here is the first newsletter of the 2014/2015 school year! So put away your homework, leave your duties aside and forget about your worries for the next few moments. Instead, brew yourself a cup of your favourite tea, have a few of your preferred chocolate biscuits and sit down in your best armchair while letting us take you on this newsletter-journey packed with fresh news and stories from our democratic education community.
We hope you will have as much fun reading it, as we had making it.
All the best,
PS: If you like you can read this newsletter also directly on our website: http://www.eudec.org/Newsletter+September+2014
In this newsletter:
- From this year's conference and AGM
- Impressions from conference participants
- Report from “back to school”-conference in Minnesota
- Unschooling and Democratic Education in Poland
- Democratic Education in Lithuania
- Approaching the Elephant
From this year's conference and AGM
A big and warm THANK YOU to all 130 participants of the conference. The energy you brought to Copenhagen made this experience a clear success. The discussions during the AGM, the workshops and walks across the city were full of powerful insights to take home with us and fuel novel ideas and projects. We thank all those who contributed to making the conference happen, and especially the supercool and devoted volunteers from Saint Nazaire and Det frie Gymnasium:
Molly, Alexander, Monica, Theresa, Sidsel, Valdemar, Jonathan, Jakob, Sofia, Laura, Sunniva, Bjørk, Frida, Lærke, Yemendja, Esther, Nikolaj, Matheo, Joakim, Nora, Eilin, Baptiste, Gaia, Troels, Martin, David, William, the master chef, Astrid on all the other conference participants who lent us a hand every now and then . Their hard work deserves more than a standing ovation.
After the usual presentation of the financial report, year plan and budget, some groundbreaking decisions were made during the AGM. The size of the council was reduced from 9 to 7 members, as a way to reduce costs and enhance efficiency. Full membership is now open to non-European members, allowing them to vote and hence contribute more directly to EUDEC aims.
The Council went through some emotional goodbyes this year, as Aurore Debierre, Stella Serger, Nina Knudsen and David Simonsen decided to step down. Elections happened in a democratic and happy mood. The two new members of the Council are Dalia Hochbach and Ramin Farhangi, full of fresh motivation and energy. Leslie Ocker, Rachel Roberts and Sanne Piekema were elected as members of the Oversight Committee. Reinier Bosch and Aaron Keohane are the newly elected Auditors.
Impressions from conference participants
Eudec 2014 by Aaron Keohane
Having taken up my post as the English teacher at Summerhill in April and spending the majority of the previous decade in University I was, and still am, relatively new to the field of democratic education. EUDEC 2014 was my first exposure to the democratic community outside of Summerhill. EUDEC was a whirlwind of interesting conversations, thought provoking workshops, good food and relaxing times with new found friends. I had been to conferences before, but nothing like this.
Conferences were places where adults got together and quickly rushed between tightly scheduled seminars. EUDEC was nothing like that, characterised by a relaxed yet enthusiastic atmosphere and an openness to possibilities which was also reflected in its schedule. I was pleasantly surprised to see parents, students, babies, teachers, young people and their friends attending; EUDEC really was a community. A community of like-minded people of all ages brought together through a solidarity based on recognising the importance of a democratic education. It filled me with joy to see such a diverse membership. A diversity which I believe is a great indication of both the vibrancy and genuineness of EUDEC and a value which underlies democratic education itself.
Professionally speaking EUDEC marked a turning point for me. After spending the majority of my life thus far in the traditional education system I had just begun the struggle to expel the influence of this system and its values from my classroom and introduce more democratic methods. EUDEC not only provided me with the ideas and conceptual tools to make this happen, but after just a few short days in Copenhagen I now have a network of people who I could call upon for advice. Flying back to the United Kingdom with my head overflowing with ideas, I found that not only had I gained many invaluable insights I had also come away with a strong conviction about democratic education. A conviction that these teaching methods did not have to come at the expense of the curriculum, not only that, but also caters for the diversity of student’s needs.
An aspect of EUDEC which made me both proud and impressed was the generosity of spirit of those who attended. This spirit of generosity was reflected in the hard work of the volunteers and also the willingness of everyone to roll up their sleeves and help out, be it in the kitchen, cleaning, organising or the hundreds of other job. I was lucky enough to get to know some of EUDEC Council and watch them work together over the course of the five days. Two things became apparent to me, their enthusiasm and their impressive leadership skills. These were very capable and talented people that had an infectious passion for making EUDEC happen. Also, unlike other organisations I have been a part of, their leadership style was not characterised by ego but a sincere openness to new ideas, feedback and possibilities. With such a vibrant and generous community, the widespread shift away from traditional schooling and with the present council, there is no doubt in my mind that there are interesting times ahead for EUDEC. I look forward to sharing them with you.
