Activism in Today’s Youth: Less Yell, More Tell. (Article)

March 31, 2011 at 11:25 am | Posted in AERO | Leave a comment
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Wendelin Wagner


Using newer technological mediums and wholehearted story-telling to catch our eye.

“If I speak up will my voice be heard?”  It’s natural to wonder, in today’s over-saturated information age, whether your words and efforts will reach a wide audience.  Still, this may not be a question that young activists dwell on these days (and perhaps there is power in humility) as evidenced by two young graduates of Global Village School who are committed to harnessing technology to do what they can when they can.

A graduate of the University of San Diego, Jesse Aizenstat, 25, lists his current occupation as ”Intellectual insurgent for Peace.” His book about his travels is called Surfing the Middle East; it is about to be published as one of the first enhanced iPad ebooks. Aizenstat authors a blog called Blogging the Casbah, in which his goal is to employ levity and humor while highlighting the common man’s perspective on conflicts in the Middle East.

“I talk about politics apathetically,” says Aizenstat, “this is how it is, but what am I gonna do about it? For me, there’s no ‘who’s right and who’s wrong’–everybody’s wrong!” But in a youthfully genuine way, Aizenstat is not so much cynical as he is humble. “Who the hell am I to think that I could do something to change things? By doing what­surfing with an Arab on one side of me and a Jew on the other?!” Still, he finds fault with the unremittingly serious reports about the Middle East. “Why can’t we have a little fun with it?  Surfing and humor are tools to take a second look at the situation and they define who you’re hanging out with: just regular guys.”

Michael Preston, 27, is honing his skills as a spokesperson for the Winnemem Wintu Tribe while at UC Berkeley. When he was younger, Mike appreciated the importance of school and getting his high school diploma, but his motivation was lacking. While at Global Village School he found his fire and worked to gain skills now in order to have options later.  “GVS gave me a platform to stand on and move on with my life…to move forward and upward.”

Getting serious about reading and writing produced unexpected results for Preston as he responds to inner and outer calls to speak out, in his quietly passionate way, on issues facing his native Winnemem Wintu tribe. Being a voice for the tribe is not easy for this soft-spoken young man, but telling a story comes naturally to him and the song in his heart comes through loud and clear.

Preston co-produced a radio show and has written articles for publications such as Indian Country Today.  Currently, he is involved in the production of a movie about the Winnemem Wintu tribe’s journey to New Zealand where native Chinook salmon from the McCloud River in California were transplanted. The McCloud River was the center of Winnemem Wintu life until the 1940’s when the Lake Shasta dam project disrupted the salmon rivers. The Chinook salmon in NZ are the only surviving relatives of the once thriving salmon run on the McCloud; the movie will document the Winnemem Wintu’s efforts to reconnect to the salmon and return them to their sacred river.

Preston values the balance of structure and freedom that helped him raise his academic confidence. Aizenstat says about American education: “it is extremely rigid and seeks to confine the student with a predetermined curriculum. Global Village School reverses that by presenting options and asking ‘with your skill set, how would you express this?’  It’s a risk to ask a student ‘what do you feel passionate about?’ and then really listen to the answer.”

Global Village School:

Preston’s article in Indian Country Today:

Preston’s radio project:

Aizenstat’s Blogging the Casbah

About Global Village School –
From the coastal hills of Southern California, this successful distance learning school reaches out to students as far away as Arkansas, Argentina and Australia. The school offers an international K-12 homeschool diploma program that empowers students to cultivate their gifts and passions by engaging them in a creative, flexible educational process grounded in the principles of peace, justice, diversity, and sustainability.

Media Contact: Gretchen Buck
Phone/Fax: 805-646-9792
P.O. Box 480 Ojai, CA 93024


March 31, 2011 at 11:22 am | Posted in AERO | Leave a comment
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“A Place Where Teens Have Choice”


Rodney W. Lancaster


Do you have horror stories of going to school when you were younger? I do! I was the read-headed, acne faced, tall and lanky boy who was clumsy as an ox. I dreaded school, I was lost in Algebra, teacher lectures, coaches yelling at me for having two left feet, and just about everything else that was associated with traditional learning. I assume at least some of the readers reading this have experienced some type of trauma associated with public school and learning.

Therefore, I assert, that principles of lifelong learning relies heavily upon the aspect that all students have sufficient learning skills and the students ability to develop these skills in different learning environments throughout their educational opportunities. This is why I invite you to listen to my story. Hello, my name is Rod Lancaster and I am an Alternative Learning Environment Education teacher.


