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Quadrat Academy: A New Educational Model Based on Experience and Creative Thinking

This brand-new Philadelphia independent school is creating something unique.

Svetlana Tikhonov has lived in more than a dozen countries and has seen how schools all over the world educate children. But as she watched her son move through different schools — public and private — she realized the only times he really seemed to learn anything was when a teacher worked outside the “norms” of the standard education system.


Tikhonov became convinced that “traditional education has become more or less obsolete both in format and content. Even today, the gap between industry expectations and what we teach in schools is tremendous, and it will only increase in the future.”


So, she set out to make a new model. Tikhonov founded Quadrat Academy, now just opening its doors in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood for students in sixth through 12th grade.


“It is time to bring the education system into today’s reality,” Tikhonov said. “I believe we owe this to our kids.”


Quadrat pulls from a number of different educational models and philosophies to give students something truly unique. The school incorporates Montessori principles, for example, by using “guides” instead of “teachers” to lead student-centered learning environments, and putting students in mixed-age groups. Quadrat is the only school above sixth grade in the Philadelphia area that uses a Montessori program.


The Progressive educational approach is also involved, as is the notion that everyone learns best from experiencing the ideas and skills they’re trying to absorb. Exposure to a variety and multitude of real-life experiences and practitioners is also critical.


For example, Quadrat has partnered with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) for an art lab where students can shadow and learn from professional artists.


“We believe education should be an inspired exploration journey,” Tikhonov said. “This cannot be achieved in classrooms.”


And the experiential component goes beyond photography labs and creating a startup company —  both directions that are available at Quadrat. Students will also help run the school, from cooking lunch to helping design innovative teaching formats. In the Innovation Lab, they can make their dreams a reality through experimentation, trial and error, and collaborative work.


“Adolescents are trying to prove themselves constantly and taking risks every chance they can. Experiential education is invaluable in that regard – it allows students to take on ‘controlled risks’ both in and outside of classrooms,” Tikhonov said. “The best way to learn is outside your comfort zone while utilizing your highly developed skills — this is when your brain and body mobilize and every experience and/or knowledge has a lasting impact. Knowledge retention takes on a completely different meaning.


“The goal is to prepare young adults to think for themselves and act for themselves and others with purpose, effectiveness, and empathy when we are not with them.”


Quadrat students can also take Advanced Placement classes and will study all the traditional college-prep subjects, Tikhonov said. But Quadrat students will stand out for their ability to think critically and creatively when it’s time to apply for colleges.


Some of the world’s leading thinkers, inventors and entrepreneurs are the product of non-traditional educations, she said.


“Leading companies and innovators that drive industry trends expect a completely different mindset — a culture where innovation, creativity, and thinking outside the box are valued above all,” she said. “At Quadrat, we are preparing a generation of kids that will be ready for the 2050 lifestyle and will be able to handle the exponential change that is coming whether or not we admit to it.”


Quadrat is currently accepting students for the 2018-2019 school year, as well as for its summer 2018 camps. Those options include photography and startup camps, as well as camps with focus on the outdoors and the school’s Innovation Lab.


There is no “typical” Quadrat student, Tikhonov said. She believes any student with a hunger for something different will succeed.


“We design all programs and learning journeys to give students the opportunity to build their voices, passions, and an individual path. We seek to develop entrepreneurs, critical thinkers and innovators — every one of our students will have a unique story,” she said.


“What will be common is that all our students will be interesting, fulfilled, prepared adults when they are ready to graduate. That is our job as educators.”

Want to know more? Visit Quadrat Academy at the school’s website for more details on their next open house.



Photographs courtesy of Quadrat Academy. 

Quadrat Academy is an independent school in Philadelphia for students ages 11 to 18. Our students embrace the learning process as a personal lifestyle. They are in charge of creating their own future. Quadrat Academy allows students to explore, make mistakes and maximize their potential in a safe and supporting environment.

  • Pamela May 3, 2018

    I really love what you’re doing Quadrat Academy!! I think this inquiry and experiential based learning model is the best way to get students to not just LEARN but care and remember for the future. We are so lucky to have you here in Philadelphia!