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Relevance and Elegance

We love how the CH&S Cultural Literacy Curriculum continues to evolve. For many years, we have been conducting perfectly wonderful General Knowledge Classes and that’s been nice. Now we have become more ambitious.

Students are not merely attending classes. They are taking courses. They are not just hearing information. They are dynamically and enthusiastically absorbed in the learning experience. Here is how it works:

Small Study Groups led by Instructors research and explore subject matter of interest and substance for 4 weeks and they collaborate to create Reports.

Typically the Report includes:

  • Facts & Talking Points
  • Ideas for Exercises / Discussion Stimulants
  • Related Vocabulary, Topics, References
  • Review Questions
  • An Appendix
  • And an attractive Cover Page that credits the Study Group members with authorship.

On the 5th week, each Study Group presents a show and tell performance on their subject to a general assembly of the student body. They make it fun and they make it memorable and they distribute their Review Questions to each of the other Study Groups.

For the next 5 weeks, these Review Questions are used, at scheduled times, as springboards to revisit class content so as to measure and to maximize retention. Progress is documented upon transcript pages and well-deserved Certificates in Cultural Literacy are awarded as credit is amassed.

In other words, collectively as a company, we are writing (and we are living) a pretty good textbook on Cultural Literacy that goes on and on.

Here are of some of the courses we had through 2020/21:

  • Motown Zoot Suits & Roots
  • Wild Cats & Dogs
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Mysterious Mandala
  • Wonder Woman
  • Elephants
  • Benefits of Vinegar
  • Bird Migrations
  • Manifest Destiny
  • Animal Camouflage
  • Tasty Fruits and Fun Plants
  • All About South America
  • ABCs of Cryptozoology
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Mexican American War
  • Owls of the Night and Day
  • Roswell, New Mexico
  • John Legend
  • Hedgehogs
  • The Oregon Trail
  • Beatlemania
  • Edible Mushrooms and Killers
  • Unbelievable Ghosts / Haunts
  • Mosh Pit History
  • Sea Creatures from Beyond
  • Northern Pacific Railroad
  • Plato's Parable of the Cave
  • World Music
  • Weirdest Places You Must See
  • Astronomy: Stars & Planets
  • Vegan Cooking
  • Birds of Sonoma County
  • Wildfires and What to Do During Fire Season
  • All Things Japanese
  • Egypt
  • Germany
  • Greenland
  • Michael Jackson
  • Buddhist Philosophy
  • Rene Descartes and "Cogito Ergo Sum"
  • What is a Virus?
  • Black Poetry Day
  • What is Appendicitis and How is it Treated?
  • Llamas and Their Role in COVID-19 Research
  • The History of Public Transportation
  • International Fast Foods
  • Run DMC and the Relevance of Rap 
  • The Scariest Halloween Foods
  • Salvador Dali
  • The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (history and changes during a pandemic)
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Sauciness (sauces of the world)
  • "Meow Like a Pirate Day"
  • Disneyland
  • Villains
  • The Jeopardy Show
  • National Parks
  • Lions
  • Spaghetti
  • Dragonflies
  • 15 Best Things to do in England
  • Kangaroo Island
  • Extreme Sports
  • Most Famous Robberies
  • Ancient Greece
  • Volcanoes, Active & Dormant
  • Shaman Magic
  • Bats, Ugly & Heroic
  • Epic Sandwiches
  • Early Days of Hollywood
  • Coolest Places to Live
  • History of the Grilled Cheese Sandwich
  • Benefits of Lemons
  • Symbolism
  • The Major Poets
  • Ferris Wheels
  • Butterflies
  • Superstitions
  • Spam Spam Spam Spam
  • Tom Hanks
  • Collections
  • Robots
  • Fake Food
  • Cat Crazy
  • Christmas Island



One of the main themes underpinning the CH&S curriculum is Citizenship! If you are one of our students, you will meet people, learn things, teach things, do things, create things, go places, make connections, and make differences. You will not be wasting your time! You will not be bored! And you will know it is real! We are proudly and enthusiastically involved with a number of extraordinary community partners. Here are a few:

The Alano Club in Petaluma is a big, friendly community meeting place where people courageously recovering from substance abuse problems can find educational, social, and recreational supports and services. The building is pretty huge and it is often hopping. We are happy to send a janitorial crew there on Tuesday mornings for cleaning projects and for vibes!

