TIRED OF BAND-AID PROGRAMS AND NON-TRANSFORMATIONAL PROJECTS, Eric Davis was itching for more out of his work with education. Eric launched a pilot program to explore what education built for today’s economy could look like.
After the pilot’s first year, he and his wife sat in silence while driving back to Chicago from a respite in Michigan, weighing the possibility of taking the pilot into full implementation. When the silence broke, they vehemently agreed the project was worth pursuing, and GCE Lab School was born.
Now six years into their venture, GCE Lab School has a library’s worth of success stories coupled with plenty of lessons learned. All of this supports a proof of concept ready to scale beyond a single environment. By focusing on three simple principles—Inspire, Prepare, Connect—GCE Lab School is developing learners with agency who have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to take on anything the world throws their way.
Their convenient location—Goose Island in downtown Chicago—offers an open-walled landscape too good not to integrate into the learning experience. This flexible environment necessitates the existence of a socially-embedded culture, so that learners are in constant communication with their peers, mentors, and community partners.
In an environment alive with constant inquiry, a learner can look at the water coming out of their tap and launch into a months-long project. They might explore where that water comes from, how it’s filtered for safe drinking, the checks and balances used to ensure the entire city has access, or how water usage is monitored and given a dollar value by Chicago’s Department of Water Management. Or, they might dive into the chemical applications of H2O in things like cooking, the proper function of the human body, and alternative energy.
By moving beyond traditional standards and curriculum, GCE learners get to ask questions that are personalized, relevant, and contextualized to their lives and go forth discovering all there is to learn in a topic area—while also acquiring the attributes needed for post-secondary pursuits. With 100% of their graduates accepted into university programs and 80% earning an average of $100,000 in merit aid, any reservation about learners being prepared for the next stage of life is quickly resolved.
With GCE Lab School’s growing body of evidence, the Global Learning Models (GLM) Experiential Education Design Firm was launched in 2014 to scale the GCE model across the nation and help grow the practice of learner-centered education. With these two initiatives operating in tandem, Eric Davis’s dream of developing a learner-centered ecosystem is becoming more and more of a reality every day.