The James and Grace Lee Boggs School

Detroit, MI

Boggs is more than a school. It is the nucleus of a community and a process of change. Using Place-Based Education, the school immerses students creatively in local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities, experiences, and service projects for the school and local community.

ETWC Report Summary:  The James and Grace Lee Boggs School demonstrates what can be accomplished when knowledgeable educators, who understand and believe in whole child education, create schools that honor the individuality of every child. Despite many obstacles, the co-founders of this beautiful school have created a space where children learn how to be “solutionaries,” good stewards of their communities and the greater world in which they live. Through place-based learning, student agency, awareness of ecological and social justice issues, the students at Boggs are being well prepared for the world they will some day inherit. 

The first distinctive element is the strong sense of connection to the community. While the school’s garden was temporarily closed due to a sink hole, Boggs students were given access to neighbor’s private yards where they were free to move freely to tend the gardens. The inclusive, accessible park that was under construction at the time of our visit was designed in a community led process.

A second distinctive element is  the integration of the arts throughout the curriculum. The classrooms and halls of the Boggs school are beautifully decorated with multimodal student artwork, and throughout the school there is evidence of integrated, art-infused classroom projects across the curriculum. Boggs School students use art to enhance and demonstrate their learning, to reflect and to inspire. 

The third distinctive element is evidence of play-based learning across grade levels.  Research supports the concept of children learning through play, and at Boggs, evidence of this is especially strong in the kindergarten classroom. The kindergarten room was stocked with bins full of toys, a kitchen center, ongoing Lego projects, and costumes for play acting. It is obvious that children in this kindergarten are afforded ample time for play and creativity. There are shelves of games in the modern, well equipped middle school science lab, with clearly stated student responsibilities for taking care of the games posted on the shelves. 

The fourth noteworthy element is the presence of creative opportunities for learning. Each Friday afternoon at 3:00, in Passions Classes teachers and community members are invited to teach on a topic of special interest. Students travel within the building, forming multi-age groups and creating multi-age interactions. Boggs eighth grade students  attend an annual  four-day camping trip, financed through parent contributions, fundraising, and sponsor donations. Opportunities like these are typically not available to students in low-income areas. 

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A focus on nurturing creative, critical thinkers who contribute to the well-being of their communities

Core values and core purposes that reflect social justice and social-emotional tenets

Place-Based learning that stems from challenges and possibilities in the community

ong community and business partnerships, as demonstrated in the community designed “Universal Design” Boggs Park