SparkHouse is a national community of young leaders from learner-centered environments who are committed to transforming education in the United States. Acting as powerful advocates and leaders in the learner-centered movement, these learners are a driving force in the national education conversation.
On November 3rd and 4th, 2016, Education Reimagined held its first SparkHouse convening. This was the organization’s first true step toward a future we’ve been striving for since the launch of our vision in 2015—“In this future, the education system is structured with the learner at its center.”
It only took one SparkHouse gathering to illuminate just how powerful learner voice can be in education and beyond. Over the course of two days, 42 learners from 13 states and 15 learning environments took the wheel and drove the learner-centered conversation to new heights. There wasn’t any questioning whether the movement should or shouldn’t happen—the question was, “How quickly can we get this to all learners?”
We discovered this sense of urgency once again during our second SparkHouse gathering in November 2017. In both instances, every learner immediately began exchanging contact information, discovering the unique strengths everyone brought to the table, and formulating ideas on how to introduce and expand the movement in their communities. They came to the event as leaders of their environments and left as leaders of a movement.
Their voices were so powerful that we could do little more than simply have you read about their ideas and excitement yourself.
What do you wish to see in this movement?
“First and foremost, instead of student, we should say learner. Learners can teach, learn, they can do anything. We can break away from the segments of teacher, student, and school, and just have a community of learners. Everyone’s focused on learning and helping each other learn.” —Michael, Manchester, NH
“I think it’s important for us to develop this common language we’re building on. We’re all calling the same thing different things which can be confusing to us and traditional schools. So if we stick together, they will do it, too.” —Hannah, Cedar Rapids, IA
“A lot of people claim they have the ‘right’ model. Replacing the system with another one won’t work and is dangerous. There needs to be infinite models. The key is variety and options.” —Alexander, Floyd, VA
“There are still systems at play in a learner-centered environment. The SAT is a barrier for me. I can publicly speak and create business plans, but then the ivy leagues say my skills are good but my SAT scores are too low. How do you take those barriers away? How do you restructure the system? There’s no correlation between the score on your SAT’s and your success in college.” —Naseem, Bronx, NY
“In a traditional environment, if you miss one day, you don’t get that day back. You’re on chapter 2.6, but missed 2.5, so you don’t understand 2.6, and then you realize you don’t even understand 1.9, so you can never move on. That needs to go away.” —Corinne, Grand Junction, CO
“I think it’s important for students to be self-directed. In a traditional environment, people are just listening to the teachers and following teachers. That’s not what real life is like. Out of school if that’s your expectation, you won’t know what to do.” —Gabby, Floyd, VA
What is the leadership you want to contribute to the movement?
“One of the things about believing in yourself and believing in others is taking the empowerment to move it forward. It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be scary. It’s taking the baby steps forward to not just find your own empowerment, but bring it out in others. They might not be able to see it, but you can bring it out. Bring the empowered person you’ve been these last few days back to where you’ve came from. We’re all learners. Anyone you see, anyone you meet, treat them like human beings and spread what you know.” —K.J., Atlanta, GA
What would you want to say to our readers about learner-centered education, learners in general, and/or your experience at SparkHouse?
“Attending SparkHouse allowed me to be surrounded by learners and educators united in a common goal: to revolutionize education. If learner-centered education was implemented worldwide, learners would become more excited to learn and would develop the skills necessary for their personal success.” —Lexi, Campbellsville, KY
“When teachers talk about learner-centered education people ask, ‘Where’s the evidence of this working?’ But, when students talk about learner-centered education, we are the evidence. SparkHouse solidified for me that students are ready for education to change, and this new community of learners is done waiting for others to change it for us.” —Anya, Atlanta, GA
“Students are special because they are the future—filled with the creativity to have new ideas, the optimism to challenge the status quo, and the drive to make the world a better place. SparkHouse reminded us of that, showing us that the real leaders of this movement are already doing their part to change their schools and communities.” —Kushal, Durham, NC
“Learner-centered education is an exciting initiative that truly helps make teaching and education about the most important part of it: the learner. SparkHouse allowed me to see learner-centered environments from across the country, and it made me excited for the possibilities that can come from this initiative. I can’t wait to see where education goes from here!” —Danielle (mentor), Pittsburgh, PA
Are you ready for SparkHouse?
SparkHouse has become a powerful community within the learner-centered movement that stretches well-beyond the two days we come together in person. Young learners (and their mentors) are able to take the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they collect at the gathering and apply them within the contexts of their local communities and beyond.
We’ve heard stories of learners presenting to their local Board of Education, state legislature, district administrators, and mentors. We’ve seen learners create their own national organization to engage even more youth in the learner-centered movement. We’ve watched as young learners command the stage in front of education audiences at major conferences and events across the country. And, we’ve witnessed learners declare they want to become educators themselves, so they can bring learner-centered experiences to the next generation..
All of these stories are just the tip of the iceberg of what’s possible when we engage youth in the conversation about the why, what, and how of transforming education so that every learner can explore, discover, and live into the futures they desire.
THIS ARTICLE WAS UPDATED APRIL 2018
Interested in learning more about SparkHouse? Send an email to share what excites you about SparkHouse, the role you in play transforming education in your community, and how you’d like to get involved.