Institute of Swag

How (and why) We Built a Blanket Fort

Today we built a blanket fort.

This sounds like a weird thing coming from 90 teenagers and a grown adult, but today indeed we broke another barrier. Today we broke down the confines our typical classroom walls and turned them into soft comforting fabric. And as far as our research has provided, it looks like we may have become the first high school class to build a blanket fort. Ever. In history.

How?

6 sheets, over 20 blankets, christmas lights, masking tape, duct tape and 90 students. All contributing to the structural integrity of our blanket fort, rightfully named “Blanketsburg”. Using chairs and computers to hold the fort together we established our list of protocols. With our projector in hand, we set up camp and watched some of our favourite shows “Community” and “Phineas and Ferb”. For one hour and 15 minutes, it was okay to be a kid again.

Why?

Why not? It all started with a book my wife had bought for her Kindergarten class called “Not a box”. The book is essentially about the power of human imagination. Too often we (teachers and schools) kill students creativity. After kindergarten, we stick kids in a desk for 15 years and tell them to learn. And we put so much pressure on these kids that they turn into stress freaks.

After reading the book I thought immediately about my classes and all of the things happening in our school. The grade 12′s especially are feeling the stress the most. So I decided we would take one day (PJ Day) to create a blanket fort using nothing more then our own imaginations.. Today we learned by actually building something with our hands for a change. Today we learned, first hand, about teamwork, and design. And more importantly today we shut off the real world for an hour and got to just relax and laugh.

Yes there are people out there that will say that our classroom is phoney, and our curriculum is a joke. But to those people I say they have lost touch with their inner self. They have become so uptight that they have forgotten what it is like to be a child. The sense of wonder. Letting the human heart find joy and meaning in the littlest things. This blanket fort probably meant more to my students then 15 years sitting at desk ever will. I’ll always remember looking back and seeing a smile on all of their faces. The experience and memory of today will live on forever and that’s what true education is all about.

So yes, today we built a blanket fort, and it was freaking awesome!

It didn’t start out this way. The plan was to create a “Walking Dead” inspired horror video with teacher actors for the Halloween assembly. But things changed, and the students do what they always do, adapt.

So we went back to the drawing board. Instead of creating something to celebrate school spirit, I challenged the grade 12′s to create a video just for “us”. A video that would showcase how much we’ve learned and how close we’ve become over the past 3 years. It took a great deal of focus to try and not do something funny and ridiculous, especially with the personalities we have in that class. (The grade 10′s and 11′s are creating some truly funny and technically amazing stuff by the way)

It is fitting that this group of students, the students that created the Institute of Swag and the ones that have paved the way for every video we have done, have created our first truly dramatic film. One that ties together the excellent technical and creative abilities of our students and we as a school should be very proud of everything they have accomplished these past 3 years.

To put it simply, this year has not been easy. At times we’ve even broken our cardinal rule, always try to have fun. There have been days where we turned our backs on the people that care about us the most. Things have changed and through it all we have been trying to remain true to ourselves. It is no secret. We know what other people think about us… We’ve heard them spit it straight to our faces in the middle of our classes.  And yet here I am posting about a wonderful piece of art. A true masterpiece of a film. Not a student created film. Not a teenager created film. But a film. Its a shame other people can’t respect and appreciate it for what it is. The grade 10′s are taking it to another level. The grade 11′s are going big. All three classes doing separate things yet all part of this one family.

In the grade 12 class we have been trying to avoid the “G” word (graduation). We know that our time together now is so limited. On our last day of filming, the students were trying to find something else to film just so that our last group video together didn’t have to end. We have been avoiding the “G” word because I think we are all afraid (me included) of what comes next… What happens when we look back at the school one last time? Or maybe we are afraid of letting go of this wonderful thing we have created.

Either way, I can tell you probably what nobody else has seen. These girls have come so far. Coming into my grade 10 class, not knowing what catch light was, to operating steadicams and using advance lighting techniques in their films. But more importantly I think, is how far they have come as women. What this world is genuinely lacking is people that care and treat each other with respect. These girls care…These girls care more about each other then themselves. They care about what they are leaving behind for future generations. They care about this school. They embody everything that Notre Dame holds true.

They are ready to take on the world. They are true inspirations. They are my inspiration to be a better teacher. They are the Institute of Swag.

And they are legendary.

sarahj-art:

Okay, I admit to laughing while making this one.

sarahj-art:

Okay, I admit to laughing while making this one.

(via wilwheaton)

archiemcphee:

These awesome photos are from the 2013 Weston Sand Sculpture Festival on the sandy shores of Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, England. Each year the festival has a different theme and this year’s theme is Hollywood.

“Since the festival started in 2006, themes have included Fairy Tales, The Continents of the World, Under the Ocean, Great Britain, and The Jungle. What began with two Dutch sand sculptors building a giant King Kong from 30 tonnes of sand has now turned into a world famous get-together of some of the niftiest hands in sand sculpting.

More than 20 of the world’s greatest sculptors from nine different countries are working away using 4,000 tonnes of sand from the beach.”

The festival opened on Good Friday and runs through the end of September.

Visit Dailymail.co.uk to view more of the awesome sand sculptures from this year’s Weston Sand Sculpture Festival.

[via Free York and Dailymail.co.uk]

(via wilwheaton)

communitynbc:

Sounds like things are really heating up in Nairobi.

communitynbc:

Sounds like things are really heating up in Nairobi.

(via communitythings)

coryb8907:

Does it really ever stop in the end?

coryb8907:

Does it really ever stop in the end?