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Conference on alternative education options starts Thursday

Michael Hynes, superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford school district,

Michael Hynes, superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford school district, seen here in January 2017, will be a speaker at the AERO conference, which starts Thursday. Credit: Ed Betz

One of the nation’s largest networks for alternative education will host its annual conference at LIU Post this month, drawing experts and educators interested in innovative approaches to learning.

The conference, organized and presented by The Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO), a Roslyn Heights nonprofit that was founded in 1989, will be held from June 28 to July 1.

Speakers include national and international educators, some of whom have founded alternative schools in their communities as well as others who are experts on learner-centered education. Workshops will focus both on how to start a school and how parents can find schools that foster a child’s self-directed learning.

The basic concept behind the conference is the belief that children are natural learners, said Jerry Mintz, founder of AERO, which serves as a networker helping parents, teachers and students find learner-based educational alternatives.

“This is a chance for Long Islanders to really come to see what their choices are,” Mintz said.

The schools in AERO’s network cover a wide spectrum both nationally and internationally, including charter schools, Montessori and Waldorf schools, magnet schools and home schooling, among others.

About 200 participants are expected to attend the conference in this, its 15th year.

Mintz said that local residents interested in going to the conference can make a tax-deductible donation of their choice to AERO.

Sir Ken Robinson, a British author and educator who is based in California, will be a keynote speaker and answer questions via Skype. His TED talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” is a top presentation for the online organization that posts videos from experts across all fields and has over 51 million views. He keynoted the AERO conference in 2012, in Portland, Oregon, where next year’s conference will be held.

Local speakers include Michael Hynes, superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford school district, and Nassau County Legis. Joshua Lafazan, who will speak on his experience of running for school board as a high-school student and his journey from Nassau Community College to Harvard.

The Patchogue-Medford district has embraced the whole-child approach to education, said Hynes, adding the conference offers an opportunity to learn about other methods and philosophies of educating children.

“We also believe in expanding our understanding of what it means to be ‘educated’ and how we actually do this within our school system,” Hynes said.

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