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2013 AERO Conference Program

2013 AERO Conference

What Works!

May 23-26

LIU Post University, New York City Area

Conference Schedule

Wednesday, May 22nd

  • 9:00am-4:00pm – School Visits
  • 5:00pm-9:00pm – Registration

Thursday, May 23rd

  • 8:00am-10:30am – Yoga, Breakfast, networking, tabling, bookstore, registration
  • 10:30am-12:00pm – Workshop Group A
  • 12:00pm-1:30pm – Lunch
  • 1:30pm-3:00pm – Workshop Group B
  • 3:00pm-3:30pm – Break
  • 3:30pm-5:00pm – Workshop Group C
  • 5:00pm-6:30pm – Dinner
  • 7:00pm-8:30pm – Keynote: Alfie Kohn
  • 8:30pm-9:00pm – Book Signing: Alfie Kohn

Friday, May 24th

  • 8:00am-10:30am – Yoga, Breakfast, networking, tabling, bookstore
  • 10:30am-12:00pm – Workshop Group D
  • 12:00pm-1:30pm – Lunch
  • 1:30pm-3:00pm – Workshop Group E
  • 3:00pm-3:30pm – Break
  • 3:30pm-5:00pm – Workshop Group F
  • 5:00pm-6:30pm – Dinner
  • 6:30pm-7:00pm – Auction
  • 7:00pm-8:30pm – Keynote: Peter Gray
  • 9:00pm-11:00pm – Musical Entertainment

Saturday, May 25th

  • 8:00am-9:30am – Yoga, Breakfast, networking, tabling, bookstore
  • 9:30am-10:30am – Workshop Group G
  • 10:30am-10:45am – Break
  • 10:45am-12:15pm – Workshop Group H
  • 12:15pm-1:45pm – Lunch
  • 1:45pm-3:15pm – Keynote: Elina Shepel
  • 3:30pm-5:00pm – Workshop Group I
  • 5:00pm-6:30pm – Dinner
  • 6:30pm-8:00pm – Keynote: North Star
  • 8:00pm-10:00pm – Folk Dancing by Olivia Loria

Sunday, May 26th

  • 8:00am-10:30am – Yoga, Breakfast, networking, tabling, bookstore
  • 10:30am-12:00pm – Workshop Group J
  • 12:00pm-1:30pm – Lunch
  • 1:30pm-3:00pm – Keynote: Nikhil Goyal
  • Closing

Auction Fundraiser

There will be a fundraiser auction on TO BE ANNOUNCED to support our ongoing work. Please bring items for the auction. They can be items or services to give at the conference or where you are from. You will get an auction donation form when you check in for registration at the conference. 

Spontaneous Workshops

During the conference there will be open rooms available to hold workshops not listed on the workshop schedule below. “Spontaneous” workshops should be arranged the day before to ensure room space.




2013 AERO Conference Schedule


Workshop A Thursday 10:30


Loving Them Into Being

Sandy Hurst and Pat Montgomery


A young person comes to your school community who has experienced abandonment, neglect, abuse, or extreme poverty. How do you determine their needs; their hopes and dreams; the practical things to be done today/tomorrow? Do we have the time; the luxury; the energy; the skills; to Love Them Into Being – as they take the first steps into trust and growth in a safer world? How do we do it? What is the meaning of safe for them? What happens to those young people? Please join us in the search for meaning in this most difficult challenge. We need to learn from each other; even those of us who have been in this business for many years. And we need to challenge the established school policies that put conventional academic achievement above all else for our young people so that these young people are not “left behind”.


An interactive workshop with Pat Montgomery, Director Emeritus of Clonlara School in Ann Arbor MI; and Sandy Hurst, Founding Director of Upattinas School in Glenmoore, PA.


Creative Release

Michelle Caporale
Experience the process of creation from seed to thought to expression.  Explore the inner workings of the heart, mind, and body.  Allow your whole being to embrace the freedom of an imagination that is open to the endless possibilities.  Using habits of the mind, body, and spirit we can spark experimental learning and teaching and eventually live our way right into the answers.  Moving from surviving to reviving to thriving the catalyst will come alive and we will arrive at the education revolution.


M. Caporale is an Italian American who lives, laughs, and loves learning, teaching, and simply being a beacon of radiant light energy and the soul behind the social enterprise L.O.V.E.=Lets Openly Voice and Express. Michelle aka Micellina has glocal (global + local) educational experiences in urban & rural education, literacy, early childhood, multiple learning modalities, holistic intelligences, exploratory & project based learning environments, Reggio inspired schools, metacognition, and wisdom spirituality.


Conversational Teaching: Math Without Questions

Peggy Reimann


This workshop will challenge some of our most cherished assumptions about what constitutes good teaching. It introduces an alternative to the question/answer model of teaching, and offers a way of working with children that allows them to decide when to speak and what to say. We bathe children in language linked to kinesthetic experience. Participants learn to use their talk as a tool for helping students to slow down, de-stress, focus, and practice increasingly sophisticated ways of thinking. After practicing the methods, we will use them to introduce and practice fundamental math concepts and skills using manipulatives and games.


Peggy Reimann obtained her teaching credential through work with Herb Kohl. She home-schooled her daughter from 7th grade on. Her work with her daughter, with other children, and in the migrant/immigrant community led to the development of Third Way methods and curriculum. She provides teacher training and curriculum for schools, in particular Science, Language and Arts School in Brooklyn. She also runs workshops for parents, giving them the skills to ensure that their children become powerful readers and skilled number thinkers. She works with immigrant families, specializing in an approach that facilitates stress-free mastery of language, math and reading skills.


Imagining a World Without Nuclear Weapons: what works for Disarmament Education

Kathleen Sullivan, PhD


This interactive workshop offers a ‘reality check’ about the dangers of nuclear weapons and an opportunity to hear the depths of our concerns, and discover our power to constructively respond.  The continued proliferation of nuclear weapons is occurring in a climate of decreased concern: more nuclear weapons states and less political will to counter increased threats.  We do an immense disservice to young people and their future, unless we provide them with a confident understanding of the nuclear age. The workshop will introduce what works for disarmament education, highlighting the importance of critical thinking and participatory learning, as well as exploring our feelings and strengthening our motivation to be peace educators and activists.


Kathleen Sullivan, PhD., is a disarmament educator and activist who has been engaged in the nuclear issue for over 25 years.  Currently, she is the Program Director for Hibakusha Stories, an arts based initiative that brings atomic bomb survivors into New York City High Schools to share their testimonies.  She has been education consultant to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs in New York, and has produced 2 films about survivors from Nagasaki: The Last Atomic Bomb (2005) and The Ultimate Wish (2012).  Dr. Sullivan cut her teeth on nuclear matters as a college student in the 1980s, concerned about plutonium at Rocky Flats.  A central theme of her doctoral thesis was the Nuclear Guardianship concept.  She lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Differences in Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness Between Home-Educated and Traditionally Educated Young Adults

Dr. Gina Riley


Within my doctoral dissertation, a quantitative design was used to assess whether home-schooled young adults’ needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness were better satisfied compared with young adults who were traditionally educated.  Competence, autonomy, and relatedness are theorized as necessary conditions for intrinsic motivation.  Previous researchers have indicated numerous benefits of intrinsic motivation, including better conceptual understanding, greater creativity, and improved problem solving abilities. The conclusion : Home-schooled versus traditionally educated students had significantly higher levels of autonomy and competence satisfaction, but no difference in the level of relatedness satisfaction. This contribution is important to the literature and enhances social change initiatives by changing the way stakeholders in the educational realm view the effects of intrinsic need satisfaction and home education on student success.
Dr. Gina Riley is an educational psychologist who teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Psychology, School Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education at Hunter College in Manhattan and Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. She is also a homeschooling mom. Dr. Gina Riley’s current research interests include clinical child neuropsychology, behavior management, homeschooling and alternative education, intrinsic motivation, and unschooling. She holds several certificates in online education, distance learning, and educational technology.  She is currently working with distinguished professor Dr. Peter Gray on a large scale survey of children and teens who unschool.


