Painting a picture of Agile Learning Centers

[Tomis Parker gets co-writing credit for this as he made the inital draft for something that we were working on. But after re-arranging some things and editing, I felt like it was worth posting here too.]

At the core of the Agile Learning Centers project is a paradigm shift from a consumptive education to a proactive one – a co-creative educational model that puts students in the driver’s seat of the process. Mainstream school is designed to train children for a world that no longer exists. The most effective way to prepare young people to operate powerfully in the world is to allow them to engage directly with real challenges, and to support them in creating their own lives, not simply following a path put before them.

Agile Learning Centers has been doing this work and has established a rapidly growing network of micro-schools of no more than 50 students. We’ve written about our educational model here: and we’ve shared the value of our experience to support others in starting their own ALC through our StarterKit

For an educational environment to resemble the kind of careers most children will have, we must dismantle assembly line schooling practices and the artificial separation of learning and doing. Agile Learning Centers already operate like this with the kids inventing, prioritizing, and leading their own activities, using agile tools for self-organization.

The next step we’d like our older kids program to be in the same building as a social enterprise incubator (, and a co-working space ( This provides an easy, practical, natural transition into the kind entrepreneurial activities that most kids will be moving toward in our evolving economy. Also the entrepreneurs, freelancers, and innovators could share their passions with our students in workshops, classes, talks, boot camps. Students can apprentice with startups, artists/designers, and nonprofits working in the same building.

Each day, our students set intentions for their time, self-organize their projects, use agile tools for making their work visible, collaborate with their peers, and reflect on their personal progress. Facilitators (not Teachers) focus on fostering a healthy culture and nourishing trusted relationships with students. They also act as coaches, reflect back what they see, provide feedback, offer support, but not as authority figures but trusted partners.

Rather than fantasizing about their future, our students are actively creating it. They’ve built a music studio and written, recorded, produced, mastered their own albums. Written video games and built the hardware and massive cabinets for their 8-player vision. They launched their game launched at NYC PlayTest in Microsoft’s fancy new Time Square office (along with NYC game development companies). Their games were featured at NYC Maker Faire. We empower them to start living their dreams now.

For some, attending college has become an expensive delay to embarking on their career paths. And for others, it is the necessary and appropriate path they choose. Agile Learning Centers don’t assume that school is just for getting into college. We break down barriers between schooling and living, supporting students in taking responsibility for their lives, connecting them to real-world opportunities, and providing an educational environment that is exciting, empowering, and relevant.

Our ALC educational model is has four fundamental roots:

  1. Learning: Learning is natural. It’s happening all the time.
  2. Self-Direction: People learn best by making their own decisions. Children are people.
  3. Experience: People learn more from their culture and environment than from the content they are taught. The medium is the message.
  4. Fulfillment: Accomplishment is achieved through cycles of intention, creation, reflection and sharing.

Not only do our students drive their individual learning process, they also directly participate in creating and holding their community’s culture. We have a weekly meeting we call “Change-Up” where we address things that are working or not working, create solutions, implement and practice them, and then continually iterate them to meet our needs as a community. You can read more about the Change-Up meeting and the Community Mastery Board we use.