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The Vision of ZigZag ALC

We hold the vision of creating an all-ages Agile Learning Community for self-directed learners, as well as a resource center for homeschooling/unschooling families. We use tools for self-organization and intentional culture creation to cultivate a heart-centered, deeply engaging learning space, where people are doing what excites them. We are rooted in values that embrace choice, along with collaboration across ages and throughout the community. Below is an expanded picture of the values we hold and the support structures we’re creating.

Some ideas are central to what our agile learning community is about, while other elements are flexible and ever changing. We use a metaphor of a tree to illustrate this aspect of our educational model more clearly.

The soil we grow from is trust

– in students, in each other, in ourselves. The biggest dividing line between ZigZag ALC and traditional educational systems boils down to this: Who do we trust to direct a child’s learning? Most educational settings come from a perspective that children are empty vessels who don’t know what’s good for them, so someone else needs to decide what they should learn, how they should learn it, and then tell them whether they’ve learned it well enough. We have a different view.

Some Reasons to Trust:

  • It’s hard to learn to make good decisions if you’re not regularly allowed to make your own decisions.
  • Children learn better when they’re doing things they’re actually interested in.
  • The best way to learn to trust oneself is by being granted the gift of trust.
  • Committing to trusting children creates powerful mutual respect.
  • By practicing self-direction, children learn greater responsibility.
  • One doesn’t learn to drive by being lectured, or by reading books. You have to actually get in the driver’s seat.
  • Following children’s authentic interests makes them better attuned to their passions and hones their ability to listen for their deeper purpose.

Roots / Assumptions

In the soil of trust, the tree has four main roots that are the underlying assumptions of our educational model. They may sound obvious, but they are not the dominant paradigm.

  1. Learning is natural. It’s happening all the time.
  • We don’t follow a curriculum, give grades, or expect physical/social/intellectual/spiritual development to happen at the same time or in the same way across multiple children.
  • People know their needs and have the ability to learn how to get their needs met.
  1. People learn best when they make their own decisions. Children are people.
  • Can you learn good decision making if you’re not allowed to make your own decisions? Can you learn to stay firm when the heart rings true if you’re not able to set boundaries or consent to the learning? We’re always influencing our kids. But when an adult in our school expresses a preference, it doesn’t come from a place of authority, but rather from an authentic connection with the kids, which allows them to navigate that influence in an honoring way that supports them making better decisions.
  • When we maximize opportunities to make decisions within a safe container, children experience how to go for what they want and risk mistakes, co-creating how they want to learn, how to resolve conflicts, and in the process, who they are.
  1. People learn more from the environment / culture they are immersed in than from the content they are taught.
  • As facilitators, we recognize that kids learn from who we are in the world, how we make decisions, how we resolve conflicts, how we create the life we want to live. Information is easy to get, content is easy to get. What kids learn more than what we say is how we say it and what we do.
  • The implicit lessons of the environment are the ones that stay with us. In most schools, the cultural message is passivity over proactivity, being OK with non-consent, fearing mistakes, power-over versus power-with. We, on the other hand, create an environment where authentic connection flourishes, where life can be whatever you want it to be, and where there are infinite possibilities to create and prosper.
  1. People develop strength and purpose through cycles of intention, creation, reflection, and sharing
  • Learning to set intentions teaches us to identify our needs.
  • Making intentions public and visible allows us to find collaborators and supporters who can help us more fully realize what we want to create.
  • Reflecting on our intentions teaches us about ourselves and how we learn.
  • Creating a cultural container where kids are documenting what they are doing teaches them how to share effectively in the world. They create value from their own learning. The world then gives them feedback, and they go deeper into it based on that feedback. They can answer questions like what do I want to do? what do I like to do? Is what I do valuable to anyone else? Does anyone else share my passion?

Branches / Practices, Structures, and Tools

The soil we grow in and the four roots don’t change at ZigZag ALC. The branches may. Branches are the practices, structures, and tools we grow and adapt to our unique community and setting. We want to habitually reflect on all that is happening in our space to ensure we are still deeply rooted in our shared values and shared intentions.

  1. Building self-awareness and collaborative awareness
  • Conflict resolution tools, and positive and compassionate communication practices such as non-violent communication (NVC).
  • Tools for creating connection to ourselves: self-calming, reflection, meditation.
  • Whole person growth: physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual.
  • Creating an empowering culture with agile learning tools.
  1. Respectful, supportive, inclusive environment
  • Parents are always welcome to hang out, share their passions, and be part of our day.
  • Honoring the diversity in ideas and people across race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.
  • Minimum structure for maximum support.
  • Providing opportunities for kids to be of service to their community, to do real work and make real contributions.
  • Risk is encouraged, failure is OK.
  1. Built environment creates opportunities for self-directed play
  • Outdoor space with an adventure playground and garden.
  • Tinkering/maker/art space with real tools.
  • Musical instruments.
  • Quiet comfortable space for reading, thinking, etc.
  • Science and technology space.
  • Costume and stage area.
  • Lots of field trips to explore our area.
  1. Bonding community connections
  • Community days where homeschooling/unschooling families can join us.
  • Playful activities, skill-shares, and service projects that create kid-grown up connections.
  • Facilitated heart-opening and connecting practices offered regularly to families and the broader community.
  • Parent support around livelihood discussions and collaborations, groups and workshops for sharing tools, sharing skills, giving empathy, parenting inspiration, relationship coaching, and book/movie discussions.
  • Parents and other community members could also gather to re-charge, connect, do camp-outs, yoga, art and cooking classes, sing, dance, and address community needs together.
  • A strong commitment to transparency and peaceful conflict resolution.

The people involved in bringing ZigZag ALC to life

Keli Bryan and Hany Nagib are the school’s co-founders and main facilitators.

Keli has taught a range of grade levels over the past 15 years, from elementary to high school and college. She’s an advocate and former consultant for school districts to develop, implement, and evaluate service learning and social-emotional learning programs. She has a long-time passion for children, being outside in all weather, doing messy art, and tinkering projects with kids. She is trained as an Agile Learning Facilitator, has a strong background in art, biology, and statistics, and has a Masters in Education and a Masters in Clinical Psychology.

Hany had a long career in the tech industry where he honed his analytical and executive management skills. He has since grown into a facilitator of all things that help people connect more deeply to each other, from intergenerational improv, to relationship coaching, to community mediation. He is a children rights advocate, and has taught kids and adults in many settings over the years. He loves to interact with kids of all ages through play, service learning, and engaging their curiosities. He is trained as an Agile Learning Facilitator, and has a Masters in Computer Science.

Together, Hany and Keli have two kids, Zain (age 6) and Mazzen (age 3), who’ve been their deepest inspiration and motivation for starting this ZigZag adventure.

Steve Cooperman will be providing business advice and support. He is a social entrepreneur, activist and organizational consultant who is on the board of the 501(c)3 organization, Geronimo Education Corporation, that oversees the international ALC network and of which ZigZag ALC is a project. He is involved in several social justice/community projects in Asheville, including Asheville Adventure Play, CoThinkk and Activate Asheville. He has a Masters in Education and an MBA.