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Project Learn School Newsletter May 2014

Spring Newsletter
May 2014

PLS alumni students and parents shared at Town Meeting on
April 16, 2014 about their experiences at PLS and how they
continue to carry that experience with them today. A consistent
theme throughout their stories was how PLS taught them the
skills to advocate for themselves, listen well, collarborate and
Zack McLaughlin-Alcock shared that PLS taught him to expect
to fail the first time he tries something new, and to approach
failure as an important teaching moment. He said that at PLS,
students learn to judge when theyve mastered the skill they are
learning. This is the learning how to learn that we often hear
as one of the hallmarks of the Project Learn experience, and
something that influenced his choice of careers; he teaches
developmental algebra at Community College of Philadelphia.
Emma Ditnes finds that she knows how to provide leadership for
group projects. PLS gave her the skills to hear others opinions,
value their contributions and facilitate a collaborative work
process. Emma is an acting major at Arcadia University.
Colette McDermott was one of several who shared stories about
asking teachers for help and taking charge of their own educa-
tions after leaving PLS. Colette, who is now a Recovery Coach at
RHD, Lower Merion Counseling Services, said that she would
Fostering Emotional Intelligence
This issue of the Project Learn School newsletter focuses
on the ways PLS supports its entire learning community
in developing emotional intelligence attributes such
as resilience, self-advocacy, collaboration, and the tools
to shape and claim ones own educational experience.
Some of these skills have received media coverage
recently you may have heard about the book Grit by
Angela Lee Duckworth and the subsequent push to
teach students to have perseverance and passion for
long-term goals. Ideas like project-based and inquiry-
based learning that provide opportunities for
collaboration, creativity and learning how to learn are
approach teachers as partners in learning, and that her
teachers always responded positively. She attributed her
confidence and optimism about learning to her
experience at PLS that teachers expected and encour-
aged self-advocacy from students. Having positive
results at PLS helped her continue this self-advocacy
during high school, college and in the work place.
Alumni share about life after Project Learn

Alumni Zack King and Colette McDermott.

Students at Project Learn School form relationships with all the teachers
in the school, not just the one for their group. Here, Lisa works with
Cora, Kanyla and Christopher on a map of Ireland during Theme Week.

Continued on page 3

Continued on page 4

Project Learn School Newsletter May 2014


Project Learn School is an indepen-
dent cooperative school for students
in grades K-8. Situated in the historic
Philadelphia neighborhood of Mt.
Airy, PLS maximizes the many
resources available in a dynamic
urban setting.
At Project Learn School, teachers,
students and parents work
together to create a progressive
and humanistic community that
promotes mutual respect, involve-
ment and curiosity.
The Project Learn School News-
letter is an occasional newsletter
published for alumni and friends of
Project Learn School. To submit
alumni news, please include an
update on the enclosed form or
write to us at
6525 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19119
Lucy Miller Retires
Lucy Miller will retire from Project
Learn School at the end of the 2013-
2014 school year.
Lucy began at Project Learn School
teaching art in 1972 despite the fact
there was no money to pay her. She
read about the school which was then
one and half years old, and she knew
that PL was her place.
Lucy built an art lab in the garage of
the property we were renting and
though it was a tad cold in there, she
guided children to make wonderful
clay sculptures, paintings, and
amazing forms out of scrap wood.
Not long after her arrival, Lucy
became interested in teaching a
group and became the middle group
teacher. To many different teaching
assignments she brought her deep
caring for each child and her under-
standing that each child learns in
their own way. In the early 1980s,
Lucy received her MEd in education
from Temple University.
Lucy left PLS to pursue other
interests in the late 80s and early 90s.
Among them, Lucy assumed the
leadership of Physicians for Social
Responsibility in Philadelphia. When
her son Graham was ready for
kindergarten, there was nowhere else
she wanted him to be. Lucy returned
to PLS at that time to teach the lower
middle group and then to become
increasingly a core part of the office
staff. Her intense loyalty and clear
understanding of co-operative,
progressive education provided an
anchor for the staff.
Over the years, Lucy has done almost
every job there is at Project Learn. She
has also cared for the school as an
elder in the community, holding and
sharing the history, memories, and
core values of Project Learn School.
She plans to stay involved with PLS by
tutoring students on an independent
basis and continuing to care for the
front garden beds. We also hope to
continue to pick her brain from time
to time about her deep knowledge
and passion for the school.
We will more than miss you, dear
Founding Teacher Donna Allender
asked some alumni to reflect on Group,
and received the following from Colleen
The idea that our group meetings
were designed to integrate the rest
of what we were learning resonates
strongly with me. These meetings
were a way to work the subjects we
were learning into our social and
emotional experience in a way that
led to mastery.
Later, in college classes, I would be
tasked to not only be familiar with
the subject of the class, but to have a
sense of mastery over it as well to
have a perspective on those facts.
This concept always came naturally
to me although the pace at which we
were asked to come to this point in
college was much faster of course. In
PL, and specifically in
group, I never got the
sense that we were being
pushed to have this
Continued on page 3

