During the third annual GreenTalks at Boston Green Academy, I was able to observe a showcase of skills presented by a group of talented 10th grade students. It was an opportunity to recognize the work that these students had been producing over the last few months. The end result included a multi-faceted presentation that was displayed in front of an audience of peers, teachers, and community members. Students were given the topics of “food in Boston” and “food at Boston Green Academy”. From there, they took initiative in researching and formulating their own thoughtful responses.
Each of the student presenters showed an immense interest in their own work. Many of them included personal stories or experiences, as well as rich qualitative data. They mapped out food resources close to their houses and were able to reflect upon the disparity of nutritional food options in low socioeconomic neighborhoods. Also, student presenters surveyed their classmates on their food preferences and the accessibility of healthy food in their living environments. Many of the students included amusing content such as memes to engage their audience. From my perspective, it seemed as if the peer evaluation gave the students a sense of pride and accomplishment. They were not only able to formulate a thorough presentation, but demonstrate their public speaking skills in front of their classmates.
When asked if students enjoy performance assessments over traditional testing methods, one student replied, “I’d rather do this because it’s more fun. It’s easier because you have a lot of people doing the same thing and you can get more help.” Students were given structured instructions on a broad subject; however, they were allowed the freedom to creatively think about their subject. Since collaboration and peer learning were encouraged, students were able to develop and articulate these ideas to others in order to critically reflect. For example, two students researched together and both stated the importance of governmental assistance in supplying subsidies ono accessible foods that are nutritious in their presentations. They developed different methods of achieving this goal, but were able to formulate problems within a system together. This form of peer education gives more opportunity for students to learn from and teach one another.
I believe that this experience has also allowed for me to reflect upon my own high school experience. I think about projects I completed and do not see intersectionality and identity emphasized as much as GreenTalks do. Whenever I had to complete an assignment, it was only on one topic and did not include the need to assess how multiple factors might relate. The multi-subject project allows for students to learn with more of an interdisciplinary focus. Also, the skills that the students are learning at Boston Green Academy prepare them with the tools they need to excel. While using technological skills of making presentations with PowerPoint or Prezi, they also must be able to think of their subject within a local and global context. This is powerful because this type of culturally responsive assessment gives students agency to create a product that reflects their own interests. By researching a topic that includes their own personal narratives, students at Boston Green Academy are empowered to develop their own ideas and solutions for issues that are relevant to their daily lives.