Student-Centered Learning Maps

Where Do Young People Learn in School? We Mapped the Places

Rethinking the notion of where young people actually learn is one of the tenets of educational reform. In 2011, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation commissioned Youth Catalytics (then NEN) to develop learning resource maps of 14 communities in New England, the aim being to help guide schools toward potential educational collaborators. They might be formal or informal, a nonprofit organization, a business, a club, or an individual. The ‘education’ could take any form: mentoring, tutoring, job shadowing, internships, apprenticeships — any opportunity to learn that lets young people follow their own interests and gets them out into the community.

We uncovered all the usual venues that schools and voc-techs already knew about, such as GED and jobs programs, hospitals, nursing homes and other vocational settings. But we also uncovered community theaters, organic gardeners, glass-blowers, amateur historians, retired horticulturalists, symphonies, environmental advocacy groups, nonprofit bicycle repair shops, fabric stores with sewing classes, Irish fraternal organizations that teach Gaelic, a wheelchair basketball team looking for volunteer assistants — and on and on.

The biggest lesson we learned is that there’s a lot of teaching going on outside schools, and a lot of the groups and individuals doing it would be happy to work with educators if asked. The maps we created (each location got a paper map and an online public ‘wiki’ map) should be useful not only to schools, but to all local organizations working with youth around education, jobs and youth development. See online versions of the maps below.

Wonder what your town’s map would look like? Contact Melanie Wilson to learn more.