Teaching in the Outdoor Classroom: A Practical Guide to Teaching in the Outdoors Through a Pandemic and Beyond

Teaching in the Outdoor Classroom: A Practical Guide to Teaching in the Outdoors Through a Pandemic and Beyond

Join Us on May 5th for a FREE seminar hosted with our partners at the Illinois Green Alliance.

On May 5th, from 4 – 5 p.m., we are hosting a collaborative seminar that aims to be a practical guide to the nuances and best practices for teaching in the outdoor classroom. See below invitation for more details. CPDU credit is available.


The Institute at the Academy for Global Citizenship & Illinois Green Alliance proudly invite you to a free collaborative seminar for elementary and middle school teachers and administrators.

Today’s pandemic challenges make teaching in the outdoors a more vital resource than ever before, but a seamless transition to moving outside the classroom is not always as simple as it sounds. Join us as we delve into realities and best practices of teaching outdoors, including tips for designing low-budget, simple and effective spaces.

Hear from the talented team at Site Design Group, the visionary designers of AGC’s new outdoor learning spaces, and join a conversation with the teachers who are putting that space to work. This seminar will be of particular interest to teachers and administrators who may not have the most ideal outdoor teaching space but are looking for creative ways to make the most of what they have to work with at their campus. This free seminar will equip educators with strategies for effective outdoor teaching that will enhance student engagement and increase access to fresh air.

A Regenerative Future: AGC’S New Living Campus

A Regenerative Future: AGC’S New Living Campus

As AGC makes strides towards breaking ground on its new campus of the future, it does so with a continued commitment to achieving the full Living Building Challenge (LBC) Certification — the most rigorous environmental sustainability standards on the planet. AGC is currently on track to be just the 25th project in the world (and the 1st in the Midwest at scale) to receive this cutting-edge certification. According to the acclaimed architecture and design critic Alexandra Lange, AGC’s new campus plan is:

“The most architecturally ambitious design I’ve seen in the U.S.”

Not only will this new campus be a leading environmental sustainability demonstration site, but it will be, first and foremost, an invaluable teaching and learning resource for our students, their families, and the entire community, acting as a lever for locally-driven community development. We also hope this multi-purpose campus will draw visitors from around the globe and serve a showcase for the values put forth in the Living Building Challenge framework, which is organized into seven key performance areas:

PLACE: We will devote half the six-acre campus to sustainable urban agriculture, community green spaces and food forests, and have a farm shop that will provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables for our neighbors.

WATER: We will achieve net water positivity by capturing precipitation, purifying water via natural processes and recycling used water on-site. 

ENERGY: We will achieve net energy positivity by generating 105% of our energy needs via solar panels, geothermal wells and wind power.

HEALTH & HAPPINESS: We will provide a healthy built environment, including access to fresh air and daylight and connectivity to nature. 

MATERIALS: We will use construction materials that are safe for all species through time and contribute to improved air quality.

BEAUTY: We will collaboratively develop a community-centric architectural design that will uplift the human spirit and generate pride for the southwest side.

EQUITY: We will address social and racial inequality in the world through providing health access, addressing environmental justice, enabling educational opportunity and spurring economic development.

At the heart of it all is the immersive educational opportunity this campus will offer the next generation of environmental leaders. Imagine young minds exploring the Energy Trail, for example, beginning in the transparently designed mechanical room, tinkering in the Solar Energy Learning Lab, and then heading out to the geothermal field with glass manholes for students to experience the inner-workings of renewable energy in motion. Energy dashboards will show students real-time energy usage, and motivate responsible action by connecting our behaviors to the power of our individual and collective impact. Bilingual educational signage throughout the building and schoolyard will call attention to eco features and will inspire children and visitors to carry sustainability into their homes and lives. Hosting tours, conferences and learning summits will motivate other schools, communities and policy-makers to adopt similar innovations and practices through learning from our model. 

We hope you will stay tuned and continue to look for more information about the innovative ways this new living campus will work hand-in-hand with the community to elevate social justice, educational justice, and environmental justice while cultivating health, wellness, and food security for us all. 

