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Curriculum Project-High School Seniors

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Ashton Dwyer

Ed Curriculum Project


For my praxis, I participate in a program that facilitates Philadelphia high school students in their post-secondary institution admissions process. I have been observing and mentoring high school seniors at their high school for four weeks.

It is crucial to point out that there are about 40-50 high school seniors and about 20 college mentors. The program allows mentors to interact with the high school seniors in small groups once a week for a 90-minute class period. Email addresses are also exchanged to touch base with both mentors and mentees.

After much thought, I have devised a four-week curriculum that I would ideally put in place if I were in charge of running the program next year. The curriculum consists of four sessions for 90-minute class periods. The curriculum is intended for high school seniors at the high school I currently mentor at in Philadelphia. The college mentors would essentially implement the curriculum. It is crucial that the mentors, teachers, and administrators support the curriculum and hold students accountable for showing up to the sessions, behaving in an appropriate manner, etc.

The curriculum is intended to be innovative but also manageable and accessible.

Session 1

Plan of the Day: Introductions & Expectations

Goals of the Day:

            -Build a relationship between college mentors

            -Build a relationship between college mentors and students

            -Students understand set out expectations




-Studentsàstart researching schools and devise a list of at least three reach, three target, and three safety schools

-Mentors and studentsàprepare two questions to better get to know one another Ex. Student, what would you like to major in when you get to college? Mentor, why did you choose x college?

-Studentsàprepare two questions for panelists(anything regarding college admissions process, college life, etc.)


            Prior to the start of the first session, college mentors will get paired up, introduce themselves, and exchange contact information. Mentors can discuss their own college application process, talk about where they are from, why they are interested in this program, etc. It is crucial that mentors get along, as well as, work well together in order to best serve the students.

            At the start of the first session, the mentor teams of two will stand on the perimeter of the classroom. Students will enter the classroom and have the opportunity to walk around the classroom and speak to the different mentor pairs. The students can ask the mentors questions to briefly get a better idea of who they are and what their goals are for the students. For example, mentors who play sports in college may be more attractive to students who would like to play sports in college and learn how to contact college coaches. Another example would be mentors who major in the natural sciences in college may be more attractive to students who are interested in the natural sciences, as well. Students should be able to choose mentors who complement them. There should be about four students per each mentor pair.

            Once students are paired up with their mentors, they will sit in small circles and do basic introductions. Mentors can come up with engaging or silly icebreakers. Then, both the mentors and the students will answer the following question on a piece of paper, Who am I? Each person in the circle would then be able to share what he or she wrote, if comfortable. Students and mentors should also get to know one another’s academic and extra-curricular interests. This is the time to begin to build a relationship. It is key that the relationships between mentors and students are mutual, accessible, trusting, comfortable, and respectful.

            Mentors will then lie out expectations for the students. Students are also able to lie out their expectations of mentors. It can be a discussion. Essentially, mentors should talk about the importance of attending sessions, appropriate behavior, being committed and focused, etc.

Mentors will then briefly tell students about a panel that will happen the following week. Homework should also be assigned. Mentors should explain to students what reach, target, and safety schools are and websites like Naviance( that show admissions trends. Email addresses can also be exchanged at this time, if comfortable.

Session 2

Plan of the Day: Mixed Panel-Roundtable Discussions

Goals of the Day:

-Students benefit from panelists’ personal anecdotes, hardships, success stories, different perspectives/paths, advice/tips, motivation/drive etc.



                        A. Four-year college admissions representative

                        B. Four-year college admissions representative

                                    -ideally from a PASSHE school

                        C. Community College of Philadelphia representative

                        D. Cosmetology school/Technical school representative

             -Tables/water for Panelists




            Students will meet with mentors and briefly review students’ list of schools and make sure they are manageable, as well as, ask each other their questions(homework from the last session). Mentors are responsible for figuring out appropriate applications necessary for students to fill out. I.e PASSHE schools require their own application, not the Common App.

