The class of 2015 at Casco Bay High School for Expeditionary Learning in Portland, ME focused their junior year’s work on climate change. In the fall, they studied both the chemistry and the policy. In the spring, they began to consider the human side of things when their humanities teacher, Susan McCray, posed two questions. What is the power of story to effect change? How does a community sustain itself in the face of hardship? The students’ search for answers led them to a deep study of history, literature, documentary, and ultimately to Rockaway, NY, a community faced with hardship and recently devastated by the climate change induced Hurricane Sandy. The students became documentarians and volunteers, tasked with understanding and interpreting the stories of Rockaway’s residents who were displaced by the hurricane. In seeking to document, honor, and share the stories of others—through writing, photography, and film—each of the Casco Bay juniors discovered something important about themselves, all while exceeding the required Common Core Standards.
This video examines how student work illuminates—and is illuminated by—the following standard: CCSS ELA standard W.11-12.3.
THE ILLUMINATING STANDARDS PROJECT
In the last two decades of the ‘standards movement’ in American public education, many educators have concluded that ‘teaching to the standards’ and project-based learning are incompatible. Ron Berger (Expeditionary Learning) and Steve Seidel (Harvard Graduate School of Education), co-directors of The Illuminating Standards Project, wondered if this conclusion is true. Indeed, they speculated that long-term, interdisciplinary, arts-infused, community-connected projects may well be one of the best ways to actually see what state standards look like when fully realized in the things students make in school—to make the standards visible.
Three questions frame the work of The Illuminating Standards Project:
What does it look like when state standards are met with integrity, depth, and imagination?
How can we use standards to open up and enrich curriculum, rather than narrow and constrain it?
How can we use student work to raise the level of our understanding of standards and our dialogue about them?
THE VIDEOS AND HOW TO USE THEM
Collaborating with Berger and Seidel on The Illuminating Standards Project, over 30 students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education have explored these questions by choosing projects from the student work in Models of Excellence and considering the ways in which those projects did—and didn’t—meet specific state standards. Further, they examined how the student work illuminated the standards—and vice versa. Many of those students created short films which are presented here.
We invite you to watch these films, and we encourage you to use them as the catalyst for discussions with your colleagues about the relationship between your commitment to meet demanding state standards and approaches to designing powerful learning experiences for our students. See a suggested protocol for viewing linked below, along with selected videos from the series. (The complete list of videos in the series can be found here.)