To learn more about our new campus and its dedication to a net-positive future, please visit: https://agcchicago.org/our-future/project-net-positive/

An Inquiry into Social Justice, Equality & Black History

An Inquiry into Social Justice, Equality & Black History

At AGC, we recognize Black History Month and we also recognize that Black history is central to all of American history and should be part of any robust teaching curriculum year-round, not just in a month’s time. We are mindful to incorporate lessons and activities that spotlight important figures in Black history, as well as the milestone events in the trajectory of Black life in America, throughout the year. We believe it is critical to honor the resilience, creativity, and vitality of Black people that is too often forced to be expressed in the face of injustice, inequity and violence, past and present.

In both our K-5 Primary Years Program (PYP) and 6-8 Middle Years Program (MYP), we uphold the importance of Black history in year-round curriculum for all students. Our PYP Coordinator, Meredith Polley McNamara and MYP Coordinator, Massiel Zaragoza share insight into how Black history is woven into the AGC curriculum below. 

A PYP Perspective

As part of the IB program, we strive to make our units of inquiry as transdisciplinary as possible. This means that we want to integrate the big ideas about our unit throughout as many parts of our day and content areas as possible across subjects.  When students are studying genetics and heredity for example, they learn about acquired and inherited traits in a science lesson and then connect this vocabulary word of “traits” to thinking about character traits in their reading and writing workshops.  This helps students build a deeper understanding of a topic and make connections across subject matter. Even our art and wellness teachers work to expand upon the learning of a unit of inquiry.

In this way, when observances such as Black History Month roll around, we don’t want to just stop on a single day for a stand-alone lesson on an important person from history.  We work to integrate these studies into what students are currently exploring so they can more authentically connect to the person or event. Our fifth graders launched an inquiry into “Our Place in Space” this January, focusing on Next Generation Science Standards about Earth’s position in the universe and the conditions that make life possible there. Because the unit would extend into February and March, the teachers decided to include a chapter book read aloud from the Young Reader’s version of Hidden Figures as part of the study and this spurred a lot of student questions about the role of women and diversity in STEM fields. Teachers arranged an interview with a female PhD student working for the European Space Agency and a former 5th grade student who had done a research project on diversity in the space program. During guided reading sessions, students chose from a few biographies of female astronauts or people of color working in the space program as part of their study of nonfiction text.  

Our second grade students have been working on a civics and economics unit that is an inquiry into where and how people can get what they need in a community.  While this could be a simple study into community helpers, the AGC team chose to place this unit in the winter months so they could include the essential question of what we can do as citizens if our needs are not being met. While students are learning about opinion writing and how best to make their voices heard, they have also been immersed in reading and listening to stories of activists throughout history. Inspired by the examples of Kamala Harris, Jackie Robinson, Cesar Chavez, Greta Thunberg, and Billie Jean King, students are preparing for the moment when they get to think about how to work for change in their communities.  

While we want to make these strong connections to our unit in accordance to national celebrations, we also work hard to make sure students are exposed to diverse characters, literature and historical figures throughout the entire year.  When our fourth graders study migration and exploration, students inquire into topics of forced migration, conquest and multiple points of view of historical events like Columbus’ “discovery” of America. They chose their research topics from a long list that includes female explorers, figures from various nationalities and races as well as time periods. Our kindergarteners and fifth graders study artistic expression and have worked to diversify the artists that they highlight throughout their inquiries.  

Written by: Meredith Polley McNamara

An MYP Perspective

At AGC, we seek to foster teaching and learning that encourages the respect of each other’s differences, recognizes biases, and provides our students with opportunities to become agents of social change. For these reasons, MYP teachers are intentional about integrating the voices and experiences of people of color in their curricula. The teachers in MYP engage in ongoing reflection and evaluation of their own practices in order to ensure that their pedagogy addresses race and ethnicity and promotes students’ understanding of the active role they must play in identifying and dismantling inequitable societal structures. 

In MYP’s Language & Literature (L&L) class, for example, 6th, 7th and 8th graders have engaged in continuous inquiry about how perspectives on inequality and inclusion change, depending on the context. After reading and analyzing the book Watsons go to Birmingham during their first unit of inquiry this school year titled, “Developing Resilience,” the sixth graders wrote narrative essays from the point of view of different characters from the book in order to demonstrate how the perception of inequality varied from character to character. The seventh grade L&L class completed a poetry unit in January, in which students had the opportunity to write their own free verse poems, inspired by images related to social justice. Students studied and experimented with various poem formats as they unpacked the role creativity and self-expression play in our perspective of individual freedom and hope. Transdisciplinary connections were made across the Individuals & Societies course, as students gained knowledge on various Civil Rights events of the 1950s and 1960s. Students identified connections among those historical events and the emergence of political movements that have a strong presence in our society today.

