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Issue #3 • Spring 2009

N e ws
C on s t ru c t ivi s t C on sor t ium
Who We Are
The mission of The Great Lakes In this issue…
Constructivist Consortium is to advocate
for learner-centered environments that are The Spring GLCC Newsletter is focused A constructivist learning
experiential, equitable, and ecological. on orientation. According to the diction-
community is intentional about
Editors ary, orientation is the ability to locate
»  Susan Ballje   »  Anne Nordholm oneself in one’s environment with refer- orientation practices in order

2008–09 GLCC Leadership ence to time, place, and people; one’s

to accommodate learners’
Director of Membership  »  Kim Thiesen position in relation to true north; the
Director of Communication  »  Leo Alvarez ascertainment of one’s true position, prior school experiences
Director of Community Partnerships   »   Josh Zimmers
as in a novel situation, with respect to
Director of Sustainability  »  David Coyle and assumptions about how
attitudes, judgments, etc.
GLCC Facilitators learning happens.
Bastante Educational Services, LLC Orientation is vital to the success of
2217 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. innovative initiatives. Yet, too few organi-
Milwaukee, WI 53207 advises us on the necessity of telling
zations (including schools) provide their
414-294-3939 orienting stories through marketing and
members with the appropriate orienta-
Manuscript Submissions social media. Sue McKenzie reminds us
tion to ease their way and facilitate
ALL GLCC members are invited to submit that mental health considerations inform
articles and photos to be included in upcoming that success. A constructivist learning
how every interaction with learners
GLCC issues. Fully edited submissions of community is intentional about orienta-
no more than 500 words must be
affects orientation. The Journal Sentinel
tion practices in order to accommodate
electronically submitted to anne.nordholm@ recently featured an article on Audubon
learners’ prior school experiences High School that provides a different
and assumptions about how learning
The GLCC News Summer issue will orientation to school community behav-
happens. Orientation processes can
focus on School/Community Partnerships. ior expectations through restorative
Submissions are due by May 27th. communicate to learners the expecta-
justice. Susan Ballje offers examples of
tion of responsibility and independence
Welcome and Thanks orienteering activities that can provide
to New GLCC Sponsors regarding their own learning. Failure to
students with clarity about the transi-
»  D. Wienke, Glenview, IL provide orientation results in disorienta-
tions from middle school to high school.
»  Laurie and Ray Wienke, Libertyville, IL tion — not an optimal state for learning.
The piece by Sean Michael Dargan
GLCC Website
The authors in this issue of the GLCC about the Many Faces of Constructiv-
h t t p ://w w w. g r e a t l a k e s c c . o r g
newsletter, offer many navigational tools ism Conference offers readers a first
to better serve an orientation process. glimpse of the upcoming event guar-
s C on s t Co Nancy Frank’s article promotes under- anteed to provide the community with
ke ns
La N
standing about constructivist program an orientation toward constructivism.

t iu m

components like service learning via Even the Calendar of Events presents
aquaponics. Michael Wridt describes many opportunities for folks to learn
how the recruitment, enrollment, and more about the GLCC and constructivist

GLCC hiring practices of a school offer myriad

opportunities for orientation. Spreenkler
practices in order to navigate their own
professional journeys.

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Great Lakes Constructivist Consortium News

The Dance of Change

The following excerpt is taken from The how to work smarter; and increas- expected them to provide more than
Dance of Change, by Peter Senge, et al. ingly intractable problems beyond rough guidance. Yet, however imper-
(New York: Doubleday/Currency, 1999) the reach of any individual or organi- fect, maps and guides have been
zation. If you are … someone at any among humankind’s most treasured
level concerned deeply about these artifacts. … Not surprisingly, the first
challenges, then you face a daunting atlas makers, who gathered and
task. In effect, you are engaged in collected those charts and notes
a great venture of exploration, risk, into books and portfolios, changed
Failure to rethink our
discovery and change, without any history. …
enterprises will leave us little relief
comprehensive maps for guidance.
from our current predicaments: Without better maps, it is extremely
rising turbulence causing us rising Actually, for most of human history, unlikely that organizational change
stress; increasing disconnection and intrepid explorers have set out on efforts will ever sustain themselves.
internal competitiveness; people their journeys of discovery without Each new adventure will be the first.
working harder, rather than learning comprehensive maps. … No one (pages 3-5)

We have failed if we have not provided a potential staff member or student with

enough information about our school that they can make a decision about becoming

a part of our learning community.

