5 Deep Dives into Youth Voice and Choice
We’re back this week with more resources on Youth Voice and Choice, one of our six XQ Design Principles. Our last issue offered five strategies to bring youth voice and choice into your classroom at a deep level, so that your students have a say in what and how they learn. This week, we’ve gathered five examples of youth voice and choice in action. Explore these resources to see how you can center students in the classroom to build autonomy and agency. Let’s jump in!
1. CENTER: Invest in Student-Centered Learning
At Elizabethton High School—an XQ school in Memphis, TN—student passion drives learning.
Why It Matters: Skyler Hilton arrived at Elizabethton with a passion for technology and a desire to learn about virtual reality. In response, Skyler’s teachers invested in a VR curriculum, and reached out to VR firm Lobaki to build an internship program for students. This student-centered approach empowered Skyler to pursue his dreams—after graduating, he accepted a full time job with Lobaki! To build a curriculum that centers students:
- Design lessons around topics students care about
- Give students opportunities to choose and design projects
- Connect students with real-world opportunities to explore their interests
Extra Credit: What Is Student Centered Learning and Why Is It Important?
2. ACTIVATE: Encourage Students to Speak Out
Help students use their voices to make a difference in the world.
Why It Matters: Today, youth activist Jerome Foster II is the youngest member of the Biden administration, serving on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. But his journey as an activist started at Washington Leadership Academy, an XQ school in DC. WLA’s mission is to prepare students as leaders and changemakers in their communities. WLA educators accomplish this through:
- Real-world learning like internships
- Rigorous computer science curriculum
- Culturally responsive teaching
- Emphasis on social justice
Extra Credit: 8 Young Activists You Need to Hear From Today
3. LISTEN: Spotlight Student Perspective
Explore storytelling to nurture student voice.
Why It Matters: To empower students as storytellers, ask students to weigh in on the issues they care about—and then really listen. For an example of student storytelling in action, check out This Teenage Life, an XQ-sponsored podcast where teenagers boldy express their ideas, tastes, and interests. Explore their collection of guides and prompts for teachers, and get inspired by episodes on topics like:
Extra Credit: The Power of This Project-Based Learning and Place-Based Learning School
4. EMPOWER: Give Students a Say in Important Decisions
When it comes to decisions that impact their education, students deserve a seat at the table.
Why It Matters: Recent high school graduate and student activist Josh Stern spoke with XQ on how to center student voice in decisions around American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding. His suggestions serve as a blueprint for how to give students real power—not just around ARP funds, but on important decisions of all kinds. Stern suggests that schools:
- Educate students about funding so they can make informed decisions
- Give a committee of students full voting power to make decisions about funding
- Collect broad student input through surveys and canvassing
Extra Credit: Is Your District Asking Students How ESSER Dollars Should Be Spent?
5. INVOLVE: Invest in Citizenship Education
Prepare your students to use their voice and perspective to shape a better future.
Why It Matters: Citizenship education prepares students to be active participants in democracy. By empowering your students to take a leading role in the classroom, you can prepare them to make informed, confident choices in the real world. Explore these resources on civics education to get started:
- The history of voting rights in the United States
- Checklist to prepare students to participate in elections
- Readings on civic dilemmas and debates
Extra Credit: Meet the Student Activists Leading the Country’s Protests for #BlackLivesMatter
Are your students ready to raise their voice in support of the issues that matter most to them and their generation?
Invite your high schoolers to become a part of America’s largest high school art project with artist JR’s renowned Inside Out Project AND support a cause that’s close to their hearts. Share the XQ Yearbook with students in grades 9-12!