ZTC Camp!

ZTC Camp 2011: director Blake (left), the crew (middle), and guest mentors Brenna & Tara (right)

Last weekend we ran the first-ever ZTC Camp program in Asheville, NC. With 8 students hailing from across the USA, a crew of guest mentors & speakers, and a jam-packed activity schedule, the program was a great success. Here are a few photos and stories from the weekend.

Our group kicked off the program by moving into Sweetpeas Hostel (in the heart of downtown Asheville) and then walking over to a local rented conference center room. We introduced ourselves, dissected the purpose and benefits of college, and then brainstormed our big ZTC goals. Students recorded their work in ZTC Camp binders (above).

After a hard half-day, we felt it 100% necessary to visit Asheville’s finest desert establishment: the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. We were not disappointed.

The next morning we took a field trip to the University of North Carolina, Asheville. (Above: students enjoy the wild turns of our NASCAR-certified bus driver).

At UNCA our students crashed classesโ€”which they pre-approved with the professor via e-mail or phone, in most casesโ€”and then chatted up the professors afterward. We also casually interviewed students about their reasons for going to college (above).

The purpose of these activities was to learn how easy it is to access college resources (classes, professors, other students, etc.) without being formally enrolled. We weren’t trying to mooch from the college system, but rather to develop the ethic of directly seeking the knowledge that we desire instead of assuming we must go through an institution.

The class that Allen planned to crash had been cancelled, so he walked down the hall and into an economics class. He politely asked the professor if he could sit in, and the prof replied: “Of course! And you can ask me questions after class if you’d like!” In the end, the prof gave Allen an introduction to microeconomics textbookโ€”for free!

In UNCA’s grassy quad we discussed the importance and how-to’s of finding MAGEs (mentors, advisors, guides, and experts) as self-directed learners. Guest mentor Tara explained what an “accountability partnership” ย looks like and how it can provide much-needed structure for personal projects. We also covered the process of giving yourself assignments and creating pieces of evidence (“deliverables”) to demonstrate your good work. (This blog entry itself is a “deliverable” for ZTC Camp!)

Back in downtown Asheville that afternoon, we heard the stories of guest speakers (ages 20-50+) who self-directed their higher educations, in part or whole. Local painter and unschooling mom Genie Maples (right) generously donated her studio space.

North Carolina autodidact, ZTC MAGE, and blogger Jessica Barker (left, blue) prepared dinners for us at the hostel. Thanks Jessica (and helpers)!ย  That evening we also did “WFY Talks” (What Fascinates You?) by the students, staff, and guests: short (3-minute) TED-style talks about what we find fascinating.

Day 3 started with a workshop about the psychology of self-directed learning (based on this 4-part blog series) and a MAGE hunt in downtown Asheville where students sought interesting MAGEs who could help them with their goals. Next we discussed the challenges and opportunities of earning money and building peer community when you don’t go to college (above).

In the afternoon workshop, we discussed strategies for replacing the college degree, getting hired, and otherwise surviving adult life without a formal credential.

That evening we grabbed takeout from a local restaurant and then whipped out our laptops to investigate what goes into a strong online portfolio. Some students starting building their own portfolios immediately. Later that night, students explored downtown Asheville with travelers from South Africa who were also staying at the hostel.

On the final morning of ZTC Camp, we checked out of the hostel, built and shared our lists of specific ZTC goals, and did a closing activity. But the weather was so nice, we chose to hang out in Asheville’s Pack Square Park instead of disbanding. (Games, mischief, and frisbee featured below.)

Thank you to everyone who participated in ZTC Camp! (And many thanks Mia and Jessica for the photos.) We wish you the best in your self-directed adventures.

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