This is a student poem from 7th grade’s L&L poetry unit, written by Layla Lopez.

We are continuing to enhance our middle school IB program to strengthen connections across course subjects and to provide students with a robust curriculum that offers consistent exposure to literary texts, historical content and modern day topics that transcend cultural boundaries. With the adoption of the AGC Anti-Racist Policy, the middle school instructional team has been actively working towards engagement of an anti-racism philosophy in their classrooms. Our hope is to expand the reach of this philosophy to all subject areas and on a more regular basis so that Black History and Black Voices are authentically represented in every day learning. 

Written by: Massiel Zaragoza

These images were inspiration for 7th grade’s L&L poetry unit.

A Whole Child Approach to Innovating During COVID-19

A Whole Child Approach to Innovating During COVID-19

Since March of 2020, much of our teaching and learning at AGC has occurred remotely. It has been a year of challenges and changes for everyone and we are incredibly grateful for our families, students and staff who have stayed resilient and strong throughout the pandemic. Our students and teachers have adapted gracefully and improvised solutions to the many challenges of remote learning. Teachers and staff have shown unwavering dedication for our students and families and have continued to provide students with engaging learning experiences, rooted in AGC’s whole child philosophy. 

After receiving input from staff and families and considering the risks and benefits, we have decided to open with a Hybrid Learning Model on March 1, 2021. We cannot wait to have students back at AGC to round out our 2020-2021 school year!

A Child-Centered, Out-of-the-Box Start to the School Year

Given our extended year model, we kicked off the school year on August 17 with an unprecedented approach to welcoming students and families back to school. In order to address the critical education, health, safety, and mental health needs of our students and families, AGC developed a unique hybrid, phased-in return to essential in-person learning supports, food access, mental health services, educational assessments and instruction. Thanks to the extraordinary dedication of our teachers and staff, AGC’s innovative and holistic start to the school year strategy included the following:

  • Ensuring that 100% of AGC’s students begin the school year with internet access and technology to support remote learning.
  • Ensuring that 100% of AGC’s students began the school year with a personal connection to their teacher through 1:1 in-person meetings (following safety protocols and held outdoors).
  • Evaluating the socio-emotional needs and academic standing of all AGC students through authentic, in-person assessments within the first three weeks of the school year.
  • Developing a safe, weather-protected, functional, welcoming, nature-based, outdoor learning environment for our K-8th grade students (which will be used when in-person learning resumes this spring).
  • Providing three weekly, small-group, outdoor wellness programs, including nature walks and nutrition workshops, to the projected 2,052 family members of AGC students.
  • Equipping AGC families with gardening materials to grow food at their homes. Involving family volunteers in the cultivation and distribution of our 36 raised-bed school garden produce.
  • Providing freshly prepared meals for contact-free pick-up from our school locations to families and community members. 
  • Providing 12 weekly hours of behavioral health and counseling services to AGC students.
  • In partnership with Urban Growers Collective, providing 100 weekly fresh produce boxes to food-insecure families.

This approach was rooted in AGC’s core pillars and commitment to serving the whole child and family and ensured that our students had solid footing as we jumped into a unique year.

Integrating Opportunities for Health, Mindfulness and Environmental Education 

As a continuation of the start to our year, our staff has worked tirelessly to create engaging and impactful virtual lessons and activities for our students while also maintaining meaningful family engagement. Teachers have learned to navigate many different apps and platforms to enrich their lessons and make sure students have a positive and inquiry-based virtual learning experience, as close to in-person learning as possible. Teachers have continued to provide students with experiences as if they were in-person such as Healthy Cooking with Mr. Soto, Student Council (virtual edition), Green Team, Mindfulness and many more avenues for bringing our unique mission to life. When the weather was warm, we were also able to host students and families for different activities and lessons in our garden spaces, including yoga, gardening and nature walks.

Teachers have worked together with parents and families to troubleshoot technology issues, make sure students login on time for class, and to help create home learning environments that set our students up for success, including built-in brain and movement breaks along the way. We are so thankful for our incredible staff and families for making this bumpy transition to virtual learning as smooth as possible!

