Imagine a place where all of your “what ifs” are transformed into “and thens.” Where what you imagine is met with a “Yes! And…” instead of a “not right now.”
EXPLO is that place. Though, we like to think of EXPLO as a mindset rather than something defined by the limits of space and time.
Founded in 1976 as a non-profit startup out of MIT, EXPLO has benefitted from decades of entrepreneurial leadership since day one. The mindset that created a community of intellectual adventure beyond academic routine — filled with variety, innovative spirit, and a fusion of fun and learning — has supported EXPLO’s evolution from the first hybrid summer program for high schoolers to a multi-campus summer program for students in grades 2-12 to a sought-after resource for student engagement and innovative teaching and learning worldwide.
We are the people of the possible. The kind of people who go on to do things like co-found Buzzfeed and Honest Tea, lead Virgin Galactic, transform the plant-based food industry, and illuminate their home country after a natural disaster. We are Forbes 30 Under 30 winners, Inventors of the Year, Watson Fellows, Rhodes and Fulbright Scholars. EXPLO is where we have big ideas; learn to collaborate, fail, and iterate; say yes to opportunities and chart uncharted territory.
While we continue to draw inspiration from our roots in MIT’s Independent Activity Period, we continue to iterate and push the boundaries of learning beyond the academy. In 2016 we launched EXPLO Studio to explore the ways in which critical making curriculum and an entrepreneurial mindset can change the way educators approach teaching and boost student engagement. Our findings led us to launch EXPLO Elevate: An Innovative Schools Cooperative in 2019 to work with schools across the U.S. and around the world looking to innovate their approach to 21st century education, increase student engagement, and equip young people with the necessary skills to navigate an uncertain future economy of jobs that don’t yet exist.
Ultimately, our goal is to move the world to a place where people drive and take responsibility for their own learning. It’s a lofty goal, to be sure, and cannot be undertaken alone.
One of our strengths at EXPLO is collaboration. To that end, we gather industry experts, professional advisors, and leaders in education, nonprofit, and government from around the world to keep us at the leading edge of what the future of work looks like so that we can develop curriculum that best prepares students with the skills that will help them thrive.
It is also important that we share what we learn with others as we work toward similar goals of developing student agency. In the last decade, we have increased our outreach efforts to support educators in the Mississippi Delta; provide back-end training and structure for camps serving thousands of low income students in New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania; train government teachers in India on best practices for project-based learning; develop maker curriculum for a parochial school seeking to increase student engagement and fund an innovation center on its campus; and provide insight to 110 ministers of education gathered at the by-invitation-only World Education Forum in London to debate and develop global education policies.
Additional recent projects and partnerships include:
Developing agency and driving your own learning is for all students, regardless of cultural, economic, or ethnic background. But the reality is that equity in education continues to be a hot-button issue across the U.S. and around the world.
It is critical to EXPLO’s mission that we create a community that mirrors the world of people and ideas — diverse, vast, complex, and energizing.
In addition to the general financial aid program open to students across the globe, special scholarship programs have also been established to support students from all walks of life.
The Richard Steele Scholarship program is named after former EXPLO board member Dick Steele, who had an august college enrollment career leading the admissions offices at Duke University, Carleton College, and Bowdoin College. Steele Scholars, who hail from northern Aroostook County, Maine, USA, come to EXPLO for the summer following their freshman year of high school. They then participate in a college counseling program for the remainder of their high school careers.
EXPLO also partners with organizations that support the gifted and talented. Recent partners have included the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKC), the King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for the Gifted, and the Sunflower County Freedom Project.
Ann and Arnie Singal founded Exploration Summer Programs in 1976 with the goal of creating a unique summer experience for high school students that combined the best aspects of summer camps — close friendships, activities, and adventure — with a focus on intellectual engagement and lifelong learning.
The inspiration for EXPLO came from Arnie’s days as an administrator and freshman advisor at MIT, which was running a number of innovative initiatives around student-driven transdisciplinary learning. There, Arnie recruited a former advisee, Brian Hughes, to serve as the first Program Director and help get the program off the ground. To this day, Brian — who went on to launch a number of successful startups and helped dismantle the AT&T monopoly — calls EXPLO the best startup he ever worked for, and credits the experience (and Arnie’s recommendation) for helping him gain admission to Harvard Business School. Brian continues to work closely with EXPLO as a member of the Board of Trustees.
Arnie and Ann led EXPLO for 30 years, growing the organization from a single summer program for high school students to a multi-campus program that serves students ages 7-17 from 40 states and 70 countries and has more than 85,000 alumni worldwide.