Independent educator 'teaching for the fun of it' in Belfast
Alder Stone, an independent educator who holds a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology and ecology, has come to Belfast to continue his work teaching more than 30 courses in system sciences, which he developed over the past 13 years.
Stone began his career teaching at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, N.M., before striking out on his own. Finding the political environment in traditional university settings to be be problematic Stone said he decided to open his own school located in Eugene, Ore.
"There were no degrees. I was teaching for the fun of it," Stone told The Republican Journal during a Nov. 27 interview. "The reason to branch out on my own was I wanted to teach these ideas independently."
The ideas Stone has become so passionate about as a teacher are those of system sciences, which he says are "night and day" when compared to traditional science education. His curriculum delves into the interacting parts with different physical and living systems.
"My students will often say, 'I knew this is how nature works, but I didn't have the language to describe it,'" Stone said.
After running his school for 10 years, Stone left Oregon and moved to Maine. For the next two years he moved between Lewiston, Skowhegan and Waterville giving lectures on Climate Change before settling in Belfast this year. It is here that he has started his next venture a small for-profit education business called ErmahGe.
Located at 17A Main St. in Belfast, part of The Office, ErmahGe will offer small courses ranging in size from a half dozen adult learners up to 20. The courses that Stone will offer range in length from 12-hour introductory classes to some advanced courses that take as many as 16 weeks.
Stone says his reputation in Maine thus far has come from a series of lectures he's put on that apply system sciences to climate change. However, he notes that while some of ErmahGe's courses will focus on climate change many will be about system sciences more broadly.
"The bottom line is we're dealing with a sick planet," Stone said. "We need to understand the problem, but first we must relearn what nature is and how it works."
Right now ErmahGe only consists of Stone, but he said he hopes to hire more employees if he is successful, especially someone to handle the financial side of the business, which he said was challenging for him at the last school he ran.
In order to generate interest for his courses, Stone will be giving several 90-minute free introductory lectures. The first two lectures will be Wednesday, Dec. 11, and Friday, Dec. 13, at 6 p.m. in his Belfast office, followed by his first full course offering in Belfast of Climate 101 over the weekend of Dec. 14 and 15. Stone asks anyone planning to attend to register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stone said that he hopes students will be drawn in by the fun, pressure-free environment of learning without tests or papers and by the courses he has spent many years refining.
"I don't do a lot of things well," Stone said, "but I can boil down complex science concepts so they're easy to understand."