atmosphere by identifying cloud formations, artists who have depicted the atmosphere, and by practicing the innovative intersection of art and science to design tools to measure weather and climate data.  (We’ll update this project in a future post, but please notice the early morning sky that greeted me to FSI today in honor of cloud study!)

IMG_6968 IMG_7004 IMG_7009From the Atmosphere (in 9th grade) to the Lithosphere (in 8th):  Geological Time, Stratigraphy, Index Fossils, Adaptation, Survival, and Extinction!  These are big concepts that our 8th graders are grappling with in their innovative and calculated construction of geological timelines, designed using the mathematics of scale, ratio, and measurement.  (I promise to share updates as these chronological timelines evolve through expert era inquiry and research.)

IMG_6978 IMG_6981 IMG_69827th Graders, under the direction of Ms. Warhaftig, launch a Writer’s Workshop collective with their historical fiction short stories based upon primary source documents and their current anchor text: The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass.  (PS I’m honored to be invited to participate as a fan of writer’s workshops and in support our FSI literacy project.)  Stay tuned as peer editors offer constructive criticism and authors refine these stories.

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Innovating Design and Engineering of picnic tables for our community! (Thank you, Chris DeFiore!)IMG_6969 IMG_6970 IMG_6971 IMG_6973 IMG_6975 IMG_6976Literacy Lab BOOK CLUBS use Socratic Questioning methodology to practice inquiry, peer/self assessment and literary analysis.