Monday, February 7, 2011

If It's January... must be time for a trip to Philly.
Jane and I have been regulars at EduCon for the past three years. What makes it worth the cross-country trip, during an especially harsh winter, are equal parts conversation and camaraderie. It all takes place under the welcoming tent of the Science Leadership Academy, a remarkable public high school that embraces inquiry and project-based learning. I blog about a few session highlights in this post for Edutopia.
One evening during this year's visit to Philly, we walked past an imposing landmark. Eastern State Penitentiary, a hulking Gothic fortress, doesn't look very hospitable, especially at night. But it revolutionized the prison system when it opened in 1829. With central heating, an exercise yard, and separate cells for individual inmates, it offered a more humane model of incarceration that emphasized reform over punishment. Visitors from around the world apparently came to Philly to see it in action, and hundreds exported the model to their communities.
I couldn't help thinking that Philadelphia now offers the world another institution that inspires imitation. This time around, it's a school instead of a prison. Can the successful model of SLA be replicated in other states, or even in other neighborhoods in Philadelphia? How can other communities learn from SLA's example but still create a school that's uniquely theirs? That's a conversation worth having--and not just once a year.