I have had the good fortune to become a doctoral student at Arkansas State University. I have had the pleasure of being taught and skilled by some of the leading professionals in the field of educational leadership. Brilliant minds, guiding my movements through the program like a coach on the sideline scripting plays, leaders who lead by example, leaders who carefully, creatively, and masterfully bring to my understanding the craft of teaching and learning. One such individual Dr. David Holman, an expert in the field of educational leadership at Arkansas State University, has led me to believe that teaching is about learning, which is about understanding human nature. The old saying “all kids can learn is a fallacy,” the saying “all kids can learn when they are ready to learn” is also not true, what is true is giving the kids the opportunity to learn when and where, and how they want to learn. These young men and women are not people in Taylor’s factory setting anymore.

At the heart of this philosophy is the willingness and ability to trust your young people. Affording them every opportunity to experience learning in a way that makes traditional thinkers just cringe. Nevertheless, forever letting these students chase their dreams, either successfully or through failure. This is what is being tried, right here, right now, in my ALE program.


The ALE program has students from the ninth through the 12th grades. During each class, there is a maximum of 15 students per teacher, per hour. The ALE program alters the culture and basic ground rules that can stifle change in conventional public education. Although largely kept in the shadows and not well understood, the ALE program can be referred to as a “quiet giant” in the system of public education.

As the ALE program leader, I am always trying something new, something that will better educate the types of students entering the program. Perhaps more than anything, this program personalizes the education for each student; the buzzword “differentiated instruction” comes to mind. The program further provides a smaller environment that includes more direct and lasting relationships with their peers and me.

Principals and guidance counselors are starting to recommend the ALE program to at-risk students so they can focus more on the students who do not disrupt, or who are better suited for traditional coursework and classroom instruction. At the same time, many at-risk students and I have found that the non-traditional, new, and differentiated instructional atmosphere is actually more conducive to their learning. With the finding of this success, ALE instructional leaders such as me should be aggressively seeking to gain additional instructional strategies for the support of at-risk and hard-to reach students.

This is how I became aware of a school philosophy which has been around since the late 1960’s called the “Sudbury School Concept.” In 1968, the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Massachusetts officially opened. It was the beginning of what was to be coined “the educational model based on self-initiated learning, democratic governance, and individual responsibility.” Since then, the Sudbury School Concept has become well known for helping create a new generation of people that are highly motivated, skillful, and rational thinking individuals who are intent on making their mark on society.

Beyond a doubt, life’s passage ways are about discovery, passion in what you enjoy, and the belief in the American dream. Therefore, what if we all went to public schools where the main objective was learning about all the above? Where the goal of everyday existence was to teach you about life, democracy, and the pursuit of happiness? That is what is happening in the Alternative Learning Environment. This is where my story begins.


This Sudbury concept was described in detail to the students on November 8, 2010. It was explained that I (the teacher) was going to initiate a short-term project that would last through Thanksgiving break. Put into plain words, they were going to be responsible for their individual lessons on the computer, practicing music, studying math, reading, writing, or engaging in intellectual rhetoric, within the ALE room. My capacity would be as the facilitator of knowledge, if they needed me. Therefore, it was freedom of choice that was being offered to them, allowing them to be them, to determine who they are and what each one wanted. Their overwhelming response to the idea was yes, and I mean yes! Their enthusiasm gave me resurgence in my teaching ability and their own individual judgment as young adults.


Each student was given the assignment of his or her individual lessons for a period lasting 12 days. Every student knew exactly what he or she was supposed to have accomplished and turned in by the last day, which was November 23, 2010. This meant they had complete control over when, where, how much, and how long they wished to study, or not to study.

The students knew that 12 assignments were due at a certain time, however, they would be allowed to work in small groups, one on one, or with me, in their engagement of time on task lessons when they felt it was necessary. This more than anything is interesting to note, these kids were more critical, and develop higher standards for themselves, when they were engaged in a self-imposed goal versus me giving them a pass or fail test.

