On November 22, Miro and I gave a presentation at the Global Education Conference. It was a virtual conference, hosting speakers and participants from around the world. The conference was geared towards to global educators so in essence we were speaking with an audience of teachers. We were so honored to be selected to participate in this conference as we believe global education is so important..
Miro and I shared the vision for Project WorldSchool (formerly Project “Unschool” Peru) and shared some our discoveries from our pilot program.
Below, you will find the video presentation of the talk Miro and I gave. The presentations starts at: 4:55 and runs through 26:38. The Questions and Answers portion runs through 26:40 to 43:00
Title: Global Education: Travel as an alternative form of education- Forming communities and intentional learning.
Lainie: We are really excited to be here with you tonight at the Global Education Conference. I’ve sat in on many sessions and am so inspired by the wealth of creativity and ideas to help promote a global state of learning. Hi, I’m Lainie.
Miro: And I’m Miro. Thank you for joining us. Our session is called “Travel as an alternative form of education- Forming communities and intentional learning.” We are aware, most of you are educators, working directly with students. We are coming to you from a different perspective in hopes that we may inspire you in your classrooms across the globe. My mom and I will will speak for about 30 minutes, then open up the session for Q & A as our hope is that we can inspire you in some way. We will share links to our global education project at the end of this presentation and invite your comments and feedback. Also, if you happen to be watching this as a recorded version, feel free to contact us via our site, if you have questions.
Lainie: We are not educators but we do have experience with Global Education as we’ve been inspired to produce an international-temporary learning community project here in Cusco Peru, where we currently live. Today we are going to share with you some of our discoveries from hosting this learning experiment, in hopes that some how you and translate some of our findings into your classroom.
Miro: Since this conference is focusing on global education and all that surrounds it, we felt sharing a real-life instance of Global Education would be beneficial to you as educators. As most of the talks we’ve listened to so far are seeking a way to bridge the gap between geographical limitations between classrooms in order to provide a global conversation. But for us, we are living a global education through complete immersion.
Lainie: Before we get to our presentation, we wanted to share a little about us first. We are a mother and son who sought out a different way of living our lives. We are worldschoolers. Over the past 4 and half years, my son and I have been traveling through Central and South America and made some brilliant discoveries in regards to our commitment to learning. We stumbled upon a lifestyle in which we discovered we were learning effortlessly, completely engaged in our lives and having a lot of fun doing so.
Miro: My mom and I left the US in July of 2009. I was 10 when we left, and we thought we were leaving for one year of traveling. As we start on our fifth year on the road, we’ve discovered so much about the power of travel as it relates to learning.
Lainie: When we left the States, I had no idea we’d still be traveling today. Somehow I believed that traveling for one year would be a sufficient education for my son, so I didn’t think about curriculum, to supplement his learning, as I knew intuitively he’d get a lot out of the travel experience.
Miro went to a public school up until the fourth grade. I’ve always been a single parent, I ran my own branding agency for many years and had never even considered anything outside the conventional education path for my son. But now, we’ve been on the road for over four and a half years and many things about learning as a global citizenship has unfolded for us. Our learning style is labeled as “unschooling ” or “natural learning” but that will not be the subject of today’s talk. However, it’s important to note, and it’s through our global learning experience that has transported us here.
Miro: When we got to Peru we were stunned with how much we were learning. We were learning about cultural practices, history, archeology, agriculture, music, art, language, mysticism, politics, economics and so much more. But most of all, we were connecting those lessons to our own lives, our own experiences, as a way to expand our relationship to the world. That is the ultimate purpose of global education or global citizen centric thinking.
Lainie: Besides the new “content’ we were putting into our knowledge base, we were exercising critical thinking skills, practicing empathy, listening and exploring, and connecting with people in a way we had never done so before in our lives. We were learning through full immersion and we were doing so effortlessly.
Miro: The first time my mom and I visited the Sacred Valley here in Peru, I looked at her and said, we should bring a group of unschoolers here to learn the way were learning. And so our vision for Project Worldschool Peru was born.
Lainie: We realize that the majority of you here are formal educators, and our approach to learning is contrary to most of your professional approaches, but we hope that through our explorations, that you can find some take-away value. Let’s face it, we are all committed to providing optimal learning experiences as the bottom line and we all agree there are tremendous benefits to adapting a global learning perspective, or we wouldn’t be here. As we said, we are not experts in anything other than our own experiences, and what we are sharing with you are our personal discoveries in regards to our commitment to “learning”.
