I was nervous, hopeful and excited.

That’s how I felt on my first day of school in the United States. I was fourteen at the time, I only knew how to spell one word in English (apple) and I was in awe with the diversity of my new school – the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center in Seattle, WA.

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Little did I know that eleven years later I would get a contract to design and facilitate a leadership program at the same school – now the Seattle World School.

If I was going to be successful in designing this program I had to start by setting a strong vision. And I knew the best way to do this was to understand my students’ dreams, hopes and plans. So one of the first activities I facilitated was a leadership day with the whole school, approximately 200 students, with the theme: “The dreams that connect us.”

I worked with students on various experiential learning activities to discuss empathy, goal setting and school spirit; however, my main objective for the day was to do a Dream Cloud activity – a process for students to communicate their dreams, hopes and wishes. In this case, the students wrote them down in pieces of paper shaped like clouds. After collecting all of the Dream Clouds, I worked with a group of ten students to transcribe every dream, hope and wish, and generated some graphs and models to help us understand the data we had collected. My favorite one was a word cloud.

It was so clear – in a word cloud, the more a word is repeated the bigger it is – I could easily identify the dreams that connected all our students.

Those were: College, Learning & Family

This Word Cloud gave me the foundation I needed to build a student-centered leadership program; beyond that, it helped all our students to understand how deeply connected they were. My student leadership class continuously goes back to this powerful image to gain inspiration and remain focused on how to plan school activities to build upon these shared-dreams.

The Word Cloud is an incredibly helpful design method and I believe it can really provide activity coordinators – but other teachers and whole schools as well – with a unique perspective on their students’ dreams.

Let’s keep designing!