Creating A Better World Through Education: Solutionary School New York City

Written by Emma Mathis
SSNYC Banner The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Humane Education website at http://humaneeducation.org/solutionary-school/

Background/Need

Imagine if the purpose of education were to create solutionaries: exceptional thinkers, joyful, caring and engaged citizens, and successful, collaborative problem solvers who are able to develop practical, effective, and visionary solutions to the challenges we face today. This vision is becoming a reality. The Institute for Humane Education (IHE) is developing an innovative, real-world curriculum and the first of many Solutionary Schools to meet both the needs of children as well as our collective future.

Today’s world offers unprecedented opportunities along with unprecedented challenges. Our children face the realities of escalating environmental degradation, a growing population on a finite planet, and systematized cruelty and destruction. Despite these challenges, at no other time have our children had the capacity to communicate and collaborate with people instantaneously across every border to solve our many challenges.

For 19 years IHE has been offering graduate degree programs, workshops, online courses, and free downloadable resources and has supported and trained thousands of educators who now teach hundreds of thousands of students to understand and address global problems; to think critically and creatively in order to develop viable solutions, and to use their passions and skills to create new, healthier, and more just systems. IHE has had a long-term strategic plan to bring its experience and resources together to start schools and share curricula with the goal of influencing and transforming the educational system so that it is more relevant and meaningful. IHE is ready and uniquely positioned to execute this plan.

The curriculum IHE is creating will be free, accessible to the world, and cover overarching global issues critical to all. The foundational skills of literacy, numeracy, the scientific method, and the arts will be taught in relation to these key topics with the goal of preparing students to be exceptional critical, creative, design, and systems thinkers who are solutionaries. The pedagogy will combine the expertise of master teachers with mentoring, peer teaching, collaborative learning, independent and online learning, and, in the upper grades, real work in the community, college courses, and school certification tracks in solutionary careers.

 

Market Demand

Market research and school counselor interviews revealed exceptionally strong market demand for the school concept in New York City. Among the 330 randomly selected parents who met the criteria for consideration in the quantitative research, 76% were extremely or highly interested in visiting or learning more about the school, and 63% were extremely or highly likely to consider enrolling a child at the school. The consultants remarked that this was one of the highest positive responses they had seen in recent years. (Summary results available.)

 

Competition/Differentiation

There are a number of factors contributing to the Solutionary School’s uniqueness and points of differentiation, including:

  • An age-appropriate solutionary lens will be brought to all subjects, and students will be challenged to discover practical and creative answers to entrenched problems (local, global, and systemic), that are just and humane toward all people, all species, and the environment.
  • The school has an established and highly-respected graduate program through IHE and its partner, Valparaiso University, which will train all teachers, prepare interns and provide continuous professional development and research.
  • A community Solutionary Center within the school will serve as a hub of solutionary-themed activities, exhibitions, maker-spaces, presentations from expert solutionaries from across the globe live-streamed to the world and more.
  • Grounded in humane education, the school will cultivate in students qualities such as kindness, honesty, compassion, perseverance, and integrity, extending these qualities beyond interpersonal relationships so that they are practiced within a globalized world that connects each of us to other people, other species, and ecosystems across the planet.
  • The school will model its own message and ensure that every aspect of the school and its culture will be as sustainable, just, humane, and healthy as possible.

 

Team

The founding team has attracted outstanding talent within education and school development. IHE President Zoe Weil is a visionary educator, leader, and voice in the education change movement. Her TEDx talk, “The World Becomes What You Teach,” is among the most popular and highly-rated TEDx talks. It captures the mission of IHE and the Solutionary School. Founding Head of School Bill Gladstone has been an innovative educator and administrator in New York City schools for over 20 years where he has helped start magnet, charter, and public schools. IHE’s Executive Director Sarah Speare is an experienced nonprofit executive, award-winning entrepreneur, and a social-change designer. Board members include Tony Scucci, a consultant from Board Source who creates effective boards; and Mark Schulman, former president of Saybrook University, Goddard and Antioch Colleges. Additional team members include other IHE staff, graduate students, and volunteers in marketing and outreach.

Experienced staff and teacher/curriculum development graduates of IHE/Valparaiso are leading the curriculum development process with strategic input from top curriculum design consultants. Advisors in branding, blended-learning, finance, fundraising, marketing, research, assessment and school development are also providing guidance.

 

Current Phase of Development

In September 2013 the team decided to explore NYC as the location for the prototype school. A feasibility phase produced outstanding market and demographic research results, put a leadership team in place, and determined the independent school model as the most viable for NYC and for incubating the curriculum. Now in pre-operations, IHE is currently focused on curriculum development, marketing/branding/PR, meeting fundraising benchmarks, hiring key staff, recruiting teachers and building community. The plan is to open as a high school in 2018, building over time to a full K-12 school.

 

Plan for Growth

Following the development and incubation of the curriculum at the prototype school, it will be made available free and shareable throughout the world to any type of school. IHE plans to launch Solutionary Schools in other locations in the U.S. and abroad. Interest in opening Solutionary Schools has already been expressed by numerous educators across the U.S. as well as Australia.

 

Needs

To date over $515K has been raised through grants and individual gifts and $350K in-kind. IHE is currently raising an additional $4M by year’s end, with more to be raised by late 2017 through a capital campaign. The advisory board is growing and is seeking fundraising, legal, and financial advisors. A shared or donated office space is also needed.

 

The Vision

Hear from Head of School Bill Gladstone and IHE President Zoe Weil on how the development of this school offers the greatest strategy for a peaceful, sustainable future for all people, animals, and the environment.

If you would like to get involved, for more information, contact:

Visit our websites: www.humaneeducation.org   •   www.solutionaryschoolnyc.org