PBL Spotlight Experience: Student- Led Community Projects Increase Citizenship and Social Responsibi


Background

Imagine students across all ages working to address global problems such as opioid deaths, hatred, prejudice, addiction, bullying, mass murders, climate catastrophes, gender bias, suicide, voting rights, gun control, global warming, pollution, poverty, etc.

Through community based projects, this is what students at the Medford Public Schools ‘Center for Citizenship and Social Responsibility’ (CCSR) do on a weekly basis.

Started through a generous grant, the after-school program is a district wide opportunity dedicated to ‘making the community and the world a better place to live in.’ And students are certainly following through on this mission.

To date, over 2,000 students have participated in the program with over 150 year-long community focused projects this year alone. Other than an advisor/ teacher to help guide development and implementation, projects are completely student-led, with students finding an issue to champion, developing products and services to address it, and forging community partnerships to ensure it affects LASTING CHANGE.

The Project (s)

High School Example: Boston- to-Houston: Hurricane Harvey Relief and TV Coverage

The following write- up is from Stella Eliopoulus, the project’s student leader at Medford High School:

Around the time school started again, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. I saw daily news updates and images online, but I wasn’t able to recognize the extent of the hurricane until a close friend of mine from Houston began to bring its impact into perspective. She told me she was out of school for a couple weeks and sent me pictures of the flood damage at her friends’ houses. The more I heard about her first-hand experience of the hurricane, the more I realized how detached we are from disasters like these unless we are immediately impacted. At this time, I had been trying to think of an idea for this year’s CCSR project. My newfound sympathy for the victims inspired me to create a project that would help victims of Hurricane Harvey. I designed and executed a large, school-wide donation drive that gathered items like clothing, nonperishable foods, and toiletries. However, CCSR lacked the funds to ship everything to Texas. For a month I reached out to organizations, but to no avail. My sub master approached me and mentioned that he wrote a letter to Channel 5 about my project. It turned out that they were interested in interviewing me about my endeavors, so I needed a solution! The 3rd and 5th wards had gotten the brunt of the devastation, so we were using our contact’s church as an outlet of distribution. Even if it meant trekking 1,800 miles by ourselves, these goods were getting to Houston. We rented a 10-foot U-Haul truck and decided to leave that Sunday, planning to spend roughly three days, hoping to arrive in Houston on Tuesday the 7th. We spent Wednesday distributing the goods and returned that night via JetBlue. While it hadn’t been easy, I was prepared to undergo the challenges. It was important to me that this project be carried out, and I knew that by giving up and giving away the goods to a local organization, where I’m sure they would’ve been appreciated, Houston needed them too. Even though media coverage of Harvey damage had ended, citizens were still feeling its effects and it was important that I helped in whatever way I could.

Elementary School Example: Slave Remembrance Stone by Liam Brady and Jasmine Hagbourne


Liam Brady and Jasmine, two third graders, wanted their city of Medford, Massachussetts to recognize their past as much they did the present; even if that meant illuminating issues that made people feel uncomfortable. In their ‘Slave Remembrance’ Project, they constructed a remembrance marker for fifty enslaved people in the south west corner of the Salem Street Burying Ground Cemetery. This location went without markers for over 150 years! Students also planned a city ceremony in the month of June to reveal the new marker and pay tribute to these forgotten men and women.

Elementary School Example: 3-D Crosswalk by 3rd and fourth graders

After witnessing a number of speeding violations and unsafe driving habits near their school in Medford, two students decided they needed to do something about it. They paired up and painted a 3D optical illusion crosswalk near the Brooks Elementary School. The striped lines in the crosswalk appeared as 3-dimensional, floating blocks in the middle of the road to approaching motorists. The crosswalk was so successful in lowering speeds, that it garnished attention from the city’s Mayor, who invited the two students to speak at Medford’s Traffic Commission. But the project’s impact didn’t stop there. The program ultimately went viral and was on featured a national media outlet.

Find a more detailed summary of all the Medford projects here – – -> CCSR Overview packet 04.03.20

The Transformation (s)

The Medford Projects are an important reminder of what happens when we develop students’ empathy and understanding, as much we do their academic aptitude.

“Because of the CCSR, young people at our elementary schools have a safe place to find a buddy, people in our community are more aware of issues of hunger and inequity in education, restorative justice models have begun to be put in place in Medford schools and churches, and that’s just a small sample of the tremendous [transformation] that’s is occurring.” – David Ambrose, Teacher at Medford High School
“What is powerful about how the Center for Citizenship and Social Responsibility operates is that their approach to learning combines lessons in civics, social and emotional learning, and community engagement in a project based framework. Instead of separate initiatives, Rich Trotta and his dedicated teachers have synthesized all the important skills and values, l we want our students to learn in order to be prepared to improve and strengthen the social fabric that is so critical to our collective well-being.” – John D’Auria, former CEO of Teachers 21

Students are also changing as they honour forgotten members of their community. Hear from two high school students about their ‘Community Portrait’ project and how it helped them better connect with the elderly in their community:



Where to Learn More:

The Medford Center for Citizenship and Social Responsibility started with a small grant and a BIG vision.

How might you use their story to inspire a similar model in your community and school?

Find out how on their website, or connect with their director Richard Trotta at rtrotta@medford.k12.ma.us to learn more about their model.

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Kyle Wagner
School Transformation and Project- Based Learning Coach

I coach school leaders on how to lead change and improve student learning through simple, innovative srategies and teaming structures.

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