Below, organized by categories, is an annotated list of WKCD feature stories, generated since WKCD’s start in 2001. Many of the stories cross categories, but for the purposes of this directory, we have assigned them to a single category and list them in chronological order (most to least recent).
The stories listed under "Current/recent" reach from the present to January 2013 and are not categorized by subject.
Be advised: Articles written before April 2007 were brought over from our previous website. Some of the stories may contain broken links.
Community service and action
Global youth voices
Media and arts
Science, environment, and technology
Straight talk and first-person accounts
Written and spoken word
Youth and politics
Life Lines: Finding Family through Musical Improv in Sunset Park (July 2016) By the time the bus packed with teenagers from Brooklyn’s Sunset Park reached their weekend retreat in Hudson Valley, everyone knew the rule: no one could use the “T” word. (T stood for “tired.”) For the next three days, these 65 middle and high school students would be wearing themselves out, body and soul, in the best tradition of rehearsing musical theater. Then they would go back to perform in Sunset Park, the immigrant community they call home. It would be easy to think that the retreat’s main goal was to create a finely polished theater production. But Life Lines staff had their eyes on another prize: knitting this diverse group of adolescents into a community of care, where everyone mattered, everyone had a voice, and no one gave up.
Bronx Strong: Empowering Immigrant Youth Through Soccer (May 2016) In 2009, when Andrew So assembled an afterschool soccer team at the South Bronx school where he taught, he figured his students needed a way to get off the streets and do a safe, prosocial activity with peers. It was an easy sell. As the children of immigrants or newcomers themselves, his students were as passionate about soccer as So, a Stanford graduate who knew firsthand soccer’s power to fuel dreams and cross cultures. Today, South Bronx United (SBU) engages nearly 900 children and youth between the ages of 4 and 19. Its afterschool Academy, with 150 students, combines competitive travel soccer with academic enrichment, college prep, mentoring, leadership development, immigrant legal services, and other social and emotional supports.
Harlem Lacrosse: Lessons About Learning, On and Off the Field (April 2016) Jessica, a sixth grader at Harlem's Sojourner Truth School, was in tears. Her English teacher had just rejected the essay she'd turned in because she hadn't followed the assignment. Seeking consolation, Jessica turned to an unlikely source: her lacrosse coach, Alyssa Palomba. "Of course she got mad at you," said Palomba, as she huddled with Jessica in a room stacked with lacrosse gear on the school's third floor. "She told you to do A and you did B. That's like when I ask you to play attack and you play goalie instead." For five years, the school-based Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership (HLL) has supported and challenged struggling middle school students, on and off the field, and helped them win high school and college scholarships as student athletes.
WKCD's Research for Action Grants Update (June 2015) For the past five months, winning teams in our student action research program have been hard at work turning their plans into action. Most anticipate finishing their projects this summer or early fall. While we wait for the final results, we thought we'd share a few early "products": the spring edition of the Root Knowledge Journal, the work of Chicago students seeking to make critical social inquiry part of the regular curriculum; a survey designed by youth in East Chicago, Indiana to elicit student voice in improving their city; local news coverage of a project by teens in Edenton, North Carolina to combat the invasive Hydrilla plant in the local river.
Summer Programs for High School Students (April 2015) For six years, WKCD has compiled and updated a directory of summer programs for high school students, programs that can be life changing. Our lists include summer abroad programs that combine service, learning, and exploration; national pre-collegiate programs on college campuses; summer camps focused on leadership development, social justice, the environment, media and arts, and more. While it may be too late for many of the programs in our directory, some are still accepting applications. Check them out! Summer Journeys '15: Opportunities to Serve, Learn, and Explore Abroad | Summer Journeys '15: Pre-Collegiate Programs on College Campuses | Summer Journeys '15: Summer Camps with an Edge
Summer 2015 Bucket List for Teens (April 2015)We're often asked if we have a "summer bucket list" for teens that we could share. We've searched the Internet for suggestions posted by young people nationwide, ages 13 - 15, to create a list for teens by teens. We invite you to share this list with students or kids you know and use it as a spring(summer) board to come up with your own ideas—perhaps ideas more suited to your own circumstances. (We're also aware that many of the ideas listed here are female-centric; it seems that most of the teens who put their summer bucket list online were, you guessed it, female.)
California High School Students Document Why Vaccinations Matter (April 2015) Two years ago, when a group of high school students in Carlsbad, California began work on a documentary film about childhood immunization, they never thought they would find themselves in the eye of a storm. The story of their award-winning “Invisible Threat” offers a cautionary tale about why vaccinations matter and how controversy can trump science. Unwittingly, they found themselves at the heart of a local storm about the trumpeted but unproven links between immunization and childhood autism. Undaunted, they pursued their investigation of the role of childhood immunizations in public health, even bringing their powerful video to members of the U.S. Congress.
Five Videos for Teachers and Students on Character, "Grit," and Student Success (March 2015)This collection of short videos, assembled by WKCD, shines a light on how character and grit contribute to student success. Experts in the field—Angela Duckworth and Paul Tough—share their research and experiences. Two New York City school princpals talk about teaching character skills and grit in the classroom. High school students talk about persistence, part of WKCD's "Just Listen" series, and an Indiana University basketball player, speaking after his last game as a senior, describes and thanks all of the people who helped him believe in himself, on and off the basketball court. Discussion questions follow each video
Advice from Seniors About College: What I Wish I Had Known When I Was a Freshman! A Student-led Workshop (November 2014) What's required: A group of high school seniors eager to engage with freshmen about what it takes to make it to college, including passing on tips from their own experiences. A 45-minute (approximately) block of time. Ninth grade classrooms where the seniors can lead students through discussions, show a video, and answer questions. A DVD player to view the 14-minute video , "Hear Us Out: Students Talk About Their Path to College." A flip chart to record the thoughts and concerns of ninth grade participants. Trust in the power of "upper classmen" to teach and motivate "underclassmen."
Deeper Learning Videos and Podcasts (November 2014) Student-centered learning. Social-emotional learning. Deeper learning. They are all woven from the same cloth. For several years, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has sponsored the Deeper Learning Network (DLN), a set of school networks comprising over 500 schools in 41 states. In these schools students embrace academic mindsets and self-directed learning--establishing their own goals, adapting to new circumstances, accepting feedback, and persevering. Here we share links to videso and podcasts that explore daily practice by schools within the Deeper Learning Network. The Hewlett Foundation website also includes a collection of videos in which principals, teachers, and students talk about how their teaching and learning has changed
The 2014 Youth Vote (November 2014) For both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, WKCD produced—with the youth-led news bureau Y-Press—a special feature called "Youth on the Trail." We created a one-of-a-kind youth beat, with articles, interviews, and survey results from Y-Press reporters—including profiles of politically active youth nationwide, articles about issues meaningful to young voters, and stories filed from the floor of the Republican and Democratic conventions. With the 2014 midterm elections in the rearview mirror, we thought we'd share a small sample of recent news articles concerning the youth vote that caught our eye. As you will see, the "youth vote" continues to defy easy characterization.
Choices: Essays from Incarcerated Youth (September 2014) Among the submissions for our "Stirred But Not Shaken" writing contest were twelve remarkable essays from youth at the Northern Viriginia Detention Center, passed on by their English teacher, Jonathan Jelliffe. The Center has a school so that youth don’t fall behind while they’re locked up, although some of the youth arrive at as dropouts. Not surprisingly, it’s a hard place to keep school. The youth, mostly male, ages 12 to 18, stay at the facility for two weeks to several months, although some remain for as long as six months. Jelliffe does all he can to bring words alive for his students, connecting them to their personal experiences with mistakes and growth.
Fulfilling the Dream: The Power of Hip Hop (March 2014) David Rojas, a senior at Connecticut College, well remembers the day when a hip hop artist named Roberto Rivera walked into his classroom at Social Justice High School on Chicago’s West Side and announced that he was there to peddle hope. Rojas had just transferred to Social Justice, searching for a school that matched his restlessness. As a way to escape the community that “was boxing me in,” he signed up for an afterschool class called Fulfill the Dream. He liked that its medium was hip hop, he said, and that its message was change. Six years later, Rivera and The Good Life Organization have flipped the narratives of disenfranchisement to empowerment for youth in seven cities.
Philadephia Students Become Modern Day deTocquevilles (March 2014) If you wonder whether we're in good hands when it comes to the rising generation, WKCD's daily bulletin, "Kids on the Wire," sends a resounding "Yes!" Here we offer a tiny glimpse of our nation's youth in action--stories we've turned up in just the past five weeks, from when Superstorm Sandy sent a group of New Jersey students into high gear, creating a crowd-sourced map of open gas stations in the NYC-New Jersey region.
Summer Journeys '14: Life-Changing Opportunities for Teens (February 2014) Back by popular demand . . . WKCD's directory of challenging summer programs for teens, updated for 2014. This year's directory includes three sections: (1) summer abroad programs that combine service, teaching and learning, and exploration; (2) national pre-collegiate programs on college campuses that focus on academic enrichment and college life; and (3) summer camps with an "edge," that take up issues like political leadership development, social justice, the environment, video, LGBT youth, and more.
TRICKS (February 2014) When the world's top snowboarders perform their amazing grabs and flips, what's pushing them to do their best? As part of its Sochi 2014 coverage, The New York Times asked an elite group of riders about "the joy and fear that come with these jaw-dropping maneuvers." We thought that what they had to say--about pushing past fear, balancing pressures, mind-boggling practice, made good discussion starters for students.
Soccer as Unifier at Oakland International High School (February 2014) Since its 2007 founding, Oakland International has been a point of entry into the city's schools for the newest of its teen-age immigrants, who come here from more than 30 countries and speak at least that many languages. Fully a third of the 330 students here are refugees from war-torn countries, and 25 percent come with little or no formal education. Yet in the midst of their frustrating transition to a new language and culture, these young people are finding common ground and motivation to learn on the soccer field. With its cross-cultural appeal—played in over 200 countries by anyone with access to a ball, a patch of land, and a few sticks for goalposts—soccer has provided an ideal way for them to forge social and emotional bonds at the same time that they practice their new language.
Service Learning and Giving Back at Quest Early College High School (February 2014) It’s a Friday morning in early October and instead of lugging backpacks to class, students at Quest Early College High School in Humble (pronounced “umble”), Texas are traveling light. As they do every Friday throughout the school year, the students jump into buses that will take them to the “service sites” where they will spend the next four hours.The school’s 300 plus students fan out across their suburban community, 25 miles north of downtown Houston—to elementary schools, a center for disabled young adults, an animal shelter, a hospital clinic, a nursing home, and more. For almost two decades, this small progressive high school has made service learning core, and its students say they can't imagine attending a regular high school where the chance to give back wasn't prized.
Restorative Practices at Fenger High School (February 2014) The stresses of being a teen in one of the Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods don’t trigger the metal detectors at the entrance to Fenger High School on the city’s South Side. But they can erupt quickly in the classrooms and halls of this “turnaround?school. In September 2009, Fenger became a poster child for urban school violence when rival gangs beat to death an honors student on his way home. Four years later, the school is making news again: as a turnaround school, whose staff does everything in its power to build a community of supports where failure is not an option. Restorative practices—from peace circles and peer juries to meeting students' basic needs for safety, mental and physical health, sometimes even food and shelter—are a vital part of Fenger's transformation.
Creating Accountability through Community at East Side Community School (February 2014) School had only been in session for eleven days when Mark Federman, the principal of East Side Community School, got the call from New York City's Department of Education: Get everyone out of your building, and get them out fast. An alert custodian had noticed that the brick facade of the 90-year-old five-story school building on Manhattan’s Lower East Side was threatening collapse. Without a moment to prepare, Mr. Federman and his staff had to evacuate their 650 students in grades 6 through 12, sending them to makeshift shared quarters in widely separated neighborhoods. One year later, that difficult five-month exile had become the stuff of legend in this close-knit school community. "You can take us out of East Side, but you can't take East Side out of us," students proclaimed
Developing Student Agency at Springfield Renaissance School (February 2014) It was one of those days at Springfield Renaissance School when everyone was either crying or laughing. People were pouring through the halls, streaming into the big auditorium Renaissance shares with another district school housed in this sprawling 1990s brick building in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was May 16, the annual Senior Decision Day, and every single twelfth-grade student was about to stand up before this assemblyto announce a postgraduate plan: to each other, to their fellow students in grades 6 through 12, and to the teachers and families whose beaming faces lit the darkened hall. At this grades 6-12 Expeditionary Learning school, based on there's a saying: "We are crew, not passengers." Renaissance takes personal challenge seriously in both academic and developmental contexts.
Practice Makes Perfect: Jason Brown and the Triple Axel (February 2014) When 19-year-old Jason Brown reached the end of his free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships this January, he blew the roof off the arena. His stunning Riverdance routine and elegant spins, his choreography and charm had stolen the show—and won him second place. His ponytail, too, was flying high. Brown, however, wasn’t overly impressed. "Not even for one second did I think that was the best performance I've ever done," he said. He'd spent three and a half years mastering the toughest jump in his program (the triple axel). He's prepared to spend the next several years perfecting the quad jump (four revolutions). We thought his story made a good addition to our "Practice Project."
Dragon Slayers: Young Alaskan Olympians (February 2014) For more than a decade, a group of teenage girls in Aniak, Alaska have served as EMTs and firefighters in this remote Alaskan village. They call themselves the “Dragon Slayers.?They became national heroes when in 2001 two of them, ages 15 and 19, helped with the marathon rescue of two boys who had collided on snowmachines. The call took 34 hours. Growing up in one of the poorest regions of the state, former Dragon Slayers have become health aides, nurses, paramedics. Current Dragon Slayers continue to make emergency medical and rescue calls, 24/7, up and down the Kuskokwim River Valley.
