Cooperative Catalyst | Must Watch Videos « Cooperative Catalyst Free to…

Must Watch Videos « Cooperative Catalyst

Free to Learn:

A Radical Experiment in Education

A Documentary by Jeff Root & Bhawin Suchak

Free to Learn is a 70 minute documentary that offers a “fly on the wall” perspective of the daily happenings at The Free School in Albany, New York. Like many of today’s radical and democratic schools, The Free School expects children to decide for themselves how to spend their days.

The Free School, however, is unique in that it transcends obstacles that prevent similar schools from reaching a economically and racially diverse range of students and operates in the heart of an inner-city neighborhood.

For over thirty years in perhaps the most radical experiment in American education, this small inner-city alternative school has offered its students complete freedom over their learning. There are no mandatory classes, no grades, tests, or homework, and rules are generally avoided. As a last resort, rules are created democratically by students and teachers, often at the prompting of a student. At a time when our educators are mandated to march forward with no child left behind, the students of the Free School, many of whom would have fallen through the cracks of today’s failing public school system, have managed to slip out of education’s back door and have run away free.

Free to Learn follows a handful of these children courageously meeting the daily challenges of hope, acceptance, loss, friendship, conflict, and the difficult task of deciding, for themselves, what to do with each day.

I have always had a fascination with free schools since one of my neighbours in Madison, Wisconsin opted to attend one. That was in the early 1970′s. Complete learner autonomy is not easy. The Free School expects children to decide for themselves how to spend their days. The documentary follows a handful of students and the post concludes with the phrase, “the difficult task of deciding, for themselves, what to do with each day.” I think students can fashion their own learning sometimes. Most of the time they should have a strong voice in the shape and direction of their own learning. There are times when they will find the task difficult and need a teacher to move forward. The challenge for us is to know when that point is reached, to always offer authentic differentiated alternatives that essentially reboot empowerment.

Posted via email from edustange’s posterous

About Alan Stange

I am an Alumni of the University of Regina, class or 1980. After a two year posting with CUSO in Kaduna, Nigeria, I worked in South-central Saskatchewan in rural K-12 schools. I took a year of post-graduate studies and then moved into administration. I stepped out of that role in 2007 and returned to the classroom as an elementary school teacher. I am currently in Moose Jaw.
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