Just imagine this. As my students, they were able to walk into my and class set where, and how they wanted, no questions asked. Some of my kids just wanted to set on the floor, which was fine with me. If they wanted to practice the guitar all day, they did. If they wanted to paint all day, they did. If they wanted to study their Math, English, History, Spanish, with me or their peers, they did. If they wanted to search the internet for specifications about rebuilding a motor, they did could do that too. Sounds chaotic, but you have to remember the Latin motto, “Ordo Ab Chao,” which literally means, “Order out of Chaos.” This is what is happening in my class and it is working. This for me is eye opening, coming from a traditional background of instructional methodology.




There were no (what I would call) formal assessments or evaluations with this trial run. The students naturally evaluated themselves by scrutinizing their own sense of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with what was going on at that moment in time. Traditional report cards will still have to be given out, and needed in this public school environment. That is why assignments were given ahead of the due date. Nothing new, nothing flashy, just a choice, which some students said they never, got inside the traditional structured environment.


Am I really doing anything different from traditional teaching with these kids is a good question? The only differing answer is that I trust them to become responsible, wise, and creative in all they do. Research has shown that the Sudbury concept actually raises a child’s curiosity about their surrounding world (Sadofsky and Greenberg, 1999). Therefore, as a result, these kids have become successful at the most important skill they could master, how to be masters of their own life, which I assume would coincide somewhat with the Sudbury concept.

The big question now is will I try this again. The overwhelming answer came from my kids, it will be yes, and I mean a resounding yes! This is because when the trial period was over, I quickly took their freedom of individuality away. It was almost to the point of mutiny in the classroom. I felt like I was on the set of Frank Lloyd’s “Mutiny on the Bounty,” and I was being cast out on the longboat. I hope that in my final scene of the ALE test, I too am able to give a rousing speech to my students such as Clark Gable does to his fellow mutineers speaking of creating a perfect society of free men, away from traditional means.

The reality I look forward to is that these kids see ALE as a very different instructional place, free from the restraints of them being incapable of self-improvement. A place for them to have “The right of nature, which writers commonly call ‘jus naturale,’ the liberty each man hath, to use his own power, as he will himself, for the preservation of his own nature; that is to say, of his own life; and consequently, of doing anything, which in his own judgment, and reason, he shall conceive to be to be the aptest means thereunto” (Rachels and Rachels, 2007, p. 60). To me that makes perfect since.

Through their participation in this trial run of the Sudbury concept, the students gained experience working with others to make decisions. They acquired valuable experience discussing their positions on important current event issues that affected their day-to-day life. They came to understand that their opinions mattered to me as well as the group, and that it had a profound effect on the larger community, the larger community being their peers and teachers outside the ALE room. This is becoming a school within a school, where young adults get to practice life skills together.

These ALE students, my kids, are inherently motivated to learn, they are not just misfits of society and I am surely not the dumping ground for otherwise intelligent human beings. What these students need (in my humble opinion) is not to be force-fed. We need them in their own world; we need their insight, their creativity, and their individuality. It is when we as teachers forget our role as teachers that lead us to be so scared of change. We are the ones now so accustomed to forcing them to learn on a specific time schedule (for the test), that we leave them out of the final destination, which is the real world.

We have forgotten that there are two very distinct patterns of knowledge that teachers instructional strategies play with. One is declarative knowledge, the other is procedural (Pollock and Ford, 2009). Now, let me make this as simple possible. I have a student who farms; he/she drives a tractor. If they can name the parts of the tractor (e.g., tires, wheels, seat, brakes) they have acquired declarative knowledge. If they can drive the tractor, they have acquired procedural knowledge. The reality is that kids use both, but are we always teaching them both? This is why teachers should vary their instructional deliveries to accommodate both sides of the brain.

One thing for sure is that this is not a full-fledged Sudbury School. These students do have to go outside of the ALE room to standard instructional avenues. As a staff member, I have to be careful in identifying educational choices for these kids. This is done by inching my way into their thinking processes, goading them along, for their benefit. Pragmatically speaking, this may be seen as just a differentiated constructivist environment, participating in the democratic process. Nevertheless, you know what, I am here for these kids; they know my outlook on quite a few issues. They know I have been where they are now, they see me where I am today, and they believe where I am going tomorrow, what more can you ask.


Perhaps we who are ALE teachers could/should consider the following aspects about this experiment. It is not that the Sudbury concept worked, but more about trust. Trusting that our students have the ability and opportunity to accomplish what has been given to them within their DNA, even in failure. It becomes a driving, positive, innate instinct to increase their understanding of themselves and their environment, which undoubtedly will leave an outpouring of continued intense exploration of their life.

