For this Colorado ‘micro-school’, the classroom is a bike shop and a cafe

Embark opened in 2019. According to Chalkbeat Colorado, 40% of enrollees are students of color. School is free, although there is a application process. By making enrollment free, Hyosaka says Embark is able to reach people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity for such hands-on, specialized learning. (The college tuition at Denver Montessori School, for comparison, is $24,000which is about the same as CU Denver’s in-state tuition.)

Hyosaka said that when establishing the school, the founders asked “who traditionally has access to these types of learning experiences and environments?”

“And the response has been that a wealthy and privileged clientele are those who generally know about these schools or can afford them. And so part of our thinking is, ‘How can we break down those barriers?’ “, did he declare. “We are intentionally tuition-free to live our values ​​of equity, anti-bias, and anti-racism.”

It’s not just macchiatos and mountain bikes for Embark students. Students make their own schedules, but they still have to study science, math and language as students in more traditional schools do. But at Embark, that learning is embedded in the two local businesses the students help run.

Hyosaka gave an example: Many of the seasonal coffee drinks on Pinwheel Coffee’s menu were created by students. “You know, it required them to learn about beverage chemistry, profitability [and] a market study around “would this kind of drink sell? he explained, adding that the students particularly appreciated the taste tests. The school’s website offers more examples.

“I just feel like I’m learning better in this situation,” said Lea Gentry, an eighth-grader at Embark. “I know I can be myself. At other schools I couldn’t bring out my inner child, but now I know at Embark I can.

Seventh grade Maverick Smith said learning at Embark was “a lot more free”.

“They give us a lot more time to do our own thing, really,” Smith said. “It’s not just about making lattes, I guess.”


Brian Willie is head of content production at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can contact him at [email protected].

Kyle Cooke is Digital Media Manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at [email protected].