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Brent Cameron one of 12 recipients to receive lifetime education pioneer awards from AERO

At the recently completed 2019 AERO Conference, the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) awarded 12 education pioneers in alternative education with Lifetime Awards. As noted at the presentations, “these people and many others have not done their work for awards, riches or fame, but because wanted to do it and believed in the importance of it for the children they served.”

Recognized as a pioneer in education with an AERO Lifetime award was Brent Cameron, founder of the SelfDesign® education movement (recently emerged as Transformative Learning, via GIFTLearning and the Transformative Learning Foundation).

On June 28, 2018, Brent Cameron was post-humously presented with “AERO Lifetime Award for Pioneering Work in Educational Alternatives.”

The following tribute to the late Brent Cameron was presented by Renee Beth Poindexter, a long-time friend and Chair of the Transformative Learning Foundation.


Honouring Brent Cameron, Canadian Pioneer Educator

This is a tribute to Brent Cameron, a pioneering educator from Canada who passed away in 2012, almost 30 years after he began a remarkable educational experiment that grew from his basement and a very fertile imagination to touch thousands of people.

In the mid-1980s, Brent initiated ‘Wondertree’ – an independent learning program that dared to enfranchise children with rights to choose their own learning paths, reflecting personal interests, AND hire their own mentors. In Wondertree, which included Brent’s daughter Ilana, the children spent much time playing, building and creating – to no surprise – but also gaining skills of self-responsibility that any personal coach would value.

Brent’s forté in Wondertree was taking the interests and sensibilities of children absolutely seriously, as John Holt had done. Chronicled in a Masters Thesis from Simon Fraser University, Wondertree also garnered several national awards for innovation.

In the 1990s, Brent and Michael Maser launched ‘Virtual High’ in a ragtag mansion in Vancouver, for teens. Bolstered by the same philosophy as Wondertree, the youth of Virtual High were soon deeply committed to exploring myriad subjects, and soon the learning centre was open 51 weeks of the year and always buzzing with excitement.

Unfolding our infinite wisdom within. SelfDesign. By Brent Cameron

Click to see this book on Amazon

With Brent’s inspiring leadership Virtual High youth parsed the nuances of Buckminster Fuller and Gandhi, and they presented a document advocating the learning rights of youth to the United Nations.

In 2002 Brent’s vision was amplified with the launch of ‘SelfDesign® Learning Community’, an online, government-certified school that reflected the same principles as Wondertree. SelfDesign® grew rapidly as families and educators across British Columbia welcomed a school committed to holistic learning.

SelfDesign® challenged conventional notions of learning, including how computers might be used in education. And the elaboration of SelfDesign® – and ‘SelfDesigning’ – emerged from the collaborations of Brent and dozens of SelfDesign® educators.

In 2007 SelfDesign® received a Prime Minister’s award for educational innovation; Brent followed this up in 2010 with his PhD, focused on SelfDesign® methodology, from UBC. By this time Brent was also traveling extensively and he never refused an opportunity to talk about learning and children.

In 2012, Brent succumbed to a long-term illness and his time on earth came to a close. Deeply missed, Brent’s legacy nonetheless endures in many ways, as he left an indelible mark in education, and positively influenced thousands of people young and old.

Thanks for the opportunity to share some insights into the life and legacy of Brent Cameron.

Watch Brent Cameron at TEDx

Read about Brent Cameron’s Integral Principles here:

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