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

Our Philosophy

Our Philosophy

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.

Our Philosophy
discoveries depend on yesterday’s understanding

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.

discoveries depend on yesterday’s understanding

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.

Boundless Learning

Boundless Learning

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.

Boundless Learning

Our History

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.

2000-2009: Transforming the School Experience

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.

2010-2017: Intergenerational Across Cleveland

Intergenerational Across Cleveland

By 2010, the school had grown to over 200 kindergarten through eighth-grade students and was the recipient of several local, state, and national awards for its innovative and effective educational model.

In 2011, as a response to demand from a group of activist parents on Cleveland’s west-side, Near West Intergenerational School opened on the lower level of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Garret Morgan School of Science in the Ohio City neighborhood.

As part of the newly adopted Cleveland Plan, this was the first charter-district partnership to co-locate a charter and a district school in the same building. By 2013, the schools were serving more than 400 students and collaborating with more than 30 organizations to foster multi-age, community-based learning opportunities.

Again, a neighborhood sought to replicate the school model, and Lakeshore Intergenerational School opened in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood in 2014. Now all three schools serve almost 750 students.

In 2010, the Intergens collaborated to create the Breakthrough Schools charter management organization to help support its administrative and fundraising efforts. In 2017, the Intergens amicably separated from Breakthrough to focus deeper on their unique mission as an independent network.

2018-Today: Moving Forward Together

Moving Forward Together

To mark this new chapter for the Intergens, the network established a new fundraising organization, Friends of the Intergenerational Schools, and embarked on a collaborative strategic planning process to realign its mission, vision, values and goals as an independent network of three schools.

The result of this comprehensive evaluation was Moving Forward Together, a three-year strategic plan developed by a team of staff, board, parents, and committee members.

As the Intergenerational Schools approach the original school’s 20th anniversary, the network is better positioned than ever to build and deepen connections across generations and strengthen the Cleveland communities they call home.

Statement of Non-Discrimination

The Intergenerational Schools do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, political affiliation or beliefs, athletic performance, special need, genetic information, proficiency in English, physical or mental disability or academic achievement, family/parental status, income derived from a public assistance program, membership in an employee organization, and does not allow reprisal or retaliation for any prior civil rights activity.  Upon admission of any student who requires, or may require special education services, the School will comply with all federal and state laws.