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Education Jam 2015



Calling all leaders and visionaries committed to co-creating just and thriving education!

We invite you to a unique opportunity to co-learn, co-create and JAM with a diversity of folks from around the US and beyond who are working in dynamic ways to change education as we know it.

The second annual Education Jam will take place from August 3-8, 2015 at Knoll Farm, Waitsfield, Vermont, USA.

Apply today!

More details about the Education Jam

At the Education Jam, we not only explore the ways education can be a place of empowerment for students, we also create space for you to explore your own journey of transformation.

30 leaders and visionaries will gather for five days in a beautiful retreat center in the Mad River Valley of Vermont. The Jam brings together folks from across the education world: public, private, independent, and charter schools, unschooling, homeschooling, learning communities, youth empowerment, and more. Where some dialogs about education are debates about “the right way forward”, Jams create gatherings where people from very different approaches to education share our fields’ strengths and challenges. We explore visions of education, build community, deepen our perspectives of challenging questions, share places of growth and struggle, and have a lot of fun.

This is a unique gathering for educators. Education conferences often focus on systemic questions, but rarely weave together changes in education with the personal journeys of educators; retreats that focus on personal transformation often leave out systemic issues. At the Education Jam, we create a space that weaves the personal, interpersonal, and systemic together — from the deep motivations of why we are called to teach, to the challenges and community that race and class diversity bring to learning, to the full possibilities of what education can be in this transforming world — the Education Jam will make space to listen and learn from our diversity, engage in new synergies, find inspiration and rejuvenation, and begin to build towards a common vision with each of our own unique contributions.

Over the course of the whole Jam, we will have time to engage with questions like:

  • What is your personal story around education?  How do your experiences inform the path you have chosen to take?

  • What does learning mean to you?  What does unlearning mean to you?

  • What are your traumas and your triumphs around education?

  • How have you and how do you approach identity questions, like race, class, gender, and sexuality, in your learning journey?

  • When did your heart fully enter this work?  How are you fed and sourced in what you do today?

  • How are you living the values and world you are trying to create?

  • What kind of support do you need to help come into deeper alignment with that world?  What kind of support can you offer others to support their journey into deeper alignment?

  • What are the advantages and challenges of reforming or recreating education? Or creating something that does not even have a box yet?

  • How do you create and implement your systems and visions of education?

  • What are your questions? They are welcome too!

We will use a variety of learning modalities – from small group dialogues, whole group conversations, movement and bodywork, systems thinking, to storytelling and myth making, to visual and performing arts, to small group dialogues, to whole group conversations.  There will be space for silence and for connecting with nature.  The Jam will unfold to make space for our whole selves, for our spirits, for one another, for our highest dreams and our deepest fears.  All of it will be welcome.


The Jam will create space for transformation on the personal, interpersonal and systemic levels.  As with other Jams, we are prepared to be surprised!  One hope is that people will have the opportunity to integrate their learnings and carry them home, to be able to find and connect with people who have the heart, spirit, skills and knowledge that they are needing for the next steps of their personal journey and the next steps of our collective journey.

Potential Deep Dive Topics

This year’s Education Jam is excited to do some deep dives as a community into the themes of place-based learning, learning from/through/with nature, self-designed learning and design thinking, student leadership development, alternative assessment, and more… We are looking forward to co-creating these deep dives with the experiences, questions, struggles, and wisdoms of the community of people who will be gathering for the Jam.

At the moment, we are imagining two potential areas of in-depth exploration:

Place-Based Learning – Relocalizing education to learn from and with the people and places that surround us

Imagine studying tectonic movement from the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon, or learning about the history of coal mining underground in a demonstration mine in West Virginia.  Imagine a social studies class on the settlement history of Maine where your teachers include the members of a multi-generational lobstering family, a local historian, and an elder from the native Penobscot community.  Imagine a school where the social reality and power dynamics of the students and their community is actually a part of the curriculum – where students learn to mediate conflict, articulate their own values and expectations, and consider the tension between their own individual needs and those of their community of peers.

In today’s conventional educational system, students are educated about the world while often isolated from it. As Elie Wiesel wrote, “[this system emphasizes] theories instead of values, concepts rather than human beings, abstraction rather than consciousness, answers instead of questions, ideology and efficiency rather than conscience.” How do we link, bridge or even replace our academics with learning from the places and communities in which we travel and call home? How can we bring classroom education back into the larger social and ecological context in which we live and situate ourselves in relation to systems of power? How can we analyze texts and theory not just for who and what is represented, but who and what is not represented? What are the implications and impacts of our studies?

