One Stone with Chad Carlson
June 29, 2021
One Stone with Chad Carlson

What would schools look like if we had students in the driver’s seat where they could define for themselves what their education looks like? Can we create a reality where student choice, voice, and autonomy support their learning, the community, and societal development?

Today, I’m talking with Chad Carlson of One Stone. Chad is the Director of Research and Design at the One Stone Lab School in Boise, Idaho. 

One Stone is a program designed by high school students for high school students. This student-driven non-profit provides high school students with transformative opportunities to drive their learning, practice-relevant 21st-century skills, and engage in purpose-driven and passion-based learning. 

They allow students to define their learning experience and empower by developing their voice, exploration of choices, and personal agency.


About Chad Carlson:

Chad Carlson has been in the field of independent education for more than seventeen years, working with both middle and high school students in humanities, language arts, and Spanish. He recently returned to Boise after several years at an International Baccalaureate School in Bogotá, Colombia, and at an independent school in Sun Valley, Idaho. Chad received his B.A. in humanities from the University of Oregon and his M.A. in Latin American studies from UCSD and recently earned his Masters in Educational Leadership at Boise State University.

Learn more about One Stone by following them on Facebook and Twitter.


Jump Through the Conversation:

  • [2:21] The origin story of One Stone, a student-founded high school
  • [5:03] Benefits of student-driven learning
  • [9:14] A student journey of discovery and redefinition
  • [16:03] Living in Beta
  • [22:22] Roadblocks to student-led and real-world, relevant learning
  • [46:15] Chad’s Magic Wand: Getting rid of standardized tests and curriculum
  • [47:26] Maureen’s Take-Aways


Links and Resources:


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Maureen O’Shaughnessy  0:03  

Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at education evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present-day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host, and founder of education, evolution, and the micro-school coalition, where we are fiercely committed to changing the narrative to reimagining the education landscape and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  0:50  

If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe to our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around awhile, have you left a review?


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  1:08  

Hi, Chad, it is so good to have you on education evolution today. Good morning, Marina. How are you doing? Great, thank you. And listeners. Today I’m chatting with Chad Carlson has one stone designed by high school students for high school students. One stone is a place where learners are in the driver’s seat, founded in 2008. One stone is a student-driven nonprofit that empowers student’s voices and provides high school students with transformative opportunities to drive their learning, practice-relevant 21st-century skills, and engage in purpose-driven and passion-based learning. And I’m reading this verbatim because this program, the school, all the things that they do are inspirational and my micro-school is learning so much from them that I just, I didn’t want to miss a single word. So let’s hear from Chad, how one stone is making this happen.


Chad Carlson  2:05  

All right, well, yeah, let’s jump in and talk all about One Stone. So Maureen, if I hit on anything that’s important for you, you want to know more about just interrupt me. But okay, one stone was founded in 2008. And really got its foot in the door got started working with students from various different high schools throughout the Treasure Valley here in Boise in the after-school arena. And so working with students in really an experiential service and doing service projects within the community. The experience that they did we call project good, became so popular that students, you know, we had about 150 students at one point from 15 different high schools started asking themselves, why can’t learn to be like this? Why do we have to go to school all day, and do the things that we don’t find as important, irrelevant, and waiting until four o’clock to me and do the things that we do find as important and relevant? And this is really kind of a quick summary of the story or synopsis. So we’re in 2015, a bunch of students, many of them who were on the board of one stone, got together work with the executive director and the executive directors husband, Joel Poppin, both cofounders of one stone and thought, what might it look like to design a school? What would a school what would learning look like if this were to be school? So they really took this idea that was founded in 2008, in the after-school arena, working in experiential service, really around things that broke students’ hearts that were important to students that we’re relevant to students. And we built a school around that. And so a lot of what we do in lab 51, and we do during the day at the high school that we built with students is all about helping students find their passion, get engaged in in the community, and really, really make their learning, I guess, purposeful, meaningful, and relevant to them.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  3:59  

Wow, and what you say sounds easy and obvious. But I know from starting a school that it’s incredibly hard to do something that different. And anytime that we have students involved, that we need to really be open to different layers of conversation and different stories so that you’ve done what some people will logically know would be brilliant. I have not heard of another school doing it the way you’ve done it. And with students so much in the driver’s seat, I really do think you are kind of that poster child for student agency every step of the way. And I say that based also on being at your fundraiser in January where students ran the whole thing and we’re on top of everything. So Chad, what you’ve done is amazing and I’m curious about student agency having voice and choice. Why is this so important to you? Education and what do you see as the benefits from doing it this way?


