The second annual AEROx Regional Conference was a huge success!
Over the weekend of September 30 - October 2nd, 38 youth and adult participants from Northeast and Mid -Atlantic at came together at Earthlands preserve in Petersham, Massachusetts.
|Peter Berg, Jerry Mintz, and Larry Buell|
This rustic, natural setting provided the perfect backdrop as participants collaborated, networked, learned from each other and brainstormed around the idea of humans as natural learners.
Last year's event was a such a success that going into this year we didn't think we could match it. Happily, we were wrong ! This year things got rolling as AERO Staff began preparing for participants to arrive.
As soon the first guests arrived the excitement and electricity in the air were palpable. Almost instantly guests and AERO staff were immersed in sharings that set the stage for the rest of the weekend.
As the evening and weekend moved on we connected with old and new friends, we caught up, engaged and learned about our collective vision.
Larry Buell, from Earthlands, officially kicked off the event with an opening circle that helped us get connected to our sense of place and give gratitude.
|Larry Buell getting us ready for the opening circle|
Shortly after we sat down to the first of many wonderful meals prepared by Earthlands staff. As we nourished our bodies, we also nourished our souls with conversation, laughter, and sharing.
|One of our many meals|
After we filled our bodies and spirits we watched the documentary 'Mother Nature's Child' which explores nature’s powerful role in children’s health and development through the experience. Peter Berg and Jerry Mintz engaged the group in a discussion about the film. Many thoughts were shared that were the springboard for many discussions that lasted well into the early morning hours.
This amazing group of people represented such a wide array of perspectives and experiences that I find myself wishing that I could have recorded all of the discussions.
One of the many profound ideas that we left off the night with was scripted vs. non-scripted experiences especially with respect to learning in the outdoors.
We picked up right where we left off the previous evening during our morning meal. The presentations by Kelly Taylor From Parts and Crafts and Leo Fahey were the perfect start to the day as Leo engaged the group in inquiry around the idea of universality of adults as natural teachers, and Kelly had youth and adults alike making catapults and many other creations.
|Parts and Crafts doing their thing|
After a short break, Alison Fornes took the group through an engaged empathy process designed to get us in touch with our intuition through empathic intelligence. This was such a perfect part of the weekend as it opened up space for us to connect with our internal knowing.
|Alison Fornes getting us in touch with our Empathic Intelligence|
|The Group Engages with Alison Fornes|
After another nourishing meal, Megan Mills - Hoffman and Jagger arrived to deliver an inspiring workshop based on her work with Learning Choices Network in Buffalo, New York. Megan and Jagger inspired us to establish a community network while accessing our local resources.
|Megan and Jagger going local|
|Megan and Jagger|
Ernest Cooley demonstrated Fundamental Properties in the Storage & Transmission of Energy in Capacitors and Transmission Lines These demonstrations made clearly evident phenomenon which are not explained by conventional electro-magnetic theory. It was fascinating and sparked much conversation.
|Ernest Cooley getting the group ready for the demonstration|
As late afternoon approached, we were all enthralled in Peter Gray's keynote. Peter took us through his idea of self-directed education, how humans have naturally learned for millennia, and how we can support the type of learning that humans need in today's world.
|Peter Gray delivers the Keynote|
|Peter Gray continues the char|
Peter kindly stayed for the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening to chat with us and even took time to do a short interview with a youth participant.
|Peter Gray being interviewed by Wyatt Laprise from the New School|
|Peter Gray chatting with participants after his talk|
Peter's chat was followed by Kumari Patricia Younce and Larry Buell discussing self-directed Higher Education with a focus on preparing all to live and learn sustainable, regenerative, and socially just lives in the 21st Century.
|Larry and Kumari talk Higher Education|
Sidney Morris Explored ideas with our group for unschoolers when staying home is not an option. Called the Wanderbus the idea would use local libraries as "bus stops" and research resources, the and investigate all manner of community treasures, landscapes and institutions.
All of these presentations, workshops, and chats filled us with ideas, and the need for expressions. While we were filled in this way, we still needed to fill our innards, so we sat down to our evening meal.
This meal was especially lively as all the events leading up to it were processed, dissected, and shared. Though we were filled up with nourishing food, we were hankering to be filled with more ideas.
The group chose to watch the documentary ‘Class Dismissed' which follows one families journey through their decision to homeschool. The group had a brief discussion about the documentary sharing thoughts and ideas. This was a perfect segue into the evening's networking and discussions which again lasted well into the early morning hours.
|Jason St. John, Wylie Kuhn and Jerry Mintz chatting|
For the second morning in a row Mother Nature greeted us with rain. This did not stop us as indeed we went outside to uncover the concept of The Natural World as the Catalyst for Learning. We were able to stretch our legs as we explored simple ways to use the natural word as the catalyst for deep, personalized, learner driven discoveries
Next Jim Flannery showed us his idea for PeerSchool and how youth can create learning content to be shared with other youth. This tied directly into a dialogue about the need for more local AERO events and what they may look like in the future.
The event came to a close with participants sharing their takeaways from the weekend, another nourishing meal, closing thoughts, see you laters and wishes for safe travels. The most difficult part of this weekend is that it had to come to an end. Many came away inspired and energized.
As one of our friends put it "I feel reinvigorated now, I am so glad I came". Another said " We have to do more of these events."
I was amazed at how seamlessly everything came together, how people from a variety of backgrounds who came to the conference for different reasons, and the workshops all were in synchronicity. The rain that stayed with us throughout the weekend didn't dampen our spirits as we learned, shared, laughed, ate together and made new connections.
No event happens in isolation. This weekend was made possible by the amazing youth and adult attendees who brought their passion, openness, willingness to share and collaborative spirit to the weekend. As I said to the group in my closing remarks. You are what makes AERO, without you this wouldn't be possible. So thank you!
As always I left this AERO event, feeling inspired and recommitted to the work I am doing. Leaving with the knowledge that there are places and groups of people out there that have created the space to support the idea of humans as natural learners.