What Next?

If I’m envisioning a whole department, then one thing I can do is brainstorm potential classes within that department. What would be more effective, though, would be to identify what my pilot program would be. In the future, the school won’t be able to start a whole department of classes from nothing in one year, so starting with one, experiential, place-based class that has the major elements I want to see in all of the classes, would be a good place to start.

Here is what I have so far for my pilot class:

  • It would have to be more general, in order to give the premise, final projects, and different schedule a shot. If we went very in depth on a class that didn’t end up working out, it may be because the overall idea wasn’t as developed, or a certain final project that would work with one class doesn’t work with the one we tried.
  • I would want to start with a social entrepreneurship class, as this is a trending theme throughout education and civil society and it would be the easiest thing to get an administration/students/parents behind.
  • We would be able to make it very experiential, focusing on nonprofits and startups in the area versus larger corporations, and how social entrepreneurship is different from regular entrepreneurship, and how important it is in the growth of a city and the change of a city. 
  • This would also provide opportunities to pilot the more unique projects: a recommendation for company policies, a social venture project of a student’s own, etc., because there are so many ways someone could take what they learned and apply it.
  • It would allow for lots of reflection about Seattle specifically and how it seems to have changed, how companies are working to change it or keep it the same, etc.
  • It would allow students to have a greater understanding of their city in a unique way.
  • It would allow for exploration of social justice, technology, etc. (general themes)
  • All classes have to have a credo about where Seattle is going, where they want it to go, etc.,  a policy document/recommendation to somewhere that can make change along with a presentation, and a project that forces them to address the challenges in a way that they definitely could (not a recommendation to someone else, but what they/others could do). The social venture project aspect to the class would not require students to implement it after the class, but it would be encouraged.
    • With the pilot project, some main things to keep in mind are: What impact we are having on the greater Seattle community (want to become a bigger part of it/leave a bigger (but sustainable) footprint), the Seattle community’s impact on us, how the new schedule works, how our understanding of ourselves and our city changes, and how experiential learning with a social justice and leadership aspect to it works.

Week 1 Brainstorming

Mandatory commonalities among all classes in this new department:

  • Experiential, interdisciplinary, thematic
  • Emphasis on leadership (e.g. finding solutions to problems, group work, presentations to the outside community)
  • Civic engagement
  • Further understanding of the city we live in and the communities we are a part of

These types of classes would work best in a school with a different schedule (e.g. if these classes could meet for site visits and group work all day or for half of the day in the middle of the week, and less time on the other days of the week, it would allow students to have more time to take in what they are learning).

Week 1 Research and Brainstorming


  • This is a list of Seattle’s key industries. For my class, I want to make case studies each week about certain themes (e.g. gentrification). Before I got to this site I thought my case studies were going to be based off of industries, but after seeing this list, I didn’t feel like studying them would be as interesting to teens, as obviously relevant in everyday life, and not as diverse as going the themes route.

This would be a semester-long course. This means 18 weeks in school, and only about 15 five-day weeks. In this course, I want to plan for 1-2 weeks pre-case study, trying to understand Seattle in a broader sense and understanding that it has been a place of great change in so many areas. I also want to save the last 2-3 weeks for a host of final projects which I will brainstorm more about later.

Here is the starting list of potential weekly themes:

  • Gentrification and affordable housing
  • Native American rights and current state
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • The growth of the technology sector (aviation, etc.)
  • Sustainability (super broad and has many facets it could go into)
  • Seattle School systems and inequality in education

All of these ideas could easily be extrapolated on and made into their own semester-long course with the same final projects, etc. I am interested in potentially having a different “theme” every semester or year, and focusing on each of these types of issues with each passing class.

Day 1 Research (Links)


  • This is an overview of what place-based learning is and what I am trying to emulate.


  • This is the website of the Catlin Gabel School’s PLACE program, a place-based class that I have used to start my brainstorming on my class. My project is essentially creating the Seattle-version of this.


  • This website is for what I see as the Washington, D.C. version of a place-based school/educational program.


Statement of Purpose

Old Statement of Purpose: Instead of doing a research paper, I am spending all of my project time on my choice project, which is designing my place-based class. I still have the same general plan for doing this, I just have more time to get further along on it (as a few weeks isn’t enough time to fully finish designing such a class). I will outline the units, underlying questions of each unit, final projects, etc. I have specific days that I have designated for working on certain parts of the class (e.g. defining the units, etc.) While I wish I could spend more time on each part, I’m keeping a schedule because I want to end with a more comprehensive plan for the class that needs to be developed a bit more in every place, rather than having super-developed parts but not giving a full view of what the class would look like.

New statement of purpose: My initial research into different programs showed me that all of the successful programs out there (e.g. Catlin Gabel’s PLACE program) bring students together with a very specific theme (e.g. urban planning) and a very specific outcome/final project (e.g. presenting a design plan to City Council). While the PLACE program does give a comprehensive overview of Portland’s current state and issues, it does so in the context of the theme of urban planning. Therefore my new choice project is to develop general curriculum for a future department of interdisciplinary, thematic, experiential classes at U Prep. Ideally there would be an entire department of these types of classes, all with different themes (e.g. gentrification, urban planning, the growth of the sustainable technology sector) and different specialties/skills they emphasize (e.g. engineering in urban planning, or a more traditional history class emphasizing gentrification, etc.).

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