For over a decade now, CH&S has been assembling and packaging materials for DAAC (Drug Abuse Alternative Center) located in Santa Rosa. Among the many services this wonderful organization provides is to supply health and safety kits (assembled by us) to “at-risk” populations.

You have probably heard of WIC (Women, Infants, and Children). It is a federal nutrition program that helps mothers and young children eat well and stay healthy. Our clerical/production crews have been preparing informational materials and mailings for the Sonoma County office for the past 12 years.

Cal Skate is a roller rink in Rohnert Park and a flat out magical place owned and operated by the very best people who treat our clean-up crews like family when we visit every Wednesday morning to perform an array of janitorial duties.

The Tara Firma Farm is a beautiful place in Petaluma where our crews go to behave just like farmers. One of our main chores is to clean and crate lots and lots of eggs. Interfacing with the poultry community can actually be quite exhilarating!

Project Avary offers long-term support, resources, guidance, and training for children with incarcerated parents. It is a community that gives kids a deep sense of belonging, dignity, and hope. We regularly are called upon to do clerical work for this valuable and unique cause.

We began our affiliation with the San Rafael Public Library when members of our Literary Circles became interested in volunteering with the Branch’s Homebound Readers Program. Now we are busily maintaining 2 of their Little Free Libraries and beginning to participate in the Book Repair Project.

Citizens of Novato have organized and come together as a movement and as a labor of love to restore the iconic downtown Novato Theater (just a block from our Life College campus). We can hardly wait for this vibrant community center to open and our volunteers are doing everything we can to help with fundraising and other odds and ends. 

Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center is a non-profit therapeutic equestrian program creating a supportive and dynamic environment to enhance the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities living in the San Francisco Bay area. We do our part helping out with chores and hanging out with horses.

Each semester a new group of Dominican College Nursing Students intern at our Day Program, providing materials, consultation, and seminars for our participants. We always look forward to when they come and we are constantly impressed by their style and substance. Marin County should appreciate the influx of excellent nurses that come through Dominican.

The Nazareth House in San Rafael offers a variety of care levels, suited to the changing needs of seniors, in a warm, home-like environment. We try to do our part by creating and delivering elegant floral arrangements to the people living there on both a regular and random basis. How nice is that?!

The Honey Badger Coffee House at 101 Golf Course Drive in Rohnert Park has really really great coffee and yummies and really really cool and convivial vibes! For the entire month of February, 2020 a gallery of our student art hung there with all proceeds going entirely to the artists. Thank you, Chrystal Nezgoda, owner and former CH&S Instructor. She is unique and amazing! Our art we'll be back next year... and we'll be dropping in whenever we're in the neighborhood!

The Marin County Food Bank provides a spectrum of services designed to support the health and wellbeing of low-income people in our community who are struggling to make ends meet. Lots of people benefit from the Food Bank and lots more volunteer there too. That’s what we do.

We are very thankful for opportunities to further beautify the beautiful world we live in with our Community Clean-up Crews that are frankly so much more than mere litter abatement. Here is a list of the people and companies with whom we work:

H&L Properties: 4 parking lots in San Rafael

Kevin Shipsea: The Mahoney Building and Brewster’s in Petaluma

The Dora Knell Family: The Douglass Building in Petaluma

The City of Novato: The Hill Road creek-side paths…

In addition, we regularly conduct guerrilla-style community clean-up raids when we notice public property that is in need of prettying. (Of course, in so doing, we only go where we are welcome, safe, and legal.)

Combine the above with everything else we pack into each little workweek and you have to admit we are busy. But it’s not just busy. It’s true. It’s big. It’s meaningful. It’s fun. And do you know what’s crazy? We want more!

Can you be our partner too?


Education is a Priority!

