It happens every year. I come back from the AERO conference inspired, invigorated and ready to keep the education revolution moving forward. This year’s conference was held in New York at Long Island University’s Post Campus.
What AERO does that very few other organizations do is bring together people from anywhere in the world who are interested in the idea of humans as natural learners and learner driven education.
If we all talked to each other, shared our best practices, resources, and energy learner driven education would be the norm, which in my opinion would lead to a more just, sustainable world.
The AERO conference kicked off with two documentaries: Screenagers and Movement which prompted dynamic discussions.
The next day started with a keynote talk by Danya Martin, sharing her work of creating educational freedom for children through mentoring others on the nuances of radical unschooling.
The day continued with min- talks from Jamaal Bowman, Michael Hynes, Brenna Gibson Redpath, Joanna Faber, Jane Macdonald and Debra O’Rourke on topics ranging from what learner driven education can look like in public schools, and homeschooling options, to youth created alternative free schools and the power and nature of creativity.
The evening got underway with a group meet and greet session led by Jerry Mintz, the Executive Director of AERO followed by Jerry reading excerpts from his new book School’s Over, How to Have Freedom and Democracy in Education which signified its official launch.
Shortly after, participants were treated to Adler Yang’s documentary If There Is A Reason To Study followed by a Q & A session with Adler.
As happened every evening many conversations and impromptu meetings lasted well into the late night hours as conference attendees shared their work, resources, passion, and knowledge with each other.
The next day saw many of the incredible, diverse and dynamic workshops kick into high gear.
The day concluded with two amazing keynotes from Dennis Litky on his work of revolutionizing public education through his work with The Big Picture schools and Peter Gray on the natural way humans learn through play and observation and have been doing so for millennia, and a panel discussion with Peter Gray, Dennis Litky, and Akilah Richards .
As conference goers awoke the next morning they had a variety of workshops to choose from as well as plenty of time for networking and sharing. During the lunch break German Doin delivered a fascinating keynote sharing his journey of making education documentaries.
The day progressed with more workshops some of which were delivered by students who attended the conference. As dinner ended attendees piled into the LIU Auditorium for Jonathan Kozol’s keynote on educational freedom, inequality, and justice.
Immediately following, Peter Gray joined Jonothan Kozol in a unique panel discussion where Peter Gray posed some questions to Jonathan Kozol before they both responded to questions from the audience.
The last day of the conference was marked by a dynamic energizing keynote from Akilah Richards where she talked about how self-directed education can and should be available and usable to all.
John Taylor Gatto prepared a written statement, since he is unable to appear in person, for the next keynote which was read by Jerry Mintz and followed up by Gatto publisher David Rodriguez.
The conference ended with an evaluation and call to action session. Many participants stayed after the conference officially ended to continue their networking and work on furthering the education revolution.
During the conference, the AERO team recorded podcasts with Brenna Gibson Redpath & Anna Smith from Urban Homeschoolers on the ins and outs of homeschooling and some common myths surrounding it; Students from The New School and The Highland School on what it is like to live and learn in a democratic school, and what democratic education looks like, and Akilah Richards on liberating all communities through educational freedom and self-directed education. Be on the look out for these wonderful podcasts as they will be released shortly, as well as audio CDs of all presentations, and DVDs of the keynotes and mini-talks.
AERO is happy to continue to bring such incredible diversity of educational thought, experience, and practice together in all of its work and has already begun putting together next year’s conference as well as many exciting new initiatives in 2017-2018.
Thank you to all the keynoters, presenters, volunteers and participants. You are what makes AERO the organization that it is.