The deal with #EduCon? I need to believe.

Neoteny, one of my favorite words, means the retention of childlike attributes in adulthood: idealism, experimentation and wonder. In this new world, not only must we behave more like children, we also must teach the next generation to retain those attributes that will allow them to be world-changing, innovative adults who will help us reinvent the future.

                                         Joi Ito

SLA, a small (530 students) school located in downtown Philadelphia, is self-described as “an inquiry-driven, project-based high school focused on 21st century learning”. SLA is a 1:1 project-based school located in a nondescript office building. As you enter there is no impressive foyer or multi-purpose room, shiny wall of awards, nor an expensive looking mission statement placard to greet you.

As you move through the school and spend time within the physical space, there is nothing overtly flashy about the school. School rules are modestly displayed on paper posters throughout the school and bulletin boards are covered with student projects.

So why go to SLA for Educon?

Was it to attend the dynamic participant driven “conversations” with lead learners who moved my thinking to new change horizons?

Was it to meet the fabulous and diverse colleagues who are significant landmarks on my learning landscape?

Was it to see Chris Lehmann, whose office sits open to the school “world” as an obvious hub of action with energy both infectious and immense always wearing his heart of deep care on his sleeve?

Was it to understand the school’s core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection that are emphasized in all classes and see first-hand how these values act as bridge to create interdisciplinary projects and remove subject silos?

Grade 9 Identity Project - Masks with characteristics written in Spanish.
Grade 9 Identity Project – Masks with characteristics written in Spanish.

Or maybe it was to have 2 students voluntarily sit with us at lunch (school was in session on the Friday) and hear them describe in understated tones how they are experiencing an education that we only dream of?


Was it to see a school operate in its entirety from a place of why so clear and loud that no mission statement is needed, and to see just how tightly actions and policies align with SLA’s central ethic of care?

Or maybe it was, till way late each night, to weave a mutual dream of what school could be with my wonderfully supportive colleague Amy Nickel and hear her true, honest  care for children?

While the above are incredible, I would be lying if I said any were specifically why I came to SLA or were my major takeaway, my golden nugget.

I simply and selfishly wanted to know if it was true and possible that an entire school existed, thrived that held children close, every step of the way. I wanted to know it true, I wanted to know it possible…I wanted to believe.

I wanted to believe…that’s all I wanted…that’s what I got…and more.


Favorite Shared Educon Resource:

David Jakes‘ – Design Thinking

Favorite Chris Lehmann Educon Quotes:

“Kids should never be the implied object of their own education.

“Inquiry process provides a link between academics and the ethic of care.”

“What are the conditions for inquiry?”

“Replace “question” with dilemma. There tends to be more than one side to a dilemma but questions have answers.”

Favorite Educon 2.5 Sessions:

Creating an Ethics of Care – Chris Lehmann

Further SLA resources:

SLA Capstone Senior Project

SLA Standard Rubric

SLA Curriculum

One thought on “The deal with #EduCon? I need to believe.

  1. I also took note of Chris’s, “Inquiry process provides a link between academics and the ethic of care.” I didn’t attend his Inquiry conversation; I would have liked to hear him elaborate on that point!

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