Lessons in Danish Pedagogy for Chicago’s Southwest Side

Lessons in Danish Pedagogy for Chicago’s Southwest Side

AGC’s Innovation Fund offers educators the opportunity to develop innovative learning practices through travel, study, and pilot programs. Two Middle School educators — Ms. Feduniec, MYP Science teacher, and Ms. Salazar, MYP Spanish teacher — received an Innovation Fund grant to study Scandinavian pedagogy and school design in Denmark. They shared their learnings upon return to help enrich teaching and learning across AGC’s curriculum. We are excited to share these “Lessons from Denmark” with you now. 

Click here to make a donation in support of AGC’s Innovation Fund


Lessons from Denmark

When we learned about the incredible opportunity our school was offering to engage in an innovative international learning experience, we immediately thought “Scandinavia!”

Many of us at AGC are already familiar with the high ratings that Scandinavian countries have earned on various global indices. From sustainable energy production to free universal healthcare and education, subsidized day care and a shorter work and school day, it is not surprising that the standard of living in these countries is often touted as a paragon for overstressed Americans. It is also easy to understand why most Scandinavian countries regularly occupy the top spots of the Global Happiness Index. This year, Finland holds the top spot, followed by Denmark, Norway and Iceland. 

But enough about that! Our goal, after all, was not to completely restructure the fabric of our society. What drove us educators was the desire to learn more about Scandinavian instructional practices and how other factors worked together to make Scandinavian students academically competitive on such a global scale.

Our first question was — which of these meccas of welfare and happiness did we want to visit? Because AGC is developing a new campus right here on the Southwest side of Chicago which uses design to fuel inquiry-based learning, we decided to focus our study on innovative school designs that foster 21st century learning. AGC’s new campus is heavily influenced by Scandinavian school design, due in large part to the collaboration of celebrated Danish designer, Rosan Bosch. After some research, and several emails and phone calls, we identified three Danish schools renowned for their learning environments: Buddinge, Hellerup, and the International School of Billund (ISB.)

During our visit, we toured each school and interviewed students, teachers and administrators. We gained a tremendous amount of insight about the schools in particular and the country in general. Although each of these schools is unique in character, design, and location, they also shared a focus on traditional academic disciplines. We therefore divided our findings into two categories: the first one highlighting the new and innovative, and the second paying homage to the oldies but goodies. 

Here are our lessons from Denmark. 

On Creative Design: 

One of the very first things that you will notice upon visiting any of these three schools is the creative use of space. When we first walked into Hellerup, we were taken aback by the grand and open staircase connecting all the levels of the building. This staircase is not only the physical center but, as one teacher put it, “the living, breathing heart” of the school. It serves a multitude of purposes as students use it daily for dance, games, reading, working, socializing and exercise. It even houses a built-in amphitheater in the shape of a whale!

Hellerup Whale
Hellerup Whale

The school’s overall design is reminiscent of a hive, with learning spaces branching out in a circular fashion from the staircase. This open concept space makes the learning process dynamic and ever-changing. Students are not confined to a single classroom environment, but have the capacity to move spaces and even create their own spaces depending on the nature of their work. They may gather in a larger hub for direct instruction, but move to a smaller nook or space for individual or partner-based work. As much as the space inspires autonomy, it feels incredibly interconnected at the same time. Standing on the top floor, one can see what is happening in every direction on the floors below it, which promotes a sense of collective unity. 

Hellerup Staircase
Hellerup Central Staircase

Although the architectural stamps of Buddinge and the International School of Billund are vastly different from that of Hellerup, these schools also provide unique and creative use of space. Buddinge’s recently renovated upper grade wing boasts a colorful and fun open space with an array of flexible seating options: a room of colorful ascending padded seats known as the “mountain,” nooks for small group work, and even a room of padded rolling hills upon which kids can sit, play and learn. The design is ideal for students with different sensory needs. 

According to Michael Gundlund, a school leader at Buddinge, this new space was an experiment of sorts. It was mainly intended to promote 21st century learning, with a focus on creativity, communication and collaboration, as well as student motivation. So far, the experiment seems to be working. The students adjusted quickly to the new design. They seem to love their new space and their academic outcomes seem to be improving. 

