Debate Magazine

Independent Study in Skateboarding

By Stevemiranda

We recently finished Intensives Week at PSCS. That’s when we freeze the regular class schedule and students immerse themselves in one class that lasts all day, every day, Monday through Friday. One student was not inspired by any of the four choices, so he submitted an independent study proposal to his advisor.

Basically, he wanted to go skateboarding every day.

I was explaining this to a friend, who shook his head, rolled his eyes and gave me that look. You know, the one that means, “Kids . . . they think they can get away with anything!”

That’s when I told him that we approved the independent study project.

* * *

As he promised, the student went skateboarding every day. He tried out different skate parks, and re-connected with friends that he had not seen in a while. Near the end of the week, he found himself at Seattle Center skate park chatting with professional skateboarders who were preparing for a competition that weekend. He got tips from some of his heroes, and eventually talked his way into a backstage tour of the event to meet the organizer, MTV personality—and skateboard legend—Rob Dyrdek.

You should have seen his face when he was reflecting on the experience to the staff and students during Community Hour. He was glowing.

And just as importantly, you should have seen the other students after he had presented. You could see the wheels turning in their heads: Wow, he looks happy! I wonder what I could do for an independent study that would give me that kind of joy?

* * *

Here’s a statement, first told to me by a PSCS alum, that I repeat to everyone who ever asks me about the school: The most profound things you learn at PSCS are not necessarily what happen inside the classes. It’s really what goes on around the classes that are most important.

So what did this student gain from his experience?

  • He learned that he is in charge of his own education
  • He got a reminder of the joy that comes from pursuing with passion activities that he loves
  • He refined his public speaking ability
  • He polished his video editing skills (see below)
  • He invested time in maintaining a couple friendships
  • He served as a role model for younger students, who are at a developmental stage where they’re still searching for the courage to commit to a self-directed learning project
  • He polished his skateboarding skills (this is not trivial; he’s 15 years old and has a corporate sponsor. See video below)
  • He strengthened his ability to set a goal and maintain the discipline necessary to achieve it
  • He learned that the skateboarding heroes he had when he was younger are really just regular people, not larger-than-life icons.
  • He learned the power of asking for what he wants
  • All that, and probably a hundred other things that I was unable to glean from his 10-minute presentation

You can’t plan inspired life. The best you can do is live in such a way that leaves room for inspiring moments to unfold.

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