Chad Carlson  5:05  

Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think I mean, they’re there. First of all, there are a lot of benefits, I think in the world of learning, you know, we are designed to, you know, we are curious by nature. But that curious is curiosity is usually not, you know, structured and formed into pre-designed curriculum and textbooks and, and somebody else defining what learning looks like. And so, by giving students agency and, you know, the voice on their learning, you really empowering students to go about learning in a way that fits their, their approach to learning or fitting their modality of learning by, you know, empowering students to get engaged in real-world learning. So that’s community-based projects, and place-based learning, and experiential learning. You’re making learning meaningful for students, and so they want to be engaged, they want to make a difference, they want to grow. And I think looking at some of the challenges that we see, in today’s high school experience for so many students across the country, students are increasingly becoming disengaged, students are increasingly losing hope. And they don’t understand that they’re not able to connect the purpose to what they’re doing in the classroom, to their personal lives outside of high school and to their futures, they don’t understand what they’re doing, and how it’s going to prepare them for life beyond high school. And so by really, you know, empowering student agency, we’re able to kind of get at the heart of some of these greater challenges and engage students from the get-go. And it’s incredibly empowering and transformative for the students.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  6:39  

Love that. And we see a mental health crisis right now with our youth and losing hope and feeling like things are meaningless or that they don’t have value or purpose. So not only are you helping students be future-ready, but you’re showing them up with confidence and with ownership and with so many things important for mental health, are you seeing kids perhaps come to you feeling a little defeated? I see that sometimes, and seeing a transformation as they’re with you?


Chad Carlson  7:09  

Oh, absolutely. So I think we kind of call it the learning curve. students join wants to know, there’s a bit of a learning curve to go from how learning had been from them to this idea of, you know, they’ve got voice and choice and agency and how to design designing their path and their, their learning trajectory. And so, you know, it takes a lot of work. But we do see students, I wouldn’t mean, in some cases, I would say, some are defeated. But I think in a lot of cases, you see students kind of thinking like, well, this is just going to be, you know, another experience where I’m a student, you’re the teacher, and this is the school and I need to do, and they really quickly that it’s learned that it’s not that way, and some learn through tremendous successes, and, you know, fulfilling, I don’t know, endeavors that they do once and others learn through failure, where they’re like, wow, you know, I really waited for you to pick me up and tell me what to do. And you didn’t, and I realized that it is all about me. And so, you know, kind of going through that learning curve, I think, is really part of the chant the beginning of the transformation for students. So there, you know, we’re not getting necessarily all students feeling defeated, but they’re, you know, so many different students feel different ways, whether it’s developing trusting relationships with adults, or if it’s, you know, really testing the bounds of like, well, how much agency do I have? Or how many choices Do I really have? Or how, how student-driven is this really, you know, testing those boundaries. And, you know, it’s fascinating, every learner that comes through the doors is different with a different experience. And so we’re, we’re, we’re working with each of them, to try and help them understand that learning is a lifelong endeavor. And what they do at one stone is just the beginning of that, of that journey of learning how to own your learning.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  8:58  

I love that. And I know we had a student scheduled to be joining you today and couldn’t make it. Can you maybe tell us a student story of a student that you think had a powerful experience or is having a powerful experience at one stone?


Chad Carlson  9:12  

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s an I’ve got several different students that Well, I mean, lots of different students and student stories. I guess the one that I tell most frequently is a young man that I advised a couple of years back who came to one stone, pretty much I think he knew what he wanted to do. And I might have told you the story before marine but this young man wanted to be a power rescue man, you know, serving I think it was in the Air Force in the Navy, jumping behind lines, helping wounded soldiers. And you know, that was his thing. He was 15. He was very idealistic. He’s very excited to get into the armed services and, and help others. And so we began crafting experiences for him to do this. During his summer experience at one stone he took on for his kind of internship slash passion project and opportunity to work at the Civil Air Academy and Gowan field here in Boise where he spent I think it’s about two weeks, really kind of living the life, you know, a cadet of some sort of, he got to do all sorts of stuff, he lived in the barracks, he got to ride on a Blackhawk helicopter, you know, Martian formation and did all that kind of cool stuff. And he, you know, he came back to one stone during the summer. 


Chad Carlson  10:27  

And, you know, he had his army fatigues on and his boots shine and were showing us how to stand in attention and whatnot. And it was all really impressive. And he seemed like he was on top of the world. At the end of the summer, he, you know, he came back to the beginning of fall term and, and he just kind of seemed down and I thought, well, he’s down because he’s not doing what he loves to do. He’s not, you know, back at the, you know, at the base, you know, engaged in what he wants to do, he just wants to go to high school. And it turned out, it was quite the opposite. He was down because of what he had done in that experience, he learned that he didn’t, he didn’t actually want to do that. He, he learned that that wasn’t the type of person that he wanted to become. He didn’t like the fact that he lost some of his individual identity, that he thought that he lost a little bit of who he was and that he felt kind of like he was just as much as he liked the leadership after that. He felt lost in this experience. And so he’s a little bit down because this had been his dream. And I kind of thought, like, oh, man, we kind of like, crushed his work his dream. And working with him, what we did is we stepped back and we unpacked it like, Well, you know, did you not like anything about this experience. And, you know, it turned out there were a lot of aspects that he did, like, he loved the leadership aspect, he loved learning with his hands, he loves learning by doing, he loves to be depended on and counted on. And he loves to help others learn. So we started building other experiences at one stone forum that kind of took these ideas and ideals into mine. And then, in the fall of that year, later, on the fall, there was a wilderness first aid courses, a two-day course, that, you know, was being held at a local school and, you know, kind of convinced him that he should try this out. And he went, and he tried it out. And he’s like, this is my new thing. It’s got all the aspects that I love, but I can still be myself, I can still be a leader, I can still work with my hands and, and I can help others who are in need. And so anyway, long story short, he goes on, he got his EMT, bison, he got his wilderness first responder certificate, he now goes to our city of Idaho and medical sciences and works at the Moscow volunteer fire department, and is just on top of the world. He’s loving what he does. But through that, I mean, it was an It’s a story of success. But during it, it was extremely challenging, because he also learned about things that he didn’t like, and he learned a little bit about imposter passions. And, you know, really trying to meet the expectations of others where he learned that if you really step back from experiences reflected on what drove him and what got him up in the morning, he really learned more about himself. And so you know that that’s always a tremendous story. Whenever I think about the power of the one-stone experiences students can have, it’s that idea of finding themselves, and finding ways to connect that idea of identity and who they are, and really what makes them tick with the world outside of high school.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  13:25  

