Daraja Academy- The Vision

There is not much I need and/or want to write here about my latest video. I hope that it inspires people to take action and join the Daraja cause. I hope you share it, embed it, and bring more and more people to this amazing school.

I hope that this video expresses the essence of the Daraja Academy. This is what I saw and felt after visiting the campus:

Even without the classrooms, teachers, books or curriculum this campus is a place to reconnect with the urge to explore. A place to self-reflect and place oneself in the symphony of the Earth. A bare boned canvas with ancient stories waiting to be investigated, rethought, and expanded. These grounds carved from the soil of the Kenyan savannah are the perfect place to begin the journey that will never end.

Daraja is the opposite of the slums and poverty from which her students will come. It is beyond politics and good intentions. Daraja is the realization of a dream. Hope actualized and made real. Hands in soil, trees planted. Seeds sown. It is beyond donations and charity. Daraja is a place where regular people like you selflessly give their time, money, and energy in the hope that change begins within each of us.

Every voice that joins the chorus of Daraja adds something to its growth. For everyone who heeds her call, Daraja is an act of faith. Faith in a world built on love and peace. Daraja is the timeless dream placed in every human heart. A place built for idealists and dreamers. A fertile bed of what ifs come true.

Every voice is heard and appreciated, she begs for you to sing along, tap your foot, or just bask in her song. Please get involved. Be a part of this amazing place:


I would advise the viewer to also check out this clip, which will give you a more comprehensive look at the Daraja Academy:

Thank you.

Generation We and a New NHS

A quick introduction before I dive into my first post here. I’m Sean, a 21 year old perpetual student of the universe. Jabiz was kind enough to give me the chance to write here at Intrepid Classroom and I’m very excited. I plan on learning a lot from all of you and I hope to give something back as well. If you want to get in touch, e-mail me at spgreenlaw@gmail.com. Now, let’s get down to it.

I want to start up a dialogue with people involved in education, both teachers and students about a possible project that I think would be complimentary to the Generation We program Jabiz has been talking about so well.

The Generation We declaration and book (read it, it’s free to download!) have some excellent points. The platform it outlines is worth striving for: accessible health care, the protection and rehabilitation of our environment, an end to war, and a better, fairer educational system. The problem is that Gen-We puts an awful lot of importance on indirect action, voting with our wallets for “green” companies and voting with ballots for more progressive politicians. Important stuff, to be sure, but I’m not content with that, and I don’t think that real change is likely to come about if that is all we do. What we need is to start small, grow locally, and show the old guard what can be done, instead of turning to them for the answers.

While reading Generation We I kept coming back to an idea that has shaped a lot of my thoughts on progressive causes. It comes from the final line of the Industrial Workers of the World’s constitutional preamble. They are words that have stuck with me since I first read them early on in high school. “We are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.” A “new society” because the current one is unsatisfactory, unfair, and dehumanizing, and because we can do better. “The shell of the old” because the world as it stands is a hollow one that has been carved out in an attempt to satisfy the insatiable greed of those who control it. From “within” because the best way to prepare to inherent the earth is to be a part of it. What better group to live by this than the students who will be handed, as Eric Greenberg says, “an unfair and unsustainable state of affairs.”

