Feaster Charter + P21 Discuss Using Thrively

We’re thrilled to be a partner of so many incredible schools pioneering personalized learning. One of those schools is Feaster Charter in Chula Vista, CA. A group of Feaster educators recently took our Thrively Strengths Assessment. Read their awesome blog here and see if it inspires you and your classroom to implement interest-based learning in the classroom.

Click here to read P21′s recent newsletter describing how Feaster Charter is using Thrively to discover students’ strengths!


Feaster Charter Using Thrively

Feaster Charter using Thrively in their classroom


What is Strengths-Based Education?

Research confirms that a student’s success is driven by non-academic factors such as their character, parental support and the level of hope + engagement they feel within school. Districts and schools have generally addressed this by trying to implement point programs (ex. advisory, life skills classes, interventions) in the face of increasing accountability for student performance in core subjects. Thrively is changing this dynamic by introducing a new, holistic approach for student learning. Strengths-Based Education (“SBE”) incorporates social/emotional learning, student career and interest exploration and student-centered learning (or student-directed projects) into a cohesive pedagogy that helps students find relevance in school and life.

Strengths-Based Education is successful when students have:

  • Built a growth mindset;
  • Developed 21st Century Skills and habits;
  • Identified multiple, exciting post-secondary pathways; and
  • Strengthened their social support structures.

These goals can be accomplished when students’ K-12 journey includes a thoughtful implementation of SBE that is truly 360 degrees in nature. In other words, it must proactively include parents, community and out-of-school time. No component of SBE exists by itself. They are inter-related and non-linear.  Thrively enables Strength-Based Education through our platform, taking students, teachers and parents through the entire process.  Our Strength Assessment helps students discover their character strengths and is the starting point for social emotional learning.  Students then identify their interests and career aspirations through our Pathways, Videos and Activities.  Finally, educators turn their students’ interests into true “student centered learning” by facilitating projects.  Explore what Strengths-Based Learning can do for your students at Thrively.


Get Started With Strengths-Based Education

My Future, My Way

Over two weeks this fall, Joanna Murray led students at Rancho Minerva Middle School in San Diego on an exploration of their strengths and career interests. Her “My Future, My Way” unit opened the eyes of students to exciting future careers.  Thrively represented 2 weeks of her digital discovery elective.  She has graciously offered her unit materials as a resource for educators.

Thrively Reflection: A reflection for students to capture their reaction to the Thrively Strength Assessment.  Click to download.

Thrively Career Interest Exploration: A set of prompts to help students understand their career aspirations.  Get the worksheet.

Final Assignment: A project assignment and rubric for a student presentation where they share what they have learned with peers, parents and teachers.  See the assignment.

Career Exploration Roadmap

A Career Exploration Roadmap

Hi Thrively Community!

My name is Jerry Blumengarten.   You many know me for my website, Cybrary Man, where I’ve curated over 20,000 relevant links for students, teachers, administrators & parents or because on Twitter as @cybraryman1 where I regularly share my resources on many of the chats.  I taught in the New York City schools for 32 years and I have always been passionate about helping kids figure out their interests and careers.  I couldn’t be happier to contribute to the Thrively mission and doing what I can to add to the community!

Career Exploration… Already?

Parents and teachers need to not only talk to children even at an early age or grade but listen to them about their future choices, career options and life as an adult.  We should not wait until a child is in the last year of high school to decide about what they are interested in and their future plans. Learning about why people work, what work is like and the skills needed to be successful will help children on their road to successful futures.  I’ll talk about career exploration in a series of posts starting with my first topic, “self-discovery.”

Self Discovery:

To prepare children for their future we should start by having them do a self-examination and unearth their true interests, values and aspirations. At the elementary and even middle school level children should reflect more on their likes, interests and hobbies to learn more about themselves.  At this time they are starting to uncover their personality traits.  Children need to understand how they got to this point in their lives and begin thinking ahead to where they may be in the future.  So, start with Thrively’s Strength Assessment, this helps students identify their aspirations and interests.  Thrively’s Pathways, Sparks and Activities tabs then allow students to do a deep dive into the specifics of each.