I love that story. And I’m watching my daughters, they’re in their 20s try different things on, and yeah, I like this, but I don’t think I want a career in that. I think that the more we can give students this opportunity in high school, the more it can inform their post-secondary choices. And conversely, in some of my daughter’s friends, I hear stories of Yeah, I got this degree or I did this and I have student loan debt. So I’m sitting at a desk doing something I hate because I’m trapped by this financial obligation, and they’re miserable in their early 20s. Because they didn’t get to unpack an idea. Try some things on fine-tuning it. So when you talk about high school is a time for kids to become future-ready. I can’t imagine what’s more important than unpacking their identity and what their hopes are. This sounds so much more relevant than a textbook. Heavy experience would be.


Chad Carlson  14:21  

Yeah, absolutely. That Yeah, I love that idea. Kind of what you iterated there and Marina and that kind of just trying to find yourself and, and test, test your interests, test your curiosities, and see what they’re all about. I think there’s a lot of pressure on students in today’s world to know who they are. And always think about the future as opposed to thinking about the present and thinking about who they are today and testing that and so they’re, they’re continually kind of living in this world that isn’t quite there yet. They’re told to just continue and march on and eventually they’ll be able to go out into the world and make a living as opposed to you know, at the age of 15 And 16, when you’re so creative and so energetic, and so you know, inspired by others, it’s a time to really try and figure out who you are. And I think a lot of the traditional route in high school doesn’t take advantage of that. And our students have to pay the price. And so that idea of testing is a big part of, of one stone in one’s own experience. And we really try and help students create and craft as many different experiences as they can to test out different things, even if they go into something like, oh, I’m not a stem person, I can’t stand stem, we’ve had so many students who get into different fields, they’re like, Whoa, I love this. And it’s like, well, he’s you know, this is a STEM field, they’re like, oh, get out of here. And so really helping students understand that learning does not have to look a certain way, that they’re able to really to do different things that maybe they’re passionate about, and find ways to connect that to learning and connect that to what they might do in the future.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  15:57  

I love that. And that’s a perfect segue into my next question, you have a part of a component of your one stoning experience is called living in beta. And you’ve shared that with my microscope, I’d love to have you explain what this is where you got that title from? And how that tie into what we’re talking about right now?


Chad Carlson  16:18  

Yeah, absolutely. Living in beta is our kind of a high school Wayfinding program. Although we’re working with students who are middle school students, and we’re working with students in aged out foster care, and even college-level students in the area of Wayfinding. And this concept of living in beta is this idea that we are in constant iteration and caused, you know, kind of evolution, as we learn more about ourselves, our interests change. And as we get older, our interests evolved. And maybe one thing that you loved when you were younger, you don’t like so much and something that you didn’t like you are suddenly interested or in or, or, you know, starting to grow up passionate. And so through living in beta, we really help our students explore different areas of learning, explore different ways to connect their learning with the world, we help them make discoveries about themselves to kind of make key insights about those experiences, and what they’ve learned about themselves, really, ultimately, to find a greater sense of who they are, and purpose. So they can actually, you know, go out into the world and realize, and self-actualize that purpose. So they’re there, these four stages of exploration, discovery, purpose, and self-actualization, that we don’t see as really a linear path, but more of a cyclical experience. And, you know, we’re helping students develop the tools and the mindsets, to really see their learning, as something that they can be very intentionally driven with, to, to make connections with themselves, and to make learning more meaningful. And so this Wayfinding program is both about developing a better sense of self and also a better sense of how do I connect who I am with the world outside so that I can design the life I want to live?


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  18:05  

Yes, please, we need that all of our students all of us, and just have permission to continue to grow and evolve. I don’t know why we have this idea that you leave high school, you get this degree in this area that you figured out at age 16 1718. And then you spend the next 30 years doing that that is so not the path. I have heard of any of my family, friends, anybody. But that’s what the kind of harness we put on our students and when they’re overwhelmed is like, right, because it doesn’t work for any of us. So why are we putting on this path that none of us have followed? It seems like this should be something that’s more woven into all schools, getting away from some of the textbooks and really helping kids unpack their strengths, their passions, and explore and try these things on. And I know that you have a sense of at one stone, wanting to share, not hoard what you’ve done, but share it with others. What are you doing to try and help others have access to creating this experience for students?


