Photo Gallery

We Say Enough!

291 schools across the country have suffered horrific gun violence since 2012, the year of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre. 7,000 kids have been gunned down. More than 187,000 students have been traumatized. Enough is enough.

In March, GCE students held a Soapbox Speakout in Washington Square Park, aka Bughouse Square, ground zero to Chicago’s radical free-speech movement. Students returned to tie 7,000 pieces of orange fabric on the fence, representing all the kids who have lost their lives to gun violence since Newtown. As a part this project, the students stenciled bullets and wrote the names of the 291 schools affected by gun violence. The art installation spans the block-long sidewalk in front of Washington Square Park. Best of all, the students inspired community members to participate.

This is proof that this generation’s voice will impact change.

Field Experience

From Bean to Cup @ Metropolis Coffee Company

Freshmen in the Food For Thought class went to Metropolis Coffee Company’s roastery to learn about the life of the Coffee plant. Students were welcomed into the state-of-the art roastery where they got a behind-the-scenes look at each step of the process. Metropolis is dedicated to serving a stellar cup of coffee, but what’s even more important to them is respect. Respect is at the core of the company’s philosophy; from farmers to consumers. It was an eye-opening lesson on the impact of coffee and the effort it takes to be a responsible part of the production chain.

Field Experience

The Walls As Canvas

This Spring term, the students in Art are planning and installing an orginal mural inside the school. Before the muralists begin work on the walls, they must understand why and how murals are created. As a part of this investigation, students vistied muralist, Jeff Zimmermann at his studio in Humboldt Park. Jeff talked about the use of sybolism in his work, and the importance of the images representing the neighborhoods they occupy. His advice to our muralists: “create a plan and stick to it”. Jeff’s work is iconic in Chicago and it was such an honor to learn from him.

Listen to the Poem!

Our poets left their hearts on the stage during this year’s Louder Than A Bomb Poetry Slam Festival. Louder Than A Bomb or better known as LTAB is an annual event organized by one of our City2Classroom partners, Young Chicago Authors, which invites thousands of young poets to speak their truths on stage. LTAB was started in Chicago as the first youth poetry slam festival and the model has been replicated across the country and across the globe. This is our 6th year competing and the community of poets across Chicago continues to grow. It is always such an incredible honor to be amongst such honest and brave voices.

Our team worked tirelessly for 7 months in preparation for the competition and the work definitely paid off. We were fortunate enough to advance to Quarter Finals as a team and shared the stage with amazingly talented poets. While our team’s season ended at Quarter Finals, one of our poets advanced as an individual poet to Semi-Finals. He took the stage at the Metro and blew the crowd away. It has been an amazing LTAB season. Congratulations to our 2017 GCE poets! See you next year, LTAB!

GCE Featured on tastytrade’s Bootstrapping in America

Huge thanks to the guys at tastytrade!


tastytrade is a real financial network, producing 8.5 hours of live programming every weekday, Monday – Friday. Follow along as our experts navigate the markets, provide actionable trading insights, and teach you how to trade. With over 50 original segments, and over 20 personalities, we’ll help you take your trading to the next level, whether you are new to trading or a seasoned veteran.

Project-based instruction

Summer Learning…We’re At it Again

Each time a GCE course is taught, it’s subjected to the rigor, standards, and feedback of students, teachers, and community partners. Our summer professional development sessions are key to the iterative process that makes our courses innovative and relevant.

The process of improving and creating new integrated, project-based curriculum is extensive. It requires our teachers to collaborate and experience each course as if they were a student; taking each test, doing each action project, and even workshopping the policies and procedures for Field Experiences, where students apply what they’ve learned in class in real-world contexts with our community partners.

The End… or just the Beginning?

