Meaningful educational experiences can occur in almost any setting. Students can learn a lot from adults who are not teachers in the traditional sense, but are committed to working with and sharing their expertise with young people.
Students in an entrepreneurship class at Elizabethton High School in Tennessee, for example, get personal coaching on how to develop their product ideas from local business leaders. In New York City, the ExpandED’s Options program places teenagers in afterschool and weekend apprenticeships at community organizations, where they earn academic credit and gain experience that can lead to summer jobs. College Track uses volunteer professionals in a different way: in nine communities across America, they train volunteers to give young people from underserved communities the academic support, leadership training, and financial advice they need to attend and graduate college.
It’s clear that school boundaries are becoming more porous and expanding beyond the physical classroom to the local community and virtual spaces. Valuable partnerships can be built with colleges, science and arts organizations, youth development agencies, and businesses. By redefining where teaching and learning can take place, schools can open up new opportunities for all young people.
Taking stock of potential opportunities for partnerships is a key first step in building new and exciting learning experiences for students.
Step 1 – Research
Research local organizations, businesses, or government agencies that could provide learning opportunities for your students. Might virtual partnerships be possible with organizations beyond your community? Ask students, family, friends, and community members for ideas. Be sure to explore a wide range of organizations, including those that reflect students’ own neighborhoods and cultures.
Step 2 – Reflect
Share findings with your team and discuss these questions: