Field Experience

Carrying Water @ The Chicago River

Freshmen in the Water class visited the Chicago River to collect water. In the first unit of this STEAM course, students have been pursuing the guiding question, why is water so common yet so rare? . In their pursuit of an answer, students have been learning about the abundance of water found in living organisms while also investigating the scarcity of potable water that leaves millions of people without clean water on a daily basis.


The purpose of this Field Experience is to investigate the guiding question, How can you get access to water in case of a shortage or crisis?. The students carried water to connect their water usage to worldwide water shortage.


The students walked to a local public water source, the Chicago River to collect and transport water. At the end of the Field Experience, students measured the amount of water they collected and reflected on their daily water usage.

Field Experience

Rapid Prototyping with The James Dyson Foundation

Students in Design & Engineering received a virtual visit from a couple of experts from the James Dyson Foundation. We have a longstanding partnership with the Dyson Foundation, and we are so grateful we get to learn from their experts every year. This year, students were tasked with answering the prompt, “How does design solve problems in your home?”. Under the guidance of the Dyson experts, the students worked in small groups to identify problems they face daily and started to design a product that could address that issue. Admittedly, the process was a bit messy, but according to the experts, that’s precisely the way it should be.

Field Experience

Physics in the Garden at Home Depot

Juniors in the Design & Engineering class talked to experts from the gardening department at Home Depot to investigate the physics of gardening tools. In the first unit of this STEAM course, students have been pursuing the guiding question, what lies at the heart of our fundamental drive to create tools?. In their pursuit of an answer, students have been investigating the angles, pressure, force, and leverage in a variety of tools that have forever changed our interactions with our surroundings.


The purpose of this Field Experience is to investigate the guiding question, what makes an effective tool?. The students talked to experts to identify the differences between mediocre gardening tools and great gardening tools. Through this field research, students will gain insight into how to design their own quality gardening tool.


The students talked to experts to understand how tools are used, the parts that make up the tools, and which tools are most effective and why.

Lincoln Park

You are part of this mission with us.

Dear Families and Friends of GCE Lab School,

This morning, Technology Director Marcus Duncan shared with me the above photo of the Apple Store at North and Clybourn—just a block north of our school building. It is a striking image. Designed as a building without walls, representing access and innovation, the monolith is now sealed like a vault, protecting luxury and privilege. Following the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, this monument reminds us of deep-seated, systemically-perpetuated inequality, of our nation’s despicable history of violence against black people. Protests across the city and the country in recent days demonstrate shared pain and outrage.

Get Your 2019-2020 Yearbook!

The 2019-2020 GCE Yearbook is off to the press and we can’t wait to share it with our community. We made a lot of memories this year and the yearbook is a great way to celebrate each student’s contributions. We are working hard to ensure that every student receives a yearbook at little to no cost this year. We believe that each student has earned a yearbook to share with their families.

Each yearbook costs $20. Please consider making a donation to our Yearbook Fund. Your contribution helps to put a yearbook in every student’s hands.

Add to cart

Exploring the Journey of Coffee with Metropolis Coffee

For the past two years, students in the Food For Thought class have visited the Metropolis Coffee Company’s roastery to learn about the life of the Coffee plant. They’ve toured the state-of-the-art roastery and gotten 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.

The students were not able to take a physical tour of the facility this year, but Carrie Shemanski, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience, brought the visit to them. Carrie jumped on a Zoom call to talk about the ins-and-outs of sourcing, roasting, brewing, and serving coffee. She led the students in a virtual coffee cupping experience and gave them tips on identifying and describing flavors. The ultimate question is, of course, “How many cups of coffee do I have to drink before they stop tasting like coffee?”.

A Virtual Eat Your Neighborhood Tour with Dave Odd

The students in the Food For Thought class are investigating the guiding question, How are food systems shaped and how do they shape the world?. As a part of this investigation, the students studied the Agricultural Revolution which led the class to the question, What would it be like to return to humanity’s roots as foragers?. The Eat The Neighborhood tour with Dave Odd is the signature Field Experience of the course; teacher, Brent Mix has partnered with Dave the last two years for this much-anticipated experience.

