The Bridge 1.5

The Bridge 1.5

October 22, 2017


This week, The Bridge will be a bit truncated, because we just returned from an island visit. We spent a few days at one of our favorite places, Kelley’s Island, which we have been visiting for nearly 18 years. It is situated north of Marblehead, Ohio in Lake Erie.   Kelley’s Island has a number of special features that keep us coming back and also provide some interesting connections to City of Bridges High School.

  1. Experiencing Deep History: Kelley’s Island gives us visual examples of the history of our planet. The island’s bedrock is Devonian Columbus Limestone. Fossilized shells are embedded in nearly every stone, both large and small. The island also has one of the best examples of Glacial Striations, grooves carved into the island by the mile of ice that once covered the land. There are a couple of pictures here, but they are best seen in person. The geology of the island demonstrates the importance of lived experience. You can read this post about the groves and fossils, but standing in front of them and finding the fossils on the beach brings the depth of our history to the forefront. Lived Experience is an essential component of City of Bridges. When students can see, touch and engage in learning, the potency and applicability of learning becomes tangible.
  2. New Growth: Along the northern shore of the island, a rare ecosystem, the Alvar, is found. This area of flat limestone shelves is constantly weathered by wind and waves and scraped bare by built up ice on the lake each winter.  The species that survive and thrive in the area must adapt to these unique (and harsh) environmental circumstances.  We saw liverworts and Pringle’s aster growing in this fascinating community.  City of Bridges is emerging from its own unique place, ready to adapt and adjust to what the environment will present to it.

City of Bridges is a high school, but it is also a way to position learning at the center of experience and community. There are challenges to building a small school that is focused on being rigorous, both academically, but more importantly, rigorous in preparation for life. We are steadily gathering people on this island (connected by many bridges) and we hope that you will join us…..if you want to visit a physical island, consider Kelley’s Island,

Thank you and Be Well,

Randy and Paige

The Bridge 1.3

The Bridge 1.3


Sunday October 8, 2017


City of Bridges High School is moving along, I have had the opportunity to visit a couple of potential sites in the past week! A core element of City of Bridges is engagement with the community, so our location will help us to shape our experience.


I have few thoughts to share with you this week.


  1. What happens after high school? A successful high school experience is not the goal of high school, a successful high school experience provides young people with the knowledge, skills and wisdom to follow their passions and their interests to make a meaningful life for themselves and for others. Last year LinkedIn analyzed their data and found that the rate of job hopping has increased dramatically. Schooling needs to support young people in their experience of creating a path. If you know how to create one path, then you are able to create another.


  1. What happens to a closed school? In 2012, the Johnson Elementary School in Wilkinsburg closed its doors and the building has sat empty. Recently, the school was purchased by a group of dedicated and passionate people who are working to open The Community Forge. They are “working to transform the Johnston Elementary School into a community space for opportunities in Wilkinsburg.” Their vision and passion are inspiring and we look forward to watching their project develop, take a look at to follow their progress.



  1. What happens when students and teachers create the learning together? We have been reading this article Mind/Shift about equal footing for teachers and students in the classroom. It is our goal to support students in their agency to take charge of their learning and their lives. The teacher profiled in the article, Scott Henstrand, describes the role of the teacher, “It’s about being present with the students, being passionate about the same questions, and working together to learn something and build a narrative.”


  1. What happens when the moon blocks out the sun? This year we visited Maryville, Tennessee to witness the Total Eclipse and it was genuinely ineffable. NASA has published some spectacular pictures and we have some spectacular memories. The next total eclipse of the sun visible from North America will be on Monday, April 8th, 2024 and the shores of Lake Erie will have nearly four minutes of totality, as you can see on this map. I would like to propose now that City of Bridges takes an all community field trip to see the eclipse. I’ll send out some more information in five years or so.