Orientation During Staff and Student Enrollment

by Michael Wridt

The foundational premise of choice and voice about their learning is activities over several contact days. We
constructivism is that learners actively during the enrollment process. Inland believe this to be time well spent.
construct their own knowledge by Seas’ staff and student enrollment
We have failed if we have not
anchoring new information to preexisting process provides as much information
provided a potential staff member
knowledge. Staff and students have the as possible through a collaborative
or student with enough information
opportunity to exercise initiative, take process, so that potential staff and
to make the conscious choice. As
personal responsibility, and be in control students can make an educated choice
Henry David Thoreau said “I know of
of their learning. Inevitably, this comes about joining our learning community.
no more encouraging fact than the
down to choice and voice. This process is designed to allow
unquestionable ability of man to elevate
potential enrollees the opportunity to
Between a stimulus and a response his life by conscious endeavor.” Inland
understand our vision and mission and
humans have the freedom to choose Seas believes that the staff and student
how we manifest these on a day-to-
based on their self-awareness, enrollment process can help individuals
day basis. The time spent on this is
imagination, conscience and make a decision about becoming a part
independent will. Additionally, new of our learning community.
information provided prior to the Our hiring process is conducted
Michael Wridt is Vice-Prinicpal and Lead
response will aid in the choice on how to collaboratively with all potential staff
Teacher at Inland Seas High School.
voice the response. over a 2 day period for a total of 6 to 8
hours. Our student enrollment process
The first opportunity we have as a school
is also conducted collaboratively with
to provide both staff and students a
a combination of group and individual

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Issue #3 • Spring 2009

by Susan Ball je
Orienteering in Schools
M any years ago, Grand
Avenue Middle
School was growing into a
initial college tour, there was
an apparent awakening.

“OMG, I am not ready for

high school program within
college!” one shrieked. And
MPS. Since most students
the excitement began!
came out of the middle
school and returned to the In collaboration with MU
same building with many admissions, orientation into
of the same friends, the Grand Ave High School
challenge became: What’s was changed to experiences
different about high school? which included:
and What changes from 8th to
»  You are here!
9th grade? While there was
»  Where do I go for help?
an 8th grade graduation and
»  How do I read a map?
summer vacation, as well as
strong warnings from sin- Through the Grand Avenue
cere 8th grade teachers and Institute class taught by
families … it became clear Karen Green, each student
that something must be in participated in a campus
place to announce, “You treasure hunt exploring
are here, now!” Orienteering areas that would be impor-
tant to them throughout their high
Several orientation sessions, called A race across unfamiliar territory
school experience. Orienteering had
“Welcome to High School!”, were
using maps and compass. really begun! Many got lost and found
offered in the fall to take students into
new friends, the girls adjusted their
this new place. The intention was for
clothes to look older, the boys settled
9th graders to become more respon- there. Expectations for change need
down to blend in, and the staff worked
sible, older and wiser, accepting of to be included in orientation activities
really hard to make the “Welcome
bigger challenges, and better prepared along with clarity in the mind’s of the
to High School” an adventure where
for their future. But without a com- adults.
teens would know life is different.
prehensive re-orientation throughout
Planning for further down the road,
the year students frequently spoke Our challenge and discovery as
Grand Ave High School staff began
of high school as just like middle we think about the purpose of ori-
creating 11th & 12th grade courses
school. They joked and played with all entation in schools is to realize there
that were offered on Marquette Uni-
the vigor of those early years! When needs to be a sense of place (not just
versity campus. When staff walked
students visited their former middle a building) where each of us belongs,
students through the grounds for an
school “families”, they became aware knowledge about what is expected, an
that while middle school kids were advocate to sort the new experiences,
younger, many of their “high school” including loss and changes in relation-
Walking through the
friends still acted the same way. ships, and a sense of curiosity while
Marquette University campus feeling safe enough to take risks. IF
Adults soon realized that students
we are constructivist, orienteering stu-
needed orientation about what was for a tour, a student from Grand
dents continues throughout their high
different about the current context,
Avenue High School shrieked, school years because there is always
and what did their future hold for
unfamiliar territory that will need a
them? In addition, staff needed to “OMG, I am not ready
map and a compass, while they learn
be very intentional about design-
for college!” to be their own guide.
ing relevant experiences to get them

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Great Lakes Constructivist Consortium News

b y S u e Mc K e n z i e
What Students Have to Say
T he following is a brief summary of
ideas that teens and young adults
shared with InHealth WI through a
don’t always know if our efforts are
having a positive effect. Healing from
depression related illnesses takes time.
ing small we can determine what a
student is capable of accomplishing.

