This is our third “spotlight series” episode where we’re reaching out to schools who are doing intriguing progressive practices that could inspire and influence others to do the same. Each has a twist on how their school is operated, and we’re bringing in students and teachers to talk about it. They’re not all perfect, and they’d all acknowledge there are things they’d change; but there’s so much to learn from these schools as we reimagine education in our communities.
Today we’re featuring One Stone, a student-led nonprofit in Boise, Idaho. One Stone has a variety of initiatives to help students use their voice to change the world. Two thirds of One Stone’s board are young people, who have voted to establish multiple initiatives including Project Good: an experiential service program, Two Birds: a student-led creative studio, Solution Lab: a business incubator for young people, and now Lab51 - who we’re talking with today - an independent sliding scale tuition program high school.
Lab51 features interdisciplinary, human-centered problem solving which is a collaboration between young people and mentors. Students engage in a variety of selections including “Deep Dives”, which are two-week passion-driven endeavors like photography or wilderness survival, “Immersions”, which are slightly longer and mostly take place off campus, “Cannonballs” which have students experiencing a wide variety of topics in a short period of time, and finally: service- and project-based learning.
Joining us are four students: Ian, Reya, Lyla, and Ella and Jesse, who is the Director of Strategic Partnerships.
We talk about the fundamentals of Lab51's program, its importance to young people, and how this model could scale and be used within traditional settings.
One Stone's Lab51, a student-led nonprofit High School program in Boise, Idaho, centered on students navigating their path to purpose, promoting their well-being, and self-directing their learning
0:00:11.0 Chris McNutt: Hello and welcome to episode 121 of our podcast. My name is Chris McNutt and I'm part of the Progressive Education Nonprofit Human Restoration Project. Before we get started, I want to let you know that this is brought to you by our supporters, three of whom are Sybil Priebe, Vaughn Cleary, and Eric Martinson. Thank you for your ongoing support. You can learn more about us on our website, humanrestorationproject.org, or find us on Twitter, or Instagram, or Facebook. So this is our third Spotlight series where we're reaching out to schools who are doing intriguing progressive practices that could inspire and influence others to do the same. And each has their own twist on how their school is operated, and we're bringing in students, teachers, etcetera, to talk about it and what they're doing.
0:00:53.4 CM: Today we're featuring One Stone and kind of an element of One Stone, which is a student led non-profit in Boise, Idaho. One Stone has a variety of initiatives to help students use their voice to change the world. Two thirds of One Stone's board are young people, and in fact, most of the folks that are joining us today are on the board of One Stone. Who have voted to establish multiple initiatives over the years, including Two Birds, which is a student led creative studio, Solution Lab, a business incubator for young people, and now Lab51, who we are talking with today an independent sliding school tuition program high school. Today we have five folks joining us from One Stone and Lab51. We have Ian, Reya, Lila, Ella, and Jesse. Ian, Reya, Lila, and Ella, who are all students, three of whom are on the board. And Jesse, who's the director of Strategic Partnerships. So thank you all for being here today. I'm excited to get to know all of you and learn about what you all are doing.
0:01:46.4 Speaker 2: Thanks for having us. Great to be here.
0:01:48.2 CM: I'm just gonna open this up to the floor. I'm just first interested to learn more about who you all are. What is the school? If you could summarize it, the elevator pitch of why Lab51? Why One Stone? What's different about your experience?
0:02:05.4 Speaker 3: I think that our mission really sums that up. Our mission is making students better leaders and the world a better place. And that is really at the forefront of everything we do. And it's not like we have this curriculum and these set regulations that we have to fit, and then we just kind of throw in making students better leaders and the world a better place, on top of that and try to fit it into these pre-made rules. We kind of mold everything around that. So if we have something in our day or in our schedule that doesn't feel like it's accomplishing that, we'll take it out. We don't have any problem or any rules around that. It's if things... If what we're doing isn't making students better leaders and the world a better place, we're not doing it. And I think that's what really makes One Stone.
0:02:48.8 Speaker 4: A lot of people, when I describe One Stone, they hear like no grades, no structure, like one of those new age feel goodies kind of thing. But it's really like... It's so much more than that. We have... I am learning things that if I was in a more traditional school, I would not be learning, like these are things that are gonna help me for life after high school, these are things that are gonna help me 20, 30, 50 years in the future.
0:03:12.0 Speaker 5: Yeah, I think one thing that One Stone really gives students that maybe a less traditional school wouldn't, is this real world toolbox that really teaches you how to interact with maybe adults in a professional setting or community members, and gives you just that involvement in the world around you that's super special and really allows you to have this unique perspective coming out of high school and into the world beyond that. [chuckle]
0:03:35.1 Speaker 6: I think the easiest way to sum up One Stone is to say that it can't be summed up.
0:03:38.7 S4: Agreed.
0:03:40.2 CM: All right, fair. So let's go through the concrete stuff first on what does a day look like? I get the idea it's unstructured, but I'm sure there's an organized chaos to it in terms of what you all are doing day to day. Does one of you wanna describe like, what did you do today? What did you do yesterday? What does it actually look like?
0:04:00.3 S4: I love this question because there is no typical day at One Stone. Every student is doing something different. Especially this year, we have... Over the summer we had several brainstorming sessions with students and coaches on how we should make the schedule this year. And so everyone is doing something different at different times. But we all have our design lab and we all do workshops and we all do experiences, and then we have stuff like community read, which is like book club, [chuckle] and other things like that. Yeah.
