The following resources, collected here as a set of questions related to supporting Connected Learning and interest-driven work for youth, are meant to support thinking about the design possibilities in a 2017 LRNG Innovators Challenge application. These resources are just the tip of a iceberg when it comes to design possibilities, and therefore are not meant to describe a set of exemplars or exact models to follow. Instead they are offered as a means of prompting ideas and allowing for a range of ideas and possibilities for when you are designing in your own context. In addition, read about the work of 2014 “No Bells, No Walls” LRNG Challenge and the 2015 LRNG Innovators Challenge grantees.
summer_science What might interest-driven learning look like? “Part of the fun of going to a carnival is doing the initial lap around the park to check out all of the booths and rides they have to offer. Deep-fried everything, bumper cars, the Gravitron—your quest is to sample it all until you can eat no more (or your tickets run out). You probably didn’t need three corn dogs, but the variance in activities makes for a better experience than just going on the Ferris wheel for hours. Liberty Elementary, in Riverside, California, is bringing this idea inside and outside of the classroom, by building multi-themed learning stations for students to explore interests and produce ‘passion projects.’” Find out more about this project,
How can interests be harnessed to blend with more traditional academic disciplines? “This was an interest-powered, participatory learning opportunity in which music served as a portal to a deeper understanding of the scientific principles of sound. The project sparked girls’ curiosity through the creative process of music making, giving them hands-on exposure to technical science.” Find out more at HIVE NYC: Making Waves, the Science of Sound.
How can interests be utilized to bridge conversations around access and equity? “By design, Real World History takes a step outside the traditional history classroom, bringing history alive for students from high schools across DC as they learn and practice the mindsets and skills of historians. In addition to their own oral history projects, in the first semester, the class will dive into The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, an award-winning account of the Great Migration, which features interviews with more than 1,200 individuals. In the second semester, students will intern at a number of the District’s museums and historical sites, having the opportunity for real world application of their skills and to explore professions in the field.” Learn more about Real World History via the National Writing Project: National History Day (1 of 6 related videos)
How can interest-driven projects be designed to allow for purposeful engagement of youth in its design and input? “Giving young people the opportunity to craft that narrative themselves is powerful. While most young people have played a videogame that was created for them, fewer have been given the chance to stretch their own imaginations and create one themselves. Through the G4C challenge, students can explore issues relevant to them and their communities, presenting them from their own perspectives.” Find out more at Remake Learning: Game Design Brings Learning a Level Up.
How can the interests and spheres of youth experience be re/imagined in partnership with the neighboring community? “This webinar covered youth learning opportunities and agency around issues of food justice, community health, and literacy, as Bread Loaf Teacher Network members describe an extraordinary collaboration among teachers and students on the Navajo Nation and in Kentucky.” Read and watch more at: Food Literacy, Healthy Communities, and Youth Leadership: A Conversation with Bread Loaf Teachers.
In what ways does interest-driven work support youth leadership through learning? "During the 2008-2009 school year, Robert’s class was involved in a service learning project. The project utilized various technologies and digital media to complete the task. These tools proved to be invaluable for the English language learners who comprised the majority of his classroom. As my class explored many different options for a service learning project, they discovered more about themselves and built a strong community of learners. When they finally settled on water conservation and pollution, they were eager to begin." Learn more at Digital Is: A Fourth Grade Service Learning Project.
birch_school_2_19_15 How can youth discover interests in the first place? "This project is supporting a curricular approach where groups of four students, ranging from fourth grade to high school, form small working groups called Maker Rings. These rings take time out of students’ school day to work on a project of their choosing. The collaborative nature of the Rings helps students form interests that can power their projects and supports them in persisting through the making process. What’s on their list so far? A few of the projects kids are interested in include figuring out a way to help the environment and making figurines, stickers, and clothing. For equipment, they’ve listed art supplies, a 3-D printer and filament, yarn, plastic, cloth, LED lights, and a portable oven. (That last one might be a long shot, though.)” Learn more at: At Birch School, Students Reimagine Learning by Creating a Room of their Own.
What is the transformative potential of mentors within interest-driven youth-led spaces? "In the world of Connected Learning and YOUmedia, mentors are the ones who are on the front lines of youth support and services. They guide youth directly by teaching a skillset (e.g., how to use Photoshop), developing a project (designing a poster), and working collaboratively and providing an opportunity for youth to connect to and collaborate with peers. Mentors also help guide youth as they identify and articulate their interests, and connect those interests to larger opportunities and pathways (job and educational opportunities).” Learn more at: Empowering Mentors Empowering Youth, Remembering Brother Mike.