K-2 Show & Tell Club with Ms. Chaidez
3rd Grade created Rube Golberg machines and were able to see everyone’s together!
Mr. Sarabia’s class baked healthy banana bread outside at 46th street this summer. 

During the Pandemic, we have also been able to continue our community engagement initiatives. Every Tuesday, Urban Growers Collective’s Fresh Moves bus has still come to AGC to provide fresh, local produce to our neighbors and AGC families. On Thursdays, we have continued to provide free and hot meals to community members through our partnership with ChiFresh Kitchen. When the weather was warmer, we were able to partner with Urban Growers Collective to distribute fresh produce boxes to families and community members. 

The Fresh Moves bus parks outside of AGC each Tuesday afternoon.

Planning for a Return to a Nature-Based Hybrid Learning Model

After surveying families and staff, we decided to move to our Hybrid Model on March 1, 2021. Families were able to opt-in for hybrid learning and we have about 42% of students returning to AGC for remote learning. Since more than half of our students will remain remote, teachers will engage in synchronous teaching where they will teach lessons at school in front of students, and podcast this lesson at the same time for remote students. We will alter our schedule and students and staff will be at our two buildings every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday to reserve Wednesday for deep-cleaning. Students will arrive on a staggered schedule and the school day will be altered to support high quality teaching and learning. 

Aligned with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), we have developed a comprehensive set of risk-mitigation strategies to ensure our safe return to school. We will continue to have health screeners for anyone entering the building, require protective gear on campus and enforce social distancing and sanitizing. We will require air filtration in each room of our two buildings with air filtration units and open windows. As the weather improves in Chicago, we will maximize the use of our outdoor learning spaces and have invested in nature-based learning infrastructure. Our students will be learning in PODs that will stay together all day in an exclusive space in order to minimize exposure. We will continue to provide a scratch-made, organic and nutritionally balanced breakfast and lunch for students and will adapt appropriately to have picnic-style meals. 

We are incredibly grateful for the community of families and teachers at AGC who are making this unique hybrid model possible! We cannot wait to open our doors to students again after a year of separation.

Communications Intern Opportunity | Join Us to Change the World

Communications Intern Opportunity | Join Us to Change the World


The Academy for Global Citizenship is a Chicago Public Charter School, located on the underserved southwest side of Chicago. Our innovative and holistic approach to education aims to foster systemic change and inspire the way society educates our future generations. We are producing a replicable model for learning in the 21st century, including the construction of a net-positive energy campus.

To learn more, visit:https://agcchicago.org/

Internship Summary

AGC has embarked on a 6-acre community development project that now expands far beyond the work of “a school” and includes a federally qualified health center, significant urban farming operation and fresh foods store, community wellness facilities and neighborhood services.  The mission has expanded to cultivating vital communities and igniting economic development, in addition to closing the healthcare access and food insecurity gaps.  This a cutting-edge community transformation project will serve as a replicable model for school campuses across the country and around the world. With that goal in mind, AGC is seeking a Communications Intern to manage the organization’s contacts, newsletters, and social media posting and strategy in order to generate awareness of the new mission, and to inspire action on specific campaigns and requests for support.

Responsibilities include:

  • Contact Management
    • Consolidate current contact lists into one CMS platform and then manage ongoing updates
  • Email Newsletter
    • Create email template in the CMS platform
    • Gather content from the AGC leadership team and populate email newsletter 1-2 time per month.
    • Secure approval and distribute newsletter to contact list
  • Social Media:
    • Organize the posts with all necessary elements, upload each post for approval, and ensure each post goes live according to the schedule.
    • One (1) hour per week of engagement on FB & IG
    • Offer advice and recommendations on best practices for growing our following, reaching audience, and leveraging our influencer relationships on social media.

Required Skills & Characteristics include:

  • Experience in marketing, communications, and social media management
  • Comfort with basic CMS platform functions (e.g. contact management, newsletter design and distribution)
  • Comfort with strategies, techniques, and skills required to leverage posts on Facebook and Instagram
  • Comfort with Adobe Photoshop (or similar photo editing software)
  • Strong communication skills
  • Able to work independently/remotely while maintaining close, regular contact with the Director of Strategic Scale

Start Date: immediately

Duration: 6-months (minimum commitment)

Estimated Weekly Hours: 5-10

Compensation: unpaid

Contact: Trevor Hall at thall@agcchicago.org

To apply, please submit your cover letter, résumé and two references to thall@agcchicago.org.

