3.0 Prompts for interest exploration
The following activity is from The Big Pictures Advisor
Guide 2: Learning and Interest Explorationpart of the many
materials Big Picture has produced for others wanting to start schools
with the same philosophy as The Met. Advisor Guide 2 includes
an array of tools to help students identify and combine interests
Here are some activities to do with your advisory, small groups or for individual students to learn more about what interests them and what opportunities are available in the community.
Conduct Peer Interviews
Break into pairs and interview advisory members about interests.
Interview Older Students
Find students with similar interests to yours and interview them about how they pursued their interests in school.
Write a Journal Entry
Make a list of your favorite things to dolook for common themes.
Explore the Classifieds
Look through the want ads. Do any jobs seem interesting to you?
Search the Mentor Database
Search the mentor database for interesting types of work.
Do an Internet Search
What types of websites interest you the most?
Read a Biography or Autobiography
Choose a book about someone who interests you. How did they pursue their passions?
Look Through a College Catalog
What courses look interesting to you?
Look Through the Yellow Pages
What businesses or organizations would you like to explore?
Talk to Your Family
What are their interests/hobbies? What did you like to do when you were younger? What skills do they think you have?
Go to a Bookstore
Find three books that interest you. Write down the name, author and topicthese might be new areas to explore. Look through a magazine rack to see if anything interests you.
Walk Around Your Neighborhood
Break into pairs in advisory. Walk around and write down all the organizations you see that interest you. What else do you notice that is interesting to you?
These are short activities that help students determine their learning styles, interests and strengths.
#2: Self-Evaluation of Skills and Abilities
#3: Your World Needs Your Love
#4: Who Am I?
#5: Ability Inventory
#6: Vocational Interests
#7: Vocational Values
4.0 Internship work products
2001-2002, 167 businesses and organizations served as LTI (Learning
Through Internship) sites for Met students. Students spend a minimum
of two days a week at a worksite, with a mentor, and develop an in-depth
project that they work on at the LTI site and back at school. The
concrete products students develop as part of their internships yield
useful information or new resources for the sponsoring organization:
a laminated card with the phone numbers of crisis service providers
that city police officers can carry in their wallet, research findings
on eelgrass in Narragansett Bay, a minority index to state census
figures. As the following examples show, Met students often leave
their mark through publicationsespecially aimed at other teens.
As part of her internship at Prevent Child Abuse RI, tenth grader
Carleen helped create a newsletter targeted at teen parents.
for sample newsletter in PDF format.
Takesha, through her work at Planned Parenthood and Youth in Action of Providence, prepared a 23-page handbook for teens that mixes straightforward information on birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, and depression with student poetry. Click here for handbook in PDF format.
5.0 Making academics come alive
The following excerpts from Eliot Levines One
Kid at a Time (Teacher's College Press, 2002) show
some of the ways Met advisors and mentors connect academics with student
interests and internships.
knew I could draw Cesar into reading The Rape of Nanking,
Hal says. It was the vivid descriptions of violence that hooked
him, but what he learned was far deeper than that. He was very absorbed
with the violence in his own neighborhood, and I wanted him to understand
similar problems at other times and places in history. I also knew
it would pique his intellectual curiosity, which is one of his great
* * *
Miguels LTI mentor recommended The Red Badge of
Courage, which helped the ninth grader become a more thoughtful
and engaged reader. It took me a while to read it, Miguel
says, because the last time I read a book was four years ago.
After a few chapters, I got so used to reading that the words started
flowing like I was saying it out loud. At the end of the book, I got
so depressed and mad. I couldnt believe that Henry died. After
all that, he died. I even read the last few chapters a second time
to make sure I didnt miss something, like maybe he didnt
really die. It took me so long to realize that the book actually related
to me. Just like kids here in Providence, Henry went through so much
to be a man just to end up dying so quick at an early age. When the
book was over, I didnt want it to end. Ive been looking
at other books like mysteries and things to read over the summer.
Tamikas advisor remembers that when she first came to the Met, she spoke in slang all the time. I helped her realize that she knew African-American English, but that she also had to master a second languagestandard English. Thats something I didnt figure out until I got to college. I had her read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. She barely understood a word, because of the distinctions between different dialects. Then she did a glossary of slang terms and redefined them in standard English. So shed write sentences like Thats a bangin hat youre wearing and Id challenge her to rewrite it as Thats an attractive hat youre wearing or something like that. It made her aware that there are other words to use, and at the same time she was having fun and building self-confidence.
