"A Pattern Language" for education! (Our Signature Curriculum.)

schoolsforhumans.org is back up — in fact, it's totally re-done!

No longer is it merely a blog, but a whole website. At its gooey, caramel-y core: our "signature curriculum". This is where we're posting the individual ideas that make up our approach to education.

Why the big change? We've realized that we're bougainvillea thinkers, rather than sunflower thinkers. 

Writing in The New Yorker, Nathan Heller suggests that some ideas can stand alone nicely by themselves. To get the awesomeness of these ideas, you don't need to understand much context. These ideas make nice TED talks. Heller calls these "sunflower" ideas — ideas that, when plucked, maintain their structure, and look nice on their own.

Heller suggests that other ideas need context. To recognize their awesomeness, you need to understand the ecosystem into which these ideas fit. These ideas don't make nice TED talks! Heller calls these "bougainvillea" ideas.

Our educational ideas are of this latter type. Each (we think) is exciting, but its power comes from how it strengthens all the other ideas. 

It's proven difficult to communicate the full power of our ideas through one blog post at a time. So what we've decided to do is write A Pattern Language for our practices of education. Some of them we're already using, in homeschooling our son and teaching classes around Seattle; others will need to wait until we grow our first school a bit bigger.

What's A Pattern Language, you ask? Short answer: one of the greatest books ever written, an expansive, organically-grown vision of good ideas in designing spaces for humans. (For a great, short introduction, see this Slate article.) 

A Pattern Language is made up of hundreds of small, brilliant ideas, at different levels of design — from how to arrange cities (e.g. Connected Play, Pools and Streams) to how to arrange buildings (e.g. Stair Seats, Farmhouse Kitchen) to how to arrange rooms (e.g. Floor–Ceiling Vaults, Soft Inside Walls).

Each idea (or "pattern") comes as the solution to a problem. Each pattern is also linked up to grander, broader patterns, and down to smaller, more specific ones. 

That's how we're writing our Signature Curriculum.

Each of our patterns comes with a problem that it's responding to. It then gives our basic plan, and a set of goals its trying to achieve (most of our goals begin with "Adults who..."). To help folk envision this, we then sketch out what you might see if you visit the classroom while the pattern is being enacted. There's then a space for us to ask y'all questions about how to pull this off, and a place for us to link to other relevant patterns. Finally, there's a quick section of links to books and articles that inspired the pattern.

Our plan is to, over the course of 2016, post a lot of these — something on the order of 6 per week.

Will this end up as a jumbled mess? Oh yes.

But will this allow us a way to externalize the ideas that have so far only lived in our heads and in late-night conversations? Oh yes.

Such, we think, is a good route toward explaining to our coalescing team what we're up to, in our humble attempt to reinvent education. 

Look for our first new patterns starting t'morrow — and feel free to kick around the site! We look forward to your feedback.

Brandon Hendrickson

Seattle, WA