Episode 40: Favorite Stories
Funny, insightful, and unexpected, this episode of the Alpine Valley School podcast features our graduate’s favorite stories. Hear about surprising adventures to the mall, the Asteroid Game, becoming School Meeting Chair, and much more as our alumni take a trip down memory lane.
Watch a video featuring an alumni panel at Alpine Valley School: Ready for Anything
Check out this documentary all about self-directed education: Self-Taught
Watch an interview with alumni from other schools about going to college.
Listen to another podcast focused on self-directed education: The Education Revolution
Read a blog post from Sudbury Valley School about the lives of alumni.
Read an article about bullying (or, more accurately, its absence) at Sudbury Schools.
This episode is also available in video format on YouTube.
Send us your questions, suggestions, and feedback at email@example.com
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Marc Gallivan: (00:00)
Hello and welcome to the Alpine Valley School podcast. I'm your host Marc Gallivan. This is episode 40 of our podcast. You can find show notes for this episode at alpinevalleyschool.com/podcast/ep40 for episode 40. The show notes for this episode also include a full transcript so you can check that out there as well. If you do any kind of shopping online and I know you do, please consider using Amazon smile to support Alpine Valley School. When you make a purchase, there's no additional cost to you and a small portion of every purchase comes directly to our school. Every little bit adds up and you can make a big contribution to our fundraising so you smile.amazon.com when you shop online and help us out at the same time. This episode is all about our graduates favorite stories. A few weeks ago I put out a call to our alumni community and asked them to share their favorite stories from their time at school and I got a lot of great responses. Let's jump into them now.
Neil Poe: (01:01)
I'm Neil. I'm going to tell you about a story of a spontaneous trebuchet that some friends and I decided to make at AVS. It started without any thought or planning. We just decided to go to home depot, buy some supplies, get some tools and just build it. We spent maybe a day working on it and trying to figure out how to use the tools in the first place because none of us knew how to do that and it was a mess. It looked like garbage, but it was fun and at the end of the day like we were like, is it going to work? Is it not? We had no idea when we finally tested it, it threw a ball right into the ground, but we still had a blast making it and it's something I'd definitely do again even though it was complete garbage
Marc Gallivan: (01:50)
Graduate Katy Cure sent in this memory. My favorite story actually didn't happen on one occasion. It was years of amazing experiences that all started with one sentence. Do you want to play tag? Tag has long been a talking point of the school from positive views, like the students have the freedom to do whatever they want, they can even play tag all day if they want to. To more negative views like so they just play tag all day?! Shouldn't they be learning? Whichever view you have, yes, sometimes we do just play tag all day. It usually starts the same. One person has the wonderful idea that they ask of whomever is closest. Do you want to play tag? It's an innocent enough question that sparks a wildfire within the school. Soon enough there is a mad dash to find shoes for the generally shoeless population of the school and make their way outside, so the unofficial start of every game of tag, the swing set, we gather the majority of the students for the day around two small swings and the judge is decided, usually one of the oldest students or the one who was run a meeting or two and they're time announces themselves as the officiator of the ever important decision. What kind of tag to play. There's the obvious good old fashioned tag, but that's a little boring for this wide variety of people, so we won't focus on that one. Inevitably someone pipes up with our long standing version borg tag. It's simple enough game where starting with one, each person is tagged becoming part of the borg collective until only one remains, but that alone won't be enough of a competition for these democratic loving children. Another contender approaches: sharks and minnows. While not technically tag, it falls into the same category. Energy releasing strategy requiring and a slim chance of bodily harm makes it the perfect contender, but are two options enough? Of course not. We're missing the last staple: never ending tag. Beautiful chaos, chock full of alliances that everyone knows will end in betrayal. Sometimes it's the folks near graduation joining forces with the near toddlers, knowing that even though they're small, they can occasionally when the entire game, sometimes it's the alliances that consume three quarters of the available crowd until one false moves devolves into the whole thing turning into chaos once more. Alright, that's enough. I could spend all day talking about tag, but that's for later. Right now it's time to vote. Three enter one exits and in 10 seconds flat the crowd dissipates across the campus and the fun begins. Although there are many different forms and variations of the simple game of tag. These three will always hold a special place in my heart. These were the games of my childhood and it was a wonderful childhood. Each and every one of these experiences could be a story in and of itself, but those are for another time. Yes, sometimes we do just play tag all day and sometimes those were the best days ever.