* * *
Met students write papers, project proposals, self-evaluations,
journals, 75-page autobiographies, and more. ...Its about
finding subject matter theyre excited about and helping them
express it, one advisor said. Journals are pretty much
sacred ground, so I dont make any corrections. But for other
types of writing students do lots of drafts, and thats where
I comment on grammar, punctuation, clarity, and all that. One students
college essay sounded like a thesaurus, so I helped him cut back on
five-syllable words and find his own voice. Another student had great
ideas but a jumbled way of expressing them, so we worked on that.
Math and science
Julias mentor was concerned that Julia hadnt studied chemistry: It was a dilemma, because she lacked essential knowledge for working in a lab, and I didnt know if Id have the time to teach her. The mentor laid out what Julia needed to know, and then Julia learned it back at school with her advisors guidance. Soon she was mixing solutions, doing tissue cultures, and designing a project to infect liver cells with retroviruses and examine the impact on antigen expression. Rather than following the learning sequence of a conventional textbook, Julia studied the specific topics and techniques that she needed for her project.
* * *
Kiyos interest in marine biology led to an LTI with the Narragansett Bay Commission. His project was part of an initiative to monitor the bays water quality in order to guide public policy and raise public awareness. If they find that high phosphate levels correlate with reduced flounder catches, for example, new legislation might regulate fertilizer use by farms in the watershed. To guide his hypotheses, Kiyo studied how pollution, population growth, and the advent of water treatment had affected water quality. His mentor, a biologist, taught him basic lab skills for drawing and analyzing water samples. With the resulting data, Kiyo helped to create a more accurate profile of water quality in the bay.
Brenda did her LTI with a Providence police officer, and her main project was to help the department improve relations with teenagers. (She also spent time in a squad car and responded to everything from domestic disputes to homicides.) With help from a Brown University sociologist, she developed a survey and gathered responses from the 120 students in high school classrooms. Two of her findings contradicted the police departments prevailing beliefs: First, many students reported positive attitudes toward the police; and second, students reported that their contacts with police occurred more often in schools and community centers than on the streets. Based on these findings, Brendas final report challenged the departments emphasis on community policing as the best way to improve relations with teenagers. She suggested that the police should increase their positive presence in schools and community centers instead.
6.0 Summer journals
The Met seeks out summer opportunities for all of its students, often far from home. It draws upon its own networks, along with a national foundation called Summer Search, which selects students for program scholarships for two consecutive summers. Some Met students study on a college campus (e.g. Barnard, Syracuse) or in the field (e.g., Caicos Islands, the Navajo Reservation). Others head outdoors (e.g., to Outward Bound programs across the country, wilderness expeditions in Arizona), work as counselors in special summer camps (e.g., for children with HIV), or join leadership programs for teens (e.g., Camp Anytown).
Back at school, through essays and photographs, students share what they learned.
...I was able to do some serious studying, and reflect
a lot about how I live back at home. This is where I figured
out what I mention earlier in the essay, the so-called revelation.
I was walking down a dust road in Potrero to see if they had
any salad yet at Las Brisas, when I noticed how
quickly I was walking. Why am I rushing? I asked
myself, where is it that I have to be? It was like
a ton of bricks for me to think about this, where did I ever
have to be that was so damn important. At that moment, (sorry
if this is getting too spiritual) I was walking
right past this really cool colored lizard, and I stopped to
examine it. What a cool lizard it was too; it really made me
think. I wonder what kind of cool stuff is back home that
I never take the time to appreciate. I love times like
those, because not only do they make you think whatever your
revelation was, but they give your brain a kick-start, a serious
kick-start, like jumper cables from a Mac truck. Jesse
...In Colorado I had some moments that Im never
going to forget about. I will always remember the day I arrived
in the airport and met all the people who were going to be
in my group and as I looked toward my group my eyes did not
see no other shades of color than white. As I looked at all
the people different types of feelings were going through
my mind about whether I would fit in or I would have any conflict
with them because I am a city kid who is black and not as
wealthy as they are. Derek (Colorado)
...[In Alaska] I wore sunglasses because the sun was
so bright it reflected onto the ice and made everything light
up. The sky was nice and blue and my adrenalin was pumping
as I was climbing up the ice. Climbing up the ice with the
ice pick was something I will never forget because I am the
only person in my neighborhood that can say I have been to
Alaska and climbed a glacier.
