Science Leadership Academy

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.

SLA Students at a Dell, Think Tank event.
  • 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. For more information about SLA, visit the Science Leadership Academy website.

  • Wednesdays at The Franklin

    The award-winning "Wednesdays @ TFI" program brings SLA’s entire 9th grade to The Franklin Institute every week to engage in informal STEM learning. The 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. 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 @ TFI" 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 special 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.

    ILP Internships

    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.

    Distinguished Visitors

    Through The Franklin Institute, SLA students meet some of the most influential people of our day. Past visitors include: Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft; Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computer; Waleed Abdalati, NASA's Chief Scientist; and Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway. In 2012, President Barack Obama spoke to the graduating class.

    Capstone Projects

    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.

  • Through funding from The Franklin Institute’s Board of Trustees (FIBOT) as well as other donors, The Franklin Institute generously gives $40,000 to participating students of the museum’s STEM Programs who are graduating in 2017 and plan to pursue post-secondary studies in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. These STEM Programs include: enrollment at either Science Leadership Academy campus; participation in the PACTS program; or membership in the STEM Scholars program. During 2017, eight students will be selected to receive a $5,000 scholarship.

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    Inspired by the creativity and innovation featured throughout The Franklin Institute’s recent special exhibition The Science Behind Pixar, three Philadelphia students traveled to San Francisco, California this past summer to experience a five-day whirlwind STEM education tour.

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  • The Science Leadership Academy was founded through a partnership between The Franklin Institute and the School District of Philadelphia.