“Ideas and dreams are wonderful but examples bring hope”…
Our Grade 12 Students had the unique opportunity to create a set of questions to interview Dr Jenny Finn, Head of Springhouse Community school in Virginia. This was part of their Diploma Language Acquisition course for English where the focus was on Social Organisation – Education for the 21st Century.
Within the unit, students considered the seminal work of Sir Ken Robinson as well as a guest lecture from our head of Teaching and Learning Dr Benjamin Freud. They had the opportunity to listen to the podcast Dr Freud where he interviewed Dr Jenny Finn as to her innovative approach to education. The aim here was to encourage the ATL (Approaches to Learning) of Critical Thinking and to consider the particular challenges facing contemporary education systems and their thoughts as to what the future focus and frameworks should be.
The aim is to prepare students for the individual oral assessment which is a key part of the course. Students will be required to reflect and discuss the content of the course. We are aware that authentic opportunities to engage and interact with the course content is the key to success in the final exams. The unit also incorporated the effective use of Visible Thinking Routines from Project Zero – Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Our students asked some great questions! See their interview below…
What is the reason or idea that made you want to create a new culture?
Our principles at Springhouse are not new and they are not ours. Because we put community, life,
sustainability at the centre, they emerge from our place. It’s an ancient way of being that is not
well practised, so it does feel new.
We are doing this because the world needs us to. Our world is oriented around money, and of course we
do need money, and there are other resources we need too. Money is not the centre of life, life is.
We are living unsustainably, and a lot of that comes from Western culture. Culture can orient
around the precious gift of life.
Poon and Tyler How can we change the education system to be accepting of all students capabilities?
There are different types of students who need different types of education systems, do
you think they all can fit into the vitality centred education system?
We have a process called Reflections on Learning. We don’t have grades or assessments. We have a skills
framework that we use and all of those skills are oriented around our vision. Our vision is
regenerative life-giving culture. Everyone practices being regenerative culture builders; taking care of themselves, each other and the planet.
Our individuality is unique and different but we are all connected. We are very different, we are
not meant to be normed, but we do have universal patterns and patterns of connections. We do not have to force people to be the same in order
for us to feel safe. We are all worthwhile no matter what we do or how we do it.Tyler Can vitality centred education be the centre of education systems in the future?
I don’t know, it is so different. I do see so many people looking to foster more life at the centre of
the systems that we know. We design around what is emerging, so it is a different way of being. Every place
and student is unique; authentically and truly itself. So if that was at the centre of an
education system, then that would be possible, but there it would require a major orientation shift in the whole system design.
What are the greatest qualities of Springhouse to you?
It is a living example of emergent design. Our design principles came from the ground up.
Teenagers and adults come together to design every day, and that is a messy process, and I love that. It is
the messy design work that brings me alive.
How do you introduce Vitality-Centered Education to those that have never experienced
What made you decide to include adult education in Springhouse?
What do you mean by “Instead of tuition, we see your contribution as an investment”
What are such “investments”?
We introduce vitality-centred design through the Sourced Design Lab. People experience Springhouse and the design for 2 months; giving people a taste of what we do. We have also started to craft an undergraduate and graduate program to
learn more about the regenerative culture and practice building it. We need adults to carry on this work and to be an example
of authentic adulthood. We are all here to learn and grow, adults and teens.
Our economic model is rooted in trust, transparency and relationship. We do not charge fees
but do we need money and investment? Yes. We need physical resources, but we do not put
this at the centre. We are committed to our mission and vision no matter what. We trust that if
we do the best job we can we will get the money we need. And it is working. Money is not the final word or our number one security. Investment is defined as the people’s contributions. We have contributors across the world. People want the example to continue because they believe in it.
Do Springhouse students have any intention to go to universities to deepen their
knowledge in certain areas? If they experience difficulties pursuing their dreams in
universities due to differences in academic progress in the High school period, how
would you react?
Yes, but it depends on the university. If it is not vitality centred, then it does not work well for our teens. This is a good thing. I hope our students bring more life to those institutions. Our students think beyond their own progress, they want to contribute to a better world and that’s what I want for them.Yim
Do you think this kind of curriculum is realistic for the world today?
I not only think it is realistic, I think it is essential. If something isn’t taking care of life I don’t
know why we are doing it.
Do you think the grades that students get in the exam is the clearest way to check
whether a student is studying hard or not?
Probably, if you are learning to answer questions for an exam. We can learn naturally from the feedback we receive in a situation. This is different and applies to adult and teen learners. We designed and built a boat. If it sank (which it didn’t!) we would learn from that experience. The emergent design gives meaningful feedback if we are paying attention.
How difficult do you think it is to change and innovate the current education system?
A friend of mine said a long time ago, “It’s like moving a heavy freight train.” I am building a new structure because we want to be a
living example to inspire hope in others.
What is your broad idea of what school will be like in the next century?
Very different. The tide is already turning on this and I hope it looks like it takes care of life.
What is thinking outside the box?
I am not sure it is outside of the box thinking. Here we are listening to something that is ancient
to design a more sustainable, life-giving way. Listening deeply to what brings you alive, and then creating a life that
takes care of that deep motivation, is what we do every day. Listen to your own heart, this is a deeper place, and then
follow that because it can lead to a very vital life.
If there is one thing you could change about the world, what would it be?
I cannot change things outside of me. Trying to change places, people and things is something I
cannot do. The only thing I can change is myself and all I can do is behave in ways that
allow the life force that runs through me more clearly and compassionately every day. That life source heals me and gives me
courage, just like the energy that runs through a tree. It breathes us too. I do my best to behave in a way that allows me to
be a good partner to that breath. I do things that take care of that breath, and when I do
I fill up with love, courage, and life that gives me the strength to show up to a world that is so
beautiful, but that is in so much pain and that is suffering.
The one thing in the world I would change and that I can change is me. I can continue to get
stronger and more loving so I can accept the world on the world’s terms and from that
acceptance, something changes. If we bring our presence as a gift to the world then things change and then we live in a regenerative culture. And that is the
mission and vision that I live by.
Dr Jenny Finn, Grade 12 Students & Ajarn Samantha