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Student projects explore important school issues

Middle and high school students tackle tough topics

Students gather at the civioc inquiry project

​DENVER - Middle and high school students who've 'stepped up' to the challenge of improving their schools gathered on the Auraria campus today to share ideas based on their research. 

Altogether, 330 students from seven schools, in the Denver area and one in Colorado Springs, participated in the Critical Civic Inquiry project conference hosted at St. Cajetans. 

The activity was part of a three-year, $330,00 grant funded by the Spencer Foundation's New Civics Initiative with a focus on indentifying inequities.

A co-principal investigator on the grant, Shelly Zion, PhD, is the executive director of the Center for Continuing and Professional Education in the School of Education and Human Development. Her co-investigators are Ben Kirshner, PhD, University of Colorado-Boulder, School of Education and Carlos Hipolito-Delgado, PhD, now at Cal State Long Beach.

The groups of students had identified problems impacting their schools. They conducted research, consulted with adults and then delivered poster-style presentations about their findings. They listened to and learned about other groups' projects as well.

"For most of these students their focus really was 'what's fair?' and 'what doesn't work?'" said Zion. 

Topics addressed by the students included:
--What makes a good school? What makes a good teacher with a focus on the difference between project-based and lecture-based learning?
--School safety
--Bullying and the need to address school policy
--Racisim as occurred in one district where school officials response was calling for law enforcement support when white students made negative overtures to Latino students observing Cinco de Mayo
--The impacts of funding for services and resources in some districts that's not available in lower-income districts
--Impacts of two matters recently before the Colorado Legislataure that deal with tuition and admission for children of undocumented parents
"It turns out that a really important part of this project," said Zion, "is how the kids develop the skill to use their 'voice' to advocate for change."
Many of the students were very excited to be able to demonstrate to others just what they had been working on for the last several weeks as well as the opportunity to spend time on the CU Denver campus with Auraria.


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