0:04:28.2 S5: So like for me, yesterday I got to school and I started out the day with about an hour and 45 minutes of my experience, which is kinda like my big class that I got to pick, which is an analyzation and breakdown of systems. Then from there I went into Design Lab where we implement our design process to solve real world problems for community members, then we had lunch. [chuckle] And then my afternoon was broken up into two chunks. One for my math workshop, which I'm doing independently right now, and one for my writing workshop, which is called Adjacent Possible. And we're really diving deep into different objects that help to make our world and the possibilities behind.
0:05:03.1 S6: Also, one big thing to highlight about what One Stone looks like in a day-to-day, is to really notice that everything we do here is super interdisciplinary. So, like Ella was saying, she's in this experience about systems and that can look like education systems, that can look like waste systems, that can look like anything you want it to look like. And in that way it really molds together so many different areas.
0:05:27.9 S3: One of the coolest things about our current schedule is that it's super customizable. So you can tie everything you're doing in the day together into one thing you're interested in. So like a lot of the things I'm working on right now focus around sustainability and like studying climate change and stuff like that, whereas like Reya is doing a lot of stuff for like her individual passions.
0:05:47.5 S4: And I think our experiences are a really great example of what One Stone is and us being student led. At the beginning of the year we spent about a week brainstorming and creating these experiences that we were gonna do for eight weeks in the fall. And our group created systems so everyone is diving into a system that they're interested in. Reya is doing education, I'm doing government, Ella is doing kind of a mix of everything. [chuckle] So it's just... It's a really cool way for us to be able to dive into our passions, but also have a good...
0:06:19.3 S5: Structure behind it, I would say. You get to dive into your passions in a way that makes it super great for your learning experience in total. So you gain not just an understanding of the thing that you're passionate about in researching, but we're also learning how to like critically read, do math. Like all these things that are components of your big project.
0:06:37.7 S3: And something else that's fit into our schedule is, if you are intending to graduate soon and you're applying to colleges and things like that, there is space in the schedule for you to be doing that and working with that and working with our college counselor and things like that. So One Stone really strives for students to be college ready, career ready and life ready, which I think is really cool, 'cause if you don't... If you're not applying to college, you have the space to be exploring your future career and getting internships and getting your foot in the door in those opportunities.
0:07:12.8 CM: Wow. Yeah, where to start? I have so many questions. Let's start at the very beginning of this. I'm not sure how long all of you have been going to One Stone, but what is that like when you first stepped into the environment and you're placed in a position of power? You're someone who actually can design their own learning experience, what's it like adapting to that? What were your first projects like or your first designs like? What were you doing?
0:07:40.6 S5: I'm in my third year here at One Stone and I have another year left. Two years ago, I transitioned from a traditional public school to One Stone, and the transition from going to a place that is solely dependent on grades as your main form of validation to going to somewhere that really sees you as a person and holistically as a person and a learner was really insane. [chuckle] And it took me a while to get used to it, but the overwhelming amount of support at One Stone really makes it easier, and just knowing that everyone is in this for you as well.
0:08:22.2 S3: Yeah, I have a quick thing, I just want to say, right when you asked, what did it feel like? I was imagining me in my first year, which was last year, walking in, and it just feels like a big hug. They're putting like... They respect you, they trust you, they're here to support you. Everyone just wants you to be you. And it just feels like a big hug coming into this building, in this community.
0:08:46.0 S4: Yeah, I had a little bit of a different experience. I grew up around One Stone and I had a sibling that was here for a couple of years, so I kinda knew the lingo, I kinda knew the space a little bit, but I was still super intimidated and I did not feel like I would belong here. I always saw One Stone as this super cool thing that I was not a part of and that I couldn't be a part of, because I was just... Internal voice in my head telling me that. But when I came to One Stone, it was like, "You are meant to be here. If you wanna be here, you can be here, you can get as much out of One Stone as you put into One Stone." And it was really just like this breath of fresh air like, "I have control of my education and I can do great."
0:09:25.0 S6: Yeah, for me, I kind of had the same experience as Lyla did. I'm in my second year at One Stone and grades back at the public school I went to before were how I kind of got all of my validation and how I measured my self-worth. So coming into One Stone, I was super excited for all of the community involvement and opportunities that we would have, but very apprehensive of having that validation and kinda safety net stripped away from me. And I really, really struggled with that in my first year. And over and over again, my mentors and coaches have told me that there is kind of a point in each student's One Stone journey where they get it and they understand kind of what we like to think of the magic behind One Stone. And I think that really happened for me this year. And there were a couple of moments last year that really contributed that.
0:10:14.9 S6: Like when I had a project, that was a science experiment, that really didn't work, and I was so scared because I was like, "My project didn't work, I don't really have any data to complete a data table with, my teacher is gonna be really upset with me, it's gonna ruin my first year at One Stone, and I'm gonna be destroyed." And my teacher was like, "Whoa, it didn't work, that's so cool. Why didn't it work?" And I was like, "You're excited about this!" And those moments have really helped me adjust to this new space, and it's just super different for everyone. There are people who come into One Stone and are immediately like, they belong here, and it's their space. And then there are some of us who maybe take a little longer, but I think, or at least I hope that everybody leaves One Stone kind of having had that moment of like, "Wow, this is what One Stone is, and this is what it means, and this is what it feels like to truly be at One Stone."
0:11:07.0 CM: What a powerful experience. The fact that all of you are relating so much to community, I think really says something about the vibe, if you will, of the space and how awesome that is. Let's talk about physical space. So you have this environment where you're coming in, you're developing these projects, it sounds like some of the projects are shared amongst other folks in the group, but you're all taking your own spin on it. What is the actual space like? Are we all in a giant room together all doing our own thing or that...