Buddinge Michael and Rasmus
Michael and Rasmus

The adjustment for teachers was more challenging than it was for their students. Rasmus, a History and Language Arts teacher, said that the move meant a “complete realignment of teaching and pedagogy.” Moving from traditional classrooms to an essentially open and shared space meant they “had to learn how to plan and collaborate better together.” They adapted to a new model of teaching. In this model, a lesson might begin in a group setting or “campfire,” move to a small group nook or “cave,” transition next to a hands-on or “movement” setting and culminate at the “mountaintop” for a presentation and collective discussion. Despite the fluid movement across spaces, these lessons are structured and need be planned out ahead of time. Luckily the school employs someone to manage the often complicated scheduling of these spaces so that teachers can focus on instruction.   

Another imperative component in each of these school designs is nature. Most learning spaces have big windows and are flooded with natural light. Trees and gardens surround the schools and are often embedded within them. ISB features numerous inner courtyards while Hellerup boasts a rooftop garden. Buddinge went even further by making each learning space accessible to the outdoors. When weather permits, learning at Buddinge is happening outdoors just as much, if not more, as it is indoors. 

Hellerup Playground
Hellerup Playground

With all this creative and innovative design, our Danish colleagues also imparted a few pragmatic details. They encouraged attention to the size of learning spaces. More flexibility requires more space, especially when there is a variety of teaching happening simultaneously in a shared space. They also urged attention to acoustics. This is especially important in spaces with minimal interior walls. At Hellerup, the teachers and students make use of lockers, screens and furniture to foster small, intimate, and collaborative learning spaces while promoting concentration and minimizing auditory distractions. Danish educators know that trust is fundamental in innovative learning environments. Moving with autonomy through various spaces requires trust that students will behave appropriately. This means a lot of scaffolding is necessary for students, especially those with trauma and socio-emotional needs. This is an especially important point to keep in mind in our underserved community in Chicago, where many of our students have a history of trauma and where social work and counseling services are too often limited. Finally, Danish educators know that teacher input is paramount. Educators will have to do the most to adapt their practices to innovative learning spaces, and therefore, they should be intimately involved in the design process.

On Respecting Academic Disciplines: 

While Hellerup and Buddinge are best known for innovative architecture, these schools also place great value in traditional disciplines including athletics, arts and science. Buddinge has several gymnasiums, outdoor sports fields, arts studios, woodshop studios, student kitchens, and science laboratories. Pretty impressive for a neighborhood public school! 

 Hellerup, which is located in a city, boasts a variety of outdoor sport and recreation areas for their students, including a track, soccer field, skate park and the mother of all playgrounds with sandboxes included. ISB, located in a less urban setting, celebrated the opening of a new outdoor running track on the day we visited. This investment reflects the important role that physical and mental well-being has in Danish society at large.

Buddinge gym

Speaking of well-being, did you know that students in many Danish schools prepare their own meals in school? Each of the schools we visited boasted a large area designated for collective cooking in middle school, with smaller kitchens for the younger grades. Many meals are prepared using discarded produce from local supermarkets that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill. We were excited to watch “scraps” transformed into culinary delicacies by students as young as fourth graders. 


Buddinge Kitchen
Buddinge Kitchen

The respect for the arts and sciences within these schools is also something worthy of discussion. Buddinge boasts several arts studios catered to specific age groups, and a separate woodworking facility. ISB houses a spacious arts studio, an auditorium for performing arts, a library, a technology lab with specialized laser technology and even a robotics lab. Science laboratories are a staple of each school. The facilities vary to some degree but all are outfitted with standard chemistry equipment, hook ups and storage. ISB has even gone the lengths to separate their lab spaces by scientific discipline, one for chemistry and another for life sciences, and yes, both have access to the great outdoors, just in case you were wondering.

In the end, the greatest takeaway for us has been that innovative design and practices definitely enhance student learning, but there is also value in tradition and practices that work. A new building design is not a silver bullet, but it can fuel innovative teaching and learning. Michael Gundlund captures this ethos perfectly when he states, “Here in Denmark we already do education so well that we have the room to experiment.” Implementing a Scandinavian-inspired model here on the Southside of Chicago will require foresight, resources and collaboration. Thanks to our generous benefactors, AGC’s board of directors, assistance from our school founder Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, architect Trung Le, designer Rosan Bosch and our new friends at Buddinge, Hellerup, and ISB, we have gained new insights and look forward to putting them into practice right here at AGC.




