Ashley Montagu said that “the trick in life is to die young--as late as possible.” We then asked, “How could Open Connections foster the retention of our most positive childlike qualities into adulthood?” and mixed in John Holt’s notion that “The true test of intelligence is not how much we know how to do but how we behave when we don’t know what to do.”
Open Connections was born of the marriage of two growing bodies of knowledge, each shared by Co-founders Susan Shilcock and Peter Bergson. One reflected the world of “alternative” or “progressive” education, as it was known in the 1960s, where experiential learning and individual development were advanced over rote memorization, and where self-motivation was based on individual passion rather than a fear of failure. The other body of knowledge was that of the creative group process known as Synectics®, where adults in the corporate world were learning how to recover the skills of Flexible Thinking and collaboration, which had been lost initially during years adapting to a “teach ‘em/test ‘em” school environment.
In 1978, after three years of conducting workshops and consultations, Open Connections opened
a preschool/kindergarten program in Bryn Mawr for three- to five-year-olds. In 1980, Peter and Susan began to codify key aspects of the OC philosophy by publishing their book, titled Open Connections: The OTHER Basics.
In 1983, Open Connections began its transformation to its current format, which provides weekly programs for families seeking a more open and natural form of education. In June of 2000, Open Connections underwent a major expansion. Working with the Willistown Conservation Trust, with neighbors and township officials, OC moved to its current location: a 28-acre historic farm/estate in Edgmont Township, Delaware County. We call our new home the Open Connections Village. Due to the enactment of conservation easements, the OC property, along with four adjoining residential parcels totaling an additional 50 acres, will remain largely open space.
After Co-founder Susan Shilcock died in 2005, Peter continued his role as Director until 2008. During this time, Peter worked closely with the next generation of leadership to ensure a smooth transition. In 2008, Julia Bergson-Shilcock (offspring of Peter and Susan), Mike Hilbert and Rick Sleutaris moved into the roles of Co-directors. Today, along with 25 other dedicated staff members and supported by a vibrant Board of Directors (including Peter), this team continues the legacy of Peter and Susan, while also working continuously to enhance and improve OC’s offerings.