I read an article in the Seattle Times this week about students from Rainier Beach High School hosting a town hall meeting to discuss public transportation in their neighborhood. The students organized the meeting to share their stories about the “difficulties they face getting to school every day and how that affects their education.”
This summer students from the same neighborhood testified with civic leaders at the Seattle City Hall seeking equitable transportation between home to school. Their focus is on safety, cost of public transportation and equal treatment of each student.
The students’ leadership organizing the town hall meeting and advocating for safe equitable public transportation reminds me of other efforts students are making in other communities to enhance their education experience.
In Santa Barbara, California several years ago students in a CAD course assisted the local school district to determine better routes for their school buses that reduced costs while making trips shorter. In Greendale, Wisconsin middle school students were concerned with the lack of healthy options in the cafeteria and after conducting research assisted the local district to make choices on food vendors.
I am familiar with many instances of middle and high school students advocating for equitable opportunities for students with special needs to be engaged in classroom and school projects and activities resulting in policy and practice changes.
These examples demonstrate that students are capable of identifying and analyzing problems, suggesting solutions and engaging other education stakeholders implementing strategies to address those challenges.
Further these stories indicate that students, in these circumstances, are developing the knowledge and skills articulated by most district and school mission statements and expected of each successful graduate; specifically:
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving
- Communicating with diverse audiences
- Character development
- Social skills development
To make these stories more pervasive school leaders, staff, teachers, parents and community members need to nurture students to see the relevance of issues they care about and impact individuals they care for are consistent with the expected outcomes of successful students and graduates. Narrowing the divide between a district or school’s mission statement and the opportunities for students to identify, address and solve problems that impact them and others is critical to prepare students for post secondary education, careers and their family and civic responsibilities.