So, here are some ideas that I think will get us moving forward towards bringing about the kind of world that Gen-We.org points out is needed. Because underneath the flashy rhetoric and the misguided trust in the same systems that got use where we are today, Eric Greenberg is calling us to act and in order to act effectively, we need to organize. I would like to start a discussion about what students within the education system can do to start effecting real change.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the National Honor Society, which aims to “create enthusiasm for scholarship, to stimulate a desire to render service, to promote leadership, and to develop character in the students of secondary schools.”  My younger brother participates in a local chapter of the NHS and I’ve got to say that I’m disappointed in how the organization has failed to lived up to their stated purpose. The enthusiasm for scholarship has been replaced by a pat on the back and a better resumé for college applications. Rather than promote leadership, the shepherds of the NHS seem more intent on handing the students busy work so that they don’t stray too far out of line. Character? My brother’s chapter meet once a month for less than half an hour after school, where they make idle small talk. As for fostering a desire to render service, well, my brother’s project this term, the one community service assignment that the NHS advisor gave them, was to light a Christmas tree downtown. That’s hardly meaningful, important work. The National Honor Society will soon turn 90. I think it’s about time we got rid of it and built something better in its place. So what I’m proposing is both a rejection of the Ivy League chasing mindset that the NHS has embraced, and at the same time a reaffirmation and reinterpretation of the best things it originally hoped to achieve. Rather than focus on just high schools, I would like to see it available to college students as well. Instead of being managed by a cadre of principals in a National Council, I think it ought to encourage democratic decision making by all students involved. Here’s a update of the four major goals that I think would better enable progressive action and true education:

1. To nurture enthusiasm for learning. Learning is simultaneously living in the moment and for the future. It does not begin at kindergarten and it does not end after university. It does not take lunch breaks or summer vacations. We acknowledge that there is a fire inside everyone and even after years of systematic stamping out by the status quo, an ember still smolders away, ready to burst forth and burn, burn, burn if given the fuel it needs to grow and the air it has to breath. We intend to feed that flame by pushing for students’ rights to pursue dangerous ideas and decide for themselves what they want to learn, as well as by helping teachers understand that knowing the right questions to ask is often more important than knowing the right way to answer.

2. To develop our passions into talents, in order to improve and enrich the material and intellectual lives of people everywhere. This can mean organizing a local Food Not Bombs chapter, starting a community garden, performing street art, writing letters to the local press or the Wall Street Journal, spending time with the elderly at nursing homes, protesting outside a city council meeting or a party’s national convention, or raising money for a children’s hospital. We recognize that we all owe something back to the world that begat us. Do what moves you, but do it in a way that matters.

3.  To build our communities both locally and globally. We know that the people who can best decide what they want for their communities  are the community members themselves. We are all members of many social circles: our families, our friends, our schools, our towns and cities, our states and provinces, our countries,and our world. By sharing alternatives to the current models that dominate society and working hard to implement sustainable, egalitarian options and opening a dialogue with the community at large we will build camaraderie. We are international and hope to integrate, beyond all borders, in secondary schools and colleges the world over. We start by allowing each individual cell to decide upon the best actions to bring about the four goals. Decisions will be made democratically, with each member receiving one vote. Groups may choose to elect temporary spokespeople when needed for press interactions, or possible larger conferences. We’re all in this together. Let’s act like it.

4. To demand that those who have been granted power, be it by circumstance or public vote, be it in the form of economic or political clout, behave with character. As it stands, power is not distributed to all people fairly. While working towards a new and empowering future, we also acknowledge that we must not neglect the present. By opening an honest dialogue with community leaders we can work with those most capable of effecting change in the short term.

So, what do you think? How would you envision student organizations that help promote and develop Generation We’s ideas?

Write for Intrepid Classroom

Have you been a reader and/or participant of this space for a while? Do you want to write blog posts here? Leave a comment stating why you think you would make a good contributor and I will add you as a writer. Please keep in mind that you must first have an Edublogs account.

This request is open to teachers or students. Let your voice be heard! Take ownership of the Intrepid Classroom!

Generation We Comes to Intrepid

It has been awhile and I hope that the Intrepid Classroom is not dead beyond resuscitating. We have all been away for some time now, and perhaps some of the faithful have jumped ship. Perhaps you are new and this is your first time here, regardless all I can do is keep trudging on with the hopes that we can create something meaningful through this space. The world goes on and it is not necessarily getting better or changing itself. There is much work to be done in the name of peace, love, and understanding. So let us carry on!

If you were here last year, welcome back, if you are new- welcome. I think I may have found a new direction. I recently watched the video below, read the book, and wrote this review on my teaching blog.

