Giving Rye Neck Students the Edge

To equip students with the ability and the self-assurance to make a difference in the world, the Rye Neck School District is implementing Tools For Change, a high school action-research program designed by Duke University sociology professor William Tobin.

Published September 23, 2011 2:44 PM
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schoolsrnrhumbTo equip students with the ability and the self-assurance to make a difference in the world, the Rye Neck School District is implementing Tools For Change, a high school action-research program designed by Duke University sociology professor William Tobin.

 

By Janice Llanes Fabry

To equip students with the ability and the self-assurance to make a difference in the world, the Rye Neck School District is implementing Tools For Change, a high school action-research program designed by Duke University sociology professor William Tobin.

 

“This is at the forefront in education,” said Enrichment Coordinator Valerie Feit, who introduced Tools for Change as a pilot program at Rye Neck two years ago. “We have examined college and career readiness. We have integrated technology and advanced placement courses. Now, we are going further by offering a college-level course, so that students can see how real-world social issues may be addressed through original research that results in positive policy changes in their community.”

 

schoolsRyeNeckProfessor Tobin is working closely with the Rye Neck, Port Chester, and Blind Brook school districts to develop a functional framework, drawn from social science studies, that addresses students’ idealism and channels it. Practically speaking, it enables students to work on solving problems in their own communities. At Rye Neck High, it translates into independent projects and an elective combining global awareness, statistics, public safety, and communications.

 

Ms. Feit has already seen results. For example, Rye Neck senior Sage Reisner expanded the work on Rye voters’ attitudes on local elections that was done collaboratively by the students in the three participating high schools. She did her own study on the attitudes of high school voters, focusing her research on 17- and 18-year-olds, unlike earlier studies geared towards college students. She came to the conclusion that if this younger age group is not engaged in exercising their right to vote, they may never be.

 

“A hands-on satellite program like this makes history come alive,” said Ms. Feit. “Not only are students learning ways of tackling complex problems and communicating with adults, they are engaging in authentic research methods and providing useful findings to community organizations. It’s exciting to see this kind of synergy.”

 

The program has trickled all the way down to Daniel Warren Elementary students. Second graders have been contemplating: “How does who we are shape where we live, and how does where we live shape who we are?”

 

“By the time they go to college, they will be ready to look at the complex issues in our society and find ways they can be part of the solution,” said Ms. Feit.

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