This goes out with a grateful nod to Ken Danford the founder of North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens and Joel Hammon, the co-founder of Princeton Learning Cooperative for their amazing vision for Liberated Learners, an open source network of learning centers around the world, who are offering innovative and individualized learning opportunities for any youth who would like to take charge of their own education.
Within this network of learning centers, all members are encouraged to use the resources developed by the network, as well as producing their own. The potential implications for this dynamic concept are beyond conceiving. The practical, however, are quite simple. We are all working together to create independent centers that will ultimately help kids around the world achieve their goal of becoming self-directed learners.
As an example: An exciting new portfolio and transcript software is currently being developed by a team in Ottawa for The Compass Centre and will be made available to the whole network. This will allow every Liberated Learner youth to create a world class portfolio and transcript that can include any project (art, research, music, etc) that they have produced throughout their educational career and share it on-line with any potential employers, college admissions personnel, friends and family members.
Each Liberated Learner Center follows a few basic tenants set by Ken. The seven principles he developed serves as our primary philosophy. The other essential ingredient to becoming a member of the network is that our facilities are not schools.
We offer many of the staple components that are found in schools, including: classes, tutorials, activities, technological and material resources (books, musical instruments, art supplies and other hands-on project materials, computers, software, etc), guidance, and college prep.
We are, however, completely non-compulsory and non-coercive. We do not take daily attendance and we do not adhere to any one curriculum. Each youth member has a completely individualized, personalized, and unique learning plan that is developed together with their learning center mentor and parents based on their particular interests and passions.
Some youth know exactly where they are headed and have a basic plan already. Others need the help, suggestions and encouragement from their mentor. Many kids are looking for rigorous classes to fulfill the requirements they know are needed for the field they want to go into, others are looking for the hands-on opportunities that will enrich their love of learning. Some are interested in exploring the community for possible volunteer, apprenticeship, or shadowing opportunities.
For me the most exciting and distinguishing difference between school and our learning centers is that each student becomes directly connected to the community; the community within the learning center and the community beyond those four walls.
The individuals a youth will find at the Center are people who care deeply about their own education and are excited about learning; they are empathetic and respectful of everyone around them and are dedicated to making the Learning Center a hospitable, welcoming environment for everyone.
The staff at each center acts as a link or bridge to the local community. This in essence creates an infinitely expanding learning environment, that includes: businesses and entrepreneurs, colleges and universities, civic entities (libraries, law enforcement, fire departments, courts, etc.), museums, and the natural environment. Each youth has the opportunity to engage in internships or apprenticeships, shadowing or volunteer opportunities, auditing college classes, as well as one time visits to sites throughout the community. Each Center also encourages connections to local experts, college students, professionals, and lay people by inviting them to teach a class or tutorial at the Center.
The legal mechanism for youth who want to take advantage of all we have to offer and are excited about becoming members of our Centers is to file homeschool documentation according to their State or Province.
Each Center provides varying levels of facilitation to complete those requirements. At DRC the process is very hands-on, the staff meets with each youth to write the Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) and Quarterly Progress Reports.
Deep Root Center for Self-Directed Learning is not anti-school or anti-education, we are, in fact, pro-learning, pro-exploration, pro-discovery, pro-open mind, pro-challenge, and pro-information gathering.
DRC promotes all of the above by providing a safe, open, caring, and nurturing environment, where students are encouraged and supported to create challenging learning and life plans that are based on their own personal real world interests, passions, and goals.
Because as this tagline, developed by WayPoint in Nova Scotia and adapted by DRC, sums up quite nicely. Deep Root Center is --- A personalized education: In the real world, for real kids.