One of our wildest dreams has manifested. A few weeks ago, The Dandelion Project welcomed young people and their families into our new space for Dandelion Aftercare and Wild Seeds ALC Pilot Year #2. So far it's been filled with getting to know each other, establishing agreements for how we come together and share space and resources, practicing working through conflict, trying out a variety of small groups activities and offerings, and so much more. We are all learning so much every single day! We are excited to also share that we are re-opening Wild Seeds ALC enrollment. You can learn more here.
An intention we have this year is to document more of what our community is doing together. We believe that learning happens in cycles of setting intentions, creation, reflection, and sharing. Writing a regular newsletter is one way we are practicing this at the organizational level.
Unschooling in Community
Our theme for small groups this month is Unschooling in Community. Some of the questions that have guided our work together include:
Who is here? How do we get to know each other?
How can we have fun together?
How do we share space and resources?
What do young people need to learn?
How do we work through conflict?
How do we ask for help?
What do we need to feel safer?
What does it mean to care for ourselves, each other, and our environment?
Wild Seeds Small Group Highlights
Young people at Wild Seeds ALC participate in a small group meeting each morning and afternoon. Here, we dive into connection activities, practice relationship building, dig into topics related to core values and interests, ask questions about the world, imagine new ways of doing things, play and laugh, and more.
Care for ourselves, each other, and the environment is one of our core agreements at Wild Seeds. Beginning early in the year, small groups discuss care, collectively describing what it looks like and feels like, how we show care for others and environment, our experiences with being cared for and caring for others, and more. We want care to be at the root of all things we do in community.
The oldest small group (9-12) journaled and shared some examples of when we’ve felt care, and then added our definition of care to this poster after sharing and hearing ideas from each other’s stories. Some ideas of how we’ve experienced care— lunch packing (some experience this as self care and others as care from the grown ups in their lives), kind words, celebration of the things we enjoy and are good at, comforting words when we are upset, and others asking for a grown-up’s help on our behalf in emergency/injury situations. It was really awesome to see everyone in the group really listening to each other and sharing super thoughtfully. We learned a lot about each other and I’m looking forward to this conversation continuing this week.
When the middle small group (7-10 year olds) discussed what care looks like, sounds like, and feels like, they mostly framed it around helping people when they are hurt, being cared for when they are sick, and showing up with accountability when hurt or conflict happens. To help young people also see that care can include acts of kindness, their facilitator brought warm honey tea and biscuits to morning small group. This sparked conversation around what they could do to show care towards their family and friends.
Secret Handshake Dance: Our middle small group (7-10 year olds) created a "secret handshake dance" together on the first day of Wild Seeds. Each group member added a dance and a sound to the movement combination. They've been starting each small group joyfully dancing together, and this has been helping the transition feel grounded in connection.
Emotion Activity (5 year olds): We pulled the cards and reflected on our first day through the lens of the feelings represented. All of the young people described feeling excited in the days leading up to Wild Seeds and some shared that they then felt worried when they arrived. One person exclaimed, “I felt excited and worried at the same time!” which led us into a conversation about having more than one feeling at a time. We started showing what our bodies look like when we’re having big feelings. All of the young people made their bodies look bigger, powerful, menacing to represent “mad."
Emotion Activity (7-10): We laid out all 12 of the emotion cards on the floor and asked young people how they'd feel experiencing various scenarios such as: getting invited to a play date at a new friend's house, someone moves your water bottle and now you can't find it, you found a bug in your lunch, etc. Sometimes it was surprising that folks had very different feelings about the same scenario, but when we heard more about why folks might feel that way, it helped us understand. A young person reflected, "I'd be excited and nervous to visit a new friend's house. What will it be like?"
Bodies are Cool by Tyler Feder:
The oldest small group (9-12 year olds) talked a lot about appearance-based compliments and how they might sometimes not feel like compliments. We ended up making an agreement not to make any kind of comment— whether we think it’s positive or negative— about another person’s body in our community.
The youngest group (5 year olds) talked a lot about how people have all different hair all over their bodies. They also noticed that wheelchairs can help a person move and white mobility sticks help people not bump into things if they aren't able to see. They brought up the bumpy sidewalk edges that also help people know that they are nearing the street. The group also spent a significant amount of time talking about whether fat bodies are healthy bodies and most were confused or certain that being fat means a person is unhealthy. So, we started unpacking how you can't tell what a person's health is like from looking at them and what other things you can't tell about a person just from looking at them ( some ideas: whether they live in a big house! Or, if they have a mom!)
"Victoria's Secret" by Jax: After reading Bodies are Cool, the song "Victoria's Secret" by Jax was brought up by a young person in the oldest group. Many young people were in agreement with the message of the song— companies like Victoria’s Secret purposefully make people feel bad about their bodies and make a lot of money doing that! One young person said “it’s a scam!” From an artistic perspective, some of us had some questions about how much of the song was based on a true story and if the artist took any creative leaps to tell it. We talked about the messages that companies like send and how they could cause different types of harm (physical and emotional).