Dear Friends & Families:

The 2013-14 school year draws to a close, and while we celebrate closure and the significant experiences of this year, we also set an eye on the 2014-15 journey. Thus we look at four+ items in this news blast:

  1. Final Presentations & Graduation 
  2. Summer Programs 
  3. GCE Lab School’s New Website
  4. 2014-15 Enrollment 
  5. Bonus: Beachstravaganza

1. Final Presentations & Graduation (June 4 @ 4pm, at the Midwest Buddhist Temple)




2. Summer Programs (Monday June 23 – Wednesday July 30, 9:30am-1pm; no classes Friday) 

Hiu To, GCE instructor extraordinaire is teaching Public Art & Its Social Impact. This course will lead you on an investigation of famous and not-so-famous public artworks in Chicago and how they tell the History of our city. We will be out in the field examining sculptures and murals in order to replicate their artistic styles and techniques. You will re-tell historical events from your own perspective using wire sculptures, paintings, or mosaics.

BEGIN registration by emailing us today. Credits: 0.75. Cost: $1,000 (Financial Aid available)




3. GCE Lab School’s New Website Officially Unveiled at Final Presentations
A new website which more accurately reflects our innovative program is available for sneak peaks now, and it officially goes live at Final Presentations & Graduation on June 4th. Please take a look at two key pages and scroll from there:

4. 2014-15 Enrollment 
Enrollment happens, and there are just a few spots remaining for 2014-15. Apply now if you’re interested, or tell a friend so they don’t miss out.


Thank you. Warm regards and enjoy the gorgeous weather! We hope to see you at Final Presentations!
p.s. if you made it this far … a couple photographic treats from the Beachstravaganza 5/28
       –not as warm as we would have wished 🙁



Dear GCE Friends & Families:

GCE Lab School students will present project based learning ideas at the May 19 #TutorMentor Conference in Chicago. See http://www.tutormentorconference.org. This conference is intended to connect leaders and supporters of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs along with people who support them.

I’ve attended Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference often in the past. The next is May 19th at Metcalfe Federal Building, and I (Eric) along with 3 students from GCE Lab School will be sharing information during a mid day presentation.  

Visit http://www.tutormentorconference.org to learn about the conference or register.

PBL + CCSS + MDGs + C2C = OnIn

Recently, GCE was visited by a group of foreign delegates and one of the women asked me how we are different? Her challenge provoked a different response than my typical elevator speech because she did not speak much English, and I had to provide the simplest answer possible. 
My response: “The education GCE offers is real, relevant, and it changes lives. We break down the walls of school and subjects, exposing students to the lessons that come from life itself.” 
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about our City2Classroom design as a key differentiator between GCE and other schools. Our students are themselves the examples of City2Classroom learning — their courses are dynamic, relevant, and their learning is transparent. They immerse themselves in skill development, exposures that test credibility and doubt, and they demonstrate mastery which they share through digital portfolios. 
We are the lucky ones. Each GCE student will experience upwards of 150 exposures in their 4 year high school career. But every student cannot attend GCE, so how does this model scale? How may students in other schools and other programs achieve similar experiences that result in similar gains — 100% college enrollment, 71% merit aid, and more importantly, purpose-driven ownership of their education and their lives.
GCE produces a blog that features Online Installations (OnIns) of student work. Each installation (blog post) is structured to include the course title, guiding question, problem scenario, samples of student work, CCSS & MDG alignment. In sum, we are demonstrating how inquiry and project-based learning may be showcased and highlight student education and quality of life standards without dumbing down student work or creative curriculum.
In our presentation at the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference on May 19th (click the link to register), Eric Davis (Executive Director) and 3 GCE students will provide the lunchtime keynote. Hear directly from them why our Model is designed this particular way, how it impacts student desire to learn, and what we do to showcase their inquiry and project based discoveries. The workshop will include 3 distinct stages: an introduction to GCE and our model for learning (why we do what we do); 3 student presentations of individual work that is work representative of the whole; and we will close with Q & A.

By sharing what we do at GCE we hope that others working with youth, in non-school, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs, or in other schools in the Chicago region, will look for ways to add project based learning into their own learning activities and that at some point we’ll be getting new ideas from some of them just as we hope we’re inspiring them with our ideas.