Dave of Odd Produce is Chicago’s only professional forager. He led the students on a virtual version of this tour through the North Park neighborhood. The experience showed the students that there are food and medicine all around us, we just have to know what to look for.

Looking outside

Morning Message: April 24, 2020

As previously, I am sharing a theme and a short reflection. You are invited to reflect on this theme as well. A reply can be any length. You can send words, pictures, music, or anything else. We will share some of your submissions by email, social media, or other means throughout the week ahead.

Submit by replying to [email protected]


Announcement: The Governor has extended the stay-at-home order in Illinois through May. Further, the state is recommending the use of face masks indoors and outdoors in any circumstance where it is not possible to maintain 6 feet of distance between persons. As I shared on Wednesday’s announcements, the Governor has officially extended the school building closure in Illinois through the end of the school year. We will continue to conduct Online Connected Learning through June. We are working now to determine end-of-year celebrations. Ideas, concerns, and questions are welcome.

Invitation: Cognia, GCE’s accreditor, is hosting a conversation with eight high school students from across the world to try to understand more about how their lives have changed in recent weeks—how they feel about learning from home, missing school events, and being separated from their friends. If we listen closely, these students’ words may lead us toward meaningful change in how we think about education.
Date: April 28, 2020
Time: 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. EDT
Click here to register.

Audience: Students, educators, parents

Featured Panelists:
The panel consists of high school students from the United States, South America, Europe, and the Middle East.

Dr. Mark A. Elgart, president and CEO, Cognia


This week’s theme:

My submission:
Accepting her Oscar in 2005 for her role in Walk the Line, Reese Witherspoon quoted June Carter Cash: “I’m just trying to matter.”

Days run together, simultaneously too long and too short.
What day is it today?
I change out of my pajamas, take a shower, brush my teeth.
I take comfort in the routine, assurances of my own health.
I preserve normalcy for the sake of my children.
For my sake too.
There is still so much to do.
I find joy in small things.
I miss human connection.

My mind still works and thrills at good ideas and complex problems.
What can I solve today?

There is an opportunity in this current circumstance.
Opportunity to help people in need.
Opportunity to remember those who have been important to me.
Opportunity to reach out.
Opportunity to clarify priorities.
Opportunity to invent and create.

Without anyone watching, I am limited only by my own imagination. I can be who I am, rather than who I am supposed to be.

I think school still matters – at least, if we learn there. Maybe the two things that have always mattered most are relationships and education. The latter in service to the former. In learning one discovers oneself and one’s promise. Simultaneously, learning makes space for the appreciation of others’ integrity, others’ good ideas. Learning makes way for empathy, then for community, for collaboration, ultimately for citizenship – that is, living together. So education enables authentic friendship.

Even isolated in our homes, we remain in community. Paradoxically, it is our care for one another that keeps us apart.

So I will get out of bed today. I will do my work. Because I miss you.

U2, “Beautiful Day“:
The heart is a bloom
Shoots up through the stony ground
There’s no room
No space to rent in this town
You’re out of luck
And the reason that you had to care
The traffic is stuck
And you’re not moving anywhere
You thought you’d found a friend
To take you out of this place
Someone you could lend a hand
In return for grace
It’s a beautiful day
Sky falls, you feel like
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
You’re on the road
But you’ve got no destination
You’re in the mud
In the maze of her imagination
You’re lovin’ this town
Even if that doesn’t ring true
You’ve been all over
And it’s been all over you
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
It’s a beautiful day
Touch me
Take me to that other place
Teach me
I know I’m not a hopeless case
See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light and
See the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colors came out
It was a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
Beautiful day
Touch me
Take me to that other place
Reach me
I know I’m not a hopeless case
What you don’t have you don’t need it now
What you don’t know you can feel it somehow
What you don’t have you don’t need it now
Don’t need it now
It was a beautiful day

Head of School

Cabell King
Head of School

Examining Policy with Connie Jordan

Juniors are taking a course called Policy. The first Unit, called “Legislate,” investigates the ways that policy happens through legislative bodies. For the most part, our curriculum focuses on the Federal level of the US government; in past years, our students have spent considerable time with the City of Chicago’s legislative body, the Council. This year, we were thrilled to be joined by Connie Jordan, Public Defender in Cook County (who had also visited us in February with Latoya Hughes, a State’s Attorney).

