Yesterday, Monday, we started our second cycle of the year at Abrome. I was super excited for what was to come all morning, and showed up at the drop off location at 9:10 a.m. where I met Katie, the woman who is embedded with us for the first week as she researches Agile Learning Centers and Self-Directed Education. We immediately got into discussing Self-Directed Education, referencing authors and books that helped get us here, as well as bits of our personal journeys. These conversations would continue throughout the day.

At 9:40 a.m., Facilitators Jennifer and Lauren called for our Monday morning check-in. We touched upon logistics, facilitation, and special considerations for specific Learners. During the call our first Learner showed up. This cycle my cell is comprised entirely of adolescents, and all but one was expected to show, while the other Learner should be able to join us regularly beginning on Friday. Three of the Learners were in my cell during the last cycle, two were in Facilitator Jennifer’s cell, and one was remote for the entirety of the last cycle. As other Learners slowly trickled in we encouraged them to write out their intentions and move out into a field in a circle where we would hold our morning meeting.

At the morning meeting we shared intentions with each other and our hopes for the day. We covered a variety of topics including safety considerations, and awarenesses and practices from the prior cycle. This took quite some time. We played two truths and a lie as a way to get to know each other, as three Learners were meeting a new sibling pair for the first time, and everyone was meeting Katie for the first time. We talked about what we would like to get out of the coming cycle, and we wrapped up with discussing the specific needs of each Learner. The meeting was a particularly long one, 70 minutes in total given all of the topics we tried to cover. That’s compared to the 5-10 minutes our morning meetings typically last.

We asked the Learners where they’d like to go that morning and unsurprisingly they were split. Some wanted to go on a hike, and some wanted to go to the lake. We agreed that going to the lake would be a good start and then those who wanted to go on a hike could break off. After a short bathroom break three of the Learners (two Learners from last year, and one a new Learner) grabbed a walkie talkie and took off for a hike. It was the last we would see of them until 3:00 p.m.

Back at the lake Katie and I continued to talk about Self-Directed Education with lots of detours from the topic. At noon I was ready to eat lunch, and I decided to join one of the Learners who was on the dock doing some crochet. Katie also joined, and then the other Learner who stayed back from the hike joined. We talked about a variety of issues to include personal health, the state of Florida versus the state of Texas (the good, the bad, and each Covid-19 bumbling governor), whether policing can be reformed (the consensus was no), and some more personal stories.

One of the Learners eventually decided to break away and headed to the shade to work on the comic that she had included in her daily intentions and discussed in the morning meeting. I checked in with her from time to time, recognizing that she was content with working alone but also making it clear that I was available if she needed it. We later had a conversation about the specifics of how Covid-19 is transmitted, and how that convinced us to head outdoors for the year. In particular, we talked about how masking is helpful but how being outdoors is eve more helpful, as viral particles (aerosols and droplets) will dissipate much more quickly outside than inside where they can linger in the air for extended periods of times—hours, even.

As I was admiring the tiny toads / frogs that were hopping around the puddle that I had partially refilled, and after discovering a bunch of red midge fly larvae (Katie identified them), the three Learners who went on a hike returned. One of the Learners said they needed to leave early so he took off at 3:15 p.m. I then raised the awareness that several people were low on water (or out, as the one Learner who went on a hike finished her water about an hour earlier), and hot, and that we may want to get out of the sun. I also pointed out that I had jumped in the lake and that cooled me down a great deal, and encouraged the Learners to also consider doing that on these warm days (especially after a long hike). Everyone then agreed to move to a shaded area under some pecan trees where we would have our afternoon meeting.

There we revisited the topic of how the limbs of pecan trees can fall off and seriously injure people, and why in particular we don’t sit under pecan trees when it is windy or rainy. Then we decided to start our afternoon roundup, and one of the Learners offered to be the game master and she decided that we would stay in place and review our intentions and how our day went using the pop corn method of sharing. It was a fairly lazy and slow roundup. We then got up and walked back to the pick up location where one Learner’s ride was waiting. I refilled the water bottle of the Learner who ran out of water at 2:00 p.m. while on her hike, and then I raised an awareness that while I think it is great that they took off for a hike that there were two Learners who were left behind who may have wanted to connect with her. We then walked over to some large rocks in the shade where we all stuck around as the remaining Learners waited for their rides to pick them up.

When the Learners were gone Katie and I jumped on a call with Facilitators Jennifer and Lauren and we recapped our day. We loved the weather, we loved being back with the Learners, and we see great potential for this cycle.