Chad Carlson  19:15  

Yeah, absolutely. Well, I mean, we completely agree. I mean, we think that you know, the purpose behind education should be very different than it was maybe 2030 years ago, we’re the very industrialized model. And today, in today’s world, our, you know, our youth are expected to have three or four, I think it’s five different jobs slash careers between when they graduate from high school and when they’re 35, which is very different than, than anything we’ve seen in the past during the 20th century. And so what we’re doing at one stone to kind of get this model or this idea out, is we are doing our best to kind of codify exactly what it is that we’re doing these different experiences these different activities for Wayfinding You know, making it accessible to other schools. And so right now we’re piloting the living in the beta program with nine different schools, one of which is yours, to get as much feedback as we can about how the experience is working for their students, what is working, what isn’t working, what type of professional development to teachers, and adults and mentors need to help students. You know, as much as this is a new way of maybe new approach to learning, it’s also very much a new approach to teaching and mentorship for adults. And so we’re all kind of learning and growing as we go. And so a big part of what we’re doing is one trying to make our materials accessible to other schools, and then to design a professional growth series around helping adults, mentor students in this area. And it doesn’t have to be in a traditional school framework, it can be community organizations, we’re working with an aged-out foster care group, we’re working with a refugee center down in our community center down in Tucson, Arizona, well with independent schools, charter schools, and public schools. And so really anywhere that’s working with students say 1213 to 22. And the more I work on it, I’m like, Oh, this stuff applies to me by you know, as close. So, you know, it’s really powerful stuff and what we’re doing to get it out in the world, we’re doing our best to find ways to support learners, and to support the adults that are working with them to try and kind of move the needle and understanding like, what what is the purpose of learning? And how might we support students and identifying their sense of self and how they connect that to their learning?


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  21:39  

Yes, you know, when you say that, and branching out, I’m thinking about how hard educational change is. And I mean, my doctoral research was on this in the 90s. And it’s so hard to get changed. And in a recent podcast, I had a behavioral economist on the show, and she was explaining how little we do consciously, and how much we do subconsciously like 40 bits a second consciously to 11 million subconsciously. So we’re overcoming like herding instinct that we survive, when we’re in groups, when we branch off the saber-toothed Tiger could get us or whatever it is. So we’re overcoming so much. And I’m just wondering, what are you seeing as some roadblocks to me? It seems like what you’re offering everybody say, sign me up. But what are you seeing as some roadblocks or some maybe traditional things that are or unconscious things that are getting in the way of this catching on like wildfire?


Chad Carlson  22:37  

Yeah. Well, so that’s a great question there. There are a lot of roadblocks, I think, probably the greatest roadblock we’ll talk about to one is time, you know, I think very well-intended educational leaders and teachers who were like, We want to do this stuff. But how do we do this in 15 minutes a day, and you can now you know, you can’t take something as important as the development of purpose and sense of self and exploration of passions, and try and carve it into 15 minutes a day. It’s not programmatic that way. So I think that is a hurdle. You know, schools, larger organizations that are, I think, a little bit more, with more constraints and more structured, are having a hard time finding, like, how do we do this in a way that is really kind of allows for the fidelity of the program and the experience. So that that’s probably one of the greater hurdles, I think the other hurdle is really, you know, I think adults struggling with the kind of re-evaluating their role in, in a student’s learning trajectory, or, or education, you know, and really understanding that it’s hard, you, you know, I think we’re so used to being able to measure success and measure learning, and we’re kind of under the pressure to have this sense of like continued success, the camp, any lols, or any flat spots in the growth, you know, the reality there is there’s going to be, it’s going to be messy, it’s not always going to be kind of this like, perfect trajectory of all A’s and, and moving along, there’s, there’s going to be moments of doubt and insecurity, and, and even, like, why am I doing this? And I think that’s really hard for adults to accept and, you know, we’re one stone I think, we want to transform the learning experience, but I, you know, I don’t think we’re out to like transform education and, and it would be great to do that. But that’s not our goal. Our goal is to really help students become better leaders make the world a better place. We would love for schools across the country to jump in as well. But yeah, it’s kind of a juggernaut. You know, how do you move the needle on the system of education, and I think that’s going to be a collective. That’s got to be a collective movement, not just a, you know, small movement, but it’s going to come from post-secondary education. So it’s going to come from colleges and universities, it’s got to come from industry leaders. It’s got to come from, you know, parents who want something more for their, their students. And it’s got to come from students. So yeah, anyway.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  25:13  

Well, I, I completely agree as I dive in more to this neuroscience, when you talk about the timepiece, I’ve been learning about optimism bias that we think we can get more in a day than we can, oh, yeah, I can, I can add this into advisory No problem, and that we overbook ourselves. And that’s something that we do subconsciously. And the whole idea that we have to come together and have different conversations, I am happy to be part of the adaptive collective. And I know one stone is to getting more voices, getting youth getting business getting parents, because when I’ve gone off and been at conferences with other educational innovators, we’re on fire, we’re like-minded. And then we go back into the trenches and getting sucked into daily reality. That’s not creating the change. And as I listen to podcasts on my podcast, amazing people, it should be on fire. And it’s not, it’s at the whim of the public school funding or different things. So we’ve got to look at having the conversation differently, and more completely, and, and it’s going to be a collective effort, like all of our institutions, that’s hard work. But I really love that you’re engaging in that and that you’re sharing living in beta and wanting to unpack How can we get the teachers to look at things differently? And how can we create, you know, different prioritization of time to overcome some of these obstacles, it’s institutional change is super hard, and you’re fiercely taking it on? So that’s, you know, hats off? That’s amazing.