What strategies exist for tapping into professional networks to enhance youth interest-driven connections to paths of opportunity (whether it be college, career, and/or out into the community)? “Building on its successful professional development program on community-based design education, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum remade A City of Neighborhoods: Design your ‘Hood into an afterschool program for the youth of its partner organization, Dream Yard [a YOUmedia Network member]. Through the pilot program, over 30 teens from the Bronx and Manhattan attended workshops led by architects, landscape designers, and planners, where they examined the history of New York City’s design decisions and design interventions, and how they continue to impact and shape the city.” Learn more at Hive NYC: A City of Neighborhoods, Engaging Youth as "Citizen Designers".
How can existing community and mentoring relationships be leveraged in order to create exciting further potential opportunities? “For Up Next participants, KST tapped existing partnerships with youth empowerment groups that use KST’s studio and performance space: One Hood Media, Soundwaves, and Dreams of Hope. One Hood Media critically engages with media portrayal of oppressed groups and uses hip hop as a means to raise awareness about injustices. Dreams of Hope uses the arts to build awareness about lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and allied (LGBTQA) identities, and Soundwaves is steel drum music program for youth ages 12 to 18. They also received two applicants from the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, which seeks to provide opportunities for residents of the Garfield neighborhood [of Pittsburgh].” Learn more at Hive Pittsburgh: Local Youth Produce Hip Hop show at Kelly Strayhorn Theater.
How can youth experience and voice be upheld in collaborative exchange with mentor-guided expertise? “The Re[CREATE]Ed Spaces project provides a platform from which a diverse group of youth will be the creators of their experience and be tasked with recreating an educational space for youth. Their voices will drive the design of the pocket park, provide the narrative of the story of the project that will be shared with the Hive, and will make this new youth-inspired space possible.” Learn more Hive Chicago: Re[CREATE]Ed Spaces, Recreating Educational Spaces Inspired by Youth.
How can digital tools and platforms be utilized in collaboration with mentor-guided expertise to leverage openly-networked participatory communities? “This project overview is an invitation to engage with the New York City Writing Project in the Youth Voices Inquiry Project. Youth Voices is an openly-networked online platform for youth discussions. It is also a community of committed educators, and an archive of student work attached to a growing collection of “missions” designed to invite youth to engage with connected learning experiences. Through the Youth Voices Inquiry Project, teachers and students engage in shared projects and inquiry focused on using reading, writing, and digital media in support of learners’ own passions and interests.” Learn more Hive NYC: Youth Voices Inquiry Project.
How can youth interest and classroom learning objectives be partnered with community institutions to leverage mutually beneficial partnerships? "The program was designed to forge bonds between the schools and organizations throughout the community. In Silver City, the program partnered with the public library. Kids in the existing summer reading program got treated to STEM lessons throughout the summer. In one lesson, they built their own lie detectors, learning about soldering and circuitry—and the impreciseness of such machines. In the mutually beneficial partnership, library staff conducted outreach and got the kids to sign up, and the STEM program provided materials and a stipend for a STEM expert, Chandler said. ‘Because we’re building the program on top of existing structures, it takes very little resources to turn those activities into high-interest STEM programs.’" Learn more at: Grants Stimulate A Summer of Science Learning for Kids in New Mexico.
How can youth-led projects be designed to foster community input and collaboration within the surrounding neighborhood? "The project’s learning community expanded beyond the classroom to include the school and its surrounding community. At the end-of-the-year block party, students participated in a skill-share at which they created and shared “how-to” texts or manuals that taught hands-on skills such as how to knit, how to do backflips, and more. The data mural ended up becoming a community project as family and friends helped finish the painting. These school-community interactions strengthened and reinforced the Boggs School’s commitment to place-based education." Learn more at Detroit Future Schools: DFS Data Murals Project: What Stories Can We Tell From Data?.
How can community collaborations be intentionally focused for access and equity while constructing pathways of opportunity (whether it be college, career, and/or out into the community)? "Greetings from East L.A. is an art, design, urban planning and community journalism project. Students from East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy at Esteban E. Torres High School (ELARA) work with Public Matters and Theresa Hwang of the Dept. of Places to explore, document and interpret the value and values that the high school students assign to people and places in East L.A., while responding to questions about representation and equity." Learn more at Public Matters: Greetings from East L.A.
What community collaboration strategies are out there for youth-led exploration of local neighborhoods as a platform for place-based, hands-on learning? “The resources here support both the sharing of youth work and the further development of resources for educators working in and outside of school. They were developed with the explicit goal of opening the walls of the classroom and the boundaries of the park. This is the work we’ve been learning together and we invite you to explore and share your own.” Learn more at NWP Digital Is: Opening the Walls of the Classroom and the Boundaries of the Park.
What are some past lessons from educators who focused on expanding educational experiences beyond the walls of the classroom? “This collection of five case studies, each originally published at Connected Learning TV, features a selection of schools, organizations, and collaborations focused on using a connected approach to learning. These cases spotlight communities of learners and educators developing unique programs that can expand educational experiences beyond the four walls of the classroom.” Learn more at NWP Digital Is: Powerful Learning for Change: Case Studies in Connected Learning.