Contact:         Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, Founder

Phone:           773.744.8729

Email:            sarahelizabeth@agcchicago.org



Academy for Global Citizenship Demonstrates a Different Vision of Scale with Net Positive Energy Campus and Environmental Education Hub


[Chicago, June 28, 2019]— Over the last ten years, a public school on the Southwest side of Chicago has captured the attention of over 10,000 visiting educators coming from as far as Brazil and China, India and Kyrgyzstan.  The Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) is an international laboratory for innovation in education which incubates creative solutions to 21st century problems, including a comprehensive wellness program and an inquiry-based curriculum driven by concepts of environmental and social justice.

AGC’s 500 students and teachers are currently split between two rented facilities which are separated by a major intersection and truck route, nestled into Chicago’s Southwest side.

But thanks to a new state capital fund authorized by Governor Pritzker today, AGC will receive a $31 million allocation from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to build a new campus and “school of the future”—a facility that has been designed to serve as a model for school architecture and pedagogy for 21st century learning.

“This investment will yield significant returns for the state, as the campus has been designed to serve as a cost-replicable prototype for future public school construction,” said Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, AGC’s Founder and Executive Director.

Plans for the “net-positive” campus include the integration of renewable energy sources to generate 105 percent of the school’s energy supply, a three-acre urban farm with fruit orchards and apiaries to fuel a scratch-made meal program and neighborhood farm stand.

“The learning space itself will serve as a teacher training institute for sharing best practices in education,” Ippel said, adding that while construction has not yet begun, plans have already inspired the work of architects and school leaders from across the country.

The new campus will include a new tuition-free early childhood program, extensive community gardens and a teaching kitchen in a neighborhood with limited access to green space, fresh food and early learning resources.

“In collaboration with a team of architects and designers, AGC has redesigned school architecture for the social and environmental needs of the 21st century,” according to Ippel.

AGC was one of Chicago’s first International Baccalaureate elementary schools, and its 100 percent scratch-made organic meal program and wellness curriculum serves as a pilot for the Chicago school district. AGC’s dual language immersion approach is also being replicated in collaboration with the Illinois State Board of Education.

“Since its founding, AGC’s intention was to become an incubator for innovation in education,” said Ippel. Fueled by a sense of urgency around social and environmental issues, Ippel and her colleagues started the school to prepare Chicago students to make positive changes in the world. When she was 23, Ippel rode her bicycle to speak to Chicago’s Board of Education to share her vision for the future of learning. Today, that vision has impacted five million students through program sharing with educators, schools and districts worldwide.

AGC’s vision of scale was inspired by the founding mission of public charter schools – to develop and disseminate effective solutions to the challenges faced by schools and districts throughout Illinois and across the nation, said Ippel. More than 93 percent of AGC’s student body are children of color, more than 70 percent are from low-income families, 30 percent are English language learners and 15 percent are diverse learners.

AGC students have demonstrated a tremendous capacity for academic growth, outperforming as many as 94 percent of national peers in literacy growth scores and ranking in the top eight percent of district elementary schools on comprehensive ratings. AGC is a tuition-free and open enrollment public school.

Ippel and her team have been working on the net-positive project for many years and are thrilled by the boost that this funding will provide to their scale initiatives. “We are immensely grateful to our partners in Springfield and across the state for believing in the power and potential of a learning laboratory whose doors are open to the district, city, state and educators around the world,” said Ippel.

The story of AGC’s Learning Laboratory and Sustainable Education Hub campus is documented in their book called “Reimagine Education.” Phase one architectural designs were completed by Jeanne Gang and Studio Gang Architects.

Click here for more information about AGC’s Educational Learning Laboratory and Community Sustainability Hub.



Insight and Wonder Part I: Student Spaces and Rituals

Insight and Wonder Part I: Student Spaces and Rituals

Our first task, as we work to develop our future campus, the Midwest’s first energy net-positive school, is to cull the hopes, desires and expectations of our stakeholders. For so many, this school has been a nearly decade long dream. The opportunity to engage all stakeholders in shaping our future campus has sent ripples of excitement through our hallways!

