Collaborating Across Communities

At most schools, learning hits the brakes on the weekends. Not the case at the Arthur Morgan School. This past Saturday students from Appalachian State University (ASU) visited the AMS campus to learn what our education looks like. Alongside AMS students, staff, and former staff, the ASU students experienced a “typical” day here. Starting with morning sing, then work projects, lunch, chores, and discussion, both the AMS community and ASU students learned from one another. Organized through former AMS staff and current ASU faculty, Jeff Goodman and current ASU faculty, Dr. Greg McClure, the day was a smashing success.

“Learning Real-Life Skills”

We started off with an epic morning sing session. Songs included, but were not limited to some AMS classics: “Build Me Up Buttercup,” and “Sixteen Tons” most certainly made appearances. Then, the whole hodgepodge crew set out for work projects. Despite drizzling rain, we chopped wood, cleared the cove road, and cooked lunch. These are all normal school-day experiences for AMS but that doesn’t mean that they’re typical for everyone. A current eighth-grader shared “It’s cool to be able to teach anyone anything. But it’s especially cool to teach a peer or adult when you’re still just a kid. Showing the ASU students how to chop wood and do work projects with us, made me realize that I’m learning real-life skills.

Students from both AMS and ASU doing cove maintenance despite the rainy weather.

Talk about hands-on learning! AMS students teaching ASU visitors how to chop wood on a dreary Saturday.








Chore Up!

After lunch, everyone jumped in for chores. Another everyday AMS experience. Though sometimes students balk at the prospect of cleaning an entire stack of dishes, our ASU audience inspired an immense chore enthusiasm. Watching middle schoolers teach college students cleaning methods and vice versa couldn’t help but remind me of something Jeff Goodman said earlier that day:

Chores are never a bore! AMS students helped the ASU visitors figure out how to clean a post-lunch mess.

“There are all these little nuances to teaching,” Goodman shared with rapt ASU students. “Even when it seems like a simple or non-complex subject, there are still all these little details that go into making a lesson work, no matter how informal it may be.” This is crucial for for learning at AMS. We find ourselves teaching everything from how to format an essay, to how to slice an onion. And it pays off when we witness students using what they’ve learned to teach others. Reflecting on this experience, visiting ASU students shared that “a lot of these middle schoolers are more mature than people my age.” We know how important developing this maturity is and the daily responsibilities of chores only furthers this.

The day wrapped up with small-group discussions between AMS staff, students, ASU folks, and former AMS staff. AMS students shared various parts of our program with amazed college students. We talked about the system of portfolios in lieu of grades and our middle schoolers were reminded that their education is far from typical. “It’s a type of community that I did not have access to when I was their age,” said one of the ASU students. “Watching them all break out into ‘All Star’ while washing dishes was amazing. It really shows just how great this group of students is.” Being able to collaborate with the ASU students was a great opportunity for students and staff. This experience helped both ASU students in their education class and AMS students reflect on their own education.