In support of the recently enacted Assembly Bill 1041, the Golden Gate Regional Center (GGRC) Board of Directors adopted an Employment First Policy. It reads

Integrated, competitive employment will be the first option considered for every individual supported by GGRC who is of working age, regardless of the severity of disability.

This is important, historic, and huge! And like any huge undertaking, there are thousands of ways we could get it wrong. But we can save that discussion for another (perhaps less upbeat) article.

All we can say for now is that CH&S really wants it to happen and really wants to play a major part in it. If we were the ones wording the policy, however, we’d do it just a little bit differently. We’d say

A high-quality education will be the first option considered for every individual supported by GGRC who is of working age, regardless of the severity of disability.

This is because we believe that what is true for the non-disabled person is also true for the disabled person. Someone who is better educated can better choose from among better choices of better jobs.

For years now, the emphasis within Special Education settings has been shifting away from the traditional classroom and towards work-related experience applicable to likely jobs. Of course, this makes a whole lot of sense. The classroom is not the optimum place for learning to bag groceries, or to do laundry, or to walk dogs.

But as we play up job-readiness skills, we should be careful not to play down “book learnin'." That laundry room may not exactly be the optimum place to learn about Faulkner’s novels or The Hundred Years War… and once someone has found himself in a “real job,” his success may very well hinge upon his scholarship as much as his skills. Inevitably he will have to come off the assembly line and attend the company Christmas party. Does he possess the cultural literacy that it takes to confidently and effectively schmooze? That is the question. Now we are talking about being really and truly INTEGRATED.

At CH&S, we have always taken education seriously and have never assumed that a person’s intellectual or developmental disability precludes his opportunity to meaningfully broaden the breadth of his learning. In addition to concentrating upon vocational training and work services, we offer an extensive, liberal arts curriculum.

We know college is not for everybody; but as we envision Employment First, we feel the opportunity for people to get a real University-style education should be part of the picture, if not a priority.

We aim to be that important "higher educational" step in the process by which you further your career as well as enrich your life.

If you have a job and your hours are unconventional or sporadic and you need a place to go during the day where you won’t be bored and you won’t be wasting your time, we welcome you, whether it is 5 days a week or for just a class here and there. Fit us into your schedule.

The CH&S curriculum is multi-dimensional, dynamic, versatile, accessible, and ambitious. Here is a look at some of the Certificates and Awards students can work toward.

  • Cultural Literacy Certificate(s)
  • Cultural Erudition Certificate(s)
  • Student Teaching Certificate(s)
  • Professionalism Certificate(s)
  • Citizenship Certificate(s)
  • Academic Achievement Certificate(s)
  • Scholastic Action Certificate(s)
  • Independent Study Project Certificate(s)
  • Expressive Arts Awards 
  • And more…

Completion criterion for all of the above typically includes coursework, practicum, and fieldwork. All Certificates, Awards, and Transcript Pages are placed in the Student’s Portfolio and look awfully good on a resume.

Oh… and did we mention? We are having fun!


Project Based Learning


Within the CH&S curriculum, a major emphasis is being placed upon Project Based Learning.

By this approach, we put Person Centered Thinking into action!

 Here are some Tips, Guidelines, and Talking Points for Instructors.

  • It always starts with skillful, empathic listening. Students and instructors engage in a structured, collaborative dialogue wherein project ideas are identified, and action plans are designed.


  • Action Plans will state purposes, describe processes, and envision end products - who, what, when, where, how, and why – (See Project Proposal Forms)


  • Projects are intended not to replace, but to enhance and/or complement existing routines, activities, classes, and service arrangements.


  • Typically, project time will be strategically incorporated into a student’s individualized schedule to maximize smooth and successful experiences.


  • Project time is an opportunity for quality time, an opportunity to make and pursue meaningful choices, an opportunity to make and pursue meaningful community connections.


  • Each project and action plan is individualized to the student, seeking to establish true student ownership.


  • Overlapping project possibility categories may include professionalism / job readiness, scholastics, research, magazine assignments, production, curriculum development, skill building, entrepreneurial endeavors, creative expression, fitness, self-actualization, advocacy / activism, and, of course, whatever.