0:11:37.2 S3: So One Stone currently has two spaces. The one that we're in right now is a converted warehouse, and it's essentially one big open space. We happen to be right now in a production studio, so this is for music, podcasting, all of that stuff. And you might be able to faintly hear behind us the enthusiastic yells of everyone else in the great room, as we like to call it, and yeah, so we don't have classrooms. We maybe only have five, closed-off spaces in the whole space. And that contributes a lot to the way that our learning feels, and sometimes it can be insanely chaotic, but most of the time, it's really amazing to see what everyone is doing in this One Space and without walls.
0:12:29.2 S5: Yeah. One Stone is kind of like, it's like one, big room, like Lyla said, the great room, with a couple of smaller rooms off of to the sides, that are like conference rooms or the studio and stuff. But really we don't have doors, so it's a super, kinda new way of being in a space and learning because there's not that much separation between you and everything else going on. And I also think that that's a really big thing that we have to get used to 'cause it's like, there's a lot of background noise and stuff, but after a while, I feel like it really becomes this hot bed of creativity where you're like, "Oh, I can hear everybody else having these good ideas. Now I have good ideas too 'cause I can hear them all being excited and curious.
0:13:11.5 S3: And there's opportunities, so our actual building is located in downtown Boise, so there's that opportunity to go work in a coffee shop. Like our systems experience we went the other day and worked in the coffee shop for an hour and 45 minutes and we're right by a park and we go to the park all the time. So there are those, that opportunity just like where we're located, where we get to kind of disperse and go to different places in Boise.
0:13:36.0 S5: Yeah, I also think there's a lot of opportunity in the building. Like we have... Where now we're in Ripple Studios, so it's music studio and then we also have our foundry, which is our maker space. We have stuff like CNC machine, laser printer, stuff like that. And then we also have our commercial kitchen, which is open to students during the day. And yeah, a lot of cool stuff comes outta this building.
0:13:55.1 S2: And I would add into that, this idea of designing for connection to community is part of that physical space too. So it's part of your how we engage, but that physical space is one that, as you mentioned you're in a recording studio and that recording studio is open to anybody in the community, students in the region to be able to use. And so if we think about how do we make this a space that is community connected and community driven, part of that has to do with having something like a recording studio there or the commercial kitchen that you mentioned. We've had small businesses who are testing new products. They need a space where they can prepare that in order to kinda take it to market, and we've invited them into our commercial kitchen. So it really becomes this communal space.
0:14:41.7 CM: That leads into a question I have about the difference between these different types of experiences that you have and how they relate together. So you have deep dives, you have immersions, I think there's also a couple other ones, but someone wanna walk me through what these different things are?
0:15:00.1 S4: A couple would be an understatement.
0:15:01.5 S5: Yeah. [laughter]
0:15:01.9 S4: I can say one of the biggest adjustments to One Stone definitely understanding the lingo.
0:15:08.5 S3: Our vocabulary is always changing, so they were called immersions, then they were called experiences.
0:15:13.1 S4: Experiential learning opportunity.
0:15:14.8 S3: Now they're explorations.
0:15:17.5 S4: After my first year, I was sitting down with one of our coaches and he was just like, "Forget everything about your first year." And that was just like, "Whoa." But then I came in the next year and I was like, "Oh, okay, so now we're doing this. This is super cool, but also I'm lost."
0:15:31.1 S3: Yeah. So like currently, we have our explorations, which are kind of what I like to think of the big chunk of my schedule that I get to kind of pick. And so there are these guided experiences that you do with coaches where there's kind of a broad topic and then you dive into your own individual projects apart from that. So like me, Ian, and Reya are all in analyzing systems. So we each are picking a system that we're breaking down and then either re-modeling visually or remaking. And just by the end of these explorations, the thing that they kinda all share in common is that you produce a final artifact, which is like a project that sums up all of the work you've done in those however many weeks that you were in that exploration for.
0:16:16.7 S5: Yeah. And then we have immersions, which are a three week long experience where you're doing just that all day, every day.
0:16:24.3 S3: Then we have some smaller things. We have like community read, which is, there's like 12 different options of books that have either student leads or coach leads. And you can pick which book sounds most interesting, the most appealing. And then for the next like eight weeks, however long it is, you just dive into that book and you read it and you talk about it. It's like a little book club. We have workshops and sprints, so those are a writing workshop and a math sprint. So the math looks different this year. There's a lot of people doing independent math, which it can be Khan Academy, it can be IDLA, which is like an online math platform. It could just be working through a textbook like Ian is just going through a textbook. And then there's also things offered by coaches, which they range from solving equations to advanced applied calculus or algebra and things like that. And then writing workshops also differ from like scientific writing to fictional storytelling, and you get to pick for everything. I think that's one of the coolest parts of One Stone is you have these chunks that are kind of set out for you, but within them you have so much choice of what they look like, what you're doing, what time you're doing them and etcetera.
0:17:37.0 S2: I would throw in that part of the reason for this change that you're hearing about, while it can be confusing, it's tied to what members of this group said at the very beginning, that One Stone is the belief in the power of students and making students better leaders and the world a better place. And if that is the core, then everything else around it can change. And we are used to that culture of pivoting and iterating to continue to try and get closer to that mission. That's why our students can be okay with the fact that semester by semester, things look so different because we're keeping our mission and vision right from the forefront as we change everything else around it to continue to get closer.
0:18:13.4 S6: Yeah, One Stone, Lab51 hasn't had a schedule that's looked the same two years in a row. Like it's always changing.
0:18:18.3 S5: Always different. And one of the things that we really value as students is like embracing the ambiguity and coming to school every day, maybe not knowing what we're gonna be doing, but like diving deep into it and getting as much as out there is.
