Free to Learn: A Radical Experiment in Education (VIDEO)

October 25, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Posted in AERO, AERO Online Video Series, Democratic Education | Leave a comment
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Free to Learn

Free to Learn:

A Radical Experiment in Education

A Documentary by Jeff Root & Bhawin Suchak

Free to Learn is a 70 minute documentary that offers a “fly on the wall” perspective of the daily happenings at The Free School in Albany, New York. Like many of today’s radical and democratic schools, The Free School expects children to decide for themselves how to spend their days.

The Free School, however, is unique in that it transcends obstacles that prevent similar schools from reaching a economically and racially diverse range of students and operates in the heart of an inner-city neighborhood.

For over thirty years in perhaps the most radical experiment in American education, this small inner-city alternative school has offered its students complete freedom over their learning. There are no mandatory classes, no grades, tests, or homework, and rules are generally avoided. As a last resort, rules are created democratically by students and teachers, often at the prompting of a student. At a time when our educators are mandated to march forward with no child left behind, the students of the Free School, many of whom would have fallen through the cracks of today’s failing public school system, have managed to slip out of education’s back door and have run away free.

Free to Learn follows a handful of these children courageously meeting the daily challenges of hope, acceptance, loss, friendship, conflict, and the difficult task of deciding, for themselves, what to do with each day.


Watch the documentary online for free at:


Green Festival (EVENT REPORT)

October 25, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Posted in AERO, Education Events | Leave a comment
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Jerry Mintz

AERO joined forces with IDEA, the Institute for Democratic Education in America, to staff an exhibitor booth at the Green Festival in Washington, DC on October 23-24. Tens of thousands of people filled the Washington DC Convention Center to participate in the Festival. There were a wide variety of exhibitors and presenters. Many people stopped by at our booth to sign up for the free e-newsletter, get a sample of Education Revolution magazine, and buy books from a selection we had brought with us. Our participation was arranged by Ron Miller, a key supporter of AERO and editor of Education Revolution. Ron was also a speaker and spoke about The Self-Organizing Revolution (the tile of his most recent book).

While I was there I did a lot of networking and handed out some review copies of Turning Points, the important hard cover book that AERO has just published. I gave one to Amy Goodman, who has the renowned public radio show, Democracy Now! She is interested in having us come on her show to talk about the book. I also gave one to Ralph Nader after his presentation. He was so interested in Turning Points and AERO that he kept talking to me and asking questions even as he signed his books for his admirers.

We also met potential interns and staff members. Overall it was an exciting time, and we are thankful to Ron Miller for arranging this out reach for AERO and IDEA.

To get your own copy of Turning Points, go to this site:


Putting the Revolution Into Education (ARTICLE)

October 25, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Posted in AERO, Democratic Education | Leave a comment
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Observations on Learning and Democracy from a Nation-wide Tour

Althea Baird

Originally published in Education Revolution magazine, Summer 2009.  You can find this and many other issues of Education Revolution magazine online at
In the fall of 2005. Amber and I were crossing paths for a few hours, meeting up in a friend’s kitchen, when we hatched our plan to make an audio documentary about democratic (or what we call “radical”) alternative education. I was one year out of high school and still unlearning, with great passion, the rules of compulsory public school. Amber was a year out of college doing her own de-schooling and working in an after-school program. We read books, compiled lists and by the spring of 2006, we were on the road. In three months, we visited 25 private schools, public schools, community centers and after school programs. We drove through the nights, visited schools by day, and made gas money performing a multimedia dance piece at local venues in the evenings. Then at the crack of dawn we would rise again, armed with gas station coffee, microphone and headphones. We sat in on morning meetings, went to classes, visited students’ internships, studios and playgrounds. We even started a band with a group of free schoolers in Pennsylvania. Our goal in these recordings and interviews was to document the practice of radical learning. We sought out examples that illustrated the principles of democratic education that we had identified.


Read more at:


Education and the Need for Transformation (EVENT)

October 25, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Posted in AERO, Democratic Education, Education Events | Leave a comment
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This exciting panel and discussion will take place on October 27th from 6:30-8:30pm at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO.

There are a great deal of movies, articles and conversations surrounding education at the moment. The movie “Waiting for Superman” has focused attention on charter schools and the role of teachers unions. The flm “Race to Nowhere” has folks rethinking how we define success and a quality education.

