Announcing the Phase 1 winners

Today, Siegel Family Endowment and the Walton Family Foundation are thrilled to announce the 40 Phase 1 winners of the Learning Landscapes Challenge. The winners will receive $5,000 each and an exclusive invitation to join the 14-week Phase 2 virtual accelerator.

The challenge received 272 Phase 1 submissions from teams across 44 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Entrants represented a broad array of organizations, including schools and other educational institutions, nonprofits and community-based organizations, edtech startups, and architecture and design firms.

“The range and creativity of the submitted concepts showcase powerful examples of what the learner ecosystem needs to support enduring innovation and invention,” said Joshua Elder, Vice President and Head of Grantmaking at Siegel Family Endowment. “We are energized to continue into Phase 2, giving innovators the tools they need to thrive and learning how we can better support a culture of community-driven innovation as a whole.”

“Now more than ever, students need learning experiences that have a measurable impact on their success today and into the future,” said Jamie Jutila, Senior Program Officer at the Walton Family Foundation. “The winning concepts hold enormous potential to deliver on that need by cohesively integrating and expanding the scope of educational experiences. We’re excited about the next development phase of these innovative proposals.”

Meet the Phase 1 winners

The Learning Landscapes Challenge congratulates the Phase 1 winners:

  • Advance CTE — Maryland. AdvanceCTE’s project will help state and local education leaders engage learners in their Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment process, drawing on principles of youth participatory action research, to ensure learner voice is authentically embedded in CTE decision-making.
  • Aecern LLC — Florida, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California. Pathways: Scouting Outliers to Build Community Driven Innovation integrates virtual resources from Scoutlier with practical learning environments like FabLabs and innovation centers, transforming underutilized retail spaces into vibrant educational hubs that cater to diverse communities of K-12 stakeholders with a focus on workforce and nontraditional learning opportunities.
  • Albert E. Kagel School — Wisconsin. The Schoolyard Redevelopment Plan will allow students in grades K-8 the opportunity to explore nature play that is imaginative, constructive, sensory-rich, and cooperative — while also sustainably managing stormwater within a green infrastructure.
  • American High School — Florida. American High School provides incarcerated and at-risk youth with a specially designed educational program and career training, offering a second chance for success and preventing recidivism while helping students gain valuable skills and credentials.
  • CareerVillage Inc. — California. Revolutionizing career support for the next generation, CareerVillage’s AI Career Coach offers personalized, impactful, 24/7 coaching, empowering individuals to navigate futures with confidence.
  • Children First Fund — Illinois. Chicago Public Schools will continue the development of its universal digital curriculum, Skyline, by leveraging generative AI to meet the individual needs of Chicago’s students and support teachers in their instructional practices.
  • Ed3 DAO — Wyoming. Ed3 DAO’s Learner Employment Record (LER) Utility Playbook will enable K-12 schools to dynamically recognize and verify competencies achieved from various learning environments, allowing for a more authentic, relevant, holistic, and personalized education for all learners.
  • Empower Schools — Indiana. Rural Alliance Zone 32 (RAZ-32) works to address the intersecting challenges of poor health outcomes, healthcare workforce shortages, and limited career access to ensure that East Central Indiana students — especially low-income and Hispanic students — can thrive and contribute to the region’s economic and cultural vitality.
  • ExpandED Schools — New York. ExpandED Schools will scale its Exploring Futures model, which offers career exploration opportunities for 35,000 middle school students in New York City through classroom activities and authentic career exposure events.
  • Fab-hood Network — Ohio. The Fab-hood Network is pioneering an initiative to transform STEM education by providing advanced digital fabrication tools that are accessible and culturally relevant, particularly for traditionally under-resourced communities.
  • FabNewport — Rhode Island. FabNewport is growing an equitable, youth-centered ecosystem of learning that empowers children to impact their communities and realize their positive future visions.
  • Future Focused Education — New Mexico. Future Focused Education is developing an AI-enabled database platform that will function as civic infrastructure, supporting students, teachers, and administrators in implementing capstone projects and other project-based approaches in ways that center the language, cultural, and tribal sovereignty of the communities it supports.
  • Global Tinker — North Carolina. The Junior Scientist Maker Program provides foundational STEM education and critical-thinking skills to elementary school students through a unique blend of world-class digital content, an inquiry-based learning curriculum, and community-based citizen science projects.
  • Groundwork San Diego — California. Groundwork San Diego Chollas Creek is designing innovative, interactive exhibits for its four-acre outdoor classroom to seamlessly integrate STEAM field trip experiences with indoor classroom learning.
  • Jones Valley Teaching Farm — Alabama. Food Is Our Foundation: Youth-led Systems Change will instill the value of food at an early age, shifting power to youth and creating the knowledgeable leaders needed to build equitable food systems and food-resilient communities.
  • Joy Education Foundation — Michigan. Joy Education provides mobile and virtual reading clinics and teaching clinics to enable caring adults and diverse communities of learners to engage in culturally responsive reading practice so that students become confident readers and lifelong learners.
  • Lift Orlando — Florida. Lift Orlando’s holistic literacy education concept comprehensively addresses the diverse needs of readers alongside schools, teachers, and nonprofit partners while providing high-quality wraparound support for a child’s community and network.
  • Mesquite Independent School District — Texas. Mesquite ISD will use AYO, an AI-powered platform, to match students with mentors and business partners, creating tailored pathways that connect students’ passions and aptitudes with future workforce needs.
