Michael Herman
Opening Space for Business Agility


What happens when 200 seventh graders dive into OpenSpaceTechnology?

What follows here are the proceedings from a one-day event at River Trails Middle School in Mount Prospect, Illinois, USA. These students had spent all year looking into various aspects of heroism. They developed lists of heroic characteristics. They selected and researched American heroes. They identified and wrote about their own personal heroes. The day in OpenSpaceTechnology was conceived as a chance to explore and develop the 'hero in the mirror' as a way of keeping their discovery of everyday heroism going into the summer and following school year.

The students had no hesitancy at all with this kind of self-organization. Indeed, they flocked to the center of the circle to write topics and then went in great waves to post them on the marketplace wall. We ran 4 sessions of 40 minutes each, with lunch and a checkin/reflection time in the middle. As you'll see from the list below, the discussions ranged quite a bit beyond our 'heroism' theme. And despite some rough spots (noise in the halls, and such), the day resulted in quite a bit of good energy, learning, experimentation and discussion. Sessions included drawing and music in addition to discussion, and the OST format gave all the students the opportunity to observe and experiment with various forms of group leadership and self-responsibility. Which is to say that the learning wasn't in the talking -- the topics and discussions. It was in the practice -- the choices and actions of all the kids and all the teachers. A gym-full of would-be heroes all charting their own unique personal courses through the open space. <grin>

As a group, their teachers agreed that this first experiment is something they'd like to learn from and repeat next year, earlier in the year, and with a theme that was more important to students and closer to their immediate experience, like the development of some of their classroom curriculum. This is also the sort of topic which would allow teachers to be more actively engaged as actual participants with the students, which all agreed makes the sessions better for everyone.

The topics posted for breakout group discussion