sprout & co.
with alec resnick and shaunalynn duffy
At the end of 2008, I decided to step back from leading Camp Kaleidoscope. I opened an alternative elementary school in the form of a homeschooling center in 2008, and was surprised to find how much friction I experienced with families in a long-term setting, as opposed to at Camp Kaleidoscope. I became to feel increasingly that just providing powerful experiences to children wasn't sufficient for our society to change its ideas on what good learning was. I felt that children's lives were ultimately circumscribed by the adults of their life, and how adults thought about learning had to fundamentally change in order for our society's values to change.
This feeling -- that I wanted to work in a space larger than children's learning, led me to co-found sprout & co. with two friends of mine in 2008. In 2009 we opened a studio in Somerville, MA. For most of the time from 2009 - 2012, it was open to the public in some capacity. Materially we seeded it like a makerspace -- with tools ranging from basic machine shop tools to a simple biolab -- and tried to give it a different set of values.
Specifically, we were interested in a community of practice coming together around learning and science. We aspired to build a community college that lived up to the true meaning of both those words.
Throughout the 4 years I worked on sprout, we tried a handful of different ways to engage with our community -- holding open shop hours, and running classes and workshops which we felt captured the constructionist spirit in a context in which adults could find personal meaning. One of the examples that guided our work was the idea that deep opportunities for learning and growth were latent in the world around us (we wondered about a world where people could fix their own potholes instead of waiting for the state.) Towards that end I ran workshops and events including:
Other projects at sprout that impressed me for their depth and beauty included
Sprout as a living community impressed me. I got to meet and collaborate with many people -- especially in the visual arts fields -- that I would not have expected to have met on my own. Real, in-person community as the seat of deep learning is something I think I had not truely considered before this work.
In 2012, I chose to leave sprout for personal reasons. Independently, sprout decided to put much of its energy into starting a charter high school -- an opportunity sparked by our connectedness in the Somerville community -- and a way to work with learners for longer and closer periods than weekly workshops, which is an ongoing effort with plans for the school to open in fall 2016.