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.

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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.

Field Experience

Spaces as Public Art at Design Museum of Chicago

Students in Drawing Lines have been investigating the concept of placemaking specifically through art. So far in their investigation, they’ve looked at how public artworks may create places where people want to gather and how the process of creation may bring people together. They got a different perspective on placemaking during their visit to the Design Museum of Chicago where Tanner Woodford, founder and executive director explained that his donation-suggested museum is in itself a piece of public art. The museum not only fulfills the city’s need for a design museum but it serves as a place that educates and unites diverse groups of people.


The purpose of this Field Experience is to see how a place with the mission of gathering people through art may also be considered a piece of public art.


Students will meet Tanner Woodford, the founder and executive director of the Design Museum of Chicago to understand the impact of places and spaces as public art.

Field Experience

Musing over Murals with Pilsen Public Art Tours

The students in the Drawing Lines course have been examining the power of public art in educating and uniting a community. As a part of their investigation, they studied the Mexican Muralist movement and the work the artists did to reunite a divided country. We are fortunate enough to live and learn in a city that has an incredibly rich public art scene. We visited the Pilsen community on the Southwest side of the city and got a tour of the beautiful murals that reflect the history and stories of the community. Luis Tubens of Pilsen Public Art Tours led us on a very informative and engaging tour that clearly demonstrated the impact of public art.


Students have been studying the social impact of the Mexican Muralism movement of the 1920s. The purpose of this Field Experience is to give this investigation local context by viewing the culture of murals in Pilsen, a Latin community known for its thriving art scene. Luis, the Director of Pilsen Public Art Tours and our tour guide will make connections between contemporary mural art and techniques and styles made famous in the 1920s.


Students will take the tour, taking note of how murals find a home and how they impact and/or transform the spaces they reside in.

Photo Gallery

We’re In This Together

GCE students can’t help but impress during Final Presentations. Students are challenged to share and demonstrate their learning from the term at each Final Presentation. With just a couple of guidelines, they are free to create dynamic experiences that showcase how they connect their learning to their own passions. This term’s presentations varied in format and allowed the guests to experience learning like a GCE student.

We are grateful for our passionate students and all of the people who came out to support the work they do.

gce steam class Photo Gallery

Bike Prototyping

After weeks of learning from different experts in the field, the Juniors were ready to build the prototype of their original bike designs. Each group of students was given a client profile for whom they had to design a bike. To prepare for this assignment, they met with the Director of Volunteers at Working Bikes, the owner of EarthRiders Cycle Shop, the Program Director at the Chicago Department of Transportation, and designers and engineers from the James Dyson Foundation. Equipped with a wealth of knowledge and some hands-on experience, the students sought out to build their prototypes using all scecondhand materials from the WasteShed, an awesome resource for teachers and makers!

Field Experience

Rapid Prototyping with The James Dyson Foundation

Students in Design & Engineering received a visit from a team of designers and engineers 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?”. 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 designers, that’s precisely the way it should be.

Cooking to Impress

Our students knocked out another month of delicious meals for community lunch. Hiu’s advisory experimented with Asian flavors and delivered dishes with spice, acidity, and umami. They served up bahn mi sandwiches, Thai-inspired ramen, Korean-inspired tacos, and Thai red curry rice bowls. Each lunch was elevated with an accompanying dessert or drink: matcha cookies, iced milk tea, horchata, and black sesame chocolate chip cookies. The meals were equally fresh and hearty with lots of colors to look at and flavors to discover. This group of students was confident to be ambitious under the guidance of Chef Mike McCants. They picked up some knife skills and tips on how to build and layer flavors.

Fresh with a pH

The Freshmen in the Water class are studying the water cycle. In the process, students learned that infiltration is an important part of the cycle because as the water passes through layers of soil and sand, it is filtered and purified so it can be consumed. Using that information, students built water filters to address the guiding question, How would you cope in a water crisis?. As a part of this investigation, they studied pH levels and how to determine if the water is potable. After they designed and built their filters, the students attempted to turn non-potable water into potable water.

Field Experience

Envisioning the Future of Bicycles at Earth Rider

Juniors in Design & Engineering visited Earth Rider, a full-service, woman-owned bike shop to learn from store-owner and bike expert, Sharon. Sharon is a League Cycling Instructor and a certified Bicycle Technician from the United Bicycle Institute. She shared a wealth of knowledge about different types of bikes and how they have evolved to meet different needs. She also talked about parts of a bike, bike safety, and accessories that make biking more accessible and practical for all types of commuters. During this visit, the students collected important information that’ll help them design their own bikes and tried out some smooth-riding e-bikes!!! The students were overwhelmed by Sharon’s hospitality; spending time at Earth Rider was more like being at her home than at a bike shop.


The purpose of this Field Experience is to learn more about bicycles (how they are put together and how they are evolving) so that the students can then design our own bikes.