We are an Equal Opportunity Employer. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, gender, age national origin, or disability.

Reflections from AGC Service-Learning Trips

Reflections from AGC Service-Learning Trips

“Find yourself by losing yourself in service.” I originally heard this phrase while on my first service learning trip to Puerto Rico in 2017 and I will never forget it. It perfectly embodies the value of our annual 8th grade service-learning trips.  From the very beginning, our 8th graders are active participants in the process of choosing, planning, and fundraising this life changing experience. But this trip doesn’t only impact the individuals who participate in it; it impacts every person in their life and the lives of the people in the communities we serve. Service is different than helping; service is a partnership. Helping implies that one party has more power than the other; it implies that one party is lesser than the other. The work we do is mutually beneficial; each party gives and receives from the other. This mindset ensures that there is no pity involved in our experience; we help students develop empathy, not sympathy. In doing so, we develop perspective, appreciation, and mindfulness: of ourselves, our world, and our place in it. My name is Aaron Fischer; I am a 7th and 8th grade Language and Literature teacher at The Academy for Global Citizenship. In the following paragraphs, I will attempt to explain the impact of this experience on our families, students and the world.


The Families

I’ll begin with the families because they are the people who are so often overlooked in this experience. The brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, and of course mothers and fathers who travel on this journey with us. Who place their trust and faith in teachers to bring their children home safe and sound with a new perspective on the world and themselves. The parents exhibit some of the same IB learner profile traits that we expect their children to exhibit on this trip: risk-taker, communicator, open-minded, balanced, and reflective. While our students are developing who they are as individuals, their parents are too.

I marvel at the bravery of our students’ parents as they drop their child off at the airport and say goodbye. I am always so proud of them when the thorough communication that we provide helps them become more at ease as we settle in. As the trip moves into the final days, the anticipation of seeing their child causes parents to miss them in a way that they have never experienced before. The eventual family reunion, with renewed appreciation of each other and a modified perspective on their relationship, always leaves me speechless, reflecting on the unique and unexplainable impact on each family unit. It is a truly incredible, subtle transformation that produces a bond and appreciation between teacher, student, and family that is second to none.


The Students

It is obvious that the students are the main priority of our 8th grade service-learning trip but what is not so obvious is the impact that the experience has on their identity. This mystery is part of what makes this experience so dynamic and individualized. Our students are leaving their families, their friends, their communities, their habits and routines, and yes, their cell phones behind and basically taking a blind leap of faith. As adults, we have experiences to refer to in order to help us take abstract ideas and experiences and rationalize them into something we can understand. Young adults have a much more limited ability to conceptualize the unknown. They are excitable but often aren’t sure what they are excited about. It is the unknown that excites them and their willingness to jump in headfirst is an incredible gift that our service-learning trip allows them to take full advantage of.

I’ll never forget the first evening of our 2019 service-learning trip to Puerto Rico.  We were walking from our hotel to the restaurant we would be eating at all week. I walked this same route many times while working with my first group of students in 2017 and was thinking nothing of it until one of my students pointed and yelled, “They have pigeons in Puerto Rico!?” This moment, this tiny, seemingly silly moment, is an example of a connection made between the known and the unknown; an example of a child’s worldview broadening in the blink of an eye. These are the moments that litter our subconscious, and these are the moments I live for as I watch our students take in a new world and make it a part of theirs. The selective subtlety of memories, the individual impact of an experience, that is what our service-learning trip provides to our students in the most immersive way.

My mother and I often reminisce about the past, when I was little and she would take my brother and me to places big and small. Sometimes she asks me, “Do you even remember that? Did it even matter?” I always reply to her with the same response, “It’s in there somewhere.” That’s the beauty of finding yourself by losing yourself in service. It can’t be explained simply, in fact, most of it can’t be explained at all. It must be experienced and it can never be taken away, it will always be in there somewhere. 


Life and the World

Although the AGC 8th grade service-learning trip is geared toward the betterment of our students as individuals, we have an undeniable impact on life and the world. The impact of service, whether it is environmental, spiritual, or communal, has ripple effects that reverberate for days, weeks, and years after we leave the location in which we serve.

