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What's Possible? Newsletter

Rethinking Learning Communities

What would our education systems look like if they were invented today, leveraging all we now know about learning, teaching, being in community, organizing systems, catalyzing change and creating a world that works for all? How would learning communities operate given our diverse populations and the current challenges of educating youth for a complex and rapidly changing world?

I don't have the answers to these questions and the ones that will follow, but I am certain that by asking powerful questions, stirring up habitual ways of thinking and acting, and collaborating across sectors we can create learning communities that are socially and emotionally vibrant environments where all preset are engaged in learning and recognize that they have something valuable to contribute.

Imagine what our global community would be like if every child grew up connected to their own knowing, confident in their gifts and skills, clear about what helps them feel fulfilled, inspired, motivated and loved and able to communicate their feelings and needs. What if each child experienced genuine connection with a loving and supportive community? How would our lives be different if people were more skilled at having intimate relationships and connecting to people and things that were different from themselves? Imagine if learning communities supported the development of confident and successful individuals that knew how their gifts could serve the needs of the world.

What would life be like? What would the world be like?

Children Have Rights

Each person has the right to feel loved and respected. Every child deserves the freedom to learn in ways that complement their life experiences and learning styles. Every human needs to feel valued for their contributions. And yet so many people are hurting and don't come close to experiencing these rights. How long must children wait to get what they deserve? How many have to suffer as we grapple to get clear about where and how to apply our energy in order to meet the growing needs of children, communities and our planet?  

We Can Make a Difference
There is an inter-woven network of relationships that influence the unfolding of each individual’s potential.

We, the adults and systems that shape the environments in which children grow, have tremendous power. We can create opportunities for children to feel safe, encouraging them to stay connected to their intelligence, creativity and inspiration, as well as their neurological impulse to learn and love. We can face the systems that are failing, address the challenges at hand and actively organize for transformation. This will only happen if many dedicated minds, compassionate hearts and diversely unique individuals and groups join together to serve this cause. The potential for change lies in our partnerships, we each have a piece to contribute. I firmly believe that all of the answers that we need are already present in our plethora of human resources and it's up to us to start working together more.  And so I wonder, who is this we and us that I am writing about?
Learning Laboratories

One vision that I keep seeing is that of Learning Laboratories, experiential opportunities for cross-sector learning and collaboration.

Imagine a diverse group of stake-holders:
  • educators
  • students
  • parents
  • program directors
  • researchers
  • business professionals
  • philanthropists
  • artists
  • media representatives
  • who else?
These are people of all ages from varying backgrounds with different learning styles, modes of expression and theoretical affiliations. Committed to a process of learning, these teams ask crucial questions, set audacious goals, share their wisdom, listen for what is emerging and radically experiment with new possibilities.

These learning teams meet regularly over an extended period of time, applying a razor-sharp focus towards addressing the challenges at hand and experimenting with what they discover. They are immersed in social, emotional and intellectual inquiry, while simultaneously integrating their learning into practice and action; both within their own group and with their broader networks of connection. As their energy and attention is directed towards re-inventing or revolutionizing education systems, they are also re-inventing themselves.

Could you imagine yourself participating in or organizing one of these Learning Laboratories, Innovation Labs, or Think Tanks for Collaboration?

A Revolution of Global Education

If you aren't already familiar with TED and TEDx, it's time to familiarize yourself! Please take 3 minutes to watch this video and this one if you've got another 3 minutes. There is a revolution in global education happening that is being powered by people who are passionate about learning, growing and finding a future they can believe in. It is bringing together people in different lines of work all over the world. This whole movement is driven by curious souls who are excited by the power of ideas.

"You can't just relax and let other people around the world spread inspiration. You actually have to take responsibility for it and do something yourself." Teo Härén

Special thanks to Nancy White for the new header picture, NASA for the photograph of our Earth, Kara Brown for the tree watercolor painting, Christopher Guise for the Beech Roots photograph and TEDxVancouver for the fun cupcake photo!

Seattle Visit 
April 2-6, 11 & 12

New! Family Playshops
I have a new offering that might interest you. Information on Family Playshops is below. I also have availability for private life and family coaching sessions, youth mentoring, social and emotional learning consultations, learning circles and parenting groups. Please email me  if you are interested in setting up an appointment.

Family Playshops: This is a chance to drop everything and spend quality time loving on your family! Family playshops are a fun and engaging opportunity for the whole family to play and laugh together while learning new things about one another and strengthening your relationships.

Each playshop is tailored to create engaging experiences that are age appropriate for the members of your family. Playshops can also be adapted to address specific areas of interest or concern for your family.
  • Is there a particular topic that has been coming up a lot lately that could use an outside person's perspective or facilitation?
  • Is there something you would like to be able to explore more openly in your family but you're just not sure how?
  • Perhaps life has been busy, stressful and serious lately and you could use some help lightening the mood.
A family playshop might be a perfect pathway in. 

Family Playshops can be with just your immediate family or you can invite grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. You can also team up with 2 or 3 other families and have fun while you learn more about your extended network of family and friends. I welcome groups of up to 12 people.

Playshops usually run 1.5 hours long, with a sliding scale fee of $130-$450 per session. The location will either be at your house, an outside park or another location identified by you. Contact me if you're excited and ready to schedule your family playshop now! We can also discuss questions about location, price, theme and who should participate.

Ashley's News
Asheville, North Carolina
For those of you that are on the edges of your seat waiting to hear news about my application to Harvard, I did not receive an invitation to the interview.

For the rest of you, in December I heard about Harvard's new doctoral program in Education Leadership with its intention to transform the American education system. With a month to take the GRE and pull an application together, I applied. You can read a bit of my reflections here and I hope to write about this incredible learning experience sometime soon at Easily Amazed. Much of the content in the main portion of this newsletter came out of the writing I did for the application. 

Applying was a remarkable learning opportunity and a powerful motivator that pushed me to clarify my intentions. The main piece of learning that I continue to sit with from the application process is the profound imbalance that I feel in our current education system's preference to logical, analytical, left brain output of information. After the frenzy of putting the application together was over, I was astounded to discover that the majority of the parts that I cut from my essays were poetry, passionate pleas, provocative questions, drawings and photographs. In the end, the right brain output didn't make the final cut. Again, I hope to write more about this soon. 


Last newsletter I mentioned my enthusiasm for a TEDx Youth event. I have since stepped in as Executive Director for this event for 12-18 year olds, TEDxNextGenerationAsheville. It is so inspiring to be working in collaboration with teens to create an event that spotlights the wisdom of young people. The creativity bustling from the organizing team is remarkable. Stay tuned to our website as we have some new projects that we'll be launching soon.

And let me know if you are interested in hosting a TEDx youth event in your area. This could be at your school, with a group of friends or for your larger community. It can be a big or small event and I'd love to help you make it happen. On November 20th there will be TEDx Youth events happening all over the world. Will you be organizing or attending one?

Share Your Thoughts
As always, your feedback, requests, comments and questions are welcomed and appreciated. Do you have ideas for future newsletters?  To share your thoughts, please follow this this link. THANK YOU!

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