Kleberg IDEA Center & Service Learning

The Maker Mindset at Upland

A crown jewel of our Kennett Square, PA campus, The Kleberg IDEA Center utilizes empathy to define the questions and problems. Technology and engineering drive the solutions. Design thinking challenges students to learn from their models and mistakes. The curriculum is intentionally flexible, process-based and community-centered.

Students from Pre-K to 9th grade learn to better understand the needs of their peers and their community at large while empowering them to be global citizens.  Students build solutions to problems using design prototypes of all kinds using technology and harness their fine and gross motor skills along the way.  Students will engage with a wide range of technology and tools from table saws and hammers to laser cutters and robotics.  In a world with complex problems, forward-thinking educators encourage students to ideate and prototype - continually redesigning and learning from previous errors or missteps.  Mistakes are simply an opportunity to learn, and repeated effort always leads to improvement.  Students learn to collaborate and build upon each other’s ideas, using all the information and knowledge at their disposal while designing their own unique solutions.  

The IDEA Center cultivates a community of thinkers, makers, and builders in a place of discovery, joy, and innovation.

Service Learning at Upland Country Day School

At Upland, we teach about empathy as well as literacy; compassion as well as composition and advocacy as well as algebra. The Living Kindness Program represents our service learning approach and works to engage students with the surrounding community. Upland has a long history of service learning in the traditional sense - raising responsible citizens who are trustworthy and charitable has been enshrined in the Upland Way for decades. However, as the world has changed so too has service learning. The question is no longer ‘what can we give a community in need’ but, rather, ‘how might our students make an impact on the community in collaboration with a local organization?’ How can our students provide a service while also learning from leaders, experts and organizations in our local community? Through the process of empathy building, problem seeking and humility we seek to improve the world around us in ways both big and small.

It was out of this spirit of collaboration that the Living Kindness Program was formed. Nancy Pia of the Michael & Nancy Pia Foundation approached Upland with an idea to leverage kindness and empathy as a way to engage young people in service and philanthropy in Chester County. 

Every grade, PreK-9th, will engage with the LKP in some fashion - some more directly than others - as this represents a school-wide effort to build more opportunities for our students to engage with various communities. From Kennett to Kenya, the dream is that we cultivate a curiosity of mind and reflexive compassion within our student body to empathetically engage with a variety of communities across the globe. These principles of empathy, curiosity, engagement, and kindness intersect quite well with Upland’s IDEA Center philosophy. While cultivating this ‘maker mindset,’ students have embraced the opportunity to imagine, build and problem solve. It certainly makes sense why the Living Kindness Program has found a home in our IDEA Center! 

"The act of seeing some element of change, however that's defined, can contribute to feeling greater hope, control and optimism, which contributes to greater wellness overall," said Ryan DeLapp, child psychologist 

The Capstone Project

As school leaders, our 8th-grade class will annually design an LKP capstone project. This year, they are designing and building a remote food bank on campus in support of Kennett Area Community Services (KACS). It will operate as a year-long donation site that will inspire a commitment from our Upland family to end food insecurity in the greater Kennett Square community.

Our Partners

Collaborations Include:
  • The Linus Project
  • Kennett Community Garden
  • Kennett Area Community Services (KACS)
  • Upland School Spirit
  • Kipkeino School in Kenya 
  • Brandywine River Museum
  • Mt Cuba Center
  • Brandywine Conservancy
  • Stroud Water Research Center

The Michael and Nancy Pia Foundation

The Michael and Nancy Pia Foundation is partnering with Upland Country Day School to launch a Living Kindness Program. 

The Program’s purpose is to encourage students to spread more kindness and compassion throughout their community. The Living Kindness Program is a way to mindfully develop our future leaders and philanthropists by expanding their awareness of community needs and to take action, which will allow them to experience the kindness that brings us all together. The Foundation, which is focused on improving the lives of children, will provide funding for worthy initiatives presented by the students and faculty.

Michael and Nancy’s involvement with Upland began in 1995 when their twins, Mike and Amy, first attended the school. Nancy stated, “I’m very excited to be back at Upland where not only did our children receive an excellent education, but also formed wonderful friendships that continue to this day.”

Nancy is a life-long educator and is committed to the Foundation’s mission. She has worked with multiple schools and organizations in various volunteer capacities. Most recently, she introduced a mindfulness program into several local schools, including Upland, in which to date nearly a thousand parents, students, and teachers have participated.