Urban Investigations are project-based curricula that enable high school students to explore fundamental questions about how the city works, using collaborative research and design.
Each investigation begins with a key question. Where does our water come from? Where does our garbage go? Who owns the Internet? To find answers, students go beyond standard classroom learning and engage in rigorous field research: visiting real sites and interviewing decision-makers and stakeholders. After researching the issue, students collaborate with a teaching designer to produce innovative, engaging multimedia teaching tools. These products are taken up by neighborhood organizations and advocacy groups and used to educate others.
By participating in Urban Investigations, students gain the skills to investigate their own communities. They gain access to the decision-makers that affect the world around them, and engage in active citizenship. Students learn how to creatively communicate their ideas through design. Project-based learning allows students to shine in multiple ways: from interviewing to illustration, from audio production to writing. Students see the city as the product of a decision-making landscape and are empowered to participate in it. The products that students create with a visual artist find real audiences and impact communities outside of the school in arts and social justice fields.
Our work grows from a belief that the power of imagination is central to the practice of democracy, and that the work of governing must engage the dreams and visions of citizens. CUP believes in the legibility of the world around us. What can we learn by investigation? By learning how to investigate, we train ourselves to change what we see.
Urban Investigations work best in afterschool programs or school programs that can accommodate semester-long projects that meet three to four times a week and give the project team the flexibility to leave the classroom for site visits and interviews.
See what education journal Edutopia has to say about CUP’s Urban Investigations.
[Students] interviewed experts from fields ranging from real estate to food distribution to urban planning. They summarized their findings in a booklet about food justice…
[The booklet] is a tool for individuals and community organizations who’d like to start thinking about community preparedness, what that might look like, and why it matters.
The visuals were so breathtaking… the kids [who took part in the project] learned a lot of new skill sets.
[Power Trip] explores the infrastructure and apparatus that keeps the lights on, and in so doing boils down a very complex topic in clear terms… affording the people involved an opportunity to (figuratively or literally) peer down some manholes and look at the city.