Resources for Professional Development presenters

Thank you for considering Thrively for your upcoming PD!

Thrively takes all the buzzwords going around – character education, social emotional learning, Genius Hour, strengths-based education, and more – and wraps them up into one easy-to-use platform. Now when your principal or administrator says “Come up with a plan for personalized learning,” you will have a tool in your arsenal to do just that.

Feel free to use any of the resources outlined below to create a PD presentation. If you need assistance, have questions, or want custom materials, we are happy to help – email support@thrively.com with your request.

1. Download the Strength Guide to learn about our Strength Assessment. Our assessment was created by two of California’s seven board-certified pediatric neuropsychologists. It is the first of its kind written specifically for kids and teens. The quiz measures 23 different strength factors, such as resilience, focus, compassion, and drive. Download the PDF here.

2. Start the presentation with this 2 minute video made by students at Rancho Minerva Middle School in Vista, CA. The genuinely positive reactions from these students when they read their Strength Profiles are amazing.

3. Follow up with this 3 minute demo video that highlights Thrively’s best features.

4. For a more traditional Powerpoint presentation, take a look at this Slideshare.

5. Our Teacher Toolkit dives into the nitty gritty of setting up your account, adding students, and also provides sample worksheets for reflection. Access it here (it’s also in the upper righthand menu on your Thrively account).

6. Lastly, if you need a question answered, support, or a co-presenter, please contact us!  We are located in Southern California and can usually attend in person if your school is in the area. Or, we can join you virtually! Email support@thrively.com, we’re happy to help!

Thank you for being a champion for strengths!


Strengths presentation ideas

This past week, team Thrively has had the honor of working with Rancho Minerva Middle School in Vista, CA. All students at Rancho Minerva are using Thrively to discover their strengths, celebrate them, and understand how they can wield these superpowers in real life.

Part of their project will be to make a presentation about their strengths and what they have learned about themselves. What we love about this project is that it is so open-ended. Students get to express what they have learned about themselves in a way that reflects their interpretation of it.

So what will the presentations look like? Well, we don’t know yet! It could be a powerpoint, a poster, an interpretive dance… It’s up to them.

Do your students need an idea for a theme or structure? Here’s some inspiration for you…

  • Pick one of your top career interests. What path would you take to get there? Create a series of steps that shows you can achieve this career path. EG: Which of your strengths will help you in this career? What other strengths do you need to develop to be successful in this career? What would be the positives and challenges of this career?
  • If you were a superhero, with superpowers based on your strengths, what would they do? How would you use those superpowers to change the world?
  • Present each of your top 5 strengths, what they mean to you, and how they help you contribute positively to your family, classroom, and community.
  • Pick a famous person who you feel also embodies most of your top 5 strengths and explain why, and how they have demonstrated those strengths. How will you demonstrate those top strengths?
  • Choose a problem in the world (Eg: hunger, homelessness) and describe how you would use your top strengths to solve the problem.

As you can see there are countless ways we can interpret our strengths and how we do/could use them in the “real world.” It just takes a dash of creativity (or analysis, if that’s your strength;) to imagine how.


The Great Pizza Debate


LinkedIn group discussions are tame by most social media standards.  Your average topic is cerebral and insightful, but not terribly provocative.  So imagine my surprise when my inbox became clogged with over 1,376 responses about using pizza as a motivational tool in the classroom.  Pizza.

Here’s the question that ignited a firestorm of opinions….

Pizza party for getting A’s? What are your thoughts on a middle school having a party for all students who attained an A average and excluding those that did not realize that achievement. I love it.

Impassioned responses poured in from educators, parents, child development experts and anyone invested in building students’ self esteem.  Their heartfelt opinions came from witnessing the emotional highs and lows of a classroom reward system.  Teachers are wired to motivate and celebrate all of their students’ gifts.  So where does a pizza party for ‘A’ average students leave ‘B’ average students who master multiple programming languages, are accomplished musicians or visionary artists?  Where are the slices with extra cheese for these extraordinary youth?  Excluding some students because their strengths may be something other than academics is bound to cause conflicts.

