One of our themes for our escape room is adolescence. After all, we’re a high school, and if we’re doing things right, our approach builds on an understanding of adolescence and how to structure a school such that we capitalize on the great parts of being a teenager and minimize the problems.

We first did some drawing. Adolescent surrounded by the traits of adolescence, radiating off as lines. Then, with each line, we wrote about how The Workshop School deals with that trait in positive ways and negative ways.

Example one

Example two

What was striking to me about the eventual list, with explanations, was that it was the same list that a group of experts in the field might have come up with:

Doing things just because  
Poor decisions
Social media
Trying to find out identity
Who do you want to be?  
Short attention span  
Thinking about the future
Overthinking and not thinking (DW: This is brilliant! Why can your mind be spinning and yet when someone asks you a question you’re like huh?)
What’s life?
Finding your purpose
Developing self-awareness
Social media  
Eros (life drive)  
New beginnings
Rebellious /defy
Finding who you are/figuring out who you are  
Takes risk  
Exploring limits

What is project based learning?

We’re building escape rooms. We’re thinking about what makes our school and what are the key concepts that we must build it around. Here’s how one student responded when I asked, “what’s at the heart of project based learning?”

It’s that they “give us space to make mistakes. They give us space to figure it out on our own.”


Now we have to figure out how to make one of our escape room puzzles reflect this idea.

The exact opposite of how school funding works

This is a description from a great article from Pete Wells about new restaurants in NYC and the ways in which they are created. His larger point about how many groups are excluded is set up by this description:

Most restaurants, though, are funded by loans and private backers. Aby Rosen, one of the owners of the Seagram Building, recently told a reporter for Town & Country how he had raised $32 million for the Pool, the Grilland another restaurant the Major Food Group is building there. He and the restaurateurs solicited investments from “a nice mix of hedge fund guys, fashionistas, rich guys — an interesting group of 100 people who then bring 20 or 30 of their friends, and suddenly you have 2,000 people.”

Sadly, this approach doesn’t work for new schools.

Our smart principal

We read this as a group this morning:

When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find. It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since. For some reason I always “hid” the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street. I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, say, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk. Then I would take a piece of chalk, and, starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions. After I learned to write I labeled the arrows: SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY. I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe. But I never lurked about. I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, some months later, I would be gripped again by the impulse to hide another penny.
It is still the first week in January, and I’ve got great plans. I’ve been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But—and this is the point—who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kid paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.

Great starting point for the year…

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (NY: Harper Perennial, 1974).

Day two: Junk under the TV stand

New lessons:

1. I knew this but a 1×10″ isn’t really a 1×10″. It’s a 1 x 9 1/4″. When does this knowledge of what you’re actually buying seep into your consciousness? When do the measurements of wood become automatic?
2. When you use this kind of piping, it’s shipped with a lot of grease, to prevent rust, I guess? That grease will get all over your wood.
3. Joints. Sigh. I wanted to do box joints here but realized that learning the hand craft of cutting a box joint might take me into my 50s. Dado set, here I come.

Building some stuff

I saw this in a Crate and Barrel catalog. I’m going to build a smaller version for our living room. I’m going to use 3/4″ pipe and flanges in the middle instead of that iron bar.

Challenges/things I want to learn:

*These finger joints on the end — I want to make a smaller version.
*What did people do before Home Depot’s/Lowe’s selection of crappy milled wood? Are there lumberyards where everything is cut well so that you don’t have to spend twenty minutes finding the least bad pieces?