Meet ADE Award Finalist: Rich Lehrer

By Jenny Burns, Community Coordinator for Allen Distinguished Educators
February 1, 2016

Rich Lehrer is a middle school teacher who is passionate about the use of highly engaging and authentic STEM projects to connect his students at Brookwood School with the larger world. The “Authentic Learning At the Boundaries” (A-LAB) approach that he has been developing provides a model that uses informal contact times with students as a proving ground for innovative initiatives, which then, in turn, can be used to “seed” innovation during more formal school experiences. 

Working with others interested in authentic learning such as MIT’s D-Lab, The Buck Institute for Education, and Project Based Learning author Suzie Boss, Rich has developed a number of projects that combine real-life STEM applications with opportunities for his students to connect with peers around the world. Whether his students are working with him on a year-long project to build a functional prosthetic for his son, collaborating with students in Uganda on the building and testing of small functional biomass stoves, or 3D designing and printing solutions to design problems identified by his school’s community, Rich is engaging students with deep and meaningful STEM experiences.

The idea of using authentic projects during informal contact times to create a culture of innovation at a school has resonated with others seeking to provide their students with similar experiences. In June of 2015, Rich was brought on as the Educators’ Exchange Coordinator for Enable, a global network of 7000+ volunteers committed to the designing, building, and distributing of cheap 3D printed prosthetics. Rich also became a National Faculty member for the Buck Institute for Education in 2015 and, when not sharing the duties of caring for their four- and five-year olds with his wife Nicole, now spends his summers empowering teachers to effectively design and use PBL projects.

Meet the other finalists for the $25,000 Allen Distinguished Educators Award.

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