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  • Writer's pictureJames Kerr

(New Wine Skins)

Updated: Nov 23, 2019

“No old road leads to new destinations! Change begins when one realizes that it is unwise to pour a new wine into an old wine skin. If you change your mind, you have to change your actions too!” (Israelmore Ayivor, African Author)

My grandmother attended a one-room school house. My great grandmother was her teacher. Americans in the frontier of Michigan valued education and built many of these stoic facilities to afford the opportunity of public education for their children. The students of all ages met in the same space and were inspired by one individual, a teacher trained at a normal school whose presence at the front of the classroom evoked academic authority. This model evolved eventually to become what is now commonly recognized as the “industrial model". However, a unique quality that defined this early one-room school model was detoured along the way.

For generations, American public education has continued to embrace systemic indoctrination for the education of our young in “factory classrooms.” In the 21st century, however, the time has come to abandon the old wine skins and to find a new path for the individualized and corporate education of our future leaders.

In a paradoxical twist, this reform will take public education back to the oldest of wineskins, to a space where the homesteaders chose to create a room where all could learn individually and together. The 21st Century school will be a remix, a repurposing, returning to even more ancient roots in a classic Greek form where studios defined the learning opportunities and apprentices sat under such remarkable teachers as Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato.

Passion for discovery and experimentation link these ancient and current settings. The 21st century model for the classroom ties public schools inextricably to this remarkable human heritage. The new wrinkles are the technological tools that remove barriers to growth at all levels. Students are choosing divergent pathways in the 21st century classroom, yet they are all playing in the same space, connected by commonalities in expanding technological innovations.

Exemplary models for this new generation of learners can be found in the Mosaic School in Castle Rock, Colorado, The Science Leadership Academy in Philadelpia, Pennsylvania and the Hawken School in Cleveland, Ohio.

At Hawken School, student primary focus is towards the development of essential skills beyond the acquisition of specific knowledge. Energy and passion define learning through engagement. Students participate and contribute meaningfully in an array of activities outside of the classroom, generating authentic experience in the real world to make meaning from knowledge. The global community is an extension of the classrooms at Hawken school (Hawken School).

At the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, learning is not just something that happens during the defined school hours. Learning is defined as a continuous process that expands beyond the four walls of the classroom into every facet the student life. The structure of the Science Leadership Academy reflects longer class periods to allow for more laboratory work in science classes and performance-based learning in all classes. Flexible schedules allow for dual enrollment programs with area universities as well as career development internships in local laboratory and business settings (Science Leadership Academy).

Mosaic Academy is located at Castle Rock, Colorado. Here, students meet with their mentor/advisements teachers in the morning. They receive weekly schedules that communicate the availability and location of supportive services. Then they build their own schedules based on learning goals they have committed to achieve. They are guided by dedicated teachers and grouped not randomly, but purposefully. Peers share work, guide, assess, provide feedback, and point in the right directions. The Mosaic Academy environment is the opposite of a “factory” school model, where bells ring and students are always told what to do and what to work on and turn in. Each of these schools are prototypic models for the emerging 21st century school. Embracing core principles of the American experience, these new schools will develop intellectual potential in our American students, spurring the growth, leadership, and prosperity of the future American culture. The new wine skins await the new wine.


Science Leadership Academy (n.d.). Retrieved from

Mosaic Academy Castle View High School (n.d.). Retrieved from

Hawken School (n.d.). Retrieved from

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