Better Alt Ed (010)


Named for the year of its founding, Project '79 has been supporting and reclaiming high school students as learners for four decades. The oldest continuously running alternative education program I know about, it's also--for my money--just about the best way to do school. This month's episode let me sit down with the program's two other coordinators to talk about what matters most in designing and sustaining a program that keeps kids at the center of its work, addressing social and emotional needs as well as academic development. Alan Lantis was the founding coordinator of Project '79, leading the program from the late '70s until 2008, when I succeeded him. Jackie Spring has coordinated Project since 2015. They are two of the most thoughtful educators I've had the honor to call colleagues. Enriched by student voices and music, this episode introduces the unique learning community of Project '79 and presents some of the key ingredients for success that we've shared with hundreds of visitors over the years. 

Thanks to current and former Project '79 students for providing comments and music. In order of appearance: Inti Araya ’20, Jack Serzan ’17, Cooper Metzger ’18, Sarah Sherman '19, Jessie Gregory ’11, Patrick McElynn ‘19, Molly Sheil ‘18, Adam Wachtel ‘20, and Juan Suris Morales ‘19. Ukulele and vocals performed by Inti Araya '20 and Lauren Henkel '20. Matt Gero ‘20 played piano, and Jessie Gregory '11 dropped beats. The songs "Tick-Tock Time" and "We Are Not to Blame" were written by p79 juniors in the spring of 2011 as part of a music residency with Shayfer James that featured drum circles and collaborative lyric-writing sessions. 


Episode Structure

01:52 Introduction to Al Lantis and Jackie Spring through foundational school stories.

08:53 Act 1. What is Project '79?

19:00 Act 2. Key Ingredients for Building a Better Alt Ed Program: the right teachers, time to meet, common space, and research. 

Punch the button below for a YouTube playlist with favorite videos produced by or about Project '79 in recent years. 


Related Ideas

Get the backstory on one of Al Lantis' infamous mantras. 

Project '79 would not have lasted four decades without the daily staff meeting. If you have the opportunity to design a schedule for your organization, let it reflect what matters most. 

A reminder that any student is also a whole person outside of school. 

Peter Horn