  • Collaborative projects involving student groups working as teams are encouraged.


  • In consideration of the needs, wishes, objectives, or special conditions presented by certain individuals, there may be service arrangements that are designed to be mostly, if not completely, project based on an appointment basis.


  • Project time sessions will be documented on a transcript page and signed by the student.


  • Each student will also maintain a Project Journal. (See Next Section)



Project Journaling - Some Ideas


  • Describe & discuss your project (status, progress, related ideas, etc.) Describe ideas for other projects.


  • Specify and comment on what you did today or what you have been doing, or what you want to do, or what you’ve been thinking, or how you’re feeling, or something funny that happened, or something you find interesting, etc. (like a diary).


  • Review and discuss subject matter or list talking points from classes, meetings, activities, etc.


  • Focus upon surveys, discussion stimulants, post test questions, daily themes, curricula, etc. (The Philosophy, Elegance, and Professionalism curricula questions are perfect for this.)


  • You can write about stories, memories, dreams, jokes, accomplishments, people you know (but don’t go derogatory) …


  • Comment on current events, movies, sports, hobbies, etc.


  • Say what you want to say to the world! (Keep it clean.)


  • Just answer straight forward questions. (This means the instructors should be prepared with juicy straight forward questions.)


  • Write about worries, concerns, problems within a constructive, resolution-based context.


  • Write about choices, opportunities, community connections.


  • This list can get a lot longer.




  • See this as an opportunity to create productive quality time.
  • An opportunity to empower the student with a voice.
  • An opportunity to stoke the student’s enthusiasm for the project.
  • An opportunity to discover and customize meaningful experiences
  • Material for magazine submissions, project ideas, etc.
  • To gracefully supplement and enhance programming
  • The more readable / entertaining the better
  • If there is no project, the journal IS the project
  • Make sure YOU are having fun with this!




Research / Cultural Literacy Projects


An emphasis upon cultural literacy is a cornerstone of the CH&S approach. As one’s knowledge base broadens and fleshes out, he/she becomes more and more confidently conversant within society and, therefore, more meaningfully integrated, with more opportunities and more choices.


  • Instructors and students collaborate to identify subject matter that is interesting and relevant for the student.


  • Quality time is scheduled in for undertaking Knowledge Projects.


  • This could be on a 1 to 1 basis or within small study groups.


  • Instructors should prepare for each session with Talking Points, Discussion Stimulants / Exercises, Vocabulary, Cultural references / Related Topics, and Review Questions.

             (See General Knowledge / Cultural Literacy Worksheet)


  • Instructors seek opportunities to connect subject matter meaningfully to community experiences, so that “outings” are themed. Community experiences can lead to knowledge classes and knowledge classes can lead to community connections (more on this later).


  • Students may summarize, comment upon, and analyze these community experiences and submit photos, write-ups, video, art, etc. to the CH&S magazine and/or Instagram page.


  • Instructors and students may collaborate to create classes on their subject matter that are added to the CH&S Knowledge curriculum as well as to the student’s portfolio. Students may participate in planning and presenting class material to other students.


  • Students revisit subject matter / class content within regularly scheduled Post Test Question sessions, so that retention is both measured and maximized.


  • Project sessions are tracked on the student’s Transcript Page, and Certificates are earned as transcript pages are completed.


Of course, we know that many of our students are not likely to jump right in there at first and get excited about a project. But since the world is full of fascinating subject matter, General Knowledge is probably our most catch-all project possibility category. With the right topic and with the right teaching style (infectious, respectful, fun), positive momentum can build.  It is nice to see your students really start to recognize themselves as experts on things!  


Professionalism / Job Readiness Projects

As per the Employment First policy adapted by Golden Gate Regional Center, Integrated, competitive employment will be the first option considered for every individual supported by GGRC who is of working age, regardless of the severity of disability.

Sometimes what is overlooked or underplayed in moving people toward employment opportunities is that very important educational component. (Please read the article Education is a Priority! on our website.)

Professionalism has been a staple of the CH&S curriculum for the past couple decades. Classes, for the most part, are fun group experiences, usually to include talking points, discussion stimulants, exercises, role plays, scripts, and mantras, etc.

