The Learning Project was founded in 1973 by a group of people who believed in the unique ability of small schools to empower young children in extraordinary ways. The name of the school was selected to focus attention on the school’s commitment to learning “by doing” and on its character as a place of purposeful activity.
The original concept wove together several threads. The school would be an academic institution first and foremost. It would be creative and involve children deeply in their learning, but it would also honor and respect traditional academic pedagogy, skills, values and the liberal arts canon. It would place importance on the development of the ‘whole child’ and embrace the role of character education.
The school would be distinctly small, and create opportunities for children to socialize and learn across age lines. It would be committed to diversity, to progressive social values, and the idea of ‘community’ would be central. It would include and accommodate children who learn in different ways and at different rates and it would use the city as its campus. Tuition levels would be kept down and financial aid levels up to broaden the school’s reach. And it would be a place that paid close attention to details.
In September of 1973, the school began with seven first graders in the basement space at the First Baptist Church, at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Clarendon Street. By year six, the school had four full time teachers and forty-three students in grades one through six. That June the school graduated its first class of eight children.
In the fall of 1979 the school opened its doors at its present location on Marlborough Street. Constructed in 1917 as a school building (originally The Lee School), the Marlborough Street building suited perfectly the interests of The Learning Project to remain both small and near to its founding location. Since 1979, the school has gradually made a number of significant structural changes to the building, including the addition of the front and back offices, the renovation of the basement into usable space, and the addition of a fifth floor, the Gamble Art and Science Center.
In the fall of 2005, the school returned, in part, to its original space. In The LP’s first classroom in the church basement, the Kindergarten program was opened after a total renovation and refurbishing that resulted in a state of the art Kindergarten classroom. Several years later, The Learning Project Board of Trustees decided that while the school, itself, should remain its perfect small size, the school’s reach could be extended if we enlarged our sense of mission. The August Scholars program grew out of those discussions, and was founded in the summer of 2008.
The Learning Project has never been a ‘fancy private school’ and that has not been its aspiration. It is less well known than many other independent schools, and people are often surprised to learn that it exists. We do not spend much time or money on promotion; generally enough people know about us that we are able to easily fill the classes as needed. We are chiefly interested in serving whoever wishes to enroll, and doing the best for every child regardless of background or ability.
The school believes in simplicity, moderation, and honesty. We know—because we do it—that it is possible to achieve excellence without extravagance.
The real history of the school is the story of hundreds of people—students, alumni, parents past and present, Board Members and other supporters—who have been or who still are closely involved in the school’s daily life. This large and loyal community is the school’s greatest strength.