Peacekeepers of Chicago: Illuminating Standards Video

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Peacekeepers of Chicago: Illuminating Standards Video

Format(s): Video

Topic(s): Spark Discussion

Audience: Educators

What happens when students take ownership over their education and push their learning beyond the walls of their school buildings to activate change in their communities? They develop impactful and transformational projects like the Peacekeepers of Chicago. This video highlights a collection of high quality, student-driven projects that were produced by a group of 7th-grade students from Polaris Charter Academy in Chicago, IL (2012-2013). Additionally, this video illuminates what can happen when schools, families, and communities establish partnerships with one another in an effort to boost student achievement and simultaneously cover Common Core State Standards. In this video, you will learn how projects like the Peacekeepers of Chicago not only help to drive basic skill work and deeper learning amongst students, but also help to grow and develop lifelong learners and community organizers.

This video examines how student work illuminates—and is illuminated by—the following standards: CCSS ELA standards W.7.1, W.7.4, W.7.5, SL.7.1, L.7.2, and L.7.6.



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?



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 and many of those films 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.)

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