Inner City Ice: Positive Disruption (February 2014) It's not just the snow and ice that encases the Winter Olympics in white. It's the athletes, too. For 90 years, the Winter Olympics have been a mostly exclusionary event for black athletes. Although a record 19 black athletes are competing in Sochi, they make up .06 percent of the 2,850 competitors. Access and cost are formidable barriers for black athletes. A Google search of winter sports programs for "inner city youth" resembles a bare ski resort. There are two bright spots, however: one in Brooklyn and the other in Harlem. Both embrace neighborhood kids who want to give skating a whirl but lack the resources. "When I skate I feel free," says Valerie, who practices synchronized skating with Brooklyn on Ice.
Time to Get Awesome: 10 New Year's Resolutions for Not-Average Youth (January 2014) For the first time, WKCD has thrown its hat into the New Year's resolutions ring. We're guessing that you won't find, anywhere else, a list like this: pitched at youth, more than the usual clichés, and filled with exercises and handouts to turn good intentions into action. The Scientific 7-Minute Workout. Controlled breathing. Reading for the heck of it. Eat slow. Join. Get your college gear together. Make a difference. Keep at it. Change a habit. Take a (healthy) risk.
Good News About Our Nation's Teens (December 2013) Too often, our newspaper headlines show teenagers in negative ways. Or we see them as "good" when they toe the line--when they don't dropout, drink and drive, get pregnant, or score poorly on standardized tests. For more than a dozen years, WKCD has scanned the daily news looking for positive stories about teens: making scientific discoveries, starting nonprofits, reaching out to those in need, redesigning urban spaces, and so much more. Watch this audio slide show of 2013 highlights from WKCD's "Kids on the Wire." It will make your day. We promise.
Growth Mindset and Why It Matters (November 2013) Few ideas about learning have made their way as quickly into the lexicon of educators as growth mindset. WKCD has assembled five short videos that provide a lively introduction to growth mindset and why it matters, for students as well as teachers. At the end of each video we offer suggestions for activities and assignments, for use by teachers (as part of a professional development workshop) and by students (as part of their classroom learning). We encourage you to browse through the presentation and pick those videos that work for your situation and audience—and to amend the suggested activities
Student Voices from the Middle Grades: Five Ways Teachers Can Help Us Do Our Best (November 2013) What do students in the middle grades most need from their teachers? In this guest article on MiddleWeb, WKCD draws upon more than twelve years of listening and gathering answers from middle schoolers nationwide. What we've heard surprises us. They say: (1) help us grow into confident learners; (2) give us space to figure out who we are; (3) understand the ways grades affect us; (4) involve us in conversations about what's fair; and (5) encourage us to spread our wings. Kaitlyn describes her favorite teacher: "She was real down-to-earth, really talkative, but she was also very . . . 'teach-ative.'"
Conditions of Learning: Research Highlights (November 2013) How do youth learn best in the high schools years? What "conditions of learning" help students thrive? Decades of research in the learning and cognitive sciences suggest the core elements. The learning is in-depth and immersive. It provides growing challenges and opportunities to exercise new capacities. It attends to motivation and supports developmentally appropriate agency. It provides opportunities to apply knowledge and make meaning of learning experiences. It recognizes the importance of emotion in learning. It links assessment closely to the learning process. It is culturally diverse. It is supported by a rich or multidimensional adult role.
Mindsets: Research Highlights (November 2013) What do mindsets have to do with learning? Why is a "growth mindset" so important? How does an "academic mindset" shape student performance? Why do young people need to develop "agency?" In this research brief, we summarize the core attitudes and beliefs that deeply influence student success in school--beliefs students hold about their own abilities (and their malleability), their efficacy, their sense of belonging, and everyday behaviors like attending school regularly.
From Chicago's Northwest Side (2013) to German-Occupied Paris (1942) (October 2013) On the fourth floor of Chicago's Roberto Clemente Community Academy, students in Wendy Baxter's freshmen English class wrap their hearts and minds around the terror of genocide. Ninth-grader Ashley stands poised to read aloud from Sarah's Key, a novel about a 10-year-old Jewish gilr's struggle to escape internment and rescue the younger brother she left locked in a closet when police snatched her family from their Paris apartment. Before Ashley begins, Baxter tells her students: "Alright you guys, as she's reading I want you to visualize, to make connections to your personal experiences and other texts that we've read, to predict. Okay? And be aware of your metacognition. Demonstrate your active listening." Take a seat in Wendy Baxter's class and see what unfolds!
"They Make It About Us": Engaged Learning on Chicago's South Side (October 2013) For the past six months, WKCD has documented daily practice in a diverse group of U.S. high schools that join social-emotional and academic learning. Fenger High School is one of the six schools in our study, chosen for its determined push to move from being a symbol of urban school violence in 2009 to a school doing everything in its power to build a community of social and emotional supports for students. Last month we described how a vibrant restorative justice program has been integral to this transformation. Here we explore how teachers at Fenger strive to engage students in "deeper learning"--at a school where academic failure has been the norm.
Defining Superman: Young Brain Tumor Survivors Tell Their Stories (October 2013) Imagine you are eight years old and you've just learned you have a brain tumor and need surgery right away. "I felt my childhood was split before and after diagnosis," said Kayla, now a college graduate. Only now, as part of a group of eight brain tumor survivors entering adulthood, have Kayla and her peers felt comfortable sharing their stories of loss and triumph. We don't give this information away easily, they said. In the stunning video, "Patient Voice," all eight become detectives of their own lives. With compelling images and narratives, they capture their diagnosis, what they have found to be bad and good in the world of medicine, and what keeps them going.
Motivation and Mastery: What Spurs Students to Do Their Best? (October 2013) What makes young people stretch to learn something hard, in school or out? Something they value--perhaps a family tradition passed down, a place among their peers, a curiosity satisfied, a feeling expressed, or a product they make themselves--always gives meaning and momentum to those first steps into learning. Yet that is not enough: They must also expect that they can succeed at the task, with reasonable effort and practice. Combined, those two factors of value and expectancy lead to both motivation and mastery, research from the learning sciences has long shown. A two-year long inquiry by WKCD student researchers reached the same conclusion.
Social and Emotional Learning: Research Highlights (October 2013) For years, social science researchers have used the term "noncognitive" to distinguish emotions, beliefs, and character from content knowledge, which they called "cognitive." But a mounting body of evidence suggests the vital mutuality of academic, social, and emotional learning. Indeed, for researchers and educators who value social and emotional learning (or SEL), the noncognitive label has always been a misnomer. Why and how do social and emotional habits and skills--such as self-regulation, agency, collaborative learning, perspective-taking, persistence, and citizenship--fuel cognition and create learning that lasts?
Talk It Out Peacefully: Restorative Justice at Chicago's Fenger High School (September 2013) In September 2009, Chicago's Fenger High School became a poster child for urban school violence when rival gangs beat to death an honors student on his way home. Four years later, the school is making news again: as a turnaround school, where staff do everything in their power to build a community of supports where failure is not an option. A vibrant restorative justice program stands at the center of the school's transformation. This story is part of a larger case study of the countless ways Fenger High School weaves social and emotional learning into the daily fabric of teaching and learning.
Were Romeo and Juliet the Quintessential Adolescents? (September 2013) How do growth and changes in identity and autonomy shape adolescent learning? Social roles and responsibilities? Belief systems and values? Relationships with family and peers? Find answers to these questions and more in an adolescent development research brief on our new howyouthlearn.org.
The Teenage Brain: Just an Adult Brain with More Miles? (September 2013) While 95 percent of the human brain has developed by the age of six, scientists say the greatest spurts of growth after infancy occur around adolescence. What are these changes? How do teenage and adult brains differ? What causes the adolescent mood swings, impulsivity, insensitivity (or too much sensitivity) that drive adults wild? In this research brief, we share the latest findings from imaging studies of the teenage brain--along with a wonderful TED Talk by British neuroscientist Sarah Jayne Blakemore.
Winning Habits for School and Life: Ideas and Exercises for Students (September 2013) For more than 12 years, WKCD has asked middle and high school students what helps---or hinders---their efforts to do well in school (and life). We started with the premise that young people need more than academic "smarts" to prosper. They must also develop "character strengths" like grit, conscientiousness, and self-control. They need to learn how to manage stress. They need to believe that they can succeed in spite of obstacles. In this short video and booklet, we share what young people have told us and what the research says.
The Parent Next Door (September 2013) When writing our book What We Can't Tell You: Teenagers Talk to the Adults in their Lives (Next Generation Press, May 2005), we learned the important role adults who are not parents or teachers play in the lives of teens. As 16-year-old Dan reminds us, "If you can go to someone who isn't required to talk about stuff with you, but who just likes you and your company, then you're going to feel better about yourself." Stop for a moment and count up the teenagers you know who aren't your own kids. When did you last speak with one?
Einstein Says (August 2013) At the recent "Free Minds, Free People" conference in Chicago, WKCD happened to overhear a group of young community organizers talking about what a cool dude Einstein was and how they were lots of great quotes from the legendary mathematician. One of the youth said, "Hey, I'd like to see them." It got us thinking . . . Here, set to music, are some of our favorites Einstein quotes. As Einstein said: "It's not that I'm so smart, it's that I stay with problems longer."
Inequalities in Summer Learning (May 2013) "Summer learning loss" has gained prominence as another hurdle to improving student achievement. Three years ago, WKCD commissioned youth journalists at Y-Press in Indianapolis to report on the issue of summer learning loss, including documenting a remarkable summer camp called "City Stories" that Y-Press teens organized for local middle school students. At the end of the second year of the summer camp, Y-Pressers created a one-of-a-kind handbook and curriculum for youth and adults in other cities to use.
When Finding a Summer Job Feels Harder than Getting into College (May 2013) The joblessness problems of the nation's teens are present year-round, including the summer months, which traditionally have been the peak employment season for teens. However, in 2010 and 2011 summer employment rates for teens were the lowest--26 percent--in our nation's post-World-War II history. The outlook for 2013 shows a small uptick, but it will offset only a small portion of the near 3.6 million summer teen jobs deficit. Low-income youth were the least likely to work; only one in five found summer employment in 2012. Learn more.
Summer Bucket List by and for Teens (May 2013) We've often been asked if we had a "summer bucket list" for teens that we could share. This year, we decided to search the web for lists posted by young people across the country, ages 13 - 15--and to create a summer bucket list for teens by teens. Here's what we found. . . . complete a 1,000-piece puzzle . . . cook a full meal . . . take at least 1,000 pictures . . . rebuild a relationship with someone you used to know . . . read to young children you know . . . try something that scares you . . . volunteer!!! . . . ask for a cheeseburger without the cheese . . .
The Best School Ever (May 2013) What kind of schools should educational reforms produce? Alison Rutsch, who just received a BFA in Illustration from Rhode Island School of Design and a BA in Education Studies from Brown University, put the question to the customers--the schoolchildren themselves. The kids expressed themselves as clearly as they could: They drew pictures, about their real school and their ideal school. Rutsch 'listened' to what they had to say, then put their words and pictures into a one-of-a-kind research paper, "The Best School Ever."
Living History (April 2013) On April 13, Poland marked the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Throughout the Polish capital, church bells rang for the fighters who began the first and largest armed insurrection by Jews against the German troops in World War II. For the past eleven years, eighth grade students at the American School of Warsaw have produced their own tribute to those whose lives were forever changed by this "hell on earth." They have interviewed local survivors and turned their stories into video essays that make the Holocaust's lessons indelible.
Advice for Parents: How to Help Your Child Succeed in School--and Life (April 2013) For years WKCD has thought hard about how to better help parents help their kids succeed. We wanted to address character strengths kids develop through practice along with prescriptions about homework. We developed a 22-page handbook for parents that covers seven social and emotional strengths, along with two interactive multi-media presentations. We now have Spanish versions of the multi-media and workshop handouts, produced in part by first-generation Spanish-speaking students at Brown University.
Writing with Purpose (April 2013) Narrative writing is one of three types of texts and purposes specified by the ELA Common Core State Standards for writing in grades 9 - 12. For WKCD, this emphasis on narrative writing--and publication--has great resonance. Seven years ago we asked: How do you get teenagers to read and write as if their lives depend on it? The answer, we decided, lies in the chance to use language critically, seeing it not as a barrier but an entry into a world they can question and shape.
Common Ground High School: A Decidedly Uncommon School (April 2013)For as long as she can remember, Shantel has wanted to be a vet. Now this tenth grader is counting the hours until her afternoon assignment. She will be shadowing a livestock veterinarian—come to check the health of the goats, sheep, and chickens that Shantel helps to tend here at Common Ground High School. Four miles from downtown New Haven, students like Shantel are being swept up and away by one of the first and finest environmentally focused schools in the United States. It’s no surprise that Common Ground, a charter school with a most public mission, wins awards for being “green” while also galvanizing impressive levels of academic achievement.
A Student Voice Rubric from NYC's Student Voice Collaborative (March 2013) Last fall, WKCD produced a feature story on the extraordinary work of the Student Voice Collaborative in New York City. At the time, this group of NYC high school students was putting the finishing touches on a "Student Voice Rubric" that would guide their work on behalf of student voice in their individual school, as a collaborative, and as a force for student engagement across New York City schools. We're delighted to share the finished rubric with performance standards--some of the best thinking we've seen on student voice--and its power to lift students and schools alike.
Who Says Who's Smart? (March 2013) Several years ago, WKCD engaged students at a small public high school in the Bronx in a yearlong inquiry about intelligence--from the perspective of urban youth. Their research--"SAT Bronx"--produced a book along with several multimedia pieces. "Say we're in an English class, I would expect the person to use proper grammar and to behave a certain way," says Dinah. "When we're outside, though, you have to act a different way. . . you have to be smart in many different ways to be completely smart."
Tips for Principals from Chicago High School Students (March 2013) Last October, when a group of high school students from the nonprofit Mikva Challenge presented their latest report to the Chicago Public Schools, they faced the city's third chief school officer in less than two years.The students' report, "Creating a Positive and Rigorous School Culture: A Guide for Principals," offers 24 tips principals and teachers can follow when lagging academics and disruptive student behavior collide, often with disastrous results.
