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Rustbelt Reformers - Interview Project

School: Citizens Leadership Academy

City/State: Cleveland, OH

Grade(s): 7

Format(s): Book, Interview(s)

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Social Studies

Project Overview

After their study of the European Renaissance in social studies, seventh graders at Citizens Leadership Academy looked at the trajectory of their city. They studied Cleveland's "rise," "fall," and resurgence, looking specifically at key players and themes. This occured in collaboration with the local historical society. Then, with their English class, students interviewed Cleveland's current inventors, innovators, and reformers as a culminating project.

They researched these individuals, prepared questions, practiced interview techniques, and conducted 45-60-minute interviews around the city. Backward planning from previous articles, students crafted ledes and angles with feedback from local journalism students and professors. The students' writing underwent a rigorous five-draft revision process. This included meeting with an eighth-grade peer who completed the project the previous year.

The articles were compiled into a book that was presented to the interviewees and families a their Celebration of Learning. This is the fifth volume of the book, so it has become a "Who's Who" of Cleveland" and our students' work is being recognized community-wide. Having an authentic audience pushes students to strive hard to do their interviewees' stories justice through their writing. The project also opens our students' eyes to different careers available in a wide range of fields. Moreover, it helps students develop a true sense of place, and from there, they are dedicated to contributing to a better Cleveland.

Like Brianna, who wrote the forward for this year's book, said, "This project has had a big effect on me about my view of Cleveland; it really changed from what I thought before. I used to believe that it was an okay place, but now I think that you can grow up and be successful because we have very important people from Cleveland making a tremendous difference in our lives. All of our interviewees chose Cleveland even though they could have chosen anywhere else."


How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Shows a community project that could be implemented in any community and at different grade levels
  • Good example of a project that is repeated yearly and grows rather than replicates
  • Demonstrates a thoughtful use of outside experts, including 8th grade experts that have direct experience to share
  • Includes a pdf of the entire book so that educators and students can see multiple examples of writing on each interviewee

Relevant Resources

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can write informative/explanatory texts that convey ideas and concepts using relevant information that is carefully selected and organized.
  • With support from peers and adults, I can use a writing process to ensure that purpose and audience have been addressed.
  • I can build on other’s ideas during discussions.
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