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I Love My City: Youth as Community Problem Solvers and Creators in 21st Century Classrooms


Transformation is not something that happens overnight.

This year, my high school seniors completed research projects that asked them to answer the question, “what problem do you see in your community, and what do you wish to develop in order to address this problem?”  Getting them to ask relevant questions took time, and creating a space where they felt empowered to love their community enough to want to restore it required patience and a re-prioritizing of sorts for myself as a teacher.

When I first began teaching, I felt that it was important to connect what we did in the classroom to the "real world”, and for my students, as individuals, to be able to look at such a world critically. However, after a few years of teaching in Detroit and watching unemployment swell, dropout rates increase, and the overwhelming effects of poverty debilitate and divide the families I served, I realized that it was not enough for my students to participate in what I deemed as transformative practices on an individual scale or in isolated instances; the institutions that surrounded them needed to be transformed as well, and it was time- as I saw it, for us to develop a sense of collective ownership in creating the changes necessary to turn our city into a place of hope- a community that worked for us.

This process took over a year, but it is one that strengthened relationships, grew creative capacity, and helped students to use media in new and powerful ways to speak back to those forces that fettered them to a narrative that painted them as anything but leaders in their dying city. 

Check out the pages of this resource to see what this process looked like over time, and click on the “Research Projects” tab to hear students discuss their work.

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<p>Hi,</p> <p>I'm wondering if anyone else has tried a similar project and if we might correspond while I attempt this in the Spring with my 8th graders?&nbsp; It would be cool to be able to troubleshoot and learn from each other.&nbsp; </p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>It's a great idea to connect with others doing work like this, so thank you for getting this discussion started, Michael. I wanted to point out that another group also found this work exciting, State of the Re: Union (see <a href="http://stateofthereunion.com/tag/the-national-writing-project-digital-is">A Youth-Inspired School Project</a>) and they asked these questions:</p> <blockquote> <p>There are so many ways for people to get their message out, but how is it done <em>effectively</em>? What are some other tactics used in your community to get people to actually listen <em>and learn </em>about important concerns?</p> </blockquote> <p>Looking forward to hearing from others about similar projects they might be working on too.</p> <p>Best, Christina</p>
<p>Please give me an e-mail. &nbsp;I would love to share my resources with you and kick around ideas. Inbox me and maybe we can connect through a chat or phone call. &nbsp;---Danielle&nbsp;</p>
<p>Hi Michael, </p><p>I am so excited to see you responded to this resource. As I was watching the student videos and reading through Danielle's process, I was thinking what a great project this would be for KCK youth. I see a lot of parallels between Detroit and KCK. I can't wait to hear how it goes! You might appeal to other GKCWP colleagues to see if anyone might want to partner with you.</p><p>Good luck!</p><p>Erin</p>