We therefore as teachers, (again, in my humble opinion), should be structuring our schools to mirror society, so that we can be the source of confident, and capable students in a growing pluralistic society.




Pollock, J.E., & Ford, S.H. (2009). Improving student learning one principal at a time. Alexandria, Va. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Rachels, J., & Rachels, S. (2007). The right thing to do. Basic readings in moral philosophy. New York, NY. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Sadofsky, M., & Greenberg, D. (1999). Reflections on the Sudbury school concept. Framingham, MA. Sudbury Valley School Press.





Re-Engaging Youth In Community Life (Article)

March 31, 2011 at 11:18 am | Posted in AERO | Leave a comment
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Laura Grace Weldon


My baby was as good as a dog. At least I hoped so.


I’d read that nursing home residents benefitted enormously from contact with therapy dogs. During and after dog visits these elders were more alert and in better moods. So I figured, why not bring my baby to a nursing home?


I contacted the nursing home around the corner. The administrator was enthusiastic. Then I talked my Le Leche League friends into forming a nursing home-based playgroup for our infants and toddlers. They were somewhat wary, but agreed to give it a try. Finally I got a local store to donate a carpet remnant for our little ones to crawl and play on. Between visits, the nursing home could roll it up for storage. We were ready.


Our first visit was difficult. Many of us had no experience with the range of disabilities we saw that day. But it wasn’t difficult for our babies. They smiled and cooed with friendly abandon.


We met regularly at that nursing home for several years. While our babies grew into toddlers the elders became our friends. Residents’ families and staff members often told us that our visits stimulated memories, generated activity, even inspired people who were mostly mute to say a few words. We were awed. Simply our presence, as we sat on the carpet playing with our children, made a difference to people whose once full lives were now constricted. We benefitted too. We listened to advice given by people older than our grandparents. We learned from our toddlers who accepted the physical and mental differences around them with natural grace. And we began to grasp our temporary hold on the privileges accorded to us by youth.


I’m still not sure why the young and very old are kept apart from life on the commons. Vital and engaged communities are made up of all ages. Chances are children have fewer opportunities to take an active part than almost any adult. This shortchanges everyone.

Throughout history, the young of our species have learned by getting involved. Children long to take on real responsibilities and make useful contributions. This is how they advance in skill and maturity. That is, unless we restrict them to child-centered activities.


Young people are also drawn to seek mentors. They want to see how all sorts of people handle crises, start businesses, make repairs, settle disputes, and stay in love. But these days they are largely kept from meaningful engagement with the wider community. They’re segregated by age not only in day care and school but also in most spheres of recreation, religion, and enrichment. When we keep kids from purposeful and interesting involvement with people of all ages they are pushed to find satisfaction in other (often less beneficial) ways. Meanwhile, our communities are deprived of their youthful energy and innovative outlook.


It doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways to reconnect children with our communities.


1. Involve children by giving them real input and responsibility in civic groups, churches, co-ops, CSA’s, arts organizations, clubs, and neighborhood organizations. What about a child who is a dedicated rock enthusiast but the local lapidary club only accepts adult members? Propose a joint adult/child membership, giving that child the same (age factored) opportunities to build social capital in the club. A similar approach can be taken with organizations that refuse to take youthful volunteers. Offer to give your time in partnership with the child, a two-for-one volunteer bargain. Adult advocates are often necessary to pave the way for genuine youth involvement in many groups.


2. Give children contact with the workaday world. They need to know people with a range of hobbies and careers. Connect them with people who are passionate about chemistry, bird watching, farming, the Civil War, engineering, astronomy, bagpipes, geology, blacksmithing, wood carving, drumming, well, you get the idea. Something vital is transmitted when one person’s enthusiasm sets off a spark of interest in a child. We’re rarely turned down when we ask to learn from others. People who love what they do can’t help but inspire kids and, they often tell me, the kids reignite their hope for the future of their work.


3. Help local businesses tune in to children’s interests. For example, a bakery might hang children’s art on the walls, make meeting space available for a kids’ chess club, host Invent A Cookie contests, open the kitchen for tours, offer apprenticeships to aspiring young pastry chefs, teach parent-child baking classes, invite speakers to explain the science of yeast and flour, give cupcakes as prizes for youth community volunteer hours, etc. Businesses that are truly engaged in this way inspire loyal customers, they also enliven the community.