0:18:31.0 CM: Just a couple quick logistic questions just to frame this for the audience. The first would be, so when you're choosing a schedule for your classes, I'm assuming that it's almost like a college type environment where it's like, this class is offered at this time, this time, this time. I choose one of those three or is it up to you to set... Is it entirely flexible?
0:18:51.8 S3: For our explorations, we actually spend a good chunk of time like creating those, and then they get compiled and kind of synthesized and then yeah, you're right. We pick how they fit into our schedule. So math workshops, like some will only be offered at certain times. So if you're like, Oh, I really need to take this, then you'll be taking that and you'll kind of mold your schedule around.
0:19:18.4 S5: Yeah, so I like to think of it as kind of pick one thing that you really, really want, or maybe two things, maybe one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and then you mold the rest of the blocks to your schedule to fit those two things.
0:19:31.7 S6: And then there's also that ownership of it and the accountability of like, "Okay, I know that this semester I need to take a math grant and a writing workshop," and even though this sewing exploration sounds really fun, I think that this takes priority over that for me personally. And having that management, to be like, "Okay, I'm gonna take that another semester and right now I'm gonna do this math writing."
0:19:57.8 S2: And some of that work comes into play is both what you're describing, I think is fantastic. You have the ownership, and it's also a shared conversation with a mentor and bouncing ideas off each other and somebody who can look at short-term versus long-term, exploring that. And then, something that we might address later in the call or maybe right now, is exploring our living in beta wayfinding program that students are engaged in. So really looking at interest inventory and then starting to look at what those things could look like if we dove into them more deeply, and starting to uncover some passions and connections between them, and then how you can explore those through the offerings that are either available already at One Stone or through creating some of the things that you don't see that you feel like should be there.
0:20:41.7 CM: To add on to the question about just describing this idea of living in beta, you had also mentioned crafting the experiences before you sign up to take them. Can you walk through, as well, how does that all connect together? Like are you as individuals crafting your own experiences, or are you all doing that as a group and then it's being offered and you're choosing from that? What does that look like and how does that connect to your interests at large?
0:21:09.2 S4: This was something new we tried this year, and to be honest it was a little bit rocky at times. Like you have 105 people with all different interests and you somehow have to come up with six or seven different things for all of us to think. So it was a little bit hard, but we spent about three or four days, we did a lot of different brainstorming activities and we interviewed someone and created a new experience for them, just like get some creative juices flowing, and then we all decided what kind of time we wanted to do things, and then we met with all those people and came up with what experience we would be doing and how that would look.
0:21:47.9 S3: Yeah, so the sequence of that was kind of making our T-popper, which is a part of living in beta, and it's basically just a mind map, brain dump, whatever you wanna call it, of you and your passions and interests. And you would take that and you would partner up with someone, and then you would design for each other. And then you would take some time to look over what they designed for you and edit it a little to make it your ideal experience. And then we broke into those groups based on the time slots we would be doing our exploration. And then brought all of our ideas to a broad topic.
0:22:24.3 S5: And I know for our group specifically, we took a minute and looked back at some of the things that other people had written, and that... When we were in our time slot, and that was really what kind of created this systems exploration that we're in, 'cause we saw someone else's experience that they designed for someone... Exploration, excuse me. Someone else's exploration that they designed for someone, and we were like, "Whoa, analyzing systems sounds really fun, and it could incorporate a really wide range of passions." And we found a coach who was super happy to do that with us, and then we pitched that to our group, and a lot of people were like, "That sounds great." [chuckle] So that was how that exploration came to fruition. And I feel like that's kind of the similar process that a lot of other groups experienced as well.
0:23:09.9 CM: That's what our non-profit focus is on, so you're definitely like in our world, systems-based thinking is the whole concept behind it. Yeah, I loved all of this. Reya, earlier you were saying, you were talking about how you didn't take sewing, for example, as one of the explorations because you wanted to focus more on the math. Is that part of that wayfinding process that you know that, I'm gonna need to know math in my future so therefore I need to take this class? What is your rationale for taking one class over another class?
0:23:38.7 S5: Yeah, so I think that one, for me, 'cause that was something that I actually was going through, I was like, "There is a sewing one going on right now," and I was like, "Oh, that'd be so cool," but I was also like kinda wanna focus on math. And so that decision for me was based on the math that was being offered. It was the advanced Applied Algebra. And I had just taken almost like a pre-requisite for that the previous year, and I was like, "Oh, I love the coach this is with and I learned so well, and I really enjoy doing math when I'm doing math with this coach." So I want to do that, not just because I think I'll need it in my future, 'cause who knows if I will, but because I really enjoy it. And then I also talked with the coach that was offering the sewing exploration, and I was like, "Could I do this with you after the school day or in another semester?" And she was super understanding and she was like, "Yeah, I think I'll offer something like this at the next semester or another year that you're here, so there will be opportunity for you to be doing this."
0:24:43.2 S5: So it was more of just like, what do I want to be doing this semester, with that time block, and it was kind of based off my passions and it just went with math.
0:24:52.3 CM: It sounds like because of the opportunities that you've all been provided, it sounds obvious, but it actually is quite innovative that you have the opportunity to think about these things. Like you're stopping and thinking about, "This is why I'm taking this class, this is why it matters to me, this is something I might use or might not use," but you're satisfied with that ambiguity. I think for a lot of folks, they want the answer right then and there on, "Whether or not this class is useful or not useful, put me through it and go on this zombification process, where I'm gonna go to college or career or whatever, using these tools because they've been set up for me and that's the pathway that I'm on." But because of the more meta narrative of what's going on at Lab51, you all are understanding how to act within that questionable, never knowing what's gonna happen, environment. That's such a unique experience. I don't know if I've ever spoken to young folks that can articulate it like that. Because these kind of schools are not that normal.
