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About HFLI


At Henry Ford Learning Institute (HFLI), we believe that education is the critical factor in determining economic success for individuals -- and for their entire community. Nowhere in America is the educational opportunity gap greater than in our urban centers, where we focus our work.

HFLI is a Dearborn, Michigan-based non-profit launched in 2003 as a partnership between Ford Motor Company Fund and The Henry Ford to bring a new model of education to America’s urban communities. 



In 1916, Henry Ford uttered the phrase "History is more or less bunk" while testifying in a libel lawsuit against a major urban newspaper. Seizing on the opportunity, opposing counsel misconstrued this remark in newspapers around the world, suggesting that Ford did not see the importance of history, and opposed the teaching of history in school. In fact, Ford's statement was referring to history textbooks of the era, which were confined to a memorization of wars, treaties, and an endless series of dates. Henry Ford felt that the teaching of, and learning about, history had to include some understanding of the people, lifestyles, and values of the time, and that history should be experienced. To Ford, a true education could not take place behind schoolhouse walls, but must instead be hands-on and make a connection with the real world.

HFLI’s mission is to create small schools and hands-on learning programs that leverage a wide range of local resources to create thriving communities where education is everyone's responsibility. HFLI’s vision is that one day public education will be a truly public endeavor: visibly engaging all aspects of a community to create new educational models, leverage untapped resources, and remove boundaries between school and the real world.

We work to move this vision to reality by:
  • Creating and sustaining public schools
  • Preparing all Henry Ford Academy students for college and career success
  • Modeling a different kind of teaching and learning, one that removes boundaries between learning and the real world
  • Engaging community members as partners in learning
  • Sharing hands-on learning programs and services that support design thinking as a process that leads to innovation and creativity
  • Leveraging underutilized local resources
  • Amplifying the urgency for innovation in education 
HFLI has launched a network of small schools and developed a complete school design, including a facilities guide and a core curriculum based in part on the education reform model first implemented at Henry Ford Academy in Dearborn, MI in 1997. 

During the 2013-2014 school year, HFLI is serving more than 2,100 students across five Henry Ford Academies, including its newly opened elementary school in Detroit. Each of our schools is located at the center of a tightly knit, growth-oriented community -- a partnership between HFLI and local organizations designed to impact student achievement, the community and education as a whole.

HFLI has developed what is likely the only design thinking K-12 core curriculum in the nation to engage students at high levels, equip them to navigate in the 21st century with an orientation of innovation, and prepare them for college and careers.

HFLI recently began sharing elements of its curriculum and conducting design thinking “boot camps” with educational communities and other non-profits interested in developing the skills, habits, and mindsets that are the hallmarks of teaching and learning at a Henry Ford Academy.

Nationally, HFLI has been supported by Ford Motor Company Fund, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Skillman Foundation and W. K. Kellogg Foundation.