Situated Apprenticeship- Learning Writing and Empathy by Going to War

Dr. Liz Simpson


This presentation will share how a ”violent” video games was used to teach empathy, writing, and literally save the academic lives of five very frustrated, socially and academically disenfranchised students.


The presentation will empower teachers to be able to purposefully incorporate commercial off the shelf video games as positive learning environments for their students. Video games offer the students the opportunities to be “situated apprentices” or imbedded learners in richly crafted relevant learning environments. The teachers will discover their role as mentors and how to use that role to tie the learner’s experiences to identified learning goals to create lessons that are stimulating, interactive, and immersive.


Dr. Liz Simpson is an Associate Professor in the Educational Studies Department at the University of Wyoming. Dr. Simpson’s career has been built on the pursuit of understanding how students, especially students who are left behind, dropped out, disenfranchised, and generally not a good fit for traditional public school learning environments, learn from technology and media rich learning environments such as video games and children’s television programming. Dr. Simpson has discovered how to apply the learning structures in good video games into the classroom to make instruction relevant and meaningful for all students.  Dr. Simpson has published extensively on how to use video games as learning environments in the classroom to teach a variety of subjects and collaboration and communication skills.


 Workshop B Thursday 1:30


An Overlooked Movement

Rowen Jang


I have met many wonderful educators, administrators, and parents trying to make a difference in education. The sad truth is I have seen precious few youth. Our education revolution is for the students is it not? I think it must be by the students as well. At this workshop we will talk about a variety of topics including the oppressive environment of high schools, the abuse of children via consumption, student bullying and depression, and most importantly how we can change all this, and inspire youth to stand up for their rights and help us launch an education revolution. The voice of youth is a powerful one, and until it speaks out for change we will forever be an overlooked movement.


My name is Rowan Jang, and I am 18 years old. I am a grade twelve student of Windsor House which is a publicly funded democratic school in Vancouver B.C. I am a member of the Transforming Education Society, and I am president and co-founder of the B.C. Student Alliance. This will be my third AERO conference.


What Works in Montessori Education?

Sandy Gannon & Susanne Peebles


Learn how the core principles of Montessori impact a child’s curiosity, confidence, independence, leadership, and ability to collaborate & solve problems. It prepares them to achieve the goal of a Montessori Education:  “The development of a complete human being, oriented to the environment, and adapted to his or her time, place, and culture.”


Sandy Gannon, Head of Elementary & Middle School

Brooklyn Heights Montessori School BA Lafayette College, Easton, PA AMS Primary Certificate

Wide variety of post-baccalaureate classes in Education & Humanities

Sandy is in her 23rd year at BHMS


Susanne Peebles, Head of Preschool

Brooklyn Heights Montessori School

BEd Bulmershe College, Reading, England

AMS Primary Certificate

Susanne is in her 17th year at BHMS and her 30th year in Montessori Education


Qualitative research process & findings: An urban Free School

Kirk Cunningham


This workshop is intended for those interested in the research process as well as current qualitative findings emanating from study of an urban Free School.  The facilitator’s research will be shared with the intention of facilitating a conversation about the findings themselves & methodology, as well as advantages, disadvantages, and the future of this form of research. Participants of all ages, education philosophies, and backgrounds are welcome in broadening the discussion related to transformation of “schooling” and the role research may have in the education revolution.


Kirk Cunningham is a 15+ year experienced public school teacher in Florida & Wisconsin, working with “At-Risk”, “Conventional”, “English 2nd Language”, & “International Baccalaureate” students in both urban & suburban settings.  His current doctoral research (Univ. of WI-Milwaukee) seeks to deepen understanding of the intricacies and outcomes of an urban Free School.


Transformative and Emancipatory Learning: Inside the Freedom School Movement

Marcia Watson


Transformative education seeks to liberate and reverse miseducation, by realigning curriculum and pedagogy with truth. In addition, it also demands for praxis and change. Transformative education takes a broader, more holistic approach to education, which benefits all students – both the advantaged and disadvantaged. Whereas traditional multicultural education seeks to incorporate various cultures into the curriculum, through additive approaches, transformative education uses social, political, and historical culture for students to think critically about education’s role in social mobility. From the dawn of its inception in 1964 to the contemporary program today, Freedom Schools has provided this described “transformative education” to students for decades. Today, Freedom Schools is sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund, which is a non-profit dedicated to equalizing educational opportunities for all (Children’s Defense Fund, 2011). Under this program, Freedom Schools is serving 80,000 students in twenty-nine states (2011). As a summer reading enrichment program, Freedom Schools today helps supplement traditional schooling for youth.


Marcia J. Watson attended Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, where she received her B.S. in Middle Grades Education. After her undergraduate studies, she worked for Atlanta Public Schools as an alternative middle school teacher. While working for Atlanta Public Schools, she received her M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. Marcia is currently an Urban Education doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research interests include: alternative education, discipline policy, and Black education.


Spreading the Democratic School Epidemic from the bottom up in one’s community

Marc-Alexandre Prud’homme


Having worked on legalising democratic schools in Quebec (Canada) for over a year now, I want to share what I have learned so far about how to give rise to enthusiasm about democratic schools, but I also want to learn from others who have been involved or want to get involved in similar undertakings such as starting a democratic school. In this workshop, my goal will be to set up a space so that attendees and I can share our ideas on topics including what tools to use (eg. Facebook, podcasts…), who to get in touch with and how to articulate our ideas in our respective communities. During the workshop, attendees will be invited to decide democratically on the more specific nature of these topics.


The Revolution Can Be Televised!

Andres Livov


A film in the works.  A filmmaker curious about your ideas, stories and visions for the future.  Come participate in the making of a film that will capture this exciting time of great shifts in the world of education.


“A Place Called Los Pereyra”, my first documentary, also touched on the subject of education.  It examined adolescence, charity and the clash of two very different worlds.  Since 2009, it has toured festivals around the world and screened theatrically all across Canada (including a nine-week run in Toronto in 2012!). You can check the trailer or watch the film at HYPERLINK “”


 Workshop C Thursday 3:30


Founding a Public Unschool:  Self-direction in a Community Based on Consensus 

Carol Nash


A round circle sharing following the Alpha II Alternative School model:  participants will be encouraged to narrate their personal stories related to self-direction based on a passion for learning in relation to what they personally value in life.  The outcome of the workshop will be determined by consensus, where consensus means that each person’s point of view will be valued in developing any future directions.


I am a self-directed learner who became a teacher in 1981 to further self-directed learning in public education.  My 1989 doctoral thesis was “Intelligence, Public Education and Democracy.”  I worked at the University of Toronto developing self-directed graduate programs until my first child was born in 1996.  In 2007, I co-founded a public unschool for young people aged 12-21 in the Toronto District School Board with a group of parents from ALPHA Elementary School.  Both my children attend Alpha II.  Currently, I am a Scholar in Residence in the History of Medicine Program at the University of Toronto.


