Wildfire learning

It’s a worn out cliche, I know. But the other analogy people usually draw in this situation is to chaos theory. And the truth is that I’ve read quite a bit about that and still don’t really understand it, so I feel like a poseur using that metaphor. So wildfire it is.

How do wildfires start? The conditions need to be right. The dryer it is, the higher the risk. But those conditions don’t emerge overnight. Below average snowfall in the winter could create conditions for fire in the summer. It takes time.

Given the right conditions, the smallest spark can start a huge fire. A cigarette butt tossed from a passing car or drifting embers. A lighting strike that takes a millisecond.

And once it starts, it’s raging and powerful and unpredictable.

When we’re talking about fires, all of this is dangerous, and pretty scary. When we’re talking about school, it’s the best thing in the world.

Wednesday was the first day I feel like we really caught fire as a community. We had a bunch of these days last year, so I recognized the feeling. The school became a hive. Outside, students custom cutting rain barrels, building water filters, or fashioning models of green roofs. Inside, students finishing up research briefs or designing spaces in Google Sketch-Up. It’s loud. There’s a lot of movement. The work, the conversation, rushes and pops everywhere.

It is raging, and powerful, and unpredictable. And beautiful.

There are a bunch of things that could have sparked all of this. All of the effort to try and make the work real. All of the time spent building a culture, defining who we are as a community, helping students understand that they make this place what it is. Maybe it was the simple fact that we finally got to start building stuff. I don’t really know. And to be sure, not all of the days will be like this.

But on Wednesday, we were able to look around and smile, shake our heads a bit, and be reminded of what’s possible.