When Learning Busts out of the Classroom….

Help bring learning to life at the Inspire Santa Fe Citywide Festival!

Since 2014, the Academy has worked with local non-profits, schools, the City of Santa Fe, and hundreds of families and volunteers, to facilitate a community learning program called Inspire Santa Fe.

Each year, we ask dozens of young people, generally aged 12-19, what they really want to learn, and then we match them with a community volunteer who mentors them in that field. Drawing from a model developed by transformative education guru Paquita Hernandez, combined with our founder Aaron Stern’s own vision of “school-outside-of-school,” we’ve created over 150 inspiring matches these last three years. Meeting once a week for several months, protégé and mentor explore a field they both love: cooking, architecture, blacksmithing, computer coding, auto mechanics, belly dance—you name it!

In the spring, we ask our protégés and mentors to step back from the learning and share with the larger community what they have learned at a Citywide Festival. This Festival, a lively science fair-expo-art show rolled up into one event, serves two purposes:

1) It creates an opportunity for the protégé and mentor to reflect on their own learning, and make meaning out of it. The educational theorist John Dewey said it best when he wrote: Experience + Reflection = Learning. If we don’t step back from a learning experience, and ask questions like, What did this mean to me? What did I learn? What’s next? then learning can be reduced to busy accrual of facts and skills that we don’t appreciate, or know how to put to good use.

2) It creates an opportunity for the community to witness the learning. Sometimes, we get caught in the mindset that learning is something that happens only in schools, with teachers and textbooks (or tablets, these days!). But learning happens in a myriad of places and forms, and Inspire Santa Fe’s Citywide Festival reminds us that the learning “landscape” in our city is rich and varied.

Each year, we invite a number of volunteers to serve as “community reviewers” of the mentorships. We find that formalizing the review process brings intention and focus to the reflection and the witnessing. Each reviewer is asked to come to the Festival right as it opens (5 PM), check in with us, and then engage closely with two mentorship pairs during the Festivals. What called the protégé and mentor toward that particular field? How did they go about learning together? What were the challenges? The breakthroughs? What did they learn about themselves? What’s next? Reviewers then record their feedback, which is shared with the protégé and mentor after the Festival to help them further reflect on their experience.

If you are interested in being a reviewer at the 3rd annual Citywide Festival, on April 28th from 5-8 PM, we’d love to have you. You need only have a love of learning, an inquisitive mind, and to feel comfortable talking with teens and adults. (A sense of humor and some flexibility helps as well—the Festival can get a bit energetic!) We try to ensure that each protégé/mentor pair is reviewed by at least two people—one who is an expert in their field, and one who isn’t. For more info, or if you’d like to sign up, contact Seth Biderman, Manager of the Academy’s Institute for Teaching and co-director of Inspire Santa Fe, for more information. seth@aloveofolearning.org | 505.629.7067