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|Project Title: ||Winchester & English High Exchange|
|School Year: ||2007|
|School - District:||Winchester High School - Winchester|
|Contact Name:||Katie Hillstrom|
|Contact Phone:||(781) 721-7020|
|Content-Area(s):||Comprehensive Health, English Language Arts|
|Community Need:||Education, Diversity Awareness|
|Brief Description of SL Project: |
Two ninth grade honors English classes at Winchester High School (WHS) collaborated with two English classes at English High School (EHS) in Boston in an exchange designed to dispel stereotypes, build relationships across the socio-economic divide, explore urban/suburban educational equity, and brainstorm action steps to address these issues. Students from WHS received “e-mail pals” from the EHS classes, so they were emailing each other and getting to know each other before the Exchange even occurred. Then, students from WHS spent one day at EHS, participating in relationship-building activities, touring the school, and listening to EHS students discuss the day-to-day challenges of attending an urban school. The project was designed to help the students involved by exposing them to a world outside their two very different and sheltered communities.
|The Community Need the Project is Meeting:|
The community need was the lack of awareness that students in different communities (specifically, suburban and urban) often have of their peers’ experiences, in their education as well as their life. To some extent, the need was also the inequities that exist between suburban and urban schools, although students only addressed this need in a very introductory manner, as it is a big one. Katie Hillstrom, their English teacher, helped them to identify the need, after the classes studied issues of racism and classism in To Kill a Mockingbird and Black Boy, as well as reading excerpts from Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities, the non-fiction study of school inequity in our country. Students used their reading of these works to help them investigate the need, and they also brought in newspaper/magazine articles that highlighted the racism/classism that is going on in our country today.
|Service Component: |
Student participants were part of an action-research high school exchange between WHS and EHS designed to dispel stereotypes, build relationships across the socio-economic divide, explore urban/suburban educational equity, and brainstorm action steps to address these issues. In addition, on the last day of the exchange, the students brainstormed action steps so they could think about ways to work towards addressing the issues (such as racism, classism, inequities in public education) that they learned about before and during the exchange. Thus, after the exchange, the WHS students provided service to their peers and others in the Winchester community through a variety of activities that helped to raise the public’s awareness about these issues. They also presented their research and action plans to other WHS classes and groups.
|Connections with Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks: |
Reading and Literature Strand 9: Making Connections Students will deepen their understanding of a literary or non-literary work by relating it to its contemporary context or historical background. Classroom Activities related to this strand were as follows: students read and discussed literature and non-fiction (To Kill a Mockingbird, Black Boy, Burning Up, Savage Inequalities) that addressed racism and classism in society.
Language Strand 2: Questioning, Listening and Contributing
Students will pose questions, listen to the ideas of others, and contribute their own information or ideas in group discussions or interviews in order to acquire new knowledge.
Composition Strand 19: Writing Students will write with a clear focus, coherent organization, and sufficient detail. Primary activities were formal literary analysis essays and post-exchange projects involving writing in order to serve the community further by spreading awareness.
|How Youth Voice Helps Shape Project:|
Although this was a teacher-generated and led project, students contributed and took ownership through their communication with their “e-pals,” as well as through the post-exchange service activities. The e-pals allowed them more freedom to discuss the issues without being guided by a teacher or other adult. The post-exchange projects allowed them to brainstorm their own possible solutions to resolving the issues and select their own means of spreading awareness. Finally, by completing evaluations and writing reflections, although after the project, it does give them the opportunity to make decisions about how the project could be improved for the future.
|Student Reflection Component: |
Students reflected on the exchange, describing how the experience opened their eyes to issues they were previously less aware of. Here are some excerpts from student reflections:
“True or false: Every child under age 16 in the United States receives education of an equal quality, regardless of race or wealth. Last year, I would have answered “true” to that statement. However, in March, my English class took an eye-opening field trip to English High School in Boston. There, we learned firsthand about the inconsistency in the quality of education between schools just ten miles apart from each other.”
“From this experience, I don’t feel as though I experienced the culture of children who live in a city twenty minutes away, rather the culture of a completely different world. Yet, the children of this world resemble me in more ways than I had thought possible. I have never felt so close to a group of people that is so different from me."
|Community Partners Involved: |
Although the Winchester Foundation for Educational Excellence and the MA DOE helped fund this project, our primary working partner was Teen Empowerment, a Boston non-profit organization that inspires young people, and the adults who work with them, to think deeply about the most difficult social problems in their schools and communities, and gives them the tools they need to work with others in creating significant positive change. Amanda Gordon, WHS’ director of Connect & Commit, the school’s community service learning program, and Katie Hillstrom, WHS English teacher, met regularly with the two Teen Empowerment coordinators at English High School, as well as the two English teachers at EHS who participated in the exchange with WHS. We planned the entire exchange together. Teen Empowerment had two adult facilitators, as well as four student facilitators, who helped lead and guide activities during the exchange itself, so they worked closely with students on those two exchange days.
|Demonstration/Celebration of Students' Work: |
The project did receive some press coverage. We also celebrated its success at WHS end of year celebration for Connect and Commit, the community service program. Two of Ms. Hillstrom’s students spoke about the project and what they learned, and several students’ artwork and writing that they completed after the exchange in order to spread awareness was displayed at the Connect and Commit celebration.
|Evaluation of Project’s Impact:|
Students filled out evaluations at the end of each of the exchange days. The WHS students also wrote reflections after the experience, including positive feedback and constructive suggestions/changes for the future exchanges. Finally, we had a post-exchange reflection/discussion in each class, where students were allowed to share their responses to the project, and whether or not it met the goals they had brainstormed beforehand for what they hoped to get out of the experience.
|Challenges/Solutions Identified by District:|
There were really no major challenges to implementing the curricula and project. The primary challenges were logistical. We had a difficult time scheduling dates that worked for all parties involved to hold the two exchange days.
* 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.