Big Picture High School will graduate its first batch of seniors in May. But before they get their diplomas, students must produce final projects that benefit community organizations, and a new collaboration between the high school and Fort Lewis College means the seniors wont be navigating their projects alone.
Throughout the year, each Big Picture student will be paired with a student in the colleges instructional equality class.
Big Picture is part of the Durango school district and emphasizes learning through individual projects and internships. Almost all of the schools 19 seniors are participating in the collaboration, which involves learning on both ends.
Big Picture seniors will receive mentoring from Fort Lewis students familiar with the quality of college-level work that Big Picture expects them to produce.
At the same time, professor Will Camps education majors at FLC have a weekly laboratory of sorts where they are able to explore how the concepts they study in class play out in life. Camps class focuses on multicultural education and cultural responsibility, including concepts of justice, prejudice, class, ethnic identity and bias.
The collaboration with Big Picture shows his students how the community can be a basis for curriculum, Camp said.
The college students appreciate the opportunity to get an unfiltered perspective on the high schoolers thoughts and perspectives about society and the community.
These students are the ones that the book is talking about either directly or indirectly, said Nathan Chismar, a student in the instructional equality class. Learning about why theyre here and how they succeed is a good learning example.
Certain aspects of the partnership allow the FLC students to explore how high schoolers approach the concept of identity, such as when the high schoolers wrote I am poems to explore themselves and their place in the world.
The exercise also helped Big Picture students better understand themselves, which benefits learning in the long run, Camp said.
Big Picture students said working with college students has been a nice boost as they create their final projects.
Some high schoolers who are in the brainstorming phase are getting help tossing around ideas. Others, such as Erin Cox, already know what their projects will encompass. Cox, whose work will benefit at-risk youths, said her college mentor has helped bring depth to her project with ideas about how to extend its reach and have it make more of an impact.
Other students project topics include working with middle school outdoor education classes to explore idenitity, creating bullying prevention programs in elementary schools and supporting the Sexual Assault Services Organzation.
Throughout the semester, the FLC students will be creating videos about their work at Big Picture and their research about different class topics.
The process hasnt necessarily produced neat ties yet, Camp said. There are high school standards and college curriculum requirements to fulfill, as well as final work that needs to be prouduced on both sides.
I know itll work out beautifully, he said. Its just that getting there is so ... real.