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We believe in developing each student to their fullest potential. This involves providing both a rigorous academic program and a science-based foundation for human development. 

Developmental Science is the integration of neuroscience and developmental psychology. It offers us a scientific foundation for healthy individual formation. In contrast to academic testing alone, it provides a more integrated educational framework through which educators can apply a range of immersive curricula and experiences to foster healthy human development as well as advanced academic readiness. 

Being successful means having the Agency to make active choices about one’s life path, possessing the Competencies to adapt to the demands of different contexts, and incorporating different aspects of oneself into an Integrated Identity.
— “Foundations for Young Adult Success” - June 2015

Developmental science points us to three essential elements for a healthy passage through middle school:

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1. Space for Self-Exploration


“Who is that in the mirror?!” Not only are their bodies changing daily, an adolescent’s sense of Self is expanding rapidly. Young teens are consumed by a heightened experience of their changing emotions, beliefs and self-awareness. If these capacities are consciously developed, students can build the ‘non-academic’ skills – mindfulness, emotional intelligence, resilience, and others – that research indicates correlate with long-term success more than any other factor.


2. A Safe Social Environment


Middle school is the most socially-influenced time of our lives. Peers become trusted more than parents. A positive, safe, pro-social environment and authentic relationships at school are essential for healthy identity formation.


3. Connection to the Real World.


As students enter adolescence, they crave greater autonomy and independence. They are highly curious about how the world works, and loudly resist what doesn’t feel “Real” to them. Their academic motivation depends on a direct sense of relevance and agency.



Our Mission: To realize the transformative potential of middle school


6-8 middle school for boys & girls  


87 students


40% students of color
5% LGBTQ families
9% Adoptive families
24 Zip codes represented
14 non-English languages spoken at home
36% of families speak a non-English language at home


16 Full & Part-Time Faculty
12 Graduate Degrees
31% Multilingual                                          
25% People of Color                      
Average Class Size: 14

Financial Aid:

54% Flexible Tuition


Research initiated in Spring 2014
Founding 6th grade class enrolled in Fall 2016
School reached full capacity (6-8th grade) in Fall 2018


245 Valencia Street, San Francisco


501(c)3 non-profit, independent school


An “Action-Research” Learning Organization

We know a lot more about educational science than we have successfully implemented in schools today. Modern research in neuroscience teaches us how our brains learn. Developmental psychology outlines the optimal environment and experiences for healthy identity formation. Experiential, student-centered learning is more effective than traditional instruction. So… how do we integrate this growing body of research into practical school design on an ongoing basis?

Our answer: A Lab School for Developmental Science. 

To be effective, schools themselves must become “Learning Organizations”, constantly applying research, assessing impact, and adapting techniques to optimize student development. Weekly faculty observation, reflection, and professional development is woven into the schedule.

Following three years of research, Millennium School was launched in Fall 2016 as an innovation lab for adolescent developmental science. We actively partner with professors from several leading universities such as Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UCSF among others, to study and implement transformative learning methodologies.

For students, this translates into an engaging educational experience that breaks many molds. Students co-construct their own learning environment, projects, and assessments. They are actively involved in the action research of what works and doesn’t. And nothing drives engagement in middle school like empowering students as architects of their own adventure.



We celebrate diversity as a portal to ourselves and a peaceful global community

I can see myself in all things and all people around me.
— Sanskrit Phrase

Millennium School strives to create a diverse community of students and families. We believe that inside each of us is a unique wisdom that reflects and enhances our collective humanity. 

We seek out diversity of thought, culture, color, sexuality - and all other forms of being - in order to reveal these unique qualities and embrace each other with compassion. We believe that together we are stronger, more creative, and more authentically ourselves.

We practice diversity by inviting people from all walks of life to join us in our intentional community. You will find that the educational curriculum and learning practices reflect our worldview, and we encourage students to step out of their box and explore multiple perspectives daily. 

We value each soul’s gifts, story, and contribution equally.  

Partnership with SMART: Only 9% of low-income students earn a college degree. We are proud to partner with SMART, a San Francisco non-profit organization, and work together with them to close the achievement gap by offering participating students access to an academically rigorous school with scholarships and other forms of support.


