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Learning Choices Network 3rd Annual Gathering
The Buffalo History Musuem
Buffalo, NY
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Thank you for joining us for Learning Choices Network's 3rd Annual Gathering at The Buffalo History Museum.


Learning Choices Network 3rd Annual Gathering

Learning Choices Network's annual 3-day workshop is back, and we are excited to welcome families, students, and educators!

If you value autonomy and experiential learning, want to gain insight on a wide variety of education topics like the importance of creative inquiry in development, or are just curious  LCN's Regional Gathering has workshops for you!

WHO: LCN's Regional Gathering is for "students" of all ages, and anyone who values self directed, experiential learning or who would just like to know more about educational options in our community. We'll have distinguished speakers and progressive educators from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Vermont.

WHEN: November 7-9th, 2015

WHERE: Buffalo History Museum, One Musuem Court, Buffalo

The Learning Choices Network is a community coalition of educators, independent schools, community activists, advocates, entrepreneurs, homeschoolers, friends and families working together to create, facilitate and promote alternative opportunities for authentic learning in the local community.

Stay tuned for updates by visiting

Saturday, November 7, 9:30 am to 3 pm
Sunday, November 8, 12 pm to 5 pm
Monday, November 9, 9:30 am to 3 pm


9:30 am          Welcome
10:00 am        What is Learning Choices Network, Megan Mills Hoffman
10:30 am        Self Directed Learning from the Beginning, Alyce Thorp
11:00 am        Creating a Collaborative Child-Centered Preschool, Lauren Seaver
11:30 am        A Culture of Play: Adventure Playgrounds, Julia Jamrozik

12:00 - 1:00 pm LUNCH BREAK & EXPO
Check out resources from The Buffalo History Museum and LCN Organizations

1:00 pm        Redefining High School: The Study Center, Lesley Diaz & Charlene Kowalczewski
1:30 pm        The Gap Year Experience, Joshua Murphy
2:00 pm        Success Breeds Success, John Newton, PhD
2:30 pm        Democratic Communities & Post-Secondary Surveillance, Scott Richardson, PhD
3:00  5:00pmTour Buffalo

5:00pm          Social Gathering at Merge Restaurant, Sarah Schneider
                     439 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo


9:00  10:30am Meet & Greet at Elm Street Bakery, 72 Elm Street, East Aurora
10:30 -11:30amS ite Visit: Mandala School, 738 Main Street, East Aurora

12:30 am        Buffalo as an Education City, Chuck Banas
1 :00 pm         The Refugee Experience, Kate Helms & Amanda Kisselstein
1:30pm Integrating Creativity, Marine Vladova
2:00pm The Tinkering School, Melissa Leopard
2:30pm Testing & Arts in the 21st Century Education: Film Showing, Dave Harter
3:30p Class Dismissed: Film Showing, Joshua Murphy


9:30 amWelcome & Network Building
10:00 am        Enrollment, Distance Learning & Student Autonomy, Ben Mitchell
11:00 am        Mandala School, The Park School & The Gow School
11:30amBuffalo ReformEd, Jason Zwara


1:00  3:00pm Panel Discussion: The Transition to College
Carl 'Sandy' Behrend, Educational Consultant
Dean Reinhart, PhD, Associate Director of Admissions, Buffalo State College
Scott Richardson, PhD, Assistant Professor, Millersville University
Ben Mitchell, Director of Admissions, Oak Meadow

***Featured Topics for 2015***

Self-Directed Learning from the Beginning
Alyce Thorp, Illuminating Childhood
What happens when we trust babies to develop at their own natural pace? In a world of adult-directed child development, what would this look like? Join Alyce Thorp, as she introduces the work of infant specialist, Magda Gerber and her mentor, Dr. Emmi Pikler, and discusses the ways in which adults can support a child's development, rather than directing it.

Creating a Collaborative Child-Centered Preschool Program
aka One Mom's Journey Following Her Dreams
Lauren Seaver, Rochester Yoga Preschool, Teacher/Founder
Inspired by the lack of child and family supportive preschool options available, a single mom decided to create a program that was inclusive of families, allowed for gentle transitions and supported young children's needs to lead their own learning and learn through movement. She'll discuss why we should all "start before we're ready" when it comes to our passions and will share her own personal journey of quitting the full time job she didn't love to starting up and operating a successful business of her dreams.

A Culture of Play: Adventure Playgrounds
Julia Jamrozik, Assistant Professor at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture
Looking at the historical significance and evolution of playspaces this talk will focus on the importance of providing alternative non-standard opportunities for play as an integral aspect of a healthy urban network. The presentation will further highlight how the open-ended concepts of loose-parts and adventure play can permeate play spaces from the designed to the natural, bringing independence and creativity into the realm of the playground.

Redefining High School: The Study Center Model
Lesley Diaz & Charlene Kowalczewski, Founders
Discover what happens when private education meets the flexibility of a homeschool cooperative - an engaged community of students, parents, and professionals collaborating to provide educational opportunities for teens that promote critical thinking, confidence, and social responsibility. Academe of Aurora, Grades 9-12 Study Center, is a unique educational option blending benefits of a structured high school setting with the freedom of homeschooling.  Academe of Aurora is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational corporation serving students since 2011.

The Gap Year Experience
Joshua Murphy, Langom Landing
Upon completing high school many youth feel they have 3 options - college, working retail/fast-food, or joining the military. Gap year programs and self-directed gap year experiences offer an alternative for young adults who are eager to learn more about the world outside of school, their place in it, and themselves as a person. Through internships, travel, personal exploration, and more, gap-years afford our emerging adults an opportunity to begin developing real-world skills and carving out their own niche. Join Joshua Murphy, board member of Lagom Landing and past participant of Leap Year as he talks about his experiences with these programs and the value of Gap Years as a truly empowering educational option.