0:25:55.1 S2: Yeah, Chris, it's interesting that... In your example there, the answer that somebody wants when they take the required class or choose between these things. Of course, that's a false answer anyway. It's an assurance that this is valuable because we said so. And we, as those of us who've gone through high school and then potentially college and beyond, realize that, "Oh, just because this was a requirement at some point in the past, had no bearing on whether or not it would be valuable in the future that we could not predict in the kind of work that we would be doing." And so this idea that students are embracing ambiguity and recognizing that they want to develop a toolbox that can be applied in a variety of ways, or something just as basic as what Ray is describing there is like responding to your internal instinct to follow your curiosity. And my curiosity is about this particular thing. It strikes me that you're right and you're saying that you've never, we don't hear about this much. This seems so rare and yet in some ways, all we're describing is every human being's natural instinct towards curiosity and then following up on that, which we all do when we're very young and then sometimes get unfortunately conditioned away from that.
0:27:05.9 S3: When you're talking about embracing ambiguity here at One Stone. Really that's just what you're doing in life especially outside of school. That's constantly what you're doing. You never know a concrete answer for like, "Oh... " I don't know, some random scenario like, "Oh, I don't know if I should go get coffee today." No one's gonna tell you like "Yes, go get coffee today."
0:27:32.2 S3: And so you're right. Like it seems so obvious and yet it's something that's so overlooked in most school systems.
0:27:39.2 CM: I love that idea too. And it's something, Jesse, that you mentioned it and really both of you are getting at. When you're trying to design for the future, you'll often be incorrect, as in there was a big push in the last, God at this point, 20 years to do coding in school. There's like a code.org initiatives and focusing on code and that's great. It's great if you wanna focus on code in school. But the idea behind that was have every single kid take a coding class so they get jobs in STEM. But the issue is going to be, obviously if every single kid learns how to code, that's gonna lead to a lot of problems down the road. And they're not necessarily interested in coding and they're not necessarily gonna relate those skills they learned in school to what they're gonna do after school, et cetera, et cetera. In your environment, all of the decisions are being made year to year. They're not being made top down. But it is interesting segue that you have a student led board where decisions are being made except they're being made primarily by young people. Let's talk about that 'cause that's also hyper unique, the student led board, what do you all do? What is the student board? What is it?
0:28:44.8 S3: Yeah, it's actually written into our bylaws that we have to have at least two thirds of the board of directors be high school students. And so that's something that's so foundational in what the board is. And it's not just like a student council, like no, this is a non-profit board of directors, and it's real. And a lot of what we do, is super high level. Looking at what the organization needs, not today, but what will make us sustainable for five years, 10 years in the future. What about the next generation of students that come to One Stone. And so, like the decision to make One Stone tuition based, was made by the board of directors and was made by two third students. And same with everything that we're doing.
0:29:36.5 S5: Yeah. And I think another thing is, right now actually the board, it must be 2/3 students, but I'm pretty sure right now it's more like 3/4 students. And it's not just students that go to Lab 51. We have students from other schools, other high schools, public schools, that are part of things like Project Good, which is our student led experiential service program, which is an afterschool thing.
0:30:02.4 S5: So anyone in the Treasure Valley can come and join. And there's kids who are super involved with that and they love One Stone they believe in the mission and they get invited to the board of directors and they're on there, people are super involved with like Two Birds and who are there at every Two Birds meeting and are making ads, commercials, documentaries, whatever it is with Two Birds, they're on the board. So it's really, it's so cool and I didn't really knew this until I was on the board that there were students outside of Lab 51 who I didn't see every day that loved One Stone as much as I did. And being able to talk with them and hear their experiences of being in our community, but also still being in that more traditional environment, has been like such a interesting duality. And just like, I don't know, it's been amazing. I have really loved that part of being on the board.
0:30:53.8 S3: Yeah. And just kind of to take it in a different direction, being on the board as a student has felt so incredibly empowering because it's just this... It's a real board. It does anything like a non-profit board for any other a non-profit organization would do. And like, I'm a high school student on the board and I can introduce myself. I can be like, "Hi, I'm Ella, I'm a board member at One Stone. It's insane. And the opportunities that we get to do because of the things, not just the board, the things that happen at One Stone are so incredible. And I just like have felt so empowered and I feel like a lot of people feel the same way. Like just that you feel so lifted up by being included on such a big scale and big level of this organization.
0:31:42.5 S6: Yeah. And a lot of what we do is reviewing the audit and reviewing our Executive Director's compensation and like all of that stuff. And it's just, it's crazy to think about, "Oh my God, I'm 16 and I'm reviewing audits for a non-profit... " [laughter] that just doesn't make any sense and it's still something that I'm trying to wrap my head around. And it's also so interesting to contrast that with what most people see like a student board does. Like, take a student council at a traditional school. They're maybe planning the prom.
0:32:14.8 S5: Yeah.
0:32:17.0 S6: That's probably their biggest duty... I just think that's really fascinating.
0:32:22.0 S5: And I feel like especially when everybody's perception of a high school student is kind of like, your classic teenager who they portray in the movie, excuse me, maybe kind of a slob who doesn't really feel super passionate about school. And then we kinda take that definition and flip it on its head. And we're like, we kind of run our organization hand-in-hand with our administrators and coaches and everybody. And we are excited about it and we just take charge fearlessly, and I think that's a really cool thing that One Stone cultivates for anyone who kinda comes in contact with it.
