You are here

Member Spotlight

Real-world, student-centered learning can take place almost anywhere—including juvenile detention centers. ASSET partnered with educators at Shuman Juvenile Detention Center to deliver a series of professional development offerings at a time when rehabilitation and education within correctional facilities was being examined by lawmakers and the public more closely than ever.

When you think of life behind bars, you might not picture a group of educators working collaboratively to make a real and lasting impact on the lives of young people who are there for varying amounts of time, from several days to several weeks. Yet, a team of 15 educators provided a Project-based Learning (PBL) experience to Shuman residents through the Summer Title I Program focusing on their role in changing the community—based on the driving question, How can we be an asset to our community?

ASSET partnered with Shuman educators through professional development that prepared them to provide effective and relevant hands-on learning to residents in the detention center. 

Shuman staff benefitted from a number of professional development offerings. This new learning model for education in detention centers culminated in a PBL experience—an integrated learning opportunity that required educators to explore a “driving question” with residents (detention center youth committed to Shuman’s care) by applying 21st-century skills across disciplines to analyze real-world issues.

Connecting all academic disciplines through the theme, “Challenging Ourselves: Becoming Our Personal Best,” students began by exploring real issues that hit close to home. Reading educators centered their instruction on This Side of Home by Renee Watson, a book that details shifting urban environments and gentrification. Life Skills and Social Studies educators explored the idea of community and how residents can be a part of many diverse communities. Finally, Creative Writing, Art and Tech Lab educators provided students with opportunities to bring their ideas to life through poems, plays and visual artwork.

At the end of the summer program, Shuman educators noted:

  • “Students really valued becoming contributors to their own education,” said Title I Program Coordinator, Denise Smith-Russell. Shuman staff described how students took ownership over their learning and pride in their academic work for one of the first times in recent memory.
  • Behavioral issues dropped and students opened collaboration and communications channels with educators and one another.
  • Collaboration among staff and educators rose. “We have all grown in our learning process,” said Ms. Smith-Russell. In an environment where hands-on materials are limited, educators worked with ASSET staff and one another to refine the program for their unique learning environment while still delivering a valuable educational experience.
  • A positive impact on student learning. Shuman Summer School Reading and Creative Writing classrooms partnered in piloting a digital classroom learning kit. As a result, the center was awarded a prize package worth more than $10,000, an outcome Shuman staff attributes to the Project-based Learning professional development facilitated by ASSET.

Based on these results, Shuman staff planned to continue implementing PBL with their students. In October 2015, ASSET and Shuman Detention Center co-presented findings from this program at a Neglected & Delinquent Conference.