A gathering of youth and adults came together on Saturday June 1, 2013 in Hampton, New Hampshire to create educational change. The gathering was supported by AERO (Alternative Education Resource Organization) and the Hampton Community Coalition. Youth and adults most of whom had never met, and representing a variety of educational genres from public school to homeschooling theorized, formulated and created concrete action steps designed to implement their ideas for educational change in the state of New Hampshire.
The morning was spent getting to know each other, viewing videos including a chapter from A Year at Mission Hill, collaborating and setting a framework for the day. One of the goals for the day was for youth and adults to collaborate in small groups focused on a particular area of educational change. The tone was set by the youth in attendance who suggested the focus areas of each group.
One group focused on creating community outreach and community learning opportunities in which young people would learn from craftsmen and artisans in the surrounding community. This would create space for students to pursue interest areas, and gave rise to the idea that this could be an alternative path to graduation where students would have many options for pursuing the knowledge most important to them and have that recognized.
Another group concentrated their efforts on setting up an optional school program in a local public school which would expose students to career opportunities. The program would happen in eight - week blocks getting more specific and focused as students progressed through the program. For instance in the firs eight - week block students would be able to explore a variety of career opportunities such as Engineering, Health & Medical, Government, Law and the Arts. In the second eight - week block students would be able to choose an area of focus and learn about resources for pursuing the chosen career path, visit venues where the vocation is being practiced and gain hands-on experience. In the third eight - week block and thereafter students would pursue internships and apprenticeships in their chosen area. In this model students would be able to explore different career paths before deciding on a focus area.
Still another group directed their energies towards creating multiple and varied learning options within all public schools. Working at the policy level this group took the concept of the day and scaled it up to create a statewide conference and conversation with broad themes. The goal would be to bring together diverse ideas and perspectives representing a variety of different roles in the education field. As youth and adults worked through the idea of creating a statewide conference, the intention of creating space for self - organizing conversations and group work around topics and interest areas was proposed.
Throughout the day there was an even exchange of ideas between youth, and adults and as the focus areas were laid down by the youth participants the focus, and action steps were meaningful and rich. Part of the beauty of this day was that as one youth participant stated “the adults were really interested in our ideas and what we had to say”. What came out of each group was mostly youth created with guidance and input from the adult participants.
Equally impressive was the fact that it was rather easy for the participants to get beyond sides, and political and philosophical dogma as they moved ideas forward to create concrete action steps in order to implement educational change. Before departing for the day we made commitments to keep moving forward on the action plans creating a support group where that could happen, and making plans to meet in person over the next few months to discover and support the progress of each group.
Reflecting on this gathering made me realize how fortunate I am to be a part of this group youth and adults that collaborated for meaningful educational change. While youth and adults coming together to create change isn’t a new concept, and is becoming more widespread it is not happening often enough quite yet.
This gathering was truly collaborative in that there were many individuals and organizations who contributed to making it happen. Thank to every one of you who made this happen and will continue to see this through. A special shout out to the organizations and the individuals who make up those organizations listed below for providing inspiration, resources, and talking points for a successful gathering.
AERO - Alternative Education Resource Organization
IDEA - Institute for Democratic Education in America