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No. 3: Francis W. Parker School

This North Side school invites (and instructs) students to think outside the box.

Photo: Courtesy of Francis W. Parker School

Last February, students at Parker were tasked with improving common spaces at the pre-K-to-12 school as part of a design project. Principal Dan Frank says he was so impressed with the concepts that he asked some of the students to present to trustees. “The adults were blown away,” he says. “They said, ‘We don’t ever work with people who are as savvy, engaged, creative, and prepared.’ ” Armed with three-ring binders filled with 18 different ideas, one student explained it differently: “This is very Leslie Knope of us.”

Parker plans to implement two of these ideas: using idle space below lockers to store shoes and installing outlets in benches. Frank says the project is indicative of the larger mission of the school, which favors seminars with names like Literature Post-Truth and ACME (Astronomy, Cosmology, Metaphysics, and Epistemology) and has a reputation for being one of the city’s most innovative. “We want kids to learn how you do business in the world and to have a sense of voice and confidence about it.”

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