An outsider’s perspective on Second Foundation School: An open access urban Free School

Kirk Cunningham


This workshop will provide a description of the commonalities & unique attributes of this urban Free School as seen through the eyes of an external observer. Time will be provided for vigorous discussion of how the education revolution can respond to the challenge of opening our collective doors to working class students and students of color without becoming hostage to the conventional system and their grading, testing, adult driven curricula mandates. Participants of all ages, education philosophies, and backgrounds are welcome in broadening the discussion related to transformation of “schooling” inclusive of all students.


Kirk Cunningham is a 15+ year experienced public school teacher in Florida & Wisconsin, working with “At-Risk”, “Conventional”, “English 2nd Language”, & “International Baccalaureate” students in both urban & suburban settings.  His current doctoral research (Univ. of WI-Milwaukee) seeks to deepen understanding of the intricacies and outcomes of an urban Free School.


Community Conversations

Wendy Cole & Alissa Schwartz   


Maple Street School uses participatory conversational processes to build community among parents, staff, and administrators. The school’s culture is one of inclusion, where diverse voices can be heard and embraced and collective meaning-making and strategy emerge. Importantly, providing opportunities for participatory conversational processes among adults parallels the school’s values of collaboration and inclusion regarding children’s interactions within the school. This workshop will describe the processes we use (World Café, Open Space, ProAction Café, and Circle Practice), as well as provide an opportunity for workshop participants to engage in a facilitated conversation using one or more of these methodologies.


Wendy Cole, MSW, MSED has been working with children, families, and communities for over 20 years.  For the last 12 years, she has been the Executive Director of Maple Street Cooperative Preschool in Brooklyn, New York.  Wendy considers herself a child development geek, a diversity and inclusion advocate, an educational possibilitarian, and a life-long learner.


Alissa Schwartz, PhD’s experience with organizational development spans more than fifteen years.  Principal of Solid Fire Consulting (, she  builds vibrant social and organizational communities. Drawing from her family’s hosting traditions, theater  background, and participatory methodologies, she facilitates productive, exciting meetings and useful program evaluations.


Structure. Is it counterintuitive to self-directed learning?

Roger W. Bourassa


How do you define structure? What are the critical elements of structure? How is it used in self-directed learning environments? Through facilitated conversation and a hands-on activity, we’ll explore the meaning of structure and how it can be used to create a dynamic and purposeful learning environment for self-directed learners. You will be encouraged to share your thoughts and ideas on What Works! for you. Perduco will share the structure of exF, a tool and process used to encourage learners to take responsibility for their learning by planning, organizing, recording, monitoring, and evaluating academic goals, as well as, developing habits of successful self-directed learning.


Perduco is a growing, private, socially responsible teacher professional practice, owned and managed by Roger Bourassa. The formation of Perduco culminates the twenty plus years of Roger’s educational experiences. His teaching positions in both public and private schools – including abroad, along with research and thoughtful discussion with others, especially parents and students, has informed the development of this hybrid education center combining features of private education with the flexibility and empowerment of homeschooling. Roger facilitates a learning environment conducive to independent work, as well as, group discovery; instilling respect, individuality and peer encouragement.


A Dramatic Experience—The Whole Child Approach To Writing

Howard Katzoff, Christopher Nye


Teaching writing, at any level, doesn’t have to be a brain-only exercise. Learn what a Whole Child approach has to offer; then experience what happens when head, heart, voice and limbs become engaged and expository writing comes alive for kids.


Howard Katzoff taught English and Drama for 40 years in suburban, rural and inner-city school systems. He coordinated Service Learning at 10 schools in Springfield, Massachusetts, developed the arts programs for 33 schools in the South Bronx, and currently trains professional actors, musicians and dancers as teaching artists and substitute teachers in New York City.


Christopher Nye coordinates the Whole Child Initiative and its web presence at While a division dean at Berkshire Community College, he involved college students as mentors in after school programs at local elementary schools and promoted service learning at the college. He has a PhD in American Studies and has taught English.


Building Alternatives to College: Challenges and Opportunities

Blake Boles


What does it take to build an affordable alternative to the 4-year liberal arts college experience? What alternatives already exist, and what opportunities are waiting to be seized? And how can a college-aged young person begin walking this path, right now?
Higher education is changing before our very eyes. If you’re still on the “4-year college-for-all” bandwagon—think again.


Blake Boles is a writer, entrepreneur, and educator. He owns and operates Unschool Adventures, the travel company for self-directed young adults, and has authored two books: Better Than College and College Without High School. He founded Zero Tuition College, the network for college-aged self-directed learners ( to the conference to share your ideas about the future of higher education.. Blake lives in Asheville, North Carolina, and he travels widely. He is 30 years old.


Workshop D Friday 10:30

Cooperative Games in Education: Playing Together Not Against Each Other

Suzanne Lyons


I presented a workshop at the 2012 AERO conference titled “Teaching with Cooperative Games.” It introduced the concept of cooperative games, provided a rationale for using them, and included time to play games. It was quite uplifting for all I believe! This year, I’d like to cover topics discussed last year PLUS present research on the effectiveness of cooperative games. Research supports two major conclusions: (1) Cooperative play mitigates aggression and contributes to positive school climate, and (2) cooperative play promotes a sense of belonging through inclusiveness, and sense of belonging has been shown to be critical to academic success.


I’m Suzanne Lyons MA, MA. I’ve taught at all levels K-12 plus lectured at the University level. My degrees include a BA in physics (UCB); MA science education (Stanford); and MA Earth Science (Cal State Sacramento) plus my teaching credential. I’ve authored two science textbook programs published by Pearson and sold internationally. As a career educator, I remain passionate about the promise of education though I am opposed to many practices embraced by mainstream schools today. I founded to provide teachers with humane and effective tools that offer a positive alternative to standard educational approaches.


Education Uncensored: The Personalization of Education

Laurie Block Spigel


An impersonal education is rigid, standardized, and uniform.  In his AERO keynote speech of 2012, Sir Ken Robinson declared that the key to transformation in our educational system, and in our children, is personalization.  These words echo my own experience. A few years ago a family visited me, sat at my kitchen table, and asked me why their children’s education wasn’t working.  “How can I motivate my child to write?” asked the concerned father of 14-year-old twin girls.

“Simple,” I answered.  “Make sure they are connected to the material and that it’s meaningful to them.  Encourage them to put themselves into their writing.” “But schools don’t let us do that!” his daughter cut in.  Both girls hated writing.  They felt completely disconnected from it.


Two homeschooled years later, at age 16, the girls were happily working on essays: an eight-page illustrated essay on wedding dresses in different cultures around the world, and a ten-page research paper explaining how different responses to a child’s mistakes helps or hurts the child.  Each teen had chosen her own topic, worked at her own pace, found her own resources, and developed her own style and approach.  The result was outstanding, riveting work.


While homeschooling may offer the greatest potential for freedom and personalization, it is entirely possible to achieve the same results in a classroom setting, and in every subject.  Join Laurie as she shares techniques and curricula that have worked for her, in classrooms and with individuals, resulting in highly personalized, outstanding results for her students.


Laurie Block Spigel is a leading educator in the New York City homeschooling community, teaching popular group classes, and serving as a guide and mentor for homeschooling families.  Her approach is informal, creative, and child-led.  In her book, Education Uncensored, Laurie shares her innovative ideas and original techniques for every subject. She explains why our current educational system has it all backwards and shows how exciting learning can truly be.  Laurie’s website, HomeschoolNYC, contains everything a parent needs to know about homeschooling in NYC, and offers an amazing list of valuable resources.  Learn more about Laurie, and read some excerpts from her book, at


Feasting at the Nature Table

Kate Carr, Deborah Hale


We plan to play nature games, make nature journals and introduce nature journaling. We will be bringing a large collection of natural objects for participants to work with as they participate in our games and learning activities. We will view a picture presentation of students at the Inside Outside School engaged in integrated nature literacy education.  Weather permitting we would like to send participants outdoors to have a “sit spot” time with a follow up activity.  Participants will experience ways to make abstract math and science concepts concrete by using their neighborhood/ campus as a laboratory.


