Author and world renowned educator,
Gever Tully, visits firefly!
With Craig we sank the Titanic; with Gever, we went to Mars. 

Gever Tully is a pioneer, an adventurer of epic proportions. He puts power tools in the hands of 5 year olds and gives them the wheel of his diesel Jeep as soon as their feet can reach the pedals. A firm believer that everything is interesting, Gever doesn’t waste his energy saying no, he pours everything he has into saying YES to our kids. Yes! You can play with fire. Yes! I will help you map the migrating habits of the Semipalmated Sandpiper. Yes! We can drive until we find your weather balloon - even if it means getting the class of 8 year olds home at 2am. 

Gever made his way from Brightworks, the school he founded in San Francisco, to Buckeye, Effingham County’s first self-directed-project-based-experiential-learning school to firefly on a cold Tuesday in January. This award winning author, spoke to educators, families and community leaders about the power of engaged learning. A video of his talk can be found on Buckeye’s website , but can be summed up by his words:

‘Engaged (self-directed) learning is better than disengaged learning.’

Why? We need only to reflect on our own experience to know this truth.
Engaged learning is more durable - we remember it and it makes us more agile, effective problem solvers. When we study something we care about, particularly when we are given the time and freedom to make mistakes along the way, the experience makes it to our long term memory where we can use it in the future to solve problems we have never seen before. In contrast, learning that is disengaged, like the studying we did for tests, rarely makes it to long term memory where we can use it in the future. On average, most people believe they retained less than 10%, but often it’s closer to 3% of what they studied in school.  

Both Buckeye and Brightworks are playing what they call ‘the long game.’ Gever said, ‘we want to help our kids assimilate skills and knowledge that will benefit them long past getting into college. We want them to be able to access their learning in 20, 30 and 50 years.’

When we are studying something we care about, it is also a LOT more fun. Joy is a powerful motivator. Prior to creating Brightworks, Gever launched a summer camp called the Tinkering School. At the end of a challenging 14 hour day of engaged learning, a young girl said to Gever,

‘I’ve never worked this hard in my life. 
Why can’t school be more like this?’

This question stayed with him for two years and was ultimately the fuel that drove him to create Brightworks. Gever knows that our kids deserve the freedom to pursue their own passions and like the team at Buckeye, he has dedicated his life to ensure that they have it.
Recently, Business Insider named Brightworks one of the top 13 Most Innovative Schools in the World . This is but one reason Buckeye's team feels fortunate to learn from this groundbreaking team as they develop our Buckeye Friends School here in Effingham County. 

Last summer, Buckeye co-learners Christy Dietzen, Carrie Huff and Kristie Campbell flew to San Francisco along with 40 other educators from around the globe for Brightworks Summer Institute. There they transformed into self-directed-project-based-experiential-learners for four amazing days.

Last month, Gever journeyed all the way to rural Teutopolis to mentor the team at Buckeye, and connect with their students and incredible pioneering families. Gever’s inspiring presentation was a powerful reminder of how rapidly our world is changing and why we must evolve the way we educate our kids so that they can meet this change with agency, confidence and passion.

He pointed out that, ‘Everyday of last year 2 universities and colleges dropped the SAT requirement. Something that we all grew up dreading is no longer even a factor.’ He discussed why modern companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, IBM, HP, Costco and Whole Foods no longer require college degrees. ‘Last year you had to have a four year degree simply to apply at Google, now they recognize that degrees and grades are not good indicators of success and mastery.’
After just five months into Buckeye’s first school year, they are witnessing firsthand the incredible results of engaged (self-directed) learning. Buckeye has 8 year olds presenting college level work and a 7 year old exploring veterinarian medicine to determine whether she wants to make the investment and pursue that career. They have a 9 year old who launched the school's robotics lab all on his own and is now teaching everyone, including the teachers, how to build and code robots. 

In a poll of tech and manufacturing jobs that Gever shared, collaboration was listed as the number one most essential job skill, communication was second, and creativity was third. This is a massive disconnect between what is happening in school and the workplace. If kids collaborate on a test or a paper it’s considered cheating and they can be expelled. Communication is more often than not taught in the essay format and most schools don’t know how to approach creativity let alone how to cultivate it. 

Gever concluded his presentation with a challenge to be brave.

‘When we imagine only what can go wrong, we forget all the good that can come when children see the world as full of possibility. The future of education I think depends on us innovating the education around us. By choosing to put your children in Buckeye, by asking, if they are not at Buckeye, what are your schools doing to teach collaboration, communication and creativity? If that’s not the bulk of the effort, then your school is not aligned with the modern expectations of the workplace.

That’s a very difficult thing to process because we grew up believing that good grades, SATs and a college degree would get us a career. 

So I say, let’s be brave. 
If the creative impulses of children are always shut down, they quickly learn to stop being creative, they will stop raising their hands with that good question. 

If the only answer we’ll accept is the one in the book, they stop looking for new solutions.

So let’s give them 
Time - enough to explore an idea on their own terms
Autonomy - trust them enough to get engaged with something and run with it
And a Story they believe in because they helped write it.”
Sound familiar? Craig would have loved this challenge. 

Though Gever pointed out that he wasn’t being paid, he strongly supported Buckeye’s innovative self-directed approach to learning. He encouraged interested parents to attend their upcoming open house on Saturday, February 15th, at 2pm. 

Start-up is difficult in every circumstance. When a start-up is challenging 150 years of conditioning, it can be very difficult indeed. In the moments when it feels overwhelming, we can remember our incredible mentors and promise to be brave.
Learn more about self-directed learning at Buckeye Friends School's Open House, Saturday, February 15th!
Buckeye Friends School is accepting applications for our 2020/2021 school year. We have limited spots available so if you have a child or know a child who will benefit from self-directed-project-based-experiential-learning in kindergarten through 12th grade, please reach out here!

We are excited to connect with all families interested in innovative education. Please  visit us  to connect and join our open house from 2-3:30pm on Saturday, February 15th.

Welcome to Buckeye, Learning Reimagined!