  1. What happens when you major in English but love sandwiches? We have been thinking about the paths that people take in their lives (we are working on a project around this topic….stay tuned). In our meal planning, we were reminded of a friend of ours from college, Tyler Kord. Tyler was an English major, a musician and an all around good guy. After college, Tyler went on to become a chef and wrote a delightful cookbook entitled, “A Super Upsetting Cookbook about Sandwiches,” you can read about it here.


Thanks for following along on this journey! I have three requests for you this week.


  1. Please share City of Bridges High School with someone who you think might be interested, have them sign up for The Bridge at
  2. Please share a kind word with someone who needs it.
  3. Please read an interesting book or article.


As always if you have questions, or comments feel free to reach out to


Thank you and Be Well,



The Bridge 1.2

Welcome to the second issue of the The Bridge 1.2 (Year 1 Issue 2)!

I had the opportunity over the past few weeks to be reminded about why progressive education matters and why we need a progressive high school here in Pittsburgh. 

 Recently I spent a couple days in Lancaster visiting The Stone Independent School,, a new progressive high school that shares a common lineage and ethos to City of Bridges High School. The students were engaged with real world learning from building traditional Andean clay ovens to exploring Lancaster’s storm water system.

The students were also deeply exploring the Bahagavad-Gita and Human Centered Design. One of the most important elements of my visit was the daily morning meeting. During the meeting the administration, faculty and the students spoke about the developing culture of their school and were reminded about the importance of a school living through the lens of its mission. Therefore it is time to share the mission of City of Bridges High School:

City of Bridges High School is a progressive, holistic, 9th -12th grade high school which believes that school should be transformational for the students, the community, and the world. It is the mission of the City of Bridges High School to graduate young adults who are prepared to assert their agency in the world, who have the lived-experience, knowledge and skills to follow their passions, and who are dedicated to living with empathy, justice, peace, compassion, and joy in order to transform the world into a measurably more positive place.

 I also touched based with the Youth Initiative High School,, in Viroqua Wisconsin and discovered that the school was largely empty because each class was out in the world learning and experiencing life.  As an example all the 10th graders were learning about the unique geological and ecological environment of the Driftless region while on a week long canoe trip. 

Progressive education has a firm foundation here in Pittsburgh, the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh, Kentucky Avenue School, and the Falk School all provide Kindergarten-8th grade progressive experience for students. The time is right for a progressive high school to complete that journey for our students, and our communities. 

 Here are a few reasons why the time is right:


1. Because Citizenship Matters. Now more than ever we need young people who grow up to be fully engaged with civil society in the service of peace and justice. Progressive schools have been proven to “…cultivate children’s sense of obligation to a larger community and give them the basic tools to contribute to our democracy.” [1]


2. Because students at progressive schools have been proven to attend college at a higher rate than their peers, to earn more credits in college, to achieve higher grade point averages in college, to be less likely to drop out and less prone to violence, and to have a measurably positive impact on college campuses[2]


3. Because the future requires people who are critical thinkers, problem solvers and collaborators. “The teaching of creativity, curiosity, critical thinking, analytical thinking, problem-solving, and a love of learning itself will be critical to transitioning from the industrial age to the automated age.” [3]


4. Because education is becoming increasingly standardized. The testing industry is now a two billion dollar industry, “non-profits” like The College Board net more than $50 million dollars every year, and public and private school curricula have been genericized for the sake of meaningless test scores


5. Because this is the 21st Century and we need adults who can collaborate, assert their agency, identify problems and solutions, and who approach the world seeking justice, with a critical eye and empathetic heart. If these are the adults we need then our high schools have to reflect these same values


Thank you and Be well,




[1] Little, Tom; Ellison, Katherine (2015-03-02). Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America’s Schools (p. 170). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition. 

[2] Foote, Martha. Test Duress: A Case Study of a High School with a Progressive Mission and Its Response to High-stakes Graduation Tests. 2009. Print. 

[3] Santens, Scott. Stop Teaching Students What to Think. Teach them How to Think. Education Week. Sept. 26. 2017. Web.