Alternative Education

Education

There are some really innovative program offered at my university, many of which I have/will take part in. My initial major, Interactive Arts + Technology, involves a trip to Seattle for one course and most course use group projects and hand on applications instead of exams and mid-terms. I just auditioned for the acting program (aka: BFA Major in Theatre Performance) which is also highly immersive. I love that when I go to an acting class I learn so much about life and humanity just by observing other people and reflecting on my own experience. Yay!

Outside of these “special” programs there are also some courses which are quite innovative. Next semester I am taking SFU’s Semester in DialogueAccording to their site…

The Undergraduate Semester in Dialogue addresses what we believe is the principal challenge for contemporary education: to inspire students with a sense of civic responsibility, encourage their passion to improve Canadian society, and develop innovative intellectual tools for effective problem solving. Each semester we develop an original and intensive learning experience that uses dialogue to focus student education on public issues.

Our topic is Sustainable Food Systems and after my studies in permaculture I am quite excited to explore this topic. We have already planned a camping trip for our first week to visit a farm on Vancouver Island! Cool!

SFU also has some really cool geography courses that go on trips for learning, in addition to field studies (such as ItaliaDesign) and exchange opportunities. And I have a couple friends that did an experiential learning course called The Change Lab. I am so lucky to attend a school with so many opportunities!

Thinking back on it, I have had a number of alternative education experiences in my lifetime. In elementary school I was identified as “gifted” and received special support throughout my education as a result. In grade three I got to be part of the “challenge” program which basically meant I got to skip class once a week and the principal would drive me to another school where I got to learn about a special topic with other kids in the program. My topic was circus! In grade 6 I did some special testing and was accepted into Surrey’s first ever MAC class where I stayed for a few months before returning to my “home” school. It was really cool to connect with other kids who learned the same way I did. I am still friends with some of them today! Then in high school I considered joining Inter-A (a largely self-paced learning environment with independent research opportunities) when I entered high school, but I had already established friends and volunteer commitments at my home school so I chose to stay where I was. At my home school we had a gifted coordinator and about once a semester we would meet with her, and the other gifted students in our year to discuss our “issues”. I really valued the opportunity to meet with other kids who were “like me” and I always thought we had a special bond. We all got to make Independent Education Plans (IEPs) and the coordinator tried to put us in classes with other gifted kids, and tried to support us in doing special projects and other initiatives. I got to skip one year of high school social studies through this method. I was also a year ahead in Math. Online courses were another opportunity I took advantage of. I took English 11 online and some other courses later on (Math 12 and Chem 12 to upgrade my marks) through Surrey Connect. I also recall a district Gifted Education Coordinator (staff person). She supported me in joining a gifted environmental conference planning committee. I got trained to be an SFU Philosopher’s Cafe facilitator as a grade 10 student which was pretty cool. I am realizing that I always felt really connected to other “gifted” students and educators. I think it was my idea that we were somehow the same and had something in common if only through or labelling.

Moving forward

In my own city we have the discovery school

Discovery School is a unique program of choice within the Surrey School District. The school draws students from around Surrey and other parts of the Lower Mainland.  Approximately sixty percent of the students come to Discovery from outside the Whalley area.  This is a public school, and there are no tuition fees.

Classrooms are free of clutter.  There are no desks, tables or chairs.   Toys, books, manipulatives and other equipment are stored on shelves lining the rooms.   This uncluttered environment allows for maximum flexibility in arranging small groups for a variety of activities and, most importantly, allows the whole group to sit in a circle, which encourages inclusiveness. Students’ artwork, and other art related to the themes being studied, is treated with respect; mounted and hung on the walls of the classrooms and in the front hall.  Otherwise, walls are generally clear and free from distractions. Even the playground reflects the ideas of cooperation, imagination and tradition. Along with the common adventure playground, Discovery has ‘logs and rocks’, string games, hand games and other areas where children learn to play timeless games with their peers.

I have also heard of Windsor House School, a democratic school in BC! Cool! I am sure I will continue to discover alternative education mediums. Vancouver has a whole brochure of them!

