EXPLO 2020 Letter

December 2019

Hello EXPLO Family,

After more than two years of intense planning, I am thrilled to share with you where EXPLO is headed, both for its summer programs and more broadly. By now you know that we are moving our Wellesley program to New York, where our new home will be the beautiful Sarah Lawrence College campus nestled in the gorgeous village of Bronxville, 15 miles north of Manhattan. Our Yale program is leaving New Haven for the city with the most diversified economy in the U.S. — Chicago — and our home will be the award-winning Mies Van der Rohe campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology. Our program for younger students will remain on the charming Wheaton College campus outside of Boston. At the staff level and at the board level (EXPLO is a not-for-profit), we’ve been thinking about EXPLO’s future and how we can best serve our students while making the biggest impact. We’ve dug into the research on what skills students will need to thrive in the future and how best to help students develop those skills. The result is that we’ve really been ramping up creative, high-quality project-based learning; professional development for our faculty; and a concerted hunt for ideas to bring a continuous source of innovation to our programs. Almost two years ago I met with senior leaders at Sarah Lawrence and was struck by our philosophical similarities: an emphasis on close student- faculty work, interdisciplinary exploration, critical thinking, and intellectual flexibility. This is a model of education that serves students well for today and tomorrow. After meeting with several Sarah Lawrence faculty, I was not surprised that the Princeton Review recently ranked their professors #1 in the U.S. for the third time. The College just completed a successful capital campaign and this fall opened both the extraordinary new Barbara Walters Student Center and the Remy Theatre, facilities that will be used by EXPLO students. The College’s President, Cristle Collins Judd, is someone I’ve admired for years. Her fabulous work as the Dean of Academic Affairs at Bowdoin College (my alma mater) was noteworthy and everyone I’ve spoken with at Sarah Lawrence is singing her praises. An EXPLO program at Sarah Lawrence seems like a relationship that was meant to be in so many ways. Moving is a lot of work, but honestly, the level of excitement on our team

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regarding Sarah Lawrence is truly palpable.

EXPLO: We don’t put classroom walls around learning For the past couple of years, we’ve been interviewing leaders and faculty of K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities, on what they are doing to prepare students for the future and their challenges in reaching those goals. We’ve seen some bright spots here and there, but also many challenges. (Schools, colleges, and universities are not nimble by nature and changing an old model is difficult.) The World Economic Forum has made clear what skills students will need to thrive in the future and they are quite different than what was needed even ten years ago. Technology is changing rapidly. College and university students are struggling to choose majors. Particularly in light of the cost of higher education, both students and their parents are worried about finding a great first job upon graduation – something that will lead to a career of meaningful work, even though that career is likely to change every few years. We ran across a comment from Lakeisha Mathews in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s report on “Preparing Students for 21st Century Careers” that really resonated with us: We need to make the classroom more relevant, which is why I think experiential learning is going to be a big piece of… (education) moving forward. If we can really help students understand how college connects to life and how it connects to the workplace, I think they will engage differently. Our interviews with scores of educators have highlighted that far too many high school students are so focused on applying to college that they miss why they are applying to college — let alone what they want to get out of it, and how that college/university experience informs life once they graduate. Given this, we’ve really been thinking about how EXPLO needs to rethink its experience for high school students. We’ve been experimenting with authentic projects that enable students to experience the work of a profession. For example, our sports management students worked with the PawSox (the Boston Red Sox affiliate) to help the flagging franchise. The experience made quite an impact on our students as was eloquently described by one young man: This opportunity was bigger than I expected. It completely exceeded my expectations. This experience felt so much more professional [than other sports management programs I’ve participated in] and I had to live up to what these executives expected of me. It really raised the game and made me work a thousand times harder. And when a professional, not just a teacher, is hearing your words and taking notes — actually considering your ideas — that feels really meaningful. For another project, we partnered with IKEA. Working in small groups, students designed a back to campus launch for the atrium of the IKEA showroom. The winning team had its design brought to life. Just as all professional designers whose work appears at IKEA are publicly credited for their designs, so too were our EXPLO students. As one EXPLO student explained: I wanted a class that was outside of my comfort zone and I got to learn so much from them [IKEA designers and managers] in such a short amount of time… It was just really

cool to see how my vision could be incorporated into such a big company.

