The SparkHouse Experience

- Written by Anna Grace Williams, Springhouse Learner -

The following article has been submitted for publication in the Floyd Press.

According to Education Reimagined, a national network of schools dedicated to transforming education in the U.S., “SparkHouse is a national community of young leaders from learner-centered environments who are committed to transforming education in the United States. Acting as powerful advocates and leaders in the learner-centered movement, these learners are a driving force in the national education conversation.”

On November 14, 2018, Springhouse Community School, an independent learner-centered environment that supports 7th through 12th grade students to discover their unique gifts, was invited to attend SparkHouse Education Reimagined in Washington D.C. Myself as a learner, Jenny Finn, Head of School at Springhouse, Haley Leopold, Lead Teacher, and two other classmates attended the two-day conference.

We arrived in Washington D.C. with open minds, eagerly expecting that these couple of days would have an extraordinary impact on our whole school. As soon as we arrived, SparkHouse held a social hour for the students and mentors to get to know one another. Within minutes of being in a room filled with teens from all over the United States, I felt welcomed with open arms.

This was my first time attending SparkHouse, and I was definitely surprised by the different yet similar schools, and how they all functioned so much like Springhouse does. It’s inspiring to see multiple schools doing internships, project-based learning, and making connections in their communities. Each is creating a school where teens feel like their needs are being heard and met.

I talked to many students about their experience learning in a transformative way. One of the schools that sparked my interest was the High School for Recording Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota. The advisor, Riccardo Box, described the school as “a place where students get to experience the world of recording music and getting a great education all at once.” This was his first time attending SparkHouse, and he shared that he was interested in coming because he wanted to hear all of the new ideas that the students had in regards to redesigning education. To hear him say this, along with all the other advisors and adults working with SparkHouse, makes me feel as if the future of education has the possibility to grow into a better learning experience for all.

Tatiana Alba, one of the Springhouse students that accompanied me, had her first experience at SparkHouse as well. She said,“I wanted to come to SparkHouse because it would be a chance for me to meet and exchange ideas with students from other learner-centered environments. It was also an opportunity for me to help spread the movement for learner-centered education and what that would look like.” SparkHouse definitely met her expectations.

Jenny Finn, the Head of School at Springhouse Community School, said SparkHouse taught her “that singing brings community together, that there are many young people committed to education reform, and that it is really important for innovative learning environments to come together to learn from, and support, each other.” Lotus, Tatiana, Haley, Jenny, and I led a traditional African song for the whole group that expressed being grateful for the Earth.

Students from all different schools formed small groups a few times each day to get to know one another, learn about their respective schools, and take on various projects. In our small groups, we were asked to create promotional videos promoting learner-centered education in various ways. We also had a variety of speakers create a conversation about the learner-centered model, and we talked about leadership and what it means to have learner-centered education. Students had the opportunity to converse with other schools about their unique programs.

Overall, SparkHouse was an amazing experience, and I am grateful to have attended the conference and learn more about other schools’ approaches to education. Haley, Springhouse Lead Teacher, expressed that “SparkHouse left me feeling more deeply connected to the larger movement that is slowly shifting the educational paradigm in the United States.” I can speak for all of us--including the mentors and advisors--that we would enjoy going back and seeing how our connections have grown.

Published on January 21, 2019

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