"You're Constantly Revising Yourself": The Dispositions of a Student-Centered Teacher (February 2013) What qualities should a school seek when hiring teachers explicitly to teach in a student-centered setting? What dispositions help teachers thrive in the demanding environment of a student-centered school? WKCD asked these questions to teachers and students in six high schools known as exemplars in student-centered learning. We had spent months documenting everyday teacher practice in these schools--as part of a larger inquiry for the Students at the Center project, led by the Boston-based Jobs for the Future.
Community service and action
In Good Hands: Youth in Action (December 2012) If you wonder whether we're in good hands when it comes to the rising generation, WKCD's daily bulletin, "Kids on the Wire," sends a resounding "Yes!" Here we offer a tiny glimpse of our nation's youth in action--stories we've turned up in just the past five weeks, from when Superstorm Sandy sent a group of New Jersey students into high gear, creating a crowd-sourced map of open gas stations in the NYC-New Jersey region.
Students Train as Interpeters with Benefits for All Involved (October, 2012) The summer between high school and college poses ongoing challenges for first-generation students. Determined to counteract the well-documented "summer melt," the Young Women's Leadership Network in NYC created the Bridge to Summer program, making "college coaches," themselves first-generation college students, available to graduating high school seniors who needed attention and guidance transitioning to college nearly 18,000 students from families who speak over 80 different languages, the need for skilled interpreters has mushroomed in the Highline School District, south of Seattle. The Student Interpreter program harnesses the skills of ELL students—and immerses them in the thicket of on-the-spot interpreting, in their schools and the community. Students also gain an entree into the professional translation and interpretation job market.
Across Summer's Shaky Bridge to College Help from Other Students (September, 2012) The summer between high school and college poses ongoing challenges for first-generation students. Determined to counteract the well-documented "summer melt," the Young Women's Leadership Network in NYC created the Bridge to Summer program, making "college coaches," themselves first-generation college students, available to graduating high school seniors who needed attention and guidance transitioning to college
Teaching about the Trayvon Martin Case (March 2012) The Trayvon Martin: it would be hard to imagine (sadly) a more teachable moment about the complex emotionsâ€”and sometimes violent outcomesâ€”that continue to haunt black men, of all ages, on America's streets. The case of Trayvon Martin is a stark reminder that, as a society, we are far from "post racial." It also brings into question the "Stand Your Ground" laws that cross the country. Here we assemble the best teaching resources we can find for deepening the discussion with students.
Youth as Knowledge Creators (February 2012) When WKCD made its online debut in 2002, we had one goal: to champion what we called â€œpowerful learning with public purposeâ€?by this nationâ€™s adolescents. In the years since, we have spread our wings. Our work with young people now covers four continents. We started our own nonprofit book publishing company, producing two or three new titles each year with youth as collaborators. We have also been a grantmaker, supporting action research and media creation by young people aged 10 to 22. While our portfolio has grown, our mission remains the same. Day in and out, WKCD presses before the broadest audience possible the power of what young people can accomplish when given the opportunities and supports they need and what they can contribute when we take their voices and ideas seriously. The WKCD website (this website!) now includes thousands of pages. We have produced close to 300 feature stories that present young people's lives, learning, and work, and their partnerships with adults both in and out of school. We have created special collections that range from gathering the voices of middle-schoolers to honoring mentors that matter in the lives to teens. We have supported, financially and technically, over 75 projects that nurture youth as citizen journalists, from the Bronx to Beijing. Some say WKCD.org has the largest online collection of high quality, diverse student work in the world. Here we launch a new WKCD collection: small but strong examples of U.S. high school students, with the support of adult allies, acting as knowledge creators. Among today's calls for proficiency-based learning, the stories and student products we share are, we hope, both illustrative and inspiring. We have chosen work that not only engages youth in high level tasks, but also demands that they make meaning out of the information they gatherâ€”and then make a difference.
Occupy Movement: Hands-on Civic Lessons for High School Students (November 2011) Across the country, high school students have been collecting their thoughts about the Occupy Movement, visiting Occupy encampments, and broadcasting what they see. Here we offer a sample of news stories that chronicle this engagement. Many are the work of high school journalists, writing for their school paper. "It's a real-life movement-history in the making," a Cleveland high school teacher said. We include, too, links to curriculum resources for teaching about the Occupy Movement.
Mentoring 101(August 2011) Take one “needy” kid, add a caring adult and throw in some mutually enjoyable activities and conversation. Repeat as necessary for a year or more. Multiply this by the 18 million kids in need of mentors, and proponents believe you might have a smarter, happier, and more confident youth population in this country. As this article by youth journalists at Y-Press explains, it's not quite that simple. A companion article presents the voices of mentees, themselves.
College Bound: Class of 2011 (June 2011) The melody wafting from the windows of Providence’s Round Top Church was clear and strong: “You’re college bound, you’re college bound! Tell the world that you’re college bound.” Inside, 67 high school seniors, cheered on by families and friends, crossed the stage. Nearly all low-income and minority, every one of them was headed to college, with financial aid well in hand. Coached, prodded, and loved by the nonprofit College Visions, they had defied the odds.
Fighting "Summer Learning Loss": One City's Story (September 2010) This summer in Indianapolis, a two-week storytelling camp led by Y-Press teen journalists turned "summer learning loss" on its head. Youth journalist Jordan Denari offers a close up look at how she and her fellow counselors coached a group of 9- and 10-year-olds to tell the stories of their community through digital photography, audio recordings and interviews, and poetry writing. The campers left "City Stories" armed with the fundamentals of 21st-century journalism. The counselors learned about teaching, inspiration, and multiple perspectives.
Urban Teenagers Grow 25,000 Pounds of Organic Produce to Relieve Hunger (August 2010) There's an oasis a mile off of Highway 183 in east Austin, Texas, where industrial sites and waste dumps bump up against apartment complexes and humble homesteads. A handpainted sign points up a dirt road: Urban Roots. This land in a hidden curve of the Colorado River is a cultivated organic farm where youth work the soil from 8 am to 3 pm, learn the principles of sustainable agriculture, grow fruit, vegetables, and flowers, and share their produce with people in poverty. The interns earn a stipend of $40 a day for working seven hours a day, but money isn't their first motivation.
Boyle Heights Through the Eyes of its Youth (July 2010) What can high school students in an urban neighborhood on the East Side of Los Angeles learn from young people almost 10,000 miles away, in a rural village in Tanzania? Plenty. A transformative experience began for a group of Roosevelt High School teenagers when Steve Mereu, their teacher at the School of Law and Government, introduced his senior class to a WKCD photo essay book in which East African youth documented their everyday lives.Mereu and his students were joining an extraordinary grass-roots movement of teachers and students across the globe to show their communities—from Philadelphia to the smallest village in Japan—from the perspective of young people.
A ‘Dream Project’ Draws High Schoolers into College Success (June 2010) More than 75 eleventh graders fill the library at Seattle’s Ingraham High School, defying its rule of quiet with animated conversations. They huddle in small groups, led by undergraduates from the nearby University of Washington (“U-Dub’’), who are here on their weekly visit to help Ingraham students prepare for college. The undergrads sport t-shirts emblazoned with the words, “Dream Team.” They are part of the “Dream Project,” an extraordinary credit-bearing course at UW.
Everyone Has a Story to Tell: The Faces of Homelessness (March 2010) The calculus of living paycheck to paycheck in America keeps getting harder. We hear it often: Many Americans are just one or two paychecks away from being homeless. Students in Orlando, Florida—a city where violent crimes against the homeless are high—have spent two years interviewing the homeless in their community, including young people their age. They have produced a book and an extraordinary, hearbreaking video.
Worth Fighting For: Youth Activism and the Arts (March 2010) In Des Moines, Iowa, music venues are not allowed to hold all-ages music events after 9 p.m. That has not sat well with under-21 activists who have been working with city officials to change the code so that music venues are more available to local youth. Young people nationwide are following suit. In schools and local communities, they are fighting to keep arts programs alive, a difficult task in an economic recession.
“Submit Application!”: Youth Coach Their Peers Past the College-Access Potholes (February 2010) On this bitter late-December day, students are streaming into the “Student Success Center” at Bushwick Campus High School in Brooklyn. At every computer station along its walls, two or three students gather, eyes fixed on the screen as one of them punches information into the online Common Application for four-year college admissions. It’s not the winter break that these students are counting down to: College application deadlines are coming up on them fast—and they need help. Helping them are classmates who have been trained as college advisors.
Clearing the Hidden Hurdle: Filling Out the “FAFSA" (February 2010) Just a week before the Super Bowl, 100 high school students pack two rooms at the Community College of Rhode Island. On this last Sunday in January, as they huddle around computer monitors, they hope to score their own touchdown: paying for college. They have come here to navigate one of the most complicated maneuvers on the path to college: filling out the “Free Application for Student Financial Aid,” otherwise known as FASFA.
Shifting Perspectives: Youth Activism and Immigration (February 2010) For 10 years, immigration has been a contentious issue in the United States. In the early part of the decade, the Bush administration was prepared to offer mass amnesty to illegal immigrants. As governor of Texas he’d long been friendly with Mexico, and both he and then-Mexican President Vincente Fox supported a big amnesty and guest worker program. On Sept. 11, 2001, all of that changed—and so has youth activism around immigration.
Urban Youth Take Up the Cause of Healthy Eating (November 2009) “My favorite food? I like sushi, California rolls,” declares Tyler Wallace, a seventh grader. “My least favorite food, I gotta say, is macaroni and cheese.” He is taking his turn to be quizzed by classmates with a Flip video camera, answering questions about what he eats. Families at Lighthouse Community Charter School have long had trouble finding affordable and nutritious food in their low-income Oakland neighborhoods.
Rethinking School Lunch (November 2009) As their deadline drew close, teams of students from 15 Chicago public high schools worked intently on a challenge that has eluded policymakers for decades: How to make a healthy school lunch that hungry kids will eat. It could take no more than six steps to prepare. It must exceed U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition standards. It had to include at least one item from a list of frozen local produce. And it could cost no more than a dollar per student.
School Gardeners Nourish New Ideas (November 2009) “Right across the street, you can get every kind of fast food you’d ever want,” says Hector, 13. “What if instead of spending our money there, we grew our own food here?” And that’s exactly what a small but growing number of students are doing in schoolyards across the country. What would happen if school gardens came back with the force they had in World War II, when policymakers and the citizen at large saw them as part of our national well being?
Youth and Health: Public Discussions, Private Decisions (October 2009) Of all the topics of interst to young people, perhaps health is the most personal. Engaging in sexual activity or substance abuse are choices one makes privately—so are decisions regarding body weight, nutrition, and depression. Youth activism on behalf of health is low. Studies find that only 8.5 percent of young adults ages 16 - 24 volunteer on health issues, versus 31 percent on educational issues and 31 percent on religious matters.
Religion, Service, and Activism: Youth and Faith (September 2009) Faith-based youth activism is a growing force in the U.S. It can be strictly evanagelistic, or it can involve reaching out to local venues like soup kitchens and summer camps. Some youth teach Sunday school or provide child care at their places of worship; others travel to distant parts of the world to lend a hand. Despite an already large following, fath-based youth activism is on the rise—thanks to social-networking technology and interfaith cooperation.
The Legacy of Cesar Chavez (June 2009) Cesar Chavez, one of the most influential and important labor organizers in U.S. history, once said, “The end of all education should surely be service to others.” As part of Chicago’s Cesar Chavez Service Learning Month, students from several Chicago high schools conducted extensive interviews with immigrants preparing for their citizenship exams.
Friday Harbor Embraces the Experience Food Project (June 2009) Cheese ravioli with homemade marinara sauce; oven-roasted lemon rosemary chicken breast and vegetable medley; chili with local ground beef and cornbread. These are just a few of the homemade lunch entrees on the menu at Friday Harbor High School. For the past year, the innovative Experience Food Project has not only changed the way students eat at this high school nestled in the San Juan Islands in Washington, but also transformed the curriculum.
“Helping People, It Just Sticks with You” (March 2009) “Our deadline is just two weeks away,” NYC Deanna Belcher tells her students. “We’ve set ourselves a huge goal: to collect one hundred and fifteen sacks of pennies—3,450 pounds.” Since 1991, teachers like Belcher and her students in more than 1,000 schools across New York City and in several other cities have joined Common Cents’ annual “Penny Harvest,” raising and donating millions for charity and planting the seeds for a lifetime of giving.
“We’ve All Learned So Much”: Service Learning in Maine Schools (February 2009) Excavating the remains of a German prisoner of war camp, hidden near a small lake. Providing Ugandan orphans portraits of themselves to have as a keepsake. Educating the public about “Shaken Baby Syndrome.” Producing a video about their hometown, Belfast. These are some of service-learning projects that are engaging K-12 students across Maine.
Youth in Action: Teens Informing Teens (Sept 2008) In a storefront on Providence’s south side, ten high school students sit down to a curriculum they won’t find in school: how to promote nonviolent social change. For the next two months, they will learn everything they can about violence prevention and workshop facilitation—and then pass on that knowledge to younger teens. It may seem a titanic task—but that’s just right for these new members of TITAN, one of several peer education programs at Youth In Action.
Youth for a Change: Audio Slideshow (May 2008) At this year’s annual National Service Learning Conference in Minneapolis, WKCD teamed up with students to document the festivities, workshops, and plenary sessions. The students roamed the 3-day event with cameras and tape recorders, as did WKCD. We then wove the photos and audio into a 7-minute montage of images and voices. Conference highlights ranged from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and youth-adult workshops to an exhibit hall that rocked with food, music, books, and hands-on activities.
What can Jena teach us? (October 2007) Most teachers believe their schools are free of ethnic or racial bias, yet studies indicate that one in four students are victims of racial or ethnic incidents during the course of the school year. A growing movement of educators believes that a good education should teach youth—particularly low-income youth and youth of color—to understand and challenge the injustices their communities face.