Environmentally speaking, we impact the earth and in turn the earth impacts us. We marvel at the intricacies of the earth’s design, resilient in the face of man-made obstacles and poisons. We stand in the forests of Puerto Rico, mud to our knees and spiders hovering around our head, and plunge our hands into the dense, moist soil to remove the invasive species and bring light to the native Mangroves that are so important to the well being of the island. Smiling, filthy and sweaty, we are proud to have the opportunity to connect with our earth on a different level, marveling at our ability to feel so small yet so powerful in the same moment.

When is comes to community, I will refer to a dictionary definition that says, “A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” Our students embark on this journey of service not only to develop themselves and impact the environment; they travel and serve to broaden their perspective on their individual significance in our global community. No matter where we are, we are an individual part of a greater whole and with travel and service comes an understanding that our community is not our neighborhood, our city, or even our country; it is our world and all the people, plants, and animals that inhabit it. We strive to give our students the opportunity to discover this fact in an organic way, whether they are standing in the middle of a rainforest, looking out over the Caribbean Sea, standing at the base of a volcano, or navigating bustling cities and markets, we prioritize connections to our world community.

Spirituality means many things to many people, and while we are engaged in service, we have an opportunity to step back and examine and evaluate our individual perspective on what it is to be human. I watch as our students take a moment, unprompted, to look around them and take stock of who they are, where they are, and where they’re headed. I see them develop a deeper more meaningful perspective on the power and potential that lives in them. This is an experience that provides our young people with the space and place to ask themselves, “Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?” These are some of the most significant questions given to us by life and there are few times where adults, let alone kids, are able to evaluate their answers with so little noise and so much inspiration.

In reality, the 8th grade service-learning trip cannot be explained, it can only be experienced. Each student, parent, and community member enters the experience as one version of themselves and exits as another. Moments as small as going to the grocery store, listening to the sound of the rain, and taking a deep breath are as significant as moments as large as climbing a volcano, swimming in the ocean, and being away from your family for the first time. The beauty of the experiences we create come from the simple fact that they are ours to share, remember, and build on. I am reminded of a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, “A mind that is stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions.”



Jones will lead the $60 million campaign to redefine the future of education


Contact: Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, Founder & Executive Director

Phone: (773) 744 – 8729

Email: sarahelizabeth@agcchicago.org

CHICAGO, IL – The Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) has announced that non-profit executive Ryan Jones has been tapped to serve as Chief Development Officer.

Jones will be responsible for all activities surrounding fundraising for AGC, including a $60 million campaign focused on building a 72,000 square foot state-of-the-art Global Learning Hub that will incubate best practices in education and serve as a center for positive social and environmental action on Chicago’s southwest side.

“AGC’s long-term vision for global scale drew me to this incredible organization, and it is an honor to play a role in ensuring this next exciting chapter becomes a reality. I am passionate about providing transformative educational experiences to young people, and the Learning Laboratory and Sustainability Hub represent an extraordinary opportunity to inspire students across Chicago and beyond.”

Prior to joining AGC, Jones was the Senior Director of Development for the Evans Scholars Foundation, where he oversaw a team of Major Gift fundraisers and national fundraising for one of the largest private collegiate scholarship funds in the country. Previously, he was responsible for raising major gifts at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, as well as the University of Maryland and Duke University Athletic Departments.

Jones earned his undergraduate degree at the University of South Carolina, and his Masters of Arts from the University of North Carolina, leading to a career focused on higher education and non-profit fundraising. He lives with his wife, Brooke, in Chicago, IL.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Ryan to AGC at such a critical moment in our organization’s history.  Under his leadership, we look forward to achieving our ambitious goals for fundraising to benefit children throughout Chicago and across the globe. Ryan’s proven delivery will be instrumental in achieving an unparalleled level of environmental sustainability through the Living Building Challenge, which would be the first project in the State of Illinois and one of only 24 worldwide to receive this comprehensive certification,” said Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, AGC’s Founder and Executive Director.


Chicago City Council Approves the Academy for Global Citizenship Campus Following Unanimous Chicago Plan Commission Approval

Chicago City Council Approves the Academy for Global Citizenship Campus Following Unanimous Chicago Plan Commission Approval

New Academy for Global Citizenship Campus Approved for Chicago’s Southwest Side

72,000 sq ft community learning, sustainability and wellness hub to spur economic development


Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, (773) 744 – 8729
Founder and Executive Director

CHICAGO, IL – Today, the Chicago City Council approved the development of a new Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) campus on the city’s southwest side following unanimous approval by the Chicago Plan Commission.