In addition to our incredible architects at Studio Gang, we are working with Wonder, By Design and Rosan Bosch Studios, both international experts in designing learning spaces. Wonder, By Design, whose co-founders Christian Long and Trung Le helped write The Third Teacher, has been working with AGC for years to help envision this campus. Our incredible design team has been focused for the last two months on stakeholder workshops and observing the rituals and culture of our school community to inform the development of our design brief or “manifesto,” for this future campus.

The first stage of this process was for our design team to immerse themselves in AGC’s school day processes. They took photographs, set up time-lapse cameras, observed rituals, sat in on democratic school meetings, and learned alongside students during our 8 hour school day (twice). This “Insight Week” was an intense series of three 12 hour days, from 7 am democratic school meetings to late night dinners with our external partners, mirroring the busy life of AGC’s families and staff.

It has been incredible for all of us to reflect on our very special community of learners through the eyes of our design team. Here are some of the moments they chose to capture while observing our students. Next, we’ll explore their workshops and interviews with our staff, our families, local leaders, external partners and experts in sustainable design.

BACK TO SCHOOL DAY 1: K-2nd Grade Observations at 47th Street.

In our small rented-spaces, students and staff use space creatively, including turning walls into kid-height chalkboards and storing supplies on windowsills. How can these uses be incorporated into a new design?
Students have their own space outside our classrooms for coats, water-bottles, take-home projects and their “outdoor shoes.” We ask students to bring slippers to protect our floors and carpets and to improve indoor air quality by limiting what is tracked through our halls. Reusable water bottles keep students hydrated and reduce the need for trips to the water fountain and disposable drink containers. How can we honor student spaces in a future campus?
“Todos los niños son estrellas brillantes/ All children are bright stars!” Our bilingual school features handwritten signs – an opportunity for our students to practice translating writing, and reading in other languages. Many students and staff switch openly between languages.
Todd Zima, Principal at Studio Gang Architects and Trung Le, Co-Founder of Wonder, by Design observe the many uses of our parking lot area. How will flexibility of spaces translate into a new facility?
Wonder, by Design founder Trung Le and Rosan Bosch Studios founder Rosan Bosch chat while AGC’s Maintenance Manger, Danny, builds a larger run to allow our schoolyard chickens more space to play on nights and weekends when they cannot run free in the yard.
Reading nooks and cozy spaces abound in our tiny barrel-factory. How will our state-of-the-art new campus meet our need for comfortable and cozy spaces?
Chef Eddie gives a high-five during lunch. Our on-site food programs allows our students, staff and families to connect directly to the journey of food from farm to the table and allows our chef, who is also an AGC parent to see first-hand how students react to dishes and tweak accordingly.

IMG_0877 IMG_0720

BACK TO SCHOOL DAY 2: 3rd-5th Grade Observations at the Annex building on the campus of Phoebe Hearst Elementary School.

AGC supports our teachers professional development through coaching. Literacy specialist and founding AGC teacher, Meredith bounces between classrooms in both buildings to support teachers and students.
Seating options in our 3-8th grade building allow older students responsibility over their learning experience and help meet a variety of student learning styles.
Teachers and students design their classrooms to meet their needs and wants. How can this flexibility grow with us?
Student, staff and families all said that natural lighting was a priority. Current AGC students can look forward to the natural light in our middle school classrooms, on the second floor of our Annex building next door to Hearst Elementary School.
AGC and our neighbors at Hearst worked with Openlands to create this native plant garden and outdoor classroom in the space between our two buildings. The murals, designed by the Green Star Movement and created with help from students at AGC and Hearst, say “grow” and “conserve.”
Principal Jenn Moore supports a student council meeting held at a small table under the stairs. Student council meetings follow many of the same structures as our staff’s democratic school meetings, with rotating roles like “leader,” “process observer,” “note taker,” and “caboose.”
During recess, students used tall brush cuttings to build a fort around the base of a tree. They requested that no trees die during the construction of our net-positive campus.


With Growth, Changes Bloom at AGC

With Growth, Changes Bloom at AGC

Middle schoolers at grow mural SMALL


One decade ago, a group of idealistic change agents had a vision to reimagine what’s possible in public education. We had a dream to create a learning environment that not only provided our students with a solid academic foundation, but one that empowered them to understand the value of our global environment, appreciate and connect with different cultures across the planet, and take action to positively impact both their communities and our world beyond. Since then, thousands have joined us to help this vision become a reality.

