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Origins in Complexity

Have you ever heard that the orienting principles of Camino School are Totality, Relations and Authorship? Do you know why we picked those? Here is a quick version of why!

At the beginning there was an idea: create a school that had learning at the center of its mission. Learning is complex, so the school had to be designed to navigate complexity, and that meant accepting the rules of Complex Systems Thinking that said that such systems were open boundaries, diverse, and nonlinear. If we have such characteristics, with those main characteristics, what should be the organizing principles of our organization to better plan for complexity?

We came to the conclusion that to deal with the open boundaries we should know that solutions will emerge from understanding the totality of human experience. When we know that the experiences are diverse, we ensure relations are cared for as a sustaining pillar. When we accept that we are talking about a non-linear domain, we invest in the strengthening of the agent that can produce linearity when needed.

The chart below explains how we faced the complexity axiom at the origin of our project:

Made by Leticia Lyle

Complex Systems, such as learning, that are always changing (open-boundary), full of differences (diverse) and with no direct cause and effect (non-linear), will always have elements that are interdependent, with a lot of connections and exchanges and unpredictable. We picked our principles because we understand learning as such a complex process that depends both on human relations and on each individual to interact with the context they are a part of.

If you'd like, here follows a lengthier explanatory chart.

Complex Systems are: (Conditions that shape complex systems)

Main characteristics are: (Overarching emergent patterns in response to the conditions that shape complex systems)

The organizing principles to prepare for it: (Our patterns of response, decisions, and interactions are guided by these principles)

Open Boundary

Things come in and out of that system all the time. Some you control, some you don't. It means that you are influenced by forces you cannot predict or control--economics, social/cultural impacts, personal issues, political forces (global and local), etc In Learning, this means for example that you can learn things anywhere, and from all experiences, and sometimes even learn things you don't want to.

Interdependent Everything can be connected and, on some level, is. Biological Ecosystems are the best examples, where small actions of one can influence others. Events such as a Pandemic virus outbreak, or a global religion remind us how things that happen in systems we live in might not be related directly to us but will influence our lives, just as when we do things we can influence the lives of others.

Totality The best a system can do is prepare for that interdependence, understanding Learning is part of something bigger. Family, community, experiences and feelings are all happening at once, and we should be prepared to acknowledge when it emerges. Sometimes we don't learn because our brains are not getting the main idea, sometimes we don't learn because our teacher had a bad day at home, sometimes we learn because traffic was clear and we got to school on time.


There are lots of elements in that system, and they can be anything! Differences in complex systems are the source of energy for change.

In learning this means that thoughts and ideas coming from different people and interactions are a part of what composes your comprehension of the world. Sometimes you are diverse from others, but for learning, diversity can come even within yourself.

Massive Entanglement

Because there are many different elements - people, things, thoughts, beliefs - complex systems are known for their exchanges. The way we connect and communicate will always be at the center as relationships are formed.


Knowing you are in a diverse system means knowing that the learning experience is different for each person - and dependent on the relations with other elements around it. As humans, we learn better when we are in safe and generous environments and we learn less when we are feeling threatened, scared or excluded.


Past, present and future mix up in non-linear systems. This means there is no direct cause-effect and when we talk about people, how they relate is nonlinear. Learning for example happens when you reflect or relive the past, or dream about a future. Learning happens on the spot or on your thoughts and not necessarily in the same order. You are at the center of your existence and where learning happens.


Like adding rice to a pile, you never know which grain is responsible for making it spill - you never know which exact experience is going to make learning happen. Because anything can interfere from anywhere, there will be elements we can't control that influence Learning. But we can influence our own actions.

Authorship Informed by the past and inspired by the future, the only way to deal with what's unpredictable is making choices in the present. All we have is 1) our memory of what has gone before; 2) our understanding and awareness of the current context; and 3) our imagination of what's possible --that's what spurs us forward toward change in a complex system… An experience at home can influence a lesson just as much as activity at school can be a part of a family dinner. How you bring about the best version of yourself, your abilities, knowledge and capacities to face every different situation influence the outcome.

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