John B. Russwurm P.S. 197M is the proud host of the first SOLE lab in America. Located in Harlem, New York City, we inspire students to ask and solve Big Questions while teaching each other the intricate paths of knowledge. After hundreds of SOLE sessions, we have seen students ages 3 -12 excitedly collaborate with each other, thinking of creative ways to solve questions that ignite curiosity and a passion for learning.

Harlem has been known internationally as both the heart of African-American culture, artistry and political activism, and for over 70 years it also became a symbol of urban decay, poverty, and political neglect. It has some of the lowest performing schools in New York City. Recently, gentrification and commercial development have swept through Harlem and many long-time residents have felt left out and pushed out.

The creative principal at PS197 invited us to Harlem to bring our cutting edge learning approach to this location to help close achievement and opportunity gaps, excite these young students’ curiosity and to empower them to take their place in the future of Harlem.

It is our goal to inspire teachers to develop meaningful projects in the classroom that empower students to reclaim Harlem, that have already included the lack of green spaces, garbage collection problems and littering. Students are discovering how these problems impacting their lives and are asking teachers and administration to help them start an initiative to make Harlem better.

SOLE-NYC is the only one of its kind in the Western Hemisphere and is placed in the most diversed city in the world. This makes our research efforts particularly rich as we seek to understand how students self-organize for learning. We are investigating the impact of SOLE on students’ reading comprehension, critical thinking and social skills while directly transforming the lives of the children we work with everyday.

Sugata Mitra’s PhD student Natalia Arredondo runs SOLE NYC.