Why engage students in this project and why now?
At a certain point in their development, students begin pushing back against curriculum, asking when he or she will ever have to use the material being taught. While this question stumps many well-meaning teachers, or at least becomes an obstacle to student engagement, Let ‘em Shine will resonate with students because it will show them where both their personal passions and their classroom curriculum are hidden in their world. Put more simply, student engagement increases when course content is applied to a real problem that matters to the student, and that exists beyond the classroom walls.
Let ‘em Shine capitalizes on these transformational elements in two ways:
Providing a problem that is both complex and relevant to students; and by maximizing student choice in how the problem is solved.
The complexity could not be more apparent, as news coverage and social media highlight the vitriolic nature of the public debate. Additionally, Charlottesville is known as a massive resistance town, meaning City leadership did not want to integrate the public schools. As a result, our young learners are receiving mixed messages from their community: do Black lives matter if we still praise Lee? What is history if it can be erased? What role do monuments play in society?
As students design new monuments to commemorate untold stories in our community, they will choose who to interview, who to survey, what questions to ask, whose stories to feature, and how to craft those stories. They may write an original script that leads to a video production, compose new music with lyrics, or conduct an interview with descendants. This will be accomplished through collaboration and mentoring with peers, and exploration of ways to use state-of-the-art Virtual Reality technology to express written and oral information.
It is our hope that the diverse paths provided in this project will converge to create student leaders who are passionate about their work, who can connect classroom learning to their lives, and who are invested in outcomes that bring healing to a divisive community issue.