The IDEA Blog

Shifting the Paradigm at Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry

This is a guest post by Rachel Mason. Rachel lives in Victoria, British Columbia. She is interested in progressive education, youth voice, systems change, and social justice. She has worked as a teacher, youth worker, facilitator, project manager, and curriculum developer in a variety of settings. She currently works as a teacher at Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII) and as owner of Arrive Consulting, and is a parent of three young children. For more on PSII from Rachel, read about PSII's philosophy and opening days here.You can contact Rachel at

“The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning.”
― John Dewey, Experience and Education  (1938)
A year and a half ago I joined a team of people starting a new school in Victoria, British Columbia. Our school, Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII), is modeled on a philosophy that places the learner at the centre of their own education. What this means is that our learners work with teachers to co-create a curriculum based on their own questions and interests. It also means that we see education as being about the development of the whole person, both within and outside the school, and not just about academic learning that happens at school.
In the early days of opening our school, every day felt like an adrenaline high, a ride on a gut-wrenching roller-coaster. We had to invent a new process for teaching and learning, how we organize our school, how we relate and interact with learners, how we do assessment and reporting. Every decision brought up questions about our philosophy of education and our personal values.
A year and a half later we are still inventing and creating every day. There are many details we have not yet worked out, and we are constantly thinking about how we can put into practice the approach to learning that we envision. However, we do have some processes established and some experience...

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Posted on Feb 24, 2015 - 09:35 AM by Shawn Strader

At the Core of Every Move We Make

At the Core of Every Move We Make

As we push through what is hopefully the final stretch of winter (hang in there New England!), we're tilting even further toward new beginnings, projects, plans, and great work that's already taking place. We're thankful for everyone who was able to donate over the holidays. We're grateful for the ongoing work to influence positive change around the world. And without a doubt, we're ready for an incredible year of progress and change in education.

As we gear up for some seriously effective changework, we're paying attention to our values and intentionality. These values are at the core of every move we make. If you haven't read through them before, please take some time to. We're eager for what's coming and hope you are too.


IDEC 2015 is Right Around the Corner

The International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC) is coming to New Zealand April 9-12, 2015. Register online ( before the end of February and be entered in a drawing to win a free adult ticket!

Engage in a multitude of hands-on and heartfelt approaches to explore questions like How do we want to learn and teach in the future?, How can we work together to provide learning experiences that support resilient community development and true democratic values? in an environment of trust, equality and enjoyment.

San Francisco USD is Hiring More Black...

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Posted on Feb 18, 2015 - 01:20 PM by Shawn Strader

IDEC 2015 is Right Around the Corner in New Zealand

The International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC) is coming to New Zealand April 9-12, 2015. Register online ( before the end of February and be entered in a drawing to win a FREE ADULT TICKET! 

This 4-day open-space hui (conference, meeting) is based around the experience of interactive natural ways of learning. Engage in a multitude of hands-on and heartfelt approaches to explore questions like How do we want to learn and teach in the future?, How can we work together to provide learning experiences that support resilient community development and true democratic values? in an environment of trust, equality and enjoyment.

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Posted on Feb 17, 2015 - 09:18 AM by Shawn Strader

When It’s a Good Thing - Social Media in the Classroom

When It’s a Good Thing - Social Media in the Classroom

If you haven't thought it inevitable before, perhaps you ought to now. More teachers are finding creative ways to enhance their teaching by incorporating social media into their daily and weekly lessons. Joy Nelson writes for Edudemic in Social Media in the Classroom: 16 Resources for 2015:

Social media is a powerful tool for keeping in touch with friends, getting coupons and deals from your favorite businesses, and seeing what your favorite celebrities are up to. It is also handy in your classroom; platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and others have the power to help you forge closer connections with students and parents and enhance the educational experience in your classroom.

How can you make it happen? Let the resources [linked above] lead the way.

What's more, teachers are finding ways to use Skype and similar web tools to connect their classrooms to a diverse and global community of other learners.

"The World Is As Big Or As Small As You Make It," a short documentary embedded below, offers a powerful example of how relationships in learning are not limited only to the classroom or local community, but can indeed exist globally thanks to some ingenuity and modern technology. 

What makes you happy? What are some stereotypes that people have about you? Have you experienced racism and, if so, how?

These are the questions kids from around the world are asking to learn about each other.

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Posted on Feb 16, 2015 - 10:35 AM by Shawn Strader

San Francisco USD is Hiring More Black Teachers

Yesterday, Huff Post: Black Voices published an article that's making the rounds titled, School District Wants To Close Achievement Gap By Recruiting More Black Teachers. Here's a snippet from the article:

The achievement gap between students of different races has been well-documented, and the San Francisco Unified School District is trying something it hopes will address the disparities early on: Hiring more black teachers.

... The effort ... revolves around a single finding: Students perform better when they can identify with their teachers.

For great reasons, more black and racially diverse teachers is an awesome step forward. However, it's also apparent that this isn't the only step forward we as a community will need to take in order to close the achievement gap.