However, there is all too little talk about what the deep purpose of our schools should be and the tangible practices that can take place on the local level to spur real reform. Come for a lively 90 minute discussion and panel on these themes and learn more about Nuestra Escuela, The Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA), and what can happen in Boulder.

Nuestra Escuela is a powerful model for what can happen when values of love and respect guide the mission of a school that embraces the realities of challenging social circumstances (poverty, violence, drugs, family breakdown, etc) while fiercely believing in their students ability to become independent and interdependent citizens.

The Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA) is an emerging national organization focused on ensuring that youth are meaningful involved in their education while gaining the tools to create a more just, democratic, and sustainable world. IDEA launched publicly in May 2010 and is making significant inroads in cutting across all the rhetoric and building a dynamic network of educators, youth, parents, researchers, and decision-makers capable of leading reform at local, regional, and national levels.

October 27th 6:30-8:30 PM
New Vista High School
700 20th St
Boulder, CO 80302

Sponsored by:
The Parent Engagement Network, The Patchwork School, IDEA, Boulder Valley School District

For more information visit

Read the flyer online at:

Confessions of a Homeschooler (ARTICLE)

October 25, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Posted in AERO | Leave a comment
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by Andrew O’Hehir

Call us crackpots, but our kids spend their days at beaches and museums, not in school

It’s a Sunday night at the tail end of summer, and I’ve dragged two squawky kids out of the minivan and into a half-closed rest stop on the Garden State Parkway in search of non-dreadful dinner options. Leslie, their mother, is catching some precious zone-out time in the car. After we sit down with our unadorned burger and fries, I notice the woman at the next table, the one who’s making eye contact and smiling.

“Are they twins?” she asks. “How wonderful!” Then she talks to Nini and Desmond: “Wow, you guys are 5. So big! Are you starting kindergarten soon?”

Here’s where the fun starts.

My son and daughter regard me in grave silence, faces stuffed with processed meat and fried potato product. They field this question themselves fairly often, but they’re going to let me take it this time. For an insane split second, I consider a full-on lie, just some total invention about where and when they’re going to school this fall. Instead, I take a swig of fizzy fountain Pepsi and bite the bullet: “Actually, we’re home schooling.”


Read more at:


Kirsten Olson, “What is the purpose of education?” (FREE WEBINAR)

October 25, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Posted in AERO, Education Events | Leave a comment
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Kirsten Olson is the author of Wounded by School and is a contributor in our new book, Turning Points: 35 Visionaries in Education Tell Their Own Stories.

Space is limited.  Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
Webinar Description: In today’s world, people in education (and outside) often fight vociferously about the “right” ways to change and improve education. These conversations often end in raised voices and a sense of deep conflict. In this webinar, educational activist and school consultant Dr. Kirsten Olson will engage with you in a conversation about what you think the purpose of education is. Do you know? Have you really thought about it? Are you willing to hear someone else’s point of view? This webinar will be a chance to discuss some of the major “schools” of thinking about educational purpose in play right now, and a journey of self-understanding about where you fit in. Join us!

Title: Kirsten Olson: What Is The Purpose of Education?
Date: Thursday, November 4, 2010
Time: 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM EDT

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.


My Experience at Summerhill

October 25, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Posted in AERO, Democratic Education | Leave a comment
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by Chae-eun Park


From the Summerhill School Newsletter.


I went to Summerhill at the age of 7 and I left when I was 16 – spending nine years there. There is so much about Summerhill, or democratic education for that matter, that has given me a unique life. I suppose first of all, being at Summerhill with all the freedom gave me a happy childhood. I could choose to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and wherever I wanted to do it. I wasn’t forced to do anything but I did plenty. Running around, playing games, hanging off the arms of big kids and climbing trees. Eventually I grew out of those activities, started going to lessons and began taking some responsibilities in the community, which I did out of pure interest and joy. While I was at Summerhill I took everything I did for granted.

Chairing a meeting, not going to lessons or going up to ask a teacher to teach me history was just a part of daily life. Naturally, I always knew exactly what I wanted and how to approach it solely under my own initiative. As a bigger kid who took much responsibility for the community (chairing meetings, problem solving in minor to large disputes, organising events etc..) I became more confident.

