Written by John McGhee
From the Desk of an Intern

This month from the desk of an intern, John shares some insight on what it is like to attend Gibson Ek High School – a project-based alternative to the main public high school in Issaquah.

Gibson Ek is a small school, only enrolling sixty freshmen each year by lottery. There are no grades, a large portion of the learning is self-directed, and students usually attend three out of five school days.  How could a public school that functions so differently actually work? Well, the school revolves around 3 main opportunities for learning: projects, mentorships, and labs.

Projects are the most central of the three, where students choose a topic to learn about and dive deeply into it, either to master a skill, answer a complex question, or solve a real-world problem. School resources include a variety of specialized equipment such as 3d printers, a laser cutter, lathes, welding equipment, sewing machines and a well-stocked science space. One of my favorite things about going to Gibson Ek is the different learning opportunities that are available in the curriculum.

I have worked on two large projects throughout this year. The first of those was film development, where I learned the process of shooting and developing color photos, and I am currently learning how to mix my own developer, fixer, and stop bath with raw chemicals. Film photography is really fun and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in photography. I will warn you that it’s an expensive hobby given film prices.

The second project is focused on the peculiar game of circle tic-tac-toe. The game is played on a circle with a circumference of eight playable units and a radius of four, with the middle not being a playable space. The first player to get four spaces in a row vertically, horizontally, or in a spiral formation wins. Due to its obscurity, the game does not have a well-known best way to play as opposed to conventional tic-tac-toe, which I worked to solve using computer algorithms.

The “Labs”, Gibson Ek’s closest thing to traditional classes, are split into design labs and crash labs. Design labs are six-week-long, and usually focus either on designing something, such as a wooden canoe or a school-wide psychology experiment, or diving deeply into a topic, such as the history of famous photographs. Crash labs are like design labs, but shorter and more focused on learning skills or concepts rather than building some form of an end product.

The school’s mentorship program is the most unique thing about attending Gibson Ek. Instead of attending school, students spend their Tuesdays and Thursdays learning from experts in fields they are interested in. They do this through helping out in the workplace or working on projects with their expert mentor in parallel. I’m doing my mentorship with Juniper Capital through Gibson Ek and it has been really great. The mentorship program offers professional experience and real-life skills that help with things like communication and work ethic. The mentorship program has had a big impact on preparing me for the real world.

Gibson Ek has been an amazing opportunity and I’m glad that I decided to attend. I have been able to learn more about my interests and explore new ones, all while learning many different things. The school and its learning style are very different. However, it works very well and introduces us to real world experience early in our learning cycle.

Here at Juniper we are proud to work with Gibson Ek, and John as he continues to explore topics effecting the commercial real estate and lending industries.

If you’re seeking quality commercial real estate investments throughout the Pacific Northwest, we’re here to help. Juniper Capital provides private real estate financing, including hard money loans for commercial, construction, multifamily residential opportunities and more. If you would like more information on this topic, call us today.