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|Project Title: ||Unity for the Community: Affordable Housing|
|School Year: ||2008|
|School - District:||New Mission High School - Boston|
|Contact Name:||Jessica Madden-Fuoco|
|Contact Phone:||(617) 212-2354|
|Content-Area(s):||English Language Arts|
|Community Need:||Housing, Human Needs|
|Brief Description of SL Project: |
High school students researched affordable housing in Boston and how access to affordable housing is an issue of environmental justice. Students researched this issue for most of the year with the help of community partners. They engaged in individual and group research and conducted surveys in the community, among many other activities. At the end of the year, this particular class participated in the community celebration by hosting a barbecue for the community members who attended the celebration. At the event, they shared information regarding this issue with everyone who attended, presented their learning visually in the form of displays of their survey findings, created a letter-writing campaign for community members to participate in, and they also participated in the grade-wide media project that documents all of the seniors’ CSL projects. Students learned that they can become experts on an important community issue and educate others about that issue. They learned that they can make a difference with their learning and that they have a right to demand change. They also learned many critical skills, including research skills, survey skills, letter-writing skills, media skills, etc.
|The Community Need the Project is Meeting:|
Students were addressing the crucial issue of affordable housing in Boston and how access to housing, or lack thereof, affects youth and others in their community. At the beginning of the year, students worked with each other, with teachers, and with community partners to learn what environmental justice is on a broad scale and to identify issues of environmental injustice throughout the city of Boston. They learned about all of these issues and about the general concepts of environmental justice. At the beginning of January, students in each of the four advisories then chose which issue they would focus on – one of the four advisories chose to focus on affordable housing and they then conducted more research on this topic. They read about issues of housing, dialogued with each other and with community partners about what the topic meant to them, created and conducted surveys with classmates and peers to discover how others felt about this issue, and then planned for how they wanted to present all of their learning at the community celebration on May 9, 2008. Students decided to share their learning in productive ways in order to involve as many community members as possible – they conducted a letter-writing campaign with the community at the celebration and they shared their findings in a media project in order to encourage others to get involved and make change.
|Service Component: |
The main service provided by the students was raising awareness in the community – they created a space for authentic learning and awareness-raising that helped them, students like them, and other community members to discover and discuss this crucial and current issue. Students worked on this specific project in each advisory class for two days a week – Mondays and Fridays – from January until May. (January was when they decided to focus on the issue of affordable housing, after learning about environmental justice in general and in the city of Boston, as previously discussed). Each advisory period was approximately 1 hour long, so students invested approximately 32 hours of in-class time to researching, brainstorming, and planning the culminating event. Many students, as the event got closer, invested more of their own free time in preparing for the forum. At the event, many students and teachers from other grades in the school participated in the dialogue; along with the 16 students in this advisory, approximately 20 other students, 10 teachers, and 30 community members were active participants in the forum. Also, the students’ letter-writing campaign resulted in dozens of signed letters that were sent to city council members after the community celebration – students and teachers hope that this component of the project will continue to have an impact on their neighborhoods by encouraging local politicians to make important change.
|Connections with Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks: |
*ELA, Composition Strand, Standard 24: Students will gather information from a variety of sources, analyze and evaluate the quality of the information they obtain, and use it to answer their own questions: Students conducted basic research on the issue of affordable housing. They also designed and implemented a survey for the community and analyzed the results in order to determine what the issue of affordable housing means to their community members. They drew conclusions from these surveys and presented their findings at the celebration.
*ELA, Media Strand, Standard 26: Students will identify, analyze, and apply knowledge of the conventions, elements, and techniques of film, radio, video, television, multimedia productions, the Internet, and emerging technologies and provide evidence from the works to support their understanding: Students worked with a consultant from one community partner to document the project using photography, audio recordings, and video recordings; all four advisories collaborated to produce a finished video project that reflected the work that went into their yearlong projects.
*Regarding assessment, this class conducted a mid-way assessment of the project in order for students to determine what was going well, what changes needed to happen, and how they should adjust their methods in order to have the most impact at the community celebration.