Summerhill being a boarding school made the community closer. The pupils and the teachers were like family members rather than just people I knew at school. Living with friends could bring about personality clashes, but now I feel that it was all part of the lessons I needed to learn in life – to work and live with people. We had a great relationship with the staff. The teachers were more like friends and family and it felt easy to approach them. And because it is a small school I felt they could customise the classes or any outside activities to suit me and others who required them. Also, because we were equals and there wasn’t a clear formal barrier between students and staff members, we could share friendly intimacy and talk about anything. I personally found it fascinating talking to staff members because I could hear about their life experiences before Summerhill. I still keep in touch with some even after having left Summerhill almost 2 years ago.

At Summerhill I learnt responsibility, the confidence to take action independently and the ability to work and live with people. The value of these lessons has been especially evident in the past year of my life in London, in a state education system as well as a flat full of different people. I have found that such a transformation of independence from Summerhill to London life has been relatively smooth because I had been well prepared from my time at Summerhill. By the end of this year I will have the same qualification as every other 18 year old in England, and I will proceed to university, even after all that time I spent at Summerhill not preparing for the next exam. Summerhill has not only given me an opportunity to explore in my childhood but it also gave me a good base of friends who are like family and a sense of independence and self-sufficiency that I will have with me for the rest of my life.


Sir Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms (VIDEO)

October 21, 2010 at 11:48 am | Posted in AERO | 1 Comment
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Sir Ken Robinson

Watch the complete talk of Sir Ken Robinson’s RSA video that’s been spreading like wildfire:

Here’s the incredibly popular animated video:

FreeChild Project Youth Engagement Workshop Guide (RESOURCE)

October 20, 2010 at 10:27 am | Posted in AERO, New Resource | Leave a comment
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Freechild Project Youth Engagement Workshop Guide

Author: Adam Fletcher

Date: October 2010

Publisher: The Freechild Project

Location: Olympia, Washington

The Guide features 24 workshop outlines designed to help learning groups explore different aspects of Youth Engagement. All exercises are hands-on, interactive, and focused on practical applications. The workshops are designed for learners of all ages, including youth-only and adult-only groups.

Topics include:


  • Youth Voice
  • Youth-Adult Partnerships
  • Adultism
  • Communication

  • And More!

Get the Guide today:

Brooklyn Free School Hiring (JOB)

October 19, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Posted in AERO | Leave a comment
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Brooklyn Free School is hiring a lower school advisor to start immediately. The position is a full-time temporary position to run through June 17th, 2011.  The position offers a bi-weekly (twice a month) salary of $1,628 with benefits.
General Expectations for Advisors:
• Show flexibility and creativity
• Create a welcoming environment for students
• Initiate your own learning and problem-solving
• Work collaboratively and cooperatively with students, parents, and staff
• Prioritize multiple competing tasks
• Follow-through
• Help identify and assist in resolving interpersonal conflicts
• Attend weekly staff meetings (one morning and one afternoon)
• Communicate with caregivers to help increase connection and understanding of how the
school operates, answer questions, and share vital information
• Demonstrate courage in providing appropriate boundaries, trust, and support to people
of all ages within a non-coercive learning environment
• Develop relationships with community resources
• Utilize effective nonverbal, verbal, and written communication skills
• Act in accordance and support of the mission, core principles, bylaws, and other
resolutions as adopted by Brooklyn Free School
• Show a willingness to hear and give feedback about performance & operations of the
Specific Advisor Responsibilities include:
• Serve as a broker, advocate, facilitator, and teacher with, and for, students within their
developmental needs and towards assisting them to meet their own educational goals
• Locate resources for subjects of student interest (i.e. languages, philosophy, woodworking,
cooking, internships in fields of student interest, etc.)
• Mentor students on a weekly/as-needed basis built on genuine relationship and a desire to
support and challenge students in following their interests and getting their needs met.
• Lead with at least one special project area (admissions, space use, literacy, math, science, etc).
• Serve as primary contact for students who share your advisory including offering family
conferences at least twice a year.
• Create and support clean-up and community ownership of school space and materials
• Listen. Advocate. Be present.
• Model and teach mediation and conflict resolution skills
Preferred qualifications of applicants:
• Previous experience working in a non-profit, small school, or community/co-op environment
• Love, appreciation, and experience working with the wants, needs, and growth of young
children and their families.
To apply, please send a resume and cover letter describing your interest in and experience with democratic education as well as your experience working with elementary school aged children of diverse backgrounds and abilities.  Please direct all correspondence to
Find out more about Brooklyn Free School at
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