Deborah Hale is the director and co-founder of the Inside Outside School in Pflugerville, TX.  She has 29 years of teaching experience in private, public, and charter schools.  Deborah has a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from TX State and a
B.S. in Education from North Texas State.  She is certified in K-8.


Kate Carr teaches at the Inside Outside School.  She is certified EC – 4
and Special Education EC – 12.  She has
7 years experience working in public schools and
3 years experience teaching in a multi-age, inclusion setting.


Establishing a College AERO Caucus

Ariel Brooks 


College members of AERO propose to its K-12 members and the leadership of AERO that an intentional caucus of Colleges and Universities be formed within AERO to enhance the organization’s overall effectiveness in fulfilling its mission of facilitating passionate holistic student-centered and student-driven learning. The purpose of the College AERO Caucus (CAC) is to connect for mutual benefit K-12 progressive-alternative schools, their students and teachers, to similar communities of students and teachers in higher education. During this plenary, stakeholders will come together to establish a College AERO Caucus charter, formalize a steering committee, and discuss next action steps.


Ariel Brooks is the Director of Non Degree Programs for Marlboro College. After earning a degree in Sociology and certification to teach high school English from Harvard, Ariel was the founding Program Manager for Strong Women, Strong Girls, a then-new nonprofit in Boston, MA. Ariel then served as the first Director of Training, Evaluation and Reflection for Phillips Brooks House Association, a college-student-led nonprofit in Greater Boston. During this time, Ariel earned her Master’s in Instructional Design from UMass Boston. Following a year teaching in Malawi, Ariel and her husband relocated to Brattleboro VT where they are putting down roots.


Alternative schools: the second generation

Harrison Smith 
This workshop will be for and about graduates of alternative schools who have decided to continue the tradition by teaching in alternative schools. Now that the modern alternative school movement is 50+ years old, it now has many second, even third generation teachers, and many projects have continued beyond their founders. This will be a conversation about what this means for the movement, opportunities and challenges, and a chance to exchange stories.


Like many in alternative education, Harrison came to it by necessity. After years of struggling in traditional schools, he enrolled at Kino School, a school with roots in the alternative school movement of the 1970’s, and discovered his passions for environmentalism and education. He spent several months working to start a free school and found it to be one of his most rewarding experiences, even though the school didn’t last. He is graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science in May 2013 and looks forward to finding a place to help preserve the planet and learn from children.


Workshop E Friday 1:30


Descriptive Review of a Child

Abby Wambaugh, BFS teacher, and Kathy McCullagh, BFS Education Director


Staff at Brooklyn Free School use descriptive review processes, developed by Pat Carini and others at the Prospect School in Vermont, to ground our work with children and build our capacity as a staff to reflect on our practice. Come to this workshop to participate in a review, taking a close, non-judgmental look at one child, and find out more about these processes in our school.



Expanding the Scope of the Movement: Self-Directed Education for Low-Income Learners and Learners of Color

Kaitlin Smith


Though interest in educational approaches such as unschooling appear to be growing rapidly, one notices an absence of data and sustained reflection concerning how this phenomenon has interfaced with communities of color and in lower-income demographics. This workshop is designed to engage participants in a conversation concerning the challenges and opportunities inherent in deploying self-directed educational models in low-income communities and some communities of color. The conversation will emphasize sharing examples of models and strategies of which participants are aware or have found useful in their work and lives. The workshop will also feature a presentation on United Roots– a “Green Youth Arts & Media Center” that serves young, low-income men and women of color in Oakland, California– and its innovative after school program that blends popular and self-directed education frameworks through an emphasis on the value of “street intellectualism” and life experience outside the space of the school building.


Kaitlin Smith is an independent researcher currently exploring the phenomenon of unschooling within the African-American community. She is a master’s student in clinical social work at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts and holds a B.A. from Swarthmore College where she studied Sociology and black cultural politics. She is currently working with United Roots: Oakland’s Green Youth Arts & Media Center on a hybrid popular and self-directed education program designed to serve low-income boys and men of color in Oakland, California.


Start Right Now!  North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens, Perduco Education,  Parts and Crafts Center for Semi-Conducted Learning and Princeton Learning Cooperative

Kenneth Danford, Roger Bourassa, Kelly Taylor, Paul Scutt, Alison Snieckus


Five educational entrepreneurs will share how they started simple and immediate programs to support children to pursue their own learning outside of school.  These three projects all encourage students to leave school and use homeschooling to design their own learning.  Each center has its own orientation and expectations, but the central similarity is that they are not schools.  Learn how each program got started without the complications of being a school.  Then you, too, can go home and Start Right Now to change a child’s life.
Kenneth Danford is the co-founder and Executive Director of North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens.  Since 1996, he has been coaching teens and families to leave school and embark on self-directed learning with the support of this program.  In addition to running North Star, Kenneth also consults with people starting programs around the country.


Children as Leaders: The Life and Legacy of the Champion of Children – Janusz Korczak

Mariola Strahlberg, MS, LAc 


Janusz Korczak (1879-1942) is best known outside his native Poland through Andrzej Wajda’s acclaimed film Korczak. An engaging writer, public speaker, pediatrician and educator, father of democratic education and children’s rights, Korczak has captured the thinking process of children which allows adults to understand the world from children’s point of view. He continues to inspire us to allow children to be responsible for their thoughts, words and deeds. This talk will shed light on how Korczak’s ideas are pertinent for us in the 21st century, both in public settings such as schools and after school programs as well as homes.


Mariola Strahlberg, M.S, L.Ac, is the founder and executive director of the Shining Mountain Center for Peaceful Childhood, Inc. in Chestnut Ridge, NY and Stockbridge, MA ( and a chairperson of the USA branch of the Janusz Korczak Association, a global organization. She is a Korczak scholar who has presented workshops in the United States, Russia and Poland. Mariola is a licensed acupuncturist, licensed Brain Gym® Consultant/Instructor and is certified in Color Acu-Light Therapy (Colorpuncture™). She has extensive training in the application of therapeutic grade essential oils and tuning forks in Oriental Medicine.


Cut, Tear, Color, Repeat

Carolyn Albracht


This hands-on workshop entails the use of foam board and mixed media techniques. The process is fun, messy and nearly limitless in possibilities. It is a process that I have shared with teens, college students, art educators and fellow artists and has wide appeal because of the many combinations of media that can be used. It is a process that allows for open-ended exploration of themes and ideas. Workshop participants will cut into and tear layers from the foam board, adding charcoal, pastel, glue, watercolor, collage elements and more. They’ll be able to work 2- or 3-dimensionally and explore ideas or themes that interest them.


I have been involved with art and education for over 10 years in a variety of capacities. In 2003, I opened an art center and gallery, where I taught a variety of classes and workshops to preschoolers through adults. I have served my local community as a member of the county’s fine arts board, and as the visual arts coordinator for FAM Fest. I returned to school in 2008 to earn a teaching certificate in K-12 art, and taught high school art for 3 years. I currently teach art methods to Elementary Ed majors at UNL where I’m pursuing a PhD in education.