I have been writing about natural learning on our blog and have shared with and inspired many many families along the way. In many respects, we’ve become a vocal advocate for “world-schooling” and in many respects we are all concerned about the same thing, connecting globally through education. Today I’m really addressing learning versus teaching, so we are coming at it from the other end. Since I am not a formal educator, I look at my role as facilitator within the learning process. We apply that to our form of “world-schooling” which is the foundation of our project.
Here are the 3 principles of world-schooling adapted from a natural learning or the unschooling perspective.
Miro: 1. Learning happens naturally.
A learner absorbs, learns without effort when supported and encouraged. Interests lead the initial pursuit but many new avenues can flow from there.
2. The world teaches, based on stimulus, and environmental inspiration.
Lainie: The world becomes the classroom, and can’t help but to teach us. To the degree a person is engaged in the world around them, they are matched with equal learning opportunities.
Miro: 3. Community is vital to learning.
Community provides the support needed to profound learning though feedback loops, expansion of ideas and safe investigation. What makes travel so different than a formal educational setting where learning is passive, travel immersion is participatory by nature. When a group of two or more are having the same experience, it invites the opportunity to process the experiences through conversation, which reinforces a deeper learning. Some formal education removes the experiential element from the learning process. Travel adds it back.
Lainie: With those three elements in mind, we designed an interactive learning experience that would create community.
Miro: Based on these aspects of learning, our desire was to create a project here in Peru, where people from other countries can learn from the endless inspiration we felt here. Here’s what we came up with:
Lainie: We co-created a temporary learning community in Peru’s Sacred Valley, inviting dynamic home-schoolers from around the world to participate. Our pilot program only involved around 10 people for just under 5 weeks. For the next “retreat” we hope to build a temporary learning community of at least 30 participants for 2014.
Miro: Remember we said the world teaches?
We utilized the region’s inherent offerings, investigating history, archeology, permaculture and the arts to start the conversation. Then from there, we encouraged our individual interests to direct deeper investigations.
Lainie: My role was that as a facilitator, versus a teacher. I’m going to share what that means a little later in this presentation. But in essence, as a facilitator, I encouraged the participants to reflect on our similarities and diversities and develop new connections to each other, thus forming a stronger community. Through culture, mysticism, science and traditions we discovered our individual and collective relationship to humanity.
This is the philosophy in which the learning community was created and agreed up by all participants:
Miro: We hold the vision sacred to co-create a “Learning Community” through the participation of all attendees, of every age, nationality, role, and walk of life during this “retreat”. The main philosophy is to engage a collective learning experience allowing inspiration to flow through unlimited natural learning channels. The environment and community encourages new grounds to explore, stretching our comfort zones, and exploring new interests. We support and are supported, with a commitment to dignity and respect. In the broader picture, we are excited to witness uncharted dynamic learning experiences that will help to expand our individual and group identities within a cultural context, serving to empower our own creative human spirit. The goal is to engage with each participant through multidisciplinary reflection, dialogue, vision-building, experimentation and exploration.
Lainie: Probably one of the main differences between this learning community experience and a traditional classroom setting is that all the students or learners were there voluntarily based on their desire to participate. This assured the complete buy-in from the get go, an obstacle we did not have to overcome. I’m sure there are many creative educators out there can achieve this in a formal setting, however.
Next we define what a temporary Learning Community is:
Miro: “A learning community is a group of people who share common emotions, values or beliefs, who are actively engaged in learning together, from each other, and by habituation. Such communities have become the template for a cohort-based, interdisciplinary approach to higher education. This may be based on an advanced kind of educational or ‘pedagogical’ design.
Community psychologists such as McMillan and Chavis state that there are four key factors that defined a sense of community: “(1)membership, (2) influence, (3) fulfillment of individuals needs and (4) shared events and emotional connections. So, the participants of learning community must feel some sense of loyalty and belonging to the group (membership) that drive their desire to keep working and helping others, also the things that the participants do must affect what happens in the community, that means, an active and not just a reactive performance (influence). Besides a learning community must give the chance to the participants to meet particular needs (fulfillment) by expressing personal opinions, asking for help or specific information and share stories of events with particular issue including (emotional connections) emotional experiences.”