Lastly, we hope that you will have some fun in the session which turns acronym-heavy education conversations into real-world discussions and opportunities for improving your programs: after all, PBL + CCSS + MDGs + C2C = OnIn.
Thank you.

Spring Term & Hybrid Pilot

Dear Families:

Welcome to 2014 Spring Term, the final phase of this school-year (holy cow!). Students, we’ll see you at 8:45 on Tuesday morning, April 8.

In this news-blast you’ll find information about a few things:

  1. Courses
  2. Key Dates
  3. Hybrid Model Pilot Program

    Global Health: CURE (home page)
    Spring Term Courses — STEM then Humanities:
    • Freshman: Food & Food for Thought
    • Sophomores: Cure & Drama
    • Juniors: Urban Planning & Policy
    • Seniors: Enterprise & Endurance
    KEY DATES

    • Graduation: June 4, 5:30-7pm. Location & agenda TBD and info shared in early April. Information about Final Presentations, also likely to be held on June 4th, will be sent in the coming weeks.
    • Parent Event: April 16, 6pm @ Amazing Edibles. More details coming soon. 
    • Enrollment Paperwork will be sent to families the week of 4/8. Please also check the 2014-15 school calendar so that you may begin scheduling your family activities. 


    Hybrid Model Pilot Program (seniors only)
    Courageous as always, our students beta test the cutting edge educational programming that we design! And thank you! This term, the seniors will be piloting our new Hybrid Model which is intended to serve both juniors and seniors beginning in the fall of 2014. What follows are a few essential pieces of information:
    • This is a tame pilot. For the most part, the schedule for seniors is business as usual: Monday-Friday, 8:50am-3:30pm. 
    • One significant change: classes meet 3 days/week instead of 5.
      • Monday & Thursday are regular classes (Tuesday 4/8 and 5/27 run Monday schedules)
      • Wednesday focuses on Field Experiences, although seniors have several inspiring exposures scheduled for other days.
      • Tuesday & Friday mornings are scheduled time for each student to meet individually with teachers (think college professor office hours!).
        • As seniors demonstrate autonomy & accountability they may earn their way into remote work during the Tuesday & Friday morning sessions.
    • Apprenticeship Classes take place on Tuesdays and Friday afternoons. We are piloting the first term of a 2-year apprenticeship program, so much of it focuses on preparation. Among other topics, specific Tuesday and Friday afternoon sessions will focus on:
      • Student interests & career research
      • Resume building
      • Cover Letter drafting
      • Interview prep & practice
      • Anticipating and dealing with challenges in the workplace
      • Job Shadowing/Apprenticeships (TBD for each student)
        • A FEW Tuesday & Friday afternoons (specific dates shared directly with students on 4/11) will be open for students who already have apprenticeships to pursue these positions in place of the Apprenticeship Course, and students will complete their course-work remotely and asynchronously. 
    As always, these news-blasts are just the tip of the iceberg and there’s much more happening below the surface at GCE. We invite you to visit and to inquire for details specific to your family.

    Many thanks. Best wishes. And Happy Spring!

    Graduation, 2014-15 Enrollment, & Civic Immersion

    Dear GCE Friends & Families:

    Lots of information in this news blast.  Featured stories include:

    1. Save the Dates!!!
    2. 2014-15 Enrollment. Paperwork & Tuition Schedule.
    3. Civic Immersion — ASL, DHH, & GCE!!! — check out the latest staff video!
    4. Hybrid Pilot for Seniors! 

    Mark your calendars!

    • Graduation: Move over 2013 Graduates! It’s YOUR turn, GCE seniors! 
      • June 4, 5:30-7pm. Location & agenda TBD and info shared in early April.
    • Spring Break: Friday March 28th – Monday April 7th. 
      • Spring Term begins Tuesday April 8 at 8:50am.
    • Students only Experiential Term Final Presentations — sorry. 
      • However, the micromentaries will be shared publicly as Online Installations.
      • Select students will represent at Spring Term Final Presentations (likely June 4th — TBD).
    • Parent Event: April 16, 6pm @ Amazing Edibles. More details coming soon. 