We’d love to explore these kinds of questions and share our experiences in seeking answers in different educational contexts. We’ll build a community of practice around the skills we need to both possess and teach in order to a) learn from the ecosystem in which we exist; b) build reciprocal relationships and hold accountability to individuals and communities we learn from and with; and c) contextualize our experiences within larger social and environmental frameworks.

Democracy and Relevance – redesigning education through student and community leadership to create 21st century learning

We are facing a rapidly a changing, global future that defies easy understanding. Fundamental ideas about education and learning are being altered by globalization and information technology. Students at every level of society and education need to learn how to be forward thinking, adaptive, and collaborative. What do we do? Imagine combining Paolo Freire and Design Thinking to build learning systems that teach students to work collaboratively to investigate what matters to them and to design new approaches to the future. This approach puts students in true leadership of their own education. It works in at any level of privilege, because it builds the skills to design new systems into the process of learning. Members of our facilitation team have been creating these learning systems in every situation from communities of undocumented workers in New Mexico to elite private schools in San Francisco. The outcome has been profound student leadership, school wide projects that make a difference in the community and academically rigorous courses that are also deeply relevant to the students’ lives.

Together, we can investigate the ideas, tools and implementation of this approach to education. We can look at the elements needed to integrate it into our classes – from the skills of student leadership development, to reorganizing power dynamics in education, to aligning the projects with curricular content standards (yes! It can be done), to how to have authentic and rigorous assessment that will satisfy the even the grumpiest administrators and parents.

A small word about these potential focus areas…

These are not intended to be workshops or trainings – they are intended as open discussions areas for jamming. We know you will bring unique ideas, experiences and questions.  They will be part of the Jam and we will be Jamming through them! Even if you have never done design or place-based education, your experiences in education will be one of the ways we make these discussions real.  We will explore how these ideas can potentially mesh into all kinds of learning environments and communities – from public school classrooms with curricula standards to home schools to colleges to community learning centers, etc.  When everyone is there to listen and learn from each other, we have found that there can be very rich and pragmatic dialogues between people coming from every kind of education field.

Cost, Travel and Logistics

The Education Jam will take place at Knoll Farm Refuge in Waitsfield, Vermont (about one hour from Burlington, VT).  Knoll Farm Refuge had been the former site of the Center for Whole Communities and has hosted dozens of gatherings for local, national and international communities.  We are thrilled to be in this beautiful space.   Jammers will be sharing rooms at Knoll Farm and enjoying healthy, locally-sourced, delicious meals there. Child care is also available for those who need it.


We ask that each Jammer make their way either directly to Knoll Farm Refuge, or to Burlington, and from there we will organize local transport and carpools.  Please contact our logistics coordinator, Jen Lazar <jen.lazar@gmail.com> to get support with food, housing, and transport.  A few partial travel scholarships are available as well, so please contact us if you are in need of them.

The tuition cost of the Jam is $900 — of which $450 covers food, housing and local transport; and $450 covers program costs (organizing time, facilitator honorarium, childcare, materials, etc.)  We never want money to be a barrier to anyone’s participation, and we will do everything we can to make it work for you to participate with a combination of payment, partial scholarship, work trade, and monthly payment plan.  Please get in touch with us if you have any questions about tuition costs and how to make it work for you.



Who is putting this on?  More about the Organizers/Facilitators

The 2015 Education Jam is co-sponsored by Schools Without Borders and the Field Academy and is supported by an awesome team!


Jonathan Peck Bio PictureJonathan Peck, former President and CEO of the Tucson Urban League has over 23 years experience working within the community development field facilitating projects, coalitions, and alliances at the neighborhood, citywide, national and international levels. Jonathan received a BA in African African American Studies and Political Science from Earlham College. Jonathan worked as a community organizer, and later as Associate Director, of the Southwest Youth Collaborative (SWYC), a Chicago based organization dedicated to the development of low-income youth of color.  Jonathan Peck is married to Zelda Harris and has two beautiful sons, Jonathan Russell Thanh and Wesley Chapman Danh Harris-Peck. Jonathan works to impact the lives of children, youth and families through his commitment to criminal and juvenile justice initiatives, education and social services and economic and community development initiatives. Jonathan is passionate about sports, arts and culture and positive youth development and has over 23 years of experience in the community sports and youth development field. Jonathan has extensive international experience most notably, but not limited to, in Southern Africa and Latin America.