Young Asians with Power unite for summer dose of writing and political awareness (September 2007) You might hear the YAWPers before you see them in the back room of Chicago’s Japanese American Citizens League on a summer afternoon. At the end of every meeting of Young Asians with Power (YAWP!), a writing workshop for Asian American youth, participants stand in a circle and holler as loud as they can: “YAAWWPP!!!” The yell is both a battle cry and an exercise in silliness.
California teens fight carcinogens in beauty products (May 2007) The average teen is exposed to about 200 chemicals a day through personal cosmetic products like eye shadow, shampoo, and deodorant. Many of these chemicals are potentially carcinogenic. Several years ago, high school students in Marin County, California began a campaign for “safe” cosmetics, spurred on by the high cancer rate in their famously wealthy community. They have even taken their fight to the California State Legislature—and won important legislation.
The Next Generation: Miner County, South Dakota (May 2007) The inaugural edition of WKCD.org (July 2001) included a feature story called “Small Towns: Big Dreams,” which documented community revitalization efforts by young people in three rural towns. Five years later, WKCD brings news from one of these towns, Howard, South Dakota. Howard’s high school students remain a big part of this rural town’s renewal.
Katrina As a Classroom (September 2006) In the early sunlight in muggy New Orleans, twenty-three kids from New York City’s Urban Academy don white chemical-protection suits and facemasks. They are doing research in a whole new way: putting their bodies to work in a disaster zone, while also investigating the racial and political landscape that created it. They have a hypothesis: that individuals can—and must—build a better society.
Deaf Students Teach Restaurants to Serve with Respect (November 2005) At Minnesota North Star Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, a bilingual school with instruction in English and American Sign Language, a group of three student researchers have set their sites on the goal of making restaurants more deaf friendly. Having completed in-depth surveys with deaf customers and with a training guide for restaurant workers on the way, these students aim to make a nation-wide impact with their research.
Denver Teenagers Take Action for Social Change (September 2004)“This is the best kind of class, way better than sitting in a chair staring at the ceiling,” high school sophomore Barbara muses. At Millennium Quest High School, students conducted an environmental impact survey of a proposed highway expansion through their own inner-city neighborhood, and held a press conference to present their alternative proposals. At Skyland Community High School, students surveyed their peers to determine the emotional reasons why kids drop out or stay in school.
A Mission of Fellowship (May 2004) High school students in suburban Barrington, Rhode Island spend their school vacation on a church mission to Johns Island, South Carolina, where they repair houses along the dirt roads of this rural, African American community.
Learning How to Live: Hospice Teen Volunteers Receive More Than They Give (December 2004) Eighty-four years and a video camera separate Max, 101, and Dustin, 17. But there is not a moment's rest in their conversation. Dustin is just one of 300 young volunteers at Suncoast Hospice in Tampa, Florida, who spend their free time working with people getting ready to die, including capturing their stories on video.
Dragon Slayers, the Sequel (November 2005) In 2003, Connect for Kids (CFK) profiled on their website an all-girl firefighting and emergency medical team in Aniak, Alaska, called the "Dragon Slayers." Since then, the Aniak girls have been growing up, and so has the program. CFK's reporter Holly St. Lifer recently revisited the group; here we present her sequel. Angels in the Snow (March 2003)
For most teens, the decision to run into a burning building could be a costly one—but not for the Dragon Slayers, an all-girl firefighting and emergency medical team in Aniak, Alaska.
Making the Dollars Matter: Young Philanthropists Take Up the Business of Change (November 2002) PDF version Two California groups—the Youth Leadership Institute and the California Fund for Youth Organizing—help a new generation of grant-seekers and grant-makers effect lasting change.
Making Peace, Restoring Justice (February 2002) Three programs—Harlem’s Youth Court, City at Peace in Washington, DC, and Navajo peacekeeping circles—bring young people into dialogue with each other and their communities, resolving conflicts peacefully.
Because We Make a Difference: Youth Take Action During the Summer (September 2005) Over 600 young people gathered this summer at the National Youth Summit in Washington, DC to sharpen their leadership skills. But these were not the only teens that took action during the summer months.
Sweat Equity: Youth Spend Summer Investing in America, Despite Wall Street Woes (September 2002) In contrast to this summer’s dismal financial news, the nation’s young people built classroom computers, tested safety features in public housing developments, assisted scientists with earthquake predictions, and in myriad other ways cleaned up, helped out, and invested in their communities.
Moving to the Head of the Class (September 2001) PDF version High-school aged teachers at Providence’s Summerbridge, the Algebra Project, and a summer camp in Warren, North Carolina provide powerful role models for younger kids—and a potential teacher corps for the future.
Rich In Pride: Taylor, Nebraska Youth Carry Community into the Future (September 2004) For students in Taylor, Nebraska, summer is no time for relaxing. Instead of lying around the pool or watching TV, these students are determined to turn back the bad rap their town received in the past. Working full-time jobs, doing their share of chores around the house, and supporting the local community comprise the daily routines for these rural youths.
Sunflower Freedom Fellows Reach for the Sky in Washington, DC (September 2002) Teens from rural Sunflower, Mississippi worked at Washington institutions like the U.S. Supreme Court, Common Cause, and The Children’s Defense Fund as part of a summer internship program sponsored by the Sunflower County Freedom Project.
Global youth voices
Soil and Soul: Stories from an East-African Coffee Growing Village (December 2012) In this inspiring book, the youth of Boto, Ethiopia bring us inside their village, with photographs and stories they have gathered themselves. While the specialty coffee produced by local farmers wins international awards and circles the globe, the book's young authors travel no farther than their feet can carry them. They have much to say, about the importance of family and community. They have much to teach, about resilience and dreams in the face of breathtaking hardship.
Not-Your-Typical Summer Reading List (for teens) (May 2012) Here's a summer reading list for teens with a compelling angle: 15 immigration stories of hardship and hope, identity and transformation. At a time when legal immigration to the U.S. is the highest ever (one million immigrants a year) and immigrants or the children of immigrants make up a quarter of the under-18 population, a summer reading list filled with the voices and stories of young newcomers seems just right. Every high school student, we wager, will find meaning in these titles.
Dispelling Stereotypes, NYC Youth Learn and Work in Africa (October 2011) Young people from two of the highest-poverty areas of New York City—Harlem and the Bronx—recently overturned stereotypes about themselves and others by traveling to Africa to learn, work, and serve those in need. Sponsored by two separate afterschool and summer programs for youth and headed to different countries, Ghana and Mali, the teenagers in both groups saw their understanding and perspectives change markedly because of their undertaking. The Bronx youth, who traveled to Mali, also helped build an elementary school.
Small Wonders: Kambi ya Simba, Six Years Later (August 2011) Six years ago, WKCD ’s Barbara Cervone worked with students in a rural village in Tanzania to capture daily life there. Their book, In Our Village: Kambi ya Simba Through the Eyes of Its Youth (Next Generation Press, 2006) has sold close to 10,000 copies, provided scholarship funds for over a dozen students to further their education, and spawned an international movement of teachers and students creating their own “In Our Global Village” books. And there’s so much more. . . .
Building Community, One Soccer Field at a Time (June 2010) Professional soccer’s top competition will be played in South Africa this summer, and the country is buzzing with excitement. Not only will it be the first time The FIFA World Cup has occurred on African soil, but it also recognizes soccer’s importance to this historic land and its youth. “It’s more like a religion,” explained Kyle Weiss, 17-year-old founder of FUNDaFIELD, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of African youth through soccer.
Fresh Takes on a Flat World (October 2009) "I never knew how much you can say with an image," says Seattle youth photographer Yvonne. Fresh Takes on a Flat World brings together a rich sample of the photographic aert created by youth worldwide as part of WKCD's partnership with Adobe Youth Voices. The collection juxtaposes photography by students in far-flung sites and circumstances. We all may discover something new, as the youth did who made these photographs.
Hope and Challenges: Growing Up in the New South Africa (September 2009 "Long time ago, South Africa wasn't having peace," explains Thabiso, 13. "Many people are fighting, black and white were fighting for peace. And they couldn't get peace. Now, we are free to have peace, us youngsters. Because our grandmothers, our mothers were fighting for us to be free." Fourtheen youth living in two shelters in Pretoria, S. Africa share their stories as they make their way in the shadows of apartheid and poverty.
One Love: Ethiopian Youth Create AIDS Education Circus (May 2009) People joke about running away to join the circus. David Schein hadn’t exactly planned for it. But there he was, surrounded by a crowd of 2,000 in the middle of the town market in Awassa, Ethiopia, helping orchestrate the first public performance of the One Love AIDS Education Circus. Nearly a decade later, the street performance group has become a multi-pronged youth service organization, impacting the lives of thousands of youth in Awassa.
Kuumba Lynx Offers Hip Hop Education for Chicago Youth (June 2009) “It completely changes the way you go about thinking of regular school,” says 15-year-old Lala Bolander. “When your teacher is asking you questions, you try to think deeper. You can tell the difference between kids that go to Kuumba Lynx and kids that don’t.” For 12 years, Kuumba Lynx has taught thousands of Chicago youth the ins and outs of hip hop, organized open mic nights and “dance downs,” and providing teaching artists to the city’s schools.
Making Waves: Youth Voluntarism in Hungary (December 2008) What does service learning and youth voluntarism look like in Hungary? Read how youth in Miskolc, Hungary have helped turn a huge, abandoned factory block from the Soviet era into a stunning sports and cultural center for youth. And see how young volunteers in Debrecen organize six months of community events and festivals for the residents of their city.
Worlds Together, Worlds Apart (November 2008) Cameras and recorders in hand, youth around the world are partnering with WKCD to document the traditions and the tensions of the communities they call home. The issues they raise are at once personal and political, local and global—and the fresh eyes of youth bring new perspectives to challenges old and new. We invite you to dip into this collection of contrasts and commonalities, and then to add your voice to the mix!
Project Einstein: A Photo Essay by Young Burmese Refugees (Sept 2008) Rarely do those living in refugee camps get to tell firsthand their stories of hardship. Least heard are the perspectives of children, for whom a refugee camp may be the only home they know. In winter 2008, WKCD sponsored two young American media makers who traveled to Bangladesh to capture the lives of youth in a Burmese refugee camp there. At the Kutupalong Camp, Mark Belinsky and Emily Jacobi helped eleven Rohingya (Burmese) children share their world through their own photographs and words.
Beijing Youth Voices: From Friendships to the Olympics (Sept 2008) “We Chinese have dreamed of this event for hundreds of years. It has united us.” What does a group of six Beijing high school students have to say about the Beijing Olympics? And what’s their life like as teenagers in new China, where east and west, old and new live side by side? Read their blogs and watch their slideshows.
Burmese youth voices (October 2007) In March 2007 a team of eight young American researchers traveled to Thailand to meet with sixteen youth-oriented organizations operating along the Thai-Burma border. They interviewed many exiled Burmese youth as part of their research and wrote a remarkable report that gives voice to the hardship and yearning for freedom these youth experience every day.
Education in a Small East African Village (November 2006) F or the past two years, WKCD has worked with students in a small village in Tanzania to document everyday life there, through photographs, interviews and, most recently, video. Perched above the Rift Valley and near the legendary Mt. Kilimanjaro, Kambi ya Simba’s 5,000 residents eke out a living off the land, with no electricity or running water. See their short videos of their school.
Taking Globalization to Heart: Youth in Action Around the World (April 2005) While international meetings like the G8 Summit grab the headlines, another big story belongs on the front page: a global explosion in communication and action among world youth. Informal or formal, provocative or affirming, this youthful embrace of globalization pulses with vitality.
"We Hereby Call Upon...": Youth Take Charge at Model U.N. (December 2005
The Model United Nations conference in San Antonio (MUNSA) is the largest high school student-run event west of the Mississippi. Now celebrating its tenth anniversary, this year's MUNSA conference attracted eight hundred students who gathered to wrestle with some of the world's most pressing concerns: globalization, religious fundamentalism, and the spread of AIDS, just to name a few.
Creating A World Fit For Us: Youth Take the Global Stage (January 2004) As part of a new global "youth movement," young people are attending international gatherings in record numbers. The Internet provides these and other socially conscious youth a virtual daily meeting place, allowing the exchange of opinions, ideas, hopes, and dreams. WKCD offers here student commentary, speeches, and photographs, plus results from a recent survey of 1,400 youth worldwide.
Living in the First Person: Peace Corps Volunteers Share Experiences and Themselves (April 2005) Peace Corps Volunteers can be found in nearly every corner of the globe, and the jobs they're involved with are just as varied as the communities they serve—from teaching chemistry in a Ghanaian high school or promoting HIV/AIDS awareness in Malawi. Here we present several first-hand accounts of life in the Peace Corps, where cultural immersion is only the beginning.
As the Wells Run Dry, Tanzanian Youth Help Summon Political Will (December 2005) In rural Tanzania, East Africa, where everyone is a farmer, the effects of global warming are unavoidable. Here we present a sample of responses from teenagers in the village of Kambi ya Simba, when asked what steps should be taken to reduce the impacts of global warming
Taking Charge: Young Social Entrepreneurs in Tanzania, East Africa (April 2005) "Most people in developing countries are undereducated and don't understand the need for conservation," says Khamis Ali Pandu, 23. In his home village in Zanzibar, Khamis has started an organization to preserve the fragile coral reefs offshore while also supporting the fisherman and tour operators who depend on the reefs for their livelihood. In the Tanzanian town of Karatu, Regina Kalwa has started a vocational school for teenaged girls in the barest of circumstances.
Media and arts
Great Films that Will Sweep Teens Away (June, 2012) Ah yes, summer flicks. Blockbusters, escape movies, mainstream fare . . . not the time for tense drama. But wait! Who said that summer movie watching must be laid back? In abreak with tradition, WKCD has put together a list of 17 films-especially for youth 13 or 14 and up-that you won't find at your local theater, but that will have you leaning forward, maybe swallowing hard. While many of these films didn't make it big in Hollywood, we are confident they will sweep teens-really, everyone-off their feet.