The new 72,000 square foot, two-story school building and community learning hub will anchor the corner of 44th Street and Laporte Avenue.  Once home to Leclaire Courts, the six-acre site was sold by the Chicago Housing Authority to AGC in 2018 to allow for the new campus development and community anchor.  Alderman Michael Rodriguez and Commissioner Maurice Cox joined fellow Committee on Zoning members in their support of the new campus.

“This visionary project will be a catalyst for additional development as part of the Gateway to Midway initiative. There were meetings and presentations to various community groups in the area about the project and an MOU signed by AGC with the Hearst Community Organization and Right to Return resident leadership that signifies AGC’s commitment to community partnership and accountability. This area of the southwest side has long suffered from systemic under investment and we are working to correct that.” said Alderman Rodriguez. “Our neighborhoods have been identified by the USDA’s Economic Research Service and the Chicago Health Atlas as being medically underserved, having limited access to grocery stores and higher food insecurity rates. I am proud to support the Academy for Global Citizenship in their work to correct these alarming disparities through their innovative approach to educating the whole child, family and community through wellness, nutrition and agricultural programming in addition to their commitment to being a collaborative partner in the community.”

AGC was granted a charter from Chicago Public Schools in 2008 and has been serving the community for 12 years.  AGC is an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) World School with a Dual Language program.  The school is public, tuition-free and open to all Chicago residents, without test-in requirements. AGC serves majority low-income students and families in Southwest Chicago, with a student body comprised of 96% minority and 24% special needs students. The current enrollment is 468 students ranging in age from kindergarten through 8th grade.  96% of current students reside within 5 miles of the new campus.

The new campus will incorporate a new Early Childhood Education Center and will allow for expanded agricultural education and ­­community wellness programs, including an on-site health center.  Beyond the school building, the new campus will also include the development of a learning barn, wind turbine, animal grazing area, hoop houses and Institute for visiting educational fellows and teaching training.  Over half the area of the new six-acre campus is reserved for urban agriculture, nature-based play-scapes, community gardens and walking trails. The entire site provides educational experiences with areas devoted to hands-on student and community learning, allowing students and neighbors to plant, harvest, and eat foods related to their units of study, their interests and their cultures.

In partnership with Urban Growers Collective, the campus will provide year-round garden education and community engagement opportunities via greenhouses, seasonal gardens, hoop houses, community gardens, walking trails, a neighborhood farmers market, a learning barn and environmental education center, a food forest, an orchard and berry bushes, brambles and grapevines. A variety of spaces will support culinary arts and positive nutrition, including a community teaching kitchen that will provide hands-on classes for families and neighboring residents. Produce grown above and beyond what is required for student meals will be sold at affordable prices to the community through AGC’s Community Farm Café.

“This project is a concrete example of what innovation looks like” said Commissioner Maurice Cox when voicing his support of the project, program, sustainability goals and innovative architecture.  AGC is on track to receive certification through the Living Building Challenge, a rigorous metric of environmental sustainability.  Only 24 other similarly certified projects currently exist in the world.

This project is funded by a $31 Million dollar grant as part of Rebuild Illinois, a grant fund administered through the State of Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.  The construction of this campus and community learning hub will create approximately 120 full-time-equivalent, predominantly union jobs during the construction phase, and in total, employing an estimated 1,000 individuals throughout the overall course of construction.  Upon completion, the campus is also projected to employ 100 permanent positions.

The development team is comprised of SMNG-A Architects, Farr Associates Architects, 180 Studio, Daley and Georges as Zoning Attorney, KLOA as Traffic Consultant, Stephen B. Friedman as New Market Tax Credit Advisor and URBAN ReSOLVE as Development Advisor. Phase one architectural designs were completed by Studio Gang Architects.


AGC Student Advocates for Environmental Justice

AGC Student Advocates for Environmental Justice

AGC’s core mission is to develop mindful leaders who take action to positively impact their communities and the world beyond. In order to help our students develop the skills and aptitudes of an open-minded critical thinker, AGC educates students in Inquiry into Action cycles. Our curriculum and school culture all contribute to cultivating the next generation of global, environmental and civic leaders. 

