Character: Claim 3

McAuliffe scholars positively impact the school and local community through their academic studies and work products.

"The method of using realistic experiences as an academic tool is far superior to the methods used in standard public schools. It helps ensure a better understanding of the actual interactions of all facets of life in the modern world." ~ Parent, Class of 2018

McAuliffe scholars make an impact on their school and local community by engaging in purposeful curriculum. During the last three years, the quality of learning expeditions, case studies, and other units of study have improved with increased relevance to the school and local community. Scholars have developed more in depth academic knowledge and skills by making products and giving presentations that have value for others.

To develop curriculum, we seek out topics that are relevant to people within our school and local community. In some cases, learning culminates with scholars making recommendations to our school (e.g.,studying restorative practices versus traditional discipline) and in other cases scholars share their findings and work product with the local community (e.g., “If the shoe fits” website, juvenile justice infographics) and make recommendations to community leaders (e.g., letters to local senators and representatives advocating for mandatory CPR and AED training). In the 2016-17 school year, four out of six learning expeditions included final products that required scholars to contribute to the school and/or broader community; we anticipate all expeditions will include this component in the 2017-18 school year. In addition, multiple smaller curricular units asked scholars to create work that had a positive impact on others.

6th Grade Me, My Stuff, and Why

6th graders, for three years now, have participated in a spring learning expedition called, “Me, My Stuff, and Why.” During this expedition, scholars investigate the following guiding questions:

  • What’s the “real” cost of my stuff?
  • Why should I even care?
  • What actions can I take as a 6th grader?

Me, My Stuff, and Why expedition is centered on globalization and economics. Scholars engage in two case studies: 1) Converse, 2) China. They also read Where am I Wearing by Kelsey Timmerman. By reading Where am I Wearing and other non-fiction texts, scholars learn about why companies outsource, how supply and demand affect each other, and how many countries are involved in making a pair of shoes, especially when accounting for sourcing and producing. 

Scholars analyze the standard of living of the people who make our shoes -- especially those living and working in China -- and learn about the practices of the companies responsible for making parts and assembling the shoe. As a whole class they learn how to interpret the Converse company policies and practices, and then in groups scholars become experts on one of about thirteen shoe companies per year. Scholars research and assess company practices and policies using a rubric of social responsibility that was created by the first group of scholars who did this expedition in 2015, and modeled after a similar resource from OxFam. A task card, rubric, and organizers guide scholars through their research. The social responsibility rubric guides scholars to assess companies on the “real cost” of the shoes they produce. The categories articulate the aspects of a company that are likely to indicate ethical treatment of workers. By rating companies on this rubric, scholars begin to think about the impact of purchasing choices on other humans.

“I think the real cost of shoes is actually the story behind it. People might be working for hours, in a bad working environment and might be being treated bad, and still barely being paid enough, just to make a pair of shoes that we happily go to a store to buy with no big deal...What we do need to think about is that some shoes are worth lives, and others not as much. Some others might work an average amount of time, get paid enough, have a good home, and be treated well. Overall, I think that it is different how much each pair of shoes cost because each one has its own story.” -Mahveen, 6th grade scholar

Scholars then write a rationale explaining the social responsibility ratings that they give their shoe company. Teachers provide a task card and a rationale rubric and criteria to articulate what scholars need to do to in order to transfer their ratings of a shoe company to a product ready to be displayed on the “If The Shoe Fits” website. Scholars synthesize their findings about the shoe company they have researched into a clear piece of writing aimed at informing consumers. Though this writing is informational, not persuasive, scholars make use of evidence that can prompt both their reader and themselves to carefully consider their purchasing choices.

Scholars engage in a revision process including peer feedback. One of the greatest challenges for this expedition is guiding scholars to integrate their independent ratings and writing into a single rationale to be showcased publicly on an “If the Shoe Fits” website. In spring 2017, scholars used a calibration protocol to guide the process. A Calibration Day Data Input Sheet was shared as a Google Doc among the group that were experts on each shoe company. In addition, scholars practiced the HOWL Collaboration and compromised by giving and taking in order to come to consensus on final ratings and written rationale.



Scholars also conduct fieldwork by visiting local shopping areas and surveying customers about their shoe-buying habits. This gives scholars a sense of what people living in our community pay attention to when they are purchasing shoes. Once scholars have interviewed local consumers, they shift to data analysis so that the “If the Shoe Fits” website can be adapted to fit the needs of local customers. Scholars consider customer priorities including price, quality, brand name, and working conditions.



Sixth graders annually draw shoe illustrations in their Design class, completing multiple drafts based on peer feedback cycles. You can see some of these illustrations in the slideshow to the right and you can learn more about the design process in High Quality Work Claim 2 about beautiful work.

