Chicago as Our Classroom
Reflecting NPES’ commitment to inspiring curiosity and nurturing lifelong learning, all students participate in field studies, ranging from nature programs and theater productions to concerts, museums, and community organizations. Field studies complement the curriculum in which students are engaged. We view the rich cultural diversity of Chicago as an extension of our classrooms, and seek engaging and joyful opportunities for students to broaden perspectives, discover new interests, and learn to appreciate all that our city has to offer.
All NPES students engage in service learning around the city each year. This work can involve visits to urban gardens, food pantries, community organizations, and other places where Chicagoans are working together for a more inclusive, equitable, and just city. Our focus is not on service alone, but also on what people who have different life experiences, identities, and perspectives can teach us about the world. In the early years, service themes are tangible and hyper-local. As students grow, the ideas they explore deepen and broaden to include more global issues. Each class has an essential question they explore through service learning. A few examples include:
- Preschool and Kindergarten: How can we be positive and active members of our community?
- Second Grade: How can we ensure food security for all of our neighbors?
- Fourth Grade: How can we be stewards of our natural environments?
- Middle School: What issue do I feel passionate about and how will I bring about change?
Middle School students also engage in periodic neighborhood explorations, learning with respect about the history, geography, and demographics of a Chicago community before participating in a guided walking tour of the area with a focus on culture, history, architecture, art, and social justice issues like affordable housing, employment opportunities, access to health care, and more. Upon return to school, they create something (such as a work of art, a poem, a podcast, or video) that poses or explores a question they have about the community they visited to share with our school community. Recent neighborhoods explored include Humboldt Park, Chinatown, and Uptown.