  • The New Community Project Inc. — New York. NewComm is a community of learners from historically marginalized communities dedicated to enhancing their academic skills and strengthening neighborhoods through a practical and professional approach to literacy.
  • New Visions for Public Schools (NVPS) — New York. Every Child and Family is Known (ECFIK) improves outcomes for young people and families living in shelters in three critical areas — academic success, social and emotional support, and resource and benefits access — through a data-sharing collaboration and system for collecting and responding to family needs.
  • Open Future Institute — New York, California. The QUESTion Project curriculum and teacher training empower public high school students to build the foundations of wellbeing: an authentic identity, the agency to shape their own lives and future, and a connection to purpose that can guide them with inspiration and possibilities.
  • Out Teach — Washington, D.C. Out Teach will develop a digitally supported professional learning journey to equip K-2 teachers as they center science teaching and learning anchored in outdoor phenomena.
  • PAST Foundation — Ohio. The Early IT Microschool empowers traditionally underrepresented students in the STEM workforce to gain agency and confidence through future-ready high school and college coursework, reducing barriers to obtaining in-demand credentials and degrees, driving economic change in low-income communities, and preparing students for high-demand tech careers.
  • Perkins School for the Blind — Massachusetts. The Perkins Transition Center is equipping students with disabilities, their families, and educators across the United States with critical programs and resources to effectively support the transition to adulthood and help young people find their place in the world.
  • Playful Learning Landscapes Action Network (PLLAN) — Washington, Pennsylvania. Playful Learning Landscapes Action Network (PLLAN) will work with Departments of Transportation to integrate playful learning elements into city infrastructure, which will support children and families in the places and spaces where they spend time.
  • The Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Network — Washington, D.C., Maryland. The Concentric Collaborative Learning Ecosystem is a comprehensive, community-driven program designed to address educational inequities in Baltimore by integrating digital, in-school, and community-based learning experiences.
  • Rêve Academy — Minnesota. Rêve Academy will extend its career-connected learning pathway to empower and prepare traditionally underrepresented youth as they pursue careers in digital business innovation through digitized courses, paid work experiences, free college credit, and access to technology-focused boot camps.
  • Runway Green — New York. Through a historic partnership with the National Park Service, Runway Green is building an experiential learning ecosystem on the grounds of a 1,000-acre national park in Brooklyn; it will support tens of thousands of NYC students in building skills and mindsets in sustainability as they earn badges and credentials in the green economy.
  • Schools That Can — New York. Schools That Can is developing an integrated infrastructure to establish ecosystems that will pave the way for 21st-century pathways to family-sustaining careers.
  • Sloyd & Croft — Texas. Sloyd & Croft Guild will provide a hyperlocal, diverse community of business, health, and faith leaders invested in the apprenticeship model with a communication platform, a blueprint to leverage resources, and a network of support to facilitate cross-disciplinary relationships. In doing so, it will transform education into a dynamic, community-driven process that inspires the next generation with real-world success stories, resulting in both personal and communal growth.
  • South Fayette Township School District — Pennsylvania. The Hope Accelerator is grounded in the science of hope and designed to create inclusive infrastructure that fosters hope, belonging, and personalized learning for high school students. The initiative cultivates authentic, real-world experiences tailored to students’ strengths, interests, and career preferences while leveraging community partnerships and transforming teacher-student relationships.
  • Summit Public Schools — California. Summit Public Schools is establishing an open-source community to help schools automate data integration and use that data for informed decision-making to enhance student outcomes.
  • Thinking Nation — California. Thinking Nation specializes in innovative social studies curriculum, assessments, and professional development, with a mission to cultivate thinking citizens by empowering students to read closely, think deeply, and write persuasively.
  • trubel&co — California. trubel&co (pronounced “trouble and co”) is a tech-justice nonprofit championing underserved youth to innovate for social change, equipping the next generation to tackle social and environmental disparities using data, design, and technology.
  • Two Bit Circus Foundation — California. The Serious Game Design-athon Collaboratory will innovate digital and social infrastructure in education by leveraging new technologies such as AI, the engaging power of video games, and the untapped potential of including students in a community of multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary professionals.
  • Uprooted Academy — California. Uprooted Academy is a digital third space that leverages game design and AI-powered learning to provide holistic counseling and connect students to a supportive virtual community, helping them navigate self-discovery, college, career, finances, and wellness.
  • Utah State University — Utah. Utah State University will collaborate with schools to develop inclusive indoor free-play spaces in response to challenges such as overcrowding, poor air quality, and rising temperatures.
  • The WPS Institute — Massachusetts. By creating new educational infrastructure, including entrepreneurship hubs, youth coaches, digital learner profiles and micro-credentials, “Pathways to Courage, Curiosity, Connection, and Career” will reimagine the middle school experience in Salem, Massachusetts, and empower an integrated approach to both education and economic development.
  • Vanderbilt University LIVE — Tennessee. Vanderbilt University and Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) are partnering to create human-centered, AI-empowered advising experiences that enhance college and career readiness — especially for historically marginalized students — through personalized digital, in-school, and community-based support.
  • Xchange Chicago — Illinois. Xchange Chicago, an onshore IT delivery center on Chicago’s South Side, is building a scalable pathway into tech for thousands of underserved youths.