Attending EUDEC was a significant and powerful personal experience for me. Since attending EUDEC I now feel like there is a whole new part of my life; a whole other group of people, a community, of which I am now a part. I now have friends from Taiwan, Finland, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands and Spain. People whom I would
break bread with should I travel to their country or they mine. It was these friendships that were the highlight of the trip. I had never met so many interesting, genuine people in one place. I loved the fact that we were always talking about education and how each person had their own insights. It was extremely and wonderfully engaging.
Recently, I read a book which I believe captures what EUDEC means to me. The book is entitled The Element by Sir Ken Robinson. One of its chapters explores how one can find their tribe; a group of people which provide the environment one needs to be their true selves and be in their element. Robinson explores the idea of the
tribe by recounting the story of Meg Ryan, an actress best known for When Harry met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. Meg who had for years been afraid of public speaking found herself working on TV commercials to make some extra money. Chosen for a regular role on a soap opera, this led Meg to discover that she loved traveling in this circle of actors, directors and film technicians. As Robinson relates: Meg has a wide variety of interests and fascinations. However, when she’s acting, she finds herself with a group of people who see the world the way she does, who allow her to feel her most natural, who affirm her talents, who inspire her, influence her, and drive her to be her best.
For me, EUDEC is my tribe. I am very grateful to all involved who have made this discovery possible. I look forward to experience and share in EUDEC’s joys and challenges with my fellow community members into the future.
As mentioned in the intro the Annual General Meeting (AGM) achieved some significant decisions. For interested members the minutes can be found here:
Tuesday, 5th of August 2014, Copenhagen, DK
Wednesday, 6th of August 2014, Copenhagen, DK
For the members to find out what EUDEC is up to in the coming months, have a look at the Yearplan 2015. If you want to join an action, have questions or comments, contact us at info at eudec.org - we're looking forward to hearing from you!
Report from “back to school”-conference in Minnesota
by Christel Hartkamp
Presentation at the Annual “Back to school” Conference organized by the Association of School Administrators in Minnesota, U.S.A.
As a co-author of the book edited by John Moravec, “Knowmad Society,” I was invited to give a presentation at the annual “Back to School” conference of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators in Minneapolis on the 5th of August. John had been part of a project called “Minnevate!” throughout the year, with the main purpose to bridge the space between their visions for the future of Minnesota’s schools and the realities of today. “Minnevate!” is a dialogue process to build an action agenda for Minnesota educational leadership (see website Minnevate!). The whole conference was modelled around the theme.
The day was opened with a performance of a steel band represented by students from one of the schools. Then, the Governor of Minnesota spoke for half an hour. This was quite special; as this was the first time a governor visited the MASA “Back to School” conference. Throughout the day, the commissioner was present and listened to all our talks.
At first, Thieu Besselink spoke about changing the teacher profession to an art, and that teacher training should focus on stimulating an engine of well-being. Cristóbal Cobo had an inspiring talk about collaboration in work environments, the interactive world, and the shift toward cultures of participation (watch his interesting and interactive slideshow here).
My talk (shared here) focused on the change in mind-set that is needed in order to really change the system (otherwise it is not more than “re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” and the system will eventually sink). Learning environments must change from institutionalized environments to learning communities, from extrinsically-motivated learning to intrinsically-motivated learning, from a standardized curriculum to a personal curriculum. I spoke about our experience with democratic education and how children learn in self-directed environments.
Jaana Palojärvi was the final speaker (Director for International Relations at the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland). Her talk focussed on the success factors of the Finland’s Educational system. Her slides can be found here). As John Moravec calls it, “Finland is the best-looking kid in an ugly family” among national systems. At the end of her talk we had a chat about the presentations, and she mentioned that it occurred to her, after my talk, that one thing is lacking in Finland: student engagement. They are not motivated, she told me.
Interestingly, throughout all the talks, one single theme surfaced unintentionally: the magic word “trust”. The next day, we had a boardroom meeting to bring the Minnevate! project a step further with 12 MASA Richard Green Scholars (people who had been awarded for the research, writing, and presentation of one paper reflecting the practice of excellent school leadership). In this room, there were some top-level, but not policymaking, people that spoke intellectually and eloquently about the learning points from the conference day and the steps to make to move to a changing educational paradigm. One of the main conclusions was that there is need for a change from a control culture towards a trust culture. The level of discussions going on here impressed me, and the in depth of critical thinking that was openly expressed.
I have faith that Minnesota has the people with willpowers to take leadership in change. I was deeply impressed by the entire event, by the number of interesting people that I have met, and the whole organization. Our contributions have been successful and met a lot of enthusiasm. It was worth it.