Chad Carlson  26:41  

Yeah, it’s it’s a mindset shift when we talk about, you know, living in beta, and we talked about helping students develop the tools and the mindset. So it’s, you know, it’s adults as well. And it’s the systems as well developing this new mindset for, you know, what is the purpose of education? What is the purpose of learning? And, you know, what types of experiences should we help students create, in order to really, you know, help them learn and maximize their human potential? So, yeah, it is. It’s a massive undertaking for sure.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  27:10  

Yes. And you know, what, our microscope, we’re in our eighth year, I’ve had to non-renew teachers, and we’ve done intensive work before they’ve come in, and they’ve done mock interviews and teachers and everybody, and students have interviewed them. And they really don’t get that they’re coaches and not leaders. And like, I say, Wait, wait, this isn’t about lecturing. But this is my favorite topic I love talking about it’s like, oh, dear, you don’t get this isn’t about teachers talking about stuff. It’s about coaching kids to engage in their passions, and, and, and to guide and coach and that mindset shift, I’ve actually had to go for the most part with younger teachers that don’t have a ton of traditional experience, because it’s pretty hard to unwind that experience and to make it a different paradigm about coaching versus being the expert dispensing information. So when you said mindset, it’s like, yeah, that’s a big deal.


Chad Carlson  28:06  

Yeah, it’s a huge deal. We’re very intentional about, you know, how we hire as well, we, you know, we look at a variety of different people coming from different backgrounds. And, you know, we aren’t just looking for people with traditional teaching backgrounds, in fact, we’re open to anybody. And so we’ve got a couple of patent attorneys that have joined us as decided, wow, they’d love to coach. One of them was, was starting a practice and, and was just, you know, coaching part-time at one stone. And he came in and was just like, you know, starting this practice, my mind should really be in that game, but I go home, and all I could think about is the projects we’re working on at one stone. And, you know, can I work more hours here, and he ended up becoming full-time, just because he just loved it so much. You know, and it’s so cool. And we’ve got a number of just part-time coaches who come in and, you know, Coach Farsi, or, or Korean or French or German, who, you know, the same thing. They’re just like, I love working with the students. And we’re just looking for people who love to work with kids love to make learning fun, and don’t see themselves as kind of the center of the learning or the kind of the gatekeeper to information, but more of the, you know, a person is going to help them enjoy learning. And so they find it. And I think there are some really great, experienced educators out there as well. But that mindset is really hard to overcome. Yeah. When you when you’ve been raised through it, and then when you’ve worked through it, it’s hard to see things differently.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  29:40  

Yes. And it’s hard for our parents, they’re like, I want the best for my kids. Of course, you and I get that as parents, and the best must be what I’m familiar with that status quo piece. And I just interviewed a couple of my alum that are finishing their second year of college and they said no, we are killing it at college because of the relationships At our high school with you guys. And because we got to develop our identity and what we loved, we didn’t need hours of textbooks and writing papers, we needed to figure out what our passions were. So we could be studying that in college and one of them is going to take a gap year and just kind of sort things out and then possibly move to Hawaii to continue is that’s where she’s from. So really intentional pieces based on the relationships and the experiences in high school. And I think our parents are worried that, you know, because colleges, textbooks, and lectures, high school has to be that to get them ready. It’s like no when kids know themselves and what they want, they can do textbooks, they can do papers, and it’s not that they don’t have any research or any writing in a non-traditional high school. It’s just that it’s relevant. So I think we have to help the parents connect the dots that a non-traditional high school does not mean, they can’t go on to a traditional college, although it’d be nice to have more choices for them. And I love it when kids find more choices.


Chad Carlson  30:55  

Yeah, absolutely. Well, and just being an early adopter, I think is really hard for anybody, you know, particularly parents, I think you hit it, it’s like parents just want what’s what is best for their kids. And so, being an early adopter to something new and different, that, you know, maybe is less proven, is challenging. And, you know, the I think, you know, for our students, a lot of our students go on to traditional four-year schools, but what I see is they’ve got a greater sense of purpose as to what they want to do there and why they’re going and, you know, whatever, whatever route they choose, or a trajectory they, they are on as long as it’s kind of purpose-driven, as long as they have an understanding that they are driving that and there’s some intentionality around that. That’s what’s most important. And that sense of agency, as opposed to the kind of going through the life of, you know, doing what I should do, and kind of going after those things that you feel like you must do, and really following your heart, I think, you know, you’ll, you’ll find a much happier, more fulfilled person as they get older.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  31:55  

Absolutely. And speaking of the person, I love taking a bit of the time together, just to do some triple time questions, because you are so much more than one stone. So I would love to fire some questions at you. Please do. Chad, what’s the last book you read?