This very same curricula may also be customized to support those who are earnestly seeking integrated, competitive employment opportunities, as well as those who may already be employed and could benefit from having a reliable forum or sounding board for focusing constructively upon real, workplace-related issues, etc. 

In other words, the CH&S Professionalism curriculum is used remedially in one-to-one and/or in small support group settings.

In addition to transcript pages and certificates, files that include homework assignments, quizzes, surveys, reports, self-evaluations, and other such things related to the course are maintained. 

The instructor and the student also collaborate to maintain the running project journal, as described above.

Perhaps, students involved in Professionalism / Job Readiness Projects can participate in team teaching the CH&S Professionalism curriculum to the larger groups.


Skill Building Projects


Aside from building social and practical skills as a matter of course through our ABA approach (i.e. with differential reinforcement, response conditioning, and task analysis, etc.), we can go on and on with examples of skill building projects for things like learning a musical instrument, learning a language, golf lessons, woodworking, gardening, cooking, performance arts, hobbies, specific work skills, crafts, technology, etc. etc. etc.


Most importantly, the skill building project should be the choice of the student and the student should be motivated, if not passionate, about developing the skill.


Again, the instructor collaborates with the student to identify the project, and design an action plan to include scheduling considerations, optimal resources and conditions, process and method, desired outcomes, motivators, success measurement tools, and practical applications.




Scholarship Projects


Some students love and thrive upon schoolwork. Instructors and students collaborate to identify individualized courses of study on subject matter that is of interest and relevance.

Goals are set, and the student is availed with structure, support, and applicable resources / supplies.

Progress is documented upon transcript pages, certificates are earned, and added, of course, to the student’s portfolio bin.    


Advocacy / Activism / Community Service Projects


As citizens, we are all always, in some way, shape, or form, involved in ongoing civil rights struggles. Projects that raise consciousness, educate, and build skills and savvy when it comes to advocacy and civic discourse can be extremely meaningful. It is especially significant for our disabled students to understand and to have a voice within the State bureaucracy (i.e. Regional Centers, etc.) of which they are a part.  


Action Plans may include:

  • Reading, discussing, demystifying, analyzing articles, position pieces, legislative updates, etc.
  • Participating in and learning from seminars, webinars, conferences, meetings, hearings, etc.
  • Understanding the history and creation myth of the developmental service system in California and how it has evolved to the present time and bears upon the future.
  • Having a working knowledge of concepts, movements, and terms, such as Normalization, Dignity of Risk, The Lanterman Act, Person Centered Thinking, Self-Advocacy, Supported Employment, HCBS and more and more and more.
  • Referencing and sharing one’s personal story and the personal stories of peers through an advocacy lens.
  • Volunteering for worthy community causes and helping others


Activity Kit Production Project


Many students find Production on their schedules. Production activities range and vary to include collating, laminating, sorting, assembling, packaging, shredding, filing, and organizing materials.


CH&S puts together Default / Activity Kits that are customized for people and purpose. These kits may be educational, instructional, meditative, occupational therapy, recreational, or combinations of the above. People may occupy themselves with their preferred Kits during “down time” or the Kits can serve as focal points for “quality time / learning experiences” with staff. Kits include directions and/or suggestions for usage. They are kept in the CH&S curriculum library and used on-site. Students, families, or residential programs may also borrow or order them.


The Activity Kit Production Project engages the student at every level of the process:

the idea, the purpose, the plan, the design, material acquisition, the labor, the presentation, the text, the labelling, the marketing, the distribution, the restocking, the repair, the storage, the usage.


Marked on each Default / Activity Kit is an acknowledgement that lists by name the students involved in


Self-Actualization Projects


In some cases, students may choose to work on personal goals related to self-knowledge, the pursuit of happiness, spiritual fulfillment, wellness, fitness, sobriety, mindfulness, lifestyle skills, and best practices, etc. 