Hartkamp-Bakker, C.A. (2013) Knowmad Society Ed. by John Moravec, Sudbury schools and democratic education in Knowmad Society, Education Futures, Minnesota, U.S.A. pages 129 - 157.
Unschooling and Democratic Education in Poland
hosted by the Bullerbyn Foundation in Warsaw, Poland
It all started in 2007, when Marianna Kłosińska, as a parents initiative, started to organize holidays for small children. For that reason she grounded the Bullerbyn Foundation with a mission to support children, parents and tutors in creating bonds based upon trust and respect.
Successively the Foundation grew and covered more areas of work. In 2014 it covered on one hand educational facilities like the winter and summer camps (“Bullerbyn Villages”), Mentors Academie of Personal Development as well as two unschooling groups in the spirit of democtatic education. On the other hand the Foundation is running a psychological and pedagogical counseling. There are workshops for parents, therapeutical camps, psychological consultations, therapie for families as well as social skills workshops for children available.
The staff of the Foundation consists mainly of young people: graduates of psychology and pedagogy, artists, men of science, culture, educators, psychologists, supported by experienced pedagogical supervisors, psychologists and therapists. Mentors / Teachers, Parents and Volunteeers participate actively in the diveres activities of the Foundation. Activities are dedicated to children in the age of 6 to 18.
Going back in history, the number of children spending summer holidays in Bullerbyn Village grew from 20 kids in 2007 to one thousand in 2014. When it comes to winter holidays, since 2008 over 200 families and 500 kids participated in the Winter Camps. The number of pupils in unschooling in the spirit of democratic education grew from 4 kids in 2012 to 36 kids in 2014. The pupils of unschooling stay for 3 days in a village located near Warsaw where nature, tranquility and distance from the big city give the possiblities to explore and discovere new ideas and things. The pupils have a 300m2 house for themselves and 5ha of yard. There is a forest and plenty wild animals that visit the yard. Trampolins in the orchard are an important part of the school life. The pupils supported by the mentors can play, study, explore or just stick around. The other two days of the week pupils visit exebitions, museums, galaries in Warsaw or they simply spend time in the office of the Foundation. The office is located in the city center and consists of space dedicated to pupils, a therapeutical room and some offices for meetings.
The pupils of unschooling are in the age of 6 to 15. Some are fascinated by horse riding, others by bmx or acrobatics, computer graphics, history, reading books, arts, role playing etc. The pupils supported by their parents and mentors are interested in hosting other pupils, graduates and mentors from abroad and visiting other unschooling groups / democratic schools in other countries. If you or your mentors or pupils are interested in such a vist / exchange please do not hesitate to contact us:
Marianna Kłosińska & Iwona Jabłonowska
Democratic Education in Lithuania
Please support Lithuanian initiative for Democratic Education!
The international program Reach for Change (which invests in exceptional individuals with unique ideas for social change) has launched a big idea contest in Lithuania. 4 finalists passed a solid jury, one of them is the idea to open a Democratic School and Democratic Education Institute in Lithuania! Nerijus Buivydas, leader of our NGO School of Success, is a flagman of this project and he will start it with his both personal passion and challenge – running campaign: 20 days, 20 marathons, 20 local school communities will be introduced with democratic education.
It‘s Lithuanian initiative for positive changes and happy children at school. We believe it is worth sharing!
The winning idea will benefit a solid mass media package, three-year support program for early stage social entrepreneurs, salary funding and support from R4C partners in the business sector and extensive global network.
15-28 September is the time for public voting and public decision. International community can vote as well so it would be a tremendous support if you‘d give your vote for this idea! Here‘s the link to the voting page http://talentaskeisti.lt/candidate/nerijus-buivydas Sorry, it‘s just in Lithuanian, so I hope this short presentation speaks for itself;)
If we win, I believe, it‘s a little but still a winning for EUDEC as well! Please share this message, every vote counts!
I promise to keep you updated.
P.S. If you need more info on that – let me know, I‘ll be happy to explain in detail.
Kind regards from Vilnius and thanking in anticipation!
Approaching the Elephant
Amanda Wilder is the director of a feature documentary 'Approaching the Elephant', about the first year of a democratic free school in New Jersey, USA. Here are more infos from the director: http://approachingtheelephant.com/director-qa/.
The film will be coming to European film festivals this autumn. Check out the website for more details, maybe it'll be shown in your city! Follow for updates on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/approachingtheelephant or Twitter @approachthee
This is where todays journey ends. We hope you have let yourself get carried away and that you now find yourself a little bit more enlightened about you and the world around you. If you are sad that the trip has come to an end, don’t despair, we will begin a new and exciting one very soon.
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