...I stayed in a Native American village called Gulkana...
Some of the things I saw while I was there were how to gut,
cut and smoke fish and how they make some of their foods like
porridge, fried salmon and grilled moose. The Natives were
making necklaces, singing and dancing. One important thing
I noticed while I was in Alaska was about the kids in the
village. It felt like they did not care about their culture,
but the kids that just moved to Gulkana wanted to learn as
much as they could. Derek (Alaska)
...We saw the most amazing sites in the world and
grew as Jews through different spiritual experiences that
they planned for us throughout the trip. Our counselors arranged
for us to have a service in the ancient synagogue on top of
Mount Massada...The ruins on top of the mountain are from
an ancient village that the Jews built to keep themselves
from Roman capture... The sunrise on Massada is one of the
most beautiful sights in the world. David (Israel)
...Another incredible experience happened during the
middle of the course when we were on a 150 ft. schooner for
a week. It was like being back in time. It took the whole
crew to lift the massive sails. After the group learned how
to sail the huge boat, the Outward Bound instructors gave
us a chance to run the boat by ourselves, at night. Again,
we got up in shifts and rotated jobs. For a while I would
be the navigator, then the bow watch, then the person who
steers the boat. It was mind boggling to think that a bunch
of teenagers were running a 150 ft. sailboat without any problems.
It made me feel proud, proud of myself and my group.
...[One] resort [we visited] was very isolated, about
ten miles from the center of Puerto Viejo which is basically
one main street. We drove down a very long windy road that
took us deep into the jungle. Our room was just a large cabin
with screens for walls. It had a bathroom, running water,
and a shower, and was exposed to the rainforest on all sides.
This enabled you to be aware of the surroundings at all times.
At night all of the insects make quite an assortment of strange
and loud noises and were all over the outside of our screen.
Some even got inside our room - including many katydids and
a good sized tarantula! The coolest part was that there were
paths through the lush greenery of the jungle that led straight
to the beach. The pristine beach was fringed with the incredibly
dense rainforest and stretched on for miles completely undisturbed
by human presence. Colin (Costa Rica)
...A major highlight of my last few months in Japan
was when I joined a street performance group. It was called
Daidengaku, which means big street festival. There
were different groups with different parts that you could
join, but my host suggested I do dancing so I did. The instructor
pushed us really hard that day, but I was in shape due to
Karate so it wasnt so bad...The day of the event is
still vivid in my mind. Dressed in traditional Japanese clothing,
walking down a long road, wearing a large hat that covered
my face, I thought about what I was doing and realized how
amazing it was that I was a part of this....When I returned
home, a lot of people said that I had changed and I seemed
so different. In some ways I dont think I changed much,
but I think Ive become more the person I want to be.
...Here is a Puerto Rican/Guatemalan kid who grew
up around Boricuas (full blooded Puerto Ricans) his whole
life who dislikes any Dominicans that they might encounter,
but here I was friends with almost every boy in that neighborhood.
Every day when I would step outside there would be a group
of boys outside playing hacky sack and I would join them and
thats how we became boys. Man, I miss them. Juan
Note: In the summer of 2001, one Met student and his father,
a Vietnam veteran, traveled together to Vietnam. Among their
stops was a museum that documented the war from the Vietnamese
...That museum had a profound effect on my father
and I. I think we both left there and felt very guilty. I
know I felt that way because I am an American and in a sense
I felt guilty and ashamed that I am American. I cant
imagine how my father felt knowing that some of his fellow
soldiers committed some of those horrific acts. Part of me
felt that those were some really serious accusations of torture
and didnt want to believe it. My dad was quite upset
that it was a one-sided story from the Vietnamese perspective.
I tried to make him understand that of course they would portray
it in that way, just like a lot of our documentaries portray
just the American side of the war. I came to the conclusion
that night while laying in bed that war isnt a pretty
thing and that a lot of horrible things happen, but when it
comes down to it, the guilt always lies equally in the hands
of both sides. No country is innocent in war. Joe