Diversity Highlights

While the value of diversity cannot be reduced to numbers, here are some highlights from our community:

  • 40% students of color
  • 54% Flexible Tuition
  • 5% LGBTQ families
  • 9% Adoptive families
  • 25% of faculty are POC
  • 24 Zip codes represented
  • 14 non-English languages spoken at home
  • 31% of faculty are multilingual
  • 36% of families speak a non-English language at home

Our Founders' Story

After ten years leading a national nonprofit serving middle-school kids, Chris Balme turned his eye toward creating a model for middle school that better prepares students for real-world success. Jeff Snipes spent 16 years running a global leadership development firm working with Fortune 500 companies; after selling the business, he wanted to focus on the pivotal adolescent years as the root of developing authentic future leaders. 

The common thread between the two of them was the belief that school exists not just to prepare kids with knowledge, but also to develop the skills and mindsets that lead to meaningful, happy, and purposeful lives. They both came to see developmental psychology as a scientific foundation for achieving this aim, and they were introduced by leading adolescent psychologist and best-selling author Madeline Levine.


With the planned departure of Founding Head of School Chris Balme in July of 2020, Millennium is actively seeking a leader who is passionate and knowledgeable about early adolescent education and who places self-awareness and social and emotional well-being at the very center of the learning experience. Millennium’s next head of school will be an inspiring spokesperson for Millennium School’s vision and mission, as well as an institution builder who will help a young school mature. With a track record of working effectively with middle school faculty and a belief in the unbounded potential of middle school students, Millennium School’s next leader will bring authenticity, mindfulness, and compassion to the shared work of creating a learning environment where middle school students thrive.

Millennium has engaged the services of Carney Sandoe to lead a comprehensive national search for its next Head of School. Please click here to download the HOS Position Profile, and contact Karen Whitaker at Carney Sandoe for more information (


Chris Balme: Co-Founder & Head of School

Chris is an educator and social entrepreneur, passionate about creating organizations that help students reach their full potential. Previously, Chris was Co-Founder and CEO of Spark, a national non-profit he built over 10 years to improve student success in middle and high school. Spark placed students in apprenticeship programs in organizations ranging from Google to city government, and earned widespread recognition for its ability to motivate students to succeed in school and beyond. Chris has received the Ashoka Fellowship, the Draper Richards Fellowship for social entrepreneurship, as well as the Bay Area Jefferson Award for Public Service. Chris earned degrees in Psychology and Business from the University of Pennsylvania and Wharton, and has taught with Breakthrough Collaborative and in the Philadelphia public schools. 


Jeff Snipes: Co-Founder & Chairman

Jeff serves as the Co-Founder and Chairman of where he leads the strategic vision and collaboration efforts of the school, research and professional development programs. Jeff loves working weekly with students in the co-creation of the school’s Forum and leadership development practices. He has served on the boards of Mindful Schools, Challenge Success, Education Superhighway, and is an advisor to San Francisco Public Schools, the Learning for Well-Being Foundation, and the Collaborative for Spirituality in Education. Previously Jeff spent 16 years leading the largest U.S. corporate leadership development company (now KornFerry), where he was named a “Top 25 US Leadership Advisor” and “CEO of the Year” by the American Business Association. Along the way, Jeff served as the Board President at Marin Montessori School, where he helped launch a model land-based junior high program. That experience, along with raising his three own children, inspired him to help adolescents develop a broader definition of success. Jeff has degrees in Philosophy and Business from Southern Methodist University.


Lindsay Berk: STEM Guide

Lindsay brings 13 years of experience in STEM curriculum design and project-based learning from upper elementary to graduate school students. She has taught Environmental Sciences for undergraduates while backpacking 300 miles in the California wilderness, led middle school students on multi-week service-learning in the Makah Reservation, and designed cross-disciplinary Quests in a project-based STEM high school. For the last 4 years Lindsay has found her niche in the middle school science classroom. She has led "Passion Projects" based on student interests, engaged students in Socratic Seminar, and coached Science Olympiad teams in robotics, aviation, and forensics.  At Millennium, she incorporates her background in wildlife biology, GIS, and outdoor education into multi-disciplinary projects with real world application. Lindsay is a graduate of UCLA, with Master's degrees from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Washington.


Stephen Lessard: Humanities Guide

Stephen is a master teacher, having taught in various settings for the past two decades. Most recently at The Nueva School, Stephen fell in love with teaching middle school students in the humanities for 13 years. While at Nueva Stephen brought an empathic global vision and focus on real-world experiences, launching Nueva's international summer service program, leading students to Model UN conferences, and helping design the Nueva High School. Since 2012, Stephen has co-facilitated an intensive summer retreat for educators through the Bay Area Teacher Development Collaborative. He has a keen interest in social-emotional learning, psychology, and the crucial role silence can play in our lives. Trained in music and anthropology, Stephen received an advanced degree from the University of California at Berkeley, as well as undergraduate degrees from the University of Rochester and the Eastman School of Music.