Germane to our studies in Policy, Ms. Jordan shared with us two bills her office is currently advocating at the State level with regard to criminal justice reform: one in the IL House that would do more to assure the rights of accused persons to access phone calls, and one in the IL Senate that would redefine the category of “habitual offender” to exclude accused persons under the age of 21.
Time: Tree rings

Morning Message: April 10, 2020

Last week I shared a “morning message” on Friday. This week I am sharing another brief reflection. This message is not explicitly school business, but an acknowledgment that education is about considered thought and that these days solicit our attention.

I would like to invite the rest of the community into this practice as well. If you are receiving this message, this invitation is extended to you: students, parents and extended family, faculty, donors, board members, FE partners, and other friends. We will share some of your submissions by email, social media, or other means throughout the week ahead. And Friday I will be in touch again with a new theme, as well as some thoughts of my own.

Submit by replying to [email protected]

This week’s theme:

What does it mean to have time?
What is an historical moment, and how should we mark it?
How does one live in the present, remember the past, or anticipate the future?
(Do not be constrained by my prompts.)

Share a paragraph or three
a haiku or other poem
a song you love or have written
a visual art piece
some other representation of thought
Students, if you compose or create something of your own, reflective of some effort or consideration, you may earn civic engagement credit.

My submission:
I keep reading about all the time I must have, as if during the present stay-at-home order the length of days has been extended and obligations significantly reduced. Maybe new uncertainties keep me up at night. Is that where the time comes from? I no longer commute to work, so my extra hour each day is time to learn a new instrument, master a language, correspond with friends and acquaintances past, or watch Tiger King, Lost in Space, or a Ken Burns documentary series. We have focused our attention on the things that matter: relationships, necessities of life, meaning making activities. Does the rest of the noise simply fade, leaving only time?

My experience of the last weeks is that time fills reliably to overcrowding. For me, work has continued. Most of the old obligations remain. Now there are fresh opportunities to seize, as well. Work and family are sharing space, sharing time. My faculty tell me that the breakfast table is now a classroom. Every day is Sunday; so is every day Monday. I feel busy.

Still, the voices are not wrong. Somehow there is indeed more time. More time with my children. More time to express care. More time to imagine what comes next. It feels to me, as perhaps this message and the series to which it contributes testify, that the present is a time for indulging in the considered thinking that school work recommends. We are busy yet leisurely. Somehow leisure has become business.

Can there be a return to the old rhythms, or does this moment insist that we create new ones that will last with us as we emerge?

A poem by Sikh poet Valerie Kaur:

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

In our tears and agony, we hold our children close and confront the truth: The future is dark.

But my faith dares me to ask:

What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?

What if our America is not dead but a country still waiting to be born? What if the story of America is one long labor?

What if all the mothers who came before us, who survived genocide and occupation, slavery and Jim Crow, racism and xenophobia and Islamophobia, political oppression and sexual assault, are standing behind us now, whispering in our ear: You are brave? What if this is our Great Contraction before we birth a new future?

Remember the wisdom of the midwife: “Breathe,” she says. Then: “Push.”

Now it is time to breathe. But soon it will be time to push; soon it will be time to fight — for those we love — Muslim father, Sikh son, trans daughter, indigenous brother, immigrant sister, white worker, the poor and forgotten, and the ones who cast their vote out of resentment and fear.

Let us make an oath to fight for the soul of America — “The land that never has been yet— And yet must be” (Langston Hughes) — with Revolutionary Love and relentless optimism. And so I pray this Sikh prayer:

Nanak Naam Chardi Kala,
Tere Bane Sarbat Da Bhalla

“In the name of the Divine within us and around us, we find everlasting optimism.
Within your will, may there be grace for all of humanity.”

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

Head of School

Cabell King
Head of School

Chicago Morning

Morning Message: April 3, 2020

The sudden shift to Online Connected Learning requires every school to look again at the curriculum. We are reminded that we can’t teach it all. I have read countless pieces in recent weeks about how this pandemic is compelling particular intentionality in teaching.