Leave it to technology to individualize kudos in classrooms.  Class Dojo took the burden of behavior management and elevated it to a race for virtual praise.  According to Edutopia’s Lisa Mim, “You can award individual or multiple students.  Students love getting ‘dojo’ points! They love hearing the sound of a positive dojo, and dread the sound of a negative one. A positive or negative sound has everyone looking at the board and then getting back to work.“

Class Dojo is highly effective in elementary and early middle school classes.  For teens, app creator Kudzoo puts self-motivation in the hands of teens seeking a stretch goal.  Students self-report grades to accumulate Kudzoo cash they can redeem for different types of rewards – Apple, Amazon, Chipotle, Forever21 and GameStop gift cards – for example.  While Kudzoo is relatively new, according to co-founder Trevor Wilkens one teacher who uses Kudzoo’s platform saw a 65% increase in engagement.  Some students email and tweet Kudzoo to say the app has improved their drive in school.

Empowering students to drive their own reward system is a viable alternative to serving up pizza for ‘A’ students only.  Thank goodness, because I dread the inbox traffic if we ever get to the question of deep dish vs. thin crust.



Amy von Kaenel is a highly enthusiastic Thrively Amabassador. She’s been a veteran of the tech industry for two decades, wearing dual hats in market intelligence and marketing strategy. Amy’s co-authored industry reports on Smartphone Enterprise and mHealth technology. Her organization, Tech Coast Consulting, has served Global 2000 and start-up organizations in both the tech and healthcare industries. Amy holds a BA in Economics and an MBA from the University of California Irvine. 


Embracing the swaps of back-to-school

Swapping: It’s the action that inevitably comes to mind when I think of back to school.  Swapping a beach bag for a book bag, swapping lazy morning routines for early wake up calls, swapping a refreshing afternoon popsicle for mom’s attempt at a “nutritious” break-time snack (read: carrots).

And while back to school inevitably means swapping a sci-fi thriller for a potentially less entertaining textbook, there are other swaps—good swaps—that parents and students should keep in mind as well.  Indeed, back to school doesn’t have to be a struggle.  In fact, it can be quite exciting for parents and kids alike.  Here are some tips to help ease the transition from campfires and heat waves to carpool and homework.

1) Swapping the old for the new: Back to school also means back-to-school shopping.  While that perfectly worn-in pair of flip-flops served your child well during the summer months, a new pair of shoes might be in order.  Keep your kids excited about returning to school by reminding them about the fun new school supplies they get to play around with; the thrill of a shiny new binder and a perfectly pink eraser can go a long way.

2) Swapping loose schedules for structured routines: That’s right, this actually can be a positive thing.  You see, children thrive when they have structure; it provides them with a sense of security when they know what to expect and can anticipate what’s to come.  Establishing a normal routine again can make life easier and more predictable for them and for you.

3) Swapping siblings for friends: While every child no doubt enjoys getting some QT with his or her siblings when school is out, the promise of new friends and the allure of reconnecting with old ones is quite compelling.  Focus your child on the fact that back to school also means back to friends.

Back to school carries with it promise and hope and memories to be made.  Here’s to the start of an incredible year ahead!




Jenn Curtis, MSW is the owner and co-founder of FutureWise Consulting, a college counseling, test prep, and academic tutoring business in Orange County, California. As an educational consultant, she works alongside high school students and their families to prepare them for the college admissions process. Jenn also developed and teaches a college and career readiness program for first generation students. She is the editorial assistant for an academic journal, has edited several books, and works with graduate and doctoral students in developing effective writing skills. With a background in mental health, Jenn’s passion lies in empowering students to become self-advocates, to uncover their strengths, and to find the motivation to reach their potential.


How to speak and write authentically—in college admissions and all of life

by Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO, Story2, and author of Write Out Loud © 2015 Story2. All rights reserved.