Check out the original article here.

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Posted on Feb 10, 2015 - 08:56 AM by Shawn Strader

An Open Heart to Learning

The Heart of Oregon Learning Tour

Over the course of today and half of tomorrow, IDEA is teaming with Sisters School District and Heart of Oregon Corps to host a Learning Tour exploring some excellent sites of democratic education that actively seek to support meaningful change in their communities.

The tour has been designed as a professional development opportunity for an up-and-coming new school, Cloverdale Alternative School.


Learning Tours are one of our favorite ways to support deeper learning, professional development, and relationship building. Without a doubt, we'll be writing more about the event after it has taken place, but for now we hope you are excited to follow along on Twitter with #HOC_LearningTour.


A University Recognizes a Third Gender: Neutral

It might seem a simple turn of events, but adding gender-neutral options to the University of Vermont’s information system took nearly a decade of lobbying, the creation of a task force of students, faculty members and administrators...
By Julie Scelfo, New York Times  |  Read story

Gap of All Gaps: ESEA/NCLB Reauthorization & the 'Purpose Gap'

An honest reckoning and re-visioning of the purpose of education is beginning to happen in schools and communities and systems across the country (rich and poor, urban and rural). 
By Scott Nine, Teacher in a Strange Land  |  Read story...

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Posted on Feb 05, 2015 - 12:06 PM by Shawn Strader

It’s About That Time

It's About That Time

In two days, IDEA's annual fundraiser will come to a close and we're hoping you've got a little to give.
If you're able, please take a moment to make a donation to IDEA today. Together we can facilitate change in the world. We're not the only ones doing the work, but right now we could use your support.

Help IDEA take things to the next level in 2015

Thank you.

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Posted on Jan 30, 2015 - 11:27 AM by Shawn Strader

The Value of Values

The Value of Values

There's one week left in our 2014/2015 annual fundraiser. As this text is being written, our money raised is $16,079, with a goal of $40,000. We want to take a few more long strides towards that goal. We can only do that with your help.
 So we got to thinking: what gives IDEA value is in part the sum of the values which guide our every move. 


Many of you have shared with us that you find your own personal values to be highly aligned with IDEA's. If you haven't already expressed that, we think you might now that you're encountering this powerful list.


Whether or not you are able to make a donation to IDEA doesn't signify in any way shape or form that you are or are not aligned with these values. That all comes from the heart.


But we can't do the work without all that you've given, are giving, and will continue to give toward the movement for educational change.

Please make a donation today and help IDEA make a difference. Between courageous organizers around the USA and Puerto Rico, our small-but-mighty staff, and a tremendous amount of community support, we've got a lot of heart.

But it only makes a difference if we're able to show it.

Thank you.

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Posted on Jan 26, 2015 - 12:11 PM by Shawn Strader

Hot Off the Press: Fall 2014 Learning Report

Hot Off the Press:
Fall 2014 Learning Report

Exploring how education transformation is happening around the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

The stories shared here come directly from the IDEA Community: place-based efforts, teams of the Learning Breakthrough Series, organizational and network partners, and IDEA staff and board members.


Check out all 3 ways to read this issue of the IDEA Learning Report and share it widely with your network: the full PDF of the report, four infographicssharing key successes and changes, and the full contents online.


Vermonter of the Year: Hal Colston

The Winooski resident has laid down a track record of work to improve the lives of people in the community during his 25-year tenure in Vermont. What's more is he's become an integral part of the IDEA family. We couldn't be more excited for Hal and his accomplishments. Get it, Hal!
From Burlington Free Press  |  Read story

Can Schools Cultivate a Student’s Ability to Think Differently?

We overemphasize the deficits of children, and that’s not a good starting point… If we let people flourish in their own ways, hopefully everyone will find something they want to do.
From MindShift  |  Read story

Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline with Restorative Circles

For these Chicago students, restorative justice isn’t just about causing...

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Posted on Jan 14, 2015 - 09:54 AM by Shawn Strader

$10 Matters So Much

$10 Matters So Much

Can you give $10 to IDEA, today? Right now? You've only got to click here and donate. If we get more $10 donations than any other organization in our fundraising challenge by Dec 23 at 12pm ET then we win $10,000. We need your donation. Can you chip in for $10K?



Make a $10 Donation Today

We're not quite super-humans like Spiderman or Wonderwoman... We don't shoot webs, and we can't fly at sublight speeds... But the people of IDEA do have some incredible powers worth celebrating that we'd love to share with you.


Truth and Reconciliation Process

This country needs a truth and reconciliation process on violence against african americans - right now.
YES! Magazine  |  Read story

The Community Schools Toolkit

A great new toolkit from The Center for Popular Democracy and the Coalition for Education Justice breaks down the essential elements of community schools and how advocates can push for them in their cities.
National Opportunity to Learn Campaign  |  Read story

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Posted on Dec 17, 2014 - 09:10 AM by Shawn Strader

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