Chad Carlson  32:16  

Okay, so, yes, just finished. Think again, I think it thinks again, by Adam Grant. So I love all things nonfiction. I’m not I mean, I read some fiction, but usually more during the summer when I have free time. I love nonfiction. But as a leadership team, we just read think, again by Adam Grant that’s all about kind of just rethinking reconsidering all of those kinds of truths that we assumed to be truths, and how to kind of life in this world of like we said earlier, this world of beta, and continue to like, to iterate upon ideas and reconsider ideas. So yeah, that was a really powerful read for me. And I’ve enjoyed it. Adam grants a great writer, he’s got so many stories kind of woven into the bigger message. So yeah, that’s been a good one.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  33:03  

Thank you. I’m gonna put this on my summer reading list. And listeners, of course, we’ll have this in the show notes. So you don’t have to worry if you’re listening while you’re out on a walk or whatever. Chad, how about inspirational folks, or characters and literature, or whatever that you would love to meet?


Chad Carlson  33:21  

Okay. I would love to meet, although he’s passed away. But I wouldn’t have loved to have met Gabrielle Garcia Marquez. Yes. Learn about how in the world if he right 100 Years of Solitude, that was just the most amazing novel. And you know, just follow the storyline and the pattern, I don’t even know I couldn’t even wrap my head around like this guy. Right. The story following it was hard enough. But I just loved that read. He’s kind of just the Latin American Mark Twain for me. And so yeah, I lived in Colombia for a couple of years. So, Marc Marquez is someone who I would have loved to have met. Yeah. Did you say to people, yeah, if you can think of another I guess I’d love to meet Barack Obama. He is just so well-spoken, but also so thoughtful, and in calling. And so beyond politics, just as a person, the human being, I just love what he has to say and how he says it, how he delivers his message. It’s so so powerful.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  34:29  

Yes, I read Michelle Obama’s autobiography becoming and it was fun to hear her describe Brock through her lens, and it was just like, wow, this guy I who knew he was so brilliant. I mean, I loved a lot of his attributes but sounds like from day one. He was that out-of-the-box thinker. rethinking things, just like you’re talking about.


Chad Carlson  34:52  

Yeah, it’s just so human-like, and he looks back on his time as a president like yeah, I made some mistakes, and here’s where I could have done better and So cool to hear people talk about themselves that way. It’s Yeah.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  35:06  

Yeah. And giving himself permission to be human gives us permission to own up to Yeah, the good things and the things that we want to learn from Yeah. How about a TED talk that inspires you?


Chad Carlson  35:17  

Okay, TED talk. I get. So I’ve watched a lot of TED Talks. I love Ted Radio Hour. But I really liked it. I think it was Andy puddicombe. He’s the founder of headspace. And he talks all about mindfulness and meditation. And I, you know, had the headspace app for a while as I was kind of going through some, some moments of, of intense anxiety and doubts and whatnot. And is that another person? His voice is just so calming? And he’s got the coolest? I think it’s, I mean, I think I’ve watched that it’s probably 10 minutes, his TED Talk, it’s really quick. But he just really talks about how to kind of get out in front of yourself and get up, get out in front of your thoughts and calm things down. And there are so many times where, where I, you know, my mind will be racing at two, three in the morning, and I need to be sleeping. The voice comes into my mind, and I right away, calm down. And I’m like, okay, so yeah, I would say that his TED Talk probably at this particular moment in my life is very inspirational for me.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  36:28  

Yes, with so many things that you’re juggling and the end of the school year and pandemic. Yeah, I think that’s, that’s like a great choice. We all need a voice of calm and a voice of reason. Yes. What’s the biggest thing you wish folks knew about student-driven learning? 


Chad Carlson  36:50  

Hmm. Well, I guess the kind of the misconception of the myth that its laissez-faire, is not a laissez-faire endeavor. And it requires a tremendous plot, tremendous planning, but the planning looks very different. It is very personalized and individualized for the learner, and in a really kind of, you know, forces you to meet students where they’re at. And so I do think that there’s the sense of like, oh, student-driven learning, let them have at it, here’s a project go. It is not that at all. And so that idea that it’s not a laissez-faire endeavor, it’s very, very, very challenging to do it well. And it’s, yeah, it’s in constant flux. every learner that comes through the front door requires something different. And so this requires those that are working with them to kind of just be on their toes all the time. So I think yes, that I would love people to know that.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  37:45  

So good. You said that was our microscope. We have like one teacher for six kids. And it’s multi-agency like, oh, must be nice to have six kids in your class. And it doesn’t quite work out that way. But it’s like, no, there are no textbooks. And it’s so formative that we’re taking in what the kids are doing. And like, Oh, this kid needs to trouble. This kid needs to do a left turn, this kid needs to back up and fill in a gap. It would be so much easier to have lockstep. Hey, we’re doing this chapter this week, and we’re gonna take the whole week on it no matter what. 


Chad Carlson  38:15  

So if there are 40 kids in that classroom, maybe we’re one on 40. Because you’re you’re focused on the content of the curriculum and not the student. Yeah.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  38:22  

Yeah. So that laissez faire. Oh, yeah. Just let the kids run everything. No, the prep is insane. So I agree with you on that. Definitely. Oh, what’s one passion you bring to One Stone?


Chad Carlson  38:34  

Woo, passion. Well, as I said, I love nonfiction. So I’m really into sociology, I love all things, sociological, political, love international relations. So some immersions that I coached there, like constitutional law, internet relations course, did a moral philosophy course, just things like that. I just, I love anything sociological. I’m also a big kind of outdoors person. And so bring outdoor leadership skills to one stone. So I have run some really cool winter navigation slash survival trips in January in the wilderness of Idaho, so many fun things that bring to one stone I also really love leadership. And so you know, I love working with our coaches and, and the team and trying to bring everyone together. I think those are the things that I bring to one stone to the team.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  39:35  

One stone is lucky to have you Chad, that is as such a varied wealth of passions.


