The Top 5 Things to Know About Construct
We are fierce advocates for modern approaches to education that improve learning outcomes and prepare Oregon students for success in the real world.
We fight for equity in learning. All students should have the chance to rise.
Small by design and using a hybrid model, Construct serves as a program incubator, provides oversight and refinement, and offers financial support to test and advance innovative approaches to education.We believe in rebuilding a broken educational system in partnership with school leaders and teachers.
We believe in rebuilding an obsolete educational system in partnership with school leaders and teachers.
- Our mission is not possible without partners who recognize this critical opportunity to serve current and future generations.
In 2013, Gina Condon invested personal funds and partnered with her colleague, Kate Fitzgerald, an expert in grant funding and community-based organizations, to launch Construct Foundation.
The foundation’s name is inspired by the work of Gina’s father, Michael, who started Condon-Johnson & Associates, a specialty construction firm headquartered in Oakland, CA, with expertise in lateral earth support or “foundation” work. A child of immigrant grandparents in the Bronx, NY, Michael Condon struggled in the traditional school setting and did not go to college. He was able to grow his company to $80 million in revenue annually before his unexpected death at the age of 53 in 2002.
"My father was a passionate businessman with a disciplined and focused leadership style,” Gina says. “He possessed great self-awareness, which enabled him to build a powerful team and grow a very successful company.”
Gina observed this same self-directed entrepreneurial spirit during her years working in Silicon Valley before starting a family and moving to Portland in 2006. The entrepreneurial spirit is, according to many education and economic development leaders of today, an essential ingredient for all kids to thrive in the 21st century.
About the constructivist model
Gina Condon grew up with a visceral understanding of how access to opportunities and education can transform lives. Her mother, a first-generation American, was the first in her family to go to college. Twelve years old at the time, Gina remembers well the day her mother graduated from college. Gina herself would eventually earn a Bachelor’s Degree in developmental psychology from the University of California, Irvine, and a Master’s from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.
In 2010, Condon met Susan Dunn, PhD, a career educator, student of Jean Piaget’s theories of cognitive development, and founder of an independent school grounded in Constructivist theory. Meeting Dr. Dunn, Condon was re-inspired by the constructivist model—based in the belief that we understand the world by reflecting and building on our experiences—as it relates to the “learner” in the 21st century.
Dr. Dunn has spent 30 years as a teacher, professor, and, primarily, a public elementary school administrator. She shared her passion for child-led inquiry and project-based learning as a context in which children develop critical thinking, creativity, and collaborative relationships. In 2009, Dunn co-founded A Renaissance School of Arts and Sciences (a preK-8th grade independent school) with her colleague, Sally Wells, MEd.
When asked about privilege and access to this progressive model of teaching and learning, Dunn explained, “This is how children thrive as learners. Create meaningful opportunities for posing worthy questions and authentic problem-solving while scaffolding their growing abilities to follow their curiosity, and they will become engaged, lifelong learners and contributors prepared to take on the challenges of a complex world. All children are natural artists and scientists at birth. Education too often shifts the balance from a personal love of learning to an externally-driven set of disconnected hoops.”
She points to her work as the Principal at Davis Elementary school in the Reynolds School District where she and her core team of teachers practiced the very same pedagogy that is now even more deeply embedded in A Renaissance School of Arts and Sciences. The school experienced significant poverty and mobility, and the majority of families spoke a first language other than English. Here, the faculty worked to incorporate inquiry, along with its accompanying motivation and language use, extend school hours and days, and welcome parents into their children’s learning experience. Davis School received recognition from Oregon’s Governor and ODE for closing the academic achievement gap in 2008, 2009, and 2010.
Understanding the challenges and the possibilities facing families in need, as well as the relationship of an engaged and dynamic education to youth and community success, further crystallized what is now the mission of the Construct Foundation: to ensure all Oregon youth have the skills they need to succeed in the new economy.