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Big Picture Learning Students Do the "Most Good"

I love my work for all the obvious reasons-- the opportunity to facilitate school transformation at a grassroots level, the smartest and most dedicated colleagues in the world, the satisfaction in knowing I get to fight every day for equity in education in action, not just in words.  It’s all pretty amazing, but two of the the things I love most about my work are facilitating the Most Good You Can Do Challenge and leading the student experience at Big Bang because--let’s be honest--it’s all about the kids and Big Picture Learning kids are the best!  So please read below with your giddiest, most excited voice, because that’s the tone I used when writing it.
This winter, Big Picture Learning’s Most Good You Can Do Challenge awarded three students start-up funds for their exemplary, community impact projects. In their application, the students wrote about their passion for their projects and how their communities would benefit from their work.  They also included detailed budgets and plans for project sustainability beyond start up funds.  As you can see from the descriptions below, the projects range from music to technology to education, but all have the unifying goal of social justice and equity.  If you have a student in the midst of a impactful project this spring, please encourage them to apply for the second round of Most Good You Can Do Scholarships.
Crystal George, Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School -- Bronx, NY

The Gender Equality Awareness Resolution Conference, or G.E.A.R. Up., is a youth-led conference organized by students from Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School to help bring awareness to issues of rape culture, LGBTQ healthy relationships and safe sex. It’s purpose is to educate teens on making smart decisions by empowering them to transform from a dependent student to an independent critical thinker. Workshops will be youths led by peer educators from a variety of organizations to lead educational and interactive workshops.

In Crystal’s words: “The intended impact I hope to make is educating students on what they can do in any unjust situations where they feel they're being mistreated and making an effort to dismantle the specific issues of rape culture, unprotected sex, unhealthy relationships and LGBTQ. Also inviting speakers who already do related work in these fields to the conference will give a face for people that can learn and get help from instead of just a phone number or a website. The clear outcomes for this conference is to teach students about these issues and how they can create safe environments and supply them with useful resources.


Abe Stanton, 12th grader at Lafayette Big Picture -- Lafayette, NY

In Abe's words: Wifi for all is an Initiative with three goals. The first goal is to provide lesson plans and teacher workshops district-wide to help teachers create an engaging curriculum using new technology. This will not only provide students with the skills needed to succeed in the real world it will also make the lessons more engaging. The second objective is to provide wifi hotspots that can be signed out of the main office allowing students without Wifi to have access at home. The hotspots can be signed out by anyone without the internet at home and can even be signed out over the weekend. The third objective is to spread awareness about this technological inequality by creating a statue and a video that represent this inequality. Thanks to the "Most Good You Can Do" seed funding I will be able to purchase the wifi hotspots and charges with an additional $300 of funding left over.
I was inspired to create this project for a couple reasons. The first reason is when I was thinking of a project idea LaFayette had just received a large grant to allow the school district to become a one to one district. This means every student has a personal computer. I wanted the district to be able to utilize this amazing resource and continue to utilize it after I was gone. To do this I realized I had to teach the teachers how to use this resource. Another reason I was inspired to create this project is because almost every job utilizes some form of technology and LaFayette is a district lacking technology education due to funding. Allowing teachers to implement technology into common core curriculum would let students get the technology education they need without adding classes or requiring additional funding.  
Rhianna Cohen, Seven Oaks Met School -- Winnepeg, Canada
In Rhianna's words: The goal of my long-term project is to design and implement a program that allows for students in grades 7 through 12 to participate in an orchestra. All students who take part in the program will have the opportunity to construct their own instrument from PVC pipe. Using PVC to build cellos, violins, flutes, harps, and other instruments is substantially cheaper than purchasing traditionally made instruments. The process of building each instrument from scratch also allows for each student to personalize their instrument.

The program will be directed toward at-risk students, but will be open to anyone and everyone. The program will provide a way to get kids engaged in something that is healthy for their minds and will keep them off of the streets. In a day and age where most families simply cannot afford to purchase an instrument or pay for expensive lessons, the PVC Youth Orchestra program will put forward an opportunity for students to explore and learn music.

I have an extensive background in music. I have always loved music, and I strive to learn to play as many instruments as I can. I play a multitude of instruments such as Piano, Flute, and Saxophone, and I am well-versed in music theory. I have been studying music for over ten years, and both my knowledge and passion have inspired me to compose and arrange music, as well as conduct a wind orchestra. My love of music and instruments of all sorts has also led me to study the physics of sound. As part of my exploration of sound (and potential instrument designs for the PVC Orchestra program), I recently constructed a marimba-like instrument dubbed “Rimbatubes”. I plan to use the Rimbatubes as one of the many instruments that students can choose to build and play.

I also have lots of experience working with students of varying ages and from many different walks of life. I have been able to observe how drastically even the most difficult of students change once an instrument that they have crafted themselves is set in their hands. When they are told “this is yours to express yourself with”, their mindsets completely change. One example of this phenomenon is the paper instruments that elementary school students make when they first begin their studies with the Sistema Winnipeg String Orchestra program. Even though the instruments are fake and are simply meant to teach kids how to take care of and treat a real violin, viola, or cello, they grow to appreciate and love their instruments. I aim to replicate that same result within an older demographic. By having each individual student construct a fully functional instrument out of PVC, they learn just how much work goes into each and every individual instrument, and discover a passion within themselves that they have never seen before. I aspire to create a program that helps students find something that they love and want to pursue, so they stay off the streets and direct their energy into something positive.

I will be helping the student community throughout my entire city, and if things go the way that I intend them to, then eventually I will end up helping students from across my province, and maybe even farther. In order to know that my project is successful, I will pilot the program out of a school in my city for one year. If there is an increase in interest after one year, and more of a demand for enrollment in the program, then I know that I have succeeded. The clear outcome (in the beginning phases of this long-term project) is the PCV Youth Orchestra running out of one school in my city, at least 40 students enrolled in the program, and a team of 10 people to run the program.

I am passionate about this project because I never had the chance to join an orchestra. For a long time, I wanted more than anything to participate in my city's youth orchestra, but wasn't able to due to the costs of buying a good quality instrument and paying for the lessons. The idea of a PVC orchestra is close to my heart because it will present students who are my age with the opportunity to pursue music for free, while keeping the program affordable for the school division that funds it. Nothing makes me happier than being able to share my passion for music with others, and being able to provide others with a way to express themselves would be a dream come true.