Lainie: So, in order to create a learning community, we had to consider the aspects that had to be in place in order to nurture natural learning. For me, this was an investigation, since again, I’m not a formal educator. Here’s what we discovered:
- Learning happens based on needs determined through personal goals and personal accountability
- Learning is developmentally appropriate to the individual
- Learning becomes a memory that charged through emotional experience
- Learning is effected by the learners’ emotional intelligence
- Learning is supported by the learner’s support systems ( parents, family and community, past, present and future)
- Learners excel individually to different learning styles (tactile, experiential, passive and active)
- Learning is powered through personal motivation and personal empowerment
- Interest drives learning
- Environment inspires learning
Miro: Next we wanted to share with you some of the factors we noticed that contributed to the project’s success. Hopefully as educators you’ll find a way to adapt these to your classrooms:
- Buy-in / commitment
- Full cultural immersion
- Contextual learning (effortless learning)
- Exploring POV’s
- Problem definition
- Creative problem solving
= Global Learning
Lainie: Stakeholders For this project, we identified 4 main stakeholders, all whom had needs which needed to be managed.
1. Students / Learners
First, consideration were meeting the needs of the learners . Because there was complete-buy-in before the retreat, they were there by choice, even in some cases had to raise the money to be there, we did not need to overcome the participation aspects, But we did work together with each participant to define their expectations before the retreat. In addition, we held each learner responsible for leading a session or two based on their individual interests.
Miro: 2. Parents
Parents also had a set of expectations which we had to meet. Most of those needs evolved around the safety of their children, which is understandable.
We were guests in a host country. The key was respect, empathy and compassion. We interacted with local musicians, farmers, shamans and mystics, families, artisans and drivers and cooks. Everyone presented a learning opportunity. Everyone had value to offer.
Lainie: 4. Facilitators
The team involved in facilitating the retreat were not teachers, rather they were there to share their knowledge. We did have those who were experts in their field share their knowledge like yoga instructors, hiking guides and improv teachers. As a team we all agreed to take on the attitude that we were sharing some skill with the group, rather than teaching, which shifted the energy to a more equal community-like feeling.
We want to talk about the facilitators for a moment. It is clearly a different role than that of a teacher.
Facilitator role includes;
- ask questions that promote out of the box thinking
- maintaining the community vibe
- offering support
- take cues from the learners to suggest secondary interests
- provide suggestions for resources or other avenues of explorations
- offer support and encouragement
- facilitate problem solving among members, (but not solving problems)
We were conscious that each of these stakeholders need’s were met, at all times.
How we structured the retreat: We broke the weeks down by theme. Unique to Peru’s Sacred Valley, we were able to engage the local community for most of these activities.
- ethnobotany -sacred plants / plant medicine
- permaculture & agriculture (organic farming)
- artisan workshops– weaving, ceramics, jewelery
- humanity & consciousness
- archeology & anthropology
- UFOs / aliens
- Andean mysticism
- Machu Picchu
Lainie: Most days we divided the activities into 3 sessions.
- group meditation
- morning hikes
- short discussion group
- participant led sessions
Day Sessions: Normally started after breakfast: workshop, day hike, visit to ruins or other activity. The Day session usually lasted between 5-6 hours.
Evening Sessions: Every day, just after dinner, we come together for the day’s decompression. We’ll discuss any business from that day and make announcements about the following day’s sessions as well as open up a time for sharing and feedback. Then we’ll break out into the evening’s activities, depending on who signed up to run the evening’s session. Here’s some options:
- brainstorming sessions
- discussion groups
- participant led sessions
Miro: So we just shared the basic content that we explored during the retreat, but we noticed there were incredible interpersonal skills being exercised too, like:
- Tolerance & acceptance
- Practice patience
- Contributing to group efforts
- Becoming adaptable
- Real world problem solving
- Negotiate group dynamics
Lainie: So that is our version of Global Education. Our vision for the next retreat is to build a temporary learning community for up to 30 learners at a time. Eventually we’d like to develop these temporary learning communities throughout the world, but we are standing at the dawn of this vision.
The last thing we want to do is leave you with some images hopefully to inspire you.
Thank you for spending this time with us. We hope you’ve enjoyed our presentation. We’ve added our links to the end of this slide show and we invite you to visit us at our web sites anytime. We’d like to open up the forum now for questions. Feel free to type them in the chat box, of if you prefer to ask us a question via microphone, let us know that too and we’ll open up the mic for you. Thank you again, for joining us here today!
Global Education Conference:http://www.globaleducationconference.com
Project WorldSchoolPeru: http://projectworldschool.com