Participatory School Design for a Participatory Democracy

The Design Team is creating Milestone to bring to life the central possibility we envision:

“Our school can be a place where learning is engaging, where everyone has a voice and all voices are heard, and where the most important step is the next one.”

Our Design Criteria help us set specific goals for Milestone as we design. Created by consensus of the Team, they state that our school should:

  • Provide relevant learning that will help us in life
  • Make students feel environmentally safe
  • Give students choice over what they learn and how they learn it (flexibility)
  • Focus on social, emotional, and academic success (accountability)
  • Be staffed by teachers who can empathize and relate to students
  • Be governed in a way that includes students, teachers, and staff
  • Be accessible and welcoming to all, regardless of income, race, ethnicity, gender expression, culture, or identity
  • Treat everyone as an individual
  • Organize time for better learning
  • Empower everyone to be authentic
  • Allow people to make meaning and grow towards mastery every day
  • Use real-life experiences and problems for hands-on learning
  • Create safe relationships to push students towards high expectations
  • Build agency for equity, inclusion, and justice
  • Help us navigate the world as it is, while also allowing us to create the better world we want

Based on this Possibility Statement and the Design Criteria that grew out of it, the Design Team published our first School Plan — like a constitution for our school, which guides the work of the Teacher Professional Practice and Governance Board — in December of 2018. In it, we described a school built around small-group, multi-age advisories, where each learner creates a Personal Learning Plan in close partnership with their Advisor, and uses seminar-style classes, independent and collaborative student-directed projects, and internships to reach their specific learning goals.

The design for Milestone is an on-going, iterative process — there are no perfect designs, and our school must grow and evolve along with us as learners, teachers, communities, and school designers. So we have continued to design, creating Possibility Statements, Criteria, and Plans for Food, Justice, Facilities, and Governance. Next up for design is our Calendar, Schedule, Learning Program… and more. We’ll publish new iterations of our School Plan from time to time as we get closer to opening in August of 2020!

Even after Milestone opens, design will continue! Every year, a new Design Team of students, family representatives, community stakeholders, and advisors will conduct a thorough and complete review of Milestone’s successes and challenges, and will publish a new iteration of the School Plan to guide Milestone into its next year.

Iterative, participatory school design… that’s how we’ll create a Democratic Education, and to Educate for Democracy