While the entire concept may be a bit too conveniently packaged and a bit flawed, it can be a good text for several reasons:

  • It is available online in PDF format
  • It lays out a clear course of action
  • It identifies issues, which we can work on after reading
  • It sparks great discussions

I want to read this book with whoever is willing and see where it takes us. Whether you are a former Intrepid Classroom participant, a new student directed here by your teacher, or a teacher who stumbled here form Twitter, here is my plan:

Intrepid Classroom has always been about bringing young people and teachers together using web tools to facilitate discussion, interaction, collaboration, and connectivity. Beyond the confines of school, curriculums, and expected roles and interactions, I hope that Intrepid Classroom can be a place where we can simply be people dedicated to change not stigmatized by the labels of teacher/student.

One of the biggest criticisms of this site has always been the lack of structure or cohesion. Here is what I hope to do to solve that problem: I want to build a semester long curriculum around Generation We. I hope that we can gather a group of ten to fifteen teachers and students to have weekly readings, discussions, and eventually a final project that raises awareness of global issues and promote activism.

We can use any tool that will help us stay connected and collaborate. These will be modified and announced as necessary, but as always, we will use this blog and the Ning as starting points. I would like to have group meetings using Elluminate or similar tools. I want you to have a say in where we take this book and the idea it presents. I don’t have anything more concrete at this time, because I do not want to create an entire plan and have no one sign up.

Here is what you need to do if you are interested, and are able to commit the time regardless of “real” school commitments:

  • Leave a comment on this blog post stating your interest. I will email you with details as soon as we have a group together.
  • Join the Ning if you haven’t already done so.
  • Watch the video.
  • Share any ideas you have about the direction of this course.

I hope to start January 1st, so please commit by then. This course is open to anyone who is interested in learning more about collaborative activism, regardless of your age or affiliation with any school. Let’s get together, learn, converse, connect, and create real change.

I agree with Eric Greenberg when he says:

The problems of today will not go away if we just sweep them under the rug and ignore them. They will only get worse. We cannot rely on those bound by special interests or protecting their turf to enact great changes and create a new order of justice and fairness. We need the unjaded youth, with their energy, optimism, and sense of purpose, to lead the world out of the mess it is in and toward the full potential of mankind.

Support Daraja

There has been much talk here at Intrepid Classroom about the fact that there are not specific enough goals. People often say that they do not know what it is that they are meant to be doing, that the assignments lack structure, and that there is very little cohesion to the entire experiment.

I have repeatedly tried to explain that the main point of this classroom is to try and learn how to build a community of young people from around the world determined to work together to learn about and solve some of the global issues we deal with on a daily basis.

I didn’t want to assign projects or give too much direction, because I wanted to see if it was possible for a group of random students to take charge and give this project some cohesion. This doesn’t seem to be working, so I want to start promoting a project that is dear to my heart.

I have mentioned Daraja several times before, but now I have some specific task. I received the following email today:

I’m writing today in my position of Volunteer Program Coordinator for Daraja Academy. I am looking to see if you are interested in being a part of Daraja in some capacity, be it an hour of computer research from home or a six-month education internship in Kenya. If you have any special skills, such as in languages (especially Swahili), computers, teaching, media, fundraising, etc., feel free to include those too. Hope to hear from you soon.



P.S. – The list below is mostly just food for thought; it includes projects already undertaken by members of the Daraja community, which I’ve provided as examples, as well as projects that we desperately need people on. If any of the items pique your interest, let me know and we’ll set you up.

  • Starting a Daraja Club
  • Fundraising Event (Benefits, coin drives, neighborhood meetings, etc.)
  • Finding stores/restaurants who will donate a % of profits for one night
  • Researching Corporate Sponsors
  • Grant & Trust research
  • Awareness campaigns (art festival booths, etc.)
  • Coordinating vaccinations
  • Coordinating Drives for goods (books, sheets, computers, etc.)
  • Help putting together marketing materials
  • Creating merchandise (calendars, greeting cards, shirts)
  • Logo Design
  • Grant writing
  • Creation of admission materials—applications, forms, etc.
  • Public Relations campaign—contacting newspaper, media, etc.
  • Computer drive
  • Textbook and reference book drive

So there you go. You want something specific to work on, then educate yourself about this amazing school and get involved. Find people here at Intrepid Classroom and see if you can work on some projects together. Raise money and raise awareness!

