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Amplifying Student Voices: Changemakers Impact in New York

Amplifying Student Voices: Changemakers Impact in New York

At Eagle Rock School, the commitment to cultivating a community of changemakers dedicated to social justice and anti-racism is not just a mission statement – it's a way of life. The Changemaker Cohort at Eagle Rock exemplifies this ethos by fostering meaningful partnerships between students and adults across the country, empowering students to take ownership of their learning journey while promoting a culture of collaboration and innovation among education professionals.

Empowering Student-Adult Partnerships: The Heart of the Changemaker Project

Led by Principal Hannah Kehn of New Visions Charter High School for the Humanities IV, the Humanities IV Changemaker Project is a testament to the power of student-adult partnerships in education. 

Hannah's journey from Boston to Brooklyn and her passion for innovative school design have fueled her commitment to authentically engaging youth in school-based activities. After teaching and working in education for many years, Hannah started the school in 2017 and has served as the principal ever since. 

For Hannah, the essence of education lies in creating social and intellectual safety, where students feel comfortable taking intellectual risks and engaging in deep, empowering learning experiences. 

The Humanities IV Changemaker Project is co-led by Humanities IV student, Nnenna Ukachukwu. The project provides students with a platform to voice their feedback, explore solutions, and take ownership of their learning. Through observational notes and regular check-ins with their teachers, students play an active role in shaping the direction of their education, identifying areas for growth, and implementing actionable steps to enhance their learning experience. 

This opt-in project impacting three specific classrooms fosters flexibility and collective buy-in, ensuring that student voices are heard and valued throughout the process and educators have the capacity to help facilitate this new type of feedback gathering process. The project is taking place from June 2023-June 2024 in a truly collaborative effort between Hannah and Nnenna through the Changemaker Cohort at Eagle Rock.

The Power of Dialogue and Reflection

As Hannah aptly notes, the project's experimental nature serves as a catalyst for meaningful conversations between students and teachers, highlighting the importance of ongoing dialogue in shaping the educational experience. Within the school's lab classes, a select group of students are actively engaged in sharing their observations with teachers, focusing on key themes such as materials, relevance, and discussion opportunities. This collaborative exchange of feedback not only enriches the learning process but also underscores the value of creating space for real, authentic student input.

As the project unfolds, there is a collective recognition of the profound impact of student voices on the educational landscape. Teachers are struck by the depth and insightfulness of student perspectives, challenging traditional notions of education and prompting a shift towards a more student-centered approach. Examples of action steps as a result of this collaboration are incorporating debate opportunities into a media literacy and math games into an algebra course. 

Addressing Challenges with Care and Intentionality

However, this shift towards a more democratic and student-focused model of education is not without its challenges. As Hannah acknowledges, the fast-paced nature of teaching often leaves little room for sustained dialogue and reflection. Moreover, the emphasis on standardized testing in traditional educational settings often detracts from the importance of incorporating student feedback at every stage of the learning process.

Yet, despite these challenges, there is a resounding commitment to rewiring the educational paradigm, placing student empowerment and autonomy at the forefront. By embracing feedback as a cornerstone of the learning experience, educators are not only fostering a culture of inclusivity and collaboration but also equipping students with the tools to take ownership of their learning journey.

In essence, the Humanities IV Changemaker Project serves as a testament to the transformative power of dialogue, reflection, and student empowerment in education. As educators and school leaders grapple with the complexities of creating truly student-centered learning environments, one thing remains clear: the voices of students must be heard, valued, and integrated into every facet of the educational experience. For in the end, it is through dialogue and reflection that we truly pave the way for a more equitable, inclusive, and empowering future in education.

Looking Ahead with the Changemakers Cohort

As the project continues to evolve and grow, it serves as a model for reimagining education and amplifying the voices of the next generation of changemakers. Do you have an idea you’d like support on developing in the education sphere? To learn more about the Changemakers Cohort and see if you could be a good fit for the program, visit our website here