Found within Self Actualization Project Action Plans may be things like

  • 12 Step strategies
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy formats
  • Remedial social skills training
  • Journaling (wellness, dream, project, photo, creative, etc.)
  • Cultivating the PPP mindset / lifestyle
  • Picture and story boards
  • Ancestry research, family history
  • Memoir
  • Tai Chi, meditation, yoga, movement
  • Music, dance, drama / role play
  • Exercise / working out
  • Nutritional studies & practices



Creative Expression Projects


If you are a student who is (or wants to be) a writer, poet, a musician, a songwriter, a painter, a photographer, an actor, a film maker, a comedian, CH&S is a place where you can grow. If you are a poet, for example, your Project may include:


  • Studying poetry, poets, poetic conventions, movements, styles, genres, etc.
  • Reading and analyzing poems or song lyrics
  • Participating in poetry-writing exercises & workshops
  • Attending and/or doing poetry readings
  • Sharing poetry with others and receiving feedback
  • Learning and practicing editing skills
  • Poetry journaling
  • Publishing possibilities, etc.
  • And, of course, concentrating on your masterpiece!


Not everybody considers themselves to be artists or are inclined toward CREATIVE expression. Nonetheless, expression, in one form or on one level or another, is a universal priority for we humans. As per program design, therefore, all students at CH&S have structured and pro-social opportunities to dialogue and to journal. That, in itself, can be the Project.




Entrepreneurial Projects


For students with ideas for starting and/or growing businesses, projects will focus upon stuff like:


  • Business plans
  • Budgets
  • Evaluating
  • Networking
  • Brand
  • Marketing
  • Legalities
  • Management style
  • Decision-making
  • Brainstorming


Journalism Projects / Magazine Assignments


Connection is a cultural literacy magazine that aims to mirror the day-to-day learning experiences of our students.


If you attend our “day program,” you also work for the magazine. In addition to learning, working, and sharing the daily vibe at CH&S, students and instructors alike are always looking for stories and scoops for the magazine and striving to make it a thing of beauty and value.


There are any number of projects and assignments related to the publication of each issue, to include, of course, columns, feature articles, interviews, op-eds, surveys, breaking news, reviews, project reports, cartoons, and photos, as well as editing, proofreading, designing, and troubleshooting.


This collaborative experience affords students enriched learning opportunities, creative outlet, professional skill development, esteem building, and meaningful community connections.


For all the cool things we do, the magazine is a cool place to bring it!





Please do not feel constricted by the above listed categories. Some projects may fall under more than one category, and some may fall under none. When you have a Project-Based Learning mindset, ideas for worthwhile project possibilities, large and small, can be everywhere you look or could come out of nowhere. For that matter, remember that sometimes, where you have a problem, you may very well find a project. 




The Project Center


The Project Center, located at 866 Grant Ave., Novato, Suite #3, next door to the CH&S Business Office, is an additional meeting place, office space, laboratory, and studio for students and advisors undertaking projects in progress, bringing yet another versatile dimension to our person centered, “higher education” approach.


Here are some concepts, visions, plans, and strategies for using it.


  • Instructors appoint and meet with students for project-specific activities.
  • Schedules for some students will comprise mostly, if not only, of project-related appointments with particular or various instructors.
  • Schedules for some instructors will comprise mostly, if not only, of project-related appointments among a caseload of various students.
  • Project activities taking place at the Project Center may be structured in as part of the regular schedule for some students.
  • More than one student project can be happening at the Project Center simultaneously. This can set a tone of collegiality as students share information and input about their projects.
  • Sometimes the Project Center can just be a classy place to socialize.
  • Just because it is called the Project Center does not mean all projects are centered there. Many are not. Where, when, and how a project is undertaken is prescribed within the customized action plan.
  • Instructors may bring groups to the Project Center for regularly scheduled classes or activities just to change things up or to make it feel special.
  • Some classes or activities that combine groups from both campuses may take place at the Project Center.
  • The Project Center can be a place for a student to have “time away” from the regular campus action. This can be helpful sometimes to manage anxiety, to prevent or resolve conflict, to better concentrate upon subject matter or skill-building, to conduct replacement behavior training, or for CBT-like counselling, etc.
  • Conceivably, by arrangement, students may “drop in” at the Project Center to work on their projects or to use the resources.
  • Students may only use the Project Center when staff are present (either in Suite 3 or 4).
  • Materials, files, documentation, tracking information, and postings, etc. regarding projects are centrally stored and showcased at the Project Center.
  • The Project Center may be a place where Activity Kits are assembled and kept, and it may also be a place where other similar mass production and/or arts & crafts-like activities can take place.
  • The Project Center may serve as a base of operation and/or a community destination for those receiving a 1 to 1, community-based service through CH&S.
  • The Project Center may serve as the principle operational office for the Connection Magazine.
  • The Project Center is also available for staff meetings / trainings, board meetings, promotional or social events, etc.
  • Any proposal for usage of the Project Center must include a viable plan for clean-up, to include disposal or storage of materials or waste, etc.
  • A system for coordinating the above is still needed.