If the Shoe Fits Website

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Our scholars proudly share their research about prominent shoe companies through the “If the Shoe Fits” website. The Purpose section of the website articulates how this product aims to inform consumers and ultimately make the world a better place: “Before you buy your next pair of shoes, this website will make it easy for you to find out more about how the workers live and whether or not they are being treated fairly and safely.”  Each year, scholars add profiles of different shoe companies (e.g., Adidas, Puma, Timberland, etc) as well as updated company profiles and assessments to the site. Scholars also present their learning at an evening culminating event. If there is one thing scholars ask for from their audience, it is that those who visit their “If the Shoe Fits” website and/or attend their presentation, think more carefully about where their dollars are going when they purchase a pair of shoes and more carefully about how their shopping choices are impacting humans across the world.

7th Grade Restorative Practices

For the past two school years, 7th grade scholars learned about ways communities (including ancient communities) navigate justice. They learn about Hammurabi’s Code and compare this set of community rules and responses to restorative justice. The investigation becomes highly relevant for scholars when they turn their attention to a review of McAuliffe’s disciplinary practices, making sense of the extent to which McAuliffe’s practices are effective, meaningful, and aligned with our community values.

In 2015-16, scholars studied the following targets: 1) I can facilitate a roundtable conversation with multiple stakeholders about restorative practices at McAuliffe. 2) I can synthesize information from multiple sources about restorative practices in schools.

After building background knowledge, scholars prepared to host roundtable discussions. This task card outlines the steps for scholars to prepare for and to facilitate roundtable discussions and to analyze themes which emerged from the discussions. During the event held in March 2016, scholars hosted approximately 40 roundtable discussions with eight to ten participants per discussion. Participants included local public school educators and social workers, EL Education educators and leaders (from Baystate Academy, Springfield Renaissance, and the Greene School), charter school leaders, and representatives from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Scholars did their best to take notes during the roundtable discussions, experiencing that it is difficult to participate in a discussion and take notes! Here are two examples of discussion notes: Roundtable Questions and Notes - Sample 1 and Roundtable Questions and Notes - Sample 2. The notes capture questions such as: “How well is restorative justice working at our school now?” and “Who would mediate a restorative circle?” Participants shared diverse and nuanced perspectives about restorative practices. The notes in Sample 1 illustrate a dialogue between a few participants about use of restorative practices for larger incidents “big stuff” and wonders about what it looks like for “small stuff” or smaller incidents that happen in the classroom (e.g. disruptive student). There is also a suggestion of there being no harm in trying out more restorative practices because we could always return to using suspensions. The second sample of notes indicates discussion about punishment versus restorative practices with one or more participants articulating an opinion that restorative justice without punishment won’t work.

Through these roundtable discussions, seventh graders, teachers, and leaders learned about restorative practices and came to a greater understanding of stakeholder perspectives about taking a restorative response to wrongdoing, especially harm done in a school environment. One of the biggest conclusions from the 7th graders’ work was a community desire to -- slowly but surely --introduce more restorative practices into McAuliffe.

“We should have [restorative practices] in schools because students will learn from their mistakes...If a student has to stay home and do nothing, they won’t know what they did wrong.” ~ Roundtable Discussion Participant, March 2016

Because we knew that implementing restorative practices requires the understanding and buy-in of all community members, during the 2016-17 school year, seventh graders shifted the focus to the most important stakeholders: current scholars. After building their background knowledge about types of justice and developing expertise in restorative practices, 7th graders conducted a survey with all McAuliffe scholars. The survey asked scholars how strongly they agreed with statements such as: “Discipline at McAuliffe is fair and appropriate.”

Scholars analyzed the survey results and worked in small groups to come up with proposed next steps for McAuliffe to more fully implement restorative practices. Scholars also created a proposal presentation that they shared with a 6th grade crew to get their feedback and input. A task card articulated guidance for survey analysis and preparation of presentations. Below are two sample slideshows for presentations and a video showing portions of several presentations.

Restorative Justice Video Samples

Restorative Justice Presentation 1

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Restorative Justice Presentation 2

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In both of the last two years, scholars analyzed information across the conversations and determined recommended next steps. As we discuss in Character Claim 2, the work of our 7th graders guided school leaders to substantially revise the school’s Code of Conduct. In 2017-18 Ms. Harrison, Executive Director, and Mr. Fratantonio, Culture & Character Coach, have already facilitated a few restorative circles -- click here for a sample protocol. Ultimately, seventh graders’ learning about restorative practices has guided McAuliffe to focus more on scholars taking responsibility for their choices and repairing relationships instead of focusing on punishment.