4. Create age-bridging partnerships, as we did with babies and nursing home residents. Non-profit organizations are great places to start. One successful program called Girlfriend Circle started due to complaints. A group of women at a senior center often told a volunteer that they had no hope for the future because children “nowadays” are rude. The volunteer offered to set up a tea party for the ladies that included her daughters and their friends. At that first event the girls were seated between their older hostesses. Everyone enjoyed a lesson in napkin origami. Then they took part in a Q&A to learn about one another. After sharing refreshments both age groups were eager to meet again. The Girlfriend Circle met bi-monthly for several years, finding their friendships instructive and rewarding.


5. Include young people in civic affairs, giving them genuine input into programs and policies. This works in Hampton, Virginia. Young people take leadership roles by holding conferences and open forums, advising municipal divisions, and helping to run the Hampton Youth Teen Center. City administration also includes a Youth Commission, with 24 youth commissioners, 3 youth planners, and one youth secretary–all high school age.

This comes full circle for me, right back to dogs and volunteering. A boy who had been a member of the play group we held at the nursing home talked his family into raising puppies to be trained as service dogs. By the time he was 12 years old, this boy gave promotional talks about this program to clubs and schools. I attended one of his community programs. He started off with some anecdotes about exasperating puppies. Then he went on to describe the generosity and hope his family felt each time they attended graduation ceremonies for fully trained dogs, ready to serve. I tend to think community involvement is a path to wholeness. I’m convinced it has a lot to do with that boy’s smile.




Laura Grace Weldon is writer and conflict resolution educator. She lives on Bit of Earth Farm with her family. She’s the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. Connect with her at





“We Don’t Need No Age Segregation”



Hampton, Virginia Youth Space



Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything by Laura Grace Weldon


A review of recent research into children’s rights based education in state schools in Hampshire, England (Report)

March 31, 2011 at 11:01 am | Posted in AERO, Democratic Education | Leave a comment
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(by Derry Hannam for the Spring 2011 edition of the EUDEC newsletter, Leipzig, Germany)

In 2002 one of the county education officials in Hampshire, England learned of research carried out  by researchers at Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia, Canada, into the effects of children’s rights education which involved the consistent teaching and modelling in ‘rights respecting classrooms’ of what are generally referred to as the ‘participation rights’ set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC – ) (Covell & Howe, 1999; 2001; Covell, O’Leary & Howe, 2002; Howe & Covell, 1998).  These early findings in Canada indicated that, compared with their peers, children who learn about their rights under the Convention, in a rights-consistent classroom, show ‘increased levels of self-esteem, increased perceived peer and teacher support, a more adult-like understanding of rights and responsibilities, more supportive attitudes toward children of minority status, and more rights-respecting behaviours.’ (Covell and Howe, 2007 and 2008 – available from  )

In 2002 and 2003 administrators and a small group of interested infant, junior and primary head teachers from Hampshire County undertook  study-leave in Cape Breton, Canada. Following these visits the Hampshire Education Authority’s Rights Respect and Responsibility Initiative (RRR) was created. This involved a programme of whole school reform in some Hampshire schools which began with infant, junior and primary schools and later extended into a small number of secondary schools. The initiative, perhaps surprisingly, received the whole hearted support of key locally elected conservative party politicians and the current policy is that RRR should eventually involve all the county’s schools at all age levels.

The UN agency responsible for monitoring the implementation of the UNCRC by signatory states (which include all the UN member states except for the USA and Somalia) is UNICEF. In 2004 UNICEF UK  created a two level national award which proved appropriate for validating the efforts of RRR schools in Hampshire and which encouraged the creation of similar programmes in several other cities and counties in England. This is known as the Rights Respecting Schools Award (RRSA) details of which can be found at

In 2005 the Cape Breton researchers Covell and Howe agreed with Hampshire staff that they would carry out a 3 year longitudinal study from 2005 to 2008 on the effect of the RRR programme in 16 infant, junior and primary schools some of which they categorised  as fully implemented (FI) schools and others as less fully implemented (LFI) schools (later changed to PI or partially implemented). They  used a 1 to 8 scale for this school self evaluation with 1 representing ‘not really started’ and 8 indicating that children’s rights were central to the overall functioning and ethos of the school,  operationalised in every classroom and understood and supported by all staff. In 2005 at the start of the study school ratings ranged from 3.0 to 7.9. By the end of the second year in 2007 3 schools had dropped out and of the survivors 4 had reached level 8, 4 had lower scores than at the start, and the other 5 had made some improvement, one very considerably (3.00 to 7.67) and one only very marginally  (4.40 to 4.50). The researchers attributed the drop-out, the improvements and the declines entirely to the relative commitment, planning, leadership and enthusiasm, or lack of it, of the individual school headteachers for the aims of the RRR project.

