I like it! It is nice to choose what you want to do and not just go through the same repetitiveness every single day.
FACTS & FIGURES
Coffee shop and bike shop used as everyday learning spaces
Supported by Great Works, Inc.
Young learners served
Acceptance into high school programs
Learners of color
When thinking about community through the lens of learning, we are invited to truly reimagine what’s possible within a newly invented education system. This invitation was taken up by Miguel Gonzalez and other leaders in Denver, Colorado as they conceptualized a new learning experience for their young people, which took the form of Embark Education. Founded on the integration of community into every learning opportunity young people encounter, this learning environment is a one-of-a-kind model that takes advantage of both the learning spaces that already exist in the community and the opportunity to build out new ones that will give back to the community served.
Embark’s primary learning spaces currently include a learning hub, a coffee shop, and a bike shop—all of which exist solely for the purpose of serving Embark’s young learners. This socially embedded, open-walled design naturally challenges young people to continuously push beyond their social and emotional comfort zones. Baked into every learning experience is the opportunity for the learner to reflect on their successes and failures—resulting in an ever-evolving understanding of their sense of self.
Developing a sense of self is a primary learning outcome at Embark. Through personalized, relevant, and contextualized experiences, this outcome is achieved with remarkable consistency. Take one young learner who was learning at Embark’s coffee shop, Pinwheel Coffee.
One day, she became particularly curious about the espresso machine—its inner workings and what made espresso so appealing to the shop’s customers. Questions began flying left and right in her mind: “How does this espresso machine work? How profitable is a single espresso drink? What do we charge for an espresso? Why do we charge that much? Should we charge that much? Should we charge more or less? Where do our coffee beans come from? Who is our source?”
Rather than having to let these questions go unanswered, Embark’s learner-centered environment provides the space and opportunity for a rich and robust exploration to unfold. The young learner sat down with a mentor and reviewed the coffee shop’s financials—developing an understanding of the cost and revenue of each espresso order. Then, she was able to contact the vendors who supplied the coffee beans to better understand how they were sourced. Shortly after her research concluded, the coffee shop did adjust their prices, citing her work as a contributing factor to the changes made.
So, through one unimpeded and wide-ranging learning experience, she was able to dig into business finance, business ethics, local and international trade, and supply chain management. Whereas a conventional setting might allow her to touch on a few of these topics in isolated, time-restricted units, this young learner dove right into the complexity and overlap of each topic within a real business setting—guided by her own burgeoning learner agency.
Embark’s focus on letting young learners lead the way requires adult leaders to be ready at a moment’s notice to support the growth and development of new learning journeys no matter how unexpected they might be. And, it is the unexpected that keeps everyone passionately engaged in their work, ready to discover what each new day has to offer.
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