About Our Schools
The Intergenerational Schools are a public, nonprofit community charter school network in Cleveland, Ohio. With schools in the Buckeye, Collinwood and Ohio City neighborhoods, we're transforming the school experience for Cleveland's children.
At the Intergenerational Schools, our mission is to connect, create, and guide a multigenerational community of lifelong learners and spirited citizens as we strive for academic excellence.
Transforming the School Experience
The Intergenerational Schools’ educational philosophy extends beyond performance and deeper than any individual student’s success. The skills and perspectives our students gain through their years in our schools will position them to move confidently through high school, college and beyond. However, our ultimate measure of success is our graduates’ ability to think critically, engage authentically, contribute meaningfully and lead confidently within their families, communities and the world at large.
Our students’ strong performance in standardized state tests reflects this holistic approach to learning rather than representing the primary focus of our work. Learning itself is our primary pursuit and is at the core of our educational philosophy.
Tomorrow’s discoveries depend on yesterday’s understanding.
Throughout our lives, every person is continually building upon an ever-growing foundation of what they have learned before.
Everything we have learned before serves as a link to what we learn today, and what we are capable of learning tomorrow. Learning is a developmental process.
Teachers, learning partners and fellow students devote daily effort to ensuring each student’s foundation is strong, so that they may take confident steps—at their own pace—toward the knowledge, skills and practices that best serve them and most interest them in their individual learning journeys.
Individual experiences and community culture shape what we know.
We believe that culture, experience and community shape each person's knowledge.
Learning occurs best in a safe, supportive environment, and when students can meaningfully link classroom activity to purpose in their lives. We build this safe, supportive learning community by discovering and embracing the unique talents, interests, experiences and cultural heritage of every person.
Together, these two tenets--that learning is a process shaped by our individual experiences and shared culture--frame our educational philosophy of BOUNDLESS LEARNING. Learning is forever and everywhere. Lifelong curiosity and a love for learning unlock individual potential and the collective promise of our society.
The Intergenerational Schools (Intergens) have deep roots in Cleveland. The first Intergenerational School opened in 2000 in what was then the Fairhill Center for the Aging in Cleveland’s Larchmere/Buckeye neighborhood under the leadership of Catherine C. Whitehouse, Ph.D., an educator and developmental psychologist; Peter J. Whitehouse, M.D. and Ph.D., a gerontologist, physician and faculty member at Case Western Reserve University; and Stephanie FallCreek, DSW, executive director at Fairhill. The school opened as a free public charter school to offer local families an innovative educational alternative to traditional public schools.
Transforming the School Experience
As a school psychologist and later a teacher, Dr. Catherine Whitehouse witnessed how the traditional lockstep educational system tended to ascribe learning disabilities to unique students, rather than adapting the teaching and learning to students’ individual development. From this experience, Dr. Catherine Whitehouse began to design a new educational model.
These founders envisioned a groundbreaking school founded on the ideas that learning is a developmental process (building on the past at an individual’s own pace) and that culture, experience and community are critical to fostering knowledge.
The school’s approach to education challenged the traditional age-based grade segregation that occurs in most schools by introducing three main tenets: multi-age classes, a literacy-focused, developmental curriculum where students move at their own pace based on mastery, and a diverse community of co-learners to support each child.
In 2000, 32 students (two 16-student classes) ranged in age from 5 to 8 years, setting the foundation for the educational model of small, multi-age classes that endures today.
Older adults interested in healthy aging partnered with students to help foster a love of books, to explore and learn together, and to serve as another caring adult to share their wisdom with this younger generation. In exchange, they enjoyed a renewed sense of purpose, acceptance and cognitive stimulation.
Learning and teaching each other side by side, both students and older adults could better understand and appreciate their individual contributions to a rich and diverse community. These fundamentals are what make the schools so unique today.