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A SCHOOL OF OUR OWN by Samuel Levin


The Story of the First Student-Run High School and a New Vision for American Education

by Samuel Levin & Susan Engel

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-62097-152-9
Publisher: The New Press

The story behind one young man’s alternative school within a school.

By the time Levin reached his junior year, like many kids his age, he had resigned himself to having a couple of great classes, a few he hated, and the rest that were boring. He had interests outside of school that helped him get through his days, but what made him angry was how those with nothing beyond the regimented school day were missing out on life. They weren’t being stimulated in school and had no projects or part-time jobs to engage them. So Levin took matters into his own hands and started his own school. With the support of his mother, Engel (Developmental Psychology/Williams Coll.; The Hungry Mind: The Origins of Curiosity in Childhood, 2015, etc.), and other adults in his high school—and after months of planning—Levin created the Independent Project, a student-run school. The school focused on the students’ interests and passions rather than required curriculum. Though the plan incorporated some traditional subjects, Levin and his team switched things up by aligning science with the humanities and English with math. In alternating voices, Levin and Engel tell the story of how the IP evolved, giving readers an inside look at the entire journey, including the first irritated moments that sparked the original idea, getting approval from the school board, recruiting students, and initiating a trial semester. The authors address their triumphs, setbacks, fears, and concerns, analyzing the step-by-step process so that others may follow and create their own independently run schools. For those who have investigated home schooling, Levin’s methods are reminiscent of unschooling, the process by which learning occurs on a more personal, interest-driven level, without the need to use conventional grading systems. The authors clearly show that learning can be an invigorating, exciting experience for almost everyone—if approached in the right manner.

The concise and passionate story of how a teenager formed his own school that is “intellectually demanding of all its students, no matter what their academic history.”