The Springfield Renaissance School is a unique public district school in urban Springfield, MA. In a district struggling to develop schools that achieve meaningful student outcomes, Springfield Renaissance uses a focus on project-based learning to bring relevance and rigor to daily learning tasks. This effort started in the very first year of the school’s existence when Aurora Kushner brought a project of major local significance to her students. Students conducted a full, professional water quality assessment on Loon Pond to determine if it was safe to be opened as a public recreation area. In addition to learning how to conduct scientific field work, students gained a deep understanding of environmental science standards, scientific reading and writing standards, and what it means to provide an important service for their community.
This video examines how student work illuminates—and is illuminated by—the following standards: CCSS ELA standard RST.9-10.1, 9-10.2, 9-10.3, and W.9-10.4 thru 7.
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 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.)