GCE’s City2Classroom™ model breaks down the walls of the classroom

While there is much to be concerned about in Chicago’s public schools, there are some very exciting things happening in education outside of CPS. At the GCE Lab School students are finding success in a non-traditional experiential learning environment that takes them out of the classroom into the real-world to engage in hands-on learning experiences. Opened in 2010, the GCE Lab School (where GCE stands for Global Citizenship Experience) is a small private high school where 50% of the students receive scholarship funding. Located on the near north side at 1535 N. Dayton, in a shared space with the Menomonee Club, we have been developing and refining our model, growing each year and are now expanding into our own facility. This new space is truly unique, unlike any other high school in the city.

Breaking down the walls of the classroom
At GCE, our inquiry and project-based curriculum takes students out of the classroom and into the real-world through field experiences, guest workshops and apprenticeships. These off-campus forays aren’t special occasions for GCE students: all are in a typical day’s work as part of our school’s City2Classroom model. We partner with more than 200 Chicago-area businesses, agencies and cultural institutions to give students real-world, immersive experiences that augment and synthesize classroom work and provide practical and cutting-edge experiences to prepare them for a rapidly changing world.

We do something no one else does—we take what the kids are learning in class and then immerse them inside an organization so they get a real-world look at what those businesses and institutions really do, how they work, and the problems they solve. These Field Experiences aren’t field trips; they’re working assignments that students travel to on their own, participate in and structure multi-media projects around. In some cases, they’re mini-internships that require an extended, multi-week commitment. They’re the essence of our City2Classroom model, and a key to breaking down the walls between school and world,
Some of our City2Classroom partners include Guggenheim Partners, Goodman Theatre, CME Group, University of Chicago, PriceWaterhouse Cooper, Gravity Tank, The CHA, Home Depot, Invisible Institute.

GCE’s journalism class gets the inside scoop on the McDonald police video
In September, students in our journalism class sat with the Invisible Institute’s Jaime Kalven and listened to him talk about Laquan McDonald and Kalven’s then-ongoing court battle to get the video of McDonald’s murder released by the City of Chicago. At the Institute’s Hyde Park facility, they listened as Kalven outlined the city’s alleged cover-up of the incident, its $5 million wrongful-death payment to McDonald’s family and the chilling details he expected to see on the video if and when he could get it released. This experience made our students the only teens in the country with an in-depth, broad-spectrum understanding of the issue that weeks later exploded in protests around the city, federal investigations and administrative turbulence at the Chicago Police Department and City Hall.

Goodman Theatre and GCE partner on Stage Chemistry
Another GCE class was at Goodman Theatre, applying their math and science skills to a stage and set design project. Students looked at the theater from the perspective of an architect, stage manager, and set designer in order to apply math and physics to draw out the magic on stage. According to Willa Taylor, Goodman’s Director of Education, the success of this partnership has been so strong that the theater is now offering this stage chemistry course to other schools it works with as part of their education initiative. We are also developing a second course to offer students in the 2016/17 school year.
“The class we developed with GCE is so dynamic, so groundbreaking, that it would be a shame not to share it with other students,” Taylor said.

3 GCE students have received POSSE scholarships
What we are most proud of is the success our students are experiencing. 100% of GCE’s graduates are accepted into college, and 80% have received merit-based scholarships totaling more than $2.5MM in aid. Furthermore, GCE has had 3 students receive the coveted POSSE scholarship; 2 in the graduating class of 2016. What makes all of this even more impressive, is that several of these students were not on track to graduate from high school prior to coming to our school. At GCE these students became re-engaged in their learning and invested in their futures.

For more information, please contact Lisa Humphrey, Board Director, at [email protected], or Eric Davis, School Founder, at [email protected] You can also use these links to hear directly from students on GCE courses and field experiences, and by visiting the GCE website at gcelabschool.org.