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Workshop Learning and the Workshop School

Our Story

Workshop Learning is the nonprofit partner used to develop, launch and support the Workshop School.
Since the founding of the high school, Workshop Learning has grown to expand the impact of our work
This document explains the organization's background, core functions and relationship to the School
District of Philadelphia. (Workshop Learning was originally incorporated at Project Based Learning Inc.)


The idea for the Workshop School grew out of work that Michael Clapper, Simon Hauger, and Matt
Riggan were doing at West Philadelphia High School. (Simon and Michael were teachers, and Matt was
running youth development and community school programs while working on his Ph.D.) The fourth
co-founder, Aiden Downey, worked closely with Simon on the EVX project, had known Michael from pre-
service teacher training, and was in grad school with Matt.

The EVX Team and Project Based Learning Inc. (PBLI)

Simon started the after school EVX car program in 1999. He wrote his first grant in 2002 to fund a
summer EVX program and after the school district kept a huge amount of the grant and encumbered
the rest, he and his wife decided to start a non-profit. The primary purpose of the non-profit was to
support the innovative work he was doing in the afterschool program. In 2009, Michael, Simon and Matt
decided to grow the non-profit, obtain Federal 501c3 status, and use it to launch a school. (You can
learn more about the EVX team from some of the media archives and how it is connected to the
formation of the school in this TEDx talk.)

The Sustainability Workshop and Project Based Learning

In 2009, there was no mechanism to start public schools in Philadelphia. Then-superintendent Arelene
Ackerman had imposed a moratorium on all new school start ups. The team spent the next two years
planning and raising money to run a pilot program in partnership with the SP to demonstrate what
the Workshop School could look like. The hope was that if decision makers and funders could actually
see the concept in practice, they would be compelled to partner with them on creating a new high

In 2011, they launched the Sustainability Workshop, an alternative senior year program based at the
Philadelphia Navy Yard. Michael, Simon and Matt ran the program, which gave them an opportunity to
develop the school model while demonstrating its effectiveness. The first cohort of 30 seniors from
various comprehensive high schools participated in 2011-2012. The second cohort participated in

The plan worked out. In 2012, the program hosted visits from newly appointed superintendent Wiliam
Hite, School Reform Commission Chair Pedro Ramos, and PT President Jerry Jordan among other
leaders. A consensus emerged that the program should be expanded into its own school. (To learn
more, check out Simon and Clapper's Radio Times interview).
In 2021, Ayanna Walker took over as principal of the Workshop School. Simon and Matt continue their
work to support the school and grow the impact of the non-profit

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