Michael Fisher: Humanities Guide

Michael brings a deep background in writing and the humanities as well as a keen interest in mindfulness and humanistic psychology.  While completing his PhD at the University of Rochester, he spent six years teaching college writing in small seminar-style classrooms.  In addition to the importance of strong arguments and evidence, he encourages students to reflect deeply on their own voice and the sense of purpose that motivates their writing. By treating students as fellow thinkers and critics, he seeks to cultivate intrinsic interest and engagement with the questions that shape their world.  Michael is an avid lover of music, dance, and contemplative practices that help balance the mind, body, and spirit.  He has studied the human potential movement of the 1960s and ‘70s, and seeks to integrate the best lessons from that era into his teaching of middle schoolers.


Sarah Nadler: Math Guide

Sarah joins the team with 11 years of experience teaching middle school mathematics in a variety of school settings.  She began her career with Teach for America Los Angeles and has since worked in Montessori and International Baccalaureate schools.  Sarah’s area of interest is the cognitive neuroscience behind learning and development.  Recently, she has worked at the Institute for Learning and Development to implement research-based tools and strategies to support executive function skills and working memory in students. In addition to mathematics, Sarah has a special affinity for surfing, kayaking, and snorkeling all over the world.  Sarah recently completed her Master of Education in Human Development and Psychology at Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and holds a Master of Arts in Special Education from Loyola Marymount University.


Ashley Nickels: Admissions Officer & Guide

Ashley shares with us 13 years of teaching experience and a lifelong passion for language learning. After completing undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Michigan and Middlebury College, Ashley spent five years teaching at an international school in Valencia, Spain. She then moved to San Francisco, where she built the Spanish language program at SF Friends School and served as a teacher, advisor, and 5-year trip leader to Nicaragua. Ashley also leads the Admissions effort at Millennium. She is authentically excited to get to know both current and prospective parents and students, and to contribute to the breadth and depth of the greater school community. Ashley is also a professional quilter, teaching in-person and online sewing and quilting classes, and growing her small handmade bag business.


Broderick Rodell: L3 & MBI Guide

Broderick is a professional educator, yogi, and martial arts instructor who is dedicated to nurturing the development of human consciousness through education. He feels that the more comprehensively we develop individual consciousness, the more likely we are to foster a worldview that reflects values of love, kindness, truth, and beauty. He is veteran instructor of mindfulness, yoga, capoeira and self-actualization for adults and younger students. At Millennium, Broderick shares his love of science and the humanities across many courses of study, including Quests, Intersessions, Mind-Body-Integration and our Life, Learning & Leadership program. His passion for learning about the world has earned him an undergraduate degree in Engineering from Clemson, a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Tech, and a Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University.


Abigail Henderson: STEM Guide

Abigail is a person of many passions, most of which involve teaching and learning in some form. Some of her past learning adventures have included facilitating guest interactions with sea animals at a Florida aquarium, guiding kids through nature at a summer camp in Wisconsin, helping college students understand consent in Pennsylvania, and most recently, teaching middle school computer science at an all-girls school in Connecticut. During her undergraduate career at Swarthmore College, Abigail built a cognitive science major by taking courses in six different departments. Her thesis work focused on animal cognition and communication, specifically viewing animal communication systems through a linguistic lens. She enjoys taking things apart and looking at them in a new way, both literally and figuratively. In the classroom, she recognizes that failure is a necessary part of any learning process, and she strives to make it fun for everyone involved. 


Ann Wang: Co-Director of Operations

Ann feels most energized when she is running a finely-tuned operation that promotes student learning.  She is responsible for managing all of Millennium’s infrastructure, allowing our students, parents, teachers, and staff to focus and thrive. Ann previously worked at the National KIPP Foundation, where she supported various multi-state cross-team data collection, assessment and administration projects.  Prior to joining KIPP, Ann completed the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, which provided her with a foundation for public/private partnership leadership skills.  She began her career by teaching 9th, 10th, and 11th grade English at George Washington High School in SFUSD, and served as a Teach for America corps member.  Ann holds a B.A. in English and Policy Studies and a Secondary English Education Certification from Rice University, as well as a Master's in Public Administration from San Francisco State University.


