Conversations Between Rural And Urban Classrooms

Created to respond to the stark divisions in American society today, HEARD! is a new media-based social studies curriculum that supports students in grades 9-12 to deepen their understanding of our most pressing issues and broaden their ability to empathize - to walk in someone else’s shoes - as they approach problems of great complexity and immediacy. 


HEARD! will teach two core skills: media literacy and media production, reinforced by the practice of critical inquiry and deliberation. Using readily accessible technologies like cell phone-based video and editing programs, low-cost audio recording devices and free web-conferencing software, the curriculum will enable students to engage in live, cross-regional conversations with peers, question and refine their own positions on important topics, and share their work on a web-platform designed to continue as a live archive and conversation space when the classroom projects are complete.


Pilot Project Summary

We will begin implementing HEARD! in February, 2018 with a pilot program in four classrooms: two in Washington, DC and two in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Working in parallel, these partner classrooms will focus on two important contemporary topics:

1) current challenges and opportunities with regard to immigration to the United States and

2) the history of and present push for removal of Confederate memorials across the country. The partner classrooms will “meet” five times over four consecutive weeks to hear from each other and share their findings.


Week One. Media Literacy: How Do I Know What I Know? 

The first week will enable students to identify and examine the source(s) of their own positions on the two discussion topics and develop a critical approach to media consumption. In this way they will begin to pinpoint, decode and re-process the information they absorb every day.


Week Two. Other Voices: What I Hear You Say When You Say That Is...

The second week will guide students to hear new and divergent voices by listening to audio recordings and “reading” photographs, videos and texts that require them to spend time experiencing how an issue looks and feels to a person they might normally consider an “other” or even an enemy.  As part of this exercise, they will practice interviewing students from their partner classroom via Skype, Google Chat, or phone.


Weeks Three and Four: Media Production: Making Statements We Stand By

The final two weekswill teach media responsibility by instructing students to produce webisodes or audio podcasts, and then present them to peers from their own classroom and their partner classroom. Working in small groups or pairs students will be asked to 1) give an explanation of their point of view on an issue; 2) provide a comparison of different media sources reporting on the issue and an accounting of how they arrived at their position; 3) conduct an interview(s) with a student from the a partner classroom who has direct experience with the issue; 4) provide a conclusion explaining if and how they would be inclined to compromise or change their position on the issue.


Desired Outcomes

 As the next generation of adults, high school students are on the front lines of the faultlines in American society. We believe that engagement with a diversity of viewpoints, including the diversity of viewpoints within their own communities, is crucially important to them and the nation as a whole. By building a network of HEARD! classrooms across the country and providing continuous presence and support through our curated web platform, we believe we can make a strong contribution to a future of greater respect, tolerance, security, and--if not agreement-- deeper understanding for all.



Budget details are available upon request.