Two Takes on the Dream Act (April 2012) It is estimated that each year, 65,000 young people graduate from high school in the U.S. who find themselves unable to work, join the military or go to college because of their immigration status. Approximately 800,000 young people would be eligible for the DREAM Act upon passage. Here are two videosâ€”two takesâ€”on a bill that once had bipartisan support but has now beomce contentious. The first is by seniors at Oakland International High School. The second shows Mitt Romney promising, if elected, to veto the DREAM Act.
Save Our Schools March on Washington (July 2011) On a baking hot July 30th, close to 5,000 teachers, parents, educators, and youth advocates met up on the Ellipse in front of the White House for the Save Our Schools March. They came from 14 states, fierce in their determination to raise their voices and fists on behalf of public education—in what have become urgent times for both our schools and our nation. WKCD was there. We've put together an audio slideshow of the sights, signs, and speeches that made the day sizzle.
Worlds Together, Worlds Apart (November 2008) Cameras and recorders in hand, youth around the world are partnering with WKCD to document the traditions and the tensions of the communities they call home. The issues they raise are at once personal and political, local and global—and the fresh eyes of youth bring new perspectives to challenges old and new. We invite you to dip into this collection of contrasts and commonalities, and then to add your voice to the mix!
Lights, Camera . . . Leadership! Vermont Youth Document Their Communities (April 2008) Vermont farmer Charles Russell remembers when he told his dad he wanted to be a farmer. His father quipped, “What you gonna grow, rocks?” Russell is one several scrappy organic farmers featured in “Farmers Have a Say,” a film produced by students at Cabot Middle School. For the past several years, students in various towns across Vermont have used video to tell community stories that make neighbors sit up and applaud.
Immigrant Students in the Bronx Debate Early Marriage and Pregnancy (May 2008) “It’s heartbreaking to see my friends give up their future for early marriage,” says college freshman Aminata Seck, a young female from Senegal starting life anew in the U.S. Two years ago, Amina and Mariam Dagnoko, then Bronx high school seniors, decided to create a documentary video about the struggle they and other immigrant teens face with family traditions that push young motherhood.
The Immigrant’s Song: Monologues of Loss and Hope (February 2008) At San Francisco’s City Arts and Tech High School, project-based learning and exhibitions are the norm. For two nights last November, eleventh-graders presented a stunning collection of monologues, created from interviews with immigrants they met or knew intimately (sometimes, a parent). Woven together, they form an “Immigrant’s Song.”
School As Subject (July 2006) In this collection of WKCD student-produced films, students turn their lens on a subject close at hand: school. They document stark inequalities between urban and suburban schools. They share the struggles that come with breaking large high schools into smaller schools. They examine the obstacles immigrant students face on the path to college.
Beyond Borders (July 2006) What do youth truly fear? How do they build security in their lives? Recently ListenUp!, an international network of young filmmakers, invited teens from Guatemala, Ukraine, United Kingdom, South Korea, India, Colombia, Jordan, Sierra Leone and the United States to tackle these questions on film. The results are startling.
Media That Matters (July 2006) For six years, Arts Engine and its Media That Matters Film Festival have provided a juried showcase for independent filmmakers, including young people. They tell hard stories about stereotyping and bullying, systems that don't serve youth well, finding strength in family and friends.
Still Standing (July 2006) In this documentary, youth producers from the Educational Video Center (EVC) put a human face to the stories of corruption and incompetence that jeopardize the lives and well being of Hurricane Katrina survivors six months after the storm—whether still living in New Orleans or relocated to New York City.
A Beautiful Brotherhood (September 2006) Within a baseball’s throw of Boston’s Fenway Park, an ensemble of young men of color stares downs their demons. They discuss sex, racism, fathers, anger, guns, and drug addiction. This is Soul Element, a theater project created by thirteen high school students to address the violence and fatalism that besiege their communities and their peers. They do so by laying themselves bare onstage.
Young Filmmakers Turn Their Cameras on Their Schools (August 2004) What makes a teacher worth paying attention to? What makes a school worth going to? Listen Up!, a network of 60 youth media organizations nationwide, invited ten youth production teams to answer these questions. See clips from their films.
Student Video Celebrates San Francisco History, Challenges High-Rise Development Plan (September 2005) "I am going to leave my own impact on this city," says David, a student at the new Build San Francisco Institute. This spring, David and other BSFI students created a full-length video that uncovers critical information about a San Francisco real estate plan.
Zooming in on Social Justice (July 2001) Focusing on the controversial International Criminal Court, young filmmakers at New York City’s Educational Video Center hope to awaken the activism of their peers.
Tune In, Grow Strong, Make Media (October 2009) You can hear the beats sounding loud from the open windows of passing cars in downtown Oakland. You may catch snatches of a radio host interviewing the guest of the hour. Walking past Youth Radio's sleek four-story office building, you may not know that inside young people from 15 to 21 are working at newsroom desks and in soundproof studios to send voices and music into their community and the larger world.
Straight from the Heart (March 2003) PDF version Whatever the subject, New York City’s Radio Rookies don’t sugarcoat it. Meet and hear the latest group of teens, from public radio station WNYC’s award-winning youth journalism program, tell true stories about themselves, their families, their communities, and the world.
What is Project HIP-HOP? A Participatory Video Research Project (September, 2012) You won’t find cultural organizing and applying the arts to social justice in today’s Common Core State Standards. But for more than a decade, a passionate group of urban educators and artists have coalesced around the belief that the arts and community organizing can teach youth powerful 21st century skills. This youth-produced video documents Boston's Project HIP-HOP, a national leader in engaging youth around hip-hop and community organizing.
Close Harmony: Teens and Music (December 2003) PDF version Four exceptional youth music programs—Community MusicWorks in Providence, RI, Cappies, From the Top, and Santa Monica (CA) High School’s music offerings—speak to the power of music-making to transform young lives.
Sharing Stories on the Musical Stage, Teens Dissolve Racial Barriers (February 2002) PDF version Three dozen teenagers in Washington DC’s City at Peace rehearsal room take their stories and secrets to the stage.
Fresh Takes on a Flat World: The Stories Photos Tell (July 2010) For three years, WKCD has partnered with Adobe Youth Voices, working with students on four continents to capture the world around them through digital photography and narratives. We've co-produced more than 50 audio slideshows, three photo essay books, and an international photo competition. Now we've added a mini-curriculum. In a series of short lessons, students use photos culled from our 15,000+ image bank to improve observational skills, expand cultural understanding, hone critical thinking, and practice writing.
Saving “RIPTA”: Rhode Island Youth Battle Cuts in the State’s Public Transit System (January 2009) Across the country, local public transit systems find themselves facing a double-edged sword. Ridership is at an all time high. But city and state budgets are bleeding, forcing many local transit authorities to leave some passengers stranded. A group of young media makers in Providence, RI has created a new website that inform peers and the public about the state’s looming public transportation crisis.
HOME?: Teen Refugees and Immigrants Explore Their Tucson (February 2008) Last spring, ESL students at Catalina Magnet High School in Tucson, Arizona received an unusual assignment. They were asked to explore the concept of “Home,” through photography and writing. A book of the students’ work will debut this April, and an exhibit of their photos and essays may hang in the U.S. Senate this June.
Teens Transform Boston as Urban Arts Entrepreneurs (February 2006) For the hundreds of public high school students who work at Artists for Humanity (AFH), art careers are becoming a thrilling reality. The non-profit's mission is to create meaningful employment for urban youth through creative arts. AFH is a study in attainable dreams: about what happens when high expectations for performance, discipline, and creativity meet the raw energy and eager of youth.
A New York City Sketchbook: Students Rebuild Hope Through Art (September 2002) PDF version This July, New York City teenagers exhibited works in the visual arts and gave performances in drama, dance, and music, as part of a summer arts program to help them work through the 9/11 attack on their home.
'That's My Painting': A Collection of Youth Murals (October 2003) When young people work alongside adult artists to paint murals, the results are not just eye-catching but breathe new life into public art. Youth mural programs in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Atlanta, plus two international efforts, are doing just that.
Summer in the City: Photos by Providence Summerbridge Students (September 2004) “I think I know what I want to be when I grow up,” 12-year-old Cortney, who has never held a camera before, tells the Brown University student who’s accompanying her. “I want to be a photographer.” On a humid summer afternoon, students from Providence’s Summerbridge program took to the streets with What Kids Can Do to capture some of the scenes and faces that make the city special.
Photographs from Boston's Artists for Humanity (September 2003) "With Artists for Humanity, we always go out to take pictures. It was a hot summer day and we had just been walking around the North End for three hours. While we were waiting for the train the ladies collapsed on a bench in a row, all with the same posture. Then I saw the shot." - Shawn McLaughlin, 18.
Turning Wood Blocks into Calendars at Two Chicago Schools (September 2003) To raise money for summer travel abroad and in the U.S., students at two small high schools in Chicago created their own wood block prints, capturing their "journeys as scholars," and turned them into a calendar.
"They Make It About Us": Engaged Learning on Chicago's South Side (October2013)
For the past six months, WKCD has documented daily practice in a diverse group of U.S. high schools that join social-emotional with academic learning. One of six schools in our study, Fenger High School is pushing hard to transform itself from a symbol of urban school violence in 2009 to a community of social and emotional supports for students. Last month we described how a vibrant restorative justice program has been integral to this transformation. Here we explore how teachers at Fenger strive to engage students in "deeper learning"—at a school where academic failure has been the norm. Included is an audioslideshow of Ronald Towns' Advanced Statistics class.
"From Chicago's Northwest Side (2013) to German-Occupied Paris (1942) (September 2013)
On the 4th floor of Chicago's Roberto Clemente Community Academy, students in Wendy Baxter's freshman English class wrap their hearts and minds around the terror of genocide. Ninth-grader Ashley stands poised to read aloud from Sarah's Key, a novel about a 10-year-old Jewish girl's struggle to escape internment and rescue the younger brother she left locked in a closet when police snatched her family from their Paris apartment. Baxter tells her students: "All right you guys, as she's reading I want you to visualize, to make connections to your personal experiences and other texts that we've read, to predict. Okay? And be aware of your metacognition." Take a seat in Wendy Baxter's class and see what unfolds.
Talk It Out Peacefully: Restorative Justice at Chicago's Fenger High School (September 2013)
In September 2009, Chicago’s Fenger High School became a poster child for urban school violence when rival gangs beat to death an honors student on his way home. Four years later, the school is making news again: as a turnaround school, where staff do everything in their power to build a community of supports where failure is not an option. A vibrant restorative justice program stands at the center of the school's transformation. This story is part of a larger case study of the countless ways Fenger High School weaves social and emotional learning into the daily fabric ot teaching and learning.
Fires in the Mind: Practice Project Update (April 2013)
Five years ago, WKCD invited over 200 students nationwid to investigate with us the question "What does it take to get really good at something?" Starting with the things they already knew and could do well, they analyzed the process that all learners go through when they take up new things and work toward mastery. Our onging dialogue soon became a body of work we called the Practice Project—including our book Fires in the Mind, in which adolescent students talk about what motivates them to work hard at a challenge. The Project is still going strong,
NYC Students Weave Student Voice into the Fabric of Their Schools (March 2013)
The NYC Department of Education calls its approach to ranking public schools “hard-nosed accountability,?says Aravis, a senior at Vanguard High School in Manhattan. But to Aravis and her peers in the Student Voice Collaborative (SVC), this approach overlooks a crucial factor in the accountability equation: the experience of students themselves. SVC students, and their coordinator, Ari Sussman, have much to say about student voice—and a rubric for schools to use to take stock of their efforts to engage students meaningfully in everyday instruction.
Youth and Adults Transforming School Together (February 2011)
On a crisp fall weekend, 165 youth and adults from high schools throughout Vermont pack a large, renovated barn on the campus of Goddard College. They have gathered to “Be the Buzz”: to speak up, dig deep, and work together for school transformation in their schools and across the state .“This is what real youth–adult partnership looks like,” one teacher remarks. A student adds, “And what school change sounds like.”
Education Blogs, Newsletters, and More: Some WKCD Favorites (January 2011)
We are often asked where turn most often for online information, news, analysis, a ground eye’s view of the classroom—and inspiration. Here’s our current list of blogs, networks, idea generators, and newsletters that grab our attention. In these days of overstuffed inboxes, the temptation to treat so much electronic mail as spam—or pass up another tip for a good website— is understandable. These, we believe, are worth a look, depending on your interest and role. .
Chicago Teens Say Better Tech Use Would Improve Learning (November 2010)
In March 2009, WKCD wrote about the involvement of students from Chicago’s Mikva Challenge in citywide policy discussions about improving school safety. The youth sent a clear message: they want to be part of bringing positive change to Chicago Public Schools (CPS). This October, Mikva Challenge youth issued a new report that’s turning heads—on how CPS needs to overhaul its technology policy to catch up with the 21st Century.
Best Practices in Summer Learning Programs: A Y-Press Report (November 2010)
“Summer learning loss” has gained prominence as another hurdle to improving student achievement. WKCD recently asked our partners at the youth-led news bureau Y-Press to investigate best practices in summer learning programs, interviewing experts in the field and students returning to school with summer learning experiences in their backpack. Their piece complements Y-Press alumna Jordan Denari’s “A Camp that Gets the Story”
Fighting Summer Learning Loss: One City's Story (September 2010)
One hears a lot these days about "summer learning loss" and its toll on low-income students. This summer WKCD asked Jordan Denari, whom we met three years ago when she was a junior in high school and editor at the Indianapolis youth-led Y-Press, to document her experience leading "City Stories"—a remarkable two-week summer camp in which Y-Press teenagers teach younger students 21st century journalism skills. Denari, now a sophomore at Georgetown University, recorded every aspect of the camp's unfolding, producing a powerful feature story and two videos.
Having a Say: Youth and Educational Activism (July 2009)
Ever since school was made compulsory for American children in the early 20th century, efforts at reform rarely included input from youth. But that is changing, as policymakers are beginning to value the opinions of youth, and as youth themselves have realized their collective power through new networking media. Ten years ago, it was hard for young people, or adults even, to know whom to lobby, to find which elected officials, let alone to figure out how to contact them.
