Design Your Own Learning, 2016-17

Once again my students and I are deep in the process of investigating and creating. During class they are either with me or in different parts of our school or city, interviewing, researching, and drafting. I wrote before about my personal challenge of letting go in order to let this type of learning happen.

In January students will do the bulk of the work on projects as wide ranging as the experiences of Black Police Officers, Sanctuary Cities, people of color in the arts, music and culture, profiling a neighborhood, growing up with Aspergers, and more. Here is a copy of the project description and resource sheet:

Design Your Own Learning, Winter 2016-2017


The final part of our course will be devoted to Design Your Own Learning projects. These projects offer you an opportunity to choose a topic you find compelling and then research, create, and then present your work to a wider audience. One way to think of this project is to focus on untold stories or hidden realities.

All projects must have the following components:

  • A compelling question for investigation
  • Reading list and research plan
  • An official proposal, pitch, and approval
  • Production and creation, including multiple drafts and feedback
  • Final product that includes writing (minimum 500 words) and media
  • A process of sharing your work with targeted audiences

Here are examples of Design Your Own Learning Projects from the past and related media coverage:

When Black Teens Get Real About America’s Love of Light Skin
When the Bullied Becomes the Bully
The College Educated Tofu Worker
Understand Who You Are…
Gentrification Radio Piece
From Egypt to Philly
What is the Benefit of Standardized Testing?
Hip Hop’s Influence

Potential project ideas:

  • What different realities exist on a block? In a neighborhood? In a city?
  • How is ______ neighborhood changing?
  • What is the stories of minimum wage workers?
  • What does it mean to be a refugee?
  • What do people fear? What do they value?
  • What can we learn from the stories of police officers?
  • How do people organize and change their reality?
  • What are the untold stories of a neighborhood?
  • Or (maybe the best option)… come up with another idea


Student Work Models
Immigration / Sanctuary Cities / Dreamers
Fight for 15 / Minimum Wage
Climate Change
Black Lives Matter / Police

Your proposal must include:

  1. Question for investigation and goal of your project.
  2. Research: How will you learn about your topic? What different models do you have for your work? (Must include at least four annotated sources.)
  3. Process: How will you go about creating your product?
  4. What is the final product? Who will see it? How will it influence people?


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