Newton Martin: Co-Director of Operations

Newton is a unit of force, a student in the ever-demanding interdisciplinary study of life. He is above all the walking, breathing, embodiment of diversity who hopes that kindness can someday be perennially cool. His main aim is to mobilize as many ‘units of force’ as possible, from all walks of life, cultures and schools of thought, so that we can create a system, a movement so powerfully intelligent, compassionate and resourceful that we start fostering true egalitarianism. Newton has studied Psychology at the undergraduate level and International Affairs at the graduate level. He is forever striving to qualify as a professional human being. He has taught art, coached soccer, mentored young adults and managed a start-up. Part time humorist, percussionist, and jester. Full time inquisitor.


Spanish Guide: Emily Tedford

Emily was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico. When she learned to read, she learned in both English and Spanish. She has spent her life so far immersed in different cultures and strives to celebrate diversity, recognizing simultaneously that we are all one family. She has a B.A. in both Spanish and Latina/o studies and a Master's of Science in Cultural Foundations of Education. Emily has worked for 15 years with a wide array of youth of all ages. She enjoys collaborating with young people who are navigating the delicately challenging middle school experience! Apart from her love of languages and culture, Emily is an artist, singer, dancer, and wilderness explorer. She meditates regularly and brings mindfulness and an open heart to all of her interactions. 


Simon Olavarria: Adjunct Faculty

Simon is a passionate teacher dedicated to fostering peace and progress through knowledge and dialogue. Simon began his career in law and agribusiness, but shifted towards education, and has remained there for the last 10 years. Simon co- founded the League of Creative Minds, a debate academy, and developed a curriculum system that incorporates current events, political science, history and leadership lessons for Middle and High School students. He has ample experience in the world of student debate, having trained and mentored hundreds of young minds, as well as created dozens of debates and conferences. He has a special passion for debates that demand both academic and social skills from its participants, in which students are empowered to take the role of decision makers. 

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Openings: We are currently conducting a search for a new Head of School. Please contact Karen Whitaker for more information:



A Space to Invent, Design, Create



Our school is based at 245 Valencia Street, in the heart of the vibrant Mission district. Our building includes one wing of main classrooms, a maker space, a full size gymnasium, a large multipurpose room, a commercial kitchen, a courtyard (connecting to the adjacent Greek Cathedral) and an outdoor terrace for eating lunch or meeting outside. We're part of the bustling Valencia Street corridor, with cafes, restaurants, shops, and small businesses all around. 16th Street BART and several MUNI lines are nearby. Directly across the street is the San Francisco Friends School, a fellow progressive school whose team we are lucky to count as close colleagues.  




San Francisco Is Our Classroom



Think big. Millennium students live and learn in the real world. Our classroom extends beyond the walls of the Clubhouse and pours into the surrounding neighborhood community. A short walk away students regularly explore City Hall, the San Francisco Public Library, a large portion of the city's performing arts institutions, several outdoor fields and parks, and a vibrant neighborhood full of cafes and shops. Millennium students venture out into San Francisco one afternoon per week for “Real-World” learning experiences. These range from professional apprenticeships, to developing urban gardens, community service projects, and field trips to universities, labs, businesses and technology centers. 


Learning in Nature



Think bigger. The Bay Area is a national treasure of natural beauty. Adolescents thrive outdoors and feel a sense of inner harmony and social connection when our classes are held in nature. Under the guidance of trained wilderness guides, Millennium students start and end the school year with week-long expeditions into the Northern California wilderness. We integrate hands-on environmental science studies by exploring local beaches, tide pools, estuaries, redwood forests, mountain lakes and state parks throughout the year. Students pack in, study together, connect with nature, and leave with a deeper sense of stillness and comfort with the outdoors.


Daily Schedule


School Hours:
8:30am - 3:30pm
Monday - Friday.

Drop-off window:
8:00 - 8:30am

We offer after-school programming from 3:30 - 5:30pm each regular school day, for a sliding-scale fee. Students have access to a range of after-school clubs, ranging from Model UN to Robotics, as well as the Millennium Café for study or quiet conversation. 



Annual Calendar

We've created a unique calendar, focused on supporting deeper learning experiences for students. While the start and end dates are similar to many other schools - the 2019-20 school year starts on August 26th, 2019 and ends on June 5th, 2020 - it's how we use that time that's different. 


Terms: Millennium School has five terms each year, each approximately six weeks long. Within each term, students focus on two "Quests" at a time. These Quests are interdisciplinary classes, enabling students to deeply explore problems and projects which link to the real world. See our blog post here on the "Questions" that each Quest explores. Students spend most of each morning in their Quest, able to go deeply into their project topic, while in the afternoon they have a rotation of Math, Spanish, Creative Expression & Physical Expression classes.