Our Schools, Our Future: San Francisco Youth Campaign for Equitable College Access (July 2009)
It's lunchtime at Balboa High School, once one of San Francisco's most troubled schools but now on the rebound. Twenty-five students grab a sandwich and a seat. In six hours, the San Francisco Board of Education will vote on a policy these students have fought for all year long: to make the "A through G" course curriculum, required for admission to Califronia's state universities and colleges, the default curriculum for all students in the San Fancisco Unified School District.
History You Can Touch (May 2009)
“I’ll be talking about courage and Common Sense with Thomas Paine,” begins Carriola Chambers, 16, as she steels her nerves. It’s presentation day at Facing History School (FHS) in mid-Manhattan and students like Carriola are demonstrating to small panels of teachers and peers how they have advanced their “habits of learning” over the quarter. There’s a passion for self-discovery through history at FHS that you won’t find at any other school.
Upward Bound Students Aim for College (December 2008)
Early on Saturday mornings, while their friends are sleeping in after a long week of school, a crowd of teenagers converges on a building in Columbia College’s downtown Chicago campus. They come from all over the city, waking up extra early to catch the bus or train and arriveon time, pens, pencils and notebooks in tow. They are participants in Columbia College’s Upward Bound program, and they’re ready to hit the books.
Powerful Learning with Public Purpose (Sept 2008)
WKCD made its online debut in ‘02 with one goal: to champion “powerful learning with public purpose” by our nation’s adolescents. In the years since, we’ve produced close to 200 stories that show young people—and their adult allies—combining deep engagement and high achievement. Here are some of the best of these stories, drawn from our WKCD archives.
Practice: What Does It Take to Get Really Good at Something? (June 2008)
What does it take to get really good at something? Are people experts because they are born with talent—or do they get to be expert by practice? The question goes to the heart of achievement in every field, in school and in careers. So WKCD recently asked three classes of Chicago public high school students to set about exploring the answers through interviews and photographs.
Youth United for Change and Philadelphia’s public schools (May 2007)
On a recent afternoon, 35 students from the small schools housed in Kensington High School in north Philadelphia gather around a table in their meager school library. Most came because they saw a flier advertising free pizza at a meeting of an organization called Youth United for Change. But it soon becomes clear that this meeting is about much more than an after-school snack—it’s about tackling inequality in their city’s public schools.
Michigan special needs students find their stride (June 2007)
Between finding your way to your locker, passing your classes, and avoiding those intimidating upperclassmen, freshman year of high school is tough for almost everyone. Add special needs or disabilities to that equation and the difficulties can grow exponentially. But for special needs students at Haslett High School, a program called Freshman Focus is giving them a leg up.
School As Subject
In this collection of WKCD student-produced films, students turn their lens on a subject close at hand: school. They document stark inequalities between urban and suburban schools. They share the struggles that come with breaking large high schools into smaller schools. They examine the obstacles immigrant students face on the path to college. (July 2006)
Hear Us Out: Advice from Students for School Leaders
If you are a high school principal, your students want to have a word with you. Last year, WKCD spent six months collecting perspectives on school leadership from 65 high school students nationwide. In a new book, Sent to the Principal: Students Talk About Making High Schools Better, teenagers shares their insights on a range of issues. (November 2005)
Students as Allies in Improving Their Schools
What if teachers and students became steady allies rather than frequent adversaries in their daily classroom encounters? What would it take for students to become stakeholders not just in their own success but also in that of their teachers and schools? (October 2004)
Restoring Hope Where It's All but Gone
Students enrolled in Indianapolis public high schools face hard truths everyday. Indianapolis has the fifth worst graduation rate in the country; only 25 percent of black males earn a high school diploma. Student research teams at all five of the city's high schools have studied the problems and are adding their voice to the district's redesign effort. (September 2005)
We Are Change
With a video camera to her eye, Alice Giaccone, 18, moves through a buzzing high school hallway at lunchtime. She poses the same question to each person she stops: “What do you think of high school redesign?” Alice, along with seven other “youth mobilizers,” spent the past year documenting what young people want—and don’t want—from their high schools in Austin, TX. (September 2006)
Reflections on What Works: A Group of Teenage Classroom Observers Raises the Bar for Teachers
At Lexington High School, a large suburban high school outside Boston, a dedicated crew of teenaged students is visiting classrooms with an innovative vision of student-teacher dialogue. They go into classrooms not to learn what is being taught, but to look at how it is being taught, and to create a dialogue about effective teaching and learning. (February 2006)
The Color of Learning: Youth Researchers Tackle the Legacy of Brown
For three years, one hundred inner city and suburban youth researchers and their adult partners at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York have studied how race influences learning in schools across America. Here we present some of the fruits of their extraordinary work. (May 2004)
The Color of Teaching: In a Small Black School, Students Fight for Their Faculty
Nationally, urban schools struggle to recruit minority teachers. In the rural, African-American community of Camp Hill, Alabama, students struggle with a county decision to replace a third of their school’s black teachers with white teachers. (May 2004)
Youth Organizers Mobilize to Change their World, Starting with School
This special collection features two experienced youth organizing groups—East Los Angeles’ Youth Organizing Communities and the Bronx's Sistas and Brothas United—working to improve their schools, an interview with a veteran youth activist, and an annotated directory of student groups involved in school reform. (June 2003) PDF version
Redesigning High Schools: Student Perspectives
When the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Education Alliance at Brown University hosted a "Practitioners Forum for High School Redesign," a dozen students from high schools throughout the Northeast were among the 120 in attendance. Read students' comments about redesigning high schools, student-teacher relationships, and what makes quality schools. (October 2003)
Students Push for Equity in School Funding
Nationwide, schools face drastic reductions in programs, teachers, and services. Here we capture the triumphs, defeats, and voices of Alabama students fighting to save their small school from consolidation, Ohio students rallying at their state’s capitol against funding inequities, and a government class in Poughkeepsie, NY throwing itself into that district’s school budget deliberations. (June 2003) PDF version
Student Learning in Small Schools: An Online Portfolio
Last spring WKCD, with support from the Gates Foundation, began compiling a digital portfolio to capture student learning in four small schools: Minnesota New Country School (Henderson, MN), The Met School (Providence, RI), Urban Academy (New York City), and High Tech High (San Diego, CA). (January - March 2003)
Small Schools Show Big Results
Amid the current reform effort to create smaller high schools, the “Met” School in Providence, RI and Chicago’s Best Practice High School show the student
engagement and high achievement small schools can produce. (May 2002)
Connectivity at San Diego’s High Tech High
With the lively tone of a high-tech workplace, San Diego’s High Tech High (HTH) aims to know its students well, forge strong connections between their academic work and the outside world, and hold the entire enterprise to a common intellectual mission. (June 2003) PDF version
Forging Habits of Inquiry at Urban Academy
Whether the subject is international relations or trigonometry, teachers at New York City’s Urban Academy pack challenging questions and problem solving into each lesson. In one of the school’s signature courses, “Looking for An Argument?,” students learn to debate both sides of controversial issues. (March 2003) PDF version
Raising Self-reliant Learners at the Minnesota New Country School
Minnesota New Country School is a teacher-owned, public charter school in rural Henderson, MN. Students in grades 7-12 travel as many as 100 miles roundtrip to attend this unconventional one-room, 17,000-square-foot “schoolhouse.” (January 2003) PDF version
A Close Look at Student Work in Small Schools
Detailed work portfolios document how students in two small schools pursue senior projects and school-wide, year-opening activities. (March 2002)
Science, environment, and technology
Youth as Knowledge Creators (February 2012)
When WKCD made its online debut in 2002, we had one goal: to champion what we called “powerful learning with public purpose” by this nation’s adolescents. In the years since, we have spread our wings. Our work with young people now covers four continents. We started our own nonprofit book publishing company, producing two or three new titles each year with youth as collaborators. We have also been a grantmaker, supporting action research and media creation by young people aged 10 to 22. While our portfolio has grown, our mission remains the same. Day in and out, WKCD presses before the broadest audience possible the power of what young people can accomplish when given the opportunities and supports they need and what they can contribute when we take their voices and ideas seriously. The WKCD website (this website!) now includes thousands of pages. We have produced close to 300 feature stories that present young people's lives, learning, and work, and their partnerships with adults both in and out of school. We have created special collections that range from gathering the voices of middle-schoolers to honoring mentors that matter in the lives to teens. We have supported, financially and technically, over 75 projects that nurture youth as citizen journalists, from the Bronx to Beijing. Some say WKCD.org has the largest online collection of high quality, diverse student work in the world. Here we launch a new WKCD collection: small but strong examples of U.S. high school students, with the support of adult allies, acting as knowledge creators. Among today's calls for proficiency-based learning, the stories and student products we share are, we hope, both illustrative and inspiring. We have chosen work that not only engages youth in high level tasks, but also demands that they make meaning out of the information they gather—and then make a difference.
Lighting Up the “Dismal Science” (July 2011)
A wonderful example of “deeper learning” by high school students is “Economics Illustrated,” a book self-published by 45 tenth grade students at High Tech High in San Diego. It consists of their short explanations of terms of art in the field of economics, accompanied by engaging articles that show how they relate to current events. Striking linoleum-block prints illustrate each entry, making the concepts even more memorable.
Project Exploration Turns City Kids into Paleontologists (August 2009)
Gabrielle Lyon knew there was a problem. A school reform activist and part-time paleontologist, Lyon looked around Chicago and saw a glaring lack of sceince-oriented programs for young peopoe. Sure, there were the university-affillited programs for elite students with high test scores and high family incomes. So she created Project Exploration, a year-round program to help minorities and girls excell in science.
The Clock Is Ticking: Youth and Environmental Activism (June 2009)
Young people have a unique relationship with the environment. They are often the first affected when somethning goes wrong, yet the least represesnted when decisions are made. They, more than anyh other generation, have been raised to feel a responsibility toward the environment. Read this new collection from the youth-led news bureau, Y-Press—part of an ongoing series about youth activism.
Youth Meets Web 2.0 (October 2007)
Wikis, blogs, social networking, podcasts … welcome to what the tech-savvy call “Web 2.0.” Who are its biggest users? Teens. “Teens know that ordinary citizens can be publishers, movie makers, artists, song creators, and storytellers,” writes researcher Mary Madden. WKCD has compiled a list of resources for adults and youth wanting to ride the Web 2.0 wave.
Chemistry Students Put School Bathrooms under the Microscope (May 2007)
Ever wonder what kind of bacteria is festering in public bathrooms? So did a group of high school students on Creedmoor, North Carolina. And while the average high school students stared at textbooks or memorized formulas, students at South Granville School of Health and Life Sciences embarked on an action research project to find out just how contaminated the bathrooms in their public school were. They also did their own rating of cleaning products.
Zuni Teens Build an Edible Schoolyard (June 2007)
For students at Twins Butte High School in Zuni, NM, school lunch —sometimes their only hot meal of the day—not only tastes bad, but defies Zuni customs. Vegetables and fruit fill the traditional Zuni diet. Spurred on by their science teacher, the students are building an organic greenhouse that promises to change more than just school lunch. “Your plant is like your baby. We say to the plants, grow, grow, grow” explains Elaine, 16.
Bringing Up Scientists: A Top Teaching Hospital Trains Youth from Its New York Neighborhood
On a Saturday morning at one of the world's most eminent teaching hospitals, a dozen seventh graders from northern Manhattan are picking up their scalpels to cut into the cold, gelatinous brain of a sheep. These students are part of the Lang Youth Medical Program, a six-year science enrichment and internship program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center. (February 2006)
Making a Guide to Their Bay, San Diego Students Explore Deeper Perspectives
"If you wanted to do a similar biodiversity study in the real scientific community, this is how you would do it," says one High Tech High student researcher. In expeditions to sites around the nearby bay, the team of students made close observations that they brought together as a striking and useful field guide. (September 2005)
From Raw Data to Rich Description: Young Naturalists Produce Award-winning Science Essays
The Young Naturalist Award, an annual essay contest sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History, celebrates student researchers who turn months of science investigation into superb prose. The student winners are as different as the research subjects they invent. They use the written word to take the reader along expeditions, and create a sensory world where research springs to life. (April 2006)
The Power We Need: Students Tackle Childhood Obesity with Science and Teamwork
Taking as their challenge an issue that has troubled the nation's top health experts, a group of Carrabec High School athletes in rural Maine has set out to reverse the trend toward early obesity among their peers. Armed with electronic body composition monitors and an unstoppable drive, these teens gather before sunrise for a weightlifting program that is anything but conventional. (February 2005)
Outside is Our School: Youth Embrace Subsistence Education and Renew Survival for a Yupik Eskimo Community
Along the Yukon River in Russian Mission, Alaska (pop. 307), Kenny Vaska and his brother Carl have caught six king salmon so far. Like their classmates, they are becoming skilled hunters and fisherman in the Yupik Eskimo tradition, supplying their families and elders with food that can’t be found at the village’s one grocery store. They also know how to calculate the geometric design needed to build a salmon drying rack and how to conduct statistical research into the village’s eating habits. (September 2004)
Los Angeles’ River School: At the Confluence of Water, Floods, and Urban Planning
At the River School, students assess water quality and habitats, then clean up the LA River—once the city’s sole source of water but now a massive flood control system. (November 2002)
Water Works: Youth Protect A Precious Resource
Students across the country reclaim watersheds in their own backyard. See also student artwork and poetry from "River of Words," plus online water resources. (November 2002)
In innovative efforts across the country, young people are practicing new and different ways of living green. At Temple Isaiah in the San Francisco Bay area, for instance, seventh graders recycle an unusual commodity—cold, hard cash—and in the process turning the gift-giving associated with bar and bat mitzvahs on its head. Read more about this and other unusual recycling efforts. (December 2003)
Combining computer savvy with activism, young people in the U.S. and Canada develop web sites that champion the causes they care about most. (February 2002)
Straight talk and first-person accounts
Getting Better: LGBT Pride Month (June 2012)
On June 2, 2012 President Obama declared June "LGTB Pride Month," remembering the Stonewall Riots that launched the gay rights movement in 1968. Forty-three years later, so much has changed in America's relation to the LGBT community. But for queer youth, especially, heartache tempers pride. Across the country, LBGT youth are taking the lead in bringing understanding to their schools.