I also want to start using the chat feature on the Ning to try and bring us together more often. I want to set up a weekly meeting. It will be hard to coordinate it at first, so that every time zone can be involved, but let us start with a few different times and see which one sticks. Please come to the Intrepid Classrrom Ning this Friday October 31st at any of these times:

  • 9:00 pm Doha
  • 2:00pm East Coast Time USA
  • midnight Asia (sorry guys.)
  • 8:00am Hawaii

Love and Be Loved

I recently received the following email a member of IntrepidClassroom:

How’s life? I’m sorry that it is only the times that I’m completely overwhelmed and lose faith in humanity that I choose to email you; I will be more frequent with my correspondence. But yes, that is the case as of now. It seems a little laughable that my last email consisted of me whining about a new school and a new environment when a problem of such magnitude lies waiting to be unraveled. It’s the world. It just seems to big for me lately. The problem is, I don’t understand. I don’t understand why I’m here and I don’t understand the point of life when we’re all going to die anyway. Why? Why is God just puppeteering this stage for billions of years when the outcome is NOTHING? And then there’s us. Human beings. Known destroyers of the environment, sufferers of their own actions. So IF we are actually here to help others and heal our communities, what are we achieving? We cure the others, they pollute the environment and then we all die anyway. Or, we cure others, they behave very well and they actually help the community, but we all die anyway.

I need to know what we’re here for and I need to know that life isn’t just a broken string with no definite goal. I hope you can answer any and/or all these questions, but if you can’t, that’s fine too! Thanks for bearing with me and my ambitions to understand the world at the age of 15.

Here is my response:

I suppose I need to write the following letter for myself, just as much as I need to write it for you. I need to write it every few weeks, sometimes it feels like I need to write it everyday. I think we all sometimes need words to remind us of why to care. Just the fact that you are concerned enough to doubt yourself is the first sign that you are a caring, compassionate, and living soul.

Hang in there you are one of the lucky ones. You are on the right track early in life. You have seen that the universe is a special place. You are close to the pulse, and trust me while it is very tender this close to the bone, this is the place be.

No matter how disparaged you may sometimes feel, there is value in a compassionate soul. Look to nature for proof. If you don’t believe sometimes, just take time to focus on those things that bring a smile to your face. Examine the beauty you see in simply watching the natural world move about you. Sit one night and watch the moon rise. Oceans are a good place to stare. The wind. The sun. The earth will always replenish your spirit.

Write. Spout. Create. Lash out. Rage. Mediate. Pray. Move through it. Flow. Change. Grow.

I am not one who believes in good or evil. The world is too complex for evil. Simple people blame their shortcomings on evil and wallow in apathy. The world is filled with illusions and ignorance. The only way is awareness and love. Be aware of frustration. Find its source. Feed your brain.

Remember that I said these words are just as much for me as they are for you, because I too am often lost in a state of apathy and despair. The world makes me angry and sad too, but more often that not I see my suffering in my own inadequacies. Do not worry about saving the world, look into the mirror, stare at your eyes and make sure that you are who you want to be. Be patient with yourself. Love yourself first and see the best and the worst of the world in your soul. Start the work right there, right then.

Look for like-minded people. Band together. Don’t give up. If you are ever lost, look no farther than me. I will always be there for you if you need a shoulder or some advice, if you promise to do the same for me. I chose to be a teacher so I could find people like you to walk with me through life. I won’t give up on you, if you don’t give up on yourself. We learn. We teach. We grow. On and on…….