Real Teachers, or How to Love Education Again

Dr. Stuart Grauer


Poet Muriel Rukeyser says, “The Universe is made of stories, not atoms.” This workshop will provide four stories which provide teachers with inspiration and insight as they aim to keep or restore joy to their lives as educators often trapped in a bureaucratic world. Stories will illustrate: the nature of epiphany and insight, mind and brain research as applied to keeping happiness in the classroom, and more. Grauer will also illustrate concepts he has developed and coined called “educational determinism (also called “the garbage pail perspective!),” “the Socratic Oath,” “slow education,” “real teachers,” in an effort to expand perspectives on the nature of our lives as educators.


Dr. Stuart Grauer, a teacher, is the founding Head of School, The Grauer School and Founder, The Coalition for Small Preparatory Schools.  He has consulted with and evaluated many schools worldwide, taught graduate education courses, and been awarded with a Fulbright Administrative Exchange. His work has been covered in The Discovery Channel, The New York Times, International Education Review, and frequently in the local press in his home of Encinitas, California, where he has been named “Peacemaker of the Year” and a “Local Legend.” His book, Real Teachers, came out in March of 2013 on SelectBooks, New York.


Workshop F Friday 3:30


“Eye Openers Are Mind Openers” DVD screening and discussion

Barry Chiate


Welcome to a look at tomorrow’s classroom today where the very problems of classroom management become the solution. Children moving randomly in the classroom and settling them down can take up to 50% of a teacher’s valuable time in the classroom. Eye openers are mind openers are a series of simple fun educational exercises based on the power of vision – that takes a child’s natural urge to move and play and transforms that energy into simple exercises that build a child’s ability to focus and pay attention. Come join Dr. Martha Eddy – a 25 year PhD of Education and Movement  as she shows you how “Directed vision” activities settle and focus the attention of a group of children with diverse visual and learning challenges.


Barry Chiate has dedicated a lifetime to investigating how vision and the way our eyes work can be the keys that unlock human intelligence. He is the president of Image Tactics, a multimedia production company that has developed a DVD based curriculum – Eye Openers Are Mind Openers – that creatively takes on the challenges of classroom management. Here a child’s natural urge to move is transformed into simple fun vision bases exercises that build focus and attention skills.


Health an Education that Works – Empowering Youth to Take Charge of Their Health

Peter Berg


We will explore the connection between holistic health and what works in education. Workshop will focus on small break- out groups and discussions designed to explore holistic health, and techniques designed to empower youth and to become masters of their own health. We will discuss the barriers and pressures youth face that distracts them from attending to their health, and ways to overcome them.  We will also explore how attending to and creating an environment for optimal health is a foundational piece of an education that works, is transformative and ultimately leads to a more just and sustainable society.


Peter is a holistic living and educational advocate and AADP board certified health coach. He currently works with adolescents, young adults and families in holistic health, mental health, and educational counseling. He also continues to work as a leadership and educational developer and consultant with various schools and organizations. Peter has over 20 years in education, as a teacher, educational leader and advocate.  He envisions a world where everyone has the ability and right to meet their need for optimal health.


How and Why to Homeschool in New York: Q and A with Veteran NYC Homeschoolers

Laurie Block Spigel, Joanna Lodin, Twinkle Burke & Kristin Sposito


Frustrated with schools and education today?  Yearning to see dramatic changes there?  Homeschooling offers the freedom and potential to be that change, to live the reality that we can only dream about in the school system.  Learn how to navigate the DoE, tap the rich resources of our great cities and neighborhoods, create classes on your own, and join in activities created by local homeschooling groups.  Break free from limitations like the Core Curriculum that hold our children hostage to boredom.  Instead, make learning an integral and unlimited aspect of daily life!  Veteran NYC homeschoolers are here to demystify homeschooling.  Bring your questions!


Laurie Block Spigel, author of Education Uncensored, and the informational website, homeschooled two sons in NYC whoa re now 22 and 28.  They attended their first-choice colleges where they received generous scholarships, without have attained a high school diploma or equivalent.  These days Laurie teaches popular classes to NYC homeschoolers.


Joanna Lodin is mom to three boys, ages 20, 17 and 13, all lifelong homeschoolers, until it came time for college.  Over the past 18 years Joanna has also taught science to homeschooled children and mentored many families new to homeschooling.  Her mentoring work has led her to create the workshop program, Fearless Homeschooling.


Twinkle Burke is a homeschooling parent in NYC. She has worked in NYC public schools for over 20 years in General and Special Education. She oversees a homeschool group, Homeschool New York, that has almost 500 families in membership. Twinkle works as an Actor on Stage, Film, and Television. She is also a Teaching Artist for Theatre and Arts in Education Companies.


Kristin Sposito is a homeschooling mom to three kids (ages 13, 10 and 4).  She follows a classical curriculum as laid out in The Well Trained Mind, mostly because it is the education she wishes she could have had for herself.  Kristin is a Civil Engineer from the Pacific Northwest.


The Future of Learning is Ours!

David Marshak


In coming years at least 10 million US Millennials (born 1978-2000), who are what Paul Ray calls “cultural creatives,” are likely to be seeking education for their children that embodies the values of AERO member schools and learning organizations. The Millennial “baby boom” is just beginning to get underway, and it will lead to a significant increase in the demand for AERO-type education, particularly given the entrenched reactionary policies of our state and federal governments. This workshop will explore these demographics and their implications for AERO members through short presentations, small group conversations, guided imagery, and whole group discussion.


David Marshak is the founding president of the SelfDesign Graduate Institute. His books include Kids Need the Same Teacher for More than One Year and The Common Vision: Parenting and Educating for Wholeness. He lives in Bellingham, Washington.


Open Connections and the Mechanics of Creative Group Problem Solving

Peter Bergson


Even the most dedicated and creative educators (including parents) often find themselves in long and unproductive meetings, combative discussions, and at a loss for truly new and feasible solutions to long-standing problems. What is needed is a shift in process, comparable to the shift from coercive schooling to self-directed learning that we advocate for our youths. We don’t have to perpetuate traditional meeting behaviors any more than we have to perpetuate traditional schooling. This is a workshop that will show you how to get yourself and your colleagues out of the meeting box while you are helping students get out of the school box.


Peter Bergson is co-founder and retired executive director of Open Connections, a 35-year old resource center for self-directed learners in suburban Philadelphia. He began his career with Synectics, Inc., a Cambridge, MA consulting group specializing in creative group problem solving, where he became Director of Training in the mid-1970s. He left Synectics to apply his knowledge to the field of education and family life. He is the father of four grown unschoolers who are now happily earning a living; he is also  “Grampy” to five grand-ones, ages 2-6. His beloved wife and partner, Susan Shilcock, died in 2005.


School Starters

Jerry Mintz and Chris Mercogliano


AERO has helped start over 50 new educational alternatives, schools and homeschool resource centers, etc. This is in line with our mission of creating an Education Revolution in which learner-centered education will become available for all students. Every fall we have an online school starters course with an average of 25 enrollees. This workshop is for anyone who is interested in starting a new educational alternative. We will talk about the basics of starting a new alternative and talk to as many attendees as possible about their visions, giving suggestions and resources where we can.


The workshop will be coordinated by Jerry Mintz and Chris Mercogliano, with other possible guest resource people. Jerry Started and directed is own school for 17 years. His first school is still running after 45 years. He is the founder and director of AERO and co-editor of Turning Points, 35 Visionaries in education tell their own stories, as well as No Homework and Recess All Day, How to Have Freedom and Democracy in Education.


Chris Mercogliano was teacher and director of Albany’s Free School for over 30 years. He has written many respected books, such as Making it up as we go Along, How to Grow a School, and many others.