0:32:53.9 S4: We're all in a community read, we're reading The Power Moments right now, really good book. One of the main points of how can you make a moment... What is a moment? And one of the things that's breaking the script, and I believe that One Stone totally break the script, like shatters expectations and we're like... When I think of a school, One Stone is probably one of the last things I would think of before I came here, but it's truly incredible.
0:33:17.7 CM: I wanna just amplify exactly what we're talking about here, because it's mind-blowing. So Ella, you hint at like you're doing compensation, for example. You're doing actual things that actual non-profits do. You're hiring and firing teachers or mentors. You're quite literally on the call, we have Jesse, who's the Director of Strategic Partnerships. He is kind of almost a subordinate, at least to the collective of you...
0:33:45.6 S2: Absolutely, yeah, I work for them.
0:33:48.5 CM: That's just like such a unique thing because a lot of places will pitch that as part of their branding, or will talk about the idea of student voice and student empowerment. But speaking of systems, this is a structural systemic thing that is integrated into the foundation of it in itself. Would you attribute your success to the fact that students are the ones making the decisions?
0:34:10.6 S3: I don't know, I feel like it's really a combination of things, like of-course, students making so many decisions makes it super possible for all other students to feel really empowered and lifted up and they can really join in, in the effort and kind of build our army of good for good. But also I feel like having coaches and administrators who really believe in you and who let you know that they believe in you and that they trust you is also huge because I mean, we all kind of have grown up in this environment where it's like, teachers are here above you and students are learning from teachers, but at One Stone it's the idea of learning together. And that's not just with coaches, that's with Jesse. We're learning with Jesse and we're learning with the Director of Strategic... It's just super cool, and I don't know how else to describe it. It's just amazing, cause I feel like it's not just other students lifting you up, it's everybody, it's a whole community effort.
0:35:13.9 S5: And I think One Stone has been helping me learn from others that aren't in a school environment. So for example, when I'm thinking of the board, I'm thinking of our adult board members who have been on multiple other non-profit boards and have worked in so many different organizations. And so they bring so much knowledge to the board. And even just the way they phrase things and what they say, I'm like, "Oh, I can use that." That's people talk, I'm like, "I get it now." And then even just in any opportunity... One Stone is fostering a love for learning, and that love for learning goes way beyond our building, and so this isn't at all answering the question you asked. I learn everywhere now, I'm walking down the Greenbelt and I see a plant and I'm like "Oh, yes, tree of heaven." I'm just always learning and I love it, and I love having this mindset now of just... This love for learning is just... You know what? I love it.
0:36:21.2 S6: One thing I really like to go off what Reya said, I feel like One Stone creates life-long learners, which I feel like is something that gets lost in translation a lot of the time. But here we really strive to empower everyone to follow their curiosity, past high school, past college, throughout the rest of your life. You never stop learning and you never stop growing. And the growth mindset that you gain at One Stone is huge. Failure is a totally different concept here than it is in traditional school, because we embrace it and we love it, and it's this insane growth opportunity, kind of like this metamorphosis-like moment. And I just think that that's super cool and goes hand in hand with love of learning and being a lifelong learner and having this growth mindset.
0:37:09.5 S5: Yeah. And we're all in Pathfinders, which is our admissions program, and a part of that is giving tours to potential students and their families. And one of my favorite things about it is seeing how excited their parents or guardian is. They are just as excited about being in this space and seeing what we're doing as the kids are. I hear a lot of, "I wish I had this when I was a kid," and it's just... It makes my heart so happy to see that this is so much bigger than just us as students, this is something that could be beneficial for everybody.
0:37:38.0 S2: And just to clarify that point, though, right, so our students are the ones who are making the decisions about admissions, the whole application process. They do that in conjunction with the leaders of the school, who are also adults, but it is the students leading the way all along. And then they have such a sense of buy-in of the creation of this community as well, and how that process works. So yeah, your original question, I think as you were answering the question Reya, because I think it was about what leads to One Stone success, and some of that has to do with just when you break down that box that was education, once you crack that open, then suddenly see education is everywhere, the empowerment and learning is everywhere and it doesn't look like one thing, and you're all describing parts of that. So students leading their own learning, that sounds radical, but again, going back to what we were talking before, that actually is very natural, you're just now taking advantage of that opportunity.
0:38:45.3 CM: Hey, thanks for listening to our podcast so far. We know you've probably heard this before, but it genuinely does make a huge difference if you could like this podcast on your favorite provider and leave a review. This helps even more folks listen to great conversations like this one. Further, if you wanna access free resources to build a human-centered education system, check out our research, handbooks, writings, and additional podcasts at humanrestorationproject.org. Now, back to the show.
0:39:11.7 CM: Oh, on the one hand, it makes me very sad, but at the other hand, it makes me very hopeful that this is such a transformational learning experience for you all when you just change the underlying systems and structures of how school works. This is not meant to discredit any of you, but it's not like you all are the most amazing students that ever existed in your... It's not that. It's just the fact that you're young people that are given the power and privilege and ability to be yourselves and have a say in what you do in a meaningful way, and as a result, you're able to flourish. And I think about that at scale. If you could see that across the entire country or across the entire world, how that would transform society at large to have systems that way. In terms of how you work as a nonprofit, obviously, you're expanding upon your programs and offering this to your community. Do you ever think about outreach to other schools, traditional schools, or even just expanding your model in general?
0:40:11.7 S4: This is actually so funny because yesterday we all, the four of us met with Jesse to talk about an opportunity that we're really excited about. About possibly partnering with another school to focus on sustainability practices and design thinking. So to answer your question, yes, we're always working with other schools. And my current design lab project where I practice design thinking, I'm currently working with many schools in Canada to develop a mental health initiative for teenagers. So yes, we're always, always working with other schools and trying to get our mission.