These words may have not structure or theme, I am just letting them spill from my mind and pour over this keyboard. I am listening to music that makes me smile and gives me hope. I suggest you make your life out of music and art. Find the wild ones and watch their actions. Don’t take anything too seriously. Your life is a flash that disappears and leaves you dead before you know. Above all have fun, smile, dance, and have no regrets. There is no time for I should haves. See, hear, be everything. Go everywhere; let your answer always be yes. Let your spirit be infectious. Set the example, by what you do, not what you say.

You want to know why you are here? You want to know God’s plan, don’t worry yourself with plans or gods, just do what we feels right. Be kind, smile, love, express yourself. Don’t worry about yourself. Don’t worry. Be like a tree and stand tall and grow. Circulate air, this may be your most important purpose. Stick your roots into the ground and churn the soil. Your purpose is to live and die. Period. Do those two things, and do them 100%. Everything else is an allusion.

You said that you need to know that life isn’t a broken string. I can’t tell you that. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. Do not concern yourself with what life is or isn’t. When we feel broken these words tend to sting and seem naïve. I know. But over and over, I have seen that it really is this simple. All the books, all the religions, all the theories don’t add up to anything unless you can love and be love.

You want a goal? You want to feel meaningful? Love and be loved, as best and as often as you can. Everything else will fall into place after that.

This song seems appropriate:

Get Something Started

It has been a while since any of us have seen any life here at Intrepid Classroom. Sai has raised some interesting questions about one of my favorite people in the whole world, Ken Kesey, so I hope to write a post about him and his movement soon, but you can share your thoughts with her at her discussion forum here.

Mr. Kimi has added a Voicethread about character development that could use some attention. Finally, Aron sent me the following line in an email:

I don’t have much time right now but I know that I (and some others) have not really been participating in the Ning and IntrepidClassroom, but I think this is partly because we have not got a central goal.

To that I say this: The goal has always been to focus on the following topics: conflict resolution, global sustainability, peace activism, music and art as agent for social change, technology as a tool for social justice. The hope is to create a fluid, organic curriculum that engages all participants.

What that looks like depends on you the participants. My hope has always been that you, the members of Intrepid Classroom, would direct your own learning without the need for concrete assignments. I have suggested several projects, but most have been ignored.

The goal is for us to learn how to create a community of learners who work together for the simple reason of leanring from each other and teaching others. If you have an idea, share it with the Ning and get someting started. With the new chat feature we should be ablke to communicate more easily.

Making Connections

I recently received the following comment about the Intrepid Classroom project. I hope to use this post to address some of the questions raised:

I came across your Intrepid Classroom blog just by chance last spring and now I found out who the mysterious Intrepid Teacher actually is through the CCK08 course. Fascinating how these connections work, isn’t it?

I am very interested in the way you have set up the Intrepid Classroom, but I would like to ask you for some advice. Just some background first. I am planning a new school project (high school kids, 14-17-year-olds) in a network of European and Asian schools. I have coordinated a few projects before, but keep modifying the process and trying out new tools to make it work more smoothly. Last year I tried to use a combination of Ning and Wikispaces, but it wasn’t a great success, partly due to a very limited time frame and many of the participants across the continents simply being unavailable to collaborate at the same times. Ideally, I would like to develop a platform/online environment/forum/classroom that could exist and keep developing and reshaping from year to year.

Have I understood correctly that your Intrepid Classroom is a truly open global classroom, ie. any student anywhere at all can join?

Yes this is true. I have taught some of the participants face-to-face in the past, but there are several other members who I have never met in real life.

Do many of your own students participate?

I am currently working at the K-5 level, so no, none of my students participate. I began this project as a way to connect with as many students from around the world as I could. I felt that being free from curricular restraints would help me do things I couldn’t do while in a regular classroom. I am using this medium as a way to build a community of young people around the world who are interested in change. Using as many different online tools as possible, I hope that we can help create and foster a supportive and engaged group of people working toward similar goals.

Do you encourage some of your students to participate, or is it solely down to each individual student to take an interest?