Workshop G Saturday 9:30


De-standardizing Higher Education: Building Competent Teachers

Khoan Ly


Most teacher education programs accept students right out of high school, a highly standardized environment, and place them into standardized college classrooms to receive training. These programs are not providing many of the tools that will help students internalize knowledge and skills to become competent teachers. As a student within a teacher education program, I can attest that most pre-service teachers participate in education as continued performance of education rather than true learning epitomized by Dewey. Teacher education programs need to help them transition away from standardized forms of “learning” so they may best serve as models for their future students.


Khoan holds a degree in Psychology. She is currently a post-baccalaureate student of Millersville University seeking certification in Early Childhood Education. As a future educator, she is concerned with how the current teacher education programs are not providing students with the proper support to develop pedagogy and dispositions towards true learning to reach competency.


Home Schools: A Better Model for Public School Reform

Angela K. Kost, Nicole Rieker & Douglas Ehst


This workshop will present biographical and ethnographic research on local homeschooling families, one public school teacher planning to homeschool her son, and how the inherent strengths of the homeschool model are what we should be striving for in public schools. We began to research the homeschool model, when we came to the jarring realization that we were jealous of homeschooling families, and the education that they were able to give to their children. As parents and educators, we were particularly interested in identifying the major strengths of the home school model, and examining ways it would be possible to implement those strengths in a public school setting.


Angela K. Kost is pursuing her Masters of Education in Art at Millersville University. After receiving her BA in Journalism and Political Science from Temple University, she began her career as a graphic designer and gravitated toward art and education. After becoming a mother of three, including twins, she became a freelance designer and artist. She is a now full-time student exploring the vast field of education. She is very drawn to examining alternative forms of education.


Nicole Rieker holds a Masters of Education in Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment from Walden University and a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Millersville University. She is currently teaching 5th grade in a local public school, and has six years experience teaching both 5th and 6th grades. She is planning to homeschool her son, when he reaches school age, and will likely homeschool other children as well. Her research on homeschooling in Pennsylvania has been extensive.


Douglas Ehst holds a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Eastern Mennonite University.  Currently a fifth grade teacher in a public school, he has taught fifth through eighth grades in both private and public school settings. Particular areas of interest are restorative discipline, authentic assessment, and student-led conferences.


Empathy and Conflict Transformation Through Movement

Katie McFarland


Join in movement-based activities that address social learning and conflict transformation in order to build peaceful communities. Our activities promote empathy, meditation, anger management, and inter-cultural exchange. Workshop participants will learn about our theory of change and apply it through interactive, physical activities that are founded in academic research. Each participant will partake in group work as well as individual reflection. Members will be able to learn tangible activities to use in their home and/or classrooms, as well as a deeper understanding of movement-based approach to empathy-education. They may even take away a few moves of their own!


Katie holds a M.A in International affairs from Columbia University’s school of international and public affairs, where she concentrated in Economic Development. Katie has worked in youth development for 6 years in Southeast Asia, Latin America and the United States. Katie served as a youth development Peace Corps Volunteer, where she designed a social development program for female youth in Belize. Katie most recently led a workshop at the Progressive Education Summit in Baltimore, MD, focusing on conflict transformation and empathy education. Katie is currently in the US as the program manager for Move This World, Inc.


The Kaleidoscope Approach to Enhancing Student Freedom 

Brian Anthony


Brian will describe how he has worked greater student-directedness into his public school classroom using a “kaleidoscope approach”. This interconnected range of paths is designed to help students navigate the vast and varied learning opportunities that freedom presents. Participants will collaboratively create their own unit that can be used in public, private, or individualized learning contexts.


Brian Anthony’s first job in education was at Berks County Prison, an accidental but life-changing opportunity that brought him to the vocation of teaching. He taught in the Middle East for seven years, and has been English and Gifted teacher at Northwestern Lehigh High School for the past six. Brian serves as founding member of Circle of Seasons, the first Waldorf-inspired charter school on the east coast, and hopes to build an alternative secondary-level learning community in the Lehigh Valley area. Brian’s approach to teaching is shaped by his inner adolescent, who still unrepentantly despises school to this day.


When Learners Own Their Learning

Paul Scutt and Alison Snieckus


At Princeton Learning Cooperative, we support and encourage learners to take full ownership of their learning. We offer many classes and other learning opportunities,  all of which are voluntary, but more importantly we offer teens the space, time, and support to develop their own interests and projects. In this way, we help teens learn how to be self-directed learners. In this workshop, we will introduce, show and discuss videos of PLC teens talking about their projects and their learning.


Paul Scutt is Founder and Co-Director at Princeton Learning Cooperative.  He has a background in marine engineering, computer science and teaching. As an avid outdoorsman, Paul enjoys rock climbing, hiking, sailing, and takes every opportunity to encourage teenagers to get outside. He also keeps bees.


Alison Snieckus is on staff at Princeton Learning Cooperative. In addition to her work with teens at PLC, she teaches Statistical Methods at Rutgers University, Graduate School of Education and runs a youth-led weekly meeting for homeschooled teens. She worked at ETS in a previous life.


The Art of Teaching Mathematics

 Jenny Steichen, PhD.


Some students have a deep-seated belief that they can never be good at math. Other students don’t see why they should learn math. What’s the point? If math is about memorization and formulas for things rarely used in real life, then why care about it? But, is that what math is? Learn effective ways to present math so that it appeals to students. So their faces light up and they want to learn math – the type of math most useful in everyday life. We explore possible ways to light a fire of desire in students to learn mathematics.


Jenny Steichen, PhD has worked with world-renown mathematicians, publishing in leading international journals. After working at IBM research and authoring a patent, she became a full-time mom and eventually started homeschooling her three children. For more than 25 years, Jenny has enjoyed tutoring and teaching mathematics including class teaching: Calculus at the Experimental Studies Program at MIT, Senior Math at Green Meadow Waldorf School, and Differential Equations at Westchester Community College. She currently coaches a Mathematical Olympiads home school math team. Jenny was introduced to alternative education by her mother, who was a tutor with a BS in education, and homeschooled two of Jenny’s siblings.



Workshop H Saturday 10:45


The Art of Learning

Shelley Krapes-Mackinnon


Participants will create small hand drawn murals for the purpose of experiencing a learning process that is deep, highly creative, very personal and beneficial for the brain. Drawing greatly enhances ones relationship to learning. It is personal and the mural is a tremendous organizer of vast amounts of information. Participants have two options: They can explore a subject of deep interest, academic or not, and learn about “arts-integrated” and “project-based” teaching and learning. Or they can choose to do a mindfulness project that relates to emotional intelligence. Both bring an innovative, highly creative and effective approach to the educational and developmental process.


Founder and director of The Creativity and Learning Workshop, a personalized, community based learning center. Over 21 years working in public schools as a teaching- artist with LEAP and Studio in a School and as an NYU trained a school psychologist. Many art and educational awards, national exhibitions and publications. Expertise: creativity, special needs, including giftedness, brain-based learning, using art for cognitive and social-emotional development and teaching academics through art. Extensive experience teaching and conducting staff development workshops for educators, including administrators, and clinicians. I taught “Art in the Elementary Class” to graduate level education students at Hunter college. I have consulted extensively with parents of special needs. My latest article, “Executive Functioning, The New Intelligence” was published in Wise Brain Bulletin. I am currently working on a proposal for a book of art projects that develop emotional-social intelligence.


Should I Take Responsibility for Educating My Own Children? 

Chris Davis


Seminar demonstrates the difference between a generic education which, due to size of population and financial constraints, is the only form of education that government schools can offer. Postulates that, since all children differ in many areas (from learning styles to their personal passions), the only place a truly individualized education can take place is in the home. And, the only ones truly capable of offering such an individualized education are the child’s parents. Many lessons from homeschoolers’ personal experiences as well as statistics proving the efficacy of homeschooling.