In 2006 a second study covering much of the same ground was initiated by UNICEF UK to evaluate the impact that their RRSA (Rights Respecting Schools Award) was having on participating schools. This was carried out by the Universities of Sussex and Brighton and resulted in a preliminary report in 2008 after one year of a 3 year longitudinal study and a final report in 2010 (Sebba and Robinson, 2008 and 2010   – ). The study collected data from 12 schools in 5 local authority areas, including Hampshire where in one or two schools data was also being collected at the same time by Covell and Howe causing some confusion in these schools according to the Cape Breton researchers! Strangely Sebba and Robinson make no reference to the work of Covell and Howe in their reports though surely they must have known of it.

Covell and Howe’s findings are certainly interesting for those trying to implement more democratic approaches in state (or in the US ‘public’) schools and school systems. There is no space here to detail all the findings or the methodologies of the two Covell and Howe reports so I will quote their summary –

‘…we can confidently say that where RRR has been fully implemented, teachers and pupils are showing many benefits. Teachers are feeling less stressed and enjoying their classes more, and are able to see the positive effects on their pupils of the work they are doing. Pupils are aware of their rights, they respect the rights of others, they feel respected, and their levels of participation and engagement in school have increased. Schools in which RRR has been fully implemented emanate an atmosphere of mutual respect and harmonious functioning. They are clearly, in the words of the overarching principle of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in “the child’s best interests.” ‘ (Covell and Howe, 2010)

Significantly the authors noted a qualitative difference in the understanding of the programme between children in the fully implemented or progressing schools and those where the school RRR rating was static or declining. In the former schools children had an understanding that rights were inalienable but need to be accompanied with growing responsibilities and respect for the rights of others whereas in the latter schools children saw the programme as mainly to do with rules and obedience to those rules.

One of Covell and Howe’s findings is of particular interest to me and supports one of the guiding hypotheses of the study that I conducted for the UK government in 2001 into ‘more than usually participative schools’, a concept that substantially overlaps with that of a ‘rights respecting school.’ (Hannam, 2001  – ) This involves

‘… the possibility that the positive effects of RRR are the most pronounced in the schools which are in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods. In such schools, absences and behavioral incidents have decreased markedly; and test scores, motivation, and self-regulation in learning and behavior, and parental involvement have increased significantly. Pupils’ behaviour, academic motivation, and achievement test scores have shown remarkable improvement. It would appear that the rights education program has altered the educational experiences, and in turn, the motivations and aspirations of the pupils.

Pupils living in adverse family circumstances, through RRR, are perhaps for the first time experiencing respect, success, and hope for their futures. In the words of one pupil, “It (RRR) gives you self-encouragement knowing that you have rights and someone cares about it.”  There is reason to believe that RRR may in fact function as a protective factor in promoting educational resilience among children living in adversity.’

Sebba and Robinson’s findings are similarly positive and a selection are set out below under the six headings required by the UNICEF UK commissioning brief which are themselves based on the six headings used for evaluating schools for the RRSA.

  1. Knowledge and understanding of the CRC. This developed well in most, though not all, of the studied schools and gradually became a ‘way of being’ in some rather than a list of rights to be learned one by one. Responsibility developed parallel to the growing understanding of rights. Some schools had difficulty in taking along ancillary staff such as playground supervisors. As with Covell and Howe, Sebba and Robinson found the attitude and commitment of head teachers to be crucial to the successful implementation of the project.
  2. Relationships and Behaviour. The study schools reported improvements in relationships between students, between staff, and between students and staff. Where conflicts between students did occur students became more able to resolve these for themselves.
  3. Pupils feel empowered to respect the environment and rights of others locally, nationally and globally. Awareness of international issues and campaigns grew though understanding of national and local issues was less well developed.
  4. Pupils demonstrate positive attitudes towards inclusivity and diversity within society. Positive change in attitudes towards ethnic minorities and disabilities of all kinds was reported in all the study schools over the 3 years of the study.
  5. Pupils actively participate in decision-making within the school community. Although there was progress on this issue within all the study schools there were still  examples of adults making decisions for students that they were perfectly capable of making for themselves.   Much of the decision making allowed to many school student representative bodies such as student councils was still restricted to issues such as toilet cleanliness rather than curriculum design or other core purposes of the schools, though there were examples where this was not the case. On the whole progress was better than the average for English schools as a whole reported in a major review of student involvement in school decision making in England carried out in 2007 by Whitty and Wisby (2007). (Whitty and Wisby’s review is available on-line and  makes reference to several  studies in which I have been involved. I can provide copies to anyone interested.)
  6. 6. Pupils show improved learning and standards. Aside  from begging the question of ‘standards of what?’ students and staff in the study schools reported that the rights respecting approach created a classroom climate that was ‘more conducive to learning.’  Scores on standardised tests improved in a majority of the study schools and exclusions and suspensions  for anti-social bahaviour declined in most during the 3 years of the study. There are always so many variables at work in educational research that causal connections can rarely be demonstrated but the associations are nonetheless  interesting and match