    2014-15 Enrollment, Tuition & Financial Aid.

    • Please see the Admissions website for greater detail. However, key information is noted below and re-enrollment paperwork will be sent by mail in early April:
      • Tuition for the 2014-15 school year is $18,000. 
      • Deposit of $1,500 is due April 15, 2014.
      • Installments may be paid in 1, 2, or 4 payments. 
        • 1 payment of $18,000 by July 1, 2014
        • 2 payments of $9,000 by July 1 and September 1, 2014 
        • 4 payments of $4,515 ($60 fee) by the first of July, August, September, & October
      • Financial Assistance awarded on a first-come-first-serve basis. Click HERE for more info.
    Why ASL @ GCE?

    Experiential Term 2014 featuring GCE students.
    Look out for STUDENT micromentaries coming soon!!!
    GCE’s Hybrid Model Being Piloted by Seniors April & May!
    • As we more deliberately prepare students for college and post-graduate life, we frame learning as an experience owned and created by each student. This means that we scaffold student learning — both in school and in the world. Seniors will pilot a program in which they begin the term business as usual (on site with their junior peers), but quickly demonstrate their ability to work remotely 2 days per week and participate in professional apprenticeships.  
    • We’ll keep you in the loop as the program unfolds. Their successes and challenges will courageously pave the way for all future juniors & seniors. Please wish them luck, and ask how it’s going!
    Thank you and best wishes — GCE staff!

    Immerse Yourself

    Dear Families,
    Please review this post to learn about Experiential Term and the latest student Online Installations.
    Thank you.
    Dear Students:


    You are about to immerse yourselves in a month-long Civic Engagement unit. The focus of the 2014 Experiential Term is to set the stage for meaningful, long-term engagement with the DHH (Deaf & Hard of Hearing) community.


    When we originally conceived the program, we envisioned students spending the at least 40% of the month doing direct service volunteering. However, during our planning process, we discovered that we are not yet capable of doing so. Why not? Because we don’t speak the language, we don’t understand the DHH context, and we haven’t been trained the way each organization requires.


    Hence the new goal: prepare you to engage with the DHH community for the rest of your life.


    Program Structure & Deliverables


    • Typical school day, 9-3:30.
    • Four days per week students participate in a 2-hour ASL class. Language acquisition tested on 3/10, 3/17, & 3/24.
    • Two days per week, students meet with partners representing a range of experiences and disciplines. External Investigations to be referenced in individual reflection and group micromentary.
    • In collaborative groups, students create micro-mentaries respectively focusing on the issues of Education & Health (FR & SO), Politics & Economics (JR & SR) to communicate the context of the DHH community.
    • Individually, students produce a reflective blog post featuring a video and their key interviews.


    Weekly Focus
    • March 3: Frame Experiential Term: Why DHH? Who DHH? How will we overcome the limitations for our current involvement? Which requisite preparations must we undergo in order to be of value as volunteers? What are fundraising campaigns and why are they critical to the success of civic ventures?
    • March 10 & 17: Immerse yourself in DHH language (ASL) and culture. Explore your theme.
    • March 24: Closure, reflection, and Final Presentations


    THE MIND — A DISEASE (course) ONLINE INSTALLATION…

    In case you missed Final Presentations last Thursday — they were excellent by the way — please review the latest OnIns (Online Installations). We will share more of these and photos from presentations in the next post.  Many thanks to the students for stepping up, and to our guests for braving the miserable weather to come out and support the crew!

    New posts:

    Followed by (LINK):
    • Light & Sound — pinhole cameras
    • Forbidden Books — become a gadfly
    • Journalism — meaning of life

    Final Presentations & Albany Park Theater Project

    Dear Friends:

    Two exciting events to schedule on your calendars!

    Final Presentations 2.27.14 @ 10:30am.