Chris Davis has been a homeschooling pioneer since the mid-1980’s. Author of I Saw the Angel in the Marble, Amazon’s All 5-Star homeschooling book (see for reviews). Keynote, and seminar, speaker at virtually every major homeschooling conference in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Since 2001, has led homeschooling families to study Middle Eastern History & Archaeology in Israel.


Consciousness: the Missing Dimension in Education

Nitai Deranja


In this workshop we’ll explore how the dimension of consciousness transforms every aspect of the educational experience. Specifically, we’ll look at 1) setting overall goals for student unfoldment, 2) the dynamics of a healthy student/teacher relationship, and 3) the creation of a student-centered curriculum. Examples will be drawn from all levels of education – elementary, high school, and college – showing how to prepare students for a life of accomplishment and fulfillment through a balanced development of the body, feelings, will, and intellect.


In 1972 Nitai Deranja was the founding director of the original Living Wisdom Elementary School in Nevada City, California, where he cofounded the Living Wisdom High School in 1997. Since 2004, he has helped establish the Ananda College of Living Wisdom with its new campus in Laurelwood, Oregon. Nitai has a Bachelor’s degree in Humanistic Psychology from UC Berkeley, and a lifetime Teaching Credential and Master’s Degree in Education from UC Davis. He is the author of For Goodness Sake: Supporting Children & Teens in Discovering Life’s Higher Values and is co-director of Education for Life International (“”


Shifting from Knowing to Doing: Project Approach for Any Age

Janice LaMendola

This workshop is designed to show teachers how to easily shift their teaching from old school to new school! At any age, students learn more through active participation than through lectures. Through a learner-centered school environment, you can accommodate more learning styles and learning differences than ever before!


Janice LaMendola is an early childhood educator at Greenhill School in Addison, TX. Janice has spent 17 years using brain-based research in child development and Best Practices to discover how children learn best. Her well honed “outside-the-box” teaching style has earned high praise from parents and peers alike. She was recently named Preschool Teacher of the Year by the Academy of Education, Arts and Sciences.


Movement Matters: Fundamental Movement Presentations and Physical Activities for Children

Melani Alexander Fuchs


This interactive workshop will give teachers practical methods to implement the use of gross motor movement materials into any kind of classroom. Participation in lesson demonstrations, use of materials as well as participation in activities is included. Modifications and inclusion for differently abled children is emphasized.


Participants are shown and experience:

initial Fundamental Movement lessons

how to create concrete movement materials for a ‘Movement Shelf’ which offer children opportunities to independently practice fundamental movements during the school day

easy to lead, fun, small and large group physical activities and games


Movement Matters, a fully illustrated Montessori album, contains teaching philosophy, methods and lesson plans written for Montessori teachers. Implementing gross motor movement practice into all children’s school experience is the goal!


Melani Alexander Fuchs- holds a BS in Physical Education from SUNY Cortland. Melani has been teaching at EAC Montessori School of Ithaca for twenty nine years and is certified in Early Childhood and Lower Elementary. Recently, Melani has completed initial training in Brain Gym ® and is certified in Movement Based Learning. She implements this work for the staff and for the entire student body.  In addition, Melani shares her love of movement and teaches Physical Education to the Primary classes. She has co-authored Movement Matters, A Movement Album for Montessori Early Childhood Programs.  Melani presents Movement Matters workshops at Montessori schools, at Montessori Trainings as well as presenting at National Montessori Conferences.


An Attempt to Change Public Opinion

Peter Bergson and Peter Gray


The biggest roadblock to educational revolution in our society is public opinion. Whether they like coercive schooling or not, most people think it is essential to children¹s success.  How can we convince the general public that, given freedom and opportunity, children can and will educate

themselves well for adult success in our society? That is the question that we of the Tipping Point Project are tackling.  Here we will present our ideas for changing public opinion, describe the steps we have taken so far (including a website we have developed), and seek further ideas and

suggestions from workshop participants.


Peter Bergson is co-founder and retired executive director of Open Connections, a 35-year old resource center for self-directed learners in suburban Philadelphia. He is co-author of Open Connections: The Other Basics, and Spaces For Children: Work/Play Environments for Home and School.


Workshop I Saturday 3:30


The Evils of Bureaucratic Public Education

Bob Ferris


Unfortunately, public education has become pipelines to prisons instead of gateways to opportunities for children of the poor. Through over regulation, under funding, miseducation and the abuse of testing, poor children are being offered the worst education imaginable further perpetuating their oppression. In our march towards standardization along with our obsession over testing, poor children are forced to receive a dumb-down, very narrow education and then tested to failure because they do not meet ever higher standards. De-emphasizing testing, dissolving public school bureaucracies, creating small public community schools, equitable spending for all school children, early childhood education and quality education for all children including children of the poor afford us paths out of our present educational morass.


Bob Ferris helped start and run the New Orleans Free School, a small public creative school from 1971 to 2005.   He recently authored the book, Flood of Conflict, The New Orleans Free School published by AERO in late August 2012. Through the book he hopes to spread the message that we need to rethink and redo public education in America.  The spirit and constant quest for knowledge by the faculty and students of the school motivated him to tell this story.


Hackers, Makers, and John Dewey: Collaborative Education for Technological Literacy

Alex Megelas


This workshop will consider hackerspaces for their cooperative and socially situated approach to learning, and for the extent to which they promote technological literacy – an understanding of technology which can both liberate and oppress us. In that regard, hackerspaces, a recent development in hacker culture, can be said to reflect John Dewey’s commitment to collaborative learning. The world is increasingly mechanized and more and more we find ourselves isolated from each other; we need to develop new, cooperative approaches to education and to understanding technology. Now more than ever, Dewey’s vision of collaboration in learning is crucial.


Alex Megelas is a Montreal-based community organizer, educator and visual artist. He is the coordinator of the Personal and Cultural Enrichment Program (PACE) an experiential-learning unit at McGill University. His current research (Concordia University) is on hackerspaces as autonomous educational communities of practice. His collaborative visual projects are Power Up!, a bike-powered exploration of the intersection of technology, community and self-reliance and Best Friends, a musical group with a revolving door 30+ membership that performs 70s and 80s songs as well as other music of significant importance to the collective consciousness.


Open Shop at Parts and Crafts & the Center for Semi-conducted Learning

Kelly Taylor


We will bring the P&C experience to the conference. We’ll bring a bunch of our boxes of supplies and be ready to show people how to make Bristle Bots, Drawing Robots, Drawdios, LED flashlights with reed switches (they use magnets!), dynamos, motors, trebuchets, boffer swords, or anything else that can be made with glass beads, popsicle sticks, hot glue, pvc pipes, electrical tape, coin batteries, LEDs, capacitors, glitter, wire, etc. We’ll bring as much stuff as we can fit & make a Giant mess. It’s what we do every day! This is for humans age 7+!! Please NO babies or kids under 7. We work with power tools, hot glue, soldering irons, and other sharp objects.


Librarian by day, rock photographer by night, bookbinder, radical educator & goggle enthusiast, Kelly joins P&C [Parts & Crafts] from the wilds of southwest NH. She loves making things out of paper, fabric, cardboard, wood, & just about anything else that can be glued, sewn, stapled, hammered, or drilled. She’s been involved in alternative forms of education in one way or another for most of her life, but formally so since 2002, since which time she’s worked w/ middle school

boys w/ behavior problems, freeschooling, unschooling & generally making a ruckus about education for kids who are unsatisfied by the mainstream school system. Her favorite hobbies include reading YA novels about kids with super-powers, making tiny books, photographing

musicians & rusty metal bits, and using her powers for awesome.  Kelly started working full-time at Parts & Crafts in June of 2012 and helped start the CSCL, which opened in September 2012.