The eighth graders visited Guayabo National
Monument, a 3,000-year-old indigenous
ruin site, during their trip to Costa Rica.
experience but it occurred naturally and
gradually, as we relaxed into the subject
matter and joined it with our daily
Project Learn School Newsletter May 2014


Several parents addressed the transition to high school.
Many teachers, they said, enjoy having PLS alumni in
their classes because of PLSs propensity for graduating
bright, curious and engaged students. Another parent
said that her childs classmates seemed burned out by
the time they got to high school, and that by contrast,
PLS keeps students excited about learning.
Other panel participants were Zack King, Julianna
Buchanan, Annie Fox, Julie King, Christine Miller and Molly
McLaughlin. Thank you for sharing your insights!
of a teacher on standby. We celebrate
birthdays, share appreciations, make
announcements, conduct major
school-wide discussions, and make
consensual decisions. Students are
encouraged and guided to think
empathetically, carefully consider the
perspective of others, and be willing to
make compromises. They learn to
think of the greater good and find
ways to participate in caring for all
members of our community. Teachers
see this ability blossom over the years
as students practice these skills.
PLS students learn how to listen
compassionately, include everyones
opinion and speak up in a large group
all of which are skills that contribute
to our students abilty to learn, lead
and self-advocate well beyond their
years at PLS.
by Aubrey Garwood
Project Learn holds a bi-monthly
meeting called FTGOTS (For The Good
Of The School). During this student-led
meeting, we celebrate each other and
make decisions for the school using a
consensus process. How do 60 students,
together with the staff, come to
consensus on decisions for the whole
school? FTGOTS works because we
develop the skills of compassion,
cooperation, and active participation
throughout the year.
We begin the FTGOTS process with a
planning meeting where represent-
atives from each group set the
meeting agenda together. This small
group stretches their perspective to
include not only what their group
wants to share, but also to determine
if theres anything thats been buzz-
ing around the building that should
be addressed. The representatives
plan the upcoming meeting carefully
to help ensure that the full
communitys needs are met and that
each person in the community knows
they are valued and celebrated.
At the meeting itself, a pair of Junior
High students facilitate the entire
schools participation, with the help
FTGOTS Develops Compassion, Listening and Participation

Aubrey with Sergey

In my last year of PL, I expressed my dissent within
my group and took them and sometimes the entire
school to task on issues that I felt strongly about. I
learned so much about courage and consequence
from these experiences that I can't imagine having
learned in any other setting.
Being a member of small group community provided
me safety in both learning and expression.

Project Learn School gathers as a community of learners. Pictured in the
foreground are Gyasi (front left), Okezika (center), Shayla (with headband)
and Tani (lower right).

