Letter to Ted Dintersmith

Mr. Dintersmith,

I know you are busy, but i was inspired by your recent article in the Washington Post … and I wanted to thank you for it and for the work you’ve been doing, for the solid conclusions that you’ve reached and for the various innovative learning networks that you are fostering with your support.

I sent the link to a few friends including Howard Rheingold, a pioneering fellow in many areas of self-directed learning. In his note back to me, he underscored the central importance of “agency” in the enabling of students to discover how much they can do themselves. I believe there are an army of us out here who are in solid agreement with you on your foundational points… but like many just causes, it is hard for clarity to be heard above the din of politics and vested interests.

Now that I have followed some of your links … I can see your work has been ongoing.

• The MLTS movie trailer as well the videos on the Deeper Learning Network… were all good news to me, as well – and I will share them with my teacher and educator friends.

• For myself, it was some 20 years, while I was in the middle of “building” a new media opera entitled “Electronic Home Theater – The Early Years” with high schoolers in San Anselmo, CA, that I was invited to a project based learning (PBL) conference. It was a revelation to meet brave and committed teachers who had for years on end offered courses like robotics, store management or home renovation … after school and for no extra pay. These people are the type of educational “heroes” we must acknowledge and cultivate if we are to inspire our kids to break out of their holding tanks and into a wider world that can still count enchantment as one of its core values.

•  There are many entry points that I might respond to in what you wrote … but I would like to share with you a few projects I am connected with which I think exemplify both “Project Based Learning” and “Expeditionary Learning.”

= 1) On October 10, 2013, my friend Dave Rearick set sail from Newport, RI in a 40′ Class-40 racing boat on what would become a solo circumnavigation of the globe. A key element of the project which can be viewed on the web at http://bodaciousdreamexpeditions.com/ was our self-directed learning agenda. In addition to regular written updates (and media) from wherever on the globe Dave found himself, we also created an accompanying set of “Explorer Guides” that parents and teachers could use to support some of the many learning opportunities that the adventure delivered and which were underscored in our frequent updates.

Here are the subjects of those Explorer Guides – http://bodaciousdreamexpeditions.com/explorer-guides/

• Our Watery World • Wind & Weather • Math • Sea Life • Oceanography • Glaciers • Sailboat Glossary • Mentor Guide

• The Explorer Guides were further supported by input from an ocean scientist named Tegan Mortimer, who managed the Citizen Science side of the expedition with frequent reports that provided background as to what was happening on the voyage – http://bodaciousdreamexpeditions.com/citizen-science-resources/. Dave also conducted interviews with experts in various aspects of shipbuilding and seamanship.

These materials were an extension of Dave’s life-long love of the ocean and of shared learning. Our goal was to open a doorway into a real-world sailing experience that might help expose kids (and adults) to the sorts of experiences and perspectives that arise in the course of such a “live” adventure.

= 2) Dave currently serves as an “Ambassador” for 11th Hour Racing – http://11thhourracing.org – which sponsors the Atlantic Cup Race – http://www.atlanticcup.org/ and which Dave won in 2013. 11th Hour fosters a variety of initiatives and receives support from the Schmidt Foundation.

Recently, Dave was handed the reins to 11th Hour’s Learning Agenda … http://www.atlanticcup.org/kids – which used our Bodacious Dream Expeditions model as inspiration and which Dave and I will be expanding upon between now and the Spring of 2016, when the Atlantic Cup returns.

= 3) Curiously enough, Dave was recently back in Newport, assisting his friend Joe Harris, who a week ago departed in another Class-40 named “Gryphon Solo 2” on his own solo circumnavigation of the globe – but this one will attempt to do it “non-stop!” Joe’s current site is here .. http://www.gryphonsolo2.com/. Joe’s focus is different than ours was … but Dave and I will help him however we can to frame his experience/adventure for a larger audience.

= 4) On a different note, a dear friend and television director Julie Hébert, recently launched this “backyard” video project called “Look What She Did!” – which focuses on the stories of women who have inspired other women. https://www.youtube.com/user/lwsdchannel – It struck me that something similar in praise of inspirational educators and mentors might be similarly worthwhile.

Anyway sir, that’s my unsolicited download … I apologize for its length and I thank you for your time.

I wish you all the very best in your efforts to get the great ship of American education back on course.

If there is anything I can do to be of help in your efforts, or if you know of others with whom we might connect, please let me know what or whom that might be.

All the very best to you,

– Mark Petrakis