Real Work: End-Of-Year Projects @ Common Ground High School

At Common Ground, we push our students to do real work for public audiences — helping them to grow as leaders and learners, and preparing them for any challenge that college and life can send their way. The end of the school year is particularly rich in opportunities for “real work,” as students demonstrate and apply all they have learned over the course of the semester. In reality, our students are doing far too much exciting, high-level, impactful work for us to share — but here are a few examples from the last month:


What should Advanced Placement Calculus do with the month of the school year that remains after they take their AP exam? At Common Ground, they were challenged to put all they’d learned to work, calculating the volume of our compost pile. Check out the video below to see the impressive math skills, sense of humor, and tenacity that students brought to this task …

Students Transform & Curate Our Site

Over the next year, Common Ground will be transforming our 20-acre site into an “Urban Oasis” — complete with educational wetlands, low-impact design strategies, native plantings designed to attract birds and other wildlife, and more. There will be more news on this exciting project soon — made possible through partnerships with Audubon Connecticut, the American Honda Foundation, the Yale Peabody Museum, the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, the Urban Resources Initiative, and others.

But our students aren’t waiting for the big public unveiling. This Spring, students in our Biodiversity course rebuilt feeder stations in the bird observation area just outside their classroom, conducting baseline assessments of species diversity on our campus and at local parks, beta tested two online applications used to monitor Biodiversity, and worked with master gardener Alexandra Mazzeo to create a new pollinator garden next to our production gardens. In AP Biology, students designed a series of outdoor interpretive exhibits that, thanks to our partnership with the Peabody Museum, will become permanent fixtures on Common Ground’s site.

David Heiser, Peabody Museum, and Joel Tolman from Common Ground review draft exhibit plans developed by AP Biology students.

David Heiser, Peabody Museum, and Joel Tolman from Common Ground review draft exhibit plans developed by AP Biology students.

Before they can be turned into permanent, museum-quality outdoor displays, students' exhibits start as mock-ups like this one. Students pushed themselves to develop engaging, interactive exhibits -- like this one, which includes a plan for a transparent channel showing water flow through the exhibit itself, and a QR code that links to an online app that helps homeowners install rain gardens.

Before they can be turned into permanent outdoor displays, students’ exhibits start as mock-ups like this one.


Anything Is Possible: Graduation Speeches

Common Ground has a long tradition of inviting any student who has a powerful message to share — not just the valedictorian and the salutatorian — to address all those gathered at our graduation. This year’s speeches were particularly moving — demonstrating their courage and conviction, how much they had grown as learners and leaders, and their faith in the Common Ground community to hear what they had to share. The diversity of our small community was also front and center: One student read a sonnet by Shakespeare. Another described the self-discipline and supportive community that was helping her both be a good mom and college-bound student. Our valedictorian talked about what it takes to be more than a machine that follows instructions. Other students described pursuing their dreams despite their immigration status, and overcoming a stroke to succeed in high school. We are still working to track down copies of all the speeches — but here are two quotes, and a link to three speeches, as a starting point:

[quote author=”SungIn”]Looking back, I’ve realized that I’m really good at doing what other people tell me to do. In fact I’m the best, and that is why I’m standing here now. Whenever the teacher assigns something, I get it done. But going into college, I want to be more than just a machine, and I’m sure all of us here feel the same. My message today is to find your passion. [/quote]

[quote author=”Joseline”]The first day I walked into Common Ground High School I was determined to make every second, every grade, and every lesson count. Not only this but I encouraged my peers to do so as well. And as some of you know, I still push my peers. I wanted to help spread the values my parents incorporated into me, because school has never been a laughing matter to me. It’s my ticket out, it’s where I will repay my parents for all they have done for me, it’s my ticket to proving to those that discriminated against me for being undocumented. [/quote]

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