Alumni Share; Continued from page 1

Quinn; Continued from page 2

Project Learn School Newsletter May 2014


also gaining traction in some educa-
tional circles. Researchers are develop-
ing and refining tests that measure
creativity and now that, too, is a
measurable goal.
These are skills that PLS inherently
fosters through its emphasis on collab-
oration, consensus, student-defined
learning goals, student choice, and
Partnerships: PLS
Shares Its Experiences
PLS teacher Liam Gallagher shared
about partnering Jerry Allender, one of
PLSs founding families and educa-
tional researcher, to conduct a self-
study about student motivation during
Project Hour at PLS. Project Learn
parent and Temple University prof-
essor Avi Kaplan led the symposium at
the American Educational Research
Associations annual conference in
Philadelphia this April.
Participating in research provides
another structure for assessment and
improvement both for the teachers
involved and for our school. It also
engages PLS with the wider world of
educational research, reinforcing the
school as a continually learning

Older students help the younger ones
develop listening, compassion and
cooperation, and in doing so, reach a
greater level of mastery themselves. Above:
Ajai & Aidan get dressed in Spanish class.
Top left: Maayani with Forrest & Alma in
the Community Room. Bottom left: Paige &
Naysa build gingerbread houses. Below: Ian
& Danny create a marble roller coaster.

Emotional Intelligence;
Continued from page 1

non-competitive assessment.
There is something special about
PLS that goes even deeper than
that, however. The caring relation-
ships between teachers and
students, and the care students
give one another, make PLS so
much more. And researchers are
beginning to study that, too.
Neuroscience is exploring the
effect of caring, rapport, relation-
ships, love and unconditional
acceptance on a persons ability to
learn academic material. Training
teachers how to be good coaches
and facilitate collaboration isnt
enough, these studies are saying. A
teachers inherent qualities and
ability to connect with the students
make the difference.
We hope you enjoy the stories in
this issue about how PLS students,
teachers and alumni benefit from
the emotional intelligence fostered
by Project Learn. Perhaps youll
remember some experiences of
your own. If so, reach out and
reconnect with some of those
people whose relationships helped
you develop your curiosity, comp-
assion or love of learning. Email us at
org if youve lost touch with some-
one youd like to thank, or just
catch up with, and we will do our
best to reconnect you.
If your curiosity about recent
educational research is piqued,
check out this article:, which
provides links to many of the
concepts and studies mentioned
Project Learn School Newsletter May 2014


Thank you for helping us to make
Project Learn School accessible to
as many students as possible. We
appreciate each donation we
Unfortunately, we do not have a
comprehensive list of donors. The
reason, however, is that we are
fortunate enough to have a broad
base of supporters raising funds for
the school in a wide variety of ways.
If your name does not appear
below and you gave, please know
that we value your gift, too.
Thank you also to the scores and
scores of people who donate time,
talents and love to Project Learn.
We are grateful that you choose to
engage in this work with us!
Gifts were given in honor of:
Liz Ben-Yaacov
The Faculty of Project Learn
Emily Hales Sills and
Christopher Hale Sills
Niko Shapiro
Morris Waxman
Gifts were given in memory of:
Chris Eady
Anne Upton Miller
Liz Schlesinger
Institutional Donors:
Pennsylvania Department of
Environmental Protection
MB Commercial Photographers
W. Michael Tuman, D.M.D.
Valley Green Bank
Melissa Klein & Neysa Nevins
Morris & Susan Klein
Jim Kolea
Rita Lawless
John Lobron & Sarah Rabin
Paul Shane & Ana Marjanovic-Shane
Barbara McDermott
Tommie Ann McNeil & Jamal Johnson
Lucy Miller
Trish & Art Miron
Jane Moore
Jane Nuble
Daniel Orlock
Lisa Pack & Robert Allender
Bruce & Linda Pollack-Johnson
Laurance Rosenzweig
Carol & Jeffrey Roth
Anaiis Salles
Beth Samuelson
Michael Schlesinger
Mary Schobert & Daniel Miller
Karen Scholnick
Hideko Secrest
Finley Shapiro & Susan Stein
Niko & Sergey Shapiro
Jordan Shapiro
Betsy Solomon
Josephine Spann
Pat & Becky Stone
Francine Strauss & Shraga Berenfeld
Steve & Luci Stroiman
Shani Taylor
Bob & Donna Waxler
Heather Zimmerman
Individual Donors:
Pat Urevick & Irv Ackelsberg
Bud Alcock & Molly McLaughlin
LaCresha Allen
Rachel Allender & Eric Moore
Donna & Jerome Allender
Tanyikia Alston
Joretta Alston
Akudo & Chuck Anyanwu
Peter Appelbaum
Nancy & Bill Bailey
Ruth Beury
Kevin Birley
Afia & Craig Bogan-El
David Bromley
Joan & James Bromley
Shawnee Brown & Dennis Johnson
Buck Buchanan & Elizabeth Shaak
Madeline Cantor
Cindy & Richard Coppola
Huntly Collins & Esther Miller
George & Mieko Deaux
Ninetta Dickerson
Michael Doddy
Judy Eady
Michael Felton, Sr.
John & Catherine Fisher
Francine & Walter Fox
Zia Gajary & Bob Gold
Janet & Tom Gala
Chris & Kate Garrity
Maggie Garrity
Aurora Gold
Tresa Grauer & Avi Kaplan
Amanda & Tim Green-Hull
Daniel Halevy & Susan Stewart
Martha Hansen Fertman
Elmeka Henderson
John Holbrook & Lisa Kelly
Robin & David Ingram
Rhonda & David Kutzik
Marjorie Janoski
Carmen Johnson & Nick Mulcahy
Carrie & Kathleen Karhnak-Glasby
Thank you to our donors!