Chad Carlson  39:42  

Yeah, it’s, it’s, well, you know, I think part of why I got into education was like, Yeah, I can continue, like I can share that with others and I can continue doing the things that I love. And I love so many different things I couldn’t I couldn’t imagine settling on one thing. So I have found through my career and working with kids like I was always kind of dabbling in something different every year, just because that’s how my brain works. I like to. I like to continue learning and doing different things. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  40:08  

And so, and novelty sparks really important parts of my brain. That’s important. Yeah, absolutely. Yes. What is a favorite thing or a fun fact about Boise?


Chad Carlson  40:20  

Ooh, Boise? Well, as a kid, so I grew up in the Bay Area, I grew up down in San Jose, California. And as a kid, we’d go up to a kind of mountain town called Ketchum, head jam, Sun Valley area, and ski and flyfish and bike and stuff. Just going up there for a couple of weeks. In the winter, a couple of weeks in the summer, my dad was into real estate, and he would, you know, in the summer, we’d spend a day in Boise and I hated it. He dropped us off at the record exchange, I swear there was like a tumbleweed blowing across the street. And it was just a ghost town. And I thought this place is terrible. I will never live here. And then in 2004 took a job at a school in Boise. And it was like, I’m given this place two years, you know, and then we’re out of here and two years to grow on me two years at this job and about a year and I went there with, you know, my mind was closed. And within six months, my wife and I were like, this place is so cool. It is a small town that people are like beyond the nice. It’s almost kind of like Pleasantville. Nice. And the access to the outdoors. We’ve got amazing trails. We’ve got amazing rivers that are right by some really cool rafting and kayaking, gone rock climbing, road cycling, mountain biking. We have it all. And so you know, in Boise, definitely people are on to us. It’s growing. But I think the guests have the exposure to the outdoors and the wonderful people have really just been such a great gift for us in our lives.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  41:54  

Love it. Hmm. I don’t know Boise very well. So that makes me curious. Yeah, come visit. What would be a baby step if others wanted to be activists and work on transforming schools to add in that student-driven agency peace and passion purpose piece? Is there a baby step? How can they it doesn’t have to be starting from scratch or starting their own school? What recommendation would you have for them?


Chad Carlson  42:23  

Hmm. Wow. That’s a big one. I guess. Let’s go back to that idea of mindsets, I think it does start with mindset. It starts with listening. I think you know, meeting students where they’re at every student that comes into your classroom, or whatever the context in which you work with students is everyone, everyone brings a strength, everyone brings a passion, everyone brings something that they can contribute to the group or the vote or the learning community. And so I would say that if you were like picking my first baby step into this new, you know, kind of the idea behind what student-driven learning can look like, get to know your students get to know who they are, get to know what they do on the weekends, get to know what they do when they leave your classroom, get the get to know them when they’re not doing your homework, who are they as people. And I think really kind of building humanity back into learning and education. I mean, that right there, and you might not be able to stop doing your AP curriculum or your whatever it is that you’re having to do and your more traditional approach, but getting to know your student will open so many doors, and you’ll create by it, you’ll create a greater relationship between your student and yourself. And that to me is I mean, it is both the starting point and the endpoint to wonderful learning and education. And so build relationships with your kids. And, you know, just get to know them for who they are and accept them for who they are. Because, yeah, there’s some I think some wonderful kids out there that go through the day, never be known by the leaders in the classroom. And that breaks my heart.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  44:07  

Yes, Agreed. Agreed completely. And what is something about you that most people don’t know?


Chad Carlson  44:20  

That’s, that’s the next podcast. What is? Well, okay, I speak Spanish, so I live in, I don’t know if anyone knows that, or who knows that. But I lived in Colombia for a couple of years and had, you know, the privilege to lead a middle school program down there. And it was really cool because the students that they brought me in because I was bilingual, but first of all, they wanted me to speak just English with the students because the students were learning English. But the parents did. They the parents were bilingual, they, you know, it’s the newer generation, the younger generation that’s becoming bilingual. The parents and the teachers all spoke Spanish. And so I really got develop my Spanish down there with them. And I love that and so nothing too wild and crazy about me will hold on to that one for later but you may have in common.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  45:16  

Okay, yo trabajo en ser America tambien. That’s so cool that we both Yeah. and Peru he in Huaraz Peru, he and ya kill Ecuador. Wow. Yeah. So we both have that South American thing going on.