Together, we have grown to serve 450 students, developed a rare K-8 wall-to-wall continuum of our innovative and holistic IB program within the public school system, and have scaled our work to impact over 750,000 students around the world. We have been recognized for this work through awards spanning from the White House and Department of Education, and through coverage from the New York Times, Good Morning America, NBC, ABC, NPR, Atlantic Monthly, Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, the Sun-Times and more.

After adding a grade level each year since opening our doors with Kindergarten and 1st grade in 2008, we will finally graduate our very first 8th grade class this year. AGC’s Class of 2016, which was our very first class of 1st graders in 2008, are daily proof that our approach to education is one that deserves to be replicated broadly. Our students are dedicated environmental stewards, young people who chose to spend their summers attending nature camps or growing food in their backyards; they are global citizens, celebrating their last weeks as AGC students with a service learning trip; and they are tremendous advocates for their beliefs, strong-willed and principled future leaders who collaborate to improve their communities and our world.

To honor the larger vision of AGC and its students, we must keep innovating.  After 8 years of searching for land for our permanent home, we recently finalized negotiations to purchase seven nearby acres on which we will build the state’s first net-positive energy school building. In the coming months, we will design, in partnership with internationally renowned Jeanne Gang and her colleagues at Studio Gang Architects, a net-positive campus that will generate more energy that it uses in a given year through clean and renewable processes and will include an urban farm, a teaching kitchen, tinkering spaces and learning laboratory. We are honored to have you with us as we embark on this quest to develop a prototype to define the future of education, locally and nationally.

This vision has not only captivated the minds and hearts of a Macarthur Genius Award winning architect and supporters across the globe, but also an experienced and nationally recognized educational leader who has chosen to join our team as President and Chief Educational Officer.  I am thrilled to introduce the AGC community to Dr. David Magill, the former Director of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, who has come out of retirement to lend his experience running schools, school districts and capital campaigns to our campus development plans as we drive AGC’s vision into the next decade.

A critical part of our vision since day one has been creating an incubator of innovation where we share our practices with the world. As Dr. Magill transitions onto our team, I am extremely excited to be evolving in my leadership from my day-to-day role as Executive Director to guiding our mission forward as Executive Chairman of our Board of Directors, a transition that will allow me to focus on our capital campaign as well as scaling innovation in education, both at AGC and nationally.  In the year to come, I will be collaborating with Emerson Collective as an Entrepreneur in Residence, developing a platform that will enable schools like AGC to share data-validated classroom strategies to improve our national education system. This work to scale innovation, both at AGC and in classrooms across the country, is an exciting extension of AGC’s mission and vision to challenge the notion of what’s possible in public education in the United States and beyond.

Finally, after growing AGC to 8th grade, Founding Principal Anne Gillespie, is returning home to her home state of Wisconsin this fall.  Anne’s vision for AGC’s culture and curriculum has shaped our students into the young leaders in their classrooms and communities they have become today.  AGC’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Jenn Moore, PhD, will serve as Interim Principal, a role for which she is well-equipped after four years at AGC.

We could not be more excited about the evolution of AGC’s leadership. Innovation often demands change and AGC is no exception: we must push faster and harder to deliver excellence in every part of our institutionIt has been powerful to watch AGC grow from a handful of dreamers to an international community of doers while holding steadfastly to our founding mission, vision and values.

It truly does take a village to accomplish what we have created together. If you are reading this letter, you have been an instrumental part of AGC’s journey – and we’ve only just begun!  I invite you to stay in touch as we embark on this bold next chapter: follow us on social media and our blog to keep in touch with our developments. Don’t hesitate to reach out to any of us with questions, to schedule time to observe a classroom or enjoy an organic meal with our students, or to join us in reimagining the future of education!


Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, Founder & Executive Chairman

Dr. David Magill, President & Chief Educational Officer

Dr. Jennifer Moore, Principal

Jumping Students

AGC Joins CPS and Chicago Architecture Foundation to Redesign Public School

AGC Joins CPS and Chicago Architecture Foundation to Redesign Public School

Yesterday, the Chicago Architecture Foundation and Chicago Public Schools hosted an incredible meeting of minds to begin the process of redesigning public schools. The forum, titled “Changing the Outcomes: Designing Smart for the Next Generation of Chicago’s Learners” brought together leaders in education and public administration, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel himself.

The forum, organized by CPS and the Chicago Architecture Foundation was hosted by John Syversten and Gabrielle Lyon, of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and Trung Le, the founder of Wonder by Design and visionary designer of AGC’s Net Positive future campus. Many of Chicago’s changemakers were represented, including Chicago Public Schools, Hack Studios, After School Matters, the Public Building Commission, Chicago Children’s Museum, Greater Good Studios, TUR Partners, NLU College of Education, LEAP Innovations, DePaul University, Chicago Public Library, The New Teacher Center, Cannon Design, The Brinson Foundation, Perspectives Charter Schools and the Office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Trung Le led the day’s workshops, including an interactive exploration of the role of school, and a collaborative activity itself, during which small groups were tasked with designing a path to success for an individual CPS student based on a brief autobiography. Between these active workshops, a series of short presentations provided the group with a baseline or “state of our schools.” Leaders from CPS, including the Chief Facility Officer and Chief of Core Curriculum (Mary De Runtz and Mario Rossero,) shared their goals and priorities for the year, encouraging student-driven curriculum, 21st century skills of collaboration, communication and critical thinking, and the expansion of best-practice academic approaches like the International Baccalaureate Programme. As an organization that has been prioritizing and promoting these principles since 2008, we were thrilled to see this philosophy echoed by our partners at Chicago Public Schools. Providing further context for the forum’s task, Demographer Rob Paral presented research on the demographic trends in our city, reviewing the population trends of the past 10 years and looking forward into the next decade. With the exception of Chicago’s Southwest side, where schools are overcrowded due to population growth, and areas near the loop, where professional populations continue to flock, the city is in a period of population decline.


Mayor Emanuel’s appearance after the presentations was unexpected and deeply inspiring. He came to deliver a call-to-action to the group, urging the designers and thinkers in the room to “do something that we in the public sector don’t have a chance to do.” “Office architecture is going through a redesign,” he said “schools should go through a redesign based on what they need.” He called upon the forum to rethink space to optimize cost, ideal learning spaces, and teacher and student utility – with an emphasis on fostering collaboration and critical 21st century skills in our schools.

Following Mayor Emanuel, AGC’s Founder and Executive Director Sarah Elizabeth Ippel shared our school’s mission and vision for the future of education. “Thank you, Mayor Emanuel, for coming to introduce me today,” she joked. AGC was humbled by the opportunity to share our work to reimagine what’s possible in public education.

After Ms. Ippel’s talk, the work began in earnest, as each small group worked together to design a pathway for one of five real CPS students.  The exercise illuminated the challenges and opportunities faced by our young people and led each group to develop a manifesto of beliefs about education.


AGC Students Explore Structure at Cannon Design

AGC Students Explore Structure at Cannon Design

Students in the Academy for Global Citizenship’s 5th grade have been studying structures for weeks. They can tell you why a triangle is a strong shape and why the triangular point of a roof is oriented up, allowing “water, snow, and dead leaves,” fall off the structure instead of into it. They can tell you what they learned from their guest lecture and hands-on projects that they might not have gathered through direct instructions, like why a strong base is crucial to the design of any structure.  They can tell you the difference between “live weight” and “dead weight.”  They have even begun designing houses on their own, in pairs of two, based on specifications from virtual clients using a computer modeling program. “It’s hard,” they say, “because the client will sometimes have really specific things they want, like a master bedroom with a bathroom, or a basement recording studio, but sometimes they’re not specific at all, and you have to imagine what they would want, like brick, or wood or glass.”

For a key test of their understanding, these students are visiting the architecture studios of Cannon Design. This is a an exciting moment for students interested in a career in architecture or design, of which there are already a few in class. Adrian, at 10, says he’s known he wanted to be an architect since was 8. He admires the simple, gentle style of Frank Lloyd Wright and knows the proper name for “the bean.” For students like Adrian, this trip is an opportunity to try on a career. For others students this is also a chance to get a peek into their future, as Cannon’s Education branch, The Third Teacher, will be designing AGC’s energy net-positive future campus.