I was cleaning up my office recently and found my Strengths Assessment report from the days when software was delivered on a CD-ROM with a code to activate it when you put it in your home computer. More than a decade later, my core strengths still ring true: WOO (win over others), Innovation, Strategy, Decision-making, Team.

I laughed out loud: of course I’m most truly happy when I’m changing things and leading them; these ways of being are part of how I view myself and the world around me. The essential message of Strengthsfinder—at that time a recent offshoot of books by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton—was to forget about perceived weaknesses; instead find and foster your strengths. I made my husband and children take the Strengths Assessment too, and was amused to see how much our overlaps and differences made sense of daily habits that seemed intractable in each of us.

Those assessments made our daily skirmishes more explainable and manageable. And from that day to this I stopped worrying about what people aren’t good at—unless they clearly are good at it, and for some reason they are holding themselves back—and worked to nurture their most unique and essential strengths. So if you haven’t already used Thrively to find your strengths, you should definitely do that.

This knowledge will give you a mirror into who you are—innately—and what you bring without even thinking about it to everything you do. You will be surprised at how much gets easier and more fun when you take this point of view. One of my daughters went from thinking, “I’m bad at math” to “I solve math problems like an artist. I go by a different path, but I get the right answers.”

When you change how you think about yourself and talk about yourself, you change everything. As you venture out into the world, seeking internships, scholarships and college admission, finding your strengths is a key step to connecting with the programs and possibilities you want in your future. But finding your strengths is not enough. Amassing a resume of stuff that cultivates your strengths is not enough. And knowing that your strengths make you a perfect fit for a specific college or university is not enough either.

There are thousands—often tens of thousands—of people who are a great fit for these opportunities. What you’re great at is not unique. But what you’ve done with that greatness is totally your own. You allow college admissions officers to say “yes” to you by showing them what it means to have you as a person in their community. You make a case for what you will do in the future by telling stories about what you have done in the past.


There are three key steps to telling your unique stories in a way that connects with other people. In Write Out Loud, I describe these three steps as Find, Shape and Perform:

  • Find: Where are moments in your life that reveal your core strengths? These may be everyday moments, things you don’t think about as special. To the person who is innately creative, new ideas come as a matter of course. For each of your strengths, take the time to explore different moments that show that strength in action—even if it’s something like introspection, what does that mean about who you are and how you interact with other people? Story2 can help you explore the moments that reveal your strengths in action—aka, your strength of character.
  • Shape: The human brain loves stories. We love telling them and listening to them. Stories connect us in a way that is primitive and powerful. And stories drive us to take action in the present. So someone you entrust with your stories will want to know you, work with you, and advocate for you. At Story2 we teach you how to tell your stories out loud, and how to use the brain’s innate storytelling toolkit to speak and write authentically.
  • Perform: Every time you tell your story—out loud or in writing—is a unique event. The audience is different, the setting is different, and your telling is different. The time spent learning about your audience, empowers you to connect with them authentically and tell your story in a way that makes sense to them. What will they be listening for? What are the stories they tell about themselves? What matters most to them? This research also enables you to ask questions that draw out your audience’s most important stories, rather than the superficial things they often say first.

When I’d completed that original Strengthsfinder, I was in a career transition from Business Development to Fundraising: I thought I would be happier shifting my volunteer role in fund-raising (very WOO) into the core of my everyday work. But when I got there, I was not happy at all! I missed the problem-solving and analysis of matching client needs with my company’s services, and most of all I desperately longed for what I call “teamness”—a group of people defining and working towards a shared creation. It took me a long time, a lot of missteps —and a lot of storytelling—to figure out that wooing diverse people into a community that empowers them to work together in new ways is where my strengths come together. That community is Story2.

CarolDr. Carol Barash, former English professor and advisor to the admissions committee at Douglass College, Rutgers University, author of Write Out Loud, and founder and CEO of Story2, has empowered over 20,000 students to write authentic admission and scholarship essays. She has been building digital communications tools for over 20 years, and through Story2 teaches the art and science of storytelling to expand college access and career readiness for all people. Have questions about storytelling, college admissions, and life choices? Ask her anything on Twitter @carolbarash.


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