During the 2017-18 school year, seventh grade scholars will continue to learn about restorative practices and will help the school evaluate the impact of this year’s focus on respectful, relevant, realistic consequences that focus on relationship repair as well as our test-driving of restorative circles. They’ll again give recommendations for next steps to take in 2018-19.

8th Grade Juvenile Justice System

For the last two years, 8th graders have studied aspects of the justice system and shared their learning with the community by creating infographics in 2016 and podcasts in 2017.

The 2016 expedition titled, “Justice for Who? Legacies of Reconstruction in the Juvenile Justice System” focused on the question, “Is the Juvenile Justice system just?” After building their background knowledge about Reconstruction and Civil Rights, scholars shifted their focus to examining the strengths and weaknesses of the modern juvenile justice system. Scholars researched a specific topic or program related to juvenile justice including race, gender, LGBTQ, Adolescent Consultation Services, Roca, and the Department of Youth Services. Scholars integrated salient information into an public awareness infographic. A sample infographic is included to the left.

During their expeditions, scholars interviewed two well-known advocates for juveniles in the justice system: Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan spoke about diversion and the Honorable Judge Jay Blitzman, the First Justice for the Lowell Juvenile Court, Middlesex County, spoke about the criminalization of adolescent-age youth.

The 2017 expedition “Adolescence and the Juvenile Justice System” narrowed the focus to the “Raise the Age” debate, the current policy debate about whether the age at which the criminal justice system considers young people to be adults should be raised from 18 to 21. The expedition’s guiding questions were:

  • What is identity?
  • To what extent is my identity mine?
  • At what age should society consider someone an adult?


Scholars evaluated the age at which a person should be considered an adult by law. Scholars built background knowledge on adolescent development, the criminal justice system, the juvenile justice system, and the history of Raise the Age. To share their findings with a wider audience, scholars created podcasts, which were shared with the district attorney's office and local legislators. Click here to view the podcast task card.

Scholars evaluated the age at which a person should be considered an adult by law. Scholars built background knowledge on adolescent development, the criminal justice system, the juvenile justice system, and the history of Raise the Age. Here are two examples of the scripts scholars wrote that were turned into podcasts: Script #1 and Script #2. The first example shows the process scholars took to merge their individual work through collaboration into a final product.

Click the podcast icons to listen. Enjoy listening!

Podcast 1

“Hello, my name is Lily and I’m here to ask experts Sarah, Ben, and Abby on whether or not Massachusetts should raise the age when arresting juveniles. Right now Massachusetts punishes 18 year olds as adults. Currently, they are trying to raise the age to 21. Before we begin, let’s gather some background information to give us a better sense of the upcoming subject…”

Podcast 2

“‘Raise the Age’ is being considered because, according to the New York Times, studies have shown that the brain is not fully matured until the mid twenties, making adolescents more susceptible to acting impulsively without thinking about their actions and the consequences their actions could bring up on them. ”

Over the course of this expedition, scholars took on a serious, adult issue that affects kids close to their age. They considered multiple perspectives -- including the impact of youth incarceration on a variety of stakeholders -- and then shared their findings and beliefs with their families and with experts at their culminating event. With Massachusetts in the midst of grappling with the best approach for young offenders, this expedition positioned our scholars to add their voices -- the critical voices of young people -- to the debate. Our scholars did not all agree about the best approach to juvenile justice, but they all emerged from this expedition having contributed their perspective on the approach that would make our communities safer, more compassionate, and more just.

8th Grade CPR Initiative

In 2017, as part of their science unit on human body systems, all 8th grade scholars became certified in CPR, while investigating the Long Term Target, “I can explain how to assess and stabilize the circulatory, nervous, and respiratory systems to keep a human alive.”

During the unit, scholars developed understanding of human body systems and their interactions with one another. Even more relevant for eighth graders, our scholars acquired the skill and certification to save a life in the event that they are in contact with someone who needs CPR.

Scholars also wrote letters to their legislator, arguing for why or why not CPR should be mandatory curriculum in Massachusetts public schools. One scholar wrote, “I learned about how to perform CPR and how to use an AED on someone, and how much this can save someone. This made me feel as if knowing how to use an AED and knowing how to perform CPR is essential.”  The rubric for this task explicitly required scholars to develop and work toward an “advocacy position.” The position they took was up to them, but they all contacted someone with real-world influence to ask them to make a real-world change. In addition to advocating on this particular issue, we value teaching scholars the skills of advocating, through a legislator, for something they care about. Representative David Linsky was one of the legislators who sent response letters to our scholars. He wrote, “Thank you for contacting me to voice your support for CPR training in Massachusetts public schools...I have, and will continue to support measures that have the potential to maximize survival from life threatening emergencies. As we move forward this legislative session, I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind.”  We are proud of our scholars’  complex content knowledge, practical ability to help, and local advocacy efforts.