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GSE Alumna Creates Innovative Post-Pandemic Summer Learning Projects for Jersey City, NJ Students

It all started when Principal Rosalyn Barnes, GSE Ed.D. ’21, was in a meeting with her school leadership committee at the PreK-8 Chaplain Charles J. Watters School – PS 24, during the time she was working on her Fordham GSE doctoral dissertation, which she defended April 30, 2021. The committee was comprised of parents, teachers, and administrators, and they were trying to generate ideas for meaningful summer learning for students as the world began emerging from pandemic lockdowns. As soon as someone mentioned that World Listening Day would take place on July 18, the summer program’s theme became clear. In short order, its official name became the “Chaplain Charles J. Watters School 24 Summer Exploration Project 2021: We Are Listening: to Ourselves, Our Community, & Our World.”

Everyone involved knew how important it was to craft an engaging program for students, especially given that only 10% of them had come back to school in the spring when a hybrid schedule was offered. Barnes noted that in many cases, “students had disengaged from learning because of trauma, experiences that included profound loss brought on by the twin pandemics of COVID and racism.” With this context in mind, Barnes and her committee became particularly focused on social-emotional learning, making sure that all students would feel seen and valued.

Barnes mentioned, “Given this reality, the 2021 summer project program includes live support from teachers on call, plus both online and physical resources actively shared with parents and students to help with the work.” She further explained that the goals of this summer’s exploration projects are grounded in the New Jersey Student Learning Standards, and include building literacy stamina; providing opportunities for students to explore their world, community, and themselves; empowering students to advocate related to issues that affect their families and communities; and encouraging students to critically analyze problems and provide solutions to benefit both the students and their communities.

Students will tell their cultural identity stories, identify connections to their communities, and become world advocates. They will be able to choose two projects from among a wide variety in each area to complete, including creating a book or a recipe; filming a cultural video or a cooking show segment; sharing a poem, song, or dance; producing an electronic journal, blog, or vlog; making a map or diorama of their communities; contacting community leaders to advocate for improvements and/or additions to outdoor spaces like parks, gardens, and pools; reading and watching the news using many different sources to gain a broader view of a global issue, then writing an article; creating a public service announcement; or even performing spoken word or a rap that considers a different perspective.

The summer projects are expected to extend into September so that students are able to share their work with other students as well as their teachers, or even complete the projects as needed.

Barnes and her staff have designed a wonderfully creative and culturally-responsive way to engage students and staff in a variety of learning experiences this summer as they transition back to face-to-face learning,” explained Margaret Terry Orr, Ph.D., Barnes’ dissertation mentor and Ed.D. program director. “She and her staff deliberately created appreciative inquiry experiences that enable students to learn about and honor themselves, their families and their communities. The summer experience is designed to be developmentally appropriate while promoting choice in what students learn and what form of medium to use to communicate effectively—fostering leadership and independence. These principles of equity, appreciative inquiry, and leading learning reflect Fordham’s doctoral program priorities.”

Click here to learn more about Fordham’s Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy programs.


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