College Struggles: You're On Your Own, Kid (May 2012)
Otis Hampton was accepted at all six colleges he applied to in NYC. He chose Medgar Evers, gathered the financial aid he needed, began with high hopes....and failed. Refusing to let his dream of becoming a professional writer die, he started again at another NYC community college which gave students like Otis the chance to start fresh. In this first-person account, Otis tells his story about learning the hard way how to make a success of yourself in college. In a humorous video, he also offers tips for other struggling students. extraordinary insight into the motives, challenges and dreams of our newest immigrants.
Immigrant Students Use Cartoons to Share Their Journeys (April 2012)
For four years, Oakland International High School art teacher Thi Bui has urged her 9th and 10th grade students to tell their immigration story in the form of a comic. We Are Oakland International is an astounding compilation of comics from Thi Bui's students. Each of the 23 comicsâ€”stories of loss and hopeâ€”answers the question, "Who am I?" and, collectively, the question "Who are we?" Together, they provide an extraordinary insight into the motives, challenges and dreams of our newest immigrants.we?" Together, they provide an extraordinary insight into the motives, challenges and dreams of our newest immigrants.
Baltimore, I Love You! (January 2011))
In the introduction to this collection of poems and pictures by Baltimore’s “Youth Dreamers” its young authors write matter-of-factly, “Our book gives readers an inside view of the city we live in, along with some facts about us.” In fact, it does much more, introducing non-Baltimoreans to the hard edges and graces of the largest independent city in the U.S. The students produced the book as part of “Oh the places you’ll go!” summer program.
I Am Thirteen (January 2011))
Wikipedia tells us 13 (thirteen) is the natural number after 12 and before 14. It is the smallest number with eight letters in its name spelled out in English. It is also the first of the teens—the numbers 13 through 19—the ages of teenagers. “Thirteen is an impossible age,” writes photojournalist Brennen Jensen. “Surging hormones meet crushing peer pressure in the emotional maelstrom of middle school.” In Jensen’s audio slideshow, “I Am Thirteen,” four Baltimore-area teens talk about their live
Long known as a place to throw some hoops or hang out, for its summer camps and childcare, the Boys & Girls Club of Chattanooga—and across America—are sharpening a new image: a place for teens with the drive for college. “I don’t need anybody to be on my back, but I do need encouragement,” says sixteen-year-old Tunisha. “And that’s what I get here, at the Club. It gets me out of my comfort zone, it teaches me to ask for what I need to succeed.”
You Don’t Know Me Until Now(April 2010)
In this collection of writing and media from middle school Latino/a students in Austin, Los Angeles, and Oakland place, identity, and culture rule. Brought together by WKCD and the National Council of La Raza as part of a service-learning project, these young authors fight stereotypes, share what makes them who they are, explore their communities, and imagine some facets of the world they want to help create.
New Beginnings: High Rocks Camp for Girls (September 2009)
It's 7:30 on a cloudless summer morning, deep in the mountains of West Virginia. An outdoor breakfast spread, from granola to fresh melon, greets twenty teenage girls as they emerge from their tents. A half hour later the girls, all second-year campers at a remarkable program called High Rocks, fan out through the woods to a morning of drama studies, media lab, carpentry, and horseback riding—joining a community that will nurture them for life.
Beyond Graduation: Maine Students Shine Spotlight on Life After High School (July 2009)
Teenagers spend a lot of time thinking about life after high school. Through the Beyond Graduation Project, Noble High School teacher Kate Gardoqui has turned her AP English course into an incubator for intensive study on the topic. Located in North Berwick, Maine, the school enrolls 1,000 students. Gardoqui’s students investigate one central question: “How does our school prepare our kids for the challenges they’re going to face beyond graduation?”
Practice: What It Takes to Get Good at Something (Sept 2008)
What does it take to get really good at something? “You need a hater, and you need a motivator,” says Sharese, 16. “A hater, that’s the person that puts you down, assuming you can’t do it, and you try to prove them wrong. And your motivator, that’s who supports you, and so you do your best to try to make them proud.” See what three classes of Chicago public high school students found when they explored the question, “What does it take to get really good at something?”
The Big Score: Chicago High School Students Debate College Admission Tests (March 2008)
For students at Chicago’s Oak Park and River Forest High School (OPRF), the buzz surrounding college preparation is intense. The school sends almost 90 percent of its graduates to college. In January 2008, WKCD sat down with five OPRF students to talk about how they judge intelligence, and their experiences with standardized tests.
My Dreams Are Not A Secret (February 2008)
Recently WKCD joined forces with the University of Michigan-based “Youth Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity in Metropolitan Detroit” to produce a small book of reflective writing by thirteen of the program’s participants. “Can you see my elegant raiment and unique swag? Can you see my faith, talents, . . . dreams, or insecurities?”
We’re Here and We’re Talking: Children of Incarcerated Parents Speak Up (February 2008)
Zoe Wilmott was just four years old when her mom went to prison. De’Mel Bullock was five the first time his father went to jail. Riri Wilson was 14. Though research on the topic is sparse, these youth know all too well the difficulties children face when one or both parents are incarcerated. Through San Francisco’s Project WHAT! (We’re Here And Talking), Zoe and other teens have come together with a common set of demands and concerns.
SAT Bronx: what we know that you don’t know (October 2007)
An upcoming book by a group of students and teachers at Bronx Leadership Academy 2 brings educators new perspectives about the culture of minority youth in urban schools. And students who read it may realize just how much “insider knowledge” they have at their fingertips. Here we present a sneak peek at one section of SAT Bronx, which will be available from Next Generation Press in winter 2008, with support from Adobe Youth Voices.
Just another way to judge us? (October 2007)
In the crucial middle school years, what do students make of the assessments they receive concerning their academic progress—from teachers directly, or via standardized tests? What encourages them to take the risks involved in real learning, and what holds them back? Here, as part of our Voices in the Middle Grades Series, we present students’ own words on what helps them grown into confident learners.
Pass it on: youth interview mentors that matter (September 2007)
Who are the significant adults in the lives of teenagers, beyond the home and classroom? How do they reach out to youth, and why? In the first six months of 2007, youth across the nation gave their answers, as they interviewed, photographed, and publicly honored “Mentors That Matter” in four cities (Chicago, Providence, San Francisco, and Tampa). They nominated people from all walks of life—artists, coaches, public officials, even a school bus driver and a hair stylist—who show that they care about “other people’s children.”
The parent next door (September 2007)
Stop for a moment and count up the teenagers you know who aren’t actually your own kids. When is the last time you spoke with one of them, and what did you talk about? For teenagers, your answer matters a lot. Adults who aren’t their parents, they say, often influence them just as strongly as their mother or father—or even more. As 16-year-old Dan reminds us, “If you can go to someone who isn’t required to talk about stuff with you, but who just likes you and your company, then you’re going to feel better about yourself. “
Students Who Blazed a College Path Now Counsel Others to Follow
It’s tough to set one’s sights on higher education if other members of the family have not traveled that path. For two years, WKCD has interviewed and gathered advice from 16 diverse college students nationwide who were the first in their families to successfully go to college. Here, we offer many tips from these path makers, for high school students following in their footsteps. (November 2006)
If We Can Do It, So Can You! First-generation College Students Tell How They Made It Happen
For the past year, WKCD has interviewed first-generation students enrolled at colleges across the country. In a new book, First in the Family: Advice About College from First-Generation Students, we offer their challenges and insights, to help students following in their footsteps—and the teachers, counselors, and other adults whose support means so much. (April 2005)
Voices from the Middle Grades (September 2006)
What do students in the middle grades most need from their teachers? WKCD offers their answers in a sequel to our groundbreaking book Fires in the Bathroom—this time, listening to the voices of early adolescents.
“You Got a C?” (November 2006)
Teachers are used to giving out grades to kids. But what do those grades mean when they land on the desk of a student in grades 6, 7, and 8? Do they illuminate how students are doing, or humiliate them for daring to try? Do they inspire or destroy their motivation? Do they communicate with parents, or cause misunderstandings?
Who Says Who’s Smart? (November 2006)
How can you tell if a person is smart? Interesting answers are coming from students at Bronx Leadership Academy 2, a small public high school in New York City, who have launched a yearlong project to highlight their “insider knowledge” as urban youth. Listen to their audio clips.
Our Turn to Speak (November 2006)
If you turn on the car radio these days while driving through the Adirondack region of New York State, you’re likely to hear a local teenager giving parents some advice. Whether the subject is curfews, grades, friendship, or divorce, kids here are using local media to speak from the heart, telling adults what adolescents need from them at this critical time in their lives. Hear some of their PSA's.
We Watch You. We Worry About You. (June 2005)
When writing our new book What We Can't Tell You: Teenagers Talk to the Adults in their Lives (Next Generation Press, May 2005), we were surprised to learn how much teenagers watch and worry about the adults close to them. We figured that most of the worrying went the other direction.
What We Can’t Tell You: Teenagers Talk to the Adults in Their Lives
How much do parents and other adults really know about the adolescents they care about? What do teenagers need from adults—if only they could say so? A forthcoming book by WKCD’s Kathleen Cushman and 75 youth collaborators offers some compelling answers. Click here for early excerpts. (August 2004)
Youth as Evaluators: Race and Ethnicity in Metropolitan Detroit Through the Eyes of Its Youth
On a summer afternoon in the nation's most segregated metropolitan area, 75 young people who usually gather in groups divided by race and ethnicity are coming together to confront the stereotypes that color their lives. Schools and organizations across greater Detroit have sent them, invited to join an interracial dialogue organized by the University of Michigan's Program for Youth and Community. (April 2006)
Two New Orleans Teenagers Tell Their Story of Survival and Loss
Here, WKCD writer Abe Louise Young interviews two teenagers evacuated from New Orleans to Austin, Texas. Abe Louise Young grew up, herself, in New Orleans and now lives in Austin. She has started a national project called Alive in Truth that is documenting the stories of Katrina's survivors. (September 2005)
Tough Talk about Student Responsibility: Growing Student Leaders in Oakland, CA
Several years ago at Oakland Tech High School Darrick Smith began a program called TryUMF (for Try and Uplift My Folks), a leadership class any student can take and re-take. Smith makes fierce academic and social demands on students, but they pay off. Recently WKCD interviewed Smith and his students about their push for responsibility. (October 2004)
We Need A Space to Be Honest: Students Examine the Power of Peer Education
In January of 2004, twelve teens in Bellingham, WA decided to see if they could shift the perspectives of an entire grade at their suburban high school, in order to prevent their peers— and themselves— from developing negative body In the process, they discovered the intense need teens have to discuss all sorts of important life issues with other teens, in a structured setting. They recently talked with WKCD about their experience. (August 2004)
From: High School Students To: The Next President
Dear Future President: I am nineteen years old and I have lived in Harlem all my life. This past year, I got my G.E.D., and I’m about to start college at Cooper Union in New York City. I work several jobs to raise the money I’ll need to live on. I can talk like an educated person, and I can talk like the kids on the street. You would probably point to me as a success story. But you wouldn’t have much idea of what got me here. Maybe you should....Read letters by two WKCD student authors on what we can do about the real crisis in public education—part of a new book published by Teachers College Press. (March 2004)
E.A.9.11 (Everything After: A 9.11 Youth Circle)
In online discussion groups, youth from the U.S. and 20 other countries exchange their views on terrorism, patriotism, and religion. (May 2002)
Not Yet 20
Despite an unusually tight job market for teens in summer '03, three 19-year olds took on distinctly adult responsibilities, including serving as a firefighter. Read WKCD's interviews with these three impressive teens. (September 2003)
Possible Selves’: Girls and Their Mothers Research Own Lives
With Girls Incorporated in Holyoke, Massachusetts, teams of mothers and daughters compared their personal histories for a research project that eventually landed them at an international conference in London. (May 2002)
Take Us Seriously
Straight talk from activist students in small communities nationwide. (September 2001)
Written and spoken word
‘Documenting the Now:’ Four Death-Defying Books by New Orleans Youth (Novembr 2010)
In 2006, WKCD writer Abe Louise Young, a New Orleans native, introduced us to the amazing, moving work of the Neighborhood Story Project and the books six African-American teenagers had written about their city, just weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit. Recently, Young returned to New Orleans to speak with a new group of young writers about their recently published autobiographies.
‘With All Due Respect’: How Debate Sharpens Thinking (November 2010)
“I was always the one arguing with teachers,” said Posha, a high school debater from Newark, NJ. “You gave me an order, and I’m like, I’m not doing this!” But when she pushes back these days, debate has given her a new demeanor. “I have more information to back up my argument, instead of just yelling.” Hear members of Newark’s Urban Debate League describe four strategies by which debate builds academic skills and the confidence to disagree respectfully.
Crisis and Hope: WKCD Speech Contest 2009 (June 2009)
“My dream is that this recession will remind us what truly matters most,” writes Kelly McDonald, 13, from Manchester, New Hampshire. This spring we invited students across the country, age 12 to 19, to send us a graduation speech they would like to give on the topic “Crisis and hope in these trying times.” We received over 150 entries. Read the winning essays from middle and high school students.
We Are the Titans: A Profile of Diversity at One American High School (May 2008)
T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia is best known as the setting for the 2000 film Remember the Titans (with Denzel Washington) about a tough coach who unites a football team—and a community—divided along racial lines. In 2007, a group of T.C. Williams seniors in teacher Taki Sidley’s Photography and Documentary Studies class set out to illustrate that same diversity in a 112-page, duotone book of photography. The result is stunning.
Lessons from our grandparents (September 2007)
“I am used to the differences of my two grandmothers,” writes Nicole in an essay in her high school literary magazine. “They are two women, two worlds apart, who share the same role.” In this collection of essays, high school students reflect on the lessons they have learned from visits with their grandparents, nearby and far away.