305278_10150359822245140_747470139_10190432_242988494_nShilpa Jain is currently rooting herself in Oakland/Berkeley, CA, where she serves as the Executive Director of YES!.  YES! works with social changemakers at the meeting point of internal, interpersonal and systemic change, and aims to co-create a thriving, just and balanced world for all.  Prior to taking on this role, Shilpa spent two years as the Education and Outreach Coordinator of Other Worlds and ten years as a learning activist with Shikshantar: The Peoples’ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development, based in Udaipur, India, where she served as coordinator of the Swapathgami (Walkouts-Walkons) Network. Shilpa has researched and written numerous books and articles, and facilitated workshops and gatherings on topics including globalization, creative expressions, ecology, democratic living, innovative learning and unlearning. Her publications include A Poet’s Challenge to Schooling, Reclaiming the Gift Culture, Other Worlds of Power, Paths of Unlearning, Unfolding Learning Societies volumes one, two and three, and several issues of Vimukt Shiksha (“Liberating Learning”) and the Swapathgami newsletter “Making Our Paths of Living and Learning”. She is also co-author of “Connect. Inspire. Collaborate”, a highly sought-after facilitation manual.


1456614_10151984218585218_41920354_n (2)Heather Foran is a co-founder of the Field Academy, a traveling high school program that brings together youth from diverse backgrounds across the country to travel together in particular regions of the United States. Previous to founding the Field Academy, she worked as a program director and teacher for the Traveling School – a study abroad program for high school girls. She has developed experiential and place-based curricula around topics of human ecology, environmental and social justice, globalization and economic systems, alternative economies, identity, and systems of power.  Heather is a candidate for a Masters in Applied Organizational Development and Transformative Leadership at Prescott College and is currently building skills in transformative facilitation and emergent workshop design in cross-cultural settings. Based in Portland, Maine, she also works with the Resilience Hub – a permaculture meetup doing resilience-building and re-skilling in the urban and suburban areas around Portland.  For more information, you can check Heather out at:http://www.travelingschool.com/faculty.php – heather

Photo on 3-26-14 at 3.32 PM #2Will Grant was the co-founder and Executive Director for 10 years of BLAST, a multicultural organization that developed networks of leaders from marginalized communities to democratize education and social service systems in New Mexico. He was the national trainer for VALUE, developing democratic education systems in 10 states. He just left a gig on the other side of the class divide, working at a progressive High School to teach the children of privilege how to use their social position to design a world that integrates environmental regeneration, multiculturalism and participatory democracy. He is the founder of FAIR Classrooms, a project to help schools integrate LGBTQ history into their curricula (FAIRclassrooms.org). His current project is the Community Pungwe, a yearly gathering of change makers to integrate our work in ecology, the arts, law, education, spirituality, healing, and body-mind consciousness to develop alternative systems and culture to make the world just, beautiful and a lot more fun. For more information, you can check Will out at Pungwe.org

Headshot 1Jen Lazar is a co-founder and the current Program Director of the Field Academy, a traveling high school program that strives to make learning and life indistinguishable for both students and educators.  Jen has been working alongside students and teachers to re-imagine and re-create education in the United States for ten years (and spent many years prior to that designing her own high school and college experiences).  Prior to her current experience with the Field Academy, Jen was the Associate Executive Director of the DREAM Program where she co-created mentoring and adventure programs with college students and high school students from affordable housing communities throughout Vermont.  She also served as a public school commissioner in Burlington, Vermont for three years during a period of socio-economic integration and transformation of the city’s elementary schools.  Jen believes in listening to young people and learning from and with them and is committed to creating spaces where that is possible.  In addition, she loves to bring people together around food, cook brunch, play Capture the Flag, and revel in the outdoors in just about any weather. You can learn more about Jen atwww.fieldacademy.org.

Motaz-Attalla-168x300Motaz Attalla is a writer and education researcher based in Oakland, by way of Cairo. He has been working with young people and families on building more meaningful practices around education, learning and engagement with the world. Motaz co-founded and facilitates at the Middle East Youth Leadership Jam, a week-long gathering of young change-makers from across the Middle East. He also performs stand-up comedy, sometimes to mixed reviews and always with fear and a measure of good intent.

We would love to have you apply for the Education Jam online here.  Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, so the sooner you apply, the better!

If you have any questions, please contact our participant liaison, Motaz Atalla at <EducationYESJam@gmail.com>

Looking forward to Jamming with you!

– Heather, Jonathan, Motaz, Will, Jen, and Shilpa