Students prepare for final presentations at Wharton

Please join us the week of June 7-10 for the Fourth Quarter Exhibitions. As the fourth term of the school year comes to a close our students will present their work and projects to their peers, parents, guardians, and community members. We hope you will be part of this important part of the Workshop School’s educational process. Students share what they’ve learned and where they have struggled. They get feedback from classmates and set goals for the upcoming year. It’s a powerful experience for students and audience members alike.

Having an authentic audience for exhibitions is an essential part of the presenting experience for students. We would truly appreciate your support and attendance. For more information, or to let us know you will be coming contact Matt Riggan at

Below: On Wednesday, the sophomores practiced for their year-end presentation. At the Workshop School, the sophomores’ final presentation is called “Gateway”, and is one of the pieces needed to prove their readiness to take college classes in their junior year. To practice for their Gateways, the students presented at Wharton School of Business, which houses world-class presentation spaces.




Beginning with Trust

The Workshop School has a very different vibe than most Philadelphia Public Schools. As a graduate student this year, I have had the opportunity to visit many schools in the area–public, charter, and private. The only school that I have visited this year that can be likened to the atmosphere at the Workshop School is a wealthy, private, suburban school, rooted in the Quaker tradition.

Why? Certainly, it’s not that the Workshop School and this private school have the same funding, unlimited resources, or pristine facilities. (Donations welcome here!) In my opinion, the similar vibe is due to both schools’ fundamental belief that all children should be trusted and given the opportunity to grow, learn, and explore as inquisitive human beings.

The Workshop School doesn’t have a metal detector, and students are allowed to move about the school in ways that aren’t militarized or scripted. Students are allowed to use tools and borrow supplies that will support their learning. Students are given real choices and taught how to manage their time on their own. In an educational era that is driven by data, testing, and behaviorist school rules, the Workshop School believes that all children should be trusted, valued, and taught how to think for themselves. We haven’t figured it all out yet, but beginning with trust seems like a great place to start.

Below: Juniors work outside to prep a car for a new coat of paint. Far below: Freshmen use the workshop to create props for the school play on June 3rd.



10th Grade designing their own water filters

The 10th grade has spent the last few weeks studying water filtration and the devastating water crisis in Flint, Michigan. After researching both the political and environmental problems in Flint, try students investigated how water becomes contaminated. Now, students are designing their own water filters out of recycled materials, and thinking about how to prevent more crises in the future. IMG_2920

Above: Mr. Hauger teaches students how metal corrodes in water.
Below: Sophomores travel to the Philadelphia Water Works Museum to learn about Philly’s water filtration.


Ms. Matthews’ advisory envisions, creates, and runs health fair for Workshop students, staff

Ms. Matthews’ advisory studied the body and nutrition during the third term. As a culminating project, the advisory created a health fair for the entire school. Students were responsible for designing and running their own health stations. The sophomores ran tables that taught visitors about healthy recipes, exercise techniques, nutrition labels, and mindful living. Ms. Miki Palchick from the Urban Nutrition Initiative worked with Ms. Matthews’ class throughout the spring as they completed this project.

Below: Students made fresh-fruit smoothies and spiced-popcorn, among a variety of stations that taught students about nutrition and health.



Student leadership: Allowing students to have real agency

Many schools claim to give students leadership opportunities, but in many ways, these opportunities are just façades. Teachers say students are leading, but in reality, the adults are doing a lot of work behind the scenes. At the Workshop School, teachers make sure that the “behind the scenes” work is student-led as well because if we want students to really learn, they must be involved in every step of the process, not just the end product. On Friday, April 1st, Advisory 215 hosted Open Mic Night–a showcase of poetry, dancing, and music open to the entire community. Students were responsible for every aspect of the night. From building a stage and a podium to soliciting donations for food and decorations and from auditioning students in the weeks leading up to the night to MC’ing the performances on the actual night, students were in control.

Of course, teachers and administrators were present to provide support and guidance, but final decisions, details, and deliberations were in the hands of the students. What happens when educators are guides on the side instead of sages on the stage? Not only do students learn more, but also, they are given chances to problem solve in authentic spaces for real audiences. IMG_2850
Above: Over 150 community members attended the First Annual Workshop School Open Mic Night.

What brings us together? Stories, food, and stories about food

On Thursday, March 10th, Urban Nutrition‘s Miki Palchick spoke to the Workshop School Home School Alliance about the importance of eating and cooking well. Miki shared easy, nutritious recipes with the HSA, and conducted a cooking demonstration with students. Additionally, Miki talked about how we are all connected through food. Students and guardians shared stories about their culture and heritage by recalling memories about their grandparents’ and relatives’ favorite dishes. As we enjoyed spicy chickpeas and vegetable couscous, the HSA told stories about their families’ cultural traditions from places such as the American South, Puerto Rico, and Northern Africa. At the end of the demonstration, Miki gave the group spices and recipes to take home to share with their families. IMG_0744


Dream It, Design It, Do It

This winter Ms. Rowe’s advisory discussed the need for a peer mediation program at the Workshop School. Students desired to resolve conflicts on their own, and believed a program like this could help students who were struggling to get along with their peers. The school has never had a peer mediation program, and appeared to not have the physical space needed to hold confidential mediations between students. However, Ms. Rowe’s students realized their large classroom could house a small mediation room, so they designed a room that would fit inside of their own advisory. While some of Ms. Rowe’s students have been constructing the room this past month, other students are being trained twice per week to be peer mediators. The program will be run entirely by students, and will be fully functioning this spring.20160225_093254


The last 5 days at the Workshop School? Limitless Possibilities are a Reality

What has happened in the last 5 days at the Workshop School?

-9th graders attended the smash-hit Hamilton . (2/24)
-11th graders professionally painted a car using the latest technology. (2/25)
-Teachers engaged in thoughtful conversations about how to be a caring, consistent advisor. (2/26)
-9th graders designed, implemented, and led a tour of Philadelphia’s Underground Railroad. (2/27)
-10th graders continued to construct their own peer-mediation room while being trained on how to be peer mediators. (2/29)
-Students across the school engaged in challenging projects such as creating oral histories, investigating nutrition and diet, and planning their own school-wide open-mic night. (3/1)

When students and teachers are trusted to be leaders in their own academic explorations, the possibilities are endless. IMG_3309

First City-Wide Abilities Panel Hosted at Workshop School

On Tuesday, February 16, 2016 Megan Hayden and Adin Michelen organized the first School District of Philadelphia Abilities Panel. Ms. Meg and Mr. Adin invited SDP graduates and students to discuss their learning (dis)abilities. Parents, teachers, and students engaged in dialogue about the consequences of being labeled “learning disabled”, and how we as a community can come together to support all types of learners, no matter their learning style. The Workshop School was proud to host this city-wide event, and looks forward to organizing more in the future. Congratulations Ms. Hayden and Mr. Michelen!



Sit down to take your geometry test!

Across the city, students may be told to sit down to take their latest math exam, but at the Workshop School, students have demonstrated their geometric acumen by constructing chairs. Students in Mr. Lauterbach’s math class designed and built chairs after studying geometric principles regarding angles and shapes. Instead of proving a theorem with pencil and paper, Workshop Students’ skills were applied first in TinkerCad, an online design tool, and then in the shop. Below, you can see as few of the students’ amazing products. Pottery Barn: Watch out!