We believe in having critical dialogue with our students and we celebrate their commitment to being part of the positive change in our world. One of our 8th grade students, Leila Gutierrez , along with her family, are working with El Foro Del Pueblo in their Little Village neighborhood. Leila is an environmental activist who is working on fighting for environmental justice with groups like the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. 

Recently, Hilco Redevelopment Partners demolished their old coal plant’s chimney. This demolition left Little Village with dust and debris. Leila believes that “Environmental racism is the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color. Environmental justice is the movement’s response to environmental racism.” Leila is committed to working towards environmental justice. 

This propelled her to participate in two protests about Hilco’s contamination of her neighborhood. Leila believes it is important for people to fight against racism, and environmental racism is a part of the same fight when communities of color are contaminated, ignored and attacked. “I want to encourage everybody to do what you can to take a stand with communities that are being targeted with racism and racist environmental attacks.” 

We are proud of Leila and her activism and her commitment towards environmental Justice. 

Environmental Justice at Hilco
Leila Gutierrez with her grandfather Rafael Cervantes in front of the demolition site.



Mayor and Earth Day Founder Address Chicago Students During Virtual Celebration Marking the 50th Anniversary of the Global Landmark Event

Mayor and Earth Day Founder Address Chicago Students During Virtual Celebration Marking the 50th Anniversary of the Global Landmark Event


Contact: Andy Wilson, Chief External Affairs Officer

703-832-1570  |  awilson@agcchicago.org


WITH VIDEO: Mayor and Earth Day Founder Address Chicago Students During Virtual Celebration Marking the 50th Anniversary of the Global Landmark Event

April 22nd event brings together families, educators, and environmental leaders

CHICAGO, IL – On April 22nd, Denis Hayes, coordinator of the first Earth Day, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot participated in a virtual celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with students and staff of the Chicago-based Academy for Global Citizenship. Embracing the challenge of these difficult times, students, families, community partners, and staff conducted the celebration via remote connection hosted by the founder of the academy, Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, who discussed near-final plans to launch the academy’s new campus in Garfield Ridge.

“I am so thrilled that we are launching this new learning hub, which will do so much for communities in Southwest Chicago,” Mayor Lightfoot said during her welcoming address. “I am so proud of what AGC and its students have accomplished over the past twelve years establishing this important institution of learning … but I am even more moved by your vision for community learning and everything you’re poised to accomplish in the future.”

Earth Day Interview with Denis HayesDenis Hayes, founder of Earth Day, and Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, founder of Chicago-based Academy for Global Citizenship, discuss plans for the Chicago academy’s sustainable new campus.

To launch the new campus, the Academy for Global Citizenship received a capital commitment of $31 million from the State of Illinois last June. Located in Garfield Ridge, the facility will reimagine community learning, providing education, early learning, employment opportunities, health care and other services to communities in Southwest Chicago. As part of the Living Building Challenge, the academy will produce more energy than it uses, via solar panel arrays, and it will give back to the community more food than it consumes, via greenhouses, hoop houses and a learning barn.

Hayes was particularly complimentary of AGC’s commitment to student wellness and nutrition. “The environmental impact of what you eat…is enormously important and I know that your school has been very good about growing some of your food,” he said during the interview with Ippel. “That is dramatically underestimated by most people in terms of its impact on climate change.”

Hayes launched the first Earth Day gathering in 1970 as a way of raising awareness about ecological degradation, and in the interview with Ippel, he discussed how plans for the academy’s new campus will have a powerful impact on the environmental movement. The academy intends to become the first facility in the Midwest to meet the rigorous environmental standards of the Living Building Challenge.

“It is truly inspiring to learn from Denis as a lifelong advocate for a more sustainable future,” Ippel said. “Human wellness is so closely tied to a healthy environment, and we hope that our new campus will empower generations of students to invent solutions that balance human and planetary well-being.”

Members of AGC’s student Green Team collected lettuce they helped grow last spring on the Garfield Ridge campus of the Academy for Global Citizenship. Photo credit: Marney Coleman.


Video of full webinar: https://youtu.be/WUj5BnC8Rb0

Video of Mayor’s remarks: https://youtu.be/4LuvfEDEMqI

Video of Denis Hayes interview: https://youtu.be/Cy2LyaohPzk

Video of AGC students: https://youtu.be/k9CNV9WAc60