"Are you allowed to change your mind?" One conversation from the middle small group was about whether or not it’s ok to change our minds. We had a brief convo, and we imagine these types of things will continue to be discussed iteratively with more nuance introduced over time.
When asked “if at first you said ‘yes’ is it ok to change your mind to ‘no’ later?” the kids agreed, yes, they could change their minds. We shared stories about times we changed our minds about a thing.
When asked if they could change their mind if it would hurt someone’s feelings, most said “no.” We talked about how sometimes we might try a thing that actually isn’t for us, and we could change our mind, even if it disappointed someone. We talked about how we might communicate a changed mind so the other person might understand. We talked about how conflict are normal part of relationships and that disappointing other people is ok… not something we try to do, but something that does happen sometimes. We don’t have to sacrifice ourselves to please others.
When asked if they could change their mind after they made a promise to someone, they all said “no.” We started talking about the importance of honoring commitments so we are reliable, how to be thoughtful about the promises we make, and that even if a promise is made we can change our minds. There is a lot of nuance here, so we’ll keep these consent convos going.
Wild Seeds Offering Highlights
Wild Seeds ALC doesn't have mandatory classes, instead we have offerings that young people can opt into or not. So far, facilitators have offered a wide range of things to start modeling that vast variety of ways we could choose to spend our time. Young people have also begun sharing offerings with the community-- some planned out and some very spontaneous.
Celebration Cake: With the support of Facilitator Anna, young people gathered for various steps of the process, helping to plan, bake, decorate, and eat a beginning of the year celebration cake. The cake was a three-tier cake with a chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry layer. The kids dyed icing to match their design and used various toppings to bring their vision to life. After trying the cake while listening to Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña, kids shared their reactions.
Get to Know You Bingo + Intro Interviews: Facilitator Lauren Elizabeth created a "Get to Know You" bingo game for community members to play. You can borrow a copy here if you want. In addition to using bingo prompts to interview each other, young people also created interview questions for the community. Some of their questions included:
Do you have a backpack?
Do you like dumplings or gyoza?
Who is in your family?
Do you have any phobias?
Do you like butterflies?
How do you start and end your day?
What's a funny joke you know?
Little Free Library Tour of Our Neighborhood Young people practiced map reading and navigation skills on our walking tour of little free libraries in our neighborhood. We loved looking at the books and trading them with books from home that are ready for someone else to read them!
Read Aloud Choice: Melissa by Alex Gino
While young people can eat any time they need to, we've been practicing having a different lunchtime offering to encourage young people to check in with their bodies and take a break. We've been reading Melissa, a notoriously banned book about a 4th grade trans girl who is trying to be Charlotte in her school's play.
Student-Led Offerings: Young people have brought many different offerings to the space, including: Learning magic tricks, nail salon, music listening, a drawing table, and more. Facilitators have supported young people in making their offerings accessible and inclusive by helping them think through the planning questions:
What is the offering?
How do folks participate in equitable, inclusive ways?
How do we take care of the supplies?
How do we stay safer?
Check In/ Change Up
We hold frequent Check in/ Change up meetings to gather around community awarenesses (problems we've identified in the community), brainstorm ideas for how we could do things differently, and make some "good enough, safe enough" agreements we'll start practicing together. After a week of practice, we come back together to reflect on how our new agreements are working.
Some of the awarenesses we've been checking in about and changing up our practices around include:
"It's too loud in here."
"Fidgets are distracting during meetings"
"The Draw Wall isn't working." We encourage you to read all about this on our recent blog post, Check In/Change Up: The Draw Wall.
Dandelion Aftercare Updates
Dandelion Aftercare is now offering free pick ups from Kirkbride, Southwark, and Coppin Elementary Schools in South Philly. Our aftercare program is play-based and child-centered, and kids from conventional schools as well as homeschools are invited to join. We are re-opening our enrollment with 1, 2, and 3 day options! Learn more here.
T-Shirt Sale Thru Oct 31!
We have our first merch available now! Check it out here.
RE-OPENING WILD SEEDS ALC ENROLLMENT
We are so excited to share that we are reopening enrollment for Wild Seeds ALC for young people ages 5-12 who are interested in unschooling in community. We have flexible 1, 2, and 3 day options as well as sliding scale tuition to make our program more accessible.
Interested families will be able to opt into a Trial Day (fee $70) or Week (fee $210) to get a more thorough sense of our program before fully enrolling.
Join us for our upcoming virtual Info Session + Q&A on Thurs. 11/2 from 6-7:15pm to learn more! RSVP here.