Intersessions: Before and after each term, we have a one week "intersession." Intersession is an opportunity for even deeper and more focused learning. Students may spend the week apprenticing with a local company; doing an educational trip; designing and completing a challenge project; or participating in a whole-school simulation, for example if Millennium School turned into Ancient Greece for a week. This is not a vacation period; school is still fully in session at the same hours. The first and last intersession of the year are both outdoor expeditions, rich with opportunities for learning about oneself, building resilience, and forming a strong bond with fellow students and faculty. 


Key Dates for 2019-2020 School Year

  • First day of school: August 26, 2019

  • Outdoor Wilderness Expedition for All Students: August 26-30, 2019

  • First Day of Class: September 3, 2019

  • Parent University: September 11, 2019

  • First Day of Third Term: January 6, 2020

  • End of Year Wilderness Expedition for All Students: June 1-4, 2020

  • Graduation Ceremonies: TBA

School Holidays (NO SCHOOL):

  • September 2, 2019 (Labor Day)

  • September 20, 2019 (Professional Development Day)

  • October 14, 2019 (Columbus Day / Indigenous Peoples' Day)

  • November 8, 2019 (Student-Parent Conferences)

  • November 25 - 29, 2019 (Thanksgiving Break)

  • December 20, 2019 - January 3, 2020 (Winter Break)

  • January 20, 2020 (Martin Luther King, Jr Day)

  • February 17 - 21, 2020 (February Break)

  • March 13, 2020 (Student-Parent Conferences)

  • March 27, 2020 (Professional Development Day)

  • April 13 - 17, 2020 (Spring Break)

  • May 25, 2020 (Memorial Day)


Millennium School is honored to currently work with the following leaders in education, developmental psychology, neuroscience, and business. These partners generously share their time, wisdom and experience with us on an ongoing basis; we are deeply grateful.

Al Adams: Former Head of School, Lick-Wilmerding High School

Steve Arnold: Co-Founder and Partner Emeritus, Polaris Partners; Co-Founder and Vice Chairman, George Lucas Educational Foundation; CASEL Board of Directors; Chairman, Healthy Minds Innovations

Chris Balme*: Co-Founder and Head of School, Millennium School; Previously CEO & Co-Founder of Spark; Ashoka Fellow

Robert Cook*: Director of US Technology Transformation Service; Founding CTO, Pixar; 2001 Academy Award Winner; Board of Directors, Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Michael Depatie: Managing General Partner, KHP Capital Partners; Former CEO Kimpton Hotels; MBA Harvard Business School

Madeline Levine: Adolescent Psychologist, New York Times Best-Selling Author; Co-Founder, Stanford’s Challenge Success Program

Amanda Mallory: Educational Consultant, Mclure, Mallory, Baron & Ross

Evan Marwell*: Founder and CEO, Education Superhighway; Founder, Shaka Capital; Parner, Criterion Capital Management; MBA, Harvard Business School

Lisa Miller: Professor of Psychology and Education, Director of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College; Founder of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute

Eric Niles: Head of School, Athenian School

Denise Pope: Senior Lecturer in Emergent Curriculum Design, Stanford Graduate School of Education; Author; Co-Founder, Stanford’s Challenge Success Program

Deborah Quazzo: Co-Founder and Managing Partner, GSV Acceleration, LLC; Founder & Partner, Global Silicon Valley Advisors; Co-Founder and President, ThinkEquity Partners; MBA, Harvard Business School

Kimberly Schonert-Reichl: Professor of Applied Developmental Psychology and Human Development, University of British Columbia; Board of Directors, CASEL; Author of multiple books and studies on Mindfulness, Social-Emotional Learning, and Human Development.

Jeff Snipes*: Chairman & Co-Founder of; Previously CEO of Ninth House, Inc. Board of Directors of Mindful Schools, Education Superhighway, Waggl.

Eric Temple: Head of School, Lick-Wilmerding High School

Melina Uncapher: Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, UCSF; Educational Director, Neuroscape Research Lab; CEO & Co-Founder, Institute for Applied Neuroscience

Jenny Wade: Professor of Integral and Transpersonal Psychology PhD Program, CIIS; Developmental Psychologist, Lecturer & Researcher

James Willcox*: President and CEO, Strategic Growth Partners; previous CEO at Aspire Public Schools and Principal at NewSchools Venture Fund

Vicki Zakrzewski: Education Director, Greater Good Science Center; PhD in Education and Positive Psychology, Claremont Graduate University

* Governing board member