0:40:50.8 S2: And then at an organizational level, yes, in addition to what the students are engaging in, we, in the last two years, have started to partner with other schools and organizations sharing aspects of our model. So, in particular our Living in Beta program that we've talked about, we now offer certification in becoming a way finding mentor in using this Living in Beta program. And we've been sharing that training program with educators and teachers and homeschool parents for those who want to engage in student led learning. We've been doing that with those around the country and with different cohorts around the world. We also are sharing our human-centered design for student driven learning. So our particular approach to human-centered design, we offer certification in that program as well. We've been doing that for another, a year here.
0:41:46.2 S2: And then another major aspect of One Stone that is now being shared around the country is our growth framework. And so this is something that contains both our bold learning objectives, that's our unique profile of a graduate, which contains 32 21st century skills or durable skills ranging from mindfulness to humility, to passion. So our bold learning objectives, which we affectionately call The Blob. And all of our students, rather than having grades, they set goals in and self-assess and receive assessment in their growth in those 32 learning objectives that are in our blob. And then we've, alongside that, created something we call the growth transcript, which allows different weights to be applied to those assessments and for various people to input those assessments, whether that's teachers or an internship lead or a boss at work and the students themselves, of course.
0:42:43.5 S2: And it aggregates those and then presents growth in every one of those areas ranging from just developing in the area to all the way to mastering. There are now several schools that are piloting the use of this growth framework in their organizations, and we call them schools that are powered by One Stone. And pretty happy about the fact that we've also just this summer received a grant from the National Science Foundation and to build out this growth framework platform in an app that will be really accessible for others around the country.
0:43:15.3 CM: Congrats. That's incredible. I don't like dealing in the business of caveats because I feel like the conversations always end up being pointless 'cause you get into like, "But what about college admissions? What about testing? What about standards?" All of these, what about-type questions which at the end of the day, you all are showing what happens. You don't need to explain yourselves theoretically on why these things matter because you yourselves are living examples of how it works. However, I'm sure you all have data in terms of the folks that would listen to this and say, "Are they going to college? Are they successful after this? Or are they just wandering off of the world with no guidance? What does the post school experience look like?"
0:43:55.8 S2: Yeah, I'll jump in here, but feel free. I know some of you have siblings who have gone through One Stone and can speak to this as well. Yeah, it's a great question because it's... For their first class, that was the number one question that all parents had. The first... We opened the doors and they say, "Well, this sounds amazing." I don't wanna close any doors for my students down the line and what's gonna happen here with this growth transcript and no grades. We believed in it. We asked for a lot of trust with our community and we had a lot of data and research to back up what we were doing. But once that first class graduated and we saw that they were getting into every school they wanted to get into, and now that we're four classes through, and we've been accepted into over 120 college and universities ranging from the UC system to elite art schools to Middlebury, you name it.
0:44:44.5 S2: That we know that this is not only something that works in terms of college admission, but then the success that students are having once they're in college, being able to draw from the toolkit that you're getting glimpses of when you talk to these students here. The ability to know how to navigate ambiguity, to learn when you need to learn to handle failure and to embrace it. All those things are leading to tremendous success in college or in career where students are already... Some of them are choosing to jump there. But yeah, we have on our website, but a list of all of the schools and... It's one thing to step back for many of your listeners know this already, that One Stone isn't the first place that's offering a non-traditional transcript to colleges.
0:45:25.2 S2: This is no longer so boundary breaking to send students forward without a GPA or a letter grade that colleges are asking for, some clarity on how your system works, what you're assessing, show us some rigor and some consistency, and we absolutely do that, and they are embracing and then they're coming back the next year and saying, "Hey, please have more of your students apply."
0:45:47.5 S5: Yeah, and actually I can add a little bit of a personal tidbit to this. So my brother was in the first graduating class at One Stone, and he got into a pretty prestigious liberal arts college in Washington on a scholarship, and he is doing amazing there. He's about to graduate. And just seeing how successful he was in college was just so inspirational for me because I've talked to so many people who've been through the traditional public school system and are now really struggling in college because they don't understand how to ask for help from their professors, or they don't understand how to advocate for themselves and get the classes that they need. And so that's something that I think One Stone students will never struggle with. We just...
0:46:43.5 S6: Another little thing on that is my brother graduated just this past summer, and so he's in his first semester at a local college right now. And having that transition from... There's a transition from a traditional environment into One Stone, but there's also that reverse when you go into college of coming from an untraditional spot to a traditional schooling system again, and he was really worried about how he would do. But this toolbox for life is what is pushing him through. He's like, "Math, it's really tough, it's never been my thing." But I hear him still using words like, "But I have grit, but I'm working on my management skills," things that are on our blob that we make goals in consistently over our time at One Stone, they're still a part of his vocabulary and they're still... How he is succeeding is with those things that we are learning here and explore.
0:47:41.4 S3: We have a great college counselor here, we have college essay writing nights, so we definitely have people here that can help us get to where we want to be. And you mentioned testing, last week we all took a PSAT, and we have...
0:47:56.0 S?: We killed it.
0:47:56.6 S3: Yeah, we killed it. We have resources and we have the structure to be able to do all these things and also succeed in college.
