WHO WE ARE
Natural Creativity is a 501c3 non-profit that operates a resource center for self-directed partnership education in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA.
The philosophy that forms the foundation for our approach has been implemented in a number of ways in the suburbs of Philadelphia for 40 years, and our mission has been to make that a possibility for families regardless of socioeconomic status or zip code.
We opened in January 2016 with a community of 18 young people from 12 families, we have grown to a community of 45 young people from 30 families. We intend to continue to grow to support as many families as possible.
WHAT IS THE NEED?
For decades now there has been a great dissatisfaction with conventional schooling with little agreement over what to do about it. Some argue for more rigorous standards and assessments, others for more technology. The result is that much of the conversation about education does not involve the young people currently in the system or the community members, such as businesses or professional organizations, that will ultimately hire those young people. So, seemingly regardless of reform effort, young people move through school with more and more disengagement, and businesses lament an apparently growing amount of employees who are less skilled at creative problem solving, collaboration, or thinking systematically.
Natural Creativity was founded in 2015 by Peter Bergson and Chris Steinmeier.
Peter Bergson opened Open Connections with his wife Susan Shilcock in 1978, where they offered programs with a specific approach to self-directed education based on creative group problem solving and nonviolent communication. Shortly after, he lamented the lack of economic and racial diversity in the community and began thinking of how to change that reality.
Fast forward 36 years, and Peter teamed up with local nonprofit leader Diane Cornman-Levy, who received start-up funding to launch what would become Natural Creativity, Inc.
In 2015, they hired Chris Steinmeier to lead the programming side of the center they were designing. Chris and Peter worked closely to choose Germantown as the hub from which to launch the Natural Creativity Center in January 2016, in a single room in the First United Church of Germantown (FUMCOG) with a community of 18 young people.
After 4 years at FUMCOG, the Covid-19 pandemic forced us to shift our program several times, including a virtual component and a fully outdoor component (from March 2020 through November 2021), and through it all, we continued to grow until we needed more space! In July 2021, we signed a lease for our Pulaski Avenue location, and after several months of renovations, we officially opened the Pulaski space in December 2021.
Krystal Dillard was hired as co-director, along with Chris, in January 2020. Peter retired in June 2020. Learn more about the current team here.