Notable themes

The concepts submitted by the Phase 1 winners represent a variety of approaches, but several themes emerged across the winning submissions. Many themes reflect ongoing conversations in education — and the winning teams will now have an opportunity to articulate what makes their approaches distinct and rooted in innovative infrastructure investments as they progress through the Phase 2 accelerator.

Strengthening STEM/STEAM and career pathways
Many submissions aimed to strengthen and scale STEM/STEAM curricula to better prepare students for their future careers. Some focused on more experiential approaches to skills development, considering opportunities to integrate AR or VR, while others focused on strengthening partnerships with local industries to align curricula to in-demand skills. While career exploration often starts in middle or high school, some submissions focused on building foundational skills and interests as early as elementary school.

Rethinking where learning takes place and how it’s measured
Submissions also considered the learning environment beyond the classroom. Some blurred the line between a school building and its broader community, while others proposed an increase in outdoor learning experiences, leveraging natural environments to study climate change and food systems. Several proposed opportunities to reinvest in underused commercial, industrial, or retail spaces to serve as learning environments. But across each of these approaches, submissions raised important questions about how learning beyond the traditional classroom can be measured and credentialed — questions that will be crucial for many teams to begin answering during Phase 2.

The potential of AI
AI and its potential applications are top of mind for many — and the challenge submissions were no exception. Some submissions emphasized opportunities to create more personalized curricula and learning experiences using AI, whereas others envisioned opportunities for AI to support coaching and advising, extending the capacity of educators to help students. Additional submissions focused on supporting educators themselves to more efficiently develop curricula and learning materials. Throughout Phase 2, teams will explore how to integrate AI tools into more comprehensive program models and ensure that digital tools are integrated with the physical and social infrastructure needed to achieve impact.

Winners advance to the Phase 2 virtual accelerator

The Phase 1 winners will now enter a 14-week virtual accelerator, during which participating teams will receive mentorship and technical support. Teams will be expected to validate the core elements or assumptions underpinning their concepts, refine their proposed solutions, and make tangible progress in establishing additional partnerships.

At the end of Phase 2, a judging panel will recommend up to five winners. Each Phase 2 winner will receive $200,000 and advance to Phase 3.

If you are interested in collaborating with any of the Phase 1 winners on their solutions, subscribe to the challenge newsletter to be notified when we launch the partnership community.