be you house – interview
[questions from Jeff Brazil, for posting on connectedlearning.tv.]
why? why did you want to do this?
The be you house was a part of an original city plan kids crafted two years ago to redefine school. At least this kind of a space was in the plan. We were wanting to move somewhere downtown so that kids could walk or bike to mentors/apprenticeships. The space also fits with our redefinition of No Child Left Behind (NCLB): providing the vast exposure, the mentors alongside, the relationships, that happen naturally in a non-oppressive and nurturing home situation.
Virtually all the learning that precedes schooling – walking, talking, bye-bye and peekaboo, the intricate rhythms of life within a household – is learning as homecoming. It proceeds at dazzling speed compared with school learning, yet it is underestimated nearly everywhere. Infants have visible states of intense alertness from their earliest weeks, and as they mature they continue to be engrossed in learning, as if they were aware of what they needed to know and how to discover it, with an unfolding promise of participation ahead. …new learning feels like something known forever.
– Mary Catherine Bateson, Peripheral Visions
The why of kids crafting a plan to redefine school in the first place, was a noticing that most people are stressed, waiting for 3pm or the weekend, or when they graduate. Perhaps seeking a homecoming of the soul.
note: We were moving into a downtown 385 sq ft basement room two weeks before school started. The house, 2500 sq ft, built in 1910, was a pleasant, last minute, surprise, as are most things while embracing perpetual beta. We have to offer huge thanks and gratitude to Barry Floyd’s unending kindness and support.
what was the genesis moment? what questions/issues were you and your students asking or wrestling with that you thought this’d answer?
We’ve learned everything by doing, prototyping, and then learning from things that didn’t work. After experiencing our first year of the plan last year, where the Innovation Lab was located in a building at one of the highschools, we were seeking a more central location, where kids could walk to apprenticeships, to the library, to the city building, to the dance studio, etc. We were seeking a more eclectic space. We were seeking one that might offer more private space, as well as more space to gather. Actually, a space that could morph daily, whenever needed. One with vast exposure. One that resembled life. [perhaps modeling a redefinition of NCLB] One were you could be. One where you could move out and in of, in order to experience authentic living. I had just read Lisa Gansky’s The Mesh, so we were also seeking a shared space, one that perhaps was dormant, or not being used to its potential.
mechanically speaking, how did it go from aspiration to actuality? did you approach private parties, school board etc?
We talked to anyone and everyone, but most connections were made from people finding out about us and asking for more insight. Marcie, of Loveland’s Creative Sector Development has helped us secure some amazing connections. A connection to Barry, the owner of the house, was one of them, because of his connection to Artspace. Barry has continued to make incredible connections for us.
We weren’t and aren’t selling anything. We weren’t defending anything. That freed us up time, time to do. The doing helped people to like what we were doing, and so then offer to help, to offer us space. To date everything has happened on voluntary donations.
Knowing this was just something that was going to happen helped. We knew we could go non-profit if it didn’t work out with the district. In all that we’re doing, we want to do as much with the district as possible.. so always talking to them first. But it’s been most often in unofficial ways. Most official stances take a while to budge, and we don’t feel we have a while. Usually we’re talking to a person, rather than an organization, board, etc. Personal stories have been the inspiration and energy.
what is your hypothesis on how it’ll help advance learning, education, school?
We hope that the be you house will be and/or is a physical manifestation of the web. We hope it models an eclectic nature that is always changing. We hope it’s a space that encourages mindfulness. Feedback has been that upon seeing the house, people are starting to understand this disruptive and obscure plan.
We believe that a change in education will happen once we all realize the need to resign from publicly prescribed learning. We’re hoping the house models that potential and opportunity. And then disappears as the existing school buildings, spaces all over the town, become similar spaces with vast options. They become spaces of resources, of gatherings per choice.
The four year plan is a lot to take in, because it is all encompassing, it’s beyond school. The house has helped people to visualize the five elements of the plan.
how will you and your students know if it’s successful?
We’re thinking a sign of success will be that in a few years, no one will be talking about the Innovation Lab, because they will have come to realize it as a mindset within themselves. People will have realized that publicly prescribed learning can bind us to an ongoing dependency on it. A sign of success will be that our town, that public education, will resemble the eclectic and rhizomatic model the house is currently beginning to represent.
On our very bold side, we believe on a national and even global level, freedoms we may acquire because of the research we are doing will secure spaces for others to be. We’re not thinking what we’re doing is rare, or special. We believe anyone can do this starting today. Most are not because of the system in place that is keeping us in check, that is keeping us too busy. If we can help dislodge the negative parts of the system, the mindless parts of the system, we have full confidence in people being able to to do any of this, and more.
What is the physical environment like? videos? pictures?
what have you observed and noticed already, both positive and concerning?
The difficult part is finding the balance between my freedom and our freedom. Making sure that my dreams and daily ongoings don’t interfere with yours. Most of us aren’t used to free spaces. Most of us don’t know what to do when it hasn’t been all planned out. This isn’t concerning, it’s difficult. There is a huge difference there, between concerning and difficult. Personally, the detox booth, the daily reflections where I verbalize outloud what i’m noticing, keeps hitting me in the face with how difficult it is to just be. And how difficult it is to listen without an agenda. But it’s also the most incredible insight I’ve experienced.
What is concerning, in my opinion, would have to be the more aware we are becoming of the addiction most of us have to prescription, be it prescribed curriculum, adult authority, blind allegiance to policy, etc. Concerning is that we are jeopardizing ourselves, but even worse, our children, with that blind allegiance.
The positive, is how humane this all is. How intensely people crave spaces of permission, especially mental spaces. It’s very surreal to see people realize that option for perhaps the first time in their life. It’s mind boggling that we are in the land of the free, and yet many of us haven’t tasted of mental freedom.
A lot of thinking from last year on the need for spaces of permission to be.
update of house posted march 17 (2012)
a real commons house in Paris ?
who knows more, dear Julien Lecaille
” today these open and open communities need to meet to pool resources and create even more impactants projects – together.
With our campaign words: Gaël Musquet, (spokesperson for openstreetmap France), Myriam Bouré (Contributrice of open food France), Benjamin Jean (lawyer and founder of inno3), Lionel Maurel (Blogueur Blogger), Valérie Peugeot (Vecam) . ”