those in my own 2001 study.  Also consistent with the findings of  Covell and Howe and my own work was the finding  that the shift to higher test scores and less anti-social behaviour appeared to be greatest in schools in poor socio-economic areas. ‘RRSA may mediate the influence of poor socio-economic circumstances on outcomes.’

Both studies presume that there are no ambiguities within the overriding requirement of the UNCRC that the ‘best interests’ of the child should always be the yardstick for its interpretation and implementation. Neither study  explores the fundamental contradiction that I would certainly have felt as a child in a ‘rights respecting’ school between on the one hand my “…right…to education…compulsory and free to all” (article 28) if it was experienced as subjection to testing that damaged my self confidence and self-esteem, being grouped by ‘ability’ in a way that labelled me as ‘bright and gifted’ or ‘being a slow learner’, being coerced into lessons where I must ‘attend’ to a compulsory curriculum much of which I find to be uninteresting or irrelevant and on the other hand my participation rights set out in the Covention. Namely my “…right to express (my) views freely in all matters affecting the child…the views…being given due weight…” (article 12), my “right to freedom of expression…to seek, receive and impart information of all kinds…” (article 13),  my “right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion…” (article 14), my “right to freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly..” .(article 15), my right not to be “…subjected to arbitrary interference with…privacy…” (article 16), and my right to be protected “…from all forms of physical or mental violence…” (article 19).

There are moves to introduce Matthew Lipmann’s Philosophy for Children (P4C) programme into Hampshire schools. Perhaps this will provide the students and the teachers with the analytical and critical tools to make sense, or not, of these contradictions in the UNCRC and the RRR programme?

As a teacher in state schools for many years I see the RRR  programme and the RRSA accreditation as steps towards a more humane school system. Educators in democratic schools might have other views of course.

Derry Hannam, March 2011


Covell, K. & Howe, R.B. (2005). Rights, Respect and Responsibility. Report on the RRR Initiative to Hampshire County Education Authority. Nova Scotia: Cape Breton University Children’s Rights Centre

Covell, K. & Howe, R.B. (2007). Rights, Respect and Responsibility. Interim Report on the RRR Initiative to Hampshire County Education Authority. Nova Scotia: Cape Breton University Children’s Rights Centre

Covell, K. & Howe, R.B. (2008). Rights, Respect and Responsibility. Final Report on the RRR Initiative to Hampshire County Education Authority. Nova Scotia: Cape Breton University Children’s Rights Centre

Hannam, D. (2001) A Pilot Study to Evaluate the Impact of the Student Participation Aspects of the Citizenship Order on Standards of Education in Secondary Schools. London: CSV

Sebba, J., and Robinson, C. (2008). Evaluation of UNICEF UK’s Rights Respecting Schools Awards (RRSA) Scheme. Interim Report at the end of Year 1. Brighton: Universities of Sussex and Brighton

Sebba, J., and Robinson, C. (2010). Evaluation of UNICEF UK’s Rights Respecting Schools Awards (RRSA) Scheme. Final Report. Brighton: Universities of Sussex and Brighton

Whitty, G. And Wisby, E. (2007). Real Decision Making? School Councils in Action. DCSF Research Report RR001. London:DCSF



Internship Opportunity with Fertile Grounds Project (Job)

March 17, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Posted in AERO, Education Job | Leave a comment
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Are you an experienced camp counselor? Are you a youth worker who likes camping? You should apply for the Survival Project.

