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What Do Our Hosts Say About Listening Sessions?

Meg Wall and Linda O'Toole

Ojai, CA

Charles Kouns and Jocelyn Papprill

Christchurch, NZ

Samara and Stephanie Shaw

Orcas Island, WA

"In my work with the Learning for Well-being network, primarily based in Europe but including operational partners in the USA and Middle East (, I have reviewed, experienced, and developed a number of methods and strategies to conduct both surveys and focus groups that enable young people to express how different learning environments affect every aspect of their well-being.     

Of all these experiences, I have been most impressed, and moved, by my participation with the Listening Session conducted by Charlie Kouns of Imagine Learning.  The session allowed me to see many possibilities for opening a true dialogue with young people as the essential customers of the educational system. The simple act of asking questions and listening to youth is inspiring for all participants and expands their awareness of the nature of learning, of education, and of being human. 

However, the simplicity is deceptive because Charlie is a masterful facilitator of the process.  He brings a wholehearted respect and curiosity that allows the young people to stay in the center of the Listening Session and to surprise themselves with their perceptions and wisdom. I believe that the session protocol Charlie has designed offers many lessons for engaging both youth and adults in listening more effectively to one another for enhancing all of our learning environments."

Linda O'Toole
Universal Education Foundation
Well-being Liaison


"I'm not sure now how I came to hear about Charlie and Stella's trip to New Zealand, bringing their Listening Sessions to our shores but I am sure glad I did connect with them. The session they facilitated here in Christchurch with 8 of our youth was a heart-opening time. For some of the youth it was the first time they had been given the chance to explore why learning was important to them and how it could be. Charlie and Stella facilitated the session in a manner that was warm and engaging.


The young people involved appreciated being heard and each they split into two groups to collaboratively visually express the visions they had. The resulting paintings were extraordinarily evocative as were the heart-warming explanations that accompanied them. Giving voice to our young people's ideas is vital for our future and I fully support the work of Imagine Learning in realising that.  There needs to be more such opportunities provided for our youth."were able to explore their vision for a wonderful learning environment that would meet their needs. After discussion

Ngāa mihi nui,

Jocelyn Papprill,
Educator for Sustainability,
Christchurch, New Zealand


"I discovered the Imagining Learning blog quite by accident while surfing the web, and decided to contact the organizers to possibly do a listening session in my area (Orcas Island in the Pacific Northwest).  A few phone conversations later, Charlie and Stella, decided they would love to do a session on Orcas as well as offer a presentation  about what they’ve learned from young people so far.  The presentation was then followed by a conversation about how we might make this valuable process available to teachers and learners throughout our community. 


In both the Listening Session with young people and subsequent community conversation about the sessions, Charlie and Stella skillfully steered us away from dwelling on what we feel might be wrong with our educational system, to discovering the possibilities that can arise from receptivity, deep listening, and trust.  It was a powerful process to say the least.


So powerful in fact, that many educators and parents who could not attend the presentation, but who had heard about the events, contacted me after, wanting to be part of this exciting adventure.  I have assured them that with Charlie and Stella’s continued guidance and support, and the collective voice of young people to guide us, we will find a way forward.   We look forward to continuing our partnership with Imagining Learning, and envision a network of learning communities who share resources, inspiration, (and even possibly young people!) along the way."



Sincerely and with Deepest Gratitude,

Samara Shaw
Orcas Island,
San Juan Islands, WA

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