The success of these kinds of projects made us think deeply about why we weren’t doing more of them for all of our courses. We’ve been trying to utilize the resources of New Haven and Yale by visiting research labs, museums, hospitals, and businesses in the area. When we couldn’t bring in the right kind of expert from the New Haven area, we’ve brought people in from other states. Because we wanted to branch out beyond the opportunities available to us in New Haven, we’ve put students on buses (sometimes logging hours roundtrip). For years, we’ve come back to the same question: what if we wanted to really ramp up this career exploration piece for every single EXPLO course? Could we deliver on our vision if we remained at Yale? The notion of leaving Yale made us anxious — heck, it’s Yale! — but we did some deep soul searching and reminded ourselves from whence we came. Forty-five years ago there was camp and there was traditional summer school. EXPLO started as an idea of something different. As EXPLO trustee and serial entrepreneur Brian Hughes, an MIT trustee and EXPLO’s first program director, says: In the beginning we were going up to people saying, ‘Imagine if you will...’ because we didn’t have anything to show them and we didn’t have a track record. Today, I tell everyone that EXPLO is my best start up. Back then EXPLO pushed boundaries, didn’t get caught up in tradition or name brand, but forged ahead with something we believed in — and in so doing set a path for others to follow. We are reconnecting with what makes EXPLO, EXPLO — and it’s not a particular college or university campus. EXPLO is bigger than that. A New Path Forward Numerous trips to Chicago and Illinois Tech have us convinced that redesigning our high school program and placing it at Illinois Tech will better prepare our students for their futures. Not too long ago, I met with Howard Tullman, the Executive Director of Illinois Tech’s Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship. Tullman is the former leader of Chicago-based 1871, which was named the top university-affiliated business incubator in the world in 2018. We had a great conversation about the importance of developing entrepreneurial thinking whether you become an entrepreneur or not. We both agreed that, in this age of acceleration and uncertainty, everyone who wants to be able to adapt in a changing world will need this skill. (Entrepreneurial thinking has always been in the EXPLO air, but now we’ll be focusing on it more explicitly.) Soon after meeting with Tullman, I met with Denis Weil, the Dean of Illinois Tech’s Institute of Design, one of the premier design schools in the world. After I explained what we wanted to do, he nodded, and said, “You want to build creative confidence” — to which I replied, “Exactly!” As Dean Weil says: The world needs new ways forward, charged with the optimism, imagination, and confidence that embolden leaders, organizations, and communities to discard stagnant thinking and take action.

So we’re headed to the Windy City, cradled by 28 miles of beaches and some of the most amazing

architecture in the world. We’ll be on a campus that is all about applying what you know with plenty of lab, studio, and gathering spaces. (And it’s air-conditioned — both in classrooms and the residence halls. Had to get that in there!)

But these leaps forward don’t stop with our summer programs.

EXPLO Elevate: An Innovative Schools Cooperative Some of you know that EXPLO has been working with schools, foundations, and not-for-profits to bring learning that is high in engagement, participation, rigor, and fun to students beyond our summer programs. Our work has taken us as far away as India, where we worked with government teachers, and in January we were invited to present at the Education World Forum, the largest gathering of education ministers in the world. This fall we took an even deeper dive into expanding our impact. We brought together school leaders from across the U.S., Brazil, the U.K., Doha, China, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to spend two days outlining the launch of EXPLO Elevate, an innovative schools cooperative. (We’re defining innovation simply as something new and useful.) They were from preK-12, Montessori, International Baccalaureate, bilingual, boys, girls, and co-ed schools. With funding for the convening coming from Brian Hughes and First Republic Bank (thank you again!), the school leaders dug in with workshop presenters such as Andy Boynton, Dean of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, EXPLO parent, and author of the acclaimed Idea Hunter: How to Find the Best Ideas and Make them Happen. EXPLO alum and parent, Barry Fishman, professor at the University of Michigan, co-author of Obama’s Technology Plan, and Faculty Innovator- In-Residence, led sessions on mastery and getting rid of grades. There were case studies, design sessions, and speakers from Accenture and the Woodrow Wilson Graduate School of Teaching and Learning. The feedback from the convening has been outstanding. We are starting this innovation network with independent schools and have plans to ramp up our work with public schools in a couple of years. (Reach out if you think your school may be interested in joining. We’re happy to chat.) To help us get this network off the ground, we hired Mark Greenlaw, who was most recently the Senior Vice President of FIRST, the not-for-profit that runs robotics competitions for 600,000 students all over the world. Mark has been an invaluable addition to EXPLO, as have our new members of the EXPLO Board of Trustees: Jon Chang, first digital marketing director for Kickstarter, Forbes 30 under 30 winner, and head of US Growth for Klarna; Adam Newman, founder and managing partner of Tyton Partners; and Sharon Jacquet, Vice Chair of JP Morgan. We’ve put together a team that can really lead and support us as we move into a new era.

* * *

So, you can see that we’ve got a lot in the works.

I hope you will check out our new website (explo.org) to explore more about EXPLO Chicago, EXPLO New York, and EXPLO Boston. Our 2020 application is also live. The alumni discount of $500 is available until December 20, 2019, and a $250 early bird discount is available for new applicants until December 31, 2019.

I hope you’ll continue the journey with us. Please call or email us with any questions. We always love to hear from our alumni.

With warm regards,

Moira Kelly President Exploration Learning


EXPLO is a life-changing experience that is meant to be shared. We invite you to join us in starting a ripple effect so that even more young people have an opportunity to discover their curiosity, courage, and daring this summer. Think about everyone who you believe would benefit from an EXPLO summer experience. For every new student you refer, you will receive $100 off of your tuition — and so will they! To participate in our Ripple Effect initiative, you’ll need to obtain a code that you can share with your friends and extended family. Please email referral@explo.org for your referral code and help EXPLO extend our impact even further.

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