Drawing professionals, community mentors, and college students into middle school classrooms to serve as mentors, Citizen Schools enables students to engage in hands-on learning experiences led by local experts.
Through its apprenticeships program, Citizen Schools helps students learn new skills and develop awareness of new careers by facilitating meaningful connections with Citizen Teachers, offering an alternative to traditional classroom learning.
“Our mission is to extend the school day and provide students with real world opportunities that will lead them to success in college and careers,” says Henry McCorkle, Citizen Schools Campus Director at the Orchard Gardens K-8 School. “We are really providing them with opportunities that they might not get during the school day.”
During each ten-week session, Citizen Schools allows students to participate in two apprenticeships; each meeting once a week. At Orchard Gardens, apprenticeships include Media Girls, which teaches female empowerment through media, Girls Fly, a financial literacy apprenticeship for 7th grade girls run by finance professionals, Police Dialogues, run in partnership with YW Boston, Microbiology, and Robotics, both of which are run in partnership with Northeastern University professors. These apprenticeships offer students the ability to dive into exciting new content through hands-on activities led by people who engage in these fields every day in their jobs and studies.
“There isn’t the same atmosphere that you might find in a school classroom during the day,” says McCorkle. “We are able to break students into smaller groups where they are able to accomplish a lot of hands-on learning that they might not get the chance to do in a normal classroom. Our students really thrive in this environment.”
At the end of each semester, Citizen Schools hosts a Wow! Showcase, during which students present projects they have worked on over the course of each apprenticeship and teach their families, schoolmates, and communities some of the content they have learned. These presentations give students the chance to become teachers and truly own their work.
“In our Microbiology apprenticeship, students have put together trifold boards with information about different microbes. Each student will give an interactive presentation about the microbe they studied. Our Robotics students have been working on building and programming their own sumo robots over the past ten weeks. At our Wow!, you will see the students put their robots in a wrestling circle to joust with one another. Seeing each other present and perform can be really invigorating for students.”
Citizen Schools apprenticeships allow students to connect with mentors working at high levels in their respective fields. By working with these Citizen Teachers, students discover new passions and professions that can shape their future aspirations.
“The apprenticeships bring in volunteers with expertise that our students don’t get during the school day,” says McCorkle. “For many of our students, these are opportunities that they may want to pursue after middle school or even after high school. Because of the apprenticeships, they are being exposed to new careers and opportunities that they would have never have known about before.”