So my name is Carlos Duran-Rael and this is the story of the time that me and a group of other students made a video game. We had a student who was graduating soon and we wanted to make kind of a going away gift for him and we always had this ambition of a grand video game based entirely around this student, particularly his face. And we wanted to get whole collaboration's going on, get teams, one the students had a friend from out-of-state helping us with coding and the game was going to consist of images of everyone's face around the school. We're setting up green screens in the theater, have a, you know, we're taking pictures and closeups to people's faces, making different emotions and then we made a tower defense game or all of the characters in the game were just people from school and their powers in the game related to some inside joke or story. And we just told everybody that we were collecting images for a modern art project. We didn't tell anybody what it was for until it was released and we actually had it printed on blu-ray covers and we made six blue ray copies of this game and game cases that we distributed out. And obviously the graduate got one of them than I think everyone else in the development team still holds onto a copy of today. And it took us about six months to entirely complete, which is, you know, crazy for what was essentially just a massive running joke. Mostly it was something that we had the idea to do for a lot of years and we were glad that we actually finally got the time together to do it. And uh, that has memories from school because it's completely absurd idea and it's a dream that I would not have been able to live out in any other environment.
Marc Gallivan: (06:21)
I received this email from graduate Vanessa Hennessy. I had a hard time thinking of a memory in particular because I have so many good memories and they often kind of blur together. I remember most fondly just the feeling of being at AVS, whether it was in the main room, hanging out with people, talking, eating lunch, or being silly with the younger kids. Or sitting in the library doing our writing class, or even sitting in JC and being JC clerk. And while I do have a few particular memories that I could share, the one that came to mind perfectly exemplifies what AVS can be like. I think when we were 16 or 17 Marc and I decided to organize the AVS talent show. We did it every year for awhile and I don't know if it's something that people still do, but we definitely did it a few years in a row when I was at AVS. So we spread the word started organizing dates, did auditions, which were really just those interested in performing, showing us what they were going to do and did all the things necessary to put on a show. And one of the students, Zoe, who is now at least in her late twenties, I think, was at the time, maybe six or seven and she really wanted to do a dance to the song Sk8ter boy by Avril Levine, but she was super shy. She would go up on stage at practices and just kind of freeze. So we came up with the idea to help her out. We approached her and asked if she would like us to dance behind her as her backup dancers to make her feel not so alone on stage. In a typical AVS fashion. we said, think about it, you can say no, it's totally up to you because it really was up to her, but I remember her eyes lit up right away and she said yes. So we ended up dancing behind her at the talent show. Nothing choreographed. Just wanting to be there to support her and make her feel less scared. I think this memory really shows the way the kids work together at AVS. Older kids, younger kids, middle-aged kids, they come together and help each other in ways that you wouldn't even imagine. It's something really, really special about avs. Something that is lacking in other types of schools.
Lisa Mancuso: (08:23)
Hi, my name is Lisa. My story is about the asteroid game, which I'm sure everyone has heard a lot about. Usually we would either play in the sandbox or in the theater depending on if it was nice or not outside. I mostly remember in the sandbox because we would have a bunch of kids out there and sort of come and go as most people were playing. I didn't play the same way everyone else did. I think the idea behind it was Jesse was in charge, so he would sort of be the person who corralled everyone and made important decisions like what was happening in the world and where people were going and that sort of thing. But I was more interested in making little structures and while I wasn't really a character in the world, I did create things that were incorporated into other people's stories. So I would be maybe two feet back or underneath the play structure, making the little sand castles or structures out of sticks and people would come across it and that would be incorporated into the game.