*For assessment, students participated in group reflection and discussion of the event after the fact; they discussed the successes and challenges during the event and what they learned. Students also reflected in writing individually and were asked to make “what, so what, and now what” reflections on the event. Some students also conducted their reflections in audio form for the final video project.
|How Youth Voice Helps Shape Project:|
After the first half of the year (September through January), students had gained a broad knowledge and understanding of environmental justice (EJ) and how that concept relates to the urban environment of Boston. In January, each of the four advisories was allowed to choose a topic of EJ to focus on and to create a community action plan around; one advisory chose to focus on affordable housing. This topic was chosen in a democratic manner by students – the students therefore led the project from the beginning. Then, when the class had decided that its culminating event would be a celebration for the community and a community forum, their teacher helped them to break into “task forces” in order to get all of the necessary preparation work completed. Students were able to choose their task force and to choose what role they wanted to play in making sure that the final event was a success – task forces included groups for visual media, research, surveys, and groups that would “teach back” to 9th, 10th, and 11th grade classes in the school. Also, students were the leaders of the actual event by speaking to community members about their displays and informing attendees about the issue of affordable housing; students ran the event and expressed pride in themselves afterwards.
|Student Reflection Component: |
As mentioned previously, students participated as a class in reflection and discussion of the event after the fact; they discussed the successes and challenges during the event and what they learned. Students also reflected in writing individually and were asked to make “what, so what, and now what” reflections on the event. Some students also conducted their reflections in audio form for the final video project – they recorded their voices and some students also filmed a “roundtable” discussion about CSL for the video.
One twelfth grader, wrote of the effects of their project, “Now people can be aware and get better affordable housing and living conditions.” Another twelfth grader, wrote, “[I will] advocate for students to do a similar forum next year.”
|Community Partners Involved: |
One of our community partners, ACE, was involved in leading classes from the beginning of the year. Representatives of ACE came into the school and led classes about EJ in all four senior advisory classes; they also took students on “tours” of their community in order to help students visualize issues of environmental injustice and see the concepts that they were learning firsthand. After students in this advisory chose to focus on affordable housing, ACE stayed involved as an advisor to the project and periodically visited the school to help students implement their plan. Additionally, a representative of UEI served as a technology consultant to all of the advisories – he helped students to document their work and to film the community forum and create a video project.
|Demonstration/Celebration of Students' Work: |
All four advisory classes created a community celebration which took place on May 9, 2008. The celebration included the forum on community violence, exhibitions, letter-writing campaigns, visual displays of surveys, videos, web sites, and a barbecue in order to raise awareness about the students’ work and to get the community involved in celebrating the impact of their action plans on this day. A journalist from a local paper was at the event – he had received a press release from one class – but we were not able to find a story about the event in his paper.
|Evaluation of Project’s Impact:|
Again, several students participated in the media project that was a culminating project for all four senior advisories that investigated issues of environmental justice this year. All students reflected individually and in groups after the celebration and the forum and some students talked about the need to do more and keep up the work – they assessed that this type of work needs to continue in the future so that they can continue to see an impact on community members; students were able to witness firsthand the impact that their work had on community members who attended the celebration.
The students’ letter-writing campaign resulted in dozens of signed letters that were sent to city council members after the community celebration – students and teachers hope that this component of the project will continue to have an impact on their neighborhoods by encouraging local politicians to make important change.
The process of evaluation is where we would need support for next year – we would like to learn how to involve students in assessing their impact more formally.
|Challenges/Solutions Identified by District:|
This question also is addressed in the action plan that we also have submitted. For the most part, New Mission would benefit the most from assistance with the process of evaluation – we would like to make that a bigger part of our CSL curricula and we also would like to learn how to involve students in assessing the impact of their CSL work. In our action plan, we also write about the need to learn how to integrate CSL into the core content classes and advisory classes – that is a step that we are planning to take next year. Finally, one challenge we would like to take on is to make a directory of our community partners so as to institutionalize that knowledge and to make it easier for all teachers to feel connected to the community partners and able to reach out to them. All teachers and staff who are working on the grant are planning to help create such a directory next year.
* NOTE: This project summary was written by the district/community. Any text in italics was added or modified by the Department (ESE). Most of these projects were supported with Learn & Serve America funds distributed through the ESE.