» Maintain realistic expectations

process of filmed interviews and from For some it can be a three year path
regardless of a “super-star” moment.
the five years of experience working out of the darkness and for many it is a
Building a sense of personal compe-
with teachers throughout the coun- lifetime of managing a chronic illness
tence is a succession of incremental
try. Many high school students suffer with all its ups and downs. We must
positives that when strung together can
from mental health challenges. We rely on the knowledge that our efforts
outweigh consistent internal depressive
need to learn how to support them. are part of a bigger scheme. Some
messages of being “less than.”
teachers might say, “I tried that and
A Beliefs Check-Up
it never made a difference.” Yet, the » Try your three - five best teaching
» The teens and young adults inter-
teens who told their stories so others practices in any given situation and
viewed spoke with unanimity when
might learn, pointed to the central role use professional collaboration time to
they said, “Believe our pain is real.”
that teachers played in their healing. discuss how they are/are not working.
Students look for teachers who under-
Following is a list of effective practices
stand that if given the power and Strategies For Engaging Students
with which to experiment.
choice, no child or teen would choose During Tough Times
to live their school years in suspension » Employ consistent welcoming 1. Watch the tone of voice — this can
rooms, anxious silence, or on the side- practices. People struggling with be a trigger.
lines of learning. This simply means depression related illnesses have
2. Engage the senses to bring a stu-
that we need to find a way to say, “I many negative thoughts bathing their
dent back from darkness.
acknowledge your pain.” psyche.
3. Use (appropriate) humor.
» Acknowledging does not mean » Create regular and consistent time
understanding. In fact, adults must for addressing conflicts. The learning 4. After providing a moment of
understand that we “fly blind” in process can get side tracked by argu- comfort, offer a diversion, engage
many situations of troubled children ments between student and teacher. student in a choice.
and teens. Spending our limited
» Create a place in the classroom for 5. Provide compliments from student
energy trying to discover the “whys”
re-grouping to teach proactive self perspective — be very careful with
of a student’s behavior, while helpful
monitoring and control. random empty compliments.
if it shines light on strategies for the
classroom, often becomes a dead-end » Communicate with students in 6. Model stress and anger
full of the barriers of confidentiality, writing. The teens interviewed talked management.
denial, and dysfunctional educational, about the anxiety of conversations
7. Refer to and connect to the adults
medical or family systems. with teachers when they were feel-
in child’s life. Discover which adult,
ing sad, angry, frustrated, etc. They
» Confronting student emotional in and outside of the school, the
remembered just trying to look like
pain is not easy. As the grown-ups in student would turn to if in need.
they were OK rather than taking in
the room, we need to remember, “It is
what was being said. The teens who were interviewed
not about me.” Keeping our focus on
made it clear that what they want are
the students’ experience, allows us to » Create opportunities for small suc-
teachers who believe their pain is real
make decisions regarding strategies cesses each day.
and then offer a safe classroom where
to assess, forge positive connections,
» Ask students about their learning success is possible in small increments
and provide learning opportunities
environment needs early in the school that add up to power over their illness.
that offer possibilities for incremental
year or semester.
successes. Sue McKenzie is the Program Director
» Assess success expectations by for InHealth Wisconsin. http://inhealthwi.
» One problematic belief is that we
giving small assignments. By start- org/

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Issue #3 • Spring 2009

SUPAR Students Work with Sixteenth Street

Community Health Center to Grow Food

By Nancy Frank
tudents at the School for
Urban Planning and Architecture
have partnered with Sixteenth
Street Community Health Center, with
assistance from Growing Power, the
UWM WATER Institute, and Sweet Water
Farm, to build an aquaponic food grow-
ing system in the school.

Aquaponics is an approach to growing

food sustainably in urban areas. Fish
and plants are raised together in a
closed loop system where fish wastes
are naturally converted by bacteria to
provide a form of nitrogen fertilizer for
plants which simultaneously purify the
water for the fish, providing healthy
greens and fish for people to eat.