They talked to the owner of the Earth Rider about the parts that make up a bike, their purpose, and the choices designers make when using certain parts over others.

WorldChicago Youth Ambassadors

WorldChicago Youth Ambassadors from France, Martinique, and Guadeloupe spent the day with us to experience learning like GCE students. WorldChicago facilitates collaboration between people from all over the world to advance national security, economic development, and social justice. WorldChicago is a local coordinator for the U.S. Department of State Youth Leadership Programs for international high school students and adult mentors. These short, yet dynamic programs inspire cross-cultural dialogue, build respect and mutual understanding, and boost civic engagement among young Americans and their international peers.

The international students joined us in classes, ate lunch with us, and participated in our Soapbox discussion. The students from France, Martinique, and Guadeloupe shared anecdotes about their school-life in comparison to what they’ve experienced in Chicago. Upon leaving at the end of the day, WorldChicago Youth ambassadors and GCE students exchanged social media handles, so we look forward to keeping up with our visitors.

Field Experience

Working with Bikes at Working Bikes

Juniors in Design & Engineering met with Anna, the volunteer coordinator at Working Bikes in Pilsen to learn about the anatomy and the mechanics of bikes. In the second unit of this STEAM course, students have been pursuing the guiding question, “How are bikes designed and engineered to solve specific problems?”. In their pursuit of an answer, students have been studying the concepts of weight, speed, acceleration, velocity, and mass and their effects on simple machines such as the wheel, the axle, and the pulley. To gain a better understanding, the students visited Working Bikes , an organization committed to giving new life to discarded bicycles and distributing them as tools of empowerment to local and global communities.

On the day the students visited, a shipping crate was waiting to be filled and shipped to the Jordan. Anna showed the group how to get the bikes ready for transport, and they got right to work.


The purpose of this Field Experience is to investigate the guiding question, “How do bicycles impact lives?”. The students talked to experts to investigate the evolution of bikes and how they are put together so that they can then design a bike that suits a person’s specific needs.


The students talked to bike shop employees about the parts that make up a bike, their purpose, and the choices designers make when choosing to use certain parts over others.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Students in the Journalism class have been investigating the power of a photograph. Specifically, they have been pursuing the question, “How does photojournalism help you see the world?”. As a part of their investigation, they examined how shutter speed, aperture, and exposure work together to tell a story in a photograph. They practiced manipulating these tools and analyzing each other’s photos in preparation for their Action Project.

Field Experience

Better Design at the Greater Good Studio

Juniors in Design & Engineering have been pursuing the guiding question, How does design process impact product and experience?. Specifically, students have been investigating the design of gardening tools and bicycles, and the importance of practicing empathy and designing with inclusivity in mind. As a part of their investigation, they visited Greater Good Studio, a design firm committed to making the world a better place through human-centered design. The students met with designer and co-founder, Sara to learn more about her design philosophy and, to get a behind-the-scenes look at the design process in a professional setting.


The purpose of this Field Experience to see what it’s like being a professional designer, and learn from their process.


The students toured the space, talked to designers, and asked questions about the design process.

It’s Homecoming, It’s Halloween…

It’s the Homecoming Halloween Dance! The first event put on by our newly established Arts, Culture, and Events leadership group was an absolute success. The team of students along with Adam, Keiko, and our students’ amazingly supportive parents put on an event to remember. The team created a super-spooky haunted house, cleared out a room for the dancefloor, and put on the most delicious spread of pizza, candy, and more candy.

Lucky for us Halloween is still more than a week away so our school will stay decked out with the scary decorations.

A Month of Lunches

The students in Sharon’s advisory bravely stepped up to the challenge of cooking the first month of lunches in our new and improved community lunch program. Under the guidance of Chef Michael McCants and using the MyPlate guidelines, Sharon and her students planned, prepared, and served delicious and nutritious lunches to the whole school! We look forward to learning so much more from Chef Mike and eating more awesome food.

Photo Gallery

The Ins and Outs of Collaging

In the first unit of the Population course entitled In/Out, students pursued the guiding question, Where do we fit in?. In this unit, students investigated what and who is included and excluded from a population. As a part of their investigation, they observed organisms both from the inside and the outside, through dissections and a visit to a local zoo, and created their own classification system. The culminating project for the unit was a collage that displays the entire taxonomy of an organism.

The students explored the art of collaging to bring their organism to life. Inspired by the art of Megan Coyle, the students used pages from old magazines to mimic the shading and texture of their animal.

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.

Photo Gallery

Youth Climate Strike

A group of GCE students participated in the Global Climate Strike on September 20th. Between September 20- September 27, 7.6 million people took to the streets to strike for climate action. It was the biggest climate mobilization in history! The Global Climate Strike shows that we have the people power we need to create a just world and end the era of fossil fuels. GCE students proudly took part in the Youth Climate Strike in Chicago where thousands of people of all ages flooded the street. It was a powerful demonstration of power in numbers.