The City as Laboratory
What we are
The City as Laboratory is a non-residential semester in the city for up to 30 high school
sophomores from public and independent schools in Atlanta, Georgia. Opening in
January 2017 on the midtown campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design
(SCAD), a diverse team of students and faculty will immerse themselves in collaboration
with some of the city’s finest institutions—educational, cultural, and enterprise—to
develop innovation and entrepreneurship skills as they design solutions for a vibrant and
sustainable city of the future.
An increasing body of evidence suggests giving students opportunities to learn
experientially—engaging authentically with challenges and real-life contexts—will better
prepare them for a complex world, with the skills to address interconnected “wicked”
problems. The City as Laboratory will empower students to uncover and tackle these
challenges in the heart of our city—challenges such as water, transportation, and
racial/ethnic divide—unshackled by their traditional learning spaces and 7-period a day
Meeting the Standards
The City as Laboratory will pilot the use of digital technologies as a means of
“rethinking school.” Although most of the standards required by high schools will be met
through the experiential learning model, online learning will be integrated to support
certain curriculum requirements and to provide the flexibility required to spend the
school day out of the classroom. However, the far more compelling role for online
learning at The City as Laboratory will be developing life-long learners and connected
communities for our students. Imagine the opportunities for deeper learning that a student
and/or team might make virtually with schools and mentors around the world? What if
the world were their classroom?
The City as Laboratory is designed to develop students’ ability to collaborate with a
diverse team and develop a robust system of thinking and capacity for action around
problems that matter to the sustainability—in the broadest sense of that word—of a city.
A student leaving The City as Laboratory semester should have:
• A relatively deep understanding of issues plaguing cities, both locally/globally and
• A “design literacy” for approaching those challenges;
• And, most importantly, real empathy for the diverse nature of the city’s people.
We would expect to find that each student has grown exponentially in her capacity to:
• Effectively communicate across a range of media and face-to-face interactions;
• Inquire, think and work independently and collaboratively;
• Manage her learning and developing learning networks;
• Effect change with confidence in her ability to make a difference. And, for some
student(s), a desire to act and/or incubate a project beyond the end of the semester.