About Us

Did you ever build a tree fort when you were a kid?

If you did, think back to everything you had to learn to make that happen.  You had to choose a site and source materials.  You learned, probably through trial and error, concepts from architecture, physics, engineering, and geometry.  You learned how to use tools.  You likely reached out to peers and trusted adults for help.  You got to know the ecology of the land.  Once your fort was built, perhaps you developed a secret club with your friends, complete with its own form of governance.  Perhaps you spent hours alone, getting to know yourself.  Perhaps you overcame your fear of sleeping outdoors.  Perhaps you can still vividly recall the place, the people, the adventures.  The tree fort became a core part of who you are today.

TreeFort Teens started with the fundamental question, what if all learning could be like this?  What if high school could be more than a list of classes and a GPA?  What if, instead, it was an adventure where you learned who you are and what you are capable of doing?  

We invite you to come build your own future with us.

 

Meet Our Founder

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Emily Samuel

Emily started her career as a public school teacher.  Inspired by her own experiences at a progressive public high school, she wanted to bring interdisciplinary, project-based learning to more students.  Over the years, she taught math and science in the suburbs, in the inner city, in a tiny rural school, and at a juvenile detention center.  Nowhere, however, did she find the opportunity to create the kind of learning experiences she desired.  She was able to create pieces of truly great learning here and there, but constantly ran into the constraints of regulation and scheduling.  It seemed that schools of all kinds were stuck in a box of traditional academics and testing.

​Everything changed when she took a break from paid work to homeschool her daughter.  For the first time, she had no constraints on what or how she could teach.  In addition to designing learning experiences for her own daughter, she volunteered to work with some local homeschooling teenagers.  She embarked on her own learning quest, studying everything from unschooling to neuroscience, and she experimented with many different approaches.  In many ways, this tinkering approach towards building the ideal learning environment reminded her of tinkering on backyard tree forts when she was a kid, so when she opened her learning center in 2019, she already had the perfect name.  Thus TreeFort was born!