ImpactProjects

Provide empathy driven authentic learning experiences for at risk teens.

Photo of Lori Corcoran
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My colleague, Mary Ruskey, and I have posed a challenge to our students at Mercy Vocational High School( North Philadelphia, PA). They were given the question, "How might we impact our Philadelphia comunity in a positive way?"

Using the guidance of Michael Glatts, who co-facilitated our Design Thinking workshop, we helped our students create their Impact Projects. In these projects we decided to use the elements of design thinking meshed with a traditional project based learning approach.

Our students chose the homeless population, Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia, and FairTrade initiative as their causes. They have connected with community resources/organizations, including representatives from homeless shelters, CHOP, FairTrade USA, higher education service coordinator( Louis McShane)/ work study students, and professors/local experts in the field.

A vital component of the Impact Projects has been our connection to Philadelphia University's work study program. The Philly U students have helped our MVHS students to ideate, create prototypes, and evaluate their solutions. They have also acted as role models and have provided information/ advice regarding the college experience.

The Impact Projects have given our students experience in technology integration, critical thinking skills, collaboration, and empathy. We have seen our students who are 93% at risk, improve in many facets including writing skills, basic and logical math skills, and communication skills. We have also seen an increase in assignment completion and accountability. 

These skills will not only prepare them for the next step in their educational ladder, but prepare them for careers in which innovation and the ability to connect and collaborate will be necessary.

When asked about the project, several students agreed that they are not doing work to get good grades. They are doing the work because they know they are making a difference.

This incredible exerience makes me wonder if more schools were able to connect the community to the classroom and the classroom to the cause, what the effects would be on both secondary and higher education.


[Optional] Synthesize a little! In one sentence, describe what you learned from your empathy exercises or analogous research. (Ex: Good advisors make a difference.)

Empathy driven projects make students more accountable. #connect to the cause

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Photo of Donna

I'm so excited to hear how you've incorporated the design thinking process into your student projects. The first time doing this with a group of students is really interesting because you begin to see how you assess student projects in a completely different way. Students learn so much through experimentation and reflection. The empathy piece is so important for preparing students for college and careers. Check out Cynthia Tognotti and her post about Empathy Warrior Intersession© at Samaritan House designed by Cynthia Tognotti from UpSkill . If you have time, I would love to hear what your students have to say about how this experience has impacted how they think about next steps to prepare for college.

Photo of Lori

Donna, 

I apologize for the delay in response. I would love to share my student feedback with you. We are actually in the thick of our projects and some incredible things are happening including a Talent Show to raise funds and awareness about The programs offered by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, a student designed pilot program to help schools become Fair Trade Recognized, and several initiatives to help impact Philadelphia's homeless population! The best part is through design thinking, the majority of the leg work has been accomplished by our students-with simple guidance from us. #extremelyproudteacher
 I am going to check out Cynthia's post. Thanks!!!

Photo of Donna

Hi Lori,
Your student projects sound amazing! I would love to see the student feedback. 

Photo of Lori

Hi Donna,

I will gather some of their reflections and be sure to share them in a Google Doc with you.

Thank you for your interest!

Photo of Lori

Hi Donna,

I will gather some of their reflections and be sure to share them in a Google Doc with you.

Thank you for your interest!