Lives of Passion, Schools of Hope: The Alumni Project for the Jefferson County Open School (ARTICLE)

November 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Posted in AERO, Democratic Education | Leave a comment
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Rick Posner

***The book that came out this project, Lives of Passion, School of Hope, was published in November of 2009 by Sentient Publications

This project entails an in depth follow-up of the graduates of an unusual public school: the Jefferson County Open School in Lakewood, Colorado. The Open School (as it is usually called) is a public school that goes against the grain of current educational practice. For nearly 36 years, the Open School has thrived as an alternative to conventional schooling. The pre K-12 school is non-graded, self-paced and experiential. No grade point averages or academic credits cloud its approach to the education of the heart, mind and spirit. Every student has a personal advisor on the staff or in the community as well as a personal learning plan with goals in the social, personal and intellectual domains.


Goals of the Open School
Rediscover the joy of learning
Engage in the search for meaning in your life
Deal with and understand the world that is
Prepare for the world that might be
Help create the world that ought to be


Students have a direct say in school governance and curriculum as well as in the hiring of staff and administration. Students move out of program levels based on the completion of rites-of-passage projects and their development as self-directed learners. In fact, they demonstrate they are ready to graduate or become members of the adult tribe by writing their own narrative transcripts. Thus, the skills and attitudes learned at Open School are not meant to be disposable. The idea is to create an educational experience that sticks with you, that you can actually use to live a full, meaningful life—a sustainable education, if you will.

Read more at:

Moving Forward with the Struggle: What Can We Learn From the Alumni of the Open School (VIDEO)

November 3, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Posted in AERO, AERO Conference, AERO Online Video Series, Democratic Education | Leave a comment
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Moving Forward with the Struggle panel discussion was facilitated by Rick Posner and featured at the 7th annual Alternative Education Resource Organization conference (AERO Conference).

From the original description:
My book, Lives of Passion, School of Hope, discusses the relations, influences and recommendations from the alumni of one of the longest lasting alternative schools in the public sector, Jefferson County Open School. This workshop will address where we’ve been, where we’re going and hopefully, how we get there. The workshop will include a panel of alumni, from different eras from The Open School.

Rick Posner taught public school for thirty years, eighteen of those at Jefferson County Open School (one of the longest lasting public schools of its kind) as a teacher, administrator and as a proud parent. He did his doctoral work at University of Denver, focusing on self-directed learning and rites-of-passage curriculum. Currently, he is an affiliate faculty member at Regis University and Prescott College. He has written a book about the alumni of the Open School entitled,Lives of Passion, School of Hope: How One Public School Ignites a Lifelong Love of Learning (Sentient Publications, Nov. 2009).

We had trouble embedding the videos here, so watch them at:

Graduates from Jefferson County Open School Speak

December 15, 2009 at 5:48 pm | Posted in AERO, Democratic Education, Education Events | 1 Comment
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I recently attended a book signing for Lives of Passion, School of Hope: How One Public School Ignites a Lifelong Love of Learning (written by Rick Posner) held at Jefferson County Open School (the school detailed in the book).  At the book signing, a panel of graduates spanning the inaugural graduating class to a current senior at the school introduced themselves and answered questions for nearly two hours.  I tried to record as many quote as possible from the panelists, which I now share with you!  They were written quickly as I was trying to keep up with the fast paced panel, so they are not 100% accurate.  I’ve done my best to present them as they were said.

-Isaac Graves, Outreach Coordinator for AERO


“it” refers to Jefferson County Open School

“JCOS” is the school’s acronym


Quote from Graduates:

JCOS Grads

Panel of Graduates from Jefferson County Open School

“it allowed me to have a new start and redefine myself”

“‘no’ was no longer the default answer”

“I wasn’t a great [academic] student [so]… being able to explore things that were interesting to me and that I was passionate about was the difference between graduating and not for me”

“it gave us the confidence and security to be able to be pushed and challenged in our education”

“without it, I wouldn’t be here today”

“the most important thing about JCOS is a sense of empowerment”

“not only did I graduate in the school’s first graduating class, my five children did!”

“the main thing the open school gives you is the ability to actually be yourself”

“you are encouraged to obtain all the facts before making up your mind about issues”

“JCOS gave me the ability to take risks and find my passion more than anything else”

“trust is given to you automatically”

“[i learned] there is no one right answer to anything”

“students hold the power to teach the next generation at JCOS”

“we had the ability to go out and do what we wanted to do … we chose our education and made it our own”

“the most important things about JCOS is the relationship studetns and staff are able to have … everyone is an equal in our community”

“the relationships i formed at JCOS are the strongest I have in my life”

“the open school doesn’t leave you”

“the ability to find my own passion fueled the rest of my life”

in response to what one panelist bring into her more traditional school as a principal from her experiences at JCOS, “courage…and community”

“choice at a young age was important”

“[we were] encouraged to talk to peers about solving issues instead of just the adult as a teacher”

“the tons of personal attention and support stuck with me through the years”

Visit for video from the event.


For more information on Jefferson County Open School, please…

Visit their website:

Read the book:

Hear longtime director Arnie Langberg speak (free):


Free Audio Conversation with Steven Harrison & Chris Mercogliano

July 28, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Posted in AERO, Democratic Education | Leave a comment
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The Learning Edge: A Conversation with Chris Mercogliano and Steven Harrison
Courtesy of Sentient Publications.

This recording is a frank and fascinating conversation between Chris Mercogliano and Steven Harrison, two inspiring visionaries in the alternative education field. Chris was a teacher at the Albany Free School for 35 years and has been featured on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” In this dialog, he shares his experiences teaching at The Albany Free School and discusses some of the topics explored in his newest book, In Defense of Childhood: Protecting Kids’ Inner Wildness. Steven Harrison is one of the founders of The Living School in Boulder, Colorado and author several books including The Happy Child: Changing the Heart of Education.

The dialog is followed by an interview with Chris Mercogliano by Connie Shaw.

A more direct link can be found here:

Steven Harrison’s The Happy Child and Chris Mercogliano’s Making It Up as We Go Along, Teaching the Restless, How to Grow a School, and In Defense of Childhood can be purchased on our website at:

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