This fall, a new school is opening in Elgin, IL, and it will seek to differentiate itself by implementing a model that incorporates social consciousness and character development. This model is known as Expeditionary Learning (EL), and it was what attracted the new principal, Lezlie Fuhr, to take the new role.
The Daily Herald reported on Fuhr’s hiring and background as part of their coverage surrounding Elgin Math and Science Academy’s opening. The school has been approved to serve 200 students in kindergarten to 3rd grade beginning in August of this year.
Fuhr is a longtime educator, 22 years, who has worked in both the classroom and in administration. She’ll be moving her family almost 4 hours to Elgin in a display of commitment to the school’s mission.
Fuhr was attracted to Elgin not only because of the opportunity to a grow a school from the ground up. She said she, “[R]ead the (EMSA) charter proposal and was so inspired by what they were trying to accomplish and wanted to be a part of that.”
She was particularly attracted to the EL model that sits at the core of the school’s plan. The model creates space in the school day to focus on topics like social consciousness and character development. In her eyes, “It really makes learning meaningful.”
Fuhr added that: “I really want math and science to come to life in this school. We want (students) to be those problem-solvers, critical thinkers.” EL is an attractive option for those seeking opportunities in which students can apply their academic learning to the service of others. Educators are getting on board, as are parents.
Eighty families have already registered for the school’s entrance lottery, which will be held in April. The goal is to have 300 families, representing 500 students, registered by that time. In the meantime, Fuhr will continue to build out her leadership team so that she’ll be poised at the doors of an innovative and culture-focused school in August.
Researchers, too, are drawn to schools like this one, because they can afford ” insights into the impact of school organizational culture on opportunities for moral and civic formation of youth.” These kinds of schools “offer an environment of strong aims and school community, countercultural norms and values, and rituals and practices that offer a unique context for moral and civic socialization of youth” writes Notre Dame sociologist David Sikkink in The Content of Their Character, an upcoming book from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.
One of the defining marks of an EL school is service and compassion. Their motto, “We are crew, not passengers,” is embodied in “acts of consequential service to others.”
For the Elgin families applying for a spot at the Math and Science Academy, this unique culture of service and compassion will certainly be appealing.
Families may also be motivated by the academic results. Ida Jew Academies in San José, California—a public charter school that serves a similar demographic of students—saw dramatic improvements in reading proficiency among English Language Learners (+26%) and students eligible for free or reduced-price meals (+21%). In EL Schools, service to others catalyzes learning. Educators look for more information on EL Schools can find case studies and research on their website.