We are an independent, Reggio Emilia inspired, K-8 school focused on student inquiry and social-emotional development. We develop creative critical thinkers and problem solvers, and productive, engaged citizens.


This summer we are moving into the Dunbar Pavilion, site of the historic Dunbar School, at 325 W. 2nd Street. Beginning with the 2018-19 School Year, we will be located in 6 spacious, light-filled, lovely classrooms in the 2-story building that marked the transition from the Dunbar School to John Spring Jr. High. (See The Dunbar Project for more info on the Dunbar Coalition’s efforts to revitalize this historically and culturally significant site.) The property also includes a wonderful playground space, full basketball court, and community garden/eco-park, offering our children the best of both indoor and outdoor learning spaces. This is a very exciting development that will allow the IDEA School to continue to build deep community partnerships that benefit our students and families while being of service to the larger community as well. We could not have asked for a more perfect new home!


Currently accepting applications for K-6 for the 2018-19 School Year.

A few spots remain in K-1; we have a short Wait List for 2nd – 6th.
Apply today!

We believe all children are intrinsically motivated learners and constructors of knowledge. All children are capable of developing a deep sense of empathy for others. These beliefs are the foundation for everything we do.

Our major influences include progressive educational philosophies and programs like TEACH through Love, the Reggio Emilia philosophy, the research and writings of Peter Gray, SF Brightworks, and the Tinkering Schools, and Democratic Free schooling.

“We like the idea of happiness and engagement being emphasized as measures of success…
the IDEA School’s philosophy fits with the educational experience we envision for our daughter.”
– Cecelia and Daniel, parents of 3rd grader

Questions? Please email Nicolle Bornstein at


Our students learn in mixed-age groups with multiple collaborators (teachers) leading workshops and other activities based on their areas of expertise and passion — and based on students’ interests!  We provide plenty of opportunities for small group and individual work through workshops, projects, math and civics lessons and other explorations.

Students are engaged in learning inspired by their ideas and questions, experiences and relationship-building in the community, teacher-generated provocations, and expert visits/field studies.  Our work focuses on real-world challenges and we use projects as a jumping off point for deeper exploration of academic concepts and the development of 21st Century Skills.

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  • Children of all ages are intrinsically motivated learners, capable of extraordinary insight, passion, and joy in their learning.
  • We have the opportunity to truly nurture our children’s intrinsic motivation to learn.  It is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.
  • Collaboration is central to learning, and children who feel a strong sense of community do better – in school and in life.
  • Authentic assessment allows us to truly measure what children know and can do, and partner with them to help them push their learning further.


We built the IDEA School on the basic premise that when children are engaged, amazing things happen. We want kids to still be as engaged by school when they’re in 8th Grade as they were when they were in Kindergarten, because school is still relevant to them and they see that their ideas have an audience, their work matters, and the sky’s the limit in terms of what they can learn and how they apply it.

Thank you for your interest in the IDEA School. We’re glad you’re here!

To apply, click here.


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We are proud to be a member of the Ashoka Changemaker Schools Network, 200+ innovative schools around the world who make empathy and changemaking — “empathy in action” — a core pillar of what we do.

Policy of Non-Discrimination

The IDEA School strongly values diversity in our student body, staff, and Board of Directors. 

The IDEA School admits students of any race, color, national original, ethnic origin, socio-economic status, religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, familial status and physical ability to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national original, ethnic origin, socio-economic status, religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, familial status or physical ability in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship/financial aid policies and programs, or athletic and other school-administered programs.

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