We actually do have other children, which you might not realize since our focus has been on Beth lately. Our oldest, Daniel, is preparing to graduate from high school. It has been a long and wonderful journey with him. He had been homeschooled until starting school as a sophomore at The Graham School in Clintonville. I had heard about the school in homeschooling circles for a few years and thought it sounded wonderful. After Daniel’s 9th grade year, still at home, I was feeling like we needed to find some new avenues to help meet his interests. At that point Daniel really wasn’t interested in going to school but I thought we should at least check it out. After the open house Daniel was so impressed he declared that he WAS going to this school. So we started the arduous task of putting together a transcript for his freshman year and talking to the school about admission. Since this was our first time ever in public school the whole process was a bit intimidating. Would he be up to his grade level in all the different subjects, would he be able to get through the day without have a constant supply of food, would he understand that you can’t just get up to go to the bathroom whenever you need to. Schools are funny like that, all those strange rules that had never been a part of our lives. One of the many nice things about TGS is how similar it was to our homeschooling lives. It is a very relaxed school where the students refer to the teachers by their first names, you don’t have to ask permission to leave a room, the teachers are all very respectful and nurturing to the students. I describe the school as a discussion based school, where the teachers get to teach what they’re passionate about as opposed to being required to teach history or science from a textbook. Daniel thrived in that atmosphere and loved his experience. The school is founded in the Experiential Learning theory.
Experiential learning focuses on the learning process for the individual. An example of experiential learning is going to the zoo and learning through observation and interaction with the zoo environment, as opposed to reading about animals from a book. Thus, one makes discoveries and experiments with knowledge firsthand, instead of hearing or reading about others’ experiences.
- the learner must be willing to be actively involved in the experience;
- the learner must be able to reflect on the experience;
- the learner must possess and use analytical skills to conceptualize the experience; and
- the learner must possess decision making and problem solving skills in order to use the new ideas gained from the experience
At TGS student have classes M,W,F they then go to their site for the Experiential part T & Th. Daniel had the opportunity to intern at a few different locations during his time at TGS. His sophomore year was spent at Franklin Park Conservatory working on the landscaping and in the gardens. From this he learned that he absolutely not interested in a career in manual labor, an important thing to know when you’re making future educational decisions.
His junior year was spent at Jack’s Aquarium and Pets. This tied into his interest in snakes and reptiles, of which he has 1 snake and 1 bearded dragon. It was during this time that he thought he wanted to go to school to be a herpetologist. The great thing about internships is that you have the chance to learn what you do or don’t want for a career before spending 4 years in college studying it. While he still has an interest in reptiles he decided it was a hobby and not something he wanted to pursue as a full time job.
Then for his first semester of his senior year he interned at the OSU airport. His interest had changed to aviation and he was sure he wanted to be a pilot. The OSU airport was a great internship. He had the opportunity to meet students and professors from OSU, sit in on classes, learn about all aspects of the airport, use a flight simulator then finally fly an actual plane. Which was presented to me a week later as, “Oh mom I forgot to tell you I flew a plane last week.” How does one forget to tell their parents that? After researching this career Daniel decided that he would someday like to get his pilots license but the airline industry was a little too volatile to bank a career on. So he made a slight change to Aeronautical/ Astronautical engineering and that was what he eventually applied to OSU for. During this time he was also involved in several different engineering programs outside of school that gave him access to college tours, lectures and mentors in a variety of different engineering fields. After learning about all of the fields available in the engineering world he has finally found his passion in Mechanical Engineering. He wants to design cars. So we changed his major at OSU, he is now enrolled in the mechanical engineering program and he was also accepted into the Engineering Scholars program, so along with mechanical engineering he will also be learning about green engineering.
Another thing that is different about TGS is how the students complete their senior year. At the end of the first semester if they’re on track with their credits the students start a WalkAbout that finishes off their year.
The idea of WalkAbout is based on the rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood practiced for centuries by aborigines in the Australian outback. A sixteen-year-old aboriginal boy goes through a period of testing under real-life conditions, knowing that during the WalkAbout experience every decision and every action will have a tangible consequence for which he alone is responsible. At the end of the Walkabout, he will have demonstrated to himself and the members of his community that he is ready to accept the responsibilities of adulthood.
They are no longer in the school building except for 1 period, once a week for advisory. In preparation for this period seniors spend a lot of time first semester writing up their plans and working with advisers to make sure they have a successful experience. WalkAbout is a graduation requirement at TGS, it’s not a time for the student to sit around the house and play video games!
Daniel really struggled with what he would do for WalkAbout. He knew he would continue to take college classes at Columbus State so that was part of his plan. He also had to work in his job at COSI. But the other part, the part where they hope the student travels outside of their comfort zone either geographically or emotionally, he had not been able to figure out. He thought about doing an Outward Bound Expedition but that would have cost more than $2000 so that was eliminated. Then I reminded him of the scuba diving experience he had enjoyed through COSI Academy. He was certified to scuba dive but he had not had the chance to go out on any dives. That idea was what Daniel needed to start the research and set up (on his own) an internship at a local dive shop. During that internship he has assisted the dive master in training others at local quarries. He also got to purchase all of his gear at a substantially discounted rate. He plans to continue interning through the summer so he can receive several advanced diving certifications.
He has finally completed everything he needs to graduate from TGS. During the process he has grown into a young man that is able to search out what he needs in the community and negotiate with other adults an experience that is beneficial to all involved. He has loved his time at TGS, he has had wonderful teachers that have guided him and he has made friends that will be with him for many years. I’ll let Daniel’s own words finish off this blog, this is the letter he turned in for his final biography:
My name is Daniel Wehner, I have been at The Graham School three years and this is what I’ve done in those three years: I’ve grown a lot, I was only 5’10” my first year now I’m 6’4″. I’ve matured even more. I’ve made a lot of friends. I’ve lost a lot of those same friends. I got into a lot of drama. I learned to stay OUT of drama. I dated five girls. I still talk to two of them. I have tried my best to help the students beat the teachers in the ultimate Frisbee game. I flipped my go-cart and destroyed my hand. I became a certified diver. I reached my goal of banking enough money on an online game to be in the top ten richest people playing that game. I learned that I can actually have fun with other people, in REAL life. I learned that I can teach a rat how to play basketball. That same day I learned that the rat was actually learning how to get food without knowing what it was doing. I currently work at COSI, and I LOVE my job. I applied to OSU. I was accepted to OSU. I applied for the Engineering Scholars program at OSU. I was also accepted to that program. After I graduate from OSU I plan on trying to get a job at Mercedes Benz as a design engineer. I am glad I came to Graham. I am also glad that I am graduating.
Thank you everyone who has helped me get through these first 18 years.