At GCE we have drawn back requirements to the core and foreign language. We will still encourage students to participate in physical activity and wellness practices, including cooking, mindfulness, and good hygiene. We will create opportunities for students to engage in art, exercising creativity and relieving anxiety. We will continue to require expressions of care and service through civic engagement, for which we will develop a dynamic list of opportunities safely done at home, serving those outside and inside our school community. We will honor the trusting relationships we have developed while in the building through advising, one-on-one meetings, office hours, and other forums. We will create opportunities for students to express, develop, and challenge their own emerging passions. And, as we always have, we will invite community members to engage with students in the context of coursework and outside of it, exposing us to new ideas, occupations and preoccupations, and ways of working through field experiences and other special events.

Though we have made some shifts, I am heartened that at GCE we have consistently recognized — even before now — that syllabus construction is an exercise in editing. It has never been the task of good educators to fill students with knowledge. Rather, it is our job to raise provocative questions, direct students to compelling resources, and occasion practice of worthy skills in the context of trusting relationships. GCE was founded with attention to learning that might be most important for our students’ generation. This attention is the reason we refer so consistently to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

These days we are all concerned about Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Standard 3.D.
Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks

As I shared with students yesterday, I am proud that at GCE we recognize that the present situation — in every way disruptive of our previous routines — does not trivialize the work of school. In fact, this public health circumstance, like the concerns raised by the SDGs, provide the imperative for our learning.

We are in school today so that we can be agents rather than victims in this rapidly changing world, equipped with knowledge, maturity, and wherewithal to contribute to wellbeing of our communities local and global.

Partner Spotlight:

All year, La Boulangerie Bakery and Cafe has contributed fresh bread and pastries to the GCE meal program. With the suspension of school after March 13, we have no longer required their donations.

I am glad to share that they have quickly found a new way to contribute to those in need. Tuesday-Sunday, at 3:00pm, on a first-come first-served basis, La Boulangerie is giving away 20 free baguettes and additional products to medical workers and to restaurant workers whose hours have been reduced.

We are grateful for the generosity of the team at La Boulangerie!

Head of School

Cabell King
Head of School

Education Will Endure: Our First Student Presentations in the Days of Distance Learning

Shortly after we closed our campus for COVID-19, our learning community came together to design an online version of Final Presentations, where ordinarily, students demonstrate what they’ve learned. It was awesome.

You can help support our innovative high school as we step boldly into a changing world.

Donate Today



Final Presentations Thumbnail

Winter Term Final Presentations now Online

If you missed our first-ever totally virtual Final Presentations live, it’s now available to watch the recordings. Check out how our amazing students embraced a new experience and explore ideas of significance through guiding questions, such as:

  • What do my dreams say about who I am?
  • What is the impact of legislation intended to curb climate change?
  • How do ideas from the past affect us today?
  • What is the future of renewable energy?
  • How meaningful are we?
  • How can questions shape the world?
  • What is an epidemic and how do we prevent one?
  • How can information act like a disease?
  • How do misconceptions about mental disorders develop?
  • Who defines what information is too sensitive for the general public?

…and more!

View Winter Term Final Presentations Here

COVID-19: On the Eve of Remote Learning

Dear GCE Community,

Routinely, we call the GCE community a family. Isolated now in our respective homes, navigating this unfamiliar landscape, we remain invested in the wellbeing of our students and families.

The Governor announced on Friday evening that all Illinois schools will remain closed until at least Tuesday, March 31. This week we will practice remote learning in the preparation of Winter Term Final Presentations. And together faculty are preparing for the possibility that we will spend a portion of Spring Term also working remotely.

In the meantime, members of our team will be in and out of the school building. Generous parents and community members have helped us put together a store of non-perishable food items and toiletries for any student in need. We can also be available to help troubleshoot technology issues and other concerns. Please contact me, Kiley, Kim, or any other faculty member you trust if you need anything.