How can I work on a project with one student when I have 3 or 4 other students in the group?


Of course, a lot depends on who are the students and what are the projects… but here are some possible arrangements.


  • You work with one student while the rest of your group joins another group or participates within a larger group activity.


  • You work with one student while other students occupy themselves with default activity kits or similarly individualized activities.


  • Identify projects that the group can work on together.


  • Involve the additional students as a gallery of partial participants or a live studio audience. They may be entertained… or even inspired!


  • Set up each of the students to work on their individualized projects simultaneously within a positive group dynamic with you there to orchestrate, support, reinforce, and keep it fun, etc.


  • Have a project staff or administrator work with your student while you stay with your group.


  • Work with your student while a project staff, administrator, or co-worker stays with your group.


What is the difference between the Project Journal and the Individualized Communication Log?


The Communication Log is the instructor’s voice reporting on the day, to include details, observations, or hypotheses (if any) that may supplement or flesh out the data.


The Project Journal is interactive quality time between the student and the instructor focused upon the student’s voice, (See description in section above about journaling.)



What about students who are disinterested, non-responsive, or resistive to Project Based Learning?


Students don’t have to have projects and projects don’t have to be all big, major, and ambitious. Many students are perfectly content with functional comfort zones and routines that are predictable and engaging.


These individuals do, however, expect to be in dialogue with their instructors.


The first project, therefore, for the instructor is to make that dialogue actionable. Start with journaling. Since the student and the instructor will be conversing and communicating anyway, why not keep a running record in the journal, and why not make it as readable, fun, and real as possible? (Again, see section above about journaling.) As mentioned above, if there is no project, the journal IS the project.


Through dialogue and skillful utilization of a Q and A format, perhaps subject matter of interest and relevance to the student may be discovered. This may actually lead to something like a knowledge project. (See section above about Research – Cultural Literacy Projects.)


Some students (we’re not naming any names), just by principle, simply won’t follow the schedule. They will just do their own thing no matter what. Instead of always trying to get them to follow schedules, try coming up with schedules that follow them.


Each morning,

  • acknowledge that the student can do his/her own thing (as long as it is safe, legal, and respectful of others, etc.)
  • avail the student of the schedule options we are offering for that day just in case he/she wants to go for it.
  • ask what it is the student does plan to do
  • jot it down and reinforce the student for making his/her own schedule.


At the end of the day,

  • ask what the student did that day
  • get a verbal report of how it went
  • collaborate to put a written report in the journal
  • reinforce the student for mission accomplished


If the student watched a football game on his phone, for example, get a recap of the game… Who was the hero? What were the highlights? Was the game close? Was it an upset?


If the student read fashion magazines all day… What magazines? What looks were interesting? What did you like about that? Have you heard of that designer? Is that something you would wear?


If the student did not follow his/her planned schedule, validate the choice and report on what he/she did do.


If the student chose to do nothing or is not willing to participate in the journaling process, respectfully, succinctly, and non-judgmentally indicate as much in the journal. Believe me! Tomorrow is another day!


Regularly go back with the student and reread past journal entries.


In collaboration with the student, continue adding to a menu of schedule options to draw from when making future choices.


What if the student is non-verbal?


Well then, first-person journal entries could look like…


“My staff thought I did a beautiful job on the art project.”