0:48:06.7 CM: Yeah, I think what's most self-evident is that toolbox that you all are carrying with you makes you not... For lack of a better way of saying it, lose your humanity. You care about other people, you care about learning. It's not just about college and career readiness, although that might be something that's important. At the end of the day, what matters the most is that you care about other people, that you're part of a community, that you're able to speak up and use your voice. That's such a powerful tool for 100, 1000, 10,000 people that all do that, can make a lot of transformational change at large scale. With all that said, what suggestions would you have for teachers who teach at a more traditional environment or maybe even one that's a little bit more progressive, but not as progressive as this, who are doing this kind of work, they're hearing you're all like, "Yes, this is so awesome." What could they do within a classroom environment that could at least start to tackle this?
0:49:02.6 S5: I was actually recently asked this question because I was on a panel for some schools across the Northwest. And a public school teacher asked me this, and I was stumped, I was pretty stumped. I was like a lot of what makes One Stone special is like we were talking about before, how student leadership is built into the foundation of our organization, but there are so many things that you can take from One Stone that I think can really enhance your students learning. And I think my biggest suggestion would be to meet your students where they're at, and to really get to know them as a person and not just who you see in class every day. And I think that's the biggest thing that really transformed my experience here and gave me a lot of empowerment and ownership and what I was...
0:49:54.4 S3: I think my advice would be going back to what Ian said earlier about breaking the script, I think sometimes people get really comfortable and they feel really safe in a schedule and in something that dictates what you're doing and when, but that kind of... When I was in a more traditional setting, that made me feel like the schedule was more important than I was, and that they would rather keep to the schedule then talk about something for five minutes over. And so I think breaking the script and if something isn't working or the students just aren't into it that day, saying whatever, like, "Okay, it's not working, let's not do this today, let's do something else. What do you guys think is gonna help you... Do you wanna go outside?" And just having that fluid mindset and that growth mindset, to just be like, "Okay," and I'm like, "I'm gonna meet my students where they're at, and if they're not at, let's write an essay for an hour today, then we won't write an essay for an hour today because their success and happiness and love for learning is more important than this schedule."
0:50:58.5 S?: Yeah.
0:50:58.7 S4: Yeah, I don't think in my... What was that? 15 years of public education, I don't think I ever had one teacher genuinely ask me how I was doing, and that's rough.
0:51:11.2 S5: Atleast once a day, we have a [0:51:12.6] ____ who we are and care to listen.
0:51:15.0 S4: And so even just little things like pulling someone aside and actually asking them, what do you think about what we're doing today, or how are you doing? That does make a difference.
0:51:28.4 S3: And I was on the same panel Lyla was on, and I was asked the exact same question too. And I said that I think it is really important for every teacher to really drive home the fact that failure isn't negative and failure isn't final because that was something that coming to One Stone was the biggest shift for me was so much of my success in traditional school was like hinged on that. Like, "If you are successful, you're going to go far and if you fail once, that's the end of the road, like no more."
0:52:01.4 S3: But as soon as I came to One Stone and people were like, "Failure is a growth experience." It sounds kind of cheesy, but it changed the whole way I looked at the world because I was like, "You're so right," like, "This is incredible." And I feel like if I had had a teacher sit me down in public school... When I maybe didn't do as well as I'd hoped I would on an assignment and be like, "It's okay, this is gonna help you grow, and here's why." I would be like, "Whoa, I could apply this to everything else." So I feel like something small that every single teacher can do in their classroom is really enforced the fact that failure is good and that you should always be working to cultivate this growth mindset.
0:52:38.2 S6: I'd say something every classroom could do. We do portfolios, so at the end of every semester, we just take everything we've done and put it into a Google Slides presentation and we present it to our mentor and our parents, and we know, we just have a conversation about what we did this semester, how we felt about it, what we learned, how we grew, how we failed. I think that is something that every school could do. It's a parent-teacher conference on steroids. And it was honestly, it's just incredible, and I think it's something that every classroom could do and it would be really impactful.
0:53:15.5 S2: I wanna acknowledge that teachers in all sorts of situations, in traditional spaces or progressive spaces genuinely, if it doesn't even come across, I think almost all of them genuinely care about the students they're working with and their success. A lot of times, we get caught up in other people's definitions of success though. And in the efforts to try to be rigorous and have students get to a particular place, we lose track of the individual power of those students and the creativity and the curiosity. And something that I have found to be a wonderful question is to ask myself what decisions am I making for these students that they could be making for themselves?
0:54:00.3 S2: So asking that question and then acting on it in ways that are reasonable within your space and then continuing to cede power. Because it isn't about the teacher. That was adjustment for me, moving into this space even after being in some fairly progressive educational spaces before this, to really step back and look at that sign when you walk in the building that says, "We believe in the power of students," to act on that means to reduce my ego, to be vulnerable, as you're describing, to make mistakes and own those mistakes and just say "I don't have to be the expert on everything, all I can really do with you is show you how I pursue things that I don't know the answer to, and how to be acting on my curiosity, alongside you."
0:54:42.3 CM: Ian, Reya, Lyla, and Ella and Jesse, thank you so much for joining us today. Is there anything else that you would wanna add before we sign off? Any final thoughts?
0:54:51.2 S3: I love One Stone.
0:54:52.2 S4: I agree.
0:54:52.9 S6: I agree.
0:54:53.6 S3: One Stone is the best place ever.
0:54:57.7 S5: Thank you for doing this...
0:55:03.4 CM: Thank you again, for listening to Human Restoration Project's podcast. I hope this conversation leaves you inspired and ready to push the progressive envelope of education. You can learn more about progressive education, support our cause and stay tuned to this podcast and other updates on our website at humanrestorationproject.org.
BLOB (Bold Learning Objectives)
Two Birds Creative Studio (One Stone's student-driven creative studio, you can sign up to work with them!)
Wayfinding Mentorship Professional Growth series for educators and mentors
Human Centered Design for supporting student-driven learning