Survival Project is an overnight outdoor education program for New York City school groups. three-day outdoor education, group-building, and leadership seminar for school groups. Students form teams to complete obstacle courses comprised of puzzles and physical challenges. They participate in trust building exercises, cook their own food, employ problem-solving skills, challenge themselves physically, and learn the value of working as a group. Participants spend 60 hours without the aid of electronic equipment. They engage in physically strenuous activities through group and individual challenges. They also learn and enact valuable leadership skills they can bring back to the classroom and their lives at home.

Guide Description
Guides will work as facilitators of the program and will have an educational experience of their own. Interns will live together at our campsite in the catskills for four weeks this spring taking turns working as group leaders and support staff for the three day long trips. Interns will have access to a communal kitchen and will have housing accommodations provided. Interns will have time off on site and will have days off during which they can return to the city.

Watch the Survival Project Video here:

Instructors must have a proven ability to lead young people from all ethnic and social backgrounds in an outdoor group setting. Must maintain professionalism and exercise patience in high stress situations.


· Lead group conversations
· Maintain safety of the students in the field
· Support staff in logistics of program
· Facilitate challenge initiatives
· Develop mentor relationships with youth participants

Requirements (One or more of these skills)
· Competence in a wide range of outdoor skills (i.e.tent and camp fire building)
· Knowledge of group dynamics and diversity issues.
· Experience working with urban youth.
· Strong desire to help teens develop in the outdoors.

Contact Jonah Canner at Fertile Grounds Project: or call 347-722-1757

More information can be found at:

HEART: Developing A More Humane World Through Education (Video)

March 17, 2011 at 10:17 am | Posted in AERO, AERO Online Video Series | Leave a comment
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HEART’s mission is to foster compassion and respect for all living beings and the environment by educating youth and teachers in humane education.

To learn more visit

Collaborate With Key Individuals To Effect Local And National Education Policy (Event)

March 16, 2011 at 6:59 am | Posted in AERO, Education Events | Leave a comment
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In collaboration with the Antioch Center for School Renewal, IDEA ( is pleased to extend you this select invitation to:

Join Us At Antioch New England, Keene, NH
Saturday, April 23 – 9:00 – 11:45 a.m.
Collaborate With Key Individuals To Effect Local And National Education Policy

Optional Afternoon Session: 1:30 – 2:45 p.m.

Critique IDEA’s Strategic Plan

More information at

RSVP by: 4/9/11 at or

Let Kids Rule School: The Independent Project at Monument Mountain Regional High School (Article/Video)

March 15, 2011 at 10:42 am | Posted in AERO, AERO Online Video Series, Democratic Education | 1 Comment
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Susan Engel
In a speech last week, President Obama said it was unacceptable that “as many as a quarter of American students are not finishing high school.” But our current educational approach doesn’t just fail to prepare teenagers for graduation or for college academics; it fails to prepare them, in a profound way, for adult life.

We want young people to become independent and capable, yet we structure their days to the minute and give them few opportunities to do anything but answer multiple-choice questions, follow instructions and memorize information. We cast social interaction as an impediment to learning, yet all evidence points to the huge role it plays in their psychological development.

That’s why we need to rethink the very nature of high school itself.

Read more:

Watch a video about The Independent Project:

Democratic School Seeks Math Teacher (Job)

March 15, 2011 at 10:13 am | Posted in AERO, Education Job | Leave a comment
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Certified High School Math Teacher, comfortable teaching all ability levels. Small, democratic school seeks dynamic, flexible individual for a full time position next school year in our highly collaborative environment. Work directly with students to develop authentic, meaningful curriculum. Send resume to: by April 4th.

To learn more about our school go to

Job Opportunity: Administrator/Instructor/School Founder

March 14, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Posted in AERO, Education Job | Leave a comment
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Seeking administrator/instructor to help start and run a new school for an international, multi-age group of children, ages 6 to 12) who live part-time at the incredible Careyes Luxury Resort in Jaaliso, Mexico. (See We want someone who believes in and can implement a creative and academic sound democratic school model. The applicant must be be fluent in English. (We prefer someone who also speaks Spanish and who is physical fit and mentally confident). Salary in high 30s to start plus free housing and other benefits to be negotiated. Live on one of the most beautiful coasts in the world among friendly people and work with internationally successful parents who will participate in the evolution and implementation of the program. Contact Four Arrows for more information at

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