Young Asians with Power unite for a summer dose of writing and politics (July 2007)
You might hear the YAWPers before you see them in the back room of Chicago’s Japanese American Citizens League on a summer afternoon. At the end of every meeting of Young Asians with Power (YAWP!), a writing workshop for Asian American youth, participants stand in a circle and holler as loud as they can: “YAAAWWWWPPPPP!!!!” The yell is both a battle cry and an exercise in silliness.
Young journalists take charge (May 2007)
At 14, Jonathan Gainer already has a few major notches on his journalist’s belt, including interviewing a former U.S. president and reporting from West Africa. Along with 120 other teenagers from metro Indianapolis, he is part of Y-Press. Reporting with a youth angle on subjects of their own choosing, Y-Press journalists see their work published in the state’s largest newspaper every two weeks, as well as online and in other media outlets.
Maine students document the human rights stories of local immigrants (June 2007)
For students in Susan Cray's tenth grade humanities class at Casco Bay High School, the community has become their classroom. For the past year, her students have interviewed and photographed immigrants who fled from war-torn countries like Somalia, Cambodia, Bosnia to start a new life in Portland, Maine. The students' photo essays bring home the struggle for human rights across the globe.
Making Writing Essential to Teens' Lives
Literacy is a key factor in determining whether students fail or succeed academically, and our nation's teachers are painfully aware of the crisis point that students now occupy. When students are alienated from academic subject matter, and poor test scores have sapped their spirit, how might we draw them in to writing as a space to grow and shine, and to communicate? (April 2006)
Hip Deep: Opinion, Essays, and Vision from American Teenagers
When WKCD and Next Generation Press set out a year ago to gather and create an anthology of compelling social commentary by adolescents across the country, we were unprepared for the diversity and depth of the voices we found. The more than fifty young writers featured in Hip Deep come from villages in Alaska and slums in Alabama, suburbs in Baltimore and high-rises in Los Angeles. (April 2006)
Half My Heart Is in Iraq: Students with Deployed Parents Write Their Lives
The war is everywhere in Killeen, TX, but its presence is felt in with particular poignancy in public schools like Killeen High. KHS stands in the shadow of Fort Hood, the nation's largest military base, and roughly half of the 1800 students have parents who are active military employees. Assistant Principal Helen Miller dreamed up a Writing Week as a way to give all students a creative space before the grueling stress of standardized tests—and to help them feel good about their writing. (April 2006)
Our Stories, Told by Us: New Orleans Teens Write Books About Lively Neighborhoods Now Lost
Just weeks before levee breaches flooded New Orleans in 2005, six African-American teenagers organized three block parties. The music, speeches, and dancing in the streets celebrated a victory few in their neighborhoods had claimed before: book publication. The young authors documented the people and places that had raised them, through thick and thin, in New Orleans' poorest neighborhoods; the books became best sellers in the city overnight. (April 2006)
Young Writers Define the Katrina Experience
Before Hurricane Katrina, a tight web of teenage writers was bringing a literary renaissance to New Orleans public schools. They came from Students at the Center, a program that trains New Orleans youth to write, publish, and be community leaders. After Katrina, the students found themselves spread in schools around the country. They continued their work through personal memoirs. (September 2006)
Honoring Two Worlds: Teaching Young Writers as They Learn English
Eric, whose family immigrated from China six months ago, casts his eyes down in painful shyness, filling pages of a notebook with pencil sketches of the world in his head. Scenes like this occur every day, in schools with large numbers of students new to this country. And, even when the students share the same language—perhaps Spanish or Chinese—the differences among their situations can be breathtaking. (April 2006)
Youth Speaks Out on War and Peace
Young people in the United States and around the globe are adding their voices to the world debate about war, peace, and Iraq. This collection of essays, speeches, articles, and editorial cartoons gives a sense of what is on their minds and in their hearts. (March-April 2003)
Baltimore's Urban Debaters Prove the Word is Mightier than the Sword
At 8 a.m. on a cold Saturday morning, most of Chris and Dayvon's friends are at home asleep. But these seniors from Baltimore's struggling Forest Park High School have set up shop in the cafeteria of a rival high school and are hunched over stacks of newspapers and outlines of arguments. They are meticulously planning their strategy for the day's debate. (February 2005)
Poetry and Art from Students Along the Gulf Coast
Since 1995, the California-based nonprofit River of Words (ROW) has helped young people connect nature exploration with poetry and art. Now, in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, ROW has released a collection of some of the best poems and drawings it has received over the years from youth along the Gulf Coast. (November 2005)
Youth Poetry Goes Public
Robert Frost once said, “Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat,” and youth culture has claimed this opportunity as its own. Whether in after-school workshops, national competitions, or local gathering spots, performance poetry is attracting a new generation of youthful enthusiasts. (January 2003) PDF version
WKCD Student Essays: Writing As Revelation
Some of the most compelling youth writing reveals something about its author. Whether by plumbing a new experience or putting on paper what may be too painful to voice, the writing that results makes for inspiring reading. Don’t miss these six extraordinary personal essays. (January 2004)
Mix It Up at Lunch Lessons in Tolerance
“Hunt or be hunted: the world of teenagers,” writes ninth grader Jane Brendlinger. “Like wild beasts roaming the plains of Africa, the weaklings are soon picked off and devoured. The socially advantaged have a sixth sense for singling out those with especially low self-esteem.” For five years, tolerance.org has been challenging students around the country to “mix it up” at lunch and to write about their experiences with fitting in and exclusion. (November 2006)
Everyone Is Different
This collection of essays brings together strong young voices that detail the personal experience of many kinds of difference: physical difference, difference in the way we learn, think, speak, here, walk, and dress. The authors speak for self-acceptance, and acceptance of others. Their essays greet difference, celebrate it, and provide a map for a more inclusive society. (November 2005)
"I Did It Myself": New York Teenagers Find Their Voice
New York City's Youth Communications seeks to provide teenagers with the information they need to make thoughtful decisions about their lives. By helping them develop skills in reading, writing, and thinking, this organization provides a meaningful space for student voice to take the stage. Here we present three wonderful essays by these NYC youth. (February 2005)
Beyond Words: Practicing Tolerance
Practicing tolerance is much harder than preaching it. Through personal essays and videos, young people from around the world chronicle their struggles with tolerance and prejudice, whether on the world stage, on city streets, or in their school cafeteria. (October 2003)
Rural Voices Radio: Writing About the Places Called Home
A project of the National Writing Project, Rural Voices Radio is a 13-part series of half-hour radio programs, in which students and their teachers read original writings and put their own stamp on the place they call home. Read selections by teachers and students in Kentucky, Texas, North Dakota, and Nevada. (October 2003)
Roots: Looking Back, Leaning Forward
Youth explore the complex subject of roots—defying media portrayals of a distant homeland, sometimes locked in violence—in written commentaries and a photo-essay. (November 2002)
Who Am I?
In poems, essays, and interview excerpts, racial and language minority adolescents reveal the unique difficulties they face. (March 2002)
Youth writings and actions in response to September 11. (September 2001)
Youth Publications that Serve a Public Purpose
This collection of 11 "public-minded" publications features youth writing remarkable by any count. (July 2002)
Tell Us How It Was
When elders share their life stories with students, the resulting oral histories can change the way we all look at the past. (July 2001)
Picky Readers for a Reason: Teens and Summer Reading
Teens have strong feelings about summer reading. Some love it, and some would rather slip in quicksand than crack a book. Yet whether they are avid readers or reluctant ones, it seems that teens want to have a say in the books they read during the summertime.(June 2005)
The Coffee House Depot Book Club: Local Teenagers Take Summer Reading to Heart
A new kind of summer school? Not exactly. But a group of 17-year-old students in Warren, Rhode Island, have found one of the best recipes for passing the summer months: read, discuss, schmooze...it’s that simple. Joined by two teachers, dog-eared copies of East of Eden and Siddhartha, and plenty of java, these students are tipping the balance away from the Internet and TV, and back to books. (September 2004)
Summer Search, Summer Journeys
Climbing mountains, traveling to foreign lands-usually only privileged kids enjoy these summer riches. The Summer Search Foundation makes them available to other high school students, too. In these essays, students recount their experiences. (September 2003)
Young Writers: Summer Trips
Student essays-one fictional, one real-about expansive summer travels. (October 2001)
Myrta's View: From Peach Trees to the Ivy League
Now a student at Brown University, this daughter of migrant laborers recounts her family's summertime travels from their South Texas home to the peach orchards of Oregon. (July 2002)
Writing Up a Storm
On November 10, 2002 a tornado touched down in three Tennessee mountain communities uprooting everything in its path. Students at Central High School record their experiences searching for missing relatives and helping those in need. (December 2002)
Class of 2005 Graduation Speeches
Over the last four years, What Kids Can Do has posted remarkable graduation speeches from youth around the country, with messages as diverse as the students who write them. This year's submissions are no exception. (June 2005)
Exceptional graduation speeches from the Classes of 2004, 2003, and 2000. (June 2004)
Youth and politics
Guns, Germs, and School: Young New Yorkers Probe the Problems of Their Age (August 2010)
At a recent meeting of social science researchers, a youth dressed up as "Dr. Researchy" took the stage. Clutching a sheaf of papers, he mumbled his supposed academic findings about “this problematic situation” of urban adolescents. From across the audience, one could hear young people’s voices calling out in protest. One by one, the young members of New York City's "Polling for Justice" research team brought their political theater to the stage—and their own conclusions from a study that was collaborative, youth-led, outspoken, and authentic.
Afterschool Matters: Youth Speak Out (July 2010)
Under a warm April sun on the West Lawn of the White House, 600 parents, students, educators, and youth advocates from Vermont to Texas took their seats. They had gathered with one goal in mind: to rally against proposed cuts to federal funding that would shrink afterschool options for youth nationwide. Whether they spoke out as legislators or from more ordinary perspectives, all knew the power of afterschool programs to change young lives. It was the teenage speakers, however, that brought the audience to its feet.
Having a Say: Youth and Educational Activism (July 2009)
Ever since school was made compulsory for American children in the early 20th century, efforts at reform rarely included input from youth. But that is changing, as policymakers are beginning to value the opinions of youth, and as youth themselves have realized their collective power through new networking media. Ten years ago, it was hard for young people, or adults even, to know whom to lobby, to find which elected officials, let alone to figure out how to contact them.
The Clock Is Ticking: Youth and Environmental Activism (June 2009)
Young people have a unique relationship with the environment: They are often the first affected when something goes wrong, yet the least represented when decisions are made. They, more than any other generation, have been raised to feel a responsibility toward the environment. Read this new collection from the youth-led news bureau, Y-Press—part of an ongoing series about youth activism.
Taking Stock of Youth Organizing (May 2009)
“Genocide in Darfur, AIDS in Africa, child soldiers in Sierra Leone and Uganda— these issues are publicized on teenagers’ T-shirts across the country” write Y-Press journalists, Tommaso Verderame and Jordan Denari. “Compared to their counterparts of the last few decades, today’s youth activists would seemingly have come a long way.” However, their research offers a different take.
Political Power: Mikva Challenge Gets Youth Involved in Politics, Policymaking (March 2009)
A few days after Barack Obama’s election, a group of Chicago youth gather on the campus of DePaul University, excitedly discussing their plans to improve the city’s policies toward youth violence. They are not a college activist organization—rather, these high schoolers are part of the Mikva Challenge’s Youth Safety Council, an initiative designed to give Chicago’s teens a voice in a policy discussion that profoundly impacts their daily lives.
Looking Back: Youth on the Trail (November 2008)
A year ago, WKCD teamed up with Y-Press in Indianapolis to create an Election 2008 “youth beat” as part of our “Youth on the Trail” series. Y-Press reporters produced regular articles, audio commentaries, and profiles of young political activists around the country. They also reported directly from the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Here they reflect on their experiences as political reporters.
Saving “RIPTA”: Rhode Island Youth Battle Cuts in the State’s Public Transit System (January 2009)
Across the country, local public transit systems find themselves facing a double-edged sword. Ridership is at an all time high. But city and state budgets are bleeding, forcing many local transit authorities to leave some passengers stranded. A group of young media makers in Providence, RI has created a new website that inform peers and the public about the state’s looming public transportation crisis.
Ohio students testify for school funding (September 2007)
Many students in Ohio have felt the pinch of decreasing funding for their schools. "Several years ago our school had to cut five teachers because of lack of funds," explains Megan Huttleston, a senior at a small high school school north of Columbus. "We lost the choir and shop, too." Recently, 17 students from rural schools across Ohio took their fight to the state capitol.
Still on the Trail
With the presidential race at full throttle, more teenagers than ever have hit the campaign trail. High school students canvass door to door, staff phone banks, stuff envelopes, and engage in debates in and out of school. Here, in their own voices, are some of their tales from the trail. (October 2004)
Kids on the Trail: High School Students Make Their Marks in the Democratic Primary Campaigns
They may not yet have voting rights or driver’s licenses, but high school students have blazed the campaign trails alongside adults as the Democratic Presidential primaries unfolded across America this winter. WKCD recently tracked down several dozen of these teenaged activists—most doing their footwork for John Edwards, John Kerry, or Howard Dean—and through phone interviews and email exchanges gathered their stories. (March 2004)
Storming the Polls
The number of organizations focused on mobilizing young voters, especially around the 2004 presidential election, seems unprecedented. WireTap Magazine, the youth arm of AlterNet and the Independent Media Institute, has created a special section on its website dedicated to articles, resources, and announcements about youth and voting. Here we share a recent article about youth in office. (August 2004)
Online Writing: Young Political Essayists Share Their Views
For socially conscious youth wanting to write about politics, there are few outlets. The online journal Wiretap helps fill this void. Read two thoughtful essays about the appeal of the Republican Party in rural America and about voting versus activism. (March 2004)
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“There’s a radical—and wonderful—new idea here… that all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world.”
– Deborah Meier, educator