I am looking for bright, passionate, dedicated students. This is not a place for everyone. I do not see something like this working as a “class” assignment. Out of a group of 30 students there are usually only about one or two who have the fire and self-direction to participate in something that is not graded and will offer them no immediate rewards. I am looking for kids who are passionate about the planet and their role in it. I hope they see something like Intrepid Classroom as fun as well as relevant.

Do participating students get some credit for it in their school work, or is it purely self-directed study for their own personal learning?

As of now, they receive no credit, but I would love to work with schools about possibly being able to give students credit for work the do at Intrepid Classroom. Perhaps IB CAS hours or independent study credits could be an option for some schools.

You use many different forums and tools. Do you think this may be distracting to participating students?

I hope not. I want them to see that this project is about building community, not about the tools. I want them to use whichever tools feel the most natural for the task at hand.

Do you feel that having a structured network with given groups in different schools defeats the underlying principles of connectivism?

In a way- yes. Just as you said, “Just that in regular school life, schedules, curriculum etc. etc. don’t easily allow fully open learning environments.”

How about participation in the Interepid Classroom – is it regular enough for students to stay motivated? From my experience young people soon lose interest if participation in an online environment is too sporadic.

This has been a major problem. While the Ning shows that over thirty students have signed up we only really see steady participation by about ten students at most, and their level of commitment ebbs and flows with their real school load. We have several projects that have been started, but not one to date has been completed. This is a major concern. Because intrepid Classroom is a side project for all of us, I feel it is not a high priority for any of the participants. But you are absolutely right the sporadic nature of the environment, leaves much to be desired.

I hope you don’t mind me asking such straight-forward questions. I’d love to hear your ideas if you have the time some time. I am hoping to find colleagues to share these ideas with, as I believe very much that this type of learning, at least some of the time, is the future of education. I also like your passion for promoting peace in the world. In my Asia-Europe connections we did a Peace project (somewhat naive, but sweet) for some years until we lost touch with the Japanese teacher involved, and the momentum sadly faded. Here is the URL for a compilation wiki of this project, if you are interested to have a peek (I don’t know how to make a link in this field!).

Hoping to connect with you somewhere!

So there you have it folks. Anything I missed. Would you like to add anything to her list of questions and concerns?

Lesson One- Money

The following post is the first of what I hope to be several video lessons/lectures about a variety for topics here at the Intrepid Classroom. I hope that you will respond creatively and ardently. This lesson will most likely take about one hour to watch the material and another thirty minutes for you to respond.

Please read this post linearly. Watch the video below before proceeding to text.

1. One of my mantras in the classroom when dealing with global issues has always been that the problems we are trying to solve: poverty, human rights abuses, global warming, social equity etcetera are not symptoms of a system in crisis, but it can be better understood that the problems we face are the repercussions of a system working as it should. Or even better said, the global issues we face are the results of several systems working together, as they should. The systems are working as they should that is why we have problems. The issues, with which you are most concerned, will most likely have their source in one of the following systems. Can you think of other systems that affect people throughout the world?

Economic systems– free market capitalism, globalization, and trade
Political systems– Electoral policies, foreign policy, and war
Media– dissemination of information, free speech, rise of Internet activism
Educational systems– Public school systems, curricula, and what is taught and how and by whom.

The questions to ask are: Who benefits from these systems? Who established them and for what reasons? Are they working as they should? Why or why not? Are they interconnected?

Return to video.

Now, please watch Money and Debt below. You can watch it in full screen here. Remember to take notes and write down any questions you may have about what is being presented.

Now that you have watched the video, what do you think? Have you ever thought that money could be so complicated? What does the message tell you about the financial crisis in the world today? Are any of the candidates talking about money reform? Why not? Have you ever heard of Local Exchange Trading Systems? Could you start one amongst your friends?

I have also created a page on the wiki, where we can collectively start to build a resource that illustrates our understanding of money. If after watching the movie you further investigate this topic please add your finding here. If you need an invite to the wiki just request one and I will approve it shortly.