“I look happy in this picture probably because I knew I was getting a piece of that pie.”

“It seemed like I had to wait forever for the van.”

“Everyone knows I love that song.”


Attempt to speak honestly for the student in describing his/her experience from your positive perspective. Make sure you are sharing it with the student and that he/she likes/approves/agrees. VERY HELPFUL to use pictures and captions. 


Photo-journaling can be an easy, fun, and useful project. Simply take pictures of what you did or where you went or something in your life or of interest, and collaborate to supply captions, comments, descriptions, or whatever. Keep adding to the album and regularly page back to enjoy past entries.


The Community Connection - Keep it Simple and Make it Mean Something!


Most day programs are very nice. They conduct classes and activities. They go on outings.  They provide skills training and work experiences. And they serve snacks and treats. We do all that, but of course, we see ourselves as an institute for higher learning. As educators, we are always looking to recognize and to maximize learning opportunities and growth potential in whatever we do.


Community access activities at CH&S, for example, are always scripted for purposefulness. You are not merely a “client” on an “outing” with your “group.” You are truly an investigative reporter, a photographer, a columnist, a researcher, maybe an anthropologist, a feature story, breaking news, and, of course, always a student… and sometimes a student teacher.


Whether it is a record store, a pizza joint, a community garden, or a hike in a park, there are people and things to know and people and things to learn from wherever you go. As a rule of thumb, whenever you go on a “community outing,” you should always go with questions and ideally come back with answers.


For instance, if you are photo journaling,


  1. Formulate a plan. We are going to take pictures of dogs. Review the Knowledge Class we just had on Dogs. What are your questions?


  1. Go for it & get some good pictures.


  1. Come back and report. Tell the story. Answer the questions… Where was this dog? What breed? What about that breed? What about the owner? What else about your experience with that dog? Does it remind you of dogs from your past?



Maybe now you have something meaningful and memorable to show for the experience. It might become a magazine entry. It might just go in your journal or album. You might send it to your mother. It may be the beginning of a bigger project. It may be some or all the above.


Students with Visions


Instructors who truly take the Project Based Learning approach to heart are much less likely to burn out and much more likely to love their jobs.


After all, you are not just trying to get “behavior problems” to behave all day.  You are sharing productive quality time with people who are enthusiastically invested in doing beautiful and relevant stuff. And you are putting yourself in a position to appreciate, reinforce, and showcase their successes.


We are all always messaging, and optics are of utmost importance. At CH&S, students may look any number of places to see the fruits of their labors on glorious display - the magazine, the curriculum library, the portfolio bins, their transcript pages, certificates on the wall, their project journals, photo albums, Instagram, galleries, their person-centered ISPs, job opportunities, public postings, and day-to-day interactions that are flavored with professional pride.


Ergo, our PPPs (Positive Personal Profiles) live and breathe!


A Word For Our Sponsors 

I like the Public Broadcasting Station (PBS). It “celebrates diversity, embraces innovation, values lifelong learning, and partners with those who show a passion for public service.”

When I watch PBS, I do not feel like I am wasting my time or rotting my mind. If you need a break from ticky-tacky laugh tracks, vacuous vulgarians, and nattering nabobs, turn the channel to PBS. You will feel smart, proud, and inspired.

I think I like PBS because it is a lot like our non-profit organization, Community Homes and Services (CH&S). Just take all of those nice attributes listed above and, hey yeah… That’s us!

To be honest, however, one thing does annoy me about PBS (and I don’t think I’m alone on this). I know it is an extremely worthy cause, but why do they always have to interrupt a perfectly wonderful show to shamelessly badger us for a solid half hour about pledging a donation? I, for one, would more likely and more happily give with just a tasteful and succinct little reminder now and again.

CH&S is not like a lot of other non-profits. We don’t put much effort into fundraising (like we probably should). Frankly, it is just not in our nature to do so.

I guess we think of ourselves as PBS minus the campaign drive.

So here it is… our tasteful and succinct little reminder: You can read all about CH&S on this website and while you’re here, go ahead and press the Donate button.

And now… back to our Program!




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