Marc Gallivan: (09:47)
Graduate Christy Mann sent in the following story via email. I would have to say my favorite memories are when me and Ellie threw our yearly Christmas parties in the quiet room, although I'm not sure if it's still called that, during the school day. We would get there early in the morning to set up, we'd bring a little tree and get it all decorated and put decorations all around the room, mostly paper cutouts that we did that morning. And we had stockings for each of our friends. And of course Christmas music. You wouldn't even recognize the room when we got finished decorating. It was such a festive beginning to the holidays. We'd make hot cocoa and we always cooked something special together. It was the coziest time and we kept that tradition going for quite some time. I think we stopped around when we were 16 or so, but started when we were probably 12. It was the very best,
Efe Osemwengie: (10:36)
Hi, I'm Efe. And I, uh, want to tell the story about how I accidentally became School Meeting Chair. I was coming in one day to school, I was signing in at the computer for the day and Isaac comes up to me, uh, and he says, Hey, want to run for school meeting chair? I said, what? What's that? I was uh, I had just come to the school about three months ago and I was very confused and I didn't, I wasn't sure what to say to that, but Isaac, uh, gave a compelling argument I guess and, and basically coerced me into, into running against Carlos at the time. So that was pretty interesting. I didn't think I had any chance of, of winning cause I didn't know anything about the laws or, or how School Meeting even worked, what JC really was, anything like that. So, uh, I don't know, it was kinda interesting, but I, yeah, I ended up running, I ended up actually winning the race, which was kind of weird. And then I was kind of put in this position of trying to, trying to figure out how to be a school meeting chair. It was a really interesting experience, just, uh, trying to learn how to do things. On the job.
Gina Mancuso: (11:52)
Hi, I am this Gina. And the story I decided to share with you guys is, um, the story of our softball games up at snow mountain ranch. And this was my dad's fault. We, well, let's start at the beginning. So we have this, um, trip up to snow mountain ranch every year, which is a YMC camp up in the mountains. And we get all the families from AVS to go and we'd all just stay up there for a weekend. And they had a lot of activities for us to do. And my dad got it into his head that he wanted us all to play softball. And I think the first year we went, I was, I want to say around seven or eight and I didn't really have any interest in playing softball, but my dad just kept saying, we're gonna play softball, we're gonna play softball. I play softball, get all your friends, tell everybody. And so that first time we got, um, it was my family. So my mom, my dad, my sister, and then me and a couple of my friends and we ended up in this field. And we, we played softball but not like a real game. We just kind of learned to hit the ball and stuff, but we had a lot of fun. And then the next year a couple more people kind of joined it and we're like, we're going to play softball. Let's play softball. My Dad just kept repeating, we're going to do this. Then. So he went out and then we got a couple more, couple more people. One of the other moms joined in and she was our pitcher and she taught us how to hit, how to spit and how to like adjust your gloves and to trash talk. The other team, even though we didn't really have another team, we basically just, whoever was batting was got to run around the bases and then everybody else was in the outfield or either the pitcher, the catcher. And then so after that it was like year after year and then it kept growing and growing and we'd tell people we have this annual softball game and they're like, oh no, I don't know if I can play softball. Like I never learned how to play. And we're like, oh we'll play softball we really like game. We just really mean we're all just going to go and like hit the ball. And then it became this really big thing and the whole community was involved and we'd all go and run around the bases. There'd be like 20 people out in the outfield and it was just like, it was just a fun time and didn't really brought the community together. And so that kind of reminds me of the way that felt at AVS when you just got everyone together doing stuff. And it was, it was a lot of friends. There's my, my story for you guys.
Marc Gallivan: (13:57)
I'd like to end this episode by sharing one of my favorite memories from my time as a student at Alpine Valley School. One day a group of us, all of whom were older teenagers, decided to take a spontaneous trip to a local shopping mall. None of us were drivers yet, and this was in the time before Google maps or any sort of easily accessible transit directions, which tells you how old I am. Nevertheless, we were confident we could navigate the bus routes and get to our destination and we set off to the bus stop in the mid morning. By the afternoon we were still riding buses and nowhere near the mall. Unfortunately, we had gone in completely the wrong direction and ended up having to take six or seven buses to get back on the right track. By the time we made it to the mall, we were all hungry, tired and annoyed with each other for having gotten lost. However, by the time we made it back to school, we were all so excited to share our adventure that our bad moods had disappeared. What might have otherwise been a frustrating experience turned into a good story. We learned important lessons about planning and communication and we were able to turn our experience into a funny story to entertain the rest of the school. I love the alchemy of experiences in self directed democratic schools. The way that struggle transforms into confidence, the way frustration transforms into humor. It all seemed pretty magical to me at the time, and now that I get to witness it as a staff member and a parent, it still feels very magical to me.
Thanks to all the graduates who shared their stories with me for this episode. If you'd like to share a question or a story or some feedback on the show, you can contact us anytime via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're also on all social media as Alpine Valley School. You can find show notes for this episode at alpinevalleyschool.com/podcast/ep40 For episode 40. As always, thanks for listening. I'm Marc Gallivan. This is the Alpine Valley School podcast, and we'll be back again soon with more stories of real learning for real life.