            Students and mentors will then hear from panelists. Students and mentors will form four groups and sit in four circles. Instead of panelists sitting at the front of the class and speaking at the students, panelists will sit in the circles with the students and mentors in a more informal, collaborative fashion. Students and mentors will rotate to each panelist’s circle. Essentially, the panelists will engage in small roundtable discussions sharing their story and advice. Students and mentors are encouraged to share comments/ask questions, as well as, take notes.

Session 3

Plan of the Day: Applications

Goals of the Day:

            -Motivate students

-Start/work on appropriate applications


            -Computers(computer lab) or Laptops

            -Disposable cameras

-Raising money, applying for a small grant to fund this endeavor


-Model 100 Cameras Project (

-Have students take photos throughout their week(of themselves, their community, meaningful objects, anything really)

            -Quotes from 100 Cameras Project Site

-“teaches kids how to tell their stories through photography”

-“amplifies their voice by sharing their perspectives with the world”  


            Students will get with mentors and watch this short clip, Mentors will then initiate a conversation on “crossing the line”, as well as, takeaways from the video. Mentors and students will discuss what motivates them. Again, this is great time to further strengthen the mentor-student relationship.

            Students will then be asked to define success. Students will also answer what is means to attend college. I.e What is means for them, their family, their friends, their community, their school, etc.? Ideally, mentors want to find out what motivates students, as well as, identity their triggers(what drives them to “cross the line”).

            Students will then begin to fill out the appropriate college applications. Mentors should be constantly overseeing this process. Mentors should be extremely accessible at this time.

            Mentors will assign homework. Mentors should also pull up the page to show to students.

Session 4

Plan of the Day: Identity & Brainstorming College Essay

Goals of the Day:

            -Students better understand their own identity

-Students start thinking about what they want to write for their college essays

-Discuss scholarships



            -Computers(computer lab) or Laptops


-Begin writing college essay

-Look for appropriate scholarships


            Students will work on appropriate applications for the first half of the session. Mentors will be accessible at this time.

            Program director, or mentors, will develop photographs before the third session. Mentors will facilitate a discussion on photos and students’ identities during the second half of the session.

            Mentors will then transition to college essays. How can the students’ photos relate to their college essay? Students will brainstorm ideas about their college essay at this time and talk through their ideas with their peers and mentors. Collaboration is important and this can be a group discussion.

            Mentors will assign homework at the end of the session. Mentors will also explain the importance and benefits of scholarships. Hundreds of scholarships exist. It is important to find scholarships that are applicable to the school you want to attend, that you are qualified for the scholarship, and the necessary requirements for the scholarship.

* * *


            I would first like to point out that the program I participate in for my praxis is innovative. In Philadelphia, many high schools have lost their college counselors and the program I participate in looks to essentially fill that void. Although I believe the program itself is innovative, I feel as if the program’s curriculum can be innovative. That is the goal of the above curriculum.


Session 1

            I would first like to point out that it is important that paired mentors build a relationship with each other. My rationale behind this is to help mentors get to know one another and learn about each other’s identity. I personally did not have the opportunity to do so and I feel as if it would have been beneficial. I think people can better understand others’ identities when they first try to understand their own. Furthermore, when mentors build a relationship with one another, they can act as a strong, cohesive support system for their students.

            I believe it is important and essentially innovative to allow students to choose their own mentors. “Students’ autonomy in the learning process” is key. (Pinkert 2013) In our education class, we had two panelists come in and speak. The woman panelist was from the Philadelphia school district and was more so speaking from an institutional standpoint. She talked about the importance of giving students choice in their education, as well as, understanding students’ needs and interests. Students in the program this year were assigned to mentors and had little freedom to choose whom they would work with for the semester.

            I think asking students and mentors to answer the question, Who Am I?, is key for both parties. The question prompts great thinking and exploration. Further, mentors will have a great opportunity to understand and possibly relate to their students. I also think understanding one’s identity is crucial in relation to education and understanding society. Hill (2009) writes about understanding identity and how his students better “understood themselves, the classroom, school, and the broader social world”. I took this prompt/activity from my education class. This question also makes me think about the concept, double-consciousness and its importance.



-What about students who do not want to attend post-secondary institutions? I.e Want to work

-What if more than four students want to work with a mentor pair? I.e How do you deicide what students get to work with the mentor team? Fairness?