Orion with his gingerbread creation.

Project Learn School Newsletter May 2014


We want to hear from you!
Share with us about what you and yours
are up to! Include an update on the
enclosed form or write to us at We
will include it in the next issue of the PLS
newsletter. Heres what we heard in
response to the last mailing:
Robin and David Ingram write that Dan
Ingram is the program director at Camp
Dark Waters in Medford, NJ. The middle
schoolers got to see him in action when
they went to Camp Dark Waters this fall
for ropes course and team building. Luke
Ingram is a graduate student at the
University of Iowa, in the first year of a
three year MFA in Theatrical Lighting and
Scenic Design. Robin Ingram is in her
tenth year as Head of the Middle Division
for Horace Mann School in Bronx, NY.
Molly McLaughlin and Bud Alcock write
that Colin McLaughlin-Alcock is enrolled
in a PhD program for anthropology at
University of California, Irvine, specializing
in media and the Middle East. Zack
McLaughlin-Alcock is teaching algebra at
Community College of Philadelphia. Zoe
Bassett is a freshman at University High
School in Irvine, California.
Kate Janoski, class of 1996, and Alex
Varghese were married on August 24,
2012. They met on SEPTAs Chestnut Hill
West line.
I send my children to
Project Learn because,
at Project Learn, the
teachers really listen to
children and KNOW
children as complete
human beings.
Avi Kaplan, Associate Professor
of Educational Psychology,
Temple University; parent of
Project Learn 7th and 8th
Project Learn Staff. Front row: Roni Anton, Rebecca Zeldin. Middle row: Donna
Waxler, Dorian Dean, Aisha Anderson-Oberman, Lisa Pack, Joan Fox. Back row:
Aubrey Garwood, Sean Leber, Liam Gallagher, Jane Laties.

Concerts in Support of
Project Learn School
This year, two musicians held benefit
concerts at the Folk Factory for Project
Learn School.
This winter, Liam Gallagher shared his
talents as a singer song-writer in support
of the eighth graders spring trip to Costa
In May, Tom Gala, parent of Sophie and
Danny, wove stories for the audience with
his songs, drawing on his decades-long
experience in the folk scene. Tom
donated the concert proceeds to the
PLS parent Bruce Pollack-Johnson
produced both concerts.
The two concerts raised about $1600
total. We are fortunate to have such
talent among our community, and are
grateful for their using those talents to
support Project Learn.
Tom Gala, second from right,
shown here helping with Irish
music and dance for Theme Week.
Qiu Yang, PLS alumni, shares a lesson
about the Chinese language with Lisas