Update: Our tree-river of ideas

Dear Friends,

The planning group for our Mission Hill High School design team met on Thursday, September 24. Ayanna, Amina, Dani, Linda, Ayla, Jenerra, Amanda, Marc, Beth W., Beth B., Ed, Dara and I participated in the planning. How might we organize the generative ideas from our September 19th community design meeting? We went with Ed’s suggestion to use a tree as an organizing symbol for our review of the notes and charts from all three groups. We saw resonances, and we individually listed words thick with concepts on the whiteboard.

The words began to gather into relationships; individually, we placed words at the roots, the trunk, branches, leaves. The tree seemed to become a river when Beth Balliro saw something less linear, more interconnected, a reciprocity between the roots and the branches. The relationships began to re-curve, re-turn.The tree-river became a Banyan tree! The Banyan tree is revelatory; you agree? See attached photo.

Our Banyan river-tree of ideas.

Our Banyan tree-river of ideas.

We collaboratively articulated a goal for our next design meeting, which has been revised and reviewed since. Goal: to capture, map, express possibilities for a concept (“community”), a person (“student”), and a practice (“reflection”) in one day in the life of our high school. How can our visions translate into tangible practices and ways of being?

Ayanna Lord, MHS staff and alum, and Amanda Ng Yann Chwen, Tufts University student, will be facilitating MHHS design work for MHS students and alumni on October 24th, 1-4pm at Mission Hill School.

Our next community design meeting has been moved to Saturday, October 31st, 11am-3pm at Mission Hill School, to allow Deborah Meier, MHS Founder, to join us! Agenda is forthcoming.

Come prepared to collaborate, create and share!


Update: Community Design Meeting (19th September 2015)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

About 40 members of the Mission Hill High School design team came together on a beautiful Saturday morning for our very first Community Design Meeting. We were educators and activists, students and elders, families and alumni, veterans of Mission Hill School (MHS) and folks who are new to the community … and we were all here to dream about a Mission Hill High School for all children.


“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine …” We started the day with a song that brought us into a big circle, and went around introducing ourselves. We learnt about who we are, what each of us is proud of and a hope that brought each of us into this space.

“The more I have dreams of freedom, the more I find communities like these,” said Abdi, a MHS 5th and 6th grade teacher who facilitated the start of the day.

Ayla, the principal of MHS, welcomed all of us to Mission Hill, and reminded us about the giants whose shoulders we stand on. Because this conversation about building a high school for all children started decades ago, even before MHS came to be.


After grabbing some of the coffee and snacks folks generously contributed, we then split up into three different groups, to reflect and share based on the following questions:

  • What does diversity mean as a creative principle for school design?
  • What kind of world do you want to create?  What high school experience will help create that world?
  • What gets nourished and what gets left out in our current high school models?




Each group agreed on their group norms, and explored these difficult questions together. We talked about words that come to mind when we say “diversity” (inclusive, resistance, cultural capital, ranging abilities, abundance, economic, social justice, historical, different, unboxable, exclude, silent, violent, celebration …); how “a design principle of diversity starts with empathy;” how kids and families must be at the very centre of our stakeholder diagram; about creating a world in which children feel safe, a world that is less exhausting; about how people decades ago thought about public schools as the basis for remaking society; remaking a world in which we feel more connected, less isolated; about memories of a teacher who broke the rules; thinking beyond walls … 

After sharing lots of thoughts, hopes, fears and ideas, and listening deeply to each other, we came back together as a big group to share our findings with each other. The day ended with commitments and affirmations, which helped us get a sense of our next step on this journey of designing Mission Hill High School.

“I would like to continue going to a school like Mission Hill.”
– Amishai, MHS 5th grader

INVITATION: Mission Hill ArtScience High School Design Meeting

Date: Saturday September 19, 2015
Time: 10am – 12:30pm
Place: Mission Hill K-8 School
20 Child Street: Carolina Avenue Ramp Entrance
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

As we dream of creating Mission Hill ArtScience High School, we invite you to join the conversation and think about the following questions:

  • What does diversity mean as a creative principle for school design?
  • What kind of world do you want to create?  What high school experience will help create that world?
  • What gets nourished and what gets left out in our current high school models?

We hope you can join us for the beginning of this exciting process.  Please RSVP using this link: http://bit.ly/HSdesign

If you have any questions or ideas, please contact Dani Coleman at highschool@missionhillschool.org