At Cannon, students were split into small groups for tours with Cannon staff members. They observed spaces designed for work, creativity, relaxation and collaboration. Open tables, bright hallways, white cloud-like lighting structures, and high-backed benches work together in the Cannon offices. Along the tour, they saw renderings of spaces designed for different kinds of work, for Cannon’s clients in education, healthcare and corporations. They pondered the utility of different building materials and the artistic and functional role of unusual shapes. They had the opportunity to interview designers, technical directors and lighting specialists.


Finally, students were given their assignments: each group of 10 was tasked with building a model, using only coffee-stirrers, index cards and scotch tape, that could hold the weight of 10 pennies… in 15 minutes. Take a look at their designs!

Following their tour, students explored downtown Chicago for examples of the concepts they were exploring, and met a welcome surprise under the impressive dome in the mosaic-adorned Chicago Cultural Center: a private show with a classical pianist!


We’d like to thank our friends at Cannon for the thoughtful and educational morning and for entertaining our inquirers’ many questions!  These trips are an amazing opportunity for our students to practice skills, understand lessons in context, explore career paths, and witness the exciting innovations taking place in their backyard!

Great Geeks: Online Crowd Funding With Help From kCura

Great Geeks: Online Crowd Funding With Help From kCura

When the Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) launched our crowd-funding campaign last month on IndieGoGo.com, we were challenged by how essential technology and computer literacy were to the early success of this campaign. Our friends at kCura generously partnered with us to support the technological needs of this campaign on many levels: from the pitch video that our own Mr. Phillips produced to the “campaign room” on launch day, brimming with lap tops and parents sharing social networking strategies. As we worked together to launch this online campaign, we became more united as a community through the spirit of growth and ingenuity. We’d like to thank kCura and their Geek Grant for their support and for modeling the power of collaborative dreaming.

kCura started out as a small consulting firm and often created various computer programs for law firms. One such creation, an e-discovery platform, was such a breakthrough that kCura dropped everything else to develop it.  In essence, this kind of software allows users to very quickly and efficiently search through documents. This program, however, Relativity, grew into something more, through collaboration and creativity. The hardworking people at kCura developed Relativity into such a user-friendly, comprehensive and versatile product that their client list now features a diverse group of large corporations, including Deloitte.

Second grader aspires to master online document sharing.
Second grader aspires to master online document sharing

At AGC, new technologies, like our virtual main office on agcfamily.org or the solar energy monitoring stations in our classrooms are more than convenience; they are essential to our mission. We seek to prepare students to excel in the 21st Century, an era of constant technological innovation.

In a time where there are economies based on innovative programming, we seek not only to prepare students to understand technology, we must foster the kind of individuals who will work together to revolutionize it. We hope our students will embody the same collaborative, imaginative and industrious spirit as the employees of kCura.

Parents campaigning outside during pickup.

In the weeks since the launch of the campaign for our Dream School on IndieGoGo.com, we have started to see these very qualities rising to a boil our parent community, who are coming in to school every day to share innovative ideas for drawing donors to the site – everything from partnerships with parent-owned businesses to networking on LinkedIn.

Our Net Positive future is not only a plan for a state-of-the-art net-positive energy campus, but it is also a dream for a Net Positive attitude: encouraging our children and communities to give back more than they take, through sharing ideas, inventions and their time for a greater good.


Students, parents and staff at the Academy for Global Citizenship embody this spirit in their daily lives and look forward to a day when they can realize this concept on a larger scale, with 3 acres of organic farmland to cultivate and a sustainable business incubator with which to collaborate.

To join us in planning the Academy for Global Citizenship’s Net Positive energy future, visit our IndieGoGo page.

To learn more about kCura’s core values, visit their company page. To explore their e-discovery platform, visit relativity.

One Molecule More

One Molecule More

AGC is embarking on an extraordinary journey to design and build a learning space that embodies the principles of learning through inquiry, sustainability, and community.  We were very fortunate late last month to engage with a group of architects, designers, educators, and ecologists to envision not only what the space could look like but how it could support our students, the neighborhood, and the world.  A description of this remarkable day can be found here.