Green Street Academy is an innovative public middle-high school in west Baltimore, inspiring scholars with sustainability and preparing them for college and career through project-based learning.
Before you pass the front doors at Green Street Academy, you already know there’s something different about this school. There’s a 150’ hoop farm in the front lawn. You hear chickens cluck. Seven foot tall sunflower stalks sway with the wind in the raised garden beds near the front door. All of a sudden, you’re not so sure you’re in Baltimore anymore.
Chickens and sunflowers aside, Green Street Academy is a public middle and high school in west Baltimore. The brain child of Warnock Foundation Chairman David Warnock, and Lawrence M. Rivitz, a Baltimore marketing executive, they saw the community’s dire need for quality education during their service together on the Board of the Center for Urban Families. In a series of public meetings held by CFUF in preparation for their capital campaign, community members were asked what kind of services they need most in their community. The overwhelming answer, along with housing, was good schools. Green Street Academy was founded shortly thereafter, in 2010.
David and Larry knew to be successful, they needed to innovate. They were quickly joined by two storied figures in education: Edward E. Cozzolino, a lifelong educator and respected leader, who agreed to be GSA’s founding principal, and Nancy Grasmick, the former Maryland state superintendent of schools, who agreed to join the GSA Foundation board. The group settled on the dual concepts of sustainability and project-based learning: sustainability to inspire children and make them versant in the language of tomorrow’s green workforce, and project-based learning to move beyond teacher-led instruction and give students the power to map their own learning path.
Larry, today Green Street Academy’s President and CEO, lives by the central tenet that “college or career” is a false choice. Green Street Academy will graduate scholars who are prepared for both. Scholars will be ready with the academic skills necessary to pursue 2- and 4-year degrees, and the 21st century skills and workplace experience necessary to get good-paying, green jobs.
At GSA, these things are accomplished through team-based, sustainability-focused projects, ranging from the simple, like integrating language arts, science and art to write and design an eco-themed storybook, to the complex, like integrating all four subjects and the hoop farm to define and solve the problem of hunger in Baltimore. Green Street Academy teachers work closely with corporate leaders representing the school’s five core sustainability-focused economic sectors – agriculture, conservation, transportation, energy and construction – and with GSA’s Chief Academic Officer to ensure projects dovetail with both industry needs and academic requirements.
Green Street Academy is in its third year of operation, with two dozen top-tier teachers coaching 325 middle school scholars. Green Street Academy High School launches in the fall of 2013.
David serves as Chairman of Green Street Academy and the Green Street Academy Foundation, and the Warnock Foundation continues to support this education start-up as it grows and evolves.