Chad Carlson  45:33  

 Yeah, I really missed speaking Spanish and I used to teach Spanish in middle school for four years, and anyway, cool. Yeah.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  45:40  

Yeah, yeah. Good. Very cool. Yeah. And then my final part of the podcast, I always like just to have a magic wand moment, and you’ve already hit on so much. But if you were pulling it together, if you had a magic wand and could transform the secondary learning experience, you could do anything with it. sky’s the limit. What would you do with that magic wand? Magic Wand question. I now don’t know,


Chad Carlson  46:15  

the way my brain works. Like, because I know I’ll get off this podcast. Oh, why didn’t I magic one this? But I guess I’m going to get rid of something. And use the magic wand to get rid of standardized testing and get rid of that idea of a kind of standardized curriculum. And yeah, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to magic wand it. And so when students show up, to high school, there’s nothing set in stone for them. There’s no this is what performance looks like, this is what success looks like. And this is what you need to learn all of that is gone. And they get to build it from day one with their, you know, with their teachers and coaches.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  47:01  

I love that. Wow, Chad, thank you for everything that you’re doing at one stone in sharing out with the rest of us. It’s been an honor to get to interview you today.


Chad Carlson  47:11  

Thanks for being thanks for the very thoughtful questions and allowing me to share and that was great hope your listeners enjoy it.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  47:26  

What a treat to get to share one stone with you today. They truly are the only student-created high school that I know of. And they definitely walk their talk. One of the things I really like is that they started as an after-school program, they believed in experiential, they believed in service. And project good is still a huge offering that they have. And we can do that we can start with something after school, we can start with a summer program. Making learning more relevant and student-driven does not have to be creating our own school. It can also be a school within a school that’s more experiential. So we can work with our existing resources. And we can create something with our students, get our students involved and listen to them and design it together. These benefits of being student-driven. I love that we capitalize on students’ curiosity, and Hmm, I wonder what would happen if we did this. And let them be curious. We don’t want schools to kill creativity as Sir Ken Robinson talks about in his TED Talk. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  48:45  

We also want this benefit of real-world meaningful learning that our kids engage in. We know engagement drops, and we’ve talked about that in past podcast episodes and the Gallup poll research. We don’t need engagement to drop, but kids have to care about what they’re learning we all do, to make learning really meaningful. And to me, the biggest benefit that Chad mentioned is we don’t want our students to lose hope, when they don’t feel like there’s a purpose or a future then they have nothing to grab on to and be hopeful about. And the mental health of our youth is such an important consideration in learning. I liked how he talked about living in beta as a Wayfinding program. Wayfinding is such a key concept. And in Episode 47, which I’ll put in the show notes, Michelle Jones talked about starting a college that’s Wayfinding Academy in Portland Wayfinding giving our students tools to learn about what their strengths are, what their interests are, what their passions are, as Chad said, What breaks their hearts, where do they want to make Make a difference and take on a world issue Wayfinding to me, is so much more important than textbook learning of any one topic. And in the process of Wayfinding, kids are using so many soft skills that are transferable, we want that. I will also put in the show notes, a link on the multitude of careers we anticipate our students are going to have, that means they need to know how to learn, they have to know what they’re interested in, what their strengths are, how learning works for them because they’re not going to have one career for their whole life most likely. I also liked how Chad talked about the cycle of learning. And to me that is if we’re lifelong learners, that we are exploring, discovering, finding purpose, self-actualizing, which leads us to explore some more, I bet if you think you’ll see ways that you do that in your own life. And maybe when you became a parent, you discovered a lot and really got your purpose. And then you had to do some more learning as you reach that level of self-actualization, you realized you wanted to explore new ways of parenting or maybe ways to be a Scoutmaster to help your student take up outdoor learning or something like that. So the cycle, I think we need to remember it’s not an outcome, it’s not one and done. This is a lifelong process for all of us.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  51:35  

A lot of the topics that Chad talked about, tie into subconscious pieces of what goes on in our brain when we think about learning. And Malena Palmer’s Episode 56, she really unpacked how much is going on subconsciously. So I’ll put that in the show notes, I think that we really do get this mindset. And this is what it should look like, this is what I should be doing as a teacher. So for his recommendation to listen to by students, build humanity back into education, that’s going to take us being able to shift our mindsets and being okay with not sticking with the traditional look of the school. And it is hard for parents, teachers, for students to be early adopters. It’s scary. So how can we tap into what we know about our subconscious and, and what makes things scary to do something different, that might be better for our learners, that makes me very curious? And I look forward to getting to work on my own exploration and discovery in this area so that I can help further transformational education. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  52:52  

I think it also ties into Chad’s magic wand, getting rid of standardized testing and curriculum. Talk about terrifying. And when I think of polarity thinking, and the both and part on the traditional side, the poll of keeping things the way they are what we know, standardized testing says we know there’s some accountability. So how can we look at accountability and make it a part of the transformational side of education, because we never want to say we don’t want accountability, we just want it to look more authentic, and relevant. So there are so many things that tie into how our brain thinks about education. And I’m hoping that we’ll all be able to look at educational transformation differently, and work together and get lots of voices at the table so that we can truly make learning more human-centered, and student-driven so that all of our youth are thriving, and future-ready. Thank you for joining me today.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  54:13  

If you’re finding yourself thinking, I need to do this in my school. Let’s talk about it. I consult with schools to help them find new innovative solutions to reaching every student. Let’s put together an action plan. Visit to book a call and let’s get started.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  54:44  

Education evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued, and thriving. We need you to let’s go out and reach every student today. I’d be so grateful if you’d head over to your podcast app to give a great rating and review if you found this episode valuable. Don’t wait. Please do it right now before you forget. I really appreciate it. Thank you for listening, signing off. I am Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education.


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