Locally grown food has a smaller Sixteenth Street Community Health Center Americorps volunteer, Celeste Verhelst, works with
SUPAR students to build a small aquaponic system in SUPAR’s science room. Students are
environmental impact than foods
learning about construction, biology, chemistry, and energy by growing their own food.
transported many miles. Because of
SUPAR’s emphasis on sustainable in trying to create a small aquaponic leader in getting their students involved.
urban planning, we were eager to have system at school. SUPAR is proud to be part of this grow-
our students introduced to this option. ing trend, offering our students the
This year, with the critical assistance of
Along the way, students are learning opportunity to work on something that
Celeste Verhelst, an Americorps volun-
about biochemistry, carpentry, and is truly experimental. Everyone in this
teer working with Sixteenth Street, that
energy consumption. field continues to learn new ways of
dream has become a reality. Celeste
cutting energy costs and improving the
Planning for this effort began a year and SUPAR students, along with other
health and productivity of the plants
ago, when fifteen SUPAR students volunteers that Celeste has attracted to
and animals in the system. SUPAR is so
toured the Growing Power facility at the work, have built the system, planted
grateful to its community partners for
55th and Silver Spring. Growing Power seeds, and transplanted watercress pur-
helping make this a reality.
was founded by Will Allen, a former chased from Growing Power. The UWM
professional basketball player and a WATER Institute has donated lake perch SUPAR is eager to show off our work
recent MacArthur Fellowship recipi- fingerlings. Over the coming months, to students at other schools and to
ent. After touring the Growing Power those fingerlings will grow. We can’t be community groups. Once we prove our
facility, SUPAR students started their sure that they will reach “fish fry size” by green thumbs and earn our fins, we
own vermiculture (worm composting) the middle of June, but we are eager to hope to be a resource to community
operation. see how much they grow and how much groups that want to provide high quality
lettuce, spinach, basil, and other greens food, locally grown.
While working with Sixteenth Street
we can harvest from the growing trays.
Community Health Center on “testing Nancy Frank is AICP, Chair Department
the waters” of the Kinnickinnic River a We know that SUPAR is not the only of Urban Planning School of Architecture
few weeks later, SUPAR and Sixteenth school to have worked on aquapon- and Urban Planning University of
Street discovered their shared interest ics. Fernwood Montesorri has been a Wisconsin--Milwaukee

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Great Lakes Constructivist Consortium News

One of the Many Faces

Hello, GLCC! the combined synergy of

My name is Sean Michael Dargan, and The chance to work professionally with everyone together in one space
I am currently helping GLCC plan and a group that shares so much of my core
will be truly powerful …
produce the upcoming “The Many Faces values is genuine treat. I look forward to
of Constructivism” event on May 21st helping make “The Many Faces of Con- and what better place for
2009 at the Milwaukee Public Museum. structivism” a fun, informative, safe and
such a grand event than the
Some of you may have met me last successful event next month. Although
November at the Wisconsin Charter this is technically the second year for the very fun, very interactive,
Schools Association Awards Gala at event, it is the first year that the entire
very constructivist
Turner Hall; I produced that event, GLCC will gather together as one large,
and had a terrific time doing so! I also unified group (rather than separate, Milwaukee Public Museum!
produce the Games+Learning+Society mini-events). The good work of GLCC
Conference each summer for the UW- schools and GLCC partners certainly
Madison School of Education. speaks for itself, but the combined syn-
ergy of everyone being together in one

The Many Faces

As the new father of a seven-month-
space will be truly powerful … and what
old daughter, I am only now beginning
better place for such a grand event than
to scratch the surface of Wisconsin’s
primary education system, and what it
the very fun, very interactive, very con- of Constructivism
structivist Milwaukee Public Museum!
might mean for my family. I am thrilled to
live in a state with such excellent public
I look forward to seeing all of you on Conference
Thursday, May 21st, 2009!
schools, and the closer I look, the more
I am impressed with Wisconsin’s charter (Incidentally, my picture might seem odd
schools. Furthermore, the constructivist for an event producer, but in my “real Thursday, May 21st
model — though unknown to me as an job” I am actually a nationally-touring, 2–7 pm
educational movement until last year — independent musician, songwriter and
Milwaukee Public Museum
resonates deeply, and reminds me most band-leader who just happens to live in
of how I was taught, both by my parents Madison!) 800 W. Wells Street
and my teachers, all the way up through Milwaukee, WI 53233
college and beyond.

