The Living Systems Program

The LSP began as a joint project between Motuv and the Kansas City Academy after meeting at a summit for sustainability. The premise was to create a curriculum program that would act as a foundation for expanding the school’s current ethic and practice of producing self motivated, empowered students who were aware of their place within living systems. LSP expands this premise across a year of study, following in the footsteps of Ron Berger and Expeditionary learning as well as influences from Aristotle’s Lyceum pairing physical and mental exercise as well as placing importance on real world interpersonal experience.

The notion follows that a student who is taught to explore themselves as healthy and able-minded towards self/peer acceptance and respect will be more likely to find purpose for connecting and protecting the world in which they live. The course structure, taught in 19, two-week blocks, follows Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: moving from physical needs and safety, to love and belonging, to finally self-esteem and actualization. The concept is first learned via rhetoric (i.e. reading, viewing, lecture), and then “field work” which consists of taking the students to a local businesses or organizations and engaging them directly based on whatever concept we are studying at the time. This emphasizes the real face of solidarity needed to trigger the cultural and economic shift towards stewardship that needs to occur over the coming years. Each aspect in rhetoric and fieldwork is designed not only to forge life and peer connections, but also to put the student directly in the world. Hands-on engagement creates self- motivated and empowered learners ready to apply their knowledge in practical ways to create change in their direct environments. Each subject (i.e., Civics, math, science) is taught in both broad and local contexts, drawing content from city, state, national and global examples. Putting an emphasis on a localized education allows students to relate history to their current environments. The course moves through four stages each dependent on the previous to exist. First the physiological needs of water, farming, nutrition shelter and resources to higher needs like transportation, economy, community and on to to cultural diffusion, self esteem-respect and communication and to the last stage of self affirmation where we will delve into the creative process itself. The course culminates in the satellite letter project.

This project connects the students with people outside of their community base and gives them a sense of contact with the real world. A group of 50 amazing individuals agreed to receive a letter and in turn write an appropriate and engaging response. The principle follows our own process of sending the first voyager satellite into space with the golden record including quotes from the bible, Shakespeare, mathematical theorems as a way to put our collective and cumulative achievements out into the universe for any to find and respond to in turn. People are social creatures, our greatest triumphs would be relatively meaningless without the unconscious reaction and recognition we know to be there and often take for granted as the cause for many of our behaviors. Each student will first hand make paper from recycling waste and then ink from berry juice, water and wood ash. Finally they must choose a topic that has been the most meaningful to them over the duration of the course and draft a letter with these instruments reaching out with what they have learned and explaining why doing so could and often should be just as important to a perfect stranger. The hope is create a viable dialog between the student and the outside world encouraging them to increasingly think of themselves as something much larger.

I look forward to the conversations had between each of the recipients and have. The course will end with a celebration rooted in the premise addressed, each student will pick an animal or object in the natural world that they can relate or engage with and we will have a parade led by music and world percussion celebrating the achievements of each of the individuals who have worked both independently and collectively over the duration of the course in the very community in which their learning resides.

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