Learning Tours

What are Learning Tours?

Learning Tours provide an opportunity for you – educators, young people, and community leaders – to see powerful schools and programs with your own eyes and bring back the learning to your community. Each site has valuable practices and stories to share about what is working and what has been learned through challenges and efforts over time.“I didn’t think I would find original inspiration after 20 years of being a teacher. I thank you for this experience to find more to bring back to my work.”  ~ NYC Learning Tour participant

IDEA organizes both open tours available to individuals and groups, and custom designed tours, in which we work with you to create a tour experience tailored specifically to your community as professional development, youth development, or alongside ongoing organizing and change efforts. 

Goals of Learning Tours 

  1. Showcase powerful learning by highlighting schools and programs outside of schools that demonstrate democratic education in action.
  2. Provide inspiration and new ideas for educators, youth, policy-makers, parents, and community leaders.
  3. Support local change efforts by including a cross-section of key community members on tours.

What to expect on a Learning Tour

Learning Tours bring together the best of educational site visits and hands-on workshops into one experience. Tours typically include groups and individuals of 20-30 participants visiting three to four sites over two and a half days. Here’s what to expect:

  • Three to four fully arranged site visits over the course of 2 and a half days
  • Time to observe and engage in dialogue with adult and youth leaders on site 
  • Opportunities to reflect and discuss the visits with tour participants
  • Full facilitation including pre and post tour communication and documentation
  • Local transportation, blocks of discounted hotel rooms, and several meals provided
  • Focused attention on race and equity in educational justice

Sample tour schedule

Day 1:Opening gathering and dinner at 6pm Day 2:Morning visit to tour site #1Afternoon visit to tour site #2Tour group discussion and dinner Day 3:Morning visit to tour site #3Afternoon visit to tour site #4Final tour group discussions finished at 5pm 

Upcoming Learning Tours

IDEA hosts multiple tours around the country each year. Check out our upcoming tour schedule below and sign up as a small group or individual.

Coming soon!

Custom Designed Tours

Is your school, district, organization, or group looking for new ideas and inspiration to guide your change efforts or initiate new programs and practices? IDEA can work with you to design a Learning Tour that is specifically focused on your particular needs and goals. 

How it works

You tell us your goals, needs, and interests, and we work with you to design a tour for groups between 10 and 30 people that can help you move your work forward. We’ll discuss timeline, locations, types of sites to visit, and logistics. After deciding on a tour plan, IDEA arranges the site visits, provides information before the tour, facilitates the experience, and shares back documentation of the visit post-tour. We can also work with you and your organization over time to make sense of the visit, reflect with the full community back home, and implement ideas and change plans.  “Working with IDEA to design and facilitate a NYC Learning Tour for our site was a great experience. We were thrilled with the process, final product and ease of the working relationship.Their organizers were able to take our ideas and wishes for what our participants would experience and suggest schools to visit that helped us imagine what was possible at our own schools. They helped to facilitate connections with educators that can serve as resources moving forward. They nailed the logistics of touring a large group of students and teachers through the streets and subways of New York. And, the reflection activities they led helped us integrate the learning into our own context so we arrived home with tangible next steps for making positive school change. We would definitely recommend collaborating with IDEA.”~ Lindsey Cox, Project Manager, Partnership for Change

What an IDEA-designed tour includes:

  • Arranging site visits
  • Sending information and tour packets to participants prior to the tour
  • Facilitating the tour from beginning to end, including leading discussions and reflection sessions throughout the experience
  • Providing several meals during the tour and arranging blocks of discounted rooms at a hotel
  • Arranging or providing local transportation during the tour
  • Sharing documentation including pictures and reflections from tour conversations.


We will work with you to determine a cost rate that makes sense for your school, organization, or community. Total costs include lodging, meals, ground transportation, and facilitator travel expenses.“The NYC Innovation Tour was a highlight of my 33 year teaching career. I give it an A+.” ~ Participant in tour designed for South Burlington High School, VT

Examples of IDEA Designed Tours

Nellie Mae Education Foundation’s Amplifying Student Voice & Leadership cohort – 2016-2018: We coordinate tours for this cohort of community-based youth organizations to see student-centered learning in action and bring ideas back to their communities and schools.  Sisters School District and Heart of Oregon – January 2015, Oregon: A tour for the district to learn about project-based learning and portfolio assessment as they build a new public alternative school. Storify feed from the tour. South Burlington High School – January 2014, New York: This high school in Vermont asked us to design a tour to see schools practicing student-centered and proficiency-based learning to spur improvement efforts. Participants included the principal, school board members, teachers, parents, and students. Partnership for Change – January 2013, New York: A school transformation project in two districts of northern Vermont asked us to design a tour to New York to see student centered learning and to help them build community power for action. Article about the tour by a Burlington High School teacher. Contact us to discuss tour design for your group: dbennis at democraticeducation.org or 800-878-5740. 


Heart of Oregon designed tour to Eugene and Portland, OR – January, 2015
Storify feed collecting posts on Twitter about the tour

New York Tour – April, 2013
Storify feed collecting posts on Twitter and Facebook about the tour

Partnership for Change designed tour to NYC – January, 2013
Blog post about the tour by Dana Bennis
“P4C School Innovation Tour to NYC: Wait, I’m in a Box?!,” article by Partnership for Change tour member Benjamin Roesch

Vermont Tour – May, 2012
Storify feed collecting posts on Twitter and Facebook about the tour
“Educators look at successful Harwood programs,” Waterbury Record article

New York Tour – November, 2011
“City schools tour aims to spur democratic education elsewhere,” Gotham Schools article
“IDEA Tours NYC,” blog post by Ammerah Saidi
Twitter Feed from Fall 2011 NY Tour (PDF image)
“Reflections from NYC Tour” Blog post & pictures by IDEA Organizer Manauvaskar Kublall

New York Tour – April, 2011
Twitter Feed from Spring 2011 NY Tour (click graphic to enlarge)

Oregon Tour – April, 2011
See photos from the Oregon Innovation Tour
Twitter Feed from OR tour (PDF image)

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