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Issue #3 • Spring 2009

Congratulations to Audubon Calen

of e v e a r
Technology and Communication GLCC

Center High School! • F i r s t T h u r s day E v e n t s •

“Going In Circles” was featured in the Journal Sentinel
Reservations are required for First Thursday
article on March 16th by By Alan J. Borsuk.
events and can be made by contacting
re sults
across MPS this
New approaches, T h u r s day, A p r i l 2 n d
“There is a big push ols, new ap-
spensions. A na- But at some scho Systems Thinking: What Lies
year to reduce su tried, and MPS
am came in last proaches are being Beneath (and Above!)
tional consulting te aged that they ’re
had one of the officia ls are encour
year and said MPS
5–7:30 pm at BASTANTE
rates — maybe getting results.
highest suspension S. 9th St., is 2217 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
the country and Audubon, at 3300
the highest — in taking part in a
one of 16 schools
Milwaukee, WI 53207
ctive and less se- ciples of what is
that more constru program using prin
ps were not being justice. The goal
vere disciplinar y ste ca lled restorative
T h u r s day, M ay 7 t h
ey should be. punish as to get
used as often as th is not so much to
Restorative Justice and
, the number of to make better
Across the system students on paths the Classroom
more than 20%, and the impact
suspensions is down choices, to underst
rough last week. deal w ith people
5–7:30 pm at BASTANTE
according to data th of what they do, to
schools have 2217 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Teachers at some better — in othe
r words, to learn
not much more ange their ways
Milwaukee, WI 53207
said that means something, to ch
o were suspended out classes for
than that kids wh and not to just sit
nt to the office in
when they were se three days.”
• Other Events •
ing sent back to
the past are now be April 20 –21
class. Wisconsin Charter Schools Conference
Country Springs Hotel
Waukesha, WI

S at u r day, M ay 2 n d
GLCC Conference Orientation Igniting PBL in your Environment!

via Social Media 8:30–12 noon at BASTANTE

2217 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
By Sara Gehl
Milwaukee, WI 53207

S preenkler, LLC is a creative ser-

vices agency that recruits bright,
creative and tech-savvy local college
increase awareness, build a GLCC on-
line community and inspire people about
why they should attend the Many Faces
T h u r s day, M ay 2 1 s t
The Many Faces of
students, cross-trains them in a variety of Constructivism, May 21st event com- Constructivism Conference
of fields — from social media strategies ing up at the Milwaukee Public Museum. 2–7 pm
to web-design and utilizes their talents, The campaign also integrates grassroots Milwaukee Public Museum
by working on projects with companies marketing tactics, which involve sneak 800 W. Wells Street
from around the Milwaukee region, preview events leading up to the main Milwaukee, WI 53233
allowing them to gain real world experi- event. The mini-events will be held (See for more
ence. In turn, companies get fresh, vital throughout the Milwaukee area over information.)
and focused innovation. the next 10 weeks. During the sneak
previews, social media tools will be used
Specifically, for the Great Lakes Con- in the campaign to give them hands on
to post photos, stream the events live
structivist Consortium, Spreenkler is experience using the latest tools in the
and give the on-line community a taste
heading up a social media campaign areas of social media technologies.
of what is to come, all the while building
that uses tools such as Facebook,
suspense and anticipation. Local GLCC Sara Gehl is Director of Marketing &
LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr to
high school students will be involved Client Services for Spreenkler, LLC.

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Issue #3 • Spring 2009

Member/Sponsor Form B e n ef i t s of M embe r s h i p

Ye s ! » GLCC Newsletter
» First Thursdays: A forum provided by
I’d like to join the Great Lakes Constructivist Consortium.
the Great Lakes Constructivist Con-
sortium where colleagues and allies

Name (please print)

talk and strategize about issues that
charter schools are confronting. (See

Calendar of Events.) First Thursday
events are reserved for GLCC mem-

City State ZIP

bers. Guests of members are limited
to one event annually. After one free

Phone Email
event, membership fees will apply.
» Eligibility for GLCC Internship program

for students
» Constructivist Leadership Training
Please indicate your GLCC Mail this form, along with a check to Program (Co-Directors)
membership level: Great Lakes Constructivist Consortium » Networking/partnerships with like-
Individual Membership — $25 c/o Bastante minded educators across the Great
School/Organization Membership — $100 2217 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Lakes region.
District Membership — $500 Milwaukee, WI 53207
GLCC Sponsor $
Sponsors will be noted in future newslet-
ters and in the program for the May 2009
Checks are made payable to the Great Lakes Constructivist Consortium, a not-for profit organization. Many Faces of Constructivism Conference.

Milwaukee, WI 53207
2217 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
c/o Bastante
Great Lakes Constructivist Consortium

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