The Science Leadership Academy (SLA) is a Philadelphia public magnet high school founded by The Franklin Institute in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia. Operating on the principles of project-based learning in the context of a tech-integrated one-to-one laptop school, SLA has redefined educational best practices for the 21st century. The school fully embodies The Franklin Institute’s spirit of inquiry through its focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) as well as its culture of entrepreneurship and learning by doing.
A Model for 21st Century Learning
Since its inception in 2006, SLA has been named an “Apple Distinguished School” and been featured on Apple’s website as a glowing example of 21st Century learning. SLA was one of ten institutions named “America’s Most Amazing Schools” by Ladies Home Journal in 2010. It was also featured in the PBS documentary, Digital Media: New Learners for the 21st Century. SLA has appeared repeatedly in the media as a outstanding model for the future of public schools. Founding Principal, Chris Lehmann, has become a voice of authority in the world of educational technology and leads an annual education conference, called Educon, in partnership with SLA and The Franklin Institute. In September 2011, Chris was honored by the White House as a “Champion of Change” for his work in education reform.
Wednesdays at The Franklin
Every Wednesday, SLA's 9th grade walks to The Franklin Institute from the school, three blocks away, to engage in informal science learning. Their afternoon consists of visiting permanent and travelling exhibits, watching educational IMAX® and 3D films, and participating in "Mini-Courses." Mini-Courses are short, one-to-two month long, once-a-week workshops in a variety of topics from medicine and immunology to engineering and astronomy to computer programming and product design. Students choose which course they would like to take out of up to 8 different options. Mini-Courses are typically linked to exhibits and other resources in the museum, which serve as a pedagogical tool to enhance the students' level of understanding. These courses, in combination with the other Wednesdays at The Franklin curricula, lay the foundation for an engaged and exciting four years of partnered learning with the Science Leadership Academy and The Franklin Institute.
Every student (and staff member) at SLA is provided with a year-round family membership to The Franklin Institute. This means free access to all permanent exhibits, the Sky Bike, and the Fels Planetarium, and reduced price tickets for travelling exhibits and films in the Tuttleman IMAX® and Franklin 3D Theaters. These and other exclusive offers can be used seven days a week all year long.
One of SLA’s most innovative programs is the Individualized Learning Program, which gives every sophomore and junior an amazing internship experience in one of the many businesses, organizations, universities, and cultural institutions around the city. Many of them choose to fulfill this requirement at The Franklin Institute. Interns have the opportunity to work with Derrick Pitts, The Franklin Institute's Chief Astronomer, cataloguing activity on the surface of the sun, or they can assist the Vice President of Operations, Rich Rabena, learning the best practices of non-profit management. Still others work in exhibit design and assessment, graphic design, communications, marketing, and research. Through these ILP Internships, SLA students get real, first-hand experience, networking opportunities, and most importantly, they get a chance to make a real and lasting difference in the SLA-Franklin Institute community.
Through The Franklin Institute, SLA students get to meet some of the people who have had the biggest influence on the world today. On a regular basis, these Franklin Institute guests pay SLA a visit to talk with our students. Examples of visitors include: Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft; Waleed Abdalati, NASA's Chief Scientist; and Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway.
Seniors may choose to complete their capstone projects under the guidance of The Franklin Institute. In the past, there have been capstone mentors at nearly all levels of the Museum providing wisdom, funding, and other resources.
Just as the Science Leadership Academy started with The Franklin Institute, SLA's seniors finish with it. Every year our graduation ceremony takes place in the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, the only National Memorial outside of Washington, DC.
The Franklin Institute's Board of Trustees (FIBOT) generously gives $50,000 to SLA seniors every year as they graduate to attend colleges and universities around the country. This makes up 5 scholarships of $10,000 each toward their college tuition. The students selected each year are some of SLA's finest, who intend to pursue a major in a STEM field (i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math).
For more information about the partnership, visit the Science Leadership Academy website.
Luke Van Meter
Franklin Institute - Science Leadership Academy Liaison