All students should have received an email/calendar invitation from their advisor for a virtual meeting at 9:00 am tomorrow morning. If you have not received this invitation or do not know how to connect, please reply to this email now.

Inspired by a high school friend of mine, I have assembled these few nuggets to keep in mind as we enter this new mode of operation.

1. Be kind to yourself. Teachers, be kind to your students; students, be kind to your teachers. Everyone is stressed. And that’s ok.

2. GCE is better suited than a number of other institutions for remote learning. We maintain our curriculum online. A large number of course resources are also already available online. Our students have familiarity with these tools. Nevertheless, this is a shift for us, and faculty need to retool. Please be patient with them.

3. We will not recreate our classrooms online. We are working now to imagine creatively how the experiential elements of our program can be exercised over this new medium. We are a lab school, and this is a new experiment. We will learn together. In some times we will accomplish excellence; in others, we may not. Again, please be patient with one another.

4. We are all at home, but this is not a vacation. To be successful in teaching and learning. each of us must work, and we will require the support of whole households.

5. This public health situation is exactly the kind of global circumstance that animates GCE’s curriculum. Our sophomores have been studying public health for the better part of the year. It is the speculation of GCE that matters of global concern, requiring a collaborative and creative response, maybe increasingly routine. It is our responsibility and opportunity to learn together with our students at this moment.

6. Students, your teachers will miss seeing you every day. It is much more difficult to provide quality instruction when we cannot see you working. Communicate. Over-communicate. Then give us just a little time to reply. These are busy days, and we have other students too. We will do our best to communicate too. We will try to tell you why we are prioritizing some things over others, why we are assigning the work that we are. We want you to perceive that our choices are purposeful.

7. Seniors, we know you continue to angle toward graduation. Please, please, please communicate any college or aid decisions you receive. Or other kinds of opportunities too. If we are still working on applications, communication is even more important.

8. Families, the faculty are, in real time, doing very significant labor at no additional compensation and with not enough training. I am exceedingly grateful to our small team, working long hours, caring for our students, supporting one another, and delivering still a substantial, dynamic learning experience. Teachers – most of us – consider ourselves learners first. It is likely the reason we are teachers. We want students at all levels to learn and, more, to develop a lifelong disposition toward learning. What I have seen in the past days is nothing short of jaw-dropping—teachers coming together, creating communities across the globe, trying to help each other learn so we can help our students learn. Please support our faculty.

9. Anxiety is difficult to manage in “normal” circumstances, but it is compounded massively by a climate of anxiety and fear around a crisis. Schools are feeling tremendous anxiety. Teachers are feeling it. Students are feeling it. Families are feeling it. Make your own strategies for anxiety mitigation. Take a walk. Text a friend. Play a video game. Bake a treat. Whatever would be in any way soothing, do it. This is not normal; let’s not force ourselves to pretend it is.

10. Social distancing can feel very isolating. Even those who recharge by being alone are feeling isolated. Reach out. Talk to friends. If you have older neighbors or colleagues or family members, they may be particularly afraid right now. Reach out. Make plans to talk to and be with small groups of people, and keep your plans. Help build community. That’s what will sustain us. Community.

With great affection for this community,

Cabell King
Head of School

Photo Gallery

Muraling Moody’s

Students in the Drawing Lines course took a deep dive into public art during our three-week Civic term. Students in this course were challenged to define the seemingly simple term, public art. In search of an answer, students took a tour of the murals in Pilsen with Luis Tubens of Pilsen Public Art Tours, they talked with Nathan Mason, Curator of Exhibits and Public Art at the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, they visited Steve Weaver and Maryrose Pavkovic from Chicago Public Art Group, they toured public artworks in the Loop and Wicker Park, and they discussed the concept of placemaking with Katanya Raby from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Students were out on the field almost every day learning from experts, collecting data, and exploring artworks in search of a definitive definition.

The class closed out the term by working with We All Live Here artist, Rich Alapack to wheatpaste a mural on the wall of Moody’s Pub in Edgewater. This unique experience gave the students the opportunity to assume the role of public artists; working against the elements and talking about the project with passers-by. At the end of this day, students were confident in their own definition of the term, public art and certain that there is no one definitive answer.