Exploring Our Progressive Purpose

It’s been an exciting start of the year for students, faculty and families at LREI. I’m privileged in my new role as Director of Learning & Innovation to be able to discover each day more about the rich learning experiences that weave their way through and between our lower, middle and high school and afterschool programs. I also feel honored to be able engage with faculty, students and families as we co-create the responsibilities of this new position.

In the spirit of this ongoing work, we hosted a group of visitors today from progressive schools from around the country who are in town for the biannual conference of the Progressive Education Network (PEN). Our guests spent the morning visiting classes in all three divisions and engaging in conversation with faculty and students. In the afternoon, they participated in a series of learning experiences with and facilitated by our students.

In the lower school, our visitors joined the first graders as they continued their safety study of the neighborhood and sign making activities.This work was connected to their ongoing explorations of the neighborhood and related work in the block area.
A group of ninth graders led our visitors in small groups through an an interactive tour of their lower and middle school experiences at LREI. Students took visitors to places around the building that were meaningful to them as learners and to places that answered questions that our visitors had about the LREI experience. In both cases, these explorations were aimed at exploring the question, “How does LREI realize its progressive mission?”

A group of twelfth graders then provided an overview of the Senior Project experience and led our guests in a design thinking inspired activity that our seniors did a few weeks ago to kick off their Senior Project journeys. The activity allowed our visitors to reflect on their day at LREI and to connect these insights to an action plan that they could take back with them to their respective schools.


Like our visitors, I was deeply impressed by our faculty and students today. it was all the more remarkable when one realizes how much this day really was “just another day” at LREI. Tonight, tomorrow and Saturday, LREI faculty will join our visitors and close to a thousand other colleagues in workshops, panel discussions and important networking opportunities as part of the PEN conference. A number of these workshops will be led by LREI faculty:

  • Advocacy through Documentary: A Filmmaking Workshop – Vinay Chowdry, Media Arts Teacher
  • Music Composition as Experience: Performance and Pedagogy – Matthew McLean, Middle & High School Music Teacher
  • NYC Math Trail: A Walking Tour – Michelle Boehm and Margaret Andrews, Middle School Mathematics Teachers
  • City of the Future: Saving NYC in a Third Grade Classroom – Elaine Chu, 3rd Grade Teacher
  • From Colorblindness to Cultural Humility: Leadership in 21st Century Schools – Sara-Momii Roberts, Middle School Humanities Teacher
  • Creating Young Feminist & Queer Global Partnerships and Activism in High School – Ileana Jiménez, High School English Teacher

(You can read the full descriptions of their workshops here.)

In anticipation of the PEN conference, a focus on our progressive practice served as the frame for our full faculty opening of the year retreat. The day was facilitated by Maureen Cheever from the National Institute of PEN and teachers Diane Kidder, Matt McLean and Manjula Nair who have all served as follows in the Institute. The day was filled with active learning as faculty and staff met in groups to first discuss our summer reading books:

They then participated in an interactive history of progressive education (click here to read the script from the presentation), explored benchmark principles of progressive pedagogy and related best practices, and worked in small groups to define Call to Action projects on which we’ll continue to work over the course of the year. Staff members joined in the morning activities and then participated in a series of professional development activities that were facilitated by Cari Kosins, L.J. Mitchell and Mary Young.


click here to view all images from the retreat

The retreat was an excellent way to start the year as it not only oriented us to this week’s PEN conference, but laid the ground for the mission driven work that will define the 2015-2016 school year.