    FEBRUARY 27, 10:30-noon. 
    RSVP to Kim Campos please or by phone: 312.643.0991.
    Watch the video from spring 2012 to get a sense of how Final Presentations became such a profound activity for our students.

    GCE Student, Justin Martinez, and the Albany Park Theater Project @ the Goodman!


    We are proud to support Justin Martinez and the “Albany Park Theater Project’s ‘astonishing and exquisitely honed youth ensemble’ (Chicago Sun-Times) brings its reputation for emotional honesty and imaginative theatricality to this exploration of what it means to be human and how we learn to love.”
    Justin and company present a theater and dance show that tells a great story of how love can bloom even in a life of darkness. The story is called God’s Work and it is an original production created by the Albany Park Theater Project — the impetus behind Justin spending time out of school creating art.
    On behalf of Justin and the APTP, we ask for your support of this professional youth theater company.

    Purchase tickets from the the Goodman: http://www.goodmantheatre.org/season/Gods-Work/ 

    Something fun and suprising

    Look what happens AFTER school at GCE. Students and teachers learning together…very cool.
    Thank you

    Dynamic & Reflective Student Work

    Dear GCE family & friends:

    One simple and surprising way to warm up from this frigid cold is to learn about GCE by visiting GCE Voices, our Online Installations (OnIn) of student work. Each post features a guiding question, real-world scenario, and common core standards reference. Our students tell the story of their learning through scaffolded projects, integrating fundamental skill development with passion and experimentation.

    Based on your preference, and your time available, please enjoy the Student Installations below; we invite you to leave comments and share with your friends!

    We are also excited to share GCE Lab School’s hybrid model that will be offered for our Juniors & Seniors beginning in the fall, 2014. There is much more to share about this innovative opportunity for students whose high school education prepares them for life beyond school. GCE families, we will be inviting students to apply to serve on the Steering Committee throughout the spring.

    Without further ado, please dive in:

    GCE Voices
    JR STEM — Light & Sound — Who says you need to buy a camera?

    SO Humanities — Forbidden Books — How may I become a gadfly?

    SR Humanities — Journalism — What’s the meaning of life… in a thousand words & 1 photo?

    Elective — 82 — Why do cities that pursue professional franchises become battlegrounds for competing interests?

    Winter Courses 2014

    Bioneers Youth Event (11/1)

    Hello, Youth of All Ages!

    In 2 weeks, the Bioneers event is happening with a program dedicated to Youth (High School & College)! The theme is community resilience inspired by nature.

    GCE will be attending as a school, and we would love to see the place packed with youth.

    So, please spread the word to your friends, previous schools, families, etc…  Make it shine on Tumbler, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest! 🙂

    A BIT OF INFO: Ameena Matthews from the Interrupters (CureViolence) is opening for the youth! Adam Gottlieb from Louder than a Bomb is performing. Robbie from The Encyclopedia Show is MCing. Admissions for students is just $5 (a steal).  More info here.

    Citizens in the Present – Book Release (Oct. 30)

    What? 

    Teresa Córdova, Director of Great Cities Institute (GCI), release her book “Citizens in the Present: Youth Civic Engagement in the Americas”.

    When? 

    Wednesday, October 30, 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. 

    Where? 

    Mikva Challenge, 332 S Michigan Ave, Suite 400, Chicago, IL 60604.  

    How Much? 

    Free, Open to the Public. Registration is required. 

    Your Mass is Critical – Ride on Friday (Oct 25)

    what & why?
    Join hundreds of other Chicago-area cyclists, transit advocates, anarchists and ghouls this Friday, October 25th for the monthly Critical Mass bike ride. The October ride is especially festive as riders are encouraged to wear their costumes while riding.

    where & when?
    Meet at 5:30 pm at Daley Plaza (Dearborn & Washington Streets), bring your bike and helmet, and you’re set – there is no cost to ride.

    * Image credits: CHIPPS, Laurie. (2007). Chicago Critical Mass’ 10th Anniversary. Blue Bikes; Flickr.