Thank you to our Justice & Science families! It’s been a GREAT year!

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End-of-the-year Student Symposium at Teen Learning Lab

tll just last journalThe Justice Project at Teen Learning Lab saw intense debates among students over issues ranging from free speech to bullying to activism vs. science. Students argued, read, wrote, and argued some more. Throughout the year, themes of justice permeated the discussions. In the Essayistic class, students dove deeply into the personal essay, producing a class ‘zine and website. Students in Pre-Law/Mock Trial prepared and tried a mock trial as their final class presentation. And in Science & Justice, students chose research projects, preparing them for presentation at the Illinois State University’s High School Science Symposium at the end of April. We ended the Justice Project with a Launch Party for the ‘zine, right, and a student symposium for friends and family to see the presentations. Thank you to all our wonderful families at Teen Learning Lab for joining us in our second year. We look forward to seeing you again and welcoming new families to our Point-of-View Project 2018-19. Have a great summer!



Students have learning down to a science

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Teen Learning Lab students are ready for Illinois State University’s High School Science Symposium. Photo taken at 8:20 a.m. in the Bone Center at ISU.

After a year of Science & Justice course work, Teen Learning Lab students took their projects, posters and business casual clothes down to Normal, Illinois, to present their research at the ISU High School Science Symposium. It was the culmination of 24 weeks of teamwork, research, and analysis for the teens, as well as many ups and downs as the teams worked to develop their questions, seek research and conduct tests of their hypotheses. For a report on the very full day, please go to the Justice Project Blog.

Trial and pizza

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Students on the defense team are ready to rumble, using their words and wits.

There was drama and excitement as the Justice Project students lived their own courtroom drama when they staged a Mock Trial yesterday — the culmination of a year’s study of pre-law and trial procedures. For more, see The Justice Project Blog.

On their phones and working hard

With the end of the Justice Project in sight, some of the Teen Learning Lab instructors turned reflective on Friday, sharing insights into how the courses have challenged and inspired Teen Learning Lab students.

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Lee Ferdinand created the Essayistic Class specifically for Teen Learning Lab. In the fall, students deeply explored a wide range of personal essays, written across centuries. This spring, the students wrote their own essays and are creating a class ‘zine in which their essays will be published. There will be both an old-fashioned print version and a website which will include short films and audio created by students. But it has been up to the students to figure out how to create these works.

Students turned to Slack. Amidst the typical teen discussion, Snap has been the site of thoughtful and provocative discussions and peer critiques of student essays. The students created folders to organize the Zine’s contributions.

Lee believed that the students really had accomplished quite a lot in his class, and that the project of the ‘zine motivated and drew in students who were initially reluctant to participate. Seeing these students contribute and join in the learning has been such a joy. To see more teacher and student insights, as well as photos, see The Justice Project Blog.

Sunlight shining through leaves

“Tree,” “escape” or “leaking,” “sun.” The Essayistic class is finalizing their class ‘zine, which now has a name: “Komorebi,” which in Japanese uses the symbols that conjure a vision of sunlight sifting through the leaves of a tree. Above, left, is the art and part of the design for the cover of the ‘zine. On the right a student works one of the pieces of art that illustrates another student’s essay.

The image of dappled sunlight does not immediately call to mind images of justice, as part of Teen Learning Lab’s Justice Project. However, this year has seen many bursts of brilliance from our teens as they grow and emerge into caring, educated adults. They need the kind sunlight of knowledge, insight, and self-awareness. They bend and bow amid the winds of emotions, but they are always turning toward the sun. How can there be justice when there is no light? These teens are always demanding more light. We need to give them that light.

With only one more class meeting before our final class on May 4, the Justice Project students were busy Friday finalizing their personal and group final projects. For more about the Essayistic class, Mock Trial, and Science & Justice, please see the Justice Project Blog.

Rigorous in a different way

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Students in the Essayistic class work in groups on the class ‘zine while instructor Lee Ferdinand meets with a student in March. The whiteboard has the students’ organization of student-written essays into magazine sections.

Homeschooling — particularly the high school years — certainly attracts a large share of teens who are independent spirits. That independence will fuel these teens throughout their lives as they navigate the high school years, the college years and beyond. They will forge new and exciting paths throughout their lives–they will change the world!

And, (and I say this with love) they will drive people nuts. That same independence can calcify into inflexibility and narrow-mindedness, undermining their efforts. 

At Teen Learning Lab, we offer interesting and challenging courses that go beyond the traditional high school curriculum. These courses are challenging in ways that are different from traditional homeschool teen cooperatives. Our classes incorporate teamwork and long-term projects–both of which offer different kinds of challenges for many homeschooled teens. These include challenges to make long-term plans — and stick to them. We challenge them to work with one another –which often requires them to address personal disagreements. There is a lot of learning taking place on many different levels.

Teen Learning Lab encourages students to set their own goals, and our instructors are ready to help students work towards their personal benchmarks. Our classes are challenging for those students who take the initiative and invest themselves–the courses are as rigorous as each teen wants to make them.

Those students who get the most out of Teen Learning Lab decide to use the courses as a jumping-off point for their own education. Our instructors provide a structure and regular assignments. The successful student at Teen Learning Lab is able to develop and rely on a personal strength of initiative and purpose. These students love learning for learning’s sake, and they thrive in Teen Learning Lab’s culture. They hold themselves accountable and do not wait for or need approval from an instructor.

Teen Learning Lab is very pleased to offer The Point-of-View Project for 2018-19. Teen Learning Lab is finalizing details of the launch of our new online registration. Seats are limited. Current families will be able to register in April. New families will be able to register starting May 1. If you wish to register your teen, please email us, using the Contact page. Our Registrar will email you the link to the online registration on May 1. Please note that the Registration Fee of $150 is due by June 15. This fee covers TLL rent and insurance costs. Instructors are paid directly and need to be paid in full by July 15 to guarantee your student’s seat in the program.

We look forward to welcoming your teen to Teen Learning Lab of Greater Chicago Organization.

Justice’s Other Side


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Teen Learning Lab students and parents help organize the clothing room at St. Leonard’s Ministries during a field trip Monday.

Teen Learning Lab students toured St. Leonard’s on the West Side of Chicago, helped to organize the clothing room, and ate lunch with residents. Residents were interested in the TLL theme of justice and empathy. Said one:  “You can’t put justice and empathy under the same umbrella in our system. Society wants justice–and empathy  doesn’t have a part in that in our system.” For more — and more photos — see the Justice Project Blog.