Session 2

            I thought that bringing in panelists would be innovative for the high school students. Ideally, students will better understand their access to post-secondary institutions. Students can also engage in a discussion with panelists, as well as, ask questions to professionals. I feel as if this is an innovative approach because it is a great opportunity for students to learn from other individuals other than their peers and mentors. I would also hope that students become motivated, and aspire to achieve during their college application process and also in life. I also believe the panelists would act as great role models. It would be amazing if panelists had some ties to the community or possibly attended a public high school in Philadelphia.

            Another innovative piece to this session is having roundtable discussions, as opposed to, panelists speaking at the students. I think that roundtable discussions encourage students to pay attention and focus, as well as, allow students to hear from and learn from their peers. I also think collaboration is important in education and in a more informal, roundtable discussion setting, students, mentors, and panelists will be able to share and exchange ideas, essentially benefiting and learning from each other. Pinkert (2013) writes about the benefits of “reciprocal and interactive engagement” and “intellectual co-creation”.



-How is innovation/being innovative defined? What makes an activity, a program, or a curriculum innovative?


Session 3

            I thought that showing a short video clip to the class would be innovative. I think using media is very interesting and relatable. To me, the use of media in high school classrooms is rare because teachers seem to be too busy teaching to the test. This makes me think about Hill’s (2009) article on Hip-Hop-Based Education(HHBE), as well as, the male panelist that was in my education class. Both Hill and the male panelist, who was a teacher in Philadelphia, implemented different ways to educate and motivate their students. Jayakumar (2013) discusses the importance of the “media and public images of success”. Further, Hill (2009) talks about the “expanding role of popular culture in the construction of racial, (trans)national, and generational identities”. Therefore, I think using videos, for example, are innovative in a high school class setting.

            Not only do I want students to watch the video, but I want them to also engage in a discussion following the video. I want them to define and discuss success. My rationale for doing so is to better understand the students’ intentions and drive. For example, Jayakumar (2013) writes, “As college-going became a culturally relevant lesson that framed high education as necessary for the further lesson that framed higher education as necessary for the further emancipation of the Black community, participants were motivated by the notion that their individual success was important for the collective success of the Black community.” I think finding multiple motives of striving to be successful is key, whether that include their own personal happiness, their parents being proud, their community advancing as a whole, etc.



-What if students don’t get what I want them to get out of the activities?


Session 4

            My intention of having the students complete a homework assignment similar to the 100 Cameras Project was multi-faceted. Again, I wanted an innovative way for students to learn and essentially capture their identities. I think students could learn a lot from taking pictures of their choice. The old saying, A picture is worth a thousand words., can be deemed accurate. In a collaborate discussion between peers and mentors, students can examine and explore their own pictures and others’ pictures to understand their own identity, as well as, what is important to them.

            The rationale behind the above homework assignment also carries into the college essay prompt. Students can use their pictures, as well as, what they discussed among their peers and mentors to brainstorm about what they want to write for their college essays. Essentially, students will answer the question, What story do they want to tell? I think that their pictures and the activity around their pictures can aid them in answering the above question.



                        -How much detail should go into curriculums in general?

-How do you prepare for the unknown? I.e Lets say there is a fight between students and your curriculum gets thrown off course, then what?

-Should times be included in curriculums? I.e For basketball practice, a certain amount of time is assigned to each drill.



I would like to conclude with the following quote from Jayakumar (2013), “the role of community-initiated support efforts [can] facilitate college aspirations and success”. The program I participate in is a wonderful, innovative program. Over time, if the curriculum becomes more innovative, I think it will only continue to benefit high school students in Philadelphia.



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Works Cited

Hill, M. (2009). Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life: Hip-Hop Pedagogy and the Politics of Identity. New York: Teachers College Press.

Jayakumar, U. (2013). Pathways to College for Young Black Scholars: A Community Cultural Wealth Perspective. Harvard Educational Review, 83(4).

Pinkert, A. (2013). TheTransformative Power of Holocaust Education in Prison: A Teacher and Student Account. 95, 60-65.

*sorry I forgot to attach this