In 2010, at the ISTE Conference in Denver, I got a spot at the TEDxDenver Ed Conference where I saw Sarah Elizabeth Ippel’s TED Talk, “This is Ann.” In it, she tells the story of founding the Academy for Global Citizenship. In a night of amazing and inspiring speakers, she was one of my favorites, and I’ve wanted to visit the school ever since. Today, as part of the #Prizmah17 Conference, I got my wish.

Some basics:

  • public charter school
  • PYP Inquiry model (Primary years program of the IB)
  • 450 students, grades K-8
  • started in 2009
  • Spanish bilingual program- parents choose either Spanish immersion classroom or monolingual English classroom with daily Spanish as a second language instruction
  • All students and faculty receive a healthy, organic breakfast and lunch prepared onsite (by a single chef in a small kitchen!) each day
  • from the About Us page on their website: “The Academy for Global Citizenship is a Chicago Public Charter School, located on the underserved Southwest side of Chicago. Our innovative and holistic approach to education aims to foster systemic change and inspire the way society educates our future generations. We are producing a replicable model for learning in the 21st century, including the construction of a net-positive energy campus.

What I Saw and What I Learned:

As I reflect on my visit to the school, what impressed me most was the deep level of commitment to the school’s stated mission, vision and core values. Everything we saw communicated the thoughtful design and implementation of the six “pillars” or “roots” upon which the school stands.

There is a palpable feeling of calm and happy. Students and teachers seem relaxed. We sat for a while in one second grade bilingual classroom that was playing a game of “telephone-telephone” in Spanish as a listening practice. Students were engaged and joyful. This values-based culture, which can be observed, is, as we know, no small thing. I have to smile when articles such as this one, “School Climate Really Does Affect Academics?” (which popped up in my Twitter feed today) share carefully-collected data that “proves” that which, for educators, is already obvious.

   

As you can see from some of the photos, the school’s stated values are visible throughout the campus. Serving the whole child includes teaching students lifelong strategies for self-care such as yoga, meditation and other methods for achieving inner calm. Connecting food to the health of the planet fosters environmental stewardship. The colorful and interesting map showing where food is grown, as well as the flags showing family origins of the students,  cultivates international awareness.

What inspiration can our Jewish day schools take from Academy of Global Citizenship? We have many similar goals and values including educating the whole child, nurturing the spiritual lives of our students and teaching a second language. Are we also paying attention to the physical health of our students and our earth? If you went on the excursion, what did you notice?