Now that we've entered the new year we'd like to review how things went for AERO in 2015, our 26th year.
In some ways 2015 was a difficult year, but an important part of life is how you cope with difficulties and try to overcome them.
Of course, 2015 started for me with a heart attack. In response to that I have taken it as a challenge to get back into good health. From the start it was "heartwarming" (sorry ;) ) to hear from hundreds of AERO network people in 25 different countries. One of my readers sent me a book written by cardiologist Joel Fuhrman with a very radical diet that approaches the problem head on. I have followed that diet, lost 25 pounds and work out one way or another 5 days a week. All my energy has returned. I'm feeling great, but also came to realize that we are quite mortal and things can end in a flash!
Other difficulties we faced included the earthquake in Nepal and the devastating effect it had on the AERO member Sri Aurobindo Ashram/orphanage. Miraculously everyone happened to be outside when it hit, but many of their buildings were damaged or destroyed. In response AERO people helped raise $10,000, and we were able to connect them with other resources that provided temporary housing, engineering help, etc.
Another crisis that came to our attention was with John Gatto's family. He had been struggling with recovery from his own stroke when suddenly his wife had one! Because of his lack of help social services threatened to take him away from his apartment. Fortunately we were able to help him find some services, raise some funds, and the good news is that he has started writing again, and his wife has returned from the hospital. But they both have a long road ahead.
AERO had a very successful 12th conference here on Long Island, with Sugata Mitra as a keynoter, along with several other wonderful speakers, and 50 workshop presenters! And people in the AERO network are very excited that next August we're going back to Portland for the conference, with Yong Zhao already announced as a keynoter. Workshop proposals are now being taken. Because several people told us they need more time to secure funding for the conference we have extended the current rate.
AERO also had it's first AEROx regional conference, in November at Earthlands in Massachusetts. We expect there will be several other AEROx gatherings this year.
AERO readers also came through by helping us finish our matching fund drive for the New Visions Foundation.
Between all these things AERO participated in events such as the Progressive Education Conference, Jamaal Bowman's Call to Action for Public Schools, and helped with the Opt-Out Movement which protests high stakes testing and Common Core. Long Island had a record number of participants in what has been called a revolt and "civil disobedience." In response, the state and national education departments have abandoned some of their draconian ideas, but there is still a long way to go to bring "empowering, learner centered education to children everywhere," which is AERO's mission.
Prior to the 10th annual AERO Online School Starter Course we had our first webinar, on the same subject, and we plan to do more. This year's course was sold out again and featured students from all around the globe, including Ireland, Philippines, Greece, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, as well as the United States and Canada. This year's course is almost over but people can contact us about auditing of the School Starter Consultation Program. We've now helped start more than 100 schools and programs.
In late August I went to speak at the International Week of Alternative Education in Bogota, Colombia. I was the only native English speaker and the only one from the United States. It was an awesome event and helped open up communication with Spanish alternatives in Central and South America. It was nice to be able to travel again.
Recently we announced the publication of Stuart Grauer's wonderful new book, Fearless Teaching. The book hit #1 on the Amazon list. It is now also available as an e book. We've also published an exciting children's book, The Outside in Book. It is about tolerance and from the point of view of a 5th grader. And the freshly reedited One Size Does Not Fit All by Nikhil Goyal is now available.
So overall it was a dramatic and productive year, and we're still here!