Success Breeds Success
John Newton, Ph.D, Mandala School, Founder
Hear how the theories of A. Maslow, C. Rogers, J. Piaget, and P. Gray play out in a K-8 one-room-schoolhouse with several rooms and multi-age classes. Mandala School is in our 8th year of allowing tree climbing, taking week-long school trips, and permitting students to go downtown for lunch-unattended.

I Don't Want to be a Gatekeeper: Democratic Communities in the Era of Post-Secondary Institutional Surveillance
Scott Richardson, Ph.D, Assistant professor of Educational Foundations at Millersville University of Pennsylvania and author of "Gender Lessons: Patriarchy, Sextyping & Schools"
American universities are mechanisms that impose heavy surveillance in the game of credentialing and certifying "winners" and "losers." But what about faculty who desire learning over sorting? This presentation poses (micro/course based) democratic education as a way around some of the challenges posed by institutional surveillance.

Buffalo as an Education City
Chuck Banas, Urban Planner and Designer
Buffalo is on the upswing these days, thanks to the creatives, entrepreneurs, and do it yourself-ers. Rich with opportunities for learning and exploration, the Greater Buffalo area offers a vibrant history and culture for self-directed experiential discovery.

The Refugee School Experience: Film Showing and Discussion
Kate Helms, Maryvale School Teacher
This film and panel discussion about the educational experiences of global refugees in Buffalo will include a facilitated conversation with Buffalo City School English as Second Language teachers Kate Helms (formerly) and Amanda Kisselstein (currently). Key topics will address a refugee's typical first days in school, the current testing climate, and suggested solutions for working together to achieve productive change. The film Stories of Refugee Youth will be shown.

Andrews Osborne Academy: Integrating Creativity into the Curriculum
Marina Vladova, English Department Chair & Creative Thinking Initiative Coordinator
Discussion of the ways in which we can guide students beyond content mastery to create valuable alternatives in challenging situations, by combining or refining ideas, rearranging components, and adapting to different economic or technological conditions and contexts. Marina will share her school's journeythe challenges and rewardsin incorporating creative thinking (both process and product) into all classes and co-curricular programs.

The TInkering School Buffalo
Melissa Leopard, Founder & Organizer
Melissa Leopard is the founder of Tinkering School Buffalo, one of the first national extensions of Gever Tulley's highly-regarded experiential learning program. Tinkering School is a place where kids are given open-ended building projects and problems to solve. Trusted to use the tools required for success, they have the freedom to fail, the time to persevere, and the opportunity to realize that a journey is as important as a destination. Melissa is co-founder of POP-UP Park, a grassroots urban playground initiative. She is also the Director of Curriculum for Public Preparatory Network, a consortium of six public schools in New York City.

Testing and Arts in 21st Century Education: Film Showing and Discussion
Dave Harter, Practical Play
The Trapdoor is a short documentary that examines the role of standardized testing in schools through the lens of a three-act musical production at a low-income elementary school in Tonawanda, New York. Originally shot to keep the school from being closed down, this film tells the story of a local community school through the eyes of two generations of teachers.

Class Dismissed: Film Showing and Discussion
Joshua Murphy, Discover & Lagom Landing
All across America, parents are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the state of public education. The current state of our educational system and economy shines a spotlight on problems with traditional schools. Class Dismissed, a film about learning outside the classroom, showcases a growing trend in alternative education strategies that are working for many families across America. Local community options for personalized student-centered learning will be featured.

Dual Enrollment, Multiple Enrollment and Distance Learning, Implications of the Explosion in Distance Learning Options for Student Autonomy
Ben Mitchell, Oak Meadow, Director for Admissions
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan describes dual enrollments as "good dropout-prevention programs."  One James Irvine Foundation study suggests that dually enrolled students had better academic outcomes - more likely to graduate high school, more likely to transition to college, less likely to need basic skills courses in college, more likely to persist to graduation, even accumulating more college credits -- than comparison students.  This workshop examines the potential benefits and pitfalls of the explosion of distance learning opportunities.  More and more a world of choices are available to students, placing the autonomous learner at the center of his or her own education.

Buffalo ReformEd
Jason Zwara, Executive Director
In 2009, co-founder, Katie Campos, returned to her hometown of Buffalo, passionate about improving the public education system. After working on education policy at the state level with Democrats for Education Reform, Katie identified a key challenge in the education reform movement: great policies at the state level failed to make an impact in communities without local support and buy-in. She joined with co-founder, James Gardner, to launch Buffalo ReformEd as a platform to raise awareness about education reform issues, and organize our community to push for positive change. Buffalo ReformEd was founded as a response to the urgent and critical challenges in our public education system, and out of the need for community driven solutions that work in the best interest of students. Buffalo ReformEd was built on the premise that all children can achieve, regardless of income or ethnicity. They maintain that a stronger education system is the key to a better Buffalo and a brighter future for the children of Buffalo. They are building a movement of parents, students, citizens, and local leaders empowered to put students first. The key to their approach is working at both the grassroots and decision-making levels, encouraging the community to demand excellent public schools.



The Buffalo History Musuem (View)
One Museum Court
Buffalo, NY 14216
United States

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Education > Workshops

Kid Friendly: Yes!
Dog Friendly: No
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!


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