Positivism: How Love, Happiness and Compassion Change the World

This past weekend I hosted a workshop at the Canadian Conference on Student Leadership in Calgary, Alberta. The workshop was called “Positivism: How Love, Happiness and Compassion Change the World” and the description in the program was as follows:

How did one girl go from being suicidal and depressed to traveling the world for free, meeting celebrities and living a life of unconditional love? From Vancouver to Hawaii to California, presenter Jenni Rempel has been connected with big names like Maroon 5 and Jason Mraz. By making choices about how we act and think, we have the power to change the world we live in. This workshop will looking at empowering videos, personal stories and other examples of a loving world. We will also try out techniques for communicating with, loving, and inspiring others (and ourselves).

“What is going to save the human race? Please. Thank you. Why? Because if we all started treating the people and things that we interact with every day with respect and compassion, the effects would ripple through every aspect of our lives, transforming society.” – SuperForest.org

Click here to view the Positivitism Slides! Below are the videos we watched during the workshop…

We ended by reenacting a quick version of this meditation:

If I would have had time I would have played this as well because it is beautiful:

Links!

A few things I could have done better: prefacing the Laughter Yoga exercises with the “fake it till you make it” explanation for health benefits; stating WHY I have certain opinions, being extra careful to state that everything is only MY opinion, define terms (ie: acknowledgement, unconditional love) in slides, acknowledge doubt.

The reviews were very positive… all parts of the workshop came up in feedback as valuable so I’m not sure if i’ll change the program of the workshop at all.

I feel inspired to make changes in the way I live my life.

I appreciate those around me.

Everything in life is an opportunity!

I want to call/e-mail my family and friends and change the way I think of my “enemies”

Awespirational!

It made me feel great!

I feel the need to find unconditional love for people i’ve shunned in my life.

There is always something positive in every situation.

I feel inspired, which is impressive.

This was the best session at the conference!

Positivistsm is awesome and can change the world.

I feel grateful and reaffirmed in my own positivity.

I feel great and worthy.

So much positive energy was going around the room, you were a great speaker!

I feel happy i’m happy!

I feel like smiling a big, huge smile!

I feel like a million bucks.

We have the ability to instantaneously love a stranger next to us. We all just want to be loved.

Reaffirmed my faith in humanity.

Giving space is powerful.

I feel touched.

I spend more time with the glass half empty, I need to change it to half full.

I feel happier, like I could change my life through love.

I want to spread kindness to people.

The lessons you taught and your attitude make me want to do what you do!

I learned how to appreciate the moments of life more.

You have an incredible perspective on life that is contagious, thank you.

I feel really inspired to live my life to the fullest and change my outlook.

I can affect change.

This session reminded me what it means to be human and the essence of humankind… How far off track we have gone and how important it is to get back on track.

I feel that there is hope for everyone and the potential for them to be good.

I feel inspired to banish negativity from my life and make it more positive. I feel uplifted to make change and share what i’ve learned with others.

I kind of realized that I am not always as kind as I could be and I don’t always appreciate what I have and i’d like to change that.

I feel really calm and beloved and excited that there are people like you in our generation.

The average score was 9.3 out of 10. (I think in the future I will add a “what would make you rate this session 10/10” part to my evaluation).

Talks on Education

This past month I presented at ICE: The Inter-University Conference on Education. Some of the talks from this event have now been posted online.

This was the only talk I was present for but I really enjoyed it.

I strive to create conditions in which you might learn.

Wise words from a wise prof.

More talks can be found here: http://www.cisa-acei.ca/ice/?p=ice2011

My Workshop at ICE 2011 – Learning from Life: Unleashing Unconditional Happiness

UniverCities Conference from above

This weekend I had the distinct pleasure of presenting at the Inter-University Conference on Education. Apparently my session was one of the most popular! Around 30 people attended and the evaluations I saw were very positive. Here’s some more info about my presentation:

Learning from Life: Unleashing Unconditional Happiness with Jenni Rempel
By separating external events from personal experiences, it is possible to open a way to seeing life as a path way to unconditional happiness. This workshop will explore circumstantial learning, techniques and tools to look at life and perceived obstacles as opportunities for growth and development.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE PRESENTATION: Learning from Life: Unleashing Unconditional Happiness

The main points I was sharing were related to choosing happiness and creating a positive life. I also brought in some laughter yoga techniques as I do at all of the workshops I facilitate.

I showed a clip from this lovely lecture:

And I also played zen meditation music as people entered to set the mood.

It was really beautiful. Just sitting in the room with the sunlight sneaking in. And listening to people talk about what they are grateful for. I am blessed.

One of the main points I covered was the Cafe Gratitude Clearing Process…

So basically, it’s a conversation to get you to be present, in the moment, and living an amazing life.