Hybrid Homeschooling: A Family’s Path to a New Model

Jessie Slade


Children have unique interests, skill sets, challenges, personalities, and family lives; yet the current educational model relies on prescribed curricula, preset schedules, and inflexibility. As a former classroom teacher, I was always aware that something was amiss. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s and also tested as profoundly gifted, I knew that I had to find a way for him to benefit from a truly child-centered education. We began homeschooling and soon found ourselves intuitively creating an educational model that has changed the way many think about “school,” and negated his AS diagnosis. Please join me to learn more about our journey and the creation of Trellis Community Learning.


Jessie Slade is the director and founder of Trellis Community Learning in Pembroke, MA. Jessie has taught in public, private, Montessori, and parochial based settings. The mother of a child diagnosed with special needs and profound giftedness, Jessie left the classroom to homeschool her son and has since created a responsive learning community that is based on child-interest.


Welcome to the Self-Design Learning Community

David Marshak


The SelfDesign Learning Community serves more than 2000 children and teens in British Columbia through a web-mediated homeschooling program. Each learner and family works, via Skype or other online platform, with a “learning consultant” who supports and at times guides the learning process. Parents and kids interact with each other through a complex web 2.0 social network called “The Village.”


SelfDesign is a contemporary expression of the profound insight articulated 100 years ago by Montessori and others: follow the child! This workshop presents the SelfDesign Learning Community, illustrates its operations, and engage participants in considering its implications in other settings.


David Marshak is the founding president of the SelfDesign Graduate Institute. His books include Kids Need the Same Teacher for More than One Year and The Common Vision: Parenting and Educating for Wholeness. He lives in Bellingham, Washington. David has served on the board of the SelfDesign Learning Foundation for 5 years; this foundation operates the SelfDesign Learning Community.


Workshop J Sunday 10:30


Balancing Student Self-Direction with Teacher Guidance

Lexi Shear and Rebecca Yahm


What’s the ideal balance between student self-direction and teacher guidance?  Hear about how we navigate that question with our 10-18 year old students at Pacem School, an independent school and homeschool center, and discuss how you finesse it in your own setting.  After a brief presentation about Pacem’s educational approach, this workshop will emphasize interaction and discussion.  We will look at ways to craft teacher-initiated activities to make them more student-directed and ways to scaffold student-led projects to bring out students’ best work.  Participants are invited to come with project ideas to share and explore.


Lexi Shear is the Director of Pacem School and teaches middle and high school level science and math.  She has taught in a variety of settings from traditional public and private schools to wilderness expeditions.  In her classroom, students are typically given a question and challenged to devise a specific procedure to find an answer.


Rebecca Yahm has a long standing commitment to alternative education, which she honed in Antioch New England’s M.Ed. program where she focused on integrated curriculum and environmental education.  She shares her commitment to educational alternatives at Open Path Homeschooling Resources and teaches at Pacem School.


Discovering the Self-Directed Learner Within Each of us

Amy Milstein


No matter what type of educational program you or your children follow, there are key elements to learning which are universal, though often forgotten.  These elements include passion, motivation, inherent interest.  In this workshop, parents & kids will take part in a ‘treasure hunt’ of sorts – remembering or figuring out what motivates them, what they love and how they can apply that to their education.


Amy Milstein is an unschooling parent of two kids:  Maya age 12 and Ben age 9, neither of whom have ever been to school.  She is an active member of NYCHEA (New York City Home Educators Alliance) and writes about learning and unschooling at


School as Community/Community as School

Chris Mercogliano


Two fundamental conditions must exist in order for schools to be true places of growth and transformation: They have to function like communities and the surrounding community has to function like a school. In this workshop we will begin by identifying the basic ingredients of community and exploring practical ways in which schools can build them into daily school life. Then we will discuss the importance of porous boundaries between school and the outside world, and how schools can create multiple connections between the two.


Technology and Popular Education: Building the Movements

Andrew Stachiw, Brian Van Slyke


Cultivate.Coop is an online hub for pooling knowledge and resources on cooperatives. It is a space to collect free information for those interested in cooperatives and where people can build useful educational tools for the co-op community. Cultivate fulfills the need and desire for next-generation publications and new contexts for learning. We will present on the course Cultivate has taken from its inception and the lessons we have learned from its development. Specifically, we will highlight how democratic education has changed in light of technology, and how technology enables multiple voices to be present in the same educational tool.


Both educators, TESA’s presenters have extensive experience designing and implementing curriculum and lesson plans. Andrew Stachiw and Brian Van Slyke have been involved with participatory and democratic education for a combined 15 years, and have designed workshops, curricula, board games, and other educational resources on topics ranging from people’s history to co-ops and social change movements. Additionally, Andrew holds a Massachusetts Teaching License for Secondary Education as a History Teacher. The co-op they founded, the Toolbox for Education and Social Action, designs participatory educational resources for social and economic change.



Derry Hannam


Derry will talk a little about his own experience of attempting to be a democratic educator in the UK public (state) school system  for the past 40 years as a teacher, school principal,  school inspector and researcher. There have been some successes and many frustrations reflecting the educationally divided and class based society to be found in the UK. He hopes that the session will be interactive and participative with colleagues sharing their experiences identifying and exploring similarities and differences between the UK and the US.

He will also bring to the discussion his experience of working with public school systems in the Nordic nations, particularly Norway and Finland, which in his opinion offer models of what truly democratic public school systems can look like. In these countries education from pre-school to university is free,  there are virtually no private schools, and the systems are unified and strongly valued by the communities to which the local schools belong. Finland is acknowledged as having one of the most effective systems in the world in terms of learning and in disconnecting student attainment from parental wealth or lack of it. He would like to explore with colleagues the extent to which attempting to work towards such a system in the socially and educationally fragmented situations that exist in the UK and the US is a utopian pipedream doomed to frustration and failure – or not! He has never quite been able to make up his mind on this question! Derry is currently still trying to influence education policy in a more student centred and democratic direction in the UK while at the same time supporting independent alternatives at home and in Denmark, Germany and Holland.


Derry practised as much democracy and student control over their own learning as he could get away with in his twenty years as a state secondary school teacher. He ended his school career as vice-principal (at times acting principal) of a large English secondary school which pioneered the role of  the school being a learning resource for the whole community and the whole community being a learning resource for the school. He then became a school inspector where he tried to support other teachers and schools with similar ideas. He was part of the successful defence of Summerhill school against the threat of closure from the government in 1999. He has been an adviser/trainer/rapporteur for the Council of Europe Education for Democratic Citizenship project and a freelance researcher/adviser to the development of citizenship education in the English national curriculum. At the request of the UK ministry of education he authored the ‘Hannam Report’  based on research which he conducted that demonstrated associations between  democratic and participative methods in schools and higher academic results, less anti-social behaviour, and better school attendance especially for students from more economically and socially deprived backgrounds. He successfully campaigned for the creation of an English School Students Association and has recently done the same for young people being educated at home. He has co-authored several books on the theme that ‘…if you want young people to learn about democracy in schools they have to do it and not just listen to teachers talk about it.’ As a visiting fellow in student voice at the University of Sussex he was part of a project to democratise the school system of a deprived English city and this work is now developing in several other parts of the world. He has contributed to IDECs regularly since 1993 and has been described as a ‘bridge person’ who tries to bring about dialogue between the democratic education movement and state or public school systems, a role that he has most recently played in Puerto Rico.


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