There are two people: The Clearee and the Clearer.

  1. The clearer asks the clearee some variation of “what’s stopping you from being present?”, there are many ways to say this… “what’s in the way of you being here right now?”… “what are you resisting?”…
  2. Then the clearer repeats back what the clearee says VERBATIM. Simply let them be heard, without judgement, advice or opinions given. Do not paraphrase or change what they say. The clearer tries to get the clearee “out of their head an into their heart” by asking them how they feel and putting an emotion to it (letting go of anything conceptual or anything other than their experience).
  3. The clearee breathes in the emotion they are feeling, and then exhales and lets it go.
  4. Then the clearer asks the clearee a different question. Some variation of “what are you grateful for?” or “what do you love about your life?”  … “what inspires you?”
  5. Then the clearer acknowledges the clearee and tells them something empowering. Thank them for being there and be moved by them.
  6. And then they switch! That’s it!

If you want more questions visit this google group, they email two new ones out daily: http://groups.google.com/group/question_of_the_day?pli=1

There is a much more detailed description of this process in the books “Sacred Commerce” and “Kindred Spirit” by Matthew and Terces Engelhart. They also have a DVD about clearing that was recently completed.

 

 

 

LAPTOP!!! : D

On Friday I finally got a laptop for school! I waited all year for Apple to catch up with the quad-core technology and then when they started their student promotion (free iPod Touch) I knew the time had finally come. As much as I hate consumerism (and I must admit, I wasn’t completely happy with the idea of getting a new product) I really love Apple and what they have done for technology. As i’m getting older my fangirl rose-coloured glasses have come off but Macs are still my machine of choice.

I went to the Apple store in Pacific Centre to ask some questions and get some information. I didn’t intend to make a purchase there but then I realized that ordering online would just mean more waiting and extra, unnecessary shipping fuel/packaging. The fact that it was iPad release day had also slipped my mind. My conversation with the “bouncer” went something like “Dude, I don’t want an iPad, I just want to buy a computer…” haha. We had to wait in line (only for a few minutes) and then this chick with cool hair helped me.

My friend and I did a special unboxing : D

15″ Macbook Pro (Which I have named “Finn Hudson”)

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 processor
  • Precision aluminum unibody enclosure
  • 4GB RAM (may upgrade this to 8GB)
  • 5.4-inch (diagonal) matte widescreen display
  • iWork
  • Apple Care Protection Plan

32GB iPod Touch (which I have named “Rachel Berry”)

(My last gen of electronics was named after Wicked characters so I figured I should continue the musical tradition hehe)

$treet$ of Plenty Review

Today I watched the viral Vancouver documentary “$treet$ of Plenty”. It follows this guy who decides to spend one month living on the DTES (downtown east side) to experience the seediest area of Vancouver. My first thought was what an original concept. It was a really creative way to document the issue. It was shot in what I like to call “youtube quality”… nothing that made my eyes burn but there were some scenes with poor focus and exposure. On the other hand there were also some really killer looking shots with awesome colour balance etc. But onto the content… despite my visit to tent city during the Olympics I still am fairly naïve about what homelessness is like. I think I would like to experience a night on the streets at some point just to know what other people go through everyday. I’ve noticed that although I am sympathetic to the homeless I don’t have a concrete reason as to why I feel that way. It’s one of those things indoctrinated into me by my middle-class upbringing – homelessness is bad.

The film deals with the complicated issue of addiction. I think all human beings are addicted to one thing or another. Some people like hardcore drugs, some people like gambling, some people like shopping… I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head what mine is. I think the only thing that separates us is how we deal with our addictions and how often we indulge ourselves.

The past year of my life has been an experiment of sorts. I keep challenging myself to live a simpler life, eliminating unnecessary things. I often find myself asking, can I do without this? Many North Americans get so bogged down by possessions and data – we live in a very consumption based society. I believe it is possible to overcome addiction but it is very much an individual journey. Hell, if you look back at my life two years ago many of the things I couldn’t live without have no part in my life today. People can learn to life differently.

I would like to take some education classes at SFU as part of my degree. In a way the study of education is similar to the study of persuasion. In order to persuade other people you need to find a way to make them come to their own conclusions about things. You can tell someone something a million times but it won’t stick until they figure it out for themselves…

Now go watch the movie (it’s only an hour long) : P

http://streetsofplenty.com/